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Growing Pains

Light Streaming Through the Crown of a Tree

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.” Ephesians 4:15 (The Message)

When my children were younger, I was constantly measuring their growth: height, weight, and abilities. Can she crawl, sit or walk? Does she respond to her name? Does she stack the blocks or just consider them a no-calorie snack? If their mental attributes along with their physical attributes don’t change, they aren’t growing in a complete manner.

Growth can be a challenge. All growth is the result of action and we must be diligent and intentional about the type of actions we take. Even a baby doesn’t just grow. If they are not receiving enough food, they won’t grow physically or mentally and if deprived of food for a long enough period will die.

Spiritual growth is the same. I’ve known a few people who really wanted to grow or at least thought they did. What it seems they may have wanted more was to continue doing what they had always done, but somehow manage to have peace and feel good about it. But nothing that grows stays the same. There will be changes. To ignore or deny the truth of what is needed for growth will only bring about death. The truth of Jesus is the source of eternal life.

Spiritual growth begins with knowing the truth about Jesus. You hear about Him, ask questions, learn some more and eventually have enough information to make a decision about what the truth of Jesus means to you and for you. If you are not seeking to know the truth, if you are not asking questions of people who know the truth, you will not grow in your understanding of who Jesus really is and you will have no reason to move forward in a relationship with Him. The problem with this is that everything else you consider about Him will be false. Just like eating protein will add muscle and eating sugar will add fat, growing in the knowledge and truth of Jesus will lead you to eternal life while ignoring or denying the truth of Jesus will lead to eternal separation from God. False teachings will lead to a false understanding which in turn will feed you with empty calories which will not sustain.

One of the growing pains involved with knowing the truth of Jesus is that we soon realize there are things we like, think or do that are not actually good for us. They seem good because they make us feel good and give us some enjoyment, at least for the moment. We don’t want to give it up because we don’t really want to believe it’s bad. Maybe it’s easier than changing. We operate out of our feelings rather than facts. We live for what seems good rather than what is truly good.

When my daughter was three years old, we could tell she wasn’t eating well. We pulled out our Dr. Spock baby book and did some research. We wanted to know answers and the truth about what might be causing this problem and what we could do about it. We learned too much sugar would ruin her appetite. Right away we knew the problem: apple juice. She loved apple juice! But the juice was hurting her, not helping her even though she enjoyed it. We promptly removed the apple juice from her diet and replaced it with water or milk only. For three days she cried! Each day was a little better until rather than cry over not getting apple juice, she asked for milk. Her eating improved and she chose milk over almost every other beverage for most of her childhood.

But those three days were painful. She wanted what she wanted and was willing to forsake the good thing for the enjoyable thing…until she realized the good thing was better.

Something to Consider…

Do you struggle believing the entire Bible is true? Does it contradict what you’ve been told is true? Is it difficult to understand how God’s ways are better than your ways, how they are truly the best way?

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—” 2 Peter 2:2 (ESV)

Don’t settle for good enough. Don’t settle for empty satisfaction. God in his goodness sent His Son, Jesus Christ so we would know His grace and truth. You have the opportunity to choose the better thing. The growing pains of faith are real, but the truth of Jesus is better than any lie the world would have you believe. Seek to know and understand His truth and discover the real source of all you need to be able to change and grow up into all He created you to be!

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Go Ahead, Ask the Question!

I don’t have one but I see them everywhere. The fish. It’s usually on the bumper of a vehicle. You see it and you know it refers to God , Jesus, Christianity. I knew the story of the fish and loaves, the feeding of the 5,000 and the fishermen called to be fishers of men, but I learned there is so much more to the story of how a fish on a bumper shows the world who you follow.

The other day I saw a fish with legs and in the body it said, “Darwin”.

I admit it put me off at first, but then I began to think about it and ask some questions.

  • At what point did a fish grow legs?
  • And if one fish grew legs, why didn’t all of them?
  • Did more than one have to grow legs in order to mate and continue the cycle?
  • If so, what are the chances that at least two fish of the opposite sex that could grow legs would be in close enough proximity to each other that they could mate and would mate?
  • How many years does it take to morph into a completely different creature?
  • If they can trace the finches of the Galapagos Islands back to a single bird, why is it crazy that all people came from a single man?
  • If we came from apes, where did the apes come from?
  • If survival of the fittest means the weaker species die off, why are there still apes if humans came from them? (I owe this question to a friend of mine.)
  • If evolution is true, how many different species of humans are there really? There wouldn’t only be one, would there?
  • If survival of the fittest is the way of the world, can we as humans really be created equally?
  • Is it easier to believe that everything in this universe is chance, that there really is no meaning to any of it OR that a Creator God lovingly formed everything with intricate detail and care, thought and love?

As I consider the purpose of the fish, the meaning behind it and thought of the name of Darwin being stamped over the middle, I heard God asking me a few questions.

  • What can Darwin do for you?
  • Does he show you what it means to love?
  • Does he teach you how to have compassion for others?
  • Did he know your name before you were born?
  • Can he heal, hold and carry you through the difficulties of life?
  • Does he give you a purpose and meaning beyond yourself?

