Are We Dead Yet?

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You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”  (Titus 2:1–8, NIV 1984).

Other People’s Musings – “Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair … these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.  Whatever your years, there is in every being’s heart the love of wonder, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing, childlike appetite for ‘what next,’ and the joy and the game of life.  You are as young as your faith, as old as your,  doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.”  (Douglas MacArthur).

My Musings – “Whatever your years,” you’re not dead yet.  Continue to learn.  Continue to grow.  There is much that the older generation can (in humility) teach those that are younger. But it is also true, that those who older can learn from the younger generation.  We have a tendency to retreat into our own self-defined groups of people that we feel comfortable with.  But comfort tends to quench the “love of wonder the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing, childlike appetite for ‘what next,’ and the joy and the game of life.”

My Advice – Actually Mac’s. “You are as young as your faith, as old as your, doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.”  What ever your years, get in the game.  You’re not dead yet.

 

Erasing Adjectives

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Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20:24–28, NIV 1978).

My Musings – Imagine your worst failure or lapse of judgement.  Now imagine that is how you would always be remembered.  Thomas was hand-picked by Jesus to be one of the twelve.  When Jesus indicated His intent to go back to Judea (when Lazarus died), a place where the religious leaders tried to stone Him, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  (John 11:16, NIV 1984).   According to Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Thomas preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.  Yet, despite all this, down through the ages Thomas has been known by the adjective “doubting” (expressing or feeling uncertainty or lack of conviction).  Lack of conviction? “My Lord and my God!

My Advice – The beginning of a new year, is routinely thought of as a time of new beginnings.  A time to wipe the slate clean and start anew.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 1984).  If you are not already “in Christ,” there is no better way to start anew.  If you are already “in Christ,” but feel that past failures are too terrible to be wiped clean, we are promised that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9).  Either way, make 2020 and time of new beginnings in Christ.  We need not be defined or remembered by our failures or lapses. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:11–12, NIV 1984). Happy New Year!

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Want to become a Christian (start anew)? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ (wipe the slate clean)? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

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Today’s musing was inspired by Elder Keith Miller’s sermon on December 29, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

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Enoch walked with God, then he was no more, because God took him away.  (Genesis 5:24, NIV 1978).

Musings of Others – “Walk” is the biblical expression for fellowship and obedience that results in divine favor.  (Ross, A. P. (1985). Genesis. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 36). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books).

My Musings – There were no written scriptures to indicate what this “walk” should be.  What we do know, is that after the fall, Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord.” (Genesis 3:8, NIV 1978).  They hid because they heard Him, not because they saw Him.  There were many creatures in the garden that the sound could have been attributable to, but they distinctly recognized that it was God making the sound.  This implies familiarity, indicating that it was likely a frequent occurrence.

We are not explicitly told of what the fellowship between God and man was like before the fall, but somehow Enoch (the seventh from Adam) knew enough about it to learn how to walk with God all those generations later.  I am reminded of a TV mini-series from the ’70’s called “Roots,” from the book of the same name, that recounted the experiences of a family of African-American slaves that were carefully handed down and faithfully remembered over multiple generations. This is likely how Adam and Eve’s walks with God in the Garden were passed down.  And, of course, God “rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV 1978).  At any rate, “Enoch walked with God.

My Advice – “Then he was no more, because God took him away.”  We learn (also in Hebrews chapter 11), that this means that Enoch “did not experience death.”  God took him home with Him, “for before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”  God enjoyed his walk with Enoch so much he did not want to part with him.

A former pastor from my youth, as best as I can remember it, liked to tell it this way.  One day God and Enoch were on one of their walks together.  They were enjoying the walk so much that time got away from them.  As the sun sunk lower in the sky, and the shadows lengthened, God said to Enoch, “we’re closer to my house than we are to yours, why don’t you just come on home with me?”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a close walk with God?

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

The Overflow Of The Heart

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For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” (Matthew 12:34–35, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Sometimes we Christians will intentionally speak (post, tweet) maliciously and no amount of “thinking” can stop us.  In these cases the “overflow of [our] heart” is quite clear. The old man, the evil man is still controlling us and the overflow of our heart brings out the evil of our old sin nature.

At other times, it’s just a matter of speaking (posting, tweeting) without thinking.  It is then that the overflow of our hearts reveals how far along we are in our walk with Christ.  Is the old, evil, sinful nature still in control or are we being transformed into His likeness?  Are we being controlled by the Spirit?

My Advice – Think before you speak (post, tweet).  The truth is, of course, paramount.  But sometimes, we can use the truth to be hurtful not helpful, to discourage rather than inspire.  It is never necessary to lie, but it should never be used to be inconsiderate, cruel or unkind.  “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV 1984).   For  “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5:24–25, NIV 1984).  Then the overflow of your heart (intentionally or without even thinking) will be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22, NIV 1984).

