This blog focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Not Conformed

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2 (NASB)

Romans 12:1 was the focus of the previous post, examining the positive act of presenting one's body to God in a reasonable sacrifice of worship. Verse two begins with an opposing statement - the negative act that ought not to be done. A Christian is not to be conformed to this world. He is not to allow the influences of this world to be so strong that they control the way he looks, acts, and thinks.

This is a tremendous challenge in the world today. I suppose the greatest reason for struggle in this area is the deceptive invasiveness of the world's system. Christians are so overwhelming inundated with the world's philosophies that it is easy to live with the status quo. I think of oppressed countries in which the citizens are brainwashed to believe their society is normal and right. Until they see an example or experience a taste of freedom, they don't realize they are oppressed or that there is a better alternative. These citizens don't realize they are living in communism or socialism; they believe they are simply living. Similarly, too many Christians fail to recognize worldliness, godlessness, and humanism; instead, they simply see life. Therefore, the influences that surround them are not alarming.

When the world's influence is noticed, too often it is not taken seriously. The evaluation is often "It's not that bad" or "It won't influence me." The Christian thus allows worldly influences into his life, believing godless philosophies to be either acceptable or non-threatening. Neither is true. Far from being benign, the world can quickly and subtly infiltrate a believer's life; sadly, that believer becomes a pathetic example of what a Christian should be and actually portrays a better example of what would be expected in a person without God.

I hate to give specific examples, so I won't. It is clear however that there are ways of dressing and grooming that are influenced by the world's heroes - ungodly movie stars, musicians, athletes, and other celebrities that in many cases are actively fighting against God and His values. Their dress, hairstyle, and so on are designed to bring attention to self and to promote sensuality, neither of which are godly objectives. Yet people, including Christians, want to look like those people. Why would a Christian want to make those associations and use that kind of person as a role model?

Another major area of conformity is in music and entertainment, with movies and television being particularly troublesome. Much of the world's output of entertainment is filled with sexual innuendo, indecency, crude speech, profanity, and ungodly themes. Television programs actively promote such practices as dishonesty, immorality, infidelity, and homosexuality; at the very least these sins are presented as acceptable, if not worse. Even so-called good programming is guilty of embracing many of these elements. Yet there are Christians who not only watch these programs, but claim them as their favorite shows. Why would a Christian want to fill his mind with that type of input, usually in larger quantities than his spiritual input?

God wants His children to have pure bodies, pure minds, pure tongues, and pure eyes, but much of what the world has to offer is designed to produce just the opposite - and to make it seem okay. A Christian must be alert and on guard to discern the damaging aspects of the world's influence. Once he is aware of a danger, he must separate himself from it. It is one thing to be naive and ignorant of the dangers. It is another thing altogether to recognize the world's damaging influence and to choose that input or lifestyle.
A Christian who desires to press on to higher ground in his walk with God says, "It matters enough to me to grow in Christ-likeness that I will actively avoid and remove the world's influence from my life." This Christian will spend time in God's Word to learn what pleases and what displeases God. As he knows God better, he will become more circumspect about the world around him and more cautious in the input he allows. Instead of allowing himself to be conformed to the world, he will begin to look more and more like Christ.

"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27 (NASB)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Reasonable Worship

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." Romans 12:1 (NASB)

I have long considered this to be my life verse. I may not think about it often in that context, but whenever I return to this verse, I find it to be an appropriate challenge and a valid expression of my heart's desire. The KJV translates the final words of the verse as "reasonable service." As I look at Strong's definitions of the original words, it seems there are two ideas; each of the translations highlights one of them. A Christian's service to God is, as the KJV highlights, reasonable; it is logical, and it makes sense. The NASB maximizes the other concept, which is the spiritual side of the service; rather than simply work that is done for God, it is an act of worship.

The conclusion is that giving one's life in a continuous act of worship to God is a reasonable response to the mercies of God. It is good and right and reasonable for a Christian to throw his whole life toward God in answer to all that God has done for him. While this New Testament verse is very familiar, the same concept is presented in the Old Testament. In Psalm 116:1-11, the psalmist describes the mercies of God, primarily expressed through answered prayer and rescue. He then asks this question in verse 12:

"What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me?"

