Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Week Twenty Two - Gracious


And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth…” Luke 4:22

And who was this gracious man?  It was the Lord Jesus.  His words were easy, good and kind.  Psalm 45:2 says of Jesus that “grace is poured into thy lips”.  Every word he spoke was measured in grace.  No thoughtless remark ever escaped.  Every word had purpose and content.  Every word ministered grace to the hearers.
We are admonished to do the same.  Eph 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”  We are to measure our words by Christ’s example and by the need of the hearer.
So many times we fail.  We allow words to pour from our lips that have not been checked by the Spirit of God.  Or, our tone of voice casts doubt over the true intent of our words.  James tells us that the tongue is a poisonous fire if left uncontrolled and seriously warns us about learning to control our speech. He concludes the chapter with a comparison of godly and ungodly wisdom. 

“The words of a wise man’s mouth, Eccles. 10:12 says, “are gracious…” It take great wisdom to construct gracious words.  It takes time to think before we speak and to anticipate or prepare our hearts for proper reactions in communication.  Since the Bible tells us that our words proceed from what is truly in our hearts, we best be checking the root of the problem! The truly gracious words will proceed from a heart at peace with God. 

What are our words like?  Would people describe our words as easy, good and kind?  Do we sound gracious?


“A gracious woman retaineth honour…”  Proverbs 11:16

Again, the definition is easy, good and kind.  It also holds the idea of having a good report or being fair-sounding. This is the description of the woman, but the next word, “retaineth”, is a description of her action.  It literally means to hold onto strongly. 

When you combine graciousness with strength you find a formidable combination.  It makes me think of the definition of meekness – strength under control.  Graciousness is not a simple quality.  It takes self-control, discernment and strength to choose to speak and act graciously in the face of hardships and difficult people.  Yet, I believe the verse also shows us a motivation.  Honour.  Being gracious has it’s own rewards, and one of those is a good reputation.  To maintain a honourable reputation takes real strength and consistency.  One fatal ungracious word or action and the reputation can be lost.

I have only met a few people in my life that I would describe as gracious and the amazing thing is that they made it look like it was easy and made me feel easy around them.  They made me think that their goodness was without question and their kindness had no limits.  It is very attractive and a quality that few possess.  It is a goal to aspire unto!  The very epitome of Christlikeness!

Would people describe you as a gracious person?  Are you careful with your words?  Do you faithfully protect your reputation?


“If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious…”  I Peter 2:3

This chapter of Peter starts with a strong reference to the types of words and attitudes that should not be a part of the life of a Christian: malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking.  He appeals to us to look into God’s Word so we can grow out of these things.  The graciousness of the Lord in this verse is referring to our experience of his gracious gift of salvation in the face of our apparent sin.  As the chapter proceeds he comes to verse twelve, “having your conversation honest among the Gentiles…”  The change in our lives after we have received Christ should be shown in our words, lifestyle and action to those around us.

My Bible has a reference to Luke 6:35, “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”
Remember that the definition of “gracious” includes that word “kind”?  God was kind/gracious to us when we needed it most, and he is also kind to the unthankful and to the evil.  Yes, the wrath of God is upon them because they do not know him, but his action toward them is gracious and kind that he might lead them to repentance.
How are our actions toward the lost? If we are acting in the old man, speaking evil and living harshly, how can the graciousness of the Lord be seen by those who need him?  If we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, surely we would want to share that with others.


