“To a Mature Man” Stage 1–Birth

Jesus

Okay. Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God. The account of His birth ties him to His heritage. Matthew traces it back to Abraham, the Faithful Father of the Promise, the Father of the nation of Israel. Matthew 1, the genealogy which in brief relays the story of the Old Testament. In Jesus’ line there is a lot of mixed-baggage. Here are a few examples:

  • Abraham–Faith, but a cowardly liar
  • Jacob– a God-grappling deceiver
  • Judah with Tamar– self-sacrificing, but ignoble
  • Rahab–God-fearing prostitute
  • David–After-God’s-heart wife-stealer
  • Solomon– Wise man with too many ladies
  • Rehoboam– Just a jerk
  • Jeroboam– Weakling
  • Hezekiah–God fearing naive king
  • Manasseh–baby-killer
  • Josiah– Rediscovered God, but too late for everyone else.

And more. Those are the main ones that stick out to me. Mary’s genealogy in Luke 3 has many of the same names.

At the end of this list is Joseph who has a dream that his virginal bride-to-be is actually going to give birth to a baby named, “Jesus.”

“For He will save His people from their sins.”

Jesus’ name was given before birth, which to me indicates that he was not disconnected from his heritage. On the contrary, he was going to fix the mess that everyone else had made. This baby was born to make good all that was made bad before him.

His birth, though he was of royal blood, was in an animal feeding trough. Humble I believe could be the best way to describe it.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus was driven to Egypt out of the land of Israel, a people who once lost all their new-born kids to the king of Egypt, by the King of Israel who killed new-born kids of Israel. Tragically ironic. Whereas the current King of Israel wished to seize and to slay, this humble king was content to sleep and to lay.

“Out of Egypt I called My son!” Matthew reminds us of the story of how Moses had to stand for God against the King, as God brought His nation out of the womb of Egypt with tremendous birth-pangs. They came out with the spoils of Egypt, decked in all the jewels and gold of the welcome to the world as a new nation with One God.

Christian

You, my dear brother, were born once. I often find that not many Christians (Believers in Jesus Christ) recognize things they have in common with Jesus. Part of the purpose of this series is to help recognize some of these things. After all, according to Romans 8:29, Paul said,

“God foreknew and planned out that Christians would be conformed to the image of his Son [Jesus] so that [Jesus] might be the first born among many brothers.” [and sisters]

If my father read this,  I would tell him, I am not laying any claim on divinity for us humans, as it is true of Christ. We are of the earth, and we are creatures: we cannot be divine in Jesus’ way. Even the on the other side of resurrection, the end of humanity isn’t divinity according to Revelation 22. What I am saying is that the humanity of Christ is human enough for us to relate with him and identify with him as his brothers and sisters. In fact, in some ways He’s more wholly human than we are brokenly. For instance:

  • While you and I have an earthly father and mother, Jesus did have an earthly mother.
  • “Whatsoever is born of flesh is flesh.” John 3:6 “Jesus Christ is come in flesh.” 1 John 4:2
  • He had a real physical body that breathed, bled, lived, died, felt pain, felt weakness, wanted things.
  • He had siblings growing up.
  • He had a community of people around him who knew, cared about, and at first spoke well of him.
  • He had friends.

There is plenty of room in the image God: Jesus, for human you, also made in God’s image, to fit. He’s Humanity 2.0! 😀

“To tell you all of this again is no hard thing for me, and it is a safe guard for you.”

Church

And I want you to be aware that this view of Jesus as Human is not welcome in some churches. Gnosticism is, as my professor Dr. Ryan Reeves at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary said in his video, “Gnosticism and the Early Church,” a trend that affects the doctrines and practices of the church from even before Christ until today. It involves: three fundamentals:

  1. The tangible world isn’t real.
  2. The tangible world is hated or deprecated in value
  3.  One needs an elitist knowledge of how things *really* are in order to be saved.

It manifests in churches that do not value the material world around them, and have beliefs that God isn’t out to redeem the physical world, but rather to deliver our immaterial “souls” from this evil material world, and we need to know the truth that sets us free from our physical bondage to things like possessions, the temple of the Holy Spirit. “It’s an old garment anyway.” they say. “One day I’ll be free of my physical body and get to live forever with Jesus in a spirit-only world!”

