Death and Taxes

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Hebrews 9:27

We live in a world that is sadly bereft of certainties. Truth has been discarded and society seems unable to discern the most obvious of things. In the chaos of our social upheaval, the universe remains undisturbed. Whether we acknowledge them or not, certain laws have been encoded into the created order and they continue to operate unimpressed by our “modernity”. These Truths are anchors to which we can hold fast when the seas of change are overwhelming.

As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “there’s nothing certain except death and taxes.” I’m not entirely sure about the taxes part, but there is not one who has been born of woman who has ever escaped death[1]. Even Jesus conquered death, not by escaping it, but by tasting it and overcoming it.

Perhaps it is just because I am of a certain age that death is more frequently in my thoughts and it touches my world and those near me with increasing frequency.  I live in the “sandwich generation”, where we are caring for aging parents and parenting adult children. More than that, many around me are touched by soul-crushing trials, pain, and diseases. Add to that the chaos of our society and it is no surprise that my heart craves truth I can rely on and hope for the future.

This verse was one of the first set I memorized from the Navigators Topical Memory system when I was in college (a very long time ago). It always struck me as odd that this sentence fragment should be a memory verse, but it’s meaning is clear enough and is motivation to believe and share the gospel. Yet today I find a deeper meaning than I did before.

There are three key truths here that are asserted, not defended. That is, they are presented as self-evidently true, just as the existence of God is asserted in Genesis 1:1.

  1. There is one who has decreed times. God is in control
  2. Every man (woman) will die
  3. Each will face judgment.

Here is a Truth to which we can anchor our souls: each of us has an appointment with death. You see, death is not a tragedy (although it can be tragic) or something that befalls us. To be sure, it is an enemy; one that has dogged humanity ever since the garden. Some of us are stricken by disease, others taken by accidents, some are felled by the hand of man, and others succumb gracefully to old age, but in all cases it is to be hated, resisted, and avoided to the extent possible.

Yet, we cannot escape our appointment. The Greek word used here means “laid away, reserved for, awaiting one”. We have death on lay-away, and it is ready for pick up. The Bible tells us that our days are numbered (Job 14:5-6) and that God knows that number. This appointment must be kept because we must receive our wages (Gen 2:17, Rom 6:23).

Another anchor is that there will be a judgment. This is actually very good news[2]. Deep in our soul is a longing for justice, for good to be rewarded and evil to be repaid. If evil is never judged, then life doesn’t make sense; there is no reason to be good, and those who suffer injustice have no hope.

Now, if there will be a judgment, then there must be a judge. Our confidence and our hope is that the judge is a good, just, and loving God. Some might claim that a good God, a loving God could never judge and condemn his creation. Yet such a God would not be just; neither would he be good. Would such a God be loving?

Consider a good God. God in his goodness cannot tolerate evil. To do so would pollute and corrupt his goodness, and he would no longer be good[3]. Consequently, a good God must purge evil from his presence. 

Similarly, justice requires that each one is treated fairly, without preference or prejudice. In our human legal system, unjust judges are detestable. We crave Justice, but in our fallen world, no human judge is able to always decide rightly. Fortunately, the judge who will render eternal judgment is not a fallen man, but the God-man, Jesus (John 5:22,30, 8:16).

One common misconception about this judgment is that our good deeds will be placed on one side of a scale and our bad deeds on another; our fate will be decided by which way the scale tips. This view is based on a complete misunderstanding of the nature of sin and its consequences. 

While most people are familiar with John 3:16, and many know John 3:17 (although perhaps not in context), less know John 3:18-19. It is clear that we start out under the condemnation of sin (Romans 5:12-14); it is for this reason that we have our appointment with death. More on this later.

Finally, can a loving God execute judgment on his creation? Would doing so make him unloving? In truth, to not judge would be unloving. Is a father unloving when he disciplines his child (Psalm 94:12, Prov 3:11)? The dictionary defines discipline as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” In other words, judgment of (willful) wrong behavior. This is what a loving parent does (Heb 12:9). There could be nothing more unloving than to sweep the evil done by men under the carpet in the name of “love”. No, love demands that justice be served.

