Spiritual Growth

Some Thoughts on the Current Events

I can’t even think of any word but “crazy” to describe what is going on in the world right now. I am not sure this word even fully expresses what we are all feeling. It’s funny how you can play out and worry about all sorts of scenarios and never even dream up the one that actually happens. Coronavirus and “social distancing” was just not anything I had ever even considered.

Not that this is that bad. The percentage of people actually getting sick is low and the death toll is even lower. Us “younger folk” are just a little bit sheltered. Especially in America. We haven’t lived through the Spanish flu, the polio outbreak, or the wars of last century. While 911 is more recent and did affect us, it didn’t really affect the majority of us personally. And look up the Black Death in the middle ages. This is when it pays to know a bit of history. Really helps to keep things in perspective!

So I guess we all realize that (for most of us, anyway) it could be so much worse. But perhaps the real question is: Will it get worse?

And this is probably making us all a little unsettled and nervous. We are facing empty store shelves, keeping our school kids occupied, lack of Christian fellowship due to closing churches, and giant questions about how this will affect our economy (and, closer to home, our own jobs and income).

We are so independent, particularly those of us Christians that live in westernized nations. We’ve had so little opportunity to rely on the Lord.

So here we go. For all of us, this will prove to be a test: Do we really believe what we say believe?

Do we really trust God to provide? To carry us through the challenges this event offers to us? Do we know, without a doubt, that He will carry us through whatever is to come?

And how do we prepare for what is to come? What can we do to prepare for any trial–whether it’s across the world or just a trial I am facing alone?

Yes, these are important questions.

I read an article recently that talked about how unprepared people were for this latest turn of events. So few people stock emergency items or even a decent amount of food in their homes. The author mentioned how his grandmother was always ready for an emergency, with rows of canned goods on her shelves. They would store food and other items to prepare for any unexpected emergency–whether it would be a snowstorm or a war.

But somehow, as materialism and wealth grew in this country and there was always an over-abundance of goods on our store shelves, we grew lazy and short-sighted.

I was thinking about this in light of our spiritual preparedness. I have always loved Psalm 1 where it talks about the tree growing by the river. A strong, healthy tree has deep roots going way down into the soil. You can’t see the roots but when the winds blows that tree is prepared for it and will stand strong through any storm.

I want to be like that tree–totally prepared for any storm! I want to be ready to weather any unexpected turn of events, whether it be a world crisis or anything else.

Psalm 1 gives us insight into what it takes to become like that tree–

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the [a]ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he [b]meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the [c]rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

From this we can find two basic things we can do to grow deep roots of faith that will prepare us for any storm–

1. Remove ourselves from the influence of the ungodly and the company of sinners.

2. Meditate on the Word.

In a nutshell: Eliminate worldliness and all its influences and fill our mind with God’s Word.

Remove as much of the darkness as possible from our lives so that we can fully walk in the Light!

None of us know what trials will befall us, but we can be ready for any trial if we are walking close to God and basking in His light. That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard or that we never question. It just means that we can rest in the Lord. That we experience peace and joy, despite the trials. That we can think outside of ourselves and remember that we aren’t the only ones facing uncertain, troublesome times.

I don’t really have this down quite yet myself. But I have watched godly Christians around me. I am also drawing on the many biographies I’ve read of strong Christians. I know this is true. God is so faithful.

And so I continue to strive to grow and deepen my roots. I encourage you to do the same.

Because storms will come and storms will go. May we be like the strong tree that stands strong and gives hope in the midst of any storm that arises!

 

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in Yah, the Lord, is [b]everlasting strength.

Isaiah 26:3-4

 

 

 

On Knowing God’s Will

There are so many books, blog posts, and sermons about finding God’s will. Every Christian seems to be searching for God’s will for their lives. How can we know what His will is? Why doesn’t He just tell us?

This thing of God’s will remains a bit of a mystery to those of us who long to follow biblical principles. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently. It all started with a bit of commentary I read by Henry Morris–

“This could be read: ‘If any man sincerely wants to do His will, he shall know…’ Thus the first prerequisite to ascertaining God’s leading in some matter, or the truth about some doctrinal question, is a genuine willingness to believe the truth and to follow God’s will before they are made known, even if the answer goes against one’s preference.”

I am not sure why but this really struck me.

When we think of God’s will, we always think about the big decisions in life: Who do I marry? Which job should I take? Should I buy this house?

But isn’t knowing God’s will so much more than just these occasional big decisions?

A little later on that day, I was just sitting down to eat lunch when my husband came in, making a request of me. My flesh wanted to quip a smart remark and tell him to wait. But, suddenly, the thought came to me: What is God’s will in this situation? 

I knew what His will was. It was that I treat my husband kindly and do what he asked.

Throughout the rest of the week, time and time again, I was faced with these seemingly unimportant situations and this same thought would come to me: What is God’s will for my life right now?

And I suddenly realized something: I was faced with knowing exactly what God’s will was time and time again and made a choice not to do His will because I didn’t prefer it. My flesh didn’t like it or it was just too hard and so I made a choice to not follow God’s will.

Here are some ways we choose not to follow God’s will each and every day, even though we know exactly what His will is–

We respond unkindly, even though we know that God’s will for our lives is to be kind to others. (Ephesians 4:32)

We don’t take the time to listen to someone because we are busy doing something that could easily wait, even though we know God wants us to put others ahead of self. (Philippians 2:3-4)

We choose to waste time staring at our devices or the TV instead of doing something productive, even though we know God doesn’t want us to waste time. (Ephesians 5:16-17)

We choose to ignore prayer and Bible reading rather than make it a priority, even though God makes it clear that we need to know His Word and spend time with Him. (Matthew 6:33; John 15:5)

See what I mean? I could give so many more examples. I am sure you probably could, too.

We don’t speak up about Christ because we are afraid of what others will think. We don’t discipline our kids because we want them to like us. We don’t love others because they are mean and unkind to us. We don’t test and compare the things a teacher or author are saying against scripture because what they say makes us feel good. These things are clearly shown in scripture to be God’s will and yet we choose not to do them.

