The frustrating difficulty of kindness – Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness, Preview

“Just be kind!” 

I can’t tell you how many times those three words have been uttered inside my house.  The reason why we have said those words so often over the years is because people in my house are not treating each other with kindness.  Usually this bad behavior is the outflow of sibling rivalry or annoyance. 

Maybe you’ve experienced what I’m talking about.  Perhaps you’ve experienced people treating one another unkindly in other relationships.  Would you believe that husbands and wives can be unkind toward one another?  Or how about neighbors?  Have you ever had an unkind interaction with a neighbor?  Maybe it was a blow-up with a co-worker or boss. 

Some societal observers have noticed that there is an increasing decline of kindness in our culture.  People feel more and more comfortable to express themselves in unkind ways.  It seems that social media has only made it easier and more comfortable for people to be unkind.

Many of us say, “Just be kind!” to our world, thinking that if people were kind to one another, that kindness would solve a lot of problems. People could choose to be far more kind than what is normal, but time and time again people do not choose kindness.

Why would people not embrace kindness?  Why do you and I allow unkind words and actions to flow from our lives?  The answers are complicated, as we wrestle with sin and pain and bad habits, broken relationships, and systemic injustice.

It is quite difficult to be kind sometimes, isn’t it?  How do we grow kindness in our lives? In our continuing series on the Fruit of the Spirit, we are learning to walk in step with the Spirit, which means growing the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  We’ve learned about growing love, joy, peace, patience and now this coming week we’ll study what it means to grow kindness. 

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Forgiveness as necessary for patience – Fruit of the Spirit: Patience, Part 5

As we walk in step with the Spirit, we will have the Spirit’s empowerment to live patiently.  That means we will be patient with others.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul writes, “[W]e urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Wait, Paul…everyone?

What Paul is suggesting is not easy.  Some people are exceedingly difficult for us, right?  We might say back to Paul, “Paul, you don’t know _______ like I know them.”

My guess is that we all have our lists of family members, co-workers, and friends with whom we have a hard time being patient.  Maybe they are annoying.  Maybe they are unkind.  Maybe they think they are funny, but we don’t.  Maybe they are know-it-alls.  Maybe they are the people who won’t shut up.  Maybe they are the people who have hurt you, time and time again.

To those people, Jesus teaches us what is perhaps the ultimate tool of patience.   Forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the practice of those who are patient.  Forgiveness is rooted in God’s patience.  Think about the extreme lengths God went to forgive us, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  He forgave our sins.  Think about how patient he was with us in his forgiveness of us.  So God says, you who have been forgiven your sins, you now forgive others who sin against you. 

Forgiving patience doesn’t mean that allow people to abuse you.  You may need to set boundaries with them so they don’t perpetuate the hurt. 

But you can still forgive them as God has forgiven you, even if you no longer have a relationship with them. 

Thankfully, in most of our difficult relationships, with most of the people who we have a hard time being patient with, we will not have to cut off the relationship.  But we will have to grow patience with them, and for them.

That is partly why God has given us his Spirit to be with us, to live in us.  Remember Romans 8.  The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  The Spirit intercedes for us, with groans that words cannot express.  God is with us.  Though it seems like God is far away or asleep, we would do well to cultivate the knowledge that the Spirit is living with us.  Think about that.  God in us.  Do you need to dwell on that?  Maybe daily?  God with us.

In the Pause App, the one phrase that is repeated in nearly all of the prayers is “God, heal my union with you.”  I love that because we can feel distant from God.  And yet, God the Spirit is with us.  We have union with God.  That means when life is hard, God is with us.  Jesus said to his disciples that after he left them, a comforter, a counselor, would come to them on his behalf.  That comforter and counselor is the Holy Spirit.  There is a very biblical basis for disciples of Jesus to spend time, lots of time, growing our relationship with the Holy Spirit. 

What do you need to do to grow patience in your life?  Do you need repent of your impatience?  Has your impatience caused you to act in ungodly and inappropriate ways to others?  Do you need to confess your sin to them?  What will you do to walk more in step with the Spirit in the area of patience?

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Growing patience through thankfulness – Fruit of the Spirit: Patience, Part 4

In Colossians 1:11 Paul writes a prayer that includes an important teaching about how to become more patient. Paul prayed that the people would be “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.”  Now that’s interesting.  Thankfulness and patience together.  When you are walking in step with the Spirit, you are thankful for the opportunity to be patient.  How does that grab you?  I so often hate being in the situation that is requiring me to be patient. 

