Category Archives: Grace

Learn to Discern: Knowing When to Speak Up

At times there are items from other bloggers that are great pieces. This morning I found such a piece at Growing 4 Life which is written by a right thinking woman named Leslie.

Discernment and wisdom are critical to successful living and in living out the Christian life. The apostle Paul wrote “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders, make the most of every opportunity.” (Col 4:5). Today’s blog in a series Leslie is doing on discernment provides some practical advice in choosing our battles. Her blog follows:

was mindlessly moving a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer. My mind was on other things and I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing. Without thinking, I grabbed a dime that was laying near the dryer’s lint trap and tossed it in the trash.

Oops!

I looked at the trash and I pondered the worth of the dime. And then I turned back to my task. I simply did not find the dime to be valuable enough to warrant digging through the trash can. This made me wonder about what amount of money I would consider worth digging in the trash? A quarter? A dollar? At what point would I deem the amount valuable enough that it would propel me to work to get it back?

I think we need to consider this same principle when we are looking at discernment. Recently, there was a huge “to-do” in the discernment world (if you aren’t familiar with what’s going on, I am not going to fill you in. I have no desire to give it any more attention than it has already received). But what I saw happening there was someone who was making a huge deal over a “dime”. While I did agree with this person’s point of view on the subject matter at hand, I did not see that it was worth a fight. A few other Christian leaders had the same opinion as me and ended up being maligned by this other man who thought everyone else should be making as big a deal over this “dime” as he was!

One of the hardest things we must learn to do as we grow in discernment is know when something is worth a confrontation. Romans 12:18 teaches us that we are to be at peace with all men, as much as it is up to us. This is an important verse, giving us a framework in which we are to live all of life. Unfortunately, this is not going to always be possible. We know from scripture that we are going to be hated by the world and that there will be many false teachers. This naturally means that we will have some run-ins, as we try to stand for the truth.

So, how exactly do we know if something is important enough to speak up about in our families, churches, or anywhere else?

Here are a few guidelines to follow–

1. The situation at hand is about God, His Word, and His reputation. This is by far the most important key to discerning when something is important enough to stand up for. It should never be about our pride, our reputation, our importance, our need to prove ourselves. Something that is worth standing up for will always be about God’s glory and about protecting the truth of God’s Word.

It is never about ME. 

But this is oh, so tempting, isn’t it? Sometimes it is hard to discern if we are standing for God or for our own pride. We have this need to prove ourselves or to be “right” and we can get all entangled in our own selfish agenda–sometimes even when are standing up for the true and right thing! We must have humble hearts that are on the constant look-out for sins like pride, selfishness, and anger. And let’s regularly ask the Lord for a right heart and attitude and that He will fill us with His love and grace as we fight the good fight.

2. It is morally wrong. There are an abundance of verses expounding on the things that are an offense to our Holy God. We know that sexual sins, lying, sorcery, anger, pride etc. are always wrong and therefore should be something that those who claim to be Christians should avoid. (Check out these passages for more clarity and detail on the sins that God hates: Exodus 20:1-17Colossians 3:5-6Galatians 5:19-212 Timothy 3:1-7.)

If we know God hates these things, then this should be our guideline of things we want to avoid in all aspects of our lives. This would include our entertainment, which is something that believers mostly ignore now and, for some reason, practice a strange “disconnect”–as if somehow this is irrelevant from the rest of their spiritual health.

We should–we must–stand for pure and holy living. God’s Word clearly teaches that, as regenerated souls, we are to live pure and holy lives that are clearly different and separated from the world (I Peter 1:15-16Jude 1:20Philippians 1:9-102 Timothy 2:22Romans 12:1-2I Peter 2:9Romans 13:14-15Colossians 3:10).

This is not a wildly popular thing to stand for. In fact, it is not even marginally popular. But we need to speak up because God’s glory and reputation are damaged by those who live worldly, sinful lives while claiming to belong to Him.

3. Scripture is misinterpreted and twisted2 Thessalonians 2:15 tells us this: So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Since scripture was written there has been an accepted interpretation. Oh, there have been councils and meetings to discuss things, but God has miraculously protected the integrity of scripture throughout the years. However, Satan is always trying to mess with it just enough that he will mislead people. He has done this through the ages, but I highly doubt it has ever been so much as right now.

