personal

Taste and See

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Personal experience is powerful. It speaks louder than suppositions and theory. Everyone may be entitled to their opinion, but it doesn't make it true or right. Experience has a way of exposing half-truths and falsehoods.

At one point in history, leading scientists and thinkers believed the world was flat. If a person were to sail a ship towards the horizon, they thought the ship would fall off the edge of the world.

These leaders were proven wrong by the experience of the early explorers, who sailed beyond the horizon and lived to tell about it.

Scripture

By David when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech; Abimelech threw him out, so David left.

I will thank the Lord at all times. My mouth will always praise him. My soul will boast about the Lord. Those who are oppressed will hear it and rejoice. Praise the Lord’s greatness with me. Let us highly honor his name together.

I went to the Lord for help. He answered me and rescued me from all my fears. All who look to him will be radiant. Their faces will never be covered with shame. Here is a poor man who called out. The Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles. [vss 1-6]

The Messenger of the Lord camps around those who fear him, and he rescues them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you holy people who belong to him. Those who fear him are never in need. Young lions go hungry and may starve, but those who seek the Lord’s help have all the good things they need.

Come, children, listen to me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Which of you wants a full life? Who would like to live long enough to enjoy good things? Keep your tongue from saying evil things and your lips from speaking deceitful things. Turn away from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it! [vss 7-14]

The Lord’s eyes are on righteous people. His ears hear their cry for help. The Lord confronts those who do evil in order to wipe out all memory of them from the earth. ⌊Righteous people⌋ cry out. The Lord hears and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to those whose hearts are humble. He saves those whose spirits are crushed.

The righteous person has many troubles, but the Lord rescues him from all of them. The Lord guards all of his bones. Not one of them is broken. Evil will kill wicked people, and those who hate righteous people will be condemned. The Lord protects the souls of his servants. All who take refuge in him will never be condemned. [vss 15-22]

(Psalm 34:1-22 GW) [Context– Psalm 34]

Key phrase— Taste and see that the Lord is good—Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him

[bctt tweet="Taste and see that the Lord is good—Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

Why is King David thankful to the Lord? How does he express this gratitude?

What is David's encouragement about the Messenger of the Lord? What are his exhortations concerning the fear of the Lord?

How does the Lord relate to those who are righteous and humble? How does He deal with those who are evil?

What are the promises and assurances given throughout this psalm for those who trust God?

Reflection...

The fear of the Lord is often misunderstood. At times it's minimized as respect, but it's more than that. Some people view it as something negative.

This psalm gives some good insight into the fear of the Lord. It's based on experiential relationship with God, a relationship built on trust.

It includes gratitude and awareness of God's goodness and faithfulness. It motivates a person to walk in the light of God's truth, so we honor Him and become a reflection of His nature.

Does the fear of the Lord involve respect? Yes, but it's a recognition and acceptance of who God is and of His power and might and holiness.

Great blessing comes with fearing the Lord in a right way, but there's a great cost for those who choose not to humble themselves before God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

When you face troubles in life—Do you cry out to God with a thankful heart or only questions?

Have you learned the difference between an anxious fear and the fear of the Lord?

Have you experienced the blessings in life that the fear of the Lord brings?

In what ways have you experienced God's goodness when you've looked to Him as your refuge?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Redemptive Reconciliation

Photo credit: unsplash.com_willvanw If you love something, set it free, if it comes back, it is yours, if it doesn't, it never was. This sentiment, or some variation of it, was popular in the seventies—the Me Generation.

Inevitably, someone put a cynical spin on it—if it doesn't come back, hunt it down and kill it. The issue centers around people and possessiveness.

Slavery is a form of possession. It comes in different forms and levels, from bondage to indebted servitude. Slavery is slavery, in whatever form it is. It reduces a person to an object. It is inhumane.

Slavery has existed for thousands of years, and is found in the Bible. Some people question why the Bible doesn't condemn slavery, but seems to accept it.

The small personal epistle of Philemon refutes that idea, as does the book of Exodus.

Useful and valuable

Many, if not most, of the activists for the abolition of slavery were people of faith, who believed in God as a creator of all humanity. It is still the case. This epistle gives some insight to this.

For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. Philemon 15-16 (NKJV)

Paul appeals to a man of status in Philemon, who was a believer. A church met in his home that was the fruit of Paul's ministry in the ancient city of Ephesus.

[bctt tweet="Many, if not most, of the activists for the abolition of slavery were people of faith" username="tkbeyond"]

Paul makes the case that Onesimus, whose name means useful, is now much more valuable than a slave. Now Onesimus is a man and a brother in the faith because of the work of God's grace in his life.

A change of status

Although Onesimus had stolen from his master (Philemon) and run away, now he was a changed person. He was forgiven and redeemed by God, and Paul had found him to be useful as a fellow-servant in God's kingdom.

In other words, Onesimus gained a new usefulness by becoming a fellow believer.

Since Paul was the spiritual mentor of Philemon, he appeals to his brother in the faith to forgive and receive Onesimus, whom Paul raises to the status of his own “child” (verse 10).

[bctt tweet="The epistle of Philemon is a guide to appeal for reconciliation in a godly manner" username="tkbeyond"]

Transforming freedom

It's interesting how Paul focuses on the person who is redeemed by God from slavery to sin and death, not the right or wrong of slavery.

His reasoning with Philemon is based on the equality all three men have in God's kingdom.

This is a valuable epistle. It serves as a guide to appeal for reconciliation in a godly manner.

It underscores the nature of genuine Christian faith—the power of the cross is more valuable and important than any cause, no matter how noble it is.

[bctt tweet="The power of the cross is more valuable and important than any cause" username="tkbeyond"]

What brings real transforming freedom for anyone caught in slavery? Only God's redeeming grace.

Some questions and an encouragement

Are there people you tend to see as inferior to you?

Is there anyone you hold resentment or unforgiveness towards?

As you reflect on how God's grace has set you free—

Who is someone in your life that you can extend some type of kindness?

  • Be intentional and gracious towards those you encounter this week, especially if they have wronged you.

