Archive for January, 2023

Grow On

“….grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  II Peter 3:18

There is a French proverb: “Qui ne s’avance pas recule,” that is, “Whatever does not go forward goes backwards.”

Have you continued to grow, not physically, but spiritually, morally, and intellectually. Some people have reached a stage of arrested growth. That is, they reached a certain stage and have not gone beyond it. Let’s focus our attention on spiritual growth. Some who were remarkably mature years ago are still living at that level of maturity. When was the last time you challenged yourself by memorizing a new passage of Scripture? How recently have you read a book of the Bible?

Now is a very good time to resolve, “Thy word have I hid in my heart.” Get off your apathy and renew your commitment to the study, memorization, and the application of God’s word. If you don’t know, you can’t grow in grace and knowledge.

Note, the text for this Post identifies two areas of growth. They are grace and knowledge (and don’t confuse the two).

Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward us. It is God giving to us what we need when we need it not because we deserve it, but because it is His nature to do it.  We then are to be God’s channels through which His grace flows to the world. Pass along His grace, His favor, to others. God showers His grace on us because He so loves us. We pass it on because we love Him.

God’s grace often consists of kindness, wisdom, and understanding. These however don’t reach their full meaning until we have experienced His greatest grace, the gift of His only begotten son. We can not earn, merit, or deserve this grace. It is the gift of God. A gift involves giving and receiving. God has given, we must receive the gift of salvation by His grace.

Once experienced we must on frequent occasions, “Be still (cease striving) and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Grow in grace… and knowledge. “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2: 15) Do your homework, get in the word, and get the word in you.

This requires time and discipline. Got it! It takes time and discipline. 

Now renew your commitment to continued growth. Take as your slogan “Press on.” Don’t allow yourself the luxury of being distracted from the object of growth.

Resolve to grow the rest of your life, however long that may be.

You Are a Sum Total of Your Decisions

Joshua 24: 13 – 17

Andrew Jackson’s dad died before his birth.  He was orphaned in Waxham, N.C. at age 13. He didn’t follow his mother’s desire for him to be a minister, but became inclined toward the glory of the battlefield and later politics.  Facing the sunset of his life at 60 plus years of age he gave his life to Jesus.  The memory of his mother was the influence that called him to Jesus.  He also recalled that his mother had a gingham covered Bible.  He purchased a Bible and had it covered like hers.

That dramatic change is by the grace of God made possible by a transition made possible by a single act, the same act involved in the national life of ancient Israel. 

Joshua had gathered the tribes of Israel at Shechem where he was to preside over the nation’s congress for the last time. Shechem, located in a scenic mountain pass between Mt. Eble and Mt. Geruzim seemed impenetrable and invulnerable as a result of this natural location.  Joshua knew their safety was not determined by geographical location but by God’s grace.  Joshua called upon the people to repent.

Joshua said, “Choose you this day whom you will serve….” On that single word “choose” hung their destiny.

In the world of theology it stands out like a sentinel light to guide doctrine. The word “choose” found here and elsewhere in Scripture refutes Calvinism, predestination. God in His sovereign will has given human beings a free will.

The marvel is not that we must choose, but that we may choose.  The option is ours. Decision making is among the most important thing we do.  It influences all of life and determines our destiny.

You are a sum total of your life’s choices. You can change your life by changing your choices. 

Once a choice is made, a resolute determination is needed.  Commitment is the capacity to carry out the intent of a decision long after the emotion that motivated it has faded.

Joshua said, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” He set an example.

Andrew Jackson became a changed man based on one thing, his choice. He thereafter set a different example.      

Our trust must be in the Lord, not self, substance, or any other substitute.  If you haven’t been trusting Him, change your mind and lovingly thrust yourself completely on Him. It is a choice. Making the choice to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord not only changes life, but one’s eternal destiny. It is your choice.     

God’s Will

Believers often speak of getting to know God’s will. How can you know? All believers operate in God’s will. However there are four aspects of God’s will. The issue is in which aspect a person is operating. The four aspects are more clearly illustrated than defined. To distinguish them consider a father who is a doctor and his son whom he desires to follow him into the field of medicine. This is the father’s intentional will. The son is committed to doing so. His expressed will is the same as the father.

There comes a war and the son is drafted into the military. Under the circumstances the father wants his son to comply with the law. Induction into the military results in the young man’s doing the circumstantial will of the father.

At this point the son is fully committed to doing the father’s will after being discharged from the military.

While in the military he meets an influential friend. They devise what they feel will be a very lucrative business. The young man writes to his father and explains he no longer intends to go to medical school. His new ambition involves getting rich quickly. Again the father is understanding and explains his ambition for the son, but consents for him to explore his scheme. Now the son is doing the father’s permissive will.

After a short time, it becomes evident that the business venture is not going to work. The young man writes to his father to explain and says he wants to change his plan to now go into medical school. His father is thrilled. Now the young man is doing the father’s ultimate will.

Every person is engaged in God’s will. God’s intentional and/or ultimate will is always best.

