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Let Your Graciousness Be Evident
Body searches at airports…shoes and hats holding up the lines…terrorists and the traumatized…anxious faces…worried dads and moms…young women blowing themselves up for a cause…we certainly live in uncertain times. So what is our stability now? Where will we find security in a world where everything that can be shaken is being shaken? And what attribute will set us apart from the violence covering the earth as in the days of Noah?
I thought about these things traveling to and from Singapore. So many hours in airports and in the air let you do things like that. Singapore itself is a thriving, "Disney-world" clean, prosperous city-state, with beauty surrounding its skyscrapers and towers dedicated to commerce. The food is outlandishly fabulous. The people are friendly, well-dressed, willing to work for what is important to them. It’s a little curious that things are shifting around, like the merlion being moved to a new location, the mouth of the river being humanly relocated, statues and museums changing to new places, but Singaporeans do think and pray about their city.
We had a powerful service at the Tanglin Christian Fellowship. One of the member's dog, Wolfie, came to stand in for the animal kingdom. Wolfie and his canine friend Jamie also opened the door to the room while some of us were praying about issues of animal abuse and the "maid" culture of Singapore as if God were letting us know that the voiceless were being given a voice, and God was listening to their cries. Thanks to the grace of God and the fervent hearts of the Singaporean Christians who came out to represent Asia and proclaim Jesus Lion of Judah, it was a most successful mission.
Sunday afternoon, Easter day, we began talking, first about the significance of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey (a mother donkey) with her colt beside her. Jesus’ robe covered them both. He did not separate mother and child. (Zechariah 9.9, Matthew 21.1-11, John 12.12-19, Mark 11.1-11, Luke 19.28-38) Scripture says He came as one meek, humble, gentle. In fact, fulfilling Isaiah 42, Matthew 12.18-21 tells us:
Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
God’s longsuffering, His mercy and lovingkindness, baffle us. But then we have fallen short of the glory of God. Our thoughts of God are too human most times. We think, even fear, He may be more like us. We’re touchy. We don’t like people crossing our boundaries. We are ready to go to court over the least violation of our rights. We like to air things out in public. We get to fighting and arguing over mundane and often silly things. And yet most of the time, we think, "They sinned and deserve da da da, but I just make mistakes. I should be forgiven, but "they" should pay." We want mercy, but find it hard to give to others.
We have short fuses, but God is "long of nose." God has forbearance. The dictionary meaning is "refraining from the enforcement of something." It is showing patience, holding back, controlling one’s self when provoked or offended. It is not giving the full punishment for something or the full amount of something when deserved. It is exacting justice, but not as harshly as possible. It is temper under control, mildness, and a willingness to spare and not wash someone out. For examples, look up Nehemiah 9, Exodus 34, and Psalm 103 for clues into the character of God.
God leads with forbearance. He’s putting up with us because He is merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth. God is in for the long haul. His kindness is designed to lead us to repentance, to build character in us. He has a greater purpose. His heart is not evil. He doesn’t kick the dog down the stairs or see if the dog can run out the door before the door closes. He doesn’t file His complaints the second after an infringement of the Law. He doesn’t make promises He has no intention of keeping. He doesn’t put on a pretense of righteousness and then leave a sick man by the side of the road. He doesn’t overburden elephants or servants with more than they can handle.
Because He has a good heart, pure and holy, we sometimes think we are getting one over on God, getting away with everything, that God’s just going to overlook anything we do. (Ecclesiastes 8.11-14)
But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. [listed in Romans 1] And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Romans 2.2-5)
God doesn’t make demands immediately. He leaves room for repentance. The kingdom has come in grace now. The message is that Jesus Christ has satisfied divine justice and that forgiveness of sins is possible as one repents and turns, relying on Jesus Christ alone for salvation. It’s not that God doesn’t know or care about lawbreakers and covenant breakers. He’s leaving time for a change of heart to take place, for character building. (Read Psalm 51. Check out www.marycraig.org for more on what Jesus has done for you.)
Love bears all things. We, too, are to bear with one another in love with all lowliness and gentleness. (Ephesians 4.2) Love covers a multitude of sins. Love gives others time to repent and to recover. Love looks for reconciliation, restoration, getting back on track. Love gives time for loved ones to come home to Jesus and live.
