Category: General


What happens?

What happens when they run out of statues?

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The issue of self-control is much more extensive than we might think initially. We normally think of self-control in conjunction with anger. Typically, we consider a person who is easily angered to be a person with a lack of self-control. But the topic of self-control takes us to the heart of one of the main themes in Scripture, which is our sanctification.

The process of sanctification is largely about self-control or about learning to think, speak, and act according to God’s principles rather than according to what comes “naturally,” which is some manifestation of our fallen natures. Self-control, then, has to do with subjecting our fallen natures—our sinful impulses—to the Word of God.

 

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (Pro. 16:32)

The importance of this issue is clearly established in this single verse in which we find Solomon’s opinion regarding self-control or self-rule. Note the extreme comparisons he draws. One who is “slow to anger” is compared to “the mighty” and one who “rules his spirit” is compared to “he who captures a city.”

Initially, we would assume there would be no beneficial comparison to be made between a man who is slow to anger and those labeled “mighty.” The word Solomon uses is gibbor, which refers to a man of great strength or a man of great courage. This word conveys the sense of the heroic, the kind of person legends are made of, the kind of person who accomplishes seemingly impossible feats and faces dangers and threats that would make most others tremble. But Solomon says that the man who is slow to anger is better than such a man. He does not simply say that a man who is slow to anger is like a mighty man or similar in constitution to the mighty man; he says that a man who is slow to anger is superior to the man of great strength or the man of great courage.

Who do we admire most—the person who controls his anger or the person who demonstrates unusual strength and bravery? Who should we admire most? The first question is answered by what we observe in this world and the second question is answered by the Word of God. A man who rules his spirit is considered of better character and is considered a better man than he who captures a city.

Implied here is insight regarding the nature of man. If control of our initial impulses is defined as a good thing, then that must mean that those initial impulses are bad things; and that tells us something, therefore, about ourselves. It tells us that we are, by nature, given to reactions and responses that are negative in character. So this verse reflects the Bible’s teaching concerning the nature of fallen man.

Additional Verses

A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated. (14:17 )

Solomon says that a man who is “quick-tempered acts foolishly.” Notice that this description is the opposite of the man in 16:32 who is described as “slow to anger.” There you’ll recall, Solomon uses a word that refers to having patience. Here, two words are used that are translated “quick-tempered” and one of them (qatser) refers to a lack of patience.

This is interesting. In just two verses, we’ve discovered that patience (or the lack thereof) is one of the core elements of self-control. This implies that one of the keys to self-discipline is learning to be patient with circumstances and people. And patience is one of the hallmarks of spiritual maturity in the Scriptures. This is true, I think, because patience implies trust in God and contentment with what He has ordained.

A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again. (19:19)

Briefly, this verse speaks of habitual lack of self-control. There is a danger in failing to exercise self-discipline. The danger is that your impulsiveness, which is nothing more than an immediate expression of your fallen nature, becomes your pattern of conduct. You will rarely find a man who loses his temper in a significant way only once in a while. Normally, if a man is easily provoked by circumstances or words, you’ll find that he is frequently provoked by circumstances or words.

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel. (20:3)

Solomon sets before us two kinds of behavior, two kinds of people, two descriptions of character. Self-control may manifest itself in avoiding a circumstance, not simply in reacting patiently to a circumstance. That’s the idea in this verse. If he can avoid it, a wise man will not put himself in a position where there is likely to be strife. This phrase takes us in yet another direction in our understanding of self-control. Here the notion of discernment comes into play.

When a man avoids strife, Solomon teaches, he has done an honorable thing. How different this is from the way we operate so often! We sometimes think that we must enter into strife in order to make our point and so that we make sure our opinion is heard. Our natural tendency is to create strife, not avoid it.

Practical Responses

I would offer three short suggestions:

One, make sure you understand how fundamentally important this issue is. As I tried to make clear, self-control deals with the very heart of who we are, how we think and behave; self-control is self-discipline and that is what we are concerned with when we think of our sanctification. This is not just a matter of controlling our tempers, it is a matter of determining that by which our lives will be characterized.

Two, understand that self-control, as fundamentally important as it is, begins with our temper or our handling of those natural impulses that rise up in us in response to circumstances. Yes, there is much to the topic of self-discipline because it is such an essential aspect of our existence, but it begins with simple, everyday situations in which we have opportunities to give way to expressions of our fallen natures or subdue them for God’s glory.

