Fellowship and Joy

“May our fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, be unquestionable. May it be fuel. May it fill us with joy. May it be a most real fact this day. May we enjoy it to the full, knowing whom we have believed, knowing who is our Father, knowing who it is that dwells in us, even the Holy Spirit.

“Take away from us everything that might hinder our delighting ourselves in God. May we come to God this day with a supreme joy. May we speak of Him as “God, my exceeding joy, my own God is He.”

C.H. Spurgeon

May God grant that each child of His knows Him better today. That they meditate on His Word and hang every hope on Him. That they experience again and in different ways His power to strengthen, satisfy, and comfort.

For this Monday

…..What a good reminder for an otherwise tired, mundane, unwelcome Monday.

….I belong to God because He is my creator. I am redeemed – created new in Christ – because of his good work of redemption on the cross and resurrection over death.

….Since he has called me to himself, I have a hope-filled purpose- not for sloth and slumber, but works. This is not a call to meaningless toil, but fruitful, productive, good works. These are good works that were prepared for me, and that I was created to do.

….So I look to Him for my work, for the endurance with joy they will require, and for the sure hope that my labor in the Lord is not in vain.

….What a welcome reminder for a renewed, hopeful, already-in-God’s-plan Monday. ❤️

Faith and Love

True love and faith do not come from beholding with human eyes, but the miraculous heart-work of the Lord. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

This miraculous faith and love produces joy that is full of the goodness and greatness – the very glory – of God. This joy is so profound that it is seen, but not fully expressible. That’s the kind of faith given by God. May He ever increase it in me, so that I am full of it in increasing measure.

Today, may my hope in salvation be even surer than yesterday; may I rejoice with true joy; may my joy be manifested for others to see and share; may my love for God compel me to works of obedience.

To love and good works

“Look Miss W. I put the encouragement up on the board so that everyone would know to do their best job today.” -G, 5th grade

I smiled at his sweet sincerity and helpfulness. I was also a little disconcerted. Had he known that Hebrews 19:24 was that morning’s “verse of the day” on my Bible app?

It got me to thinking. I had to ask myself about what stirs up my heart – especially as a teacher- to endure in loving others and doing good, even when I’m tired and discouraged. A couple things came to mind. Admittedly, it feels disjointed, but it is a beginning of the beautiful canvas of hope painted in Scripture. So, disjointed thoughts or not, I want to share in hopes that it can encourage us all to love and good works today.

The love of God

“God loves his people. If you are a believer in Christ Jesus, trusting only in His merits, God loves you as surely as He is God. There is no question about the matter. His divine love is yours as certainly as His power is displayed in creation. Set God’s lovingkindness before your eyes. Think of His faithfulness! God’s lovingkindness never pauses. It is as constant as the flight of time. Never a moment but there has been love for that moment. Never an hour but there has been that hour’s portion of lovingkindness.” C.H. Spurgeon

Since I am loved out of a never-ending abundance of pure, perfect love, I am free to pour out that love on my students and others, not worrying about keeping back for myself. May God use the conviction of His steadfast love to increase my patience and kindness- in short- my loving actions. May His love empower my mouth to speak gracious words that build up, my eyes to shine kindness, my posture and tone to show His patience. Out of the divine security of resting in his love, may my classroom hold security for the children who enter.

God’s Presence

God goes with me today and everyday. He has promised to never leave nor forsake His children. So I can go back to our classrooms and say “God is in this place” and know He is. He is just as much with me when I’m walking to pick up copies as He is when I am dealing with a student’s battle of the will, or talking with a parent, or writing (more) lesson plans, or trying to get 5th graders excited about writing a summary… again. The presence of God gives me joy that doesn’t depend on my circumstances. May that knowledge make me smile and laugh and take joy in the presence of God today. May my students get to share in that joy.

“Surely His goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” Ps. 23

That includes today. May the recurring refrain of my daily thoughts not be worry or resentment, but the thanksgiving of remembering:

God is so good, he cares for me, he loves me, he is with me.

