Growing In Godliness Blog
Why Bolts Fail (Part 1)
By Norman Pence
It doesn't happen overnight, it's usually a gradual process. The world comes crushing down. The weight is too much. We seem to lose all control of our lives and circumstances. Then suddenly we find ourselves in a state of panic and despair. We lose our self-esteem and ability to make sound judgment. We begin withdrawing ourselves from those who can help us most. We become so discouraged that we not only are unable to bear the load of another brother, but we can't even bear our own load. We are completely overcome and not only fail the Lord but also those we love the most.
All of us have no doubt experienced failure at one time or the other. Perhaps we have failed as an employee to give our best to our employer. Maybe we have failed to be the companion that we promised to be. Perhaps we have failed regarding our children. And which of us hasn't failed in our duties to the Lord? Failure is usually visible, and frequently gets the attention of those around us. However, the reasons for the failure are often not so obvious and can be very subtle.
I read an article on "Why Bolts Fail" in which the writer observed that bolt failure is generally due to one of four causes: OVERSTRESS, FATIGUE, CORROSION, and EMBRITTLEMENT. As I read the article and began to understand the explanation given for each of the causes, I began to see just how much Christians and bolts have in common. Our failures are quite often due to the same reasons as those of bolts. Let's look at each of these four causes up close and see if we can't learn how to avoid failure for these reasons.
Too much stress or tension on a bolt can cause it to stretch, permanently deform, or bend out of its original shape. It then becomes unable to perform and provide the service it was originally designed to do.
Overstress is perhaps the simplest cause to understand. It describes the loads on the bolt. Worry and anxiety is perhaps the greatest producer of stress. Stress can render us ineffective, rob us of energy and health that we should be using to the Lord's glory. It causes us to compromise our faith in Christ and makes us unable to "hold things together" and function as He intended. Matthew 6:30 teaches us that it is those who are of "little faith" that allow worry and anxiety to overcome them. We are to have such confidence in God that it will free our minds from the "stress" of being concerned about what the future may bring and learn to depend on God. The same chapter teaches us that it is He who gives life, a far greater blessing than meat. He has created the body, a much greater blessing than clothing. Shall not He who has given these greater blessings by His providence provide the lesser blessings?
In the spring of 1871, there was a young man who was a student at the Montreal General Hospital. He became worried about his final examinations. He was troubled about what he should do with his life and where and how he should establish his medical practice. He picked up a book and read twenty-one words written by Thomas Carlyle that changed his life. The young man was William Osler, founder of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. These are the words: "Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand."
We all have a load to bear to be sure. "For each one shall bear his own load" (Gal. 6:5). Bolts function best when the right amount of tension is placed upon them. Likewise, we must "...gird up your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:13). But sometimes the load becomes too heavy to bear alone. That's when we must "Bear one another's burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). The cure for stress lies in the fact that we are not left to face life alone, we face it with God and with one another. If you think about it, it shouldn't be that hard to avoid worry. Two things can't be in the same place at the same time. Isn't that what Jesus taught in Matt. 6:24 about God and mammon? Don't let worry invade your mind and take over. Life is not about worry. It's about God and helping each other. Put Him in your mind. Let Him guide your life.
It is estimated that approximately 85% of bolts fail due to fatigue. This is descriptive of bolts that crack or fail under repeated applications of stress. Fatigue is also responsible for a great many of our failures.
For the Christian we might call this "spiritual burnout". Spiritual fatigue, like overstress, is also a gradual process. Luke describes these in the parable of the sower. "And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away" (Lk. 8:13). Notice they hear the word and even receive it with joy, but their faith is not well rooted. When the "heavy load" comes they simply give out too soon.
Who can forget the great prophet Elijah -- a typical example of spiritual burn-out. Read the account beginning in 1 Kings 17. God had worked many great things for and through Elijah. He had caused the ravens to provide for him during a drought at the brook Cherith. Later, God provided food and water not only for Elijah but also for a widow and her son. God later raises the widow’s son from the dead through Elijah. King Ahab finally met Elijah and ask him; "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" Elijah replied; "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and you have followed the Baals." Elijah challenged and defeated 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Does this sound like a man suffering from fatigue? I hardly think so but notice the rest of the story.
