Failure to thrive

When a baby is born the natural progression is growth and development.  Sometimes that doesn’t happen.  Sadly some babies fail to thrive.  ‘Failure to thrive’ is defined as a; “decelerated or arrested physical growth . . . ,  and is associated with abnormal growth and development. The reason for failure to thrive is inadequate nutrition.”  Babies need nourishment to grow.

Born again Christians have a spiritual need for nourishment as well.  The apostle Peter exhorts us; “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (1 Peter 2:1-3)   Living a holy lifestyle is a matter of choice but maturing in the faith is the  necessity that makes this choice possible.

The apostle Paul confronted the Corinthian church for their failure to thrive.  It was their immaturity that was the problem; “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3) We can be ‘born again’ and then fail to thrive in our Christian life if we don’t mature by taking in God’s Word and growing spiritually.

adultbabyThe Bible exhorts us to grow and mature spiritually; “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.” (Hebrews 6:1-3) Maturing isn’t an option for the Christian; “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (v 11,12) A ‘baby’ Christian can’t inherit what was meant for an adult.

Immature Christians don’t have the capacity to live a holy life because they cannot distinguish the righteousness of holiness from their own wicked self-righteousness; “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:13,14)  Holiness takes practice living the Word on a daily basis, taught and corrected by the Holy Spirit.

Maturity and spiritual discernment go hand in hand; “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 1:14)

We all need to grow up!

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There is something that lasts forever!

It’s said; ‘Nothing lasts forever.’    This is true for humanity and what we make but not true for all things.  To make the universal claim that nothing lasts forever is to reach as far as making the claim that something lasts forever.  We have no  empirical evidence or logical basis for either statement within the human context. Both statements are really statements of faith.  To choose to believe one over the other is a spiritual choice.the-word-endures

The Bible tells us; “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, . . . ” (1 Peter 1:24, Isaiah 40:6-8) Our flesh and our works don’t last forever. What does? “But the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:25) The word of the Lord is beyond our narrow scientific and philosophical universe. Yet this word came to us; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1,14) The eternal is not subject to time and change.

The apostle Peter tells us that in the Spirit we too are born into this eternity; “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever . . . ” (1 Peter 1:22,23) Jesus tells us; “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) And this is the great divide between Christians and ‘almost’ Christians; Christians are ‘born again’.

Awana lesson #48 “You must be  born again”Almost Christians, like non-Christians abide by science and human philosophy rather than revelation from God’s Word. The apostle Paul explains; “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) Almost Christians can be very ‘religious’ but prefer their own ways and doctrines to God; “You pore over the Scriptures because you presume that by them you possess eternal life. These are the very words that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.” (John 5:39,40) Where do you go for life?

The Best News ever is that all can be born again no matter what they have done unless they prefer what they are; “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. . . . This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:16,19)

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You’re not self-made

Success can go to  a person’s head.  The feeling, ‘I’ve finally arrived’ that comes with accomplishing a major goal or completing  a long project  can lead you to put too much credit on your own self. There were many along the way who helped. No one is self-made.

self-made-man

The idolatry of self made men

This applies to our ‘spiritual success’ as well.  The Bible tells us that reverence, not self-congratulations, should be our approach to God; “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; . . . ” (1 Peter 1:17) For me, this fear is characterized by the simple question; “What would my life be like without God?” A life empty of hope and meaning, full of bitter striving and resentment lived only to enlarge and then die is a fearful prospect. Much of popular culture is nothing more than a desperate attempt to distract us from that fear.

In contrast, God lifts us out of that fearful pit and we must always remember; “. . . knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:18,19) We owe our Christian life to the ‘precious blood of Christ’; not to our own goodness or pious religious habits. Even our faith is from God; “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (v. 20,21) It was all God’s plan from the very beginning.

i-am-the-doorJesus, when confronting the Pharisees, described the pathology of pious religious obstinacy; “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39,40) While the Gospel Good News is joyfully accepted by the humble hearts of the sick, crippled, and broken. Jesus assures us; “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24) We are pardoned because we admit what we were without Christ and come to Him. The fear of the humble is to live without Christ while the Pharisee’s fear is to have to live with Him.

The door to real life isn’t marked ‘self made’. The door to life has a name – Jesus; “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:9,10)

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Faith is more precious than gold!

In today’s turbulent world people often ponder what they should invest in to make their future secure.  Some believe in the stock market.  Others buy gold.  Few see faith as the only investment that secures the future.

faith-better-than-goldThe apostle Peter tells the early church; “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9)  For Christians, our faith is the only thing we have that is of enduring value.

The Bible defines faith as; “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 1:1-3) Our faith is ‘framed’ by the word of God.