For days to come

May the Holy Spirit always bring to my mind the words of the Bible so that I can get through each day strengthened (because of his power!) to bear good fruit and “work good work” as one of my students says. May I always delight to remember that in the faithfulness of God I have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” (hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9 NIV

Meekness Misunderstood: the strength of πραΰς

…Which in God’s Sight is Very Precious…

Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:4 ESV

It was early Tuesday morning and the Almighty Maker of the universe —  nebulae, planets, gravity, magnetism, ocean creatures, majestic mountains, beauty and grandeur that leave me breathless in awe– had just revealed that there is something in the heart of a woman that He finds very precious. Something that radiates with a beauty that never fades. He says that it is a gentle, quiet, meek spirit.

In the ESV translation above, the word “gentle” is the Greek word πραΰς, meaning “gentle, mild, meek”, which also appears in Matthew 5:5 and 21:5. Other translations (KJV, for example) render this word as “meek” in English.

So, what is meekness and how do I get it?

Called to what?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there doesn’t appear to be much hope for the word:

1.) enduring injury with patience and without resentment: MILD

2.) deficient in spirit and courage: SUBMISSIVE

3.) not violent or strong: MODERATE

Here comes the pause in my reading, the calm before the storm of questions and protests. The something that is worth a great price in God’s sight… that something is meekness? Deficient. Lacking in spirit. Cowardly. Weak.

Here comes the storm.

Surly God isn’t calling me to that! Doesn’t Proverbs 31 say an excellent wife is clothed with strength and dignity? Do Peter and King Lemuel need to go argue it out somewhere? Worse yet, is the Bible contradicting itself? How is meekness strength and not weakness?

Interpreted through a dictionary or, worse yet, a mere cultural understanding (i.e. out of context), even Christian men and women can assume that a meek, gentle, and quiet wife (or woman) is demure, placid, complying, mousy, non-opinionated, non-problematic, and sweet.

You-keep-using-that-word

 

Your King 

πραΰς (prä-ü’s) is the same word the references Jesus Christ in Matthew 21:5 (in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9).

“Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your King comes to you, πραΰς and riding on a donkey, and on a foal, the colt of a donkey.”

The first part of Zechariah 9 reveals God’s vengeance on the nations who defy him and trample his people. To them, he is not meek. However, when he comes to his people — who have also disobeyed him — he does so in a spirit of meekness, forgiveness, restoration, and peace.

In Matthew 21, Jesus is entering Jerusalem, surrounded by shouts of praise, knowing this visit ends in rejection and the weight of the Father’s wrath against our sin. He comes meekly — in obedience to the Father’s will — ready to bear injury from his creation with forgiveness.

As recounted in Matthew 21, after arriving in Jerusalem, in obedience to the Father, Jesus also drove out the money changers in the temple, overturning their tables. Yet, a few days later, he was the lamb silent before his shearers. In all this, he was meek before God the Father, obedient even unto death.

Meekness responds to others out of obedience to the Father, not out of lack of courage.

When Christ calls us to meekness and gentleness, he is not only calling us to exhibit a quality his Holy Spirit has put in our hearts. He is calling us to reflect his own nature.  The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit bears the fruit of meekness. This is strength of Spirit, not deficiency.

The strength of meekness, however, is not the strength of spirit the world immediately values. Meekness is not grasping, nor is it concerned with self. It is completely reliant on God, not fearful. Meekness walks in obedience, as Christ did, completely trusting in the Father. Meekness submits a fallen self-will to the Father’s perfect one.

“Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting… Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will (Gal 5:23).” blueletterbible.org

Blessed are the Meek…

Blessed are the πραΰς, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Meekness, then, is a quality for all believers that brings blessing through an eternal inheritance.  A meek believer does not obey Scripture with a bleak outlook, but with hope. The earth belongs to God and it is in his power and pleasure to gift it as an inheritance to those who walk in meekness.

Meekness endures persecution without exacting vengeance, walks in obedience to God without resentment, acts with patience, speaks without harshness of spirit, and is open to wisdom. (For a more in-depth look at Matthew 5:5, see John Piper’s valuable article here.)

πραΰς

One of wonderful things about Scripture is that the more I learn, the more I realize there is to know.  πραΰς is only one word, one fruit of the Spirit, and I feel I could keep learning for the rest of my life.

But back to Tuesday and 1 Peter 3.

