Thursday, December 31, 2015

Gentleness

“I want a kinder, gentler nation.” This is a quote from Then President George Bush. Clearly he was a man who saw a nation that was becoming more selfish and greedy. This was way before the market crash of 2007 when the greed of U.S. banks brought down the economy and ruined many peoples retirement hopes. President Bush talked about the “1000 points of light” or goodness that might be done to help others in need. This President and once CIA Director knew that gentleness is not a word of weakness but power under control, like meekness. He knew that gentleness is part of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). In this last year I had chosen kindness as my word or trait and fruit of the spirit to emulate. This has turned out to be a very difficult journey. God has clearly been working on me to be kind to difficult people. Perhaps the theme verse for 2015 has been, "If it is at all possible, as much as it depends upon you, be at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). I believe key to doing this is kindness. It is also important to be gentle, so I have chosen it as my challenge for 2016.

“I like George Bush very much and support him and always will. But I disagree with him when he talks of a kinder, gentler America. I think if this country gets any kinder or gentler, it's literally going to cease to exist. I think if we had people from the business community — the Carl Icahn’s, the Ross Perrot’s — negotiating some of our foreign policy, we’d have respect around the world.” 
       Donald Trump

This quote from Donald Trump is very timely during a presidential election year. This man has run a campaign marked by sarcasm and rudeness. He has intentionally tried to hurt people in an effort to gain superiority over them. Mr. Trump is all about winning. He has chosen as his favorites corporate raiders whose careers have been all about money and not helping the companies they have invested in. Admiration and high regard or esteem is what respect is about. This is gained by honorable acts, not bullying.

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. I like this definition from Wikipedia. This is a definition like meekness, which mean absolute power under perfect control. How is this possible? Only by turning the reigns of our lives over to God. We cannot be gentle and meek any more than we can love like 1 Corinthians 13 describes except under the perfect hand of God. Gentleness is a noble and honorable, not harsh or severe characteristic. I particularly recognize the importance of being able to speak the painful truth. This is a trait of a peacemaker. This is someone who is able to put aside his or her own needs to talk with another. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience…” (1 Peter 3:15).

Now comes one of the most difficult responsibilities of a Christian, dealing with sin and leaving to God the judgment. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each others burdens in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2). We are not the judge, God is. However, we have the responsibility to tell someone when they sin. Matthew 18 reminds us to do so carefully and if they don’t listen to take someone else with you. This is not to club the person over the head, but for restoration and reconciliation as the goal. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Jesus Himself self-described as “gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). This is why we can come to Him. This is why a gentle disposition is attractive to others. Paul told the Ephesians as our calling, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3). 

The Bible is pretty clear on how we are to act towards others. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against another” (Colossians 3:12).  This is why Scripture describes the attributes of an elder or pastor in these terms. “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome…” (1 Timothy 3:2-3).


God is speaking of the “inner self,” when He speaks of the wife who will have the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in the eyes of the Lord (1 Peter 3:4).  This is the spirit Jesus has, gentle and riding on a donkey. Yet, He will bring His harsh judgment to the earth soon for our disobedience. He will be riding a white steed and He will come in the clouds and all people will see Him and the same time and bow their knee and worship Him. He is gentle and all-powerful and just. I am encouraged that gentleness is part of the fruit of the Spirit and that being so is being like God.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Peace on Earth

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Because the world was walking in darkness Isaiah shone a light on them like a brilliant sun downing suddenly at the break of day. The brightness of the light proclaims One shining on a people walking in darkness. This kind of light dispels shadows and brings insight that drives out fear and gives direction. Where in your life in these shortening days do you need more courage and clarity?

God knew that the darkness was moving across the landscape with poverty, despotism and tortured death to the believers. But the light was for all people. We know because the angels announced the good news to the shepherds on Christmas Eve bringing the glory of the Lord around them. But they were very afraid, remember they were societal outcastes. The angels proclaimed “ Good tidings of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today is the city of David a Savior has been born who is Christ the Lord. “On earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

They rushed to see the child born in a manger surrounded by animals and fodder, the lowly of the world. Mary treasured it all and the shepherds praised God, because clearly they had been told who this child was, is and will be.

The world is not at peace and it never has been. Today wars and rumors of wars are escalating. Famines and earthquakes are everywhere. Persecution has moved from the Middle East to our doorsteps. Christians are not just losing their heads in Syria and Iraq, Paris and London, California and Oregon. Yes the birth pains have begun I believe. This is not the tribulation but the preparation. We are on the last lap of this marathon. Who knows how much of it us Christians will experience before the Lord comes with a shout and takes us home to heaven?

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for war and a time for peace. I don’t remember a time of peace. I guess there have been peace treaties made and broken through the centuries. You see Jesus has made clear that there will be no peace on earth, except through Him. He told the disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives I give unto you. Do not let you hearts be troubled, do not be afraid” (John 14:27). He goes on to tell us that in this world we will have tribulation, but take heart, He has overcome the world. That is His perfect promise for those who believe.