And I can’t help but think that we if we don’t prefer to actively pursue God’s will in these things, then why would we choose to obey the Lord in the big ones?

We are given a thousand opportunities to follow God’s revealed will every single day of our lives. And yet we so often choose not to do so. As I reflected on this, I realized that we often relegate these little choices to “personality” (Oh, I get angry, that’s just who I am or I don’t really like to read so I don’t need to read the Bible) OR we believe them to be insignificant–as if somehow they don’t really matter with so much other more important stuff going on in life.

But then I am reminded of this verse from Luke 16:10:

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.

I believe the principle of this verse applies to multiple situations, including today’s topic.

How important it is that we are faithful in following God’s will in the little things, so that we have a heart and mind prepared for following His will in the big things.

Sometimes we do not want to follow God’s will. This is when we must train ourselves to do so, anyway. We must raise ourselves above our unreliable, treacherous feelings and make the right choice.

So, you see, as life generally goes, we already know what God’s will is. We just don’t really want to follow it. Oh, we do in theory but when it comes to actually putting our desires into action, we so often fail.

Perhaps this is the beginning of knowing God’s will: Actively doing what we already know to be His will. Doing so will make us much more likely to follow His will when those big decisions come along. We will have trained ourselves to be ready and willing to obey, no matter which way God directs and no matter what we prefer.

 

 

Time for a Change

Have you ever felt like you were in a spiritual battle when you started to really give sincere effort to read and study the Word? There’s a reason for that.

Satan knows that the power for the Christian life is in God’s Word.

It’s not in a book about God’s Word, it’s not in some mystical experience that could be God (but surely isn’t), and it’s not in the music that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. These are counterfeits. They are designed to make us feel close to God without really being close to God. 

It’s called deception.

I am amazed at how few Christians study the Word. They say they are a Christian and, yet, there is no love in their heart for the Bible.

Of course, we can see why this is.

The church has, ever so steadily, been moving its focus from the Bible to other things. Things like entertainment, programs, social justice, and political agendas.

And so its people are left without the nourishment of the Word, without the protection of the Word, and without the reward of the Word. And they do not even realize it.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I really started digging into the Bible. It was then that I started actually understanding what I believe.

I am so ashamed to even write this. How could I be a strong believer and wait that long to study the Word?

While I was full of conviction and dedication and commitment to God, my half-illiteracy of the Word was a very real encumbrance.

So this is why I write. Many of you have read all of this before. I’ve included it in earlier posts. But I just keep thinking about this right now.

God’s Word has been relegated to the background by most Christians as they try to live their lives the best they can. They search out books, counselors, and even medication to help them cope when life throws a curve ball. While these things aren’t necessarily wrong, why is God and His Word always our last place to go? Why do some of us never open up the Word to search for answers there?

I remember hearing someone say about twenty years ago that the next doctrine that would be severely attacked is the sufficiency of God’s Word. Boy, was he right. This is being attacked in so many ways, it is hard to keep track.

The mainstream church is teaching its followers that–

The Word is no longer sufficient to help us with our problems.

The Word is no longer sufficient to deepen our intimacy with God.

The Word is no longer sufficient to teach us the Truth.

The Word is no longer sufficient (or relevant enough) to reach the lost.

This lack of interest in and disbelief in the power of the Word has even trickled into biblical, conservative churches. Maybe even your own church…

Oh, how sad! How tragic!

For the Word is sufficient for all of these things and so much more!

And Satan knows it. And THIS is why we feel spiritually attacked when we make an effort to study the Bible. THIS is why Satan and his minions are attacking the Word so fiercely, inside Christendom and without.

Sometimes I feel like a broken record in writing this but, truly, if I can accomplish no other thing than to draw fellow believers to actually study what they say they believe, I will feel like I did something to further God’s Kingdom on this old, broken, sorry earth.

For too long now, we Christians have declared our faith in God and, yet, have relegated His Word to a shelf somewhere. Many don’t even get it out to go to church anymore because churches aren’t even using it.

So maybe it’s time for a change.

If you call yourself a Christian but make no time for God’s Word, then it is probably past time for a change.

If you, like me, have become aware of the inestimable value of God’s Word in your life, then why aren’t we saying anything to other Christians around us? Perhaps we need to change, too. Those of us who get it must speak up! We must encourage believers to get in the Word.

We need to change, too–we need to be bold and courageous enough to point people to the Word in a church scene that just doesn’t really care.

All we need for salvation and eternal life is in the Bible.

All we need for life and godliness is in the Bible.

All we need to be close to God is in the Bible.

All we need to know to reach the lost is in the Bible.

It’s all there.

So let’s study it, know it, and encourage others to do the same!

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Recently, Pastor Dean (my brother) has been preaching on Psalm 19, which has naturally led to sermons on God’s Word. A short series of those sermons, titled “The Inestimable Value of God’s Word”, may encourage you as you reflect on what I wrote here today. I thought I’d go ahead and share them for anyone who may be interested–

The Inestimable Value of God’s Word, Part 1

The Inestimable Value of God’s Word, Part 2

The Inestimable Value of God’s Word, Part 3

By the way, you can find the whole series here (just scroll down until you see Psalm 19 in the lefthand column). It’s a great series and I highly recommend!

 

Should I Expect to Understand Everything?

The other morning we were talking in Bible Study about how there are just some things we can’t understand. I mean can we really wrap our brains around how we are chosen by God (Ephesians 1; John 6:44) and yet we have a free will to choose Christ? (John 1:12-13). Or can we comprehend how God moved men to write the Holy Bible–using their own styles and personalities–and yet every word written by each of those fallible authors was and is the timeless, infallible, and inspired word of God (2 Peter 1:20-21)? And then there is prayer. I am supposed to pray (Philippians 4:6) and yet God has already ordained what will happen (Daniel 4:35; Acts 2:23)? How can this be?

I am here to tell you that I have no idea. I can’t fully understand quite a few things that I believe scripture teaches.

And, honestly, I am okay with that. Now, in writing that I am okay, it may lead you to believe that I am simple-minded and too easily satisfied. But, before you set your opinion, let me try to explain exactly why I am okay.