Trends like this tend to hurt the church’s witness, because we value more thinking and experiencing than doing or accomplishing tangible results. Furthermore, it’s not in keeping with the overarching meta-story of Scripture. Jesus was just as much human flesh as you and I are, yet without sin. And it was THAT humanness that was the perfect representation of His nature. What’s more, the fact God became a physical tangible human being means that He has tied himself to our physical reality. And just as our bodies will die one day, this world will die one day. As our bodies will be changed, so the earth will be changed. The Spiritual is not at the expense of the tangible.

If however, Jesus was born, and the Church is the body of Christ, then the church is just as much human as it is spiritual, and that’s a good thing.

Pitfalls

In these stages, I plan to share a pitfall for each one, to avoid to ensure your own or someone else’s progress through the stages. At this stage in a Christian’s life, he is being exposed to the person of Jesus Christ, being reminded of true humanity through other Christians. The pitfalls he must avoid are false religion or False gods. Whatever we worship or believe comes to define who we are, and to believe things that are untrue, or fashioned after an ungodly spirit is to cheapen one’s own humanity. This of course presupposes that Jesus Himself is the True Human. If a person comes to believe something about humanity and the spiritual world that isn’t true, it will be a stumbling block and a hindrance toward their growing up into maturity. What a person in this stage needs is Exposure to Christ. To meet a Christian and be struck by their dissimilarity with the rest of the world. This gets a person started on their journey toward Christ. Let him avoid the paths that diverge from the Way after myths, false gods, and false religion.

Application (The part I know you really like)

  1. Take care not to de-human-ize Jesus. It’s really not honoring to him. His humanity was the perfect representation of God as the perfect image of God, and he has reset the Human race on a path to the full actualization of God’s character in the church.
  2. Be human! And base your definition on Jesus: humility. The apostle Luke was intentional to show the disciples of Jesus doing even the miraculous things Jesus did, like raising the dead even! Read Acts! Show kindness to your fellow humanity. Don’t think you’re something special. Be humble.
  3. Render to God what is God’s. Count your very being as a physical image stamped with the likeness of God. And recognize that you were born to represent Him on the earth, even as Jesus was born.
  4. Represent the earth before God. Not only is humankind the representative of God on earth, but the representative of Earth before God. Who better to be a mediator between these two realms of Heaven and Earth than one who smells of both homes.
  5. Avoid the Pitfalls.
  6. Read the Bible as a human. Here’s a logic puzzle:
  • If Jesus is both divine and human.
  • And Jesus is the Word of God,
  • and the Bible is the Word of God,
  • Then Why should the Bible be read only as Divine communication? Should it not be read just as fully as human communication? It was the resurgence of the humanities which helped Erasmus to translate the Greek New Testament, and Martin Luther to get a hold of the Word of God as it was meant. To read the Bible as a human means you read it as an author talking to a listener with pre-understandings and time-less eternal truths living in each of their hearts.

Final point: Every human who seeks to follow after Jesus must start at this point. To be human from birth. In short, a man must be born before he can be born again.

Advertisements

“To a Mature Man”

My dearest little brother,

– – We have been following Jesus together for a number of years now, and this Fall, it seems you will be moving out of my immediate range. While you are gone, I’ll miss your company, and talking with you, and sharing more insights into the mystery of walking with him. I know you’ll have plenty of growing to do where you are going, even as I still have plenty of growing to do here, but as you are going, I wanted to put these following blog posts in a place where you can get to them easily, and possibly share them with others who you get a chance to be a big brother to. It is an expansion on the 10 stages of the Christian life, based upon the 10 stages of Jesus Life, which you know has been my keen interest these last few years. In answer to the question, What does it mean to be a real, full-grown Christian?” I have arranged these reflections in a manner that I hope will be easy to understand, and appreciated for their ability to help you examine your own walk with the Lord. I know we both desire for the Church to be what God wants it to be. Thank you for your willingness to follow along with me as I follow Christ.

