Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog


Faith Not Form

Friday, April 19, 2024

Faith Not Form

By Tom Rose

I’m not sure that Edward Gibbon had our generation in mind when in 1788 he finished his classic work on the fall of the Roman Empire, but his words are timely for life in these times. (The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon) He proposed five major reasons why the Roman civilization crumbled, and at the top of his list was the decay of religion.  In that society "faith faded into mere form and lost its touch with life and the power to guide its citizens to a higher level."  In other words, faith became empty, artificial, and even contemptible.

As we shake our heads and ponder how these things came to be, listen to a modern sociologist, Os Guinness, as he looks at our current culture.  He observes, "Look at it from the point of view of the religious believers.  Religion to them was once life’s central mystery, its worship, life’s broadest canopy of meaning as well as its deepest guarantee of belonging.  Yet today, where religion still survives in the modern world, no matter how passionate or 'committed' the individual believer may be, it amounts to little more than a private preference, a spare-time hobby, a leisure pursuit."  Secularization, working from within the system, has accomplished its goal of neutralizing Christianity and is quickly becoming the dominant world view of the West.

We keep ourselves so busy that we cannot or will not take the time to understand life from a Christian perspective or integrate Christian principles into our daily lives.  Our journey through life becomes increasingly fragmented and out of control, which in turn produces mega-stress. Alexander Whyte summed up our problem when he said, "We cannot look seriously in one another’s faces and say it is want of time. It is want of intention. It is want of determination. It is want of method. It is want of motive. It is want of conscience. It is want of heart. It is want of anything and everything but time."

Busyness, the curse of our culture, robs us of the things that are of the greatest importance, including our souls.  If we are too busy to study the Bible, attend church, encourage and pray for others, and enjoy the simple things of God’s creation, then we are simply too busy!  Indeed, Satan has taken us captive and has us just where he wants us.  The more we struggle and the faster we go, the tighter the snare becomes.

Anytime our relationship with Christ does not go beyond the superficial level, we are in serious trouble.  Christianity is a religion of the heart, based on a personal relationship with the Creator of this universe. It is between us and God – one on one.  Worship of an impersonal God is little more than idol worship. Yet familiarity with religious things and concepts by no means constitutes a relationship.  Note carefully the words of the prophet Isaiah as restated by Christ in Mt. 13:14-15.  “You will be ever hearing, but never understanding; you will be ever seeing, but never perceiving.  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”

Jesus is the single most complex character who has ever marched across the stage of human history. Indeed, the Jesus of the Gospels is a living, vibrant, dynamic, forceful personality, and the world has never experienced any other individual like Him. Today, gather your courage to go beyond the superficial and begin to find the rewards that an intimate relationship with Christ can offer. Consider your familiarity with Christianity as a blessing, not a curse, for the study and pursuit of Christ should yield growth and allegiance, not contempt and indifference. While you have time and opportunity, seek the sacred scriptures and allow His Word to sink into your being and breed contentment, for in them you have eternal life (Jn. 5:39).

Former Days

Friday, November 10, 2023

Former Days

By Larry Coffey

We read in Ecclesiastes 7:10, “Say not, why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” Yet, we often speak of the good old days as though life was much better in past years. While there will be things we remember with great fondness, we tend to overlook how much our lives have improved. Of course, older folks may think about their former health and strength, but are living conditions really not as good as former days?

Christians will remember that more people seemed to be interested in spiritual matters, and the number of people who attend church services has been declining over the last 50 years. We have also seen a decline in morals. Abortion and homosexual marriage would have never become law in the 1950’s.

In Christianity Magazine’s September/October, 1996 issue, Ed Harrell said this: “The past was never as good as we remember it being. There is bad and good in every time. The present is probably better than we are able to admit. I see more fine young people in the universities today than ever before in my career as a teacher.”

Going way back to the days of Noah, we read in Gen. 6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The Lord allowed life to continue until only eight people in the whole world were faithful. Move forward several hundred years, and the Lord told Abraham he would not destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if he could find 10 faithful people there, but Abraham couldn’t even find 10.

Today we have many more than eight or 10 people serving the Lord at the Douglass Hills church alone. And just think of the thousands and thousands of churches in this country and around the world with people serving God. I hear members of the church say times are getting so bad the Lord may return soon to end life here. Of course, neither I or anyone else knows when Christ may return, but based on history, it is going to be a long time before that happens.

According to my notes from a Wednesday night talk I gave at DH in 1998, I made these comments: “I want to praise the young people we have here at DH. In my opinion, we now have as good a group of young people as we have ever had. They are involved in our worship, and they are involved in visiting and helping others outside our assemblies.” And I believe today, 25 years later, we have a great group of young people. They are involved in our work and their interest was further demonstrated by their participation in our recent Youth Forum.

So, former days are not always better than present days. And I believe there is a lot to look forward to in our future days.

Finding Contentment in Being Single

Friday, September 01, 2023

Finding Contentment in Being Single

By Bethany Taylor

When you look around and see so many happily married couples but notice that you are becoming one of the few (and sometimes only) single person left in your friend group or church, the feeling of loneliness may creep in. And when you hear sermons on marriage and children and the beautiful plan God has there, you can start to ache for that stage and want to escape what could feel like the worthless state of “being single.” But I think if we evaluate this rationally, my dear Christian, we may find the opposite is true. There is so much value in the single life, and so many ways to bring glory to God that I hope you will be rejuvenated in your sense of value in the “opportunity” God has provided you in your singleness.