This is a logical question that ought to surface quite naturally when one considers the merciful benefits that God has worked for him. The remainder of the psalm is not necessarily designed as a checklist of things to do; nevertheless, it does mention a number of worshipful forms that reasonable service might take.

1. Prayer: The psalmist says that he will call on the name of the Lord. "I shall . . . call upon the name of the LORD" (vs. 13&17).

2. Public service: The psalmist determines to pay his vows to the Lord, and he specifically desires to do that in the presence of all God's people. "I shall pay my vows to the LORD, oh may it be in the presence of all His people" (vs. 14&18).

3. Life of godliness: The psalmist desires his entire life to be pleasing to God so that his life is summarized as godly and his death is precious to God. "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones" (v. 15).

4. Life of service: The psalmist declares himself to be a servant willing to remain voluntarily in servitude to God. "O LORD, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds" (v. 16)

5. Thanksgiving: The psalmist commits to expressing his thanks to God, even when that expression is a sacrifice. "To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving" (v. 17).

6. Praise: The psalmist asserts the importance of pronouncing praise to God. "In the courts of the LORD's house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!" (v. 19).

What does reasonable service to God look like? How can a Christian express the giving of his body as a living and holy sacrifice? This psalm gives some great illustrations of the "spiritual service of worship." A Christian who endeavors to do these six things is one who shows evidence that his life is not his own, but rather has been given to serve and exalt His Savior and God. These are the reasonable actions and characteristics that God desires from His children.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


                Time (Sonnet 22)
Before a timeless God, the eons drift.
Within eternity a thousand years
Pass like a day or single nightly shift,
But man fades just as soon as he appears.
Almost before he starts, he turns to dust;
His life is shallow and his time so brief.
His sinful nature brings a death that’s just;
The paltry years he lasts are full of grief.
For such great sinners, how would You advise?
In such a fleeting time, what can he do?
Teach him to make days count and to be wise,
So he’ll present a heart that pleases You.
It’s possible if You will work and bless;
‘Tis only with Your favor he’ll progress.

Psalm 90, written by Moses, is a great reminder of the brevity of life. Even if someone lives for eighty years, his life flashes by so quickly. Eternity in heaven will be wonderful, with all the time in the world to worship God and enjoy His presence. This life, however, is the only time available for making a difference in the lives of others.

Because life is so brief, there is no time to waste. God's children must give diligence toward becoming what God wants them to become so that they can do what He wants them to do. This process happens only through God's blessing. Thanks be to God that He is able to take people who are hopelessly flawed and who progress at such a painstakingly slow pace, and He is able to use them within His great plan. Oh, God, may it be so in my life!

"So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12 (NASB)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fear of Inconsistency

In recent entries I have focused on the topic of impacting others for good. We do this by showing them an example of a vibrant Christian, one who has a close relationship with God due to pursuing things that promote a special relationship and avoiding things that hinder it. We have looked at ways both to build the relationship with God and to let it shine through to others. In the final segment of this mini-series, I would like to examine what I believe to be the primary reason we don't share our spiritual walk with others.

I believe we are most reluctant to let others see our personal walk with God due to fear of inconsistency. Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe that most of us have urgings and desires from time to time to want to minister to others. We consider what it would be like to teach a Sunday school class. We think about volunteering to help with discipleship. We wish we were bold enough to pray with someone who is hurting. We want to share a testimony about God's goodness to us. We aspire to be able to pray in public.

We hold back, however, in following through with our desires and intentions because of fear. Some of those things require long-term commitment. We think they can be done only by spiritually strong Christians. With other opportunities, there seems to be the unspoken expectation that if we do them once, we will be expected to do them regularly and consistently. We fear that we won't be able to follow through.

For example, if we share a testimony about how God has provided for us in a special way, teaching us to trust Him to meet our every need, that seems to set the standard that we must never struggle in that area again. How do we know what God will do for us in the future? How do we know that we will remember the lesson and respond appropriately? Are we setting ourselves up to never be able to share struggles again without being seen as an inconsistent failure?

