Growing In Godliness Blog
Why Bolts Fail (Part 2)
By Norman Pence
In addition to the two causes of failure mentioned in the first article, STRESS and FATIGUE, we will now look at two other causes, CORROSION and EMBRITTLEMENT. If you haven’t read the first article, I encourage you to do so.
Corrosion in Christians, like corrosion in a bolt, usually begins very slowly and subtly goes to the very center of our being. The vicious environment of the world and the hostile forces of Satan launch their attack quite unexpectedly. They usually begin to eat away at the way we think and act. They go to the very heart of our soul and begin to slowly alter our attitudes toward life, our family, the church, our spouse and eventually God Himself. Our heart becomes consumed by anger, bitterness, strife, and dissatisfaction. Suddenly everything is wrong with our life. Unhappiness and discontent are the order of the day. Finally, we are eaten up with self-pity, isolate ourselves and begin the final phase of complete failure -- departure from God.
Such is a very horrible picture, but it happens all too frequently. We often fail because we allow "the cares and riches and pleasures of this life" (Lk. 8:14) to gnaw away at our spiritual life and place our emphasis on things that "rust doeth corrupt" (Matt. 6:19-20).
Corrosion can occur in metals when they are placed in an environment or exposed to chemicals and other agents that gradually eat away at the material and eventually cause failure.
As Christians we must be careful about the environment in which we live as well as the conditions and circumstances we subject ourselves to. It's easy to be influenced by evil forces. The effect that they have on our lives can be more dangerous than seems evident. Paul speaks in 2 Tim. 2:14-17 of some whose "wrangling about words" would "lead to the ruin of the hearers" and whose "worldly and empty chatter" would "lead to further ungodliness and their talk will spread like gangrene." Gangrene is a disease by which any part of the body suffering from it becomes so corrupted that, unless a remedy is soon applied, the evil continually spreads, attacks other parts, and at last eats away the bones. So it is with useless, godless teaching and sinful conduct. They are sure to spread and increase. They should be attacked and destroyed as soon as they are discovered. We must not allow them to corrode our minds and destroy the life we have in Christ Jesus. Sometimes we place ourselves in the wrong environment by associating with those of the world. We may say, "Well it don't bother me, just because they curse and drink and lead immoral lives doesn't mean I have to!" Paul warns us, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). James says, "...do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4).
And Paul warns us to "not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals" (1 Cor. 15:33). Taking this verse in context, Paul is telling the Corinthians to cease association with those who denied the resurrection. It would tend to corrupt the simplicity of their faith, pervert their view of the truth, and thus corrupt their lives. It is always true that such an association has a damaging effect on our heart and mind. At first, it seems harmless. "I don't have to believe it just because I associate with them", we are heard to say. But the silent influence of their words, conversation, and example begins to have their effect. We become less watchful and cautious, we look with less alarm at the error they are teaching and the lifestyle they are living. As we become more familiar with this lifestyle eventually we ask, "Why can't I engage in all this fleshly pleasure the same as they?" We lose our spirituality, love of prayer, the desire for a holy life and devotion to God. And the devil looks around at us and says -- gotcha!
We must "rust proof" and guard our hearts and minds against the deteriorating influence of the world and prevent the corrosive effect of sin by keeping ourselves separate from worldly influences and immersing ourselves in Christ Jesus.
Failure occurs when the bolt becomes brittle, due to the stress of the load, chemical changes within the bolt and the processes it has been subjected to. Embrittlement occurs in us when certain conditions and attitudes exist that make us easily offended or overthrown. The Christian (bolt) becomes fragile (sensitive) and is easily cracked, broken, snapped, or shattered.
My wife tells of a time when their neighbor was coming down the lane to get her father to give him a haircut, as he had done for many years. As the neighbor approached the house, suddenly the lights went out (they had gone to bed). After this, they wondered why their neighbor had become cold and would not even speak to them -- and never came back to perform another haircut. It was not until many years later they found out he had told others, "they saw me comin' and turned the lights out!"