Jezebel finds out that Elijah had killed her prophets and vows to kill him before the morrow. Elijah "was afraid and arose and ran for his life" (1 Kings 19:3). He went a day’s journey in the wilderness sat down under a juniper tree and prayed for the Lord to take his life -- fatigue. After the Lord miraculously provided food for him, Elijah finds himself in Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, living in a cave. Twice the Lord asks him; "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Elijah's answer each time was; "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine alters and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away" (1 Kings 19:9-10,13-14). The gentle voice of God comes to Elijah assuring him that he was not left alone. He had 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed their knees to Baal.
When we begin to feel the pressures of spiritual fatigue and find ourselves withdrawing from service to others and worship to God, we would do well to ask ourselves the question the Lord asked Elijah -- "What are you doing here, ______" (substitute your name). The question implies there are still battles to fight and victories to be won. We are not the only one left serving God. Many of God's people are experiencing the same obstacles that we face. We alone cannot win the battle. God gives the victory and only through our faith in Him can we be victorious.
The Scriptures warns us often against spiritual fatigue. 2 Thess. 3:13 says; "...do not grow weary in well doing", Gal. 6:9 encourages us to "...not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary."
The cure for fatigue lies in carrying a balanced load, being aware of the load we can carry, asking for help (more bolts) when the load becomes too heavy and maintaining an ever increasing and growing faith in Him who holds all things together (Col. 1:17). God knows when we are hurting, and when our load is too heavy to bear alone. He is there waiting to carry us through with His strength, so we won't fail.
Giving First to the Lord (Part 2)
By Larry Coffey
Giving in the Christian Age
Since we are no longer living under the Law of Moses, today I hear people say we don’t have to give 10% anymore which is code for we can give less than 10% and still be pleasing to God. We will briefly look at what the New Testament teaches concerning giving.
In the beginning of the New Testament, we hear this from Jesus in His sermon on the mount. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt. 6:19-21)
A summary of Jesus’ teachings on the subject of material possessions is quite revealing. About one half of His parables deal with money such as the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21. One out of every six verses in the gospels concerns man and his possessions. There is 16 times more about stewardship than about baptism, and 32 times as much about stewardship as about the Lord’s Supper.
Paul wrote much about possessions in his epistles. He wrote to Timothy about the love of money and how he should instruct the rich. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (I Tim. 6:10) “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (I Tim. 6:17-19)
One of the greatest hindrances to being liberal in our giving is covetousness. God thought it was such a problem He included it as one of the “thou shalt nots” in the 10 commandments. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines covetous as “marked by inordinate desire for wealth or possessions or for another’s possessions.” Covetousness is mentioned numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments. (Ex. 18:21; Ps. 119:36; Is. 57:17; Mk. 7:22; Lk. 12:15; Rom. 1:29; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; Heb. 13:5; II Pet. 2:3.)
How should the Christian give? I have heard it said the only person who can get into one’s pocketbook is the Lord. Thus, before one will give as the Lord expects he must first give himself to the Lord. When Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to give for the poor saints, he used the churches of Macedonia as examples and said about them in II Cor. 8:5, “And this they did, not as we had hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”
We read in II Corinthians that our giving should be willingly, purposely, cheerfully and liberally. Note the following scriptures. “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” (II Cor. 8:12) “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Cor. 9:6-7) “while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men.” (II Cor. 9:13)
When should a Christian give? The church should be a Christian’s first consideration when giving. The only statement we have in the New Testament as to when they were told to give into the church treasury is recorded in I Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”
Of course, Christians are taught to give on other occasions. We are taught to give to and take care of our family members. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (I Tim.5:8) “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows." (I Tim. 5:16)
Christians are to also help fellow Christians in need as well as other people whenever the need arises. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." (Gal. 6:10) "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep one-self unspotted from the world." (James 1:27) “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need." (Eph. 4:28)
Now to the final question which is the big one. How much should a Christian give? My concern is that most people want to know the absolute minimum one can give and still please the Lord. The New Testament does not give a percent. It says to give as one prospers. “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” (I Cor. 16:2) “If there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” (II Cor. 8:12)
So, the Lord has left it up to us based on our evaluation of how well we have prospered and the kind of heart we have. When we consider that the ancients gave 10%, the devout Jews gave up to as much as one third, and we have the greatest blessings of those in any age, it would be hard to conclude that we could give less than 10% and be pleasing to the Lord. How much we may give that exceeds 10% would depend on our situation and the needs that exist in our realm of knowledge. Those who love the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind (Mt. 22:37), will be generous in their giving.