As Christ has loved us,
Let us love one another.

With Christ’s love,
Your older brother

Outline

The Stages of Jesus’Life as the Proto-Christian are these. The first four are Preparatory. The Second four are Kingdom. The final two are Post-Victory.

  1. Birth
  2. Temple
  3. Baptism
  4. Wilderness
  5. Community
  6. Service
  7. Justice
  8. Persecution
  9. Resurrection
  10. Ascension

I’ll dedicate one post for each of these stages with one final post to conclude.

P.S. Until all the stages are up, I’ll keep the outline at the front for reference, so you can scroll down for stages as they are available on Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m.

The Cynic and the Gospel

“But there’s no happy endings
Not here and not now
This tale is all sorrows and woes
You dream that justice
And peace win the day,
But that’s not how the story goes” ~Nick Urata — Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events

My response: What? Yes it is! Haven’t you heard the Gospel?

Cynic: Pipe Dream.

Me: How Love is the Supreme Ethic?

Cynic: Child’s Play.

Me: It wasn’t child’s play for Jesus who died on the Cross to make it so.

Cynic: Too long ago.

Me: *remembers Legend of Bagger Vance, where Matt Damon’s tells his beloved that their love life was “too long ago.” And the girl says, “No it wasn’t. It was just a moment ago.”

*Considers that this is the very reason for the Church today: to bring Christ’s death on the cross into the here and now. This is the message of the Lamb’s unsealed scroll in Revelation: the only thing that will bring repentance is when the impenitent world sees the followers of the lamb imitating the same loving sacrifice of the Lamb, giving their lives for others.

*Looking lovingly at the Cynic and says, “No. No it wasn’t. It was just a moment ago.”

The Two Rebel Kingdoms

There once was a King who ruled a vast Kingdom. In his kingdom a great General led a mighty army. And the Chief treasurer multiplied the wealth for all according to the King’s Rules. All was peaceful and prosperous.

Then one day, the Manager grew greedy for more money, and he bribed a few select officials in the Kingdom promising them wealth if they would serve him instead of their king. These officials hated taking care of the poor according to the King’s rules, so they agreed, and the Treacherous Treasurer left and established a Monetary Economic culture to the East of the Kingdom, and there was slavery in the land.

That same day, the General grew hungry for military glory and led a coup and there was a war in the kingdom. The General left with a large portion of the King’s armed forces, and set up a military kingdom to the West that Rivaled Sparta.

The King was heartbroken that his subjects left him to follow the his treacherous Treasurer and glory-hungry General. He built a Wall around his kingdom to defend from the Military Kingdom’s soldiers, and the Monetary Kingdom’s slavers. Then he sent diplomats and emissaries to invite the rebellious citizens back to his kingdom to see if any perhaps were merely deceived and could be persuaded to return to the King in his Kingdom, or if they had truly turned against him. But the Military Kingdom butchered the diplomats they were sent, and the Monetary Kingdom took them as slaves.

Finally, the King said, “I will send my son the Prince to them. Surely they will remember what I am like as King, and they will be persuaded to hear him.” The Prince went and called for a truce where he met with the Kings of both these Rival Kingdoms right outside the City walls. When the General and the Treasurer saw the Prince coming, they said to each other, “Let us ransom the King’s son, so that when the King dies without an heir, then we will take the land for ourselves.” They agreed. They saw him coming carrying no weapon, and the Military General scoffed. He wore no purse and the Treasurer sneered. He offered them a  place in his father’s Kingdom, but the Manager took him and beat him as a slave stripping him down to nothing, and then the Military General threw him over to the pit of soldiers who beat him mercilessly. He did not fight back, but he said, “I love you, and I forgive you.” Then he died.

They sent back the dead body to the King on a wooden cart wrapped up. The King wet all the doctors in the Kingdom to work, and set all the people to praying that the Prince might live again. To the joy of the Kingdom, and to the dismay of the enemies, the Prince revived!

Once the Prince was revived, the King delivered his final warning to both kingdoms: if there were any who wished to come to be citizens of his kingdom, they had one more chance before he came and delivered swift justice on his Evil General and Treasurer and any who still sided with them.