The other day my daughter told my three-year-old grandson that they were going to go vote. Here’s a bit of the conversation–

As she was explaining that mommy and daddy were choosing between two men who would help make decisions for our state, he asked a very wise question:

“Is one red and one blue?”

Amazed that he actually chose the right colors that signify the two political parties, she said “Well, yes, something like that.”

“Can we vote for the red man since that is my favorite color?”

She laughed and responded “yes, because the red man believes a lot of the same things we do.”

So far, so good.

However, she realized how little he really understood when he asked this question after they were done voting: “Now that we are done ‘boating’, can we bring the red man home with us?”

(Our family all had a good laugh over this story.)

Now we can see that he really didn’t understand. And, actually, there was really no possible way for him to understand. As my daughter said, he doesn’t even know what a state is yet. He is absolutely incapable of understanding the voting process.

Of course, we’d never expect a three year old to fully understand this process, would we?

SO why then do we expect to understand everything God understands? If there is such a large gap between the comprehension of a three-year-old and an adult, then how much bigger of a gap must exist between the comprehension of a created human and the God of the universe?

Consider Deuteronomy 29:29–

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

You see, there are secret things that we can’t understand. There are questions we can’t answer. And there are doctrines that are totally beyond our comprehension.

At some point, we need to accept this.

It is pride and arrogance that demands understanding. It is the idolatry of intellectualism that pushes man to insist he can make sense of it all.

This pride and idolatry has led to broken relationships, messed-up families, and split churches. Scripture gets twisted to mold God and His ways into something that makes sense to our human brain. How important that we take scripture literally and at face value–even if it doesn’t make sense or seem fair.

While the Bible does contain some puzzling things, oh, how much we can understand. God has revealed what He wants us to know. What we need to know, we know.

The world and even many in the church will call us foolish for not insisting on knowing every single detail. But who cares? Just like a three year old can’t understand voting, so a human brain can’t fully understand how God works. We must bow humbly before our King and realize that God is way bigger than us and His ways are much higher than ours.

 

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

 

 

Making the Most of Time Spent in God’s Word

Have you ever talked to someone and found them to be unreasonable? They won’t listen to your side of the argument but are ready with their opinion before you even finish speaking? (Maybe we are that unreasonable person. It’s such a temptation for most of us). This can be so very frustrating, but never so frustrating as when we are discussing biblical matters.

I remember several conversations with Christians throughout the course of my life where there were such strong opinions that even when biblical evidence to counter it was presented, they ignored or dismissed it. They were people who claimed to be in the Word on a daily basis so I was befuddled, to say the least. The topics were clear from scripture and not gray areas.

But they wanted to believe what they wanted to believe.

As Christians, perhaps we all may do this at times. We come to the Bible with everything that makes up who we are: The spiritual environment of our homes growing up; the opinions of the teachers, professors, and preachers of our lives; the doctrine and rules of all of our past churches and denominations; the voices of the authors we’ve read; the beliefs of our spouses, parents, siblings, friends, and other people we may love dearly. We also come to the Bible with our personalities–optimistic, pessimistic, realistic, etc.

This means that, without careful and deliberate intention, our Bible study will be tainted by our experiences and with worldly wisdom.

The Bible is the only certain truth we have in this world. It is our only anchor. Since the inception of Christianity and throughout the following centuries, this has been central to the faith. The Bible is God’s Inspired, Inerrant, and Authoritative Word. Any branch of Christianity that dismissed and negated the authority, inerrancy, and veracity of scripture was considered a false religion.

Oh, how things have changed.

God’s Word has been relegated to the backseat in favor of experience. Many people no longer even take a Bible with them to church. The worldly church hungers for entertainment and excitement, always craving bigger and better.

How did the church get here? How did we end up in a world where what is called “Christianity” is nothing like biblical Christianity?

I believe Biblical illiteracy has much to do with this. People stopped reading their Bibles and so they were easily distracted and deceived.

Hopefully, you are here because you want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. The main purpose of this blog is to point you towards God’s Word and to encourage you to know it and to study it.

But, even as I noted above, there are many who claim to read God’s Word who don’t seem to be transformed by it. How is that? They claim to read the Scriptures, and yet they cling to unscriptural principles and doctrines.

How can we make sure this does not happen to us? What can we do to make sure that we are not tainted by our past and our personalities when we come to God’s Word? How do we ready our hearts and minds, in order to be transformed?

There are five things that will maximize the work of God’s Word in our lives. Without them, the Bible will be just another book to read.

As we study God’s Word, let’s make sure that we are bringing these five things to our study–

1. FAITH. Faith, according to dictionary.com, is confidence or trust in a person or thing. Faith, in the biblical sense, is complete and utter trust in God. We trust in Him to save us from our sins and we also trust His Word. We have complete confidence that what He says is true.

There are many, many people who read the Bible. They read it for educational purposes. For its history. Out of a sense of duty. But this does not mean they are saved. Without true faith the Bible is just a book full of myths. Without the Holy Spirit to illuminate the scriptures, the Bible is just another religious book.

2. SUBMISSION. There can be no transformation without a willingness to yield to God’s Sovereignty. This can be hard and lies at the heart of every complaint and every heart-rending question of “why”. It lies at the heart of many physical illnesses and most cases of depression and anxiety. When we aren’t willing to submit to God’s Will for our lives, we rob ourselves of peace and joy. And, like a tiny ant shaking its fist, we demand our own way.

When we aren’t willing to submit, our will becomes the primary focus. Our desires and our dreams become the centerpiece of our religion and the heart of our Bible study is utterly self-centered.

This will completely render our study ineffective and useless. The Bible is not about us. It is about God. He is the Creator and we are the creature (Genesis 1-3). He is the potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 29:16). Oh, how important to understand this as we approach God’s Word.

3. HUMILITY. So often we have an agenda when we come to God’s Word. We want to believe certain things about God or mankind and so we focus in on the verses we like and skip over the ones we don’t like. But true humility takes God’s Word at face value. Instead of trying to pridefully turn and twist it to say what we want it to say, we humble ourselves before God and accept the Word literally and in its entirety.

