Three Obstacles to Spiritual Growth

I would rather write than eat; pray than sleep; read His word than play, because the one about whom I write, and the one to whom I pray, is the one who gives me life, and the one for whom I live.

This has all been through a process of growing and bearing the fruit of the Lord’s work in me. Though I sometimes wonder in my thoughts and my actions, He always brings me back to the path and continues His guidance.    (Galatians 5:22-23)galatians5v22-23-700x329

Spiritual growth is from the seed of new birth, rooting, the buds, flower, and fruit, all the work of the gracious and powerful God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ~the vine dresser, the giver of life.

By the supernatural working of His Holy Spirit He births and brings to maturity those who are His children. (John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:1-3)

None of the life of faith is without some struggle through the wilderness in which we live, but it is where God chose and placed us to bring us to Himself.

This growth is described in Psalm 1:3. A man who turns from walking in the counsel of the ungodly, from standing in the path of sinners, and sitting in the seat of the scornful, to delighting in God’s Word, is like a tree that bears its fruit in its season. Its leaf also shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper.

Why do some Christians not grow and bear fruit?

Let’s compare this to a child born to a family. Consider how this child matures to adulthood as we look at these obstacles.

  1. Words: As a child grows baby talk is put aside and new words are used to describe how we live. The family leads the child to discover new things, new tastes, and new adventures. New words are explained so that they can understand how to relate to others, new surroundings, etc.

As a new Christian we grow through the training of God’s Word. When we find words that we do not understand, we stop and take the time to find the meanings and how they apply to our new life in Christ. Words like “propitiation,”  “justification“  and “sanctification” need to be understood, along with other words that are in the Christian’s vocabulary. With the study and discovery of these spiritual things, we will experience the new tastes and the new adventures that enable us to grow.

  1. Feelings: When children exhibit their feelings and the family gives in to them, they learn to manipulate, and these keep them childish. They will never grow to a positive and joyful adulthood if they never learn to get past their feelings.

Feelings are usually a normal reaction of the flesh to whatever is happening, either in our imaginations, our conversations, or our relationships to others.

As Christians, we do no live by feelings. They most often keep us stunted in our growth, keeping us dependent on how we feel about our circumstances and others. Instead, God’s Word brings us into the fellowship of His Spirit and grace to examine our feelings in comparison to how we should think, speak and act in our circumstances. We grow when feelings are put aside and we minister to and serve others.

  1. Influences: Everything around us is an influence either for our spiritual growth or against it. Responsible adults guard their children from the influences that would harm them. We see the results in our society of children who are exposed to violence, drugs, etc. They are planted in the middle of the darkness and chaos of this world and bear the fruit of it.

God’s children no longer enjoy such an environment. Their new hearts are fertile soil in which He plants His seed, the seed of His Son, Jesus Christ. By His Spirit He waters, and by His Word He continues to nurture His plants to full maturity, so that we are compatible for an eternity with Him.

The importance of relationships with other strong but humble and fruitful Christians cannot be understated. The fellowship of a local church that studies, applies and lives according to His Word, along with personal Bible study and prayer, are the means of watering and nurturing, so that there is no question that we are God’s children. He bears the fruit of His Word and Spirit in us ~ to His own glory, and our joy.

Dear Father, Thank you for the new heart, and the seed of the Life of your Son that you have planted in us. By your Holy Spirit, draw us to your Word, assure and nurture us, grow us in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Bear the fruit of the Spirit of Life in Christ through us, so that the world sees true life in the middle of the darkness and decay. In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

(To learn more how God works to grow us, check out our book The Garden of GOD’S WORD ~ The Purpose and Delight of BIBLE STUDY. Profits from all our books are designated for missions.)

The Idolatry of Technology

Not wanting to write this article, I have tried to stuff it in the back of my memory bank, but it keeps recycling to the front. I have wanted only to write about the kingdom of God’s grace, the goodness and the glory of our God, and Father. My leadings by His Holy Spirit are as quoted in Isaiah 50:4, “Morning by morning He wakens my ear to hear, as those who are taught; that we may speak a word to the weary.”  This is one of those mornings.

