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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual growth’

The Company of Friends

June 7th, 2017

Navigating difficulties requires the support of friends.

“The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“The Company of Friends.”

Trouble is a common experience. You won’t always cause it. You won’t always enjoy it. But you can and must learn from it. Trouble is never enjoyable, but it can yield a maturity of life and faith that is learned in no other way. Trouble can be faced with faith, not fear. The Bible says, “Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow.” Read James 1:2-5 NLT.

According to James, there are three elements which develop character and spiritual growth. Trouble – on occasion, everyone experiences troubled times or troubling people. Time – you must exercise patience and endurance to rightly learn from trouble. Truth – Godly perspective brings wisdom. Trouble is something you will have; time is something you must give; truth is something you must learn and in which you must be confident.

Among the things I have learned about trouble, this is most important. Navigating difficulties successfully requires the company and support of friends. Solomon wrote, “Two are better than one . . if one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble . .” Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT. Value those friends who will accompany you in your struggles and sorrows. Everyone needs someone alongside on their journey.

When you face troubled times or troubling people, which the Bible calls, “tribulation and persecution,” there are two questions your soul ponders about friendship. Are you there for me? And, do you care for me? Prize the gift of those friends who offer their company and compassion when you struggle most. “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need . . As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 17:17/27:18 NLT.

Jesus taught a simple yet profound truth, “Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the Law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12 NLT. Be that kind of friend to others. My Dad taught me a valuable lesson about the responsibility and mutuality of friendship. By his words and example, he taught me that, “You will have the kind of friends that you choose to be for others.”

I have learned the irreplaceable value of friendships. Friendship is a treasure not available for purchase or barter, and a treasure nothing else can replace. I am grateful for friends who have invited me to share their lives and inspired me to live the best version of God’s plan for my life.

Fortunately, even when no one else can be there for you – when they cannot, or will not – God is there! “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” Psalm 27:10 NIV. Though the dearest of friends may not be able to be near, God can and will be there for you always. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble. Therefore, I will not fear . .” Psalm 46:1-2 NIV. Though any circumstance and emotion may suggest differently, God is ever present. Always cares. Always there. “For God Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to be confident in God and His care for you.

Christian Communications 2017-6810

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Be Exemplary

June 24th, 2014

“In everything, set them an example by doing what is good.” Titus 2:7 NIV.

Be exemplary; follow Christ fully and consistently.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “be exemplary.”

Mistakes. Everyone makes them. You can learn from mistakes, yours and others. In fact, you should learn from your mistakes; if you don’t, you are destined to repeat them. It’s best if you learn to minimize the number of mistakes you make, especially the ones you seem to repeat. However, there is a better way. You can and should learn from the example and instruction of others. The example of others can teach you what to do right, as well as what to avoid.

The Apostle Paul was bold to say, “Pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.” Philippians 3:17-18 NLT. There are plenty of opportunities if you are willing to look, listen, and learn from the example and experience of others – valuing their successes while avoiding their failures. Read 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 NIV.

I count myself as fortunate. Across my lifetime, God has sovereignly placed Godly examples in my life. I still have plenty of room for improvement but I am far better than I would have been without them. Regrettably, I have not always lived up to their standard, but I steadfastly value their experience and example. My goal is as Paul’s focus, “I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me to be.”  Read Philippians 3:12-14 NLT.

From my Dad and Mom, I learned a lot about life and integrity in relationships and ministry. From spiritual fathers, I continue to learn about personal and spiritual disciplines and the sacred priority of marriage and family. From friends, I am learning about the importance and responsibilities of meaningful friendships. From pastoring those who entrusted their souls to my care, I continue to learn the sanctity and sacrifice of ministry.

I have a great debt to repay, which suggests another side to consider in this matter. Are you helping others learn from your experiences? Read 2 Thessalonians 3:7 NIV. Be exemplary. “Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV. Those certainly were not intended as an exhaustive list you can check off and be done with it. Those are the elemental and essential qualities of spiritual life, upon which all other Godly behavior rests.

