Archive for category Spiritual Growth and Maturity

Don’t Release the Kraken!

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I let my anger get the better of me the other day.  Frustration set in due to several existential circumstances (last minute Christmas shoppers and a phone that would not cooperate).  Twice in the same day, I lost my cool and released the Kraken on my poor wife and daughter.  Apologies were made, however I felt like a real Scrooge for venting on the innocent.  The thing is, once we release the dreaded beast, it’s really hard sending the creature back to the abyss.  What have I done? I’m sorry! But the “Thing” just continues to tear and rip, bite, roar and spew putrid saliva everywhere.  Pro. 19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

                Interestingly enough, I had just been reading the day before on the workings of a microwave oven.  I became intrigued that morning, while cooking bacon, about how the microwave oven actually cooked.  Turns out, items with a good amount of water molecules (coffee, corn kernels, bacon, soups, etc.) do really well.  Denser objects with fewer water molecules (breads, pastas, pizza, etc.) tend to get rubbery and lose their taste.  Contrary to popular belief, the microwave does not heat from the inside out, but most items have more water molecules concentrated towards the center and thus it appears so.  Actually, the microwave works by intensifying microwaves (which are relatively harmless) via a magnetron.  Water, fat, and other substances in the food absorb energy from the microwaves in a process called dielectric heating. Many molecules (such as those of water) are electric dipoles, meaning that they have a partial positive charge at one end and a partial negative charge at the other, and therefore rotate as they try to align themselves with the alternating electric field of the microwaves. Rotating molecules hit other molecules and put them into motion, thus dispersing energy.  In short, agitation cooks food!  Let us apply this example to ourselves.  When we get agitated, we tend to cook, and our agitated state aggravates others around us and they begin to cook, too.

                It’s because of this phenomenon among humans that God directed that we learn to be quiet, moderate, tempered, and slow to anger. James 1:19-20 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (20) for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

                Paul instructed Timothy, as he would continue to establish churches, appoint Elders, teach young preachers, that anger was a destructive character. 1Ti 2:8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

                Cook a thing long enough, and it will explode or destroy the instrument in which it was cooked and/or those things within close proximity. Eph 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, (27) and give no opportunity to the devil.

                Of course the best way to keep calm and not release aggravated ions of anger is to follow the simple teaching of Paul Php 4:7-8  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (8)  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Best Advice! Don’t release the Kraken!

Darryl Fuller

Blind leading the Blind

 

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I’m often amused and perplexed when I see individuals in the mall or Wal-Mart, dressed as if they were still five year olds, putting on the first thing from the floor of their closet and feeling quite pleased with how they look.  My first thought that jumps into my brain, “Did you look in the mirror before you left the house?”  Perhaps they do look. After all, most humans stop to look, and if what they see is OK, maybe they even smile as their brain tells them, “Wow! You look marvelous!”  After all, why shouldn’t a 70-year-old woman wear the same hot pink, skin tight leotard that the teenage girls do?  The moral question here is not immodesty (which is off the chart), but blind foolishness.

Blindness to one’s wrongs, howbeit dress of the body or dress of the soul, is nothing new.  Matter of fact, it is one of the main reasons Jesus came into this world.  Luke 4:18-19   “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, (19)   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” All of Jesus’ miracles involving the blind were to recover their visible sight. However, on one occasion, Jesus used the miracle to promote a point regarding our   spiritual blindness (John 9:1-41).  Here are the facts in this event: 1) A man was blind from birth. 2) Jesus gave the man his sight. 3) Some of the Pharisees (who couldn’t actually see) questioned and scoffed at the man, his family and Jesus for doing a good deed on the Sabbath. 4) Jesus condemned their blind and stubborn foolishness. John 9:39-41   Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (40)  Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”  (41)  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

We live in a world today where rebellion and ignorance are applauded.  There are few boundaries or absolutes.  Sinful activity and wrong behavior are excused with sympathy that they are the result of a disease, an unsavory childhood, poor environment, racial prejudices, or social injustices.  Love says, “You’re wrong. Your behavior is sinful. Change, repent and you’ll be accepted.”  Blindness says, “You’re not wrong. Your behavior is acceptable. You don’t need to change. They must accept you or they are haters and bigots.”  Love is trying to help the blind before they go off the cliff.  The blind are leading the blind to the cliff and pushing them off. Luke 6:39   He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?

