A Humble Ride


If the President or the Pope were to come to our city today, they would probably arrive by private jet and would travel in a motorcade of limousines filled with Secret Service agents or body guards. There would be much pageantry and splendor with their arrival. Depending on the occasion, a red carpet might be rolled out before them to signify their importance. By contrast, 1979 years ago today, there was a humble, yet memorable arrival of Jesus in the City of Jerusalem.

During his short life Jesus would travel to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, many times to visit his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus.Bethanywas an easy two-mile walk to Jerusalem where Jesus ministered on several occasions. This time, however, His entry into Jerusalem would be different. This time Jesus knew that he would be entering Jerusalem as a culmination of his earthly work, the offer of the kingdom, and he knew he would be starting the last week of his earthly life. This entry would be a memorable entry.

As Jesus neared Bethphage, he sent two of his disciples to a nearby village where he told them they would find a donkey and a donkey colt on which no one had sat. They were to loose the colt and when asked they were to tell the owner that the Lord was in need of it so that the owner would immediately send the colt to Jesus.  The disciples placed their cloths on the back of the colt giving Jesus a place to sit as he road the colt on this momentous occasion.

Jesus, fulfilled Zachariah’s prophesy in Zachariah 9:9, “Behold your King is coming to you, lowly and sitting on a donkey, a colt the foul of a donkey”, as he road this young donkey colt into Jerusalem those many years ago. There was to be no royal steed for Jesus, as he entered Jerusalem. There was no royal red carpet. Instead there were branches from Palm trees laid on the road and Palm tree branches waved in his honor. Jesus, The Messiah, The King of Kings, The Lord of Lords, in his humble state as he proudly sat in simple elegance on the back of a lowly donkey colt must have appeared more royal, more elegant, and more ceremonial to his followers than if he had been on a mighty steed and in flowing, elaborate robes.

Although, Jesus rode a lowly donkey those many years ago, he will one day ride a royal white horse befitting a King when he enters to establish His Kingdom. What a glorious entrance that will be!

Scripture Verse

 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Revelations 19:11-16 (NIV)

Prayer

Heavenly Lord, may we remember your Son Jesus with a renewed sense of awe and reverence this week. Help us to have sensitive spirits this week as we recall the price Jesus paid for our sins and the cruelty he endured on our behalf as he died on The Cross. May our JOY be full as we recall Jesus’ resurrection during Easter Season. Help us to be so spiritually full that we must share The Good News of Christ’s resurrection with others who do not know him as their Savior. And may we be filled with hope as we look forward to the day when Jesus will ride on a white horse.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Fruitful Lives


Does your life reflect the attributes of God? Can others who cross your daily path see and feel the love of God in your words, actions, and attitudes? What about those times when you think no one else is looking, are you living by the Holy Spirit?

Paul, one of the great apostles, understood our struggles as Christians. In Galatians 5:16-17, he wrote of this struggle. I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

A modern translation of these same scriptures by Eugene H. Peterson, The Message, reads: “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?”

As a new Christian, we learn of the unconditional Love of Christ for us and that we are to show this same love to others. We also learn true Joy and an enduring Peace as we grow to know Christ better. Continued growth in our spiritual life teaches us to extend the unconditional love of God to others. In this process, we are challenged to be Longsuffering or patient in our relationships with them, being Kind in word and deed and showing Goodness toward them at all times, regardless of their actions toward us. True spiritual maturity, regardless of our physical age, brings an inner strength reflected in unwavering Faithfulness, a tender Gentleness, and Self-Control in all areas of our life. In this stage of spiritual growth, we come to realize that even if others may not see or hear, God always sees and hears. We come to realize that our relationship with Him is sweeter when we surround ourselves with these attributes.

These attributes of God, most often called the Fruit of the Spirit, are not a requirement of our salvation but instead are an outward, physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit working in us and are evidence of our salvation, affecting our relationships with God, others and our self.

When we accept Christ as our Savior, we not only receive eternal life in Heaven, we receive the blessing of God’s fruit – His Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control given to us even we are undeserving. God does not pick and choose which fruit to give us – instead He freely give us ALL nine – a gourmet basket filled to overflowing with all His fruit – evidence of His love for us. As followers of Christ, neither are we to pick and choose which fruits we wish to cultivate and share with others. Instead we are to partake of all nine of God’s fruit blessings and we are to pass all nine of these fruits on in all we think, say or do, at all times, in all places and to all people.

VERSE OF THE WEEK

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.            Galatians 5:23-23 NKJV

Walk in Unity


Longsuffering is an intriguing word. Anyone hearing this word for the first time may wonder, “why would I want to suffer” and more importantly, “why would I want to suffer for a long time?” “Why would God want me to suffer? The word suffering conjures up visions of extended illnesses, cruel treatment by others, extended emotional distress, intense physical pain, losses, and many other visions of hurt, pain, or sorrow.

