The Letters

Burden

You have likely seen a version of the classic image of a wealthy person reclining on cushions and being fed grapes by a servant. So wealthy and powerful is that person that they are able to liberate themselves of the burden of lifting their hand to feed themselves. Oh, life is so burdensome

The sluggard buries his hand in the dish, But will not even bring it back to his mouth
(Proverbs 19:24)

A little earlier in the same chapter:

Laziness casts into a deep sleep, And an idle man will suffer hunger. (Proverbs 19:15)

There are many scriptures in the Bible, and many proverbs from worldly wisdom, that warn of the troubles that come from being lazy. We know this inherently, but given the number of reminders all around us, it seems that we humans have a tendency to lean toward relaxing rather than working. We know that hard work pays off, right? But, what is the pay-off? Why work hard? Why have such a burden? Our efforts show that we accept the gift that we are given. Messiah tells us:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Is He encouraging us to be lazy? No, of course not… Every wheel carries a load, a racecar, a conveyor system, a bicycle, a toy fire truck… And every wheel has a bearing – commonly called a “ball bearing.” The ball bearing needs to be the correct size, or the wheel will fail under its load. Imagine designing an earth moving dump truck with wheel bearings from a skateboard. The wheels would probably break off before the engine was even installed. A bearing cannot carry a burden that exceeds its capability, or it will break. In a sense, we are all bearings, carrying our burden of life. And we can break.

For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. (Psalms 38:4)

God is merciful – thankfully. As our designer, He knows what loads we are rated for, and He provides us with a supplemental bearing for when the load gets too heavy. That is what Mat 11:28-30 is for. But remember, we need to cast our burdens on Him. This is an action verb – to cast… He won’t just take them from us without our asking. We need to own the decision and recognize our need of His assistance. And God won’t take all our burden. We are in training and need to carry what we are able – always increasing our capability.  

As we walk along our journey through this life, we need to consider and choose which burdens to carry and which to leave behind. There are burdens that are worthy of our efforts, necessary and/or beneficial. And there are worthless burdens that we carry around, reducing our capacity. If a plane is having engine trouble or running out of fuel and in danger of crashing, it will jettison (throw out) things that are not essential to lessen the load and increase capacity. We need to carry only what is beneficial toward our goal and jettison those burdens we carry that hold us back.

The burdens we carry, and the burdens that Messiah offered to relieve us from are not physical burdens. If we need to move a pile of soil to plant a garden, we will need a shovel, a wheel barrow, and some muscle. Christ is most likely not going to push the wheelbarrow for us. The burdens He will take for us are emotional, psychological, spiritual, relational burdens.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

That peace which surpasses comprehension is Christ taking on our mental burdens. And let’s be thankful that built into His system is a filter – we can cast all our mental burdens on Him and He will discard those that are worthless and carry those that are worthy. We need to fight our fleshly urge to pick them up as they are discarded. For example, I cast my prideful desire to be admired by people onto Him. He will immediately drop that burden saying, “No, this burden is worthless and Nate will not grow from it.” And inevitably, I will see it lying on the ground, pick it up, dust it off, put it in my wheel barrow, and continue along. This is the struggle that He wants us to discard. Forever. The Old Man strikes again… Beware of the Worthless Burdens you carry.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad. (Proverbs 12:25)

So, what about the worthy burdens that we should be carrying, those burdens that are beneficial, the things that help us in the end and train us for the journey? These are the burdens we should bear with joy, enthusiastically, and with all our might, knowing that our position in Christ will be enriched and made firm by carrying them.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load. (Galatians 6:2-5)

I think the seeming contradiction in Gal 6:2-5 (“Bear one another’s burdens…each one will bear his own load”) is intending each of us to always look to help another, but to never expect another to help us. In our humility, we should talk about our blessings more than we talk about our burdens.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. (Psalms 68:19)

Here’s some encouragement to bear the burdens that we must carry:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

Care for each other by lifting another’s burden, cast your mental burdens on Messiah, and don’t pick up the worthless burdens that He discards for you.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Desire

There are several things that everyone desires. Some of these “universal” desires are fundamental to our being. These are the things that make for a good life. Examples of these fundamental desires are the desire to be loved, to have good health, to live in safety, that our basic needs are met. I think these fundamental desires, that every human has, are inherently good. They keep us alive. There are other very common desires, some may even be universal, that may not always be good for us. To be clear, I’m not saying they are bad, but unlike the fundamental ones, they could lead to trouble. These are things like the desire to be comfortable, to have more than I need, to be right in my thinking, to be respected by others, etc. These desires are not inherently bad, but if we put too much effort into pursuing them, we will end up going down a wrong path. For example, comfort is good – it allows us to sleep well which contributes to our health. But, pursuing comfort to an extreme will make us lazy.

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. (James 1:14)

And, certainly there are simply some desires that we have that are just plain bad. I am sure we are all familiar enough with these and are engaged daily with those battles. I see that desire is either good or bad. But, as I illustrated above with comfort as an example, there is a gradient in our level of desire that, at some point, crosses some obscure line that separates “good” from “bad.” It is our nature to always brush up against that invisible line.