 We somehow must get through to those who are blind to their own destruction.  How can we make them see that the path they are being led down is hopeless?  Here is the problem…the blind think they can see.  They’ve accepted their course and are quite satisfied to pursue its end.  “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. Lk.9:41.   Sometimes all the preaching and teaching will not suffice.  God even tells us that there comes a time when you will not convince a person who is blind, that they are blind.  Luke 16:28-31 for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’   But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’  He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

What we can do, is first pray and seek that God turns their heart.  With God all things are possible and the prayers of a righteous person are very effective (James 5:16).

Second, we need to live quiet and righteous lives.  Many of those who have wandered down the wrong path have, years later, looked across the way to those who were living right and opened their eyes.  The Prodigal Son said ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. Luke 15:17-18.

 

Work, makes the bugs go away

images (2)I’m not proud of my phobia of spiders. After all, God created them for a divine purpose; not to frighten me. I’m not afraid of heights, or cramped spaces and darkness is no big deal.  Rats, roaches, snakes, or rabbits don’t give me fits. I’m okay with crowds and clowns, loud booms or dark rooms, but put an arachnid in front of me, and I’m racked with hives.  There is this unique way that they move, that is intimidating.  I’m afraid to admit it, but it is true! I am afraid of spiders.

                One evening back in the spring, a huge black monster with eight legs crawled from its dark damp lair onto the wall of our living room and proceeded to laugh, as I was frozen in fear.  My princess in her shining armor (Auburn sweatshirt and sweatpants), quickly dashed to the rescue.  She wielded her sword (a copy of the March issue of Country Living) and decimated the ogre with one fell swoosh.  Safe and secure, my heroine!  We have this fair arrangement; she vanquishes the spiders, and I, the rodents.  This works well for me when she is around, but woe is me when the dreaded Arachne comes to me alone.  Such a day came a few weeks ago while I was busy at work, cutting up old brush and timber and burning it.  Once again, the creature from the black wet underworld of logs and leaves, stealthily climbed onto my leg and patiently waited for the right moment.  I had taken three maybe four steps, when I noticed the terror just 6 inches below my belt.  However, I did not panic!  I was quite calm, composed, void of any feelings of dread or anxiety I simply reached down with my free hand, brushed the menace off my leg, and quickly delivered the death blow with my right foot.  I neither winced nor fainted from such a huge specimen.  It was twice as big as the spider that my wife destroyed a few months earlier.  I was not rendered worthless for that moment or the rest of the day, but worked around the same wood pile for several days thereafter.  What changed? Had I somehow overcome my fear of spiders?

                The answer is quite simple; WORK!

That’s right!  WORK!  When I felt anxious and fear seem to grip me, freezing me from action, I was sitting, eating popcorn, watching a movie, basically doing nothing but consuming time with idle behavior.   When I was calm, composed, confident and aggressive in acting; I was working, busy in both my mind and muscles, concentrating on the task at hand.  My idleness presented me with fear and sterile inaction.  My busyness   granted me cool and swift performance.

                When God made man, He put him in the garden to work it and keep it.  We were created to work and thereby give glory and honor to God through the creative free will he gave us.   All that we do, if it is with fear and love for God, is glorious to him.  If we build bridges, grow crops, sweep houses, protect people, proclaim His gospel, care for the sick, sale commodities, teach academics, train in a vocation, paint, compose  music or write a book we are working,  and working is a wonderful gift.  When we are working, we are not consumed with idle behavior.  Our minds are engaged in the task at hand.  Statistics will bear out that those who are incarcerated and constantly in debt to society, are those who are idle, unwilling to work, slothful.  They are more interested in ways of getting out of work. They stay  up late to the wee hours of the morning, stealing to pay for drugs and alcohol that will numb them of reality. They fear Satan and thus are enslaved to his will, anxious, paranoid, devoid of reason, frozen to inaction. We are warned in 1Pe 5:8  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  When we are busy and working, as unto the Lord (Col.3:23), we are free and confident.  We are able to quench the stinging fangs of Satan, without fear or dread.  We are bold to approach the throne of God and therefore have the comfort of His grace, which gives us peace and resolution in times of fear.

