It’s Time To Grow Up

Birth receives far more attention among Christians than growth. Born again, new birth, new life are all terms in high use among Western Christians, and rightly so. But, ignoring or overlooking growth leads to the absence of growth and in the words of Eugene Peterson, we become “a nation of adolescence.”

Peterson goes on to say, “the most significant growth that any of us does is growing as a Christian…all other growth is prep for this growth.” Scripture is full of growing up both physically and spiritually and sometimes both. Moses grew up, David grew up, John the Baptist grew up, and Jesus himself grew up. Then after Jesus returned to his father, we see the spiritual growth of his followers who go from clueless, scaredy cats to courageous and bold ambassadors for the Kingdom of God.

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Photo by Zun Zun on Pexels.com

Could it be that the most important thing about you and me is our Growing Up as followers of Christ? How would that change our work place? How would that change our families? Our marriage? Our solutions to society’s biggest problems?

I am a more patient, friendly, happy, and trusting person because of my Growing Up. I have seen God do some miraculous things in and through me because of my Growing Up. I have made odd and foolish career decisions that demonstrated that God knew what he was doing. I have gone out on a limb and seen God handle the outcomes far better than I ever could. I have grown up and that growth has made it possible for more growth. I am not where I can be or should be but I have matured and developed in my faith.

Let us not put Growing Up on the periphery of our Christian life. Let us make it the other side of the coin from new birth. Let us no longer be a church of adolescence.

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I Am Not Very Observant

Most of the time, I am too distracted, too busy, too worried, too anxious to notice all the good and meaningful things that are around me.

I recently picked up Eugene Peterson’s book Practice Resurrection. This book is Peterson’s conversation on Ephesians. I had read this book, or portions of it, several years ago, but never knew it was the better written, and more deeply thought out version of what I am trying to do here with this blog. For example, this section from page 2:

The most significant growing up that any person does is to grow as a Christian. All other growing up is a preparation for or ancillary to this growing up…The human task is to become mature, not only in our bodies and emotions and minds within ourselves, but also in our relationship with God and other persons.

The rest of the book is like this. Peterson is reading my mind and heart and illustrating it in a very thoughtful and profound way. His subtitle to the book is, “a conversation on growing up in Christ.”

The thing is,  I have read this book before and remember nothing about this talk on Christian maturity and Growing Up.

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hitchster/flickr

How much truth, how much meaningful content, how many messages from God just pass us by without us paying much attention?

It worries me that Peterson was addressing my own key message and purpose and it barely registered for me. Maybe one of the first steps in maturity is fewer and fewer of these moments and messages pass us by unnoticed. A sign of maturity may mean that we are in a state where we are more spiritually observant and receptive to all God is throwing at us. Our distraction levels are lowered and the Holy Spirit has more room to work.

What is it that you have let pass you by unnoticed? Do you need to read that passage of scripture again? Can you find that sermon online that you should have been paying attention to? Can you take your time with your next book long enough for the words to soak in? Or do you just need to approach the next thing with more receptivity to God’s work in your life?

He is present and he wants to connect with us. Are we listening?

What Marriage Has Taught Me About Growing Up

This week we celebrated Valentine’s Day. I am very thankful for my beautiful and loving wife, Leah. We have been married for 19 years. Marriage is a great testing ground for our growth in Christlikeness. Here are a few things I have learned about Growing Up through the experience of marriage:

Anger needs to be dealt with

Many times, when I have had fights with my wife and we have left to different parts of the house in our anger, I have asked God to show me what to do. To direct my next steps. Almost every time, I have been directed to find her, reach out to her, and apologize. I have never been directed to sit there and stew on my anger. That would just make things worse.

Dallas Willlard says, “Anything that can be done with anger, can be done better without it.” So, it is best for me to swallow my pride and deal with my anger as soon as possible. We may be hurt but it would be best if we dealt with the anger so we can deal with the hurt.

Love and support of a committed person brings with it strength and courage to face major problems

I remember when my wife and I found out that our baby might have severe deformities. We were in shock and bewildered. But I also remember the quiet assurance that we seemed to give each other. Her support and encouragement blended with my support and encouragement to strengthen us for the uncertain months ahead. We were fearful and overwhelmed but knowing that we were there for each other and going through this together, eased our anxiety and gave us courage. I can’t overestimate the power of honest and true love and support. It can absolutely make the impossible seem possible.

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You can’t think about yourself for very long and if you do, be ready for problems

There is no such thing as “It’s all about me” time in a marriage. There may need to be time for space or time for personal recreation or entertainment but to shut off all burdens of commitment and time to your spouse so that you can do your own thing is not part of the contract your signed when you got married.

Commitment to commitment means something and our own wants should never outweigh our commitment to our spouse or to God. I have to consistently check myself and my motivations. Is my heart burning with selfishness and self-absorption? If so, I need to get back in the spiritual laboratory and let God take back control. For my benefit and fulfillment and hopefully for the benefit and fulfillment of my wife.