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:14-15)

Have you ever felt this – what Paul is expressing here? I have – At times incredulously, I’ve asked myself, “What am I doing? – I desire to keep God’s law, yet I am fulfilling the desire of my flesh.” Why is it that we have desires that we know are bad for us, yet we fulfill them regardless? In my humanness, I have normalized the notion that becoming athletic is a long-term process that will take me months of diligent exercise. So, I can easily justify eating a bag of chips while I sit and relax. I’ll exercise tomorrow! But then I know that if I eat a whole bag of chips, my gut will not like that, and I will feel ill in an hour or two. This is not at all in line with my justification that physical fitness is such a long-term process that waiting one more day will not matter. The regretful results are mere minutes away, yet I “love” those chips and eat the whole bag anyway… Paul tells me that my struggling with such a desire is actually proof to me that I believe that God’s law is good and that I desire to keep it.

But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (Romans 7:16-17)

Here Paul says that “sin” is what is doing the thing that is wrong, not him. I have heard people use this to justify bad behavior. Let us not fall into that trap! My “old man” is at play here – alive and shouting out commands that I often struggle to silence or ignore. Blaming my old man for poor decisions and bad behavior is accurate and truthful, but in no way creates a valid excuse for it. We are commanded to bury, drown, crucify that old man. Yet, few of us have had any success in doing so.

“…knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:6-7)

So, how can we accomplish this seemingly impossible task of killing the old man? Here’s an instruction:

“…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Renewed in the spirit of your mind. I’ve read that in another place, also:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

In Romans 7 Paul struggles deeply with this topic that we are discussing here, this topic that I struggle with too often. And I have found myself reading Paul’s struggle and feeling good about myself… Hey, if Paul couldn’t overcome it, if Paul couldn’t figure it out, then how can I be expected to? I don’t come close to Paul, so I shouldn’t even try. Chapter 7 ends with what sounds a little like Paul giving up – surrendering to the fact that his old man has some mastery over him. But the story doesn’t end with chapter 7. Thankfully, Paul wrote chapter 8! It is worthy of quoting here in its entirety, and you should read it all for its encouragement. But here is a nugget that sums it up:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

I believe the reverse is also true – that is, those short term desires, like eating a whole bag of chips, will pale in comparison to the satisfaction we will get from accomplishing the long term goals, like having a strong, fit body. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, knowing that God loves you infinitely.

 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

Be strong and courageous, be diligent in seeking Him in all things, endure to the end, desire the right things and you will be blessed. The Main Commandments are this: love God and love your neighbor – desire God above all else and all things will fall into place.

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalms 37:4)

When you’re faced with the temptation to desire something that will take you away from God, remember that it cannot and does not compare to the glory that is to be revealed to us. 

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Release

I woke up with the joyful task in front of me to write this month’s letter. The title of it you may see next month; it was not going to be “Release.” This morning during my time with God, I was compelled to change the noun I had planned to write about to “release.” I am really trying to get proficient at listening and hearing and obeying God’s words to me. Some may think it odd, or even worthy of ridicule, to believe that God would speak words to me of an insignificant nature such as the topic of this letter. But, I tend to believe that He speaks to us constantly through His spirit. There was a man who was arguably the most successful man ever to live; I am convinced that He was so successful because He listened, heard, and obeyed continually. He listened and obeyed continually. He walked by the Spirit, and for Him, all things, all the time, worked out for the best. We would do ourselves well to use Him as an example in our walk.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:16-18)

I think we are many times trapped by our own thoughts. These thoughts are understandably influenced by our experiences, insecurities, imaginations, and our physical surroundings. So, there should be no surprise that we are not accustomed to hearing a guiding voice from our Creator, Provider, Sustainer, Healer, Guide – whose realm is not in the physical. But He does guide us, and he does want us to seek His guidance. Our own guiding thoughts are limiting and oftentimes they mislead us to make poor decisions.

Our God is so big and amazingly powerful that He created billions of galaxies, each of which contain billions of stars with the distances between them taking light thousands of years to travel between them. Surely you have stopped to consider how awesome God is. A champion of God that I know and respect puts it this way: “My God is so awesome, He puts hairs on the legs of ants.” And, He can break rocks with the wind:

So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13)

Elijah was no stranger to the important job he had to do for God. And he was no stranger to hearing God’s voice, in whatever way it came to him. The prophetic writings are full of examples of God telling the profit what to do. I think this passage was written for us as an example to remind us that we need to be looking at and paying attention to everything around us, big and small, loud and quiet, bright and dim, with question and discernment. The more we do this, the better at it we get.  

One definition of the noun “release” is “an abatement of distress; a means of deliverance.” The word comes from Old French “relaissier” – to relinquish or quit. Older roots are from Latin, “relaxare” which gives us “relax.” Aside from the verb, the noun “release” is used in many ways: the release mechanism of a catapult, a press release, a letter of release that legally transfers responsibility, or an activity that provides an escape from stress. But they all have the commonality of purpose that is to allow something to change from being captive to being set free.