Humility also recognizes that there are many things that can’t be understood. For example, we cannot understand how God draws and man chooses at the same time. These are parallel truths that our human minds can’t comprehend.

Deuteronomy 29:29 reminds us that we don’t know everything and that’s okay–

 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

We must release our pride, our selfish agendas, and our need to understand everything in order to make the most out of our time in God’s Word.

4. WILLINGNESS to OBEY. If we aren’t willing to obey what we read, then we will never be transformed. I will take it a step further–if we aren’t willing to obey what we read, we probably aren’t saved. I John 2:3-4 makes this abundantly clear–

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Obedience isn’t just something God would like us to do. Obedience is the sure evidence that we are Christ’s!

5. TIME and FOCUS. These two things are scarce, aren’t they? In a culture that demands busyness, we can quickly become over-committed.  In a world that is full of distractions, it is hard to focus. We must intentionally change this or we will greatly impair our Bible Study time. It must become a priority. When we recognize the importance of God’s Word in our Christian walk, we must then deliberately take steps to be in the Word and to protect that time.

How do we do this?

It won’t be easy. But there are some steps we can take. I am working on these in my own life, so I am right there with you on this!

First, we must set a specific time, that is rarely altered. If we work, it may be setting our alarm clock earlier (which usually means turning the TV off and going to bed earlier); if we have infants or toddlers, it may mean taking that first half hour of naptime and dedicating it to God’s Word. Carve out a time that becomes regular. Don’t let a few days derail you from your plan. Illness happens. Teething babies happen. Other things sometimes get in the way. But let’s make a commitment to get back to our regular time when it is possible.

Second, we must eliminate the distractions. Oh, this is hard! But we can make a few little changes that will be immensely helpful. First, get a real Bible. A Bible app on your iPad or phone can be helpful, but it’s best not to use it for your quiet time in God’s Word unless you put it in airplane mode. Second, put all tech temptations in a different room as you read and study God’s Word. Intentionally give your undivided attention to the Bible for an hour. A half hour. Whatever time you have designated. Any time is better than none!

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As we dedicate ourselves to the reading and study of God’s Word may we bring to it a right heart attitude. May we pray about these things. Let’s ask God to fill us with faith and humility. Ask Him to help us to yield to His will and to be obedient to His commands. And let’s pray that He would open up a way for us to spend undistracted time in prayer and in His Word. We know this is His will so we can pray with confidence!

 

 

Twelve Things I’d Change if I Could Live my Life Over

Oftentimes, we evaluate our lives as we approach the end of the year. We examine our life in regards to health, career, education. We consider our bank accounts and we reflect on our relationships. We ask: What could we do better next year?

The most important questions we can ever ask ourselves as we evaluate our past year are: Do I look more like Christ? and Did I learn any spiritual lessons? After all, these are the only things of lasting and eternal value.

Education, good jobs, making money, and beautiful homes are nice, but they aren’t the heart of a Christian’s life. Popularity, fame, and 100,000 Instagram or Facebook followers may be very gratifying but it’s not what really matters in life.

So now is a good time to ask: What are my top priorities for the new year?

As you consider this, I compiled a list of a few things that I’d love to go back and change if I could live my life over. Some are major and some are not-so-major. Other than the first two (which I consider, by far, the most important), they are not in any particular order. As I evaluate my life, these are the things I’d love to do differently. This list is not exhaustive and I know that there are some that are just not coming to mind right now.

If we have a priority to walk with God and to teach our families to walk with God in the upcoming year, then I hope this list encourages you and gives you some practical ideas of how to get started–

1. Be more faithful in reading and studying Bible; memorize passages. God’s Word is transforming. We need the Bible in order to know and love God. It is our guidebook, showing us how to live. It is our mirror, convicting us of sin. And yet, I hindered my walk for years by being satisfied with shallow devotionals instead of actually reading the Bible. And yes! Memorize! I just started this last year and I can’t even begin to tell you the difference this has made in my walk with the Lord. Oh, why didn’t I do this earlier….??

2. Be much more diligent to have my kids learn and study and memorize God’s Word. God’s Word was always the authority in our home, but, oh, how I wish I would have been so much more faithful in having my kids in the Word and memorizing it in a much more systematic way. This is the only thing that will carry them through the trials that come to us all and the only way they can stand under the persecution they can expect to receive as Christians.

3. Put my distractions aside and play more with my kids. The laundry, the dishes, the household work, the phone call, the tv show–they could have waited. Not that I never played with them. But, looking back now, I realize now just how fast the time goes and I wish I would have spent even more time with them.

I am so very glad I didn’t have the temptation of looking at my phone when I had kids. I feel rather bad for those of you who have smartphones and tablets at your fingertips, tempting you to check on them and then pulling you in at all moments of the day. I encourage you to put them in a room far away and focus on your kids! Trust me, you will regret it if you don’t.

4. Be more diligent to keep an eternal perspective in all things but especially when it pertained to raising my kids When we are in the midst of parenting, we are often concerned about two things–will my kid still like me if I do or don’t allow this? And will their friends still like them if we don’t allow this? But neither of those matter. It’s so much more important that our children love and serve the Lord than that they fit in with the in-crowd–this one fact changes so many decisions we make as parents! Sure, they may be mad at us or even scream at us, but standing firm pays off in the long run. For the most part we stood firm on God’s Word in our family and we were often ostracized because of it, but as I reflect on our parenting years, I do regret some of the decisions we made based on peer pressure. (Let me add here, that there is also the opposite–where we make far too many {unnecessary} rules that have nothing to do with scripture. Please don’t do that. It breeds rebellion. If you have a rule, make sure it has a scriptural principle behind it and that your kids know what that principle is.)

5. Be much more careful in what I set before my eyes and listen to with my ears; I was always fairly careful, but even things I would have considered “innocent” I can see now were promoting infidelity or bad language or lying. They were full of human wisdom or showing an ungodly model of a family (just how many sitcoms can make Dad look like a complete idiot?!?). I would work harder earlier in my life to eliminate all forms of entertainment that do not glorify God. I know some of you may think I am “over the top” but entertainment changes us. We are fooled into thinking it doesn’t matter but it most certainly does. I still have so far to go in this area, but I do feel like a different person since I have eliminated quite a bit of what is worldly entertainment from my life. But that’s a topic for another day…

6. Be kinder to my husband; I think I am especially cognizant of this because of losing my sister-in-law this past year. I’m sure my brother would only love to have her there, irritating him in whatever way she may have done so. It is always hardest to be kind and loving with the ones that we live with. I really want to be more intentional in nurturing my marriage this coming year.

