You May Be Thinking About Your Faith All Wrong

In 2009, 9 out of 10 Pastors, in a Barna poll, said that spiritual maturity is one of the most serious problems facing their churches.

I doubt that this poll would be much different today. I suggest that the reason for this problem is because there is no emphasis on spiritual maturity in the church. Instead, as Mark Noll has observed, “…the evangelical ethos is activistic, populist, pragmatic, and utilitarian…dominated by the urgencies of the moment.”

I don’t know about you, but I am worn out by the urgencies of the moment. I am worn thin by the outrage culture and the politicization of everything.

That is why I am writing this blog. I want to bring light to the deep need of the church; to show that faith is lived out more than it is shouted out, experienced more than it is defended, internal more than it is external, and life changing more than it is life defining.

What would be the implications if you turned your spiritual attention to Growing Up? Wouldn’t that have a bigger impact on your world than the latest meme, Facebook share, or political event to be outraged about?

You are capable of so much more.

Try Listening

One tactic that has made a big difference in my spiritual life of late is increased listening.

So much is written and spoken about prayer but little is spoken about the listening aspect of prayer. Why ask God for assistance if you are not willing to listen for his answer and guidance?

What have you missed from the Lord because you aren’t being intentional in your listening?

So, try this – instead of moving from one prayer to the next or one scripture to the next, try pausing and listening for a few moments. I can’t promise anything magical will happen but the discipline of the ebb and flow of a conversation will get you in the habit of listening and recognizing how God communicates.

 

photo credit: David Robert Bilwas

Tactics Can Be Dead Ends

plan

I have been hesitant in this space to offer recipes and tactics for spiritual growth. You can find those in previous versions of the blog. Tactics and exercises without an understanding of the goal and the purpose behind them easily become instruments for pride and moralism.

Through reading this blog, I hope you have had a slight tug in your spirit and a craving in your soul for a life in Christ that reflects his mighty work and is worthy of his glory. This is no fleeting emotional trick, this is the Holy Spirit pushing you towards Christ.

Without this inspiration, all the tactics in the world will be dead ends. So, I have focused on helping you understand areas of weakness and improvement and sparking your interest in taking steps forward to a mature Christian life.

We Don’t Grow Anything

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I have talked about the need for you to do the work of growing up in the faith. How does that work mesh with what God is already doing?

Gordon T. Smith says, “…the genius of human action is that it is an act of response to and participation in the actions of God.”

We have to understand that we don’t grow anything. God does the growing but we, like a farmer in the field, have to do the planting, the watering, the weed removal and wait for God to do the rest.

What are you planting today?

 

photo credit: david spencer

My Journey: The Need For Trusted Guides

I talk a little about a breakdown/breakthrough experience I had 15 years ago in the About section of this blog. This is when I learned that trying to live life under my own power was a recipe for disaster. Instead, to place Christ at the center of my life was the only way to achieve any kind of fulfillment or direction.

Shortly after the breakthrough, in my thirst to grow and experience Christ more and more, I began looking for books and resources that could guide me in my journey. I turned to some of the authors and ministers that I had heard about my whole life. But, I quickly grew frustrated and disappointed.

Much of the material that I was reading seemed to be written for the lifelong church/Sunday school goer who, like I mentioned last week, expected a certain tone and milquetoast delivery. There was just a real shallowness to the writing that didn’t fit the fire and depth that I was needing at the time. I felt like these authors were saying what they felt like they were expected to say rather than what was coming from their own heart and experience.

So, I went on a hunt for something deeper, something steeped in the reality and complexity of authentic Christian living. Something that would inspire and challenge me.

It wasn’t long before I found Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Eugene Peterson. These were people who I could tell had been to a deep rich place with God and were able to express how that worked and what God showed them in the process. They were steeped in scripture, not as academics or in a Hallmark card sort of way, but in a way that brought them, on a regular basis, face to face with Christ himself. I wanted that experience for myself.

I am still seeking those experiences and wanting to be the type of guide that these great men of God were for me. That is why I am pursuing the completion of an 18-month journey of discipleship called the Apprentice Experience.

