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)?
What Happens on Sunday
By Victor A. Osorio
I chuckled as I read the article. The author was describing sitting in his Bible class. While, best I can tell, the writer wasn’t a member of the church, his description was familiar.
In the scenario, the Bible class teacher was discussing a passage, dissecting it, adding historical facts, and providing interpretation. Participants were periodically interjecting with their interpretations and thoughts. Frequently, the class would go down rabbit trails, seemingly unrelated. Through all the exegesis, something was missing.
Finally, “Josh” spoke up. He, probably too provocatively, asked, “How is what we are talking about on Sunday going to help us on Monday?” There was silence.
The participant’s delivery could have been better. But he made a valid point. We naturally want to enhance our biblical knowledge and interpretation. Biblical discussion is important, but so is discussion on application. We should always ask, how do we apply what we are studying to our lives – today.
Don’t misunderstand. Lack of biblical knowledge is a path to destruction. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” But the rest of the verse says, “because you have rejected knowledge.”
So do we focus on “real-world” application enough? Consider the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them all that I commanded you; and, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
Did you read it? Does it sound familiar? Is that what Jesus actually said or is something missing? That may be how we often interpret the Great Commission, but look again…
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I commanded you; and, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
Did you catch the difference? We need to teach to obey (apply) God’s commands. Often, our approach to Bible study is like the first quote.
We teach the Bible, but do we take the next step and make application? If not, this is detrimental, especially for our children.
Jesus was God on earth. When He spoke, He was making Scripture. I understand that. But have you ever wondered why He taught so often in human-relatable, real-world stories (“parables”). Why didn’t He just quote the Old Testament Scriptures, explain they were about Him, tell what changes needed to be made in the kingdom, and then sacrifice Himself? He did that sometimes (e.g., Luke 24:27, 44-45). However, Jesus knew people needed examples to aid in their application of Scripture. Certainly we need to teach the Scripture, but sometimes people need more guidance and explanation to understand and apply it (Acts 8:30-35).
Why does this matter so much? Again, we absolutely need biblical knowledge and interpretation. And we excel at that in the Lord’s church. So why do we still lose our children at alarming rates?
Some say it’s the devil’s world that is just too appealing. Others think it’s all the social programs, entertainment, music, and watered-down gospel of denominations.
There’s merit to those positions. But those “outside-focused” causes miss a key point that we can take action on. We can lose our children if they don’t see how their faith is helping them navigate the challenges of life when they go out into the world.
We need to show them how God, the Bible, and the church help them navigate the trials of life like temptation, mental health, finances, discouragement, marriage, the daily grind, etc.
Yes, we need Bible knowledge and interpretation! But how are we “teaching them to obey all that [Jesus] commanded” without discussion on application? Perhaps we follow the example of the way Jesus taught even more in our peaching and teaching to all ages.
Eventually, “Josh” made his point. The Bible class teacher self-corrected by cutting off rabbit trails and trying his best to make application. That’s good. The church isn’t meant to be like Las Vegas. What happens in the church on Sunday is not meant to stay “in the church” on Monday.
Let’s equip our kids for the world before they face it. Then, when they do, they will find a faith worth hanging on to.
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.