Pursue a Constant Growth

Pursue A Constant Growth

Chapter Four

Pursue A Constant Growth
The Excuse Is Inexcusable 58 Infectious Love 65
Trusting The Holy Spirit For Personal Guidance 59 God's Lifetime Cultivation Of Christlike Character 67
When Tailgating Is Proper 61 Living In Anticipation 69
I Can 'Become' Through Him! 62 Discussion Questions 71

Jeremiah 13:23, 2 Corinthians 5:17

The Excuse Is Inexcusable

In the Judges, Chapter 6, we read of an angel who had a task for Gideon, but Gideon did not want to get involved, so he gave the following excuse. "My family is poor and I am the least in my father's house". (Judges 6:15) God's answer was "I WILL BE WITH THEE."

The leopard cannot change it's spots, neither can the Ethiopian change his skin. But, even though certain 'features' in the physical world cannot be changed, you and I, in the moral and spiritual world, can change! You and I have no valid excuse for retaining habits, lifestyles, and attitudes that hurt others. I am sure you have heard the same excuses I have for an uncontrollable temper "I am a redhead", "It's my Irish blood", or "Bad tempers run in the family".

A man asked permission to borrow a rope from his neighbor. "Can't do it", replied his friend. "I need it to tie up my milk". "Milk"? Replied the neighbor. "You can't tie up milk". "I know that, but when I don't want to loan something, one excuse is as good as another".

There is a lot of truth in the man's reply. How easy it is for us to make excuses for our behavior traits that annoy others. We may even want to change, but Mr. Excuse comes along and offers reasons for our unpleasing behaviorism. When we yield to his suggestions, we refuse to admit that God can help us change. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul wrote the solution for living a Christlike lifestyle.

I too have had character flaws. The men in my family have the ability to lose their tempers easily. Since it seems to be a family trait, I could have used the excuse "It is in our genes. We can't help it". Because I believe 2 Corinthians 5:17, I discredited that excuse. In my early teens, I made the decision not to give into family traits. Faith in God's Word and His work in my life, has freed me of such temper. PRAISE GOD!

Is there something in your life you want changed? Read 2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:4 and Ephesians 4:22-24. GOD IS MORE THAN ABLE TO CHANGE YOU.

"Father, in the Name of Jesus Christ, I ask You to work in my life, and make me the person you want me to be. Change the traits that hinder my Christian testimony".

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I want God to mold and shape me on His divine potter's wheel. I am ready, Lord!

– Lowell Weller –

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John 3:1-15

Trusting The Holy Spirit For Personal Guidance

Taking the trash to the curb on the night before it is collected has never been a memorable experience, although I have repeated this task at least 800 times since we moved into our house. This night was a time to remember, it was a "three can night" with each one standing properly in its place, creating a straight row. The evening was cool and I could feel the soft breeze dance across my face. I turned into the wind to capture the essence of this calm beautiful night. There was silence all around me. The only sound I could hear were the leaves vibrating in the gentle breeze.

There appeared to be a cat walking toward me in the street. I thought that unusual because a cat will normally stop or turn a different direction. In a moment, I realized that it was not a cat, but, of all things, a balloon!

Instinctively, like a little child, I walked to the balloon to hold it in my hands. I wondered where it came from and how far it had traveled. Not able to bring myself to stuff this soft sphere into one of my neatly aligned trash cans, I could only do what my heart was telling me – set it free. I released the balloon and watched it rise a few feet above my head before it descended onto the street where the wind continued to propel it along its original course. I watched it roll along the street and into my neighbor's yard, heading into a fence. Fearing its journey was at an end when it came against the strong fence, I was relieved as it changed direction, moving along the fence line, past the house and out of my sight.

Envious of its carefree life, how it traveled with no worries or fears, my wish for the night was that my life could be like that balloon, unconcerned with how rough the road of life is or unafraid of life's obstacles. That was the moment of my revelation. As the wind is to the balloon, so is God's Spirit to my life. I may bounce along a rough road or come against some unconquerable situation, but God's Spirit will continue to gently nudge me the direction He wants me to move. When I run into barriers, He will even redirect my life. The point is I don't have to worry about where I've been, or how far I have come, or even how far I have to go! If I trust God, He will like move me.

Like a balloon in the wind, God will compel us in the direction He wishes us to move. "The wind blows wherever it pleases … (John 3:8)

"Lead on, Holy Spirit. Lead me where I need to go. I do not wish to follow the path the world takes, which leads to destruction. The path which the Lord directs is my choice. Lead on, Holy Spirit. Lead me where I need to go. Amen".