Three, every person, from children to adults, has room to improve in this matter of self-control. Don’t think that because you don’t lose your temper often that you have no problem with self-control. Self-discipline touches many aspects of our lives. There are obvious examples where self-control is needed, and then there are some not-so-obvious examples where self-control is needed. Some examples are seen by many people, and some examples are known only to you and God. Therefore, meditate on these proverbs, memorize them, pray that God will cause the characteristics commended in the proverbs to be true of you.

Thoughts for All Saints

Commentary by Jim Bordwine, ThD

Volume 3 Number 2

February 14, 2014

In Praise of a Good Thing

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.

(Proverbs 18:22)

Well over 30 years ago, I found a wife. Or, to be more precise, God brought a woman of extraordinary grace and beauty into my life and she has been a very good thing, to borrow Solomon’s wording. I cannot begin to describe adequately what this woman has been to me or how God has used her to enrich my life, further my sanctification, provide me with tender care during suffering, supply wisdom and correction when most needed, and display for me on a daily basis the character of Christ in her voice, her demeanor, her touch, her decisions, and her desires.

On this Valentine’s Day, therefore, I want to acknowledge in this public way the most wonderful gift I’ve ever received apart from God’s own Son and that is His daughter—prepared for me long before I knew Him. I was looking in the wrong place and with the wrong criteria in mind, but by His mercy I still found her. I was ignorant, arrogant, and rebellious, but by His mercy I still found her. I thought I knew it all when I really knew nothing, but by His mercy I still found Rebecca. Indeed, “he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.”

I know I’m not the only one. Speak up, husbands. Honor your wives by giving thanks to God for His favor.

NOTE: All Saints Parish Church is sending a Missions Team to the Colville Reservation next week. This team has traveled to the Reservation annually for many years. This team has shown the mercy of Christ in various ways. All that they do expresses aspects of the gospel. Our new congregation is glad to keep this tradition alive.

Charge to the Colville Mission Team

July 15, 2012

Almost exactly one year ago today, I was in the pulpit for the first time in four weeks having just returned from vacation. As it turned out, that was my last Sunday at Westminster Presbyterian Church; it was not, I’m very happy to say, the last time I would deliver a charge to our faithful Colville Missions Team.

Here we are, 12 months later, and we have a team prepared to return to a ministry that has a history of faithfulness and hard work. In my opinion, this ministry has endured a critical test of character and commitment. In His wisdom, God often ordains such experiences for those ministries that are destined to endure and produce fruit. The Colville project falls into this category.

I want to commend the members of this year’s team for your willingness to return to this labor of love and mercy. I also want to commend this congregation for your steadfast support of this ministry. Many things have vied for our attention this past year, but we have remained committed to an effort that means a lot to people most of us will never meet. Things that might appear almost inconsequential to some, things like a wood shed or a painted house, are of tremendous value to those who receive the attention of our Missions Team.

And I believe this pleases God. It pleases God to see His people go forth to a challenging circumstance that will require a lot of hard work, but offer nothing in terms of tangible reward. This is Christ-like behavior. This is Christian love.

This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote: “Love endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:7) As a team, you will face challenges during your time on the reservation, but you will endure. You may have uncomfortable moments due to the events of this past year, but you will endure. You will be tired and your body may ache, but you will endure. You will endure because you are serving in the name of Christ and you are serving for His glory and to bring His compassion to the people of the reservation.

It’s an interesting truth that we find extra strength, increased vitality, and an enhanced ability to carry on when we are in the act of being Christ to some in need. Selfless labor invigorates us and we find that we can go further and do more than we ever thought.

My charge to this team is simple: Go forth in the love of God and do what you have done so many times before. Take Christ to Colville and exhibit Him to the people as you build and paint and cleanup. And trust Him to bring fruit from your humble efforts according to what pleases Him. Let’s pray.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 22

July 6, 2012

Confessing the Goodness of God

From Pastor Bordwine

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”

(Job 13:15)

As many of you know, on this past Monday evening I was admitted to the hospital after experiencing severe pain in my abdomen. From the beginning, the doctors were primarily concerned about a potential heart issue. The next day, an angiogram was performed which showed that my arteries were completely clear. Whatever the cause of my symptoms, it was not my heart.

I related this bit of information to a friend who dropped by the house for a visit the day after I returned home. I told him how grateful I was for God’s display of goodness in the results of that procedure. My friend immediately said: “But God would still have been just as good even if the report had been the opposite.” That comment startled me for a moment, but I quickly realized the beautiful truth just expressed by my brother. My perception of the goodness of God could not rest upon the report from my cardiologist.