In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  This verse reminds me that there is a close connection between peace and patience.  When we are in a situation requiring us to practice patience, so often we are not feeling peace.  Paul says, at that moment, “Present your requests to God and be thankful.”  Yes, Paul is suggesting that we pray something like this: “Lord, I am thankful for having to practice patience.” 

What do you do if you’re not thankful?  Be honest.  Tell it to God.  “Lord, I’m struggling right now.  I know I should be thankful in all circumstances, but I’m having a hard time with this situation.  I want to be thankful so that I can experience peace.  I want to be patient the way you are patience.   But I’m not you.  I’m struggling.”  That sounds a lot like lament, doesn’t it? 

When you read the psalms of lament, they are people really struggling with patience.  The psalms of lament say things like, “How long are you going to wait before you rescue me from this horrible situation, Lord?  I’m dying here.  I need you now!  Wake up, Lord!  Why are you sleeping on the job???”  Psalms of lament seem to be the opposite of patience, don’t they? 

They’re not. Psalms of lament are faithful expressions of honest struggle to God.  They are human.  Lament flows from people who are wrestling with the tug-of-war that is pain of life on the one side, and trying to be faithfully patient on the other.

If you are struggling with a situation, godly patience cries out to God in the middle of the situation.  Lament is that cry to the Lord, coming from a faithful place, saying “Lord, I need you.  I want to be patience.  I don’t know that I can keep this up, Lord.  Help!” 

God is not duty-bound to answer our lament they way we believe he should answer.  He might.  It is so awesome when he does.  But he might not.  When God doesn’t answer, and we must keep waiting, that does not make him evil.  It also doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care, or that he is not trustworthy.  Even when we are waiting well beyond how long we think we should be waiting, God may not step in.  We may need to keep struggling as we wait.  Those are the difficult moments when we learn godly patience by having an opportunity to practice godly patience. When we walk in step with the Spirit, we will grow patience. 

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How to grow patience – Fruit of the Spirit: Patience, Part 3

What does growing patience look like?

In Proverbs 19:11 we read that “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”  Patience is rooted in wisdom.  Proverbs are illustrations of what is a wise course of action almost all the time.  There will be exceptions to the rule when it would be unwise to be patient.  To perform CPR.  To pull a baby away from touching fire.  To make a business deal that is time-sensitive.  But for the most part, it is wise to wait, to give time for evaluation, to ask questions, learn more.  “Be quick to listen, slow to speak,” wrote James, the brother of Jesus. 

If you’re the new kid on the block, maybe at a new school, a new job, a new sports team, patience means taking time to get to know your new surroundings, and especially to get to know the people involved.  Patience means having a humble, teachable heart so that you don’t come in like a hurricane, thinking you know it all.  Instead, if you see something that seems nonsensical, and you think you have a better way of doing things, stop yourself.  Keep your mouth shut.  Listen.  More than likely, just by patiently listening, the question will be answered for you in time as you learn more.  But if not, then formulate a question.  Patience avoids accusation and judgment, but instead, patience asks, “Why do you do it that way?”

Likewise in Proverbs 25:15 we learn that “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.”  Or consider Ecclesiastes 7:8, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”  Patience is waiting.  But not just any waiting.  Patience is a certain kind of waiting. You can lock up a person in chains and force them to wait against their will.  They might not be too thrilled about that, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they rebelled against this imposition.  They would try to free themselves.  They don’t want to wait in chains.  They are impatient.

Godly patience, however, is influenced by the other qualities in the list of the Fruit of the Spirit.  It involves, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness and self-control.  Patience submits to God, saying honestly, “I don’t want to wait.  I don’t like to wait.  I would much rather be done with the waiting.  But I give myself to you in the waiting. Help me wait like you want me to wait.”

Tom Petty once sang, “Waiting is the hardest part.”  It’s true.  If we’re waiting on information, we want to know that information fast.  I remember being a teenager thinking that it was taking forever for me to turn 16.  Then I remember dating and being engaged thinking that our wedding day, 8 months from then, was so far away.  When I started my doctoral degree in September 2018, the thought of taking 10 courses, passing comprehensive exams, and especially writing a dissertation seemed an impossible mountain.  Waiting is difficult.