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In God's hands, I am safe. What harm can come to me while I am trusting the Lord? I will go where He leads me.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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When Tailgating Is Proper

Tailgating is a form of road rage, therefore, it is against the law. There is a time however, for tailgating. The following Scriptures show when following closely is good advice.

THEY DID             2 Chronicles 34:33

THEY DIDN'T       1 Kings 11:6-11

WE MUST             John 12:26

Female eels swim to the Caribbean Sea to give birth to their young. They travel from France, Norway, Japan and other parts of the world. A deep hole exists in those waters that attracts them. The mother eel lays her eggs and then leaves. After the eggs are hatched and the baby eels are old enough, they begin their journey to their home waters. The young eels swim through oceans, streams and rivers, regardless of the distance or direction, until they arrive. How did each eel know where to swim? Which part of the world did their mother come from? Can there be any other answer than God? Only God-given instinct could enable them to achieve this.

While stationed in Korea, our medical unit received word that two men had been killed by buried bombs, known as "Bouncing Bettys". The other soldiers stood still, afraid to move. It was imperative that each follow in the footsteps of the demolitionists, in order to survive. Their obedience, to follow closely. Brought the remaining men to safety.

In Numbers 14:24, we read, Caleb "hath followed Me fully". 1 Kings 18:39 gives the account of the prophet Elijah who commanded the people "if the Lord be God, follow him". After the fire fell, the people said, "The Lord, He is the God". David remarked that he delighted in God's statues. Psalms 119:16 and verse 47 Psalms 119:47, "I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved". In Matthew 16:24, Jesus commands you to take up your cross and follow Him. Jesus' words are pertaining to soldiers, servants and pupils. As Christians, we are soldiers of the cross, servants of God, and pupils of Christ.

If I intend to arrive safely in heaven, I must follow Christ closely, walking in His footsteps.

"Lord Jesus, today, many want to be leaders. Help me to be Your follower. Help me to follow the instructions given in Your Holy Word".

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Follow, follow, I will follow Jesus. Anywhere, everywhere, I will follow on. Follow, follow, I will follow Jesus. Everywhere He leads me, I will follow on. (W.O. Cushing)

– Lowell Weller –

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2 Peter 1:1-11

I Can 'Become' Through Him!

Several years ago I penned the following thoughts as my testimony to the joy I felt when I reflected on the changes I had experienced during my 'walk' with Christ.

During my fifty-nine years of living, I have changed from a frightened, dependent person to a healthy, reasonably confident woman. As I have tuned into God's grace and love, moving step by step, I have, indeed, been "born again". I am becoming receptive and responsible to God through Christ alone. Further, I am growing to sense the inner light of the Spirit of Christ guiding, freeing, and influencing me to desire what is good and in His Will.

These changes do not come quickly. The process is more like the planting and tending of a garden – cultivating, watering, weeding, waiting, and finally, reaping. Neither do they happen through God's "zapping" me or through anyone else doing it for me. Yes, God's Sprit encourages me to believe that I can "become" through Him; yes, other people are helpful models, sounding boards, and burden sharers. But the responsibility is mine. I am not finished, and I am sure God is far from finished. The tide is not yet in, but I see the shore more clearly. To grow into fuller maturity in Christ is a long process, involving my cooperation with the Spirit of the Living God. Peter teaches this lesson clearly. "God will give you, through His great power, everything you need for living a truly good life… But to obtain these gifts, you need more than faith; you must also work hard to be good, and even that is not enough. For then you must learn to know God better and discover what he wants you to do. Next, learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and godly, gladly letting God have his way with you. This will make possible in the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like him, and finally you will grow to love them deeply. The more you go on in this way, the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and useful to our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:5-8, Living Bible)

I am experiencing some wonderful by-products in this process. As I have taken steps to grow in one area, I have almost spontaneously, stepped out in others. For instance, as I was exerting courage to deal with a tough area in personal family relationships, I also found the courage to overcome a disabling childhood fear of the water. I learned to swim and earned lifesaving certification. I managed a municipal swimming pool one season! This is the changing woman who previously "could not" put her head under water. My old fear of heights also dissolved somewhere along the way. I don't even know when this happened. I believe that we are "all of a piece'. Therefore, as I (and you) become healthier spiritually and emotionally, I (and you) also tend to become physically healthier – and the reverse is just as true.

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"Loving God, help me to use the patterns and insights I have discovered, to continue to make the changes that will result in my becoming more and more Christlike."!