“…for I am gracious.”  Exodus 22:27

The “I AM” is gracious.  Graciousness is an attribute of God.  He is good.  He is kind.  He is open to us.  Many times throughout Scripture this word gracious appears along side other attributes like gracious and full of compassion in Psalm 111:4, or gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous in Psalm 112:4, but one of my favourites is Isaiah 30:18, “And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you…”
This chapter of Isaiah recounts the rebellion of the children of Israel and then offers of help and forgiveness by the Lord, which they refused and ignored.  But though they were obstinate and rebellious, the Lord said he would just wait graciously for them to return from their folly.  Matter of fact, the Lord states in verse 19, “he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.”   Very gracious.  Yes.  Though they have ignored his call and gone their own haughty and prideful way, when they finally realise where they are and call out to Him, he will hear and he will answer.
Graciousness waits.  It doesn’t rush in to deliver.  It doesn’t push its agenda on others.  It is not oblivious to the danger, but it watches from a distance and waits for the opportune moment when real help is ready to be received.

Can you wait graciously for those moments?  Or, do you charge into people’s lives?  Can you recount times when God has graciously waiting on you?


“…And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son.”  Genesis 43:29

The story of Joseph is a picture of the graciousness of God.  We know the story, how his brothers due to their jealousy of him sold Joseph into slavery and how that God worked in the life of Joseph while estranged from his family.  As the family come to seek food during the drought, Joseph works slowly to determine their hearts and to establish the health of his father and younger brother, Benjamin.  He is waiting to be gracious, similarly to the verse we looked at in Isaiah.  (Isaiah 30:18)

At the point of today’s verse, Benjamin has been brought to Joseph as a show of good faith.  Joseph is overwhelmed by the sight of his brother and has had to leave the scene to weep.

Remember that the brothers do not yet know it is Joseph.  They are concerned that this man will do harm to the younger brother and they know that it is their sin that has brought them to this place.  In Genesis 42:21 they even say they are very guilty and that they deserve to be punished for what they had done to Joseph their brother.  Though Joseph heard this confession, he waited.  And, yes, even after they had brought Benjamin, he still waited.  When the time was right, Joseph revealed himself and then poured out all manner of aid and assurance to the undeserving brothers.

This is an image of our Saviour.  Though we have rejected and crucified him, at the opportune moment, when we are ready to receive him, he comes in with all willingness and ability to save our souls – to be gracious unto us. 

Is he still waiting upon you?   Is there something you need to confess to Him?  He will be gracious unto you.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Week Twenty One - Girded


“Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning.” 
Luke 12:35

Girded.  It is the action of hedging about, to prepare, to make sure, to fasten on your belt and get to work!  Here is the stance of the prepared and anticipatory Christian.  He stands both sure and active.  He is girded for service with majesty of attitude and action with Christ as our example. His light is burning brightly holding forth the Word of Life with preparedness and a confident stance in life, doctrine, attitude, direction and sure reward.

Such a Christian stands ready to receive honour and reward.  “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” (Luke12:37) 

Did you see that?  If we are ready and watching, the Lord will “serve” us?  He will see to our needs.  Isn’t that amazing!? 
To be ill prepared, however, is to receive punishment.  “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  (vs. 47)
Remember the Ten Virgins?  Those that were not prepared when the voice of the Bridegroom sounded missed out on the wedding party.  Their lamps were not lit.  They were not girded and ready.  They missed the opportunity.
Being girded is our responsibility.  We are to be prepared and watching for His coming and be actively serving with lamps all trimmed and bright.  We are to be anticipating His return.  “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing!”  Luke 12:43

So, are you ready?  Is your lamp trimmed and bright?  Are you ready to get to work?


“…having your loins girded about with truth.”  Ephesians 6:14

Vine’s Dictionary describes this word with the visual picture of the soldier or servant of Christ girded for service, ready for rapid movement.  The truth is on his heart and mind.  He is ready to be used at the first call. There is a readiness and an ability to use the truth that is bound to him. 

This girded loin is just one part of the armour of the soldier of Christ as described in Ephesians chapter six, but it is a very vital part.  From the loins come the movements of the rest of the body.  If truth is not the sinew holding the frame together, the body will be disjointed and unable to be ready for rapid movement.
The image of a girdle is accurate picture.  There is an elderly lady in our church whose aging frame requires her to daily wear a tight girdle.  Without this girdle her hips will dislocate and she will not be able to function.  The girdle literally helps to hold her together and enables her to continue to function.
If we apply the image of a girdle as truth we will understand that it is truth that holds us together.  It is truth that gives us the ability to function productively and for the honour of our Lord.  We definitely need truth. 

