God Grows Us One Step at a Time by Rick Warren

A friend forwarded me this devotional this morning, a great reminder indeed.

 

 

God Grows Us One Step at a Time
By Rick Warren — Aug 23, 2016
 
 
 

“So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to — the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy”(Ephesians 4:22-24 TEV).

Although God could instantly transform us, he has chosen to develop us slowly. Jesus was deliberate in developing his disciples, just as God allowed the Israelites to take over the Promised Land “little by little” so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed (Deuteronomy 7:22). He prefers to work in incremental steps in our lives.

Why does it take so long to change and grow up? There are several reasons:

  • We are slow learners. We often have to relearn a lesson 40 or 50 times to really get it. The problems keep recurring, and we think, “Not again! I’ve already learned that!” But God knows better. The history of Israel illustrates how quickly we forget the lessons God teaches us and how soon we revert to our old patterns of behavior. We need repeated exposure.
  • We have a lot to unlearn. Since most of our problems — and all of our bad habits — didn’t develop overnight, it’s unrealistic to expect them go away immediately. There is no pill, prayer, or principle that will instantly undo the damage of many years. It requires the hard work of removal and replacement. The Bible calls it “taking off the old self” and “putting on the new self” (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:7-10, 14).
  • Growth is often painful and scary. There is no growth without change; there is no change without fear or loss; and there is no loss without pain. Every change involves a loss of some kind. We fear these losses, even if our old ways were self-defeating, because, like a worn-out pair of shoes, they were at least comfortable and familiar.
  • Good habits take time to develop. Remember that your character is the sum total of your habits. You can’t claim to be kind unless you are habitually kind. Your habits define your character.

There is only one way to develop the habits of Christ-like character: You must practice them — and that takes time! There are no instant habits. Paul urged Timothy, “Practice these things. Devote your life to them so that everyone can see your progress” (1 Timothy 4:15 GW).

PLAY today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

Talk It Over

  • Why do you think God allows us to go through pain and loss while we are growing spiritually?
  • What is the bad habit that you’ve had trouble changing in your life?
  • What one thing do you need to practice doing every day so that you are developing Christ-like character?

Rejecting the Real Jesus, Excellent sermon by @timkellernyc

Great sermon by Timothy Keller, its worth a listen, “The Real Jesus.”

series_the_real_jesus_part_1

Rejecting the Real Jesus

Why do so many people disbelieve Christianity and reject the message of Jesus Christ? The underlying problem is that we do not want to give up control over our lives and have God be our ultimate authority. To overcome unbelief we must see our need for a Savior and look to Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God, who died for us on the cross. This sermon was preached by Rev. Timothy Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church on September 22, 1996. Series “The Real Jesus Part 1; His Teaching”. Scripture: Matthew 11:16-24

Favorite Biblical Name of God

The church I attend has been doing a sermon series “Wonderful Name.”  The first sermon of the series was about my favorite name “I Am.”  There are many reasons I like “I Am” and these are in now particular ranking.

  • Friend Andy’s story about the names of God during Children’s story at a service a long time ago.
    • Exodus 3:14 (NIV14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
    • John 8:58 (NIV) 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!
  • “I AM” song by Mark Shultz 
  • “I Am” sermon from Pastor Steve from series mentioned above.

 

I’ve also been challenged recently to learn /memorize more names of God. There are many wonderful lists of God. Here’s a few.
  • 216 Names of God by Isikabla Ministries
    • El Emunah:  The Faithful GOD: Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9
    • The Lamb: In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:12
    • Light Of The World: When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
    • Servant: Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. Acts 4:27

I could go on but to finish this post, I’m reminded of Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God.

“How happy we would be if we could find the treasure of which the Gospel speaks; all else would be as nothing. As it is boundless, the more you search for it the greater the riches you will find; let us search unceasingly and let us not stop until we have found it.”
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

 

Empathy and Sympathy

This morning at church, I met a man, he asked me what the difference between empathy and sympathy is. Before I could answer, we were interrupted, the man said think about it, we’ll talk again.

I’ve sense read Dictionary.com’s answer (below including link) and am thankful I didn’t have time to answer as I don’t think I’d had the best answer. A search of bible verses turned up very different verses for empathy vs. sympathy.

