Harmony

This first quote was read at our wedding and is very special to me.  Perhaps this is part of the reason why our marriage has lasted over 40 years and is still strong today.  However, this scripture goes far beyond marriage to relationships with all others.  It’s wonderful to see it as translated in the J.B. Phillips version of the Bible.  I love the thought of “harmony” in relationships–not pushy or proud; forgiving, understanding, waiting when necessary; kind, peaceful, putting others first.  We don’t succeed at this, of course, but that’s where the first sentence comes into play — “purified and beloved of God Himself” — God is the one that purifies us (see the first quote on my next post).

As, therefore, God’s picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God himself, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind.  Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with one another, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone.  Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you.  And, above everything else, be truly loving, for love is the golden chain of all the virtues.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, remembering that as members of the one body you are called to live in harmony, and never forget to be thankful for what God has done for you.  Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom.  Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God’s praises with joyful hearts.  And whatever work you may have to do, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.  Wives, adapt yourselves to your husbands, that your marriage may be a Christian unity.  Husbands, be sure you give your wives much love and sympathy; don’t let bitterness or resentment spoil your marriage.  As for you children, your duty is to obey your parents, for at your age this is one of the best things you can do to show your love for the Lord.  Fathers, don’t over-correct your children, or they will grow up feeling inferior and frustrated.  Slaves (or workers), your job is to obey your masters (employers) not with the idea of currying favor, but as a sincere expression of your devotion to the Lord.  Whatever you do, put your whole heart and soul into it, as unto work done for the Lord, and not merely for men–knowing that your real reward, a heavenly one, will come from the Lord, since you are actually employed by the Lord Christ, and not just by your earthly master.  –Colossians 3:12-17

I just heard recently in a sermon that at the time these words were written, slavery was nothing like we understand it today.  Roman slavery was a choice; one third of the population voluntarily connected with a master, giving up freedom in order to obey another.  Sadly, I would assume this was the poorest of society, so whether it was closer to slavery as we know it, or to a worker/employer relationship, I don’t know.  I do know that Christ rightfully expresses the value and equality of all–slave and free, master and servant, male and female, all races and nations (see Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11, Psalm 67:1-4).

 

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In Control

I read an outstanding devotion from Jerry Bridges recently.  This has certainly rung a strong sense of “truth” within my soul.  Take a look at it and see what you think.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.  James 1:2-4 [ESV]

We can be sure that the development of a beautiful Christlike character will not occur in our lives without adversity.  Think of those lovely graces Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.  The first four traits he mentions–love, joy, peace, and patience–can be developed only in the womb of adversity.

We may think we have true Christian love until someone offends us or treats us unjustly.  Then we begin to see anger and resentment well up within us.  We may conclude we have learned about genuine Christian joy until our lives are shattered by an unexpected calamity or grievous disappointment.  Adversities spoil our peace and sorely try our patience.  God uses those difficulties to reveal our need to grow so that we’ll reach out to Him to change us more and more into the likeness of His Son.

Both Paul and James speak of rejoicing in our sufferings (see Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4).  Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, have difficulty with that idea.  Endure them, perhaps, but rejoice?  That often seems like an unreasonable expectation.  We are not masochistic; we don’t enjoy pain.

But Paul and James both say that we should rejoice in our trials because of their beneficial results.  It’s not the adversity considered in itself that is to be the ground of our joy.  Rather, it is the expectation of the results, the development of our character, that should cause us to rejoice in adversity.  God does not ask us to rejoice because we have lost our job or a loved one has been stricken with cancer or a child has been born with an incurable birth defect.  But He does tell us to rejoice because we believe He’s in control of those circumstances and is working through them for our ultimate good.  — Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, as quoted in How Great is Our God, 9/5

I really believe this, that God can use tragedy for good.  He doesn’t send tragedy; this is one of the greatest fallacies in human thinking.  He allows it for now, but it won’t be this way forever.  Why didn’t he destroy the enemy in the very beginning?  Because if He did, no one would ever have chosen Him willingly.  We would’ve chosen Him out of fear, and would really have had no other option.  The evil and disruption and storms in this world must continue for a time, because of God’s great patience and long suffering (even for those who reject Him), but it will not continue forever.  In the meantime, I truly believe that we can trust Him, no matter what comes in our lives.  He can work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).  That’s not a copout; it’s the blessed truth.

I realize I have not experienced the hardships that others around the world (or even you, perhaps) deal with every day.  I don’t know why God allows it, but I pray for these precious ones (and for you) when I’m awake at night, and I often hear of miraculous ways God has encouraged or healed even in the darkest nights.  I have felt that instantaneous healing touch myself more than once.  I know that these words are true and that all people will see and know this some day; I’m certain of this.

Missing Scriptures

There’s a lot of scriptures I wish we could read.  They seem to be missing from my Bible.  Here are some of the stories I’d like to read:

  • Jesus’ appearance to Simon Peter (mentioned in Luke 24:34 & 1 Corinthians 15:5)
  • His appearance also to James (see 1 Corinthians 15:7)
  • The conversion of several priests (Acts 6:7)
  • Philip’s sudden appearance in Azotus (Acts 8:40)
  • Paul’s revelation (Galatians 2:2)
  • The women’s prayer meeting (Acts 16:13-14)
  • The childhood of Jesus (Luke 2:52)
  • Job’s family (Job 42:16)
  • Joseph’s bedtime stories (Surely he told bedtime stories!  Genesis 50:22)
  • Moses’ funeral (Deuteronomy 34:5-6)

What stories do you feel are “missing” from the Bible?  Surely we will have plenty of time to talk to the Saints and listen to their stories in Heaven, but I still wish I could read some of those stories now.