This was a guest post originally posted on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Here's that link– Redemptive Reconciliation

One Thing You Lack

Photo credit: unsplash.com_CStMerc We all view people and the world around us in different ways. It’s called a worldview. We see through certain filters, and these filters affect how we see things. They reflect our biases and our point of view.

For example, we size people up based on our own perceived status. We see people as richer or poorer than us, skinnier or fatter, more intelligent or less intelligent, and well, you get the idea.

A rich young man

The story of the rich young ruler who questioned Jesus about eternal life has three points of view—Jesus’, the young ruler’s, and ours.

Our view may be similar to that of the disciples or the young man. But it’s nearly impossible for us to see things from Jesus’ point of view.

“Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’”—Mark 10:21 (NKJV)

In fact, many of us grapple with what Jesus tells this young man. It hits home, especially for us Americans. We are quite wealthy compared to most of the world, and we have a lot of stuff.

Too much stuff!

How much stuff do we have?

So much that it requires more than 2.3 billion square feet in 60,000 self-storage buildings. (These are statistics from 2009.) That’s a lot of stuff!

The average American has a lot in common with the rich young ruler.

Look at what Jesus says first: “One thing you lack . . .” This young man lacked little in worldly possessions, but he didn’t have what he wanted.

So Jesus tells him to sell what he has and give it to the poor, and this would bring him treasure in Heaven.

Couldn't let go

The rich, young ruler went away sad. His possessions were too costly for him to give up.

He couldn’t let go of them—even for the one thing he really wanted—eternal life.

When Jesus looked at the young man, the Bible says He loved him. Jesus knew what He told the man to do would be hard, but He did so out of love for him.

If we believe Jesus loves us, then we need to take this to heart. When we say we’ll follow Jesus as His disciples, are we willing to exchange what we have for what He gives us?

Here are a few questions and a challenge or two—

  • How much “stuff” do you have?
  • Are you willing to part with any of it? If so, how much?
  • Take a simple inventory of what you own and ask yourself how much of it owns you?
  • Try giving something away this week, and see how difficult it is to do.
    • If it’s pretty easy, keep at it. And if it’s hard, keep at it!

This was originally published on the Daily Devo blog of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. Here's the original post– One Thing You Lack

Lacking Nothing

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What's the most well-known and popular psalm in the Bible? Hands down, it's Psalm 23. A favorite at funerals because of its comforting words, it's short and descriptive, making it a memorable favorite.

It is a calming and reassuring prayer that's brought comfort and hope to POW's and millions of other through the centuries.

Psalm 23 could very well be called the Lord's psalm. It's a very personal expression of trust in God. Short, compact, yet richly filled with deep language.

Scripture

A psalm by David.The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. [vss 1-3] 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. [vss 4-5] 

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. [vs 6] 

(Psalm 23:1-6 NIV) [Context– Psalm 23]

Key phrase— The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing

[bctt tweet="The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What is the confident statement made by King David at the beginning? How does this first line reveal how personal this psalm is?

What are the ways David sees the Lord personally involved in his life?

Which statements express great assurances and express David's confidence in the Lord?

If you're familiar with King David's life (1 & 2 Samuel), how are all these confident statements reflective of the journey of his life?

Reflection...

King David was a shepherd before he was a warrior and king (1 Sam 16:11-13; 17:34-37). He understood the responsibility of a shepherd caring for his sheep from personal experience.

This psalm expresses confident statements and assurances of God's provision, guidance, restoration, protection, and presence. It's intensely personal.

Perhaps this is why it's such a popular psalm. Anyone can lean into this comforting prayer and profession of trust. It expresses the personal and hope-filled nature of faith (Heb 11:6).

This psalm encourages a person as they repeat it's simple, confident statements, no matter what adversity they may face.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Do you currently have a similar confident trust in God as King David expresses in this psalm?

How have you experienced the Lord's personal guidance and protection in your life?

Are there any of these assuring and confirming statements that are hard for you to accept now?

Are you willing to trust God for His provision, guidance, restoration, protection, and presence in your life?

Some final thoughts...

To gain this level of confidence and trust, the Lord needs to be your personal Shepherd. This is an intimate and personal trust relationship between yourself and God.

This week, especially if you're going through discouraging, challenging times—read and pray through this psalm morning and evening for a week. At the end of the week, reflect on how your view of things changes and how God has made His presence known to you.


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

How I Got Theology– Part 3

Photo credit: unsplash.com_NCollins American evangelical churches have worked hard to reach out to younger generations over the past couple of decades. It's not gone that well.

Sure, more mega churches dot the landscape, but a great many people, especially younger ones, have left the organized church, or simply left the Christian faith.

Much effort has gone into attracting and drawing people into church, while others focus on being missional. Sadly, the foundation for faith is often neglected with these efforts.

An assumption

Aristotle is credited with the postulate that nature abhors a vacuum. A vacuum existed in the mid-sixties—a lack of spiritual integrity and substance. This vacuum got filled with philosophy, religion, and cultural trends. Life is cyclical. There is an ebb and flow to everything on earth.

An assumption was made by organized churches in the years preceding the Jesus People Movement. It was assumed that young people had no interest in studying the Bible. I see a similar assumption at present. It was a wrong assumption 50+ years ago and it's wrong now.

The opposite is true. Many young people are seeking the truth and are interested in the Bible. And, many people want mentoring, but they reject authoritarianism.

[bctt tweet="Many young people seek truth and are open to be mentored" username="tkbeyond"]

A hunger

A great biblical ignorance exists today. Not a lack of Bible knowledge or resources, but ignorance. Why? Much of what is presented and promoted is not processed thoughtfully and spiritually by those who receive it. The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart.

[bctt tweet="The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart" username="tkbeyond"]

A great hunger and interest in the truth existed when I came to faith over 45 years ago. Yep, I'm old. I'm a holdover from the Jesus Generation, as it was called.

I remember hours of shared engagement studying the Bible with other people of my generation. We did it in churches, often sitting on the floor, in homes, on our own, or outside in public. We couldn't get enough. I couldn't get enough.

