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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual maturity’

High Standards

August 28th, 2015

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Colossians 3:17 NIV.

Passionately protest mediocrity.

My thoughts and comments today are about “high standards.”

Standards are important to a worthwhile life. Standards provide a benchmark – a standard of excellence against which similar things must be measured or judged – for what you deem acceptable or unacceptable. Using others as your standard is inadequate. If you don’t establish your standards, your friends or the surrounding culture will. “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV.

A person with low standards ultimately has no standards. The Father’s intention for us is clear: “Until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a [mature] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 NKJV. That is a high standard, fully achievable in Christ Jesus. Maturity is your destiny in Christ.

Some years ago, while teaching a Pastoral Counseling class to young Bible school students, I needed to define spiritual maturity in practical terms. This is my definition, “Spiritual maturity is rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” That defines our Savior and should describe you and me. Christ-likeness should always be your choice. In any and every situation, you are presented with this choice, “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.” Romans 12:2 NKJV.

Spiritual conformation is the progression by which the Holy Spirit accomplishes that. “We know that when Jesus is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2 NKJV. Meanwhile, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV. Maturity is much more than increasing Biblical knowledge. Maturity is the embodiment of Biblical truth woven into the fabric of daily life – how you think, what you will sacrifice, what you believe, how you behave, what you value, how you live.

God’s Word and Christ’s example are high standards, not achievable apart from submission to the Lordship of Christ and dependence upon the indwelling power of the Spirit. Paul applied these high standards in simple, practical terms: bear with each other; forgive grievances; embrace love; let peace rule; be thankful; let the Word dwell in you; admonish with wisdom. Paul’s summary was, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Read Colossians 3:12-17 NIV. Passionately protest mediocrity; for me, that says it all.

Today, I pray for you that Jesus is the high standard to which you aspire.

Christian Communications

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A Work in Progress

March 20th, 2015

“Like clay is in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand.” Jeremiah 18:6 NIV.

Remain in God’s hands until His work is complete and His plan evident.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a work in progress.”

People are so impatient; we expect everything to be immediate. What we want, we want now. You must learn that whatever is worth having is worth waiting for. And whatever is worth waiting for is worth the time and effort that necessitates.

As it pertains to your spiritual life and development, your best efforts alone will not achieve all God intends for you. Try as diligently as you might, your efforts will fall short. What needs to happen in your spiritual life requires God for its accomplishment. Yes, there are spiritual disciplines to which you must steadfastly commit yourself and be diligent in doing so. “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness . . knowledge . . self-control . . perseverance . . Godliness . . brotherly kindness, and love.” 2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV. Ultimately, your spiritual growth requires the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling and working within you. Spiritual maturity occurs as you rest in God’s hands fully and continually, to work as He wills.

Jeremiah visited a potter’s shop and observed the potter at work when, “the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him . . like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand.” Jeremiah 18:1-4/6 NIV. The work in His hands requires more than the quality of the clay; the ultimate outcome is due to the vision, diligence, and skill of the potter. Impurities or failure may temporarily mar God’s design and delay His intention, but all is not lost.

The God who by His mere words created a world out of nothing, whispers, “Trust Me.” Remain in God’s hands until His work is complete and His plan evident. The process may seem dizzying at times and the purpose unclear, but rest in your Creator. “What we will be has not yet been made known . . but we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” See 1 John 3:1-3 NIV. That’s God’s promise.

EDL pix work in progressGod knows exactly what He is doing. You are a work in progress, while He faithfully conforms you into the image of His Son, Jesus, as you have asked Him to do. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.” Romans 8:28-29 NIV. That seems well beyond your finite ability to comprehend, but true nevertheless. I am not yet what I will be nor am I what I once was. “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.

When I was a young pastor with few skills and many uncertainties, God spoke His Word to my heart, “The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” Read 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NIV. Of that truth, I have never had reason to be uncertain. Across the years, I continue to be strengthened by the promise of His faithfulness. Read 2 Timothy 3:16/Hebrews 13:20-21. You are God’s unique design fashioned for His service and glory.

