Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog

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Divisiveness & Social Media

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Divisiveness & Social Media

By Brent Lykins

We live in an era where social media plays a large role in our communication with each other.  It’s very easy for us to type away, letting our fingers put our thoughts out in the open for the whole world to see.  

Unfortunately, when we are behind keyboards and not face to face with someone, it becomes slightly easier to let opinions and dialogue flow that may not have flowed otherwise.   We all have opinions, right?  We have opinions about current news headlines, politics, the status of the country, and we even have opinions about how others should think, act, or speak.  

Satan loves this.

Satan loves this because it’s just one more way that he can slide a toe in between the door and the doorpost.   Once a toe is in, it becomes easier to get a foot in…then a leg…and then eventually Satan is standing in the middle of us, making himself a full divider between brethren because of a social media post.

In an election year, there are literally thousands of posts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and whichever news outlet that you may frequent online.  Everyone is eager to get their point across.  Everyone is eager to “one-up” the other and then “drop the microphone.”   It’s so easy for us, brothers and sisters, to be tempted to “one-up” someone else or feel the satisfaction of dropping the mic in front of everyone who may be reading at the time.  

Satan loves that.

In a year full of racial disturbances, protests, riots, shunning the police, and wearing masks, everyone is eager to speak their opinions and viewpoints.  And once again, everyone is eager to “one-up” the other and then “drop the microphone”.  Once again brothers and sisters, it’s easy for us to be tempted to partake in those actions.  

Satan loves that.  

Let me remind everyone reading that even though we are the body of Christ, each of us have our own will and each of us have our own thoughts.   Your thoughts may not represent the majority.  Your opinion may not represent the majority.   We may not all agree.  There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but let me also remind everyone that sometimes we get caught up in some very sensitive subjects that may also tie into our pride, our upbringing, or even our underlying beliefs.  It should be understood that once you publicly make a hit on someone else’s pride or underlying belief that it probably will not be accepted with open arms.   In fact, you may hurt someone’s feelings or possibly provoke someone to lose their temper.   Just as we all don’t share the same opinions, we also don’t share the same personalities.   One may let a criticism roll right on by.  Another may hold that criticism deep in their heart and it may cloud their future view of the one who wrote it.  

May I be rogue and suggest that it may be better for Christians to keep their personal opinions about the hot topics of the times to themselves?

I have already seen brothers and sisters “defriend” and “unfollow” each other over differences of opinion.  I have seen public arguments between brethren that will be saved forever and are able to be viewed by people who look to us to be examples.  

A few on-topic passages to leave you with:

Romans 12:18 – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Galatians 5:14-15 – “ For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Proverbs 17:14 – “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”

Reflections On Rearing Godly Children

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Reflections On Rearing Godly Children

By David Norfleet

This weekend my family gathered to celebrate the 16th birthday of our 2nd daughter, and while doing so I reflected on how fast time has passed. It seemed just like yesterday that our kids were crawling and needing naps, and we had all the time in the world ahead of us.  But, now, in almost a blink of an eye, they are grown and no longer need mom and dad.

I think one of the most terrifying and yet rewarding experiences that we face is attempting to rear godly, spiritually minded children.  It is terrifying because all of us at one point are amateurs, and armed with God’s word we attempt to navigate life and the thousands of decisions it throws at us. But, it is also satisfying and rewarding to see their faith grow as they mature and appreciate the Lord’s hand in it all along.

There is no magic formula which will guarantee spiritually minded children, and ultimately the decision to “walk in the Spirit” is one each individual must make for themselves – parents cannot make it for their children. That is not to say, however, we are without influence. So, with that I mind I would like to offer a few suggestions (I offer these not as an expert or one who is a perfect parent, but one who is still very much in the trenches and wants his children to grow into godly individuals.).