                If Little Miss Muffet had been doing her chores instead of sitting on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey, that spider would have never sat down beside her and frightened Miss Muffet away.

Darryl Fuller

Changed

caterpillar-to-butterfly-change-metamorphosisIn the seventeenth chapter of   Matthew; Jesus, Peter, James and John have returned from their hike to the top of Mount Hermon. During their visit, Jesus became transfigured; Mat 17:2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.  This word, transfigured, is translated from the Greek word Metamorphoo and literally means to be transformed or changed.  It is only used three other times in the Bible, Mark 9:2, Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18, and maintains its meaning in all cases.  What Peter, James, and John saw on the mountain can only be derived from what Matthew, Mark, and Luke were inspired to write; He was transformed, His face shone like the Sun and His clothing was brilliantly light.   John may be alluding to what he saw that day on the mountain as he is later inspired by God to recount Jesus in Revelation chapter one.  Rev 1:14-15 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,  (15)  his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.  Before we are carried away by what Jesus may have looked like or try to tie some profound meaning into His awesome appearance, let us dwell more importantly on the significance of being changed.  Change or metamorphose is the key here as it is throughout God’s word.

Consider that Abraham had to change his home, in order to receive God’s blessings.  Jacob had to change his deceptive behavior.  Joseph had to change his family.  Moses had to change his nationality, twice; (Egyptian to Midianite, Midianite to Hebrew).  God even changed their names; Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel.  The lessons of the Old Testament are lessons about changing.  Changing religion, changing customs, changing behavior.  At the center of all this is our sin which must be changed.  We were created good by our Father and put in a good place.  But due to our sin, our choice to do that which was contrary to God, we were separated from God and that good place.  In order to gain that goodness back, we must be willing to demonstrate to Him, our need to change.

                When Jesus, Peter, James and John arrive back from their trip up the mountain, the first thing they encounter is a distraught parent whose son is possessed by a demon.  The other disciples have been unsuccessful in ridding the boy of this malevolence.  Jesus then changes the boy from a sick, demon-possessed child to a well and freed human being.  Jesus then chides them as well as us for our lack of faith. We are all a faithless generation.   We are faithless because we resist His changing grace. We lack the ability to overcome huge obstacles because we’re not willing to change who we are or how we behave.  To change we must be willing to submit to his love and power, renewing our lives in Him. Rom 12:2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

                Jesus proclaims inMat 17:20  … For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”  I imagine Jesus pointing to a full grown mustard tree on the side of Mt. Hermon.  Over the years this seed, the tiniest of seeds, has produced a rather large tree and as it grows, the very roots have done the impossible; it has moved the mountain.  As I’ve worked in my yard, I have seen this very thing and it is amazing!  Solid rocks, weighing perhaps tons, are crushed, split and moved because they are  in the way of where the roots of a small sapling desire to go.  I’ve learned that when I want to gather rocks for whatever project, I’ll go to the base of a large tree. There I’ll find the choicest parts of the old mountain from down deep.  Broken and split into nice flat blocks, perfect for stacking, all because a small seed would not be deterred by a mountain of granite.   We can be like this tiny seed, Jesus is saying.  If we only had the faith like that seed, we too could demand the mountain that is in our way to move!  But it still begs the question of how?  The answer is change!  The seed that is sown cannot split, crush or move the mountain alone, but when it is buried in the water and the soil of the earth and dies, it changes.  It then becomes a force greater than the mountain.  So is the case for you and me, if we are willing to change.