So the question can be asked, “Just how much truth do we know?”  Every piece of truth is important.  God loves me.  That is truth.  I am His child.  That is truth.  He will never leave me.  That, too, is truth.  These are basics from God’s Word.  Knowing them, believing them, and relying upon them will enable us to move in faith.  Without these basic truths, we will be disjointed. 

So, is your girdle tight enough?


“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. “  Psalm 30:11

In this verse the meaning of girded is to be wrapped up in, bound about with, to be wholly influenced by or under the influence of.

The Bible makes many references to the putting on of sackcloth and ashes to represent grief or repentance.  The wearers would literally take dusty, dirty cloth and wrap it around themselves.  They would then rub their clothing and skin with ashes and sit in a heap to demonstrate their sincere grief of heart and soul. 
When David and Bathsheba’s son was ill the Bible says that David did sat in sackcloth and ashes, but when the child died he arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel…”  (II Sam 12:20)  His time of grieving was over.  It was time to put off the sackcloth and change his emotion.  David moved from being girded in grief to being girded in acceptance.
In Psalm 30, a song of dedication of the house of David, the time for rejoicing had come.  Verse eleven says it was time to be wrapped up in gladness for all God had done.  What a wonderful feeling – to be wrapped in gladness!  What a wonderful change God makes in our lives as he changes our mourning into joyful dance and pours gladness into our hearts.
The Psalmist completes the chapter by revealing what a heart girded with gladness produces.  “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.”  A heart girded with gladness will produce praise and thanksgiving. 

Life can bring many changes of emotion. We can be held under the influences of these emotions. Matthew Henry says, “Thus must we learn to accommodate ourselves to the various providences of God.”

What are you wrapped up in?

“And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste:  it is the Lord’s Passover.”  Exodus 12:11

Sounds like really bad table manners, but the Israelites were to eat the Passover fully clothed as if they were ready to go out the door.  This was not to be a leisurely meal like the everyday meals where they lounged around and ate for the enjoyment of the food and fellowship. They were to eat it quickly as if in expectation of being called away.
The reason was that this point in the Passover service was a picture of their readiness for their wilderness journey.  They were waiting for the cloud to move them on to the next place. For us, as Christians, it reminds us to live our lives alert in expectation of Christ’s coming.
I John 2:28 says, “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.”  Abiding, being girded, being ready, this is the stance of the Christian.  There is a little chorus that says:

“ I’ll be somewhere listening,
I’ll be somewhere listening,
I’ll be somewhere listening for my name…” 

Indeed, no matter what service we are doing for the Lord we should be always girded and ready for his call whether in death or in rapture.  Ready to meet Him.  That call is imminent.

Are you ready?  Are you listening?


And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.”  Revelation 1:13

This description of Christ in the book of Revelation reveals that Christ too understands the emblematic and symbolic meaning of being girded.  He stands as the Alpha and Omega, the first and last as he begins to reveal the mysteries of the ages.  His girding is not so much for readiness, but for the majesty of attitude and action with which he now stands.  He has overcome and now he is about to set all things aright.  He has this power and authority and his apparel signifies his position.
It is interesting to note that the girding of the Christians we have been talking about was usually done around the hips with a cord or a sheath of fabric.  Yet here we see the girdle of Christ described as golden, and instead of being around his hips, it is across his breastplate. 
The High Priest wore a breastplate with twelve jewels symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel.  It was to be worn as a memorial before the Lord.  (Exodus 28:29)  This breastplate signified him as the High Priest.  Similarly, Christ, here in Revelation, wears this golden girdle, over his heart signifying and confirming that he is our Great High Priest.
And what is the reaction of those who see him in Revelation?  The Apostle John said, “And when I saw him, I fell at is feet as dead.”  John recognized the majesty and authority of the Deity before him.  His heart was attuned and ready to worship.  He recognized the Way, the Truth and the Life…because, he, too, was girded. 

