Converts or Disciples? The recent passing of the great Billy Graham has caused me to ponder evangelism. Evangelism is a wonderful thing. All of us should be willing to share our faith (2 Tim 4:5), but God has given some of us the gift of evangelism (Eph 4:11), and those individuals may feel that God…Details
Phases & Stages, part 8 And now, the final entry of this series, we move on to “fatherhood.” I John 2:14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. . . STAGE FOUR – FATHERS (Greek word – Pater) literally – nourisher, protector, upholder. I Corinthians 4:15 Even though…Details
Phases & Stages, part 7 Now we move from the “Phases” part of this series to the “Stages” portion. As we grow from infancy through childhood, to adulthood, we pass through different stages. We begin with I John 2:12-14. I John 2:12-14 I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on…Details
Stages & Phases, part 6
The Challenging or Skeptic Phase
If you find yourself in this phase, you need to realize that this is a very dangerous time. This phase can be similar to what we see in our culture as the “teenager” phase. We question and challenge all the rules, beliefs and authorities that we once accepted. You may be angry, and even rebellious.
Don’t be like Korah, Dathan and Abiram (among others) who rebelled against Moses (Numbers 16). Moses was a good leader, put into position by God Himself. He hadn’t done anything wrong. But these guys developed an attitude, saying, “Is Moses the ONLY one who hears from God?” They accused their leaders of “lording it over them.” They complained about having to leave Egypt and go into the wilderness. They didn’t trust that God would bring them into a good place. They were impatient, immature, angry, & rebellious. They wanted their own way and they wanted it NOW. Moses allowed God to deal with these guys — Numbers 16:32 says that the ground opened up its mouth and swallowed them!
Instead, be like David. Even though he had a ruler who was unfair to him – he refused to strike God’s anointed! He would not retaliate against his leader! He allowed God to deal with King Saul!
If you’re going through this phase, you may not even realize it, because this is a time when the enemy comes in and uses our pride to deceive us, encouraging us to think we are right.
This is the MOST important time to submit yourself to God, to search out His Word for truth and balance, and to find mature people to counsel with you. Guard your own heart and control your attitudes and behavior. Do not go through this alone. Be careful not to vent only to those who agree with you. Get advice from those who are wise and have different perspectives. You may feel you have been damaged somehow – but you, yourself can do great damage to others if you do not go through this time wisely.
If you emerge from this phase with your faith and relationships intact, you will have gained a lot of maturity!
Revelation 3:12 says, “He that overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God.”
OVERCOMING! Some of the things we need to overcome is our own immaturity, wanting our own way, harboring offenses. When you become an overcomer, God says he will make you a pillar! A pillar is stable. A pillar carries weight. A pillar does not run around looking for other roofs to support, it has been placed by God in a place where it STAYS. It becomes a permanent fixture, helping to bear the weight of its structure. This speaks of support and leadership. I’d even venture to say that a person shouldn’t even be considered for leadership unless they had learned to overcome in this way.
Next time — we start looking at the Stages we go through in our growth in Christ.
Stages & Phases, part 5
The Knowledge Phase
Oh – this is wonderful. I love learning. I love to study and glean things from God’s word! I love to try new things. It makes my life interesting and exciting. The Bible has many, many verses that exhort us to grow in our knowledge of Him, in wisdom.
There are also many warnings about not having knowledge or wisdom. So, I have to say. . . not everybody goes through this phase because they may not be seeking knowledge or wisdom – and that’s NOT a good thing.
But we have SO much to learn, don’t we? And if we don’t learn from God’s word, where will we learn from?
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge . . .” (Proverbs 1:7a)
That must mean that without fear of the Lord, knowledge doesn’t really even begin! So – get knowledge! Get wisdom – very important.
BUT – We also have a WARNING about knowledge:
“. . . Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1)
As we increase in knowledge, we sometimes value our knowledge over the virtue of love. We can get proud and conceited, thinking we “know a lot” and we “have it all figured out.” This is why there are so many denominations and factions and splinter groups in the body of Christ (BTW – there really is only ONE body of Christ!). But we have a tendency to cling to our pet doctrines, arguing with each other about them, pushing our own opinions and ideas onto unsuspecting bystanders. “Hey – are you a pre, mid, or post-tribulation rapturist?“ Are you Calvinist or Armenian? Are you reformed or charismatic? If you want to see a lot of this – just go to Facebook! Yuck! I mean really – do we NEED all these labels?
Paul writes to the Corinthian church about this very thing because they were becoming arrogant, “I follow this guy’s teaching,” “I follow that guys’ teaching,” etc… Paul rebuked them saying, “Is Christ divided? Was this guy crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of that other guy?” (I Cor 1:12-14)
You know what I’ve learned over the years? – “Compared to God – I don’t know very much!” You know what else I’ve learned? – most people don’t care about our pet doctrines! As a matter of fact, it turns them right OFF! Then they don’t want to have anything to do with us. And if they don’t want to have anything to do with us, who is going to be the salt & light & love that they need? Aren’t we, then, hindering them from seeing Christ in us? He really is in there! We just need to get ourselves out of the way!
So, by all means, get knowledge. Learn all you can! But be careful that you don’t get arrogant about what you know. Because the Lord has a great way of humbling us if we get too proud!
Stages & Phases, part 4
Continuing the Hardship Phase . . .