Darryl Fuller

 

Team Work

I love to play basketball! It was my favorite activity in school sports. In 8th grade I had the opportunity to try out for the Kathleen Junior High Basketball Team. I made the team but learned very quickly that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was, and that my prowess in a pickup game in the schoolyard would not grant me an automatic start on the varsity squad. I had to unlearn all that I thought was good basketball and relearn team technique, ball control, assisting, rebounding, and lots of running, LOTS of RUNNING. Turns out, basketball, like most things in life, requires hard work and sacrifice.Duke v North Carolina

We had one particular drill that Coach Adams loved to make us do at the end of each practice.  He called it the 1:05 drill, but most of us called it the “vomit in a minute” drill.  Quite simply, the drill starts with everyone lined up on the baseline.  When the whistle blows you have 1:05 to complete this task; run to the foul line and back, run to the top of the key and back, run half court and back, run to the opposite top of key and back, run to opposite foul line and back, run to opposite baseline and back, TWICE! Everyone had to complete this routine or else all had to do it again. Those who succeeded were punished to run it again for those who didn’t. I was usually the one that made everyone else do it again.  I can still hear my teammates yelling at me, “Fuller, you better make this!”  It was the worst thing to fail because others were so desperate for you not to fail.  I hated my coach for putting me through that! Not only was it physically painful and mentally wrenching, but failure to complete the drill meant that I would not play as well.  I was not that fast of course but my physical presence plus my rebounding and layup skills were needed as my coach and other  teammates would remind me. So with the prodding of my teammates, on the last practice before our first game, I succeeded in making the time, saving them from running it again and allowing me to play in the game.  The best part was making that time! All the eleven other players on our team jumped on me and carried me out of the gym to the locker room.  I never received anything in sports like it before or after. Teamwork is very gratifying, and when you can hold up your end of the bargain, it is euphoric!

I didn’t care for the 1:05 drill or coach Adams back then, but the truth is, it made me and the other eleven guys into team players.  When one succeeded, we all succeeded. If one failed, we all suffered the consequences. As Christians this discipline is even more valid.  Gal 5:25-26  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  (26)  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.   It is sometimes second nature to rely on our talents, knowledge, or gifts we have, and forget our fellow teammate, our brothers in Christ.  We can be consumed with our daily affairs and/or our comfort zones and grow callous to our brothers’ struggles.  For many Christians, running that drill is not that big of a deal.  We may be able to easily come to services or   understand the teaching or principles of certain scripture.  However, for some, the drill can be extremely difficult, and at times humiliating because of failure.

As with the Galatians, Paul is prodding us to be teammates with one another and with Christ and the Holy Spirit.  If our desire is to be a part of Christ and His church, we’re encouraged to keep up, or stay “in step” with the Spirit.”  We have an obligation to perform our duties for the sake of our soul and the souls of those around us. If we stumble or grow weary, it will have an effect on our brothers and sisters.  Likewise, if our brother is stumbling or failing to complete the drill, we’ve got to get in there and help them, encourage them, maybe even prod them to succeed. Our growth and spiritual well being is irrevocably linked to theirs.

The goal of participating in a team  is to empty yourself and fill your teammate.  I remember clearly the day I made the 1:05 drill, because I wasn’t the last one trying to make it! All my teammates were there running beside me or behind me, pushing me, encouraging me.  It wasn’t so much that I succeeded as it was they had unselfishly quit trying to make it, in order to help me make it.  Again, Paul to the Philippian brethren said, So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  (2)  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  (3)  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  (4)  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Php 2:1-4  

As Peter said, sometimes Paul is difficult to understand, but the gist of it goes something like this; If you want the perks of being in Christ, don’t be selfish, be a team player and think of the other teammates first.

The other benefit that I got from the 1:05 drill was running.  I hated to run, but if you’re going to play basketball, you must run.   RUN! RUN! RUN!  An average basketball player will run approximately 4 to 5 miles during the course of a game, mostly sprinting.  The average wide receiver or running back in football will only run about 2 miles per game.   Teams that are successful at winning, run longer, run faster, run together.

