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Archive for August, 2015

“Lord, give me patience . . . and I need it now . . . if not sooner!” Have you ever prayed that prayer? Or needed to? Patience – like love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the traits of a person who has godly character. It closely resembles joy and peace in its effect upon our lives. The English word patience actually stands for several different Greek words in the New Testament.

The author of the following brief poem dealing with patience is unknown:

           “Patience is a virtue,
            Possess it if you can.
            Found seldom in a woman,
            And never in a man.”

One aspect of patience involves enduring abuse. The biblical response to suffering at the hands of others is called longsuffering in the King James Version. It describes the ability to suffer a long time under the mistreatment of others without growing resentful or bitter. Mistreatment by others can include ridicule, scorn, insults, and undeserved rebukes, as well as outright persecution. God calls upon every Christian to react to these things with longsuffering. Without God’s help, this is somewhere between very difficult and impossible.

How can Christians react to abuse with longsuffering? First, we must look at the way Jesus responded to mistreatment. When insults were hurled at Him, He did not retaliate. To develop patience when we are mistreated, we should entrust ourselves to God’s justice and commit ourselves to His faithfulness. God will deal not only in justice (and we pray, in mercy) with our tormentor, but also by being faithful to us.

Thus, to respond to provocation with patience is to emulate God Himself. God describes Himself as “slow to anger . . . forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). The key to having patience when mistreatment by others causes us suffering is to seek to develop in our own lives God’s trait of being “slow to anger.” We begin by confessing our impatience to God in prayer. We must also not be discouraged when we fail. Proverbs 24:16 reminds us: “No matter how often an honest man fails, he always gets up again . . .”

One of the times when most of us find it easy to become impatient is when we are confronted with the faults and failures of others. It may be a driver in front of us driving slowly, or a friend who is late to an appointment, or a neighbor who is inconsiderate in a particular way. Impatience with the shortcomings of others often has its roots in pride. John Sanderson observes, “Hardly a day passes but one hears sneering remarks about the stupidity, the awkwardness, and the ineptitude of others.” Such remarks stem from a feeling that those who say them believe they are smarter or more capable than those with whom they are impatient.

The Bible associates forbearance or tolerance with love, the unity of the believers, and the forgiveness of Christ (see Ephesians 4:2-3). Apostle Paul reminds us that we are to bear with one another in order to preserve the “unity of the Spirit,” and that “the members of the body of Christ belong to each other” (Romans 12:5). The fruit of patience in all its aspects – longsuffering, forbearance, endurance, and perseverance – is the result of genuine devotion to God.

Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears. Who, among us, does not need to be more patient? If you possess patience, it will strengthen your spirit, sweeten your temper, stifle your anger, subdue your pride, bridle your tongue, and glorify God.

 

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The Beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount were spoken by Jesus in Aramaic, not in Greek. He did not speak the word are that appears in all the modern translations. All of the Beatitudes were spoken as an exclamation, which means, “O the blessedness of . . . .” They have had a tremendous impact in the lives of Christians for two thousand years as a motivator of attitudes and actions.

Many of the challenges and problems people face today are different than in prior generations. And senior adults have different problems and face different challenges than young people. But the truths found in the Beatitudes do not change. Even so, a teenager looks at Matthew 5:3-11 and says, “In what specific ways can I practice the Beatitudes in my daily life?” I suggest the following Beatitudes for teenagers:

BLESSED is the teenager who loves God rather than other gods, people rather than possessions, and principle rather than pleasure, for the world cannot get too many young people like this.

BLESSED is the teenager who seeks to be affectionate, considerate and loving toward others, whether or not such attitudes are returned.

BLESSED is the teenager who loves his or her parents and obeys them “in the Lord,” remembering that their years of experience and maturity taught them valuable things young people have not had time to learn.

BLESSED is the teenager who knows the difference between love and lust, who realizes that life is more than living for the immediate moment and for the gratification of one’s own desires.

BLESSED is the teenager who is morally clean and sexually pure even though many others are not, for it is better to be the leaven that influences than to allow the world “to squeeze you into its mold.”

BLESSED is the teenager who respects the worth and personality of persons of the opposite sex, for it is better to look back upon happy and wholesome relationships than upon a series of “one night stands.”

BLESSED is the teenager who is wise enough to set worthy goals in life and is willing to work diligently toward achieving them, even though it takes years of patient preparation and arduous study.

BLESSED is the teenager who is grateful for life, for his or her family and friends, for his or her community and nation, for his or her daily blessings, and is willing to demonstrate that gratitude in specific ways through daily actions as well as words.

BLESSED is the teenager who has a sense of humor, for this attitude will serve as a handy shock absorber as he or she faces the pressures and problems that young people encounter in today’s world.

BLESSED is the teenager who wants and plans to have a Christian marriage, and who realizes that no one has the right to expect any quality from his or her mate that he or she is not willing to give.

BLESSED is the teenager who later chooses a mate, is married, and is unalterably committed to the goal of having a Christian home, for only those who make this commitment will be able to say to their children, “Live right, speak the truth, and right the wrongs about you, for I myself have done so before you and have found that this is the way to honor God and experience the joy that comes from serving Him.”