Many relationships have been destroyed because of sensitive, suspicious feelings. Our feelings become fragile, we are easily upset and offended. We become unable to take things in stride. We take things too personal and begin to think that everything is directed toward us. As those who have been "chosen of God" we are to be patient with one another, "bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you" (Col. 3:12-13). Paul admonishes us to be forbearing to one another in love (Eph 4:2). He spends most of the books of 1 & 2 Corinthians teaching brethren how to stay together and worship together. He instructs them to work out their differences with mutual respect, to be spiritually minded, to be mature fellow-workers. Instead of being "carnal men" he wanted them to be "spiritual men" who were being transformed into the image of Christ Jesus.
Hurt feelings, an offense or wrong suffered can be very difficult to overcome. None of us like to admit we are immature enough to have our feelings hurt. We can avoid this failure by being content with the load and function the Lord has placed upon each of us and develop a loving, confident relationship and an attitude of openness and trust with one another.
A proper load is critical to the prevention of failure. An "underload" can cause failure the same as an "overload". Each "joint" in the kingdom has a function and responsibility to perform. Each of us has a load to bear -- just the right amount as the Lord has given. He did not intend for us to be free from work, trials, temptations, and responsibility (Gal. 6:5; Lk. 9:23). Thank God for an adequate amount of pressure, for stress, for our workload, because they not only keep us working properly here, they also are "...producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen..." (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
Just as a good engineer would attempt to properly diagnose the cause of bolt failure, we each must examine ourselves. Paul said, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test" (2 Cor. 13:5)?
God's Purpose for Sexuality
By Mark McCrary
Sex. It's everywhere. It’s at the mall, the movies, the grocery store, the local park, on billboards, the radio, turn on your TV… yep, everywhere.
Culturally, sex outside of marriage, adultery, and homosexuality have been hidden realities of life (some more so than others). Battles have been fought (and skirmishes still pop up here and there), but it looks like Gay Marriage is here to stay. Transgenderism is the latest issue culturally contested. Polyamory seems to be next. Sex only between a husband and wife in marriage? That just seems too vanilla in the 21st century.
So many of our questions about sex and sexuality today arise from a failure to understand the divine purpose for sex. If there is no divine purpose, sex can be whatever we want. But, if it has a divine purpose, then it is for what the Divine purposed it—and nothing else.
Genesis 1:26-28 tells us this purpose, “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.’”
Let’s notice several things and build upon them to see God’s purpose, and why sex works the way it does in human beings.
Biological reproduction is the way humans are created. This requires a male and a female.
But, God doesn’t just want males and females having children. Genesis 2:24 tells us the first couple was committed to one another. This is marriage, and it is the only place where God approves of sexual activity (Hebrews 13:4). Why? Malachi 2:14-15 tells us, “Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth” The best place to produce “godly offspring” is in a home with a married husband and wife “faithful” to their “companion.”
Finally, if a committed marriage is so important in producing godly children, then something needs to keep the married male and female together. Why stick it out in hard times? God built into each of us a drive for sex. We have a biological need for it. It brings us pleasure. Notice Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:2-6, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Let’s pull this together. God designed sexual expression to be between a man and a woman to populate the earth (and a man and woman only). He wants this to be within the context of a committed relationship. To accomplish this, He created a drive for sex that can only be satisfied (in a God-approved manner) with the person we’ve committed ourselves to—no one else. That makes one’s spouse very important. They provide something no one else has the right to provide.
Sexual sins arise when we appropriate what God ordained for our own purpose instead of His.
Homosexuality casts aside the male/female model for a male/male or female/female one. It cannot produce children. In this situation, sex is for our purposes, not God’s.
Transgenderism casts aside the importance of biological gender in God’s purposes. It is for our purposes, not God’s.