It wasn't listening to well-crafted messages from the Bible, it was a personal encounter with Jesus. He (Jesus) has a lot to say about the value of digging into the Scriptures—

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me (John 5:39 NIV)

It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh doesn’t give life. The words I told you are spirit, and they give life. (John 6:63 NCV)

“If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my followers. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31, 32 NCV)

 “Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth. (John 17:17 GW)

A personal encounter

Is there a difference between attending a Bible study and studying the Bible? Yes. I've seen many people attend a Bible study, taking in what is said as valuable information. But, if that information doesn't become life-giving truth for them, it is simply Bible knowledge.

Bible knowledge isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't transform a person, it informs them.

[bctt tweet="Bible knowledge doesn't transform a person, it informs them" username="tkbeyond"]

If our study of the Bible isn't a personal encounter with Jesus, but only a pursuit of truth, we miss the most important thing. As Jesus said, "these very Scriptures speak about me!" (John 5:39 GNTD)

So, how does Bible study become a spiritual encounter with Jesus? Here are some things that help build a good foundation for your own personal theology to develop—

  • Prayer—perhaps too obvious, yet so vital it must be mentioned—we need to ask God to reveal His truth to us (Matthew 16:17).
  • The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-17)—How can we receive God's revelation apart from His Spirit?
  • Reading and listening to the Scriptures—there is nothing that can replace this. No one else can do this for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Regular study of the Bible—if not daily, weekly—a consistent digging into the Scriptures so your faith is founded on a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24-27)

Need more?

This is the final of a 3-part series that began with How I Got Theology– Part 1. It's my personal answer to three questions posed in a previous post called Got Theology? where I look at how we all develop a personal theology.

If you'd like more guidance on how to study the Bible in a personal, yet systematic and objective way, you can download my 7-page Primer on Inductive Bible Study. It is a simple guide to Inductive Bible Study (IBS) developed from many years of training pastors, leaders, and other followers of Jesus, here in the US and overseas.

Just click on the link below, fill out the short form, then download it.

Click Here to Download the Basic Primer on Inductive Bible Study

The Apple of His Eye

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A life of faith is a life of trust. Trust becomes real when it becomes necessary. I can say, "I trust God," but those are mere words until I choose to show it by my actions.

David was slandered and persecuted before he was a king by King Saul, and while he was king by his son Absalom. Yet, he continued to trust God rather than take matters into his own hands.

Prayer is an act of faith. It's not mere words spoken into air, it's a commitment of the soul.

Scripture

A prayer by David.

Hear my plea for justice, O Lord. Pay attention to my cry. Open your ears to my prayer, ⌊which comes⌋ from lips free from deceit. Let the verdict of my innocence come directly from you. Let your eyes observe what is fair. [vss 1-2]

You have probed my heart. You have confronted me at night. You have tested me like silver, but you found nothing wrong. I have determined that my mouth will not sin. I have avoided cruelty because of your word. In spite of what others have done, my steps have remained firmly in your paths. My feet have not slipped. [vss 3-5]

I have called on you because you answer me, O God. Turn your ear toward me. Hear what I have to say. Reveal your miraculous deeds of mercy, O Savior of those who find refuge by your side from those who attack them. Guard me as if I were the pupil in your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings. Hide me from wicked people who violently attack me, from my deadly enemies who surround me. [vss 6-9]

They have shut out all feeling. Their mouths have spoken arrogantly. They have tracked me down. They have surrounded me. They have focused their attention on throwing me to the ground. Each one of them is like a lion eager to tear ⌊its prey⌋ apart and like a young lion crouching in hiding places. [vss 10-12]

Arise, O Lord; confront them! Bring them to their knees! With your sword rescue my life from wicked people. With your power rescue me from mortals, O Lord, from mortals who enjoy their inheritance only in this life. You fill their bellies with your treasure. Their children are satisfied ⌊with it⌋, and they leave what remains to their children.

I will see your face when I am declared innocent. When I wake up, I will be satisfied ⌊with seeing⌋ you. [vss 13-15]

(Psalm 17:1-15 GW) [Context– Psalm 17]

Key phrase— I have called on you because you answer me, O God

[bctt tweet="I have called on you because you answer me, O God" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How does King David begin his appeal to the Lord? Why does he say he's confident in prayer?

In what way does he speak of his relationship with the Lord? Do you think this is boasting?

What and from who is David asking to be protected from? Why?

What is King David's final declaration of confidence? When will this happen?

Reflection...

Corrie Ten Boom, made famous by her book (and movie) The Hiding Place, knew Hitler's Germany would face God's judgment. Why? Because of their genocide upon the Jews, the apple of God's eye.

She knew Israel was the nation God raised up and chose as His people. King David appealed to God for His protection when he said, "Guard me as if I were the pupil [apple] in your eye."

The pupil [apple] is the center of our eye. This speaks of an acknowledgment of need and vulnerability. King David understood that no matter who his enemy was, God was greater.

He even had this assurance beyond life on this earth. As he says, "I will see your face... when I wake up." This shows His trust in God—a genuine faith. Even when surrounded by enemies and the possibility of death, he still trusted God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Do you trust in God more than your self or others?

Have you learned to trust God in a deeper way through times of trials and testing?

How has God answered prayer for you? How has this increased your faith?

Are you confident in God's care and protection over you and the lives of your family?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Got Theology?

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ABurden Theology, gotta have it! Even atheists and agnostics have a form of theology—one doesn't believe God exists and the other is unsure or indifferent. It's still a belief about God.

Many different types of theology exist. Some theology is complex, it requires a PhD to know authoritatively. But most people have a much simpler theology based on their personal experience with spiritual truth.

We all believe something about God, no matter how we define or describe it. 

A (very) basic understanding

Christian theology is categorized in various ways. The most common one is systematic theology. It's a system of beliefs, but often with an embedded view-point.

Systematic theology sets out to be objective, but the starting point can be subjective based on certain beliefs, such as—Evangelical, Reformed, Pentecostal, or Roman Catholic perspectives.