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Genesis 1:26-28 (ESV)

Something to Consider…

When my husband and I were dating, we got on the subject of asking our parents questions. The conversation ending with me say, “My children are going to know they can ask me any question. I may not give them an answer. They may not like the answer I give them. But, they will always be able to come to me and ask.”

I believe God wants us to ask. If we are open to asking Him the question, we just might be open to receiving His answer.

Who do you look like: an intelligent ape, a distant relative or a loving and faithful Father in heaven? Do you walk like His Son, Jesus?

What questions do you have? Do you know your true identity? God would love to tell you who you are to Him.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)

Remember

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 (ESV)

I email with a friend regularly. We talk about things going on in our lives, problems and joys. They might include political or just news worthy tidbits of information we come across and think are interesting. We joke and laugh, cry and love.

Often, we email about things in need of prayer. Whether it’s for our self or someone else, there is almost always prayer involved. We also rejoice together over what God is doing in response to those prayers. Or maybe He’s given us a revelation about His word, His nature, His character; He’s given us a glimpse into what He’s doing in us or those around us. It is such a joy to share with another person what God is doing in our life!

My friend is a saver. She picks out those things I say that touch her and saves them. Sometimes it’s Scripture; sometimes it’s an insight or thought. Then, out of nowhere, we will be emailing back and forth and she will just drop one of my encouragements to her from, say one year ago, back on me.  Or maybe it’s something I’ve said I’m waiting on and praying for. It’s like she’s saying, “Remember who you are. Remember whose you are. You are not who or where you use to be. God is still at work!”

See, she knows I know it. I just don’t always remember it. She reminds me of what I already know. We all need that encouragement from time to time. Perhaps, all the time!

God does that same thing throughout the entire Bible. He continuously reminds us of who He is, who we are, what He’s done for us and what that means going forward. We may think, “He just said that!”, so we skim over those parts that sound familiar. While everything God says matters, when He repeats Himself we should sit up and take notice. It’s really important!

We are His and He loves us. He has done wonderful things already and it doesn’t stop there. Because He has been faithful, He will continue to be faithful. We do not need to wonder who God is or what He wants. We many not know all the details of how it will happen, but it will happen if He says so.

Our Heavenly Father continuously encourages us to keep following, keep trusting, keep believing – have faith!

 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

Something to Consider…

Do you already know Jesus? Do you know what He has done for you? As you read His Word, know that His promises are not just for those in the Bible, they are for the whole world and that includes you!

Are you plugged in with other Christians who encourage you in your walk with Him? Do you need to be reminded of the hope you have in Christ? It’s important to do life with others who are walking with Jesus.

Join a small group or Bible study. Don’t worry about what you know or don’t know. God is always teaching us something new and we are here to encourage each other to always remember the hope we have in Him!

Tell Him About It

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NIV)

One of the hardest things to do is admit I was wrong. There are times I didn’t see it as wrong and there are others when I knew my action or reaction was hurtful, disrespectful or simply not the best thing to do. I replied out of anger or self-righteousness when I really had no compassion or understanding. I put my wants and desires first, even before God.

God’s Word says we all sin, we’ve all fallen short of God’s glory. When we act like we don’t sin or think what we do doesn’t really matter, we deceive ourselves. Not only that, but by believing we don’t do anything wrong, we call God a liar.

You may think, “I’ve never called God a liar.”

Everything we say falls into three categories: it’s true, it’s a lie and we know it, or it’s a lie and we don’t know it. If we don’t believe God is telling the truth, then we call Him a liar.

1 John 1:10 says if we really think God is lying; no part of His Word has any place in our lives. We can’t pick and choose what we want to believe and dismiss the rest. God’s Word says we’ve ALL sinned, that includes you and me. God’s Word is either true or not and we shouldn’t live by a lie.

My daughters often ask questions about the Bible. They don’t understand what certain Scripture means in general or what it means for them. For a very long time, I felt the same way and still do on occasion. What I tell them is that I believe it’s all true and I ask God to show me how it’s true. I pray for His wisdom and understanding because in my own mind, I don’t and can’t really understand. Sometimes, I simply don’t want to understand because the truth can be really difficult to accept.

It’s hard to admit our sin, our shortcomings, our flat-out disobedience and selfish behavior. What if when we acknowledge what we’ve done, our family and friends get angry and leave us? It is possible. But hopefully, our family and friends love us for who we are and not what we do. Hopefully, they will forgive and love us all the more for being a person of honesty and integrity, wanting to make things right.

Regardless of what the people in our lives do, when we confess our sins to God, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins. He doesn’t leave us; He loves us. He doesn’t relive what we’ve done, holding it over our heads; He takes it away. He sent His Son, Jesus, to do just this. Through our faith in Him, our sins no longer exists. God sees us new.

Something to Consider…

God is for you, loves you, and is waiting for you to be honest with Him regarding every part of your life.

Is there is a situation, behavior or attitude that keeps you at a distance from God or others? Choose to tell Him about it. The truth is He already knows but by talking to Him about it, you choose to be open to what He has to say about it.

