Living On Purpose
As a pastor, I have the regular privilege of working with children and teens. Anytime you get kids together in a group, there is the off chance that a dispute will arise and I am called in to help them resolve their differences. In dealing with these problems, I often hear this statement, “I didn’t do it on purpose.” This got me to thinking about how much of what we do in life is just random or accidental. Are we living life intentionally? Are we living it on purpose?
In Colossians 3, I believe we are urged to live our lives intentionally unto the Lord; yet I can’t help but wonder how many professing Christians actually are intentionally living out their faith, and how many are just using it as a “get out of jail free card”. Verse 1 says we are to“seek those things which are above”. Seeking is a deliberate act. If you are seeking something, it takes more than a casual glance. Most people won’t take the time to consider God in their daily lives nor live to please Him by following His commands. Part of this is due to the fact that we fail to take God seriously and read the Bible, so we become intimately familiar with Him and His ways. Some people are content to catch a sermon on TV or on radio or tape. Where this isn’t wrong, it is kind of like letting someone else eat your lunch and telling you how good it is. The Lord Jesus Christ wants people to know Him, and to enter into a relationship with Him that’s real and personal.
In this same chapter, it tells us to “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth”.
(Col 3:2) We are not to focus on the things of this life. Yet often the cares of life tend to choke out the things of God in our lives, don’t they? Verses 5-9 tell the Christian that they are to put to death fornication, evil desire, coveting, anger, wrath, filthy language, and lying, to name a few. Next, it tells us to be purposeful in putting on the “new man” that is created in the image of Christ. We are to be purposeful in showing tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forgiving one another, being thankful, letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. Sometimes in my life I’ve found these things don’t always come naturally, how about you?
Chapter 3 ends with a list of relationships. It is good for us to understand God isn’t just interested in us having a bunch of religious knowledge in our heads about what I have just written. He wants us to live it out in the context of our personal relationships with Him and others. When asked what the great commandment in the Law was, He answered, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37). The entire Christian life is to be one lived out of that love for God. Colossians 3:23-24 says: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” Are you living your life on purpose and unto the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, why not repent to the Lord and begin to do so today? You’ll know a new peace. Know that I’m praying for you.
Turning the Hearts of Fathers to Their Children
Father’s Day is almost here, and I have been thinking about the important role God has for each of us as men and dads to fulfill in the lives of children. Over the years, I have had the privilege to work with young people of all ages and many walks of life, along with raising two of my own. Many young people struggle to find their way in the world. Some kids hear so much anger and negative things toward themselves, is it really any wonder they go down the wrong path in life or think so little of themselves? In Malachi 4 it says, Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." (Mal 4:5-6). This article is not meant to heap guilt, but to encourage us as men and dads to consider our God-given role in training our children and setting our hearts on them for their good.
Time and space don’t give us the opportunity to do an in depth study, but I would like to share with you a couple of thoughts. In Ephesians 6:4 it says, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” One thing to note here is fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath. It is easy to exasperate a child by setting varying standards or unrealistic expectations on them. What can happen is we opt for what I call the “control paradigm” over the “character paradigm”. What I mean by this is that we are more interested in controlling their behavior than training their character. Granted, when a child is young we need to control them for their protection. They lack the capacity to reason through things. As they get older, we need to train them to think through things and make decisions for themselves, for we are training them up in the way they should go when they enter adulthood. It often seems much easier to give them the old “because I said so”, than to sit with them and help them to see why. Yes, they may make mistakes and have to deal with the consequences of those mistakes, but better they learn from small ones than the big ones that could come later.
We, also, need to watch the angry words. Far too often as parents, we think displays of anger are fitting. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” In James1:19-20 it says, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” These Scriptures are not only for us as adults with adults, but also for us with our children. We respond angrily because our pride is smarting, or we are impatient and just want to get done dealing with the child so we can get back to what we were doing. We miss that the Lord has given us a teachable moment. We may be happy because the situation is past and we may have controlled the behavior, but have we fulfilled our God-given role to train our child or teen? Our words are so important. The old adage goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Yet in Proverbs 18:21 it says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”. The words we speak or fail to speak to our children and teens can have an effect for good or bad, especially father’s words. Our words can have an effect on the way they think about themselves.
