When We Think We’ve Arrived

2 Peter 1:5Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, Godliness; and to Godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you have these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being unproductive. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – When we move from one quality on the list to another, we are not done with the previous quality. We must work to improve each one.

My Advice – Never think that you have arrived in your Christian life. There are always new Christ-like qualities to pursue and already “attained” Christ-like qualities to improve.

A Tale of Two Mothers

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Proverbs 23:22-25Listen to your [mother], who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding. The [mother] of a righteous man has great joy; [she] who has a wise son delights in him. May your . . . mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice! (NIV 1984)

Mitch Albom – “I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.”

My Musings – Happy Mothers Day to the two mothers in my life.  The mother who gave me life (on the right) and the mother who made me a father (on the left).

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My Advice -Sons and husbands, lets give them reasons to rejoice! Honor them every day, not just on this day.

Walk This Way

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Leviticus 26:12 – “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people.” (Leviticus 26:12)

My Musings – This verse must be read in context.  There is a condition that precedes it:  “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands.”  There follows an impressive list of blessings capped off by this awesome promise in verse 12 above.  Of course, conditions always beg the question, what if the conditions are violated?  Following the blessings are a long list of consequences, which are often overlooked, because the conditions are often overlooked.  The word “if” should always give us pause.  This is the immediate context.

But the overriding context is that this is a promise to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  They were under the Law.  Thankfully, we are under grace and don’t have to worry about obedience (ugh, legalism!).  Or do we?  While it is abundantly clear that “it is by grace that [we] have been saved, through faith . . . not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9),” and many can readily quote this, we tend to overlook (and are unable to quote) verse 10:  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Consider also want James says in the second chapter of his Epistle:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

This is not a salvation of faith plus works theology, but rather a recognition that true saving faith results in a life that is transformed, and the transformation is evidenced by good works (and avoiding a sinful lifestyle).  A lack of good works (and a habitually sinful lifestyle) is likely evidence of a life that has not been transformed and calls into question whether there really was saving faith in the first place.  Of course, we must be careful here.  While salvation (justification) is a one time event initiated by grace through faith, transformation (sanctification) is a lifelong process.  People mature in the faith at varying paces, with many ups and downs.

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We are all used to people making claims. Politicians make claims about what they will do if they are elected. Advertisers make claims about the benefits of the product they are pitching. Suiters make claims about how much they love the person they are wooing. None of these claims are worth anything unless they are backed up by action. A politician risks not being reelected if they do not follow through with their campaign promises. Inventory will cease to move off store shelves if the product does not live up to the advertiser’s claims. Lovers grow apart when promised affections are not delivered.

So it is with our faith. A faith that transforms is a faith that performs. Faith inaction becomes a faith in action. Doing the least for the Kingdom becomes doing for even the least in the Kingdom. So how are things with you? Is your faith alive or dead? Is your “work produced by faith?” Is your “labor prompted by love?” Is your “endurance inspired by hope?” Are you seeking to do the “good works, which God prepared in advance for [you] to do?”

My Advice – So back to the verse in Leviticus.  If we expect God to “walk” with us, we need to be walking in the same direction.

 

 

Everything That Is Needed

2 Peter 1:3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and Godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We go through life thinking “if only we had this or that” we would have everything we need. Often, we get it and find that we “need” more, not realizing that as children of God we had all that we needed all along. (NIV 1978)

My Advice – Long before you went to college, you had everything that you needed for life. Just because you now have knowledge through a formal education, do not think that your need for increased knowledge of Him has been superseded or diminished.

Submissive Humility

1 Peter 5:5Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. Clothe yourself in humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We should never be too proud to learn from the age and experience of others. This includes those who may be younger than we are chronologically, but more mature than we are in the faith.

My Advice – You’ve learned much in school, but there is much also to be learned from those who are older and have more experience. Continue to learn now that you have graduated, and even later in life when you are the elder one with more experience.

When I’m Sixty-Four

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Joshua 14:10-12“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (NIV 1984)

“When I’m Sixty Four”

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, 1966

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty four?

You’ll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
If it’s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine forevermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty four?

My Musings – Feeling thankful today on my birthday (guess which one?) for all the blessings God has given me over the years.  Eileen, my wonderful wife of nearly 44 years, our two precious boys Josh and Joel, devoted parents, and two thoughtful brothers.  There have been speed bumps along the way, of course (Eileen’s health issues and blindness, Josh’s handicaps and early death at nine and Dad has passed), but by and large we are grateful to God for His goodness (even the blessings that have resulted from these difficulties) to me and my family.

I remember listening to this Beatles’ song in my youth (“many years from now [ago]”), thinking how remote and unimaginable 64 would be. And I can’t begin to imagine anyone claiming to be just as strong and vigorous at 85 as they were at 40 (as Caleb claimed), much less 64.  Just this past week my mom (85 years old, just like Caleb) remarked that she must be getting old.  “No mom,” I said, “I’m getting old, you’re already there.”  We had a good laugh, with perhaps a bit of melancholy mixed in.

My mom is a fairly “vigorous and strong” person for being 85 years young (she still lives in her own house, mows her yard and snow blows her driveway).  I am still in relatively good health despite my “advancing” years and the occasional kidney stone, Eileen continues to persevere and rise above the multiple health-related issues that persist, and Joel is the blessing the doctors said he would never be after the all the handicaps that his brother Josh had. Yet, God has been good to us in all these things.  Even now that I’m 64. And with the Lord’s help, maybe I’ll be just as vigorous and strong at 85?

My Advice – Not exactly mine.

Ecclesiastes 12, 1-3 – Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”— before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop. (NIV 1984)

Romans 8:35-39Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword [or blindness or handicaps or poor health or premature death]? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [even advancing age], will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV 1984)

Postscript – Learn more about the things that have convinced my family and me that nothing “in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” archived under “Our Family Album” section of this blog site.

 

 

Prepared for Gentle Respect

1 Peter 3:15But in your hearts set apart Christ Jesus as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (NIV 1978)

My Musing – In a world with little hope, Christians should stand out because of their hope. This is likely to raise questions. Questions we should be able to answer (although many are unprepared). We should not be arrogant or condescending in our replies. The lost deserve our pity and compassion, not a “holier-than-thou” response.

My Advice – Be gentle in your responses. Respect their right to choose for themselves. Do not lose your gentleness if they do not choose Christ. There may be another time and how you respond to them now may make some difference later.