Patience & Peace

June 17, 2014

“…for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and i know what it is to have plenty…” (Philippians 4:11-12)

Throughout the history of the church, patience has always been considered a great virtue by spiritual heavyweights like Augustine, Thomas a Kempis and Francis of Assisi.  Why is patience such an important virtue? For starters, patience is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23.)

In our relationship with God, we might call patience “faith-waiting.”  In the Bible we are exhorted to “wait on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14.) It takes more faith to wait than most of the real life situations that challenge our walk with God. There are few spiritual disciplines that will focus our faith like those times when all we can do is wait on the Lord.  When we are praying for something and receiving no answer, God may be teaching us that there are times when faith waits.

In our relationships with people, patience could be called, “love-waiting.”  I had no idea how selfish I am until I got married. I had no idea how impatient I am until I became a father and found myself waiting for teenage children to grow up. The Lord wants to grow two dimensions of patience in my life: vertical patience by teaching me to have a faith that waits on Him; and horizontal patience by teaching me that in relationships, love waits…

We all eventually find ourselves facing circumstances which are beyond our control. Imagine Paul chained in that awful prison in Rome.  Would he find and maintain the peace of God if his formula for peace was to rattle his chains and ‘force it?’  Patience is the supernatural fruit of the Holy Spirit that gives us the grace to accept the things we cannot control.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


Mobile Temples

January 17, 2014

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? …Therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  (1 Corinthians 6:19)

When the apostle Paul wrote these words he was addressing people who had become believers while they were involved in the worst kinds of sexual immorality.  Their past continued to impact their lives because they were still involved in sexual sin as believers.  He wrote to them that their bodies were not made for sex; they were made to be Temples of God.  Everywhere they went, every day, they were Temples of God and they were to be aware of that glorious reality.  It’s like Paul was telling them, and us, we are mobile Temples of God on wheels, taking God with us everywhere we go.

If you read all of 1 Corinthians 6, you will see how Paul applies this metaphor.  For example, he writes that it is unthinkable that they would take the Temple of God and join it to a prostitute or an extramarital sex partner.  Make your own applications.  What effect should it have on the people in your life as you move among them every day bringing the divine presence of Almighty God with you?

For starters, all the things you’re not and you cannot do are possible because of the Divine Treasure living in you.  Then the nine fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace when you look in, patience, kindness, goodness when you look around, and faithfulness, meekness and self control when you look up), are all available to you. (Galatians 5:22-23)

How can you glorify God today as one of His mobile Temples?


Great Joy for All People

December 20, 2013

“I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people!” (Luke 2:10)

A great man named Tim Hansel lived every day with excruciating pain.  He wrote in his book, You Gotta Keep Dancing, that pain and suffering are inevitable but misery is optional.  That is true for a Spirit controlled disciple of Jesus.  Tim also wrote “I can choose to be joyful.”

Joy is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit the Apostle Paul wrote about in his letter to the Galatians (5: 22, 23).  As evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives joy could be paraphrased “happiness that does not make good sense.” The derivation of the word “happiness” has to do with what happens to us.  But this joy, which is the fruit of the Spirit living in us, is not controlled by what happens to us.  That is why we say it does not make good sense, especially to secular non-spiritual people.  In the very short letter the Apostle Paul wrote from prison to his favorite church, the Philippians, he used the word joy 17 times!

While appearing to the shepherds the angels explained why their declaration would bring great joy to all people: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Great joy came because the One born is the Savior.  He is the Christ, which is the Greek way of saying the Messiah.  And He is to be our Lord. Joy came because He gives the Holy Spirit to those who follow Him. This joy is intended for all people, including you.

Are you choosing to be joyful, anyway?


What does it mean to be in Christ?

October 9, 2013

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I’m indebted to E. Stanley Jones, a missionary who served in India for 50 years, and his superb daily devotional, In Christ, for showing me the importance of this phrase in the New Testament.  I highly recommend his book which highlights the use of this phrase by all the New Testament authors.

According to Dr. Jones, when we think about being “in Christ,” we should realize that Paul was not talking about being in religion.  Few people have been more into religion than Paul before he met Jesus.  Paul was so religious he fervently persecuted followers of Jesus, sure that he was pleasing God by trying to snuff them out.

