Monthly Archives: November 2013

Are You Looking for God?

Do you ever feel unfulfilled or, incomplete? “…but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” sang Bono in the 1980’s. “As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you O God. My soul thirsts for you, O God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” sang the Spirit-inspired Psalmist David in Psalm 42:1-2, a good many years before. If you are like Bono, you are still looking. But allow me to suggest something to you: perhaps this desire for “something…more,” is the verification of your innate desire to seek God and His fulfilling presence. However, if you are already a child of God, everyday acknowledgements (like David’s), speak to your sense of your own imperfection, your own incompleteness, your own need for God.

Have you ever watched a sunset or a sunrise and felt a connection to someone beyond yourself? Ever sit on a mountain side in the morning with the sun warming your face, the wind whispering through the trees, wafting the sweet scent all through and over you, feeling at once a  sense of God’s sanctity and sovereignty in that moment? Ever wonder at the peace and power of the surging sea? Ever sit out on a summer’s evening or meditate early in the morning, eyes closed, listening, in order to single out each individual birdsong, insect, child, or barking dog in the distance? Ever walk around a farm pond in the morning with thoughts turning to the words of a Psalm, which prompts YOU to write a song of praise? Ever rejoice while listening to a rooster crowing as the day begins? Experiences like this reveal our natural desire for God, which is one of the ways that God attracts us to Him.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him? And the son of man that you care for him?  (Psalm 8:1-4).

God has made and continues to order this marvelous universe through which he reveals himself to us every day. Yet, with all of this to command, he is mindful of every human being on this planet earth. He knows you personally – everything about you, and He cares; he really, really, cares! “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” That’s what Jesus said as recorded by Matthew (10:30).

Do you notice how very simple things can make you feel immensely thankful? Maybe it’s a conversation with a friend? Or perhaps sharing a significant episode with someone without the clutter of words? Awareness of simple gifts can point to your underlying awareness of God’s goodness. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).

Do you have a desire to be more holy? Reading about the great triumphs of God’s people when their hearts were sanctified and centered on him moves me to imitate their holiness. There are greatly inspiring events to read about. One of my favorites is found in 2 Chronicles 20.  It tells the story of when King Jehoshaphat and the Israelites came against the Moabite-Midianite-Edomite confederacy. The metal of Israelite swords never even had to touch that of their enemies. They trusted God, and God dealt with their foes.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” said David in Psalm 51:10. Do you remember when he said that? Later in verse 17, David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” He said this as his heart was breaking over the trauma his sin had dealt into the lives of others. It is the same for each and every one of us. What is required involves more than intellectual assent. To be a true servant of Christ calls for whole-hearted commitment of one’s life as Jesus’ disciple. God is interested in honest hearts, especially grieving and penitent ones. He is near to such. Very near!

Then there are those great moments of clarity — like that momentary feeling that you are right where you should be. Have you ever been talking to someone about the LORD and His word and, just when it is needed, having that just right scripture come clearly to mind. This is when we experience God’s encouragement and providence, a witness between our Spirit and God’s Spirit (Romans 8:16).

It is good for us at times to be made to feel vulnerable. Often when you are sick or struggling with some great difficulty, you feel a greater need for God. But God is no nearer or farther away at such times; you are just more open to Him when you are vulnerable.

It is in us to want to seek God — to know him and his will for our lives. He “has put eternity into Man’s heart,” said Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:11.  We sense God’s presence all around us and in everything.  Because we are created by God and in his image, we have (as someone called it) an “instinctive” capacity to know him built into our DNA.

Are you looking for God?  Like Paul said, “He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). He not only wants you to look for him; he wants you to find Him!

~ Steve Wright
2508 SW Granthurst Ave, Topeka, KS  66111-1272

“By” and “For” Keep it All Together!

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).

 Meditating on what God says is the favorite pastime of the righteous soul (Psalms 1:2). These two verses from Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae provide us with thoughts that fill our minds with understanding, giving us a heartfelt satisfaction that only our Creator can provide. His Word provides us with a picture of who we are and where we came from which give our lives a true direction, not an imaginary view of how to live. How important it is to find the meaning of life in the midst of a dark world where so many are confused about who we are and why we are here!

Paul is describing for us again what God has revealed throughout the Bible, starting from the very first book! This time, however, instead of pointing out the visible things of the Creation, Paul lists invisible things that are behind the things we see with our eyes. There is a power structure in the spiritual (unseen) realm, and it consists of “thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers.” I don’t fully understand how these all work together in God’s eternal plan, but we do know that from the beginning, there has been great conflict among these powers with Satan being the ringleader of a great revolt against God and His Will. While you and I did not start this spiritual battle, the Bible shows us that it is up to us to decide which side we are going to follow.

From this passage it is plain to see that we ought to follow God and those who follow His Will. The two little words “by” and “for” show us how it is only right that we follow God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Since we were made “by” Jesus, shouldn’t we pay attention to Him and seek His Will? Since He made us “for” Himself, isn’t it only right to live up to the purpose “for” which He made us?