I recently heard about a man who has faced many struggles in his life. He has suffered from the trials of alcoholism and depression, resulting in the loss of both his marriage and his job. Thereafter he suffered from serious liver disease and had to have a liver transplant. A short time later, he faced more surgery followed by chemotherapy as he battled cancer. After winning that battle, he was once again struck with a serious illness that left him totally incapacitated and near death for 6-8 months followed by an extra 10-12 months of rehabilitation as he now seeks to regain his physical strength.

This individual certainly has endured “long” “suffering” as he faced the challenges of one life battle after another.  Yet, is this the type of suffering that is referred to when Scripture speaks of “longsuffering”? Possibly, however, I believe “longsuffering” really speaks to our attitude during periods of physical, emotional or mental struggles.

The Greek word for longsuffering, makrothurnia, is most often used to describe God. The Greek root word really means “put fury far off while suffering wrong or injustice”. Today’s definition for longsuffering in the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary is very similar. It reads, “patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship”; “accepting pain or hardships calmly or without complaint”; or “the capacity to endure what is difficult or disagreeable without complaining”.

Patience, endurance, forbearance, leniency, are all a part of “longsuffering”, as we are asked to actively respond to opposition and difficulties in our lives, not simply to exhibit a passive resignation to what may seem to be the inevitable. Paul prays for his friends “for all patience and longsuffering with joy” in Colossians 1:11. In Romans 5:3-5, Paul tells us that “…tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope.” Paul continues to tell us in 1 Corinthians 13, that patience is a characteristic of true love.

Only God can be truly longsuffering, slow to anger, without complaint. God shows His longsuffering toward us each day as He is patient with each of us as we fall short of His plans in our life. Peter tells us to “consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation”.1   We can know then that God is also patient with non-Christians until they come to know and accept Him as their Lord and Savior.  He waits, with loving arms, on us and withholds from us His frustration at our slowness in accepting Him or our failed attempts to walk in His way.

Therefore, as Christian we are asked to be patient with others, especially during difficult times or in times of adversity.  So if only God is truly longsuffering, how can we be patience or longsuffering? As Christians, we are able to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit. It is by walking in the Spirit that we are able to develop a longsuffering attitude that cannot be destroyed regardless of our circumstances and it is solely by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to have patience in our lives that no one can defeat.

The man I discussed above has definitely endured human suffering on many fronts and over many years of his life. Without knowing the state of his soul or knowing him personally, it is difficult to know how he has handled these difficult times. Was he able to find joy, hope during these times or did he simply resign himself to his circumstances? It is my prayer that he has felt God’s patience and the patience of Christian family and friends as he has walked this painful walk.

The decision to turn suffering into patience and hope in our lives is a personal decision that we must each make. It begins by accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and it continues by embracing the power of the Holy Spirit to develop in us the Godly attitude of longsuffering and patience as we face the trials and hardships in our lives and in the lives of our family and friends.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.                       Ephesians 4:1-3

 1 2 Peter 3:15 NKJV

 

3/26/12 Scripture

Quote


I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Psalms 16:8 (NKJV)

You will show me the path of life,
In Your presence is fullness of joy,
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalms 16:5 (NKJV)

Faithfulness


The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word faith as “belief and trust in and loyalty to God; belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion; firm belief in something for which there is no proof; complete trust”.  It is by faith, by our firm belief that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins, that we are granted eternal salvation and a spiritual rebirth. Faith is the foundation of our life with God.

Is the fact that we have faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, enough to please our God? Does He have greater expectations of us? How do we keep up our belief in God every day, even when challenges of life come our way?

In Genesis 5:18-24, we are told of Enoch, a man who “walked with God”. In Hebrews 11: 5 we find Enoch again and learn that he was spared physical death because he “pleased God”. The facts we know about Enoch are few – he walked with God, he pleased God and God spared him physical death.

 If Enoch walked with God, then it would seem that He remained faithful and true to God regardless of the circumstances in his daily life. Is this not what God expects of us?

Do we put our faith in what God does for us or do we put our faith in who God is? True faithfulness is the resolute belief, steadfast trust that God is always who He says that He is regardless of what may be happening in our lives. He is dependable. We are told in 1 Corinthians 1:9 that God is faithful. Lamentations tells us that God’s compassions fail not and that they are new every morning and that His faithfulness is great. We are assured in Matthew 28:20 that God is with us always, even when we may not be aware of his presence. We can experience His faithfulness in His protection, in His mercy, in His love and it is revealed in all of His promises throughout Scripture.

There is no question that God is faithful to us but how do we show God our faithfulness? Is it not by our daily obedience, our daily loyalty, our firm resistance to any temptation to desert or betray His teachings, and our determination to adhere to His teachings regardless of daily events in our lives?

Revelations 4:11, tells us that we were created to please God. Our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior is only the first step to us following our calling to please God. It is our ongoing faithfulness, our daily obedience, our constant walk with Him that fulfills our calling and pleases our God.

Verse of the Week

By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”, for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But 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 diligently seek Him.

Hebrews 11:5-6

 Prayer

Oh Holy God, how we rejoice that you are a faithful God and that we can always count on you even when people might fail us. Help us to remain faithful in our walk with you. Even when the going is tough, help us to remain faithful in our belief in your faithfulness. May each of us strive daily to bring you pleasure.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Gentleness


The word “gentleness” brings to mind thoughts of a soft breeze, the soft babbling of a shallow stream as it flows across pebbles or falls into a small waterfall; calm ocean waves lapping on the sandy shore; the landing of a butterfly quietly on a blooming garden; or any scene that would promote a serene and calming environment.

Gentleness is also reflected in our actions toward others. We might see it reflected in the tender kiss or hug of a loved one or in a calm, soft voice of understanding from another when we are upset or discouraged. Human gentleness can also be seen in a happy and contented newborn baby or a small child snuggling close in a parent’s or grandparent’s lap as they listen intently to a story being read aloud to them.

A term that is rarely heard today is “gentleman” to describe a man seen as being considerate of others, who is humble, placing others before himself, and who exhibits such behavior as holding the door open for his wife or another woman, offering his chair to a woman who is standing, or some similar act.  Although culturally our society may have moved away from these “gentlemanly” acts as men and women’s roles blur, each of us as Christians are still to show consideration, kindness, meekness, humility and a giving spirit, gentleness, when interacting with others.

God is described as gentle in 2 Samuel 22:36, Psalm 18:35, Isaiah 40:11. In the New Testament there are many references to the gentleness of Jesus Christ as seen in 2 Corinthians 10 and Matthew 11:29.  As we grow in our spiritual lives, we are to follow the example of Christ and grow in gentleness – being kind to one another, speaking calmly and with consideration of the desires, feelings, and needs of others. As we seek to allow Jesus’ love to flow thru us to others, we must show a gentle spirit or the effectiveness of our Christian witness to others is undermined.

As Jesus was gentle with those He met, so we are to be gentle to people we encounter each day – whether they be family, friends, peers or total strangers.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.             Ephesians 4:1-3 NKJV

TRUST AND OBEY


“Trust” and “obey” are little words but they are words that can and do make a significant difference in our lives. We probably first heard these words very early in our lives. The first time we heard them may have been from our parents. Maybe it was a father encouraging us to ride our new two-wheel bicycle for the first time as he held the back of our seat, saying “trust me, I will not let you fall”. Or maybe it was the first time we jumped off the side of the swimming pool into the arms of one of our parents saying, “trust me, I’ll catch you”. Or, it might have been when one of our parents scolded us at a very young age for not obeying them. I can still hear my Mom promising to spank me or one of my two younger sisters with the fly swatter if we didn’t obey her when she told us to do something. At some point in our lives we begin to realize that there are negative consequences when we choose to be disobedient.

As we grow older, we encounter many people in our lives who either ask us to trust them or to obey them. Sometimes we are asked to do both, just as we were with our parents. Trust is a part of any worthwhile relationship, whether that relationship is with a relative, a friend, a mate, or a business associate. Obedience is also a part of our lives as we obey civil laws, corporate policy or some other guidelines of our society. Most of us, at least by the time we reach adulthood, find ourselves on the other side of ‘trust’ and ‘obey’ as we urge children to obey us or we ask others to trust us in one of several different ways.

If we were to look these words up in Websters dictionary we would find the noun trust defined as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something” or “one in which confidence is placed”. The verb trust would show “to place confidence in” as one of its meanings. Terms such as “to conform to”, “to comply with”, “to follow the commands or guidance of” can be found in the definition of the word obey.

These words become significant in our spiritual lives as well. It is in God that we are to “place our confidence”. God, through His Son Jesus, wants to be our authority, the giver of grace and mercy in forgiveness of sins, and the giver of an eternal life with Him in Heaven. As His children, we are “to follow the commands or guidance of” His teachings that are given to us in His Word. We are to be obedient to our Heavenly Father, just as we were to be obedient as children to our earthly parents.

The words of the old hymn, Trust and Obey1, so beautifully summarize what scripture teaches us about trusting and obeying Jesus.

When we walk with the Lord, In the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey

Chorus:
Trust and obey, For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doeth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, Not a frown or a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows and the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey

Then in fellowship sweet, we will sit at His feet
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
>Never fear, only trust and obey.

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

1 John 2:3-6 (New International Version)

Lord God, may all who read this message grow daily in trust and obedience of Your ways. Amen.

__________________________

1John H. Sammis, 1846-1919 and Daniel B. Towner, 1950—1919