spiritual growth Posts

Biblical Families: Spiritual Growth

Rick and Judy discuss what it looks like to grow spiritually as individuals and as a couple, seeking Him first in all things (Matthew 6:33). They provide some ideas about how you can find your personal rhythms and how a husband and wife can grow spiritually together.

Prophecy: The New Heaven and Earth

 

New_Heaven_Earth-1

The Bible speaks about many things that are yet to come, things such as:

But after all is said and done, there is going to be a new heaven and a new earth. But why? What’s wrong with this earth?

We get a glimpse of the need for this in Romans 8:19-22:

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

This planet has become polluted by evil over thousands of years now. And after the Great Tribulation, it will be virtually unrecognizable from what it is today. And God has promised to re-create this planet and its whole atmosphere in the future.

We see the most detailed description of this in Revelation 21:1-8:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Here are some observations:

  1. The earth and its atmosphere, as part of this solar system, will come to an end.
  2. There will be a re-created heaven and earth.
  3. There will be 71% more land mass, since there will no longer be a sea.
  4. There will be a new Jerusalem that will be three-dimensional.
  5. God Himself will dwell among mankind.
  6. There will be no pain or sorrow by those living in this eternal state, and no death.
  7. This new heaven and earth will only be inhabited by believers.

This will truly be a “heaven on earth” experience. Heaven is where God dwells, and He will dwell on this new creation with us, in our midst, without any wants or needs, no crying or pain and no death, eternally!

5 Ways to Consistently Be in God’s Word

5 Ways to Consistently Be in God's Word

I have stored up your word in my heart – Psalm 119:11 (ESV)

The Bible is a fascinating book, and God will use your steady time in His Word to build spiritual vitality into your life. A crisis will strike, circumstances will turn against you, or you will need some strength from the Lord, and a verse will come to your mind then. Or you will need to make a decision and you will find your mind scanning things you have learned from God’s Word to get direction.

These are some ways to consistently be in God’s Word so you can be continually refreshed in your time with Him:

  1. Read

Pick a book of the Scriptures and dive in. Read a paragraph or so a day to get into the discipline of enjoying the Word on a regular basis. Think about the passage, pray about it and ask God to show you something from it. You will have days where you forget what you read very quickly, but God will also give you days where a verse will sink deeply into your soul and change your life. You will be surprised how God can bring to life an application for what you just read about that day.

  1. Study

Once you get into the habit of reading each day, slow down and dig into a passage. Keep a journal and write down your observations. I like to take one book of the Bible each month and focus on it. I will read it several times that month, depending on the length, and then try to chart it out on a page so I can see the big picture of the book.

If you want to go deeper into meanings of words and cultural pictures, use a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia that explain words, names, places and culture in more detail. You can also use a concordance to find the uses of the same word in other places in the Bible.

  1. Meditate

This is the churning of the Word of God in your mind, reading the text over and over again a number of times. Emphasize different words each time to see a more complete picture of the intent of the passage. Look for those subtle implications of the text in your life. Bring the passage to mind, think about it, put it away, bring it back up later, consider it, put it away and bring it back up again.

You can take this to the next level by memorizing a key verse or two each week. Maybe begin by writing the verse(s) on a card and keeping it with you so you can look back over it several times each day.

  1. Be Accountable

Accountability is one secret I have learned for self-discipline. Having a Bible study to prepare for or being in a group where we discuss God’s Word, where you know other people are counting on you to have spent time with God beforehand can be very helpful. Join a group or class that studies the Bible and talk with others about what you and they are learning in God’s Word. Then take some time to pray together.

  1. Find Your Rhythm

Everyone is wired differently when it comes to spending time with God and in His Word. Find the natural forms and rhythms of your life. Is it spending time in His Word at home or somewhere else? Is it a daily routine or more of a mix? Over time, find what works best for you, and ask God to help you live in that rhythm on a consistent basis. Ask Him to meet you in the time you set aside to be with Him.

The way I am wired, I try to have some alone time virtually every day that I spend in the Word and talking to God, which may only be 15-30 minutes. Then I have my couple of special times each week where God and I have an extended visit. He has proven to me those times are well worth it, and they are so refreshing when I am in them.

Learning to Cherish Jesus

Cherish-Jesus

After many years of being married to Judy, I could say I loved her, truly loved her – with my words and actions. However, I did not cherish her. That was something new to me. It was new territory.

I would love her by telling her I loved her. I would love her by doing the laundry some, doing the dishes some, bringing her flowers occasionally.