I think a first step in finding contentment with anything is seeing if there is any benefit. Paul seemed to think so as he states in 1 Cor. 7:8, "But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.” Here he is most likely addressing Christians at a particularly heavy time of persecution. But he is pointing out that as a single person you are not encumbered with the cares and anxieties of a family, since when you are married life gets harder and more complicated (1 Cor. 7:32-35). There’s a blessing of freedom in being single with less responsibilities and a different set of opportunities. But with this benefit of more freedom and time, one must be careful how it is used, since each one will give an account of it. Matt. 5:14-16 tells us to “let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Are the ways you’re using your time and freedom as a single person to glorify God, or are they only for your personal enjoyment?

Contentment with being single can also be found by remembering to trust that the One who created you knows your heart. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need and hears our prayers. So, if your prayer to be married hasn’t happened, could it be because He has a plan for you and being married isn’t the plan at this time? We see throughout scripture righteous people praying to God for something and yet He has a better plan for them than what they prayed for. My favorite example of this is Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-7,13). We see they had prayed for so long to have a child, but God’s timing was not their timing. I wonder if waiting wouldn’t have been hard had they known their child would be John the Baptist,.

It is hard to feel content when you feel like a failure. As single, know that you are the opposite of that! You are worthy. We all know the “Worthy Woman” of Proverbs 31, one whom all Christian women admire. Prov. 31:10, “A worthy woman who can find? For her price is far above rubies.” Now look at Ruth 3:11, in this verse Boaz is talking to the unmarried Ruth: “And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou sayest; for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a worthy woman.” Both of these verses use the same Hebrew word for “Worthy women” which is “Eshet Chayil.” Just as Ruth was single and worthy, others can be as well. You have value and are worthy as a single person serving God - married or unmarried isn’t a criterion.

I will close with a challenge to those who are married. As you strive to support your brethren who are single, and want to help them find contentment and see their worth, do your words show that? Do your questions tell singles that being married is the most important thing… is their relationship status the *first* question you ask about when you talk? When they are in a relationship do you encourage them to take time to know the person they’re dating instead of inquiring if they’ve “made wedding plans?” Perhaps the next time you find yourself comforting someone after a break-up, instead of saying “one day the right person will come” how about instead saying, “God knows what you want and what you need. Live today pleasing to Him.” As married or single Christians we need to be Heaven focused not only in actions, but also in our questions and responses. In this way, we can help others see what is truly valuable and worthy and how to find contentment in any stage of life serving God.

The Power of the Mind

Thursday, December 01, 2022

The Power of the Mind

By Larry Coffey

I have just finished reading a 600+ page book called “Life Force” written by Tony Robbins. Tony Robbins is an entrepreneur, #1 New York Times bestselling author, and philanthropist honored by Accenture as one of the top 50 business intellectuals in the world. This book covers new breakthroughs in precision medicine. It deals with things like new medical technology, regenerative medicine, stem cells, gene therapy, etc. The last two chapters are about the  power of mindset and decision. This is a medical book written from a secular viewpoint, but I believe Christians can benefit from some of what is taught.

He contends the mind has the power to heal the body in certain instances, and provides some examples where this has happened. He mentions the use of placebos can have tremendous power over pain. Placebos are harmless “medicines” or procedures that are used to test a therapy’s effectiveness. In a migraine pain study at Harvard Medical School, the placebo was found to be nearly as effective as the actual drug.

He mentions another Harvard study, in which one hundred medical students were enlisted to test two drugs: a “super stimulant” red pill and a “super tranquilizer” blue one. Unbeknownst to the students, the drugs were purposely switched—the red was actually a barbiturate, and the blue an amphetamine. Even so, the subjects who were given a downer experienced stimulation because of their expectations, while those who took the upper felt tired. Talk about the power of the mind!

Several pages dealt with the subject of stress of which there are several levels. Suppose your mail was not delivered for several days in a row and you were expecting to receive something you needed. That could cause some stress. Then you receive a letter telling you a company in which you had a significant investment had gone bankrupt. That would be a higher level of stress. Another few days pass and you receives results of a recent wellness test and you are asked to return because a tumor was detected. The stress increases further.

Robbins says, “extreme stress is going to be a given in your life. So, the real key to have an extraordinary quality of life….is not to hope you get lucky and that nothing happens, but to develop the kind of psychological and emotional strength that makes you resilient enough to use whatever life brings you to create something even greater.”

Now what do Jesus and the apostle Paul have to say about the power of the mind and stress. Jesus deals with these two things in Mt. 6:25-34. Jesus says do not be anxious about your life, don’t be anxious about clothing, don’t be anxious about what you are going to eat. He adds, which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Therefore, don’t be anxious about tomorrow. How does Jesus expect us to use the power of our minds? We are to focus our minds on seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all the things we need will be added to us.  

Paul says in Phil. 4:11, whatever state he was in he was to be content. He further addresses this in I Tim. 6:6 & 8, by saying there is great gain in godliness with contentment, and if he had food and clothing, with these he would be content. In Col. 3: 1-2, Paul says to seek the things that above where Christ is, SET YOUR MINDS on things that are above, not on things on earth.

Robbins tries to help us have better lives on earth. Christians are to focus our minds which God has given us on things above. And our minds have the power through Christ to truly achieve an extraordinary life in heaven.