Monday, April 7, 2014

Coal or Diamond - Part 21

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There are only so many ways you can discuss coal and diamonds, so many ways they can be used as analogies to the spiritual life.  And, maybe more important, there are so many times one can say things about coal and diamonds before the reader starts thinking, "Oh, no. Not another coal and diamond post.". There are a few things that still need to be covered in our series.  We got as far as my decision to walk with God.  But there are some important principles we need to discuss about spiritual growth.

Psalm 29:4711 (KJV)  The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire.  The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.  

Those verses, obviously, have volumes of meaning for the believer.  So do the rest of the verses in that Psalm, but not as clearly to modern day readers.  But it's really those three verses that highlight my own experience.

Whether it's the moment of salvation or some time later, when we decide to fully walk with God, there's a point where we suddenly recognize the power and majesty of God's being, voice, presence. And it's usually the time when we are most freely evangelical.  We have this great joy in the Lord and we want others to have it.  We may not have a lot of Bible knowledge to back it up.  A house of zeal built without a real foundation.  For most of us, that's OK.  We're sharing our experiences and how God has worked in our life.  At least that was my experience.

For me, my world revolved around a non-evangelical church and AA.  That still gave me plenty of opportunities to share the joy I had and God's love.  In the process, I met a young lady with the same zeal.  She became my wife, but for a far shorter time period than I would have liked.  We both contributed to that.  But she did do one thing that will forever be one of the greatest gifts anyone ever gave me.  She introduced me to a pastor who still loves me and is my friend.  He introduced me to the riches of the Word of God.  And he got me thinking about Bible college.

I wasn't thinking seriously about Bible college, at first.  I had this mental image that only evangelists, preachers, missionaries, and teachers went to Bible college.  I didn't think of it as any kind of necessity for the ordinary Christian.  My pastor kept saying I needed Bible college.  And I finally realized that it was at least worth trying so that I wasn't limiting what God could do in my life. Looking back, that was a wise decision.

Thanks to finances and available time, it took me longer to finish than many.  I had started, in New England, in '83 and graduated in Baltimore in 2000.  I used to joke that I finished ahead of schedule because I did the 20 year plan in 16.  But I finished, with a B.A. in Church Ministries.  I now help out in our Pastoral Care department, but I never took the test for ordination.  So, I've never officially become a pastor.  But that doesn't mean that Bible college was wasted.

In the time I was in Bible college and since, I've experienced a move of our main church and Bible college, a church split, being a part of and heading various evangelistic outreaches.  I've talked to friends about marital issues, health crises, dealing with death.  I've had friends die, I've changed jobs, I've had my own job and health issues.  Think about what the Bible says.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (KJV)  Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Being well equipped may make us ready to be a pastor, it may make us more able to counsel, it may make us better evangelists.  When 2 Timothy 3:17 says "thoroughly furnished unto all good works", it's not talking about all that (although those may be included).  First of all the Greek for "man" is anthropos, generic, sinful man.  It doesn't speak of having attained sinless perfection -- that comes in heaven.  And it's not man as compared to woman.  This is genderless.  We all need to be properly trained and equipped.  It's not for comparing ourselves to others, it's not so we can spout tons of verses.  It's to draw unbelievers to the Lord, to edify the Body (1 Thess 5:11), to heal the poor in spirit (Matt 5:3-5).  It doesn't matter if we have a title or not, nor whether we're male or female.  But we need to be properly prepared.

My own experience.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm getting "more mature".  In other words, past retirement age.  thanks to some incorrect thinking of my own, at various stages of my life, I have a bit of emphysema.  If there are hills, bad air, and/or cooler air, I'm only going outside for essential trips.  So far, by making good choices, I've successfully avoided using an oxygen tank.  I could get upset that I have that.  I could blame God for not healing me.  But the truth is that it's a result of my own bad decisions.  God and the Bible never suggest there won't be earthly consequences to what we say and do.  But it does say those are to teach us, not punish us.  And they're intended to glorify God and make us trophies of grace.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV)  There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

The temptation might not be sin in the sense of things like lying, lust, strange substances, etc.  It could very well be going through heavy trials and losing sight of God in them, denying Him.  One of the great blessings of God's grace for me is that through my physical ills (There are other things, too.), I've had a sense of God's presence in my life.  Even in my earlier life, Zen period.  And, once I fully recognized who He is and how He's worked in my life, my countenance and my words have been used to share Him with others.  I might be limited in what I can now do with one on one evangelism. But I can do some and I now have a blog and books that edify and evangelize.

Considering my past decisions, I'm relatively healthy, I'm definitely happy, and I have a relationship with God that's obvious to those around me.  I can blame Bible college for that.  I have a particular shortcoming.  I'm terrible at remembering Bible references.  Not the content -- I can quote things fairly precisely, in the needed context.  But I can have a hard time telling someone, off the top of my head, where to find it.  I'm not sure whether to blame that on my sin nature, old age, or the earlier substance abuse.  I used to mentally beat myself up for that.  But, thanks to Bible college, and getting to know the Word better, I can live in Philippians 4:11 (KJV), "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."

When the Bible speaks of edifying, that doesn't leave ourselves out.  We need edification, just like everyone else.  That's not always from other people.  It may just be from God and ourselves.  That spiritual fortress that builds up and protects may come from the Biblical content we already have in our souls.  The more we have, the better off we are.  Which may be the best advertisement there is for Bible college.  The more we know (not just know about) God, the better prepared we are to enjoy our journey through life.  And share that joy with others.

Psalm 29:7, 11 (KJV)  The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire.  The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.

With that in mind, I'm having a ball with God.  If you can't say the same, have you considered Bible college?

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