Another major area of Christian theology is Biblical theology. It's based on what is revealed from the written Scriptures, and is, I believe, more likely to bear the original intent of the Holy Spirit's inspiration (2 Tim 3:16).

Of course, Biblical theology can be both objective or subjective depending on how it's approached. If an objective approach to exegesis is applied, even an inductive study, the theology gained should be more objective, systematic and trustworthy.

[bctt tweet=" It's easy to be swayed by the opinions and biases of others" username="tkbeyond"]

A cultural theology is also common for many believers. This tends to be highly subjective and personal. In other words, it's distinctively un-objective. One example of an American version of this became known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Gaining a good theology

Unless you're a seminary grad or highly motivated Bible student, most Christians believe what they're told or taught by influential leaders in their lives. These would include pastors, evangelists, and popular speakers and authors.

It's easy to be swayed by the opinions and biases of others, unless you develop an objective and systematic approach for studying the Bible.

Paul the apostle's exhortation to the young leader Timothy reflects this—

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

This is the value of an approach like Inductive Bible Study, or IBS. A very basic description of how it's done is expressed in the three primary steps to the IBS approach—observation, interpretation, and application.

Perhaps in the next week or so, I'll talk about this in more detail. If that sounds interesting, let me know!

Belief-based or relationship-based theology

One question I think we all need to answer is this—How does our theology define us, or do we define our theology? A follow-up question is—How have we developed our personal theology?

We've all developed our own theology, whether we're aware of it or not. It develops over time as we learn and internalize truth as we understand it. That's the key thing. How do we understand it?

[bctt tweet="How does our theology define us, or do we define our theology?" username="tkbeyond"]

It comes down to whether we have a belief-based or relationship-based theology. What's the difference? One is grounded in certain beliefs, but often leads to dogmatism. The other is grounded in relationship, but based on the truth revealed by God's Spirit (see John 14:26 and 2 Tim 3:16-17).

When dogmatism becomes the basis of a person's spiritual assurance, a person's faith can be shattered if something undermines their belief. When our theology is relationship-based, it grows out of an abiding, continuing relationship with Jesus and His word abiding in us (John 15:5, 7-8).

A few more thoughts and a caveat

Understanding spiritual truth requires spiritual discernment (1 Cor 2:10-14). I know this from experience. As mentioned in my book, I read the Bible every day for about two years before I began to understand it.

My openness to God was the key, not the time I spent reading. When I opened my heart to the Lord, He opened my eyes to understand the truth in His word (the Bible).

But God has shown it to us through his Spirit... Some people don't have the Holy Spirit. They don't accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. Things like that are foolish to them. They can't understand them. In fact, such things can't be understood without the Spirit's help. 1 Cor 2:10, 14 (NIVR)

[bctt tweet="Understanding spiritual truth requires spiritual discernment" username="tkbeyond"]

So, how can we develop a sound theology and a true understanding of God? A rule of thumb that's helped me is found in John's gospel where Jesus rebukes some Jewish religious leaders—

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)

Studying the Bible ought to deepen our relationship with Jesus. If we only gain more biblical knowledge, then we become more like the Pharisees than Jesus' disciples.

[bctt tweet="Studying the Bible ought to deepen our relationship with Jesus" username="tkbeyond"]

Finally, everyone needs to be careful about how they interpret the Bible. It isn't just how it suits one person or another, nor how it should be understood from a certain religious viewpoint.

It needs to be consistent and congruent with what the author of the Scriptures intended. The author is God via the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter reminds us—

No prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. No prophecy ever originated from humans. Instead, it was given by the Holy Spirit as humans spoke under God’s direction. 2 Peter 1:20-21 (GW)

A personal challenge

Here are 3 things I want to challenge you to do—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What's been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

You can respond to this post directly or on the social media where you see this post.

Would you like to know my answers to these questions? Then, let me know!


BTW, the photo for this post was downloaded from unsplash.com and the photographer is Aaron Burden, check out his photos... he's a fellow believer!

Unseparated

Photo credit: lightstock.com What will separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can trouble, distress, persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger, or violent death separate us from his love? As Scripture says: “We are being killed all day long because of you. We are thought of as sheep to be slaughtered.”

The one who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties. I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us.

We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation. (‭Romans‬ ‭8:‭35-39‬ (GW)


This is theological truth learned from experience, not a textbook. It's life truth, not theory.

The apostle Paul understood the inviolable power of God's love from his own experiences with such things as—"trouble, distress, persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger, or violent death." It's recorded in the Book of Acts.

The love of God is not an emotion. It's the power of His presence living in us in a continuing way, regardless of our circumstances. It is both relational and experiential. We cannot experience it apart from a true, personal relationship with Jesus.

This love is tied to the living hope we have in Jesus Christ our savior, who is Lord over all. Since He is Lord over all, and He lives in us, nothing can separate us from it—even things we cannot see, now or in the future. In short, we are secured by His love. ©Word-Strong_2016

Easter Morning—a Restoration of Hope

  Photo credit: unsplash.com_RBV

In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Europe and the current acrimonious political scene, it's good to focus on a real hope. Hope that is living and eternal. Hope restored.

This is what the Christian faith has that no other religion can offer or know. It isn't a human hope, yet it's a hope for all humans.

Here's a story of hope restored, when all seemed lost.

Early remembrances

As a young pastor, Easter sunrise services were memorable occasions, especially when our children were young. We have four children within two and three years of one another, so many preparations were made the day and night before Easter. My wife laid out what everyone would wear, and food was prepared for a meal following the service.

Many Easter mornings were cold, even freezing, as we departed into the darkness of the early morning. We packed the children into our small car with blankets, along with my guitar and other things prepared ahead.

Although the early disciples didn’t drive their car to the tomb, I tried to imagine what it was like that first Resurrection Day as we drove to the service. I was excited to celebrate and remember the day that changed history.

Many of our sunrise services were held on a hillside in the southern California desert, somewhat similar in terrain and weather to Israel. Arriving as the first rays illuminated the sky, my heart anticipated the moment the sun broke the horizon.

