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Forever Growing

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Watching the amazing day to day changes as my children have grown is something I really enjoy reflecting on. We often look at photos from months or even years ago and reminisce about how much they have changed in such a short time. When they are smaller the changes seem that much more apparent. Milestones like walking and first words stick out, but it is the day to day growth that is really amazing. The look of recognition in their eyes; the first time they express empathy for another. It amazes me on every level. But what is even more amazing is that as adults we are still constantly growing in one form or another, we just don't always recognize it. 

Our relationships change throughout our lives. We grow closer to some people while we grow more distant from others. We may develop lifelong friends or perhaps make deeper friendships in adulthood. The one thing that any type of lasting relationship has in common is growth. Growth in any relationship takes time and work. Very few friendships simply happen, and most relationships that are not growing simply skim across the surface of possibility. Our relationship with God is much the same. The more time we spend in his word, seeking him in prayer and contemplation, the more we grow in our relationship with him. 

Peter challenges us to grow in our relationship with Christ in 1 Peter 2. He entreats us to put away the attributes that may have once defined our lives. 

"So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy 

and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, 

long for the pure spiritual milk, 

that by it you may grow up into salvation-..." 1 Peter 2:1-2

It is with our longing for the things of God that we grow in our relationship with him. We put off what we once were in order to grow. It is easy to make the mistake in thinking that we are ever fully grown in our relationship with God. He is forever shaping us to more clearly mirror who he is. Just like looking at pictures of our growing children, we can look back at the growth God has provided in our lives, and this reflection will always strengthen our faith. 

Posted by Chris Taylor with

A Strange Way to Glory

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She stood before her husband, staring through the bars of a prison door at a broken shell of a man, nearly unrecognizable after the torture he survived. He slipped her a sliver of paper, with words scribbled hastily, telling his faith in Christ. These words would change her life and the lives of countless others, as she soon confessed Christ, was arrested and went on to lead women in worship of her Savior under cover of the prison outhouse. We only know of her story because of her eventual release and escape to South Korea. This account, taken from Open Doors World Watch List 2017, describes the shocking reality of Christians living in North Korea, number one in the world for extreme persecution of Christians. 

It's a strange way to glory.

I have no context for this. I live quite comfortably. I pray in restaurants with my family before I eat. I invite friends and neighbors into my home for bible study and just this morning I had a conversation on my back deck with my husband about ministry dreams and the spiritual development of my children. The young woman from North Korea has no context for my life either. I did these things without fear of who would hear, what anyone would think, and had not the slightest concern for my safety. I enjoy freedoms Christians around the world have never had. And yet God’s message is for us all:

“Dear friends (the apostle Peter declares), I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 1:11-12

And what “wages war” against my soul? A desire for justice against those who would do wrong to me? For my hurt feelings? For an act I deem unfair to me or my family? What about wanting things done my way? What about a thirst for something other than my Christ? How have I ignored the persecution he endured for all humanity? How does my American version Jesus reflect the real Jesus Christ of the Bible?

My, my - it's a strange way to glory.

My response to my discomfort (not even close to persecution) often goes unchecked with a hasty response or an action taken I later regret. And this North Korean woman proclaims Christ. Not in her backyard, her home or in a restaurant, but in the crude toilet of a prison, singing praises to her King because she knows this is not her home. She is a stranger here on this earth, born of it, but not belonging to it. 

This is a strange way to glory.

Our comfortable Christianity is slowly slipping away, and the good deeds Peter talks about are hard to display from a heart that doesn’t know how to respond to disagreement, to immorality, to loving people in the face of these things and more.

When you someday face persecution, how will you respond? I pray it will be with good deeds that lead to a strange and victorious glory.

 

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