Participate and cooperate in the grand process that is called spiritual life. Really, this life is but prelude to life, eternal and incomparably glorious. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.

Today, my prayer for you is that the lasting impressions on your life are His alone.

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Achieving Your Potential

November 4th, 2014

“Stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12 NIV.

Spiritual disciplines determine spiritual potential.

My thoughts and comments today are about “achieving your potential.”

Your innate desire to be more than you have been is from God. You have a God-given potential to become more than you have imagined. Boundaries are limits imposed by yourself or others. You were created “in the image and likeness of God.” Imagine the potential, presently and eternally, that God has invested in you. The only uncertainty is whether you will recognize and realize the divine potential within you. When you think of “achieving your potential,” what do you envision? Your capabilities will likely be more than your accomplishments.

Recognition of potential is the prerequisite for achieving potential. Paul described Godly potential this way: “That you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12 NIV. Do those words – “standing firm . . mature . . fully assured” – describe you? They can. Achieving your potential does not just happen; the process requires purpose and priority, as well as sacrifice. And add patience, perseverance, and obedience to that list. Your full potential, being “mature and fully assured,” rests upon your priority and practice of living fully within the will of God.

Spiritual maturity is the pathway to your potential. “. . that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12 NIV. Maturity is not measured by comparison with others. Paul warned of those who, “. . measure themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12. Jesus is the only adequate and accurate standard for comparison. Not only is Jesus the standard by which you will be measured, He is the willing accomplice for all of your spiritual accomplishment.

Spiritual maturity is the goal; becoming like Jesus is the process. Be patient; your spiritual potential is achieved progressively in a process that is lifelong. “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT. In the simplest of terms, spiritual maturity can be described as Christ-likeness. See Romans 8:28. There is very good news about this process. John wrote, “We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” Read 1 John 3:1-3 NIV. Usually, we seem unclear as to the practical implications of Christ-likeness. Here is a useful, practical definition that has helped me. “Spiritual maturity is rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” In every circumstance, a good question to ask is, “What would Jesus do?”  Your natural tendencies do not lend themselves to spiritual achievement.

Spiritual disciplines govern spiritual potential. (1) God’s Word is essential to spiritual life. “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise . .” Colossians 3:16-17 NLT. Spiritual maturity is achieved through a growing knowledge of the Word of God and a deepening obedience to the ways of God. (2) Welcome the Holy Spirit to rule your heart. “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do . . let the Holy Spirit fill and control you . . making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will always give thanks for everything to God.” Ephesians 5:17-20 NLT. See Galatians 5:8-10/22-23. (3) Make prayer a daily priority. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 NIV. See Philippians 4:6-7 NIV. (4) Let love be your lifestyle. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John  13:34.

Today, my prayer for you is to refuse limits that prevent your being all that God intends.

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God of All Comfort

May 24th, 2013

“God who comforts the downcast, comforted us.” 2 Corinthians 7:6 NIV.

Friends know you well enough to recognize your need for cheer and company.

My thoughts and comments today are about our “God of all comfort.”

A lot of things, and even some people, will make life less comfortable – the conversation you would rather not have, the difficulty you would rather not face, the change you would rather not make, the mistake you would rather not correct, the problem you would rather not solve. Those qualifying words, “rather not,” aptly describe things we prefer to avoid, if possible. A person’s natural instinct is to avoid discomfort, but that is not really possible. Learn to take life as it comes and make it better.

Your external comfort is God’s agenda,  but not His first agenda. His desire goes much deeper – your spiritual maturity by the continual development of Christ-likeness. See Ephesians 4:13 NKJV/1 John 3:2 NIV. One measure of spiritual maturity is learning to be at peace in disconcerting moments and growing by productive responses rather than destructive to yourself and others. Learn from uncomfortable situations, not just live through them; it is far more productive.

The Apostle Paul described a distressing time, “. . our bodies had no rest; we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. Nevertheless God who comforts the downcast, comforted us . .” 2 Corinthians 7:5-6 NKJV. God comforts the downcast; how very descriptive. You know the feeling. Never despair; God will be there.