So as I begin, it is with the prayer that it will serve as an encouragement for us all who live in this new world of technology. When I say “new world” I an not referring to the “new heavens and new earth” that is prepared for us as God’s children, but the world that has so changed in this one generation that it seems like a totally different world than the one in which I grew up.social-impact-of-technology-social-isolation-3-638-1

Please hang in here with me, while I try to keep this to a minimum. In this world of technology we are trained to scan as quickly as possible what is before our eyes. If it doesn’t jump out at us and grab us and hold us in its grip and convince us that we need it, we quickly move on. If you don’t have time to absorb this whole article, please bookmark it and come back to it, and for the related articles.

We could write a book on idolatry ~ the idolatry of frivolity, of biology, even of theology, but our main concern is the great hold that technology has taken on the world. This is to such a degree, and in so short a time, that it behooves us to take a closer look at this phenomenon that has taken place.

The systems of the world are now ruled and governed digitally. There is no way to get around it. Even people who do not have computers have cell phones. Everyone is dependent on technology in some way, even without knowing it. The world is totally immersed, beyond the point that I can even express it. “The web” is a true description of the internet; I have been caught in it many times.technology_addiction_by_vilusa97-d4q9wfk-900x516

We have a world of information at our finger tips, a fulfillment of Satan’s promises to Eve ~ that we can be our own gods.

We continue to encounter the changes that have taken place. In calling Apple and AT&T last week, I was talking to the robots that say that they “are able to understand full sentences.” They were typing what I was saying, yet not understanding what I needed. The first time I was not getting any help so I hung up, then realized that I had to learn how to deal with these robots. Getting upset with them is no different than getting upset with a real person. The second time I learned that you have to confuse the robot, so that they will connect you to a human representative.

Jerry and I went to the library yesterday. From the front of the library we could hear the woman from the back who was leading a very young children’s story time. She was keeping the introduction lively (no wonder our children are hyper). Then she asked them, “What is technology?”

In a discussion with the librarian, who was hearing the same things, she related a recent news item about robots that could replace those of our family members who have died, so that we could still talk to them when they are gone.

All this has led me to think of the Old Testament description of idols.

“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” Psalm 115:4-8

Those idols, made by human hands, could not speak, see, hear or move. Now robots make them and they can speak, hear and move, and they are becoming our gods, engaging our minds, our hearts, our money, our devotion.

Technology is making our culture an automated society. Our devices are our friends, the implements in which we put our trust. They are small enough that we take them everywhere we go.  Many would be lost without them.

image-20150303-31825-1dc6u5cAnd we are becoming like them, less human and more robotic.

“Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” Jonah 2:8

According to this reference, here is the greatest concern: In an automated society (even as Amazon is introducing a grocery store for those who need to quickly shop without having to deal with people) we are giving up the beauty of communication with other human beings. We are inventing devices that satisfy the human desires, devices that entertain us and inform us, but that cannot love or be loved. We are replacing that which is eternal through a relationship with God and other members of His family, with devices that continually have to be replaced. We are being conformed to, and teaching our children to depend on, technology. Our lives are centered on our devices, devices that can become the instruments of our vices.

Twenty years ago when Jerry and I built this house and moved here, my prayers were answered as I asked that he would be willing to leave our TV behind. My addiction to television and the understanding of its influence on me is a means of understanding the influence of technology. Television was just the beginning, and another subject I won’t get into here.

“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” 1 John 5:19

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. “1 John 5:21

Two things I would like to leave with you, and from your own thoughts and prayers I ask for your comments.

First: We must, as God’s people step back and view our world through the lens of His Word. We must pray in the Spirit, and with understanding of the world in which we have to live. He has put us here, and by His light, brought us from the darkness into His light, for a purpose. We must perceive from His view how to live free from the idolatry and to teach our children how to live in obedience of faith as heirs of the kingdom of God, and pilgrims here on earth. Let us observe our children’s patterns now, and how they will look as adults. Will they act like robots or will they have learned the steadfast love of our heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and be able to teach their children?

