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God’s Patience

February 21, 2011 2 comments

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness . . .”
Exodus 34:6

This is a description of our God.  He is a Father who is eternally patient with His children. As He exercises divine control over his judgmental wrath against sin, His mercy and goodness shines through to those who love Him.

In the time before the Great Flood described in Genesis, God showed his patience with those who were corrupt. The earth was full of violence and He decided in His infinite wisdom that He would put an end to all the corruption. He didn’t do it immediately. He waited almost 120 years before sending  the destructive waters upon the earth.

God showed His patience with those people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness for  those  forty long years.  Neither their clothes nor their sandals wore out during those forty years as He led them through the desert (Deut. 29:5). He could have destroyed them immediately, but He was patient toward them.

After Israel entered the Promised Land, they almost immediately turned their attention from their God of Protection. They worshiped idols and bowed down to foreign gods. God could have destroyed them instantly, but He had compassion on them instead and sent deliverers, Judges, to show them the Way of Holiness.

For many years He was patient with His people. By His Spirit He admonished them through His prophets. Yet those stiff necked and rebellious people paid no attention, so He handed them over to the neighboring pagans. But in His great mercy He did not put an end to them or abandon them, for He is a gracious and merciful God. He was patient once again (Nehemiah 9:30).

When His children sentenced and executed Jesus Christ, God’s One and Only Son, did he destroy them immediately? No.  He remained a patient God and waited forty years before allowing the temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed by the Roman armies.

God was patient in times past. He remains patient now. Why doesn’t he destroy those today who are involved in obvious sin and rebellion? Why doesn’t he consume those who curse him by sending down fire from heaven? Why doesn’t the earth open up and swallow those who persist in mocking the God of All Creation?

There is only one answer . . . “He is a patient God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.  The  Lord  is  not  slow  in  keeping  his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone whom He has called to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9).

Reflect upon your own life for a moment. Have you been slow in obeying God’s commandments? Have you found yourself grumbling and complaining about your wilderness wanderings? Are you just not satisfied with where God has you right now and wish He would hurry up and make some changes in your life?

He could judge every one of us immediately for our impatience with Him, but He doesn’t?  He is infinitely patient with each of us.

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation (2 Peter 3:15). It is through His patience that we see His mercy, His compassion, and his grace.  As we meditate upon God’s patience with  us,  it  should soften our hearts and make our consciences tender.  It should motivate us with greater love and compassion toward others.

Paul wrote these words to the church in Ephesus:

 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).     

The patience that God has toward us should be the standard by which we have patience toward others.  God has been infinitely patient toward you.  How patient are you toward others?

May the Lord, our God, who is compassionate and gracious be reflected in you this week that you may abound in compassionate patience.

May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with your spirit . . . 

Pastor Mark

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Christian Contentment

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

But godliness with contentment is great gain.
 1 Tim. 6:6

 

A story has been told of a little Swiss watch. It had been made with the smallest of parts and the greatest of skill. Yet it was dissatisfied with its restricted sphere of influence on a gentleman’s wrist. It envied the position of the great tower clock on the city hall.  One day as it passed with its owner by the city hall,  the tiny watch exclaimed, “I wish I could go way up there! I could then serve many instead of just one.”

Now it so happened that its owner was in a position with the city that gave him access to the tower clock, so he said, “You shall have your opportunity, little watch!” The next day, a slender thread was let down from the tower  and the little watch was tied to it. Slowly and carefully, the watch was pulled up the side of the tower, rising  higher and higher each moment. Of course, when it reached the top, it was completely lost to view. The watch had learned that its elevation had adversely affected the purpose for which it had been designed. It was no longer useful to anyone.

Have you ever found yourself grumbling and complaining, finding fault with where you are? Dissatisfied with the size of your house, the amount of money you make (or don’t make), you mumble and murmur about your circumstances.  Do you believe you could be more influential or happier somewhere else?

In his little book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) writes of the grace of contentment that ought to be the hallmark of those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. He defines contentment as “the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God’s disposal in every condition.”

