Category: Growth and Faith

The Hard Times

Dr David Jeremiah recently wrote:

For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

One of the hardest, but most important, lessons for children and young people to learn is to view hardships in light of their purpose and outcome. Most children don’t like to practice scales on the piano, but they love a superior rating at the recital. Most young athletes don’t relish the hours of grueling practice, but they love the joy of victory and accomplishment.Granted, the purpose and outcome of every hardship in life is not always evident. But all we need to know is that God is at work in us “to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God has a purpose (Romans 8:28) and His outcome is plainly stated: to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). And for that He is worthy to be praised. It’s why Paul wrote that we should “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We may not thank God for the pain, but we can certainly worship Him because He is in control of our life—confident that He has a purpose and knows the outcome.

Worship in times of hardship isn’t easy. If you need a guide, use Paul’s words in Romans 11:33-36—a doxology of praise when we don’t have all the answers
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When I am beginning to slip

How do I realize I’m slipping off my Spiritual Rock

  • When I begin to act as if genuine joy is dependent on the state of the circumstances surrounding me.
  • When I begin to lose the distinct aroma of the fragrance of Christ in my life.
  • When I begin to feel or act as if my self-worth and acceptance is dependent on how well I perform.
  • When I am losing my grip on the reality of spiritual warfare. Then I begin to treat my brother or my fellow human being as my enemy and seek to do battle with fleshly weapons.
  • When I act as if victory or success depends on me and my ability rather than on the adequacy of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • When more time is spent in the “activities arena” than in the prayer closet.
  • When the praises of men and women become more important than the approval of God.
  • When relating to and caring for people is less important than programs, planning, meetings, and budgets.
  • When I assume responsibility to worry and fret over things and people that God in His sovereignty and power would take charge of (if I would allow Him to do so).
  • When my rights become more important than God’s will and way.

Facts of the Matter

Core Values of the Christian Life

There are Five core values that are worth living and dying for:

1. Loyalty to Christ and the Bible

A commitment to follow Christ through uncompromising obedience to His Word. Like two wheels on a bicycle, loyalty to Christ and the Scriptures work in tandem.

Lord to whom (else) shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68b)

2. Commitment to the Great Commission

Partnering with God in winning the lost and discipling the saved:

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20)

3. Faith in the Promises of God

God has given us His “great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4)

The promises of God are foundational to our faith, giving us hope and the ability to believe God for the furtherance of His Kingdom. Without the promises, we end in despair.

4. Vision for Spiritual Reproduction

Investing your life in that of another. Christ invested in The Twelve. Paul invested in Timothy: “The things you have heard me sayentrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2) Dr. Frank Labauch used the phrase, “Each one teach one.

5. Practice of Spiritual Disciplines

  • Abiding in Christ. (John 15:5)
  • Obedience to the Word of God. (John 14:21)
  • Intake of God’s Word through reading, hearing, meditation, memorization and study. (John 8:31, 32)
  • Speaking to God through Prayer. (Luke 18:1)
  • Sharing your life through Fellowship with others. (Hebrews 10:24, 25)
  • Witnessing: Sharing with others what you have seen of Christ. (1 John 1:3)

Resource-Facts of the Matter

The Gift of Reconciliation

The fruit of “peace” is by extension, the gift of “peacemaker”, which also can by extension be called, “the gift of reconciliation”.

Dr David Jeremiah, renowned pastor and Christian philosopher tells of a physics professor who illustrated a characteristic of olive oil by pouring just one tablespoon of oil onto a choppy lake, it quickly spread over the surface of the water, calming the lake in an area measuring half an acre. Since olive oil spreads to just one molecule thick, it covers a wide area and creates a slick surface that prevents the wind from gaining traction with the water, thus quieting the waves and whitecaps.

When we’re anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, our words, deeds, attitudes, and influence spreads further than we know, creating a calm that lessens the storms of life. When the Holy Spirit uses us, we never know how far or how wide the ripple effect will extend—either geographically or in time. One simple word or deed for Christ, touched by the Spirit, may directly or indirectly touch someone elsewhere in the world without our knowledge, and it may have a chain reaction that continues until Christ comes.

