Tag Archives: growing in Christ

October 17; Do You Wonder?

Mark 9:2-37; Matthew 17:1-23, 18:1-5; Luke 9:28-48

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the school year, I have the privilege of volunteering at Good News Clubs in two of our local elementary schools. Between the two schools, we are sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with almost 100 children.

I wish you could see their faces and hear their comments and questions as God begins to reveal Himself to them, and draw them to Himself. Some children have never heard the Biblical accounts of real people with whom God walked and talked so many years ago. And some who have already heard the stories, begin to understand the meaning behind them. I’m telling you, it’s a blessing every week. Their wide-eyed enthusiasm is contagious.

Jesus told His disciples that all of us must approach Him through the eyes of a child. Oh, to have that wonder, that excitement in hearing God’s Word, to have open hearts and uncluttered minds eager to learn.

I think sometimes we might open our Bibles after years of walking with the Lord and think, “I’ve heard it all before.” But friend, if we go to God with the understanding that we are as ignorant as children concerning spiritual things, God will continue to teach us. If we close ourselves off to more, we’ll stay right where we are.

Now, please, I am not talking about a new revelation that is extra-Biblical. I’m not talking about twisting what God says in His Word to come up with a new enlightenment, or new religion. But there are things we can learn from God’s Word that are backed up and true according to Scripture.

Let’s not miss what God wants us to know at this time in our lives, thinking we are already mature in the Lord. Oh, maturity is a good thing. We are told to grow in grace and knowledge, to study to show ourselves approved.

But let’s not lose the wonder, and the blessing that is God’s Word.

 

October 8: A Clean House Is Not Enough

Luke 7:18-8:3, 11:14-26; Matthew 11:1-19, 12:22-45; Mark 3:20-30

Have you ever asked God to forgive a sin, then turned around and committed the same sin again, or ended up doing something much worse than the sin God forgave? Do you constantly ask God to give you victory over a sin, but fail repeatedly to overcome?

I hope you’ll read Jesus’ words today. God is faithful to forgive every sin, every time we repent from broken hearts. But what happens next is crucial in our victory over that sin.

Cleaning house is merely the first step. Allowing God to forgive, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, is necessary – and wonderful! But we’ve got to fill that house, too.

If God forgave your sin as a result of repentance, if you’ve turned away from that sin, what are you turning TO? If we don’t fill our lives with godly endeavors, study of His Word and prayer, if we don’t replace screen-time with time invested in knowing God, we are opening ourselves up to repeating the sin God forgave, even worse than before.

Scripture tells us to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus, and you don’t do that sitting on a bar stool, or tucked away in a private spot looking at porn. You can ask God to forgive you a dozen times, but until you replace those things with things of the Lord, you will find yourself right back where you started.

Sure, it’s not easy. It might mean changing friendships, giving your passwords to your spouse or children, getting rid of cable TV, whatever. That deep cleaning is often painful. Do it anyway.

I remember looking for a house a few years ago. I’d walk into empty homes, no pictures on walls, no couches or tables or lamps. It would be barren. Clean. But lifeless. It took someone getting in there and replacing that space with life and love.

That’s what God wants to do with a cleansed heart. I pray you will repent of sin, allow Him to get in there and clean house.

Then make a concerted effort to fill your time, your thoughts, your relationships with the sweet Presence of Jesus. Let Him fill your house with Himself.

October 4; Getting Ahead of Maturity

Matthew 9:1-17, 12:1-8; Mark 2:1-28; Luke 5:17-39, 6:1-5

So John the Baptist’s disciples fasted, but they were aware that Jesus’ disciples did not. They wanted to know why. I’ve always loved Jesus’ response:

“Because I’m here.”

But then He goes on and gives examples of garment patches and wineskins. And to be honest, I’ve sat here today trying to make the connection between the Bridegroom, clothes, and wine. I pulled out my old friend Matthew Henry, and wasn’t disappointed.

Henry reminded me Jesus’ ministry was brand-spankin’ new. (that wasn’t a direct quote of the Puritan theologian if you hadn’t guessed ūüôā ) ¬†Christianity wasn’t even a thing. Jesus had to grow his disciples before they could be useful.