Yet what then? Since we are all guilty, that sounds like horrible news. If would be, but God… This passage continues,

so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Hebrews 9:28 

In the same way that our death and judgment are appointed, Christ will return. Not just any Christ, but the one who “once for all” (Heb 9:26) took upon himself the penalty, the judgment, the price that was due to all humanity. The second “advent” will be to save those who love him. Now John 3 makes sense. Now there is some hope.

We see (finally) what love really looks like (Isaiah 53:6, Rom 5:8). The (priceless) gift has been freely offered. But for those who love darkness rather than the light, they will not be denied their “joy”. May God grant that none who read these words choose darkness and death over the offense of the cross.


[1] except, arguably Enoch (Gen 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11); some believe these are the witnesses of Rev 11:3, and will ultimately also die.
[2] While writing this post, I received this:

Finishing Well

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
1 Corinthians 9:24

As a younger man, in my late 30’s or early 40’s, I attended a men’s event at church. There were just a few of us; probably less than 20, but I still remember the exhortation of the pastor to “finish well”. He cited men like David, Solomon, Hezekiah, all of whom saw God use them powerfully for his purpose, but then just drifted. Families and kingdoms imploded as they failed to stay the course.

A little while ago, someone I care about posed a question that I interpreted along the lines of “what is the meaning of life?” I replied with “well done, good and faithful servant.” What follows is adapted from the letter I wrote in response. As I’ve re-read it, I’m encouraged that this is a message worth hearing (and re-hearing). I hope you will find it useful as well.

As important as it is to ask about the meaning of life, it is more important how you ask, or rather how you are prepared to receive the answer. Solomon wrestled with it in the book of Ecclesiastes, and he was the wisest man to ever live.

Some in the world would tell you that “he who dies with the most toys, wins.” However, even the most cursory examination of that philosophy reveals that “he who dies with the most toys still dies”. Chasing after things, pleasure, even “enriching” experiences is ultimately futile. As Solomon noted, “[God] has put eternity into man’s heart…” (Ecc 3:11). We intrinsically know that there must be something “more” than this; some enduring meaning that outlasts our brief span on this earth.

Logic suggests that to find an eternal meaning, you must engage in an eternal purpose. Since there is only one eternal, living God, fulfilling his purposes for me is the most profound, meaningful activity I can engage in. This is what I meant when I answered your question with “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Now we get to the meddling part. Maybe you are hearing “mene mene tekel upharsin” (Dan 5:25), repeating the condemnation to yourself over and over. You sense a futility about your daily activities (Ecc 1:2-3); your goals, hopes, and dreams have not come to pass like you expected them to. Or at least, these are my guesses.

Maybe your pain goes deeper. Maybe you are mired in secret sin that you know is wrong, but can’t gain victory over. The “accuser of the brethren” is standing over your shoulder throwing yellow cards and telling you that you will never succeed, that you’ve gone too far this time, that God could never love you, forgive you, accept you. So you are wondering if there is any consolation prize that can salvage the shipwreck you’ve made of your life.

Whatever your starting point, the search for meaning must be willing to cast off meaninglessness. Maybe there is some truth to whatever accusations you are entertaining about your life. If you are building with wood, hay, and stubble (1 Cor 3:12), are you going to keep on doing what you are doing, or will you change your building materials? 

As the saying goes, “if you want what you’ve never had, you must do what you’ve never done.” This is the first, non-negotiable prerequisite for change. Change is hard. It requires closing the door on what has been. There is loss. It must be experienced, mourned, embraced. Without the end of what was, there can never be the beginning of what will be. I know this sounds like motivational bumper sticker-ism but that’s doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Simple truth is never simple to implement. It is hard, and we need all the encouragement we can get to persevere with hard things.

The other crucial step is to change who you are listening to. Even if all of the accusations of the enemy about you are true, all of his representations of God are false. Just as in the Garden the serpent misrepresented God, sowing the seeds of doubt and disobedience, you are still being told lies about God. 