Waiting for the sunrise seems to take a long time, but when it appears it bursts above the earth as a new day begins.

Hope Lost and Restored

The first disciples didn’t know what to expect that early morning. It was a long night of despair, perhaps sleepless, for it seemed all hope was crushed. The One they believed to be Messiah was crucified and buried on the day Israel celebrated their annual Passover feast.

He who would deliver them from oppression and obscurity had died, and their confidence died with Him. The One to  whom they devoted their lives—believing in Him, leaving all, and following Him—was gone. The night might have dragged on, but when the sun rose things happened fast and unexpectedly.

The women were the first to know about the Lord Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:1-12). In accounts from another Gospel, we are told they met Jesus in person after His resurrection (John 20:11-18).

Women had very little status or standing in Jewish culture in those days. Concerning spiritual or religious matters, women were considered unimportant. Yet, these women were the first to know and believe the truth about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This alone is extraordinary.

Foretold, but unexpected

Everything about Jesus defied the expectations of others and went against conventional wisdom. He began preaching the Kingdom of God in the region of Galilee, far from Jerusalem where the Temple and religious leaders were.

He chose men as His closest followers who were not inclined nor equipped to study the Law and its many interpretations. Some of these men were uneducated fishermen, some religious and political zealots, and one was a hated tax collector. And one betrayed Him.

Instead of resisting an unlawful and unjust sentence of death by crucifixion, shameful and deemed a curse by the Law, He willingly submitted to it. On the day of His miraculous resurrection from the dead, He didn’t appear first to those closest to Him, nor to the important Jewish leaders, but to a few women, even one with a shameful past.

The resurrection of Christ caught everyone involved by surprise, even those who stirred up the crowd and called for His execution. Yet, Jesus spoke of His future resurrection from the dead often and in many instances.

Three written accounts are recorded in the synoptic Gospels (Matt 16:21). Most likely He spoke of this at other times, since the women knew of this when reminded by the angels (Luke 24:6-8).

Following the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus taught that He was the Bread of Life (John 6:35-40). He used a metaphor of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, which caused many disciples to quit following. As He taught this, Jesus made four references to the resurrection related to the eating and drinking of his flesh and blood.

And yet—both His death and resurrection caught everyone by surprise.


What about you?

What surprises you about the Lord and His resurrection from the dead? Is His resurrection a living hope in your heart? Have you experienced His resurrection power in your life?

May you have a blessed Resurrection Day! Everyday!

This is an excerpt from my book, The Mystery of the Gospel, except for the questions at the end, which I've added for this post.

Destiny or Direction?

Photo credit: lightstock.com We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God—those whom he has called according to his plan.

This is true because he already knew his people and had already appointed them to have the same form as the image of his Son. Therefore, his Son is the firstborn among many children.

He also called those whom he had already appointed. He approved of those whom he had called, and he gave glory to those whom he had approved of. (‭Romans‬ ‭8:‭28-30‬ GW)


Certain Scriptures are quoted often because they resonate with people in a special way. They are cherished, significant, considered as favorites, even called life verses. But when any Bible verse is personalized, it tends to lose its original meaning.

The verses above could be taken as if all that happens in life is destined to happen. Many religions in the world see life as a set of destinies. This leads to a loss of free will and individual responsibility. The Christian faith is distinctly different.

Godly direction and destiny are two very different things. Paul gave these verses as encouragement for believers who faced various trials and testings of their faith. He reminded them, and us, that God has a divine plan and we fit into it. But it is not set in cement.

God allows trials and tests in a believer's life for a purpose. They are neither random, nor fixed. They shape a person's purpose in life, God's purpose, yet without restricting our free will and personal responsibility.

He doesn't force us into a certain predetermined destiny, but provides direction for us to become whom He created us to be. ©Word-Strong_2016

Abba! Father!

Photo credit: lightstock.com Certainly, all who are guided by God’s Spirit are God’s children. You haven’t received the spirit of slaves that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the spirit of God’s adopted children by which we call out, “Abba! Father!”

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

If we are his children, we are also God’s heirs. If we share in Christ’s suffering in order to share his glory, we are heirs together with him. (‭Romans‬ ‭8:‭14-17‬ GW)


My wife and I have seen and experienced adoption from two points of view. We've seen well over a hundred adoptions while in the Philippines. We've witnessed the bonding and union between adoptive parents and children. It's powerful and defies description, but it's genuine.

We also experienced our own adoption into God's family. It also was powerful, genuine, and beyond description.

Human family adoptions are very personal and not without their struggles. Spiritual adoptions into the family of God are the same—personal and with some struggles. The struggles come as we go through an internal transformation.

When a person has a genuine relationship with God, they know God as "Father." They experience an intimate, internal, spiritual communication with the Father. This is why we cry "Abba," which loosely translates from the ancient Aramaic as, "Daddy" or "Papa!"

When we come into a personal trust relationship with God, we're set free from fear and the power of sin, and our inner heart calls out to God as Father. There are struggles along the way, but this is expected.

God holds nothing back from us. We are freely accepted into His family, and we need to fully embrace Him as our Father. ©Word-Strong_2016

True Life and Belonging

Photo credit: lightstock.com But you are not ruled by your sinful selves. You are ruled by the Spirit, if that Spirit of God really lives in you. But whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ.

Your body will always be dead because of sin. But if Christ is in you, then the Spirit gives you life, because Christ made you right with God.

God raised Jesus from death. And if God’s Spirit lives in you, he will also give life to your bodies that die. Yes, God is the one who raised Christ from death, and he will raise you to life through his Spirit living in you.

So, my brothers and sisters, we must not be ruled by our sinful selves. We must not live the way our sinful selves want.

If you use your lives to do what your sinful selves want, you will die spiritually. But if you use the Spirit’s help to stop doing the wrong things you do with your body, you will have true life.

 (‭Romans‬ ‭8:‭9-13‬ ERV)


We can believe something with our mind or heart. When belief is anchored in our heart, it impacts our thinking and choices. Belief in the mind doesn't always transfer to the heart and will of a person.

