Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog

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Serving One Another

Friday, July 03, 2020

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.

Frederick Justus

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Frederick Justus

By Matt Hennecke

His name was Frederick Justus and his story is one of resistance and stubbornness. Over the years he refused to listen to the appeals of his own son and daughter-in-law as together they tried repeatedly to speak to him of Christ. Perhaps his heritage had something to do with it. He had come to America from Germany when just 18 years old. Germans, rightly or wrongly, have a reputation for being stubborn and unyielding. Perhaps he didn't think his own son could teach him anything. Perhaps it was unbelief. Whatever the reason, he was unyielding to the message of salvation.

And time marched on.....

Frederick Justus became a grandfather. First a granddaughter arrived in 1943, then a grandson in ‘50.  Three years later another grandson and finally another granddaughter. Four in all.  Despite Frederick’s gruff exterior, he loved his grandchildren. You could tell by the twinkle in his eyes.  Whenever they came to visit they brought bedlam and left messes, but he didn't seem to mind too much. During those visits, the story of Jesus was mentioned, but still Frederick resisted.

And time marched on.....

With age comes maladies. Aches and pains at first, then more serious conditions. When Frederick Justus was 88 years old he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. More likely it was just old age. In the last few years he could hardly walk. His body was bent. He carried a cane.  He sat more than he stood.  Then, one day, he was hospitalized - Saint Joseph's Hospital in Chicago.  His son and daughter-in-law visited, and despite the many times their message had fallen on deaf ears, they again spoke softly of the Son of God and of the hope of glory.  This time something was different. This time Frederick listened. This time he heard. In barely a whisper, he at last said, "I want to be baptized into Christ."

The hospital was Catholic, so the son prepared for battle. Baptism as immersion doesn’t sit too well with Catholics. Additionally, the old man was very sick, but the son was adamant and stubborn. No surprise there, for he was German too. The son had as much stubbornness as his father - maybe more. Nothing was going to prevent the very thing he had prayed about for so many years.  The doctor said “No,” so the son went to the charge nurse who thought the idea of a baptism wonderful. She said, “We don’t listen to doctors.” The nurse located a large metal bathtub with harness system that could be used to lower Frederick into the water.

On that day, the stubborn, self-willed, infirm Frederick Justus finally let go, and gave himself to Christ. He was baptized by his own son for the forgiveness of his sins, and the blood of Christ removed all infirmities of the spirit. He was born again into the kingdom of God.

A few days later, the hospital, unable to provide any further treatments for Frederick suggested he be admitted to a nursing home, but the son and his wife wouldn’t have it. An ambulance brought Frederick to his son's house.  Three days after his arrival, at breakfast time, Frederick Justus coughed once and died.  A Christian for a mere 3 days - a heavenly reward for eternity....

Frederick Justus Hennecke - my grandfather. I will see him again.

-Matthew Justus Hennecke

Mary- A Modern Day Mentor

Friday, June 12, 2020

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.

The World Needs Lights

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

The World Needs Lights

By Mark McCrary
 
Viruses.  Racism.  Injustice.  Riots. Financial upheaval.
 
It is tempting to think that things have never been worse, yet our field of vision over the course of time is very narrow.  The reality is human existence has always been filled with all of the above, along with earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, famines, awful diseases, conquests, pillagings, dominations, food and water shortages, mosquitoes, snakes, lions and tigers, and bears… and the lists go on and on.
 
Reasons to be upset, scared, anxious, concerned, frustrated and the like are nothing new.  They have been the constant companions of the human experience and while we travel this earth, they always will.
 
Despite these realities, the Bible holds several enticing possibilities before us: we can have hope (Psalm 42:11; 62:5-6; Romans 15:13; 1 Timothy 4:10), joy (Psalm 16:11; John 15:10-12; Galatians 5:22-23 ) and peace with others (Psalm 34:13-15; Isaiah 32:16-17; Luke 2:13-14; Romans 12:17-18; 1 Corinthians 13:11)—even in this life.  It does not give us these things by taking us out of the world, but by giving us tools to use while in this world. What are these tools?
 
There are numerous passages we could look to, but let’s spend a few minutes contemplating Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…” (Philippians 2:14-16). 
 
Under inspiration, Paul gives us some simple, doable actions we can put into place in our lives.  First, he tells us not to complain.  All of us complain from time to time.  Sometimes, those complaints move from “time to time” to all the time.  Spend some time this week paying attention to your speech; look over your social media posts.  Be honest. How much do you see yourself complaining? It may be more than you think.  We can post all the Bible verses we like on Facebook or Instagram, but when we complain—especially when people know we are a Christian—we aren’t showing the world that we are any different than anyone else.  So, check your complaining. Complaints stem from too close a proximity to the world.  Paul’s attitude (and Christ’s for that matter) was radical because he focused on different things: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” ( 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
 
When you make the decision to stop being negative, you must follow that up with an equal decision to being positive— shine as a light.  Point people from the chaos of the world to the love and peace of God.  You aren’t being self-righteous when you decide to model this; people need to see that it really is possible to have the peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) in the “midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” People need to hear that injustices are real, that life stinks sometimes, but when one sets their mind on God in obedience, it really can change one’s life and outlook.  We need to be living proof of this.
 
Finally, all of this is made possible because you “hold fast to God’s word.” Every day we are all tempted to cast aside the Biblical teachings to some degree or another. Don’t.  Always remember that real freedom comes from following God and His word (Romans 6:15-19). The more we submit to God’s wisdom rather than our own, the more peace we will have.  Hold on desperately to God and His word.  
 
God needs a hitter this week in this game we call life.  Let’s step up to the plate.

What I Love About God

Friday, May 29, 2020

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?

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