One last area is the instructing our children in the things of the Lord Jesus Christ. Men, we are given the responsibility to train our children in the things of the Lord. One day they will stand before the Lord and as the book of Ecclesiastes ends, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all.” (Eccl 12:13). Whatever their vocation in life, one vital thing is to train our children to love God and obey His commands. How encouraged I am when I look out at our congregation and see several families with young people sitting there with their dads. They are making sure their children are being trained in the things of Jesus Christ and His Word. Not only are they telling their kids it is important, but by their presence they are showing them, too.
Men, I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day. Know that even if you haven’t been actively watching your words, your anger, or training your children, it isn’t too late. Speak to your son or daughter about the things of the Lord and let them know why it is important. Ask the Lord to help turn their heart to you and your heart to them. Know I’m praying for you
“Our Temporary Home.”
Years ago, we moved from our old parsonage and into some temporary housing that had been graciously supplied by a family in the church while we waited for our new home to be ready to be moved into. As nice and comfortable as this place was, we did not get too settled for we knew that we soon would be moving again. How we were looking forward to moving and settling into that new home that the Lord had for us!
This makes me think about my eternal home. Am I living that way spiritually? It is easy to become comfortable with this life and forget that this is not all there is. There is another dwelling place awaiting each of us. The believer in Christ has been promised by the Lord that He has gone to prepare a heavenly dwelling place for those who’ll trust in Him; a place so wonderful that nothing in this life can compare to it. 1 Peter 1:4 tells us we are going “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” What a hope for believers in Christ! No hurricane, flood, or fire can destroy that home!
Sadly, there are so many that seem to miss this and only live for the here and now, even Christians do this. If we get too settled, we may find it difficult to move on and lay hold of all Christ has for us. The things of this life have a way of laying hold of us and obstructing our spiritual sight, keeping us from seeing past the present. So often, people think little beyond today. It is important to see that each of us is “just passin’ through” this life. There’s a place prepared for us. The Bible tells us that heaven isn’t the only prepared place. The Lord has prepared a place called the “lake of fire” for those who refuse to trust in His salvation. Hell is the default home for those who haven’t acted on Christ’s offer of forgiveness of their sin and new life in Him. Let’s not let self-centeredness, sin, and pride keep us from calling upon the Lord of our Salvation.
Do you live with an eye on eternity? Have you confessed you’re a sinner unable to save yourself? Is your trust in Christ to save you and to take you to be with him to your eternal home? It’s not too late. Remember here and now is only our “temporary home”; there is a home in heaven that awaits! Know I’m praying for you.
PW 243 The Neglected Teaching of Repentance
In the Western world, cultural Christianity has given way to easy believe-ism and what some call “cheap grace”. Looking out at our world, I find it strange how some who call themselves Christian can see the folly of trying to combine Christian faith with the mysticism of the Far East or the New Age, but fail to see the danger of blending Christian faith with secular humanistic teachings and cultural Christianity. There are many today who say they are Christian based on their family background or because they were told if they wanted to go to heaven they had to walk an aisle, pray a prayer, or be baptized. Possibly someone pressured them or played on their emotions and fears in order to get a quick, unconsidered profession of faith. Granted, having Christian parents and family or responding to Christ’s call in a church service may be aspects that take place when a person comes to trust on Christ, but lip service or preforming outward acts are not what save a person. I know in my own life I walked an aisle and prayed the prayer I was told to pray, and later was baptized; but there was no change in my life, the type of change that takes place when the Holy Spirit is about His transforming work in the life of a believer. I operated like a “Christian” on the church scene, but I lived like the world the rest of the week. Cultural Christianity has watered down the truth and our understanding of justification, sanctification, and most of all repentance (turning from sin).
When we look at the New Testament, we find Paul teaching people in Acts 20:21, “…repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter told people to repent and be converted. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus said, “Repent, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). When we repent, we are turning from something toward something. In the case of our Christianity, we are turning to God from our sin (repentance towards God), along with a genuine trust in the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the cross to pay the price for our sin (faith in Jesus Christ).
Whereas a person may sin at times, their life is no longer characterized by sinfulness. Sin is no longer our practice or master. Now the life the believer lives is lived in Christ for Christ. Repentance is a change of mind and purpose that turns an individual from sin to God. A truly repentant person knows that sin must be forsaken and that they must lay hold of the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross for forgiveness. Through the book of Acts, the believer is exhorted to repent if true conversion was going to be experienced.