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because I am daily learning to follow Christ more closely, I increasing like the person I am becoming!

– Kay Kline-

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Romans 5:1-5

Infectious Love

One time while doing maintenance on my car, I received a deep gouge on my hand. Failure to properly care for the injury resulted in swelling and soreness. After applying hydrogen peroxide (I like to see it fizz), mending began, swelling receded. Then for the following two days because of travel, once again there was swelling, redness, and pain. Not only that, but the infection had reached a lymph gland in the arm. Under a doctor's care, the hand healed and only a small scar remained.

The analogy may be limited, but the thought is worth our consideration. Infectious Love! Paul wrote: "Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us". (Romans 5:5, JBP)

I like what the writer in "Response" (Seattle Pacific University's alumni paper) said of a board member: "Dick Klein '47' has lived with an infection most of his life. Call it hereditary". The term was used of SPU, and Klein's dedication to this institution.

This "infectious love" – what does it do in my "bloodstream"?

First, it consumes what is unholy. As a fire it burns up "the dross of base desire". This includes the principle of sin in the heart. Then the fountain from which flows the varied aspects of life is clean.

Second, it refines every passion and appetite. When saved and wholly sanctified, one is not dehumanized. The three drives within – the self, the heard, the sex drives – remain, but when surrendered to God, He refines these three basic human drives or urges. They are controlled and placed in the proper perspectives of life.

Third, it brings everything into proper focus. Whatever life throws at us can become instruments whereby we mature in grace. Not bitterness or resentments toward these happenings, but is deepening in the grace of God.

Resentment and bitterness are as infections which spread throughout every aspect of one's life. They poison relationships, choke effectiveness, burden with suspicion, and damage the soul. Without the refining fire of the Spirit, without the pouring in of God's love, there these remain, smoldering, and may in time break forth into some soul catastrophe. A misunderstanding, for example, within a family grows 'into a feud, alienation", and hurts.

'By allowing God's "infectious love' to flow into the soul, healing begins and restoration is realized. Bishop K Paul Taylor in 'Holiness, the Finished Foundation', writing of

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entire sanctification which "enables the believer to love God … and his neighbor", said" "When the heart has 'set its affections on things above and not on things on the earth'. The love of God within is normal health, and this inner health has a power of resistance that makes it impossible for the germs of the world to find a point of contact or any room in which to work and incubate". (pg. 166)

Just as the devastating infection does its work in the body through the blood stream, so the "infectious love of God" can permeate every cell of our being – controlling, constraining, conveying.

"Jesus, thine all victorious love, shed in my heart abroad; then shall my feet no longer rove, rooted and fixed in God … Scatter thy life through every part, and sanctify the whole". Amen (Hymn by Charles Wesley)

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In a world of sin's infections, I deeply desire, by God's grace, to bring love, healing, and blessing to hurting people.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Philippians 1:3-11

God's Lifetime Cultivation Of Christlike Character

I love to work with wood! Your porch swing has aged to the point it needs to be repaired. After selecting the pieces of redwood for this project, I cut and drilled the planks to the correct size and began to apply a finish to protect the wood. While sanding and putting the finish on these boards, God reminded me of a very simple truth. The process of finishing these wood slats is much like the process God uses as He puts His finishing touches on us.

Applying the first coat of finish reminded me of my conversion into Christ Jesus. The finish was so quickly absorbed into the wood that it did not appear to have even been put on. Like water to a sponge, the liquid finish soaked immediately into the dry, porous wood. Similarly, when I received salvation from Jesus, I felt like God's love was filling me and I just soaked it in. The effect was mostly inward. Not much changed outwardly at first.

The second coat went on as smoothly as the first, but this time it left just a little shine. Although, it had a bit of a shine, it was not enough to say the job was finished. As God continued to work in my life, Be filled the emptiness where I may not have allowed Him to completely come in. Furthermore, He added a shield around me for my protection from the Devil and the world. As a second coat of finish is not enough to give wood a lasting protection, I also was too new to the Christian faith… I needed more of God to face the dangers and troubles which lay ahead.

The third coat developed a hard protective finish over the wood, just as God's continued presence shielded me from more aggressive attacks from Satan. After three coats, the woodwork appeared to be finished, but I could see a benefit for even more coats of finish. In like fashion, we are constantly under construction spiritually. God keeps adding coats of finish to us until He knows we have what we need. This constantly being under construction is not so much to fill us with God's power or even to protect us from the devil. We are a constant work of God, so that in His coming Kingdom, He will be able to present us as a shining example of His glory! The work God does on us today is not only for our benefit, but will also enable us to shine for Jesus in heaven.