We are exhorted to run the race. Heb 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  (2)  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  The most marvelous thing about the above verses is that the race is obtainable.  We can do this! Christ won the race, all we have to do is run it.  I often wondered why the drill was 1:05 and not say 1:04 or 1:06.  A few years after I had already gone to college, I saw Coach Adams at a game one night and asked him why the drill was set to 1:05.  He laughed and told me that’s what his coach had set it at because that was the bar or line.  He explained that every year someone on the team was going to struggle to make it, but with practice and prodding would make it.  1:05 seemed to be the point at which most could make it.   I just happened to be that guy that year. So in essence I had run the race that someone else had authored. We can all run this race. All we have to do is remember that Christ has won the race. We don’t have to set the new bar or line, we just have to run the race.  Yes, running is required, but it will never be more than we can endure 1 Cor.10:13.

The audience is in the field-house ready to observe our teamwork and endurance.  Let’s show them how great a team we can be.

 Darryl Fuller

 

“I Don’t Like Spiders & Snakes”

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The worst thing in life is spiders! Ugh! They really give me the heebie jeebies. Just recently, I’ve somehow unearthed what appears to me to be a hive of granddaddy long-legs. Big ones! In the midst of working on my house, I’ve torn down theirs’. They are long-legged ticks that move precariously like a clown on stilts trying to exit the circus arena. Loathsome as they are, I can actually pick them up by their legs and hurl them far away, so their lumbering trek back will take considerable time. Granddaddy Long Legs don’t invoke paralysis in me though, the way other arachnids do.  Although they are fewer in number and much more elusive, the spiders that really creep me out are the Kukulcania hibernalis or Southern house spiders. The male of this species is often confused with the Brown Recluse. The female is typically black with long spindly legs and builds her webs in the cracks and crevices of most southern homes.  I had the misfortune of bringing one out of her lair the other day while I was on the ladder, 28feet up painting the eaves of the house.  This is how non-poisonous spiders kill humans, by spooking them into falling from lofty pinnacles. I managed to gain control of my bladder, paint can, paint brush, and oh yes, my feet. If these spiders would just slow down like their drunken cousins, the Grand Daddy Long Legs, I might grab them by their legs and hurl them, too.  

Most of us have a fear or phobia of some type.  According to psychologists, these fears are usually embedded early in our childhood. Some fears are truly misplaced and are even crippling.  Claustrophobia or fear of small spaces for example can actually bring on severe panic attacks. In a recent case, claustrophobia was identified as the cause of death in a woman undergoing an MRI.  

For the most part though, our fears are  often exaggerated beyond their potential to actually do us harm.  We fear things which we shouldn’t and yawn at things we should. Take Ebola for example. We are all very concerned about this horrible hemorrhagic fever.  Since March of 2014 when the first case was reported, to date of this article there have been 3439 deaths worldwide (only 2 deaths outside of Africa).  In that same period of time 350,000 Americans have died due to heart disease, 9300 due to AIDS, approximately 690,000 due to automobiles, 315,000 due to cancer. Let me repeat; since March of this year one American death to Ebola, nearly 1.4 million to everyday occurrences. Our fears are often highly misplaced.

Perhaps our greatest muddled fear is between man and God.  Jesus warns specifically of this in Matthew 10:28,  And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. The word fear in this verse is from the Greek word phobeo, which means to be in awe of or sore afraid. Respect for the awesome power of the Lord is correctly placed fear. In contrast Satan’s greatest weapon in His arsenal is the arrow of misplaced fear. In the course of human history, there have been a few, who tragically  suffered  from sword or flame (Heb.11).  A few brave men and women have been martyred for the sake of their faith. It is indeed a frightening thing to contemplate the cross or stake of fire. We’re driven by fear to avoid the wrath of other men. We are like a weak and defenseless child in the schoolyard, who seeks to avoid the bully.  However, our Father says to us “What is there to be afraid of?” 1Co 16:13  Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

 If we would only fear and respect Him more, we would be empowered and emboldened to face our fears.  David is a great example of this proper fear. He withstood the frightening giant, Goliath, because he had great respect for God. 1Sa 17:26  …For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Armed with a respect for the Lord, David went out and was able to conquer that which frightened every other man.

We must learn to conquer our fears that reside here on earth.  Better yet, we should channel that fear to be in awe of our creator and savior.