If we are to “walk by the Spirit,” but we are trapped by our own thoughts, our ability to listen, hear, and obey will be severely compromised. We need to find a release from that trap. No surprise that we should look to God for such a release. He’s shown a few times throughout history that He can and will provide a release from captivity. He released the Israelites from Egypt, Daniel from the lion’s den, Israel form the Philistines, Noah from the flood, David from Saul, Isaac from sacrifice, Judah from Babylon, Israel from the Midianites, Lot from Sodom, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego from the furnace, and mankind from sin.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5)

The great news is that our Old Man, the likely source of the trap of our own thoughts, was buried in baptism, crucified on the cross. He’s dead and we are not subject to his influence any longer. Right. Right? My faith tells me that is true, but my flesh still hears him calling to me, shouting out orders like a ship’s captain whom the mutineers tied to the mast. My old man should be dead, but he’s not. My weak flesh has kept him alive and sometimes even obeys his “orders.” We are, in a sense, captive to the old man and we need a release mechanism from that captivity. Christ is that release.

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:4-7)

At the end of 2Corinthians 6, Paul seems to give us a release from being among the unbelievers. He’s referring to Isaiah 52:10-12. But the original Greek also sounds like a release from our old man. The word for “their” (their midst) is “autos” which also means “self.” So, the scripture below could also be read as “come out from the midst of yourself…”

“Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

We are the Ecclesia, according to Messiah in Matthew 16:18. This word, generally translated as “church,” literally means “called out ones.” Called out of what? Released from what? Released from darkness…

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9)

God’s love for us is a release from death, the wage of sin. His plan for salvation is a true gift and a miracle that we are privileged to experience. Claim it for your own, follow Him, and rejoice in your release!

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Currency

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

How much do you earn? Wages are compensation for the work you have done. Paul here in Romans is hinting that sin is the opposite of work. The compensation for sin is, likewise, the opposite of something profitable. Eternal life is the free gift of God – it is not a compensation.  Does it make sense that you cannot accept a free gift if you have collected the wages of sin… and you’re dead?

In another letter, I talked about slaves. A slave is commonly understood to be someone who is forced to work without compensation. But, technically, this is not true. A slave’s compensation is food, shelter, clothing, protection… Of course, those “compensations” are generally in such meager and minimal amounts that there is no perception of a wage. There is never any hint of abundance or even adequacy.

However, this letter is entitled “Currency.” In free societies, the wages of work is generally currency. Currency, as we know it, is understood as “money.” But the word has the same root as the “current” of a river – the condition of flowing, from the Latin “currere” which means “to run.” We work for currency, but we don’t need currency. All we really need is food, clothing, shelter, air, and water. There is another thing that we need that money cannot buy – that is love. Please hold on to that thought. Currency is a medium that allows the flow of goods and services in a society. And since we need some of those goods and services, currency is a way to get them. Certainly, we can bypass currency and barter one thing for another. I have seen people standing on the street holding a sign that says “will work for food.” With no job to earn currency, these people are hoping to trade a service for a meal.

“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” (John 6:27)

The rest of chapter 6 of John talks a lot about food, true food that comes from God. Here in verse 27, Messiah tells us that we should work for the wages that will last only until we are granted that gift of God that Paul told us about in Romans above – eternal life. But, again I will point out, wages are not necessarily currency.

In this society, we tend to measure virtually everything in terms of, or with respect to, money. In accounting, there is a concept or term called “intangible assets.” This concept assigns a monetary value to something that inherently does not have one. Things like employee morale, customer satisfaction, and advertising effectiveness are given a dollar value. The practice makes sense with respect to making financial decisions. Other terms give similar benefit to financial planning like “return on investment,” and “cost benefit analysis.” But, this monetary lens through which we view our world, where everything is monetized to some extent, comes from and leads to the same erroneous perspective where money is king. Such a perspective gives rise to the blasphemous phrase “the almighty dollar.” Sadly, this phrase does add to an accurate description of our society. Everything seems to revolve around money. We know that the dollar is not “almighty,” but we tend to give it enormous weight and attention. God knew what He was doing when he peppered the scriptures with warnings and instructions about the dangers that money has. Here’s one:

“If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.“
(1 Timothy 6:8-11)

That list overlaps a bit with the list of the fruit of the Spirit.  Could it be that the food we should work for that endures to eternal life is that fruit of the Spirit?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

 So, we can work for food that leads to eternal life – and get the Godly things we need. But what about Godly currency? Is there anything that we might acquire or possess and give or distribute that facilitates the flow of Godly “goods and services?”  Is that even a thing? Is the analogy breaking down here?

I don’t believe we get “paid” for doing God’s work, but, there is a compensation for the work we do: the food that does not perish. I believe that there is also a currency that God distributes to and collects from His children. The currency is not used as wages to pay for the work we do, but it does flow. It is separate from compensation.

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go. (Isaiah 48:17)

Messiah did tell us that we would always have the poor. There is no question that some will be wealthy and some will be poor, but this is only relative to the physical aspect of life. And I don’t think this disparity between wealthy and poor was intended from the beginning. God’s creation is one of abundance. Physical abundance is what God originally intended for his children to experience and enjoy. The Garden of Eden was a place of rich abundance. Even today, if we followed His ways, that abundance would manifest itself for us to enjoy once again.

O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing. (Psalms 34:9-10)

And, there is a better part… Spiritual abundance is also available to us

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

The reason we get so much from Him is because of His great love for us. And, we know the greatest commandment is that we love Him and each other. (Matthew 22:36) And in 1John 3:16 we see “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” God’s love is the medium that allows for all good things to flow. The following scripture brings out the concept of Godly currency.

