Growing In Godliness Blog
By Larry Coffey
We read in Ecclesiastes 7:10, “Say not, why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” Yet, we often speak of the good old days as though life was much better in past years. While there will be things we remember with great fondness, we tend to overlook how much our lives have improved. Of course, older folks may think about their former health and strength, but are living conditions really not as good as former days?
Christians will remember that more people seemed to be interested in spiritual matters, and the number of people who attend church services has been declining over the last 50 years. We have also seen a decline in morals. Abortion and homosexual marriage would have never become law in the 1950’s.
In Christianity Magazine’s September/October, 1996 issue, Ed Harrell said this: “The past was never as good as we remember it being. There is bad and good in every time. The present is probably better than we are able to admit. I see more fine young people in the universities today than ever before in my career as a teacher.”
Going way back to the days of Noah, we read in Gen. 6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The Lord allowed life to continue until only eight people in the whole world were faithful. Move forward several hundred years, and the Lord told Abraham he would not destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if he could find 10 faithful people there, but Abraham couldn’t even find 10.
Today we have many more than eight or 10 people serving the Lord at the Douglass Hills church alone. And just think of the thousands and thousands of churches in this country and around the world with people serving God. I hear members of the church say times are getting so bad the Lord may return soon to end life here. Of course, neither I or anyone else knows when Christ may return, but based on history, it is going to be a long time before that happens.
According to my notes from a Wednesday night talk I gave at DH in 1998, I made these comments: “I want to praise the young people we have here at DH. In my opinion, we now have as good a group of young people as we have ever had. They are involved in our worship, and they are involved in visiting and helping others outside our assemblies.” And I believe today, 25 years later, we have a great group of young people. They are involved in our work and their interest was further demonstrated by their participation in our recent Youth Forum.
So, former days are not always better than present days. And I believe there is a lot to look forward to in our future days.
The Desperate Need for Love
By Mark McCrary
The world is in desperate need of love. A lack of love and compassion is at the very heart of most of the problems plaguing us today—war, racism, mass shootings… the list goes on and on. In a time where there seems to be so much division, hatred, and fear, it is more important than ever to embrace love as the answer to our problems. The Bible tells us that love is not only important, but it is also essential to our well-being as individuals, as a church, and as a society.
In 1 John 4:8, the Bible tells us that "God is love." Love is not just something God does; it is who He is. It is the very essence of His nature. The Bible also tells us we are made in His image (Genesis 1:26). That entails many things, but certainly that we need to reflect Him to the world around us. Therefore, if He is love, we must be love as well; we need to love as He loves. Jesus reminds us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). In John 13:34-35, He tells us, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love has the power to overcome hate, to heal wounds, and to bring people together. When we love others, we are showing them the same grace and mercy that God has shown us. We are breaking down the barriers that divide us and building bridges of understanding and compassion. Love allows us to see people for who they are, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or background.
In 1 Corinthians 13, often referred to as the "love chapter," the Bible describes what love looks like in action. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
This kind of love is what we need more of in our world today. And beloved, it is our duty as Christians to model it. Our families, friends, and coworkers need to see this love alive in us.
Am I showing this kind of love? To people who make me angry? To sinners? Let’s ask God to help us accept the words of the apostle John while examining our hearts: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
The world needs love right now because love has the power to transform lives and bring about positive change. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to love others as He loves us. We need to be agents of love, showing kindness, compassion, and understanding to those around us. If we all choose to love one another, we can make a difference in our world and bring hope to those who need it most.
By Victor A. Osorio
Many of us in the congregation are studying the Sermon on the Mount in various groups. The Sermon on the Mount is the best sermon ever preached. Jesus said in 10-15 minutes more than what the volumes of books that have been written on the sermon ever could.
Jesus begins the sermon with a grabbing introduction – what we call the “beatitudes.” The introduction has emphatic repetition about being “blessed.” It presents eight character traits we should possess, followed by eight promises that will follow if we do.
But what is “blessed”? Most say, “happy.” And, well, so does the Greek. But what do we mean by “happy”? A passage that drives home this concept well is in Luke 11:27-28. “Happy” is the concept of knowing where we stand at all times because we are “God approved” (Psa. 1).