Any one of these can characterize a life overall or aspects of a life.

Likewise they apply to the decisions of a day in general.

The object in both should be to live and act enacting the Father’s intentional and/or ultimate will.

The Father often considers it necessary to discipline His children if they are living in His circumstantial and/or permissive will to get us back in His ultimate will. It should be remembered what discipline is. It is not mere punishment. The word discipline comes from the same root word as disciple. A disciple was a learner. He disciplines us so that we might learn the good from the bad and return to His intentional and/or ultimate will. He is teaching us because He knows there is where we are most fulfilled, contented, and productive.

In praying “Thy will be done” be sure you know to which aspect of His will you are referring: His intentional, circumstantial, permissive, or ultimate.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho ‘Tis off to Work We Go

How would you describe your work ethic?

Sage wisdom comes from the old sage, the late preacher Sam Jones, who said,

“The longer I live, the more I am certain that the greatest difference between men — between the feeble and the powerful, the great and the insignificant — is energy, invincible determination— a purpose once fixed, and then death or victory. That quality will do anything that can be done in this world, and no talent, no circumstance, no opportunities, will make a two legged creature a man without it.

There are hindrances without and within, but the outer hindrances could affect nothing if there were no inner surrender to them. Fear of opinion, timidity, dread of change, love of ease, indolence, unfaithfulness, are the greater hindrances. Optimism is believing that you can eat the rooster that scratches over your grave.

The essence of that has been circulated for a long time. Maybe it is time we believe it. 

Tenacity achieves that which otherwise is impossible. Jamestown suffered a great flood. The water rose to six feet. Two friends allegedly sat on a rooftop and watched it flow by. Amid the debris was an old hat. It flowed by, stopped, turned around, and came back upstream against the tide. Reaching a certain point it again reversed itself and started downstream. This process repeated itself several times as they watched in amazement. Finally one of them said, “I know what it is. Grandpaw said he was going to mow the lawn today come hell or high water.” That’s tenacity. Dogged determination is another term for commitment.

Leonard da Vinci, considered by most to be a genius and extremely hard worker, wrote, “O Lord, Thou givest us everything, at the price of an effort.” Indeed the anguish of Jesus on the cross was the optimum gift at the ultimate cost.

“If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t
If you’d like to win, but you think you can’t,          
It is almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost.
For out in the world we find
Success begins with a person’s will,
It’s all in the state of mind.
Life’s battle doesn’t always go
To the swift or fastest man,
But sooner of later the person who wins
 Is the one who thinks He can.”

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Actions Have Consequences

Imagine you are a very good athlete and someone offers you a bribe if you will not play up to your best and thereby throw the game. Would you do it? Think about it, there is a result. Doing so you will have a life-time of emotions ranging in sadness, grief, loss, guilt, shame, anger, and lifelong regrets.

Would you do it?

Suppose you are in finance and a friend has devised a scheme whereby you can skim big money and get away with it. Would you do it? Oh, by the way though you won’t get caught you will have a life-time of emotions ranging in sadness, grief, loss, guilt, shame, anger, and lifelong regrets.

Would you do it?

Imagine you are in a business that deals with food products. You have just discovered a way you can dilute certain products that would reduce their quality and make you a large profit. It’s easy and not likely to ever be detected. It will enable you to get out of debt and make money. Would you do it? There is one thing you need to know. You will have a life-time of emotions ranging in sadness, grief, loss, guilt, shame, anger, and lifelong regrets. 

Would you do it?

Suppose you are a lovely young unwed adult female. Here is where the plot thickens. You are pregnant. You can get a abortion and no one will know. Would you do it? Before deciding, be aware you will have a lifetime of emotions ranging in sadness, grief, loss, guilt, shame, anger, and lifelong regrets.

If you could avoid giving birth while single, would you do it? I don’t mean an abortion. Here is how.

A lovely highschool teenage girl visited me in my office. It was her senior year and she had garnered almost every award and title there was. She sobbed out her story of being pregnant and then said, “I don’t know why I did it.” In conciliatory tones I said, “I know why.” 

Abruptly in sharp tones she snapped back a harsh, “Why?” I said, “Because of the things you read, the movies you watched, the stories you listened to, the social media you viewed, and the people you hung-out with, you made up the decision to do it before you did it and subconsciously you have just been looking for the right opportunity to do it.”

With tones of regret she said, “You are right.”

Avoid those things and you are highly unlikely to live with a lifetime of emotions ranging in sadness, grief, loss, guilt, shame, anger, and lifelong regrets.

“All these evil things come from within and defile a person.” (Mark 7: 23 CSB)

The process is defined by the computer axiom GIGO. What “Goes in Goes Out.” Stop it before it starts by programming the mind with virtuous thoughts. Virtue, now there is a thought for you.

Whatever became of the “True Love Waits” concept. It reduced pregnancies. Critics still write of it negatively, but when not taken to extremes it worked. Try it individually in all of life, males, and females.