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Even the Appearance . . .

The apostle Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians (5:22) said, “Abstain from all appearance (form) of evil.”

These words were a living reality in the life of the apostle Paul who took public opinion very seriously and did everything within his power, as long as it did not compromise the Gospel, to avoid any appearance of evil.

Living for the glory of God was Paul’s consuming desire. He did not want any shadow to fall on that Blessed Name. He took great precautions to avoid any hint of scandal. Paul’s wisdom in this matter arose from a deep respect for God and a divinely-given humility, which put the name of Christ before his own concerns.

“It was not enough for the apostle to do right, he recognized the importance of appearing right,” Charles Hodge writes. “It is a foolish pride which leads to a disregard of public opinion. We are bound to act in such a way that only God, who sees the heart and knows all things, may approve our conduct, but also so that men may be constrained to recognize our integrity. “

It doesn’t matter who you are, a manager a teacher, a parent, a student or a housewife, your duty before God and men is not only to be honest but to appear honest. It may take extra effort and prior planning to arrange a situation so that you do not put yourself in a compromising position. It may take sacrificing the easier way or doing what you want to do at a given moment in order to remain pure in appearance.

This does not mean though that you become bound by the consciences of others. Remember, the greatest act of love is to put others first and to place the honor of God before our own desires.

May you have a blessed week serving the Lord and submitting to our God’s commands out of obedient love to Him.

Blessings and Peace to You,

Pastor Mark

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

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