Our Need to Learn More About How to Pray:
Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." (Luk 11:1 NKJ)
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Rom 8:26 NKJ)
- ASV - "...for we know not how to pray as we ought..."
- NAS - "for we do not know how to pray as we should..."
- NRSV - "...for we do not know how to pray as we ought..."
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. (Psa 19:14 NKJ)
Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. 13 Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. 16 Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say "Amen " at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? 17 For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; 19 yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. 21 In the law it is written: "With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me," says the Lord. 22 Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 23 Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. 26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1Co 14:12 NKJ)
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (Jam 4:3 NKJ)
The Psalms Teach Us How to Pray
Addressing the Father
O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! (Psa 8:1 NKJ)
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (Psa 90:1 NKJ)
Praying for God's Purposes
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth. (Psa 57:11 NKJ)
Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things! 19 And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen. (Psa 72:18 NKJ)
Expressing Our Material Needs
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style; 13 That our barns may be full, Supplying all kinds of produce; That our sheep may bring forth thousands And ten thousands in our fields; 14 That our oxen may be well-laden; That there be no breaking in or going out; That there be no outcry in our streets. 15 Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the LORD! (Psa 144:12 NKJ)
Expressing Our Spiritual Needs
A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.> Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight-- That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. (Psa 51:1 NKJ)
In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be put to shame. 2 Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape; Incline Your ear to me, and save me. 3 Be my strong refuge, To which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress. (Psa 71:1 NKJ)
Expressing Our Concerns and Emotions
Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide in times of trouble? (Psa 10:1 NKJ)
How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (Psa 13:1 NKJ)
Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. (Psa 12:1 NKJ)
Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. 6 Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast. 7 How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. 8 They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. 9 For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light. (Psa 36:5 NKJ)
A Prayer Constructed from These Verses in the Psalms
"O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, You who set Your glory above the heavens! Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."
"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of (spiritual) Israel, who only does wondrous things! And blessed by Your glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with Your glory."
"Help us, O Lord, that our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be pillars, sculptured in palace style; that our barns may be full, supplying all kinds of thousands in our fields; that our oxen may be well-laden; that there be no breaking in or going out; that there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; happy are the people whose God is the Lord!"
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Again You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight - that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. In You, O Lord, I put my trust; let me never be put to shame. Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline Your ear to me, and save me. Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress."
"Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble? How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men."
"Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light."
In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
- Bill Walton
Have you ever noticed how we are governed by time? Our lives are focused on it. We shape and construct our days based upon it. Solomon said, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven-“(Ecc. 3:1). We understand this. There is just too much to do and no time to do it! We have appointments at a certain time, and we have to be at work at a certain time; there is school at a certain time and practice at a certain time; from funerals to weddings, to our worship service, they all are at a certain time. We talk about how time sure files, and ask, “Where did the time go?” We talk about running out of time and wishing we had more time, but we face the sobering truth that once time has passed we cannot get more time.
The Bible has a lot to say about time. It is mentioned over 700 times in the Bible. We are reminded of some examples, such as Felix who said that he would hear the Apostle Paul concerning the judgment at a “more convenient time” (Acts 24:25). Jesus came to earth in the fullness of time.” (Gal. 4:4).
Psalm 90:12 tells us to number our days. It's not about math problem, determining how old we are, rather it is a way of establishing in each of us the proper attitude we should have towards life. So how can we number our days? How can we keep a proper attitude about time?
1. Value the Time We're Given. The time we have comes from the Lord (Psalm 118:24; Acts 17:24-26). The time we have is short (Jas. 4:14; Job 14:2; Ps. 144:4). Life is limited. Even those who are "older" and have lived for many years, one of the things they say is how fast the years have flown. It's true! Life doesn't last long. In Matt. 6:34 Jesus reminds us how precious every day is, and how important it is to live for each day. There's a quote which says, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that's why they call it the present."
Value the time you're in. It may not be the most enjoyable. You may wish you were out of school, or had a better job, or lived in a better place, but slow down and enjoy where you are at. The time of the life you are in now, you'll never be there again. You'll only be young once. Your kids will only be young once. There are some things in life you'll only be able to do for a short time. Once it is gone, it is gone. We think of the song "Cats in the Cradle" about the father who made no time for his son, and looked back on it with regret. Time is valuable and precious - treat it as such.
2. Make the Most of Your Time. Paul reminds us in Eph. 5:15-16 to make the most of the time we're given. Since we are only given so much time, we need to be good stewards of the time God has given us, and use that time wisely. Time killers like procrastination, disorganization, or maybe just too many demands, cause us to waste our time, often on things that truly don't matter.
How can I make the most of my time?
- Make time for God - Acts 24:25 - "I'll find time..". You don't find time for God. You MAKE time for God. We don't try to squeeze God into a busy schedule. In everything I do God comes first, and I will set aside time today for God - talking with Him, listening to Him through reading His Word, etc.
