1. The Lord Directs Our Steps
"A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps." Proverbs 16:9
Meredith, Christopher, and Nathaniel gave me stepping stones for my garden for Mother's Day. I really like them and plan to put them around the bench under the shade tree next to my garden. When I kept Micah and Maggie last week I helped them make three more stepping stones and I hope to make several more and have a little path the grandchildren can play on and follow. When we went to the nursery to get plants several weeks ago Jedidiah enjoyed jumping from step to step on their stepping stones. I started thinking that the scriptures are like stepping stones for us to follow. We can plan which way we want to go, but just as our verse above states, the Lord directs our steps. We can't see where we will be a year from now, or even next week, but when we trust in the Lord and follow Him, He can lead us and guide us one step after another. Let's look at some of the verses and find some of these "Stepping Stones Of Faith."
2. Sunday School Stepping Stones
Once while reading the book of Isaiah I came to a verse that seemed to sum up the idea of Sunday School. I liked it so well we printed it and put it on our Sunday School room door. "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:" (Isaiah 28:10) When we were in school we could not learn to read until we learned the alphabet. We could not learn to add and subtract until we learned to count. Learning is accomplished "precept upon precept;... here a little, and there a little." God sent the prophets to the Children of Israel to teach them and warn them to follow His law in the same way, "precept upon precept; line upon line..." As the little children come to Sunday School they are learning from God's Word in the same manner. I like to see the little ones come out of class with their papers. And even the young ones can often tell you what their Bible story was about. They are learning God's Word, "here a little, and there a little." In this way the teachers, and parents and grandparents at home, are building stepping stones of faith for these little ones to follow. We never get too old to learn from God's Word. I encourage you today to be faithful to church and Sunday School. Spend time reading your Bible and talking with the Lord in prayer. These stepping stones of faith can help you grow in the Lord.
3. Stepping Stones Or Stumbling Blocks?
I am excited about setting up my little garden resting place. I have the bench and am working on making more stepping stones, but I need help with the mulch. I do not know what kind of mulch to spread around the bench and stepping stones. I don't want to bury the stones level with the ground and if I place them on top of the ground I am afraid that they will become stumbling blocks instead of stepping stones. Someone might stump their toe, or even fall. Please let me know if you have any advice on which kind of mulch I should use.
As we apply this to our Christian walk, I see our knowledge of the scriptures and close walk with God as stepping stones in the pathway of faith. But, if we raise up our knowledge in judgment of others, the same verses that are stepping stones to us may become stumbling blocks to others. When we present Bible principles to "help" others we need to be careful to do so without judging them and offer our help with much love. Love is the mulch that fills our lives and surrounds our words, keeping them as helpful stepping stones to others instead of becoming stumbling blocks of offence. "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him." (I John 2:10)
"11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way." (Romans 14:11-13)
4. There Is A Prize!
When I was making the new stepping stones with Micah and Maggie we were talking about where to put them and how many we needed. Micah, who is seven years old, was very helpful with his suggestions. "We need about ten and put them in a circle. Then all the kids can go in the circle and when the music stops the ones on certain stones get a prize or piece of candy!" He was all excited about his idea. I want to encourage you today to keep on the paths of righteousness. We can share in Micah's enthusiasm. There is a prize! Paul said, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)
A Crown Of Righteousness - "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (II Timothy 4:8)
A Crown Of Life - "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." (James 1:12)
A Crown Of Glory - "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." (I Peter 5:4)
It would be great to receive a prize to cast before our Savior's throne, for He alone is worthy. I close with His encouraging words... "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." (Revelation 3:11)
5. I Want To Be A Faithful Grandmother
The Apostle Paul commended young Timothy for his heritage. "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also." (II Timothy 1:5) I know that we can't be saved for our children, or our grandchildren, but I can say from my heart that I want to be a faithful grandmother. The stepping stones made by Micah and Maggie turned out really well, and today Susanna brought Jedidiah and Elsa to spend the day. I enjoy each moment I spend with my grandchildren. They tried out the new hammock swing, helped me transplant some flowers, and helped make two more stepping stones. They each wanted to pour the water, and stir, and put the red and blue glass marbles on the tops of the cement. (Little Miss Elsa sat on hers and I had to wash out her clothes. This is the same little girl that ate dirt when we were planting the garden.) I hope that we can build sweet memories that will go with them through their years. Even more, I pray that I can have a positive Christian influence in their lives. I had godly grandmothers, I was raised by a great Christian mother and we still enjoy our time together. We often talk about the Bible and what we are learning from God's Word in our many day trips together. I want my children and grandchildren to know that I have God's saving faith in my life and I want to live in a way that they will want to follow Jesus in their own steps of faith.