Second: We must learn how to deal with the fast pace of technology by the wisdom and knowledge of God, and to lead our children in this culture according to His will.

Just as the industrial revolution changed the way everybody lived, and set forward a new era, we must see technology for what it is, and pray to our heavenly Father for guidance through this new faze. Eventually, the battle will be won in the heavenly places. He has not given us this culture to allow it to rule over us, but that we may be able to use it wisely to promote His kingdom and for Him to receive the glory.

Dear Father, keep us, by the power of your Holy Spirit, and speak to us through your Word.  Give us the wisdom of Christ our Lord through whom  we have new hearts and new life.  Make us your light in the darkness of this world.  Enable us to use our resources for your kingdom and your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Images from Related Articles:

Responsible Development of New Technologies

Mankind’s Physical Crutch ~ Technology

Are We Being Too dependent on Technology

Agile to Fragile

imagesChildren skip into youth ~

 

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Youth leap
into adulthood  ~

 

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Adults run headlong into old age.

 

Some come to a screeching halt when the body is unable to keep up the normal pace.

Others gradually slow down as life becomes more difficult.

The younger generation catches up and overtakes us. We become inundated with a youth culture that is hard to understand and to which we can relate.

The ophthalmologist who examined Mother’s eyes twelve years ago, observed, “She is fragile, isn’t she.”
She was born the fifth daughter of twelve children. Before any brothers were born, her father took her hunting and taught her everything he would have taught a son. She started her first full time job and married at the age of fifteen. She was a small woman, but agile, strong, and faithful. There was nothing she could not do that she wanted to do or needed to do. She lived to the age of 92, after taking care of my dad, and enduring six years of dementia. And during those years she was fragile.

Now, I know the feeling of this fragility. Though I am in my second childhood, and loving it ~ loving what the Lord is doing in my life ~ there is a sense of losing strength and agility that I once had. Children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have their own lives, and don’t seem to need us anymore..
This does not mean that we are discontent, or disheartened. More so, we are more content than ever, encouraged even in these difficult times, and more tenderhearted toward others. We are able to see the needs of others, and to pray for them.
Our greatest desire is that we have something lasting and eternal to share with the younger generation, believing that this is God’s plan for His people.unknown

Dear Father, thank you for the seasons of this life, for the agility we need as children, and for the fragility of the senior years. I praise you, that for the things we lost or left behind, you have replaced with your presence and power, the joy that is ours in Christ, our Lord, and the increase of faith and hope for the eternal life that you now share with us. Thank you for the strength and grace that we need for each day. I pray that you bring generations closer in faith and understanding of the true meaning of life and enable us to see the need for each other. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Music: My Grace is Sufficient
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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Childbirth is a Family Affair

Our granddaughter and her husband brought their first child home from the hospital yesterday. We did not have the privilege of waiting at the hospital for her delivery as we had with our six grandchildren. But, Jerry and I were a part of the event as we were there in spirit. Our daughter called us with updates throughout the time of waiting. With every report Jerry felt the pain in his leg that was amputated.

Ansley’s contractions had started on Monday. From her scheduled appointment she was hoping the time for their daughter’s birth was eminent. But contractions were not close enough. After a visit to the hospital she was sent home to wait. Tuesday passed with more pain, but no signs of time for birthing. She and her husband left the doctor’s office again with an appointment for 5:00 Wednesday morning. If things had not progressed as they hoped they would induce labor in order to take the pressure off the baby.

Tuesday night they did not sleep. Neither did I. I was awake off and on, praying continually for the Lord’s intervention; for mercy for Ansley and for Him to bring this baby into the world in His way, and in His timing.

They were at the hospital Wednesday morning with good news that the baby would be delivered before evening. Our daughter, our son-in-law and Ansley’s three younger sisters were there early to wait with them. Our daughter, remembering the four occasions she had gone through labor, was feeling Ansley’s pain. She wanted to tell her what to do, but she had to back off, and leave the room.

