Let Him Hear: Reading Revelation For Spiritual Growth #2

Holy Spirit painting

Image by hickory hardscrabble via Flickr

In Jesus’ letters to the seven church in Revelation, each letter includes the words, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” I find it interesting that we are called, like the seven churches, to listen for the what the Spirit says. But is there a book in the Bible that is read with less acknowledgement towards the Holy Spirit than Revelation? People seem to only read Revelation to gather content and information on the end times. Reading Revelation is an academic endeavor and not a spiritual one. But Jesus says for us to hear, not what our mind says, but what the Spirit says to the churches.  When we open up and read Revelation, we should immediately listen for what the Spirit is saying to us. But this is hard.

The easiest thing to do is to start listing the mentioned descriptions of the seven churches. What are they being rebuked about, what are they being called to do, what will happen to them. The harder thing to do is listen to the words that come out of Jesus’ heart for the church – the Spirit words. These would include words such as perseverance, “first love”, “first deeds”, repent, “second death” , “poverty (but you are rich).”

Maybe Revelation is more of a spiritual book than I thought.

You can join me in reading Revelation for Spiritual Growth. I have only gotten to chapter 2 so you can follow along with me if you would like.

Best of Christian Life Hacker: Removing Barriers To Spiritual Growth

Since the past month and a half has been pretty intense here on Christian Life Hacker, I thought it might be good to revisit some of the posts that epitomize the Christian Life Hacker faith style.  This post talks about how passive barriers can derail our spiritual life and how to overcome them:

Removing Barriers To Spiritual Growth

I have recently come across some personal finance articles that discuss how passive barriers prevent people from making effective choices with their money. A passive barrier is an inconvenience in our life that makes doing what we know we need to do more difficult.

For example, the other day I was going to workout during my lunch break but I forgot to bring a change of socks and since I dreaded to spend the rest of the day with sweaty dress socks, I said forget it. At our house, we never seem to have stamps when we need them and so things that need to be mailed often sit for days because we are too lazy or forgetful about picking up more stamps.

Spiritual examples in my life includes times when I didn’t feel like walking to the other side of the house to find my Bible; times I didn’t feel like taking the extra fifteen seconds to say a prayer with my kids before going to bed; or how meaningless internet activity seems to crowd out the opportunity to send an encouraging email to a friend.

Here are three easy steps to remove passive barriers from your life:

1. Track your life. For one day, pay attention to your most common routines. Is the first place you go to in the morning your coffee pot? Do you spend the majority of your day in front of a computer? Do you enjoy sitting on your back porch each evening? Track your routines and start strategically placing spiritual materials in these locations. I know of people who write scripture verses on bathroom mirrors using dry erase markers. I read of one couple who found a shower curtain with a map of the world on it so they would continually pray for the world. Place your Bible next to your computer or on your dinner table. Make it convenient to read.

2. Tell others. I am constantly trying new diets, exercise plans, and spiritual practices but I never bother to tell my wife what I am doing. Then I get annoyed with her when she messes up my plans or activities. How was she supposed to know what I was doing? By telling others that you are trying to remove passive barriers to your spiritual life, they can help you by not putting your Bible away when they are straightening up or not turning on the TV when they know you are trying to spend a few quiet moments in prayer.

3. Make a God spot. I talked about this idea last week but I think it is a great way of removing passive barriers. When you set a particular location as where you go daily for prayer or scripture reading you are developing a habit that will trigger spiritual activities and thoughts about God. Don’t be ashamed if your God spot changes; I can think of three locations in our house that I have used as a God spot.

Don’t start this week by letting the slightest things keep you from spending time with God. Make a few simple changes and let God have a more prominent place in your life.

Removing Barriers To Spiritual Growth

I have recently come across some personal finance articles that discuss how passive barriers prevent people from making effective choices with their money. A passive barrier is an inconvenience in our life that makes doing what we know we need to do more difficult.