I have heard people over the years say, “Pastor, I confess my sin regularly.” This is good, but are they turning from it? Some people confess or admit their sin, but they are unwilling to turn from it. There is the story that is told about the man who was confessing his sinful exploits to his pastor. The pastor stops him and says, “You’re not confessing. You’re bragging!” This type of individual is mouthing it is sin, but is failing to treat it as sin. Let’s illustrate it this way: a person goes to the doctor and learns that he or she has a fatal disease or some cancer brought on by improper diet, hygiene, or poor care of their health. They follow the doctor’s treatment advice (repent) and they get better. Yet soon after the treatment is finished, the person goes back to doing the very things that brought the disease or cancer in the first place. Seems foolish doesn’t it? Yet that is what can happen with sin. We say it is sin, but we fail to treat it like sin and forsake it. It is like taking a venomous snake out and playing with it. If we truly believe something is sin for us, shouldn’t we turn from it? Repentance is the fruit of a Spirit-broken heart.
As we continue to grow in grace, we will continue to see areas in our lives that don’t line up with God’s Word and will. Repentance is a continual practice in the life of a believer. If the sanctifying work of the Spirit is going to take place in our lives, there must be repentance toward God. True faith is evidenced by our repentance. Repentance must not be neglected in the life of a believer. Know I am praying for you.
The Dodge Charger
When I was a young man, I came across this ’68 Dodge Charger. It was a sick, light brown color; and the rear quarter panel on the driver’s side had been damaged and repaired with a lot of body filler. It didn’t look like much, but I saw potential there. So I bought it. I had plans for that car. One of the first things I did was to take the car to a friend who was a topnotch body man. He removed all that old filler and put in metal to restore the car’s original lines. I went over to his shop in the middle of the week to pick out the new paint color, and my heart dropped. There was my car in a state of seeming disrepair! The damage was worse than I imagined and in places I hadn’t imagined. I still remember my friend telling me not to look at it as it was, but how it would be when he was done. I pulled up to his shop late that following Saturday afternoon, and there was my Charger. What a sight! The new Corvette Red paint job and chrome just glistened. It was hard to imagine it was the same car.
Spiritually speaking, there are times in my life when I’ve felt like that old Charger. Maybe you have too! Those times when you feel like you are in the “body shop” and things just don’t seem right. Your life is in all types of disrepair. Remember, God sees the potential that’s there. First, of course, we need to be trusting in Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice and salvation from our sin. Without that, we are still lost and headed for destruction. Once a person believes and is in Christ, “…he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Then the transformation begins to restore the image of Christ in our lives. It begins by renewing our minds to God’s truth. He has to remove all that “filler” that we’ve used to prop up and shape our sin damaged lives. He wants to make us new! He wants to make us into what He intended us to be, when He saw our substance yet unformed, before any of our days came into being. We are His workmanship after all.
Maybe you are going through a difficult or dark time in your life right now. You have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, to the best of your knowledge you have confessed your sin, and yet things still seem out of whack. Trust yourself to your faithful Creator. Keep worshiping Him like Job in the Bible did, for this is what He seeks. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” That is real trust, to trust God when we don’t understand or things aren’t making sense. Watch for His purposes. Trust in His promise to “…never leave you nor forsake you.” Focus on Him and what you will be once He has finished His work in your life. Know I’m praying for you.
From time to time we have family and friends from out of town come to visit. Whether their stay is a night or a couple of weeks, activity begins around our house long before our guests arrive; beds are changed, groceries are stocked, meals are planned, and cleaning is done. We do this for two reasons: one, it ensures the house is ready to welcome our guests and make them comfortable, and two, it frees us up to spend time with our guests. After all, that’s the purpose of visiting in the first place.
We live in such a fast pace world where we can get to feeling concerned that if we slow down for a moment we will be left behind. We are caught in the “tyranny of the urgent” trap. It is no wonder that our relationships become so superficial and strained.
In the Scriptures, we find a similar situation with two sisters, Mary and Martha, who were friends with Jesus. In Luke 10:38-42, we find that they had invited Jesus to their home. Now Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word, but Martha “was distracted with much serving.” She approaches Jesus about the apparent inequity of the situation, it would seem that she was hoping to have the Lord tell Mary to help her. Jesus answers her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
I want to encourage you, dear reader, to reflect on this in your life. Have the cares of life become overwhelming? Are you troubled and worried about many things? Be like Mary and chose to spend time listening to the Word of Christ, be it godly preaching from the pulpit at church or just reading your Bible and listening to the Holy Spirit in your home. Jesus wants to visit with you. Will you open the door and let Him in? (Rev. 3:20) Know I’m praying for you!
