Archive for April, 2013

GROWING PAINS(Pt.4)

The Old Testament opens with the story of God as Creator and God as a Father to Adam (Man),His highest creation. But after Mankind’s repeated record of failure to walk in the ways of the LORD God, the Hebrew scriptures close leaving us with a promise from God to restore a fathering grace in the earth. “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse”(Malachi 4:4-6 NASB).

“Where are the fathers?” My simple reply,”They are being restored!” This no doubt may be hard to comprehend when the enemy has done his best work to destroy the true image of fathers(And thus the image of the family) in our world. But I would also suggest that perhaps we don’t SEE them because we don’t know HOW to recognize them. Or to put it another way, WHAT does a true father look like? (I apologize in advance that I am writing on a very important subject in a rather broad way for the sake of this one article.)

There are two primary types of fathers in the earth that we need to recognize.

NATURAL FATHERS

Depending on your experience and history (in the natural),the mention of a father can bring up a variety of images and emotions. This could range from fond memories of the person that brought joy, security and support in your life while growing up to the opposite pole; the person not present in one’s life, in addition to the person who may have been physically and/or emotionally abusive. How does the scripture help us to recognize or relate to our natural father?

HONOR

Honor your father. Some don’t want to honor their natural father because they were absent or abusive, or just neglected. (They may even be confused or ashamed by circumstances that brought them into the world). But honor does not mean endorsing wrong or inappropriate behavior. Honor may mean starting with forgiveness. You must forgive them in order that you can move forward in your life. Life gives options. It gives you the opportunity to make choices about your future with the possibility of fulfilling your God-given purpose and destiny. Give up any resentment and bitterness toward your father. Maybe, due to their own upbringing, they did not have the skill sets to be to you what they should. Release them through forgiveness. Honor them for giving you life. You may discover that two people are able to move forward…You as well as them.

SPIRITUAL FATHERS

The main focus of this teaching is to give some understanding of those who have grown in maturity and grace to be called spiritual “fathers”( I am not here referring to those who carry a professional religious title).  Here are some basic Scriptural observations of true spiritual fathers:

Fathers AFFIRM of our true identity as sons (or daughters) of God. Luke records, “Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased”(Luke 3: 22 NASB). Jesus needed the affirmation of His Father before He was led of the Spirit to face forty days of temptation and spiritual conflict from Satan. What was central issue behind Jesus’ temptation? A challenge to his true Sonship(“If you are the Son of God”- Lk.4). The Father fortified Jesus by the words, “You are My beloved Son”. With that affirmation He was able to stand and withstand every assault of Satan.

Fathers ENCOURAGE us in our spiritual development. The apostle John the beloved wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4 NIV). Again the apostle Peter, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”(2 Peter 3:18 NIV). They don’t hold us down or back, spiritually, they celebrate with us those moments of “growth spurts” in God.

Fathers CHALLENGE us to fulfill our God-given purpose in life. Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith, “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith”(1 Timothy 1:18, 19 NIV). Fathers don’t let sons settle for less than is God’s best for their lives. They are always stirring up their faith and gifts in order that they may to reach out(And up) for all that God has in mind for their life.

Fathers DISCIPLE us in the ways of the Lord. Apart from the record of our Lord Jesus, no one gives us a greater window into disciple making as the apostle Paul, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us”(2 Timothy 1:13, 14 NIV). Again, Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”(1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV).

Discipleship is a process of teaching by principle, precept as well as by example. Spending time with sons in the faith in order to model is as important as the truth being imparted. In other words, discipleship is a lifestyle of walking with and being available to those who are being discipled (Jesus’ early disciples went everywhere with Him). True fathers don’t consider spending time with sons an intrusion into their life or work. IT IS THEIR WORK.

Fathers share PERSPECTIVE. “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning”(1 John 2:13a NIV). True spiritual fathers are able to impart an eternal perspective of life. They don’t merely speak from a momentary trial or test or circumstance. They speak to the issue of what this “moment” means in light of eternal consequences. Time and again, the apostle Paul would encourage the believers to view their present situation, persecution, challenge(Even seeming setbacks!) in light of eternity. Perhaps, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase says it best, “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever”(2 Corinthians 4:16 MSG).

When true fathers “turn toward the children” it is natural that “children turn toward their fathers”. The need to belong and to be placed in a family is natural. The desire to please a father brings great joy and satisfaction. Ultimately, fathers are a dim(but necessary) reflection of God, our Father. Every true son of the Kingdom knows that (at a heart level) their true desire is not to please man but to please the heart of God, their heavenly Father. The apostle Paul wrote “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29,30 NASB). May we each experience the fulness of His love and purpose for our life.

 

(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr. All rights are reserved. This article may be shared free of charge provided that it is not altered in anyway from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

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GROWING PAINS(Pt.3)

Darrell (Not his real name) was introduced to me because he wanted some help with direction in his life. Although young in years I could sense in our conversation that here was someone with a genuine grasp and awareness that the hand of God was on his life for ministry. I agreed to meet on a regular basis and walk with him through a “narrow” place he was going through in his life. Over the course of the next few months, I could see that as he became more confident in his fellowship with God as his Father some amazing things began to happen. I watched areas that were places of bondage fall away as a new hunger and passion for God emerged. People who knew him began to comment about seeing a new sense of victory in his life. What was his secret?

A NEW PERSPECTIVE

Darrell had come to share a new perspective. Through God’s help he was learning how not to lose sight of the Lord Jesus. As he learned to lean into His presence by daily prayer he discovered a friendship he never knew he was privileged to have. He also learned that there was nothing that he could DO to impress God to earn His care or love for him. Nor was this new walk about having every theological answer at his finger tips. No. He learned that the only One who has all the right answers in the Universe was God and God alone. He could rest in the knowledge that God is Love and has desired his friendship in this world. This brought a new assurance and an abiding peace. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you(Philippians 4:6-9 NIV).  Notice the apostle Paul mentions two dimensions of peace, “the peace of God” as well as having “the God of peace”. In this way you can’t lose.

A NEW POWER

The Scripture tells us “The glory of young men is their strength”(Proverbs 20:29) The apostle John wrote, “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one (1 John 2:14b NASB).

Darrell had discovered a new power source in his life. The life of the Overcomer! As he learned to balance his walk both by the Word and the Spirit of God, like Samson who killed the attacking lion, he learned how to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Again the apostle Paul wrote, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you might stand against the schemes of the devil”(Ephesians 6:10-11).

The armor that he is referring to is not the Roman soldiers outfit(Especially when we recall that Rome represented an oppressive governmental power opposed to God’s Kingdom being established in the earth).  Rather,he wanted to impress upon their hearts and minds that they are to be clothed “In Him”,fully adorned for spiritual battle. We place no confidence in carnal weaponry to bring us victory but claim only God as their true ARMOR. The words of the prophet Isaiah help us today understand the complexity of the spiritual battle God’s people face today as well as the true source of victory. “Justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one,he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate and the helmet of salvation on his head; He put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due. From the west, people will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along. “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins, declares the Lord. “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever, says the Lord. (Isaiah 59:14-21 NIV) True spiritual growth takes place when we cease in our own strength fight our battles but learn to put on the whole armor of God, knowing that He is the true Man of War.

Moving from “children” to “young men” is Scriptural language showing what it means to know, by experience, “That greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world”(1 John 4:4).  Finally, the Apostle Paul wrote, ” If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39 NASB).

(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher,Jr. All rights are reserved. This article may be shared free of charge provided that it is not sold or altered from its original content. Please address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

GROWING PAINS(Pt. 2)

“Throw it to me, Grandpa!” he squealed with great delight. My oldest grandson could only have been four or five years old at the time. We were having a family barbecue in our back yard and his dad was doing the cooking on the Grill. And so as a way to entertain my grandson, I was throwing a little foam football and teaching him how to catch. I would say to him,”Get ready. Here it comes!” He would put his little hands out waiting for the ball to be tossed to him. But being so young he was not quite as coordinated, as he is now at Sixteen! So he would catch 3 out of the 10 balls thrown his way. This did not bother either one of us. We were having fun. He was a child and I was delighted that he was thrilled to have Grandpa’s attention. I understood that he was behaving as was to be expected at that stage of his development. He was still a child.

THE NATURAL AND THE SPIRITUAL

The apostle John takes the natural stages of growth and development to emphasize the spiritual stages of growth and development of a believer. “I am writing to you,little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you,fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father”(1 John 2:12-13 NASB). Notice the 3 stages of development,”Little Children”…”Young Men”… “fathers”. I am only taking a look in this teaching at the first stage of spiritual growth as John describes it, “Little children”.

OBJECTS OF HIS LOVE

One of the very first phases of knowing that we are called to be God’s child is that we each must experience God’s love for us. God’s love woos us and draws us by His loving kindness to experience God’s loving presence in spite of how bad or broken our life has been. We dare to believe the report of the love God has manifested for us. Paul assures us that God demonstrated His love for us even “While we were still sinners Christ died for us”(Romans 5:8).

SPIRITUAL BIRTH

To be a true child of God, a child of God’s kingdom, you must experience spiritual birth. The apostle John wrote,”And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son does not have life”(1 John 5:11-12 NASB). Spiritual birth means that we have experienced the life of God from above; the Life of His Son, Jesus Christ. It does not come to us by anything we have done to earn it. It does not come by mental assent to doctrinal truths about it. It comes when we are willing to ask that God “Re-parent” us; rebirth by the Spirit of God in our heart and life. How do we know that this New Birth has taken place? “As many as have received God’s unique Son, Jesus Christ, have been given the right to become children of God. Not born of the flesh but born of the Spirit of God”(John 1:12). The apostle Paul wrote, “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”(Romans 8:16).

FORGIVENESS OF SINS

John wrote to the newly converted believers in order to bring comfort and assurance that their sins were truly forgiven by the Father. Unfortunately, often resulting from religious traditions that are not from the Scriptures, this is a misunderstood part of the proclamation that the kingdom of God had truly come. Jesus told His messengers, “As you go preach the forgiveness of sins”(Luke 24). Forgiveness is a key that unlocks the heart or spirit to the possibility of faith. Forgiveness is the entry way to a new beginning in life. You will recall the story of the man that could not help himself get well. His friends carried him to a home where Jesus was having a meeting. They broke up Jesus’ friends roof! and let down their friend in the midst of the meeting. Everyone there could see how helplessly sick and crippled this man was. Jesus spoke a word of forgiveness and release from his sin BEFORE He spoke a word of release from the power of sickness and disease in his life. Why? Because Jesus understood that most people don’t open themselves to faith without the HOPE of forgiveness for their sins.

BELONGING TO A FAMILY

A part of being a child of God of necessity means that you belong to God’s forever Family. The psalmist wrote by revelation, that God is “A father to the fatherless…God sets the lonely in families”(Psalm 68:5a,6a NIV). What a wonderful thing it is to know that we belong to a large family. You were not meant to go through life ALONE. Paul prays for the new believers in Ephesus that they would have a sense of belonging and an enlarged faith view that connects them with God’s family in heaven and on earth(See Ephesians 3:14-15).

SPIRITUAL APPETITE

The true sign of a healthy birth and that the child is growing is that it has a natural appetite for it’s mother’s milk. The apostle Peter wrote to the new believers whom he could not see personally, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good”(1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV). The Father is greatly delighted in new births in the Kingdom; children reveling in the presence of God’s forgiveness and loving kindness. John invites us to reflect and rejoice in the open secret of God’s love, “Behold what manner of love is this that we should be called the children of God”(I John 3:1). We are NOW children of God, the objects of His great love.

(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr. All rights are reserved. This article may be copied and shared free of charge provided that it is not altered from its original content. Address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

GROWING PAINS(Pt. 1)

Having raised four children and now enjoying two grandchildren, I am ever amazed at how quickly they grow up. You see them when they are small and taking their first steps or saying their first words. And then…Suddenly! They are standing next to you nearly shoulder to shoulder. You think or express, “When did this occur?”. You might even say, with teasing affection,” Where is the little, adorable child that I used to place on my lap?” You realize that time has flown by and are aware that children grow up so fast.
I can still remember how quickly I began to grow up from the little boy walking alongside my Dad and trying to keep up with his stride to growing into my Teenage years. I grew so rapidly my parents could hardly keep me in clothes that fit! I also remember with great delight how I would go into my Dad’s wardrobe and rifle through his Cashmere sweaters and find one I could wear to High School. I was so proud of the fact that I had gained the physical frame to fit my Dad’s clothes.
There is a spiritual parallel to my fond boyhood memories for each one of us today. We all face the challenge of growing pains in God’s family. I find it interesting that the apostle Peter concludes his final letter to the Believers who were scattered abroad and facing many pressures. He writes to them in a pastoral way these final words,” Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 NASB). He did not merely exhort them to “stretch” or “hang in there!”. Rather, they were not to think it a strange but natural , spiritual process that was leading to a greater maturity in Jesus Christ. Peter was as deeply invested in their spiritual development as he was their spiritual birth into God’s Family.
DEVELOPMENT IS NATURAL
Development in the Kingdom of God is a natural process. Jesus Christ came into the world as vulnerable and needy as you and me. He grew in the same way any person coming into the world does. From the moment of Mary and Joseph’s watchful care over him as a new born babe we read, “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him”(Luke 2:40 NASB).
Growing is so natural a phenomena, no one thinks about as it occurs. And yet, Luke in his gospel records of Jesus development what it means to be Fully human(Albeit “God was with Him”). “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men”(Luke 2:52 NASB).
By way of our example, He proved as normal a human being what it means to develop in a supernatural way. Luke tells us that Jesus,in His humanity, grew in four ways: physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. This is what I’d like to call a balanced life.
A BALANCED LIFE
It is not always easy to learn the art of balanced living. The pull of many stimulating things in this world system can (if we are not attentive and alert) keep us off balance, like the person waiting for the bus to arrive that is invariably delayed. There they stand “switching their suitcase from hand to hand” or maybe because they are never settled, shifting their weight from one leg to another in life.
Jesus knows all about the struggles or challenges of growing up in an often hostile or unfriendly environment. It’s great to know that He showed us in a real human way that we can live a fully balanced life before God and others.
Perhaps He learned to claim the promises of God in times of great changes around Him.
“I called on the LORD in distress; The LORD answered me and set me in a broad place”(Psalm 118:5 NKJV).
Or maybe as He enjoyed constant fellowship with the Father, He could claim, “The LORD God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hind’s feet, and makes me walk onmy high places”(Habbakuk 3:19 NASB).
In whatever way, as we read the narrative of His earthly life we see a well-balanced life. Again, Peter proclaimed, “How God anointed Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil because God was with Him”(Acts 10:38).
Learning how to enjoy the Life God has given and bringing glory to His name in our everyday lives is the best way to draw people to Who Jesus IS and who they are called to be.

(c) Copyright 2013, Walter Fletcher Jr. All rights are reserved. This article may be copied or shared free of charge provided that it is not altered in anyway from it’s original content. Please address all correspondence
to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com