When someone gives some wild, out-of-context interpretation of scripture it is time to stand up! When someone tries to rationalize worldliness, homosexuality, evolution, or any other ungodly sin or philosophy, it is time to stand for the truth of God’s Word. We cannot let our enemy win this battle –for this is the battle’s core. Is scripture 100% true, inerrant, and inspired, or isn’t it? Because we know it is, we must speak up when it’s maligned.

Of course, the problem with this is that most of us do not have enough biblical knowledge to really provide a biblical defense. This is really why I write. I want to encourage you to know the Word so that you can live godly lives and contend for the faith.

Josh Buice writes thisThe absolute best method of testing a theology or a popular catch phrase is by Scripture. If any teaching will stand the intense scrutiny of Scripture, it proves itself to be a trustworthy doctrine. This is true on all matters of theology—from bumper stickers to historic creeds and confessions. The question that we must be asking ourselves as we build our positions is, “What does the Bible say?”

Yes, yes, yes! This is exactly right. You see, the Bible isn’t all that hard to understand. If we accept the Bible as it is written, literally, it all makes so much sense. And, even more amazing, the facts presented in science (I am talking about facts and not theories) and the historical record supports it all! You will find it incredible and even miraculous when you give yourself to serious study of this amazing book. But we don’t know because we don’t study. And– if I may be so bold–we don’t study because we don’t care. Oh, if this blog accomplishes one things –I hope it is that you would start to care about growing in your knowledge of the Word of God!

4. Christ’s role is diminished. Oh, how many false teachers diminish the role of Christ. If you are deciding whether something is worth the fight, ask yourself this: How do they treat Christ? Do they turn His sacrifice on the cross into a mere event? Do they teach that Christ is one of many ways to be reconciled to God? Do they teach that man is basically good and that Jesus is just a good example to follow? Do they teach that Christ is there to do one’s bidding? Do they teach that Christ is simply a good teacher? You will be surprised how even the most mainstream teachers and authors are teaching error in regards to Christ. And this is worth the fight! While Jesus Christ is the theme of the whole Bible (yes, even the Old Testament!), you can start by reading the Gospels. This is a great place to get started in knowing your Savior and will help you to defend Him!

5. Primary Christian Doctrines are compromised. As believers, we do need to know doctrine (contrary to what you have probably been told). Being unfamiliar with words like justification, sanctification, and glorification leaves you vulnerable to false teachers. Having at least a basic understanding of what the Bible teaches about (to name a few) the Trinity, God’s Sovereignty, salvation, God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and about the Church strengthen and prepare you for the vicious and unrelenting attacks that Satan wages against these doctrines. (Understanding what the Bible teaches us about the the last days and about Israel are secondary issues but are still beneficial–and interesting!– to study.) Find a good resource, such as Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue and start increasing your knowledge. If you’d rather have something a little less intimidating and not quite as deep, try Fundamentals of the Faith by MacArthur, which is a 13-week guided study of basic Christian doctrines.

6. Be socially wise. Now, with the final two items on this list, we are moving from biblical compromise to having social discernment. If someone you barely knows starts sharing about how much they love The Shack or Jesus Calling, don’t start off on a long monologue on why they are not doctrinally sound books. Go ahead and say something casually and if they express interest, then, by all means, have a conversation. But don’t confront acquaintances and strangers. They have absolutely no reason to listen to you. Gauge their interest and be wise. And, most importantly, pray for them.

7. Consider the spirit of the person you are confronting.  We must evaluate the person we are speaking to and ask ourselves: Is this person humble or proud? You see, if you are dealing with someone who thinks they know everything, who won’t bend, who doesn’t listen, then feel free to bring up your concern, but don’t argue or debate with them. Only the Holy Spirit can remove that blind pride. You could talk for forever and not move them an inch. So allow the Lord to use you to plant His seeds and to challenge them with some thoughts but do not become a thorn in their side that pricks at every opportunity. This is not how we practice discernment.

