Love is Patient

“Love suffers long”
-I Corinthians 13:4

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Love is patient. It’s not uncommon for my wife to ask me to be more patient. I tend to get impatient with things that don’t work right, even little things like a website password that I’m certain I wrote down correctly. I get impatient with myself when I don’t work right!

Age has some advantages. I’m not old (only 40), but one thing I have learned through the years is God’s unending patience and longsuffering. The longer I live, the more mistakes I make. The more mistakes I make, the more I get to see God’s patience with me. The more God shows love to me in my failings, the more I realize how longsuffering He is. The more I see how my sins and weaknesses do not separate me from His love, the more I am able to extend that same love to others.

Psalm 103:12 says,
“As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

East and west meet at one point in the universe and extend from there in opposite directions, never to meet again. That point is the cross. At the place of the cross all sins are forgiven and washed away, removed from us as far as the east is from the west. This extension of God’s forgiveness demonstrates the wideness of His longsuffering. His patience is never-ending.

God is eternally patient with us as we work things out in our lives, as we press forward to be more like Him.

To walk in character includes walking in patience. Jesus said, “By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). Our natural tendency is to be anxious about daily life, to worry about the future or be terrified by current events. But to walk in the Spirit is to walk in peace regardless of the circumstances. Patience of soul is something that must be possessed, it must be worked out. We need to learn to quiet our souls in Him and speak God’s word over our situations. As we do, we also get to grow in greater patience with those we love (and those we struggle to love).

“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” -1 Thessalonians 5:14

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient…” -II Timothy 2:24

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” -James 5:7-8

“Love is patient” -I Cor. 13:4, NIV

*all Scriptures are NKJV unless otherwise noted

How to Grow as a Christian – Part 2

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At birth

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” -1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)

My son Joseph, now 4 ½ months old, is growing every day. Of course, we can’t actually see the growing when the growing is happening. It’s imperceptible to the human eye. What we can see is that he has gained over 10 pounds since birth.

This miracle of life amazes me. Our little guy started as a tiny seed in his mother’s womb that formed into cells and blood vessels and tissue and bones and organs and skin and into the beautiful boy we are so proud of today. His growth offers a great analogy for our growth in Christ.

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At 4.5 months

How did Joseph’s growth happen? It happened because he is constantly attached to Leslie’s breast, eating. He loves to eat. He craves the milk of momma. Likewise, if we will stay constantly attached to the Lord, we will grow.

I don’t expect Joseph to grow a foot a day or even an inch each day. I’m simply happy that he is growing a little bit every day and that he’s healthy. I’m happy when he gets a little stronger every day. Every day we can see his progress and we rejoice in it.

Likewise, God doesn’t expect us to grow by leaps and bounds every day. He simply rejoices when we grow a little bit, little by little, and get stronger and stronger in Him.

If we will stay constantly attached to the Lord, we will grow.

The fact that growth occurs is not a mystery, but, if we’re not careful, we can become discouraged because growth is often imperceptible to us. We can, in fact, be growing even when we feel like we are digressing rather than moving forward. When we abide in Christ, we may not feel like we are growing, but we are. We only stop growing when we do not submit ourselves to the process of growth.

The process of growth requires a commitment. Consistency is key to growth.

The best growth takes place when we make a daily commitment. If we stay in the Word and in God’s presence on a daily basis, we will see growth in our lives. If we will remain consistent, we will grow, even if we go through seasons where it feels like we are not growing.

As we walk with Jesus, we will be able to look back and see the growth that has taken place. And certainly those close to us will see that we have grown.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” -1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)

We don’t have to remind Joseph to nurse. He craves his mother’s milk. It is, in fact, his source of life right now. Our problem is that we have to push ourselves to grow. Our flesh does not want to submit to the growth process.

God is our very source of life. We need to realize that we need God more than Joseph needs his mother’s milk. The problem is this: we grow accustomed to living apart from Him. Life apart from Him is actually a life lived in darkness. We can walk separated from our Creator and think we are doing okay when we are not!

So what are some practical things we can do to grow in the Lord? My encouragement is to establish some daily disciplines in your life regarding prayer and the Word and then intentionally live out your walk with the Lord in your every day life. I suggest the following:

  1. Have a daily place of prayer – be honest with God, love Him, worship Him, praise Him, seek Him with all your heart.
  2. Read, study and meditate on God’s Word – speak and declare God’s word over your life when you’re praying, when you’re driving, by your bed at night, or while you’re doing the dishes, or whenever.
  3. Make daily decisions that honor God.

Growth does take work. It may require that you rearrange some priorities in your life. It can be challenging to organize your days to prioritize your time with God. But it is a sacrifice that is worth it that will reward you now, in every area of your life, and into eternity.

How to Grow as a Christian – Part I

IMG_2119Have you ever felt frustrated, feeling like you are not growing spiritually? At times in my life, I have felt like I am either not growing at all or I’m actually getting worse. The reality is this: there is a way to grow in the Lord every day without feeling frustrated, condemned or constantly discouraged.

