“The world cries for men who are strong; strong in conviction, strong to lead, to stand, to suffer.”
“It would seem that unless we see through and beyond the physical, we shall not even see the physical as we ought to see it: as the very vehicle for the glory of God”| E.E., The Mark of a Man
What do you want? What do you seek?
How will you answer, in the end, when they stand by your bed and ask:
Did you find what you were looking for? Was it all that you had hoped it would be? What did you forsake for it? (Was it worth it?)
What did you forsake?
There are lost sheep looking for a shepherd.
Men, looking for a mentor.
Students lined up, but no one will teach them.
Will you leave your lives of comfort and share the yoke?
Sometimes I see the fear and doubt in their eyes – it flashes, then is hidden by pride.
Brushed away with a joke. But the shadow is there.
If you will fight, fight for the lives of your brothers.
Lift them up and guide them.
Not in the fields of battle, but in your own church, in your community, in your family.
Do not be satisfied.
Do not let another take the role for which you were called.
(Do you dare to seek your own joys and comfort to their neglect and detriment?)
Will you not fight?
Do it not for man’s recognition — but for your love of God, and then your love for all of mankind.
Do not fear how they may judge you outwardly. Learn integrity, truth, honesty, humility, grace, kindness, sacrifice. Learn to live with these when you are with others, and when you are alone.
Do not gloat with how well you walk.
How can you keep walking if you saw that your brother has fallen?
Perhaps it is like a mirror caked with mud. With precision and force, God chips away at the pieces of self that we hold on to, and when that painful work is done, we will clearly reflect Him — and all those characters will be revealed so that Christ is shown — only Christ.
Do not let our generation fall away.
Do not let us be forsaken.
And if you read until here, then this:
“A man must at times be hard as nails: willing to face up to the truth about himself, and about the woman he loves, refusing compromise when compromise is wrong. But he must also be tender. No weapon will breach the armor of a woman’s resentment like tenderness.”
| E. E., The Mark of a Man
(It is true.)
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”
| Philippians 1:27
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. | Ecclesiastes 5:1-2
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. | Psalm 139: 23-24
Sometimes it seems like our lives could not catch up with our plans.
There were things I had planned for Summer… it always seems like we have forever, but same as every other year, time runs out, and so, Summer came and went.
Autumn is here, but she is unpredictable — she brings her best if she agrees to meet you, but reminds you that she is not here to stay. She packs up what Summer left behind, and makes way for the most unpredictable of all, Winter.
This weekend was a slower one, and finally, it seems like the tasks and promises made before the summer have been fulfilled.
In the slowness and quietness, the mind feels more free to reflect…
Was reminded this week that it matters not whether a task is in my comfort zone, or if I possess the skills to do it; it is a heart of obedience that is required: May reminders lead to resolve, and resolve to action.
“Let your words be few” “See if there is any offensive way in me… and lead me in the way everlasting.”
“…You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” | James 4:2-3
Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, because they become actions. Watch your actions, because they become habits. Watch your habits, because they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think we become.| Attributed to M. Thatcher
The end of our time together.
As we come to a close on these brief reflections on the fruit of the Spirit, I pray that these words and thoughts will become actions. And that these actions may continue into habits, that before we seek to change the lives of others, that our lives are changed.
Let me end with a recent story…
While planning for our fellowship Thanksgiving program a few weeks ago, I came across a series of emails I’ve kept over the past few years, and felt a bit of nostalgia reading these email chains of thanksgiving planning. Thanksgiving always seems to be a time for reunion and reflections.
The first time I truly felt the warmth of Thanksgiving was in first year of university. One month after being away from home in another city, away from friends whom I have grown up with, it was a joy to be able to gather again, and to share about the things that have happened, the changes that are coming, and to remember the good times we shared in the past.
Several years have come and gone. At Thanksgiving this year, we talked about the things which used to be — the people who have come in to our lives, and those who have slowly drifted out of our lives (by distance, by choice, by life itself)… How much of that was ever in our control?
And yet, we also have choice.
Every day, we choose. We meet crossroads and have to choose a path – go or stay?
Things happen, and we respond.
Our choices are based on our beliefs.
How were your choices this year? How have they reflected your life in Christ? Any areas of thanksgiving?
For me, this year has provided a few reminders that my life does not belong in my hands.
And it continues to be a repeated lesson in learning to trust.
Some days, I feel like someone who has been shipwrecked, finding myself in the middle of a stormy sea.
I grab hold to anything that looks like it will keep me afloat.
I know the general direction of the shore, but have little idea about how I’m going to get there.
Does this look safe? Or that one over there?
And unless the One who rescues comes to find me and take me to shore, I had little chance of making it there, climbing from driftwood to driftwood.
Yet when the storm had calmed, and I felt that He who was rowing was not going at the pace that I had expected, how many times have I foolishly tried to hop off the boat when I saw that another piece of wood looked good and felt that I could get to shore on my own?
Even now, Father.
How many of these words are what You meant for me to say, and how many are words that I have used by my own strength in hopes to change someone else… In the name of encouraging someone else, yet, Father, was that what You mean for him or her to learn?
Thank You for showing me the errors of my ways.
