Tag Archives: Hide the word in your heart

Growing in Grace

I was reading Psalms 118 this morning and was touched by verse 14 which says, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” It struck me that our faith walk is a journey. Abraham journeyed to the land of promise. The people of Israel journeyed from Egypt to the land promised to Abraham. The Apostle Paul counsels us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. (Php 2:12) In the letter to the church at Colossae, Paul prayed for the people to increase in the knowledge of God. The prophet Jeremiah shares a word from God that says, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches; but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight,’ declares the Lord.”

As I reflect on this concept of spiritual growth, I am drawn into Psalms 119 where nearly every one of the 175 verses of that psalm refers to your precepts, your law, your rules, your statutes, your word, your testimonies, your promise and other descriptors of God’s word. Verse 105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” God’s word brings us light to find our way in an otherwise dark world. God’s word helps us discern our relationship with our government. This is particularly helpful in the times in which we live. God’s word helps us find our way with our families, our employers, our churches and a myriad of other relationships.

God’s word gives us hope for the future. Psalm 119:90 says, “Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth and it stands fast.” This is a great hope that we all can have. God’s faithfulness to his word and to who he is will endure to all generations! That means that until this world passes away, (Lk 21:33) God’s faithfulness will always be with us. And once that happens, God will provide a new heaven and a new earth that will be the dwelling place of God. Revelation 21 tells us, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Now if that doesn’t give us hope for our future, nothing will!

Spiritual growth helps us in our personal growth as well. In Peter’s second letter to the churches (3:18) he calls us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Growing in grace is something that we could all use. In the Lord’s Prayer cited in Matthew 6, he teaches us to pray, “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors …” Forgiveness is one way of extending grace. Christ goes on to say, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” So extending the grace we have received to others allows the grace we receive to grow even more. The harsh words and rhetoric of our political campaigns are divisive and cause sharp lines to be drawn between people rather than drawing people to unity. In America, we are divided as never before. I constantly have to ask myself what part I am playing in extending grace and creating unity.

Ephesians chapter 4 is a powerful passage that calls us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This bearing with one another in love is called grace. While we were still sinners, God chose to forgive us of our sins because of the blood of Christ. That is grace.

For us it appears in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As I read these words from Galatians 5, peace fills my heart. They feel like gracious living. These are the fruits of the Holy Spirit that is given us by Christ at moment we stake our faith in him. What are we doing to grow in gracious living? We are all on a journey and God, who gave us the Spirit and began this work in us will continue working with us to bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. He knows us and is patient with us, continuing to encourage us on our journey until the last day. He can calm the storms of the sea, he can also help us grow in grace.

Grace and Peace!

Prayer

This Christmas I was given the movie DVD War Room as a gift. Last night we had a family movie night in our theater to watch the movie once again. As I’ve reflected on the various messages in the movie, I caught myself in a Christian-ese world of thought. You know, all scripture is true and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16), but sometimes we pull pieces and place too much emphasis on different verses. My desire here is to be a man who does his best to present himself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)

On days when we’re “feeling our oats” or being full of ourselves we like to offer to pray for others and quietly, in our hearts, quote the last phrase of James 5:16 which says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power …” In so doing we puff out our chests in our magnanimous prayers. This verse is absolutely true, but let’s not forget the other side either.

In Luke 18:9-14, we have a very different picture. It is the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Christ tells a parable about a Pharisee who was in the temple square and proudly praying to God out loud saying, “I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector ….” He goes on to expound on all the “righteous deeds” that he does for God in his prayer. Then the scene shifts to the tax collector who is standing far off and would not even lift his eyes up to heaven, but beat his chest saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” Which prayer do you think God heard?

Christ tells us that the tax collector went home justified rather than the uber religious man. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. The word that struck me today after watching War Room is that a family’s life was changed by a woman who fell on her knees before God out of a life of self-sufficiency, declaring her need and dependence on God’s mercy.

As we think about prayer, and how powerful it is, it occurs to me that righteous people are not prideful about their prayers as a righteous person, but rather righteous people know and understand their needs before God. In humility and contrition, we bring our requests to him who changes the hearts of men.

Once again, blessed by the various media God uses to touch our hearts.

Significant to My Faith Journey

This morning I posted three Bible verses written in my mother’s Mom's Verseshandwriting. The three verses were Luke 6:31, James 5:16 and 1 Corinthians 6:20. Obviously, the fact that these are in Mom’s handwriting brings back a lot of memories. Memories of her notes all around the house. I always admired the artistry of her handwriting. I thought is was delicately feminine and elegant at the same time. But beyond all that, the fact that she chose not to memorize from her Bible, and rather to sear these words in her mind by writing them first and then committing them to memory. This was a habit she continued until the day she went into the hospital where she transitioned into heaven two weeks later. As the years wore on, she took to memorizing chapters and then entire books of the Bible. She hid God’s word in her heart, she meditated on God’s wisdom day and night. When one of us would be feeling down, or acting up, she could draw from memory a verse that aptly applied to the situation on our minds or that would have the effect of easing the tension in our home.

She encouraged us to memorize as well. In our small town in Manitoba, there was someone who was impassioned about children’s need to learn the scriptures. So he made an offer to anyone who wanted to go to summer camp. For anyone who would memorize 100 verses, he would pay their camp fees. This prompted my parents to encourage me to take up the challenge, which I did! I remember to this day, saying the last 5 verses to the person in charge, as we were literally loading the kids onto the truck. I had made it! I had memorized 100 verses and earned a free week at camp! I jumped onto that truck feeling as high as the sky! Many, if not most, of those verses still stick with me and I can recall them when I hear the reference or am able to finish them when I hear the pastor begin to cite a verse. Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11.

All this memorization was done in the King James version in those days, so quite frequently when I think of a verse that applies in a current situation, but can’t remember the reference (address), I’ll have to look in the King James version of my electronic Bible to find it. What a boon to my faith and to my grounding in the faith. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Jeremiah 17:9 is one of those passages that has regularly provided a word of caution in assessing my own motives and desires.

A quick word about the truck mentioned above. In those days we didn’t have the luxury of things such as school buses. While this will horrify moms and dads today, we would get probably 30 kids up on the back of an open box 5-ton truck, and ride the 93 miles to the camp in a standing position. Great times were had in those trucks and we thought nothing of the safety aspects. This was the transportation available to go to camp! Another truck followed behind with our bags containing a couple of changes of clothes and swim suits for the week.

The teachings we had at those camps were often times evangelistic, but also instructional for spiritual growth most often. It was in the woods of that camp where I would go to reflect and think about what God wanted with me. I wasn’t worried about my friends, but I sensed from those early days that God had His hand on me. All part of the journey. God wants to have His hand on you as well, if you’ll invite Him to lead you in the way that you should go.

Just a brief reflection in the rear view mirror …

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!