What about sharing regarding our personal time with God? There are days or seasons of life in which our devotional time with God is very precious. We are so blessed and excited about the special things God is doing that we want to share them with others. But, wait. If we tell others how wonderful that time with God is, and then the next few weeks (or months) are dull in comparison, how do we handle that? Will people not have the expectation that we will be constantly overflowing with the sweetness of our communion with God?

How can we stand up front and teach Sunday school when there are weeks that it is a challenge just to get there? How can we disciple someone else when we know there are days that we still struggle ourselves? How can we share a testimony of God's blessing when we are aware of how often we are driven to complain? We know we will fail in the future, so we are hesitant to "stick our necks out" by committing to any spiritual leadership.

Aside from the inconsistency of our spiritual man, there is the inconsistency of our physical body. It's hard to show the joy of the Lord through our actions and demeanor when we are dealing with sickness, lack of sleep, and aggravating circumstances. We know we won't appear to be overflowing with God's goodness when we have a headache or nasty cold. We won't appear vibrant when the kids kept us up half the night or when we had to shovel snow for two hours before coming to church. Are we afraid of inconsistency and loss of our testimony based on things we cannot help?

What is the bottom line of all these doubts? Welcome to humanity. It is good for us to aspire and work toward a consistently vibrant walk with God. We should desire to never mess up, even when things are beyond our control. As long as we live in human bodies, however, that perfection will not happen. If we wait for perfection before we commit to serve, we will never serve. If we require absolute consistency before we are willing to share our personal Christianity with others, we will never do it.

As I mentioned previously in this mini-series, the key element is not necessarily the spiritual level that we have achieved, but the tenderness of our heart toward God. If we are seeking to grow closer to God, that overall intention and inclination is what best demonstrates the vibrancy of our relationship. Each one of us is a work in progress, and as we progress, we can and should help others to progress as well. Interestingly, we can encourage others even in the midst of inconsistency - if we consistently show that we are determined to move on from those failures and continue the pursuit of godliness. If we have a willing heart, God can use us where we are, and He will also continue His work in and through us. Ultimately, it is His work; we can never do it on our own.

"For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:15, 19, 24, 25a (NASB)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Not by Accident

After presenting the challenge of being the one to make a difference in the lives of others (Be the Man), I suggested that the way to achieve that goal is to have a vibrant relationship with God and to communicate that relationship to others (How to Make a Difference). This is easier said than done. I can easily relate to those who desire a vibrant relationship but find it lacking. In fact, none of us enjoy that relationship to the extent we desire. This disappointing shortcoming begs another question: "How can I have a vibrant relationship with God?"

A few years ago, I presented a similar challenge to my students. I then shared with them a theme for the year, "It won't happen by accident." Successful Christianity doesn't somehow happen automatically once we've been saved for a certain number of years or when we reach a particular stage of life. While we tend to think that older, more mature Christians shine more brightly for God, there is no guarantee that age alone will bring such a testimony.

The work ultimately belongs to God as He does His work in our lives. It is essential, however, that we do our part as well. God can do His best work as a shaper of lives when He has pliable material with which to work. It is difficult to receive any resource if we do not go to an outlet where that resource is found. In the same way, it is hard to experience God's transforming work if we avoid the methods He has designed for achieving it. Instead of avoiding or casually accepting token amounts of God's influence, we must embrace and pursue elements that promote spiritual growth.

The right input will have limited effect without a prepared heart. With a heart tender toward God and fervently seeking to draw closer to Him, the right activities can have tremendous impact. When a yearning heart prays earnestly for God to do His work, God answers with refreshing results. We must start with a heart that is sensitive to God's leading and determined to respond quickly to Him.  

This is what makes a vibrant Christian. Our influence on others comes not necessarily based on the spiritual level we have achieved, but more so based on the tender sensitivity of our current condition. In that condition, the right spiritual input is like adding fuel to the fire. The fuel is found in doing anything that aids in learning more about God and what pleases Him. Studying the Bible and praying top the list. Church attendance is also very important. Additionally, Christians can grow by listening to sermons on their own, reading quality books, listening to good music, and spending time communing with other vibrant Christians.