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (I John 5:21). The Bible identifies one of our great problems as “idols.” Think about how these false gods take us off-track and lead us into darkness and confusion. For example, “the love of money” is an idol which many people follow, leading to all kinds of heartache and sorrow (I Timothy 6:6-10). What does this have to do with the passage in Colossians chapter 1? The truth of the passage is that Jesus made us, NOT money. We were made for what Jesus has in store for us, not for what money can do for us. If God made us, not money, why then should we serve money?

This same principle applies to any idol that man has devised in his corrupt and vivid imagination. God has revealed Himself as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Matthew 22:32). If you serve a god who has revealed himself, or herself, in any other way, you are serving a dream which will only end up as a nightmare when this life is over. Your idol cannot see your troubles, hear your prayers, or give you comfort in your darkest hours the way Jesus is able to comfort His followers (Psalms 115:1-9). How happy we are when we humbly receive the great Truth that we didn’t make ourselves and that we weren’t made for ourselves! How satisfying it is to know that none of the idols of men made us and that we owe them no allegiance!

Not only is it true that we were made “by” Jesus and “for” Jesus, but Colossians 1:17 also reveals that it is through Jesus that all things “consist.” In other words, Jesus is the only One Who keeps it all together! Sometimes our lives seem to flow along smoothly, but at other times they are about ready to fall apart and leave us in despair! Jesus will keep you sane through difficult times, and even uses those trials to make you stronger!

Friends, we were made by Jesus. We were made for Jesus. Will you live up to your real purpose and enjoy the sweet rewards of obedience to your true calling? Jesus invites us all to call upon Him, find true life, and see how He is the One Who can deliver us when the gods of this world fail! “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalms 50:15).

Thomas W. Woody
~ P.O. Box 148, Brighton, IL  62012-0148


“Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool” (Proverbs 17:10).

 Older siblings know better than their younger siblings, so more is expected of them. Parents know better than their children, so more is expected of them. Elders know better than the flock entrusted to them, so more is expected of them. No one knows better than God.

Like so many other things in life, wisdom is attained as opposed to inherited. It is something one strives for; it is not gifted to them (with one exception we know of). It is passed down, not by blood, but by word of mouth—the word being God’s. The book of Proverbs is one of the great repositories of godly wisdom; indeed its purpose was quite singular and provides the way to achieve one real goal: How does one make a godly man out of a young man?

Youth can be a lot of fun, and our culture has chosen to put it on a pedestal. Yet, it is also full of pits and snares, all the temptations that Paul summed up as “youthful lusts.” One thing I’ve discovered, unless I’m unique, is that the temptations don’t really change, at least not in an absolute sense, just the way I think of and deal with them. Temptation is always lying in wait for the unwary.

Rebuke is simple enough to understand, and we have all received some. It is a criticism intended to correct and amend a fault and/or improper behavior. The word itself is similar in meaning or purpose to the words translated as “correct” and “instruct.” In fact, there is little distinction to be made between the three, which tells us a great deal of what is expected of our teachers.

Proverbs has quite a bit to say about rebuke, most of which is related to our response to it once we have received it. This is one of the keys to growing in godly wisdom, and Proverbs says as much. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1:7). Perhaps 13:1 illustrates the point best: “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”

I like the things 13:1 points out. First, rebuke is accomplished via relationships—the closer the relationship the more effective rebuke will be. The case here is father-son, but I think it’s easy enough for all of us to see how this extends to the church, as it is the household of God. Another, related to the first, is that rebuke is not spiteful; in fact, it is one of the truest acts of love. “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14). Parents understand the far-reaching effects of sin and folly, whereas a child does not. The same is even truer of God compared to us. The last thing I would point out is that, to some extent, wisdom is relative. The son, foolish enough to still require his father’s instruction, is yet wise enough to heed it—he does not deride and dismiss it.

In the church most of us are “grown-ups” no longer under our parents.  But in a very private society that prides itself on its citizens’ “rugged individualism” things can, when it comes to rebuke, get a little dicey. As with all things concerning the flock, rebuke should be handled with care. But the aforementioned lessons regarding a child’s response to the correction and conditioning of their parents applies to us and our church leaders equally. Rebuke in these instances is still about amending lawless behavior, is still concerned with strengthening familial bonds within the body and is still accomplished with love, not malice.

But what about “small things” between two Christians? Well, I believe everything I have said still applies—and a rebuke need not be sharp. It may shame the rebuked, but need not be hurtful to accomplish that. I also believe that the fewer people involved the better. Christ himself encouraged us to settle matters of offense between ourselves. Two brethren, seeking after their Lord, should be able to accomplish reconciliation without too much fuss. I “hurt” my oldest daughter’s feelings almost daily when I chasten her, but she has no doubts that I love her—which is why our relationships within the body are so crucial. Iron sharpens iron. We need one another, including our corrections of each other. We are part of an institution whose purpose is largely to save souls from hell. None of us will get the criticism we need from any other outfit…and all relationships are about trust. My children trust my wife and me. I trust my elders.

I trust God. That means I know where true wisdoms comes from, and I understand its importance. It also means I am assured of what lies in store if I do, and why we try to be diligent to impress these things on our daughters, as young as they are. Nothing else is more important.

~ Kyle Stephens