6. The Virtue Of Patience
I don't make desserts often unless someone is coming to visit, but sometimes I just want something sweet. I get out my bowl and ingredients and stir up a batch of brownies or cake, sometimes even banana pudding, and pop it in the oven. I smell it cooking for about half an hour then take it out of the oven and eat some while it is still warm. I enjoy the fruits of my labor almost immediately. But there are some things that don't come instantly. I planted my garden five weeks ago and until now have not seen any sign of harvesting the fruits of my labor. I hoe, and pull weeds, and pick up rocks, and hoe again, watching it grow every day, under the blessing of God's rain and sun shine. Finally, I saw two tiny tomatoes and the beginning of some tiny squash. Fresh vegetables are a great reward of the hard work. But every one who has planted a garden knows that it takes patience. In fact, when I think of old farmers I think of people who are very patient. All the old farmers I have known don't seem to get in too much of a hurry over anything. James even mentions the patience in gardening. "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." (James 5:7-8) Patience is a virtue, and it is part of the stepping stones of Christian maturity. It is not something you get overnight, but comes in Christian growth, step by step.
"1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (Romans 5:1-5)
"5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Peter 1:5-8)
7. Stepping Out In Faith
We talked about the virtue of patience yesterday, and I think it would be good to look at some of the other steps in our pathway to Christian maturity. When we take another look at Romans 5:1, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:" and II Peter 1:5, "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge" we see that the first step is faith. We are saved through faith as we read in Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" To be saved we must see our lost condition. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23) And we must have faith and believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) Without faith in Jesus, there is no way to heaven. If you have never trusted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, now would be a great time to step out in faith and ask Jesus to save you from your sin.
"8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
8. "Add To Your Faith Virtue"
Let's take another step towards Christian maturity. After faith, comes virtue. "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;" (II Peter 1:5) We can find a great description of virtue in Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." When we accept Christ as our Savior our lives should change. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (II Corinthians 5:17) We are forgiven of our sin and the Holy Spirit lives within us helping us to be more like Christ. In this way we can be living testimonies to those around us. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
9. How To Add Knowledge
We looked at faith, then virtue, and today we are looking for knowledge. "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;" (II Peter 1:5) We are living in the last days and prophecies are being fulfilled right before our eyes. We need to know the scriptures and not be caught in the dark as they unfold. "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;" (Colossians 1:10)
1. Pray - "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5) God's Word tells us that we can and should ask God for wisdom. Speaking of wisdom, Proverbs 8:17 tells us, "I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me." Jesus also said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8)
2. Read Your Bible - If I decided today that I wanted to be a surgeon and I went to take the exam I would not know anything on the test because I have not studied or read the books. In the same way, we can pray that the Lord will give us wisdom and knowledge, but we need to read His Word to hear and know what He is saying to us. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (II Timothy 3:16) As we read the Bible it is good to ask God to teach us from His Word. "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." (Psalm 119:18)
3. Meditate - The Bible is different from any other book in that the Holy Spirit can speak to our hearts and teach us as we ponder and meditate on the things of God. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2) This includes having a personal devotional time and taking time to study God's Word. Bible commentaries can provide a wealth of knowledge.
4. "Be Doers Of The Word" - I remember hearing these words long ago and they stayed with me all these years, "If you walk in the light He gives you, He will give you more light." James 1:22 says it like this, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." This is the idea behind my theme of "Stepping Stones". I believe that the more we learn and practice what God tells us, the more He will continue to show us from His Word, one step at a time.
5. Listen To God's Word - We can also increase our knowledge of the things of God by listening to preachers and teachers. Many times I have heard a preacher or Sunday school teacher explain a verse that opened my eyes of understanding. It was like they turned on the light and I could finally see what God was saying. It is so important for us to be faithful to God's house each time the church doors are open.
6. Talk With Mature Christians - I mentioned recently that Mom and I like to talk about the Bible and different parts we are reading. We learn from each other. Michael also teaches me things as he studies and hears different messages at the Christian school where he teaches. I enjoy learning Bible truths from mature Christians. After King Solomon died the people went to his son, King Rehoboam with concerns they had. " And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?" (I Kings 12:6) The elders answered King Rehoboam wisely, "But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:" (I Kings 12:8) And Israel rebelled against the King. When we want an understanding of something it helps to talk with people who know more about it and we can learn from their knowledge and experience.
