Archive for January, 2015

Spiritual growth is a mystery because it is a miracle that only God causes and understands. Yet, God provides us with guidance in how we can cooperate with him in the process.

I admit I am a fanatic when it comes to spiritual growth. Even as a baby Christian, I had it drilled into my head that to grow spiritually was the most important goal I could have in life.

And, for the most part, I have pursued spiritual growth as my number one priority throughout the ups and downs of the last 44 years.

I even went to seminary to find better ways to grow spiritually and to help others. I learned that the church today is often weak in providing the help people need to grow spiritually. This breaks my heart, for spiritual growth is so important for this life and the next.

There is no way I could present a thorough treatment of the mysterious process of spiritual growth in this posting. However, I will offer a few thoughts that I think are important.

What Could Be

First, we need a vision for what it would be like to grow spiritually. We would realize that what God wants is a love relationship with us. It’s not a Master/Slave relationship but a warm, fatherly, and brotherly relationship with the Trinity.

We would also realize that we have not only gained salvation, but also a new identity of being loved, accepted and respected no matter what. This sounds too good to be true, but it is true (Isaiah 43:4; 1 John 3:1, Hebrews 10:14).

But we need to grow into living in this reality. It does not just happen because we hear it in a sermon or find it in the Bible.

We would accept the fact that spiritual growth is foremost of the heart- it is not just knowing the Bible or behaving better. It is also allowing God to change our motives and what we depend on to make life work.

How to Get There

So, how do we grow spiritually?

First off, we need to remember that it’s God who grows us spiritually. We don’t grow ourselves through church attendance, Bible studies, and doing ministries in the church (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). God will use our church attendance, Bible studies and ministries, but without his efforts, we will not grow.

Secondly, God uses our Bible knowledge to change us. “Long for the pure milk of the Word that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

Especially, as we apply it to our lives. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

And memorize and meditate on it (Joshua 1:8).

Thirdly, we need to practice spiritual disciplines like quiet times, going to church, and Sabbath-rests. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me” (Matthew 11:29). That yoke includes practicing spiritual disciplines that he leads and empowers us to do.

God expects us to do our part in growing spiritually. Living in grace does not excuse us from “working out our salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)

And fourthly, we need to connect to people. God uses pastors, mentors, disciplers, and small group members to help us experience him loving and helping us. “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16, NLT).

Finally, we need to be identifying and putting off our old ways of seeing and doing life. For example, even to this day, I tend to see life as a half empty jar.

But God sees life as a half full jar. And he wants us to see it that way too. He wants us to put on this new way of seeing life. “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).

We can only change our thinking by depending on the Holy Spirit to help us (Ephesians 4:22-24).

So, what’s it going to be for us? Are we motivated to grow spiritually? Do we have confidence in what God promises in his Bible that he will grow us to maturity as we cooperate (Philippians 1:6)?

Let’s choose to cooperate with him and let him grow us spiritually!




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From what I‘ve seen, we don’t practice silence very often. From beginning to end our days are filled with noise and busyness. TVs blaring, Facebook comments to read and remark about, computer games to play, and tight schedules to meet keep us swimming in a sea of noise and distraction.

“So what?” you may say. “I don’t feel good when things get quiet. I like to be distracted by noise and busyness.”

In my case, I have to often force myself to practice silence. Sometimes it feels like a waste of time. I often think that I could be doing something more productive, instead of separating for a little while from the craziness of my world.

However, over the years, I have grown to realize that seeking silence is well worth the effort.

So, why is silence worth seeking?

Why Seek It

I think there are two big reasons to seek silence.

One is to know what is going on inside of us. We often are so distracted by our busyness that we may not realize that, for example, we hate our job and need to move on, are still hurt by being passed over for a promotion last year, or are pretending to be someone different to be approved of by a certain group of people.

Is this stuff important to know? Yes, if we want to heal from our frustration, hurt, and sadness. We can’t deal with problems we don’t know exist.

I used to dread going on vacations because the lid would come off all the issues I was too busy to deal with or was repressing throughout the year.

But now, by practicing silence on a regular basis, I am more able to experience and deal with the issues and feelings as I go along before they boil over into a tsunami of confusion and painful feelings on vacation.

Another big reason to seek silence is to hear the voice of God. God can talk to us through our thoughts and meditations in the quietness of our hearts  during silence. God often talks to us in quiet ways, such as he did with Elijah. “And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12, ESV).

We need to hear his voice to remember what reality is. A reality in which God reminds us, “I will help you deal with each problem that you have. I am God, and I can do anything well” (Psalm 46:1; Jeremiah 32:27, Paraphrased).

When we are distracted by our busyness or running away from what is going on inside of us, we often don’t hear what he has to say to us.

So, how do we seek silence?