Bible verses about empathy from BibleReasons.com

  • Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
  • Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
  • Peter 4:10  God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
  • Romans 12:15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
  • Galatians 6:2-3  Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

Bible verses about Sympathy from LoveToKnow.com

  • Lamentations 3:31-32 – For the Lord will not cast off forever, but. . . he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.
  • Isaiah 49:13 – For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
  • Psalms 9:9 – The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
  • Psalms 30:2 – O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.
  • Psalms 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
  • Psalms 62:1 – My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.
  • Psalms 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
  • Luke 6:21 – Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
  • John 16:22 – So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – Blessed be the God and Father. . .who comforts us in all our affliction. . .

Empathy vs. Sympathy by Dictionary.com (Click for full article)

The terms empathy and sympathy are often confused, and with good reason. Both of the words deal with the relationship one has to the feelings and experiences of another. Today we explore the differences between these terms and how they are most commonly used.

empathy_sympathyBoth sympathy and empathy have roots in the Greek term páthos meaning “suffering, feeling.” The prefixsym- comes from the Greek sýn meaning “with, together with” and the prefix em- derives from the Greek en- meaning “within, in.”

Sympathy is the older of the two terms. It entered English in the mid-1500s with a very broad meaning of “agreement or harmony in qualities between things or people.” Since then, the term has come to be used in a more specific way. Nowadays sympathy is largely used to convey commiseration, pity, or feelings of sorrow for someone who is experiencing misfortune. This prevailing sense is epitomized in the category of greeting card most often labeled “sympathy” that specializes in messages of support and sorrow for those in a time of need.

Consider the following examples:

“There was little sympathy in England for David Beckham … when he received a red card in a 1998 World Cup loss to Argentina.” –New York Times,  July 2, 2015

“…the new [Facebook] feature would automatically replace the existing ‘like’ button with a ‘sympathize’ one when users tag their statuses with a negative emotion, like ‘sad’ or ‘depressed.’” –New York, December 6, 2013

Empathy entered English a few centuries after sympathy—in the late 1800s—with a somewhat technical and now obsolete meaning from the field of psychology, which referred to the physiological manifestation of feelings. Unlike sympathy, empathy has come to be used in a more broad way than it was when it was first introduced into the lexicon; the term is now most often used to refer to the capacity or ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another, thereby vicariously experiencing the emotions, ideas, or opinions of that person.

Consider the following examples:

“…many of us believe that if more lives are at stake, we will — and should — feel more empathy (i.e., vicariously share others’ experiences) and do more to help.” –New York Times, July 10, 2015

“I think that’s almost what it is sometimes if you sum up what acting is. It’s just the ultimate expression of empathy.” –Emily Blunt, Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2014

To sum up the differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another.

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Suffering for Doing Good 1 Peter 3:8-22

Made a new friend today, he mentioned these verses from 1 Peter. Good reminders.

 

1 Peter 3:8-22 (NIV)

Suffering for Doing Good

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,

“Whoever would love life
    and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
    and their lips from deceitful speech.
11 They must turn from evil and do good;
    they must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”[a]

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,[d] he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[e] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

1 Peter 2:18-25 (NIV)

18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[a]

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[b] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 2:18-25 (MSG)

The Kind of Life He Lived

18-20 You who are servants, be good servants to your masters—not just to good masters, but also to bad ones. What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re treated badly for no good reason. There’s no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you’re treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God.

21-25 This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.

He never did one thing wrong,
Not once said anything amiss.

They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.

Spiritual Obesity

Last Sunday, the pastor at the church I attend introduced a concept/notion/idea that I had not heard before, “spiritual obesity.” I had not considered that the act of going to church each Sunday, reading the bible, praying, etc and not putting the learnings into action could lead to “spiritual obesity.”

Here is a link to his sermon, its the sermon by Pastor Kevin on May 8th.

Here’s also a plethora of other sermon’s on “Spiritual Obesity.” Spiritual Obesity Sermons

I’m reminded of a bible verse read at my fathers funeral. Dad wasn’t “spiritual obese”, he worked on being “spiritually fit” every day by being the best husband, father and friend he could be, helping others, being bold with his faith, etc, I need to do the same every day.

2 Timothy 4:7 (ERV)

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have served the Lord faithfully.

 

Surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses

A friend mentioned to me this morning how he had been encouraged by someones vigilance in being accountable to others. He said Hebrews 12 is being worked out in that persons life. What great verses these are. I am so thankful!

-Surrounded by the Body of Christ

-Turn over the Sin that troubles us to Jesus

-Run the race Jesus has planned for us

-By fixing our our eyes on Jesus

-Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith

-For the joy Jesus has now, he endured death on a Cross for us.

-So that we do not grow weary and lose heart.

What power verses!