This is not an exhaustive list. Practicing biblical discernment is no picnic and I can honestly tell you that there is little personal reward for speaking up. I have mentioned this before and I will mention it again–most people do not want to hear. And because they do not want to hear, they will view you as (and call you) all kinds of negative things. But don’t let this stop you because we know that the truth of the Bible has the power to save! We know that the souls of those who are deceived and lost are going to hell! We know how this all ends! We know what is coming in the future! Let’s keep our eyes focused on what is important and not get embroiled in our hurt feelings and relational skirmishes here on earth. Study the Word and don’t be afraid to speak up when you must!

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

Have a blessed day!

Victory Over Sin Isn’t An Event

One of the blessings of being part of a community of bloggers is that I get to read some thoughts and reflections that are expressed with crystal clarity on topics that need to be brought to our attention. God is very big on remembering. On many occasions throughout the journeys of the children of Israel, God would tell His people to have feasts and erect monuments for the purpose of remembering. In the same way, reading purposefully what God has put into the hearts of others, is a helpful way of calling our attention to the truths of His word, to take back to the Scriptures which help us remember who God is.

This issue of victory over sin is a reminder of God’s grace and never ending love for us. The apostle Paul lamented that sometimes he did the things he didn’t want to do and didn’t do the things he wanted to do. (Romans 7:7 ff)

Today I’m sharing the story of a woman who is deeply committed to following Jesus. Her thoughts about the journey here on earth are worth sharing with my readers. A helpful reminder of the grace and patience of our God.

While the original post can be found at Growing4Life, I’ve posted her comments here.   The words of Leslie …

When I was a young married woman, I had a big problem. Without going into details, worry was something I battled on an almost daily basis and it was strangling the life out of me. At least that is how it felt. I was able to function normally so I truly doubt most people knew the battle I faced every day.

But God graciously rescued me and He used two verses to help me–

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

and

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

He used the first verse to show me that I needed to take every thought captive in obedience to my Savior. This included all of my fretful thoughts that started with “but what if…” and I had a lot of those. And He used the second verse to remind me that my fear was a hopeless trap and that I could instead turn to the Lord, trust in Him, and be safe in His sovereign care.

It wasn’t instant and it took a lot of hard work (Philippians 2:12) but it was so worth it! I begged God to give me victory over this sin and He answered! I walked out of my prison of worry and into the bright light of freedom and trust in my sovereign, heavenly Father.

I very naively thought I had beat that horrible sin in my life. But I was wrong.

Fast forward many years. Life slowed down and, suddenly, I had that very precious commodity of time on my hands. My life that had basically been the same for so many years started changing… and changing… and changing. Questions and quandaries I had never really prepared for abounded. And, quite without warning, this terrible sin reared its ugly head and viciously attacked me. Well, let me rephrase that– as that makes me sound like the victim. In reality, I gave it an opening and it rushed in and almost ate me alive.

I am on my way to victory once again but it has been rough. I have struggled to not let the fear and worry control me but it has been quite a battle. And I have tried to understand why this sin came back without warning and with such a vengeance.

As I have thought about it (I know, I know–I just think wayyyy too much), I wonder if it isn’t for three reasons–

First, I believe I may have been so distracted during my very busy years of raising kids and running the business that I forgot I had this struggle. I had few moments to myself during that time and when a rare solitary half hour came I was too excited about it to spend even a precious second of it on worrying. Now that I have so much time alone– which leaves me with far too much time to think–I have found my mind wondering in the sinful directions of anxiety and worry.

Second, I naively (and perhaps proudly) believed that my battle with this particular sin was over. The return of this sin in my life has been a good and hard lesson for me. It has taught me that no sin is ever “conquered”, showing me that I must always be on guard since even “conquered” sins can sneak their way back into our lives if we aren’t careful. Victory over sin is not an event but is carefully maintained through humble examination throughout our lives.

Third, I am quite sure I didn’t (probably still don’t) have a proper view of God’s Sovereignty. This is really the root of almost all anxiety, fear, and worry. Every day we hear of the most horrible things that happen to people. Stories hit the news and we talk about them with our family and friends, reeling at the awfulness of them, knowing that the same thing could happen to us. Something I read by John Newton a month or two ago was instrumental in reminding me of one very important fact: Nothing can happen to me outside of God’s plan. Here is what he wrote–

“When believers die–whatever the accident or the illness may be–they are only the means, but not properly the cause of their death. They die because the time has come when He who loves them best, will have them with Him to behold His glory!