How to Seek It

First, we have to choose to make it happen. Silence will not be handed to us on a silver platter. Conformity to the noise of the world is so easy. We have to make silence happen.

We can learn how to practice silence by taking an afternoon off a week to relax and quiet our jangled nerves. In that time, we can sit in silence for some time and discover what is going on in our heart and listen to the quiet whispers from God. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

We can also practice silence in our quiet times; car rides, coffee breaks, and walks. In the silence, we can discover in a deeper way to “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). We can learn to let God more into our lives to give us peace and power.

May I encourage you to practice a period of silence this week. Take just a few minutes to quiet your nerves and break from running your world. My prayer is that in this time you will get to know yourself and God in a deeper way!



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Have You Learned to Rest?

I learned a long time ago how valuable it was to rest. I had burned out physically and emotionally when I was forty and needed to learn how to better pace myself to operate within my limits. It was a long journey that took years to be in a much better place.

I sense I am now going through an intensive time of learning to rest in God and his promises in certain other areas. But in several areas I already rest deeply. For example, I rest in God’s promise to guide me. After looking to God for guidance thousands of times over many years, I can state with confidence that he has always guided me wisely according to his promise,  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go” (Psalm 32:8).

However, I struggle to rest in his promise, “You are precious, you are honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4, paraphrased). Because I don’t rest in this promise, I try to earn what he has already given me – respect, honor, and love.

I do that through seeking achievements, impressing people, being strong, and depending on good circumstances. But these don’t satisfy and I don’t rest!

Do you rest?

Now, resting in God and his loving care doesn’t mean we do nothing. But what does it mean?

What It Means

One thing resting means is not striving. The battle is over! Like it or not we are important to God and will never be more important. Like it or not God loves us now and will never love us more- even when we are extra good.

We may say, ”But earning God’s love and respect seems to make more sense. It was the way I was raised.”

But God is different from those who raised us and the society that formed us.

He says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He further says, “You don’t have to solve all your problems by yourself. I will do most of the work and show you what you need to do for me to help you” (Matthew 11: 29-30, paraphrased).

But we may say, “I don’t need God’s help. I can become important, loved and accepted on my own.”

Oh really? How long will we allow Satan to deceive us into trying to be good enough to get to heaven, impressing people to the point of feeling deeply loved, and accomplishing things that will bring us honor and last forever?

Yet, with God, we can learn to rest in the reality that he has already given us acceptance, love, and honor as gifts – not things we have to strive after. But can we rest in these truths?

How to Rest

It helps to rest if we focus on who God is. “I am the Lord, the God of all flesh, is there anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).

“But my problems are too complex and my faith so little that you won’t help me,” we may say to God.

But he says, “If you have just a tiny bit of dependence on Me, I will help you” (Matthew 17:20, paraphrased). Our focus needs to be on our great God, not our great faith.

I have found resting in God and his promises an agonizingly slow process. My feelings and “common sense” often hinder relying and counting on his help and protection.

Yet, as I have dared to rely on his guidance, his love and his acceptance, I have grown to rest in them more.

May we have the courage to take God at his word and rest. He is faithful to help us even if our fears threaten to overwhelm our tiny faith (1 Corinthians 10:13).


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Wait for the Proper Time

I sought the girl of my dreams for many years. After all, I was in my twenties and it seemed the proper time to get a wife before all the good ones were taken. Even though deep within me I questioned if I was ready for marriage, I still dated a lot and tried to find the right one.

Then, one day I became a Christian. Shortly after this, I was challenged to give up pursuing girls for two years and to focus on getting to know God. It wasn’t the proper time to focus on dating and marriage.

I considered the challenge and liked the idea. Pursuing relationships with girls had become very frustrating for me because I never seemed to be satisfied with what I got or was scared when I did.

Finally, five years later, I found the girl of my dreams and wanted to get married. But a friend cautioned me, “It’s not the proper time. She’s not ready.”

So, with all the strength I could muster from the Lord, I continued to court her and wait for the proper time.

A few months later, as I was departing for two and one-half months back east to finish a master’s degree, she told me that she most likely would not miss me. She explained that she tended to be an “out of sight, out of mind person.” She felt compelled to tell me this because I had told her several times that I would miss her.

I was devastated. I shot up a quick prayer and reminded the Lord, “This whole courtship thing was your idea. Now, look at the mess you’ve got me into. I can’t go any further in this relationship unless you change her feelings towards me.”

As I drove east, God began answering my prayer in a mighty way (within 5 minutes after I left) to change her feelings and help her realize how much I meant to her. It would be two weeks later before I learned of her change of heart (this was before cell phones and texting).

At last, the wait was over!

It was the proper time for love and eventually marriage! Thirty-seven years of a good marriage later I see clearly why this was the proper time.