The Gospel is foundational to our faith.  Scripture reveals and transforms our lives; “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” (1 Peter 1:10,11)  The power of the Gospel is unmatched.  The apostle Paul says; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16) We are called to share it.pearl-great-price

Faith brings us to a place where the kingdom of heaven is found; “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.. . . , the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46) Our priorities change and our actions show it. We become willing to give up anything worldly to keep this ‘treasure’ discovered through faith.

Holiness becomes the priority in our lives; “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:13,14)

Faith transforms us and it is evident in our lives.

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Saving our souls

The world has a saying – live and let live!  The Urban dictionary says; “Live and Let Live is an idiom in which expresses the idea that all should be able to live their lives in the manner they want to, regardless of what other may think of them.”  This works for the world with its loose associations but in a community of people dedicated to living out their life according to their faith, it is problematic.   Everybody make mistakes and errors in judgment. If you aren’t in a community of people who are willing to confront you if need be, even at the risk of getting you angry, it becomes very easy to slip away down a negative path.  ‘Live and let live’ kills authentic community.love-finds-a-way

James tells us that taking care of one another in community can be life and death; “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19,20) Jesus knew that people in His church would need this kind of mutual support; “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) A review of the Gospels shows that Jesus was never shy about correcting His disciples because He loved them. The opposite of love isn’t hate – its indifference. ‘Live and let live’ is the epitome of indifference.

jesus-is-your-friend-400x400-v2How then does one member of the church ‘confront’ another? Jesus tells us; “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15) It that doesn’t work; “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’” (v. 16) And if that doesn’t work; “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (v. 17) This last step of real church discipline may sound harsh but we must remember that Jesus is a friend of the sinner and tax collector; “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) Jesus is saying ‘leave them to Me’; you love them and pray for them!

Once the truth is out in the open before the church, the Holy Spirit can work conviction and repentance provided self-righteous people don’t get in the way by judging and condemning. The church needs to follow Jesus’ Word on correction and confronting if we want to be free from our sins.

Jesus promises; “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

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Effective prayer

Dictionary.com defines ‘effective’ as; “adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result.”  Effective actions produce results.  With prayer, the important thing to realize is that it isn’t the prayer who produces the  results; it is God.  What then is the role of the one who prays?

effective-prayerJames is very clear about who does the effective work; “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” (James 5:14,15)  The prophet Joel rightly said; “And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” (Joel 2:32) This rescue, includes our healing.   Isaiah prophesied  our healing was  completed in the work of the Cross; “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)  Healing and salvation are a ‘package deal.’  Both are God’s work.

What is our role in prayer?  Our role is to call upon the Lord for healing, to have faith that His work is done and to trust that He is effective.  Jesus was once asked; “What must we do to perform the works of God?” (John 6:28) He replied, “This is the work of God: to believe in the One He has sent.” (v.29) This is the basis of true righteousness; complete and utter belief in Jesus. James exhorts the church; “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16) What holds us back? For many we would prefer others believe us sin free and completely healthy than to call up His name in righteousness. Righteousness can never co-exist with prideful deception or vain affectation. It requires open confession and humble vulnerability before the Lord!what-ever-you-ask

Jesus said; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18) Jesus promised that we can ask Him in accordance with God’s will and it would be done; “Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:12,13)

Isn’t it time to take Him at His Word?

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Patience is a virtue

Patience is one of the seven ‘heavenly’ virtues, which include, chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, and humility. It is said that practicing these seven virtues provides protection from the temptations associated with the seven deadly sins – pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Practicing a virtue to avoid the pitfalls of sin is as central to good spiritual health as hand washing is to public health.

patienceThe Bible tells us that patience is a must for any Christian just as it is for a farmer waiting for his crops to grow. Some things follow a process that can’t be rushed or interfered with; “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.” (James 5:7) That doesn’t mean you should do nothing while waiting. James tells us; “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (v. 8) As a farmer waits for his crops to mature he gets ready because he has faith in his heart that the harvest will come.

Faith is a matter of the heart and it can be ‘established’. The Bible tells us how. Don’t be anxious; “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” (Palm 37:7) Have courage; “Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14) Trust His Word; “I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.” (Psalm 130:5) Being patient doesn’t mean that you are idle, waiting for things to magically turn better. Being patient means that you turn to the spiritual reality by relying on Biblical promises and principles. Waiting is preparing for the coming of the Lord in any circumstance.isaiah-40-31

Jesus tells us that in today’s trouble and turmoil, the essential thing is to wait and prepare ourselves spiritually; “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36) Eternity will come and we must establish our hearts to be ready for it.

The body follows the spirit when a person’s heart is established; “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

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