The Best Definition of Spirituality I Have Heard

I recently read a tremendous definition of Spirituality. Geoffrey Wainwright says that Spirituality is “praying while living.”

I thank God, and my wife, for giving me a strong sense of the spiritual while also carrying a keen awareness of the practical. One of God’s gifts to me is being able to connect the two. For example, I missed my rather consistent time of prayer yesterday because I was putting the finishing touches on a practical demonstration of care and love.

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Today, I am back at it with my prayers and meditation, with an understanding that yesterday’s act of service came out of my best times of prayer and worship. In a sense, I was praying while living and living while praying. I needed that act of service to put my feet to my prayers, my study, and my worship. But acts of service don’t exist in my otherwise selfish heart if I wasn’t working, with God’s help, to transform my  self absorbed tendencies through prayer, meditation, study, and confession.

Are you living without praying? Or praying without living? Either way, you are not growing and are staying stagnant.

Let your prayers (or any soul training exercise) inform your living for a richer, deeper, more Christ-filled life while letting your living inform your prayers. This is at the heart of the partnership that you have started with God.

image: National Gallery of Canada (no. 29218)
© Estate of George Rouault / SODRAC (2013)

 

The Peculiarly Good Life

In one of the readings for the Apprentice Experience, James Bryan Smith quotes St. Augustine and this fascinating concept, “good things peculiar to the good.” Basically, there is a treasure of goodness found in God and with God that Christians experience that those outside of this faith know nothing about. The idea being that nonbelievers and even those practicing evil may experience some good things but will never experience the kind of good that comes from a life with God through Christ.

I have thought about this phrase many times over the weeks since I read it. I have begun to think about the peculiar good that I have experienced since Christ started working in my life in a more powerful way 16 years ago.

  • patience in the face of career uncertainty
  • creativity and ingenuity in the midst of challenges
  • daily encounters with God
  • hearing God’s voice
  • finding God in the bleakest of circumstances
  • compassion for others
  • plans and purposes in unusual circumstances
  • tolerance of my own shortcomings
  • joy in simple blessings
  • walking in God’s will
  • seeing miracles first hand
  • deeper understanding of Scripture
  • trust
  • encouraging others in Christ’s name

I am sure I could go on but you get the idea. Sure, there are times when the items above are not my present reality and I have to relearn what I have already learned, but that is just a part of Growing Up.

If Christ is helping you Grow Up, then you have a similar list or one that is peculiar to you. Take a moment and reflect on the good that is peculiar to the good in your life. Then step back and recognize how rich that goodness is and how it can only come from a “good and beautiful God.”

My Favorite Exercise

If you would have asked me in 2000 what my favorite spiritual discipline would be 16 years later, I would venture the following guesses: solitude and silence or journaling or simplicity or service. These seemed to fit better with my natural personality and interests.

It turns out that my favorite soul-training exercise is scripture memorization and recitation. This surprised me too.

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Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have the entire New Testament memorized or even large chunks memorized but I do have several verses as well as important sections down to memory. But just the act of memorization hasn’t been the only reward, the recitation of these verses has been the transforming element.

If you put me in a tight, awkward, nerve-wracking social spot, you can probably hear me muttering Psalm 23 or the Jesus Prayer. If you see me in better moments of worship, I have probably just recited Galations 2:20 in my head. If I am on a run and need a pick me up, I will start speaking the Lord’s Prayer or Philipians 3:10-11.

I have fended off powerful temptation by speaking the Beatitudes until the temptation fades away. Colossians 3 is a powerful reminder of where my mind, heart, and actions should be focused. I have most of this in my memory.

It is not just scripture I have memorized but powerful statements spoken by the church for the last 2,000 years. Stripped of its denominational baggage, the Apostles Creed tells the story, the gospel, of Jesus, and it has impacted me tremendously.

The best part of the memorization is how these verses and sacred words always seem to bubble up right when I need them to as reminders and markers to who God is and who I am under him.

If you have never given scripture memorization a shot, try one of the following verses. I like to read the verse five times, then write the verse five times, and then take 2-3 words and then see if I can recite them five times. Then the next day, I build off of what I memorized the day before. Give it a shot.

Matthew 9:12-13

Galations 2:20

1 Samuel 16:7

Psalm 46:10

Exciting News: Fund Raising Party (feat. Chad and Melissa Edgington)

On Oct. 7, join me and the fabulous musical duo of Chad and Melissa Edgington for a night of great music, laughter, good people, and TACOS.

The event will be at La Taxqueno Tacquiera in Dallas, Texas (207 W. Suffolk Ave.). 6:30-8:30.

All are invited, kids too!

The purpose behind the night is to get good people, who care about how God is changing their life, all together in one spot for community and a wonderful night together.

Also, there will be an opportunity to give to my future ministry plans through the launch of Grow Up Ministries and to contribute to my completion of the 18-month training in discipleship, the Apprentice Experience.

Spread the word and I will see you on Oct. 7.

If you can’t make it but would like to donate, please do so here.

Questions? Leave a comment or contact me at 972-352-0125.

 

 

9/11 Gave Me A Spiritual Purpose and A Calling

I remember being at home on the Friday morning after September 11, 2001. I was watching our 2-year old daughter as she played oblivious to the images and sadness that was on display as a memorial service played on our TV. When Billy Graham got up to speak and to pray I shed a few tears for my country and the dark cloud it was now under.

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God had already been doing some pretty significant things in my life at that time but September 11 clarified and focused my calling. I didn’t want to live in a world where the evil carried out by those terrorist on that morning existed. I wanted to not just be a better person but be a part of a plan to make the world a better place and insure where that kind of evil couldn’t happen again.