7. Have far more grace for others; I didn’t have a lot of grace for others as a young person. I am so very thankful that God has brought situations and people into my life that have wrought a great change in this area. But I sure do wish I would have recognized way earlier in life that “but for the grace of God, go I”.

8. Let the minor offenses go; This is another change God has made in my life due to people and situations. I had to intentionally forgive and choose not to hold a grudge–many times without the other person even knowing that they hurt me. Eventually it became natural (at least much of the time), but it took me too long. Life is so much more enjoyable if we stop being so easily offended.

9. Speak the truth of God’s Word with lots of love and kindness. I never had too much trouble speaking the truth, but the love and kindness part would sometimes take a backseat. I hope that I have made progress in this, although I am sure I sometimes still fail. Those of us who passionately love and defend the truth can often struggle with the love side of things. Would I have done more for God’s Kingdom if I would have changed my tone or said things differently as a younger person? Only God knows. In this, I am so very thankful for God’s forgiveness and mercy.

10. Think of others more often. I was SO selfish as a young person. Looking back, I am dismayed and distraught seeing it. I still can tend to be that way and I have to literally fight against my flesh and do what is right. Sometimes I win that battle and sometimes I don’t. But I truly want to be a blessing by thoughtful words and kind deeds–rather than a burden through sarcasm, human opinions about things that are not scriptural, and selfish acts. This is certainly an area in progress and I sure do wish I was much further along in this one!

Along with this, I wish I would have shared the Gospel so much more freely, without worrying what people think! I am so self-centered that I am {still} often more concerned with what people think about me than I am with someone’s eternal destiny!

11. Recognize that my parents are people who have feelings and need support. I am so dismayed when I consider how selfish I was as a teen and twenty-something. When I was getting married, my grandma was in the hospital. And then she passed away two weeks before I had my first child. I was so wrapped up in my life that I was not there for my mom. Oh, how I regret this! If you are blessed to have parents, realize now that they are people, too. That their life is not solely comprised of you and your world. Oh, how I wish I would have understood this sooner.

12. Waste far less time worrying about what “could happen”. Worry and anxiety are a prison. They destroy the present and do nothing to change the future. And yet, how many of us find ourselves in that prison, held tightly by their chains? This is a battle in many of our lives but we must fight it instead of cave into it. We are, in essence, saying we do not trust in God. And therein lies the issue. Oh, how I wish I would have wasted far less time in this useless and faith-sapping activity.

___________________________________

So there’s the list. Not that I have arrived. Some of these continue to be quite the challenge for me. One of them I thought I conquered and then, years later, it came back with a vengeance (#12, if you want to know!)

Most, if not all, of these things are changed by intentional choices with the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit. I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to this over the course of the past few months.

Some of the things above have changed over the course of my lifetime, simply from growing in Christ. It has sometimes been two steps forward and one step back, but, gradually, over time, they got so much better. Not perfect but better. But even these things came from changing a small habit or behavior. Making a conscientious choice to sit down with God’s Word in the morning or to mentally turn away from the negative thoughts when someone says something hurtful or to choose to offer grace when someone does something I just can’t understand. Although sometimes still a challenge, it is far more natural now to respond correctly. But it wasn’t always the case. I had to intentionally make a choice.

It is hard to improve anything without intentionally choosing to do so. Before you think I am all caught up in man’s wisdom and the “I can do anything I set my mind to”, I want to stop right here.

I am not saying that lasting change can be had without the Holy Spirit. What I am saying is that becoming more Christ-like isn’t just going to happen one day without any work from us at all.

Galatians 5:24-25 says this:

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

We have to crucify our flesh. It’s an action on our part. In this verse and earlier in that chapter we can also see that we are to walk in the Spirit (v. 16) Again, it’s intentional action on our part.

Life is like a quickly fading flower. Those of you who are young will blink and find yourselves where I am. You, too, will look back over your life and wonder how in the world you ever got here so incredibly fast. Live intentionally now so that your “things I’d change” list is shorter than mine!

(For those of you who have lived as long or longer than I have–what would you change? Your comments on this may help a younger reader. We are all different and have different struggles, so I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this.)

 

 

The Domino Effect

Once upon a time there was a young man. He married his high school sweetheart and together they had a few kids. But one day, after several years of marriage, this man chose not to turn his eyes and his heart away when he looked at a woman who was not his wife. Eventually this choice led to a broken-hearted wife and devastated children who would struggle to heal from his rejection for years to come.

He made a choice for his “personal happiness” and, yet, his happiness wasn’t the only thing affected.

Stories like this have happened over and over again throughout history. Replace the pronouns. Sometimes it is wives who do this same thing. For personal happiness and gain, a choice is made that negatively affects the rest of someone’s life. Forever.

You may have been on the receiving end of something like this. And it’s not always an affair. But it is always sin.

Galatians 5:19-21 is a great list to reference for these “domino effect” sins–

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: [d]adultery, [e]fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, [f]murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Each one of these sins–when chosen–does not affect the sinner alone. It affects all those who surround the sinner.

As sin grows, it spills over on to those we love and on to all those that are in our circle.

We can change their day by an angry outburst or we can change their life by choosing adultery.

Thankfully we know through many examples (David, Peter, etc) in the Bible that we can choose repentance and we can be restored after we make sinful choices. But, after all is said and done, the consequences remain.

Better to not have made the sinful choice at all.

I don’t think we often give much thought to how our daily choices are affecting those around us.

The first example I gave was an extreme example, right? Kids from broken homes –especially homes with a parent who disappears or, maybe worse yet, uses them as a pawn in a battle–have some extra challenges to work through in life.

But let’s think further how our even our most mundane choices affect our kids, grandkids, and anyone who is watching us.

What are some of the things that have a domino effect on our families and circle of friends?