When you are in the middle of a challenging time, you are waiting, you’re living in what is called in the liminal space.  Liminal space is not the before or after, but the middle.  You don’t know when things will change.  You don’t know when the pain will end.  You don’t know how long you will be alone.  You don’t know how you will pay the bills.  You don’t have a diagnosis.  You are waiting. 

In the waiting, God calls us to walk in step with the Spirit and be filled with his patience.  It is a gracious patience.  It is a kind patience.  It is a loving patience.  It is a self-controlled patience.  It is a joyful patience. 

Photo by Free Walking Tour Salzburg on Unsplash

 

Jesus’ patience with his mom – Fruit of the Spirit: Patience, Part 2

Remember the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine? In that culture of honor and shame, running out of wine would have been a significant embarrassment for the father of the bride. So Jesus’ mom, Mary, goes to him, asking what seems to be a totally innocent observation, “They have no more wine.”  But hers was no innocent remark.

Jesus could have said, “Oh wow…bummer.”  Or he could have looked at her with snide look, “Mom…everyone knows that.”  As if Mary’s comment had nothing to do with him.  But he knew his mom.  He knew exactly what she was getting at.  Maybe it was her tone of voice, maybe it was a twinkle in her eye.  Mary was communicating that she knew Jesus could do something about the wine running out.

Notice Jesus’ response, “Dear woman, why do you involve me?”  He totally knows what Mary is doing here.  He knows that she wants him to do something about the lack of wine.  She wants him to solve the problem that the father of bride is facing.  What Jesus says next is fascinating, “My time has not yet come.”  Even after his ministry got started, we find him often saying things like “Please keep quiet about this, my time has not yet come.”  Jesus was patient, managing the pace of his ministry so that it stayed in line with the mission of God. 

Back at the wedding in Cana, I find it fascinating that Mary chooses to disregard Jesus’ comment.  You gotta love Mary in this story.  I wonder if she was a bit of a fireball.  Jesus says to her, “My time is not yet come.”  He wants to keep his ministry on a particular pace, not too fast, not too slow, but reaching the finish line at just the right time.  In other words, he is patient.  He’s concerned that if he does a miracle, like changing the water into wine, it could result in something like him becoming popular too fast. 

Mary, though, doesn’t even acknowledge this.  I don’t know if she rolled her eyes at him, shrugged him off, or said, “Talk to the hand.” More than likely she just smiled at Jesus, and with a twinkle in her eye, she basically dismisses him.  She dismissed Jesus!  The Messiah.  Mary ignores him.  Is she being rude or sinful?  No, I don’t believe so.  She’s his mom.  She is the only person who gets to ignore Jesus.

Notice, he didn’t say “No, I will no do this.”  He simply said, “Why do you involve me?  My time has not yet come.”  Jesus invites a discussion, asking a question.  Mary interprets Jesus’ response as him leaving the door open, that he might possibly help.  What is so amazing to me is that she doesn’t interact with him.  She doesn’t attempt to reason with him.  She doesn’t attempt to get him to say, “OK, mom, fine…I’ll do it.”  In fact, she doesn’t even answer his question to her, “Why do you involve me?” 

Instead, Mary turns to the servants and simply says, “Do what he tells you.”  How does Jesus respond?  With a “Woah…mom…I told you, my time has not yet come.  Why are disrespecting me?  I’m not telling these servants anything.  Geez, mom, don’t you know I have to be about my father’s business?  I’m not getting involved in some wedding party.”???  No.  Jesus follows his mom’s lead, tells the servants to fill some large jars with water and take the water to the master, who discovered it was the best wine.  We see in this Jesus is not only patient for his mission, but he is very patient with his mom. 

God is our example of patience.  And it’s a good thing, because we humans need it.  Imagine if God wasn’t patient with us!

Thankfully Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 1:16, “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”

Peter points this out in 2 Peter 3:9 and 15 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. … Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.”

Because God is patient, he calls us to be like him.  What, then, does it mean for us to grow patience in our lives? In the next post, we’ll learn more!

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Better to be a late bloomer, than a flash in the pan – Fruit of the Spirit: Patience, Part 1

I recently started using my phone to pay at the store. At the checkout, all you have to do is double tap on your phone’s fingerprint sensor, hold the phone up to the credit card reader, wait a second for the lights to flash green, and you’re done. The receipt comes flying out of the printer, and off you go. It’s one of those contemporary technologies that would astound my 16 year old self.