  1. If we want our children to be spiritually minded, we must be spiritually minded.  Children are much more likely to become what their parents are than what they claim to be. Children, maybe even more so than any other people, see our real motivations, affections, attitudes, and goals. We will not model for them spiritual perfection, but they need to see sincerity in our pursuit of it.
  2. We must understand our true and greatest purpose as parents, and that is rearing spiritually-minded children. That is the only truly essential goal to be achieved in this life (It is not whether they gross over $100,000 per annum, have an advanced degree, or are the most accomplished socially.).  That must be foremost in our parenting as God’s purpose in creating them was that they might “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). That alone will determine their success or failure in this life, and in the life hereafter. This must be our goal!  It has to be more than a plaque on the wall, but rather the shaping-force of our decisions in how to raise our children.
  3. After the goal is set, we must train our children toward that goal. It is important from a very young age that the goals parents have for their children are communicated.  They must know that they are to be consecrated – set apart for service to God.  They learn this, not simply by being told, but by seeing this purpose in their parent’s decisions and seeing how parents react to their conduct.  
  4. As part of this training we must control the influences we allow to shape their minds.  The Proverb writer stated, “as he thinks within himself, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). So as parents we must exercise great care in what we allow to shape their minds.  This will both involve influences we must protect them from, but just as importantly things that are good, wholesome, and spiritual that we expose them to regularly.
  5. Finally, if our children are to be spiritual, prayer must be offered for the help which God alone can give.  Prayer is the means by which you can obtain the help God has promised. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). It is amazing what God can accomplish in our children!

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but simply offered in reflection of the awesome privilege it is to shape these young souls in the image of God. But, also to remind all of you parents to have fun along the way, enjoying the time you have with them!

Serving One Another

Friday, July 03, 2020

Serving One Another

By Paul Earnhart

Marriage has fallen on hard times in America and its agonies have filled many with a desperate longing for the healing of the home. The appetite for books on this subject seems insatiable. Unfortunately,  much of this concern is for a quick and easy method— “15 Minutes a Day to a Happy Marriage.” There is no such magic formula. But there are answers, real answers, to marital anguish. They have been there all along.

The Bible is the grandest marriage manual ever written; not because it was written for that purpose, but because it is a book about relationships. It deals primarily with a man’s relationship to God and, out of that, his relationship to himself and others.

Marriage, as a union between a man and a woman, has about it some unique qualities of companionship and intimacy, but it is, at its heart, a relationship and the fundamental principle which rules it and moves it to a profound closeness is the same one which nurtures human relationships of every kind. A powerful statement and practical application of that principle is found in Ephesians.

Ephesians 5:1 is a bridge. It is the concluding thought of one exhortation which leads to another. Paul is in the midst of a practical application of the great principles of God’s redemptive work in Christ. He has been speaking of walking worthily of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), walking in love as God’s beloved children (Ephesians 5:2), walking as children of light, carefully, wisely (Ephesians 5:8, 15). He urges the Ephesians to be filled with the sobering influence of the Spirit rather than the wild indiscipline of wine. Such a Spirit-filled life, he says, will reveal itself in concrete ways— in the heartfelt worship together of God, and in mutual subjection to each other (Ephesians 5:18-21).

It is on the last phrase fo the paragraph, “subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ,” that Paul fixes his attention on the succeeding verses (Ephesians 5:22-6:9). Here he finds the principle upon which all relationships in Christ must be grounded. It is an idea which occurs frequently in Paul, and he always derives it from what God has done in Christ and the cross. This calling, with which we must live harmoniously, is out of the rich mercy and goodness of God who, by His grace, has elevated us, sinful and undeserving, to sit in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10). This calling demands that those who receive it live with all others in a humble, long-suffering, forgiving love (Ephesians 4:2, 32) and find the greatest delight in serving the needs of others rather than their own. Such was the self emptying mind of Christ (Philippians 2:1-5). So He taught, lived, and died (Matthew 20:26-28; 23:11-12).

It is for this reason that in the succeeding discussion of the responsibilities of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, that the one whose role it is to submit is dealt with ahead of one whose task it is to lead and guide (Ephesians 5:22-6:9). There is no role in life which so suits the mind of Christ as the role of submission. No disciple of Jesus should find it demeaning to submit— whether a wife to a husband, a child to a parent, or a servant to a master— when he follows the One who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:7); who came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). The reason for the submission of the wife, child, or servant, is to bless the husband, parent, or master— and to honor Christ.