Confess it to God. Ask Him to help you understand how to handle the situation or change the behavior or attitude. He will forgive you and help you live out His right ways.

Where is Your God?

“My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” Psalm 42:10 (NIV)

“Why is God silent? Why won’t He intervene and do something to change this situation?”

Sound familiar? There are so many times we may wonder where God has gone. We’ve asked Him to do something, yet we wait and wait; and nothing for what seems like so long.

Daniel, a young man of noble birth, a captive in Babylon, was greatly concerned for the future of his people. He prayed faithfully for twenty-one days; then an angel of the Lord came to him. He prayed three full weeks, never giving up…faithfully. How soon do you get frustrated and want to give up? Assume the answer is no and move on? Maybe you keep it up a couple of days, a week; but three full weeks? What if it had been longer? It could’ve been you know. Some of us have been trying to stay faithful for years.

There are times when I wonder if in my waiting, in my impatience, I made a decision out of frustration rather than faith. Or maybe, I was too hesitant to step into what God had for me. We can pray for an answer – for God to do something; but sometimes we need to step out in faith first.

We never know the day or hour God will answer the prayer we pray with the deepest longing for a desired outcome. When the answer finally comes, we look back and can think it really wasn’t so long but in the middle of it all, it feels like forever. We can wonder why we ever doubted.

When a messenger finally comes with the answer to Daniel’s prayer, he fills Daniel in on what’s been going on.

“Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.’” Daniel 10:12 (NIV)

While Daniel prayed and fasted, the Prince of the Persian kingdom resisted the angel. There is a battle going on around us all the time. We don’t always know what other circumstances are holding up our answer. Others decisions and actions affect our circumstances as well. We can’t see it and we don’t understand it but we can often feel and see the results.

The message of hope in this passage is since the first day Daniel set his mind to gain understanding and humble himself, his words were heard. From the very first moment he turned to God in his situation, God heard him and began to work. While we may feel alone in the battle with nothing to do but wait, God hears us. He is responding in ways we don’t see and don’t  understand. When we set our mind to gain understanding, it means we want to understand God’s plan, not our own. When we humble ourselves, we give up our will for His.

What do you have your mind set on? Is your attitude one of humility or pride? Are you able to trust in and wait on the Lord knowing He is at work?

Something to Consider…

Are you waiting on God to answer a long felt prayer? Is He asking you to step out in faith to set your answer in motion? When praying, choose to remain faithful, seek God’s understanding of the situation and humble yourself to His will.

Where is your God? Remember, He is with you always, He hears you and He is at work in ways you can’t comprehend.

Child-like Faith

“Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4

The disciples have just been arguing about who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They finally go to Jesus so He can settle the dispute.

“Unless you change and become like little children…” (Matthew 18:3a) What does this really mean? Aren’t they already acting like little children? It doesn’t seem much different that an argument over who is mom or dad’s favorite!

This has truly been a difficult concept for me. Just when I think I get it, I feel like I miss the mark. How are we supposed to be like children?

Children are immature, yet we are to be mature, growing in our faith. Children do not have authority and yet Jesus has given us power and authority in His name. Children are  inexperienced and have little education under their belt. Seeking God opens us to His knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

So how do we do all these things and yet be like children?

Let go of your pride –The children came to Jesus. Our pride so often keeps us from simply coming to Jesus in the first place. The mere fact that God has made a way for us to be with Him in heaven is humbling. We do nothing to earn the gift God has given us. Pride says I can earn position, knowledge and wisdom based on my own efforts. God gives freely and generously
to those who come to Him.

Submit to authority – Children are humble. God has created a hierarchy, a heavenly organization chart. We too often want to believe we are in control; control of ourselves, our family, our work, and our relationships. We think we know best. We don’t want anyone stepping in telling us that we neither understand nor truly have control. God doesn’t need us to take the authority of those He has placed over us in order to accomplish His will.

Accept the truth – Peter says to be like newborn infants and crave pure spiritual milk. (1 Peter 2:2) Don’t settle for watered-down truth, religion that keeps you tied to the law, or truth sprinkled with fillers to make you feel full. Be satisfied in the simplicity of the good stuff, the truth of Jesus; not the junk food the world has to offer.

We can make all sorts of excuses as to why we don’t quite accept what the Bible has to say about sin, forgiveness and the changes we need to be willing to make to truly be in line with God’s will. We can continue to think that our experience, education or efforts give us the right to disregard what those in authority have to say. Sometimes the truth is hard and we want life to be easy so we find ways around the truth such as God loves everyone just as they are.

The truth is God does love everyone just as they are; but He also loves them too much to leave them that way. We are each born with traits and tendencies that pull us away from God. Jesus says, come to me, submit to my authority and accept my truth. We cannot do that and stay just as we are.

Something to Consider…

Is there an area in your life where you are keeping Jesus at a distance? Is there someone in authority in which you need to submit but have a difficult time? Is there Scripture that you just can’t believe is true or think can’t be relevant today?

As you come to Jesus with your questions and concerns, be willing to listen to His answers, move forward trusting what He says and continue to seek His truth in all situations.