There is a dual purpose for allowing God to put His finishing touches on our lives. It is for our benefit as well as for His glory. Whenever I sit on our porch swing, I will remember this small lesson from God. We are not finished until God says we are finished. When that time comes, we will really shine!

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"Lord, I know You are not finished with me yet. Thank You for Your patience as You smooth the rough edges of my faith. In Your hands, I trust You will complete what You started. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In the hands of God, I will become all He wants me to be.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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2 Peter 3:8-14

Living In Anticipation

" ….. what kind of people ought you to be?" Why does Peter ask this question? In today's Scripture Reading, Peter is telling about the end of the world and the coming of the Lord.

Peter tells us in verse 10 (2 Peter 3:10), " … the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire and elements will be destroyed by fire … everything will be destroyed in this way."

Are we so connected to this old globe that we want to deny it will come to such an end? Unthinkable? But think, is it? Could it be the needed solution? We are told in Genesis that God put man in the Garden of Eden, " … to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15) But after that, man fell into sin. Man and the earth have both suffered lasting effects from that fall.

As people increased they began to abuse the earth they were told to care for. We too, in our day, have denuded and polluted the home God gave us. These days, tugs and ships carry our waste and destructive garbage to far places.

And what to do with all the nuclear waste? Contaminated air and water are growing problems. Is there any solution?

Yes! God has the solution. He will cleanse the earth of sin and its effects. How? Be will use fire, that great leveler and purifier. "But God has promised us a new heaven and a new earth, where justice will rule." (2 Peter 3:13) Isn't that something wonderful? The Contemporary English Version follows that with, "We are really looking forward to that!"

But let's come back to our original question: "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought we to be?" Peter answered his own question, "My friends, while you are waiting you should make certain that the Lord finds you pure, spotless, and living in peace." (2 Peter 3:14)

Clean lives can go a long way in purifying the spiritual and environmental atmosphere that is around us now. And certainly pure hearts will personally prepare us for the new heaven and the new earth ahead.

We aren't warned to be withdrawn survivalists, but to grow "…in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come." (Matthew 6:10)

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"Lord Jesus, help me to live a clean life both spiritually and physically, making a difference now."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will live now in anticipation of God's coming Kingdom.

– Beth Stewart –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Tell why, you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "You and I have no valid excuse for retaining habits, lifestyles, and attitudes that hurt others." (Note 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:13-32; Romans 6:4)

  2. From your own personal experience and from your reading of the Scriptures, what are some of the greatest "motivations" for closely following the living example and the explicit commands of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? (Note 2 Chronicles 34:33; 1 Kings 11:6-11; John 12:26; Numbers 14:24; Matthew 16:24-25)

  3. After reading the following statements, share your personal experiences which illustrate the gracious and powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit who has enabled you to enjoy victory during life's difficult circumstances; "As the wind is to the balloon, so is God's Spirit to my life. I may bounce along a rough road or come against some unconquerable situation, but God's Spirit will continue to gently nudge me the direction He wants me to move. When I run into barriers, He will redirect my life."

  4. Tell why you agree (or disagree) that the following description of Christian Growth is Biblically accurate and reflective of reality: Changes do not come quickly. The process is more like the planting and tending of a garden – cultivating, watering, weeding, waiting, and finally, reaping. Neither do they (personal changes) happen through God's 'zapping' me or through anyone else doing it for me. The responsibility is mine." (Note 2 Peter 1:1-11)

  5. Share at least one behavioral or attitudinal change which you have experienced in your life, as a result of your obedient and disciplined response to God's initiating grace in your life.

  6. What is meant by "the refining fire of the Holy Spirit", and why is it vitally necessary for every believer to regularly experience this "refining fire"?

  7. With a Biblical understanding of Holiness "in mind", give your interpretation and application of the following statements: "We are constantly under construction spiritually. God keeps adding 'coats of finish' to us with. He knows we have what we need. We are a constant work of God, so that in His coming Kingdom, He will be able to present us as a shining example of His glory!"

  8. As citizens of a fallen world where evil is widespread, what should be the response of earnest Christians? (Note 2 Peter 3:8-14)

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One thought on “Pursue a Constant Growth

  1. Thank you very much for this. Especially,Ephesians 4:22-24. I’m here shaking at work from such a random anger with no source. I am at peace after reading this and the good book to accompany it. It’s been months since I’ve pulled it out aside from the times I view it in church.

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