Conclusion on the matter
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:25
“Refrain from the temptation to say something profound.
You might think you have to come up with a spiritual nugget in order to help or that you have to be able to summarize the work of God in a sentence or two. The truth is that suffering often exposes us to the mystery of God—not an explanation from God (Romans 11:33; I Cor. 2:16; Proverbs 25:2).
We are running around trying to glorify God by explaining the matter, while He intends to be glorified by concealing the matter. We have to learn to say, “I don’t know what’s going on.”
…You may know the end of the book of Job, but let me remind you that while Job demanded an answer, God responded with His attributes; when Job wanted an explanation, God revealed His reputation; though Job wanted a premise behind God’s actions, God declared His power through the action.” (S. Davey)
Yes. Dear friends, in all these words, have I lost you?
Self-control is not in actions only, but words.
The wise use words with restraint, and the fools are thought wise if they keep silent (Proverbs 17:27-28).
Forgive me if I have erred.
In all this, if there is one thing I may leave you with, may it be this:
While this walk is not easy, and many things seem uncertain to our eyes, we must remember in Whom we are rooted (Colossians 2:7).
What is self-control? Do not rush into something to satisfy your own desire or the demands of another, without seeking first His will.
Yet when the time comes for action, have courage to do it and faith that He will sustain you.
He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).
Each point in Jesus’ life happened to reveal the glory of the Father.
Never too soon, never too late.
Reflect on His attributes — His grace in the past, His goodness now and forever — and let your doubts dissipate, and His praise fill you once again.
(On Psalm 42)
Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about your faithfulness Let my pain reveal your glory as my only real rest Let my losses show me all I truly have is you
So when Iʼm drowning out at sea And all your breakers and your waves crash down on me Iʼll recall your safety scheme Youʼre the one who made the waves And your Son went out to suffer in my place And to show me that Iʼm safe.
“For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
| James 4:14-16
“Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” | Hebrews 10:25
It started with a camel made of olive wood.
My best friend’s parents have just returned from their trip.
The six (or seven) year-old me took the camel off the shelf and held it in my hands.
I knew little about this land, but most of my childhood stories take place there.
Will I get to see it one day?
Will I have a heart for its people?
It seems closer now.
So many things begin with a seed, and we never know which will take place and take hold of our heart. How will it grow? What will become of it? What fruit will it bear?
Still, in waiting.
“Still, my soul be still
Do not be moved by lesser lights and fleeting shadows
Hold onto His ways …
Do not forsake the Truth you learned in the beginning
Wait upon the Lord And hope will rise as stars appear when day is dimming”
Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. | Matthew 9:13
Gentleness is a strong hand with a soft touch. It is a tender, compassionate approach toward others’ weaknesses and limitations. A gentle person still speaks truth, sometimes even painful truth, but in doing so guards his tone so the truth can be well received. |Wiki 😛
It has been a while.
(I filled the gap with momentary thoughts, but interim notes are like appetizers — nibbles and fillers while you keep looking for the entree.)
Why was ‘gentleness’ such a difficult one to grasp?
It wasn’t until tonight when we spoke, raising questions and pushing boundaries of comfort, that I came a little closer.
Right view of God “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
In the past few weeks, we focused on how having the right view of God gives us the right perspective of our lives.
What went wrong
Tonight, I was reminded that I have been viewing God as a commander.
Harsh, very high standards. And so, I have raised the bar higher for myself…
And without knowing, have also placed that standard on my peers (fellow ‘soldiers’… and even new or potential recruits).
Conversations that fell into the things of God drew me, and I was passionate.
But anything else, my mind zones out and wondered why we spent time talking about these things.
I became impatient. Why don’t you follow these standards? Why don’t you see this is important? Why are you stuck on those other things?
Tonight, I was reminded that I harbored a judgmental attitude. Did I think I could attain standards that could please God? (Galatians 3)
God looks at the heart!
“…For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
“But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men,and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)
What does someone who has the life of Christ look like?
“…Compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colosians 12:13-16)
My dear friends, it does us no good and does not serve to further our purpose when we harp on our standards and force others to fit into our molds using harsh methods. That does nothing to change their hearts.
And silent judgement is not the way to go either.
What ought our attitude be?
Wise and good men should be as physicians to all about them; Christ was so. Hunc affectum versus omnes habet sapiens, quem versus aegros suos medicus— A wise man cherishes towards all around him the feelings of a physician for his patient. Seneca Deut. Const. Sin-sick souls have need of this Physician, for their disease is dangerous; nature will not help itself; no man can help us; such need have we of Christ, that we are undone, eternally undone, without him…
Christ’s conversing with sinners is here called mercy: to promote the conversion of souls is the greatest act of mercy imaginable; it is saving a soul from death. (M. Henry Commentary)
Yes. Keep pointing them to God.
(And make sure your own heart is right with God as well.)
Have compassion on others’ weakness and limitations.
(Do you see the dust in their eye, and not the plank in your eye? — Matthew 7:3-5)
We can never do enough to attain God’s standards (and we were never meant to — Hebrews 7:11-28, Matthew 5:17).
Not out of timidity, but by God’s strength and in His love, continue in speech and action…
Guide with gentleness. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth. | 2 Tim 2: 25