As important as it is to pursue this positive input, it is just as important to avoid negative input.  Our world is filled with too many pursuits that pull the heart toward the world and away from spiritual things. These distracting elements include things like popular books, magazines, television programs, movies, and worldly music. Also dangerous are the overwhelming societal emphasis on entertainment and the dominating demand of constant involvement in sports and other activities. If the positive pursuits listed above are adding fuel to the spiritual fire, these negatives throw smothering wet leaves on that fire.

So do you want to influence others for good but think you don't have a vibrant Christianity to show them? That vibrant relationship can happen, but it won't be by accident. Growth in godliness costs something. It will involve both putting effort into what is worthwhile and denying what is detrimental. While this is a life-long pursuit, results emerge very quickly once the pursuit is engaged.

"May those who fear You see me and be glad, because I wait for Your word." Psalm 119:74 (NASB)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

How to Make a Difference

Last week I presented the challenge "Be the man." In essence, rather than looking around at what is wrong with modern Christianity and waiting for someone else to make a difference, each of us should accept that challenge. We should determine to be the one who will influence others.

This is a noble and godly desire, (assuming the motives are pure). Practically speaking, however, it is much easier to aspire to such a role than to achieve it in reality. After committing to make a difference in the lives of others, the logical question to follow is "How do I do that?" Since the answer to that question could fill many books, my intent here is to give a only a brief foundation and basic premise to guide the pursuit of "difference-making".

When we think of influencing others, we most often consider public roles or positions of leadership. Those seem to be the most effective and efficient ways to impact large numbers of people. Whether or not God desires us to be in such a role should certainly be part of our prayerful consideration. We must examine whether God is calling us to a full-time ministry, such as the pastorate, the mission field, Christian education, counseling, or some other career position.

While not full-time positions, God also desires many people to serve Him in leadership roles within the local church. Opportunities for service include teaching Sunday school, leading a Bible study, or directing children's church. Churches always need workers for ministries such as hospital visitation, nursing home ministry, vacation Bible school, and outreach programs. There are opportunities to mentor new Christians or young people in the church. We must seek to serve God in these areas as He directs.

Many people will protest that God hasn't called them either to full-time ministry or to an official ministry within the church. While I believe God wants all Christians to serve Him within the church, I also realize there are Christians who will faithfully serve God without ever being in an official full-time ministry or leadership position. (That cannot, however, be an excuse for everyone to assume himself to be one of that group.)

There is a greater point of importance when we consider making a difference in the lives of others. Regardless of whether someone is in a full-time ministry, a specific role of leadership in the church, or the position of an "ordinary" church member, there is a characteristic that must exist if a Christian is to influence others. A Christian who makes a difference is one who has a vibrant relationship with God and who communicates the vitality of that relationship to those around him.

Too many of our church members grew up seeing Christianity as a set of rules to be followed. It was a list of what to do and what not to do (and when, where, and how). There was even a more narrow list used to identify "good" Christians as opposed to worldly or compromising Christians. I believe much of this mentality was well-intentioned, promoted by people who had left dead denominations and wanted to clearly separate from the apostasy. An unfortunate result has been the mass exodus of young people from our churches.

We cannot, therefore, influence others for good merely by presenting them with a list of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. We must show them that there is something deeper and more meaningful than outward actions and appearances. The standards themselves may not be wrong, but they must be motivated by a heart that thrives in a relationship with God. People will be little influenced by a man who academically adheres to a set of rules, but people will be greatly influenced by a Christian who passionately seeks to please the God with whom he has a meaningful, personal relationship.

How is this vibrant relationship communicated to others? First, through our service to God. While service in itself is not a guarantee of a vibrant relationship with God, such a relationship will lead to visible service. Because we love God, we want to do things for Him, and that love will manifest itself in acts of service for Him. When we love God, we will help in the nursery, serve as a greeter, work in the flowerbeds, make a meal, set up chairs, teach a class, head up a committee, and sing in the choir. The list will vary for each person, but our willing service indicates a heart that loves God. Meanwhile, many of these acts of service provide opportunities for directly influencing others in addition to the testimony provided by the service itself.

Second, through our love for others. The more we love God and the more we grow in our relationship with Him, the more we will look like Him. One important part of God's character that is displayed through us is His love for others. Serving others without love for them does not facilitate our being able to influence them. Service performed with love, however, is a powerful factor in making a difference in the lives of others. Love has influence even when expertise or innate ability is lacking. There is little, if anything, that has the power to break down walls than a consistent display of love, especially when the object is not particularly loveable. Relationships built through love provide the channel for influence.

