“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” ~ I Peter 2:1-3
It matters not how long and to what depth you have been a believer in Christ for these ideals to apply. From the individual who has spent their whole life living for God to someone who has just begun their spiritual walk we are the same in that we must be fed to grow in our salvation. What we need as this scripture relates is pure spiritual milk that is of the Lord in order to grow. Like a newborn we will not see growth without this milk.
This passage also makes a point to list those negative behaviors that we should all strive to rid ourselves of in order to grow in this manner. It would be difficult and problematic at best if we were to try to grow in the Lord while maintaining traits such as malice, deceit, hypocrisy or envy. As it would seem, when this happens we are not only hindering our walk with Christ we are also portraying a very poor image of what Christ is to the world around us. Basically stated milk that is impure does not allow the newborn or the believer to grow.
As in so much this situation presents a choice. Do we choose the behaviors we know to be wrong and sinful in nature or do we choose what we know to be good and of the Lord? The answer reminds me of a familiar story and that is the Cherokee legend of the two wolves. It basically states that there are two wolves fighting within us. One is evil and exudes anger, jealousy, envy etc. The other is good and embodies joy, peace, love and hope. When asked which wolf wins the fight the answer is: the one you feed.
To grow, we must seek what is good spiritually and be obedient. We do this by seeking pure spiritual milk and seeking the Lord. Finally we grow by avoiding these negative behaviors and feeding those that are pure and good. As time goes by in this obedience to good we will see that wolf win.
~ Kenny Stahl
Photocredit: Josh Felise
Apparently, I’m not a very good listener.
At the beginning of the year, instead of a new year’s resolution, I prayed for God to give me one word to guide me throughout this year. After days of prayer, my word was clearly…REST.
Ok, sure God. I have a husband, triplets, a foreign exchange student, and a full-time job—I’ll work in some rest when I have time.
March came along and I found out that I needed major ankle/foot surgery. I would be forced to “rest” for three weeks until I could go back to work. During the rest time in April, I was able to make serious progress with the prayer journal, which enabled it to be published in June.
I didn’t choose rest, so God chose it for me.
Summer consisted of a cruise, church camp, family vacation to Universal Studios, my parents moving to town, all topped off by a few weekend trips.
No rest there.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about rest once school starts, because it just doesn’t happen! Sports practices, school work, packing lunches, piano practice….The whirlwind of life just continues to gain momentum.
And the very thing that happens after this much going, happened last weekend. I crashed. I crashed hard.
Friday I could barely keep my eyes open to function.
Saturday we practiced golf with the kids and I could barely swing a club.
I cried over stupid stuff.
When I woke up Sunday morning, I knew my body couldn’t do another day. My husband had been fighting a sinus infection for weeks, and I think he hit bottom too.
“I don’t think I can go to church…” I started. Before I could finish my sentence, he responded, “We need to stay home.” We both fell back to sleep.
I fixed our family a big breakfast, ate, and went back to sleep again. I thanked God when our church leadership meeting was cancelled, because I was still in bed. We would get up to eat, then fall back asleep. I did manage to squeeze in a few loads of laundry, and talk to the kids.
You know, it’s okay for you you to do too…sometimes you just don’t have to get up. Sometimes it’s okay to not leave the house. Sometimes you need to stay in your pajamas for the whole day. Some days the kids will survive on sandwiches and cereal for a whole day. Or peanut butter crackers. Or fruit bars.
The real problem is we just don’t rest enough. Even God rested after creating our universe!
Exodus 20:8-10 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, not any foreigner residing in your towns.”
Exodus 23:12, “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”
Many dismiss the idea of resting on the Sabbath as an “Old Testament command.” God continues to convict me of it, however. How much better off would we all be if we just took the time to rest and focus on Him?
The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is such a well know story that everyone knows what a “good Samaritan” is, or at least has their idea of what one is. The story has so much nuance in it that you can spend days studying it.
I think one thing that gets overlooked quite a bit is why Jesus tells it. A man asks Him, testing Him, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers his question with a question. “What does the law say?” The man quotes the law, and then asks Jesus to interpret the law.