Belief in God needs to go beyond conceptual understanding and become relational trust. Then it becomes genuine faith. True faith is not a matter of correct doctrine or theological beliefs, it's based on a personal relationship with God.

Unless our faith is grounded in relationship, our belief will lack power to bring transformation. Spiritual transformation, real life change, must take place internally and spiritually, not just mentally.

This will only take place when we have a right relationship with God through His Son Jesus. Then we will have God's Spirit—the Holy Spirit—and God's power living in us, in our heart, our inner being.

Transformation doesn't come through correct beliefs and will power, but through the work of God's Spirit within us. The indwelling presence and power of God's Spirit in us shows we truly belong to Christ. ©Word-Strong_2016

At Peace and Safe

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Does God answer prayer? Is there any real value in praying to a God you can't see? Does prayer really work? These are common questions for many people, even though they hold a belief in God.

We may believe God answered our prayers in the past, but still have doubts. This is the nature of prayer and faith. Both require trust in a living God.

The secret to understanding prayer is found in relationship with God, rather than having right beliefs about God.

Scripture

Answer me when I pray, O God, my defender! When I was in trouble, you helped me. Be kind to me now and hear my prayer.

How long will you people insult me? How long will you love what is worthless and go after what is false? Remember that the Lord has chosen the righteous for his own, and he hears me when I call to him. [vss 1-3]

Tremble with fear and stop sinning; think deeply about this, when you lie in silence on your beds. Offer the right sacrifices to the Lord, and put your trust in him.

There are many who pray: “Give us more blessings, O Lord. Look on us with kindness!” But the joy that you have given me is more than they will ever have with all their grain and wine.

When I lie down, I go to sleep in peace; you alone, O Lord, keep me perfectly safe. [vss 4-8]

(Psalm 4:1-8 GNT) [Context– Psalm 4]

Key phrase— When I was in trouble, you helped me

[bctt tweet="When I was in trouble, you helped me"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What do you see in the opening lines of this psalm? Do you see how the appeal to God includes a confidence in God?

Who else seems to be addressed in this prayerful psalm? What is King David reminding them about?

What advice is given? What does the psalmist encourage people to do?

What else is said about prayer? What assurance does the psalmist have? Why does he have this assurance?

Reflection...

Many people struggle with how to approach God in prayer. They may wonder things like—How much faith do I need? Does my life need to be free from sin before God hears my prayer?

King David, the author of many psalms, did not live a perfect, sin-free life. In fact, the book of 2 Samuel reveals his struggles with moral failure. And yet, God said that David was a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). Why? David had a genuine, personal and confident trust in God.

Even in dire circumstances, even when he had doubts and fear, King David had a confidence and trust in God. He prayed with authentic faith.

He understood that the "right" sacrifice was offering himself to God in complete and utter trust (Psalm 51:17; Rom 12:1).

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Do you struggle with doubts about prayer? Do still trust God in spite of your doubts?

When you have a conflict or unresolved problem with others, do you bring these to God in prayer?

What is more important to you in prayer—answers, or knowing the presence of God?

Have you come to trust the Lord enough to know His peace in your heart?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

The Work of Making Disciples

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ABurden Over the past few decades, the work of making disciples seemed to get set aside for other things. What things? Bigger and better ministries, with a broader approach and appeal.

At present, much more attention is given to disciple making, and I'm glad for this. But it brings up some important questions.

What is the work of making disciples? How did Jesus do His work in making disciples?

The mandate of Jesus

The Lord Jesus gave a mandate to make disciples. It's called the Great Commission. As pointed out by many, it's not the "great suggestion." Jesus gave this mandate after His resurrection, before His ascension into heaven (see Acts 1:1-8).

This mandate began long before His going to the cross to provide redemption for humanity. It was embedded in His public and private ministry. What Jesus did in public ministry was training for those involved in private ministry.

I say private ministry to distinguish it from what everyone saw in the open. The more private work was done with a select group of men, and included others, even women, who were also His followers.

More informal settings is where the work of making disciples took place. His followers saw Him in real life. Conversations came about in a natural way, but these were intimate teaching and training sessions.

[bctt tweet="The Lord Jesus gave a mandate to make disciples, not a suggestion"]

The real Jesus and the real you

This more informal approach is difficult for some people to grasp as disciple making, but it is. Consider this. How can people know you are a genuine believer unless they see you in unstructured, non-formal settings? This is where they see the real you.

Jesus preaching to the crowds was instructional for His followers, but it wasn't the heart of how He made disciples. In my work as a pastor and missionary, the most effective work equipping others took place during informal, unstructured times.

People need to see our heart in every day action, so they'll catch our heart for making disciples. This is how the disciples caught Jesus' heart for making disciples.

[bctt tweet="The disciples caught Jesus' heart for making disciples by being with Him"]

More than instruction and training

The work of making disciples isn't just instruction or training, but sharing our inner spiritual life with those we disciple and mentor. It is this more personal, intimate sharing that has the greatest impact.

This can be seen with Jesus and the disciples—

  • The disciples first personal encounter with Jesus– John 1:35-51
  • Jesus with Levi and the tax collectors– Luke 5:27-32
  • When Jesus walked on the water– Matthew 14:22-33
  • In the garden at Gethsemane– Matthew 26:36-46

In all the accounts above, Jesus made Himself known within life as it unfolded. It wasn't staged or formalized, but raw reality. In the end, in Gethsemane, He bared His heart with those closest to Him.

[bctt tweet="Jesus made Himself known & made disciples in everyday life occurrences"]

Who's disciples are we making?

One more thing. The work of making disciples may be our work to do, but it's His mandate. Whoever we would disciple, they are always to be His disciples, not ours.

Many years ago I learned this lesson. I worked for several weeks with a few men. I taught them what I knew about studying the Bible, preparing to teach, and what it meant to serve in the church.

In my mind, I was developing leaders to help in the ministry of the church I pastored, but the Lord had other plans.

One by one, these men moved out of the area because of work opportunities. All those I invested in moved on from the church, and I had to start mentoring another group. I complained to the Lord about this, pointing out how unfair I thought it was.