You don’t put a new patch on old clothes, or new wine in old wine skins, any more than you put new believers into ministry. Jesus is telling us the maturing process is crucial. His disciples needed to spend time with the Bridegroom before the Bridegroom sent them on their way.

I know you’re probably tired of hearing that I’m on the Nominating Committee at church. But as we fill our various committees, these passages of Scripture are timely. There is something for all of us to be doing in ministry, no matter how long we’ve walked with the Lord. But I pray we won’t jump ahead of maturity, by inviting someone to serve where they are not yet spiritually prepared.

Because in Jesus’ example, that results in disaster.

January 31; At Least Until They Are Settled

I Chronicles 4:1-23; 7:1-5,30-34; Genesis 46:13-26; 47;1-12

When Jacob finally got to Egypt, and he and his family were saved from the famine, Joseph didn’t just sit in his office and assume someone else was going to show his dad how to get to Goshen. Joseph went himself. He couldn’t wait to be reunited with his father, and share with him what he had received while living in Egypt.

Joseph, already a resident of Egypt, went to Pharaoh and prepared the way for his family’s transition.¬†The Bible tells us that it was Joseph himself who settled his father and brothers in the best part of Egypt.

I think this is a picture of what the Church should look like. Think about this:

  1. Joseph had been saved. First from slavery, then from the famine.
  2. Joseph invited his family to join him.
  3. They did.
  4. Joseph stayed with them, and fed them until they were settled.

Are you with me? (1) We believers are like Joseph. We’ve been saved, we live in a blessed eternal kingdom and have everything we need in this life.

(2)Many Christians invite family and friends to join them. We share the Gospel, (3) and sometimes they do join us by receiving Jesus as their own. I think the Church is pretty good at the first three things on the list above.

I’m a bit concerned about the fourth point, however. When we lead someone to the Savior, do we stick with them until they are settled in their new-found faith? Evangelism doesn’t stop at salvation. Discipleship needs to follow. And we who have inhabited God’s Kingdom for a time need to be nurturing, feeding, encouraging new believers until they are rooted and firm in their faith.

And maybe beyond that.

Joseph wanted to be the one to lead his family to Goshen. I pray that each of us will want to be the one who leads that new citizen of Christ’s Kingdom into a solid relationship with Jesus, and an understanding of God’s Word so that they are ready to do the same for other new believers when the time comes.

Colossians; Chains and Open Doors

Paul is in prison. Although he is afforded some privileges, he is still chained to a wall, guarded 24/7. This letter to Colossi was written from that prison.

Paul speaks of Jesus, and points to the fact that our salvation, our redemption comes through Jesus only. He warns about mystical thinking, legalism, and the very real temptation to fall for religious sounding teaching that, in reality, is false religion. He encourages us to stand firm. I love 2:6-7:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

We need not only to know Christ, but to grow in Him through reading His Word and in prayer. Our roots need to grow deep in the Truth.

Colossians is a quick read. But I hope you’ll read it twice, let the words sink in, let your roots grow deep.

Something struck me today. I guess I’m still thinking about this season of year that can be so hard for some. Family drama, financial woes, a fearful diagnosis has some people wanting a fast-forward button. Just get me through the next few weeks, Lord.

But here Paul, in chains, asks the Colossians to pray for him. And how does he ask them to pray?

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (4:3-4)

He doesn’t ask them to pray that he’d get out of jail. He didn’t ask them to pray that his troubles would cease. He asked them to pray that God would give him an open door for ministry – not an open door to the outside.

I wonder if that couldn’t be our prayer this Christmas, too. Instead of asking God to fix our circumstances, what if we asked Him to open a door to share the true meaning of the season while our circumstances are holding us captive? What if we asked God to help us look for ways to serve Him in spite of what is going on in our lives at the moment? What if we asked God to change our sorrow to joy so that people will see the supernatural power of God in us?

