Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
I’m a big fan of old fashioned lighting, especially old kerosene lanterns because they’re simple. I went to light one of my lanterns and the flame wouldn’t stay alive for more than a few seconds. I thought, “Maybe the vent is covered in carbon and there isn’t enough oxygen for the flame.” So, I took it apart, cleaned it out, and put it back together. I was sure it was the vent.
To my chagrin, the flame died within seconds even after the lantern was cleaned. Next I trimmed the wick because it seemed too dark; perhaps having a fresh wick would allow the flame to stay alive. It wasn’t a stopped vent, so it had to be the wick. Sure enough, the flame died even with a fresh wick. At this point I was stumped.
The next day it occurred to me whilst putting gas in my car: the lantern was just out of kerosene! It was obvious to the extreme. I knew Chelsea would never let that one go. When I got home I put the kerosene into the lantern which, of course, was the solution to a simple problem that I overcomplicated.
This is a mundane example of a profound truth: we make mistakes as humans. Worse yet, some people put words in God’s mouth that He never used. “My God is a God of love – He wouldn’t condemn me just for this one little sin.” “God doesn’t care if we live the way we want.” Some use phrases like this with great confidence while overlooking an obvious truth: God has told us what He does and does not care about in His word.
If we aren’t in the word listening to God and allowing Him to change us, our solutions will end in failure. There was only one solution to keep that flame going in my lantern. There is only one right way to follow God, and He’s told us how to do that! Life will be so much easier for those who look to God for answers before relying on their own wisdom.
Wednesday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
When I take the time to pause and think about who God is, it blows my mind. He’s all powerful, loving, righteous, faithful, and just. When we look at His character and the perfection that surrounds Him, it can almost seem overwhelming. A God with that much power and glory takes the time to listen to me. He hears the prayers that each of us pray.
If you’re like me, this can be very intimidating. Every time we bow our heads and pray, we are talking to the creator of worlds, the one that spoke everything we see and know into existence. We pause and reach out to God, and He listens to us. The creator listens to the cries of His creation. What a wonderful God we serve.
On our own we could never reach out to God and build our relationship with Him. We lie, cheat, steal, and lust after that which is darkness. God is the Father of light, and darkness cannot be found near Him. But God gave us a way to be justified, a way to petition Him and strengthen our Father to Son relationship.
Have you ever struggled with prayer? Maybe we fail to understand the tremendous blessing that it is. Maybe we fail to set time aside each day to talk with God. Maybe we feel like we aren’t holy enough to pray to God. Or maybe we feel like we don’t know how to pray.
Many Christians already know that it’s important to pray. We’ve heard that prayer is vital in the Christian walk. Thing is, we don’t know how to pray. And there are three main reasons why this is the case.
We are weak. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Paul uses the word “likewise” which tells us that what he is about to say is tied to what he has just mentioned. And so we must ask, what weakness is Paul referring to? In context, the earth is made weak because of sin (18-22). We ourselves have been made weak because of sin (23-25). Therefore since we are not strong, the Spirit helps us pray to God, even in our current state of weakness.
We pray for the wrong things. Continuing on in verse 26, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought…” James tells us something similar in 4:3. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” We have a tendency to pray for the wrong things, and this ties directly into our weakness. We are weak because we pray for the wrong things. We say things like, “take this problem away” instead of saying “help me to use this problem to grow my faith.” We pray for things like, money, physical blessings, and selfish desires. We don’t know how to pray.
We confuse our will with God’s, and expect Him to change His mind and agree with us. We fail to see God’s perfect plan. We are short-sighted and selfish in our prayers. Because of this, we are weak and don’t know how to pray.