“…and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)

This passage sounds like a transaction to me! There is an exchange going on here – an exchange of love that mutually benefits both recipients. How does the Lord cause you to increase in love for all people? By loving you. How does He establish your heart blameless? By loving you. How do we show our love for God? By loving Him, and all other people. There is a current of love that God causes to flow. Love is the currency that we should be measuring all things by.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Tolerance

Let’s say I give you a saw and a tree branch and ask you to cut me a piece of wood 21 inches long. If you comply and hand me back the wood that you cut, how long will it be? That would depend on what type of saw I gave you, and how skilled you are at wielding that saw, and actually, how accurately the wood was measured before and after it was cut. I might say to you, “please cut me a length about 21 inches long” – that word “about” says a lot. Actually, it says, not very much. If I need that branch for firewood, then pretty much whatever you give back to me will work fine and “about” is an appropriate instruction. But if I need it as the 4th leg of a table, the dimensions need to be accurate so the table does not wobble. I would not want to use the word “about” to describe the length of a table leg. You might think I should ask for a piece “exactly” 21 inches long.  But technically, that is not possible. There will always be some deviation from the target and some error in the measuring device. But thankfully, the length of the table leg can tolerate a certain error and still not wobble. If the table leg is within a 1/16 inch of the target, it will probably work fine.  The leg can tolerate 1/16 inch of error. If the firewood is within a few inches, it will still burn, but if it is too long, it will hang outside the fire pit and could be dangerous. So, the firewood should have a higher, or looser tolerance.  A low (or tight) tolerance is nice, but more difficult to achieve. Generally speaking, maximizing the tolerance is a goal; a high (or loose) tolerance may be easier to achieve, but if it is too loose, the function will suffer. Determining the proper tolerance range for a given situation is important.

Tolerance is not only applied to table legs, firewood, and physical things. Some tolerances we simply accept and don’t think about much. Consider your personal tolerance for pain. The ability to tolerate more pain might be a good thing. Some argue that you can increase your tolerance to pain through mental exercise and meditation. But, if your tolerance of pain is too high, you may suffer serious injury without knowing and ignore it. What might feel like a little scratch could require stitches. There is someone I am close to who has a very low tolerance for bad smells, but personally, I do not. I will notice the smell and I can categorize it as “bad,” but I can live with it more easily. I know someone that is pretty much universally considered “annoying.” And some people will avoid being near that person at all costs. Others seem to be friends with them – someone actually married that annoying person! What a great thing to have – a high tolerance for annoying people. There are so many things in life that we have a tolerance for – noise, tickling, temperature, bright sunlight, out of tune pianos, crooked pictures hanging on the wall, messy rooms, violence, hatred, lying…

What about sin? What is your tolerance for sin? We all have an inherent tolerance for “bending the rules.” A common example of that is (not) driving at the speed limit. Are you comfortable driving 5 or 10 miles per hour over the limit? We would like the table leg to be perfectly straight and have the exact length, but tolerance eases the burden and makes way for “straight enough and long enough.”

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

How far away from perfect is “good enough” when we talk of perfectly imitating Messiah?

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; (1 Peter 2:21-23)

We are told to “be perfect” and to “follow in His steps, who committed no sin…” If the boss said “cut me a piece of wood exactly 21 inches long,” would you argue with him and say “technically, that’s impossible…”? Or would you get out the good saw and triple check your measurement and carefully make the best cut you possibly can make? I would choose the second choice – and Hope that my accuracy fell within the boss’ tolerance.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

God does not specify a tolerance that we must meet in our perfection because God does not have a tolerance range that is acceptable. There is no “good enough.” He needs the leg to be exactly 21 inches long.  Exactly.

Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You cannot look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor On those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they? (Habakkuk 1:13)

But, before we argue with “technically, that’s not possible…” or say “that’s too hard, I’m not even going to try…” let’s consider some amazingly wonderful facts. If I cut the table leg too short, it will likely end up in the pile of firewood. Unless, the boss is a highly skilled carpenter and can fabricate a spacer, or a shim, to make up for the short leg! The above scripture in Romans continues:

being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (Romans 3:24)

In attempting to hit an exact length, we will always end up cutting the table leg too short, but God’s gift of redemption can keep the short leg out of the firewood pile.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

We need to get out the good saw, triple check our measurements and carefully make the best cut we can.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

We need to make that cut again and again and again, improving our skill and accuracy.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.        (Galatians 6:9)

We need to seek out the advice and instruction of others who have more experience.

Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.      (Proverbs 11:14)

As the Master Craftsman, God does specify a zero tolerance. Even though our efforts will fall short of that standard, He will still make a beautiful, sturdy table. As His apprentice, however, we should exercise humility and patience, effectively loosening our own tolerances.  Ironically, by doing this, we will get closer to achieving the required perfection we strive for.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Charity

Some time ago, I was working in the city and took the train to get there. One day there was a snowstorm and all the evening trains were severely delayed. My train was so late, that it left after the scheduled time for the following train to leave. So, there were about twice as many people as normal wanting to get on that train. The aisles were packed solid with tired, wet, standing passengers. And, what was scheduled to be an express train, was changed to a local train, making stops at every station. Adding to that, delays due to the weather turned what was normally an hour ride into a very uncomfortable 2 hour and 15 minute commute.  Well into the trip, the crowd thinned enough so that most people could enjoy their own seat. That relief was quite welcomed by all. From my seat at the front of the car, I looked back and saw that nearly all the seats had one occupant; most of them were sitting sideways with their feet up on the seat. It was striking to see so many pairs of dirty, wet boots carelessly resting on the seats where commuters were sitting just minutes ago. On that train, I was obviously in the minority thinking such behavior was not right. Maybe the passengers just figured that the seats would be cleaned before the next morning’s commuters would need to sit there. They were not considering the riders that might want a seat before the cleaning crew did their job. Nor were they considering the extra work they were creating for the cleaning crew. In my mind, they were being inconsiderate. They were self-serving.

And another thing… My daughter stays up later than I do and frequently she will close a door in the house loudly enough to wake me up. And my son and I are usually the first people in the house to wake up on the weekends. I regularly I need to remind him to walk softly and consider the others who are still sleeping. Come on people, let’s be considerate of others! Yes, I know, I know, I need to take the log out of my own eye here. Surely my habits are inconsiderate of others at times.

Wait. What does all of this have to do with charity? Today, we equate “charity” with “giving to the poor.” But the word means more than that. We get the word from the Latin “caritatum,” which also is translated as “affection” or “love.” This was used many times to translate the Greek “agape” in the oldest English translations of the scriptures to distinguish it from the other Greek words for love, “phileo” and “eros.”

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have {love, charity, agape} it profits me nothing.
(1 Corinthians 13:3)

Here we see that “giving to the poor” is not necessarily an example of “charity.” Today, one could give lots of money to charity, and not be exhibiting any true charity. Know what I mean?

So, what about muddy boots on train seats, slamming doors at night, and stomping feet in the morning? Those are examples of annoying, “non-charitable,” behaviors. But there are more troublesome and dangerous examples that have potentially dire consequences. There is a story in 1Samuel 25 where Nabal is inconsiderate of David and his request for some food for his men. Nabal is self-serving and refuses to help. Even with the benevolent intervention of his wife, Abigail, he does not fare well in the end. If you want to be charitable in this life, please use the story of Nabal as a bad example to follow.

Nabal’s example of how not to exhibit charity is an extreme case. Denying the direct request for support from a righteous man of God is a poor decision. If there were some “spectrum of charity” that rated how good an act was, this might not even register. It might measure below zero. Certainly, we are smarter than that and would never be so boldly callous. Remember my whining about people putting their dirty boots on a train seat? Where does that fall on the “spectrum?” Is there a spectrum of charity that we can measure up to? Are we judged according to how good our charity is? My answer is that it should not matter to us. Certainly, some sins are worse than others, and some charitable acts are better than others. If Messiah died to take all the sin away, regardless of the severity, is there a better reward for more benevolent acts of charity? 1 Corinthians chapter 3 might hint at that, but I do not think so. Without being explicitly told in the scriptures, this is surely a good question to meditate on.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. (James 2:10)

We should always be considering our actions and words from the perspective of how they will affect others – and this only works if we do so before committing. (you cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube!) You have probably heard the phrase “perception is reality.” Whatever the other person perceives your intention to be is what they will believe to be true, regardless of your actual intention. Here is some good advice that is rarely followed: “Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by ignorance.” Many times, we tend to perceive what others do as malicious. But the reality is that many people just are not considering how their actions will be perceived. They are likely operating out of ignorance. Please remember that we are always on either one side of this exchange or the other. We are either (potentially) causing one to stumble due to our actions, or we are (potentially) stumbling over another’s actions.

For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So, then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Romans 14:18-19)

Knowing, understanding, considering, and committing God’s will over our own self will is one element of success that we need to be striving for. A second element that would serve us well is considering and understanding another’s motive or intent before judging them or reacting. If we are feeling offended by something, first consider whether that action was committed out of either malice or ignorance. Regardless of the answer, we are instructed to forgive the offense; would you agree that forgiving ignorance is easier than forgiving malice? For us, yes – but for God, probably not.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Messiah walked with perfect compassion toward others – all others, not just the “church.” And, we are called to be imitators of Him.  Our compassion and consideration and effort to not offend should be broadcast to all who we encounter. We are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the example of His love.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)

Could there be a better, more effective method to preach the gospel to another than to show compassion and charity to them through all our actions and words? To the extent that you did this to one of His children, you did it to Him.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
(Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Service

The service industry is a huge part of any modern economy, where workers are paid a wage for the service they perform, for something they “do” versus something they “make.” In fact, in modern times, the service industry is generally the largest economic sector of any country. But the English word originates from Latin “servus” and “servitium” which both mean “slave” and do not make provision in their definitions for any form of payment. Today we tend to draw a clear distinction between servant and slave, and I can think of at least two elements that define the difference. I already mentioned payment, or some type of desired compensation, which is absent from the position of slave. The other element is consent – or agreement to the arrangement. Surely there are no modern slaves that are such by choice. But, the seemingly unimaginable concept of voluntarily being a slave to someone is not unheard of in ancient times. The New American Standard translation uses the term “bond-servant” to describe the idea of being a voluntary slave to God. This is translated from the Greek word “doulos” (Strong’s G1401) which includes the ideas of both voluntary and forced enslavement. Maybe there could be a benefit to us today in learning about ancient Hebrew and Greek cultures and how or why people might agree to become a slave. Perhaps it is the idea of having humility toward and honor for one greater than oneself. Or, it could be that voluntary enslavement is better than starving to death? More research is needed on my part; please feel free to help out with that if you have any insight.