Satan’s Role In Hindering My Spiritual Growth

Here is one thing I think but have not said:

That Satan possesses people for small moments to disrupt my spiritual growth. I have learned to see this a part of the process of Growing Up but early on, I wasn’t always able to handle this.

What will happen is that I will have a really rich time with God, usually in the mornings, and my whole perspective will change as I see God’s work in my life. My desire in these moments is to live a transformed, Christ-filled existence, and in the joy of those times, I see and have faith that it will happen, even that morning.

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Then, sometime during the day, I am met with such difficulty and frustration coming from other people that it doesn’t just make me doubt the progress that I have made but makes me want to abandon it altogether. The people involved have seemed to be directed to point out and state the one thing that day that would send me reeling away from the progress I have made. It is almost like clockwork. But now, I have learned to expect it and prepare for it  and see it for what it is – a strategy by Satan to counter my growth.

So, if you are just dabbling in Growing Up and are just starting to make progress, let me warn you of these moments. May you be prepared for them and know that you have done nothing wrong unless you let these people or these moments get the best of you. Start to see them, not as trying moments, but as badges of honor to demonstrate to you that you must be doing something right.

Keep Growing Up. Satan doesn’t like it and wants to hinder any progress towards Growth. Trust me, you can withstand these attacks and be stronger when you do.

Look at this passage and see what comes after perseverance. Godliness is possible, through the power of Christ, but it is essential that we find our way through these attacks in order to reach our goal of Growing Up.

 

The Stories We Tell Ourselves About God

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed each aspect of the Triangle of Transformation except for one – Adopting the Narratives of Jesus.

James Bryan Smith has brilliantly determined the best way to understand the nature of God is to let his son tell us. Jesus even tells us as much when he says that if you have seen me you have seen the Father.

Why use the term narrative? Because most of us don’t think in scholarly bullet points and doctrinal distinctives. Most of us, have a running story in our mind as to the nature of God and his interaction with us personally. This is where our spiritual life grows out of – our own, often false, narratives about God.

Smith points out that stories are the “central function of the human mind.” Think about it, we dream in narrative and even day-dream in narrative. Stories aren’t just our minds default but they are running our lives.

When Jesus cries out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, but then has the trust to tell God, “not my will but thine,” he is operating from a narrative of trust in his heavenly father. This trust comes from an intimate relationship between Christ and God.

We might not have the spiritual power of Christ but we can learn from him how to think and view the Father. This is part of having the mind of Christ.

So, as you read the Gospels, notice how Jesus discusses and teaches about his Abba Father. He didn’t just present God in a certain way for his followers benefit. No, his portrayal of his Father was his narrative, his thinking that he lived his life out of us. We can adopt these narratives as well.


Each week, I will be providing a glimpse into the discipleship training program that I have just started. This is a way for me to show you what I am learning and also allow you to progress along with me. For more information, I encourage you to read this. Also, if you like what you are reading, will you consider donating so I can continue with the program and be able to provide more helpful content so we can all reach true Christian maturity.

A Fresh Approach To Growing Up

Part of what I try to do here on the Grow Up Blog is present a fresh approach to Christian living. I try to push the reader away from long standing guilt driven and unrealistic approaches to life with Christ.

Along these lines is a book I have worked on periodically and submitted as a book proposal to publishers.

Just now, I sent an excerpt of this book to people who have donated $50 or more to my Fundraiser. In order for you to get this book sample as well as the Grow Up Playlist sent to you, won’t you consider donating?

This book sample will tell you why you are not Growing Up and present a vision for your growth in Christian Living that is marked by:

  • peace
  • thoughtfulness
  • freedom to serve
  • wisdom

The only way to get this sample is to donate. Your donation will keep quality blog content coming your way as well as allow me to continue learning and training so that I can share all that I learn with you.

Donate now and enjoy this book sample.

Does God Care About Olympic Sports?

Gold medalist swimmer Maya Dirado, when discussing her Christian faith and its influence on her success said, “I don’t think God cares about my swimming very much.”

Later, in a interview with Christianity Today, she elaborated on this comment, “I think God cares about my soul and whether I’m bringing his love and mercy into the world. Can I be a loving, supportive teammate and can I bless others around me in the same way God has been so generous with me?”

I don’t pretend to know the extent to which God cares about competitive swimming, but I think Dirado makes a great point in emphasizing the inside out nature of the Growing Up process.

For Dirado, what God is doing with her spiritually is more important than what objective measures of success are out there. Then, based on how well she is letting God work on her soul and spirit, she now has the responsibility to impact others around her through love, compassion, and generosity. Attributes that have been demonstrated to her through Jesus Christ.

Dirado understands that man looks on the outside, God looks on the heart.

What a refreshing perspective she has and a much needed one in a world that wants to distort Christianity to just perceived legalisms, hypocrisies, moral stances, and political sound bites.

