Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Week Thirty-Five - Shaken


“That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter…”  II Thessalonians 2:2

Be not quickly or easily shaken.  It does mean to agitate, but with the idea of shaking because of stormy winds.  Vine describes it as the “loosening of a ship from its moorings by a storm”.  To be blown away…
It is interesting to look at what is being shaken:  the mind.  This refers not to our thoughts, but to our resolve.  We are not to be easily blown off course. We are to be standing steadfast with determination and full faith amidst afflictions – not shaking, or overly troubled. 
It reminds me of the verse in 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:”  Life will happen.  We should not let it blow is off course or trouble us. Being troubled leads to an outcry or wailing.  We are not to be shaken into emotional outbursts. That British “stiff upper lip” has a place in our Christian life! Our spirit is to remain settled and moored to Christ who is both in us and always with us.
No word, meaning communication, or letter, meaning the written word, are to cause us to loose from our faith, purpose or hope in Christ. We are to be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding.  Not shaking in our boots or blown away by the events of life.
How about you?  Are you easily disturbed?  Fearful?  Or, are you settled, grounded and solidly moored in Christ?


“and for fear of him the keepers did shake.”  Matthew 28:4

The prison guards were not prophets of old accustomed to God entering their lives in a vivid manner; they were just ordinary soldiers who were following instructions, setting the watch over the tomb of Christ. 

The watch had been set from the moment Christ was placed there.  The third day was just dawning and the women had arrived to prepare the body.  As they approached, an earthquake shook the ground and an angel – shining like lightening and white a snow – rolled the stone away and sat upon it and spoke to the women.
Astonishment and great fear gripped the hearts of these soldiers.  God had entered directly into their lives in a spectacular way.  They were been shaken to their very core and completely mortified. But the women took the message of the angel back to the disciples with fear and great joy.

We see two totally different responses to the same event.  What do you think made the difference?  I look at it this way.  One group, the soldiers, may have been afraid God would show up. No doubt they had heard the stories about Jesus promising to rise again.  That was the whole reason for the soldiers and the sealed stone anyway! Have you ever wondered what happened to them?  Did they pass out or did they run away in fear?  Or, did they remain to hear the conversation between the women and the angel?  Did they believe on Christ?  Scripture does not record, but for sure, they came face to face with the reality of the resurrection and were no doubt affected.

The other group, the women, were seeking Jesus.  Though they were still astonished at seeing and hearing an angel, they received the message with joy and took it back to the disciples.
When God interrupts our lives do we shake and halt with fear?  Are we expecting God to show up in our lives?  Or, do we, as the women did, listen and obey joyfully?


“…those things which are shaken…those thing which cannot be shaken…”  Hebrews 12:27

What things can be shaken?  The writer of Hebrews is referring to the changes in Judaism due to the entrance of Christianity: the old law and new grace.  But I believe we can also look at things in our own lives that can be shaken.

We know the physical world can be shaken.  Earthquakes and other natural disasters shake the world. Wars and human conflict shake the world.  Financial dealings shake the world.  Governments rise and fall and we know that all these things will be dissolved.  They are not unshakeable.

Life can be shaken. Illness, divorce, death and all manner of things in the course of our lives shake our foundation and we know that life is fragile and only for a moment. 

Even our faith can be shaken, but, praise God for those things which cannot be shaken.

The Word of God – Psalm 119:89
The Atonement – Hebrews 10:14
         The Work of the Spirit – Philippians 1:6
The Promises of God – Isaiah 54:10
                           The Throne of God – Daniel 2:44
Our Saviour – Hebrews 13:8
To keep from being shaken we need to adopt the attitude of Paul in Acts 20:24  “none of these things move me…that I may finish my course with Joy!”

Has your life ever been shaken?  Have you experienced the reality of these things that cannot be shaken?  What is your attitude when life gives you a nudge?