See a video about the Apprentice Experience here: https://youtu.be/0nKRyhmlBWM

I need your help in order to fulfill this call on my life. Will you partner with me so that I can continue to Grow Up and make what I say on this blog an extension of the deep and powerful work that Christ is doing on my life.

In addition to all the great content that this experience will provide on the blog, I am providing donation gifts for all donors who give more than $25. These are really cool gifts that will push you to grow up in your spiritual life. See below.

Donate now.

At least $25 – The Grow Up Playlist full of songs that have helped me in my spiritual life.

At least $50 – A sample chapter of an eBook I worked on a few years ago called More of Christ, Less of Everything Else.

At least $75 – A resource pack full of the list of tools that I use to grow closer to God.

At least $100 – A short eBook that I am creating called the Devotional Lives of Famous Christians.

Why We Coast Through Our Spiritual Life

Bicycle, Riding, Bike, Healthy, Lifestyle, Road, Active

We all have a tendency to coast and to get by on whatever skill or talent we may be strong in. But that is not growth, even if you are actively feeding and cultivating your pet talent, you are missing an opportunity to advance your capacities in a more well-rounded way.

Tim Elmore, a noted speaker and author, has called this tendency our Oversized Gift. For example, if you are an adult who is good at communicating and expressing Godly things but have never worked on listening to others and learning from them then you are coasting and just winging it.

Growing means working on parts of yourself that is not a strength.

Scripture reading has always been something that I have been hesitant about, so I committed to read through the book of John in a week. I can be particular about the people I spend time with so I asked God to guide me to others that he wanted me to be with. I like to have my physical cravings met on my own schedule, so I tried fasting to remind me that I can trust God for all of my needs.

What is your oversized gift? Have you been coasting and letting your talent or skill give you false comfort while you sacrifice an opportunity to be a more balanced Christ follower.

Growing up means embracing your blind spots and working, with God’s help, on what will bring true growth.

The Start Is The Start

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So you want to Grow Up in your faith? You are done with a mundane and lifeless spiritual existence? You know that Christ lives in you but you wonder if his resurrection power was used on someone else.

What can you do? Can a plan be developed that will ignite a mature life with Christ? Where do you start?

The question is not where do you start but do you start?

The first thing is the first thing – Start

Then what? Well, if you are like me the start might not go so well.

Your times of prayer are little more than thought bubbles that you are trying to throw God’s way. Your scripture reading plan sends you to some chapter on curses and judgement that leaves more questions than answers. Or, you have an uplifting moment with God but then your next encounter with people is full of harshness and edginess and you quickly lose your temper and lash out. Satan loves to muck up things before any momentum is gained.

Let me tell you that your start my be wonderful or it may be frustrating but those experiences are not as important as the fact that you are doing the work, that you are checking in with God, that you are building that relationship, that you are not satisfied with your previous meagor attempts.

I promise you that if you can maintain your dedication to Grow Up in your faith for 4 to 5 days, God will show you how meaningful that effort can be and you will look forward to your times with God and he will help you with your next steps.

So get started.

photo credit: Mahanga

My Journey: The Blessing and Curse Of Long Time Church Attendance

“I grew up in the church.” Countless testimonials begin with this declaration.

I am one of those GUITC people. Over time, and through observation, I have viewed this part of my life as a tremendous blessing. I learned scripture, had tremendous friendships, had a lot of fun, and learned to look at the world with God shaped glasses.

But GUITC has its drawbacks in one particular area. What is reasonable became the norm rather than what is required. Consider that those that come to faith later in life often have a sense of urgency and fervor that the GUITC people lack. For them, the words of Jesus and the example of his followers jump off the pages of the Bible and stir them to action, conviction, or prayer.

For GUITC people, those ideas and concepts have already been heard and everyone else who GUITC seems to not be bothered by it in the slightest and so you fall in line. Reasonable devotion becomes the model of church people and few seem to want to divert from that path.

