Tuesday, February 12, 2019

God Gives Boldness to "Ordinary" People

(click to enlarge)

God gives boldness to "ordinary" people.

Two things I learned today from the book of Acts:
•Photo 1: Peter and John were put in prison for preaching about Jesus. The sermon that got them arrested resulted in 5,000 believing in Jesus! When they were released from jail, they went back to tell their fellow believers (the church) about the threats they received from the Jewish leaders. Together they all prayed. They acknowledged that God had a plan and a purpose for the persecution. They didn’t pray that the circumstances would change or even argue with God’s plans. Instead, they prayed that God would enable them to keep preaching with boldness...and He did! Do I pray for circumstances to change, or do I pray for boldness in the circumstances?

•Photo 2: Peter and John spoke about Jewish history and the prophets and the prophecies of the Old Testament in order to relate to their fellow Jews. Peter and John must have been highly educated to speak outside the temple and to be questioned by the Jewish rulers and priests. Nope. They were “unschooled, ordinary men.” But it was obvious they had been with Jesus. I don’t have to have a seminary education to tell about Christ. I just need to spend time with Jesus. His Word and the Holy Spirit will teach me and enable me. It’s encouraging to know that we aren’t limited by a formal education that may not be available to us!

What lesson is God teaching you right now?

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Milk Lessons (Part 2): Learning to Drink

Last week I talked about how nursing my daughter taught me more about the Bible in several ways, especially those specific passages about nursing and milk.

I want to talk some more about milk.  Last week's post was about the milk we should all crave each day.  Today I want to talk about the milk that's for new believers.

Let's start with these two passages.

"Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly-- mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it."  1 Corinthians 3:1-2

"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."  Hebrews 5:11-14

If you've been in church for any length of time, then you've probably heard sermons on these passages.  If you haven't, then here's a quick, base level explanation.

When we are new Christians, we are like babies in the faith.  Like babies, we start with milk.  You don't give a newborn baby a steak and expect her to consume it.  She can't!  So new Christians start by learning and absorbing what they can.  As time goes on, they learn more and more.  It's like this with any subject.  When you're in school, you learn how to count before you learn multiplication and long division, right?  But let's say you're in high school and you're still learning to to add 2 + 2.  You have the mental abilities to do calculus, but you've been too focused on other things to care about learning how to simply add numbers.  I would say that's a problem.  As you are a Christian for a longer amount of time, why would someone think it's okay for them to still only know the basics?  If you've been a believer for 20 years but you can't submit to the Holy Spirit, have no desire to read the Bible, can't love others, have no idea what the Bible even says...I'd say that's a problem.  You should be eating steak (or a delicious vegetarian equivalent), but yet you're still nursing on milk.  How ridiculous would it be to see a grown adult nursing at her mother's breast?  Why do we think it's any less ridiculous for a Christian of any considerable length of time to be settling for the basic milk of the Christian faith?

But that's not actually what I wanted to talk about.

Did you know that babies don't come out of their mothers' womb automatically knowing how to nurse?  Sure, they have the desire to eat and have these amazing abilities created in them like rooting for their mothers' breasts and making the sucking motion.  But if you put that baby on a man's chest, that same baby will try to latch to a man's nipple.  Not getting any milk there.  The baby has to be brought to the mother's breast.  It also has to be taught how to properly nurse.  A baby will latch on and start sucking on its own, but it may not be the proper way.  The baby's way may cause pain to the mother and not produce much milk, and it's definitely not benefiting the baby.  The mother must release the baby's latch, over and over again, to the cries and frustration of the baby, to learn how to properly latch.  Some babies need extra help due to tongue tie and other things.  What I'm getting at is that the baby can't do it on her own.  She needs help.  She needs guidance.

Did you know that even the mothers need help, especially new mothers?  Through breastfeeding books, nurses, and lactation specialists, the mothers need help in learning how to properly nurse their babies.  They need to know how to correct the baby's latch and look for signs that the baby is nursing incorrectly.

Sounds like a lot of work, huh?  It is.  There are tears from the baby and mother.  Know what happens when the mother and baby both learn and the latch is perfect?  The baby is fed a golden milk that's more nutritious than anything else you could imagine.  The mother feels physical and emotional relief.  It all becomes second nature.  The baby is able to nurse with little to no help (especially when the baby becomes mobile!).  And the baby will grow to leave the mother's breast and to eat solid foods.


I'm glad you asked.

Let's say you're the mother.  You see a baby Christian.  That Christian is eager to learn and grow.  She knows she needs spiritual food, and she wants it more than anything.  Reading the Bible is overwhelming, though.  Where does she start?  What does it mean?  You come alongside her.  You help her read.  You help her understand.  When she cries out or acts like a baby Christian, you gently direct her and teach her.  You help her with the milk, and  then you teach her how to cut and chew steak.