We use the wrong words. The last part of verse 26 says, “but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” “Intercede”, “to plead on behalf of another.” We may be weak, we may ask for the wrong things, but the Spirit pleads to God on our behalf. It should be a comfort knowing that one of the Godhead helps us in our prayers to God. Paul gives the Spirit a unique description. He says the Spirit “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” When I hear the word “groan” I think of the sound I make when I eat too much food. Or the sound someone makes when their football team fumbles the ball. This word groan is far from this. It means “an involuntary expression of great concern or stress.” The concern that the Spirit has for us is so strong that it cannot be described with words. When we go before the throne of God, we are using the wrong words. There is no way that we can express to God what we feel. The Spirit then intercedes (pleads) on our behalf, expressing so great a concern, that words cannot be used to describe it.
We may not know how to pray, but God in His perfect love has provided for His Children. What an awesome God we serve.
Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
Last week we looked at how the world is desperate for guidance. They look in every direction for someone or something to tell them what to do. Most of the time they look to themselves for guidance and that leaves many things unsolved. Psalm 119 tells us what our guide should be. God’s word is what tells us how to live, how to act, and how to react in every situation. The world is desperate not only for guidance, but also for purpose (2 Pt. 1:3-8).
As Christians we can confidently say that we have purpose. There’s a reason to everything we do; but what about the world? Why do they wake up every day? For most, they wake up to go to work, to make money, serve self, and go to sleep.
To illustrate this, imagine going to the store without a grocery list. Without a list you end up forgetting most of the stuff you needed in the first place. You come back home and realize you forgot the milk. Without a purpose in life humans are lost. We go day to day knowing that there’s something we’re missing, but we don’t know what it is.
In 2 Peter 1, Peter is writing to them to encourage these Christians to confirm their Christianity. To be confident in their calling. Starting in verse 3 he says this,
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Because of God, we have a purpose in life. We have become partakers in eternal life. Because of this we must live a certain way. We have a goal. Peter gives us a list to build on: virtue, knowledge, self control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. If we are seeking for a purpose to life, work on this list and the end result is a knowledge of Christ that leads to eternal life.
We have escaped the corruption of the world, and now we have purpose. Peter was one who struggled with his purpose at first, he was unsure of Christ’s plan when he was on earth, and he didn’t even want to be associated with Christ after he was lead away to be crucified. He denied Christ, but after this we see his commitment and purpose in the book of Acts. His purpose is exactly like ours, he went around proclaiming Jesus and baptizing in His name. Not sure what your purpose is? Just look at how Peter lived his life, how he was committed to serving God.
My first job I ever had was when I was 13 years old. I built fences for a member at the Bear Valley Church of Christ. And talk about having no idea what you’re doing. For the longest time I’d show up every morning and have to ask how to do everything. I didn’t know how to mix concrete, how deep a fence post hole had to be dug, how to install gate hinges. I was clueless. For the average person, this is how they feel without Christ. They’re unsure, they have no purpose. Our job is to show them what life is about. This life is about getting ready for the next that is to come. Without this, we have nothing.
The world is desperate for purpose, so let’s show them the Truth.
Someone wants to be involved in an illicit relationship, defend an unscriptural marriage (or enter into one), engage in some vice or sinful behavior “in moderation” (or otherwise), and they talk to someone who shows them from scripture why it should not be done. Perhaps they ask several people and get the same discouragement. Sometimes, the inquirer is wise enough to let that guide them away from wrongdoing. Other times, they persist in looking for someone to tell them what they want to hear. Without exception, such a searcher will eventually—and probably sooner than later—find someone to validate and endorse their desire.
Solomon wrote, “The thoughts of the righteous are just, But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful” (Prov. 12:5). His father kicked off the songbook of Israel by saying, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…” (Psa. 1:1a). Job speaks of how he shunned “the counsel of the wicked” (Job 21:16; 22:18). Wicked Ahaziah was rejected by God, in part, “for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly” (2 Chr. 22:3). This characteristic of human nature, whether giving or taking wicked counsel, is timeless. But, seeking counsel from the proper sources is encouraged by Scripture (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). How can we make sure that we are hearing what we need to hear, not just what we want to hear?
- We must realize our personal accountability (2 Cor. 5:10). No matter what anyone else tells us, we’ll stand individually in the Judgment. Christ’s word, as Judge, is the only one that ultimately matters. What has He said?