This gives new life to the expression, “pouring oil on troubled waters”. The committed Christian who is a witness to a heated discussion can often bring the temperature of a debate down to a reasonable level by just introducing a calming word of peace. It can often defuse an escalating disagreement which could very well leave a lasting resentment among those involved and, which may bring about long term consequences when decisions are made in the heat of a moment.

When we let the Holy Spirit speak through us by being willing to interject a word of peace in the midst of a heated moment, we are exercising our Spirit-led action as a peace-maker.

We are often reluctant to get involved because we are afraid we will appear to be taking sides. A neutral and calming word can be used by the Holy Spirit to bring peace in the midst of a (brewing) storm.  Remaining uninvolved might grieve the Holy Spirit by allowing issues to escalate to an otherwise dangerous level.

Take a chance, be a peacemaker.

Obedience

OBEDIENCE

Obedience is knowing God’s will and doing it.

Disobedience is knowing God’s will and not doing it.

Do I always know God’s will?

When you became a child of God by believing and accepting Jesus as your Savior, you were given the gift of knowing God’s will. That gift was given in the form of the Holy Spirit which is Chris’s indwelling Spirit.

Among sanctifying us and teaching us of the character of Jesus Christ, His job is to convict of sin and of righteousness. That amounts to making you aware of God’s will at all times.

When we plead ignorance, (I don’t know God’s will).  that is grieving the Holy Spirit in that we are denying His presence and doing His job.

When I am in a quandary and can’t really decide God’s will, it is time to get into a quiet place and pray until you know God’s will. If we still do not get clarity, it is His signal to wait. Don’t make a decision and don’t do anything until you do know. His silence is our signal that there is something spiritually wrong and until it is rooted out, confessed and repented, we will not be able to be clear on God’s will.

Therefore, not hearing God’s will is evidence of disobedience. If and when we are in that position, we can know that something in our life is out of place. Somewhere we have gotten off track with the Holy Spirit because of sin.

The next question is, is it possible to sin and not know it? That takes us back to the same situation as above. As it is the Holy Spirit’s job to “blow the whistle”, (that is to convict of sin). We can be sure that as a Christian, possessing the Holy Spirit means you will know, and be convicted.

The believer can harden His heart to the convicting Spirit. That means that he has habitually ignored that “still small voice” until he is no longer sensitive to Him. That Christian has some serious repenting to do. The Christian who no longer is disturbed by the Spirit’s voice has drifted so far away that he can scarcely call himself a Christian. (That is a whole different doctrinal issue).

Fruit of the Spirit

How do I pray? 

When in prayer, request the best:Pray for the Fruit of the Spirit:

Fruit of the Spirit “That which brings forth the righteousness and truth of the Holy Spirit when growing us through His Sanctification process. They are the things that define us as Spirit-filled disciples of Christ. They are the things that depict the holiness that has been imparted to us in this growth process. They are the attributes that others see as we reflect the image of Jesus Christ.

While all Fruit of the Spirit are not listed per se, they are implied in several places.

Colosians 3:12-17 Is a listing of the Fruit of the Spirit

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Another admonition that I consider when thinking about the fruit of the Spirit is found in Philppians 4:8.

Meditation on the good and positive and (virtuous) things (Phil. 4:8) (NIV)

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

These are things I think are very much related to the Fruit of the Spirit.

Read more »

Let Go

What are the things in your life that you just cannot turn loose?

Remember the story about the guy who falls over the cliff, grabs a branch and cries out, “Help, is there anyone up there?” God calls down, “It’s Me, God. What do you want?” To which the man replies, “Help me out of here!” God says: “Let Go… Trust Me.” And the man responds, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Obedience, the prerequisite to ABIDING IN HIS LOVE, is simply “letting go” of our choices and adhering to HIs, just as Jesus obeyed the Father and thereby ABODE IN HIS LOVE:

If you keep My commandments, you will ABIDE IN MY LOVE, just as I have kept My Fathers commandments, and ABIDE IN HIS LOVE. (John 15:10)

The more insidious sins that we resist “letting go” of are usually the ones that reside in that private domain of our lives slightly beneath the surface; subtle sins which still allow us the luxury of maintaining the facade of Christian respectability:

  • A smug sense of superiority amidst our worldly successes.
  • Mentally writing people off who no longer matter in furthering our career or status.
  • Satisfaction over beating out the other guy in a competitive bid.
  • Secretly harboring sins that pander to our lust.
  • A secret “sin closet” that I permit myself to occasionally enter and no one else knows about.

