Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Love - Part 8: Is Not Provoked

Love . . . is not provoked” 1 Corinthians 13:5

Provoked – Excited; roused; incited; made angry; incensed (definition taken from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language).

Angry words. Angry thoughts. Angry actions. Yelling at our younger siblings, parents, or friends. Giving someone the ‘silent treatment’. Angry countenances. Strife and violence. Paying someone back. Rolling our eyes at our parents. Criticizing. Hostility.

These, and other like internal or external responses, are reactions that I am sure that we have all expressed or felt in part or in whole at some time or another. So many things can stir up that tiny flame of anger in our heart. Someone takes something that belongs to you. Perhaps someone is spreading false rumors about you. Your plans that you had made were changed against your will. These, and other similar circumstances, all can provoke us to anger . . . to sin according to the flesh instead of exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-23)*.

Proverbs is a book that is replete with instruction in regards to anger. Anger is shown to be the cause of many things including strife and further transgressions: “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression” Proverbs 29:22 (also Proverbs 30:33). But the child of God is called to respond not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit and righteousness. By doing so, instead of anger being the fruit borne, peace and love abounds which is pleasing to the Father:

-“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

-“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” Proverbs 15:18

-“He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” Proverbs 14:29

Before going further, it is important to realize the root cause of anger. We can keep pulling off the ‘leaves’ of the problem, but if the root is not removed, no gains will have been made in this area. When we examine the causing agents of anger, we see that it stems from the thought that we have been wronged; something is done against us or against what we feel is right or best; our plans, our desires, are set aside and considered secondary by others. Do you see what the focus is here? It is ourselves. It is setting our minds on our own things and not the things of others. This is a direct conflict with what is instructed in Philippians 2 and elsewhere in Scripture. If we forget ourselves, forsaking our own desires and needs to serve our Lord and Savior and to then in turn serve and bless others, where would anger have a place? This is called denying self. Christ has commanded that " 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me’ ” (Mark 8:24). Denying ourselves so that we can serve the Lord is the only means to overcome anger and its cousins.

In Colossians 3:8, we are commanded to “put . . . aside: anger, wrath, malice . . .” and again in Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” This is action on our part (and goes hand in hand with denial of self) that must take place before victory can be made in overcoming the anger which destroys. As we yield and relinquish our will to the Lord’s will, He will give us the strength to respond in a righteous manner.

Each time that a situation arises that can provoke to anger, we are faced with a choice. And which will we choose? To protect and defend our own perceived ‘rights’, or to follow in obedience our Lord and Savior by displaying a true and godly love that brings glory to the Father?

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves . . . .” James 1:19-23

* As mentioned above, anger is of the flesh and therefore is a sin and not a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-23). However, there is a righteous anger (Ephesians 4:26) which is not covered in this writing.

-Posted by Sarah

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Fork in the Road

"Make me a crisis man, O Lord; not just a sign-post on the highway of life, but a fork in the road so that men who meet me will come to know Jesus Christ." -- Jim Elliot

This quote is one that has always been convicting to our family. May the life that we live demand an explanation. May we be that light shining in the darkness . . . Christ living through us.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

-Posted by Sarah and Leah

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Verses from 1 John

As I read in 1 John this morning, a great many verses stood out to me, encouraged me and convicted my heart. Even though 1 John is one of the smallest books in the Bible, it has in it a great deal of encouragement to the believer in Christ, much teaching regarding how we are to live in this present age and also about the blessed hope we have - salvation in Jesus Christ with the promise of eternal life.

Below is a small sampling of the verses, and they are shared with the thought that they may also be a blessing to you all. (Note: I am currently reading in an interlinear New Testament and decided to use the literal translation when sharing the verses here. The words in brackets are those that are not in the Greek, but have been added in by the translator to make it understandable for those accustomed to the English language. Greek is read and formatted much differently than English!).

". . . but whoever keeps the word of Him, truly in this man the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him. The [one] saying in Him to remain ought as that [one] (Christ) walked also [him]self so to walk." 1 John 2:5-6

"Love ye not the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because all which[is] in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but of the world is." 1 John 2:15-16

"By this we have known love, because that one (meaning Christ) on behalf of us the life of Him laid down; and we ought on behalf of the brothers the(our) lives to lay down." 1 John 3:16

"Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God, and everyone loving the [one] begetting loves the [one] having been begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, whenever we love God and we do the commandments of Him. For this is the love of God, in order that we keep the commandments of Him; and the commandments of Him heavy are not, because everything having been begotten of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory overcoming the world, the faith of us. And who is the [one] overcoming the world except the [one] believing that Jesus is the Son of God?" 1 John 5:1-5

"These things I wrote to you in order that ye may know that ye have eternal life, to the [ones] believing in the name of the Son of God." 1 John 5:13

-Posted by Sarah

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Love - Part 7: Does Not Seek Its Own

Love . . . does not seek its own” 1 Corinthians 13:5

This seems to be the recurring theme throughout chapter thirteen of 1 Corinthians. Unselfishness. As not pleasing ourselves, but desiring to serve and bless others has already been addressed to a great extent in this study, we will look at a slightly different aspect of this verse.