First of all, growth rarely happens quickly. It is usually a slow and steady process. It’s easy to get discouraged when we look at ourselves and lament what appears to be a lack of growth. The first thing we need to do is be patient with ourselves and with God. We grow in grace, not by placing upon ourselves unreasonable demands and expectations that only lead to frustration and condemnation.

II Peter 3:18 (NIV) says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

If you are prone to introspection, like me, you may tend to spend a lot of time gazing internally and finding things wrong with yourself. Then, you become frantic, trying to put out numerous fires at one time – I need to change this, that, and this, and that, and this, and that. This leads to feeling overwhelmed. When I feel overwhelmed like this, I get discouraged and want to give up.

A better plan of action is to implement disciplines in your life that will facilitate daily growth while, at the same time, understanding that you live under the covering of God’s love and grace. This covering gives us the freedom to be honest with ourselves about our sins and flaws and also the freedom to fail. God’s grace permits us to enjoy our lives while we are growing, even though we are not perfect. Discipline keeps us from using our freedom in Christ as an excuse for sin or unrighteous living.

Titus 2:11-12 (NIV) says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…”

Grace is not the enemy of discipline. Discipline is not the enemy of grace. The two are not opposites. Grace is not only God’s kindness to sinners, it is God’s empowerment to live righteously and victoriously. When we discipline ourselves, humbly depending on God every day, we position ourselves under His grace and His grace empowers us to live holy.

James 4:6 (NKJV) says, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.'”

The narrow road with Christ is both a road of discipline and a road of grace, which leads to abundant life. Perfectionism is an enemy of discipline. Condemnation and accusation are enemies of grace. The narrow road is not a road without stumbling, setbacks or mistakes. The narrow road is walked by imperfect people who enter through the gate of Christ and press on with Him in their earnest quest to be like Him.

Abraham provides an excellent example to illustrate my point. Through faith, Abraham received God’s grace. God’s grace to Abraham came through a promise, a promise that he would have a son and be the father of many nations through which all people would be blessed. But Abraham made some real mistakes. He messed up, but none of his sins cancelled out the grace of God.

God said of Abraham that he “obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions” (Genesis 26:5, NIV).

Despite Abraham’s mistakes, he obeyed the Lord. Abraham lived a life of both grace and discipline. The result was that he walked in the blessing of God while he stretched out in faith to inherit the promise of God. Likewise, by God’s grace, when commit ourselves to a life of discipline in the Lord, we will continue to grow in His grace.

Stay tuned for Part 2. In my next article, we’ll get more practical about how we can grow every day in Christ, by His grace! Blessings!

You are Valuable to God

cross-in-mexico-e1537670483673.jpgYou are valuable to God. He sees past your sins and struggles and sees a person of incredible worth and value. 1 Corinthians 6:20 states that “you were bought at a price.” That price was the precious blood of Jesus. God gave His best for you. Jesus gave His all for you. He gave His all so you can have eternal life with Him in heaven. God wants to spend forever with you, that’s how much He values you.

Imagine being imprisoned in a foreign country with no hope of release or escape. How would you feel if I traded my son to that country in exchange for your life so you could return to the United States? It would be hard for me to do that. In fact, I probably would not! I love my son so much, I wouldn’t trade him for anything. He is precious and valuable to me. But this is exactly what God did for you and me. He exchanged His Son so we could be purchased from the enemy’s prison.

Several years ago, the Lord reminded me of a rummage sale that my mom and I went to when I was a boy. As I recall, we drove out of town to a small building that was filled with clothes and perhaps other sundry items. We rummaged through lots of clothes to find something worth purchasing. The stuff was discarded  by someone, but we hoped to find something that would be useful for us. When the Lord reminded me of this, I felt the Lord speak to me, “love her like you loved that rummage sale.” At that time, I was dating a girl while in Bible school (whom I did not end up marrying), but I believe God was actually speaking to me about my future wife.

When God brought Leslie and I together, she had some “junk” in her life (and I did too). We both brought hurts from the past and anger into our marriage. Marriage has been a healing journey for us, and we’re still on that journey. Yet, God has called me to see past her problems and see her heart, to value her because she is valuable to Him. Often Leslie has to look past my problems and see my heart as well.

God sees past the junk in our lives and sees that within us that is of value. God sees the heart. “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). My wife has a heart of gold, a beautiful heart full of love and generosity. Will I love her on the basis of her problems or will I love her on the basis of the value God places upon her?

This is how God loves us. He doesn’t look at our problems, hurts, or bad attitudes. He looks at us through the lens of the blood of Jesus. He looks at us based on the value He has placed on us. He looks past the “junk” in our lives – the sins, mistakes, wounds, and failures – and sees a person of incredible value and worth. His love makes us valuable. His grace makes us beautiful. He gives us “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).