Third, through our demeanor. To a certain extent, we can identify vibrant Christians simply by looking at them. Their sweet walk with God is evidenced by joy and peace. It's much like seeing newlyweds or watching a couple in love. They are so excited by their relationship with each other that their joy breaks forth on their faces. Instead of unattractive lines of anger, bitterness, and rebellion, a vibrant Christian will display the attractive softness of submissive peace and trustful joy. These expressions will be noticeable as he sings, prays, listens to the sermon, and interacts with others.

Fourth, through sharing. This is the area that I believe is the greatest barrier to our influence. Others cannot know about the vibrant relationship with God that drives us if we do not allow it to shine through and if we do not give it an outlet for expression. We must be open about our spiritual life. We need to pray with others, discuss spiritual topics, and talk about what God is doing in our lives. We need to share testimonies, recount spiritual victories, and talk about answers to prayer. Many Christians remain largely unaware that a deeper relationship with God is possible because no one has shown them what the journey toward that relationship looks like.

Do we desire to encourage and inspire others to pursue a deeper relationship with God? We cannot do that by focusing on the externals. Instead, we must be willing to share and demonstrate the internals that produce what is seen on the outside. We must let others know the difference that a vibrant relationship with God can make.

"Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul." Psalm 66:16 (NASB)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Feedback: Nye vs. Ham

Last night I joined many others in watching the debate between creationist Ken Ham and Bill Nye the Science Guy. (An archived video is available, I think for a limited time, at http://debatelive.org/.)

Rather than evaluating the entire debate, I want to focus on two words that seemed to sum up Bill Nye's response to creation, God, and the Bible in general. The first word is uneasy. Nye used that word or a synonym multiple times to describe how a foundation based on the Bible made him feel. He was uneasy when faced with an explanation that did not match what his science told him. In essence, the issue is faith. The Bible records truths and past events that humans cannot see with their eyes as well as concepts that are too big for mortals to comprehend. Without faith to take God at His word, uneasiness is not a surprising response.

The second word is unreasonable. Nye repeatedly used the positive counterpart, reasonable, to refer to himself. As a reasonable man, he could not accept things like an intelligent designer, a world-wide flood, or a boat large enough to hold so many animals. Again, it is a matter of faith. The Bible does include some pretty incredible history, and it records events that are outside the realm of observable experience. Without faith to take God at His word, perceived unreasonableness is not surprising either.

For those who have faith in God and His Word, however, the responses can and should be much different. Nye spoke about the Bible as a book written thousands of years ago, and he considered its translation into English to add to its unreliability. Christians know that God wrote the Bible and has preserved its truth into the modern day.

It was also interesting that Nye continually referred to creation as Ken Ham's theory. The support for creation is much deeper than even a great scientist such as Ham. It originates with God Himself. This Creator God is reliable, and, as a result, the Bible is also reliable. In the question-and-answer time, it was enlightening to see the differing responses between Nye and Ham. When faced with difficult questions, Nye repeatedly said he did not know the answers. Ham, on the other hand, referred to a Book that had those answers. The ancient book that Nye rejected as making him uneasy and being unreasonable had the answers that Nye lacked.

A basis of faith in God enables a Christian to be peaceful rather than uneasy. A Christian can rest at peace even when he does not know all of the answers. When facing the unknowns of life and even the question of what comes after life, a Christian has peace that cannot be explained. That peace comes from knowing the reliable God who knows everything.

A basis of faith in God makes His truth reasonable. When a believer understands how incredible God is, it is not so hard to believe the "unreasonable" stories of the Bible. In considering the amazing creation that God has made, it is completely reasonable to trust such a powerful and wise Creator.

Faith is critical to the Christian life. Faith is necessary at salvation, but it is also necessary for everyday life. Without it, a Christian is uneasy, anxious, and confused. Without faith, a Christian struggles with what seems unfair and doesn't make sense. With faith, however, a Christian can rest with confidence in a reasonable God in every situation. God is wise enough and powerful enough to be trusted.
"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." I Corinthians 2:14 (NASB)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Be the Man

It isn't hard to find dissatisfaction in our churches, Christian schools and colleges, or other Christian environments. Besides the fact that all of them are made up of other imperfect people in addition to ourselves, there are some disturbing and disheartening trends. How much of the following sounds familiar?

