Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Love - Part 1: Patience

What would be your impression of one who spoke in many languages of men and with great eloquence? Who also had a great gift of prophecy and was brilliant? Who had a faith so strong that they could move mountains? What if this one took all of their possessions and gave them to those in need? How would we perceive the person who not only gave of all of their physical possessions, but also gave their very life as a martyr? Would we not say that this one was a great person and worthy of imitation? But, there is one factor that if lacking makes all the above null and void. Love. Paul states:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
We are nothing without love. Any act that we do, no matter how noble and great, is worthless if love is not present.

The world today has its own definition of what love is. A definition that is quite different from what God sees love to be. The apostle Paul describes this beautiful attribute of love in verses 4-8 in 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;
The first aspect of love mentioned is patience. Love is patient. Patience is also listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). In Scripture, the Greek words used for “patience” and its derivatives are all similar in that they mean to have “a patient enduring”, “to persevere, to be patient”, “to await, to endure”, “patience, long-suffering”. “Patient” is defined by Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language as “1 Having the quality of enduring evils without murmuring or fretfulness; sustaining afflictions of body or mind with fortitude, calmness or christian submission to the divine will. 2 Not easily provoked; calm under the sufferance of injuries or offenses; not revengeful. 3 Persevering; constant in pursuit of exertion; calmly diligent. 4 Not hasty; not over eager or impetuous; waiting or expecting with calmness or without discontent.”

Patience is to be present in the lives of those following in Christ’s footsteps. The Lord is the perfect example of patience: “Yet for this reason I [Paul] found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience . . . .” (1 Timothy 1:16). When we were lost sinners, God showed us great love and patience. He “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). We are to “regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,” (2 Peter 3:15).

So often when others wrong us, we respond with the opposite of love. Angry words, hurt feelings, and contentiousness fill the heart. Christ has called us, though, to love as He loved. He desires us to show patience even when we are wrongfully accused or harshly treated. As a child of God, we are exhorted that “the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

Throughout our days, many little things arise that can stir up the opposite of patience in our hearts; can stir up contentions and quarrels. One of our siblings tracks mud on the floor we just cleaned. The soup on the stove boils over. A little sister drops one of our favorite books resulting in a smashed binding and torn pages. Patience . . . patience. Will we exhibit it? “Therefore I [Paul], the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3). May we strive for this “bond of peace” by responding to these and all other instances with the beautiful spirit of patience. Each time that we do this, we will be training ourselves in patience. Thus, making it easier and easier each time a situation arises to respond in a manner pleasing to our Lord. If we do not practice patience, we are training ourselves to respond with irritability, anger, or despair.

Whichever we have practiced and learned, will also be expressed in circumstances that are more trying and difficult than what has been listed above such as persecutions and revilings. As followers of Christ, it is guaranteed to us that we will endure sufferings and persecutions. Christ told His disciples “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Paul supports this by saying: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12). Not may be, but will be. How should we respond when these persecutions and sufferings arise? “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” (1 Peter 2:20). Have we learned to practice patience in the little things so that when much more difficult circumstances and sufferings arise we will be able to respond with patient endurance which finds favor with the Lord?

It is important to remember that in our own strength, we cannot exhibit patience. Only when allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us can we respond to others and to our sufferings in such a manner. There is a passage in Scripture that is an encouragement regarding this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Christ is our comforter. He is our strength in times of trial and testing. May we cling to Him. May we cling to His promises. And may His perfect patience be displayed in our lives in every circumstance that comes our way, and to everyone we come into contact with: “We urge you, brethren . . . be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Note: The above post is the first installment in a series based upon 1 Corinthians 13.

-Posted by Sarah

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Keepers at Home

We have talked about the importance of serving the Lord, and one fruit of serving Him is, in turn, service to our families. One area that we can serve our family is through living the godly calling of being a keeper at home; or, a ‘worker’ at home.

Older women . . . encourage the young women . . . to be . . . workers [or keepers] at home.” Titus 2:3, 5

“Keeper” by the Greek definition is to guard the home, to be domestically inclined (i.e. a good housekeeper). There is a description in Scripture of what I would say would be an excellent example of a keeper at home. This example is found in Proverbs 31:10-31:
-She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight.
-She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar.
-She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens.
-She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard.
-She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
-She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night.
-She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle.
-She extends her hand to the poor and stretches out her hands to the needy.
-She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
-She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple
-She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen.
-Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.
-She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
-She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness
-Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
-Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Excerpts from Proverbs 31:10-31

Keeping the home involves so many aspects. What we generally think of is the physical acts of cleaning, cooking/baking, etc. Tending to these things is a part of our calling as women of God and by doing so, is living obedience to God. What type of activities would fall under this heading of being a keeper at home? Here are some basic thoughts and ideas regarding this:
♥ Washing the dishes
♥ Laundry
♥ Vacuuming
♥ Picking up
♥ Organizing
♥ Dusting
♥ Cleaning the bathroom (including mirrors, sinks, counters, and bathtub/shower)
♥ Cleaning the kitchen (including counters, sink, microwave, refrigerator, etc.)
♥ Sweeping
♥ Mopping
♥ Cleaning the Pantry
♥ Cleaning and organizing closets, cupboards, and drawers

Cooking and Baking:
♥ Daily cooking nourishing and healthy meals (or helping your mom do so)
♥ Baking bread
♥ Baking special desserts :)
♥ Gardening and providing fresh vegetables

♥ Flower arrangements
♥ Candles
♥ Soft music playing
♥ Cozy quilts, afghans and pillows
♥ Edifying Scripture verse wall-hangings (pictures, cross-stitches, drawings, etc.)
Caring for these physical aspects of the home are very important, but an even more important aspect of being a ‘keeper’ is keeping the atmosphere of the home. Is it sharp and cutting? Warm and welcoming? Cold and hard? Relaxing and cheerful? The type of atmosphere in our home will be determined by the occupants’ heart attitudes, countenances and words. Yours and mine included. Here are some thoughts on what these would be:

