Doing What You Want

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. Romans 7:15

CoverThe above verse explains a constant battle Christians engage in with themselves. Sin is so much a part of the human condition that even though we have come to hate sin, we often find ourselves in the thick of it. We can improve, and should always endeavor to gain ground in the war with sin, but we will never celebrate an all out victory.

Fighting a battle we can never win is frustrating. But many believers live a reality that is even worse. They never even make progress.

The book, The Storeroom of the Heart, is for these individuals. It takes the storeroom principle, taught by Jesus in Matthew 12:34-35, and allows the contemporary Christian to explain why they get stranded in this manner. Understanding the storeroom principle can help the believer to begin gaining ground in the battle, shape their lives in such a way as to be useful to the kingdom, and allow them to see principles for successful living that are often overlooked in today’s culture.

The Storeroom of the Heart is available in electronic format, hardcover or softcover. You can order it anywhere books are sold or from the publisher, CrossBooks. If you are interested in obtaining a copy signed by the author contact me on one of the social media links to the right and I will be happy to work that out for you.

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Baby Gambel’s Quail

Gambel's Quail Young (800x533)

Here are a couple of baby Gambel’s quail. In this picture the chicks are looking up at the bush because they are about to trim off some of the new leaves for a snack. As they get older they will be a little less choosy, but at this age, they are consuming foods suitable for their stage of growth. When they become adults they will eat a lot tougher foods, but at this age they only go for the easy stuff.

Spiritually we go through growing up transitions too. Last week I addressed this growth process from the perspective of the church, specifically the church’s responsibility to work with people of all maturity levels. But the immature Christian also has a responsibility, which is they must strive towards maturity.

Like anything else seeking to grow, what believers consume makes a major difference. The believer who is frequently exposed to Scripture is going to be healthier than the one who is only spiritually fed by an occasional sermon. A daily Bible reading, home Bible study, Sunday school class and a Bible memory plan will help you become spiritually strong. But the believer who consumes more video games, popular music or television than Scripture may never really understand what Spiritual maturity is.

“Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature —for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.” Hebrews 5:13-14 (HCSB)

Young American Coots

Coot Young

We normally think of baby birds as cute. But these young birds really don’t strike me as cute. Instead they seem kind of gangly, awkward, and maybe even clumsy. You guessed it! These are not babies, they are adolescents. While babies of any animal will evoke oohs and aahs, teenagers tend to evoke other emotions. I am sure you knew this about humans already, but this picture should help you to see it’s also true of many birds, such as these American coots.

Have you ever stopped to think about why? Although studying the stage of life may not make living with a teenager any more tolerable, it is possible to understand it. The reason for the awkwardness can be quickly summed up, they are the way they are because they are still growing up. Their size might well lead you to believe they are grown, but their experience level may not have taught them how to walk without tripping over their own feet yet.

I bring this up in this setting, because I think we would do better in many churches if we thought of Christians in more than two levels of growth. How is it that we expect believers either to be new believers, also called baby Christians or mature believers? What happens to all the awkward ages in between where they learn to walk and talk like a Jesus follower.

Given our habit of forgetting the growth process of a believer, I am not surprised so many Christians pretend to be more mature than they are. They have been a part of the family of God for too long to still be in diapers, and the only other choice they see is to be a person who has it all together. They know they really are not that person, but they don’t want to advertise their immaturity around the congregation, so they join the ranks of pretenders.

The situation is so serious that many Christians have no idea what a mature believer really looks like. The ranks are occupied by the pretenders. When this is the only example available, the higher mark of Christ-likeness is lost.

The only way to get beyond this malaise of mediocrity that has infested the ranks of Christendom is to undergo a God-guided growth process. Christ will point out sin in your life, and you go through the difficult work of dealing with it. A genuine Christ follower will be willing to work on themselves, will develop a record of successful character developments and will have their eyes on Jesus as their guide.

Ephesians 4:11-14 (HCSB) has a passage discussing what it looks like when we fully embrace this challenge in the church and its work. “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.”

Philosophy of Pain

Pain is a difficult issue to consider. Nobody wants to experience it and for the most part we don’t want to think about it, either. But pain is a part of life and I suspect it is an important part of God’s good interactions with humanity. If you didn’t hear me right the first time, let me emphasize that. I suspect pain is a tool of God, with good purposes, rather than merely a byproduct of the fall.

Think for a minute about the ways that pain affects you. A minor pain will draw one’s attention to things they otherwise might not notice. A minor pain on my nose allowed me to notice and have a skin cancer removed before it became a bigger problem. An intermediate pain will prompt a change of behavior, such as the proverbial child touching the stove. A severe pain will cause one to seek immediate help. And the most severe pains will shut down all other activities while the body heals.

Likely, many of us tend to think of pain only in its negative context. I understand that since the most obvious aspect of pain is that it hurts! But, if we only think of pain as a negative, we will miss one of the ways God is leading us forward. In the process of leading us toward maturity He will need to evoke every level of response listed above during the course of our lives. This is one of the many ways that God works for good whatever the devil intends for evil.

So as you move forward look at your pain as an opportunity. It might be calling your attention to a small problem before it becomes a big problem. It might be reshaping your patterns into more Christ-like behavior. It might be signaling the need to seek help from other believers. Or it might be motivating a time of retreat where you can spend time alone with God.

So what do you think about pain?