- Priorities - putting first things first. God comes first in my life. My family takes second place - building up and caring for my mate and my children. My brethren come third - spending time with them, encouraging and supporting them. All else comes after these important pillars in my life.
- Organization - the better organized we are the better we'll be able to use our time. How often are we scattered, or scattered in our thoughts because we are not organized? How much time do we spend looking for things because we are not organized?
- Set Good Goals - Jesus taught on counting the cost - Luke 14:27-29 - counting the cost involves thinking something through, planning, getting prepared. These are good ways to use our time - give yourself something to work towards
Do you see the principle? There are a lot of things that can steal away our time. Yet I must be reminded that there are some things in this life I must give my time to. It is never a waste of time to build a closer bond with my family. It is never a waste of time to read the Bible. It is not wrong to take leisure and rest, but we must not let it consume us and steal the hours, months, years of our life away.
We sing the song, "When the Roll is Called up Yonder." There's a phrase in that song which goes, "When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more." There will come a time in which there will be no more time. We'll dwell in eternity. What a beautiful thought - I get to enjoy the riches of heaven, the company of faithful people through time, surrounded by loved ones who have gone on to be with the Lord, living with my Jesus - all of which will never come to an end, because time shall be no more. How are you using your time? You have time today, how will you use it? These are great things to think about!
There has been a lot of discussion recently over life after death. The movie "Left Behind" has stirred up some of that thinking. In today's "10 Things" blog, let's consider "10 Things About the Resurrection."
1. The Word Resurrection means "A raising up, or rising" (Vines). The American Heritage defines resurrection as, "to bring back to life, raise from the dead."
2. Resurrection is the reunion of body and spirit. If death is the separation of body and spirit (Jas. 2:26), life then would be the union of body and spirit. Resurrection, the return to life, would be the reunion of body and spirit.
3. Resurrection is not the same as reincarnation. Reincarnation is the idea that after a person dies, their soul takes on new physical forms. There is no Biblical support for this teaching, that we would be reincarnated, taking the form of some being.
4. Not everyone believed in the resurrection. The Sadducees said there was no resurrection (Matt. 22:23; Acts 23:8). Paul encountered some who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 17:32; Acts 26:8). There were some in Corinth who were struggling with this belief (1 Cor. 15:12-19)
5. Old Testament faithfuls believed in the resurrection. Abraham believed in resurrection (Hebrews 11:19). Job believed in resurrection (Job 19:25-26)
6. There were some who were raised back to life before Jesus' resurrection. In Luke 7:11-17 Jesus raised a young man in Nain. In Matthew 9:24-25 Jesus raised the synagogue official's daughter. In John 11:43-44 Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
6. Jesus rose from the dead, the first fruit (1 Cor. 15:20). Jesus' resurrection declares that He is the Son of God (Rom. 1:4) Through His resurrection we have a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). Paul used a phrase similar to "first fruits" in Col. 1:18, saying that Jesus was the "first born of the dead." First fruits comes from the language of Lev. 23:10. Before the Israelites would harvest their crops they would bring a representative sample called the 1st fruits to the priest as an offering to the Lord. The full harvest could not be made until the first fruits were offered. The point Paul is making is that Christ' resurrection was the first fruits of those who will rise from the dead. They will rise to a resurrection of Christ, never to die again. All those who had risen before Jesus' resurrection all died again. Jesus rose never to die again (Rom. 6:9). Through Jesus, we who belong to Him will receive eternal life, never to die again (1 Cor. 15:22).
7. This resurrection is to occur at Jesus' coming (1 Corinthians 15:23-24)
8. Our bodies will be raised and changed. Jesus said all that are in the tombs will rise (John 5:27-28). What do we put in the tombs? Our bodies! They will not remain as they are sown. They are sown weak, sick, injured, etc. They will be transformed in the resurrection. They were sown perishable but will be raised imperishable (1 Cor. 15:42). They were sown in dishonor but will be raised in glory (1 Cor. 15:43). They were sown in weakness but will be raised in power (1 Cor. 15:43). There were sown natural but will be raised spiritual (1 Cor. 15:44). Spiritual doesn't mean ghost like. Paul used the term "earthy" to describe what is from earth (1 Cor. 15:47). It is flesh and blood (1 Cor. 15:50). The new transformed body will not be as this body is. It will not be from earth, but from heaven, and will thus bear the image of heaven (1 Cor. 15:48-49). Just as Adam was the first man, from earth, and we are like him - flesh and blood, so Christ is the second man, from heaven, and we will be like Him, gloried, bearing the image of heaven (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2). It will be a body suited for heaven/eternity. It will be a body that will last for all time - one that will not perish, and will not decay.