But to cherish her, that was another story. Cherish involves tenderly caring for her, creating an intimate, tender atmosphere where she feels loved and cared for, where she feels very special. It’s amazing to me how much deeper and more intimate my relationship with Judy became when I started growing in my desire and ability to cherish her.

As this new world was opening up to me, I also realized that I loved Jesus, truly loved Him – with my words and actions. But did I cherish Him?

I had taught Matthew 28:18-20 many times, but the end of those verses took on new significance for me. After commissioning His disciples, Jesus says, “and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Another way of translating that is, “I am with you every step of the way.”

It humbled my heart to seek to increasingly cherish Jesus – knowing that He cherishes being with me.

Jesus has promised to be with His disciples every step of life. You and I have the incredible opportunity to walk through life with Jesus.

When you feel at a total loss or in over your head…

Remember, He too had to grow in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). He understands. Ask Him for help.

When you get frustrated by the religious culture all around you…

Remember, He reasoned with Jewish teachers at age 12 (Luke 2:46-47) and cast out money changers from the temple (Matthew 21:12). Seek His wisdom.

When you feel like your circumstances are impossible…

Remember, He walked on water and helped Peter back out of the water (Matthew 14:28-31). Reach the hand of your heart out to Him. He will lift you up.

When you are wrecked with fear…

Remember, He spoke and the storm was calmed (Mark 4:39-41). Share your heart and fears with Him. He cares. He can calm the storms in your life.

When you are weary to the bone…

Remember, He promised to give you rest (Matthew 11:28-30) and not to keep piling it on. Relax and rest in Him. You don’t have to do the work alone.

When you are falsely accused…

Remember, He faced His accusers with power, not words (John 19:9-11). He’s still there. Cry with Him. Count on Him and His power to sustain you.

When you are betrayed by others…

Remember, He was betrayed by all the disciples (Matthew 26:56). He will never betray you. Count on Him. He will stand with you, even all others desert you.

When your heart is hard and calloused…

Remember, He forgave Peter. He forgives you (John 21:15-19). Allow your heart to be softened and even broken by Him. He is a gentle, effective heart surgeon.

When you feel life isn’t worth living…

Remember, He felt your life was worth dying for (Mark 10:45) and He’s right here with you (Matthew 28:20). Draw near to Him. Walk with Him – every step of the way.

When you rise in the morning, walk through your day, and go to bed at night…

Remember, He’s right there with you, every step of the way.

No matter what your circumstances,
no matter how joyful or sad you are,
no matter how long you have been dealing with hard things…
Remember, He’s right there with you, every step of the way.

Remember, and never forget.

Cherish Jesus every moment you walk through life with Him.

Comfort As God Has Comforted Us

5 books that have changed my life

Though he brings grief,
he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.
– Lamentations 3:32-33 (NIV)

A few weeks after our son Kyle’s death we were back in that same hospital waiting for our daughter Kelly to be born. Labor and delivery were difficult and, understandably, very emotional for Judy. To have buried one child and now be giving birth to another in a matter of weeks would weigh on any mother’s heart. I felt so helpless. I knew there were little things I could do, but she had to work so many things out in her own head and heart.

It was uncanny how God used so many people, even some we had never met, to comfort us in our time of need. Cards, letters, phone calls and visits all came our way. We needed them. God used these blessed people to bring us compassion and comfort. But very soon God was putting us in their shoes.

After Kelly’s birth, Judy was in recovery for a few days. She was in a semiprivate room with a young woman who had delivered premature twins. The twins were very small and life was difficult, but they were struggling with everything they had to survive. The doctors were very cautions. There was the very real possibility that one or both would die in minutes, days or weeks.

This new mother of two was agonizing for her children, hoping they would not die, but knowing they surely could. Then she found out Judy had lost a son just weeks before.

Judy did not feel like helping someone else, but there she was. And there was a strange tugging within Judy to do what was best, even though it was painful. God had used Dr. Knarr, our physician friend, to bring Judy and me comfort in our time of need. As he shared his heartache and pain with us, God used him to minister to us, and in the process we had ministered to him. Now God was using Judy to help her roommate, and He used the process to help Judy.

Just four months later one of the twin boys died in the night. The mom asked Judy to come and be with her at the funeral. Judy wept at the thought of burying another young boy. But she went. That was God’s design to bring comfort and ministry into our lives, and into the lives of others through us.

There were soon people in my life as well who were strengthened by what we were going through. Gerald was in his early sixties and newly retired when he lost his wonderful wife after a 28-year bout with cancer. They had lovingly cared for their marriage, and their beautifully intertwined lives accentuated his sense of loss when she was finally torn away from him. Gerald and I met for many months, and he gained comfort not only from my concern as a pastor, but from my experience as a companion who had also lost someone near.