So, what about those bond-servants in the New Testament? Most of those references use the term to describe an individual: Paul, James, Simon Peter, Epaphras, Tychicus, Jude, Moses… But, in the second chapter of 2Timothy, Paul encourages Timothy, and us I think, to be voluntary bond-servants or slaves to God. He uses examples of a soldier, a farmer, and an athlete, as people who are willing to sacrifice and endure for a greater good. Our service to God is a necessary act if we are to be considered followers and children of His. So, how do we serve God?

Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. “You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. (Luke 7:44-46)

In John 13, we see Messiah doing the same for His disciples as an example of how to serve, but washing someone’s feet is not so much a useful or appreciated service for anyone today; it is more of a symbol of true, physical servitude. That symbol leads us to humility toward others, providing for their needs without pride or concern for self. Selfless giving is true sacrifice.

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

This passage tells us that our physical service to God is perfectly reflected in our service to our neighbor. So, voluntarily being enslaved to God, which is something that many of us could align with and agree to, is in some respects the same as enslaving ourselves to another human. Sure, that is a stretch, but if I consider this idea using the ancient definition of slavery discussed above, I can start to imagine that as a possibility for myself. Through my desire to serve God, I will freely sacrifice my time, money, or other resources to better another person’s existence, without expectation of any return.

“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

If we are to imitate the Christ, we are to give up our life for others. That is an extreme statement, but one we should think about as we choose our actions in life. Serving others can be a way to serve God, which should be a priority for us. Remember 2 Timothy? We are called to volunteer our service to God. But, there is another service that we need to consider in life.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (Galatians 5:13-14)

Indeed, through love, serve one another. “Love your neighbor as yourself” could be understood as “serve your neighbor as yourself.” How do you serve yourself? How SHOULD you serve yourself?

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Serving the flesh is obviously not a good idea. If your flesh is anything like mine, serving it will certainly get you into trouble. No, when you serve yourself, you need to focus on the good things – those things that will draw you closer to God. Serve yourself the things that will benefit you. Serve yourself healthy things. Serve yourself food that sustains.

“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David.
(Isaiah 55:1-3)

Listen to God, that you may live. Feed on good things. Enjoy the fruit of the Spirit. Crucify the deeds of the flesh. If you serve yourself in the right way, your desire will become to serve others, thereby serving God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)

In Romans chapter 13:12, Paul tells us to “put on the armor of light” and then to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” And, one more reference to Galatians, this time 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Isaiah said above, “Listen to God, that you may live.” God does speak to us in many ways, but the most direct and easiest to discern is through the scriptures. Investing some of your valuable time every day in His Word will draw you closer to Him, guiding you to walk by the Spirit.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
(Colossians 3:2)   

Peace to you and glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Hugs

I think hugs are generally good. There have been many times in my life when a hug seemed to effortlessly alleviate something unwanted: physical pain, emotional pain or sadness, dread, fear, disappointment, anger… How could that be? Is there a mechanism in us that gets triggered when we get a hug that somehow solves problems and erases bad feelings? Yes, in fact there is a mechanism; here goes my engineering nerdiness again.

Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that produces a feeling of security and trust when it is released. It is also known to increase feelings of generosity and forgiveness. A hug is one thing that can trigger the production of oxytocin and its release into our system. Keep in mind that the hug needs to be at least 20 seconds long for this chemical to be secreted into our brain and blood system. So, the short hugs that we give to our friends and acquaintances are not going to result in a deep, trusting bond that we can feel with someone very close to us. There are other things that scientific studies have shown to induce a release of this trust building, soul comforting substance in us. Breastfeeding, cuddling, dancing, massages, and praying have all been shown to release oxytocin in humans. And there are benefits other than trust and perception of security that we can receive from regular doses of oxytocin.

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Support the immune system (by stimulating the thymus gland)
  • Lower heart rate
  • Lower stress (lowers cortisol levels)
  • Improve sleep (that cortisol again!)
  • Stimulate the brain’s memory centers
  • Reduce pain (both physical and emotional)
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Make you happier overall

We hug people we love when they are leaving us. In 1Sam 40:21, David and Jonathan are sad to be parting ways and kiss – surely, they hugged as well. Paul received hugs when he left.

When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship. (Acts 20:36-38)

We hug people we love when they return to us. Like how Esau ran to meet Jacob after he returned from Paddan Aram 14 years after fleeing. And the parable of prodigal son:

“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

We hug people we love when we want them to get better, to show them we care about them, to comfort their pain, discouragement, fear, and worry.