Some of the soldiers and wealthy came and repented with great sorrow, and they were welcomed into the Kingdom again. Out of their great joy, they swore fealty to the King, and begged that they might go back to the kingdoms East and West, to see if they could persuade any others to come with them. So they did, they returned and pleaded with the soldiers and the slavers, “Be reconciled to the King!” But these were treated just as shamefully and mercilessly as the Prince was treated.

At last, the judgment day had come! The King took back the Treasurer’s Kingdom first, conquered them, and plundered them. Then the King besieged the Military Kingdom and Prince led the King’s army to a glorious victory, and they exterminated the province. All who did not die were thrown into the King’s Dungeon for life. But those who served the King faithfully were given rule over the newly unified Kingdom, and the Prince was given the Kingdom on his Coronation Day.

Fairy Tale: Trouble, Price, and Ransom

Once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl walking down the King’s Highway leading to their parents’ house.

As they walked along a white fence, they saw a mysterious forest on the other side.

The boy said to the girl, “Hey! Let’s check out the forest!”

The girl said, “But there’s a fence, and we might get lost.”

The boy said, “We won’t get lost. All we gotta do is hop the fence. It’ll be fun!”

“Well, okay.” The girl said and followed her brother into the woods.

They walked inside the forest and encountered some very friendly squirrels and beautiful flowers, when all of a sudden:

boom, Boom, BOom, BOOm, BOOM!

Someone was coming.

They climbed up into a tree thick with leaves through which they couldn’t see who was coming.

On the noise came. BOOM BOOM BOOM!

Then it stopped. All was quiet until they heard.

*Sniff Sniff Sniff*

Suddenly, two large hands, each one the size of the child, reached out and grabbed them through the branches

As the enormous hands yanked them out of the tree by their shirt collars a grizzly enormous face met them. It was a giant.

“You are trespassing. Now, you are my prisoners.”

So the two children were brought back to the Castle and thrown in the dark dungeon.

“You will stay here forever as my slaves.” The giant thundered as the door crashed closed.

The next day the Son of the King who owned the highway saw a pair of small tracks leading off the path into the Giant’s Woods. He tracked them all the way to the tree where the Giant found them, and knew what had happened. He tracked the Giant’s footprints to his castle and said, “Great Giant?!”

The Giant boomed out of his door and said, “Who are you?”

“I am the Son of the King of these lands. You have two children you brought with you to this dungeon. Let them go!”

“I will not release them. They trespassed!”

“What price do you demand for their freedom?”

The giant had always hated the King, and here he had his son within his grasp. He smiled as he said,

“I will only release them if you will come and be my slave forever in this place!”

The Prince thought for a moment and said, “Very well. Let it be as you say.”

The children were dragged roughly out of the dark dungeon into the light of day and thrown out the door. The Prince helped them up and said, “Go! Go!”

The children ran through the woods without looking back, and ran all the way home and told their Mom and Dad what had happened.

Little did they know that the King of the Highway had a huge army, and when his son went missing into the forest, he sent his army to besiege the giant’s castle. They slew the Giant and the Prince was set free.

Now the Prince after he was released went straight to the house of the two children, and asked their parents if he could see them. They said, “Of course, Your Majesty.”

The Children were overjoyed to see their rescuer again, and they ran up to him!

“The Giant who held you prisoner has been slain, and all his lands now belong to me as a gift from my father the King. You may come and visit those woods anytime.”

The Children did visit the woods and castle. As they grew up they helped the Prince clean it up, so it was fit for the Prince to live in some day. When the Prince was crowned King, they each became officials in his royal court, and they all lived happily ever after.

The End

Burnout

In the famous The Tortoise and the Hare story, children are taught that slow and steady wins the race. I wish ministers were taught that fast and steady brings the burnout.

One sign that God’s servants are hooked up to a finite power source such as coffee, food, screen time, entertainment, hobbies, relationships, or the praise of men is burnout.

The Almighty power of God will never burnout, and its power outlet is found on the side of the wooden beams of Jesus’ own cross.