- We must pray for wisdom and discernment (Col. 1:9). Are we ignoring a pricked conscience, clear teaching, or red flags? Is self in control, or is the Savior’s will?
- We must grow in knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18). Have we studied this out yet? Are we convinced beyond a doubt? What does the Lord say?
- We must be honest with ourselves (Psa. 15:2). We cannot deal fairly in any situation if we’re deceiving ourselves. Lying to ourselves does not change God’s truth. It simply hurts us.
- We must train our hearts to desire what is good (cf. 2 Pet. 2:14). This can be excruciatingly hard! Proverbs 21:10 says, “The soul of the wicked desires evil.” But listen to a cleansed heart: “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psa. 51:6).
- We must put emphasis on the eternal rather than the temporary (2 Cor. 4:16ff). Is what we wish to pursue destructive to heavenly objectives? Are we risking an eternity in heaven for a few years of fleeting pleasure on earth? Nothing is worth sacrificing salvation!
- We must weigh the advice of our counselors on the scales of truth (Prov. 18:17). The Berean Christians fact-checked an inspired apostle (Acts 17:6). We owe it to ourselves to compare what our advisers tell us—however much we love and respect them—with what God’s Word says. Many times they will align. If they do not, we must choose God’s Word every time!
Beware! At times, what we want to hear is right and good. Many times, it is not. As we lean on others, let us lean most heavily on “the rock” (Mat. 7:24)!
Feeding schedules, diaper changes, and runaway toddlers seem to consume a mother’s world for what seems like forever. It may seem like an eternal duty, but those days very quickly pass. What you learn in each new stage of your children’s development is that God gives you grace and strength to meet the challenges that accompany it. Sleepless nights, drained energy, and unfinished housework discourage you. Unappreciative, uncooperative children at times confront you. Unsympathetic, clueless husbands may (though surely only rarely) irritate you. But, you, ma’am, are doing important, yea, eternal work!
You hold more than a baby in your arms. You lead more than a toddler or small child by the hand. You mold and shape more than a child’s mind, social skills, and heart. You, dear lady, are influencing this world and eternity. As you rise to the challenges and succeed in keeping Christ in the center of your children’s hearts, you are partnering with God. He can help you cope with the temporary trauma, the short-lived chagrin, and fleeting frustrations of motherhood. God designed the home, and as such He designed it as a place where mother’s touch and influence would settle deep into the hearts and lives of those eternal souls you helped bring into existence. You can dedicate them to God like Hannah did Samuel (1 Sam. 2:28). You can sacrifice for them like Samson’s mother did for him (Jud. 13:13-14). You can treasure the things about your children in your heart as Mary did about Jesus (Lk. 2:19).
In the meantime, while you are coping with the daily frustrations of motherhood, remember the words of Jan Dunlap:
Help me remember, when I feel it’s a chore,
The time will come when I’ll hold baby no more,
Asleep on my chest, the crib refused, the blanket,
the pacifier, gone unused.
What better place is there to lay baby’s head
Than against my heart, my arms her bed?
For children grow up and leave us behind
With only memories left to remind us
Of midnight walking and predawn rocking,
Of sweet, crying babies unable to sleep.
So, keep me patient and keep me awake
While I cradle this dear child,
And don’t let me begrudge another long night
With this baby, my darling, my joy, my delight.
The trials of motherhood are a relative moment. The lessons you leave them last beyond a lifetime. Thank you for willingly, lovingly, and righteously pursuing this important facet of God’s work on earth!
Have you ever had a problem or struggle that started out small but kept growing until it was larger than life? Did it come to consume your thoughts, keep you up at night, and become an overwhelming obsession? Maybe you devoted a lot of emotion to it.
Just by virtue of living on this earth, we will struggle (Job 14:1-2). Job knew struggle and turmoil! He lost one thing after another. His life seemed to unravel before his eyes. Teddy Roosevelt is credited with saying, “When you are at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.” Have you ever found yourself struggling at the end of your rope of faith? You are certainly far from alone in that. We certainly see Job dangling there, asking, “Why was I ever born?” (3:11) and “Why can’t I go ahead and die?” (3:20-22). David was there (Psa. 22:1). So was Jeremiah (ch. 37-38).
Of course, trouble takes on many forms and comes from many directions. Any number of passages can help us cope with the struggle of trouble, but consider Psalm 10. It refers to the wicked seven times and to the afflicted four times. It also speaks synonymously of the wicked as the greedy (13), evildoer (15), and those of the earth (18). It speaks of the afflicted as the unfortunate (8,10,14), humble (14), the orphan and oppressed (14,18). We know that our trouble can come from the wicked, but it can also come from no one source we can identify though it hurts just the same. Consider this Psalm about our troubles and what we can do about them.
Our perception in times of trouble (1-11). Our vision can become blurry by tears or rage, but our point of view is altered when trouble comes. The psalmist goes through this. He sees God as being distant (1). He saw the wicked as being in control or prospering (2-11). God seemed far away and life seemed unfair. The majority of every generation is wicked, and each generation of God’s faithful must reconcile the seeming success of the wicked and oppression of the affilicted righteous. We don’t begrudge the psalmist for his struggle to see through spiritual eyes. We can relate.
Our prayers in times of trouble (12-15). The psalmist admits his own struggle, then he shows us how to overcome it. His first response is to pray. He asks God to deliver (12). He asks God to remember (12-14). Finally, he asks God to vindicate (15).
Our praise in times of trouble (16). Before the prayer he’s perplexed and indignant. Afterward, he has insight, peace, and greater confidence. He springs from his knees with new perspective. Doesn’t prayer do that for us? The psalmist acknowledges God’s nature—“Lord” (Jehovah, five times in the Psalm), position—“King”, and duration—“forever and ever.” Do we spend more time focusing on the source of our troubles than on the solution?
Our proper perspective in times of trouble (17-18). The psalmist is confident at the end of this psalm, saying, “you have heard” and “you will strengthen and listen.” Do you approach God that confident in His ability and desire to do what is best? We can be as confident as he is that God hears and helps when we hurt.
What is the greatest trouble we can face in this life? A disfiguring accident? Financial ruin? Loss of a parent, spouse, or child? The deterioration of health? The fall of our nation? Through Christ, none of these are too difficult to overcome. This Psalm reminds me that God still cares and He won’t abandon me. You and I can look at the cross and the church and be reassured of that. We know we can trust God (Rom. 8:28). God is able and willing to help us through every trouble.
It is the ability to see what a thing could be. A carpenter, looking at a tree, sees with a trained eye much more than others can see. With his expert shaping, appropriate tools, and seasoned patience, he can make out of that tree what was once only in his mind. The Lord needs people, from the leadership down, who look at the community, each other, their income, and their abilities and see what could be done. It takes no effort, emotion, or education to say, “It can’t be done!” That’s what is expected. Vision sees what could be.
It is the ability to not obsess over what a thing has been. Due respect is owed to the labors of the past, and due recognition is owed both its successes and failures. The past, however glorious, will have ample samples of both. Yet, the people, plans, and programs of today and tomorrow should not be shackled and chained exclusively to was has been. Vision is not always settling for being “has beens.” “Will be” is what Paul seemed more focused in pursuing (cf. Phil. 3:10-12). Biblical vision recognizes that doctrine cannot change, but methods, technology, tools, and people invariably do. Vision asks how people living in the present time can best reach people living in the present time and prepare them for an endless eternity.
It is the ability to trust in what God can make it be. No plan would succeed without God’s hand in it. I love the prayers where brethren plead, “Help us in the things that are right and defeat us in the things that are wrong.” Among the Bible’s heroes are those who factor God into the plans and say, “We are well able” (Caleb, Num. 13:30). “I can do all things” (Paul, Phil. 4:13), “There is nothing too hard…” (Jeremiah, Jer. 32:17), and “No good thing does He withhold” (the sons of Korah, Psa. 84:11). Our vision can be bold when “our” is God and us! Since God made the sky, the limit exceeds even that! Our giving, our ambitions, our goals, and our sights should be set to reflect our belief in that fact.
Where will we be this time next year? In five or ten years? Vision plays a role in that. Vision attempts to see the unseen, forget the past, and trust the One who holds past, present, and future in His all-powerful hand. With those truths factored in, let us dream big dreams!
Inquiring minds want to know. How does God work through providence? How does He answer our prayers to strengthen, help, lead, and endow us with wisdom? We are without doubt that God is active, interested, and involved in our lives today. Deism denies this, saying that a Creator set things in motion and then permanently stepped out of the picture on planet earth. Theism affirms His present involvement and interest in the affairs of men today. The dogmatic at either extreme purport to speak for God, absolutely affirming or denying what He does or does not do. There is an area in which we cannot say how God operates or whether it is the Father, Son, or Spirit who is at work simply because it has not been revealed and we are not in a position to observe what is transpiring in the heavenly realm. Moses once said, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). Moses told Israel that some things aren’t revealed to us, but he also said some things are revealed. We are obligated to observe what is revealed. We are on dangerous ground when we affirm what Scripture does not reveal.
Scripture does not reveal that the Spirit is involved in our decision-making in a direct way apart from the Word. It does not indicate that He is stirring inside our hearts, influencing us to think, speak, or act in a given way for a given purpose or moment. He does not give us our words in the miraculous way He did for the apostles, who had no need to prepare or study for a given moment (cf. Matt. 10:19-20). When we boldly assert such things, we stand without the foundation of revealed truth beneath us and, at best, stand upon dangerous conjecture.
The Spirit’s work in written revelation informs my heart and mind, and it (Scripture) awakens me to appreciate and depend upon the power of God through that word and its promises. The Bible says we are strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man (Eph. 3:16). We do not know the full implication of that promise, though we are thrilled by it. What a leap it is to go from acknowledging the Spirit strengthens us to claiming He gives us thoughts, ideas, or direct guidance in addition to His Word. If we say, “The Spirit led me to take this job” or “The Spirit told me to speak to that person” or “The Spirit told me I’m saved,” we speak from ignorance (i.e., lack of knowledge or information). Kathy once studied with a woman and showed her the multitude of passages proving the essentiality of baptism, but she replied, “But the Spirit told me I’m saved.” We know that it was her own will and desire in her heart that she attributed to God. That is the danger of such reckless assertions. We easily confuse what we desire and prefer with “the will of God” or even “the Spirit’s work.” God repeatedly warns that our hearts can deceive us, that we can credit God for what, in reality, is our will (Prov. 14:12; 16:25; Jer. 10:23).
We do need to study the personality, the work, and the Deity of the Holy Spirit more. It is obvious, hearing and reading after even some brothers and sisters in Christ, that we have neglected studying about Him. Let us handle each other without suspicion, in a spirit of love and kindness and without attacking people and personalities. Let us also always be careful not to “exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), never adding to or taking away from what is revealed (Rev. 22:18-19). Yet, let us be grateful that our great God is interested and involved in our lives, being content to affirm only what Scripture reveals.
- It answers the biggest mysteries of this life that so baffle humanity.
- It reveals the plan of the Creator of everything.
- We are accountable to it.
- It tells us where we are going.
- It will give us a guide we can have confidence in as we head to the future.
- We cannot refuse to follow it.
- We should share it with as many people as we possibly can.
- It is not on a par with other books; it is superior to all of them.
- He disapproves of religious division.
- There is a right way to worship Him.
- We can know the truth.
- We discover some great, precious and exciting truths and promises.
- The New Testament church is eternally important.
- We should read and study it faithfully.
Investigate the Bible and explore its origin and the book as it is today. God’s Word is not afraid of investigation. It has been more scrutinized than any other book ever written, and it still stands. It is a foundation we can confidently build our lives upon. It is a guide that can safely lead us now and forever. Have you been in the book of books today?