 

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writer of the Sherlock Holmes novels, was quite a prankster. One day he played a prank on five of the most prominent men in England. He sent an anonymous note to each man, which simply said, “All is found out. Flee at once.” Within twenty-four hours, all five men had left the country.

Obviously each of them had kept something secret about which they felt guilty. Carrying a load of guilt is like having a hundred pound sack of rocks on your shoulder. You dread the possibility that someone will discover the skeleton you have hidden in your closet – that deep dark secret sin that only you are aware happened. Guilt keeps you from sleeping soundly at night. It causes your cup of joy to spring a leak.

Guilt will also sabotage your relationships by causing you to act in strange or harmful ways. It could easily influence you to overreact out of anger, or explode without reason because of what you have kept hidden within your soul. It prevents you from dealing with current problems by keeping you stuck in the past. It causes parents to overcompensate for their mistakes by indulging their children.

Carrying a load of guilt hidden inside has been compared to driving a car by always looking in the rearview mirror. Looking at our past gives us valuable perspective, but if we look only at our past, we will not be able to plug productively into the present or look forward to the future with anticipation. Feeling guilty cannot change what happened in the past; worry cannot change the future.

The way to start moving past guilt is to take a personal inventory. The inventory begins when you set aside time to be alone with no interruptions, and not rush it. When you have done that, open your heart and mind to God and let Him reveal what you need to see: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:24). As you begin to see the truth about yourself, this verse will assure you that you can rely fully upon God’s grace, knowing that He has forgiven you – no matter what your inventory has revealed.

Any person who would win the battle with guilt caused by sins in the past must accept full responsibility for them. God has given each of us a mind and a conscience. We may be able to hide things from others, but we cannot hide them from ourselves – or from God. Accepting responsibility for our sins requires that we be totally honest. It also requires that we not rationalize – saying things like, “It happened a long time ago” or, “It is just a stage” or, “Everybody does it” or, “It’s really no big deal.”

Accepting responsibility for our sins requires that we not blame others. By passing the buck to somebody else we think we can escape having to deal with guilt. It is a tactic first used in the Garden of Eden. As someone has said, “Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and the snake didn’t have a leg to stand on.” There is a much better way to deal with guilt. Once we take an inventory and have been honest with ourselves, we should then be honest with God by asking for His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

If you are bothered by the guilt caused by some past sin, you need to know that it is both God’s will and His nature to forgive. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool (Isaiah 1:18).

 


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His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. He found a terrified boy mired to his waist in black muck, screaming and struggling to free himself.

Farmer Fleming managed to save the boy from what would have been a terrifying death. The following day a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman’s meager home. An eloquently dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy whose life Fleming had saved.

“I want to repay you,” said the nobleman. “You saved by boy’s life.”

“No, I can’t accept payment for what I did,” the farmer replied. At that moment the farmer’s own son came to the door of the family hovel.

“Is that your son?” the nobleman asked.

“Yes,” the farmer replied proudly.

“I’ll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he will no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.”

And that is exactly what the nobleman did. Farmer Fleming’s son attended the very best schools, and in time he graduated from Saint Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. He went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.

Years afterward, the nobleman’s son was now stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin! The name of the nobleman was Lord Randolph Churchill. His son, the one who had been saved from the bog by Farmer Fleming many years before, later became one of the world’s greatest leaders. His name was Sir Winston Churchill.

Churchill became a Member of Parliament in 1900. He then held many high posts in the government during the first three decades of the twentieth century. At the outbreak of World War II, he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. In 1940 he became England’s Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. Queen Elizabeth conferred on him the dignity of Knighthood and invested him with the insignia of the Order of the Garter in 1953. And in 1963 he was made an honorary citizen of the United States, which was conferred on him by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

How much different the landscape of the world would be today if Winston Churchill had not been pulled from the bog by a Scottish farmer when he heard him crying for help. His capable and valiant leadership during World II was desperately needed, for it put steel into the backbone of the British people and kept them from being invaded and conquered by Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich.

Farmer Fleming had no idea what the future would hold for his own son when he heard the nobleman’s son crying out for help. What if he had not heard the boy’s cry? What if, after hearing the his cry, he had failed to go to his rescue? What if he had not been able to keep him from sinking deeper and deeper into the bog until his life was lost? England would have lost the leadership of perhaps its greatest Prime Minister. And the world would possibly have never discovered the healing benefits of penicillin.

This story affirms a valuable truth that Jesus taught His disciples concerning the importance of giving: “Give and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Matthew 6:38 NASV). Another way of expressing this is that you receive in proportion and in kind as you have given.

Whenever you meet a need – any need – if it is done in Christ’s name, you not only initiate a chain reaction that has the power to bless multitudes of people, but it also has the power to ultimately reach all the way to heaven.

There is a close relationship between living and giving. God is not nearly as interested in the quantity of the gift as He is in the quality of the giver. We should never forget that we make a living by what we get, but that we make a life by what we give. The world is composed of givers and takers – the takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.

The life of Winston Churchill is an interesting story. Now you know the story behind the story.

 

 

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