10. Memorial Day - "What Mean Ye By These Stones?"
At the Carolina Field of Honor in Kernersville, NC there is a stone which reads, "CPL James L Key - Korean War - A Good Soldier". There are many such stones there in honor of those who fought for our freedom. As we celebrate Memorial Day, let's be thankful for those who gave their lives so that we might have a better life to live. To all the Veterans out there and to those who lost loved ones in service I want to say, "Thank you!" The memorial stones are a good idea to help us remember and teach our future generations that freedom isn't free.
Our Bible story today is about another memorial set up with stones as a reminder to future generations.
"1 And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,
2 Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man,
3 And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.
4 Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man:
5 And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:
6 That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?
7 Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever." (Joshua 4:1-7)
Today we are back on our stepping stones to becoming a mature Christian as we continue in I Peter 1:5-6 "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;" As we think about temperance I want to look at another reference in Galatians 5:22-23. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." In these verses we see that temperance is the last stepping stone mentioned with the fruit of the Spirit. I have always thought of temperance as "self-control" but this reference makes me think beyond self-control and more towards a life of "Spirit" control. If we back up just a couple of verses we see that Paul also told the believers, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16) So the Spirit can help us keep on the right path to Christian maturity.
12. "...And To Patience Godliness"
Since we looked at patience earlier, we are finishing our stepping stones of Christian maturity from I Peter 1:5-6 with godliness. "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;" What do we know about God that we can try to obtain in our goal towards Christian maturity? God is all knowing, and we could never reach that point. God sees all and hears all which is beyond our human capabilities. In this same chapter we read, "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." (I Peter 1:15-16) We can strive to live righteous and holy. Another description of God which we should strive to attain is faithfulness. "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (I Corinthians 1:9) "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." (I Corinthians 4:2) One more I want to mention is love. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." (I John 4:10-11) These are just three ways we can try to be more godly in our daily walk: be holy, be faithful, and love one another. These would surely keep us on the right path to Christian maturity.
13. Do You Count Your Steps?
Once when I was trying to get more exercise I tried wearing a pedometer to count my daily steps. I wore it all day at work, and watched it go up a little when we took our afternoon break, walking a mile around the hospital and back. But since I spent most of the day sitting at a desk, it was discouraging to hear the recommendations that we should take 10,000 steps each day. I don't think I even came close the day we spent at the zoo. So, I don't count my steps, but my God knows every step I take. Listen to what Job said, "Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps?" (Job 31:4) God not only counts our steps, but He also directs our steps. "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps." (Proverbs 16:9) He walks with us and He is there when we fall. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand." (Psalm 37:23-24) Oh, how great is the love of our heavenly Father for His children!
14. Not Everyone Steps Out Of The Boat
I like to see the facebook pages of missionaries and how God is working in their ministries. I believe they will receive great rewards in heaven for all they have given to step out in faith for full service of our Lord. I made the comment to Michael yesterday that they are doing so much and I feel like I am not doing anything for my Lord. He reminded me of the time in battle when David told his men that those who stayed by the stuff would also receive their part of the victory spoils. (I Samuel 30:24) Some are called to go and serve God in far away places, and some are led to serve God right where they are. It reminds me of the story when the disciples were out at sea and there was a great storm and they saw Jesus walking on the sea.
"27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God." (Matthew 14:27-33)
They were all in the storm and they were all afraid, but Peter is the only one who stepped out of the boat in faith. We all go through storms along the way. But Jesus is there, and He says to us, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid." Some of us step out in faith and go where the Lord is leading, and some of us stay in the boat, but the Lord is with us all. Don't get discouraged by the place where God has called you to serve. It may seem so small, but God can still use you when you give your life to Him.
15. Precious Stones
We are closing our devotions on "Stepping Stones" today by looking at precious stones. When I think of the Garden of Eden created for Adam and Eve, I can see the large fruits and vegetables in my mind. I see them in the brightest colors and can almost smell their wonderful fragrance. Before the curse there were no thorns and weeds to pull, and I believe the weather was perfect and there was always something bearing fruit for them to eat. I have often thought about the living beauty of the garden, but that's not all. There were precious stones in the Garden of Eden. "And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone." (Genesis 2:12) We see another description in Ezekiel 28:13, "Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold:..." God created these precious stones in the beginning of the creation, and their beauty is magnified in heaven.
"18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." (Revelation 21:18-21)
Jesus went to prepare us a place adorned with precious stones and one day we will walk on the street of pure gold. We will be clothed in His righteousness, as we are nothing on our own. "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." (Isaiah 61:10) All of these references to precious stones are great, but the most amazing to me is when God looks on us, and instead of calling attention to our dreadful sinful condition, He forgives us and calls us His jewels. "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." (Malachi 3:16-17)