You find comfort in God. “[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NLT. God is the great recycler; don’t waste your sorrows. He redeems the worst that happens to you and transforms it into blessings for others. Ministry flows from your sincere empathy with another’s pain, then shares comfort from your experience of God’s grace. When you suffer troubling times or hurtful people – and experience God’s sufficiency, faithfulness, and comfort – you are better able to empathize with others. “I feel your pain,” becomes more than words.

You find comfort in the company of friends. “God comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.” 2 Corinthians 7:6 NIV. Titus was comforted by his reception by the Corinthians; he brought their comfort, as well as his, to Paul. The arrival of Titus refreshed Paul’s spirit. That’s what friends can do; that’s what friends are for. A shared journey is a more comfortable journey. Friends should know you well enough to recognize when you need their cheer and company. Be the kind of friend you want to have. Solomon learned, “Two people accomplish twice as much as one . . if one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NLT.

You find comfort in good news. Paul wrote,“[Titus] told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.” 2 Corinthians 7:7 NIV. Stop reciting every disappointment; stop rehearsing every mistreatment. God’s Word is wise counsel: “Whatever is true . . noble . . right . . pure . . lovely . . admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things . . and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:6-9 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you know where to find true comfort when needed.

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Intentionality

March 27th, 2013

“I live in eager expectation . . that my life will honor Christ.” Philippians 1:20 NLT.

Good intentions alone do not rise to the level of intentionality.

My thoughts and comments today are about “intentionality.”

As a young teen, I “worked” a few summers in my grandfather’s Truck Stop in southern Illinois. Really, I just worked for a roll of nickels to play the pinball machine when not pumping gas. A pinball game is habit forming, a game of random occurrence with the whimsical fall of the metal ball, allowing minimal control by the player. For the small investment of coin and time, the game provides the amusement of flashing lights and blaring sounds as the ball progresses down the sloped surface, haphazardly hitting bumpers and accumulating points with the slim promise of a free replay. Life can be a lot of activity and commotion with no more than amusement in return for one’s expenditure of coin and time.

Some live accidentally, even randomly, ricocheting from one occurrence to another. A lifetime is too irreplaceable for that. Life should be lived deliberately, with careful thought, real convictions, and clear direction. Days without a plan become hours wasted; marriages or friendships without mutual definition and effort diminish; careers without goals are reduced to a succession of jobs without economic progress.

Recently, I have been captured by the Biblical concept of intentionality. Joshua was intentional; “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 NKJV. Daniel was intentional; “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8 NKJV. And Jesus was intentional; “I must be about My Father’s business . . I do always those things that please [the Father].” Luke 2:49/John 8:29 NKJV.To succeed, you must learn to live with Godly intentionality.

Paul was intentional, “I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ . . for me . . that means fruitful service for Christ.” Philippians 1:20-22 NLT.Life responds to intentionality. A Law of Physics states that in a closed system “matter degrades from order to chaos.” That is evidenced in modern culture, broken marriages, poor habits, or careless spiritual disciplines. Without intentionality, the natural process is degeneration. With intentionality, the spiritual dynamic can be regeneration. You cannot risk casualness about matters with eternal consequence. See Hebrews 2:3/Mark 8:36 NLT. Spiritual life, like marriage, is one choice faithfully affirmed over a lifetime.

As I left our home to meet friends, I would hear my Dad’s frequent reminder, “Allen, be careful.” Under my breath, I usually protested, “Well, of course, I will be careful.” He knew what I have since learned: carelessness just happens while carefulness is the creation of intentionality.Good intentions alone do not rise to the level of intentionality; be intentional about things you intend.

Your spiritual journey without guide or goal can easily become only emotional and intellectual meanderings. The Bible and Holy Spirit are to be your guide; Christ-likeness must be your goal.“Till we all come to the . . knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of Christ.” See Ephesians 4:13-15 NKJV. The practical application of one’s Christ-likeness is best expressed by spiritual maturity. A definition that works for me is: “Spiritual maturity is rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” About that, be intentional.

My prayer for you this day is: live a Godly life with clear and resolute convictions.

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