Are you girded?  What would be your reaction if you stood before Christ today?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Week Twenty - Fret


“Fret not thyself because of evil doers,
 neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.”  Psalm 37:1

Fretting seems to be an old word that we don’t really use any more and we usually associate it with an older woman worrying over children or difficult situations, but the meaning is so much broader and entails a variety of emotions.  The Hebrews meaning involves anger, arousal, burning rage, jealousy, contention, wrath, displeasure, and grief.  It is not the simple banter and emotional upheaval of grandma, but an action that is fuelled by all of these emotions.

The object of fretting in the verse seems to be the prosperity of those who live opposed to God’s Word.  We find it hard to understand how they are blessed and happy.  We see them succeeding in business and life and we get envious.  Our lives don’t seem to be as happy or prosperous and we begin to think that God has done us an injustice and we wonder if being a Christian and obeying God’s Word is really worth it.  Ever had those thoughts?
This Psalm goes on to assure us that God will make all things just and fair in the end.  However, the instruction of this first verse is about our own attitude toward the unfairness of life, as we perceive it.  I think the evildoers and workers of iniquity are not the real objects of the instruction, but rather, it is to our own hearts of discontent. Instead of resting in the truths of God’s love and care for us, we allow our hearts and thoughts to dwell with anger, jealousy and grief about our own plight.  We fail to be thankful and to mind our own business.  Nowhere in God’s Word are we told that it is our business to make things even and just.  We are told to live good lives, which God alone will judge.  When life is finished I only have to answer for myself before God.  Why waste my energy fretting over the wrongs of others?  Except, of course, to hold them up in prayer before God.

What causes you to fret?  Can you see past it to the real attitude and motivation of your own heart?  Be honest, what adjustments do you need to make?


“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him; fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.”  Psalm 37:7

This usage of the word “fret” is exactly the same as Psalm 37:1.  It is to be filled with anger and jealousy and grief over the actions of others.  But this time the writer gives us a stance or a place where we can find instruction on how to not fret. 
Rest and patience are the opposite of a fretful attitude.  Resting in the Lord means that we really trust Him and His Word.  Resting implies quietness and assurance of life.  Resting means that we are not fussing around or striving for something bigger and better, but that we are content.  Patience means that we can endure hardness or injustice without rising to the occasion emotionally.  Patience implies that we know there is something better in the future and that the annoyances of today are only temporary.  Patient waiting for the Lord means that we truly believe His Word and his promises to make all things right in the end.

J. Burroughs writes: “…the hearts of men who are full of themselves and hardened with self-love, if they receive a stroke (a difficulty in life) they make a noise, but the self-denying Christian yields to God’s hand and makes no noise.”  Fretting is a noise of the heart - a direct opposite to resting and patience.
I Peter describes the two qualities of a godly woman.  Her spirit is defined as meek and quiet.  I think this fits in well here because when you examine these two qualities you will find that meek and quiet means basically a spirit that is not ruled by fear or anger.  This seems to match with the opposite of being fretful.
So, the questions come today, “Are you living a fretful life ruled by fear and anger, or a meek and quiet life exemplified by rest and patience?  What noise does your heart make when ruffled?”