Bestiality cannot produce children. It is for us.
Self-pleasure casts aside the role of the opposite sex. It cannot produce children; it is for us.
Sex outside of marriage can produce children, but not in the committed relationship of marriage. Again, it is for our purposes.
Polyamory can produce children, but it cast aside the male/female model God ordained in favor of a male/female/male, female/male/female model (or multiple others). These do not help generate a stable home to produce godly offspring. Our purposes.
Incest destabilizes the home and threatens to corrupt godly offspring. It is selfish.
Adultery is wrong because it seeks sexual satisfaction outside of a committed relationship. It destabilizes the home. Again, selfish.
Several questions may arise from this discussion: Are children produced outside of the Biblical model unable to be godly? No; but it does mean the best environment for raising children to serve God is in a married male, female home.
What about a male/female couple that cannot have children? Some couples are unable to do so for various reasons. But, they are in a male/female relationship God has ordained and God is pleased.
Is it wrong for a male/female couple to choose not to have children? Other couples—also for various reasons—choose not to have children for a period of time. Maybe for their whole marriage. They, too, are still in a male/female relationship that God has ordained. Sometimes children show up anyway.
Is the sexual expression between a husband and wife only for the production of children? Can it not be enjoyed simply for what it is? Certainly, it can be—that is the point of 1 Corinthians 7:2-6.
Endless possibilities exist when sexual expression is about us. Understanding God’s purpose for sex gives much-needed clarity to the struggles gripping society around us.
The big question is: will we follow God or not?
Divisiveness & Social Media
By Brent Lykins
We live in an era where social media plays a large role in our communication with each other. It’s very easy for us to type away, letting our fingers put our thoughts out in the open for the whole world to see.
Unfortunately, when we are behind keyboards and not face to face with someone, it becomes slightly easier to let opinions and dialogue flow that may not have flowed otherwise. We all have opinions, right? We have opinions about current news headlines, politics, the status of the country, and we even have opinions about how others should think, act, or speak.
Satan loves this.
Satan loves this because it’s just one more way that he can slide a toe in between the door and the doorpost. Once a toe is in, it becomes easier to get a foot in…then a leg…and then eventually Satan is standing in the middle of us, making himself a full divider between brethren because of a social media post.
In an election year, there are literally thousands of posts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and whichever news outlet that you may frequent online. Everyone is eager to get their point across. Everyone is eager to “one-up” the other and then “drop the microphone.” It’s so easy for us, brothers and sisters, to be tempted to “one-up” someone else or feel the satisfaction of dropping the mic in front of everyone who may be reading at the time.
Satan loves that.
In a year full of racial disturbances, protests, riots, shunning the police, and wearing masks, everyone is eager to speak their opinions and viewpoints. And once again, everyone is eager to “one-up” the other and then “drop the microphone”. Once again brothers and sisters, it’s easy for us to be tempted to partake in those actions.
Satan loves that.
Let me remind everyone reading that even though we are the body of Christ, each of us have our own will and each of us have our own thoughts. Your thoughts may not represent the majority. Your opinion may not represent the majority. We may not all agree. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but let me also remind everyone that sometimes we get caught up in some very sensitive subjects that may also tie into our pride, our upbringing, or even our underlying beliefs. It should be understood that once you publicly make a hit on someone else’s pride or underlying belief that it probably will not be accepted with open arms. In fact, you may hurt someone’s feelings or possibly provoke someone to lose their temper. Just as we all don’t share the same opinions, we also don’t share the same personalities. One may let a criticism roll right on by. Another may hold that criticism deep in their heart and it may cloud their future view of the one who wrote it.
May I be rogue and suggest that it may be better for Christians to keep their personal opinions about the hot topics of the times to themselves?
I have already seen brothers and sisters “defriend” and “unfollow” each other over differences of opinion. I have seen public arguments between brethren that will be saved forever and are able to be viewed by people who look to us to be examples.
