Posts Tagged ‘spiritual life’

Let Us Lay Aside Every Weight

September 14, 2016

Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us . — Hebrews 12:1-3

Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church often talks about having a “life verse”–a verse from the Bible that is a statement of your faith.

This is not a concept I had been taught. But if I had a life verse, this one might be it. It was the theme for the Emmaus team I was on once.

Let us take this verse in relation to the spiritual discipline of simplicity. Just think of all the “weights” we carry around.

Let’s think this way as I was taught by a co-worker once. He lost 16 lbs. once. He was a big guy, but you could really tell he was down some. He talked about how much better he felt. “It’s like I was carrying a bowling ball around with me all the time, and now it’s gone,” he explained.

Sometimes our weight (as in excess body weight) is the result of carrying other weights–anxiety, depression, worry, fear, low self-esteem.

Sometimes we carry the weight of a past sin–something we did or said that we wish we had not done or said. How it would be so great for that weight to be laid aside.

Some may be carrying an addiction–sex, food, porn, drugs.

Often the weight is just simply too much “stuff”. We accumulate more stuff. We need more money to get more stuff.

But there is forgiveness. God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice. It is there for us.

As we experience that forgiveness deeply, we can shed some of those weights. We can live more simply. We do not need more stuff. We lay aside, true with much work, the weights of addiction or emotional illness. We begin to heal.

We learn that living simply is possible–and healthful–and spiritual. We are lighter, as if the bowling ball or two we were carrying around was gone. We have more energy.

We can now run that race that God set before us, doing what was intended for us from the beginning. And we take a step, and another step, and another, until God says Well done.

Change In Personality–It’s Inevitable

August 29, 2016

Don’t you understand, I’m never changing who I am. — Imagine Dragons

No, this song didn’t come from the rebellious, “us-against-them” Heavy Metal genre. It played on Sirius XM Coffee House–acoustic, folk, coffee house type of music.

But it reminds us of our rebellious teenage years. “I’m never changing.”

Do you recall your teenage years? I do–with deep regret and chagrin over my social and relational stupidity. Now, I’m only partially challenged relationally and socially.

Even that statement implies change over time.

My wife is not even close to the same person I married. She’s changed a couple of times. Then I think, “poor woman, I’m not even close to the guy she married.” It wasn’t some sort of bait-and-switch marketing. We just grew. That’s life.

I like to “joke” about some people of my acquaintance who used to be addicted to substances and now are addicted to Jesus. Sort of a fundamental addictive personality, but growth happened. Jesus is much better than drugs.

That’s the process of spiritual formation. We grow intentionally toward being (OK, here comes the M-word) spiritually mature. That’s not so bad.

A spiritually mature person grows to enjoy the fruit of the spirit. Paul, writing to the Galatians (5:22-23), tells us that a person mature in the spirit has the fruit of the spirit–But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Really, now, do we want to remain selfish, anxious, obnoxious people? Adrift in life? Slave to every whim and emotion that buffets us?

We are designed to be free, strong, and caring. People who’ve never grown up may scoff at such people, but wouldn’t you rather be around people filled with such fruit? Wouldn’t you rather be a person filled with such fruit? The Proverbs tells us about scoffers and their inevitable end.

Painting a Picture of a Functional Family

August 25, 2016

How do you read (study?) the Bible? Or other more challenging books?

Some seem to read through looking for a verse they agree with. Or perhaps a controversial one where they can speculate all day about what-ifs and could-bes.

I know a guy who was leading a discussion in Ephesians. Remember how at the end of Chapter 3, Paul prays for his listeners (readers) by asking three times that they be filled with God?

He proceeds then to talk about how to live this new life filled with God–or as it is called the “With-God” life.

Rather than talk about this new with-God life, he picked up on the verse which is a parenthetical statement about if Jesus ascended to heaven where all things would be under his feet then he must have descended to earth. Well, there is a theology about Jesus actually descending into Hell. They speculated on that for a while and considered the study of Ephesians done.

That’s a shame. What if we read chapters 4-6 not as a list of instructions (let’s just pull out the “wives submit to your husbands” to stand alone and build a philosophy?) but as Paul painting a picture of a spirit-filled person, a spirit-filled family, and a spirit-filled organization?

Read this section as a description of how I would be as a person Paul describes. How I would live. How I would live in community.

Imagine a family where everyone is looking out for the other person. There is no putting myself ahead of the others. No trying to be the “boss”. Yes, there is leadership, but not tyranny. Wow, what a great family.

Let’s take it another step–because Paul does.

What if we were in an organization where people developed their gifts with the encouragement of everyone else in the organization. And people, instead of competing against their fellow workers, worked to build up other people. Equipping them for ministry, as Paul said.

If it is a business, equipping them for developing products and services that serve the customer. If a church, preparing people to go out and serve and witness. If a non-profit, equipped to serve fulfilling the mission of the organization.

How much time, emotional energy, grief would we avoid if when we lived together in family, church, and business we approached it as spirit-filled people?

You can pull out all your little philosophies you want by parsing Paul’s words to suit your purposes. But go back and read this as a picture–a vision of how to live.

Practice? I don’t need no stinkin practice

March 2, 2016

Daddy wrote to me, “Can’t you just send a badge (to referee)? She knows the rules better than anyone. She’s just too busy to come to a class.”

She took one class at 15 years old. I’ll guarantee you that she’d be lucky to get an 80 on a closed book exam of the Laws of the Game. (We don’t have “rules” in FIFA based soccer; we have laws. Except of course for the ex-president of FIFA who thought that both rules and laws were for other people.)

I’ve been the point person for referees in western Ohio for almost 30 years. I hear this several times every year. Worse, I’ll get 50 emails a year from parents–at least. I trust the kid to go out and referee a match, yet he/she cannot communicate with me. Daddy or Mommy must do it.

How am I supposed to help the kids grow up when they have parents like that?

I have one referee who is almost 20 (actually, I have four come to think of it) who still have difficulty with responsibility and commitment after having “helicopter” parents.

Talking with a piano teacher today. She says kids will drop the class (parent calls, of course)  for the slightest whim. Five minutes before class. The teacher is paid by the class. Now she has an unpaid void in the calendar.

Practices help us compete better, perform better, learn better.

Spiritual practices, done in the proper attitude, bring us closer to God. It’s no different than soccer or piano. We must discipline ourselves to stay with it. To learn the basics and then the advanced.

There is no shortcut to life in the Spirit. We must be open while we practice and learn to live every day.

Make It a Habit

February 2, 2015

Last night’s Super Bowl was an exciting game of American football. The outcome was not certain until only 17 seconds were left in the game.

In the final contested play, a New England defensive back stepped in front of a Seattle receiver and intercepted the pass. After the game, the back was asked about the play. He said he couldn’t describe it. Of course, asking people to analyze something in the height of great emotion is pretty stupid, but I bet it’s true that he didn’t know.

His coaches had taught him cues to watch and responses to make. Then they practiced it over and over. It became a habit. He saw the play develop. His muscle memory recognized the situation and acted just as he had been trained.

Paul uses an athletic analogy at the end of chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians. He talks of an athlete disciplining his body. He says he does not run aimlessly nor box by flailing away at the air.

If Paul had read Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit,” he would have understood. Learn to read the “cue;” take action; reap the reward.

That is why spiritually alive people have cultivated habits to keep them spiritually in tune with God.

You rise early in the morning heading toward your favorite chair in order to spend 15 minutes (or more) reading from the Bible or other spiritual work. You follow that with prayer and meditation for a few more minutes.

It is your habit to regularly meet with other seekers. You regularly gather with others to celebrate and worship.

And many more–fasting, living simply, serving others.

Just as a trained athlete acts to win a game, we can act to deepen our spiritual lives.

Getting Fit For God’s Work

November 13, 2014

This spring began a season of stress and frustration. A business deal with which I was uncomfortable from the beginning went rapidly downhill over the winter. By spring, I was looking for a way out.

Travel is not always that bad. But when you combine personal travel on top of business travel, it means there is no time for pause. For rest and reflection.

On top of that, my soccer responsibilities grew and became frustrating in some regards and just plain hard work in others. And I had taken on responsibilities at church during a lull period in my life. Well, that lull went away 😉

As a result, my ability to work out decreased. My ability to sit still and focus during meditation withered. Still, I accomplished much.

The climax was three plus weeks of being home only three days — getting home from a business trip only to take a family trip. Most of the time I could not exercise. At my age, you deteriorate rapidly.

I noticed the first week back. Attempting to run daily. Back into my Yoga routine. My muscles ached. Constantly.

But the next week was much better. By the third week back into routine, I was running better, practicing Yoga better, feeling tight and fit.

It is no wonder that Paul often invoked the images of physical activities, of athletes, in his spiritual development messages. You have to work at it. And if you take some time off, your spiritual muscles will ache and protest until you get back into the habit and start feeling fit spiritually.

Read the letter to the Romans. Don’t stop and analyze each verse. Just grasp the broad strokes of what Paul is laying out. He is teaching us about spiritual development. First we were away from God living in our lives as we saw fit (sinners). Then something happened, some consequence of our actions impacted us. Then we saw that through Jesus God’s grace was available to us. We accepted, Gods grace was poured out on us, and we began to live the with-God life basking in the Spirit.

Just as we work at getting back into physical shape, we can also fall out of Spiritual shape. We work at it through study and prayer and practice and find that we have renewed our strength in God.