That is whey Paul can say, be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and petition make you requests to God, and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:8).  We must have Jesus as Lord and center of our lives no matter the trouble. There are no manmade solutions to this trouble. Isaiah also said, “He will keep in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast on Him” (Isaiah 26:3).

Paul tells us as much as it depends on us, if it is at all possible, be at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). Sometimes it is just not possible, as some people are impossible. They do not want relationship or peace. Being a peacemaker requires confrontation and truth, it requires seeking reconciliation.


However, Jesus has already said that He will have to return and take us with Him and then bring us back to rule and reign on a new heaven and earth for this one is passing away. He is starting over. So if you don’t know Him personally, it is almost too late. Pray for peace in your heart first and then in the hearts of others this Christmas Eve. AMEN

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Star

This morning as I rode my bike through the streets and over the countryside of the quiet predawn I saw just one star shining in the East. It reminded me of the star that the Magi saw and followed to the Christ child being born in Bethlehem. It was bright in a sky filled with clouds.  As Christmas approaches we can think of wonderful carols that speak of this star.

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of night,
Star of royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

This star of wonder and night that is of royal beauty bright of course is speaking about a miraculous leading to the One light of the world, Jesus Christ.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

These words elicit the tranquility of the night that brought the “Light of the World.”
Isaiah 9:2-3 reminds us, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you.”  We all walk in darkness until we see the “Light” that is Christ.
“God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus purifies us of all sin” (1 John 1:5-10).

What an incredible promise and admonition to follow Him and walk in the light that brings healing and freedom of life and life eternal.


This Christmas, look to the heavens and see the only star that brings light and life.

Christmas Eve 1943

Christmas Eve 1943
The Allied troops and the 32nd Division of Wisconsin had just pushed Rommel’s Panzer Division out of Africa and were making their way up the Boot of Italy. It was a hard and slogging campaign through the Mountains and snows of December.  The troops moved village to village being barraged by German artillery from the heights.

My Father, Cpt.  Kenneth Frank’s field artillery company, in convoy, pushed through the mud and snow to the edge of a small village nestled in a forested mountain pass. Reconnaissance indicated that the Germans had retreated after intense Allied shelling. No lights shined as they moved into the town center through bombed out buildings. My Father’s command jeep with the radio operator and driver pulled up to the little stone church in the square. There were no town’s people and no lights. Shining headlights on the church door, they entered boarded doors pushing through the litter to light candles on the altar. The radio man found the foot-operated pipe organ and began to play Christmas carols. It was about 10:00PM as the sweet sounds of Noel reached the townspeople who had sought refuge in the nearby woods. They began to make their way to the little chapel where they had not had a worship service for two years. Here they began to join the American liberators in song and praise, lighting candles as the small crowd grew. They sang and gave thanks to the One who was the true light and Liberator of Christmas Eve whose birth they celebrated together.  The Germans could have attacked as the parishioners gathered but did not, apparently choosing to honor Christmas silently with the church people.

May the same hope, peace, joy and love of Christmas enter your ears and heart this year too.   
        
Merry Christmas and Peace to all mankind, Randy Frank

Friday, December 18, 2015

Power

His grace is sufficient for you. His power is made perfect in weakness…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (1 Cor. 12:9,10).
What a paradox, not a contradiction. This is one of many such paradoxes in Christianity. Paul had learned the secret of being content in all circumstances, troubles and trials, saying,  I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13).  Life and its challenges are faced by trusting and knowing that God will meet you in them. We are not alone in the trials. Although, at the darkest moments often it seems that God is not there.

I recall being in a desperate state of mind during a church schism as it and I were literally breaking up. Many people were jumping ship to save their lives. It reminded me of the story of the Oceanos, a luxury liner that ran aground off Africa in 1991.  The story goes that as it ran aground, the captain and his crew abandoned ship immediately without telling passengers, leaving them to fend for themselves. It turns out that a musician onboard took the lead to organize the anxious multitude and lead them all to the lifeboats and safety.

This story parallels the great Bible story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. David, the small shepherd boy was the only one willing to face the giant. He had courage brought on by his faith in a powerful God who would deliver him through the trial. He slew the giant and brought great victory for the Israelites.

Now, as the church dissolved, I was the only pastoral staff member remaining to steady the tiller and right the ship. I was terrified and took my eyes off the Lord, just as Peter did in his trying to walk on the waves. He took his eyes off Jesus and saw the turbulence. Only when he cried out for help did Jesus reach out His hand and help him.  Only when I cried for help did He steady me in leadership. On Pentecost Sunday the Holy Spirit descended with fire and power and healed me of fears and depression. Instantly, an overwhelming feeling of God’s prevailing presence brought strength to every part of me.  God’s power was made perfect in my weakness.  Praise and thanksgiving has filled me since. A habit of negative thinking and darkness instantly left me. A clear and vibrant, Spirit-filled presence has gone with me.

In this world power is strength through money or physical force.  Business strength is not through humility but power.  In the spiritual realm, God will supply all our needs in His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:18). His power is made perfect, complete in our worries and weakness.