Darryl Fuller

God’s Glorious Reflection

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Most mornings when I get up, I stumble to the sink, wash my face, put on my contacts and greet myself in the mirror.  Whoa ! What a sight! A few adjustments are needed, brush of the hair, a shave. Thank goodness I don’t feel the need to put on foundation and all that other good stuff (It wouldn’t help anyhow).  I believe most of us practice this same ritual every day. It’s called taking an assessment of ourselves.  We typically don’t like what we see, but we do it every day (some of us more than once).  Honestly, some days, (once or twice a decade) I don’t appear half bad.  Usually when I’m feeling sick or didn’t get enough rest, I look pretty bad.  Beth thinks I look good (That’s right, her seeing is getting worse), and that’s some consolation I suppose.  In all, our daily assessment of ourselves is all basically about the same (unless you live in Hollywood).  We take inventory of the problem areas and fix them if we can.  We grumble or moan about the wrinkles that appear, the eyes that sag, the hair that won’t go the way I want or won’t go period.  But each and every day we’re looking at the wrong reflection.  We should be looking into the mirror and seeing the image of our Father.  It’s not my physical appearance that I should be concerned about, but my spiritual reflection that I should be taking note of.

An amazing revelation is given to us by Paul in the 2 Corinthian letter regarding the appearance of Moses’ face after he had been in the presence of God, it glowed! So brilliant was his face that it had to be veiled.  The children of Israel couldn’t even look upon it, for fear and fascination.  Now, there are a lot of great lessons in this passage, but I want us to consider one.  We are in the place of Moses now  (And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord  v.18).

Each and every day, several times during the day if we would dare,  we should take a good look at our spiritual image.  Do you see in that   reflection, the glory of the Lord?  You should see an image of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness (Gal. 5:22).  Paul sums it up this way, Therefore we do not despair,but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person  is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison  because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen.  For what can be seen is temporary,   but what cannot be seen is eternal. (2 Cor.4:16-18).

Our faces should glow like Moses’ with the spiritual countenance of our glorious Father. As with hair or makeup, we should make sure that before we head out that door, our spiritual appearance is something to behold. If we really care how men will perceive our physical appearance, we should be 10 times more concerned of our spiritual presentation. Brethren, let’s take a good look at ourselves. Do we see the glory of God?

 

Darryl Fuller

 

Desiring Excellence

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Watching the news the other night I was struck by the unprofessional and sophomoric manner in which the news person presented news. It appears to me, that the AT&T ad with the adult interviewer asking the children intriguing questions is more brain-stimulating than the 6 o’clock news. I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t even read the newspaper anymore for lack of qualitative and thought-provoking analysis of even local events.  I called a customer service representative in regard to a router I bought at Lowe’s yesterday. I needed pertinent information that for some reason was not provided in the instruction manual (which I always read – front to back). After talking to 5 different people who had no clue, the 6th person was able to answer my questions, but not before the 1st person (who was still on the line) demanded that the person with the answers provide him with a manual so he could figure out what I already knew! The answer was not in that book!  It was the most unprofessional and rude behavior I have ever experienced from a customer service rep.

Where has the desire and commitment for excellence gone? Some businesses still expect their workforce to exemplify virtue, such as Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby or Publix. When you enter into these businesses you’re often greeted with a friendly hello or kind smile. These businesses are always clean, neat and organized. The staff is always knowledgeable and helpful. The reason? Owners and managers who demand excellence and professional behavior.  In the postmodern world where our youth have been taught that there are no moral absolutes, question authority and you’ll get a medal if you just participate; we are now beginning to reap the rotten harvest of “dumbing down”.

The same is true in spiritual matters. We have chosen the path of least resistance. No longer must we expect our fellow man to grow and obtain the knowledge of Christ; we are forced to be sensitive to their feelings and in no way offend.  However, God’s word is clear! 2Pe 1:2-8  May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  (3)  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, (4)  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  (5)  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with excellence, and excellence with knowledge,  (6)  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  (7)  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  (8)  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The goal for us is to be effective and fruitful for the benefit of our fellow man. That could be demonstrated in many ways such as teaching or preaching or sitting with someone and listening.  It could be cooking for them or driving them to wherever they need to go or employing them. The most important demonstration is of course sharing with them the gospel, which is the information they need in order to save their souls. The bottom line is that we are to be effective and fruitful. We cannot and will not be effective and fruitful if we don’t determine to excel in the above mentioned list.