The goodness of God is of His essence. It is God’s nature to be good and do good in everything. And it is impossible for God not to be and do good in everything. Therefore, had the results of my angiogram have indicated that my death was imminent, I could still have confessed that God was good. In such a situation, I would have to accept the truth that what sounded like devastating news to my ears was, in fact, an outcome ordained by a God of goodness. And I would then need to call upon Him for the grace to receive and rejoice in the kind of report no person ever wants to hear.

God most certainly showed love to me and my family by equipping me with a strong and healthy heart. But we must understand that God’s “reputation” for being good does not rest upon our estimation of the character or consequences of what He ordains. If God gives me life, He is good; if God ends my earthly life at this moment, He is good. God’s works do not determine the character of His nature, His nature determines the character of His works. God is good by nature; therefore, all of His works must be good as well.

The verse above expresses this truth in a magnificent way. Most of us know the story of Job. His suffering was beyond comprehension. His misery was compounded by friends who were sure that Job was being punished for sin. In his agony, Job pleaded his case of innocence, but his acquaintances were unmoved and continued to heap blame and guilt upon him. Nevertheless, as he wrestled with that incredibly harsh and intensely discouraging situation, Job maintained his conviction regarding the nature of God.

“Even if God takes my life in the midst of this horrible circumstance and even if my friends walk away satisfied that they have rightly diagnosed the cause of my suffering,” Job declared, “my trust in God’s essential goodness and righteousness will remain.” That is the confession of a man who truly knew God. Job was able to persevere through the most severe trial of his life without accusing God of wrongdoing because he knew and that such an complaint would be absurd.

How is it with you right now? Has God appointed a frightening and seemingly overwhelming trial for you? If so, fortify yourself with the sure knowledge of the essential and unchanging character of God. Confess His goodness even in the midst of your pain. Declare God’s trustworthiness even if you cannot see the end of your ordeal. While there are many things we cannot know during our trials, we can always find a measure of peace in the truth of the abiding goodness of God.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 21

June 28, 2012

Clothed with Gladness

From Pastor Bordwine

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness . . .

(Psalm 30:11)

As you read through the book of Psalms, you will notice several recurring themes. One of the most prevalent is “gladness.” This term (or similar words), for example, is often found in the context of meditation on the character of God. Various passages describe the reaction of a man when he dwells upon the attributes and works of God. That reaction is joy. In addition, an expression of humble thankfulness frequently accompanies the delight experienced by the worshiper.

A second context in which the element of gladness regularly appears is that of personal trials. These passages are tremendously encouraging because they illustrate how fear is turned to confidence and despair is turned to hope. This happens as the individual contemplates his place before God and the implications of that status for his present distress.

The verse above, Psalm 30:11, is a good example. The psalmist confesses that he was in mourning due to his circumstances, but God had so ministered to him that the atmosphere of despair was replaced with an atmosphere of festive celebration. The explanation for this change in perception is provided in the second half of the verse. The writer figuratively describes himself as wearing the garments of lamentation. But God, he testifies, “loosed my sackcloth . . .” The LORD provided the strength to escape the despair that had overwhelmed this man. The grip of fear and sorrow that held him was broken by God. In the place of despair, he adds, God “girded me with gladness.”

The word translated “girded” (azar) means “to bind, to clothe, to equip.” The writer tells us that God replaced his garments of sorrow with garments of gladness. Another way to express this thought is to say that the writer was armed with gladness, so to speak, and now could successfully confront his difficulties. The text makes it clear that the turnaround in perspectives was accomplished by God alone. He was able to touch the heart of the man in anguish and alter its disposition.

This is a uniquely Christian experience. Our heavenly Father, who has saved us and given us eternal life in Jesus Christ, is able and willing to provide the most essential kind of help when we find ourselves overwhelmed by troubling circumstances. We may remain in such a situation, but our perspective is dramatically transformed. Instead of trying to endure under the heavy weight of grief or fear, we are equipped to persevere with true gladness knowing that God has regard for us and will not forsake us during our time of challenge.

The next time you find yourself becoming unsettled due to an undesirable change in your circumstances, call upon God and ask Him to clothe you with gladness. Ask Him to arm you, as it were, with a joyful disposition even as you encounter the demanding elements of your ordeal.

A Plea for Vindication

June 21, 2012

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity,

and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.