Until then, they are immortal. They recover from sickness, however threatening, and are preserved unhurt–in defiance of the greatest dangers! But when His appointed hour arrives–then they must depart. When He will have them with Him–we cannot detain them; nor ought we to wish it, though the flesh will feel the parting stroke.

None of us can be perfectly happy in this poor fleeting world. It is a state in which sin and sorrow will hunt us and pain us to the last step of life! Therefore, though we wish to keep those whom we love with us as long as we can–it is well both for us and them, that we cannot live here always. We are in the Lord’s hands–and He does all things wisely and well, at the right time and in the right manner.

Death is but a temporary separation. Those who are gone before us, are waiting for us. Oh! It will be a happy meeting before the throne of the Lamb–out of the reach of sin and sorrow, to meet and part no more!”

Oh, this is so true!

And as I have reflected on this sin that I thought had disappeared from my life forever, I realized that it had only lay dormant for many years, while I faced many battles with other sins, and then rushed back just when I least suspected.

And so I am back in the Word, re-memorizing the verses that were so helpful to me many years ago and finding new verses to memorize that will help me. And I am working very hard to take my thoughts captive–determinedly turning my brain from the worrisome, anxious thoughts before they spiral downward and out of control.

This is very personal to share this morning. But I share it here because I hope that this will encourage you, my readers, in several ways–

1. I hope it will remind you that our battles with sin are never over. They ebb and flow but we should never think we have beaten something completely. Knowing this will keep us on our guard against it and help us to maintain victory. Victory over sin is not an event but rather a lifetime of watchful maintenance.

2. If you are fighting against worry or anxiety–or any other sin, for that matter–I hope this encourages you, too, to take your thoughts captive. I hope that you will realize that you can win your battle with sin, through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer. And I hope that God may use this post to keep you from throwing your hands up in despair and just giving up.

3. I hope this will remind you of the power of God’s Word in our lives as believers.  God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and it is profitable for reproof and for correction (2 Timothy 3:16-17)–which is exactly what we need sometimes! The Bible is our sword (Ephesians 6:17) and without it, we are defenseless. May we remember this always but particularly in our fiercest battles.

Now go fight your personal battle with the sin that threatens to overtake you, relying on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for the strength and the wisdom you so desperately need. And stay watchful, because although the sin may disappear for awhile, it remains there waiting to pounce on you just when you least suspect it. We can stay spiritually strong and be prepared to fight by staying in the Word and walking closely with our heavenly Father–which is always our safest place.

Can’t We Just Get Along?

Many people are really getting tired of all the verbal dart throwing that is dominating our news feeds on social media and the news feeds from the so called news media. Several in Image result for loving vs judgingmy circle of friends have recently posted in social media that they just want us all to get along with each other. During the Christmas season we are longing for the promise of the angels, “peace on earth, good will to all men.”

As much as our world wants to believe that mankind is inherently good and that our world is improving and will continue to improve, reality is not showing that to be true. Instead, tensions seem to be increasing and our respective views are being used for division rather than building unity. Forgiveness and understanding seem to be in short supply. Many seem to be wandering into their own peculiar world of isolationism alienating those who disagree and even casting doubt on the intelligence, integrity and even the character and faith of “those people.”

I have come to believe that as much as many of us really do want to get along with the rest of the world, somehow the world of dialog has been reconfigured for us. It seems that it is socially acceptable to love our neighbor so long as they agree with us. Love is a choice, therefore, the prevailing patterns show that we will love those who agree with us and castigate and eviscerate all who disagree, or at the very least avoid interactions with them. It is as though there are other forces at work in our world. As many as there are that say they just want to get along, it seems that lines are being drawn for us that are beyond our control or at least at work in our subconscious. Those lines tell us that as long as you agree with me, we can get along. It is not even alignment of truth systems that matter. If you can’t support my train of thought or behavior, we can’t have rational discussion or cordial relationship, and I may even take you to court. Even though we profess to value congeniality, we seem to have lost our ability to disagree with civility.