Except for when it doesn’t work. When it doesn’t work, you know what happens? I immediately feel anxious because it is not working! I start tapping the phone all over the reader trying to get it to connect. I turn off the payment function on my phone, then turn it back on. Maybe resetting it will help. If a reset doesn’t help, I feel tension growing inside me. Is the malfunction my fault? Is my phone not working? Is it the payment reader? Finally, in frustrated impatience, I pull out my credit card and insert it. What a pain it is to have to get out my wallet, then my card, then insert the card into the chip reader, then tap the debit PIN. Ugh. All that work.

I’m partly being facetious, but partly not. We humans can be very impatient, can’t we? Sometimes about minor annoyances like the payment reader not connecting with my phone. But sometimes we can be impatient about major realities in life.

In our continuing series on the Fruit of the Spirit, we are learning to walk in step with the Spirit, which means growing the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  We’ve learned about growing love, joy, peace, and now this coming Sunday we’ll study what it means to grow patience. 

What is patience?

The people who study languages tell us that the word Paul used here is defined as “a state of emotional calm in the face of provocation or misfortune and without complaint or irritation[1]

They also tell us that “In a number of languages ‘patience’ is expressed idiomatically, for example, ‘to remain seated in one’s heart’ or ‘to keep one’s heart from jumping’ or ‘to have a waiting heart’.”[2]

This week we’re going to learn that Scripture says quite a lot about patience. First Scripture teaches us that God is patient. Paul wrote in Romans 2:4, “Do you show contempt for the riches of [God’s] kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”

God is our example.  God never asks us to do something that he himself did not first demonstrate for us.  As we learned recently in the Ezekiel series, God was extremely patience with the nation of Israel.  He is patient with us too. 

Patience is a part of God’s character.  That means Jesus was patient.  Imagine being Jesus, living a no-name life for 30 years.  Maybe when Jesus was a kid, he knew that he wasn’t ready to go out on his own and have a preaching and healing ministry.  But what about when he turned 20?  Or 25?  Of course, the culture of First Century Jewish Palestine was very different from our culture.  We are used to pushing our kids to make a name for themselves as soon as possible.

We’re rarely patient with our kids.  We want them to be superstars when they are still tiny, as if it is a major achievement that they got their first tooth at three months, or are reading by two years old.

Our culture breeds this impatience in us, pushing us so early on.  I remember taking one of those career tests in 9th grade, where you’re supposed to find out what you are going to do with the rest of your life.  I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life in 9th grade.  The only desire I had at that point was to be like Maverick in Top Gun and fly F-14 Tomcats for the Navy. But because my eyesight is so bad, I knew that wasn’t happening.  How many of us knew what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives in 9th grade, and then actually did it? 

I like the phrase, “Better to be a late bloomer than a flash in the pan.”  Sure, the rare person achieves greatness at a young age, but most don’t.  In fact, the popular people, the early achievers usually flame out.  I’d rather be a late bloomer.  That requires patience.  I suspect Jesus was a late bloomer.

In Jesus’ culture there wasn’t much pressure to pick your career early, as more than likely, you’d do what your father did.  But Jesus was different, right?  It’s possible that he was identified as having a special mind early on, and some scholars believe that he could have been tapped to go to elite rabbinical schools.  We don’t know.  What we do know is that he would have learned his father, Joseph’s trade, some form of carpentry or more likely masonry, which was the more prevalent kind of construction. 

Because his father, Joseph, does not appear in the stories of Jesus’ adult life, we believe Joseph had passed away, and Jesus being the eldest son, could have fulfilled the role of taking over the family business and making sure his mother, Mary, and siblings were cared for.  You know what I am describing here?  A totally normal life. 

Even if he did go to the elite schools, at some point Jesus moved back to Nazareth, which was a tiny town in the northern Galilee region of Jerusalem.  It was a nothing-special kind of town.  You don’t come from Nazareth if you want a chance at stardom, and you certainly don’t go there if you want to make a name for yourself.  But that’s exactly what Jesus did, and likely for years.  Jesus was patient.  Very patient.

I find Jesus’ example highly instructive, because we can want the next thing, or a bigger thing, a better thing, and we want it now.  Yesterday would be better.  Our American culture is not one that builds patience in our lives.  Certainly circumstances can force us to work on becoming more patient, but our culture is all about faster, faster, faster.

