Growing in Grace 4
Thursday – Love That Teaches
Growing in Grace 4
Thursday – Love That Teaches
Growing in Christ 3
Wednesday – Our Patient Father
Saturday – Running the Race
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit.” (John 15:5, NASB)
The truth is all around you:
God loves to grow things.
When you look at your own life, with your
God loves to grow things.
When you look at other people,
with all their insensitivities and annoying qualities,
God loves to grow things.
Think of people as growing things.
You’re seeing them in only one moment of their development.
God, the patient gardener, is working
carefully and joyfully,
moment by moment,
year by year.
He is tenderly nurturing them from
a tiny seed to
beautiful fullness in Him.
Try not to step on His flowers.
If a holy and all-knowing God can love them just as they are,
All our relationships are to be shaped by
the love of the Father – His love
for them, for us,
for all of us.
He loves “them” as much as “us”.
In every relationship,
only His unselfish love is worthy of Him.
Seeing a Greater God
Even after many years of following You, Father,
much of my life makes no sense in light of
who You are.
You are perfect power,
perfect wisdom, and
Yet the faith I live is so weak.
My thoughts and actions proclaim a God who is
only a vague shadow of You,
a God who is
So much of me is still unmolded by the truth of
all You are.
My daily walk is clouded by
Almighty Father, I long to know You in a way that is
I want to respond to You
for all You are.
I hunger to think and speak and walk
in the light of Your full greatness.
Continue to draw me to Yourself.
Your Word, and
Your loving discipline, Father,
help me to
see You more clearly and
trust You more simply.
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge…Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you…is faithful. (1 Corinthians 1:2, 4-5, 7-9, NIV)
These glowing words to the church in Corinth don’t seem surprising until I read the rest of the book and learn how carnal and spiritually immature they were. “Sanctified…you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge…you do not lack any spiritual gift…He will keep you strong to the end…blameless.” Lord, I’m not sure I would have spoken to them in these terms.
I am amazed that You look at us this way, Father. We are so selfish and immature at times – and yes, so pagan. Yet You have put Your life within us. We are rich in You, fully equipped in every way, on the road to being blameless. You patiently nurture and teach and correct us. You are not short-tempered with us. In fact, You seem to enjoy our growth process.
Father, thank You for Your tenderness. Keep me tender and patient toward those to whom I minister, those who share my failures and shortcomings. Give me Your view of them, Your heart for them, Your joy in their gradual growth.
Praise to You, wonderful Father!
We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10, NASB)
Some years back I directed the compilation of a new hymnal, Sing to the Lord. I was amazed at how strongly and emotionally people feel about their own musical tastes. Some truly important issues can be greeted with deafening indifference, but not music.
This is especially true with teenagers. From my years with three in our house, I can affirm what you already know: they have their own ideas about music. Yes, we can expose them to various styles and set limits on their listening. But their musical tastes are part of their independence as persons. Their music is THEIRS, and they are absolutely fierce in clinging to it. Hands off!
But it was fascinating to watch our eldest son, Jason. In earlier years he would only listen to the loudest, most aggressive contemporary music. He scorned anything else. But by his later years in high school, his musical tastes had mellowed and matured. By the time he left the house, his music was still contemporary, but it also had echos of folk and traditional elements. It was less abrasive and more subtle and creative. My wife and I grew to enjoy much of it.
How did these changes happen? As a gradual process, I imagine. As he grew and changed and was exposed to more music, old styles wore thin and lost their appeal. His friends certainly played a major part. They shared their sounds, and their enthusiasm. Over time, he acquired a taste for those sounds and embraced them as his own.
These musical changes have brought me hope that other changes will continue to happen with my children – internal changes. My greatest hope and prayer is that their relationships with Christ will continue to grow ever deeper and more pervasive throughout every aspect of their lives.
How might this happen? Time, maturity, and the Christian influence of friends will probably play a part. I’m also sure our influence will be strong in their lives. Though children tend to turn off much of what their parents say, they watch. They absorb. When I was young and uncertain about what to expect from the future, I watched my elders closely and learned all I could from their lives. Our children have done the same and will continue to do so. How vital it is, then, that we live daily as in God’s presence:
Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…Walk in love…You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light. (Ephesians 4:1; 5:2, 8, NASB)
But I am also encouraged as I remember that the same God who has been at work in me all these years is also at work in them. His Holy Spirit operates patiently but so powerfully. He is not some weak and wispy “spirit” with limited ability to touch and move and make changes. He is as strong and zealous and ardently loving as our Omnipotent Father Creator. And He works effectively where it matters most: in the hearts and minds of individuals.
As I turn to God and pray for my children daily, I do so with the confidence that day by day, circumstance by circumstance, God is lovingly and faithfully pursuing their deepest affections.
We instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1, NIV)
Jesus, in what areas have I been instructed how to live, and
perhaps I’m living that way to some extent,
but You want me to live more and more that way?
Help me be more and more loving to others in practical ways and
more sensitive to their needs.
Help me trust You moment by moment, more and more.
Help me turn to You more often throughout the day.
Keep my thoughts pure and holy and full of thanksgiving to You.
I love You, Lord! Increase our fellowship more and more.
I’m convinced that a question lurks down inside each of us that we’d like to ask God. We’ve probably never formulated this question in our minds, much less in our mouths, but I think our hearts ask it. As we seek God in the face of our needs, whether big or small, we probe for an answer:
How much of a God are You willing to be in my life?
I believe God exists up there somewhere. I believe He is real, that He forgave my sins, and that someday He’ll bring me to heaven. But I have needs now, especially on the inside. I want to know what He is really willing to do and be in me. How much of a practical part can He play, or will He play, in my daily life? For example:
I’ve been a Christian for more than fifty years, and I grasp for such answers. I want to know how constant and how sufficient God will be in all such areas.
But I continue to make exciting discoveries. I’m finding that whenever I turn to Him with anything, no matter how daily or small, He is there, my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1, NASB).
When I remember to take my problems to Him, specifically, simply, openly, I find Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).
I find a God who constantly prompts me to speak to Him; who hears and understands every murmur of my heart, every unspoken question, every secret shame; who longs to draw me closer and never stops forgiving me; who, for His part, will never let anything come between us.
And I realize that if any silence is in my life and in my relationship with Him, He is not the silent One. The silence is from my own preoccupation with other things. It is the silence of my indifference to Him. It is the silence of my unbelief.
What needs does your Father see you face, yet never hear you share with Him? What concerns does He deeply feel with you that you never bring to Him?
How many simple prayers would our God gladly, beautifully, bountifully answer if we simply prayed them?
How much of a God am I willing to let Him be?
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…
This is smaller than all other seeds,
but when it is full grown,
it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree.”
(Matthew 13:31-32, NASB)
God, You are growing me to You.
Sometimes I want to leap to You.
Sometimes I want You to lift me up to You.
But You just keep growing me –
through all the pain,
the mysteries, and
the discoveries that growing brings.
You are God Most High,
perfect and complete.
You cannot grow.
But You are growing us all to You.
O God, my God,
how majestic is Your name in all the earth (Psalm 8:1, NASB).
For years I held a “this is all there is” view of Christian living. I assumed, though not consciously, that the spiritual blessings I enjoyed were more-or-less all that existed. I was saved enough to get to heaven. What else was available? What else was necessary? The horizons of my Christian life were near and narrow. Its frontiers were rather tame, and all the best blessings were someday and far away.
I had accepted complacency for peace, indifference for true satisfaction.
But some years ago God began to show me again the man Jesus, teaching me that Jesus was all that He was because He simply, completely trusted His Father. Realizing this, I began to see in Him the possibilities of abundant life here and now. The new creation I had experienced in Christ at salvation was only the dawn, only the first glow of an eternal lifetime of wonders.
My soul began to respond to the Creator’s breath like a tiny seed wakens to soil and sun. As I peeked through the surface, I saw the garden, the blossoms, the graceful trees. I caught a glimpse of how great the miracle of redemption was, and could be, and would be in me.
Though still a small seedling, I realized the limitations of my spiritual life were self-imposed. His love, His patience, His light, and the tiniest response of faith on my part (the size of a mustard seed) had started a cycle of growth. Gradually, the horizons of life became broad and beautiful, lit by the magnificent glory of the living Christ. He was alive within me, offering me His peace, His joy, His love, His oneness with the Father.
But as I look forward with fascination toward those promised horizons, His Spirit gently reminds me that spiritual frontiers are only reached by prayer. I must have the mind of Christ for my own thoughts, His presence shaping my perspective, His Spirit continually breathing His life within. I need a closer and more constant communion with Him. I need to depend more heavily on the Father, as Jesus depended on Him.
I need to live a life of prayer.
What will this require? I don’t know, but with His help, I have resolved not to shrink from the unknown. I will look to Him whose love and strength have always been sufficient, always greater than I could have imagined. I will not fear the silence of standing before God. With His help, I will fill it with simple faith and with a song of His goodness.
I do not want comfort to form the boundaries of my life or to be a barrier that limits His love from working in me. I will trust my needs to my Creator.
The Evil One paints spiritual possibilities as frightening, too radical, beyond us, only for the elite. But the Father’s love doesn’t work that way. His Spirit cultivates the simplest response of faith, then patiently reforms the fibers of our innermost beings, creating His will within us.
In the face of such unfailing love, He simply asks us to turn to Him, to talk to Him, to keep trusting Him moment by moment.
Our Father, we look to You now. Teach us to pray.
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3, NIV)