“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together…”  Acts 4:31

What a prayer meeting!  The building literally shook!  Was it the prayers that shook the house?  Was it the people’s faith that caused the building to quake? Another similar event is recorded when, in Acts 16:26, prayer and praises resulted in shaking.  Paul and Silas were in the Philippian jail and the doors fell open.
I rather doubt that the words of the prayers were the source of the power.  Otherwise, men’s words could shake building.  And, I rather doubt that Paul and Silas could sing well enough to cause reverberation to that degree. I do believe that the power of the Holy Spirit set free in hearts of men wields great power: enough to shake a house and open prison doors.
Believing prayer is the key!  Men ought always to pray – to unleash the power of the Spirit into the work of God and the lives of others.  How mighty is God when men are on their knees!  When God’s Spirit enters the room, things are shaken.

What is the measure of your prayer life?  Do you see God answering your prayers?  Are you open to the moving of the Spirit in your prayer life?


“…pressed down, and shaken together….”  Luke 6:38

This verse begins with giving and ends with giving.  However, in the middle there is a process described. It is the filling of a bag of meal, for example, as it is shaken and pressed so more can be put into the bag.  This process removes the air and compacts the contents so the vessel can hold more, hence, it can give more.
It is not unlike the process of Christian growth.  God gives us salvation and then begins the process of pruning and developing us by pressure and shaking in order to put more of himself into us.  So making us fuller!  More useful!  More equipped to give because we have more abundance and more supply in Him.
We aren’t usually keen on the pressure and shaking, but maybe we ought to change our attitude here and recognize that God is removing “air”, rearranging and defragging our lives making us vessels better fit for the Master’s use.
Can you pray this prayer?  “Lord, enter my life and shake me if it be for your glory.  I will not fear, for the unshakeable things are my foundation and I am resolved to not loose from my moorings.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Week Thirty-Four - Quiet


“...that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life
 in all godliness and honestly.”  I Tim 2:2

I don’t know about you, but I genuinely hate turmoil and tension.  I don’t mind hard work, but I like to live peacefully and productively.  Sometimes that is hard to accomplish if the outside world is churning and interfering. The “quiet” life Paul is exhorting us to here in First Timothy is one of inner tranquillity that can be seen in how we live our lives. 

Life may not be quiet or peaceful, but we can be.  Others may not be godly and honest, but we can be.  And as Prov. 14:14 says, “A good man is satisfied from himself.”  Or, satisfied he has done right and is right.  Quietness of life and heart comes from the knowledge that you have done rightly.

Paul’s admonition comes with instruction to pray for government and leaders so that their decisions will make it possible for life to be peaceful.  That seems to be in small quantity today with wars, lagging morals and financial uncertainty.  But, nevertheless, we should pray for our leadership.  However, inner tranquillity can be ours regardless of the outer circumstances.  As we tend our flock and work at our own business we can end each day at peace satisfied that we have given each day our best and then give the rest to the Lord.
Are you living rightly?  Honestly?  Godly?  Do you remember your government in prayer?


“...that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”  II Thess 3:12

This definition denotes “keeping one’s seat”.  Staying in your place, taking care of your own business without disturbance to others.
Eccles 4:6 “Better is an handful with quietness, than both hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.”
How troubled we can become as we try to run the rat race.  We work so hard to hold on to what we have and to gain what we think we need that there is no quietness in our hearts or in our homes. This verse advocates just the opposite.  Be content.  Stop striving.  Settle back and do life at a different pace.

I read a book called, Sabbath, by Wayne Muller that put it this way,  “…men and women, having worked hard and long in field and garden and factory and kitchen to obtain food, clothing, and shelter, would realize they had just about all they really needed.  They would realize that they could now rest together, happy and satisfied, with their good and peaceful lives.”  What a wonderful thing!  I remember a life like this with my great-grandparents.  At the end of the day they would rest satisfied that they had done their work and were rewarded with a good meal and a comfortable home.