Philippians 4 is the message of the month. We are living in a time when violence is covering the earth, much like the days of Noah. Like the man of Psalm 1, we need to delight and meditate on the law of God, being deeply rooted and planted by rivers of living water, letting gentleness and graciousness characterize our "fruit" in this season. We must let our gentleness be evident to all people.
In Philippians 4, Paul exhorts believers to stand firm in the Lord. Paul had lauded the Philippians for their fellowship in the gospel. He wanted them to be filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. He knew that what had happened to him furthered the gospel. To live is Christ, and to die is gain, Paul said. He wanted believers to live as becomes the gospel of Christ and in nothing be terrified by adversaries. He exhorted them to be like Christ, esteeming others better than themselves. A sovereign God is in control, working both to will and to do His good pleasure. He desired that believers be blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation so that they would shine as lights in the world. He was after the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord, to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death so as by any means to attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
He said to forget those things that are behind and press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Stand fast. Be of the same mind in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always.
Let your graciousness be known unto all men. The Lord is near.
Get yourself fixed so you’re not wavering and unstable or double-souled. Create a stable environment by cultivating harmony and unity in an atmosphere of grace and love. Rejoice in all that God has for you in Jesus in the midst of the ebb and flow of your circumstances. Keep eternity in your heart and mind. Contemplate Christ, His cross, His overcoming the world, His character, His crown.
The Greek word epieikes [epi a kes’] cannot be translated in one word. It is a concept to be captured. It describes someone who has a sweetness about him/her, a gentleness, a big heartedness, a generosity, good will, a bending beyond what might be expected to grant another good. It implies a magnanimity, charity toward the faults of others, an ability to bear with the failures of others and not be so personally offended, unkind, or bitter. It means a longsuffering that isn’t after quick retaliation, vengeance, or swift and strict justice. It describes a heart free of malice when mistreated, misrepresented, and misjudged.
I think it comes as we wrestle with the grace of God in our lives, thinking about all that we deserved that we didn’t get, thinking about all the "well" days of our lives, the times that went right. I think it comes when we understand that the Lord is near, at hand. He is Jehovah Shammah, a very present personage. I don’t need to demand for myself because my needs are met in Christ, because I belong to Jesus who loves me and has loosed me from my sins in His own precious blood and given me every spiritual blessing. My future is sure. My place in God is sure. I am not a house of cards, ready to collapse with the slightest shift in the wind. I am built on the rock. I am a wall. The Lord is my refuge and strength, my high tower. The walls of salvation surround me. The Lord is near.
The one true God is sovereign, eternal, and very big. He’s above history, outside of history, with an existence independent of history. He’s not a victim. He’s almighty and faithful. The ability to stand fast correlates to our knowing God as He is and to knowing how He acts, His ways and means.
Then Paul says to pray properly, letting our requests be made known to God with thanksgiving so that God will guard our hearts and our minds. In times of trial, temptation, persecution, loss, confusion, distress, illness, and difficulties pulling us to the grave, pray with thanksgiving. Rejoice in the confidence that there is peace with God through Christ. God is your defender. (Psalm 31) You can confide in God who has chosen you, redeemed you, keeps you, sanctifies you, and saves you by His sovereign grace. Cry out to God thankful for Him, His promises, His plan, His power, His past mercies, and His present care. Jesus is coming again. He is near.
Think properly. Think about what things are good and pure and lovely and praiseworthy. Force your focus on things eternal and to Jesus. And then, Paul says, practice the things he has exemplified. Follow him as he follows Christ. And you will find peace, equilibrium.
Craighouse is a refuge center for the spiritually orphaned and wounded of the Christian community. In an atmosphere of grace (and epieikes), people find healing through worship and the Word. It is a shelter in the storm, a hiding place in the rock, people bringing people to help and hope in Jesus Christ. Will you be used of God to provide support for the vision, goals, and objectives of Craighouse? Your gifts of love enable us to expand, enlarge, and help more people coming to our doors.
Proclaiming the gospel of grace to all creation,
Love suffers long, and is kind. 1 Corinthians 13.4
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