You Have a Unique Spiritual Personality

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God knows the number of every hair on your head. Before you were born God shaped you.

We know as a fact that no two people have the same finger print. Our individuality and uniqueness is often on display for all to see.

If you are so unique, then why would you think that a cookie-cutter, one size fits-all approach to Growing Up would suffice? My wife doesn’t like to read as much as I do. Do you think me throwing a book at her and telling her to just read this is going to be the best approach? No, she responds to words and actions and a chance to serve others.

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I have a friend who says,”I am a geek, God speaks to me in geek.”God touches him, inspires him, and challenges him in a way that works exactly with his personality, learning style, and preferences. He is not ashamed of the fact that his relationship with God may look different from yours. He has come to embrace it.

One of the first steps we can make on the way to Growing Up is to find out as much as we can about ourselves. Do a Myers-Briggs assessment. Take a Love Language inventory. Find out your learning style. All of these will inform how God will best interact with you. These inventories bind us to nothing but it demonstrates that God has created us with unique features and characteristics because that is how he wants to work through us and be with us.

Try this: Think about a time when you felt closest to God. What were you doing? What preceded this moment? Was music involved or words of declaration or were you reading scripture? What does this moment tell you about yourself and how God likes to interact with you? What could you do today to cultivate that interaction based on your personality and giftedness?

photo credits: wikicommons

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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 First Step In Growing Up

For a 20-year old who needs and wants to grow up in the normal societal sense, they must take on more responsibility and become less dependent on others (parents, teachers, friends, siblings) to manage their life and make progress toward adulthood. They need to have a healthy mixture of independence and a sense of responsibility.

stairs, man, person

For a Christian believer, no matter their age, who wants to Grow Up in a spiritual sense, their need is quite different from practical life maturity. Growing Up for the Christian begins with less dependence on the self and full dependence on God. Responsibility is important but it is you taking responsibility for your Growth and doing whatever is necessary to allow God to bring you to maturity.

My own spiritual breakthrough came from the realization that I had not placed Christ at the center of my life. I had not made him Lord of my life. I had to lose the grip I had on managing my own life and trust that Christ’s ways were infinitely better than my own ways. I had to lose my independence (self will) to Christ in order to gain independence back.

You see, now, under the Lordship of Christ, I am no longer under the confines of my own limitations, imagination, and circumstances. Instead, I am an inhabitant of the Kingdom of God with the promises and gifts of Christ at my disposal. That is incredibly freeing.

Do you want to Grow Up?

First, surrender your independence and place Christ at the center of your life. This was the first step for me and I have never regretted it.

Book Review: A Testament of Devotion — Thomas R. Kelly

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I didn’t know what to expect when I first opened Thomas Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion. I knew the book was listed among the best in Christian spirituality but I didn’t know anything about the book.

I didn’t know that Kelly was a Quaker and that the essays within the book were taken from talks that he gave. I didn’t know how much my favorite Christian writer, Dallas Willard, was influenced by Kelly.

I also didn’t know that I would need to read it more than once to fully appreciate it. The first time I read it, I was underwhelmed and slightly disappointed in the overtly Quaker teaching. I mean, I am a Baptist, and any talk of the light within makes me think of Shirley MacLaine and “woowoo” New Age stuff. But then I read it a second time and appreciated it so much more. I began to take in some of the rich passages that were inspiring and convicting. For example, he mentions that “complete obedience” is our goal not “amazing revelations.” I particularly liked his discussion of having the “simplicity of the trusting child.”  And Kelly’s explanation of the “Holy Now” was excellent.

Finally, I really appreciated his moment to moment approach to the spiritual life. Highly influenced by Brother Lawrence‘s The Practice of the Presence of God, Kelly detailed the experience of connection with God in the midst of everyday life. This is a very good point and one that gets completely ignored in Evangelical circles who never seem to take the spiritual life beyond morning BIble study and prayer.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book to a young believer but for a seasoned disciple looking for a challenge to live “the other half,” this book would be much better than 90 percent of what is coming out of Christian bookstores.

How To Think About God During A Crisis

Cover of "Come, Lord Jesus (Rekindling th...

Cover via Amazon

I am reposting this because I thought about this today as we took Joy in for her Hernia surgery.

Everything went fine and God was good. Thanks for your prayers.

Joy is our youngest daughter and from birth (she was born with a cleft lip and palate) has been under doctor’s care for a variety of reasons including most recently for her infantile scoliosis. Last Friday, the torso cast that she had been wearing since August was removed and she now is in a brace. Her discomfort and pain because of the brace was evident early on and because her torso and abdomen had been under a cast for four months her sensory perception in this area was off. At one point Saturday, she was writhing in pain and pointing at the brace and saying, “It hurt me.”

They next thing we noticed on Saturday were signs of what we think may be a hernia. Weekend physician care is always sketchy and we spent most of the afternoon trying to figure out how concerned to be about her condition and what we needed to do to care for her. On top of this, we seem to have a small leak in the house that we were trying to manage and determine the cause. The point of all this is that there was nothing relaxing and calm about our weekend. In fact, it was very stressful and filled with worry.

I would like to tell you that I was the picture of serenity and hope throughout the weekend and that I was quoting scripture and trusting the Lord for every need. But that would be a lie. But here are a few of the things that were helpful to me and may be helpful to you during times of crisis.

1. Look for the Lord’s presence. I learned this through working at an inner city ministry that was marked by organized chaos. My constant prayer was “Lord, show yourself.” During those times at the ministry, I can’t tell you a time when God did not answer this prayer. Whether it was a word exchanged between me and another or a simple moment of feeling the presence of God holding me up and giving me strength. God is working all around us, even in times of crisis, and we need to have our God radar turned on.

2. Find something to pray repeatedly. Sometimes we are so stressed and are bombarded with noise and distraction that we can barely think straight. Praying elaborate and thoughtful prayers is not feasible. During these times it is best to pray a sentence or a verse that is simple and repeatable. Sentence prayers that I have used during stressful situations include the Jesus Prayer, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,” “Lord, help me,” and “Come, Lord Jesus.”

3. Know what is in your toolbox. Despite our weaknesses and feelings of helplessness, we, as believers, have a tremendous amount of resources at our disposal. We have Christ dwelling inside us, we have the advocate and helper Holy Spirit, we have the new life given to us through conversion, and the power of the God of the universe.  We need to start living in the reality of the power that God has made possible and quit letting fear and worry overwhelm us.

Christian Life Hacker 101: Learning Another Language

When my wife and I worked at an inner city ministry I tried to be conscious of avoiding “church speak”. I wanted to express the gospel but do it in a way that didn’t sound like I was completely unaware that many of the people we encountered had never set foot in a church before.

Similarly, one of the reasons I started this blog was to show regular believers that growth in their spiritual life and becoming more like Christ was possible. Not only possible, but simple as well. So, I feel I need to offer some definitions and explanations for much of the language I have used on this blog so far. Here are two of the most common terms that Christian Life Hackers should understand:

spirit(uality) – Everyone has a spiritual side to their life whether or not they are a part of a particular religion. Our spirit is anything that is not physical. Our emotions, our choices, our dreams, our thoughts, and our intellect are all non-physical and thus a part of our spirit. So spirituality is a conscious awareness of our spirit and involves our efforts to work with and on this spiritual side of our selves. But, Christian spirituality involves all of the work that Jesus Christ is doing and has done to change our spirit to reflect the type of spirituality that he possessed when he was on this Earth.

Christian Spiritual Formation – Since we have already established that everyone is spiritual, then we must assume that everyone has been formed spiritually. From the child growing up in the ghetto to Donald Trump, everyone has been involved in Spiritual Formation. The distinction that needs to be made is Christian Spiritual Formation. The work that Christ does in the heart of the believer is more than just formation but more like transformation or even renovation. The heart that we have before knowing Christ is ruined and full of evil but by taking Christ into our lives and letting him change us from the inside out our heart begins to overflow with the aspects of Christ – otherworldly aspects such as peace, love, joy, faith, and hope. Complete transformation is impossible this side of heaven but with our heart indwelled by Christ and our willingness to let Christ work on us we can achieve unbelievable growth in our lives.

Note: Today is day one of my elimination project, or fast. I am eliminating sports from my life for the next week. Have you found something that has too much of a hold on you that you need to eliminate for a time? Go ahead and try living without this thing and be sure to let me know so we can work on this together.