9. This transformation will happen to the living and the dead. The dead will rise changed (1 Cor. 15:52). Those who are alive will be changed in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:51-52).
10. There is a lot we cannot know. We have lots of questions about the resurrection. What will we look like? Will we recognize one another? How fast will it all take place? Truth is, we don't know. We know what God has revealed to us (Deut. 29:29). The secret things belong to God, and it's simply not our place to try and teach or explain them. We need to focus on what has been revealed.
Paul ended 1 Corinthians 15, the chapter on the resurrection, by encouraging the brethren to be faithful and active in good works. That ought to be our mindset. Jesus is coming. That day will come. Until then, we must be faithful and true, busy in the Lord's word, patiently awaiting the day our Lord will return, and we will rise to be with Him always.
We sing the song, "O to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer, this is my constant longing and prayer." What a wonderful thought - what if we could be like Jesus? What if we could see the Bible how Jesus sees His Word: perfect, holy, pure, powerful. What if we could see ourselves as Jesus sees us: sometimes we think we're doing well when we need to be doing better. Sometimes we think there's nothing good to us, when God sees so much value and worth.
I believe one of our struggles is seeing the lost as Jesus sees them. At times, our perspective towards those who are not Christians doesn't always match that of what we see in Jesus. So how did Jesus see the lost? Here are a few examples:
- John 4 - there was a woman at a well in Samaria. She has had multiple marriages, 5 to be exact, and is not married to the man she is currently living with. To us we see trouble, someone not worth our time, but Jesus saw her as a woman in need of hearing and healing - He offered to her the living water.
- John 8 - the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery. We infer from the context that they were involved in setting up her sin. They saw this woman as nothing more than means to an end, a way of trapping Jesus. They led her into sin and were more than willing to stone her, if it meant catching Jesus. They used her, saw her as nothing, but Jesus saw her as something special. He was merciful and forgave her.
- John 9 - Jesus and His disciples come upon a blind man. The disciples only saw a sinner, but Jesus saw a man in need of healing, inside and out.
- Luke 19 - Jesus was in Jericho and sees a professional sinner - a tax collector. Everyone hated them. They were known for being dishonest cheats, but here Jesus invites Himself to the home of Zaccheus.
- Luke 7 - Jesus is invited to Simon the Pharisee's house. While there a sinful woman came and washed Jesus' feet with perfume and her tears. Simon seemed appalled that Jesus would let her do this, but Jesus shows this woman grace.
What do you see in the heart of Jesus? How did Jesus see the lost?
He Saw Valuable People in Need of God
What kind of people did Jesus spend His time with? Religious people? Yes. Honest and holy people? Yes. But that's not all. Jesus spent time with those whose lives were a real mess; people who struggled with sin and temptation. Jesus spent time with drunkards, gluttons, tax collectors, adulterers. This bothered the Pharisees (Matt. 9:11-12).
Sometimes we can struggle with who we are to share the gospel with. Without really thinking we can find ourselves profiling the people we think are good candidates for Bible study. So we come across someone with multiple marriages or divorces, or maybe they've spent time in prison, maybe they have tattoos on their arms and smoke on their breath and we think - they are a mess, not what we're looking for. Surely they wouldn't be interested in a Bible study, so why ask?
Those very kinds of people made up the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 6:9-11). "Such were some of you..". They once were sinful, disobedient, but they left their sins and found forgiveness in God. God sees all people as valuable. He made us for better things than we often allow ourselves to fall into. What this means is that every person, no matter from what background, or what condition of life, can find forgiveness for their sins. All people are in need of the grace of God, the blood of Jesus. Don't they need to hear it? Don't they need to hear that there is hope for them, even in a life full of failures? Don't they need to hear that there's a second chance even for those who've wrecked their lives? They need to know God hasn't given up on them. He is willing to extend forgiveness to those who are willing to trust and obey Him.
He Saw the Lost with Compassion
Notice Matt. 14:14; Matt. 15:32; Matt. 9:36
Something we notice from the gospels is that people couldn't stay away from Jesus. Sometimes it was for what He would do for them. His enemies wanted to hear what He had to say, hoping to catch Him in a snare. But it is also clear just how much Jesus loved people, and showed that compassion to them.
I've read it before, that the lowly sinful people who flocked to Jesus while on earth no longer feel welcome among His people. It is clear that we as Christians are opposed to sin (1 Thess. 5:22), but could it be that in our opposition to sin we have gained an opposition to sinners? Certainly we persuade men through the terror of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:16), but also through the kindness of God (Rom. 2:4). How can we expect to reach the lost, to lead them to repentance, if they do not see any love or kindness from us? Remember, the word gospel means "good news." It is good news because God hasn't given up on man. Do they need to know about sin? Absolutely. But why only present the severity of God without sharing the kindness, the gracious goodness of God?