We would certainly all agree that contentment is of great gain. But as Burroughs says it’s not the knowing, but the practice that is of utmost importance.

 “For this art of contentment is not a speculative thing, only for contemplation, but it is an art of divinity and therefore practical.  You are now to labour to work upon your hearts that this grace may be in you, that you may honour God and honour your profession with this grace of contentment for there are none who more honour God, and honour their profession than those who have this grace of contentment.”

Here’s  the  problem.  It  seems each of has within us “a murmuring, a vexing, and a fretting heart…

” Burroughs reflects, “Every little cross has put me out of temper and out of frame. Oh, the boisterousness of my spirit! What evil God sees in the vexing and fretting of my heart, and murmuring and repining of my spirit! Oh that God would make you see it!” 

“That we may come to grips with the practice, it is necessary that we should be humbled in our hearts because of our lack of contentment in the past.” Burroughs reflects upon several things “in this use of humbling of the soul for the want of this grace of contentment.”

“This murmuring and discontentedness of yours reveals much corruption in the soul. As contentment argues much grace, and strong grace, and beautiful grace, so murmuring argues much corruption, and strong corruption, and very vile corruptions in your heart”

 He likens this to a wound in a man’s body, “the evil of the wound is not so much in the largeness of it, and the abundance of blood that comes out of it, but in the inflammation that there is in it, or in a fretting and corrupting humour that is in the wound…so it is with the souls of men…it may be that there is some affliction upon them, which I compare to the wound; now they think that the greatness of the affliction is what makes their condition most miserable. Oh no, there is a fretting humour, an inflammation in the heart, a murmuring spirit that is within you, and that is the misery of your condition, and it must be purged out of you before you can be healed. Let God do with you what he will, till he purges out that fretting humour your wound will not be healed.  A murmuring heart is a very sinful heart; so when you are troubled for this affliction you had need to turn your thoughts rather to be troubled for the murmuring of your heart, for that is the greatest trouble.”

 The affliction that you are faced with may be difficult. The situation that you find yourself in may be burdensome. The problems that surround you may seem overwhelming. You may think you have little or no influence where God has placed you. But a murmuring heart in the midst of your circumstances is more grievous than any difficulty. Why? Because ultimately those   complaints and dissatisfactions you think are directed toward the circumstances are in fact pointed at a sovereign source – a righteous God who decrees and creates all things in the counsel of His most perfect will for our own good.  You’re going to have to take it up with Him!

I’m sure by now you’re wondering what “The Parable of the Watch” has to do with contentment.  Each one of us has been created with great care. Our God has designed each of us for a particular purpose. He has made each of us for a particular time and place.  We  each  have  a  special  function  in  His  kingdom.  No  matter  how  small  and insignificant you may think you are, in the scheme of God’s eternal purpose, your influence is nonetheless important.

Do you find yourself, grumbling, and mumbling, and  murmuring  and complaining?    Are you constantly ‘praying’   for something bigger and better?  You may get what you are asking for only to realize that the ‘elevation has adversely affected the purpose for which you have been designed.’ But as Burroughs says, this may be what it takes for you to come to grips with your grumbling, “that you should be humbled in your heart because of your lack of contentment in the past.”

Why not instead prayerfully consider your usefulness where God has you now?

Whether you are a “little Swiss watch” or a “great tower clock”  learn to be content!

Blessings and Peace to You All,

Pastor Mark

The Sacrifice of Worship

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, 
in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,
holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Rom. 12:1

 

A couple of young children one day while at home decided they wanted to reenact Noah’s Ark. They found a cardboard box and went into the bathroom. They rounded up all the stuffed animals they could find, put the plug in the bathtub and turned on the shower till the water reached the top of the tub. That was the flood. They stopped the shower.They pulled the plug. The water drained. The flood was over.  They had a good time, but there was a problem. They had learned in their Sunday school class that at the end of the flood Noah presented a sacrifice to God.