If you’re not carrying His cross, you are powerless. If you are not deriving your every sustainence from the Word of God, you have only pseudo-power. E. M. Bounds was right, prayer is where the power is, but that’s just because prayer brings a person into contact with the Almighty power of God. Only the humble will actually be strengthened by it though.

God is a Father, Lord, Friend, Priest, and the One who has borne everything you have carried; He knows. The guilt from burnout needs to be kept in the presence of God. It is mere pride which drives a man away from God out of guilt. Humble guilt runs to God, not from Him. If you can’t hear Him, then for His goodness sake run to Him. Leave every net behind!

If the shell that the body of Christ is wearing now–the exoskeleton of denominational Christianity which is only affordable in a pluralistic, materialistic, and person-centered culture like America–is tiring out the very soldiers who live to sustain it to the point where they are morally, spiritually, and societally compromised, then we either need better leaders or a better exoskeleton. I’ve got a feeling that God wants both.

Change

It’s something many people do not appreciate. On my way home from work, I was thinking about how the choir at my old church sang with a very heavy alto because there had been no change in the choir and had lost soprano members. But altos seem to outlast soprano.

There are always changes happening. If we don’t have change of something new, we experience the inevitable change of decay as things get old. Change is like weather. Weather makes our world fresh and new by precipitation and also breaks it down by erosion. Our world is not very unlike us: it is subjected to futility, and the unchanging nature of change.

We who seek to preserve constancy in this world will find it to be hardly a passive battle. The ground will keep waxing old, and we will need to dig for new fruits. The one who builds a house will need to maintain it or it will change to corruption. The one who tries to be faithful to his word will find he needs to sacrifice to keep it true.

One principle of how change works I realized on my way home from work. I will share it in parts and then as a whole.

Before change, something is okay,

Because of the principle that all is decaying, if something has been the same for a while, it is probably out of date or expired. To simply do things a certain way because you have always done them thus you will find things achieve mediocrity speedily.

but after change things get worse

Transition means that parts of the problems grown in situations left unattended by good leadership need to be cut out so that the good can be grown. It will get worse first.

So that things can get better than before

But if all the dead weight is cut out, and new vigor about the new ideas is infused (and they are good ideas) Then things will improve. Even here, this will not happen naturally.

Under a good leader.

Here’s where Trust, Integrity, Wisdom, and Value and a whole other host of dynamics come in. We who resist change are often seeking to preserve our own value both of ourselves and the things that matter most to us. What we seek is a leader who has the integrity to stay true to his word, who has the heart to recognize the things we value, and has the wisdom to cultivate them skillfully.

I believe change is a risk and what determines whether the risk is a good one or not, is if the leader is a good one or not. If he is good, if he is on the Lord’s side, if he is a servant, and is carrying his cross, trust him and follow him. If he is not on the Lord’s side, beware the effects of the changes that come.

E.M. Bounds said, “Men are looking for better methods. God is looking for better men.”

The Sun of God’s Love

How bright the Sun is shining always!
It keeps the earth alive, renewed.
That even when the storms are raging,
And thunder rolls like hammers crude,

Still constant burns life-giving love
To sift the seasons of our souls,
And storms that rage against our surface,
Cannot deny this central truth:

He is mighty in the open sky
The heavens round him circle,
That when it’s gone, small evidence’s fly
And dazzle the eye with new emotion.

The weight of glory bends all time
To circle us around his globe
That we being pulled in the vortex of God’s love
May sustainably run across the empty universe.

The planets wobble and shatter to asteroids,
Still the Sun remains.
Though the world fall to pieces and all life crash down,
Still God’s love will keep us in orbit.

The darkness of night, and the shadows of storms
Beat against the surface with its bitter cold,
Still there is a love beyond our own making
Which holds the life for a thousand worlds.

How majestic and radiant the love of God!
It changes the very nature of the heavens,
It casts its generous heat all around,
And only a fraction reaches this planet.

Eclipses cannot Eclipse the weight of his glory,
And the Sun is but a shape.
In contrast God’s love takes all shapes
And makes them good according to his purpose.

