Posts Tagged ‘change’

Nature and Nurture

August 11th, 2015

“Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27 NKJV.

Spiritual nurture is essential for effective and enduring change.

My thoughts and comments today are about “nature and nurture”

This morning, comments from my friend, Shane, prompted some reflection on the origin of behavior and development of character. It seems the debate ultimately centers on the influences of nature or nurture. Both are influential. Nature forms who you have been, expressed by what comes naturally to you for better or worse – your habitual reactions, possessive inclinations, prejudices, self-willed, or self-centered.

My friend cautioned about trusting nature over nurture, “Leave it to nature and you leave a blank canvas [for yourself and] others to paint on.” We were all conceived in sin, meaning that we were born into a fallen world, possessing a fallen nature, and separated from God and Christ. Paul accurately described life apart from Christ, “O wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Read Romans 7:18-25 NKJV.

Conversely, nurture instructs and guides your values, traits, convictions, and conduct, therefore determining who you become. Paul understood our common dilemma but also God’s gracious redemption, “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Read Colossians 3:6-10 NIV.

In Christ, you have the hope and promise of becoming more than you are. “To all who believed Him and accepted Him, [Jesus] gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn!” John 1:12-13 NLT. Paul elaborated further on this remarkable transformation of your old nature, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV. Spiritual nurture is essential for effective and enduring change.

The Word of God nurtures Christian growth and Godly character, “[God has] given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature . .” Read 2 Peter 1:2-11 NKJV. Especially note verses 5-9.

The Holy Spirit nurtures discipleship and obedience, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.” Read Romans 8:1-11 NIV.

Spiritual discipline nurtures firm resolve, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV.

Christian Fellowship nurtures spiritual life and growth. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, but exhorting one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV.

For me, these words sum up any debate about nature versus nurture, “Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27 NKJV. The remedy for all you have been and the potential for all you can become is found ultimately in Jesus as Lord and Savior. See 1 John 3:2-3 NLT.

Today, I pray for you that you are nurtured in your faith and an encourager to others.

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The Process of Progress

September 16th, 2014

“Old things have passed away; all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV.

Exchanging the expendable for the expedient is the process of progress.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the process of progress.”

Life is a process of perpetual change. It is a delusion that things can remain as they were or are. They never do, nor should they. Paul envisioned the boundless intention of God for your spiritual development while warning of the tragedy of stunted development, “Until we all come . . to a [maturing] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we be should no longer be children . . but may grow up in all things into Christ.” Ephesians 4:13-15. Anything less is inadequate and unworthy of the grace God has shown to your life. Progress is not at all sudden; it is deliberate and incremental.

SIGN 2 (3)

Growing is natural; remaining the same is not. Without necessary change there would be no process for progress. If your life remained static, you would be less than you could and should be. I often reflect on the unconstrained potential that redemption restores to any and everyone who comes to Christ in faith. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God.” John 1:12 KJV. What expansive potential is held in those words, “given the power to become.” What you become in Christ has so much to do with your choices and desire. “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

John later wrote, “We are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when Jesus comes, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is.” 1 John 3:2 NLT. Now the power of the Spirit is at work in you until the day the transformation into Christ-likeness is complete.

There are elements of your Christian life that are accomplished, finished works of grace. Yet there are also dimensions of Christian life that continue in the process of your becoming less of what you were and more than you had ever been. When you have done all that you are to do, God has not yet completed all that He will do. Read Philippians 3:12-14 NIV. You and I remain a glorious work in progress. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV.

Paul wrote, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Wonderful, new things await you in Christ, being released as you willingly relinquish your old ways. Meditate on Ephesians 4:21-32.

Redemption occurs in a moment of transformation; Christ-likeness is a lifelong process of conformation. Read Romans 8:28-29 NIV. Writing about his Christian liberties, Paul said, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV. Exchanging the expendable for the expedient is the process of progress.

Today, my prayer for you is to never accept the good as a substitute for God’s best.

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A Christmas Change

December 26th, 2012

Christmas as a heart experience is forever.

When the angels had gone away into Heaven . .” Luke 2:15 NKJV.

The wait for Christmas seems interminable. Then each day grows busier and busier with preparations until the day arrives. The family and friends gather; the dinner is served and enjoyed; family gifts are shared, and carols sung. But then what? Inevitably, Christmas as a calendar event concludes. But Christmas as a heart experience is forever. I would suggest that how you enter the Christmas celebration is not as personally impactful as how you exit the occasion.

Consider Joseph and Mary’s experience of angels’ visitations, shepherds’ hurry and wonder, royalty’s worship and lavish gifts, then life returns to normal or unfolds in ways you could not have imagined. Obviously, Joseph and Mary could never be the same as they had been before the wonder of that amazing, miraculous night in Bethlehem’s stable. But the initial aftermath was not as idyllic as you might expect it should have been. Disruption appeared to be their new normal. Christmas does not mean that everything will always be pretty and peaceful. An angel came again to Joseph in a dream, warning of Herod’s evil determination to destroy the young Messiah. “. . flee to Egypt and stay there until I bring you word . . when he arose, he took the young child and his mother and departed for Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod.” Read Matthew 2:13-23 NKJV.

In Luke’s masterful narrative of the Christmas angels singing to shepherds on a Judean hillside, there came the inevitable moment, “When the angels had left them and gone into Heaven . .” Predictably, angels return to Heaven and people return to everyday life, forever changed by such moments of Heavenly encounter. “The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go and see this thing . . which the Lord has told us’ . . The shepherds returned [to their flocks] glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:15-16 NKJV. Angels return to Heaven, but there are lives to be lived, families to provide for, responsibilities to be fulfilled, and work to be done – but also an unbelievable story to be told.