How We Know the Proper Time

But how do we know when it’s the proper time for what we want? Why do we often think that NOW is the proper time when it’s not?

Sometimes we know that now is not the proper time because it violates God’s clearly stated command as Saul did when he made an inappropriate sacrifice because he chose not wait for the proper time (1 Samauel 13).

Other times we can know it’s the proper time when we apply biblical principles to our situation. For example, the biblical principle, “Prepare your work outside, and make it ready for yourself in the field; afterwards, then, build your house” (Proverbs 24:27), can be applied to establishing our self in a career before we take on a wife and family.

I applied this verse a few days ago in counseling a man I’m mentoring regarding marriage. I advised him to wait for the proper time because he doesn’t even have a job yet. Besides, he is still getting grounded as a Christian.

A third way we can discover if it’s the proper time is to remember that there is a proper time. Throughout the Bible, God makes it clear that he not only wills certain things for us, but also brings them into our life at the proper time. “There is a time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing” (Ecclesiastes 3:5).

Just because we don’t have the woman of our dreams now, or are not reaping a harvest of blessings, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. God encourages us with “Don’t give up, for I will bless you at the proper time, if you don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9, paraphrased).

How We Keep From Giving Up

One thing we can do is to accept God’s rule in our life. He’s the boss and although we may strongly disagree with him about the proper time, we choose to humble our self under his powerful hand. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6).

Another thing we need to know is that often God’s blessings come through a long and challenging process. We need to endure the wait, continue to pursue his promised blessings, and follow him step by step (Luke 8:15).

A third thing that can keep us from giving up is to learn to rest in him. We need to learn to say to God, “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15).




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Whose Honor Do You Seek?

In recent years I have grown to realize that only actions I’ve taken to further God’s honor will have lasting value. Also, I have grown to realize that often when I think I am pursuing God’s honor, I am seeking a lot of my own honor too.

As I reflected on this, I recalled one of my favorite stories that illustrate a time when I did seek God’s honor above mine.

I had recently given my colonel notice that I would be getting out of the Air Force in six months. This notification was necessary to give the Air Force time to train my replacement.

I had also become a Christian four months earlier, and was proud of it.

One of my duties in the Air Force was to manage a part of the performance of a large aerospace company who provided considerable engineering services to the development and testing of the Minuteman Missile program.

But the company didn’t like me. One of the big reasons was because I gave them a hard time when they sought to spend money out of my budget. I hated wasting government money and often I felt that they were more interested in spending government money than giving the Air Force a good product.

So, one night they tried to get me fired. After dinner three of them tried to talk the Colonel into firing me, with me sitting at the table.

They said to the Colonel, “You can’t trust him, he’s getting out in a few months. He won’t work hard.”

I felt anger and blurted out,” Oh yes he can! I’m a Christian.”

Then one of them said, “So what? Carl’s one too (one of the three men at the table).”

Without batting an eye, I said, ”Well, he certainly doesn’t act like one.”

Carl melted into his chair.

The Colonel didn’t fire me that night but trusted me to make good on my promise to do a good job for him because I was a Christian. I had no other reason to work hard.

After that night, I went to work with more determination and energy that I had ever had had before. And good things begin to happen. I stayed in budget, several engineering projects were completed, and a number of other projects went well.

At one point, the Colonel questioned me about changing my mind about getting out of the service because I was working so hard.

As my time in the Air Force drew to a close, he honored me with the Commendation Medal for meritorious service.

As I reflect on this experience, I sensed the main reason that this very challenging job turned out so well, was that God was helping me because I did it to honor him. I did it in the name of being a Christian, not for self-glory. I had no idea that there was even such a thing as a Commendation Medal.

Also God says, ”I honor those who honor Me (1 Samuel 2:20).

So, may this true story encourage us to seek God’s honor in all that we do this year.

Why Honor God?

Who else should we honor, ourselves? “What do you have that you did not receive, but if you received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Whatever we have that would move us to honor ourselves is a gift from God anyway. “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17).

We honor God simply because he deserves to be honored and wants to be honored for who he is and what he has done for us.

How We Do It

So, how do we honor God? Go to church every week? Try to be a good Christian?

He says to us, “Do what I want you to do. Be different; be like Me (1 Peter 4:2, paraphrased).

He also says, “You don’t need to honor yourself, because I have already honored you because you are my child (Isaiah 43:4, paraphrased; Romans 8:18).

Finally, we honor God by growing spiritually and giving love to others. Jesus says, “This is my Father’s [honor], that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8, NIV).

So, are we “seeking great things for [ourselves]? Do not seek them, for behold I am going to bring disaster on all flesh” (Jeremiah 45:5), God warns. The entire honor we seek for ourselves is wasted effort.

However, as we seek to honor God in every task, may we remember that he says, “I honor those who honor Me.”



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