Our first great grandchild was born at 1:00. We were there to see them all at 3:00.

10689595_10205562289161019_3481855181802915142_nDuring this recent episode, when I mentioned the title of this article to my daughter, she reasoned that this is not true for all families.  Our children were born, with no one there but Jerry and me, the hospital staff ~ and the Lord. But family events have become more important as we have gotten older; and our family is learning the importance of sharing these experiences.

Spiritual Birth
Perhaps this sharing of family experiences, in births, marriages, and deaths has a connection with God and His family. Before this world began there was a relationship of love, joy, and peace between God, the Father, His Son, and His Holy Spirit. What they had together they have since the creation been sharing with His family here on earth. They covenanted together to birth a physical world that would soon be in rebellion and in need of a second birth ~ a spiritual birth.

His Spirit that moved across the face of the waters at the beginning of time is the same Spirit that moves in the spirit and heart of man to give new life. A second birth is required for a new start for true life, eternal life.

The same Light that God spoke into the world over darkness is the light of Jesus Christ given to men.

The same love, the same Word that was in the beginning with God was Jesus Christ. This is the seed that is planted in the hearts of men to form a new heart, a new spirit, and a new life. We have this living word in the written word that by His Spirit brings conception and in His timing He brings this deliverance of a new life in and through us.

There is rejoicing in heaven with every new birth. “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. Luke 15:10

 The apostle Paul was a spiritual father in his ministry of the gospel of Christ. In his letter to the Galatians he said, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. Galatians 4:19

It does not happen simply by saying a prayer.  Spiritual birth is in every way a miracle as a natural birth, with the greatest work and labor of love by our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We don’t experience it from a care-free, pain-free experience.  If left to ourselves we would refuse it. But, it is worth the pain and the struggle to be born of His Spirit for eternal life; knowing that we are delivered from the wrath of God, the pain of eternity without Christ.

Laboring for Others
We, who are of Christ, labor with others for the souls of those who will be born into His kingdom. We intercede, we pray fervently, and continually, for this conception and birth to take place in the hearts of our loved ones. But, we cannot make it happen by our own planning. We wait and rejoice in His timing and His way.

When Christ returns we shall all rejoice together for His glorious work on our own behalf and for those of all His family.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away,
reserved in heaven for you,”
 

1 Peter 1:3-4

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for your plan for perpetual life here on this earth, until you have gathered all into your fold.  Keep us by your own power until that day.  In Jesus’ name I pray.

The Blessing to Parents

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To the glory and praise of our heavenly Father I wrote this poem for our oldest grandchild, Ansley and her husband Dustin, who are expecting their first child this month. Art was added by our second oldest, Kourtney.

 

A Child’s Plea for God

A Child's Plea

     Give me not a god,
a god that I control.  

 Don’t give me a god
that I can mold.

 I need GOD, the REAL GOD,
who knows more than I know.

Give me GOD, THE LIVING GOD,
who’s free to come and go.

   GOD, Himself, who created Life,
and all living things—

  GOD, who lives, and to my life
His own LIFE He brings.

   I  want  GOD, the HOLY GOD,
who has a master plan.

  GOD, the GOD who acts in grace,
though I can’t understand.

 Where is GOD, the GOD OF TRUTH,
who tells it like it is; 

  Though painful it may seem to me,
shapes my heart like His? 

   I see GOD, the MIGHTY GOD,
when I look at the cross, 

      Who gave His life that I might live,
removing all the dross.

This GOD, THE GOD I’m looking for,
is greater than the world;

       Able to do anything,
simply by His Word.

     I will wait for GOD, THE LOVING GOD,
the GOD of POWER, still,

        Who can, in JESUS, fill my heart,
and conform me to HIS will.

(Written for our oldest grandchild for her fourth birthday.  She turns nineteen tomorrow.)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANSLEY!