Christian Growth

Spring Fever Is Real

The sun is shining, the weather has warmed. Poor Mrs. McSmith cannot keep her pupils in line. They are shooting spitballs, jumping off their desks, and talking out of turn; when they are quiet, they appear to be in a daydream daze. Do the kids need more Ritalin? Probably not. It might merely be a case of “Spring Fever.”

As we say goodbye to Winter and hello to warmer weather, we find a price tag for this transition: Spring Fever. But what is this mystery disease?

An Associated Press article (which appeared in the Kokomo Tribune way back on March 20th of 1987) enlightens us: Read more about Spring Fever Is Real

SWOT Analysis, the Bible, and Personal Growth

SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The analytical tool has been in use for around fifty years, and while some attribute the origin of the SWOT analysis to Stanford Research Institute’s Albert Humphrey, because he doesn’t take credit for it, the derivation of the device is not clear. Nonetheless, SWOT analysis has been a mainstay of organizational strategy, in part due to its simplicity and exposing power.

The device considers both internal and external factors to help identify areas of improvement and potential areas for emphasis. The SWOT analysis provides a concise snapshot of an organization’s present health as well as uncovering opportunities for refinement and growth. The internal factors considered are strengths and weaknesses. Identifying current strengths and weaknesses within the organization helps leaders assess how well the organization is meeting its mission or how badly it is missing the mark. On the external side, opportunities and threats are examined in order to evaluate climate and environment for that organization’s function. SWOT analysis is a tool that can help organizations monitor past and present performance (strengths and weaknesses) and to identify action points in anticipation of the future (opportunities and threats). Read more about SWOT Analysis, the Bible, and Personal Growth

What the Bible Contains for the Believer

(About this series)

CHAPTER X—What the Bible Contains for the Believer

BY REV. GEORGE F. PENTECOST, D. D., DARIEN, CONNECTICUT

1. The Bible is the Only Book That Can Make Us Wise unto Salvation.

The Bible is not a book to be studied as we study geology and astronomy, merely to find out about the earth’s formation and the structure of the universe; but it is a book revealing truth, designed to bring us into living union with God. We may study the physical sciences and get a fair knowledge of the facts and phenomena of the material universe; but what difference does it make to us, as spiritual beings, whether the Copernican theory of the universe is true, or that of Ptolemy? On the other hand, the eternal things of God’s Word do so concern us. Scientific knowledge, and the words in which that knowledge is conveyed, have no power to change our characters, to make us better, or give us a living hope of a blessed immortality; but the Word of God has in it a vital power, it is “quick and powerful”—living and full of Divine energy (Heb. 4:12)—and when received with meekness into our understanding and heart is able to save our souls (Jas. 1:18, 21), for it is the instrument of the Holy Spirit wherewith He accomplishes in us regeneration of character. The Word of God is a living seed containing within itself God’s own life, which, when it is received into our hearts, springs up within us and “brings forth fruit after its kind;” for Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God, is the living germ hidden in His written Word. Therefore it is written, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life” (John Read more about What the Bible Contains for the Believer

How to Grow as a Person

A Google search of the phrase “how to grow as a person” (or even just “grow as a person”) reveals 520 million related links. For points of reference, let’s look at the results of some other popular Google searches:

“how to make money”  426 million
“world peace” – 120 million
“the pope” – 176 million
“Donald Trump” – 334 million
“Star Wars” – 431 million

“How to grow as a person” is a topic much discussed (even more than Star Wars, and that is saying something!), with many diverse and often conflicting prescriptions. Cutting through the noise is a simple Biblical formula that allows us to access strength much greater than our own. Let’s take a look at that formula, beginning with John’s contrast of darkness and light. Read more about How to Grow as a Person

Memorizing the Word in 2016

The church leadership at Highland Park Church recently agreed to launch a congregation-wide Scripture memory plan. What follows is part of pastor Ed Vasicek’s commuication to the congregation, describing the plan and its purpose. Perhaps it may stimulate ideas for church-wide Scripture memory efforts in other churches as well. – Editor.

Camp Emmanuel is different from most “church camps” in that is more of a Bible camp than a church camp. The kids compete for team points through Scripture memory, and Bible is central. AWANA is different from many church clubs in that it, too, is centered on Bible memory.

But what about the rest of us? Is Bible memory only for kids who can memorize more readily? Are the rest of us spiritually over the hill when it comes to Bible memory? We may not be able to teach old dogs new tricks, but our church is not a dog park! We humans do learn and memorize more slowly as we age, but we can still learn—we just need to make sure the pole is not set too high.

The elders are happy to announce that Terry Watson will lead our church in a new emphasis for 2016: Memorizing the Word. The elders (of which Terry is one) are enthusiastic about this emphasis for 2016.

Psalm 119:11, 97-99 suggests that memorizing Scripture has a big part to play in our attempt to live with discernment, wisdom, and godliness: Read more about Memorizing the Word in 2016

Got Milk?

The Bible sometimes uses the same imagery to teach a variety of things. For example, the lion is used to represent the Messiah (Revelation 5:5) and Satan (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus is the Morning Star (Revelation 22:16); He will give faithful believers the Morning Star (Revelation 2:28), and Lucifer means “Morning Star” (Isaiah 14:12).

Marriage is another example of imagery used to illustrate different relationships. The church is betrothed and will be married to Jesus (Revelation 19:7), Israel will be married to the Lord (Hosea 2:19-20), yet Israel will also be married to a destination, the Land of Israel (Isaiah 62:4). Revelation 21:2 suggests believers who are married to Jesus will also be married to a destination: the New Jerusalem. Read more about Got Milk?

Sanctification and Giving Up

All believers experience spiritual frustration. We desire to live lives that are obedient to our Lord and that grow in likeness to His life of humble service (Mark 10:45). But anyone who is a believer for very long discovers that failure is common. Those who take 1 Peter 1:15 seriously (“be holy for I am holy”; see also 2 Cor. 7:1) and who do not think of themselves more highly than they ought to think (Rom. 12:3), know that they are far from what they ought to be. Transformation into His image (Rom. 8:29, Col. 3:10) never seems to happen quite fast enough.

Sadly, some are so often and so painfully disappointed with themselves and others that they give up on the idea of changing much at all, and many of these take up a theology that supports that response. A recent example appeared in a post by Christianity Today editor Mark Galli.

I doubt the ability of Christians to make much progress in holiness. I look at churches that are committed to transformation and holiness, and I fail to see that they are much more holy or transformed than other churches…. I look at my own life, and marvel at the lack of real transformation after 50 years of effort.

Galli has written along similar lines previously (“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Stop Trying So Hard”) but is by no means alone in de-emphasizing the role of personal effort and obedience in living the Christian life. Read more about Sanctification and Giving Up

From the Archives: On Daily Devotions

devotionsOne from the SharperIron archive. Originally published in the Baptist Bulletin Nov/Dec 2011 and used here by permission. All rights reserved.

My wife and I were talking about the spiritual hazards in the current culture when she asked, “How do believers make it these days without daily quiet time?” This is a subject I rarely hear mentioned anymore. Maybe that’s because the matter is too personal.

Years ago a Bible college student confided that as he walked to breakfast on his first day of class, his suite-mate asked, “Well, George, what did the Lord give you in quiet time this morning?”

George’s mind worked fast. After the initial shock at the intrusion, he quickly made up something to tell. The next morning it happened again, and again he made up something to make himself look good. The third morning George got up earlier and prayed for the Lord to give him something he could share. From then on he had an appointment with the Lord and didn’t need any further prompting. Read more about From the Archives: On Daily Devotions

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