I am going to suggest that we need to be careful about discerning what is going on in our world. As much as we claim to be in control of ourselves and our destinies, the Bible tells us that there are other forces at work. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We need to keep in mind at all times, who and what we’re really fighting against.

It is not “those guys.” There is a spiritual battle that is being waged and, if we allow it, we will be pawns in the battle between good and evil. The end result that until Christ returns to this earth, the purposes of evil will sway heavily in our world. The Apostle Paul wrote that we once lived following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. What Paul is saying here is that the world is and has been following the lead of Satan (the prince of the power of the air) and that pursuit takes us in a downward spiral. We need to acknowledge that.

Our current mindset and behavior does not line up with the teachings of Jesus, nor should it be representative of Christians or evangelicals, Catholics or whatever brand a person of faith has these days. How can I say this? Jesus was criticized by the Jewish leaders for having dinner and socializing with those who didn’t live up to the standards the leaders of the faith had interpreted from the Scriptures. To be sure, some of them had made up a lot of rules that were not part of God’s word, and they replaced the relationship that God desires to have with us with a code of rules upon which man would be able to assess our true spirituality. When asked which is the great commandment in the law, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:34-40) Think relationship, not works, not rules.

In another scene, the Jewish leaders challenged the disciples because Jesus was dining with “tax collectors and sinners.” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:9-13) How would Christ hope to draw sinners to himself if he disassociated himself from any who sinned? The reality is that he would not have come to this world because we are all sinners. Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He paid the ultimate sacrifice of love before we believed and while we were still sinners. The self-righteous condemnation of others has no place in Christian circles. It only plays into the hands of the forces of evil engaged in the heavenly battle. It destroys the message of love that Christ brought into this world when he came as a baby, and died on the cross, out of love, for our sins. We are the sick and the sinners that Jesus came to call, and continues to call.

So why can’t we all get along? There is a very real battle being waged for the minds and souls of mankind. In his first letter to the early church, the apostle Peter wrote, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him …” (1 Peter 5:8) It is a battle of good and evil that was set before this world was created when Lucifer, now known as Satan, rebelled against God and led a group of angels to challenge God. This battle is ongoing and is being waged over the souls of mankind. It is interesting to note that God could have obviated this battle over the souls of men by creating us to be automatically obedient to him. But he loved us so much that he created the human species to be unique among all of creation as the only beings capable of making choices of love, hate, indifference, conscious obedience, or rejection. He wanted us to have the ability to love him in return and that ability also required giving us a choice for obedience or rejection of our Creator.

We need to discern and acknowledge which battle we are fighting. It is not against “those guys.” People who make different choices than some of us have made, have ultimately been directly or indirectly influenced by the rulers and powers playing in the heavenly battle over our souls. When all is said and done, we are all human beings put here on this earth for a purpose. Those of us who love God (the first great commandment) need to learn how to pass along the love with which God has loved us to love our neighbors as he has loved us. Does this mean that all of our behaviors are in keeping with his commandments? No, but it means that we still need to love each other so that we aren’t inhibiting others from seeing the God who loves us all, and gave himself up for us.

Would I like to see us all get along? Absolutely. Do I acknowledge that there are forces at work dividing us as people? Yes, for sure. Are there behavior patterns that go against God’s design for us? Yes, there are. Is it my job to poke a finger in your eye to point out those behaviors? No. It is God’s job to judge. It is my job to love the person next to me so that they can see God through me. It is God’s truth that brings light to our path. Don’t take the toothpick out of your brother’s eye before you have taken the log out of your own eye.

Yes, many, if not most, will not accept the truth of God’s word. But let’s not put ourselves in the position of being the arbiters of who has and who has found grace under his truths. Scripture tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This is taking the log out of your own eye before worrying about the speck in your neighbor’s eye. I have many logs to remove. Perhaps you do as well. Let’s learn how to love one another and be distributors of God’s grace in generous amounts as has been given to us. Let’s help our neighbors see who God really is.

Why Do I Do The Things I Don’t Want To Do?