What then is the truth? 

  • But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8). If God loved you enough to die for you while you were in your sin, what can you do that will change that love?
  • For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9). My acceptance has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Jesus’ atonement.
  • But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Heb 10:12,14). The work of Jesus was singular, sufficient, and complete. Just as I cannot add to it by my good works, neither can I detract from it by my evil deeds. Jesus is enough.
  • There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1). Why? Because Jesus did everything that the law required, including dying for “the wages of sin”. Therefore, we are released from the transactional “if you do this, then you get that” way of life.

All of which leads to, what does “well done, good and faithful servant” mean? Does it mean that God is sitting on his throne in Heaven waiting to see who has enough gumption to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and do what he wanted them to do? I don’t think so. I think it is pretty obvious in scripture that God is never particularly interested in what we bring to the table, beyond our availability. David didn’t defeat Goliath by his superior military skill; Gideon had to have his army decimated before God would use him; the boy on the Judean hillside didn’t bring a catering truck, he brought a sack lunch. God is really much more interested in what we will allow him to do.

  • But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9). 

I have always longed to have great power, to be able to call down fire from heaven, like Elijah. But I have come to understand that what God wants is for me to be weak so the he can show himself powerful. The horrible thing about that is that I’m still weak. In fact, I think God is about breaking me of all my self-sufficiency until nothing is left but God-sufficiency.

I think the commendation is more “you learned to get out of the way and let me use you” than a “look what a good job you did.” The more I know God, the more persuaded I am of his goodness and redemptive character. When things don’t make sense, I remind myself that God is good and cling to that.

The marvelous thing about the Kingdom of God is that it doesn’t matter how (or when) you start; it only matters how you finish (Matthew 20:8-9). May you run the course set before you in such a way as to win the prize.


No Big Deal?

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Genesis 2:16-17

Today marks the first day of Lent. Observing Lent has not been part of my tradition, just as Advent has not been. I wrote a blog about Lent a decade ago, so I guess it’s time again.

Many churches observe the imposition of ashes, with these words: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” It is a reference to the judgement pronounced on Adam in Genesis 3:19 after his rebellion to God’s command.

I’ve never participated in that particular ritual, but the allusion to the Genesis creation account resonated with me today. 

I’ve been meditating on how little salvation means to me. I don’t mean that I don’t care. My words will say that Jesus’ death for my sins is the most important thing in the universe. Yet my heart has a hard time feeling it. I have to conclude from this that I’m just not that convicted about my sin. I’m a pretty good guy; let’s face it, we Pharisees have a lot to be proud of. That’s not to say that I reject the doctrine that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), but to me sin is just a word I use to describe myself in the abstract. It doesn’t touch me viscerally.

If you read God’s command to Adam honestly, you have to say, “Really? Eating from that tree carries a death sentence? What kind of power trip are you on? How can it be such a big deal?” Maybe the Queen of Hearts might say such a thing, but the loving creator of the universe?

Chances are, unless I am unique, some similar kind of rationalization of your sin continues to this day. “Yes, I was harsh to my spouse/child/employee/boss, but they pushed me too far.” “No, I didn’t give my employer a full day’s work, but I worked harder than most of the others.” “Of course I took some office supplies home; no one really cares.” And so it goes. We don’t see sin as really that terrible. Certainly not worthy of death. So it’s hard to connect emotionally with the idea that I deserve eternal torment for my life.

The problem is, my standard is not the one I’m accountable to. God’s standard is clear. From the beginning, the wages of sin have been death (Romans 6:23). What we miss as we gloss over the Genesis account is that Adam’s actions were high treason against the Kingdom (rule, authority, dominion) of God. While Adam was given dominion over the creation, he himself remained subject to his creator. In defying the only prohibition given to him, he removed himself from under that authority and placed himself on equal footing with the Lord of Hosts.

Not convinced? High treason is a crime that undermines the offender’s government, or criminal disloyalty to one’s country. This pretty accurately describes the actions of Adam and Eve. Under English common law, punishment for treason generally included drawing, hanging, beheading, and quartering. All at once? That sounds harsh. Is that really what sin is? Connect the dots for me.

When the serpent tempted the woman, she countered with a more-or-less accurate representation of the command. The serpent flatly contradicted God in asserting, “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4). So now they were faced with the choice of remaining in obedience to God, submitting to his rule and authority, or of believing the serpent and grabbing all the gusto. In rejecting God’s command, they rejected his authority, his right to make the rules. They set themselves up as independent, superior authorities. In other words, they said, “I know what you said God, but I have a better idea. My way is better than yours.”

Not much has changed in 10,000 years. Rebellion is so entrenched in our nature that we hardly even blink in the face of it. Some popular parenting advice even advocates for it in children as a sign of a healthy development. Speed limits are “suggestions”. Red lights are a challenge to see how many more cars can squeeze through. Homework is optional. Rebellion is good. You shall not surely die.

In pulling my focus back to the garden and the pronouncement “for dust you are and to dust you will return,” (Genesis 3:19) I am challenged at the beginning of this Lenten season to change my thinking about my rebellion, my sin, my treason. I must begin by embracing how utterly and completely I have earned my death sentence. I need to hate sin with the hatred of a holy, perfect God, and confess (agree with him) that I deserve a punishment as least as severe as the most heinous criminal I can think of. Only then will I be able to glimpse the magnitude of the grace that has been given to me.

Easter is the celebration of the fact that “it is finished” (paid in full) was attested to by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). My gratitude will be directly proportional to the extent to which I believe I deserve the judgement that was poured out on Jesus on the cross. The more I acknowledge the heinousness of my treason, the greater will my appreciation be for being redeemed from my just sentence of death.


Calm and Quiet

Some time back, as an action point for a sermon (and apologies to my pastor, I have no clue what the sermon was about), we were challenged to pray through five different psalms during the week. It was a very encouraging exercise; many of the psalms were familiar and it was sweet to meditate through them with the Lord. But one particularly grabbed my heart.

I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul
A Song of Ascents. Of David.

Psalm 131

The Psalms of Ascent were sung on the approach to the temple in Jerusalem. They are songs designed to prepare the heart for worship, to rightly orient the heart of the worshipper towards the God of Israel. Intentional preparation for worship is a good thing; too much of our daily, secular lives take our attention away from the Divine, from the God of our Salvation. Purposeful reorienting is incredibly valuable.

Over the past week or two, my wife and I have been memorizing and meditating on Psalm 131 as a call to worship before we pray. It’s a very short psalm, only 3 verses, but it is packed with incredible depth and wisdom. Walk through it with me, and allow me to unpack it.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;

A lifted up heart speaks of pride. The best antidote to pride is to look at someone better [smarter, wiser, kinder, richer, funnier, prettier,…] than me. Coming before the Ruler of Heaven and Earth makes it pretty easy; I don’t have to look any farther. No matter how highly I may regard myself, in comparison to God I am nothing.

There is a big difference between humility and humiliation, though. They both come from a root meaning “low” but humility is the state of being low (in heart), whereas humiliation is the act of being (publicly) brought low, or shamed. Humility is a place where I can (should) hang out; I don’t have to make much of myself because God has already made much of me, by redeeming me from my sin and adopting me into his family.

On the other hand, there is security in being humble before God, because he will never humiliate or shame me (Ps 51:17).

    my eyes are not raised too high;

Related to the posture of the heart is the focus of the eyes. In part, this also speaks to humility; in the hierarchical society of David’s day, the lesser would look down, or avert their eyes from the greater. Looking down was a sign of deference. Not raising my eyes “too high” is a declaration of knowing my place before God.

At least in our modern day, the aim of the eyes is also aspirational. Goals are a good thing, but we do not want to be like Satan (Is 14:13) and set our eyes on something that belongs to another. Neither do we want to devote ourselves to unattainable goals. Such goals would be frustrating and destructive. 

I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.

Simply put, I don’t worry about things I can’t control. But the language is much richer than that. 

The word translated great speaks of magnitude, intensity, or importance. Some things are just overwhelming. It is also used in relation to age (older). Think of how we preserve the innocence of children, by not exposing them to things too great for them.

Similarly, the word translated marvelous speaks of things that are too difficult, beyond my power. It is the same word used in Gen 18:14, when Sarah laughs at the prospect of bearing a child in her old age. To her doubt,  God asks, “Is anything too marvelous for the Lord?”

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

The heart is prone to worry, but worry is the enemy of worship. I must choose where my mind dwells, and on what I spend my energy. The psalmist’s example is to choose to “stay in my lane” and leave the big stuff to God. Easy enough to say, but how about some help here?

    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Weaning in David’s time occurred sometime between the age of 2 and 5. Remember that Hannah brought Samuel to live with Levi at the tabernacle after he was weaned, so we aren’t talking about a swaddled infant here. Consider such a child, somewhere between toddler and rambunctious little boy (three of my grandchildren are currently in this age, so the picture is vivid for me).

These are not calm and quiet children. They are perpetual motion machines, a seemingly inexhaustible source of energy that, could it be harnessed would solve all of the worlds energy needs. Yet this energy defies harnessing; rather, they are chaos engines wreaking havoc and destruction wherever they go.

Except… let one of them become hurt, tired, hungry, or afraid and there is just one place they want to be, safely snuggled in momma’s arms. Whatever the injury, a kiss and a hug allows them to release the pain and regain their security that the world is a safe place. How? An unshakable faith in Mother’s ability to make it right; a bedrock knowledge of Mother’s fierce love; this is what calms the weaned child.

Here, then, is the clue on how to calm myself. Instead of churning and fretting over things I have no business with, I throw them down and run to my God, who truly is able to make them right, and who loves me more deeply (Rom 5:8) and more fiercely than any mother ever did.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore.

Biblical hope is not wishful thinking, like “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” The word translated hope here has a root meaning of waiting. In the more intensive Piel form here, it means to wait (expectantly) for. 

Contrast what the psalmist admonishes with how we normally hope. We set our hope in an outcome: a test score, a promotion, a healthy child, secure retirement. Instead, Israel (and by extension, all who worship the living God) is to hope in a person, the covenant God of Abraham. I can’t help but be reminded of C.S. Lewis’ classic quote:

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

C.S. Lewis, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”


Fruit of the Spirit – Self Control

As we wrap up our guest blog series by Debra, how has God challenged you? Which fruit of the Spirit do you need God to develop in you more fully?

We have come to the last fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 – self-control.  

Vine’s Bible dictionary defines self-control as the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.  Another dictionary says sensual is defined as pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or appetites; carnal; fleshly; worldly; materialistic.

I think of self-control as the power and ability to respond and react in ways that are honoring to the Lord, instead of ways the enemy wants us to act.  My old sinful nature just wants to please myself.  The Holy Spirit is waiting for us to ask Him to help us act, sound and be like Jesus.   Usually that is a huge difference!  When I am allowing the Holy Spirit to work in my life, showing self-control means that I am also exhibiting other fruit of the Spirit too.  

There are so many Bible verses that address our attitudes, actions and reactions.  The book of Proverbs gives a great deal of contrasts in what to do instead of what not to do.  It contrasts wise choices with the unwise.  I recommend reading through the book to get some good reminders.

God gives us all the same power through the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing to Him.  Although we do have to make the decisions on how we will respond and live, it is only through His power that we can be successful.

2 Timothy 1:7  “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

The apostle, Paul, wrote a letter to a man named Titus who was in charge of choosing men to be leaders in the church, and teaching men and women to lead by example in their spheres of influence.  Notice that all groups of people are directed to be self-controlled.

Titus 1:8  “Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”

Titus 2:2  “Older men are to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.”

Titus 2:3-5  “Older women are to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Titus 2:6  “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.”