Remember what Jesus said. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
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.
A Shattered Foundation
By Kim Davis
Men I once considered wise and good,
Women I once watched as examples,
Christians who I held close to my heart,
It’s strange how people change and tear us apart.
A church once united, steadfast, and full of love;
One, surely God smiled upon from above.
Now I feel I can say with a great deal of ease,
That Satan is the one who is ever so pleased.
These words are an excerpt from a poem called “A Shattered Foundation,” written in September of 1988. I was nineteen years old when these words were penned as I was attempting to process the division that occurred earlier that year at the church where I worshipped with my family.
I frequently revisit memories of that church as I have continually tried to diagnose where things went so wrong. Based on the memories of my nineteen-year-old mind, the church was active and vibrant. Individuals were experiencing spiritual growth. The church was full of loving people across all age groups totaling about two hundred souls.
Talented and truthful preachers and teachers were present, the bible classes were full, the teenagers were active at services and outside of the building, and many families gathered regularly in one another’s homes to build and develop deeper relationships.
This was my tribe, my family. When I was in the building among the brothers and sisters, it was just like being at home, totally comfortable and unguarded. When the division hit, it forever changed me and every member there. Some rebounded and others regressed. Personally, I was devastated, shocked, lost, and spiritually and mentally paralyzed for a period of about fifteen years. My foundation was shattered and my world turned upside down at a formative time in my life.
Outside of my experience, the impact of division was far-reaching for all ages. New converts quickly became like the seed on thorny ground. Young teenagers lost their friends as families scattered. Mature, middle-aged couples who seemingly had a solid faith fell into denominational doctrines. Sons and daughters witnessed men slinging accusations toward their parents, and their perceptions of “Christian” ways were forever tarnished to the point where they no longer wanted to be affiliated with such a group.
Families were uprooted as they traveled around the area looking for another congregation where they could recover, re-engage and re-establish a support system rooted in Christ’s teachings. The recovery period for such a traumatic event can be lengthy especially when the relationships are ten, twenty or thirty plus years deep. It’s difficult to basically start over. It takes years to build new relationships and develop the same level of trust, especially after feeling betrayed by other Christians.
You may be wondering why I’m sharing this with you. The positive attributes of the church described above may sound familiar in many aspects. There is some paranoia present in me that wants to fire off an alert for my brothers and sisters to continue to safeguard and preserve the unity in their church family by remembering three simple things.
First, unfortunately church division is not a unique scenario. There may be new brothers and sisters sitting in the pews among you who have shattered foundations. They should be welcomed with open hearts and an offering of grace and comfort as they find their place within their new church family. Perhaps it’s also helpful for them to know there are others among them with a similar experience who understand the anguish in the decisions that led to the necessity of finding a new place to worship.
Secondly, it’s important to remember that even when a local church is flourishing, we can never forget that Satan is always lurking among us, looking for ways to destroy churches. It only takes one disagreement handled improperly to start a division that will have a lasting impact.
Lastly, adults need to understand the downstream impacts that division can have on the entire congregation. It can change the trajectory on someone’s life. While we are all accountable for our own choices and actions, we are also influencing our fellow brothers and sisters in ways we do not always realize.
I’ll close with some thoughts from Romans 12:9-18 “Let love be genuine…love one another with brotherly affection...outdo one another in showing honor...rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality…bless those who persecute you…live in harmony with one another...repay no one evil for evil...give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all…live peaceably with all.”