Spiritual growth rests solidly upon the fundamentals of practical, spiritual life. Without those you may work diligently on correct conduct apart from the underlying strength of Godly character that sustains such behavior. “God has chosen to make known the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory . . so that we may present everyone perfect in [their relationship with] Christ.” Colossians 1:27-28 NIV/NLT.

Apart from “Christ in you,” there can be no “hope of glory,” in the lives we live. Jesus left you a sure path to follow, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 NIV. Be exemplary; follow Christ fully and consistently. Paul got it right, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is to be sure whose example you follow and who is following yours.

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Process and Progress

August 26th, 2013

“Be diligent . . so that everyone may see your progress.” 1 Timothy 4:15 NIV

All real progress results from a sound process.

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

Sometimes, hurry results in some things – even important things – getting overlooked while other things do not get done at all, minimizing things that were done. Spiritual growth and character development are things that do not happen in a hurry. The same God who stood in the midst of chaos and nothingness and simply commanded, “Let there be . . and there was,” (See Genesis 1) has wisely chosen that His significant work in your heart and life results from a specific, individualized process – rarely immediate, seldom easy, but accomplishing visible progress.

The result is not questionable for God. “I am God . . declaring the end from the beginning.” Isaiah 46:10 NKJV. For your benefit, He is committed to your journey from where you are to where you are going, from what you were to what you are becoming. I admit I am a “point A to point B kind of guy.” I get fixed on a destination and am eager to get there. In a hurry, I have missed a lot of scenery and memories along the way; without my wife, I might have missed a lot more.

As a younger parent, I foolishly assumed that parenting was just doing whatever was necessary whenever it was necessary. Fortunately for our family, Gayle was wiser and more farsighted; she understood that parenting is a process requiring love, forgiveness, attention, effort, instruction, correction, and especially time. My understanding of parenting changed when she said, “I am not just raising children; I am training children to be responsible, Godly adults.” In noticeable and measurable ways, our children and grandchildren’s progress is the fruit of her wise and Godly process.

Nature teaches this principle of process and progress, “The Kingdom of God is like . . planted seeds in a field . . first a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens.” See Mark 4:26-29 NLT. That’s also how the Holy Spirit works in your life, however much you might wish it to be different. What’s your rush? Be patient. When you rush the process you diminish spiritual growth; others will see activity but it won’t be progress.

God invests Himself in your journey as well as your destination. Your destiny is firmly set in grace. His expectation of your cooperation is clear, “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them so that everyone may see your progress.” 1 Timothy 4:15 NIV. Some measure of your achievement of God’s intention for your spiritual growth rests with your cooperation, or lack thereof.

God’s objective is clear; “Until we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 NKJV. Growth comes while God perfects your weaknesses, builds your character, develops your gifts, and prevents your mistakes from wrongly affecting others. God’s process may not be evident to others but your progress will be. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16 NKJV.

My prayer for you this day is: be persuaded of progress and patient with the process.

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Growing Pains

October 1st, 2012

“When they walk through the valley of weeping – they will continue to grow.” Psalm 84:6-7 NLT.

Pain aversion is rarely a formula for successful growth.

My thoughts and comments today are about “growing pains.”

Life will not be happy all the time; wishing it would be is wasted effort. There will be tears. Every day life may bring pain from broken plans, broken friendships, broken dreams, and sometimes broken hearts. That’s when you learn what you truly believe, what real faith is all about, and how to grow in your knowledge of the character and sufficiency of God on the most personal level. See 2 Peter 3:18 NIV.

No one likes times that grieve the heart. Pain aversion is rarely a formula for success. Useless worry and wasted energy is the only thing that results from such an attempt. However, the person who chooses to grow through their pain will find unexpected joy on the victory side of life’s most sobering, even sorrowful, experiences. See John 16:20-22 NLT.