Last week, I was sitting in my living room, and I heard a voice from on high, “Dad!!! The wifi isn’t working!!!” My daughter was in her room upstairs and her use of social media was suddenly interrupted. Maybe you know the feeling. When the internet is down, what happens?  We freak out.  Then there is the new world of email and text message etiquette.  When you send a text message asking a question of someone, how long do you wait for them to respond before you start getting upset?   

We are called to become like Jesus, which means we will cultivate patience. But how? In the next post, we’ll learn more.


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[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 306.

[2] Ibid

The agony of waiting – Fruit of the Spirit: Patience, Preview

In December my daughter turned 16, and we went to the PennDOT Driver’s License Center at East Town Mall so she could take her permit test.  We walked in the front door, and she received her number from the receptionist.  At the far side of the large waiting room, we found seats near the bank of computers used for permit tests.  Then we did what you do in waiting rooms.  We waited for her number to be called.  The system announced number after number over the loudspeakers, as screens displayed the number of the person being served.  We waited as other numbers were called, and we waited some more.

I started feeling the need to use the restroom, but I didn’t want to go in case my daughter’s number was called.  So our waiting continued, with a growing unsettledness as people around us got up after hearing their number called.  We pulled out our phones to keep busy.  I thought that I should have brought my laptop to work on my dissertation.

My urge to use the men’s room steadily grew, and I began shifting in my seat like you do when you’re feeling discomfort.  We looked around trying to determine if people who arrived after us were having their number called before us.  It sure seemed like that was happening.  Was something wrong?  Did our number get skipped?  Should we get up and ask for help? 

As the minutes ticked by, I was now becoming very uncomfortable.  I got upset with myself, thinking that I should have gone to the restroom when I first felt the urge.  I would have been back with plenty of time to spare.  Now I was shifting in my seat and bouncing my feet, certain that if I ran to the bathroom now, my daughter’s number would be called while I was away. 

Have you been in that situation?  Waiting. The DMV is usually a good bet if you want to try your hand at patience.  But there are plenty of other experiences in life that force us to wait, often for much, much longer than the DMV.  Graduation from grade school is a 12+ year process.  Working for retirement usually requires decades.  How do you do with waiting?  Are you good at it?  Or not so good? What, or who, tries your patience?

In our continuing series on the Fruit of the Spirit, we are learning to walk in step with the Spirit, which means growing the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  We’ve learned about growing love, joy, and peace, and now this coming week we’ll study what it means to grow patience. 

Check back in on Monday, and we’ll get started.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

How to grow peace in your life – Fruit of the Spirit: Peace, Part 5

This week we welcome guest blogger, David Hundert, who is a Master of Divinity student at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, PA.

What I hope is that you will be able to walk away from these blog posts about peace and have peace; to be at peace with God. How do we do that? First, in Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

To begin trusting in God, if you’ve never done that before, is really simple. Romans 10:9-10 states,

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

“What does it mean to be “justified?” It means “just as if I’d never sinned.” You can have your relationship with the Lord restored. You can have peace with God. It’s right there for the asking.

If you’ve done that already and yet you still don’t have peace, ask the Lord to show you what it is that is in the way. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what you need to confess to Him and then do it! Ask Him for forgiveness and enjoy that peace. He can restore that ability to walk in step with the Spirit and that peace will sprout in your life to overflowing!

If you’ve never asked Jesus into your heart and into your life, just comment below. You too, can have that peace in your life like none other. I promise you, that if you get into the wheelbarrow that Jesus is pushing, you will experience a life of peace like no other!

Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

What is trust? – Fruit of the Spirit: Peace, Part 4

This week we welcome guest blogger, David Hundert, who is a Master of Divinity student at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, PA.

Charles Blondin was a world famous tightrope walker in the 1800s who decided that he wanted to be the first person to walk a tightrope stretched across Niagara Falls. During his first attempt crossing the 1,100 feet long span, 160 feet in the air, he made fun of hecklers by pretending to lose his balance and walking shakily across to the other side. All said and done, he went back and forth across the falls six times! Sometimes with a balance pole, sometimes not.

At one point, he took a chair halfway across, balanced it on the rope, and then sat on it on it and took a rest for a bit. He juggled “juggling pins” while walking back and forth. He even took a hot plate and made himself some food and ate lunch while balancing on the rope. Finally, he unveiled his big finale! He uncovered a wheelbarrow. Everyone cheered until he quieted the crowd.