Here are some verses that show the importance of having self-control and being alert, watchful and ready to pray.

Proverbs 25:28  “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”

Titus 2:11-12  “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and    to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

1 Peter 1:13-14  “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”

1 Peter 4:7  “The end of all things is near.  Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.”

1 Peter 5:8  “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Our challenge is to ask the Holy Spirit to have control over every part of us each morning when we wake up, and then again as we go through our days.  This will include our thoughts, attitudes, actions, words, etc.

Here is my prayer for you.

Colossians 1:9-12  “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way:  bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”


Fruit of the Spirit – Gentleness

Today’s guest blog by Debra gets real … does God confront you where you live? Are you vulnerable to his correction?

I need to confess that some of the delay in writing more from Galatians 5:22-23, was that I had an interaction with a non-paying customer at our car wash a few nights ago that made me realize that the Holy Spirit still has a great deal of work to do in my heart.  I have to admit that there was no “fruit” on my “tree” that evening.  I reacted and became angry, and I had to repent to the Lord and ask His forgiveness.  I am so grateful for His mercy and grace!

As I said in the beginning, these challenges are as much for me as for anybody.

Today’s word is Gentleness.  A few of the definitions:  kindly; amiable; mild; moderate; not severe, rough or violent.

Do you have anyone that comes to mind when you hear this word?  I have a teacher at the preschool I used to work at that comes to my mind.  He is so calm and gentle with the children, even when they are being very challenging.  His temperament is always the same, and yet he gets their respect and their attention.  He truly is a picture of Jesus to them.  I really admire him and how he allows God to work through him!

Let’s read some verses on gentleness.

Our first verses refer to our speech and tone of voice.  When we are dealing with an opposing view, or when we are sharing the gospel with people, our words need to be gentle and respectful.

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

1 Peter 4:15  “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Jesus gave us a great example to follow in living a life of gentleness and humility.  Although, there was that one episode in the temple, where He was so angry about His Father’s house being turned into a marketplace where people were being cheated.  NOT gentle then!  But here in Matthew, He describes Himself in ways that help me trust Him to take my burdens.  I love reading this verse.  It definitely gives me a sense of peace and rest.

Matthew 11:28-29  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

The rest of these verses are all about how other people see us and how we represent our heavenly Father.  I need to be reminded that we are His representatives, and when people see us we are supposed to look and sound like Jesus.  Wow!  That is quite a big responsibility!

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

1 Peter 3:3-4  “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  (this is specifically for women)

Philippians 4:5  “Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.”

Colossians 3:12  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

I am praying that as we read these verses, that we are going to choose today (and tomorrow and the next day, etc.) to clothe ourselves with gentleness and kindness.  Will the people who live in our homes hear gentleness in our voices?  Will our words to them be encouraging and loving?  Will our children and spouses know they can tell us anything, and our response will be words like Jesus would say to them?

Will we be known as having a gentle and quiet spirit?  Will we be known to have humility and compassion?  Will our gentleness be evident to all?

Fruit of the Spirit – Faithfulness

We are in the final stretch of this guest blog series by Debra… I hope you have been challenged to press in to the Holy Spirit and cry out for greater fruit in your life.

Today’s word from the Fruit of the Spirit is Faithfulness.  Let’s start with some definitions of faithful:  true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc; steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant; strict or thorough in the performance of duty.  My dictionary also says the synonyms imply qualities of stability, dependability, and devotion.  Faithful implies long-continued and steadfast fidelity to whatever one is bound to by a pledge, duty, or obligation.  Constant suggests firmness and steadfastness in attachment.  Loyal implies unswerving allegiance to a person, organization, cause, or idea.

Wow!  These sound serious!  I had never looked up the meaning of faithful before.  Think about these definitions as you read these Bible verses.

First, let’s think about God’s faithfulness to us.

He never changes and He cannot lie.  His promises to us that are written throughout the Bible will always be true. 

Psalm 33:4  “The word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.”

Psalm 86:15  “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

Psalm 117:2  “For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.”