“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. (Mark 10:15-16)

Did you notice above what scientists have discovered? Praying releases oxytocin! I wonder how THAT can be true. Seriously, when do we feel safer than when we approach the throne of God?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

God even hints to us about the physical health benefits we get from hugs – especially hugs from Him:

“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem.” Then you will see this, and your heart will be glad, And your bones will flourish like the new grass; And the hand of the LORD will be made known to His servants, But He will be indignant toward His enemies. (Isaiah 66:13-14)

Solomon told us that sometimes we should not hug. I guess he’s talking about physical hugs in times of pestilence. Timely advice, I know. But the comforting from God we need to seek always.

A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. (Ecclesiastes 3:5)

There is common imagery in the scriptures of how we are sheltered, protected, comforted, effectively embraced, under the wings of God. I am comforted just by reading it!

He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. (Psalms 91:4)

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. (Matthew 23:37)

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. (Psalms 36:7)

I read a great essay called Under God’s Wings written in 1912 by J. R. Miller. He talks about the protection and comfort we receive from our Creator and how the wings of a mother bird are usually wide enough to cover her brood of chicks. But, in Malachi, the image used is the infinitely long rays of the sun that are long enough to cover, protect, and embrace all who follow Him.

“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. (Malachi 4:2)

Pray for each other often to get a shot of oxytocin, and when appropriate, hug each other for at least 20 seconds! Regular doses will improve your life.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)           

Peace to you and glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Enemy

Would you agree that by definition, “the enemy” is “the bad guy?” The word comes from Latin “inimicus” which means “not friend.” I remember some time ago, I got in the car with my younger son and the stereo came on. I had been listening to some history podcast on the origins of World War I.  I shut it off, but my son asked if we could listen to it.  So, we started learning about some fairly obscure details of the Balkan wars and how Montenegro attacked the Ottoman Empire… blah blah blah.  Actually, I don’t really remember those details, but I do remember my son, maybe 10 years old at the time, asking me, “who were the bad guys, the Ottomans or the Balkans?” Hmm. That’s a good question, right? It is an easy question if you are an Ottoman, or a Balkan.  In Exodus 17, the Israelites are confronted with their first national enemy – Amalek and his army. The Amalekites were “not-friends.” Before that, in Genesis 14 is a story of a war between some kings, and like my son, I could have asked, “who are the bad guys, Amraphel, Arioch, Chedorlaomer, and Tidal, or the opposing group of kings, Bera, Birsha, Shinab, Shemeber, and the king of Bela?” From our perspective it may not have mattered at all, except for when Chedorlaomer and his nasty cronies won the battle and took Abram’s nephew, Lot, captive… Oops, they messed with the wrong guy and became enemies of God’s chosen. This is not a position anyone would want to be in.

The mountains saw You and quaked; The downpour of waters swept by. The deep uttered forth its voice, It lifted high its hands. Sun and moon stood in their places; They went away at the light of Your arrows, at the radiance of Your gleaming spear. In indignation You marched through the earth; In anger You trampled the nations. You went forth for the salvation of Your people, For the salvation of Your anointed. You struck the head of the house of the evil to lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah. (Habakkuk 3:10-13)

Reading through the old testament, one may get the impression that God has a violent job to do – to displace and destroy the evil populations that have inhabited the land He was giving to His chosen. Compare this with the stories of God’s actions in the new testament where there was relatively little violence.  The new testament stories speak more loudly and directly of gentleness and forgiveness than they do killing and purging the land of evil. Jesus gave us an example to follow – that is one of love.

A futile wish I have is that the world leaders would recognize this and stop considering others their enemy. But, doesn’t it start with us? Paul tells us that people are not our enemies in Eph 6. Yes, we’ll get to that… Right now let’s consider another enemy that you really need to keep in mind as you walk.

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

Please, read that whole chapter 4 of James. It is awesome! I believe that James, and much of the Bible, uses the phrase “the world” to refer to the entirety of the ungodly, societal system that we live in. Here in 1 John, we read another hint at my reference above to Eph 6… Yes, we’ll get to that.

We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)

Friendship with the world is brushing right up against friendship with the evil one. Looking through the filter of the Word of God, we need to discern what good decisions are as we walk through this world. I guess we are living in enemy territory and need to be careful to choose life!

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)

Does this passage identify yet another enemy? Yes, our flesh is indeed an enemy that needs to be crucified. That word “hostile” is the same Latin root I mentioned, “inimicus,” that means “not friend.” Galatians 5:9-21 gives us a list of deeds of the flesh: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. But, I think our flesh, the enemy, shows up in other ways as well. We battle fear, insecurity, guilt, worry, doubt, etc.  These things and others are topics of conversations we have with ourselves that can be harmful and distracting, drawing us away from God.

All these enemies we have identified here have a common source. Strife between people and nations, the societal system we live in, our internal conversations and struggles, all come from that craftiest beast of the field introduced to us in Genesis 3:1. The real enemy is that evil one, the adversary.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Our ability to thwart this enemy is given to us through the following 6 verses. The next 5 verses (Eph 6:13-17) are spelling out the armor of God. But let us always remember that all important 6th verse:

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with  all perseverance and petition for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:18)

I’ve heard so often that our only offensive implement in the armor is the Sword, which is the Word of God, but that is not true at all. Our prayers are also a formidable weapon against the enemy! And we are not instructed to pray for ourselves, but to pray for each other. Remember, God does not want any to perish, but that ALL come to repentance. (2Pet3:9) We are an undefeatable force when we are together. God is our front line and our rear guard (Isa52:12) and wherever two or more are gathered in His name, He is there (Mat18:20.) We need each other.