The first four beatitudes correspond to our relationship with God. They are vertical.
Take the first, poverty of spirit (Mt. 5:3). It is a personal acknowledgement of our spiritual bankruptcy before God. We know we are empty before God, and bring nothing of value to the relationship. It is the attitude displayed by the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14 and confirmed in Isa. 64:6.
The second builds on the first – those who mourn (Mt. 5:4). The Greek word “mourn” here is a passionate lament. It is the strongest word for “mourn.” We mourn over our sins when we realize the deficiencies that make us so bankrupt before God. We are aware that we are not what we need to be and mourn for what is missing. It is how Isaiah and Paul felt in Isa. 6:3-5 and Rom. 7:21-25, respectively. While it is humbling, notice the result is comfort – both in this age and the one to come.
Third to be blessed are the meek (Mt. 5:5). Meek are not the weak. After all, Moses was said to be the meekest man alive (Num. 12:3). And the only time we have recorded where Jesus explains his temperament, He said He was meek (Mt. 11:28-30). Meekness is when we allow another’s interest to advance over our own, even when we do not have to (e.g., Abraham with Lot on choosing the land). It is strength under control. Just because a wild horse is broken, does not mean it loses the great strength that once fueled its wild nature. But it chooses to give up to the reins.
Fourth, highlighted are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt. 5:6). It is only when we realize that tending to our spiritual needs is more important than our physical needs of eating and drinking that we will be truly satisfied.
The first four characteristics are followed by our relationship with our fellow man. These are horizontal.
It is the merciful who will receive mercy by God. Grace is a loving response to someone who does not deserve it (Barnabas with Saul). Mercy is a loving response to someone who does not deserve it, and cannot do anything about it (e.g., the story of the good Samaritan). But we cannot just recognize others’ needs, we must do something about them (James 2:5; 1 Jn. 3:17).
To see God, we must be pure in heart (Mt. 5:8). That is, we must be free of duplicity and hypocrisy. Our faith must be authentic.
With others, we must also be peacemakers (Mt. 5:9). That does not mean we compromise truth. Or, we are for peace at any price. It means we are people who relieve the tension, not intensify it. We seek solutions, and do not just focus on problems. We calm the waters, not stir them up. We seek win/win without compromising God’s word. The result is that people will know we are believers.
Finally, blessed are those who are persecuted or reviled (Mt. 5:10). It is not a matter of if, but when. The world will despise our godly beliefs and lifestyle, because through these we shame the world and convict it. Just as the world persecuted Jesus, it will do so to us (Jn. 5:20+). We must have soft hearts, but tough hides.
So, can we be “happy”? We certainly can. Knowing we possess the characteristics that make us approved by God can deliver us happiness, regardless of our circumstances.
Reflections On Rearing Godly Children
By David Norfleet
This weekend my family gathered to celebrate the 16th birthday of our 2nd daughter, and while doing so I reflected on how fast time has passed. It seemed just like yesterday that our kids were crawling and needing naps, and we had all the time in the world ahead of us. But, now, in almost a blink of an eye, they are grown and no longer need mom and dad.
I think one of the most terrifying and yet rewarding experiences that we face is attempting to rear godly, spiritually minded children. It is terrifying because all of us at one point are amateurs, and armed with God’s word we attempt to navigate life and the thousands of decisions it throws at us. But, it is also satisfying and rewarding to see their faith grow as they mature and appreciate the Lord’s hand in it all along.
There is no magic formula which will guarantee spiritually minded children, and ultimately the decision to “walk in the Spirit” is one each individual must make for themselves – parents cannot make it for their children. That is not to say, however, we are without influence. So, with that I mind I would like to offer a few suggestions (I offer these not as an expert or one who is a perfect parent, but one who is still very much in the trenches and wants his children to grow into godly individuals.).
- If we want our children to be spiritually minded, we must be spiritually minded. Children are much more likely to become what their parents are than what they claim to be. Children, maybe even more so than any other people, see our real motivations, affections, attitudes, and goals. We will not model for them spiritual perfection, but they need to see sincerity in our pursuit of it.