Church setting: The Sunday evening attendance is one-fourth that of the Sunday morning attendance. The Wednesday evening prayer service has been discontinued. There aren't enough available workers to have a vacation Bible school. There aren't enough Sunday school teachers. Fewer missionaries are supported due to decreased giving. People show up dressed in ways that would have been shocking twenty years ago.

School/college setting: The composition of our student body makes us look like a reform school. The majority of our students are from broken homes. Some students are experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Every year we have at least one teenage pregnancy. Some of the teachers/professors attend church sporadically; their standards, activities, and lifestyle are little different than that of the students they are trying to influence. There are fewer and fewer good options for conservative families. The graduates no longer attend church or have anything to do with God.

General Christianity: I was twenty years old before I was exposed to someone I considered a vibrant Christian. When I was going through a tough time, I couldn't find anyone to counsel me. No one ever showed me how to study the Bible. I grew up thinking Christianity was a set of rules to be followed. I attended a Christian retreat that looked little different from a secular party or event. A lot of Christians I know are divorced and remarried; they have tattoos, go to bars, and dress immodestly.

The list of examples could continue. Without doubt, there are issues for concern. We could easily become discouraged. As we look around at our own spheres, many of us could conclude, "I'm in a good church/school/environment. If mine looks this bad, is there any hope for broader Christianity?" Doesn't it seem that in another generation, Christianity that is effective at impacting the world around it will be dead?

These questions leave us looking around for a leader. Who will be different? Who will make a difference? Who will be the one to influence and lead others toward better paths? Who will provide the godly example, give the godly advice, and demonstrate a Christ-honoring lifestyle? Who will demonstrate the possibility and reality of a personal, passionate, and dedicated relationship with God?

I believe the answer is found in this challenge: Stop looking around for someone else to be the leader. Step up and decide that you will make a difference. Determine by God's grace and with His help that you will be a positive factor in the lives of others. Be the one who cares. Be willing to love. Don't be ashamed to share your walk with God. Let your passion for God shine through. Serve in the church. Set the example. Mentor. Mold. Influence.

You can't do these things if you are not willing to be different. I have often heard the quotation, "You have to be different before you can make a difference." Please understand an important premise behind making a difference. The focus cannot be on how "bad" others are. Instead the focus must be on the quality of our own relationship with God. Do we love Him? Are we growing? Are we willing to yield to Him when He reveals an area of struggle or rebellion? Will we serve Him selflessly?

If we are to effectively serve God and influence others, we cannot look at others in our Christian setting merely to click off a list of their problems: single mom, divorced, has tattoos, wears holey jeans to church, swears, smokes, attends R-rated movies. We will notice these things, but they are not cause for rejecting those people. A proper approach remembers that Christians are at different places in their Christian journeys. It also remembers that God is patient and forgiving.

Others have room for growth just as we have room for growth. The specific areas of needed growth may be different, but the underlying concept is the same: we must learn what is pleasing to God and then submit to doing that. Due to background, lack of training, or limited time since salvation, those with more visible challenges may simply be lacking in the learning aspect. It is not my intent to discount those people as unable to make a difference. Quite the opposite. As they learn and grow and submit, they also can become effective as positive influences. God's grace is able to do that with any Christian, regardless of his past.

As you seek to impact others, don't be discouraged when some Christians are not interested in being influenced.  Some will take only limited steps of growth or will require a long time before the change is noticeable. Some will seem to change, but the change will be temporary. It may seem that more Christians are headed in the wrong direction than in the right direction. Are we fighting a losing battle in terms of Christian influence within our cultures? I don't know, but we must keep fighting the battle. To give up is the pathway to sure defeat. Instead of noticing and bemoaning the dearth of Christian leaders and positive influences, volunteer to be one. Seek God's help in contributing to positive change in your Christian environment. Be the man (or woman).

"I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one." Ezekiel 22:30 (NASB)

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" Isaiah 6:8 (NASB)