Help for Parents When They have Friction with their Sons and Daughters
By Gary Watson
Many scriptures demand that a Christian live a moral life:
- “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
- “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22; 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:11).
- “Flee from all evil” (2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Tim. 6:11; 1 Cor. 6:18).
- “Put off the old man of sin” (Eph. 4:22, 24).
Historically speaking, when children fall away, there is usually a pattern which could be described as follows:
Four Generation Fade
- Parents don’t make church a high priority for their kids
- Kids grow up & make it less of a priority for their kids
- Those kids grow up & make it no priority for their kids
- Those kids grow up with no concept of God
In other words, priorities today impact generations!
Many Scriptures call for parents to raise their children to be good people.
God spoke of Abraham, saying, "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him" (Gen. 18:19)
One prime example of effective parenting comes from the New Testament:
“I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, that without ceasing, I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (2 Tim. 1:3-5).
At many points in their history, the children of Israel turned away from God. One such instance is recorded in the second chapter of the book of Judges. "After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals" (Judg. 2:10-11). The previous generation's failure to properly teach its children about the effect of God's guiding hand on the nation of Israel is doubtlessly a major contributing factor in the latter generation's departure from God.
Parents can make mistakes in raising their children instead of following the clear teaching in Ephesians 6:4. "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
Some examples are:
- Cruel and harsh punishment.
- Unjust punishment. Sometimes children are punished when they do not deserve to be spanked or to have privileges taken from them. Sometimes the parent comes home from a bad day at work totally frustrated. To vent his anger, the parent will spank his children for things for which they would not be punished on any other day of the week. The children can detect this; they know that they were punished unjustly and will grow up hating the parent who habitually acts this way. Parents should not punish their children because they (the parents) do not feel good; that is not the purpose of punishment.
- Inconsistent punishment. Parents will say to their children, "If you do that again, I am going to give you a spanking." The child does it again and nothing happens. The child learns that mom or dad really do not mean what they say.
- Showing partiality. The story of Jacob and Esau shows the sorry results which occur in a family when one or both parents show partiality to their children.
God's word gives priceless guidance for broken hearts, including the broken hearts of parents with wayward children. Their hearts throb with anguish and pain as they struggle with the question, "What can we do to please God and to rescue our children as we pass through this fiery trial?“ David prayed, "Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught… But I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice" (Ps. 55:1-2, 16-17).
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (Jas. 1:5).
Following are four suggestions to help parents in this situation:
1. Put God First.
Jesus warned that exaggerated fear for the material needs of life can divert our attention from life's first priority (Matt. 6:24-34). Nothing must be allowed to interfere with our focus on a right relationship with God. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). We must not let excessive anxiety over our children's bad choices and conduct obscure our faith in God.
We must determine to obey God no matter what our children may do. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Sympathizing with our children's sinful conduct, enabling them to continue in it, or joining with them in sin will harden their hearts. As Paul said, "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph. 5:11). Our children must know we love them, but we love God more!
2. Put Our Trust in God
How could any good result from the tragedy of wayward children? Let us learn to trust that God will bring spiritual good out of our trials as He promises. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (Jas. 1:2-4)
3. Remove Stumbling Blocks and Correct Sin
There are cases where parents have committed sins, even sins against the child, which are a stumbling block to the wayward child. Such parents should openly confess their sins, seek reconciliation, and change their conduct. Jesus said our worship is not accepted until we do so (Matt. 5:23-24). Failure to do so will bring the wrath of Jesus on us on the Judgment Day: "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matt. 18:6). Confessing and correcting our sins against other people opens a door for healing to begin.
4. Press on in Serving God
Let us focus on growing spiritually and on the future reward of heaven, not on our past mistakes or the sins of our children. "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14).
We must not be embittered, demoralized, or paralyzed by the sinful attitudes and actions of our wayward children. Every lost soul is wayward from God. If we cannot help our own children, we must remember that every soul is equally precious to God, and we can help someone.