There is no quick relief; an easy way out will produce no victory or growth. In your pain, turn to God for wisdom to see your situation as God sees it. Look at life vertically, not horizontally. “Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:2-4. Maybe your pain and disappointment are an opportunity for joy not despair. You are not asked to rejoice because of trouble, but rejoice because of God’s sufficient grace; you will grow and trouble will not endure.

When you run from your pain, you also run from the joy God will bring. The Psalmist wrote, “When they walk through the valley of weeping – they will continue to grow.” Psalm 84:6-7 NLT. That’s a process, but there’s a promise as well. The process is that you have to, “walk through the valley of weeping.” You will make it through; God is faithful. It’s neither easy nor pain-free, but there and then you meet God. His faithful promise is, “you will continue to grow” – in character, faith, wisdom, confidence, and spiritual development. You learn to know God and yourself better. “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know they are good for us – they help us learn to endure . .” Read Romans 5:3-5 NLT.

An elderly Christ-follower, whose years showed the marks of pain and loss but the countenance of grace, was asked for his favorite Bible verse. Quickly, with little thought but insightful understanding, he said, “And it came to pass!” He surmised that his trouble had not come to stay, but had come to pass! He didn’t have the context right, but he captured the truth. “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5.

What you are experiencing at the moment is not forever, even when your feelings and fear suggest that it could be. In the face of your weeping, God will give you grace to: embrace it, grieve it, express it, then release it and go on stronger than before. It’s a process you have to go through. At every step, you grow stronger; your faith and confidence build; you find a deeper and greater joy. Don’t waste your tears; let them water the joy in your soul.

My prayer for you today is this: in the moment of pain, embrace grace and grow in God.

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A Growing Faith

May 25th, 2012

“Faith comes by hearing . . the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV

Faith is a spiritual seed that holds a miraculous potential.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a growing faith.”

As oxygen is a basic, physical necessity for your everyday life, faith is absolutely essential for spiritual life. In fact, the Bible explains that “without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6 KJV. The good news is that we all have faith; you have faith because “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:3 NKJV. The question becomes this: what are you doing with the faith you have been given?

Faith us not a static quantity, this much and no more. Faith is a spiritual seed that holds a miraculous potential for life and growth. Jesus spoke of individuals who had “little faith,” and of others who had “strong faith,” and ”sincere faith,” and even “great faith.” Your measure of faith grows when it is invested in matters serving the Kingdom of God.

I was recently asked about learning to hear the voice of God. I think sometimes a person is looking for some mystical experience, and I certainly believe there are such moments when God speaks sovereignly to listening hearts. But how do you train your heart to listen?

I have observed that the more familiar you become with a specific voice, the more readily you learn to recognize and respond to that particular voice even in a mixture of noises and voices. Children learn to identify a parent’s voice quickly, just as a mother can hear the cry of her child above the playground noise of other children. I think the same is true with hearing God’s voice. Familiarity is central to knowing God when He speaks. And spiritual discipline and practice are required.

First of all, busy and noisy lives are not conducive to spiritual clarity. God is not silent; people are easily distracted. The issue is not so much about God speaking, as it is about your hearing. God can and will speak to you in your daily chaos; the question is whether or not you can hear in such surroundings. You do not summon God to fit your schedule and convenience; you make your heart available to His presence if you are serious about hearing His voice and doing His will.

Instead of listening for God to speak singularly to you, could I encourage you to take advantage of reading your Bible to know what God has already spoken? Paul explained, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing [comes] by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV. Now, I recognize that the context of this verse is describing the place of God’s Word introducing a person into initial faith in Christ for salvation; then would it not be consistent that the same Word of God, essential for one’s spiritual birth, would also be necessary for spiritual growth and maturing?

Peter confirmed this relationship between faith and familiarity with God’s Word. “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV. My summation of thought is this: the more time you spend with God’s Word, the more clearly you will hear God’s voice in your listening heart, and the more vibrant faith you will experience and express. See 2 Peter 3:18/Ephesians 4:11-15 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you learn God’s Word so you will know and hear God’s voice.

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