We don’t know the man’s intentions, but if you know me, that doesn’t keep me from guessing. And given Jesus’ other interactions and the slightly confrontational nature of the exchange, I think there’s some good clues there. I believe the man had preconceived notions of who he wanted to be and what he wanted the scriptures to mean. He wanted to know that he could love some people and ignore or hate others. But the story Jesus told him gave him no out. Jesus picked someone the Jewish community viewed as a parasite to help the helpless man and said “go and do likewise.”
When we read the Word of God, what do we read? Are we made in the image of God or is do we construct Him into ours?
This week I urge you to read deeply into scriptures and parts of Jesus that make you uncomfortable. I encourage you to listen carefully when God speaks to you through those scriptures and it’s not quite what you thought he would say. I implore you to hear His voice when He says something that interrupts your view of who you thought He was. Most of all, enjoy the new revelations He gives you and the closeness you feel by knowing Him better and the mission He has for you.
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed…Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants…
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”
From Matthew 13: 3-4, 7 & 22 Parable of the Four Soils
(The parable of the four soils highlights the sewing of seed in 4 different places, I chose to focus on only one: the seed among the thorns.)
What happens in this scenario? What happens when someone has heard or understands the word and allows himself or herself to be distracted? The very thing that we are doing is taking our mind off of God and directing all of our attention to our situations in life. We completely lose focus and our priorities are thrown into total disarray.
The alarming part about this is that when this happens it’s to somebody that has heard the word and understands it. It can happen to the extent that you still hear from and agree with God, yet have intention of following and obeying him. We are giving lip service to our Lord by realizing and denouncing our own ways and still we do nothing to change the situation.
That could be so important in our own lives that we would jeopardize our relationship with the only one that grants us eternal life? When these choices are placed on a scale, what could possibly be worth this? How desirable do the “things” of this world look when you place them in this balance? To quote the old adage “what good is it if a man gain’s the world yet loses his soul in the process?”
Naturally, the answer is that nothing is as important as our relationship with Jesus. No amount of wealth, or anything else, will ever amount to what we have in Him. What we must do is to find a way to keep our focus on Him and not allow our minds to dwell elsewhere. We have to pray to Him earnestly when we feel our focus slipping (and at all other times). Finally, when we start recognizing this beginning to happen we must not dismiss the Word we hear from him. Instead, we have to use it to foster change in our thinking priorities. We must hold on to Him and hold on to His Word and the worries of light will soon be overtaken in the balance of our lives.
Photo Credit: Austin Ban
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.. ~Ephesians 5:4 ESV
All of my life, I’ve liked to joke around. I have told tons of jokes and my sense of humor is pretty dry. But, for some time now, I’ve been trying to catch myself with my “crude” joking. I don’t joke crudely on purpose. But, this particular scripture has been on my mind a lot because I believe the Holy Spirit is convicting me in this area. I need to remember that if I wouldn’t tell a joke or joke with my daughters with the joking I’m saying, I shouldn’t at all.
Crude joking can be hurtful to your friends, and others you may not even know (depending on where you are). Not only that, it can have a negative impact on your ministry. More than even that, you could be staining someone’s impression of who Christ is. As a believer, you’re representing HIS kingdom as an ambassador from there. Represent well.
Think About Your Words
When you’re with your friends and family, what type of voice do you use? Do you use words that are encouraging and uplifting or words that tear down and discourage? Does filthiness come from your mouth? Do you joke crudely?
What steps can you take to correct this? If you’re feeling the Holy Spirit convict you in this area, you should prayerfully consider asking Jesus to help you in this area of your walk with Him.
God bless you today!
Photograph by: Joshua Earle
You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. ~Micah 7:19
How difficult can it be for any one of us to not only forgive the transgressions of another but to also forget about them? Forgiveness itself can be problematic at best, let alone just forgetting the incident or wrongdoing ever took place. So often we all want to hold that grudge against another even after we have said we forgive. The difficulty to forgive and especially to move on is simply our human nature as usual.