What about how we handle affliction and trials? Anger and discontentment often snake their way down family trees. Are we setting a godly example in how we respond when things don’t go our way?

What about choosing to live in an unhealthy way or being unwise in how we spend money? We set our kids up for failure because they are always watching. And, often, they will choose to live how we chose to live. Think about your life right at this moment. Would you want the children in your life to have your life? I am not talking about the things we can’t control–like diseases or unexpected financial setbacks. I am referring to being wise and godly in the choices we can control.

What about how we fill our minds (tv, movies, books, music)? Are these leading those who are watching us towards God and His Word or are they leading them away from Him?

What about choosing to extol a false teacher? Giving credence to a false or heretical teacher puts our friends and family in grave spiritual danger. Deception often starts by a casual comment, such as “have you read the book…?”

You see, these choices aren’t ever just about us. And these choices have the potential to lead someone toward the broad way or the narrow way. Very few things are neutral. By our example, we lead those who are watching us towards a godly life or towards a carnal life. We encourage them to walk in the Spirit or to walk in the flesh.

So you think no one is watching you at home when you privately watch that terrible tv show?

Well, that might be true. Maybe only God knows that.

BUT…

You think that show isn’t affecting you?

All that goes into our brains–whether we will admit it or not–affects us. And this, in turn, affects others.

Our philosophies; our sensitivity to worldliness; our choice to follow human wisdom or God’s wisdom; our love for God–these are all affected by what we fill our minds with. And this mind-filling will, quite naturally, spill out on to others in our conversations and our discussions.

No sin is private.

Unless you are living on an island far far away with no one else on it, there is a domino effect.

We may feel this more acutely as a parent. (Oh, the weight of being a godly example when you are a parent!) But this doesn’t disappear as we move into our grandparent years. And it still exists, even if we never have kids or are a single adult living alone.

People watch us.

Choices may be made to abandon Christianity or to embrace it by someone watching how we live.

 

Interestingly enough….

This domino effect also works the other way around.

When we live lives that please God and we obey His commands, we find that this also affect others. As they watch us, they are emboldened to live for Christ or they are drawn to His Word. We can encourage them to live for Him by our choice to live for Him! We can encourage them to be courageous and stand for Truth by our choice to live courageously and stand for Truth!

We can have a good influence on others or we can have a negative influence.

But we will have an influence.

What kind of influence will you have? When you have left this earth what will have been your domino effect?

May we give this serious consideration before it’s too late.

 

 

An Intentional Life

How do we get from “here” to “there”? Is there some shortcut or some magic path that will take us where we know we should be?

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to speak to a group of Christian ladies about parenting intentionally: Making daily parenting choices in light of our goal that our children walk closely with God. As I was thinking a bit more about this, I realized that it is not just parenting where intentional living is necessary.

It is necessary in all aspects of life.

A few years ago, I experienced a lot of change. During that time, I started eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. While I am no binger, I would fill my plate with unhealthy things like potato chips (oh, how I love potato chips!!) and eat dessert every day–sometimes multiple times a day. I didn’t feel like cooking, so a few times each week, we’d go out or bring in takeout. I drank soda and sugar-laden iced tea. This became my lifestyle for a year or two. It was easy to fall into these habits because they were what my flesh called for. I was just obeying my flesh when it came to food.*

Unsurprisingly, I gained a lot of weight. I became uncomfortable and every step made my knees hurt. I hated photos of myself, trying on clothing was a torturous, discouraging process, and I couldn’t even hold my grandchildren without experiencing pain.

At some point, this past summer, this idea of eating intentionally took root. I knew that if I didn’t change, I would live like this for the rest of my life. And I didn’t want that. Oh, how I didn’t want that. So with fervent prayer and a little help from a weight loss program, I finally got serious about changing these extremely bad habits that my lazy flesh had adopted.

So every single day I had choices to make. Instead of following my flesh, I made little, intentional choices that added up to big changes.

And guess what? Eating less chips and desserts, cutting out sugared drinks, and cooking more at home leads to weight loss. I chose to be more intentional about what I put in my mouth and I lost weight. I didn’t need to eradicate these things to lose weight or to keep the weight off. In fact, eliminating them would have led to failure in my case. But being more intentional in consuming them has changed everything.

Those old habits are always calling my name. Pleasing our flesh is like a rushing river that is always threatening to draw us in. Paul puts it so well in Romans 7:19, doesn’t he?–

For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

And, yet, with the Lord’s help, we can say “no” to our flesh! We can choose to intentionally make choices that we know will please the Lord. This is a big part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives and yet, so often, we ignore it.

What are some other ways we choose to follow our flesh without any conviction to live differently?

How about financially? Buying what we want whenever we want is a real temptation in this culture of “having the latest and greatest right now”.

Or how about time spent in the Word and prayer? Our flesh will never call us to sit down and spend time with God. This habit will only be developed by intentionally sitting down and getting started.

Parenting has already been touched on, but we must understand that we cannot expect godly kids if we are filling their brains and their hours with ungodly entertainment, friends, and activities.

And what about relationships? If we want to have God-honoring relationships with our family, friends, co-workers, and others, this takes work. It doesn’t just happen. We have to intentionally build into the lives of others. Make time for them. It is improved by intentionally loving them, despite their being differences between you. Someone has to make the first move to heal or improve a relationship. Why not you?

So how do we live intentionally? How do we have the strength to choose what is right over the powerful pull of our flesh?

Galatians 5:16 tells us–

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?

John MacArthur says this in his sermon on this topic

Now the concept of walking really does mean daily conduct.  There’s never a time in your life when you just arrive and from then on you’re permanently spiritual.  I do not believe the Bible teaches some eradication of the sin nature in this life or some second work of grace or some perfectionism, when you have reached that you never sin again.  Not at all.  It is a daily moment-by-moment walk and it comes and goes, depending upon our submissiveness.  By the way, if anyone of us says that we have no sin we make God a liar.  We never overcome sin totally but we can overcome it as a pattern of life by walking by the Spirit.  That’s a basic, daily, practical life pattern.  And I say it again, the only way you can do it, the only way you can walk routinely in the Spirit of God is to have spiritual thoughts.  And the only way you can have spiritual thoughts is to be communing with the living God in an intense and continual prayer attitude and being fed continually on the Word so that your thoughts are God’s thoughts.