“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; fret not thyself in any wise to do evil, for evildoers shall be cut off, but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.”  Psalm 37:8, 9

Again, the word fret has exactly the same definition.  But the verse goes on to define our actions now in more of a negative way that verse 7.  We see the actions of fretting – anger, wrath, contemplation of vengeance.
People used to talk about “stewing in their problems”.  This is a really appropriate colloquialism for fretting.  It is allowing an unjust situation to overtake your thoughts and reactions.  Anger boils and outburst are usually directed at those we love instead of the evildoer.  We conjure up words we would like to say or actions we wish we could do to those who we perceive as wrong.  Our prayers are consumed with the desire for God to judge them or remove them or show them that they are wrong.  We are willing to have any part in their downfall and even may speak to them directly or try to manipulate situations that will expose their wrongdoing or cause them to be hurt or embarrassed.  Sounds awful, doesn’t it?

By allowing fretting to overtake us, we become just as ugly and just as wrong as our enemy.  We remove ourselves from the place of blessing and become unhappy and bitter.

The instruction from the verse is again to wait.  But it is important to see that we are not to wait to see vengeance, or wait until we get the chance to point out their wrong, rather, we are to wait on the Lord.  That is vastly different.
Waiting on the Lord means to allow God to have all the time he needs to work in the situation and in our hearts.  It means to cease from our fretting and simply turn the whole situation over to the Lord, waiting for His hand alone.  We might never see the wrongdoer punished or the fruit of his wicked exposed, but if we are waiting on the Lord, we can be assured that the Lord will work his plan and in time our hearts will be settled on him and our fretting will cease. 

Is there a situation you need to turn over to the Lord?  Why not stop stewing and start waiting?


“The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the Lord.”  Proverbs 19:3

This verse might read – Man’s foolish ways get his life all twisted and then he blames God.  Perverteth means twisted and fretteth means to rage against, become angry, or to look dejected and pitiful.
Funny isn’t how everything seems to wind up God’s fault?  One of the questions many people ask is how God allows all the wickedness in the world, or for people to suffer, or for injustice to reign.  They never stop to think that man’s ways have brought trouble to himself.
When Cain’s offering was refused, the Bible says that his countenance fell.  This means that he was disheartened.  He knew he had not done what God had required, but instead of repenting and making an acceptable sacrifice, he slew his brother.  And when God dealt out the punishment he said it was more than he could bear and again, instead of repenting, he went away from the Lord.  From then on the way of Cain grew more and more twisted, yet repentance never came.  No doubt he blamed God.
Sometimes our lives get in a real mess.  Sometimes it is none of our doing, we get caught up in the messes of others.  Either way, it is the foolishness or poor decisions that bring us to a twisted and difficult life.  We have two choices.  We can blame God or others and fret against them growing more bitter each day, or, we can own up to our mistakes and bring them to God in repentance and ask him to make our twisted lives straight again.  Fretting or freedom, those are the two choices.

Which one will you choose today?


“Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things; behold, therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head, saith the Lord God…” Ezekiel 16:43

This usage of fret has the idea of shaking with anger or of causing a disturbance.  Seems God is not very happy with the actions of Israel. If we look at the context of the verse we see that Ezekiel is recording the Word of the Lord to the people of Jerusalem.  They were guilty of sin.  They had forgotten their history and their shameful worship of false gods.  They had even sacrificed their children to these false gods.
God had pronounced judgement upon them.  Their prosperity would end and their city would be destroyed. Their deaths would be violent and would come by the hand of the idolatrous people with whom they had joined league.  They were guilty and God was righteous in dealing with their sin.
Sin really bothers God.  It moves him to action and distresses His Spirit.  It really ought to bother us as well.  We should not rest in sin or be unaffected by it.  It ought to make us fret in the sense that it makes us uncomfortable or causes a disturbance in our lives so much so that we want rid of it. 
Maybe its time to take a look at any sin we are allowing in our lives?  Maybe its time for some hard questions about how comfortable we are with wickedness and the worldly attitudes that are around us and possibly in our own homes and lives.  Maybe we ought to fret at bit more and then seek to eradicate those elements that would not be pleasing or would not bring peace to our lives.  Better to take care of it ourselves before God has to!

What sin needs to be eradicated from your life?  What sin is causing discomfort?  Are you ready to agree with God and repent of it?