Romans 7 is a classic passage for those who fight against our human reactions and responses to different situations. The Apostle Paul begins by telling us that the wages of sin are death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (6:23). None of us wants to sin, but as long as we’re in these earthly bodies and until we inherit our glorified bodies we will have a battle with sin. Paul says beginning in 7:18, For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So what’s the point? This week I received an article regarding a well known golfer who, while he is a believer, is known for brash comments, angry reactions to poorly played golf shots, and a reputation in the club house of being less than cordial at times. The media have pretty much diminished this man’s Christian witness by pointing out his judgmental and behavioral shortcomings as a juxtaposition against his claims of faith. It is a sad situation, indeed, when the media pick up on such things to point out our behaviors that don’t honor God. Yet, if we all lived in the public eye as this man does, how would we be appraised in the public square?

I, for one, am reluctant to pass judgment on such a man because I too have banged my club to the ground when a golf shot is poorly hit. No, I’m not a professional like he is, but at times, I experience the same frustration. The frustration is unwarranted because I don’t commit the time to the game that might limit the number of errant golf shots. In this arena and others, I find Paul’s words to be so appropriate for me and my life. I am just glad that I’m not in the public eye like the tour pro is. But wait! Is that the end of the story? Is this all there is to the story of redemption and forgiveness that we find in Christ? To use the words of Paul again, may it never be!

This same Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi (3:12 ff), not that I’m already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Jesus has made me his own. I forget what is behind me and strain forward to what lies ahead. Let those of us who are mature think like this. Let’s not be discouraged by our past failures. Let’s press on, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us into right thinking and the resulting behavior. Let’s grab hold of the progress we’ve already made and claim that land.

Now here’s a bold statement, Paul tells the Philippians to imitate him. Imitate those who are following our example. Don’t follow those who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ, and whose end is destruction. Don’t follow those who celebrate their accumulated wealth, or are proud of their “don’t give a damn” attitude and lifestyle. Live as a citizen of heaven whose priorities are aligned with the teachings of Scripture.

Paul writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it [heaven] we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.” (3:20-21) We ought to live as though we are anticipating the arrival of Jesus returning to take the people who have placed their faith in him, to heaven to be with him for eternity.

Are you living in expectation? Are you living in realistic anticipation, believing that he will come like a thief in the night, knowing that he will come without two weeks notice? None of us is perfect, but are we confessing our sins so that he can forgive our sins as he has promised? (1 Jn 1:9) You know confession is good for the soul. It keeps us mindful of our true condition as unworthy recipients of God’s grace. At some point we’ll talk about not living in a perpetual pity party, but for now let us understand that it is healthy for us to understand what we have done … or not … to deserve our salvation. God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8) It is by grace (undeserved favor) we have been saved, through faith. And this (faith) is not of our own doing, it is the gift of God.

My friends and family, please let us live lives in such a way as to express our love and appreciation for the love that was so lavished on us.

Grace and Peace …

Preach the Gospel …

There is an old saying that counsels us as believers to preach the gospel and if necessary to Image result for Word of Goduse words. Christ advised that the two great commandments were (1) that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and (2) that we are to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Christ later challenged us to love our neighbors in the same way that He loved us. So what are we to do with these commands? How then, should we preach the gospel?

First of all, we need to have the word of God hidden in our hearts so that we would not sin against God (Ps 119:11). With God’s word as a foundation and guide for our lives, we have a body of truth on which we can conduct lives and interactions with others. Following God’s word we will do such things as leaving the judging of the world to God. We will do everything in our power to point people to Jesus in such a way as to not be a hindrance to God’s desire to draw all men to Himself (Jn 12:32). I’ve told this story before, but there was a time when I carried the burden of being God’s salesman. One day He showed me that no one comes to the Father unless the Father draws him (Jn 6:44). This changed my entire approach. This gave me the freedom to set aside my agenda and focus on being a friend and pray earnestly that God would use our interactions to draw my friends. It really is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that opens the eyes of our hearts to the truth of the gospel and the battle that we are waging against evil.

