Growing and Getting the Idea

In the previous post, I shared about my beginnings on the journey of faith. Based on my understanding of scripture, there is no doubt that in spite of my herky-jerky beginnings (think albatross, think gooney bird) that I was, in fact, completely and totally covered by the blood of Christ and my sins, past and future, were washed away. I had the behavior patterns of a young boy growing into his teen years with all that entails. But as I grew older, I was also growing in the knowledge of God. When I was 16, I attended a series of meetings (known in those days as Deeper Life evangelistic meetings) in Meade, Kansas. It was during those meetings that I was gripped with the need to make my faith my own. To own my faith meant to me that I needed to rely less on what my parents thought and more on what God would teach me through His word, the Bible.

A few years later, I would undergo a significant test. Part of being Mennonite, also meant that I was taught that war and the killing that was part of war was not for Christians. There came the time after registering with the Selective Service System (SSS) as a conscientious objector (one who was willing to serve, but in non-military capacities) that I felt I needed to come to my own conclusions in this matter. I studied and prayed and studied some more and prayed some more. After searching the scriptures that were held by the church to lead one to the conscientious objector conclusion, and various other passages that also provided insight and instruction in my search, I came to a conclusion that was different from the view held by my church and my parents and would have to be communicated to my father. While it was a dramatic setting that I’ll share more about later, I was proud of my father as he listened to my heartfelt confession of the soul. He knew that I had been searching the scriptures out for quite some time and that this was not from a rebellious heart, nor was it an arbitrary decision. Effectively, the result of my decision would cause me to be drafted (twice) for the Vietnam war so this was not a decision without consequence.

From my childhood days I had heard the stories of Solomon and how he gained his wisdom. What grabbed my heart was that God was pleased with this request. So, I too, because this pleased God, began praying for wisdom. At the same time, my mother had been praying Colossians 1:9-12 over me nearly every day. Among the many aspects of that prayer, a couple of parts were that I would grow in the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and knowledge and that I would grow in the knowledge of God. Without being prideful, I believe that God has honored those prayers. He has put me into situations for leading churches in seasons when He knew I needed a growth spurt, when I needed to learn what it was like to depend on Him. At times my learning was by observing how men of God walked by faith and at other times, I was in situations where I literally made sure the passenger seat in the car was empty so that He could be there with me and we would talk about things that were heavy on my heart.

I’ve found it interesting how He has insisted on using this ragamuffin guy with all his imperfections (just ask my wife) to carry the good news and to be a voice both inside the church and outside. I’m reminded of Samson and Peter as I think about my journey. I also think of David too. Now that I’m approaching my 69th birthday (in two weeks) I wish I could say that I’d figured out the air pockets and downdrafts in this walk of faith. But God is my source and my strength. He gives me a word for this person and that person who know me and my imperfections. Yet His word is true and when He gives us a word, it will strike the chord that God wants to be struck in another person’s heart and mind. Paul’s second letter to Timothy chapter 4 comes to mind where he says, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season, correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine, instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Paul goes on from there to tell how men will turn aside to myths and false teachings.

Our task is to be like the Bereans (Acts 10) who tested everything they heard against the scriptures. Even the things that Paul taught them were tested. They made their faith their own and they learned to grow in the knowledge of God as a result.

God grant us steadfast hearts that pine for You and You alone!

Starting the Journey of Faith

In my last post I commented that some of us grow up in a Christ-centered home and others grow up in homes that are almost the antithesis of that Christ-centered home. Those who actually go to the point of professing belief in the salvation that comes from Christ alone, however, set out on the same journey of faith. For some the embarkation on that journey is indiscernible and for others the transition is a marked transformation as the Holy Spirit begins to shape our minds to be more Christ-like. The degree of change seemingly has little to do with our upbringing. It has more to do with behavioral modification brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.

The interesting piece of this is that while changes may be less or more noticeable by others, the real change and the change that matters is what God sees in the heart. Our behavior and speech patterns are driven by the heart. So to some degree, the heart change is seen by others, but we must acknowledge that some of us have inherited mountains of pain, of degradation, and violation. It’s what we call baggage. Just like the picture above, we bring that baggage into our relationship with Jesus. It has often been said that our relationships with our earthly fathers will influence how we are able to relate to our Heavenly Father. It is also true that troubled homes, bad marriages, dysfunctional churches and all the rest weigh heavily in our journey of faith.

These things are all part of our complex personalities and broken lives that we bring to Jesus when we come to faith. He understands all that. He knows where you’ve been. He can redeem the most desperate sinner who comes to Him in simple faith. I’m reminded of Rahab, the prostitute, who let the Israelite spies down in a basket from the wall of Jericho. God not only spared her, but gave her a place in the lineage (genealogy) of Christ. She was the mother of Boaz who married Ruth! Talk about redemption! That simple act of putting herself at risk to save the spies who came from God’s people, showed us that her heart was faithful to Jehovah God. He knew her heart and not only spared her miraculously when He brought down the wall of Jericho, but gave her an honored place in the line from which Christ would be born.

So how does it look when one embarks on this journey? For me, it was praying to receive Christ at my mother’s bedside at the age of 7, and then not living a perfect life from that point on. Rather, because I grew up in a legalistic setting, it was a life filled with rules and judging people who played by the rules and those who did not. In retrospect, I became really good at judging people by their merits or sins for standards that were not consistently applied to myself.

