Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

Powerful Ads

Summer has faded fast. One of the things I miss most is the fresh fruit. I love and hunger for fresh fruit. And we live in an area where it is usually abundant. So abundant, in fact, that sometimes it’s hard to know where to purchase it. Which market, which stand, which store has the best fruit at the best price? That means checking a lot of ads.

Yet as I think about this, I wonder where we go to quench our hunger for a godly, fruitful life. According to the Apostle Paul the godly fruitful life is filled with “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) And note that ‘fruit’ is singular. It is not like the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit where we have some but not all. There is one large fruit that consists of all these characteristics – we do not get to pick and choose!

      

Paul was actually posting an advertisement. He said the fruit comes from the Holy Spirit. “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” In other words, the Holy Spirit offers the best fruit available.

But how do people find this fruit? Well, when thirsty for fruit, check the ads. Yet where are the ads? Advertisers know what they are doing. They tease our senses with just enough to whet our appetites and entice us to come and see, believing that once we see we will buy. Similarly shouldn’t we be the ads for the Spirit’s fruit? Jesus says we should be: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” (John 15:16-17) We should be living advertisements for Jesus Christ. Others should be influenced to come to Him because of us. Our lives should be neon signs advertising the fruit and pointing to Jesus – so when people are thirsty for fruit, they’ll have ads to check. Does the fruit of the Spirit spring from your life enough to whet appetites and entice others to come and see Jesus?

May the Holy Spirit transform your life into a living advertisement that draws others to Jesus. How will He do that? “Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” He’ll do it as you love others. When you genuinely do so the Spirit of God will fill and flow through you. Then you will have full access to all the fruitful blessings of our Father – and will be His powerful living advertisement for the fruit that’s available all year round!

 

At a Loss for Words

Sometimes I know I need help. It’s often when I am aware that I cannot communicate in an effective way.

  • For many years our congregation was blessed to have someone sign our entire worship service. I did not know how to communicate with the hearing impaired.
  • I have travelled in countries where I did not know the native language. I needed an interpreter.
  • On a few occasions my wife has accompanied me to a medical appointment. As a Registered Nurse she could express and understand things from a medical perspective I did not have.
  • There have been times I’ve been asked to speak, preach or pray at a specific event with which I was unfamiliar or which had certain expectations. I consulted speeches, sermons and prayers by others who knew the expectations and language.

I’ve always been grateful for those who could speak the necessary language.

And it is also true on an even deeper level.There have been difficult and even tragic situations into which I, as a pastor, was called to render support, assistance and comfort.

  • A family with young children had just lost their husband and father to cancer – another their wife and mother – another their young daughter, wife and mother because of a tumor
  • A family of a high school aged son and grandson killed in an auto accident
  • A young husband and wife whose baby was still born
  • A wife and mother whose husband just committed suicide
  • A man who came home to find his son had murdered his wife and daughter

I was, at least initially, at a loss for words, not sure what or how to communicate. I had no language, no words to say. How could I speak into life situations that are so horrific and difficult?

Yet I am grateful that in all these situations, and so many others, God through His Holy Spirit prompted me with what to say and do, or what not to say and do, or even to just be present – always something far more appropriate than I could ever have come up with on my own.

Similarly, I’m sometimes not sure what to say to God, how to pray to Him. Life and situations are simply overwhelming, complicated and confusing. That’s when I am grateful I know Someone who can help.

The Apostle Paul wrote about Him in Romans 8:26-27 — “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

I am moved by how A. B. Simpson responded to these verses. “This is the deep mystery of prayer. This is the delicate divine mechanism which words cannot interpret, and which theology cannot explain, but which the humblest believer knows even when he does not understand…so we can just pour out the fullness of our heart, the burden of our spirit, the sorrow that crushes us, and know that He hears, He loves, He understands, He receives; and He separates from our prayer all that is imperfect, ignorant and wrong, and presents the rest, with the incense of the great High Priest, before the throne on high; and our prayer is heard, accepted and answered in His name.” (1)

So today I have been reminded of just how grateful I am that Jesus left the earth so He could spend His Holy Spirit (John 14). Because of His great love I am never at a loss for words or instructions when I need them most. Thank you Jesus!

(1) As quoted in Streams in the Desert, Oct. 31

So So

I was in the sixth grade (in those days that was still elementary school). I was part of the safety patrol – responsible at an intersection for making sure no students crossed the street until it was clear to do so. One day, a much younger boy tripped and fell right near my corner. So I helped him up made sure he was okay, which he was. Shortly thereafter I ran for Mayor of the school. My mother told me that another mother had shared with her that her son had voted for me because I had been so nice to him the day he fell. It, of course, made my mother feel some pride – and I was always happy when that happened! But I remember thinking that it was really nothing special that I did, and wondered if it wasn’t something that anyone would have done. Little did I realize at that time a couple of lessons. One – not everyone would have helped. Two – I had experienced the divine law of reciprocity. Both lessons would be reinforced many, many times throughout my life.