πραΰς does not signify a certain personality of a compliant wife, but a certain disposition toward her Heavenly Father. As with all believers, women who adorn themselves with πραΰς are focused first and foremost on their God, who has promised them their inheritance. The Spirit himself strengthens wives for many acts of obedience to God, including submission to their husbands without resentment. They hope in God, and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:5).

I am not a wife, but I am still called to πραΰς. I have not been called (as of yet) to submit to a husband, but there are limitless ways I can show the unfading beauty of a gentle, quiet, meek spirit through the power of the Holy Spirit in me.

Hope in God, not marital status.

Forgive when I’d rather hold a grudge.

Rejoice with others’ gifts when I’d rather be envious.

Respond with a kind word when I’d rather retaliate.

Be patient and thankful when I’d rather complain.

Trust in the Lord and lean not on my own understanding.

Seek first His kingdom, and not my own (on social media, at work, or anywhere else).

Value and obey Scripture, not the demands of culture.

Have we learned the meekness which understands the power of patience, of quiet waiting on God, and the futility of employing massive methods to get our own way? What about the reverence that trusts God’s hidden, seemingly slow, working out of his own mysterious purposes? Impatience hardens. -Elizabeth Elliot “Keep A Quiet Heart”

Tombstones, Life, and Ambitions: A New Year’s Post

It’s not about the numbers chiseled in concrete, it’s how you lived your life in the dash between. — Scotty McCreery, The Dash

Tombstones, life, and ambitions. This time of year, and this day in particular, people seem to think and act on these ideas more than usual.

Tombstones 

Anyone listening to the news or on social media could list numerous people who died this year.  Influential authors, singers, musicians, actors, politicians, theologians, missionaries. When news like this breaks, many are quick to bemoan the year — whether in jest or sincerity of hopelessness. “2016, what gives?” “Come on, 2016!” I haven’t spent the time to investigate the rumors of the GoFundMe set up to help Betty White survive 2016.

As if a calendar year could control who lives or dies.

I’m not trying to be insensitive.  On a personal note, this year death was — as always — very real in my life and the lives of my friends and family.  I went to more funerals than weddings this year. And there were even more that I was not able to attend.

Maybe this year-end reflection needs a new angle. Taking another look at 2016, perhaps a year so full of death is also a merciful reminder that life must end one day, and there is no way to tell how many years that dash on the tombstone will cover. It’s a merciful reminder, because left on my own, I would not remember to look to the end.

Life and Ambitions

While cheerily waving this year away, we greet 2017 with hope.  Hope that life goes on. Hope that life gets better.  Hope that we could change someone else’s life for the better. We set new ambitions.  How will we get better? How will we improve? Where will we make our impact?

What are your goals? I started setting mine this week and preparing to put them in practice (I won’t say what they are, but they might involve organization and simplicity… and the mortgage). For others who can be task oriented (like me… sometimes), the focus can be on do, do, do. The more I think about it, doing must go hand-and-hand with being.  As a result, with the new year approaching, I find a question growing more in my mind:

What kind of people ought you to be? 2 Peter 3:11

Just let that question ring into the silence and feel its impact.

What kind of people ought you to be?

Peter’s context here is the end of all time, not just 2016. Year-endings are a reminder of the greater ending to come, so this verse, to me, is also a poignant question for each New Year.

This rhetorical question is quickly answered within the same verse:

You ought to live holy and godly lives…

This is not a call to live a kind life or a good life, but to live a life sacred to God, in piety, or reverence and duty, towards him.  This is εὐσέβεια (yoo-seb’-i-ah), which has promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8), and which has power inherent in it (2 Timothy 3:5).

So, part of my prayer for the new year is that I have the ambition to lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness. That I trust that God has given me everything pertaining to life and godliness.  That I don’t lose sight of the call to be holy because my LORD God is holy. That I don’t forget that by abiding in Him I can bear the fruit of godliness, and much of it.

In the words of Francis Chan,

The world is not moved by love or actions that are of human creation. And the church is not empowered to live differently from any other gathering of people without the Holy Spirit. But when believers live in the power of the Spirit, the evidence in their lives is supernatural. The church cannot help but be different, and the world cannot help but notice.

Happy New Year!