A compassionate heart will change the way we see the lost, and reach out to them. When you look at the example of Paul in Romans 9:1-5, and Moses in Exodus 32:31-32, the sobering question we must ask is, "Do I have that same kind of loving concern for my fellow man?
He Saw the Fields Were Ripe for Harvesting
John 4:35, John 9:4
So often we say, "No one is interested, no one wants to study..." This is not the truth. People are interested. People want to learn and know more. It could be they just don't know where to look, where to begin, and perhaps we don't know how to ask. We can look at seeking and saving the lost as self preservation - because God has commanded me to, out of duty. Or we share the gospel out of love for my fellow man, the precious souls made in God's image, and I want them to be saved.
O to be like Thee - o to be like Jesus, to see and seek the lost like our Lord.
I believe everyone loves a good love story. This in part comes from our longing to be loved. Well one of the greatest love stories ever to be told is found in the small book of Ruth. Here are 10 things to consider about the book of Ruth:
1. The events of Ruth take place during the time of the Judges (Ruth 1:1). As the book of Judges ends, the nation is left in calamity. It is said that there was no king in Israel, thus every man did what was right in his own eyes (Jud. 21:25). Not only was there a lack of leadership (and following God as their king), but there was also a famine (Ruth 1:1). This is why Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons venture to the land of Moab. This is where we find Ruth!
2. The Name of Ruth. Ruth marries Naomi's son Mahlon. Ruth was a Moabite. Her name means, "something worth seeing; a female friend." Certainly those descriptions fit the woman described in this book. In the first chapter of Ruth, Naomi's husband and two sons die, leaving three women widowed. In Naomi's circumstance, she's far from home, no children to take care of her, none of her people around her to provide from her. She was desperate. She decides to return to the land of her people and sends her two daughters-in-law back home. However Ruth clings to her, and in beautiful loving language expresses her commitment to Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17). Even though Ruth had every right to return home, she chose to take care of her mother-in-law. That is love. That is commitment.
3. The Levirite Vow. Under the law of Moses there was a vow that existed (Deuteronomy 25:5), that if a man dies, his brother is to marry his deceased brother's wife and have a child with her, and name that child after the deceased brother. Not only was the wife to be redeemed, but also the land owned by the deceased brother. They were to keep the land within the family. This is why Naomi sought to send her daughers-in-law home. She could not fulfill this duty. She didn't have any more sons for them to marry.
4. Goel. The word "goel" means to "rescue or redeem, to purchase or buy back." This was a person who was able to redeem something such as land, a slave, or a widow. The English word corresponding to "goel" is, "kinsman redeemer." There were 3 qualifications for one to be a "goel":
- A Near Kinsman (Lev. 25:25): he had to be close in relation to the one for whom he was going to redeem
- Able to Redeem: he had to be able to pay the redemptive price
- Willing to Redeem: the person had to want to redeem. The nearest kinsman could easily refuse to rescue the land or widow if he wanted to.
5. Boaz. Ruth heads to the fields to glean for her and Naomi. She gleans in the fields of a man named Boaz. He had heard about what Ruth had done for Naomi (Ruth 2:11-12). Thus Boaz is very generous, feeds Ruth a good meal, and ensures she goes home with plenty. When Naomi hears about Boaz she becomes excited. Boaz is a close relative (Ruth 2:20). He is not a Levir, not one of Naomi's sons, so he was not obligated by the law to rescue or redeem Naomi and Ruth. But he is a goel. He is a near kinsman who (if he chose to) could be their redeemer.
6. Ruth proposes. Ruth goes to Boaz at night and makes a great proposal, a marriage proposal. She asks Boaz to redeem her (Ruth 3:9). "Spread your cloak", cover me, protect me, rescue me!
7. The closer relative. According to the law, the closest relative to the "deceased" gets first dibs on what was left behind. Boaz was not the closest. There was one man ahead of him. Boaz meets with the man and the elders of the city and discussed what was left by Elimelech. The man wants the land, but when he hears about Ruth, he refuses. Boaz then accepts the role of redeemer, purchases the land, and marries Ruth. The two widows are now taken care of and provided for.
8. Obed. Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed. Obed was the grandfather of David. So through Ruth, this Moabite widow, would come the Christ into the world.
9. We are Ruth. Can you see yourself in this story? This is not just about Ruth and Naomi. This is a story of redemption. We are Ruth. We are strangers, poor, needy, seeking life and provision. The only differences is that we are not seeking food and money. We are starved spiritually. And where Ruth was a woman of character and excellence, we were not. We've been selfish, rude, cruel. We are sinners, suffering the pangs of sin (Romans 6:23). We are poor, suffering from spiritual bankruptcy, in desperate need of a Savior, and redeemer, though we certainly don't deserve one. We are Ruth.