Yet it was many years later when I finally recognized the divine nature of my actions. Paul said it most clearly in two passages: Galatians 6:7-10 – “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we will 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.” And he mentioned the same principle in 2 Cor. 9:6 in regards to giving. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Whether it’s in giving, or in praying, or in loving, or in our relationships what we sow, we reap. Even if we do not see it right away, God will reciprocate – it’s His promise.

I admit that sometimes I get weary of sowing all the time and begin to feel as if there is no return. After all constant sowing can be boring and not all that exciting – sometimes even burdensome. But since it’s a promise of God, I’ve adopted a principle: “When life is just so so, just sow sow.” Even if I never see the return in this life, I will in eternity. Then again, when I stop the self-pity routine and examine my life, I begin to see again the blessings God has poured into my life. He, like my little fellow student, votes for me in a myriad of ways through the blessings He sends – and I know there are many blessings I will never realize until that great and glorious day! In fact, I shudder to think of life without the blessings. I’m convinced that the saddest people, and some of the most depressed, are often those who are not sowing. So their lives are just so so – lacking in blessing and joy. The bottom line is we all have a choice – we can live so so lives or sow sow lives; it all depends on what we want out of life. “When life is just so so, just sow sow.”

And I’ve discovered one more element about the sow sow life. Once we begin to sow it becomes a habit, a pattern, a life-style. Without realizing it we are soon sowing into others lives not because we want a return but because it’s what we were created to do; therefore we feel a sense of inner peace and joy, a sense of fulfillment whenever we sow. And really, that’s blessing enough. Come to think of it, that’s when we’re most like Christ. No wonder it’s enough. So – will your life be so so or sow sow? Remember, what you sow, you reap.

Not So Common Scents

Some years ago, while attending a conference, I chatted with a fellow pastor from Canada. After we chatted awhile he mentioned he was having a little trouble because his sinuses were acting up. As I offered some usual pastoral responses he went on to explain that he was allergic to most perfumes, colognes, etc. He was bemoaning the fact that he was not back home because where he lived in Canada they had ‘scent free zones.’ Even some elevators and busses were scent free. Having never heard of such a thing I was stunned. He explained that Canadian law had stepped up to protect those with his type of allergies. While you and I might think no scents makes no sense, to him – and I’m sure to many others – it was a blessing.

The next day, another pastor who had been part of that conversation chatted with me again. She and I were expressing sympathy for people with such allergies but also amazement that the law could actually go as far as to ban scents. We bantered back and forth, tongue in cheek. “On the one hand the law was protecting some from danger but it was also restricting others in their freedoms.” “I mean, isn’t there some medication for such allergies?” “Why penalize us who are healthy?” We wondered where such laws might end if all allergies led to prohibitive laws. It’s a difficult balance. As I thought about those conversations a principle came to mind: “When you come to a scent-free zone, use your scents.”

I got my clue from the apostle Paul. He wrote “But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 New Living Translation)

Paul knew that Christians have an odor. Some are allergic to it – for them it is the aroma of death.

Some are drawn to the aroma – for them it is new life.

But for Paul there was no difficult balance – he urged us to spread the scent. This is especially true when we are among people, or in places where there is no Christly aroma – a scent free zone. “When you come to a scent-free zone, use your scents.” It’s the only thing that makes sense. Whereas people do not choose their physical allergies, reaction to the scent of Christ is a personal choice. People must smell Jesus so they can have a choice of life or death. They must smell the aroma. So “When you come to a scent-free zone, use your scents.” Each person who picks up your scent will determine whether or not they have a deadly allergy.

Well, it’s brief but that’s my two cents worth. I hope it makes sense. “When you come to a scent-free zone, use your scents.”

A Word About Tribulating

One of my favorite stories has a devout servant agonizing excessively over a certain experience. She was asked by her mistress, “Why do you agonize so long and so deeply over your misfortune? After all, you’re a Christian and you have the grace of God to help you over times like this.” The servant responded, “Well,

when the Lord sends me tribulation, I tribulate!” Boy does that ring a bell with me – I, too, have often tribulated. How about you? How do you handle the stress of life?

 

 

The Apostle Paul handled it this way: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”. (Philippians 4:4) It’s important to know that Paul was in prison awaiting a verdict on his life – if ever he had a right to be stressed out, this was it. Yet 17 times in this letter he mentions rejoicing and joy. There are no loopholes or escape clauses here – just always rejoice. Look at your circumstances and shout a defiant “Nevertheless!”. “Nevertheless, ‘Rejoice.’” The truth is our circumstances need not determine the condition of our hearts.

Rather our hearts can be conditioned by a relationship: Paul says to rejoice “in the Lord.” Rejoice because of what Jesus has done and is doing for you. Never forget that “The Lord is near (at hand.)” Think of a classroom of students. The teacher goes out of the room and remains out for some time. Chances are the atmosphere of the classroom in her absence is different than when she is present. Her presence changes everything. So with Jesus – His presence changes everything. And He is not a teacher standing by us – rather He is the Creator of the world who came to earth to be with us and who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). No matter what we’re going through, no matter how heavy the load, no matter how hard we’re tribulating, we are not alone. Jesus is at hand, ready to help us.