Consider these words for a moment. We cannot expect to walk in the Spirit without intentionally making a choice to do so. In order to do so means time spent in the Word and in an attitude of prayer. This, then, leads us to experience victory over sin in other areas of our life, since we know scripture teaches us that we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh if we are walking in the Spirit.

And so we can see that intentional living starts here! It starts with our dedication and commitment to prayer and study of the Word.

If we don’t have that properly in place, then our battle with the flesh–whether it’s our eating habits, our parenting choices, how we spend our money, or anything else–will only lead to eventual defeat.

The thing is, we know from Paul (and from our own lives, too) that we never arrive in this. Our flesh will always provide battles for us to fight. Intentional living will be harder sometimes than others. We will fail. We will fall down.

We just can’t stay there. We need to get back to praying and spending time in the Word. We need to really think about our daily choices and where they are leading us.

May we never give up or give in but choose, instead, to live an intentional life–one that pleases God in every aspect.

 

*I want you to know that sharing that little story about my personal weight gain is rather embarrassing. I can’t believe I left myself get to that point. I share it in the hopes that I can offer some hope to those of you who might have also given in to the flesh when it comes to food. While food itself is not moral, when and how much we choose to eat can be a moral choice. There is a way to please God through our choices and a way to please our flesh. This is a much-ignored sin in our Christian culture but I was acutely aware that I was not pleasing the Lord while I was pleasing my flesh in how I ate during that time of my life.

Three Mortal Enemies of Spiritual Growth

This year has been incredibly busy. Part of the fall-out of that busyness is that my Bible study and prayer life really took a nosedive. When I did have a spare minute, I was just too tired to think. While I did continue reading for the G4L Bible Challenge, I found it challenging to fit in and I also found my reading to be more of a duty than an enjoyment. It saddens me to admit this but it is the truth.

As I was contemplating these past months, I was thinking about how much my busy schedule negatively affected my spiritual growth. As I was thinking about this, a few other things that stunt our spiritual growth also came to mind.

Let’s talk about them.

Busyness

In many ways being busy has become synonymous with living a productive life. Where I live with our German roots, there are many who feel guilty even sitting down for a few moments because that signifies laziness. And so just sitting and reading the Bible would make them feel like they aren’t accomplishing something productive. And then there are those that have no conviction that sitting is lazy but they are so wrapped up in work, lessons, sports, and the gym that when they have a minute to sit, they are simply exhausted.

Sometimes we can’t help our busyness and we have to endure for a season, understanding that God has grace for us during these times. It could be a new baby or needing to be a caretaker for an elderly parent. It could be a special project at work or school. These are occasional things that take us out of our routine and may, for a time, slow down our spiritual growth.

But there are those times that we can help our busyness. Times when we fill our schedules with the superfluous and unimportant. Times when we follow the crowd by putting Johnny and Suzie in every single activity or sign up for classes or activities that are not beneficial to our spiritual well-being. Most of these things aren’t wrong, in and of themselves, but when they keep us from God’s Word, this creates a problem.

If we feel overwhelmed and too busy, then we need to take an honest look at our schedule and contemplate if there is something we can eliminate or at least put off temporarily to give us more margin in our lives.

If we say that we believe prayer and studying God’s Word is the most important priority of our lives, then we must show this by our actions. If we are too busy to study the Word and pray, then we are too busy.

 

Pride

I have often pondered how someone can say they are reading the Bible and yet have no transformation whatsoever? How can someone have regular devotions or be in the Word and yet remain utterly unchanged? I’ve come to realize that it is pride that causes this. If we approach God’s Word with a lack of humility then our spiritual growth won’t only be slowed, it will be halted completely.

Why is this? Well, a prideful heart believes it knows most of life’s answers before even approaching the Word. A prideful heart has no interest in hearing suggestions from a different source other than one’s own mind. A prideful heart always thinks it knows better.

Why does this make a difference in our spiritual growth? We can turn to James 4:6 where we read that God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

A humble heart is a heart ready to receive God’s Word as its final authority. In contrast, a prideful heart is not. This is the root of many of the false doctrines that abound today–prideful hearts that twist the scriptures to their own agendas.

 

Worldliness

Worldliness is a death knell to spiritual growth. I John 2:15 and James 4:4 couldn’t make it any clearer–we can love the world or we can love God. But we can’t love both.

God is opening my eyes to this more and more. When I was in my 20s, I was listening to a heavy rock song (yes, I used to enjoy this back in the day.) As I listened, God convicted my heart. The music made me angry. In fact, I’d purposefully play this type of music when I was angry because it would fuel my anger and make me feel better. This was the beginning of my journey in understanding that what we put in our minds affects us. It either moves us towards the Lord or it moves us towards the world. It can never do both.

As I started to gradually and intentionally work to remove worldliness from my life (which has been a lifelong process and I still continue to work on), I have personally experienced a renewed desire for Bible study, a reawakened sense of what pleases God, and a complete change in my desires. Only by the grace of God can any of us intentionally choose to remove worldly things from our lives.

Movies, books, and music that promote sexual immorality, sorcery, bad language, blasphemy, and all sorts of evil; Going to bars or dances; Dressing immodestly in order to be like the world and follow the trends; Gossiping and passing rumors; Gambling; Addictions (to any thing–including food); Materialism and always wanting the latest and greatest…

All of these things kill our desire for God.

All of these things, without exception, move us towards the world and away from God.

 

Do you struggle with any of the above? Is there any change you can make this week to set your spiritual growth on a better path? Many of these things sneak up on us while we aren’t even paying attention. I know that has been the case with me on many occasions. All three of these mortal enemies have worked their way into my life at one time or another. And, honestly, they still do. While we live in the flesh, we are forever susceptible to these enemies and we must stay on guard.

I hope this post will encourage you to examine your life and to start making changes that will boost your spiritual growth. Let’s choose to spiritually flourish in a world that is so lackadaisical and status quo!