For example, the other day I was going to workout during my lunch break but I forgot to bring a change of socks and since I dreaded to spend the rest of the day with sweaty dress socks, I said forget it. At our house, we never seem to have stamps when we need them and so things that need to be mailed often sit for days because we are too lazy or forgetful about picking up more stamps.

Spiritual examples in my life includes times when I didn’t feel like walking to the other side of the house to find my Bible; times I didn’t feel like taking the extra fifteen seconds to say a prayer with my kids before going to bed; or how meaningless internet activity seems to crowd out the opportunity to send an encouraging email to a friend.

Here are three easy steps to remove passive barriers from your life:

1. Track your life. For one day, pay attention to your most common routines. Is the first place you go to in the morning your coffee pot? Do you spend the majority of your day in front of a computer? Do you enjoy sitting on your back porch each evening? Track your routines and start strategically placing spiritual materials in these locations. I know of people who write scripture verses on bathroom mirrors using dry erase markers. I read of one couple who found a shower curtain with a map of the world on it so they would continually pray for the world. Place your Bible next to your computer or on your dinner table. Make it convenient to read.

2. Tell others. I am constantly trying new diets, exercise plans, and spiritual practices but I never bother to tell my wife what I am doing. Then I get annoyed with her when she messes up my plans or activities. How was she supposed to know what I was doing? By telling others that you are trying to remove passive barriers to your spiritual life, they can help you by not putting your Bible away when they are straightening up or not turning on the TV when they know you are trying to spend a few quiet moments in prayer.

3. Make a God spot. I talked about this idea last week but I think it is a great way of removing passive barriers. When you set a particular location as where you go daily for prayer or scripture reading you are developing a habit that will trigger spiritual activities and thoughts about God. Don’t be ashamed if your God spot changes; I can think of three locations in our house that I have used as a God spot.

Don’t start this week by letting the slightest things keep you from spending time with God. Make a few simple changes and let God have a more prominent place in your life.

Three Steps To A God Drenched Day

A 2008 study from researchers at Northeastern University monitored the cell phone signals of 100,000 Americans. The study was intended to track the movements of humans throughout their daily lives. Published in Nature, the study showed that humans are very predictable in their daily movements. They visit the same places around the same time each and every day.

I thought it was just me who was attached to a schedule but apparently a majority of our society structures their day around a pattern of activity. We could say that habits of time and place are a part of the way that God created us.

The question becomes for those of us who are interested in Christian spiritual growth, how can we make God just as much a part of our daily routine as taking a shower and drinking a cup of coffee? Let me offer a few ideas to spark a more God drenched daily life:

Step One: Begin and end everyday with a prayer of thanks and gratitude toward God. Most of us either choose our mornings to pray or our evenings. Why not make a point to pray at each of these moments of the day. Just a simple one sentence prayer of thanksgiving will do. What a great way to bracket your daily routine.

Step Two: Set up a God spot. If you have kids you probably have used some variation of the Time Out or Naughty Spot technique of discipline. You have set up a spot where your kids must visit when they are in trouble. Why not designate a spot in your house that is reserved for Bible reading and prayer. It doesn’t have to include anything fancy such as candles, incense, or religious imagery, it just needs to be a set spot that you go to whenever you are praying or reading scripture.

Step Three: Include your family or roommates. Think about how natural it is for many of us to pray together before eating. My kids throw a fit when we forget to pray with them before going to bed.  There is strength in numbers and a completely isolated spiritual life will be a limited spiritual life. Maybe spouses could pray together before going to bed or someone could be designated to read a scripture at the dinner table. My wife always prays with our girls before they go to school. Make reading scripture, praying, and talking about God as common as “How was your day?” and “Let me tell you what I want for my birthday.”

Change can come in our lives when we begin to restructure our daily existence around our priorities to begin to live more like Jesus.