The first thing to understand in God’s desire for our excellence, is His free gift, which makes it possible for us to become more virtuous. In verse 2 of 2 Peter 1, He says, grace is multiplied to us when we seek to know more about God and Christ.  I can truthfully say to you all, that when I sit down at my desk and say a prayer and immerse myself in the study of God’s word, He bestows on me a better understanding of His divine knowledge. It’s not a miracle or divine intervention. It’s not just for me or clergy and preachers or evangelists. It’s not a calling or special revelation. It’s freely given to any man, woman or child. It knows no racial or cultural boundaries. It is not obtained through secretive steps or special initiations. You don’t have to know Greek or Hebrew or have a college degree. All you have to have is a desire to know Him and the willingness to add to your life the knowledge of Him, and He will freely and happily grant it to you (Luke10:22; John 17:3; 2 Cor.4:6; 1 John 5:20-21). This is true of all things. I’ve had a desire to learn how to play the guitar.  It has not been easy.  It takes many hours and a lot of practice. After two years I am beginning to finally get a feel for strings, and now without looking can go through a progression of chords. I’ve even reached a stage in the learning process where I find myself creating sounds and experimenting with different arpeggios. Now, I haven’t even begun to be anywhere near playing the guitar excellently, but with each time I practice and study the instrument and musical scores, is a time I grow in the excellence of playing it.  God’s knowledge, His divine nature and special revelation (the Bible), is no different.  Each moment that we devote to growing in His knowledge, is a moment in which we excel!  That’s what God wants us to do, excel! And He’s given us all that we need in order to excel.

Excellence in the context of 2 Peter 2:2-5, is from the Greek word – arête. Vine’s definition states: properly denotes whatever procures pre-eminent estimation for a person or thing; hence, “intrinsic eminence, moral goodness, virtue.”  God designed and made us in His image (Gen.1:26-27).  He then tells us in 2 Peter 2:3 that His divine nature is excellence. What God desires from us is to be like Him, excellent!  That is the way we we’re made.  God did not intend for us to be corrupt. God’s perfect plan called for us to have free will.  He gave us the ability to make free moral choices, without strings, even if our choices could destroy our souls. The sacrifice of His son is the saving grace. It is the free gift, that we did not merit, that makes us excellent.  God’s desire for us is that we desire to be like Him. We strive to put on those qualities that bring us closer to His qualities. We yearn to learn more about Him and in turn He helps us grow to be more like Him.  When we set out to increase our faith with excellence, he adds knowledge.  The learning process involves self-discipline.  We cannot and will not grow in His knowledge if first we do not learn self control. Paul stated it this way in Rom 6:1-2  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  (2)  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Paul also argued in the Corinthian letter that yes, there were things that are lawful for me, but they’re not really good for me (1Cor.6:12; 10:23; Gal.5:13). Excellence is self control.

 When one adds self control to their life then they are unmovable.  A steadfast individual is always accountable, dependable, uncompromising in God’s truth. They are rocks that cannot be moved by every scheme and fanciful new notion that comes along (Eph.4:14; James 1:6). A steadfast person is one you can count on, someone who has excelled in fortitude, patience and stamina, through the thickest of fires.

It’s been said that “all we need is love”, but notice God did not start out with love.  God knows that for us to truly love one another we must desire to be like Him. He is Love! Let’s don’t pretend to think we can love our fellow human being without excelling to know God first.  If we have no idea who God is and what He asks of us, we have no idea what love is.  If we cannot learn to control ourselves or our own personal desires, we will never be able to truly love our fellowman and help him overcome his selfishness.  If we’re always changing with the wind and never convicted to the absolute truth of God’s word, how can we love our fellowman. Without steadfastness, we are blind, leading the blind into destruction. Mat 15:14  Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

                An effectual and fruitful child of God is one who desires to be excellent.  Let us EXCEL!

Darryl Fuller