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36)

Pray for each other, keep your focus on God, be strong and courageous, and put on your armor daily!

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Patience

I was at a friend’s house and he wanted to demonstrate his new stereo for me. Typically, he would play his music by plugging his stereo into his phone and streaming the music from the internet. But streaming music compromises the sound quality, and this new hi-fi system was worthy of a high-quality source. So, my friend had dug out his CD player and collection of CDs. He put in a CD and as we waited for the disk to load, he said, “Remember when we moved from cassette tapes to CDs and how amazingly fast it was to go from one track to another? Waiting for a tape to rewind seemed to take forever. And now, we are so used to the immediate response of the internet, we hate waiting for a CD player.” Yes, our world keeps getting faster and we expect instant gratification from more and more things. When I started working in my field, I would design something and then wait, often for weeks, to get the parts together to evaluate a prototype.  Now, “RP” is a regular phrase that I use in my job that stands for “rapid prototype.” I can now often expect to have a prototype in the same day! We get so used to having things quickly, that we cannot even take the time to say “rapid prototype” – we need to be FAST and so we say “RP” instead. In May of 2019, Amazon started shifting their Amazon Prime service from 2 days to a one-day standard delivery. What do we want? “Stuff!” – When do we want it? “Now!”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

That word “fruit” is the Greek “karpos” and means benefit, produce, profit, harvest… fruit. In other words, the things that we can expect to gain from God’s spirit are in this list. As I have attempted to illustrate above, our culture today is working to push patience off the list. (yes, I hear you muttering about the other items on the list as well… we do live in a broken world.) We’ve all heard that “patience is a virtue.” A virtue is a characteristic that is admirable and beneficial to one’s self and to others. Certainly, every fruit of the spirit is virtuous by nature.

The familiar story of the Israelites at Mt. Sinai in the book of Exodus gives us some examples of both patience and impatience exhibited by various beings. First there is the flagrant impatience of the Israelites loudly and frequently proclaimed. This is probably the greatest example of unappreciative whining in human history. These people were impatient. And yet, God was patient. Moses was driven to impatience multiple times, culminating later with the punishing consequence of not being permitted to enter the Promised Land (Num 20:1-13.) Moses went up on the mountain to receive the Law. After the people had agreed to the covenant 3 times (Exo19:8, 24:3 & 24:7) they again became impatient and complained to Aaron. Aaron also became impatient and decided to appease the people with an abomination, the golden calf. And, we see God lose His patience by contemplating the destruction of the people in v.32:10. Moses, the hero in this part of the story, exhibits patience and intercedes for the people and basically saves them. But then, when he saw with his own eyes the abomination that the people were engaged in, he lost his patience and threw down the tablets of the law.

God changed His mind because Moses was patient and present. Likewise, if we try to do everything alone, we will eventually fail! We need each other, my friends. We are relational creatures and thrive on companionship. And God created us in His image. If we were meant to do this alone, I think we would not be here! If God wanted to exist alone, He certainly could, but there would be no creation. God wants companionship. That is why we exist. We are being refined to attain companionship status.

For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, (Hebrews 2:11)

We desire to be called His brethren. Part of the path to get there is to work together. Read 1John3:16.

“…and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:24)

By nurturing our relationships, we can stimulate one another to patience, arguably one good deed worth pursuing. We’re to practice being worthy companions to each other so we can accompany God in eternity.

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:9-13)

Here in 2Peter, we’re told that God is patient… Sure, we know that already. But I didn’t stop the quote at vs. 9 or 10, because the passage is not only for us to be encouraged by who and what God is.  From this passage, we need to learn that the reason why we are following this path is that we have Hope for what is better. Yes, we need to wait for God, for His coming, for the Bride to make herself ready. But, waiting alone is really hard, lonely, frustrating, and even dangerous in that the temptation to take matters in our own hands could lead to destruction. We need to lift each other up – support each other – nurture our relationships, being in constant contact and holding each other accountable for our actions and decisions. I wonder if Abram and Sarrai went to a multitude of counsel before engaging Hagar in their impatience (Gen 16:2.)  I wonder if David was sneaking a gander at naked Bathsheeba with his advisors in the room.

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. (Romans 15:1-2)

Time is a resource that God gave us, and we treat it like a commodity, like a currency. The only difference between time and money is that time is the great equalizer. Bill Gates and I both have the same number of hours in a day. Because of that, we erroneously tend to treat time with a scarcity mindset. It looks like this: I never feel like I have enough time, and so if I am not being productive, I must be wasting time. But just because I am not being productive, does not mean that I am procrastinating or distracted. Waiting on God, exercising patience, and simply sitting with a situation without acting, are beneficial uses of time when we are not being productive in the typical sense. My time is precious, it slips away so easily… My habit is to operate along the lines of: “I don’t have time to be patient!” or “What can I do to be productive while I wait?” Patience is our ability to ignore the fallacy that time spent not being productive is wasted time.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)           

Peace to you and glory to God!

-Nate

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