A few on-topic passages to leave you with:
Romans 12:18 – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Galatians 5:14-15 – “ For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
Proverbs 17:14 – “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”
Serving One Another
By Paul Earnhart
Marriage has fallen on hard times in America and its agonies have filled many with a desperate longing for the healing of the home. The appetite for books on this subject seems insatiable. Unfortunately, much of this concern is for a quick and easy method— “15 Minutes a Day to a Happy Marriage.” There is no such magic formula. But there are answers, real answers, to marital anguish. They have been there all along.
The Bible is the grandest marriage manual ever written; not because it was written for that purpose, but because it is a book about relationships. It deals primarily with a man’s relationship to God and, out of that, his relationship to himself and others.
Marriage, as a union between a man and a woman, has about it some unique qualities of companionship and intimacy, but it is, at its heart, a relationship and the fundamental principle which rules it and moves it to a profound closeness is the same one which nurtures human relationships of every kind. A powerful statement and practical application of that principle is found in Ephesians.
Ephesians 5:1 is a bridge. It is the concluding thought of one exhortation which leads to another. Paul is in the midst of a practical application of the great principles of God’s redemptive work in Christ. He has been speaking of walking worthily of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), walking in love as God’s beloved children (Ephesians 5:2), walking as children of light, carefully, wisely (Ephesians 5:8, 15). He urges the Ephesians to be filled with the sobering influence of the Spirit rather than the wild indiscipline of wine. Such a Spirit-filled life, he says, will reveal itself in concrete ways— in the heartfelt worship together of God, and in mutual subjection to each other (Ephesians 5:18-21).
It is on the last phrase fo the paragraph, “subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ,” that Paul fixes his attention on the succeeding verses (Ephesians 5:22-6:9). Here he finds the principle upon which all relationships in Christ must be grounded. It is an idea which occurs frequently in Paul, and he always derives it from what God has done in Christ and the cross. This calling, with which we must live harmoniously, is out of the rich mercy and goodness of God who, by His grace, has elevated us, sinful and undeserving, to sit in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10). This calling demands that those who receive it live with all others in a humble, long-suffering, forgiving love (Ephesians 4:2, 32) and find the greatest delight in serving the needs of others rather than their own. Such was the self emptying mind of Christ (Philippians 2:1-5). So He taught, lived, and died (Matthew 20:26-28; 23:11-12).
It is for this reason that in the succeeding discussion of the responsibilities of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, that the one whose role it is to submit is dealt with ahead of one whose task it is to lead and guide (Ephesians 5:22-6:9). There is no role in life which so suits the mind of Christ as the role of submission. No disciple of Jesus should find it demeaning to submit— whether a wife to a husband, a child to a parent, or a servant to a master— when he follows the One who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:7); who came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). The reason for the submission of the wife, child, or servant, is to bless the husband, parent, or master— and to honor Christ.
More difficult perhaps is the role of the leader. He, too, must subject himself. The husband must subject himself to his wife, the parent to his child, the master to his servant. This does not remove him from his responsibility of headship and leadership, but it means that his guidance must always be ruled by the best interest of those who must follow and not his own. The husband is not to rule his wife for his own selfish ends, but in order to bring blessing and fulfillment to her. The parent is not to rule his children arbitrarily, as if he owned them to do with as he pleased, but, as a steward of God’s gift, to nurture them after God’s purposes and for their own eternal good. The master (employer, manager) too, must in his guidance of the affairs of his servants (employees) seek their good and not merely his own.
This spirit of sacrificial love will revolutionize any relationship, especially marriage. The root problem of our modern marital trauma is not technique, but sin. Selfishness and pride have destroyed our ability to live humbly for the sake of another. We come to marriage, as to other relationships, not to give, but to get, not to forbear, but to demand, not to bless, but to use. How is this problem to be solved? In the same way every sin problem must be solved— by a heartfelt repentance which seeks God’s forgiveness and turns to serve Him humbly again. It is only as we come to know and emulate the servant-mind of God’s Son that we will find peace and blessing in our relationships with others. And in that most intimate of all human relationships, especially.