Christ’s example of obedience toward His Father was immediate, unequivocal and enduring, and cut to the very core of the Lordship issue. It is this standard to which He is calling us:

My Father, if it is possible, let this cup (the cross) pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.(Matthew 26:39) With this surrender He went to the cross.

Obedience, the “letting go” of our will, means giving God TOTAL ACCESS to that private domain of our lives where those secret sins reside.

To continue pandering covert sins while maintaining a facade of Christian respectability is a high price to pay for missing HIS ABIDING LOVE.
(Adapted from Facts of the Matter)

Called by God?

Not Good Enough!

“I’m not good enough nor strong enough to be useful to God. I have no qualities God seeks for a servant in His Kingdom’s work.”

The celebrated Scottish preacher, James Stewart, made a statement that is also challenging: “It is always upon human weakness and humiliation, not human strength and confidence, that God chooses to build His Kingdom; and that He can use us not merely in spite of our ordinariness and helplessness and disqualifying infirmities, but precisely because of them.”

That’s a thrilling discovery to make. It transforms our mental attitude toward our circumstances and God’s Sovereignty concerning our usefulness.

Let’s consider this principle in all seriousness. Your humiliations, your struggles, your battles, your weaknesses, your feelings of inadequacy, your helplessness, even your so-called “disqualifying” infirmities are precisely what make you effective. I would go further and say they represent the fertile soil God seeks in His servants.

Once you are convinced of your own weakness and no longer trying to hide it, you embrace the power of Christ. Paul modeled that trait wonderfully, once he grasped the principle. His pride departed and in its place emerged a genuine humility that no amount of hardship could erase.

If  I could have learned this earlier in my life, I would have been a much better Christian and servant of Jesus Christ. Read more »

Our Joy and God’s Sovereignty

“Joy is perfected only in acceptance of the total sovereignty of God!”

Words and thoughts like “if only” reveal a non-acceptance of God’s sovereignty. Why did one thing happen instead of another thing?

This thought would be fatalistic if you believe man does not really have free will. But, God made man with free will which gives us a choice. The choice is “God’s will” or “my will”.

Any person, even a professing and committed Christian, can choose his own will over God’s.

But, what about those things that happen where we have no choice? Can those things be according to God’s Sovereign will? Yes!

If we can accept and fully believe Romans 8:28,  (NKJV)
28  “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

The question then is,”do we really know and believe that or just accept it because it is in God’s word?  It is not the easiest thing to believe. It goes against what we think God “ought to be like”. That is, if God loves me, why doesn’t He let things happen that I think are good?

It all comes down to what we believe about the Sovereignty of God. Is it total sovereignty or is He sovereign only to the extent that we let Him be sovereign. Which brings us back to our first statement about “Joy”. If our joy is based only on our circumstances, then we struggle when our circumstances are very uncomfortable.

Can we experience joy in spite of our circumstances? Habakkuk seems to think so.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (KJV)

17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk believed joy prevails beyond our circumstances.

Sunlight or Moonbeams

Sunlight or Moonbeams?

The vibrant, exuberant Christian must be careful in his exuberance not to outshine the source.

That’s called a grabber. But what does it mean? It means that our life is to be more a reflection than a source.

The Sun produces its own light. Its source is within itself. Not so with the moon. The moon has no source of light. It can only reflect the light that comes from the sun.

So many times a vibrant Christian will be such a strong and attractive personality that he himself will draw followers. That’s what happens when a cult leader has such a strong attraction that he becomes like a god or a Messiah himself, drawing people to his personality rather reflecting the light of God.

The Christian who wishes to lead others to God rather than himself will merely reflect the light that comes from the true source, the light of Jesus.

Charles Stanley says, “Christians are a light reflecting God’s glory to this world. We shine brightly by being attentive to God’s voice and following His will. And when someone takes an interest in the source of our light, we are prepared to share the good news of Christ.”