“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
I have, with the persistent encouragement of my wife Christie, written and self-published a book.
The title is “Moon in the Darkness: 100 Reflections on the Kingdom of God”. Using a poem the Lord gave me in 1994 as a launching pad, I have selected ninety-four of the best articles I’ve written for the Kingsport Times-News, along with five stories and a puppet skit, to explore how Christians can reveal God’s kingdom to the world.
Self-publication is a rigorous process. When the first copy of the finished product arrived, I was excited, and proceeded to read the book even though I has already read all of the material there several times during the selection and editing stages of book preparation. Then the unexpected happened! The book I had written began preaching to me, and the preaching led to conviction. My friends, I talk it better than I walk it.
At first glance, such a confession can be very disturbing. We are all too familiar with people who “talk the talk” but don’t “walk the walk”. They are called hypocrites, and we know how many people have left the Church and even left the faith because of these hypocrites. I can’t bear the thought of being one.
Fortunately, I am not. My problem is not that I fail to “walk the walk”. It is simply that I don’t walk it as well as I could and should walk it. There have been times when my prayer life has been strong, and other times when it is woefully inadequate; times when my focus is on God and others, and other times when it is far too self-centered and self-indulgent; times when I am a patient and compassionate listener, and other times when … well, just ask Christie.
For over twenty years, I have been committed to the Kingdom of God and the war of good against evil. (1 John 3:8; Romans 12:21; Ephesians 6:10-20) Throughout that time, there has also been an ongoing war within me – the Spirit against the flesh. (Galatians 5:17) And while the Spirit wins more often than not, the flesh has not thrown in the towel.
So, what am I to do? Should I temper my “talk”, reducing the demands of discipleship to what I have experienced and achieved? No! Scripture defines the standards of living to which we are called, not my puny efforts. The God of glory calls us to glory. (John 17) Too many people have been setting the bar too low for too long.
Should I stop “talking” until my walk is stumble-free? No! Even near the end of his wonderful ministry, the apostle Paul knew he had not yet “arrived”, but he ministered while he pressed on toward the prize. (Philippians 3:12-15) I am no “Paul”, but my calling also is to minister while I press on, and to urge you to press on as well.
My proposal is that we all join a new “4H Club”.
First, be hungry for God and the things of God. (Matthew 5:6; Psalm 37:4)
Second, be honest with ourselves. Some of us struggle with complacency. (Revelation 3:14-22) Many of us have developed dependencies – habits of television, computer games, food, drink or other activity we rely on as simple pleasures of life, only to find that those simple pleasures receive far more of our time and attention than God receives. (Matthew 6:24)
Third, be humble and realize we may need some help to get rid of these encumbrances and entanglements that are hindering our walk with the Lord. (Hebrews 12:1) Hiding the truth about our struggles serves no one but the enemy. A spiritual mentor, a good pastor or a trustworthy small group can pray with us, encourage us and hold us accountable. (Ephesians 5:21)
Fourth, choose to be holy. (1 Peter 1:14-16) The scriptural meaning of “holy” is to be separated from the world and evil so you are more joined together with God and His goodness. The first step in separation is the choice we make to initiate separation.
Let me share two final thoughts that can help us as we press on. First, we are each a work in progress, but we are His work in progress. (Ephesians 2:10) Our job is just to cooperate, and His grace and love are still there every time we fail.
Last but far from least, remember this. God’s call is to the highest standards, but it always comes as a wonderful invitation and never comes with condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
As to my book, I hope some of you will be interested. Local people can purchase it through our ministry at a small discount. Everyone can visit the website, www.mooninthedarkness.com, where both the book and e-book are available. It is even on Amazon!
God bless you, and God bless our community.