And Matthew writes of a similar experience for those royal visitors from afar, “They departed to their own country another way.” Matthew 2:12 NKJV. I know that is merely describing the different geography of their journey home, but I cannot avoid the application that life is never quite the same after you have seen and worshiped the Christ. Read Matthew 2:1-12 NKJV. A person cannot bow at Christmas with true heart and worship and be the same as they were. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV. Christmas changes routines, shifts priorities, adjusts values, and even alters lives. Ultimately, Christmas will pass but the Savior can and will change your life forever. Christmas is not about the pageantry of mangers, angels, shepherds, or Eastern kings; Christmas is about a Savior who changes lives now and forever. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God . .” See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that change came with Christmas and remains long after.

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Growing in Grace

May 4th, 2012

“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.” 2 Peter 3:18 NKJV

“Nothing fosters spiritual growth like a healthy grasp of grace.”

My thoughts and comments today are about “growing in grace.”

I think we take growth for granted; we simply expect that to happen. And to a small measure that would be true, but not completely so. You are designed by God to grow – to get taller and stronger, smarter, and more mature. But growth is not altogether automatic. There are things you need for healthy growth. For instance, proper nutrition and diet are contributors, and both adequate rest and exercise are necessary, as well as healthy habits that contribute to one’s growth and development.

And growth is not single faceted. Beyond the normal processes of growing physically, there are also very real dimensions of growing emotionally, mentally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. We all have seen instances of obvious imbalances in people’s development, growing in some areas but stunted in others. Growth is natural; lack of growth is not.

It should be no surprise that Jesus is the perfect example of healthy, well-rounded growth. “The child [Jesus] grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom beyond His years, and God placed His special favor upon Him . . Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:40/52 NLT/NKJV. In those verses, you can see the diverse areas of growth and development Jesus experienced. As you examine your life presently, where are you growing and where are you not?

Of course, my attention here is with yours and my spiritual growth, which is also the Bible’s primary concern. “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and Godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming . . since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him . . be on your guard . . grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.” 2 Peter 3:11-18 NIV.

Peter asks a rather probing question – in light of the impermanence and ungodliness of this world, “What kind of people ought you to be?” In your heart you know the answer – becoming better than you have been! How do you do that? Peter’s answer is rather simple, and altogether doable; “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.” The right answers are always found in the same place, “our Lord and Savior.” See 1 Peter 2:1-3 NLT.

The first thing is obvious: you have to deal with your past and God’s grace is the only way to do that. Your past is full of mistakes made and wrongs done, some ignorantly, most foolishly, but a few deliberately. The past pursues you tirelessly until you bring it kicking and screaming to Jesus. Nothing fosters spiritual growth like a healthy grasp of grace. See Ephesians 2:4-9/4:13-15 NKJV.

You have forgiven others, and people have forgiven you; why then would you doubt God’s willingness to forgive you? Your past is not the worst He’s ever seen. Grow in grace! Day by day, let grace wash your soul, cleanse your mind, heal your spirit, release your joy, and draw you closer to the Savior.

For some, grace is embraced all at once; for others, grace happens day by day. But for all, grace is ultimately and absolutely sufficient. Read Titus 2:11-15 NLT. How will you know when you are growing in grace? You become a little more like Jesus in your conversations, attitudes, conduct, relationships, and lifestyle. Others notice the change; you know the Source.

My prayer for you today is that you will grow in grace and know the Savior fully.

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Defining Moments

August 31st, 2011

“Jacob was left alone, and [God] wrestled with him until daybreak.” Genesis 32:24 NIV

“God’s loving pursuit of you is indefatigable.”

My thoughts today are about “defining moments.”

There are seasons and situations in life that greatly shape what your life will become. They may appear ordinary at first, but very quickly that moment touches something eternal. The consequential times in your life are when you meet God in ways you have not previously known Him. There could and should be many such occasions when and where you experience God, but all too often people sleep-walk through them, oblivious to a destiny that hinges on that encounter with God.

There are relationships and experiences that impose defining moments for who you will be, and how you will live, and what you will prize and value. There are moments in history that have defined individuals, marriages, families, friendships, communities, churches, and even nations. We are approaching the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. George W. Bush’s presidency was defined by that horrific event, as was America. The worst that happened to our nation that day brought out the best of which we as a nation are capable.

Jacob spent much of his life running – running from home after deceiving his father; running from Esau, a brother he had angered; running from Laban, a conniving uncle who prospered at his expense; running from himself, probably unhappy with what he had become; and ultimately running from God, until he got tired of running. That eventually happens to everyone; you just get tired – tired of being someone less than you could be, and tired of the public masquerade.

That’s when you’re finally ready to meet God without conditions. That’s when Jacob met God, “So Jacob was left alone, and [God] wrestled with him until daybreak.” Genesis 32:24 NIV. If you have to be always surrounded with people, you most likely are not comfortable being alone with God. Usually there is a reason; there is something that you are not ready or willing to face. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. God works best in your life when it is just One on one.

Jacob’s heart turned toward home, a home he had left long before. Jacob sent messengers to Esau that he was coming; he sent his servants and herds and flocks ahead with gifts for Esau. He finally sent his family safely before him, and then all his possessions. Jacob was ready to stop running; Jacob was coming home to stay. This was a defining moment for Jacob – first, facing a problem from his past, and then, struggling with God until his breakthrough.

Jacob’s story has two defining moments: “God wrestled with him until daybreak.” God’s loving pursuit of you is indefatigable. God wrestled with him until Jacob wanted what God wanted for him, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” vs 26. God is serious about your need for change; you must be serious about needing His help. The schemer became a prince; the past was put behind him; the much desired birthright was finally realized.

My prayer for you today is that you hunger for God’s blessing upon your life at all times.

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