It is possible to be in religion, but not be in Christ.  It is possible to be in church, and not be in Christ.  We can be in doctrine, or theology, and not be in Christ.  We can be in the ministry and not be in Christ.  We can be committed to Christ, and believe a lot of things about Christ, and still not be in Christ.

To be in Christ locates us in a Person, right now.

Unless we are ‘in Christ’ it’s like we have a powerful engine in our automobile but we cannot find our ignition key that turns the engine on.  Being ‘in Christ’ is the ignition key, opening us up to experience “all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3)  Paul essentially writes: I live because Christ lives in me and I live in Christ.

Just as you sometimes cannot find the keys to your automobile, have you misplaced this critical spiritual key – are you living by and in Christ?

 


Metamorphosis

July 30, 2013

“…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”          . (1Corinthians 15:50)

Another arresting statement made by Paul in his great resurrection chapter is that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, because corruption cannot inherit incorruption.  What Paul means by this statement is that we cannot go to heaven with a physical body.  When God decides that He wants us in heaven, He must perform a metamorphosis on us that prepares us to spend eternity with Him in heaven.  God works that miracle metamorphosis through our death and resurrection.

As Paul describes the resurrection of believers at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ he also tells us that those who are living when Jesus returns will be changed.  They must be changed because they cannot enter into heaven with their physical bodies.  They, too, must experience a miracle metamorphosis to prepare them for heaven.

Here Paul is declaring a sixth eternal value:  our heavenly bodies will be so much greater than our physical bodies we must experience a metamorphosis to live forever in heaven.  This is just one more way the Scripture consistently tells us that heaven is greater than earth and the best things in life for believers await them in the eternal dimension of life.

The Shepherd Psalm of David tells us that God makes us lie down to discover the green pastures and still waters of life.  But, then we get up again and the green pastures turn brown and the still waters become disturbed.  Many see a metaphor of the believer’s death as the Great Shepherd coming into our life making us lie down in death that He might give us the green pastures that never turn brown and the still waters that never become disturbed in heaven.


Little Clay Pots

July 24, 2013

“Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”   (2 Corinthians 4: 16)

Many years ago when John Quincy Adams began crossing a street, he was in such poor health it took him five minutes to approach the other side.  A friend who was passing that way asked, “How is John Quincy Adams this morning?”  He replied, “John Quincy Adams is doing just fine.  The house he lives in is in sad disrepair.  In fact, it is so dilapidated, John Quincy Adams may have to move out soon, but John Quincy Adams is doing just fine, thank you!”

John Quincy Adams was no doubt acquainted with the verse of Scripture I have quoted.  Paul writes that we have an outward man and an inward man.  In two of my favorite translations the outward man, or our body, is referred to as a common earthenware jar and a little clay pot (JB Phillips and the Living Bible Paraphrased.)

Paul declares a fourth eternal value: Our inward man is a greater value than our outward man. These verses Paul wrote to console those who were persecuted at that time are also a consolation for persecuted believers today or those who may be in the final stages of cancer that is causing their physical bodies to perish.  When they have prayed for healing and it appears that God is taking them home, their inward man can be renewed while their outward man is wasting away.

As some believers study the resurrection chapter they want to believe they will hold on to their physical body.  The great news is God is going to replace our little clay pots with spiritual bodies.


Temporal and Eternal

July 16, 2013

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you,  the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”    (John 17:3)

To appreciate eternal values we must define these two words.  The word “eternal” literally means “that which was, that which is, and that which always shall be.”  The word “temporal” relates to that which is temporary.

Jesus made it clear that we have eternal life because we are related to the true God and the One Whom He has sent.  They are eternal and we have eternal life because we are related to them.  We must also make the observation that the words “eternal life” are referring to a quality of life as well as a quantity of life.

The word “value” also needs to be defined.  The dictionaries tell us “a value is that quality of any certain thing by which it is determined by us to be more or less important, useful, profitable and therefore desirable.” When we bring these two concepts together we should realize we are discussing what is more or less important, useful, profitable and therefore desirable in this life and in the life to come.

A second eternal value is that the eternal is a greater value than the temporal.  The Apostle Paul wrote: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable (1 Corinthians 15:19 NKJV).  Paul so highly valued the eternal he sacrificed his life here for the rewards he was sure awaited him in eternity.  If there were no eternal dimension he should be pitied.

Do you value the eternal more than the temporal?