Eliminate to Illuminate

If I am not careful, my stack of books to be read can grow by the day. I have never met an interesting website that I didn’t want to subscribe to. If I enjoy a blog or writer I am never satisfied with reading just a few things by them, I have to read their entire body of work. If I find a workout or nutrition program interesting, I want to follow it to the letter even though half of what is being asked doesn’t apply to me or requires too much money or time. Call me obsessive compulsive, a nerd, or even crazy, but what it really comes down to is that I consistently and foolishly think that I can add infinitely more to my life and that somehow that is a good thing.

The truth is, the only effective way to change is by first eliminating all that is a distraction, a burden, or time waster. No one followed Jesus without sacrificing something, maybe even something that was good. Even if we have many Godly things in our lives or Church activities that fill our schedule, we may need to cut some of these things out of our lives so that we can make room for God in an intentional way.

Over the last few years, I have stopped following every sport that showed up on Sports Center and streamlined the teams and events that I will let myself get fanatical about. I have tried to keep the list of books that I am reading at one time down to two so that I can take notes and fully consider what I am reading. I have stopped checking email obsessively and have become okay with emails gathering in my inbox or going unanswered. I no longer feel the need to read a magazine from cover to cover. I have been known to take whole months and devote them to one area of interest or activity instead of being thinned out by trying to keep up with multiple interests.

I mention all of this to possibly help you realize that if you have visions of including more prayer in your life, or reading through entire chapters of the Bible, or being more consistent with your Spiritual Enrichment Workout, you are going to have to eliminate something that you currently do. Piling on things to your already busy schedule cannot be sustained and will only lead to frustration and guilt.

So I would like to propose an exercise to be done starting next Monday and lasting one week. For this activity, I will be going on a Sports Fast where I will not read about or watch sports for one week. I will instead, try to use any extra time or mental storage space for meditating on God, spending time with my family, or praying and reading scripture. Your biggest distraction may not be sports. It may be political talk shows, or Facebook, or reality TV, or People magazine, or iPhone apps. Whatever it is that is teetering on becoming an obsession with you and it is getting in the way of  what is truly important you must eliminate it for one week.

My posts for this week will talk more about fasting and will be designed to prepare us for our upcoming Week of Elimination.

Why Christian Spiritual Growth Matters.

Sometimes I wonder if what I am doing on this blog and in classes I teach on discipleship is mistaken. I ask myself if I am being too focused on self and am encouraging people to abandon global pursuits for personal pursuits that potentially have little meaning. Is my emphasis on personal spiritual growth just a Christian version of the self-help obsession that has overtaken our country? But yesterday I realized something when reading some of Eugene Peterson’s book Traveling Light.

Peterson was trying to point out that the gospel, or good news, that Paul talked about in Galatians has both a global meaning and a personal meaning. In other words, when it is all said and done, we still must deal with ourselves. All of our friends and family may come to know Christ, and great political peace arrive around the world, and poverty come to an end in the third world, yet we are still left with ourselves and the status of our own heart.

David may have experienced great success as a King and military leader but he still had to deal with the condition of his heart and his tendency for distraction and lust. Moses was absolutely no good for his people if he did not have a deep connection with God.  Peter was ready to fight off Jesus’ accusers with a sword but when it really got serious he was done in by a little girl (John 18: 16-17). If we ignore the personal side of our faith then we have to ignore the majority of the New Testament. Jesus goes to great lengths in the Sermon on the Mount to paint a picture of what a disciple of his looks like. I can’t ignore this fact because it doesn’t fit the bill for an action oriented, go-go-go, Evangelical culture.

So, I am encouraged that trying to become more like Christ is an essential part of my faith and that trying to help others into Christlikeness is worth every bit of time and energy that God has given me. Have you neglected your spiritual growth for other faith pursuits? Have you downgraded pursuing Christlikeness because it seems too self-focused? Work through these issues by asking God to show you an effective balance between growth and going and between action and contemplation. Lets find this balance together “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).”