In light of this, says Paul, “Do not be anxious about anything…” The Greek word for ‘worry’ means to tear apart, to distract, to come apart at the seams of a garment. The Latin word for ‘worry’ suggests a violent agitation and turmoil inside a person. The Anglo-Saxon word describes a power gripping a man by the throat. Get the picture? Anxiety and worry tear us apart, create inner turmoil, and grab us by the throat. The reality is anxiety and stress have adverse effects on our muscles, heart rate, blood vessels, and our glands. It is, therefore, important to live by the principle, “Do not be anxious about anything…” It’s a choice we make. Since the Lord is at hand, and since all things hold together in Him, we can release ourselves from the compulsion to tackle our circumstances by ourselves.

I appreciate how a poet penned it:

“Don’t you trouble trouble Till troubles trouble you,
Don’t you look for trouble; Let trouble look for you…
Don’t you borrow sorrow You’ll surely have your share.
He who dreams of sorrow Will find that sorrow’s there…
Don’t you hurry worry By worrying lest it come.
To flurry is to worry, ‘Twill miss you if you’re mum…
If care you’ve got to carry Wait till ‘tis at the door;
For he who runs to meet it Takes up the load before…
If minding will not mend it, Then better not to mind;
The best thing is to end it – Just leave it all behind…
Who feareth hath forsaken The Heavenly Father’s side;
What He hath undertaken He surely will provide…
The very birds reprove thee With all their happy song;
The very flowers teach thee That fretting is a wrong…
’Cheer up,’ the sparrow chirpeth, ‘Thy Father feedeth me;
Think how much more He careth, O lonely child, for thee.’…
’Fear not,’ the flowers whisper; ‘Since thus he hath arrayed
The buttercup and daisy, How canst thou be afraid?’…
Then don’t you trouble trouble, Till trouble troubles you;
You’ll only double trouble, And trouble others too.” (1)

Tribulate or rejoice – the choice is yours! (2)

(1) Quoted by Roy L. Laurin in Life Established: A Devotional Exposition of the Epistle to the Colossians, Van Kampen Press, Wheaton, IL., © 1948 by Van Kampen Press, p. 46-47

(2This Blog comes from a sermon by Pastor Curry, “Living a Joy-full Life: Control Your Stress” based on Philippians 4:1-9.

Thoughts on Sainthood

I was recently part of a conversation about ‘true saints.’ We acknowledged the fact that for most people, the term ‘saint’ brings to mind either people who are dead or who are alive but are very special because of their deep faith. It got me thinking about the richness of sainthood but also about the lack of understanding of sainthood. Unfortunately that lack of understanding leads to anemic living. That’s why I love the way the apostle Paul begins his letter to the church at Philippi.

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:…” (Philippians 1:1 RSV).  Paul is writing to the saints in Philippi – to all the believers in Philippi. The truth is if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a saint. If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior and accepted Him as Lord of your life, you are a saint. True sainthood is an assigned designation not an achieved status. It is given, not earned. It is a status for the living not for the dead. When you come to believe in Jesus Christ, you are given the destiny and dignity of being a saint.

And that empowers you vibrant living. It means you are assigned, designated, set apart to glorify Jesus. You simply need to be who you are. In the Old Testament God designated certain things and places as ‘holy’, meaning they were to be used only in sacred ways and for sacred purposes. In the New Testament God designated people as ‘holy’, to live in a sacred way and to be used for sacred purposes. Paul says your permanent address is in Christ Jesus. Your zip code may be Philippi, Corinth, New York City, South Haven, Kalamazoo, or Chicago…it may not be next year what it is today. But your permanent address is in Christ Jesus – it never changes. No matter where you live or how popular you are or are not, you are rooted in Jesus Christ and your identity comes from Him.

It also means you are special and valuable, because God has chosen to have his Son Jesus shine through you. It’s said pictorially in a little poem entitled ‘What Is A Saint?’

“What is a saint?” the youngster asked; So his parents set out to explain.
By describing Saint Francis, and Bernadette They attempted to make it plain.
They told of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and ended with John and Paul;
But the boy just couldn’t relate to this and didn’t grasp it at all.
Then the parents went to their church and showed him The stained glass windows there; The faces of the elect shone out As they preached or knelt in prayer.
The boy was asked if he understood, And he said, “I think I do;
From what I’ve seen, I’d say a saint Is a person the light shines through.”

]

No matter what others say or think, you are holy, you belong to Jesus Christ and He is wanting to shine His light through you.

I wonder – what if we were all more ‘saintly’ in our living, being the special persons we are. What difference would it make in our lives – and in the lives of those around us – and in our communities – and in our world? I encourage you to embrace your position and identity as a saint – let His light shine through you.