Secondly, when Christ was dealing with the world, he knew their hearts and knew how to address their heart needs. In the same way, we need to know our audience. We need to learn to speak God’s word in such a way that will shed light rather than confuse. Remember we are to be salt and light in this world. Our job is to facilitate the seeing of God’s truth and through our love to help others see God. The Bible calls this speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Recent history is filled with stories where well-intentioned Christians simply point hurting people to scripture, without loving them first and guiding them to the truth of scripture later. Yes, we know what the Bible says, but the writer of the book of Hebrews penned these words, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Heb 5:12-13). And the Peter wrote in his letter to the church, “Like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)

So we see that we are all on a journey. Some of us are ready for the meat of the word  but others who are just beginning, are needing the milk to nurture their growth into salvation. Children, grandchildren and friends, let us be men and women who, under the power of the Holy Spirit, are able to discern the needs of those with whom we come in contact and communicate Gods’ word (truth) in love. Jesus said in his prayer recorded in John 17, “Your word is truth.” Communicating the truth in love does not mean hiding the truth. It means speaking God’s word like we believe that it is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword penetrating to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Allow God’s word to flow through you by your actions and allow it to flow in love.

Hopefully this will help encourage us to rightly handle the word of Truth.

Reflections on Family

One day a friend asked how it was that we had experienced success as a family. He has interacted with our family and wanted me to write down those things that we felt were foundational to our family situation.

I think it should be said here that any positive family dynamics are the result of people who desire and are willing to work hard at making the family successful. Is there an occasional stink bomb? Sure, but we are committed to working through these things. The list that follows is the beginning of telling the story.

While the list is not comprehensive, nor is it a guarantee for tranquility, I thought it might be of interest to some to reflect on some of the concepts that have influenced our family relationships. It must also be said here that those facing family challenges today should not throw in the towel. It is never too late to start to bring God into your family. It starts with you and prayer; just you and God. Earnest prayers are heard by God and God answers prayer. My prayer is that you will be encouraged by these reflections created over coffee and “donuts” one Wednesday morning in Breckenridge, CO.

Family
A Journey in Progress

Breakfast conversation with the six adults at Daylight Donuts, Breckenridge, CO
Reflection on a 50th Anniversary and what makes a family successful

  • Preceding prayers for the children and spouses of children and grandchildren by previous generations – Dad’s parents began praying for our daughter’s husbands from the day they learned we were expecting each child.
  • Dad invited Christ into his heart at the age of seven, and as a teenager re-committed his life to follow the Lord – Train up a child in the way he should go – raised in an environment filled with exposure to discussions of God
  • After reflecting on the story of Solomon, Dad asked God for two things, wisdom, because God was pleased with Solomon’s request, and a wife who would be strong in the faith when his faith was weak – Solomon’s wives led him away from God.
  • God answers Dad’s prayers by providing a wife of character, strong in the faith to compliment my weaknesses – a woman committed to God first, then to her husband
  • The family celebrates milestones birthdays, anniversaries, graduations
  • Modeling home leadership that demonstrates real faith by living out a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – lives that diligently try to exemplify the two great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors
  • Mimi and Papa respect God’s model of the home by honoring sons-in-law leadership of their homes by communicating home leadership concepts through them
  • Overlooking, yet challenging, comments not well thought out – overlooking each others’ faults – not being easily offended by sins of commission or omission, slight or oversight – forgiveness (both asking and giving) is a key word
  • Abundant gift of hospitality, keeps us getting together at special occasions and random times
  • Sons-in-law knit together as they are great friends and cover for each other – part of God’s answer to the prayers of previous generations
  • Common commitment to faith and faithfulness – a conviction that a personal relationship with Christ is a top priority so the table is set for each family member to recognize the choice before them – prayer without ceasing for the faith and growth of each family member
  • Choosing church relationships and engagement are a priority and important part of family values and extended “family of believers” relationships
  • Trust – freedom, empowerment, and encouragement to succeed in being your own person – all that God made you to be
  • Being for each other – thinking the best of each other – presuming the best intentions
  • Sons-in-law still break bread with “Dad” – one SIL estimates over 1,000 hours of coffee in early morning hours – another mentored in the faith for over a year – investing in the heads of our homes
  • Higher mission and purpose – life is bigger than our family, e.g., FCA, Father Daughter, Father Son Retreats, Entertaining events like CEO roundtable, College and Career Group at church, involvement in church at all levels – lives focused on helping and praying for others keeps self in perspective
  • We all support the mission and purpose calling of each family
  • Investment in posterity – when girls were dating – invested in dating choice decisions
  • Humility that comes from study of and understanding of the scriptures
  • Marriages built on the biblical model; man is the head of the house, husband and wife are to love and respect each other
  • Play together. Family vacation to the beach or the mountains. Hiking and biking with ice cream treats afterwards. Movie nights, bowling, and playing games. A joyful heart is good medicine.
  • Focus on what unites us not divides.
  • We have very strong personalities in our family. All are leaders. The diversity of personalities can divide in a spirit competition or even playing favorites. Yet, a common commitment to a belief bring unity built on love and faith. Some families break under such differences. In love, it unites making us stronger.
  • Mentorship and pursuit of wisdom. Always seeking to learn from friends in the faith, family, and work who may impart insight especially during challenging seasons.
  • There is a glass cabinet in the foyer of our home containing the Bibles of parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. This is our way of honoring our fathers and mothers, and thanking God for their faithfulness and prayerful impact in our lives and the lives of our respective family members. There is a rich history of godly people who prayed for their successor generations.