 

How Does a True Christian Act?

If you live in the United States almost everybody is a Christian. It’s the religion they identify with and, oftentimes, it has been passed on from generation to generation. If one goes to a church that uses Christian names like “God” and “Jesus” and other terms from the Bible, there is an assumption that one is a Christian–even if there has never been repentance from sin or personal trust and belief in Jesus as Savior. (Actually I guess there are even many people who consider themselves Christians that rarely, if ever, even step inside a church.)

Of course, we know from the Bible that a genuine Christian has repented of their sins and trusted in Christ alone for salvation. When this happens, we are made into a new creation. Isn’t that a glorious thought? The old things are passed away and all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

So what does this new creation actually look like? How does this person act? What signs show that they are a new creation and not just a false convert?

Romans 12 gives us just such a description. It’s a great litmus test for us, giving us specific things to look for as we examine our lives and test ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Many of us are very familiar with the first two verses of Romans 12–

I beseech[a] you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your [b]reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Paul then takes a few verses to talk about spiritual gifts and the Body of Christ and how it should function. But when we arrive at verse 9, we find out exactly what a genuine Christian should look like on a day-to-day basis.

Before we spend some time looking at Romans 12, let’s remember one extremely important thing. The Christian life is not–and never will be–about perfection. None of us will ever be the “perfect Christian”.  Our focus must not be on being perfect but on testing our heart’s desire and our direction. What direction are we going? Are we growing in these things each year? Do we look more like Christ as we mature in the faith? What is our attitude about these things?

All of us will struggle with some more than others. And that’s okay, too. If we know there is a battle, then we know the Holy Spirit is hard at work, convicting us and showing us how we can grow.

So let’s take a look at the description of someone who is a new creation that we find in the second half of Romans 12, starting with verse 9–

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

A genuine Christian will–

1. Love without hypocrisy

Hypocrisy: the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.

We should love without pretense. A genuine love that stems from our hearts.

2. Abhor what is evil.

Abhor: regard with disgust and hatred.

We should hate that which is evil. We should not be bringing it into our homes via our radios, phones, iPads, and TVs. We should not find ourselves entertained by books, movies, and music that glorifies evil. Instead we should abhor them. I speak specifically to this because I believe this is where many true Christians allow entrance of evil into their lives.

3. Cling to what is good.

Cling: hold on tightly to.

We must put a firm grip on the truth and pure doctrine. Don’t let go just because someone tells you to. Don’t compromise because it is easier. We must hold fast. (I Thessalonians 5:21)

10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

Be kind to our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, giving preference to them. This same thought is echoed in Philippians 2:3-4.

Kindness is fairly trendy right now. It is cool to be kind. And that’s not a bad thing. But the kindness referred to here is the kindness we should show our Christian brothers and sisters and flows from a heart that is a reflection of our heavenly Father’s and His love for His children.

11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

A true Christian is diligent and fervent as they serve the Lord. This means they are not lazy or apathetic. They serve the Lord with their whole heart, in whatever opportunity He has given them.

12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;

The genuine believer knows that his hope goes beyond this temporal earth, and so his hope remains steady no matter what happens. He is patient in trials, all the while continuing steadfastly in prayer.

13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

True Christians meet the needs of their fellow believers. And they are given to hospitality.

Hospitality: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

Hospitality is not really all that popular anymore. Few people open up their homes to guests outside of family. And I have to admit, the modern life’s pace doesn’t lend itself well to hospitality. But is this a good enough reason to ignore this little phrase?

Perhaps having a hospitable heart is more about our attitude. Do we open up our homes freely when we are given the chance? Do we make people feel comfortable and welcomed, no matter where we meet them? Do we gladly share our resources and time as we are given the opportunity?

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Christians bless those who persecute them. We love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). This is humanly impossible. You do realize this, right? Only a true believer could bless the one that is hurting them. Do we love our enemies? Do we pray for them? Do we care for their souls? This is a great sign that we are a genuine Christian. If we struggle with this one, perhaps our first step should be to pray that God would help us to do this.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Fellow Christians rejoice and weep with one another. Instead of jealousy and envy making us sulky at a Christian sister’s good fortune, we are genuinely glad for them. And when bad news hits, we weep with them. We surround our brother or sister with Christian love and care.

16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

True Christians are humble. Their opinions about themselves are not inflated and they are not boastful. They are no respecter of persons and they don’t care about someone’s popularity. They will talk freely with and offer their aid to anyone, no matter their age, sex, race, status, or reputation.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.

Christians do not take revenge on those that have hurt them. (Connects pretty closely to blessing those that persecute us, doesn’t it?) We are known for our regard of good things (true, right, holy) by anyone who happens to be watching us.

18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

It is not possible to always be at peace with all people. Some decide they hate you and, no matter what you do, you can’t change their minds. But this verse gives us comfort. If it is possible. God clearly recognizes that it isn’t always possible. But as much as it depends on us, we are to be at peace with all people. Have we done all we can to bring about peace with those around us? This should describe us, as believers.

19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Again, we are faced with our attitude about our enemies. Genuine believers are not to live with revenge burning in our hearts. We are to actually do the opposite and reach out to an enemy in need. We are to do this and let God take care of the rest. Only God could enable a heart and mind to love an enemy in this way. Only God.

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

And, finally, a genuine believer is not overcome by the evil of this world. Instead, we overcome the evil with good! We know that God is in control, no matter how evil this world gets and that He will triumph! Our job is to shine His light and go forth as witnesses in our homes, work places, on the sidelines and bleachers of athletic events, in our churches, and when we are shopping. Any time. All times.

____________________________________________

The Bible functions as a mirror (James 1:22-24) and Romans 12 is an especially painful place to look at my reflection. While I do see some of these in my life, I also see much need for growth. I hope that this glance at this chapter has encouraged and challenged you, like it has me.

May we cast aside our pride and may the Holy Spirit fill us with a desire to be more like Christ as we continue on in our life’s journey. I am so thankful that we have the Bible to cast light on our path and to show us which direction we should be headed. Let’s try to live out Romans 12 this week and every week. And in so doing, may we shine brightly for Christ in this dark world!

 

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