[bctt tweet="Whoever we would disciple, they are always to be Jesus' disciples, not ours"]

An important lesson

I remember clearly how the Lord impressed on my heart that my job was to make disciples. His job was to distribute and place them where He wanted them.

Once I realized this it set me free from trying to hang on to anyone. Of course, I wanted to equip them and get their commitment for service where I pastored. But the ultimate commitment is to serve Jesus.

The work of making disciples is God's work through His servants (us) for service in His kingdom. As leaders, we must be careful not to make disciples of our own, for our own ministries.

[bctt tweet="Making disciples is God's work through His servants (us) for service in His kingdom"]

Something to consider

If you're a pastor or leader in God's kingdom, here are some questions to consider—

Are you intentionally engaged in the work of making disciples now?

How closely does your approach to making disciples match the way Jesus did it?

Are those you've discipled also discipling others?

Some Thoughts on Discipleship

Photo credit: unsplash_JQuaynor What is discipleship? Here are a couple of dictionary definitions—

A person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another (Dictionary)

One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another (Free Dictionary)

That's what the dictionary says, but what does Jesus say? Is discipleship simply a matter of following and spreading the teachings of Jesus?

My thoughts on discipleship

My simple definition of discipleship is— the transfer of our personal, experiential relationship with the Lord to others within a relational framework of one on one, or one to a few. It requires a mutual commitment of time, willingness, respect, patience and discipline.

Too often, discipleship can be reduced to a plan or program of training. But it is not something to be learned through lecture, study, and assignments. Nor can it be reduced to the idea of being caught rather than taught.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship is the transfer of our personal, experiential relationship with the Lord to others within a relational framework"]

This idea that it is caught can be a copout for a passive or lazy style of discipleship. This would put most of the responsibility onto the disciple, rather than the discipler. Is this what Jesus had in mind when He said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...," (Matt 28:19)?

As we look at the most obvious example of the Lord Jesus, our supreme model for discipleship, we see His simple method. This is explored in some detail by Robert Coleman’s book, “The Master Plan of Evangelism,” as well as other books by the same author.

Many other books on discipleship provide plans or methods, but how can we really hope to improve upon the Lord’s example?

Intentional and relational

Discipleship—to be effective and to have a lasting impact—needs to be intentional and personal. It needs to be relational. Inherently, it requires mutual discipline and commitment.

It has no specific style nor format, and can be personalized and subjective. Although this may seem likely to produce doctrinal errors or biases, it appears to be the method of choice in the New Testament.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational, it requires mutual discipline and commitment."]

Paul says in 1 Cor 11:1, “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” This is echoed in his exhortation to Timothy, his “true son in the faith,” in 2 Tim 2:2. Although there are other models, there are no ironclad, standardized patterns.

The obvious models are Jesus, Barnabas (who mentored Saul/Paul), Paul (and his instructions to Timothy and Titus), and others recorded in the book of Acts, including Peter and what he wrote in his epistles.

More recently, notable leaders of movements within the church have mentored others who, in turn, are discipling people. Are these perfect models? No. Are there idiosyncrasies of the mentor passed onto those discipled? Undoubtedly. Yet, it appears this was understood by the Lord.

The Jesus model of discipleship

The Lord’s confidence in this method of discipleship—His model—rests upon the indwelling guidance of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27). A review of the Gospel of John (chapters 14 through 16 [1. John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15.]) makes this clear. So, why would we do it any differently?

Reluctance is more likely based on a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit, and our human tendency to put our own imprimatur on the process. Or perhaps, it's concern about error being passed on, or the disciple not grasping everything we think they should get.

[bctt tweet="The Lord’s method of discipleship rests upon the indwelling guidance of the Holy Spirit"]

Whatever the reason for this reluctance, one thing seems clear to me over the past couple decades. There is little intentional, relational discipleship taking place in the US. Sadly, because of our influence upon the rest of the world, it has not been common where western missionaries have been.

The good news is, Jesus is still the Head of His church and is quite capable of maintaining a remnant who disciple as He did. Discipleship has become a hot topic in the past decade or so in the US. Church planting movements driven by intentional, relational discipleship are alive and well globally (such as T4T).

The question is— Are you (and I) following Jesus so others will also follow Him?

The command of Jesus remains— 

So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have told you to do. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time. (Matt 28:19-20 ERV)


For some more of my thoughts on discipleship, check out— Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

No Longer Helpless, but Restored

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When we were unable to help ourselves, at the right time, Christ died for us, although we were living against God.

Very few people will die to save the life of someone else. Although perhaps for a good person someone might possibly die. But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

So through Christ we will surely be saved from God’s anger, because we have been made right with God by the blood of Christ’s death. While we were God’s enemies, he made us his friends through the death of his Son.

Surely, now that we are his friends, he will save us through his Son’s life. And not only that, but now we are also very happy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we are now God’s friends again. (‭Romans‬ ‭5:‭6-11‬ NCV)


Most every person wants to be self-sufficient and independent. This is especially so when we are young, but even in old age. Some people may succumb to what is called a victim's mentality, but even then a toddler mindset of "I want to do it myself" exists.

When it comes to living a guilt-free, forgiven life we are all helpless. No exceptions. Of course, various religions, philosophies, psychological views, and even atheists say we can help ourselves. We can fool ourselves with our own self-justification, but only God can set us free forever.

God is God. He alone can and did provide the means of reconciliation with Himself through His Son Jesus. This reconciliation is not just a free-get-into-heaven ticket for eternity, but restoration for this life, now.

So rejoice, be glad! God made it possible to have a personal friendship with Him everyday for eternity. ©Word-Strong_2015

Peace with God

Photo credit: lightstock.com Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (‭Romans‬ ‭5:‭1-5‬ NLT)


The immediate benefit of a personal relationship with Jesus is peace. It's a sense of harmony with God that remains within us, because we know things were made right between us and God.

A little child who is assured of the love and acceptance of her parents has both peace and joy—an inner contentment. And so it is for us as believers.