First, this conviction and movement of God led my wife and I to serve in Social Ministry and then Community Ministry. Now, 15 years later, God has led me to pursue Christian maturity and discipleship, what I call Growing Up.

I believe that changed lives change the world. I know that I am just a lowly blogger who teaches classes, writes, and tries to mentor and disciple. But, if God can take these humble efforts and help someone draw closer to him, change a behavior that hurts others, or share God’s love with a broken world, then my efforts are worth it.

That is how September 11, 2001 shaped my life and where God has taken me since then. I pray that my work makes a difference and that it resonates with the right people at the right time.


Part of my continuing growth in this ministry is a 18-month training called, Apprentice Experience. This training in will teach me more about the nature of God and how he changes lives. I plan to take that knowledge to share with others, so that they can reach Christian maturity, additional wisdom, and transformed lives. But, I need your help to complete the training. Please donate now to my fund raising page and I will keep the message coming and the mission of making a better world through changed lives a reality.

Three Marks Of A Spiritually Mature Leader

The university where I work recently conducted an inauguration service for a new President. It had all that you would expect; dignitaries representing important places and institutions, fancy clothes and regalia, grandiose music, and words of inspiration and acknowledgement.

It also exemplified aspects of Growing Up that can be peculiar attributes of mature Christian leaders. Let me explain:

  • Good memory: Some would say that leadership is all about the future. Where are you taking the organization? What future will the people under you have in 5 or 10 years? What will be your future legacy? But could leadership be enhanced by a keen understanding of the past? Much of the Inauguration service discussed the 28 years that our previous president served and all the ways that God used him to accomplish great things at the University and among its students. As much as Christian leaders want to hear from God in the future they may need to focus at times on what God has already done and draw inspiration from those memories.

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  • Humility: After he was invested with the proper accoutrements of the office and he was officially announced as our President, he didn’t stand in the glory of the moment, instead, he and his wife knelt down and prayed and were prayed over by leaders and pastors. Mature Christian leaders know that when they reach their highest achievement, that is the right time to humble themselves and pray and call on God for all of his provisions.
  • Submission: President Wright, in his remarks to the audience, stated that “this is not my University, this is not the faculty’s University, this is not the student’s University, this is God’s University.”He went on to proclaim that his goal was to please God and be a part of God’s will for the University. Throughout scripture, the great call for people of faith, is to submit to the authority and direction of God. Leaders are only placed in leadership by God and they need to recognize that any achievements or successes will come when God is glorified and not themselves.

A leader could certainly lead without a good memory or humility or submission but they would not be an example of a mature Christian leader. These types of leaders have recognized their condition under God and know that their work is God’s work.

 

photo credits: Dallas Baptist University

The Difference Between Self-Help And Growing Up

In this space, I have intentionally tried to use less religious words to help communicate what we are trying to accomplish in our spiritual life. I have avoided using phrases such as “spiritual formation” and “discipleship” because I fear that these terms have become lost in church-speak and hold little meaning. Or they have been treated as add-ons within churches and most church members just ignore them like they might just ignore the children’s ministry or the homeless ministry or the singles ministry.

Instead, I use some form of Grow Up or Growing Up to express a movement towards Christian maturity. In my attempt to make things more understandable, I hope that I haven’t given you the impression that what we are doing here is just some kind of glorified self-help agenda. Growing Up is so much more than self improvement.

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One of our readings in the Apprentice Experience training comes from Scot McKnight, a professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary. McKnight, in a chapter called “A Community Called Atonement,” discusses what it means to be made in the image of God. Using the phrase Eikons to represent those made in the image of God, McKnight states, “the goal (of atonement) is for our sinful selves to be set free to be new creations in true divine and human Koinonia.” He later states that “Eikons are made for union with God, communion with others, love of self, and care for the world.”

In other words, God’s plan involves a restoration of his created beings, his Eikons, to be new creations so we can be unified with Him and bonded to each other. This is done through the sending of the perfect Eikon, Jesus.

Spiritual formation, discipleship, Growing Up, maturity are all words used to describe God’s ongoing restoration process that starts with a commitment to Christ but ends with a transformed person in every way.

Don’t let my humble attempts at communication keep you from seeing the seriousness of this transformation process.


I am learning and growing through this training so that I can help you reach your faith goals and achieve your own maturity in Christ. But I can’t help you unless I have the resources to finish the Apprentice Experience training. Donate now and help me finish the program and continue helping others grow to fullness in Christ.

God Speaks To Me Through …

What Spiritual Exercise(s) has had the most impact on your Growing Up?

For me, it has to be reading/studying and solitude with a little bit of small group community to keep me encouraged and accountable.

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Whatever activity that benefits you the most in Growing Up, make sure you are including that in your life on a regular basis. If it is prayer, make time for prayer. If it is worship, make time for worship. If it is service, make time for service. If it is scripture memorization, start memorizing.

Don’t worry if your exercise or activity isn’t the most commonly practiced. God works on us at an individual level so how he connects with me will look different than how he connects with you. That is the point, to find that sweet spot where you get the most out of your time and life with God and make it a prominent part of your life.

Will there be times when we need to branch out and try an activity that makes us uncomfortable and doesn’t come naturally? Absolutely, but I contend that if we aren’t making room for our best”with God life” then we won’t even understand what other activities and aspects we need to work on. Growing Up in Christ leads to more Growing Up in Christ.

So, be intentional this week in pursuing God by way of the activities that bring you closer to Him and thus, give you the most potential for growth.