10. Jesus is Boaz. Boaz was the kinsman redeemer. He was the one who could rescue, redeem, and purchase back. Remember the 3 qualifications to be a goel:
- A Near Kinsman: Jesus became related to us in that He became just as we are. Jesus came to earth in flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14-17)
- Able to Redeem: only the blood of Jesus could cleanse us of our sins, redeeming us from their bondage (1 Peter 1:18-19; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12)
- Willing to Redeem: redemption does not grow out of law but out of love. Boaz was not obligated to marry Ruth, to provide for her and Naomi. It would cost him of his wealth, possessions, time, and life. He didn't do so because he had to. He did so because of love. He loved Ruth. Jesus died upon the cross willingly (John 10:18). Jesus sacrificed for us (2 Corinthians 8:9). The motive for Christ's sacrifice was love (1 John 3:16)
This truly is a love story. It is the greatest love story ever told. It is the story of the cross. It is the story of a God who desires to redeem and rescue His people.
The college years are an exciting time in one's life. Many of our young people are away from home for the first time. It is here many meet their life long friends, or the person they will marry. It is during this time that habits are formed, or enforced, that will remain with them for years to come. When it comes to a young Christian, wanting to grow in their relationship with the Lord, what are the next steps they can take? What are the next steps of spiritual growth, for a college student? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Take Time to Reinforce Your Faith - what you believe will be tested when you step into your University class room. Things that you were taught like the Bible being God's words, or that God exists and created the world, will be dismissed, even ridiculed at times. Don't let that shake you. Reinforce what you believe by setting aside time to study the Bible (2 Timothy 3:14-15; Romans 10:17). This would be a great time, if you haven't done so yet, to open a Bible and determine why you believe what you believe. What do you believe about Jesus, and why (based on what passages)? What do you believe about salvation? What do you believe about the church? Or worship? Or heaven? Build up your own faith by studying for the answers.
2. Get Active in a Local Church - you might feel the tendency to just be a "floater" in college. This means you attend some at one congregation, and some at another, never fully committing to one group. While this is a way to meet a lot of people, there is also the blessing of using your talents to help a congregation in the work of the Lord. Find a group that you believe will not only help you grow closer to God, but one that you believe would allow you to join in the work. Then, get active! Ask to teach a children's Bible class. Lead in worship. Get to know some of the older members, and go visit those who are in hospitals or shut in. Start up a devotional/study group in your dorm or apartment. The zeal and energy you bring to a congregation can spread, helping others ignite in their passion to honor God.
3. Keep Pure - Paul warns Timothy that there are particular sins that affect us when we are young. Sexual sins are one of those (2 Timothy 2:22). Be very careful. The snare of pornography is rampant among young college students. Don't even give it a chance. Be wise in your time on the internet. Set up a blocker to keep you from inappropriate sites. If you start dating, seek to have a relationship that would honor God. Have fun without forsaking your purity. Get to know the person. Go putt-putting. Hang out with friends. Visit local museums. Enjoy time together in ways that would not dishonor God. Set up limits, clear boundaries that you will not cross, and express those clearly before you commit to this person in dating. Fornication is not an option (Hebrews 13:4). Realizing this means that you'll take the necessary steps to not even get close to this snare. Don't be in situations where you're alone at someone's house, in the dark. Don't push the boundaries of "how far we can go" with your physical intimacy. Keep pure! Set clear boundaries and stick to them! This might sound like an extreme suggestion, but Solomon reminds us that wisdom looks for and anticipates danger and avoids is, while the fool rushes in and is punished (Proverbs 22:3). Just remember who you are - you are a child of God, redeemed by the blood of the lamb. You are valuable to God. Let that wonderful thought direct your steps: God loves me, how can I show I love Him through my choices (1 John 5:3)
4. Build Good Habits - lots of bad habits can be formed at college - laziness, rudeness, carelessness and recklessness. Work hard. Be honest. Read your Bible - daily. Pray - daily. Don't just look out for yourself - care for others. Build friendships. Influence from peers is strong in college, but don't dismiss what influence you can have as one who lives for Christ. Your peers may be looking for help. They may be wondering about life, death, and why we're here. They may be thinking about God. They may be wanting to know if anyone cares for them. Be an influence! Don't be ashamed of what you believe (Romans 1:16). Don't be afraid to pray in public. Don't be afraid to tell others what you're doing on Wednesday night. Don't be afraid to ask your roommates to come to a devotional or Bible study. Your influence might make the difference between rather or not a soul comes to Jesus. So, shine on! (Matthew 5:16)
Yes, this is a new chapter in your life. It is exciting! Yes, you are young. That's no excuse for sin, nor is it an excuse for not living each day for Jesus. God has expectations for you while you're young. He's used young people before (David, Joseph, Daniel - just to name a few). Yes, being a godly college student can be difficult. You might feel alone at times. Remember, you are never alone (Hebrews 13:5). Yes, for many of you this is your one opportunity to be a college student - so use this time well. You have your peers all around you. You have the opportunity to be an influence to them. You may not ever have an opportunity like this again. Make your college years a time when you learned a lot, gained many great friends, and most importantly grew deeper and closer to God than ever before!