Psalm 145:13  “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.  The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.”

Second, here are some verses on how God’s relationship with us is evident in His faithfulness to us.

1 Corinthians 1:9  “God, who has called you into fellowship with His son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23  “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3  “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”Hebrews 10:23  “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Third, these verses are for us to live out. 

The verse in Revelation is referring to the end times when God commands us to stay strong in the face of really tough decisions we might have to make as His followers.

Proverbs 3:3-4  “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”

Romans 12:12  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Revelation 14:12  “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”

We all know people who are faithful to sports teams, brands, companies or organizations, and political groups.  Being faithful to our spouse, family and friends is vitally important for those relationships to thrive. But our priority as believers in Jesus Christ is to be faithful to God above all else, no matter the circumstances.  Is this evident to the people around you?  Do you share with them how faithful God is and how you choose to live in faithfulness to Him?   Can they tell that your relationship with Him is the most important and unwavering?  Do we show God our faithfulness to Him through our thoughts, how we spend our time, what we watch and listen to?

Our last verse is our challenge.

Go back and read the definitions again and see how you can answer this question as to your relationship with God. 

Proverbs 20:6  “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?”

Fruit of the Spirit – Goodness

As our guest blog by Debra on the Fruit of the Spirit continues, I hope you have been engaging with this challenge to experience God more deeply

Our word for today is Goodness.   Some definitions:  moral excellence; virtue; kindly feeling; kindness; generosity; excellence of quality; the best part of anything; essence; strength.  Some synonyms:  integrity, honesty, uprightness, benevolence.  Antonyms:  badness, evil.

I have to say that I am a little overwhelmed at the expectation of living a life of goodness (along with all the other Fruit of the Spirit, for that matter).  Sometimes I feel like I am living up to these standards, but sometimes not so much.  God’s Word reminds me over and over of my need for the Holy Spirit to dwell in me and give me the power to attain what I cannot on my own.  His help is there for the asking.  Thank you God for the Holy Spirit!

The first song that popped in my head when I started this email was the song, “God is So Good.”  The words are “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me.”  And then you can add other verses about Him answering prayer, and loving us so, and whatever else you can think of.  Simple enough to teach preschoolers, but reassuring to all.  Everything about Him is good.

There are so many Bible verses on the word “good”.  Here are a sampling of them.

The psalmists repeat how good God is.

I love these assurances of the goodness of God.  They show me His love, protection, favor, forgiveness and faithfulness.

Psalm 34:8  “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

Psalm 84:11  “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

Psalm 86:5  “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.”

Psalm 100:5  “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

I found many verses on having to choose to do good.  It is very intentional.

Psalm 34:14  “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Psalm 37:3-4  “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Micah 6:8  “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Romans 12:9  “Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Romans 12:21  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I found a few with warnings. 

I feel like the days we are living in are exactly what this first verse is talking about – good is seen as evil and evil is seen as good.  Christ will be returning soon and will judge everything according to His holiness.  Be cautious of the influences in our lives.  Make sure we are living a life doing exactly what God has asked us to.

Isaiah 5:20  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

I Corinthians 15:33  “Do not be misled.  Bad company corrupts good character.”

James 4:17  “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

I also found some verses with promises and blessings when we choose to do good.

Psalm 112:5  “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.”

Proverbs 14:22  “Do not those who plot evil go astray?  But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.”

I found these verses for wives. 

Do our husbands feel like they have been shown favor from the Lord by marrying us?  Are we being noble and bringing good to them?  If you are not sure, you might ask him and see how he answers.

Proverbs 18:22  “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”  {I totally agree 🙂 }

Proverbs 31:10-12  “A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

I found these verses that remind us that God created us to be like Him – to do good things and to live a life of goodness.

Galatians 6:9-10  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Ephesians 2:10  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

1 Timothy 6:18  “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

This final verse reveals the fruit that is on our trees.

What kind of fruit can others see?  Is God living inside us?  Have we invited Him to be our Lord and Savior?  Have we given every area of our lives to Him?  Are we full of His goodness?