Within a year or so Judy and I were being asked to speak in Death and Dying classes at the university. Each time we felt God’s arms of compassion and tender comfort all over again. That helped us, but so did the help we could give others.

The apostle Paul wrote about the Father’s promised comfort and ministry out of his own need. In fact, he wrote these words to the Corinthians:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead – 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NIV)

Paul says he felt the sentence of death. Yet even in his despair he says that all this happened so we may “not rely on ourselves but on God.” Total reliance on the Father is what must happen for us if we are to embrace God’s compassion and comfort, and willingly embrace the difficult task of helping others.

In light of all this, we understand better the words of Paul:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NASB)

Someone just like you needs to feel the arms of God through your arms and to hear God’s tender, understanding voice through your voice. Let God enfold you and you will be able to enfold others. Look. Listen. And then let Him use you to help someone else. The comfort and joy you experience will surprise you.

(Portions taken from: Dr. Rick Taylor, When Life Is Changed Forever, Harvest House Publishers)

4 Good Reasons to Get Married

4 Good reasons to get married

Although there are some reasons not to get married, there are many very good reasons to get married. Here are a few of them:

 

1. God designed marriage 

In Genesis 2:24, Moses makes this editorial comment about an intended major takeaway from Genesis 1-2: “Therefore a man should stop living in a dependent relationship with his parents (as well as other overly dependent relationships) and enter into an unconditional commitment with his wife, and over time they will become one together” (my expanded translation of the Hebrew text).

Obviously God designed us as men and women (Genesis 1:27) on purpose and calls us to become one in a marriage relationship. Marriage is God’s idea and it’s His design for us as men and women, generally. Even though Paul says God has given some select people the gift of singleness (1 Corinthians 7:7-9), he calls it a gift for a reason, because it’s not the norm. There may be reasons not to get married yet. But far and away, marriage is God’s design for men and women.

 

2. You’re convinced that you mutually NEED each other

I’m not talking about “we get along,” or “we have fun together” or “it would be nice to get married.” I’m talking about “I NEED this person; and they NEED me.” When looking at Genesis 2:18-24, it’s interesting how God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion that finishes him out.”

Then God brings the animals before the man and he names them. And he names them in part based on skeletal structure and skin type (Genesis 2:23), the same primary factors we use today in naming and classifying animals. All this animal naming seemed random to me until I realized that Adam was carefully analyzing the animals as he named them, obviously also noticing that there were male and female pairs among all the animals.

It’s then that the text says Adam realized that it was not good for him to be alone. He realized his NEED, and when he and Eve meet, they see each other as the fulfillment of this NEED.

 

3. We are better together

God designed us to be relational beings, as He is, not as loners. I’ve read a number of studies that have shown the health and life expectancy of people is prolonged by healthy relationships and diminished by lack of healthy relationships. But being better together is not just about happiness. It also helps rub off the rough edges that we each have in our lives – rough edges like our selfishness. I never realized how selfish I was until I married Judy. Being married was like putting a spotlight on my selfishness, and it forced me to begin dealing with it in earnest.

Being married forces you to develop your communication skills and your conflict resolution skills. It forces you to face your real self, not the self you have wanted to see. There’s nothing like a spouse, who sees you day in and day out, in the good, bad and ugly times to see yourself in the mirror of reality. If you want to live in denial and remain selfish, then marriage is a dangerous proposition.

 

4. Intimacy, Closeness, Oneness

This doesn’t just mean sex. We live in a world where most people are willing to settle for cheap substitutes for the intimacy, closeness and true oneness that God designed us for, and longs for us to experience. Trying out relationships by living together and couples hooking up for sex have become Satan’s cheap substitutes for the deep, abiding intimacy we were designed for and long for down deep inside. A marriage that has continued to deal with their individual baggage in a committed I-will-be-here-for-you-no-matter-what relationship can and will grow in oneness over time – a closeness that far surpasses any live-in or hook-up relationship.

Are You a Leader?

Are-You-A-Leader-Blog

In the course of my life I have probably read more than 100 books on leadership, some by Christians, but mostly not. Unfortunately, most of what I read, Christian or not, sounds very similar.

I’ve read things like, you’re a leader if you have a certain type of personality or you have a certain style or you get results or you influence others or you have followers. But what bothered me was that Adolf Hitler seemed to be one person having all those characteristics, and I most definitely don’t aspire to be a leader like him. Surely there is a difference between secular and Christian leaders.

Christian writers on leadership often just say “character” is the important difference for Christian leaders, but this seemed lacking to me as well.