Hello friends! How is your summer going?
Mine is going. This summer most of my kids participated in our family ministry, a year-round Christian camp and retreat center, nestled in North Central Minnesota. The older kids worked and the younger kids loved taking their turns as campers. After youth camps wrap up, it is pretty standard for year-round camps to switch to hosting church groups. With our help, churches run their own youth camps at our facility through the end of the summer, and once schools resume classes, churches will come for weekend retreats. We will hold men’s and women’s retreats in September and October.
There are changes ahead in the near future. It seems like the past few years have been all about transitions, and we are seeking the Lord for wisdom about how to prepare our hearts for His will. I find myself back in the book of Philippians, so I decided to continue to share snippets of what God is highlighting for me. I love Paul. He wrote this book to the Philippian Church while he was in prison for sharing the gospel. No matter how much he suffered, his love for Christ outweighed his suffering. He was bold and honest, and he saw people as treasure to be found and captured by grace. Forever family. There is so much we can learn from the wisdom God gave him.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.“
Paul said he was thankful for the members of the Philippian church because he knew they had believed in the gospel and were saved. He had confidence that with God’s help, they would be ready for Christ’s return. In addition, the Philippi church, when they learned that Paul was in prison, sent a member of their church with a love gift to help support Paul. He said,
“It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
They partnered with Paul. They prayed for him. They supported him financially when he was traveling about teaching, and they continued to stand by him when he was in prison for preaching about Jesus. People in ministry need our support. Whether they are aligned with ministries that pay them a salary or they raise support, they need our prayers. They need to know they are not alone. They have chosen a vocation that involves constantly interceding for and caring for others. It can be draining. The enemy does come against them, in a variety of ways, and they need a prayer covering and encouragement. These are your pastors, your teachers, your camp ministry staff, the staff of addiction recovery ministries and counselors, foster parents, Christian college professors, radio ministries, short term missions organizations, missionaries to other countries… and so many more.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Here is how Paul advocates for them: He prays for them, that they will grow in knowledge and understanding, so that they can discern how to best live for Christ and be filled with the fruit of the Spirit. This prayer for others should be the reason anyone serves in full-time ministry.
This brings us back to our study about growing in the fruit of Love. The more we know God for who He truly is, and not just our idea of God, the more we can love Him. And if we love Him, it will be obvious by our obedience to Him–by our abiding. If we never get beyond “For God so loved the world,” we will never grow. We might be saved, but we won’t be productive for God. And if we have no desire to know God more, it makes one wonder if we believe Jesus is Savior (head knowledge) or trust our salvation to Him (total surrender), because surrender is what Jesus meant when he said to take up our cross and follow Him.
There was a young man at winter teen retreat several years ago who asked the speaker how much he could sin before he would lose his salvation. He wanted to know how far he could stick his toe over the dividing line… The speaker’s response was a little startling, but totally true. He told the boy that if he had to ask that, he might question whether or not he was really saved. The word Christian means “Christ follower.” If we are willfully sinning, we are not following.
We have to grow in knowledge of God so that we can understand what is good and what is not good. We need to apply that understanding to our lives, putting away/repenting for sin as the Holy Spirit highlights our shortcomings, so that we can become more Godly in character and in our choices. Our actions become the proof of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control in our lives (Galations 5:22, 23). This is fruit of the Spirit, or as we called it at camp this summer–EVIDENCE of walking with God. The more I have mulled over this word “evidence,” another word has entered into my vocabulary. Consequences. Good fruit, or evidence of Godly character, is pleasing and is the consequence of a life lived for God. Bad fruit, or immorality, is the consequence of a lifestyle of sin.
When I mention consequences, I’m just talking about natural consequences. Lying to friends results in distrust. Using drugs results in poor health and, sometimes, death. Sexual immorality often leads to disease, broken relationships, or even unwanted pregnancy. Abortion leads to physical and emotional health problems that are not advertised. Pornography leads to dysfunctional marital relationships. The list goes on and on. Look at the Evidence and judge what is good for us and what is not. God’s ways never result in disease or broken relationships. God’s ways always lead to healing, wholeness and reconciliation.
An older, mature Peter wrote the letter of 2 Peter. He summed this all up in chapter 1:3-11
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Lets pray for each other, that our love may abound in the knowledge of God, that we will become skilled at discerning right from wrong, and that our lives will reflect the goodness of God in all of our choices and relationships. And lets pray for our ministry workers, that God will encourage and strengthen them, and provide for them as they dedicate themselves to serving others. How can we be a practical support and encouragement? Lets do that too. As a wife in full-time ministry, I promise, your love, support and prayers breathe life into what we do. God uses you to make a difference. Thank you!!