(Psalm 26:1)

In Ps. 26, David emphasizes that he has always been faithful to God. It appears that this reaction comes in response to his enemies who were maligning his character. Although the exact details are not revealed, it is clear that David was greatly troubled by the insinuation that he should be numbered among those who have no regard for God’s Word. David speaks of his love for God several times and also voices his disdain for the wicked and their schemes.

Note how this Psalm begins: “Vindicate me, O LORD.” The term translated as “vindicate” means “to judge” or “to decide controversy.” David wants God to give the true and final verdict, as it were. He knows that he cannot succeed by pleading his case to his enemies. They would continue spreading lies about him. Therefore, he turns to God, the only one able to judge impartially and the only one capable of knowing the whole truth.

David doesn’t ask God to correct those who are slandering him. There was nothing he could do to change the damage done and nothing he could do to force his enemies to recant. But he wants to be assured that he has lived righteously in the eyes of the LORD. Clearly, God’s opinion mattered most to David. He is able to make this request of God without fear because he knows that he has lived in obedience to God’s law, regardless of what some men were saying.

Three points need to be emphasized. First, the slanderer is never concerned for the truth. We shouldn’t expect him to be interested in it. Slander, by definition, is a sin and is contrary to the Ninth Commandment (“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”). The man who will lie reveals his genuine goal, which is destruction.

Second, the slanderer will normally “go public” with his accusations. His aim is to destroy his victim, as noted, and that takes public condemnation. The enemies of David wanted to insulate themselves from scrutiny by disappearing into a mob. David could not possibly confront every person who heard the slander, believed it, and repeated it. Once an accusation becomes the mantra of a mob, there is little hope of genuine and thorough exoneration.

And third, there is only one appeal that makes sense and only one that will bring relief. As David illustrates, we must appeal to God because He alone knows the truth and He alone knows the hearts of the attackers. If our aim is justice, this is the only course of action.

Sometimes, as much as we would like to have our enemies forsake their attack and admit their lies, we just have to live with what has been done and entrust ourselves (our reputation and our future) to the LORD. This is not an easy thing to do because, being made in the image of God, we naturally yearn for vindication in the eyes of all who have heard the lies. God’s judgment of such circumstances, however, is often not immediate. Therefore, if we have a clear conscience before God, we have to train ourselves to be at peace before Him regardless of what others say. We must remind ourselves that declaring something does not make it true and truth is what matters in the eyes of God.

Recently, during a phone call to schedule an appointment, I happened to speak to a woman named Monica. From the beginning of our conversation, I was struck by her congeniality. There was something powerfully disarming about her demeanor and the tone of her voice. She sounded like one of the most joyful people I had ever encountered. There was more to my reaction than her quick helpfulness and excellent phone skills. She had an extraordinarily pleasant personality. Although I had not met Monica, I was immediately comfortable in her presence, even though we were only speaking by phone.

A few days later, when my wife and I had the opportunity to speak with Monica in person, we both discovered that she was even more engaging and likable in person. At the beginning of our visit, Monica created a most comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. Her authenticity was undeniable. I cannot remember ever having such an experience upon meeting someone for the first time. I actually felt uplifted by our brief period of contact.

What does it say about our world when someone with a simple, unassuming, and polite personality makes such a lasting impression? I don’t think my reaction to Monica was due to a lack of contact with people. As a matter of fact, I think her charm stood out because of the contrasting episodes I routinely have with other people. It’s not that I encounter sour people most of the time; it’s that I rarely encounter genuinely pleasant people.

I relate this short story simply because this casual encounter was encouraging and caused me to reflect on my own disposition. I realized how easy it is to provide a moment or two of enjoyment for another person. I also concluded that what should be found in all of us—namely, a friendly and helpful demeanor—really stands out when you run into it.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

(Phil. 4:4)

Notice that Paul commands us to rejoice in all things and at all times. He does not say that we should be joyful as long as we are content and free from worry or as long as we are not facing challenges to our faith. As a matter fact, the apostle doesn’t even mention circumstances; he simply orders us to rejoice in the Lord always. It is as though he is telling us that we don’t have another option. You are a Christian, so you are filled with joy. You are in Christ, so your days are flooded with joy.

The word translated “rejoice” (chairo) refers to more than just the emotion of gladness. It refers to a quality of life. The term is sometimes translated as “thrive.” In such cases, the writer is saying that believers flourish with joy. Being joyful is not something we have to become, it is of the essence of what it means to be a Christian. This notion is perfectly understandable if you take the time to meditate on what it means to be born again and dwell on what God has given us now and prepared for us later as children in His household.