There was a saying among the young girls in our church circles that said, “I don’t smoke, I don’t chew, and I don’t go with  boys that do.” Interestingly, in the middle of all this judging and my private life, God had my heart. I always pined for God. I wanted to be like David, a man after God’s own heart. In my private moments, While I wanted to live by the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, I didn’t play so well at the stuff like judging and trying to get away with things, for example, smoking. Smoking wasn’t the real issue. The real issue that I had to resolve was this deep seated rebellious heart. The smoking was only a symptom of the rebellious heart. While in many ways I sought God’s counsel on matters of life’s decisions, I was a classic example of a young man committed to being in control and no rules or authority was going to tell me otherwise. To some degree, I was blind to that control or authority issue. Today, my wife calls it a stubborn streak. As has been passed down by the women in our family, they say that I inherited that from my dad. Dad is with Jesus now but he probably would have denied having that stubborn streak, just like me!

Suffice it to say that the word picture I would use is that of an albatross learning to fly or then learning to land. The beginning of my faith walk bore a striking resemblance to these feeble attempts. Check this out. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVmoYVTZTXU)

I hope this doesn’t discourage you from attempting to fly. One parting thought for this leg of the journey. God loved you before your were conceived, at which time, He formed you in your mother’s womb. He knew what would happen with each of your days before one of them came to be. He knew how each day would effect you and guess what? He has a plan for you as a person that will cause you to flourish to be a light and a help to others trying to find their wings. But you must take the step of faith, like Abraham had to take the first step to start the journey. The writer of Hebrews tells us that, “without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (11:6)

Until next time …

Standing Amazed

The old hymn says, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene…” That pretty much describes me right now. I am standing amazed at how God is working in the lives of many of my friends. While I’ve operated from an understanding that no one comes to the Father except that the Father draws them, I’ve been amazed to see that drawing at work. I’ve been praying for some of the people in my life and hoping I stay out of God’s way so that He can do His work of drawing. Guess what? He’s doing it!

Why are we amazed when God does what He says He will do? I was reading again this morning in John 6:44 and went from there to Ephesians, 1st and 2nd chapters and then to Romans chapter 8 where Paul talks about how God foreknew those who would believe in Him. We all have different journeys to arrive in the place of faith. I shared a post from Billy Graham a few days ago about faith being the thing that pleases God the most. Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness. Follow Hebrews chapter 11, often referred to as the faith’s hall of fame.

Faith is something that we all need to wrestle with. Do we believe God? Do we believe that God will keep His word and carry out His promises? One man’s journey begins in a Christian home and his transition to faith is barely discernible. Another grows up in a world of abuse and anger, yet, when the God of eternity touches him and draws him to faith, his life is dramatically changed. But what is that journey? I want to pursue that topic in the next few blogs.

Christ died for the sins of the whole world so that whoever believes in Him will not perish (in hell) but have eternal life. It is by grace that we have been saved, through faith, and that faith not attained under our own strength, it is a gift from God Himself. Not accomplished by works so that none of us can boast in how we found our way to faith in Christ.

Until next time, try standing amazed at how He is working in this world in the lives of men!

What’s Papa Thinking?

For some time now, I’ve been living in a world that (a) twists the truth to suit their own fancies, or (b) refuses to even acknowledge that we can know truth. Up until now, I’ve been writing the Ponderosa Perspectives blog which is an attempt to share a few thoughts from my perspective. The audience for that blog is broad and includes followers of Christ and those who aren’t so wild about the person of Jesus Christ. That blog will continue to serve a purpose and will continue to be populated and grow.

What’s Papa Thinking is intended to be a reflection of what the triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is doing in my heart through His word as I understand the scriptures. Paul says in Romans 14:5 that “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” The things you’ll see written here are topics that come to mind through daily life that will be shared in light of those things of which I am convinced the scriptures have to say on the particular topic.

So I am very comfortable that this blog may not have a broad following, but it will be a collection of those things that matter most to me which, then, are those thoughts that I want to leave behind for my children, grandchildren and their children after them.

A pastor that I follow on Instagram, Ray Ortlund, today quoted Horatius Bonar, a Scottish pastor of the 19th century, in this way, “Man is now thinking out a Bible for himself; framing a religion in harmony with the development of liberal thought; constructing a worship on the principles of taste and culture; shaping a god to suit the expanding aspirations of the age. The extent of the mischief no one can calculate. A soul without faith, a church without faith, a nation without faith, a world without faith – what is to be their future? What is their present? When faith goes, all good things go. When unbelief comes in, all evil things follow.”

If this was true in the 19th century, it has greater applicability today. I do not intend for this blog to be fear mongering or seeing demons behind every world event. The purpose of this blog is to serve as a reminder for my family to be called back to the truth of scripture as they work diligently to be the salt and light of the gospel in the world around them. The truth of scripture is the story of God’s design and love for man and how man should first of all love God in response and love his neighbor as much as he loves himself. If we get these things right, the world will know that we are not of this world. We are children of the most high God.

One final thought in this opening entry … well two … first, I may not say everything correctly and so am open to correction and reproof that is based on scripture. Secondly, I acknowledge that the world will not broadly embrace the truths shared here, but there are also those in the church who will differ. I pray that the tone of what is written demonstrates the words of A. W. Tozer from his “Knowledge of the Holy” where he says, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.” Blessings and love to you all.

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