Does this mean you have to do this all on your own?  Nope.  You have others to come and help you, to teach you how to help a new Christian.  They strengthen you and her.  That's why we have the church!

Eventually that "baby" should grow into a "parent" herself and help other new Christians.

Isn't it beautiful how God allows us to grow and uses others to help us?  Isn't it humbling to know that He uses us to help others grow?

New Christians, ask a more mature Christian for help.

More mature Christians, be patient with new Christians.

Not-new-Christians, start eating steak!

(The picture is of my daughter after a middle of the night nursing session.  She always feel asleep nursing.  Sometimes helping a new Christian happens in the middle of the night or times that don't seem "convenient", but that's a topic for another day. ;) )

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Milk Lessons: The Word of God's Kindness

I’ve been thinking a lot about milk lately. Bear with me. Since becoming a mother over four years ago, I’ve come to better understand Bible passages about milk and nursing. There are two examples I’ve been thinking about this week.

First is the above verses from 1 Peter. The picture is of me and Harlow when she was just a couple months old. She was sick and nursing quite a bit more than usual to feel better (the “magic” of breastmilk). I now read this in 1 Peter and understand it differently (better?) then I did before having Harlow. Newborn babies that are nursing crave their mother’s milk. They cry for it. They search for it, literally “rooting” for it. When they see the breasts, they even get excited about the milk! Once they begin nursing, they eat until they fall asleep or drain the breast (whichever may come first). They get their fill and find rest. When they are sick, they require even more of the milk, and the milk works to make them well. The milk is their ONLY life source, the only thing keeping them alive, growing them, sustaining them. As children of God, once we have received life from His Word and have seen the goodness of God in His Word, we want more of it. We crave it. We need it. It makes us well.

John Piper says it this way:
“Where did the readers taste the kindness of the Lord? The answer is: in the gospel, the Word of God. They were born again by that kindness through the Word of God. So the spiritual milk is the kindness of the Lord experienced through the Word of God. Or you could say, the spiritual milk is the Word of God revealing or transmitting the kindness of the Lord. You were born again by that Word— namely, by the powerful kindness of God in that Word, and now go on longing for that Word and for the day-by-day experience— tasting— of the kindness of the Lord through his Word.”
There are times, though, that I had to make Harlow eat. She was either too occupied or distracted or too sleepy. I knew that she needed the milk even when she thought otherwise. Ever been there?

Piper addresses that, too:
“If you feel stuck because you don’t have the kind of spiritual desires that you should, this text says, You do not need to be stuck! It says, “Get them!— Get the desires you don’t have.” If you don’t desire the milk of the Word, start desiring it! [In the New Testament], God gives even harder commands, but he also gives the power we need to fulfill them, through faith. Do you not have the longing? Get the longing! Do you not desire the Word? Start desiring it. Do not say, “I’m just this way.” It is not God’s will for you. Since you have been born again by the Word of God, now long for the Word of God. If you began your life with the Word, sustain your life with the Word. If the Word of God is powerful enough to create new Christians, then the Word of God is powerful enough to create desire in languishing Christian souls.”
If you have never studied the amazing properties and abilities of breastmilk, then you may not know what an amazing thing it is. Not only does it nourish the body, but it also heals the body, attacking bad bacteria and protecting the baby from illness. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but you get my point— it attacks what’s bad in the body.

When I began organizing my thoughts, I didn’t mean to make this a post filled with Piper quotes, but he also has something to say about how spiritual milk attacks:
“One of the ways the Word of God creates a desire for the milk of God’s kindness is by destroying desire for other things [malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander mentioned in verse 1]. This is the other side of longing for the spiritual milk of God’s kindness in the Word. If you want to experience desire for God’s Word; if you want your desires to grow; if you want to taste fully the kindness of the Lord, realize that as our satisfaction in God’s kindness rises, the controlling desires of malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, and slander are destroyed. And the reverse is true: as you resist them and lay them aside, desires for God grow stronger and more intense. Don’t think that they can flourish in the same heart. Desire to taste and enjoy God’s kindness cannot flourish in the same heart with guile and hypocrisy.”   Quotes from John Piper

The Bible is how we experience and see the kindness of God!  Reading the Word shows us His goodness. We need the Word to grow— this good, decadent, life-giving, pure milk that is the Word.  Like newborn babies, we should crave it, long for it, desire it. The more we taste of it, the more we want. The more we have, the more we grow. When we don't crave it, we should make ourselves drink it in. It attacks what is bad in us. Oh, the kindness of God! You never outgrow this milk.

Who knew that my body that once produced life giving milk could help me better understand the One who gave me this body?

I’ll share the second milk lesson later this week.

Milk Lessons (Part 2): Learning to Drink

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