Have you been a Christian for many years? If so, the question you must consider is how do I continue to grow and mature?
1 Thessalonians 4:1 - Paul urged the brethren to "excel still more."
2 Peter 1:5-8 - Peter uses the word, "add" in regards to a Christian's faith and characteristics.
These passages remind us that where we are is not the end. We have more growing to do. We have more to learn, more to develop, more to accomplish. The question is, how? What are the next steps a mature Christian can take to continue growing? Here are a few suggestions:
Get Into the Meat of the Word: take the time to dig deep in Bible study. The Hebrew writer rebuked the Christians he wrote to because they continued to study and focus on the elementary, fundamental parts of the Bible (Hebrews 6:1-3). Instead of reading the same books, or considering the same thoughts, why not challenge yourself in a deeper, more complex study of the Bible. Here are some ideas if you need some:
- How does the Bible fit together? (Consider themes, shadows, types and prophecy)
- Give a summary of the 66 books
- The Holy Spirit
- Understand concepts like atonement, redemption, propitiation, law and grace, etc.
- Consider what questions you have, that you don't know the answer to, and then diligently search/study for the answer.
Don't just keep reading the same things over and over again. Dig deep into the meat of the Word!
Pray Big Prayers: As you grow in your faith, so too will your understanding of God. This will become evident in your prayers. The more you come to know about God, the greater, and more frequent, your prayers should be. Jesus was frequent in prayer, often going off by Himself to talk with His Father (Mark 1:35; 6:46). So gage yourself as to how often you pray, and try to pray more frequently. Take time to separate yourself from all people, and all distractions, and open up in prayer to God. Also, pray BIG prayers. Ephesians 3:20-21 reminds us that God can do beyond what we ask or think. Often times I believe we settle for less in our prayers to God. Perhaps the reason more isn't accomplished is simply because we haven't asked God. Pray for the sick (specifically) to be healed. Pray for the lost (specifically) to be restored. Pray for your congregation. Pray for spiritual growth. Pray for more souls to be reached. Pray for open doors and opportunities for your congregation, and that you have the strength and courage to make the most of each opportunity. Pray for your mate, that they grow spiritually, and that they have a great week of faithful devotion to God. Pray for your children, that they continue to grow spiritually, that they overcome temptation and are bright lights shining the example of Christ for their peers. Pray for your city, that peace may come and that hearts will be receptive for the gospel. Pray for your country, that Christians meeting will continue to do so with faithfulness, and that God would give them open doors. Pray for the leaders of this country, that they lead with wisdom and truth. Pray for those suffering in our world, that their pain will end. Pray for Christians around the world, that they remain faithful, even in hardships, and that their trials be few. Do you see? It's much more than thanking God for our food. Pray often, but pray BIG!
Take On a More Active Role in the Church: You've grown, as a Christian. You're not new to God, the Bible, or the church. You've read, studied, learned, and experienced much in life. Share that in your service to the church. Teach more. Mentor those who are coming along (Titus 2:3-5). Start up devotional or Bible studies in your home. Become a deacon or elder. Your role in the church should not diminish as you grow, rather it should become stronger and greater. You can be seen as one who others go to for spiritual advice, questions, or help. Let your work grow in the church.
Seek More Opportunities to Influence the Lost: By now you know the gospel. You know what one must do to be saved. You know why Jesus came to earth. You've heard those sermons countless times. Use what you've learned to reach the lost. Start up Bible studies. Invite them to services. Your role in service to the world should not diminish but grow as your faith grows.
Is this all you can do? No. But it ought to give you a starting place. Don't just settle for the status quo. Don't just do the same things year after year. As the quote goes: "If you always do what you've always done, you always get what you always got." Grow. Add to that faith. Build new habits. Yes you might be a veteran Christian, one for 20+ years. Keep on! Use the time and opportunities God has given you to build a deeper, richer, stronger faith than what you have now. Use what you've learned and experienced for another's well being. Teach the lost. Serve the needy. Encourage the saints. Teach Bible class. Build up your family. Keep on pressing on toward the goal! (Philippians 3:14)
Next steps are important. They imply that there is more to your life - that where you are is not the finished product. Even if you've been a Christian for decades, there is more God expects of you in terms of development and growth, in becoming more like Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:1). Next steps also implies that the "goal" of growth and maturity is not something that is achieved instantly. It is a process made up of steps. One step after another, each heading in the same direction, towards the same goal of Spiritual growth and a richer, deeper, closer relationship with God.