Matthew 12:35  “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

Fruit of the Spirit – Kindness

Day 5 of our Fruit of the Spirit Challenge guest blog by Debra. This is getting real. Only God can produce these fruit in me. How about you?

Kindness.  In a preschool classroom, I remind the children to be kind to each other.  God is asking us as adults to be kind to one another also.  Kind to our spouse, kind to our children (no matter how big or small), kind to our neighbors, kind to our co-workers, kind to the clerk in the store.  You get the idea.

What is kindness?  Some synonyms:  benevolence, generosity, charity, sympathy, compassion, tenderness.  An antonym: cruel.  

So, think about the words we use as we communicate with others.  Even if there needs to be a correction given, we can still be kind.  Our words need to be ones that encourage and lift one another up, not tear anyone down.  My heart aches when I overhear someone speaking harshly to another, when they are saying things that are cruel and demeaning, especially to children.  I pray for the recipients that they come to know our Savior who thinks only the best of them and loves them more than they can imagine!

Colossians 3:12  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

When God says to “clothe yourselves”, can you see the picture?  To choose these from our closet and put them on so that others can see (and hear) what we are wearing.  It is a choice we make every day in what to wear, hopefully with the intent to honor God in all that we do and say.  Sometimes we need to make that choice hourly!  

Ephesians 4:32  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Kindness includes forgiving others.  Sometimes that is tough to do.  God set the bar pretty high when He told us to forgive others like He forgave us.  And He says that if we want Him to forgive us, then we need to forgive others. And if we don’t forgive others, He will not forgive us.  (Matthew 6:14) 

Proverbs 11:17  “A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself.”

Proverbs 14:21  “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.”

Proverbs 14:31  “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

God really does love and care about each and every person, and He wants us to do the same.  Someone who is needy might be someone we know or a stranger.  Watch for ways to be kind – maybe a smile, maybe a hug, maybe a kind and encouraging word, maybe a helping hand, maybe cookies for the neighbor who irritates you.  (That was for me to do!)  Ask God for practical ways to be kind to someone in need that will show them the love of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 13:4  “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” 

1 Thessalonians 5:15  “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are commanded to love and be kind.  Even in difficult situations or relationships, we are told to be kind.  We are never given an excuse not to be – no matter how other people are acting or treating us. When it seems like that might be impossible, that is when the Holy Spirit reminds us that He is living within us to help us do the impossible!


Fruit of the Spirit – Patience

Day 4 of our guest blog series by Debra continues, but this is where it gets hard. How is God working in you to produce His fruit?

Today’s focus is on Patience from the Holy Spirit.  When I first think of patience, I think of having to wait a looong time for something to happen, and not liking it!   As I read these Bible verses today, I learned that it can have some other meanings too.  

Patiencequiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence

Colossians 3:12  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

1 Corinthians 13:4  “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

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

1 Thessalonians 5:14  “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

Patiencethe quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

Proverbs 14:29  “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”

Proverbs 15:18  “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

Romans 12:12  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Psalm 40:1  “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”

Patiencean ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

James 5:7  “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.”

James 5:8  “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”

Our challenge then, is to be patient with others, patient in tough situations, and patient waiting for Christ to return to take those who believe in Him to Heaven with Him.  I am so ready to be in Heaven, but am definitely choosing to be patient and wait until He is ready for me to be there.

We need to evaluate our patience level and make sure that we are being patient while waiting on God to act on our behalf too.  Sometimes that is the hardest part for me.  I want to see immediate answers to my prayers!  I am challenged in the waiting process to be patient and allow God to work as He knows best and in His time.  A good example of waiting on God would be the promise from God to Abraham that he would be the “father of nations.”  He waited 25 years for God to give him the son that would begin that process.  25 YEARS!  That’s a long time!  And God waited until it was impossible for that son to be born in any other way except for His miraculous work in the womb of Abraham’s wife, Sarah.  I want to be patient enough to see God work miracles.