PW 241 His Cross is All Grace
Easter is the time Christians remember Christ’s crucifixion, death, and burial. One thing that is so profound about this sacrificial act is that it’s all grace. Think about it for a minute. What is there about you . . . about me . . . that would merit the attention of Almighty, Infinite, All-Comprehending God? Why would He send His Son to suffer a cruel and excruciating death on a cross to satisfy His wrath against your sins and wrong doings . . . my sins and wrong doings? Sometimes it may do us good to recall that God would not have become any less; nothing would have been lost from His being if He let us die for our own selfishness and sin. What grace, what mercy, what love is shown to each of us. There is nothing we can bring to the table in ourselves that can lay any claim to God’s salvation, only Jesus. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice at the cross is the only atonement we need to get right with God and receive His salvation. It is also the only thing God will accept. Peter said this in Acts 4:12, Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Besides the pain of the cross itself, with its crown of thorns, nails piercing His hands and feet, and the spear that was thrust in His side, do we see all the other things Christ suffered to bring people to God and Heaven? He was whipped and beaten, stripped of His clothes, and mocked. Think of the humiliation He went through, of people gawking and jeering as He took the punishment for our sins. Jesus wouldn’t come down off the cross, to do so would be to disobey the Father and condemn mankind for all time. If He was to save others, He couldn’t save Himself. If others were to receive pardon for their sin, He had to be sacrificed. Just as a Passover lamb couldn’t save itself while it saved others, He wouldn’t save Himself. What Christ endured for our sake! Think of it. Falsely accused, wrongly tried, whipped and beaten, iron spikes driven through bone and sinew. Surely His body was screaming in pain, yet He didn’t retaliate . . . He didn’t curse or threaten back. How we lash out at others for far less. Let us not forget that Christ suffered as a man, so for man’s sin He could atone. He felt it all! Even as He is offered bitter, sour wine to help alleviate the pain, the Gospels share He wouldn’t allow anything to dull His mind.
Think of the scene. Flies buzzing due to the drying blood . . . Jesus flayed back open and sore, rubbing against the uneven cross . . . nails driven through medial nerves . . . the repeated torture of His back, arms, and legs as He hung there hour upon hour . . . then the suffocating affect as His body drooped. Do we see it . . . feel it . . . sense it. It was all for you and all for me. There is love. There is grace. Probably nothing depicts the grace of Christ’s cross any better than the account of the dying thief. As this criminal, this sinner, hangs there, divine illumination takes place. Possibly things he was taught as a young child began to click and make sense. Some divine revelation awakens in his mind. As he contemplates his own demise, he sees God’s salvation hanging there next to him. He understands that in himself and the other thief, there is sin; yet in Christ there is no wrong, no guilt, no sin. The thieves were receiving the justice due their deeds, but Jesus wasn’t. He was the Lord’s Messiah! God’s Christ! The second thief feared God’s judgment due his sin. Where man could condemn his physical body, he was more concerned about the One who could condemn his immortal soul. He needed someone to remove the guilt of his sin. Yet he couldn’t do any good deeds. He couldn’t even bring a lamb as so many were preparing to do at that very moment in Jerusalem. Turning to Christ, he asks for mercy. “Lord, remember me . . .” He turned to the Lamb that was slain for the sin of the world.
The Lord Jesus, in spite of all His agony, still shows grace and compassion to this tortured soul. Jesus doesn’t just tell him that they’d meet some day in that future kingdom. Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” At that moment he became a joint heir with Jesus. This is good for each of us to realize. It isn’t how good or deserving we are, it’s all of grace. Paul wrote: But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7) This account at the cross isn’t about a good thief, but a wretched thief and a Good Savior. It’s about Jesus’ love and His willingness to forgive our sins.
All of us have sin in us. (Rom. 3:23) The penalty due that sin is death and separation from God in hell for all eternity. Some of us have that penalty resting on us like the first thief. Others, like the second thief, have by God’s grace had that sin shifted onto Christ. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Is the guilt of your sin on you or on Jesus, in whom there is no sin? When it comes to the cross of Calvary, are you a mocker or have you become a recipient of God’s grace and forgiveness? For truly your salvation through the cross is all about grace. Is your trust fully on the work of Christ? Have you acknowledged your sin and placed your faith in Jesus Christ and the finished work of His cross? I hope you have. Know I’m praying for you.