In Scripture, the word ‘seek’ and its various tenses are used numerously. There are many things that people (as a whole) and also specifically believers in Christ are instructed to seek. But what does it mean to seek?

Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines seek as “to make search or inquiry; to endeavor to make discovery; to make pursuit; to attempt to find or take; to endeavor to find.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary defines it as “to seek or strive after, endeavor, to desire; ‘seeking’ the kingdom of God and His righteousness, in the sense of coveting earnestly, striving after.” The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon also agrees with and supports these definitions.

We can see by the above defining that this seeking is an active effort on our part; it is an action. God has placed in mankind a spirit which separates us from the beasts, thus giving men alone the ability to seek Him, to know Him, to respond to Him. (This is a whole topic in and of itself!) He has given man a conscience (Romans 2:14-16). And He has revealed Himself to man (Romans 1:20). He has extended the call to man to “seek the LORD while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6). This seeking does not simply ‘happen.’ It is not passive, and, it is not stationary. It is searching, striving after . . . is this the attitude of our hearts?

But what are we to seek? When looking through the verses on ‘seek’ in the concordance, the overwhelming number of usages are used in reference to seeking the Lord. There are two different aspects of seeking the Lord; 1) prior to salvation, and 2) after salvation (seeking to know Him more, etc.) Let us take a look at a sampling of verses from both of these categories:

1) Seeking the Lord which leads to salvation:

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

Christ, during His ministry on earth, spoke also of seeking His kingdom and righteousness (being right before God/justified):

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you . . . . For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 6:33, 7:7 (see also Luke 12:31)

This seeking is an active effort on man’s part. God draws the man: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32). Christ has drawn all men to Him, He has revealed Himself to all of mankind (Romans 1:18-23), but it is man’s responsibility to respond to that drawing; to “seek the LORD while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6). The Hebrew word for ‘seek’ as used here is ‘darash’ which is usually used to mean ‘follow’ (for pursuit or search) (taken from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). This brings to mind Christ’s calling to the rich young ruler to “go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21). Christ called . . . the young man, however, made the choice to turn away. The cost was too great “for he was one who owned much property.” (Matthew 19:22). He had his heart set on earthly things instead of heavenly things. He was seeking the treasure of this earth, instead of the heavenly treasure. “. . . for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). We can easily see where this man’s ‘treasure’ was, and his heart was anchored there with it. Where is our treasure?

Christ has extended the same call to all of men “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26a).

2) After becoming believers in Christ, we are to continue this seeking of, striving after, the Lord for the purpose of drawing closer to Him, growing in the knowledge of Him, and growing in obedience to His Word. “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

This seeking after God is not only spoken of in the New Testament, but the great majority of the verses related to this are found in the Old Testament:

When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.’ ” Psalm 27:8

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face continually.” Psalm 105:4

How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart.” Psalm 119:2

At night my soul longs for You, indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently” Isaiah 26:9a

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:25

What a beautiful picture the above verses paint! To have such a longing after the Lord instead of the things of this world. To have ones’ eyes firmly fixed upon Him. To “thirst” after Him. Longing for Him. How convicting this is!

Is our heart cry the same? Or are we seeking our own desires; our own wants? Are we seeking to know the Lord more? Or have we set Him aside in an effort to seek after the things of the world? Are we seeking to serve, love and bless others? Or are we seeking our own interests? (Philippians 2:2-11).

After firstly seeking the Lord, there are other things that God has commanded us to seek after. Some of them are:

Wisdom - Proverbs 8:17

Peace – Psalm 34:14; 1 Peter 3:11

Knowledge: Proverbs 15:14; 18:15

Good and not evil: Amos 5:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Righteousness, meekness: Zephaniah 2:3

To abound for the edification of the saints: 1 Corinthians 14:12

The good of his neighbor: 1 Corinthians 10:24

Self does not play a part in the above list, does it? In Scripture, all of the things that we are commanded to seek relate to either being made righteous (justified) before God, living righteously before Him (sanctification), and/or serving others. There is no room for seeking the desires and satisfaction of oneself.

May our heart’s desire be to firstly seek the Lord with all of our heart, diligently, and then seek to be obedient to His precepts and commands.

-Posted by Sarah

Saturday, May 3, 2008

"Love . . . in Deed and Truth"

"Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth . . . This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us."
1 John 3:18-19a, 23-24

(These verses, particular verse 18, have been on my heart this morning, and given the recent series on love, it seemed fitting to post them here. :)

-Posted by Sarah