Years ago, a Pastor was leading his home group. One night a woman came to visit the group and then continued to attend, which was great. But, this woman was going through a difficult time and not handling it very well. She wanted to use the group time to vent and complain. One night, after she left, some of the other group members complained to Jim about it. Jim sat and pondered for just a moment. Then he said, “You know, God has sent this woman to us. We are going to have to learn to love and help and encourage her. If we don’t do this right, we’re going to get a whole lot more like her because God will know that we need more practice!”
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
So – when we go through adversity, the Lord wants to do these things for us:
- Bind (bandage) our broken hearts
- Set us free from captivity
- Release us from darkness
- Comfort us in our sadness
- Provide for us in our grief
- Give us a crown of beauty
- Give us the oil of gladness
- Give us a garment of praise
- Make us STRONG – “oaks of righteousness” (the oak is no wimpy tree – it is solid, it has permanence)
- Plant us in HIM . . . let your roots go down DEEP and then . . .
- We will display his splendor! Hallelujah – when you see someone who has come through adversity victoriously – doesn’t that display the splendor of God?!!! That’s BEAUTIFUL!
Phases & Stages
We have discussed “The Amazement Phase,” “The Reality Phase,” and started, “The Hardship Phase.” Let’s continue with the hardship phase, recalling John 16:33.
“I have told you these things so that IN ME you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Hallelujah! We have a Savior and King who has overcome the world! If we remain IN HIM – we can have peace, no matter what it is that we are going through! Here’s what He says,
“Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” (Psalm 50:15)
When you go through adversity, don’t hide! Don’t isolate yourself. Cry out to God. Seek out godly friends who can help you. Let them encourage & exhort you, and even correct you if necessary. Don’t get mad at them. Receive wisdom. God’s encouragement may bring some correction into your life, but correction isn’t meant to condemn you, it should motivate you to move forward and find a better way for your life.
For those of you who are helping someone through adversity – be careful not to judge. Be careful that if a correction is needed, that you do it with love, out of concern, not from a heart of judgment.
Years ago, I was at a fellowship meeting, and a woman came in whose sister had just died. She was crying, and we were praying for her. One man in the group, loudly proclaimed, “The joy of the LORD is your strength, sister.” Well, what he said is right, and biblical. But the WAY he said it was judgmental as if to say that because she was sad, she was somehow spiritually weak. Wow, what an attitude! That’s what people call a “Job’s comforter” – a person who thinks he is right and helpful but ends up making the other person feel worse! In the book of Job, there were actually three men who are considered “Job’s comforters.” And yet, even within their lack of compassion, there are nuggets of wonderfulness. Listen to this passage:
“. . . if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, 14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, 15 then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear. 16 You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.” (Job 11:13-16)
I love that. Sometimes, I’ll go and sit at Beaver Creek State Park, and watch the water flowing by. And I remember that scripture and I am so thankful that I can remember my troubles that way. They happened – but they’re gone now, never to return, waters gone by!
We will examine the Hardship Phase further . . . STAY TUNED!
Phases & Stages
Last time, we discussed “The Amazement Phase” and, “The Reality Phase.” We talked about the new Kingdom we have entered and our new King. His ways are higher than our ways. God does not change, but we do! This is a life-long journey, worth every effort we put into it.
We hear, “A new command I give you: Love one another as I have loved you.” Wow. That is a high standard! Therefore – we have a choice to make. We can continue handling things the way we have always handled them and get the same results we have always gotten, or we start to put His kind of love into practice.
I LOVE the word “practice.” Because that is, what it takes. Practice! I didn’t just wake up one morning playing Beethoven’s Pathetique on the piano! I had to go through a process that included a lot of training and practice! So we learn a principle from God’s ways, like . . . ‘a soft answer turns away wrath’ – and we practice that for a while. We learn the “one another” scriptures, all of which are life changing IF we will put them into practice! It takes a lifetime of practice. We fail. We make mistakes. Repeatedly, we have a choice to make – 1) give up & go back to our old way of doing things, or 2) we brush ourselves off and try God’s ways again. If we yield to that process and allow ourselves to be changed by it, there will be more beauty – especially beauty in our relationships!
The Hardship Phase
Life brings hardships. We live in a world that has been tainted and corrupted by sin. Because of that, there is sickness. There are storms, earthquakes, pestilence — just plain TROUBLE! Sometimes the people we talked about can bring us into hardship because of the decisions they make. There is divorce, child abuse, financial difficulties, work issues. I could go on and on. We all face adversity in one form or another. We may go through this phase multiple times over many years.
We have all seen people face adversity. Some face very mild adversity and they whine and complain, and it only makes things worse! We can learn from the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years as an example of what NOT to do. Yet, we do it too! Others go through unbearable, unspeakable things, and they turn to the Lord and somehow, they come through it with grace, dignity, and even joy!
Proverbs 24:10 – If you falter in time of trouble, how small is your strength!
There is so much encouragement in the Scripture. During these hard times, it is so good to have relationships like those that we have here – friends to encourage us. Mentors to exhort us. Jesus, himself, in John 16, was talking to his disciples, reminding them how much he loved them, and sharing with them what they would face in the not-so-distant future. Then he tops it off by saying this:
John 16:33 – “I have told you these things so that IN ME you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Stay tuned for more “Phases & Stages,” coming soon.
The Chicken or the Egg? “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” This is a question that has been discussed for ages. Recently, during a discussion about language, someone asserted, “All language began with grunts, groans, and gestures.” In the moment, I said nothing. But as the day continued, I pondered her statement, and…Details