More difficult perhaps is the role of the leader. He, too, must subject himself. The husband must subject himself to his wife, the parent to his child, the master to his servant. This does not remove him from his responsibility of headship and leadership, but it means that his guidance must always be ruled by the best interest of those who must follow and not his own. The husband is not to rule his wife for his own selfish ends, but in order to bring blessing and fulfillment to her. The parent is not to rule his children arbitrarily, as if he owned them to do with as he pleased, but, as a steward of God’s gift, to nurture them after God’s purposes and for their own eternal good. The master (employer, manager) too, must in his guidance of the affairs of his servants (employees) seek their good and not merely his own.

This spirit of sacrificial love will revolutionize any relationship, especially marriage. The root problem of our modern marital trauma is not technique, but sin. Selfishness and pride have destroyed our ability to live humbly for the sake of another. We come to marriage, as to other relationships, not to give, but to get, not to forbear, but to demand, not to bless, but to use. How is this problem to be solved? In the same way every sin problem must be solved— by a heartfelt repentance which seeks God’s forgiveness and turns to serve Him humbly again. It is only as we come to know and emulate the servant-mind of God’s Son that we will find peace and blessing in our relationships with others. And in that most intimate of all human relationships, especially.

Frederick Justus

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Frederick Justus

By Matt Hennecke

His name was Frederick Justus and his story is one of resistance and stubbornness. Over the years he refused to listen to the appeals of his own son and daughter-in-law as together they tried repeatedly to speak to him of Christ. Perhaps his heritage had something to do with it. He had come to America from Germany when just 18 years old. Germans, rightly or wrongly, have a reputation for being stubborn and unyielding. Perhaps he didn't think his own son could teach him anything. Perhaps it was unbelief. Whatever the reason, he was unyielding to the message of salvation.

And time marched on.....

Frederick Justus became a grandfather. First a granddaughter arrived in 1943, then a grandson in ‘50.  Three years later another grandson and finally another granddaughter. Four in all.  Despite Frederick’s gruff exterior, he loved his grandchildren. You could tell by the twinkle in his eyes.  Whenever they came to visit they brought bedlam and left messes, but he didn't seem to mind too much. During those visits, the story of Jesus was mentioned, but still Frederick resisted.

And time marched on.....

With age comes maladies. Aches and pains at first, then more serious conditions. When Frederick Justus was 88 years old he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. More likely it was just old age. In the last few years he could hardly walk. His body was bent. He carried a cane.  He sat more than he stood.  Then, one day, he was hospitalized - Saint Joseph's Hospital in Chicago.  His son and daughter-in-law visited, and despite the many times their message had fallen on deaf ears, they again spoke softly of the Son of God and of the hope of glory.  This time something was different. This time Frederick listened. This time he heard. In barely a whisper, he at last said, "I want to be baptized into Christ."

The hospital was Catholic, so the son prepared for battle. Baptism as immersion doesn’t sit too well with Catholics. Additionally, the old man was very sick, but the son was adamant and stubborn. No surprise there, for he was German too. The son had as much stubbornness as his father - maybe more. Nothing was going to prevent the very thing he had prayed about for so many years.  The doctor said “No,” so the son went to the charge nurse who thought the idea of a baptism wonderful. She said, “We don’t listen to doctors.” The nurse located a large metal bathtub with harness system that could be used to lower Frederick into the water.

On that day, the stubborn, self-willed, infirm Frederick Justus finally let go, and gave himself to Christ. He was baptized by his own son for the forgiveness of his sins, and the blood of Christ removed all infirmities of the spirit. He was born again into the kingdom of God.

A few days later, the hospital, unable to provide any further treatments for Frederick suggested he be admitted to a nursing home, but the son and his wife wouldn’t have it. An ambulance brought Frederick to his son's house.  Three days after his arrival, at breakfast time, Frederick Justus coughed once and died.  A Christian for a mere 3 days - a heavenly reward for eternity....

Frederick Justus Hennecke - my grandfather. I will see him again.