 

We then gathered the input of the grandkids (ages 11 – 20)

  • Laughter
  • Loyalty to each other
  • Joyful
  • Mimi’s capability to destroy our will to live in card games – we love to play games together
  • Thorough discussion – talk about real stuff – communication
  • We play a lot
  • Eat together
  • Own their own faith
  • Church is not a chore
  • Grateful – attitude of thankfulness

 

Powerful and Effective

There are some topics that are worth second, third and even unlimited visits. Prayer is one of those topics. At this moment, I’m called to pray for a very important time in my family’s life, and I’m encouraged to pray because of stories I’ve heard recently about how God has answered my prayers in ways that were considered impossible. A friend has had a strained relationship with a son. That son was coming to visit his father for many more days than was even considered useful by the father. The father shared his concern for the planned visit with me. So we began to pray.

We prayed that God would do a work in the hearts of both the father and the son. We prayed that God would glorify himself in the building of that long broken relationship. We prayed for healing. At times like this, it is important that we pray things that are in keeping with God’s word. God wants families to be whole. That is how he made them. God wants fathers to celebrate their sons, like the father of the prodigal son. God wants our parent child relationships to mirror those that he wants to have with us. As a son, I always wanted to have a close relationship with my father, yet at the same time I wanted to find my own faith, I wanted to make my own way in this world. Still, in the depths of my heart, I had a desire for the approval and support of my father. For reasons not completely clear to me to this day, my relationship with my dad didn’t become mutually rewarding until I was almost in my forties.

I have two sons in law who, like so many, have had awkward relationships at times with their fathers. For a short season, I wanted to step in to fill that gap, until I realized that these two men were coming to grips with the way God has made all of us. We are all made to desire the love of our fathers. Sadly, too many men will never experience that warm relationship, but that doesn’t mean we don’t desperately  desire it. So too with my friend, who for a variety of reasons has been distanced from his sons. With the one son coming to visit, we prayed for the time to be such that would allow for the relationship to be healed.

Despite the dismal outlook for the pending visit, prayer was critical. I was reminded of the scripture found in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power and is working.” Another translation calls these prayers powerful and effective. We need to pray for each other, building each other up not only with encouraging words, but also in prayer, asking God to do his work in the lives of those we love. Hebrews 10:24-25 provide this instruction, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This stirring each other up and encouraging one another comes through exhortation and encouraging words, yes, but also through prayer.

If you had been able to hear the story told by my friend a day after his son’s visit, you would have known that these things happen only when the power of God is released through much prayer, calling on his character and desire to draw the hearts of the children to their fathers. The prophet Malachi describing the Day of the Lord says, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” It is important when we pray that we know the heart of God in these matters so that we can pray, knowing his will with all confidence asking God to remain faithful.

Christ gave us a great model for intercessory prayer, i.e., praying for each other. In John 17 he prayed for all of his followers, present and future. Christ prayed for you and me on that day. In the same way, we need to be praying for each other to be released from the guilt that so easily sidetracks us, to be filled with love for those around us so that we will model for the rest of the world what love of our brothers really means. Christ instructed us to follow his example of how he loved us, by loving each other to show that we are his disciples.

God bless.