As part of his finale, he asked for a volunteer to ride in the wheelbarrow. They
believed he could do it, but no one would trust him enough to get in.

To me, this is a lot like what the Lord did with the children of Israel. Think about it. He delivered them from the mightiest army of the day, delivering them from slavery in Egypt, and walking them right up to the mountain of God, all while parting a sea, providing light and protection at night and clouds, food and water by day.

When they believed Moses’ meeting with God on a mountain was taking too long, they turned away to a false, man-made god. Yet God still delivered them to the promise land, while feeding and provisioning them for 40 years! He defeated their
enemies for them! When they cried out, He answered. Every time God asked for their trust, even in the midst of all of these miracles, they wouldn’t get in the wheelbarrow.

Centuries later, the Jews struggled under their oppressors once more. They cried out to God, and He sent their Messiah. They wouldn’t believe it! In Matthew 16, verses 1-4, we read,

“The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to
show them a sign from heaven. He replied, ‘When evening comes, you say, “It will
be fair weather, for the sky is red,” and in the morning, “Today it will be stormy, for
the sky is red and overcast.” You know how to interpret the appearance of the
sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous
generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’
Jesus then left them and went away.”

15 chapters of miracles preceded this conversation, and yet they still wanted more! Can you believe it? What was the sign of Jonah that Jesus was referring to? Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights! Jesus was in the tomb for three days and three nights… Did the religious leaders believe it then? Rather than give glory to God for the miracle of resurrection, they paid off the guards and told them to say the disciples took His body!

After Jesus’ ascension, Peter and John were dragged before the high priest and the rest of the religious leaders because the proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection and through them, the Holy Spirit healed a man. Again, the religious leaders refused to get in the wheelbarrow!

How about you? Have you placed your trust in God? Is there some way you could demonstrate a new or deeper trust in God today?

Finding peace like a child – Fruit of the Spirit: Peace, Part 3

This week we welcome guest blogger, David Hundert, who is a Master of Divinity student at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, PA.

What else does Jesus say about peace? In John 14:27, Jesus, in the midst of telling the disciples that he was going away, is trying to comfort them. Jesus states,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Then first half of the very next verse, Jesus tells them that He is going away, but He is coming back! He wants them to trust. He leaves them with the peace of knowing that He will be back!

In Romans 5:1, Paul uses the same Greek word for peace that Jesus uses,

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The word here for “peace,” is the Greek word “irene,” a multifaceted word. In one definition it could mean “a state of concord, of peace and harmony.” If you think of it in terms of two governments, it would mean that they are at peace with each other. They’re not at war. It would mean that they are out of danger. On a personal level, “irene” could be harmony in personal relationships. Within the body of Christ, it could mean to have peace and rest. It’s used to encourage us to make peace, to strive to be at peace. “Irene” is a state of well-being. Most of all, it’s the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word, “shalom”; welfare, health, harmony and everything else we discussed in previous posts.

Both Jesus and Paul are saying that since we have been justified through faith, if we trust Him, all of those synonyms for the word “peace” apply to us with our relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ! Can you imagine? We were once enemies with God, and now we are in harmony; we are in a state of concord, we are at peace with God.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that is really hard to grasp! Have you ever had that kind of peace in your life? Would you like that kind of peace in your life? How different would your life be right now if you could experience that kind of peace? More importantly, what would it take to obtain that kind of peace?

In the previous post, I mentioned that there were two analogies that the Lord uses a lot to describe that type of peace. The first is a shepherd, and the second one is that of a child. Think back for a minute when you were a child; did you have that kind of peace? What brought you peace as a child? Knowing that your basic needs were met? Knowing that you had no worries ahead? What does the Lord says about children?

In response to the disciples asking who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, he says in Matthew 18:3-4,

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

One of my commentaries states that this teaching focused on this one child is a model for true discipleship. To be a true disciple, we need to become like a child. What does it mean to become like a child? We all can’t turn back the clock as the Pharisee Nicodemus mentions, so we know Jesus didn’t mean to physically become like a child. Now I’ve heard that growing older is mandatory, but growing up is optional so mentally, there is an argument that can be made that some of us never grow up. I’d like to submit that the way that we become like children is in the way that we “trust.”

In the next post we take a look at trust.

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash