Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: spiritual growth

Words of wisdom from J. S. Park

I keep forgetting that most people on social media who act like authorities are young 20-somethings who haven’t seen much of the world and don’t know how it works. They want to change the world from their basement, or they’re just hungry to go viral. It doesn’t mean they can’t have an opinion. It means […]

via A Friendly Reminder: I Am Not Your Counselor and I Am Not a Journalist — J.S. Park

Baby steps

We do not expect a newborn child to talk, to walk, or to do things to help others. A baby has the potential to learn to do all those things, but the learning comes slowly, in baby steps. When a little child begins to walk, she is very unsteady on her feet and will often fall.

Why then do we expect the new birth to make us mature Christians in an instant? A person cannot be born again until he is able to comprehend that he is a sinner. By that time he has walked and talked in the way of the world for some time and now he has to learn a whole new way of walking and talking. And those first steps are going to be tottering steps.

When a child gets converted at the age of twelve, as my daughter did, she is still a twelve-year-old in understanding. She will grow physically, mentally and spiritually all at the same time and we are not surprised that there are bumps and mishaps along the way. All we ask is that she get up again and continue making baby steps toward maturity.

When someone gets converted at twenty-eight, like I did, there are still going to be bumps and mishaps along the way of spiritual growth. Why should we be surprised at that? It still takes the same determination to get up again and continue making baby steps toward maturity.

When someone has been raised in a severely dysfunctional home and early learned to fend for himself, usually in ways that are outside the norms of society, then encounters the Saviour, the conversion will be dramatic. That does not mean that such a person is instantly a mature Christian. I have met one such person who was offered financial support to attend Bible School. But the school was far away and he did not have the means to get there. So he stole a car and drove to the school. It didn’t take long for the police to catch up to him. That was a dramatic, and painful, bump on the path of spiritual growth, but he recovered from that and kept on making steps in the right direction.

Jesus told His disciples: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12-13). He knew that even those who had walked with Him for three years were not ready for all that He expected of them. But the Holy Spirit would lead them, baby step by baby step, to be what He wanted them to be. Do we expect that it will be different for us?

Another man who had grown up on the streets and had found there was big money in making drugs found himself in prison for the second or third time. It finally hit home that as smart and sophisticated as his scheme had been, he still got caught, and he would always get caught. Then he was open to the call of God and surrendered his life. The change was dramatic, and real. When he got out of prison, his pastor advised him to wait several years before giving his testimony before large groups of people. That was Godly wisdom. Too many others have been thrust into the spotlight before they have really learned to walk and have remained babes in Christ.

It is the will of our Lord that we should grow and become useful in His kingdom. We will not be very useful if we try to run ahead of Him. May we let the Holy spirit guide us in making baby steps toward spiritual growth and maturity.

Harvest Home

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Here in Saskatchewan the trees are bare, the flowers have died, geese are migrating and most of the combines are parked. Garden produce has been gathered in and the long, plump, white grain bags lying in many fields are silent evidence of a bountiful harvest. Monday will be Thanksgiving.

The custom of giving thanks for harvest is first observed in the fourth chapter of Genesis where Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God. We are not told why God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s, but it must have had more to do with Cain than with his sacrifice.

The three main festivals prescribed by the Law were all centred around harvest. Passover took place at the very beginning of the harvest of fall-seeded grain and the first sheaf of barley was to be offered at this time. The men then returned home to harvest their crops and seven weeks later returned for the festival of first fruits (also called the festival of weeks, or of wheat harvest and known in the New Testament as Pentecost). Fall was the time for the feast of tabernacles, or ingathering, when all the crops had been gathered in: spring seeded grains, wine and oil.

I think most peoples around the world had some kind of traditional harvest festival. In England it was called Harvest Home and began when the last of the reaped grain was brought in from the fields. It began as a pagan festival, but this is one festival that was fittingly co-opted by the church. Sheafs of grain and garden produce were brought into the church; hymns of praise and thanksgiving were sung and prayers offered to thank God for His goodness.

We call it Thanksgiving today and it comes upon a fixed day in the autumn, whether harvest is complete or not. Many of us are now quite disconnected from the production of the food that we eat, anyway. Why then do we celebrate Thanksgiving?

First off, it is good that we do not forget the rhythms of life around us, that we are entirely dependent upon God to supply our needs. Yes, we work for what we get, but it is within God’s power to withhold the fruits of our labours, or to bestow them upon us in abundance.

When He withholds, this is an opportunity to search our lives and reorder our priorities in order to bring them into harmony with God’s priorities. When He pours an abundance of material blessings upon us, we must remember that this is not merely the result of our labours but a blessing from God. And He does not want us to use it all to pamper ourselves, but to share it with others in need so that they too can give thanks for the blessings we have received.

There is another aspect of thankfulness that should be cultivated by Christians. God has called us to salvation and poured out His Spirit on us. What fruit has the Spirit produced in our lives this year? Are we overflowing with love, joy and peace? The growth of the young trees around our yard site is a visible evidence of the abundant rainfall we have experienced over the past few years. Has there been spiritual growth in our lives?

What about the spiritual harvest? Do we assume that people around us are not interested in the gospel, or do we see fields that are ripe for harvest? Jesus told His disciples to lift up their eyes; they weren’t seeing what He was seeing. Are we? Above all, do our lives, our words, our attitudes communicate thankfulness for the goodness of God, for the spiritual blessings as well as the material?

A simple question

The following paragraphs are quoted from By My Spirit, written by Jonathan Goforth.  I would like to add a simple question to what Mr. Goforth has written: In this age of leisure, why do so many of us struggle to find time for reading the Bible? 

During my student days in Toronto my one weapon, in the jails and slums, was the Bible. In China I have often given from thirty-five to forty addresses in a week, practically all of them being simply Bible rehearsals. In fact, I think I can safely say that, during the forty-one years that I have been on the foreign field, I have never once addressed a Chinese audience without an open Bible in my hand, from which I could say, “Thus saith the Lord!” I have always taken it for granted that the simple preaching of the Word would bring men to Christ. It has never failed me yet. My Chinese pastor, one of the most consecrated men I have ever met, was saved from a life of shame and vice by the first Gospel address which he ever heard me give.

My deepest regret, on reaching threescore years and ten, is that I have not devoted more time to the study of the Bible. Still, in less than nineteen years I have gone through the New Testament in Chinese fifty-five times. That prince of Bible teachers, Dr. Campbell Morgan, has declared that he would not attempt to teach any book in the Bible unless he had first read it over at least fifty times. Some years ago, I understand, a gentleman attended the English Keswick and was so fired with a zeal for the Bible that in three years he read it through twelve times. One would imagine, of course, that he belonged to the leisured class. On the contrary, however, he began his day’s work at the Motherwell steel plant at 5:30 a. m.

The Bible was not so neglected a Book when the great revivals of 1857-59 swept over the United States and Great Britain. Neither was it so neglected in Moody’s time. During the late Manchu dynasty, scholars were expected to know the classics of their sages off by heart. How do the scholars of so-called Christian lands measure up to that standard as regards the “World’s Great Classic”? It is nothing short of pathetic how so many, who come professedly to represent the Lord Jesus Christ in China, know so little of His Word. Thirty years ago the missionary ideal was to know the Bible so well that one would not have to carry around a concordance. Is the indifference to the Bible today on the part of so many missionaries due to the fact, perhaps, that they have discovered some better means with which to meet the needs of a sin sick world?

 

Walking in the light

There is a line that is crossed when we come to the Lord.  That line is the border between darkness and light, unbelief and faith, death and life.  Glimmers of light and faith from the realm of life have helped us find the way to this line, but the new birth takes us across the threshold that separates spiritual death from spiritual life.

This is not the end of the journey, only the beginning of a new journey.  We should not stop and rest as soon as we cross the line.  Yet too many people do just that.  They had to abandon some baggage on the other side that would be an unnecessary load on the new journey.  Still, that baggage was precious in their former life, an essential part of the way they identified themselves.  As they mill around, just across the line, the way ahead begins to seem difficult and the baggage once left behind grows in importance.  All too soon, they are back on the wrong side of the line.

They give all kinds of reasons for this: people inside the line just did not understand them; they were never told what it was going to cost to leave that baggage behind; people inside the line are not as friendly as they first seemed; and on and on.

The true reason is that these people have stopped when the Lord said “Come.”  He wants us to continually come closer to Him.  If we obey that call, we will find that with each step of the way the light grows brighter and faith grows stronger.

Many of those who have gone back the way they came still claim to have a good relationship with the Lord.  Let all such measure their claim of fellowship with God by their fellowship with God’s children.  The teaching of the New Testament is that if our relationship with our neighbour is broken and our fellowship with our brethren is broken, our fellowship with God is also broken.

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now” (1 John 2:9).  “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).  “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”  (1 John 4:20).

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Some folk profess a holy allegiance to this commandment to love their neighbour and all mankind.  Yet it seems that this love is largely theoretical, for in observing their relationship to individual people, it appears they just cannot get along with many of them.  May that never be said of a true child of God.

So how do we press deeper into the kingdom of light?  I would suggest a very simple answer: spend time with God and with His people.

Read the Bible to understand how God worked in ages past and how He works today.  Read the whole Bible.  It is good to read the Bible from beginning to end at least once or twice in your life.  It is not necessary to do that continually, but reading the Bible in context leads to a deeper understanding.  Therefore it is best to read one complete book of the Bible at a time, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces for daily reading.

Thank God daily for salvation and all the blessings He has showered upon you.  Take a little time to remember all He has done.  Pray for grace for each day, pray for your family, pray for the ministers, pray for our governments, pray for those you have difficulty understanding.

Be present in every worship service of your congregation, as much as possible.  We simply cannot worship God as fully when we are alone.  Maybe there are some people in church who rub us the wrong way.  This may be a question of the chicken or the egg — did we first rub them the wrong way?  We have no doubt rubbed others the wrong way and they have chosen to ignore it and love us anyway.  Try to emulate such people.

Practice hospitality.  The apostle Peter gives this as a commandment: “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Peter 4:9).  If you ever feel that the other members of the congregation have left you out of the loop and you do not feel a part of what is going on, ask yourself how long it has been since you had company in your home and sat around and talked of the things that really matter.  If circumstances make it difficult to prepare a big Sunday meal, invite people for night lunch or afternoon coffee break.  Such little things do make a big difference.  Do not be too choosy whom you invite.

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