However, Muller goes on to explain that the economists at the turn of the century did not like this. Satisfied and peaceful people do not produce economic expansion.  So, investors, marketing experts, advertisers and business leaders fuelled the drive for increased consumption.  They gave birth to the advertising industry which motivated people to spend money on things they did not need and encouraged them to fulfil their desires without regulation or limitation saying that everyone will be benefited by increased output and everyone will get more and more of what they want.  Thus, the new gospel of consumption and acquisition was born. (paraphrase)

I think we have been duped!  A happy life, a quiet life, does not come by consumption!  Have you been fooled by the world of advertising?  Have you ever thought about doing with less in life?  Less of the world’s goods?  Less of the perceived necessities of life?  Take stock!  What really makes your life better?


But whoso harkeneth unto me shall be quiet from fear of evil.”
 Proverbs 1:33

Here the word “quiet” means to be at ease and peaceful.  Our peace and quietness are directly related to our obedience and faith in God and his Word as we harken unto Him.  Budziszewski wrote in his book, How to Stay Christian in College, “…we were designed for harmony with Him (God). Because our minds no longer obey Him, our desires and emotions no longer obey our minds.”  And this creates the fear of evil, or disquietness in our lives.

The writer of Proverbs had just warned his son of the pitfalls and dangers of living a riotous life.  A life out of control, unsettled and volatile, will not result in peace and safety.  So, too, if we live our life without control and without self-discipline, we will not experience peace and safety.  We will always be on the edge peering over to anticipated doom; how much better to settle back and enjoy the ride resting in the promises of God’s Word?

The Bible is full of positive examples. King David was able to endure the hardships of life because his heart was fixed and settled upon the Lord.  Though the world around him rocked and reeled, David encouraged himself in the Lord and knew a quality of peace and quietness that astounded those around him.  Jesus, too, knew that same quietness as the boat on Galilee approached certain doom.  He slept and enjoyed the ride!

We are called to peace both in lifestyle and spirit.  It is a beautiful thing to see a life so lived.  It is a joy to the one so settled and a source of strength and encouragement to those around them who struggle.
How quiet is your spirit?  How secure are you from the fear of evil?  Are you able to “keep your seat” when the boat of life rocks?  Are you listening and obeying the Lord?


“...the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit,
which is in the sight of God is of great price.”  I Peter 3:4

This verse always captures my imagination.  As you read on in I Peter 3, the Bible refers to Sarah as our example.  Sarah, who used and abused Hagar?  Sarah, who laughed at God’s plan?  Meek and quiet?  So the definition is not mousy and without a voice!
Further exploration reveals the core meaning of meek as: not forward in spirit, a soothing disposition.  And quiet to mean: undisturbed, peaceful, “tranquillity arising from within; causing no disturbance to others”.  (Vine)
The picture then is one of strength of character.  Both words can be used to describe our Lord Jesus.  Tranquillity inwardly, resulting in a quiet, gentle spirit, and tranquillity outwardly resulting in receptiveness and control.
One writer defined meekness as the opposite of anger and quietness as the opposite of fearfulness.  This definition might be easier to apply to Sarah.  Despite her unusual circumstances she did not exhibit anger or fearfulness.  She was confident and at peace in her heart.  This had to come from a deep faith and belief in the providence of God in her life.  She counted Him faithful!

So many people live from a core of anger or fear.  It is good to take time and ask ourselves if we are one of those people.  If anger is your core you will find yourself easily provoked, impatient, and resentful of others.  If fear is your core, you will find yourself doubting your decisions, worrying about the future, and afraid of or resistant to change.  Neither of these core attitudes will lead to a quiet life. 
How quiet is your spirit?  How meek is your disposition?  Do you react in anger and fear to life situations?  Which ornament -quietness or noise - is around your person?


“Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his other: my soul is even as a weaned child.”  Psalm 131:2

To better understand this phrase, “quieted myself”, we would be best to consider the first verse of Psalm 131.  “…my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.”  The Psalmist is speaking of his behaviour.  He is a gentleman.  He is a humble servant of the Lord who knows his place.  Following on, Barnes says that the word “behaved” means to be level or even.  The word, “quieted”, means exactly that - to be still, silent, to cease, stand still or rest, to tarry or wait. 