This peace and joy remains within us as we continue trusting in the Lord's grace given to us. This carries us through life's difficulties. We can endure these because of His grace at work in us—in our innermost being.

As this work continues in us, and as it develops endurance and character within us, we gain a hope that buoys us through the storms of life. How? Because God continues to pour out His love into our hearts through the presence of His indwelling Spirit.

Even as we mature as believers, we can experience a childlike contentment as God's children.

©Word-Strong_2015

Abraham, David and Acceptance

Photo credit: lightstock.com So what can we say about Abraham, the father of our people? What did he learn about faith? If Abraham was made right by the things he did, he had a reason to boast about himself. But God knew different.

That’s why the Scriptures say, “Abraham believed God, and because of this he was accepted as one who is right with God.”

When people work, their pay is not given to them as a gift. They earn the pay they get. But people cannot do any work that will make them right with God. So they must trust in him. Then he accepts their faith, and that makes them right with him. He is the one who makes even evil people right.

David said the same thing when he was talking about the blessing people have when God accepts them as good without looking at what they have done:

“It is a great blessing when people are forgiven for the wrongs they have done, when their sins are erased! It is a great blessing when the Lord accepts people as if they are without sin!” (Psalm 32:1-2)

 (‭Romans‬ ‭4:‭1-8‬ ERV)


How do we gain God's acceptance? Trust. Trust is the essence of true faith. This is how Abraham the patriarch and King David gained God's acceptance.

Many people try to earn God's acceptance, but they never will. No one can. No one obligates God. None of us have any standing with God through what we do or don't do.

Only when we are free from the consequences of sin can we experience God's acceptance. He alone extends forgiveness to those who trust in Him in a genuine and personal way, even as Abraham did. ©Word-Strong_2015

Nothing to Brag About

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So do we have any reason to boast about ourselves? No reason at all. And why not? Because we are depending on the way of faith, not on what we have done in following the law.

I mean we are made right with God through faith, not through what we have done to follow the law. This is what we believe.

God is not only the God of the Jews. He is also the God of those who are not Jews. There is only one God. He will make Jews right with him by their faith, and he will also make non-Jews right with him through their faith. So do we destroy the law by following the way of faith? Not at all! In fact, faith causes us to be what the law actually wants. (‭Romans‬ ‭3:‭27-31‬ ERV)


We all brag about something. It could be about what we've done or haven't done. Maybe it's because of who we're related to in some way.

But no one—not one person—has anything to brag about to God. There is nothing we have, can do, or not do that will bring God's approval. Any effort to look good in God's eyes or get into His good graces is futile. It doesn't work that way.

How does it work? When we genuinely and personally trust in Jesus, we do the one right thing He desires. What about God's laws? Jesus fulfilled and took care of it all—once for all. (Matthew 5:17; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 9:12) ©Word-Strong_2015

Shouldn't It Get Easier?

Photo credit: Unsplash–Joshua Earle Develop good habits. This is what personal trainers and health advisors tell us. First, we need to break old habits that work against good health. Then, develop good habits that involve exercise and good nutrition.

The idea is that the good habits replace the bad ones. It's a great theory, but it's putting it into practice that's hard. Why? Oh, I don't know, maybe things like self-discipline and self-denial! These practices are not natural for us, and they require diligence and commitment to maintain.

I know this from experience. I also know how easy it is to fall back into the old habits, the old ways. I know the every-day battle. This also applies to our spiritual life, even living by faith.

It's not that simple, but don't be discouraged

You would think that a life of faith would get easier as you get older, after you've done it for so long. In some ways I suppose that's true, but it's not that simple.

As you get older, physical exercise definitely gets harder, because your body loses natural strength as you age. It's reality. Well-intentioned hype isn't going to reverse aging. Nevertheless, exercise and good nutrition help slow down the aging process, at least up to a point.

But what about faith? Surely this isn't true of our spiritual life is it? I wish it wasn't true, but it is. But wait, don't be discouraged by this!

Just as with physical health, spiritual disciplines are worth the investment and pay lasting dividends. But we need to understand how these are different—the physical and the spiritual.

Spiritual life and faith

Spiritual life is eternal and unlimited, unlike physical life. Our spiritual life begins while we are in our physical bodies, but extends beyond life on earth.

Faith is inherently eternal, personal, and dynamic. It isn't a nebulous concept or theological construct. Faith—true faith—is always rooted in relationship (Heb 11:6).

Let me unpack this in a simple way.

Faith is eternal

Faith, by nature, transcends all the limitations of life on earth. Why? Because faith is rooted in relationship with God, who is eternal.

Eternity isn't a long time. Eternity transcends time. Time only exists within our God-created universe.

God Himself is the Self-existent One. As He told Moses, "I AM who I AM" (Exo 3:14). Much later, Jesus told the Jewish leaders, "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58). And in the book of Hebrews we're reminded, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8).

Faith is personal

Faith is directly tied to our personal relationship with God. I don't live according to your faith in God, nor can you live out my walk of faith with God.

Our life of faith is unique to each one of us, because we're all different in personality and character. Perhaps the old hymn by Charles Miles expresses this best—

I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses, And the voice I hear falling on my ear the Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own; And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.

Faith is dynamic

Since faith is eternal and personal, it has a dynamic element. Not that faith changes, but we do—hopefully!

We are being changed internally while the physical process of aging goes on (2 Cor 4:16). We (true followers of Jesus) are being transformed (2 Cor 3:18). One day, we will be like Jesus, the object of our faith (1 John 3:2; 1 Cor 13:12).

The danger of complacency

The danger of growing old in the faith is complacency. It is too easy to become comfortable in our life of faith. We have to guard against kicking our life into neutral, like a car, and coasting along.

Just as with physical discipline for good health, we need to maintain self-disciplines (good habits) for a healthy spiritual life. So, don't give up, and don't give in to complacency.

Don't be like those who celebrate before they get to the finish line. Finish the race (2 Tim 4:7)!

Next week, I hope to look at some good habits to develop for a healthy life of faith.

What do you think are good habits needed for a healthy spiritual life?