Growing In Godliness Blog
Nothing of God DiesFriday, March 03, 2023
Nothing of God Dies
By Victor A. Osorio
Change in life is inevitable. We know that. We understand the importance of flexibility and resilience. However, change is often challenging…and the church is not immune.
The Israelites were struggling with change as we begin reading in the book of Joshua. Moses had just died. The people were in shock. Leadership was paralyzed. Followership was stunned. Then God speaks. In Joshua 1:2, God tells Joshua, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them…”
It seems subtle. But do you wonder why God told Joshua “Moses My servant is dead”? After all, in Deuteronomy 34:8, we read, “So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end.” So, the Israelites, including Joshua, were well aware Moses was dead. This makes one wonder – did God tell Joshua this fact plainly for Joshua to begin to accept reality and move on?
It was at this point we see Joshua begin the transformation into the mighty man we quote in Joshua 24:15, and revere for leading God’s people in battle. But he didn’t seem to be completely that way at first. Four times in the first chapter of Joshua he is commanded or encouraged to “be strong and courageous” – three times by the Lord (Joshua 1:6, 7, and 9) and once by the people (Joshua 1:18).
We, too, in the local outpost of the Lord’s army, can become disoriented when a leader moves on. The history of God’s people is, unfortunately, riddled with stories of churches who struggled when an elder, preacher, or beloved member passes on, becomes incapacitated, or moves away. The story of Joshua tells us that ought not to be so. The Lord’s church is greater than any one person.
A.W. Tozer wrote, “When a man of God dies, nothing of God dies.” How true is that!? While Moses passed on, God was still sovereign. When the people were mourning, God’s care was still omnipresent. When Joshua’s vision of what to do next was disoriented by death, God’s omniscience was unclouded. When the people went into battle with an unproven commander, God was still omnipotent. When God’s people are in a period of change – God is unchanging. And we are His church.
Kerry Keenan is a great man of God. I remember vividly as a new convert back in 1997 when a beloved leader of the congregation passed on. Kerry, with His godly heart and strong leadership, while not the full-time preacher at the time, got up and challenged us young men to “fill the gap.” After recapping all the fallen leader had done and how he would be missed, he didn’t end there. Rather, Kerry focused on all the work of God that needed to be filled – by someone. I was reminded of this recently when I read that at Winston Churchill’s funeral, by his request, one bugler played “Taps” as another simultaneously played “Reveille.” Churchill wanted the people of Britain to know his death was by no means England’s last note, but a call for others to stand up for action.
No doubt, our church will face seasons of change. Those seasons may include losing people we love, look up to, and who will leave large gaps in the work. God’s message to us then will be the same, “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!” In those times, true leaders will have to emerge and fill the gap, even if the gap is so large it takes two, or even three, to fill. We will have to have the wisdom to know when to insist the bugler change the tune, or courage to take the instrument from his hand. Most importantly, we will have to remind each other of Tozer’s words – nothing of the great God we serve is dead.
Humbled For ServiceThursday, April 21, 2022
Humbled For Service
By Matt Hennecke
The Word of God is an amazing, life-changing tool. Consider, for a moment, the apostle Paul. When we are first introduced to him, he is described as “young” (Acts 7:58). His youth may have contributed to what seems to be a certain cockiness. He seems to have been a self-assured young man who seemingly “knew it all.” It is not unusual for young men (and women, too, I guess) to see everything as black and white, right and wrong. Paul (or Saul as he was then called) was certain that Christianity—like Christ—had to be eliminated. Acts 9:1-2 reveals Saul was obsessed with threats and murder: Self-assured. Cocky. A know-it-all. And flat out wrong.
As he journeyed to Damascus, he had his first dose of humility. A light and a voice cast doubt where before there had been none. For three days he ate and drank nothing. His journey of humility had begun. He was baptized into the very Body which he had sought to destroy. Talk about eating crow. Imagine the shame and the dawning realization of just how wrong he had been.
But Paul’s journey of humility had only begun. His own writings reveal the transformative power of the Word. The Word is amazing, for it first convicts us and then lifts us. Paul’s transformation—indeed, his journey of humility—is seen in his writings. Note the progression:
• In 1 Corinthians 15:9, written about 56 AD, he calls himself the “least of the apostles.” This was still an elite group of men. The least of twelve is still pretty good company. It would almost be like saying, I’m the least of the Super Bowl champion team.”
• Then note what he writes five years later in Ephesians 3:8. He says he is “the very least of all saints.” The circle of comparison has gotten larger—much larger—but is still comprised of a minority.
• Then two years later he writes, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15). In his own words, we learn Paul has been completely humbled. By the time he wrote 1 Timothy he says is was the foremost of ALL sinners.
How did this journey of humility come to be? By constant contact with the inspired Word and by contemplation of the gold standard Himself – Jesus Christ. Paul was changed. If we will let it, such is the transforming power of the Word in us. Paul was transformed by the Word and the Word will transform us so we will have our high self-opinion replaced with total gratitude for Jesus Christ; and thus humbled we will become, as Paul did, vessels of service to our Lord.
Serving One AnotherFriday, 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.