 

Hebrews 12 (NIV)

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Paul’s Vision and His Thorn

Hadn’t read 2 Corinthians 12:9 for a while. It includes: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Always a good reminder for me.

2 Corinthians 12(NIV)

Paul’s Vision and His Thorn

12 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

“Jesus ‘opens the door to a new life,'” The Archbishop of Canterbury

Here is a poem by W.H. Auden followed by an exert from a sermon by The Archbishop of Canterbury.

It’s great poem and sermon. A good reminder about how we are isolated from others and God and how autonomy does this.

The answer being “That we might know Jesus Christ, and in knowing Jesus Christ work for the healing of the world, from the bottom up, through the power of the one who shares our pain and suffers for us, and calls us to find our meaning not in finding our own way, but through following him.“He is the Way.”

Here’s the poem.

Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.”

W.H. Auden, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio

Here is a link to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s complete sermon. I have only included in my post the final part of the sermon. The whole sermon is worth a read. The Archbishop weaves W.H. Auden’s poem nicely into this message of hope in Jesus.

Archbishop: Jesus ‘opens the door to a new life’

Sunday 18th October 2015

Jesus offers us a life “fuller than we can imagine” the Archbishop of Canterbury said in this sermon at St Aldates, Oxford.

John 14, 1-7 

 

“In the 21st century we don’t really understand freedom. For we imagine that freedom is the ability or capacity to do whatever we want. This is why we prize our autonomy so highly, and regard any curtailing of our ‘right’ to choose as a flagrant attack on our freedom. But Christian faith says something different. It says that the way to true life and living is found in following the way of Jesus Christ.

Jesus offers us this gift of belonging to something far bigger than ourselves. It takes from us the burden of having to work out how we should live on our own in a cold, dark world. Instead we come to learn from him, to trust him, to submit to him – knowing that this one we come to loves us and has the best way for us. To do what Jesus requires is always the best thing anyone can ever do at any point in their lives. It is to join a celebration of life, to be fully human when we love Him in the World of the Flesh, to be challenged beyond what we can imagine

In all this Jesus invites us to a completely different way of seeing things and experiencing things rather than just hit all the balls back to us that we serve – thinking they are all aces – with what we think are highly sophisticated arguments against faith in the 21st century.

Rather than ourselves and our own objections and questions being central, he asks us to answer his questions, his objections and his perspective on our lives and our 21st century thinking.

And I think we find in the light of this our needs are different than we first thought. Our greatest problem is not our limitations or our mortality. Our greatest problem is our isolation.

We are isolated from each other and from God. Autonomy does that.

This has always been our greatest problem,

The point of faith in the 21st century is the same as faith in the fifteenth century as it was in the fourth century. That we might know Jesus Christ, and in knowing Jesus Christ work for the healing of the world, from the bottom up, through the power of the one who shares our pain and suffers for us, and calls us to find our meaning not in finding our own way, but through following him.

And tonight, amongst us, there comes this Jesus. Inviting each one of us to come to him, to receive rest for our weary souls, and to learn his ways of grace and life, life that is fuller than we can imagine, where “all its occasions shall dance for joy”.

Accept that invitation. I’ve no idea where it will lead. Pursue it, it opens a door to a new life, one most utterly suitable for the 21st century.

“Remember, if I say yes to me, I say no to Christ. If I say no to me, I say yes to Christ”

The title of my post is a quote from “A BIBLICAL PORTRAIT OF A TRUE DISCIPLE, PART II”. A sermon from First Baptist Church, Woodstock. The sermon is about Matthew 16:24-26, which was part of the reading for my men’s group.

Every day, I prayerfully strive to say yes more to God and less to myself.

The following three paragraphs are quote directly from the sermon.

Matthew 16:24-26 (AMP)

Discipleship Is Costly

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross[expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world]will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity]. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world [wealth, fame, success], but forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Jesus made it very clear in the Gospels that there was a cross for Christ (Matt 16:21) and there is a cross for Christians. The believer, as Christ’s disciple, is to “deny himself.” To “deny self” is to subject oneself entirely to the Lordship and resources of Jesus Christ, in utter rejection of self-will and self-sufficiency. Last week, I. “The Picture of Discipleship.”

“To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self and yes to God. To deny oneself means once, finally, and for all to dethrone self and to enthrone God. To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life. The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.” William Barclay.

To read the rest of the sermon, here is a link.

 

Other versions for Matthew 16:24-16.

Matthew 16:24-25 (NLT)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?[a] Is anything worth more than your soul?

Matthew 16:24-25 (NIV)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Matthew 16:24-26 (MSG)

24-26 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?