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Mind Control

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My Musings – No matter how “good” we were before we accepted Christ, there were certain things about that life that we need to leave behind.  A walk that we used to walk that we must rid ourselves of.  To do that we must set our mind on things “above,” on what the Spirit desires, not on what our sin nature desired in our past.  If we do not allow the Spirit to control our minds we will not be able to live an abundant Christian life, and our lives will lack peace.

It is interesting to note that the sin nature spills over into shameful outward acts, while the “Son” nature overflows with admirable inner qualities.  The former is characterized by the things we do, the latter is characterized by who we are.  The former may satisfy for a season, but the latter will last into the next life.

My Advice – The victorious Christian life is not about balancing the sin nature against the Son nature.  It is not enough that the scales tip more on the side of the Son.  We cannot continue to serve our sinful nature and expect to bear abundant fruit.  We cannot serve two masters.  Let’s make sure we are clinging to the Son by allowing the Spirit to control our minds and our hearts.

Increasing Measure

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My Musings – As we wrap up my musings on discipleship and “Got Spiritual Milk” we might be asking ourselves – what now? Have we arrived at the place where God wants us to be? The answer to these questions is simply in remembering what was learned at the outset: Growth and maturity, are a process that takes place over time. We looked at twelve key “steps” that are essential to following Jesus and realizing our full potential as His disciples.  It is not a magic formula that in twelve “easy” steps will make us a model disciple. For each individual step is a process of its own leading us into a spiritual transformation that is continually evolving.

Justification – Like Paul, we must realize that we have not yet been made perfect. We have been saved. This was a past event, never to be repeated, where once and forever God made it “just as if I’d never sinned.” Justification is a legal term signifying that the all claims of God’s moral laws have been satisfied by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and that those accepting the terms of that sacrifice (believe and receive) are acquitted.

Glorification – Because we have been justified we have a future destination. Someday we will enter God’s presence and we will be made perfect. Glorification, as the term is used in the Bible, refers to the ultimate perfection of the believer.

Sanctification – In the meantime, we need to keep pressing on toward growth and development, adding to our faith in increasing measure. Sanctification is a fancy theological term that means being purified and made holy. It is a continuing process happening now that connects our past justification with our future glorification. It is not a perfect process, because “we have not yet been made perfect.” There will be up and downs. We will encounter speed bumps along our path as Satan tries to sidetrack us along the way. He cannot change the fact that we have been justified. He cannot change our final destination. But he can influence our journey between the two points hoping to make it less victorious that it might otherwise be.

So by now, we should know and understand that discipleship does not refer to a past event or our future destination. It is the journey that we are on here and now. It is not twelve steps and done. It is twelve steps in increasing measure until the journey is done. We do not know when our journey will be over. So we continue in our efforts to add to our original step of faith. We add goodness (role of a servant), knowledge (illuminated by the Word, engaged with the Church), self-control (hold out against sin, Spirit-led lifestyle), perseverance (suffer with Christ, pray on all occasions), Godliness (desire what God desires, learn spiritual wisdom), kindness (is Christ-like in attitude, involved in evangelism) and love (proven by love).

None of these are things that we will achieve perfectly in our lifetimes. But we can possess them in increasing measure.

Increasing means to become progressively greater. The increase can be a gentle slope or a steep grade. It can also be exponential. What it will be, to a large degree, will depend on our efforts. Paul instructed his readers to “make every effort.” Half-hearted efforts will only give us half-hearted results. We do not want half-hearted results. What we want is to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

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My Advice – A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We took that step when we accepted Christ. That decision has already been made. The question before us now is: are we satisfied with remaining an infant or do we want to grow? If we want to grow, the question then becomes: how much effort do we want to put into it? De we want to make every effort? Do we want to grow in increasing measure? Do we want to keep pressing on? So how are you answering these questions?

Are We There Yet?

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My Musings – As a youngster, I remember the long road trips to visit my grandparents.  Without fail, either I or one of my two brothers would eventually ask “how much further?”  This question was usually asked a number of times before we reached our destination.  Five hours is considered a long trip when you are young.  In many respects, our walk with Christ is the same.  As long as “we are here,” means we are not there yet.  Just drifting through life will take us further away, because the “headwinds” of this world keep pushing us away from our “goal.”

For most of my childhood, our trips to my grandparents took us down two-lane roads.  No four-lane interstates went our way.  Road construction meant more than mere delays.  It meant long detours that took us miles out of our way before we could return to the designated route.  Life has its detours as well.  Many (but not all) are of our own making, requiring constant re-routing to return to our original course.

My Advice – To make forward progress we need to press on. We must forget what is behind and press on toward the goal to win the prize (reach our destination). If we are not looking forward (keeping our eyes on the prize), we are more likely than not to drift off course.  We must keep in mind that no matter how long, winding or hard the journey is, the destination (prize) that God has for us will be worth it.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 10, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.