Mary- A Modern Day Mentor
By Kim Davis
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is worshipped by some religions. There are churches, statues, and prayers dedicated to her. While none of this is supported in the Bible, one cannot deny that Mary was a remarkable woman that we can look to as an example for us today.
Luke 1:30 tells us that Mary had favor with God. Out of all the women living during her time, God handpicked her to be the mother of His perfect, only begotten Son. This alone says a lot about Mary. The Lord knew He would need a strong woman who could bear the burdens that came with being the mother of the Lord. We all like to think our kids are perfect even though we know better. But Mary truly had a perfect child. Can you imagine how wonderful that would have been? No breaking curfew, no backtalk, but complete obedience. But on the other hand, imagine the heartache she felt watching her son be prepared for the cross, and hanging there in front of her in pain, as sweat and blood dripped down His body as He was being tortured. Sometimes we watch a child face the consequences of his/her actions and even though it hurts to watch, we know that facing those consequences will help build their character and hopefully teach them a lesson. But Mary’s child was suffering because of our sins. Have you ever seen a child punished unjustly for something that another child had done? It makes us angry as parents. It’s not fair and we want things to be handled justly. I can’t help but wonder if Mary experienced those same feelings, even though she knew it was God’s plan and she trusted in God.
Luke 1:34 tells us that Mary was a virgin. We know she was engaged to Joseph but yet she had kept herself pure for her husband. So let’s be honest here, is it possible to remain a virgin until marriage? Yes. Is it easy? No, it takes a great deal of determination and resolve. Many Christians have failed here but Mary did not. Sometimes we forget that people in the first century struggled with the same sins that we deal with today. All the way back to the Old Testament, the Bible is riddled with infidelity, multiple wives, and concubines. Controlling ourselves in the midst of physical passion is not harder today than it was for Mary and Joseph. We don’t always equip our young ladies with the tools and confidence they need to preserve their purity for their husbands. But Mary stayed strong and preserved herself for her husband and the Lord was pleased with this.
Luke 1:39 tells us that Mary confided in an older woman, Elizabeth. Imagine Mary’s state of shock after the angel dissipates, perhaps pacing the floor or staring out into space processing this visit she just experienced. Then, jumping up and looking for her shoes and grabbing her purse, jumping on a donkey and heading toward the hills of Judah. Her mind was probably going 90 miles an hour as she was trying to process everything the angel had just told her. Can you imagine the anxiety that she must have felt? She had been chosen to give birth to the Lord, the Messiah, and the Son of God. Have you ever received great, unexpected news and the first thing you wanted to do was share it with someone? She needed to talk to someone, to share in her excitement. I think it’s fair to say she was excited from reading Luke 1:46-55. She reached out to share the news with her trusted friend and relative, knowing her reputation could be at stake.
Luke 1:38 tells us that Mary trusted in God. We know she was afraid because Luke 1:30 tells us that Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid. However she didn’t let her fear stop her from trusting in God. She believed what the angel said and she didn’t try to run away like Jonah or convince God otherwise like Moses. How many times do we let our lack of faith get in the way of doing what God tells us to do? Even though Mary’s reputation was at stake and she didn’t understand all the details, she knew enough and trusted in the Lord and her faith got her through the rest.
The Lord selected two women from the same family to bear the Lord and his forerunner, John the Baptist. There were likely some very special predecessors guiding them in the ways of God as they endured hardships and experiences which cultivated self-discipline, kindness, love, and deep seated faith for God.
Are we preparing our self (and our children) so that God will find favor in us? Are we teaching the importance of purity, the blessing of friendship and the peace that comes with trusting in God? If we are looking for a modern day mentor, Mary is a great example.