The little girl reached over and took one of her brother’s animals saying, “We’ll sacrifice this one.” Immediately her brother responded, “No you won’t. That’s my favorite stuffed animal.” He quickly reached into the box.  Taking one of her animals he said, “We’ll sacrifice this one.” Without hesitation she responded, “No you won’t! Grandma gave me that one. I would never think of giving it up'” After fighting for a moment, the sister ran upstairs. She searched through some old toys. It didn’t take her long. She had found just the right animal for the sacrifice. Bringing a toy sheep that had only three legs, one eye, one ear, and a missing tail she said, “We can sacrifice this one. I don’t need it anymore.”

Sound familiar? Let’s be honest! If you think about it for a moment you can see yourself in that story somewhere. Every one of us at some point in time has come before God in worship and hesitated about giving Him our best. We have all struggled with ourselves about what is appropriate. We have hurriedly searched through our inventory of acceptable gifts and presented to God those things we can live comfortably without.

Noah and his family had just been delivered through an event that had wiped every living creature off the face of the earth. Noah had found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8) so he “in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household.” Because of such a great salvation, “Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (Gen. 8:20) before the Covenant God of Promise. Noah held back nothing. It was an offering given out of the overflow of a full heart. It was an offering given to express appreciation for a salvation so full and free. There was no holding back.

Giving to God has always been an act of worship. Cain “brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock” (Gen. 4:3-4 NASB). That they brought an offering implies that there was a specific place of worship designated as a designated place of sacrifice.

Sacrificial giving was a part of that worship. Wherever Abraham pitched his tent he built an altar so he might express his faith through worship (Gen. 12:8; 13:17, 18; 26:25). Calling upon the name of the Lord, Abraham offered first fruits and sacrifice before the Lord his Covenant Keeping God. He brought a tenth as he encountered  Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High (Gen. 14:18-20). This “tenth” was  a token of his gratitude for God’s deliverance. His grandson Jacob continued this  practice of tithing as an act of worship and gratitude (Gen. 28:22) recognizing and proclaiming that all the believer possesses comes from the gracious hand of a God who is Good.

The ritual sacrifices of the tabernacle and the temple give us further illustrations of  the importance of coming before God with an appropriate sacrifice. What was important  about all these offerings was not the gift itself but the gift as the expression of the  self-surrender of the worshiper. This was what was well-pleasing to God. It was the  absolutely essential element of sacrifice. The prophets had to continually remind the children of Israel that sacrificial offerings without the surrender and obedience of the  offerer were an offense to the Lord (Isa. 1 :11; Amos 4:4-6,  etc.)

Going through the motions of worship without a heart that is totally surrendered to the Lord of Worship is still an abomination to Him. Giving Him those things that we can do without, holding back what we think is too precious to part with, giving God what is second best, is an affront to the God who has freely and sacrificially given us all things.

Every  believer  should  realize  that  the  giving  of  an offering to God is an act of pure worship. Any other motive for making an offering is unworthy. That’s why each Lord’s Day morning we emphasize the worship function of the offering we present to Him. I have often reminded those who are gathered to worship that having worshiped the Lord by offering up our prayers, and praise, and adoration, we also have the privilege to worship Him by the giving of our tithes and offerings. And this activity is part of our worship to God.  We don’t tack this on at the end of the worship service.  We don’t put a box at the back door so you can slip something into it as you leave the church.  The tithes are recognition of the sovereign authority of God. As such the offerings are an expression of our deep love and thanksgiving to Him who has given to us such a great salvation, so full and free. They are part of the worship we give to God.   Paul says in Romans 12:1 in view of God’s mercy, that we should offer our bodies as  living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is our spiritual act of worship.

There is no greater incentive to holy living than contemplating the mercies of God. How could we possibly hold back when we consider what great a love our Father has lavished on us through the sacrifice of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ? The only sensible, logical and appropriate response to him in view of his self-giving mercy is that we would offer our bodies totally and completely, worshiping  Him with our minds and hearts every day of our lives, but especially as we come before Him each Lord’s Day to worship with the corporate body, the local church.

May you have a blessed week serving the Lord sacrificially, knowing that a “broken spirit and a contrite heart” He will not despise. 

Give Him the first!  Give Him the best! Give Him your all!

Blessings and Peace to you all,

Pastor Mark