Christmas holds such an amazing truth I don’t want us to forget. God Himself became a human, a baby born about as poor as a church mouse. God Himself left heaven, and chained Himself to a flesh and blood body so that He could die for sinners. God so loved the world that He came, He grew up and shared His heart with us, He died, and rose again so that we can know Him now and in eternity.

Let’s pray that God will give us opportunities to share this wonderful truth with people during the next few weeks. Instead of focusing on our chains, let’s pray for open doors.

Isaiah 28-30; Obstinate

Obstinate: Stubbornly adhering to an opinion, purpose, or course in spite of reason, argument, or persuasion. (Mirriam-Webster)

Someone close to me began accepting the so-called “progressive” view of religion. When I tried to engage in conversation about spiritual truth I was told, in effect, that they would not talk to me about that because, “You are not going to ¬†change my mind.” (those words haunt me yet today)

God, through Isaiah, says:

Woe to the obstinate children… to those who carry out plans¬†that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin¬†upon sin.¬†(30:1)

As I read Isaiah I pray that God will speak to me about my own walk with him here in 2018. When Isaiah speaks about enemies, I am reminded Satan is mine. When Isaiah says, “Woe to…” I want to be sure that if he’s putting a finger on sin in my life, I’m quick to repent.

Today I’m asking myself if there are things I’m stubbornly holding on to that God is asking me to change. Are there things He wants to teach me, ways in which He wants to grow me, but I’m being obstinate while holding on to what I’ve always done or thought?

In verse 10, when talking about children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction, Isaiah says:

They say to seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right!” Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.”

Now I know this is a problem in our society, rampant in many churches, and it would be easy to shake my head and lament over the state of things in our world. But God isn’t interested in talking to me about the world. God’s not asking me to change the world. He’s demanding to change me.

So I ask myself, when I open His Word, am I sincere about being taught? When I go to church do I want to be uplifted or broken? Do I want to hear the truth, or am I looking to hear only pleasant things? Because often the truth hurts. Growth hurts. Conviction is never pleasant.

Now there is one thing I will adamantly adhere to: that is the Truth of Scripture. The Bible is like no other book. It is God breathed, and therefore 100% trustworthy. It’s not my opinion. The Bible proves itself over and over.

Last night in Prayer Meeting, the pastor shared that recently he was sharing the Gospel with someone who wanted to know what the pastor thought about abortion and homosexuality. The pastor was quick to tell this person, “My opinions are only opinions. Let’s look at what the Bible says.”

Can you say the same? Or are you obstinately holding on to your opinions as some kind of truth, with the attitude, “You’re not going to change my mind.”

I’m not just talking about conversations with loved ones. I’m talking about your quiet time, every time you open the precious pages of God’s Word. Are you teachable? Are you pliable? Moldable?

Or obstinate?

June 3 – Time to Grow Up

Proverbs 1-3

The other night I watched a little neighbor girl go up to my five-year-old great-nephew, Colton, and put her finger on his shirt, then ask, “What’s this?” When Colton put his head down to see where she pointed, she flicked his nose. Took me back a few decades. I wonder how many times I fell for that myself.

The thing is, just a few minutes earlier, the little girl tried the same thing with Sara, Colton’s mommy. I’d heard Sara laugh and say, “I’m not falling for that.”

Children are naive, aren’t they? Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, they believe just about anything they hear – until they grow up. But you have to admit, it’s cute while it lasts.

Solomon begins the list of proverbs by talking about wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, he reminds us. God gives us wisdom, he says, if we only pay attention.

1:22, “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?”

1:12 tells us the waywardness of the naive will kill them.

Dear one, it’s not enough to say you’re a Christian. Being a Christian involves being born again, but like a child, there is a time to grow up. Solomon tells us God will pour out His spirit on us and make His words known to us. But first God says, “Turn to my reproof.” (1:23)

In other words, accept the fact that God disapproves of sin in your life. No, he hates sin in your life. And he doesn’t want you to be naive about what sin is, or what the consequences for sin are. Saying, “I didn’t know” doesn’t cut it with God.

In fact, naivety is a death sentence. How sad is that, when there is so much wisdom available to us through God’s Word and by His Spirit living in us?

It’s time to grow up.