I Peter 1:18-19 says,

“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.”

God gave His best and Jesus gave His all for you – you are valuable to God!

Assignment:  Read Ephesians 1:15-23 and make a list of who you are in Christ. Spend 15-30 minutes this evening, before you go to bed, meditating on these truths and confessing them over your life.

Your Identity in Christ

 

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Have you ever felt overlooked or marginalized by others?

Even if not intentional, sometimes others fail to see our potential. One time, I requested a job promotion for a position I thought had opened up. After about four months of waiting and seeing the position had not been filled, I discovered that I needed to speak with the President of the company to find out why I had not been given the position. So, I requested a meeting with him.

In the meeting, I learned that although the supervisor of the department wanted me in the position, the President did not or was at least resistant to the idea. I had been with the company for over ten years, had worked hard and was excellent in my work, and felt that I deserved the promotion. I made my case and he gave me the promotion. It felt good that I got what I wanted, but I also felt a bit hurt and rejected. My supervisor believed in me a great deal and saw my potential, but the President did not. What I’ve learned is that some people, no matter how well I do or how hard I try, won’t believe in me or see my potential.

I’ve learned that what others think about me is not that important. I need to be open to listening to constructive criticism and be willing to receive correction, but what is most important is what God thinks about me. And thankfully God has placed other people in my life who do believe in me.

There’s no doubt that the words of others can hurt, but the most important words in our lives are the words of God. Even if everyone else says you don’t matter, God says you do. If God says you matter, then it doesn’t matter what other people think.

Once, after going through a long season of personal testing, the Lord told me that I had passed the test. Honestly, I did not feel like I had passed the test. But God clearly told me that I had passed. I have learned that if God says “yes” when I feel “no”, “yes” it is! So, in addition to placing God’s words above those of others, we also have to place God’s words over our own self-opinion.

Sometimes we can think of ourselves more highly than we ought (see Rom. 12:3). In this case, we need to temper our self-opinion with the truth of God’s word. Often, however, we think too low of ourselves and we need to elevate our self-thinking based on what God says about us.

Romans 14:4 says,

“Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”

When you one day stand before God in heaven, what others have said about you will not matter. What will matter is what God says about you. This the way we should live our lives – with a humble estimation of ourselves and with a confidence in who we are in Christ. Jesus was wholly confident in who He was as God’s Son but also lived humbly, knowing He could do nothing without the Father (John 5:19).

As a new dad myself, I want to speak positive words over my son. I want to call forth his purpose and destiny in Christ. I want him to know that I believe in him and his potential. He’s just a little guy right now, but all of God’s potential is presently in him, it just needs to be developed. I don’t want to hold him back. I want to give him opportunities to grow and fulfill his purpose. I want to provide instruction and discipline to help guide him in the right direction. Most importantly, I want him to know that he is loved and that I am proud of him. Our Father in heaven feels the same way about you. He loves you and believes in you. Even if you feel poorly about yourself, He is proud of you!

I have found it helpful to declare out loud who I am in Christ. Declaring what God says about me in His Word increases my confidence in Him and reminds me that I am loved and accepted even if I feel unloved. I want to challenge you to take some time to declare God’s word over your life. Sit by your beside or sofa or pace the floor in your room and declare God’s promises over your life. Absorb the truth of God’s word deep into your soul, let your identity in Christ become ingrained in your soul and spirit.

Assignment:  Read Ephesians Chapter 1:1-14. Make a list regarding your identity in Christ (for example, “I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ” or “I am adopted as God’s son or daughter”, etc.). Also, make a list of qualities of God’s character (for example, “God is full of grace” or “God is full of wisdom”, etc.). Spend 30 minutes this evening, meditating on these truths and confessing them over your life.

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The Quest

Welcome to the DISCIPLESHIP pageIMG_0189

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. -Romans 8:29

The goal of this page is to encourage you in your quest to become like Jesus. Let’s take a journey together into the heart of God as we seek to be conformed to the image and character of Jesus Christ. I’ll be posting here on topics like prayer, faith, surrender, meditating on God’s word, truth, etc.

Several years ago the Lord led me to move from Michigan to Texas. You can read more about that story here. It was a step of faith and the beginning of what has been an exciting adventure in my life. During my first drive to Texas, I took the fuzzy photo below while driving down the highway. Walking with God is a quest to know Him, be like Him and fulfill His purpose. My journey has been filled with detours, setbacks and disappointments, but it has also been full of unexpected adventures, surprises, blessings, and wonderful experiences with the Lord.

It’s been over 17 years now since I moved to Texas. I’ve learned a little bit on this journey that I’d like to share with you, truths that I believe will help you on your journey. I’ve never regretted following Jesus. There have been times of deep disappointment in my life, which God has used to mold and shape me into His image, but also times of great joy. I’m certainly still a work in progress! My hope for this blog is to inspire and challenge you in your journey of walking with God.

Join me on this great adventure of following Jesus!

The Quest