Heart Attitude, Countenance and Words of:

♥ Joy
♥ Love
♥ Kindness
♥ Peace/Peacemaker
♥ Not contentious
♥ Patience
♥ Goodness
♥ Faithfulness
♥ Self-control
♥ Submission
♥ Obedience and honor to our parents
♥ A Gentle and Quiet Spirit
♥ Diligence
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it gives a general idea of what attributes we can cultivate in our lives in order to have a pleasant and God-honoring atmosphere in our homes. It is most difficult to exhibit these qualities when those around us do not practice them, but one sweet fragrance of a rose can permeate a large area. Be that one sweet rose casting its fragrance and beauty upon all those who come into contact with it. May we let Christ shine through us to bless others, so that they too may “glorify [our] Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).

*If any of you should have something to add to the above lists, please feel free to share! We would love to hear your thoughts. *

-Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Love Produces Service

As I was reading the book "An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith" yesterday, one of the chapters fit in so well with what was shared in the earlier post regarding serving the Lord. This chapter added depth and understanding to why we are to serve, and what is the impetus for that service. It is love for the Lord.

Excerpt from chapter eighteen:

"Knowing God leads to holiness. He alone becomes one's consuming passion, displacing all other desires and overcoming the power of sin in our lives. His presence within is sufficient to satisfy every longing. For to know God is to love Him - and there is no higher motivation for obedience to His commands than love. In fact, no other motivation is accepted. It is no accident that the first commandment is, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might ' (Deuteronomy 6:5).

"Obedience to God's laws must spring from love for Him. Otherwise, as 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 declares, obeying the letter of the law is nothing. We could give all our possessions to the poor and submit to martyrdom at the stake in service for Christ, but if our motive is not love it would all be in vain. So it is that Christ declared, 'If a man love me he will keep my words . . . he that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings' (John 14:23, 24).

"Loving God is the secret of the Christian life. If we truly love Him, then we want to serve, please, and glorify Him. We would not want to do anything or even think a thought that would displease or dishonor Him. A genuine love for God - and only that love - produces consistent holiness in our daily lives."

(Taken from An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith by Dave Hunt; excerpt from chapter 18 'Knowing and Loving God'; pages 149-150)

-Posted by Sarah

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Servants of the Lord

Lately, I have been thinking quite a bit about what it means to truly serve the Lord and others. How should we serve? When should we give service? How often? To what extent? In what manner?

This morning I looked through all the New Testament verses and several Old Testament verses (by using our NASB concordance) that dealt with words such as 'serve', 'serving', 'servant', etc.

Firstly, when we become believers in Jesus Christ, we turn from the things of the world in order to serve the Lord. Instead of serving the flesh we are to serve God. Paul in writing to the Thessalonians, rejoices “For they themselves report about us what kind of reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,” (1 Thessalonians 1:9); and Christ taught his disciples that “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Luke 16:13; also found in Matthew 6:24)

The Israelites were also called to turn from serving under the Old Covenant to instead serve God under the New Covenant through Christ: “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound [the Old Testament Law], so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6) and "For you were called to freedom [from Law], brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13).

We are not to serve the things of the world and our flesh, but instead, the Lord. “And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:13).There is no gray area between the two; it is either black or it is white. We cannot serve both. We cannot have our heart’s allegiance placed on two opposite courses; two different paths. “Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” ’ ” (Luke 4:8; also found in Matthew 4:10). God alone should we seek to serve and no other.

Christ is our perfect example in service:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45; also found in Matthew 20:28)

For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the tables? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:27 )

Christ’s service was the ultimate. He gave Himself entirely for others. He did not seek His own interests, but only those things that were “pleasing to Him [meaning God the Father]” (John 8:29). Christ later exhorts His disciples: “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:26). We are to follow in Christ’s path of service. He has left us an example to “follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). This serving, this following in His steps, is obedience to His Word. Keeping His Word and living it in our lives.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship,” (Romans 12:1). Our entire beings, every aspect of our lives, are to be offered as a sacrifice unto God which is true spiritual service and worship to Him. This is what God desires from us; a true denial of self, and surrender and obedience to God.

We are to also “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men,” (Ephesians 6:7). We are to be “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which come upon [us]” (Acts 20:19). And in all of this we are to “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2). This ought to be our heart in serving, not grudgingly, but with joy and gladness.

As we strive to follow Christ’s example and grow in these areas, we should become known and marked by others as servants of God by how we live our lives. Others should be able to look at us and see, and to know, whom we serve. In the book of Daniel, King Darius recognized where Daniel’s heart was placed. The morning after Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, the king hurried out and exclaimed: “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:20). The king had attained a knowledge of “the living God”, because of Daniel’s boldness and commitment to serving God and Him alone.

Phoebe and Tychicus were both recognized by Paul as fellow servants of the Lord and of the church (brothers and sisters in the Lord). “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;” (Romans 16:1), and “Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord” (Colossians 4:7).

To the Corinthians, Paul expresses his heart by saying: “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1). Paul desired men to recognize those who claim to be believers in Christ as those who are also servants of Him. We should ask ourselves: How do men regard us? When they think of us, do they think of an accomplished musician? A great career woman? An exceptional homemaker? Talented in arts and crafts? Excelling in studies? Or do they recognize this about us, that we are servants of Christ? It is a sobering, yet convicting thought.

Serving the Lord, and then also serving others, is vital if we claim to be followers of Christ. God desires it, and He also commands it. Our genuine service to the Lord is pleasing to Him, and by our service and obedience, God will be glorified.

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

-Posted by Sarah