What if Dirado’s faith philosophy is more correct than we realize? To allow God to work on us, to bring Christ into our life to transform, change, and develop us so that we can be a blessing to others. Pretty profound, huh?

That sounds like a goal worth striving for.

 

 

Why You Have To Plan To Grow Up

Each week, I will be providing a glimpse into the discipleship training program that I have just started. This is a way for me to show you what I am learning and also allow you to progress along with me. For more information, I encourage you to read this. Also, if you like what you are reading, will you consider donating so I can continue with the program and be able to provide more helpful content so we can all reach true Christian maturity.


So, if it is true here and here, why does Growing Up still seem so hard? Why does my spiritual life often seem like one step forward and two steps back.

To have the faith of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t I be making more progress than I am?

Here is where we get to the part of the Growing Up plan that involves our input. In order to cultivate our faith muscles and be obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit we have to participate in Growing Up Exercises (traditionally these are referred to as Spiritual Disciplines or as James Bryan Smith calls them, Soul-Training Exercises).

The concept of Growing Up Exercises is simple – working directly on our spiritual selves so that God can have the largest impact on our lives.

Sure, could God completely change me and turn me from an impatient person to a patient person, from a greedy person to a generous person, from a angry person to a loving person on the spot? He absolutely could and does, on occasion, but his preferred method is to give us his promises and tools and work with us to create change.

Even Paul talks about his need to Grow Up. His life was turned upside down on the Road to Damascus but there were still parts of Paul that needed to Grow Up. So it is with us, and spiritual disciplines allow us to train so that God has the biggest impact.

The list of Growing Up Exercises are vast, you can find the most helpful ones here and here. The issue is not which exercises you are doing but are you in training? Are you working to Grow Up because you know that your call to salvation under Christ is also a call to a mature, transformed, fulfilled life?

God has provided the gifts, tools, and power but there is a part for us to play. So start Growing Up and get training!

 

photo credit: Robert Hruzek

The Life I Now Live

One of the things I had to learn after I made Christ the center of my life, was that my transformation and growth was not up to me. If I was to Grow Up, it would be through Christ working inside of me to accomplish what I can’t accomplish on my own.

Scripture says, “I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

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Though you never hear it translated this way, most Bibles will provide a footnote after the section in the verse above that says “by faith in the Son of God”. The note will say “or can be translated ‘the faith of the Son of God.'” If this is the more accurate translation, then my life, if indwelled by Christ, is empowered by the faith OF Christ.

Jesus had full confidence in his Father, that is the faith we now possess. Jesus loved his Father deeply, that is the faith we now possess. Jesus loved others deeply, that is the faith we now possess. Jesus served others sacrificially, that is the faith we now possess.

This isn’t just the faith we possess but the faith we now live by.

If you desire to Grow Up and you have made Christ Lord of your life, then everything is different. You aren’t even living under the same power. Christ lives in you and is working out his faith through you.

We all know that Growing Up takes time, but aren’t you glad the responsibility for your maturity isn’t just up to you.

photo credit: ckaroli

What My Dad Taught Me (And Is Still Teaching Me) About Growing Up

My dad has had cancer since last October. He is suffering through treatments right now and hasn’t had too many good days lately.

I love my Dad for many reasons but largely because of all that he has taught me about life and life with God.

I decided to share with you some of the things he has taught me:

Love much, laugh often, and pray each step of the way: This statement, in various forms, has been spread around for years. I don’t know where my dad heard it but it has become one of his favorite prayers for most of my life. This pretty much sums up his philosophy of life. Love those around you, show care for them, take an interest in others. Enjoy the simplicity of a good laugh, a small joke, a uniquely peculiar moment. And pray as much as possible. My dad is not the most theologically sophisticated guy but I know that he faithfully reads his Bible, reads short devotionals, and prays.

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Being critical of people is not necessary: I remember as a kid feeling kind of ashamed at the dinner table when I had just spent the last few minutes bashing someone. My parents don’t make this kind of talk a habit. I am sure they had their own conversations about people but being critical was always unbecoming. They aren’t oblivious to the realities of people and life, they just don’t think that criticizing others is going to accomplish much other than making the person talking look unattractive and negative.

Too many people’s default position is to complain about others. What a valuable lesson it was to learn that there may be a better way. A way that honored people, that was conscious of my own failings, and was willing to be patient with people.

The Serenity Prayer: Another one of his go to prayers. You have heard this prayer before, “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the power to know the difference.”

It is pretty obvious why this prayer is one of the most highly used written prayers in history. For my dad, he has been willing over the years to let each aspect of this prayer be a motto for life, not just one that benefited him in the moment. His willingness to grow and let God move in him is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you reach the age where you are expected to be set in your ways. God is still working in my dad, I have seen it through his fight with cancer and throughout my life. That inspires me to keep working on my own spiritual development and keep growing.

I hope you, the reader, have as good a role model for Christian living as I have had with my dad.