Today let's consider what the next steps for a new Christian would be. Perhaps you're a new Christian. Its an exciting time! You've made the greatest decision of your life. You've left sin behind, they are washed away in baptism (Acts 22:16, Romans 6:3-4), and now you are a child of God. You might be thinking, what now? It might be overwhelming at first. This might be a whole new experience - the church, the Bible, worship, fellowship: it's a lot to take in!
Matthew 28:19-20 reminds us that baptism is simply the beginning of a journey with Christ. Jesus expected His disciples to "observe all that I commanded you." That is, that His disciples obey His commandments. This simply means that there's more to learn, understand about the Bible, and what God expects from His people. The Bible uses the word "babe" to describe a new Christian. Just as a baby begins on milk before he is able to eat and digest solid food, a new Christian has a lot to learn, and needs to begin with fundamental principles of the Bible before trying to take on deeper, more difficult subjects and passages. Notice 1 Peter 2:2; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:14-6:1
Don't be discouraged by the word "babe in Christ" or "milk of the Word." Everyone has to begin somewhere. That's the point of those passages. A new disciple is just starting out. There are some important fundamental principles in the Bible they need to know to help strengthen and build their faith (Romans 1:17, 2 Timothy 3:14-15). Growth and maturity will come in time as that new disciple continues in their study and application of the Bible.
What are some Bible fundamentals that are good for a new disciple to study? There are many, but here's a few to consider:
- The Bible: how we know it is the actual words of God; the big picture (what is the Bible all about)
- Who is Jesus: why did He come to earth, why we believe He is the Son of God
- The church: What is it? What is its purpose? What is my role in the church? How is the church to worship?
- Daily Life: what does God expect of me (sin and temptation, using time and talents for His glory, my relationship with others, etc.)?
- Bible authority: what is authority? How is it established? Why is it important?
- Life after death: what happens when I die? What is the hope of a Christian?
It is not only important to study the Bible, and to build your faith on the rock, the firm foundation of Christ's words (Matthew 7:24-27), but it is also important, as a new disciple, to establish good habits. In Acts 2:42 the new disciples were devoted to the Apostle's teaching, fellowship, worship, and prayer. They didn't just quit on God after being baptized. They didn't just go back to their old way of living with the old habits and old routines. They built new, soul strengthening habits. They were determined to keep the momentum going.
For you, as a new disciple, here are four habits to develop that will help strengthen your relationship with God - they will help your spiritual momentum continue:
- Read your Bible every day (Psalm 1:1-3)
- Pray everyday (Luke 18:1)
- Come to every service/study offered (Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 10:24, 33)
- Spend time with Christians (Hebrews 3:13, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Proverbs 27:17)
These four habits are not the only things that will help you draw closer to God, but they are excellent suggestions that can help build a strong foundation of faith and love for God and His people.
One quick word to those who have been Christians for some time: new disciples need you. Baptism is not the end, yet often times that is where our work ends. We lead them to Christ and then let them fend for themselves as we look for more lost souls. Jesus was tempted for 40 days after His baptism (Matthew 4:1-2). We must expect that Satan will try just as fervently to cause new Christians to stumble today.
Just remember to be patient, be loving, and be there. Set up studies with different members of the congregation so they can meet everyone. Invite them to your home. Ask if they have any questions. Take them to area gospel meetings with you. Don't abandon your new brother or sister in Christ, leaving them to try and grow and mature on their own. Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 to help the weak. Build them up. Create a legacy. Because of your efforts, this new disciple could become the strong Christian who helps new disciples grow in the years to come.
There is a Bible teaching I believe most everyone is familiar with - God wants us to grow. God wants us to pursue a deeper, richer, stronger faith and devotion to Him. This is taught throughout the NT (2 Pet. 3:18; 2 Pet. 1:5-8; 1 Thess. 4:1, 10; 1 Tim. 4:15)
Often times we see where God wants us to be (the goal of strength and growth), but the problem is how do I get here from there. We know God wants us to grow, but how do I go about putting that in motion? What steps do I take to reach a higher, stronger, deeper place in my walk with God? So many times we become frustrated not knowing what to do. We know God expects us to grow and mature, but don't know how, and because of this we often stay the same year after year, not growing, not changing, not developing. Hebrews 5:11-6:1 illustrates the danger of not growing and maturing - that not only does it affect you, but it also affects the church.
Knowing where to begin and what steps to take next are very important. Think of the "couch to 5k" program. It starts you out with the assumption that you are not exercising (couch), and sets the goal of being able to run 3 miles. What makes this successful is that the first day of training isn't going out and running 3 miles. Most people would drop out and quit if that were the case. Instead, it sets up a day by day training plan that is tailored for someone who is not exercising to begin doing so with success. It starts small and adds more and more each day. The well planned out "step by step" training of this program makes it effective - the daunting goal of 3 miles becomes a much more reachable reality when you see the steps necessary to get you there.