O love of God, all life is in you,
How can I but rejoice in your light.
Apart from you I die,
I cannot see, nor can I feel.

But all this I rejoice that You, O God,
Have given me many ways to see it.
Forgive my stubbornness to be blind
And my fear which does not trust how good You are.

The Mountain

A young mountain grew taller and taller. The rocks grew stronger and stronger. The mountain took its shape, and started oozing with lava out the sides. One part of the rock split from the pressure, and the weakness of the stone. Another part of the rock split with a burst of flame and lava, and so another rock sculpture was being formed. The wind and rain beat against the rocks, and lightning struck from stormy clouds, and some rocks broke from the mountain. Some rocks refused to bend and be consumed, and they were covered over by the new waves of the same lava which formed the whole mountain. The shape of the mountain now was becoming a monstrous mass of various peaks and crags, but no single mountainous shape.

Then, all of a sudden, up the original central shaft, a burst of fire exploded from the top of the mountain. It spewed such a mighty and rapturous noise of New Earth, that the sidelong peaks crumbled and fell inwards toward the center, and the lava from the top filled in the crags and shapes with its blessing, until at last, it stood: a mountain reaching the heavens, filling the whole earth.

Prayer, Bible-reading, and Fasting: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Discipline

My dear sister in Christ,

– – We all are fighting many battles. We each have many victories and many defeats of which we can boast. To aid you in your plight, I have some thoughts on Spiritual Disciplines that I hope may be useful to a practical person such as yourself. May you find the blessing of a loving brother reflecting the love of the Big brother too both of us: Jesus Christ.

– – It may not seem like it, but Jesus can really identify with everything that we go through. On the surface, it looks totally different: Jesus was not a wife and mother of two adorable yet sinful children. The reason he can is because all three temptations to which Eve and Adam fell, are the same three temptations with which Israel was tried in the wilderness for 40 years. and by which Jesus was tempted by the devil for 40 days. The three roots of all the sin in our lives can be boiled down to these:

  1. Cravings–Selfish desires to satisfy the lust of our flesh.
  2. Mistrust– Not fully believing that God is good, or His word is trustworthy
  3. Rebellion– gaining power for ourselves, independent of God, submitting to anything but Him.

Adam and Eve both fell to these three temptations in Eden, Israel fell to these in the Wilderness, but Jesus in the Wilderness did not. This stage of Jesus life comes after Jesus’ Baptism, and he enters by the holy Spirit’s leading into the desert and he beats Satan’s temptations and leaves with the Holy Spirit’s power, which he cultivated in three practical ways: Fasting, Prayer, and the Word of God. These three practices have a specific objective to teach a particular State of being, which can counteract the State of sin into which we are born. These three practices have the potential by the Spirit’s aid to strengthen the Christian for any struggle he or she faces: whether tangible or intangible, visible or invisible, emotional or rational, external or internal.

Preliminary caution: Nothing can be done except by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Make sure He’s even on board with you, or you are going nowhere like a boat with sail raised and no wind.

  1. Fasting. Jesus ate nothing for 40 days, and Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” In the Greek it is clear that he was not trying to get Jesus to doubt that he was God’s son. On the contrary, he was saying that since he was the son of God he had the power to gratify his own desires. However, Jesus humbly responds with the lesson that Moses told the people of Israel that God was trying to teach them in the wilderness for 40 years: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The key thing Jesus held to in his temptation here was radical DEPENDENCE on God. It is the only way we can beat this particular root cause of sin in our lives: we depend on God for everything. Jesus learned this lesson of Dependence on God through Fasting.
    – – Practical ways to do this. Fasting means 1. denying ourselves something precious to us in which we find great happiness and joy, and depend on for our very livelihood for a period of time, and 2. replacing that very thing with reading God’s word, talking with God, listening for God in silence, doing things for others and serving God, focusing all your energies mental and physical on trying to know God intimately, doing nothing until you hear God’s voice tell you to, etc. Example: Instead of eating a meal, spending time reading scripture. Instead of watching TV, praying, instead of listening to music, practicing silent waiting on the Lord to Speak. Any period of time that practically works for you: an hour, a day, a week, a month, as the Holy Spirit leads you.
    Again, the goal of this practice is to depend on God for everything, your sustenance, your sanity, your spiritual well-being. Not only will the fruit of the Spirit self-control be added unto you, but also the fruit of patience, and peace.
  2. The Word of God. In addition to Scripture memory, which we both have had and has served us well, there is an even greater importance on appreciating the whole Story of the Bible. G.K. Chesterton helped C.S. Lewis recognize the Bible as the True story meant to capture the imagination as well as the mind’s search for truth when he said this, “Christianity met the mythological search for romance by being a story, and met the philosophical search for truth by being a true story.”~Everlasting Man The Gospel story from Genesis to Revelation serves one purpose: to reveal God’s righteousness from faith to faith. (Romans 1:16) The Bible does not assume that we just assume God is righteous, it shows us how especially in the Old Testament leading to the Gospels. This way the Word of God reveals God shows us one thing “God is trustworthy.” When Jesus was tempted to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, Satan told him, “Son of God, God said he’d take care of you, so go ahead and jump.” Jesus’ response “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Indicates there was an implicit temptation of mistrust in Satan’s suggestion. Jesus however responds by saying in essence, “God has shown Himself to be trustworthy more times than I need. I will not test Him.” He learned this from reading the Hebrew Old Testament, and seeing the story of the Bible unfold to where he was. Through all he read, he learned radical TRUST in his father.
    Practical ways to do this: Reading God’s Word as a true story will give your imagination opportunities to wonder at God again, to take into your heart the same truths you wish for your own children to embrace. The Bible isn’t a collection of laws, but a story with laws in them, and that story reveals two main things: God is good, and we are rebellious. One resource I highly recommend is the Bible Project. They have Youtube videos explaining the Bible themes, Books of the Bible, Hebrew words, and more all in engaging, animated videos which kids from 4th Grade and up can appreciate. I recommend their Video series on the Torah (The first 5 books) and their “read through the Bible” series on each book of the Bible, and also reading the books of the Bible trying to trace the story line from Genesis to Revelation.
    Again, the goal here is to teach you the same radical TRUST Jesus had in His father by seeing how God has dealt with the world up to this point.
  3. Prayer. This is the big one, and I am glad to hear how you have already incorporated this one into your life so much! When Satan tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world, if he would simply fall down and worship Satan, there was only one way Jesus could say no to that temptation. DEVOTION: a love for God that would rather have Him than anything else. Fasting, and reading God’s Word foster this too, but there is something about the intimacy and communion of prayer, rivaling marital copulation in love shared. Prayer is where we meet with God, know God, love God, and are met, known, and loved. E. M. Bounds wrote a book, “Power through Prayer” explaining these principles that prayer is where a Christian derives his power. The secret to this is two fold: on the one hand, we are made in God’s image, and the more time we spend with the one whose image we bear, the more our broken image is remolded and reshaped into His likeness. (Example: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story the Great Stone Face.) But on the other hand, God is love, and this love can only be shared and expressed in a close intimate encounter and continual DEVOTION to the beautiful God whose beauty melts the heart of stone with His pure love.
    Practical ways to do this: “Pray without ceasing.” I like to apply this by making God a part of every conversation: not talking about Him, but talking with everyone as if God is standing right next to you. Talking with Him about everything. It takes practice, but it becomes super easy the more intimate and excited you get when you recognize how He is feeling, acting, and thinking toward others around you in any given moment in time. Also, setting aside time to keep Him as the main thing. Everything else in the world will vie for your attention, and every responsibility will chain you up unless you make the choice deliberately that God is the the most important person in your life, and you would rather have Him than ANYTHING. Finally, praying with people so that it becomes not only a personal devotion, but a mutual encouragement to share God’s love.

One final thought: Please do not pursue the practical at the expense of the personal. It may be my personality coming out here, but I believe there is a personal root to everything. I encourage you to follow these practical steps wherever you can, and do not forget that He’s right there personally available for all of it. Expect to fail and learn to depend on God even in your failures.

May God bless you, my sister, and I hope that we both may mutually grow into the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. God’s peace be with your spirit.