- We must understand our true and greatest purpose as parents, and that is rearing spiritually-minded children. That is the only truly essential goal to be achieved in this life (It is not whether they gross over $100,000 per annum, have an advanced degree, or are the most accomplished socially.). That must be foremost in our parenting as God’s purpose in creating them was that they might “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). That alone will determine their success or failure in this life, and in the life hereafter. This must be our goal! It has to be more than a plaque on the wall, but rather the shaping-force of our decisions in how to raise our children.
- After the goal is set, we must train our children toward that goal. It is important from a very young age that the goals parents have for their children are communicated. They must know that they are to be consecrated – set apart for service to God. They learn this, not simply by being told, but by seeing this purpose in their parent’s decisions and seeing how parents react to their conduct.
- As part of this training we must control the influences we allow to shape their minds. The Proverb writer stated, “as he thinks within himself, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). So as parents we must exercise great care in what we allow to shape their minds. This will both involve influences we must protect them from, but just as importantly things that are good, wholesome, and spiritual that we expose them to regularly.
- Finally, if our children are to be spiritual, prayer must be offered for the help which God alone can give. Prayer is the means by which you can obtain the help God has promised. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). It is amazing what God can accomplish in our children!
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but simply offered in reflection of the awesome privilege it is to shape these young souls in the image of God. But, also to remind all of you parents to have fun along the way, enjoying the time you have with them!
What I Love About God
By: Sean Reisch
A few weeks ago Mark challenged us to reflect on what we love about God. The idea was for each one of us to dwell on what we love most about His character. When we discover and dwell on that we will want to serve Him more deeply. There are so many places that our minds could go with that because there are so many aspects of God to love. I want to share with you one of my favorites.
God cares for the destitute; God loves the afflicted.
This is one of the most impressive aspects of God’s character to me. God cares for the lonely, the oppressed, the mistreated, and the forsaken. He loves those whom the world would ignore. You see this throughout the Old Testament in a number of ways.
First, you see this in the provisions God makes for the destitute in the Mosaic law. He repeatedly makes it clear that He wants His people to take care of the afflicted (Deuteronomy 10:18-19; 14:28-29; 15:11; 24:17-22; 27:19). This wasn’t a side issue to God. God expected the Israelites to care for the poor, orphaned, widowed, and foreigners in their land. These are the people that had no one to advocate for them, so God wanted His people to take special care of them.
Secondly, in the wisdom literature God makes it evident that He will be the Redeemer for those that don’t have one (Psalm 9:9; 35:10; 68:5-6; 69:33; 113:7-9; 140:12; 146:9; 147:6; Proverbs 22:22-23; 23:10-11). He will take up the cause of those who are afflicted in this life. He seems to take it personally when people take advantage of the downtrodden.
Lastly, God takes the Israelites to task in the prophets for NOT caring for the afflicted (Amos 2:6-7; 8:4-6; Jeremiah 5:28-29; 7:5-6; 22:3; Zechariah 7:9-11). We often think about God punishing the Israelites for their idolatry, which He did, but He also punished them for their injustice and oppression of the needy. He condemned them for neglecting the outcasts.
Each of those things show us that there is a special place in the heart of God for those who are broken by life, and for those who have no one in this life to care for them. What I love about this is that it presents us with the tenderness of God. We see His compassion come to the forefront. Perhaps I find this most astonishing and impressive in light of His power.
God is everlasting (Psalm 90:2), He is the Creator of all (Isaiah 40:26, 28), and He is reigning as King (Psalm 93:1; 95:3). Yet our God, whose greatness is incomparable, reaches down to care for those in the lowest positions of life. I think I’m struck by this because we don’t typically operate this way, at least not naturally. We tend to reach up to those of greater power and authority in order to increase our own standing, but God does the exact opposite.
I draw great comfort, encouragement, and exhortation from this truth about God. It puts a smile on my face and makes me want to burst out in praise! It comforts me to know that even when I was spiritually destitute and orphaned God cared for me (Romans 5:6-8). It encourages me with a message to share with those who are hurting in life about this great God who cares for them especially. And it exhorts me to make sure I am prioritizing what God prioritizes, caring for the needy (James 1:27).
That’s what I love about God. What do you love most about Him?