Jesus gave people the next steps. In Luke 10:36-37, after teaching on how to love your neighbor, Jesus gives them the application (go and do). In Mark 5:18-20 Jesus told the man freed from demons to go and tell his people what the Lord had done. Jesus healed Him, and told Him what to do next. Matt. 19:21-22 the rich young ruler sought for eternal life and had kept the commandments. Jesus told him what to do next, but this young man left, unwilling to put Jesus before his wealth. What you see in these passages is the example of Jesus giving the instruction of what the people were to do next.
There are 2 important principles to consider when planning out your next steps:
1. Determine Where You Are
In order to know what steps you need to take to grow, you need to know where you're at. Here are 5 questions to help you determine where you are:
- How long have you been a Christian?
- How are your habits (reading the Bible, praying, private devotion to God)?
- How is your knowledge of the Bible?
- How is your role in the church?
- How's your fruit - obedience to God, keeping from sin, service to others, seeking the lost, etc. ?
Paul reminds us to test ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5). Finding out where you are now is the same as determining your starting point. Goals are built and determined based upon our starting point (where we are). Be honest. Use the Scripture as the mirror to your heart (Jas. 1:23-24), and see where you are.
2. There's No One Size Fits All for Spiritual Growth
In a study like this we might be tempted to settle for generic, broad answers for what we can do to grow spiritually. We might say, "read your Bible, pray, come to services, etc.". The problem with this approach is that we are all different, and are at different places in our walk with the Lord. What will help us grow, where we are, may not be what will help others. What we need is not a generic answer. We need a specific plan.
What if on the 5k program on day 1 it said, "Run"? We'd be left to wonder, "how far" or "how fast"? Specific instructions are needed for the program to be a success.
Think of this from the perspective of sheep (Ps. 100:3). You wouldn't care for sheep all the same. The needs of a new born lamb are different from an adult sheep. Their feeding and need for attention will be different. The care of sick or lame sheep are different than those of a healthy sheep.
This is the same with us - we are at different places in our walk with the Lord. The next steps for growth are different for a babe in Christ than for a mature Christian (1 Cor. 3:2). A young Christian is at a different stage in life than an older Christian (2 Tim. 2:22; Tit. 2:2-8). Our next steps need to be specific to us, where we are and what we need.
Recognize that God expects me to grow. It doesn't matter if I've been a Christian all my life - there is still more I can learn, become, develop, strengthen, etc. Maybe you're reading this and realizing that you need to be growing, but haven't been. Don't give up. Don't quit. Determine where you are (find your starting place), and plot out your next steps to growth (daily steps closer to God). Growth, maturity, and strength don't come overnight. It is something that is done step by step. Sit down today and plot out your next steps of growth!
"Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen and blue and purpose and scarlet material; you shall make them with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall have the same measurements....You shall make fifty loops in the one curtain, and you shall make fifty loops on the the edge of the curtain that is in the second set; the loops shall be opposite of each other." Exodus 26:1-2, 5
In this section of Exodus, God is describing to Moses how the Tabernacle is to be built. Do you notice how descriptive God's instructions are? From the color to the size, to the number of loops and number of clasps (v.6), to the kind of material used - God was very specific!
Now ask yourself something - did it really matter if they made 50 loops? What if they left one off and only had 49? What if they made a few extra, just out of precaution, like 52? What about the color, did it matter if they made the linen in blue and purple? What if they made it in deep red and green? Depending on the shade they can look like blue and purple.
God answers whether or not these details were important in Exodus 26:30 - "build according to its pattern" (NKJV). He says the same thing in Exodus 25:9 - "according to the pattern." As for the pieces that were to go into the Tabernacle (the table, the lamp, the alter for incense), they were to make these pieces, "according to the pattern" (Exodus 25:40).
Do you see the theme? It matters to God. It matters what He has said in His Word. What this ought to remind all of us is that it matters to God what you believe, how you obey Him, and how you worship Him. If the little details like the rings on a curtain matter to God, so too do the rest of the words and details He has given to us.
"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." Deuteronomy 29:29
"He has told you, o man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" Micah 6:8
You have a responsibility with the words revealed in the Scriptures. It matters to God what you believe, how you live. It is your responsibility not only to know the truth (John 17:17; Psalm 119:160; Acts 17:11), and to live the truth (James 1:21-25), but also to defend the truth (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3). Just like with Moses and the Tabernacle, God has given you a pattern to follow through His words (Philippians 4:9; Colossians 3:17). Does it matter what you believe? Does it matter how I worship? Does it matter what I do in my free time - what words I speak or thoughts I think? What does the Bible say? Look to God's Words. The specific details regarding the Tabernacle remind us that God is specific and expects our diligent obedience to the words He's delivered to us. So be diligent to construct your life after the pattern found in the Bible.