Do You Really Know?
Recently, some people have been moving a house across our town to set it on a new foundation. The process has been slow and careful as they position and lower the building onto its new resting place. This reminds me of how each of us needs to be careful of what we build our lives on. We must take care that what we rest our lives on is true and right. In our busy and instant gratification society, we can be negligent in this regard. Yet nothing is more important than what we are putting our trust in and resting our hope on. Is it on Jesus Christ and God’s Word? Sometimes we may think we are doing that, but are we sure? Most of us no doubt have had the experience of telling a young person to be careful, or imparted some other sage piece of advice only to hear, “I know. I know.” Experience has shown me when they say this, what they are really saying is that they have heard this knowledge before. My question is, have they taken it to heart? Having the information is only half the battle. It is what we do with it that really matters. This is particularly important to our faith and spiritual growth. When we say we believe, is this actually true?
In over 20 years of pastoral ministry, I have heard many people tell me that they have read the Bible or memorized a number of Scripture verses. This is good, but it isn’t enough. Reading the Bible, studying it, hearing it preached, and even memorizing it is not the ends. The real goal and purpose of this is to apply the Scripture to our lives, to DO what it says. Without thinking of how a verse or passage applies to our lives will keep God’s Word only cerebral. We have an intellectual knowledge, but we haven’t learned to rest our trust on its testimony. This only happens when we do it.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus says, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great." (Luke 6:46-49).
Many people refer to themselves as being Christian. They may pay lip service and call Jesus Lord, but they don’t obey God’s Word. They don’t do what it says. I can’t count the times I have seen a person profess faith in Christ; they enjoy the worship, and the blessings that the Lord often bestows on a new convert, only to see them fall away when tough times come. I think it is good to see in the passage I cited before that the same storm (aka. The same trials, tribulations, and difficulties in life) struck both men. Yet the man who dug deep was not shaken. Much of what tries to pass itself off as “Christian” today is a mile wide and a half inch deep. I say this not to condemn or look down on a person, but to challenge each of us to consider what we really know. Are we giving the Holy Spirit something with which to remind us and confirm His witness to our spirit? Hearing and doing what God’s Word says is not meant to be an off and on thing. It is meant to be a regular, daily practice. God told Joshua not to let the Law of God depart from him, but to think about it day and night.
What role does God’s Word play in your life and in your decisions? It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Do you truly know it and do you do what it says? Know I’m praying for you.
As I write this, the snow many have been waiting for has finally arrived. The last couple of years it seems the weather forgot to look at the calendar as to what season it should be. Watching the snow hanging on the branches of the trees outside reminds me of the LORD’s wonderful provision of the seasons: springtime to plant, summertime to grow, fall to harvest, and wintertime for plants and trees to rest. Now some of us may enjoy one or two seasons more than others, yet each of these seasons are important.
Reflecting on God’s creation of the seasons gets me to thinking about another of His wonderful creations, humankind. We can get so caught up in being productive or getting ahead that we never take time to enjoy the LORD or the people and times with which He has blessed us. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the God inspired writer pens these words, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” He goes on to list a great number of opposites: birth and death, weeping and laughing, and even love and hate.
Now as we read the whole book, we find the writer looking over his life experiences, including his wealth, his family, his intellect, and his hard work. The interesting thing is, as he looks at them, he finds them meaningless. He ends his writing admonishing his readers to remember their Creator, the LORD God who made them. He adds, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.”
Sometimes we struggle with similar things. We want to make sense of it all. We’ll read books, magazines, or take self-help courses, looking for answers. The answer can be very simple. More often than not, we have left the LORD out of the equation. The same LORD and Creator, who has made the trees and the plants and has established the seasons for them, has established times for you and me. They are not there to do you harm – though we can come to harm at times. They are there to draw us to Him, to help us see our sin and receive His salvation, and to help us get to know Him better. Some seasons of life I enjoy more than others; yet I am glad that the Lord Jesus has promised to be with the person who trusts in Him in all of them, good or difficult. I’m learning that both are part of His all-knowing plan for my life. I hope you are learning this, too. Know I am praying for you.
As I write this, the weather recently has been bitterly cold. Some mornings the temperature has dipped to minus 25-30 below with the wind chill factor. Along with this cold weather, some may have known the added trouble of frozen pipes and septic systems. If you have, you know how you have to take care of it quickly, or risk a bigger mess.
A similar thing can happen in our lives on a spiritual plain, when we let our love grow cold or let bitterness take root in our lives. The Bible says in latter days that the love of many will grow cold. Hebrews 12:14-15 says: “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled”. When we grow calloused or bitter or unforgiving, we become just like the clogged drains and frozen pipes. It is our lives that get messed up and begins to stink. We need to take care of the problem before the problem gets worse.
Jesus was once asked by Peter how many times did he need to forgive a person. Jesus replied 70 times 7. Now the Lord isn’t just talking about a legalistic number of 490 times. See the number seven reminds us of perfection, and that perfect forgiveness always chooses to forgive. On the heels of this question in Matthew 18, He tells the parable of the unforgiving servant, who was forgiven a great debt of money that he couldn’t repay. He had a fellow servant that owed him a little amount of money, but he was unwilling to give his friend any time to repay him. Instead, he had the fellow servant thrown into prison until he could repay the debt. The Master, who forgave the first servant’s debts, heard of it and had the first servant brought before him. He told the first servant that he should have had compassion on his fellow servant. The Master then went on to turn the first servant over to the torturers. Jesus ended His parable by saying that the same will be done to each of us, if we don’t forgive our brother’s trespasses from our hearts. After all we have been forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ, shouldn’t we forgive others their small debt of sin?
When our septic lines back up or our pipes freeze, sometimes we have to call for help to get things working right again. Know that we can call upon the Lord for help to forgive. He can give us strength in weakness, for He knows how to completely forgive. Is there someone you need to forgive today? Someone who has hurt you or spoken badly about you? What has been your response? Stir up the love and do the good works you were created in Christ Jesus to do. Know I’m praying for you!
PW 239 Three Stages of Spiritual Growth
This past Christmas Eve, the children in the church acted out the Nativity as part of our service. The practices prior to the night were filled with all sorts of distractions and wiggles. Yet the night of the service, we couldn’t have been prouder as the children played their roles to the best of their abilities. When it comes to children, we can be just happy to watch them. Even their mistakes and miscues can bring a smile to our faces. Still none of us can remain a child forever.
This makes me think about the stages of spiritual growth in the life of a believer. Where Jesus tells us we need to have that childlike quality when it comes to trusting in Christ for our salvation, we are not to be childish. Throughout the Bible we are admonished and encouraged to grow in grace, to add to our faith, to exercise ourselves for the purpose of godliness, and to no longer be children in regards to our doctrinal beliefs so we will not be tossed back and forth.
In First John 2, John writes, I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one. (1 John 2:12-14). Here we have the three basic stages of Christian growth: children, young men, and fathers. Children would be those new believers that have only a basic awareness of Christ, His salvation, and the need to grow. Children need a lot of help to grow. They don’t always get everything right. It can take some time. They can also get tricked by Satan’s schemes. Young or new believers need to grow; they are to have a desire for the pure milk of the Word so they can grow up in their salvation (1 Peter 2:2). As we grow, we become grounded in our faith and its doctrinal teaching. We know what we believe and we are not easily taken in by temptations of life and the lies of the devil. We have God’s Word abiding in us; thus we are strong against sin and error. We also have overcome the wicked one. Fathers are those who have grown in their walk with the Lord and have had the maturing experience of knowing God in Word and throughout life. As a dad of two sons, I can gain an understanding into the Father’s heart, though flawed it may still be. As fathers, we understand the love we generally have for our children, even when we have to discipline them and rebuke them. We have gained the experience and developed the wisdom needed to teach the younger believers. This is not something I would have understood about God, apart from my own experience as a father.
Where believers may be at different stages in their walk with the Lord and in their spiritual growth, believers are a part of God’s family and can show the character of Jesus Christ in the various stages they are in. Has your spiritual growth reached the maturity level appropriate to your stage in the Christian life? Know I’m praying for you.
PW 238 A Light To My Path
During the recent deer hunting season I had the opportunity to go on some early morning hunts. Many of those mornings the stars shone like diamonds in the crisp morning air. My blind is back in the woods about a mile from a Forest Service road. Once I switch off the truck lights, it can be pretty dark, especially if there isn’t any snow. How thankful I am for a flashlight and some reflector markers I had set up during the daytime to help me find my way. Even in the snow, those markers helped me to confidently find my way. I recall a hunt several years ago when I was hunting a friend’s property. He had shown me a stand a few days prior to my hunt. When I showed up on the morning of the hunt, it had snowed and there were no signs or tracks to show me where to go. After I had wandered about a bit, everything looked different; so I sat back in some tag alders and waited for the sun to come up. Once it was up, I could make out the way and finally reached the stand. What a difference a little light can make to get me on the right path and keep me there.
In the Bible, we read: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalms 119:105). Sometimes things in life can be like those dark morning hunts, you just can’t make out the way to go. Things don’t seem familiar and you can get twisted around. The Bible is God’s Word. It is the believer’s light, compass, and map. It points us in the direction we should go, it lights the way, and it can help us to stay on the right road.
In life things often may not “feel” right. We need to know the truth, not feel our way. We need to trust things that are true, not our feelings. I haven’t had too many times of getting turned around in the woods, but I know it is better to trust my compass in those times rather than my feelings. Feelings can get me in deep trouble. Spiritually speaking, there can be times in life when we may not “feel” saved. It is good to have memorized various Bible verses to remind us of what is true and to light our way.
We can begin to doubt in times when God is chastening us or refining us. We may feel like the Lord has forsaken us. If you are a believer, He hasn’t. We may fail to keep our word at times, but He never does. He doesn’t forget His covenant with His own. Yes, there may be times when He afflicts us to get us to return to Him, but He never abandons His own. In Lamentations 3 the writer is going through a dark time but in verses 17-26 it says, “You have moved my soul far from peace; I have forgotten prosperity. And I said, "My strength and my hope have perished from the LORD." Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD'S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” Again, God’s Word can light our way.
Are you going through a dark time right now? If you have been justified by God’s grace through faith in the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ, know that He is there. His compassion and love never fails. Have you been reading His Word and meditating on what it says? It will light your path and show you the way to go. It will show you what is real and what is just shadows. A little light can make a lot of difference to get you on the right path. Hope in the Lord. Know I’m praying for you.
PW 237 Your Spiritual Health in the New Year
As we begin a new year, it is a time when many reflect over the past year and make plans or promises to make various changes in the next year. These changes take the form of having a better attitude, eating healthy, or losing weight, to name but a few. I would like to encourage each of us to think about our spiritual health. In the Bible we read, “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor 4:16). Our inner man, our soul, is eternal and needs to be better cared for, especially when we consider the Bible’s warning that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to give in to self-deception if we are not watchful and examining our lives. Part of the reason this happens is due to the fact that we fail to make time to truly take a look at our spiritual lives. We are like the person who quickly looks in the mirror and forgets what they saw. God has given us many tools to use to aid the Holy Spirit in teaching us. Two of the most neglected are the Bible and the Church.
The Bible, God’s Word, is often likened to a mirror. It shows us what we are, yet often we don’t give it more than a passing glance. Oh, we read it, even regularly; but we take little time to think about what is saying and if we need to adjust our lifestyles to what it is saying. Knowing what the Bible says and doing what it says are two entirely different things. Knowing is only half the battle. Nothing Satan likes to do more than to dupe us into thinking that because we read what it says, that we actually are doing it. Next, the church can keep us accountable. Hopefully, you attend a church where the pastor opens God’s Word, explains the Bible to you, and makes every effort to live it out. If you don’t, you are missing out. When the Bible becomes simply cerebral, you and I are in trouble. The devil and our own hearts will provide every excuse for not studying the Bible or going to church.
My mom has a sign on her refrigerator that has been there since I was young. It says, “You always have time for what you put first.” This reminds me of something Jesus Christ said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33). When Christ has first place in our lives, then His things will take precedence in our lives. The promise in this verse is that all those things we worry about, those things that crowd out or become our excuses for not going to church, studying His Word, or other things that affect our spiritual health, God knows about and will supply. We need to make a commitment and discipline ourselves to keeping it. The old saying goes, “People don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.” If all we say is, “Yeah, I should do this or I need to do that,” it won’t get done, unless we make a plan on how to accomplish it. It may mean getting to bed earlier or saying no to things that would crowd out our schedule and hinder us from doing what we know or say that we need to do.
Let me encourage you as you enter the New Year to take a good look at your spiritual health and that of your family. What adjustments do you need to make to get spiritually healthy? Will Christ be a priority in your life in the days ahead? Are there good things that have been crowding out God’s things? Will you say no to them and yes to Him? Throughout the Bible we find God promising His people, that if they return to Him whole heartedly, He will forgive sins, renew strength, and bless them. Do you need to return to the LORD or get serious about following Him? Know I’m praying for you.