Dake says, “There is no pride in my heart and no lofty look in my eyes.  I do not desire what belongs to others or look down with contempt on those below me.  I have not sought to meddle in high matters above me, or associate with those of higher rank.  I have sought only to be humble, simple, and child-like as is befitting my station in life.  I have not complained when chastened by others over me, or when driven away from home and comforts.  I recognize my place under others as a subject of training and discipline should I get out of line.  As a weaned child no longer cries, frets, and longs to be nursed, but is content because it is with its mother, so my soul is weaned from discontentment and is waiting and hoping in God.”

I don’t think there are many other things more annoying than a screaming child in the store.  He wants something he isn’t getting and everyone must hear about it.  It is so embarrassing for the mother and upsetting for everyone around.  So it is with a Christian who has not learned how to behave himself and quiet himself in disappointment or difficulty.  Learning our place with humility, appropriate behaviour, and how to quiet ourselves is a great skill and a measure of our godliness and maturity.

Do you throw temper-tantrums when things don’t go your way?  Are you a gentle person or a brawler?  A humble servant or a demanding child?  Are you quietly content or frustrated as you struggle to get your way?  Can you quiet yourself or do you have to be chastened and reminded of your place?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Week Thirty-Three - Purpose


“…exhorted…that with purpose of heart
they would cleave unto the Lord.”  Acts 11:23

This word, “purpose”, means setting forth a plan, will; to arrange or appoint.  It is a conscious decision based on a desired outcome.

For example, God set forth with a purpose to create and then, to restore his creation through Christ.  His purpose is fully revealed in Scripture. 

God purposes to work all things for good (Rom 8:28) and to give us an inheritance (Eph 1:11).  These purposes of God will stand (Romans 9:11), are eternal and are in Christ (Eph 3:11) to save and call by grace (II Tim. 1:9).

He has not hid his purpose (II Tim 3:10).  His ultimate goal is that man would glorify Him.

Man’s purpose is therefore set forth.  We are to live unto Him by whose purpose we exist.  Daniel exemplified this as he “purposed in his heart”.  The Psalmist said, “My heart is fixed”.  To purpose is to, by deliberate intention, accomplish a goal. 

I like what Oswald Chambers wrote:  “When God gives a vision, transact business on that line, no matter the cost.”  It reminds me that God’s leading in my heart has a purpose.  The visions and dreams He gives me are on purpose.  They are there to spur me on; to give direction and motivation.  I am not just pawn…I am a piece of the whole...I am here on purpose!  And – I have a purpose!

What goals do you believe would be set by one seeking to fulfil God’s purpose in their life?  How about you?  What is your purpose in life?


“And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.”  Ruth 2:16

Love does amazing things.  Boaz is so infatuated with Ruth. He makes a gesture that all those around him recognize as he orders the men to purposefully drop grain so she can pick it up.  She is probably just counting her good fortune or thinks this is just part of the culture.  But as she returns home and tells her mother-in-law of the day’s events, she is made aware of the fact that Ruth has captured the attention of a kinsman.
How many times do we go through a day thinking we have been lucky or just had a good day and failed to recognize that the Hand of the Lord was leaving good things for us to collect along the way? He loves us and makes gestures throughout our days to show us that love.  Yet, many times, we don’t even recognize it until someone else points it out.
The next time you hear the word, “lucky” in your vocabulary, stop and look to see what handfuls have been left on purpose for you to collect and remember to acknowledge the Hand that left them there.


“Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.”  Proverbs 20:18

This usage of the word, “purpose”, means a thought, plan, scheme or plot.  It has the idea of a well thought out plan with parameters.
Matthew Henry comments, “Ask counsel of God, and beg direction from him.  What is done hastily and with precipitation (acting rashly with the idea of throwing down) is repented of at leisure.  It is especially our wisdom to be cautious in making war.  Consider, and take advice, whether the war should be begun or no, and, when it is begun, consider how and by what arts it may be prosecuted (carried out), for management is as necessary as courage.”
I really like that last phrase, “for management is as necessary as courage.”  I have had colleagues who pride themselves on living life by the seat of their pants. (with rash abandon) But their end does not justify their means.  They usually end up with more heartaches and difficulties.  On the other hand, I have known colleagues who simply cannot live without tight parameters.  Their life seems to be lacking lustre and joy as they try to control and define every area of their lives.
Surely these are two opposite ends of the pole.  I think the real teaching is that we are to be wise and thoughtful in what we do and we are to seek advice in order to make sure we have thought through our plans.  When we know our direction we are much more confident. Wise management creates freedom, joy and safety.
Our plan might be quite adventurous.  It might hold some dangers and difficulties, but with the support of godly advice and the counsel of God, we can be established in our goings and successful in our ventures.

What about you?  Do you “fly by the seat of your pants”?  Or, do you keep such tight control that life is joyless?  Can you see that balance is somewhere in between?


“…for every purpose of the Lord shall be performed…”  Jeremiah 51:29

This is the same word meaning thought, plan, scheme or plot.  God has a plan for the ages.  His plan is intricately thought through to every detail, yea, every moment is watered and tended by him so that his eternal purpose will be accomplished.
We can read in Ecclesiastes that there is a purpose to every thing under heaven.  The passage in chapter three goes on to list many of the ordinary everyday things that we experience: weeping, laughing, dancing, mourning, embracing, sewing, silence, speech, love, hate and even war.  Not one thing that we experience is outside the purpose of the Lord.
As we then read in Romans 8:28, that all things work together, we should come to understand that all of our life’s experiences are a part of God’s bigger plan. Sometimes we can forget that life is not really about us.  The whole world does not revolve around our lives.  There is a much bigger picture and we are but a part of it.
That random person behind the counter has a purpose - God may use them to encourage or challenge you, or, He may be using you to encourage them.  That unanswered prayer that keeps you on your knees has a purpose.  That child in your home that really tries your patience is teaching you patience.  God began a work in you and as Philippians tells us, he will perform it.
When I allow my mind to dwell on this fact, which is called the sovereignty of God, I find myself relaxing.  I find myself less het up about controlling my life and I begin to simply enjoy the fact that someone else is in control; someone who has thought of everything and knows exactly how to make it all work. 

Oswald Chambers wrote:  “I will never think of anything my Father will forget, so why should I worry?”  How comforting!

Can you relax in God’s sovereignty?


“…Daniel purposed in his heart….”  Daniel 1:8

This usage of the word has the idea of resolve or to set in place, to be established.  If we cast our minds back to the Bible story of Daniel and his three friends, we will see that they were captives in a strange land.  There was no hope of returning to their home, but these young men were of strong character and though there might not have been anything unlawful about them eating the food put before them, they were acting from conscience. They were Jews and lived by a strict dietary code.  They also knew that to eat with someone was a form of a bond in their culture and they did not want to lessen their stance or put themselves in a place where they might be tempted further.  Also, they knew that their kinsmen were in dire straits and for them to enjoy the king’s food would be as if they had forgotten the suffering of their people.  For these reasons, possibly, or for whatever other reasons, Daniel decided that he would not partake.  He was strong in his faith, and God blessed him.
Standing for the Lord in hard situations takes resolve.  It requires us to stand upon what we know to be truth and to fully trust God.  The outcome for Daniel was positive.  For others who have stood for their faith, the outcome was martyrdom.  Yet, as we read about them in Hebrews 11 we can see that God recognizes their purposeful hearts and does not discount their sacrifice.
In this day of doing whatever we want, it is rare to find someone who actually sets their lives apart for God and who refuses to allow the world to manipulate them.  Christians should be people of high character.  Christians should be living by purpose, on purpose, and for a purpose.

What is your purpose in life?  What is your purpose in your Christian life and service?  Are you willing to stand for what you believe?