I rejected the reasonable devotion of GUITC people in 2001. Trust in God’s direction became my goal rather than meeting other’s expectation or Bible belt standards for church and Christian participation. This mentality has led me, along with my wife in most cases, to quit my job to pursue inner city ministry, to become essentially a missionary in residence to an apartment complex, to create small group studies, to start small groups, to write blogs and book proposals, to go on mission trips, and to try to pursue Christ’s presence in everything I do.

I don’t pretend to be better than anyone else, heaven knows. But, I have learned that being willing to Grow Up in my faith can result in some adventurous undertakings and the unexpected.

That willingness has now led me to pursue the Apprentice Experience, an 18-month journey in discipleship and spiritual growth. In order for me to go through this program and then to report back to the blog what I am learning, I need you to partner with me.

Won’t you donate to my journey so that I can continue to pursue, not just reasonable devotion, but a ruthless trust in Christ and his direction in my life. I promise, I will use this experience to help guide you to an urgent, mature, adventurous life with Christ.

In addition to all the great content that this experience will provide on the blog, I am providing donation gifts for all donors who give more than $25. These are really cool gifts that will push you to grow up in your spiritual life. See below.

Donate now.

At least $25 – The Grow Up Playlist full of songs that have helped me in my spiritual life.

At least $50 – A sample chapter of an eBook I worked on a few years ago called More of Christ, Less of Everything Else.

At least $75 – A resource pack full of the list of tools that I use to grow closer to God.

At least $100 – A short eBook that I am creating called the Devotional Lives of Famous Christians.

The Christian Life Is Hard and That Is A Good Thing

 

COMCAM Sailors Take On Tough Mudder

Have you noticed that in spite of countless listicles and click bait slide shows that give you “Five Tips To The Perfect You” or “This One Thing Will Change Your Life Forever and Its Jaw Dropping,” we are more attracted to difficult achievements than cheap shortcuts that have no substance?

How else can you explain the rise in participation in marathons, Tough Mudders, and Spartan Races? Why are CrossFit and Fitness Bootcamps so popular and P90X before them?

Conventional wisdom would say that no 21st century person would be tough enough to commit to these things despite the positive results. Could it be that the we actually prefer a challenge over short cuts?

American churches have tried for the last 30 years or so to make the Christian life seem easy. Either by reduction of the message or making the hard parts seem unnessary, the idea was that if we portrayed the Christian life as difficult then no one would try it.

It was Chesterton who said, ““The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” But it is that difficulty that you really need. You want to feel as if you are really committing to something that is rich, deep, hard, life changing, and worth it.

A product that is given away or comes cheap seems disposable or lacking but something that you pay a large sum seems worth it because you worked hard to pay for it.

The Christian Life isn’t hard for hard sake but it is hard because nothing else in life is worth more than life transformation and growth. To discipline and die to self and see what Christ can do with our humble efforts has so many more benefits than taking the easier path.

Do the work and see what Christ does with it.

photo credit: DVIDSHUB

Signs of Maturity

https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3293/2606645766_e5a934eb40_b.jpgHow do you know if your spiritual life is advancing, that you are growing up? Are there markers that signify maturity?

Again, you can look at general maturity that we are all familiar with. A teenager lacks maturity because they think they have all the answers and that any one who tries to tell them otherwise is out of touch and trying to hem them in. The teenager shows signs of maturity when they begin to humble themselves enough to do the necessary tasks that will allow them to achieve substantial goals or overcome obstacles instead of skating by on their own guile and devices.

A Christian shows signs of spiritual maturity when they demonstrate a desire to submit to God in all circumstances. Why? Because you realize that the tools and resources that you are using based on your own power are limited and lacking in so many ways. God, on the other hand, has tremendous power and ability to shape you, assist you, provide for you, and protect you.

No wonder that Jesus starts off his model prayer with:

Our father who are in heaven,

hallowed by thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done

On Earth, as it is in Heaven.

God is great and his ways are the absolute best for us. Acknowledging these two things are the next steps in growing up in faith.

photo credit: Biking Nikon SFO