We may, indeed, face harsh conditions in this life or we may encounter significant opposition in our efforts to live according to the Word of God or we may have to overcome various obstacles that block the path on which God has placed us, but none of this destroys our joy. And none of these things can diminish our delight. We have been born-again as jubilant creatures.

Our contentment and sense of security do not depend on a life free of hardship. Our confidence and hopeful expectations for this life and the life to come do not require a pain-free existence or a journey on smooth and straight pathways. Because our identity and destiny are bound up in our Savior, we can remain confident of our safety regardless of what the adversary throws at us. And we can remain hopeful, believing that all of those tremendous promises that have been made to us as God’s people are as dependable as God Himself no matter what challenges we have to face.

And here is why: We are not defined by circumstances; we are defined by position. And our position is that of children of God who have been delivered from death and given eternal fellowship with God in His Son, who is our glorious Savior. We are saved and we are going to heaven even if all the inhabitants of darkness should turn against us. Christians are no longer subject to the tyranny of the devil or the wicked behavior of people. We can make our way through this world without fear or doubt because we have been seized and we are being held by a power greater than any power that might be found here on earth or even throughout the entire universe.

The difficulty you are facing and the worry you have in your heart today must be analyzed in reference to what we have as believers. We must not consider our trials apart from the truth of our standing before God in Christ. From that wonderful perspective, we can eagerly receive and respond to the apostle’s exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”

For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by,

or as a watch in the night.

(Psalm 90:4)

Recently, I listened to a sermon by George Grant that was based on Genesis 8. In that chapter, we read about the end of Noah’s experience in the ark. For more than a year, Noah and his passengers endured all the trials and tribulations that you might imagine would arise in such a situation. Dr. Grant emphasizes, however, that when the day came for the door to be opened so that Noah could lead everyone out into the new world, his first inclination had nothing to do with himself. He did not think it was the time to walk around and relax, nor did Noah conclude that he had just accomplished some great feat; he did not heave a sigh of relief as if some tremendous burden had been lifted from his back. As soon as Noah left the ark, as Dr. Grant notes, he built an altar and offered sacrifices to God.

Noah’s initial concern was the recognition of God’s hand in that journey. The timing and extent of Noah’s ordeal are never mentioned as issues that troubled him. And this is in spite of the fact that God had not revealed His entire intention regarding the flood that covered the earth. Nothing was said about the duration of that adventure. When it was over, the primary thought in the heart of Noah was God’s worthiness to be worshiped.

As Dr. Grant stated in his sermon, this was such a fitting act given the circumstances. After that extended time of uncertainty, danger, and challenge, the worship of God was the most appropriate thing that could have been done. God had preserved Noah and all those with him in the ark. God had cleansed the earth of sin, as it were, and gave man a new beginning. Noah realized that he was part of a monumental work of God, the full implications of which were dawning on him, no doubt, as he stepped through the doorway and gazed upon the good earth.

Month after month, Noah remained faithful and carried out his duties waiting for God to accomplish His purposes. It was not a series of questions spoken by Noah that dominated those first moments after he stepped onto the dry land. Noah’s act of veneration captured the moment and Noah worshiped God because he believed that God had orchestrated all that had transpired. God had preserved all the occupants of the ark and had done so according to righteous purposes; and Noah was humbled and thankful to be involved in this display of God’s compassion and power.

How many times do we find ourselves passing through a challenging period during which we have little or no comprehension of what God is doing? And how many times are we tempted to think that no end is in sight? One of the most difficult obligations we face as Christians is accepting without question or alarm the timing of God. During challenging episodes, the weakness of our flesh and the limitations of our discernment can create barriers that prevent us from resting in God. But as the story of Noah teaches—and many other examples could be cited—God always has a purpose for whatever He ordains for us. Just because many days or weeks or even months pass, there is no reason to conclude that God has lost control or that He has been distracted. There is no justification for concluding that whatever it was that God planned to accomplish has been interrupted.

The key to confidence during our trials is trust in God’s promises as we fortify ourselves with the many wonderful examples of God’s merciful conduct that we find in the Bible and throughout history. We must remember that God’s timing is not subject to our perceptions. God only appoints and accomplishes that which is perfect. We will have no peace dwelling on the question of “how long?” Our peace will come from our conviction that all of our hours, days, years, and circumstances are held with tenderness and love in the hands of our heavenly Father for whom a thousand years is as a day.