-Matthew Justus Hennecke

Satan's Story

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Satan's Story

By Paul Earnhart

C.S. Lewis, in the preface to his little book, The Screwtape Letters, observed that there were two opposite errors about “devils” into which men could fall. One was to disbelieve in their existence and the other was to have an excessive interest in them. We believe that the wholesome desire to understand what the Bible says about Satan is not to stumble into either of these pitfalls. The following questions will helpfully guide our investigation: Who is Satan? Where did he originate? Why and when did he fall? We begin with the first.

Who or what is Satan? Is he a personal being or merely an idea? The Bible clearly indicates that Satan is a person with an identity, mind, and will of his own. Jesus and the devil confronted and spoke with each other in the wilderness of Judea (Matthew 4:1-11). To question the personal nature of the devil is no more possible than to doubt the personal nature of God’s Son.

Yet, if the devil is personal, he is a spiritual rather than a physical being. In Ephesians 6:11-12, Paul urges Christians to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but… against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Mythical “Satans” abound, but there is no biblical evidence that the devil ever manifested himself as a bat-winged, cloven hoofed creature dressed in a red suit and armed with a pitchfork. Like Jesus, his personal appearance is never described, but his spirit and ideas are discussed at length. It is only in the symbolic visions of Revelation that Satan is seen as “a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns” (Revelations 12:3, 9). In the same visions, Jesus is portrayed as a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes (Revelation 5:6).

We turn now to the origin of the devil, when and how he came to be. That God created Satan seems clear since He created all things, whether visible or invisible, i.e., whether physical or spiritual (Colossians 1:16). But did He create him as he now is— the rebellious purveyor of all evil? The same question might be asked about men. Solomon says that there is not a righteous man upon the earth that does good and sins not (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Is this how God has made us— to live in hatred, selfishness, and rebellion? The testimony of Genesis is that when God had created the universe and man, He “saw everything that he had made and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). That it is not so now is evident and it is Solomon again who tells us why: “God made man upright but they have sought out many inventions…” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:27), a moral creature with a will free to choose, and urged us to choose the good, the high, the holy. But all since Adam have opted instead for the evil and the impure. God could have created us as biological robots and there would have been no sin in the world, but there would have been no true people either, no love, no goodness, no compassion, no faithfulness— for all things are as surely the product of free will as sin is.

There are beings other than men in the universe who are creatures of free will. They are of a higher order (Hebrews 2:7), entirely spiritual (Ephesians 6:12) and entirely free. Of them Peter writes: “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment…” (2nd Peter 2:4; see also Jude 6). Some angels, then, like the whole of the human race, have become rebels against God. Could Satan be a fallen angel? Yes, it is possible, even probable, though it is nowhere explicitly stated in the Scripture. His original fall is never described for us. The reference to the fall of “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12 is speaking fo the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:4), not the devil. Jesus’ statement in Luke 10:18 has reference to the defeat of Satan’s agents by the power of the Holy Spirit, and Revelation 12:9-11 is speaking of the downfall of Satan brought about by the redemptive blood of God’s Son.

Still, it is evident that at some point (before creation or after) Satan fell by rebellious pride into sin. In Job he not only accuses man of faithlessness, but charges God with stupidity (Job 1:7-11). He has nothing but contempt for both God and man and is our adversary (satan) and accuser (devil) at the very point where we may be reconciled to each other— in Christ and the cross. To prove man unworthy and and God foolish he tempts us to corrupt ourselves (1st Corinthians 7:5; 1st Thessalonians 3:5). In the pursuit of his purposes he has no scruples. Lies and deceit are his long suit (Genesis 3:4; John 8:44). He is consummately selfish. Unlike God, who wishes to bless and enlarge us, Satan desires only to devour us (1st Peter 5:8).

What is the lesson here? Do not take Satan lightly (Jude 9) for he is stronger than we are, but do not be intimidated by him either. He can be decisively routed by any heart which trusts absolutely in God’s power, wisdom, and grace (James 4:6-7; Romans 8:33-34; Revelation 12:10-11; Ephesians 6:10-17).

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