However we are capable of achieving this based on one supreme reason: we are made in Christ’s image. Much like him we have the ability to have compassion towards others showing them tenderness and grace despite our will to seek revenge. We have the ability to show ourselves like Christ and to pardon the guilt thereby rendering sin powerless. Finally we can hurl all of these iniquities into the depths of the sea. Normally we would keep an account of things, a record of the ALL the wrongdoing done against us. This scripture quickly reminds us of what He does and therefore what we should do.
The only other thing I can say is that by no far stretch of the imagination is any one of us perfect. While we sit reading this and thinking about the sins we have personally forgiven and need to let go of we have to consider the opposite. We are hoping that others take this same stance towards us. We have all wronged somebody in our lives and so we are asking for the very same, and that is to have our sin forgiven and forgotten. We are asking Christ to do this and we are asking our fellow man to do this. I pray we can all take this path and save ourselves from the power of sin.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” ~ 2 Corinthians 13:5
How many of us really relish in the thought of taking a test or exam? How many of us look forward going to the doctor for a checkup? I know there are some people that probably aren’t as bothered by these notions while many of us would prefer to avoid them at all costs.
Whether it be a test we are required to score well on for a curriculum of some sort or a doctor’s visit that could yield good or bad results it all means the same thing….we either pass or in some way we fall short and possibly fail. In any case the obvious understanding is that nobody enjoys failure and certainly nobody wants to receive bad news. We all want to succeed in what we strive for and also live prosperous lives in every way possible. Whether it is academic accolades or a clean bill of health we all desire to achieve our goal or status.
So what about in our faith?
In this scripture, Paul is urging the church in Corinth to stop and examine themselves. He’s not doing this to get them to go for a doctor’s visit or get an A on their chemistry exam. He’s reminding them that if they genuinely have Christ in their hearts and are living for God and that they should take and pass that spiritual test.
I believe what he is also trying to say (and what we should all strive for) is to live in such a way that the presence of the Lord is apparent in our lives. If we’re not able to pass this test of faith then it could be a sign that instead of growing in Him we are growing away from Him. So, if we truly want to live for Christ we must periodically stop and analyze ourselves in regard to our faith. We must take the test…we must go for the check up…
~ Kenny Stahl
Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle
Have you ever read something in the Bible and felt like someone was looking into a crystal ball, and then writing about what our world looks like today?
Almost 2,000 years ago, Paul wrote amazing letters to young Timothy. As I read these words a few days ago, my heart ached because it was like I was watching a news story about what our world has become.
Listen to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
Ugh. It looks and sounds familiar.
And what is Timothy (and us) to do? Paul continues in 2 Timothy 4:2-5
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not up up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
After reading these verses, I’ve been in prayer all week asking God to guide me through these uncertain times like He did Timothy. I want Him to teach me to respond in a way that is honoring, and that will show what Jesus expects a Christian to do.
Will you join me in the same prayer?
Most of us are very familiar with the story of Matthew 8:23-27. Take the time to read it before you start here. Jesus gets on a boat with his disciples and proceeds to sleep through a storm. The disciples reaction was different. They were terrified for their lives. They woke Him up and asked him to save them. He woke and immediately calmed the storm.
This is a simple story of trust for most, and I think we all struggle with simple reminders and stories like this sounding fresh. Of course we hear this story and we think “yes, I know. Have faith in the storm”. But both Paul and Peter say it is good to be reminded of these things even when we are firmly planted in the truth.
The storm is absolutely a symbol for us to represent our hardships, but the importance of Jesus’ reaction is just as true today as it was then. He wasn’t next to the boat, he wasn’t on the phone talking them through a disaster or praying for them. He was literally “in the same boat”. And his reaction was to sleep.
Our natural inclination when things happen that we perceive as bad and out of our control is to panic and worry. But just as the disciples didn’t actually need to have Jesus calm the storm to stop worrying about it, neither do we. All we need to do is look to His reaction and mirror it.
Are you worrying about something that Jesus is not? This week I implore you to look to your Saviour’s reaction. Ask for the same peace that He received from His Father: a peace so great that it not only removes the fear, but shows you that in comparison to how geat your God is that this storm is so small you may just decide to sleep right through it.