As people get older, they are prone to “soften” in more ways than one. Most importantly, people’s hearts tend to get softer – and they become humbler as the decades start ticking away. Much of our culture looks at this softening process with suspicion, wondering if it’s the fruit of humility or lack of backbone and/or drive. Even if it is humility, the public square often doesn’t honor the character of humility. Yet, God’s economy is quite different.
Both James (the brother of Jesus) and Peter (one of His closest followers) wrote, “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) God opposes those who exhibit pride – because they are opposing Him. When people act in a prideful way, they are not seeking God – and Scripture declares they are also not making room for Him in their thoughts. (Psalm 10:4) If not seeking God, and not including Him in our thoughts are marks of pride...
When you say, "How are you doing?" people usually give a quick (positive) answer, and the conversation moves on. If you slow things down and pursue a more thoughtful answer, you can usually expect a pause - as the person takes stock of their emotional condition and reviews their recent performance. Their status will often be expressed in terms of a treadmill week. And life goes on.
This need not be – there is more to life than a weekly treadmill. Jesus came that our lives may be abundant and full. (John 10:10) We must remember that we will be most fulfilled and alive when we are most spiritually alive. Paul reminds his younger friend Timothy to stir up (the fire of) the spiritual gifting within him. (2 Timothy 1:6) Sometimes we have to intentionally stir ourselves up to rekindle that fire.
What kind of things fire you up?
When was the last time you were on fire?
This might be a good time to put yourself in a setting or two that are likely to stir you...
At different points in our lives we are confronted with different forms of the same question –
“Who are you?”
Often the question comes as a challenge to our competence. We are tempted to define ourselves by what we are able to do and/or how well we can do it.
Sometimes we are enticed to delineate our lives in terms how well regarded, received or "important" we are. The eyes and approval of others become our measuring stick.
Alternatively, we may be incited to understand ourselves and portray ourselves in terms of power – how much (or who) we can gain and control for our own purposes.
These three false measurements of identity are common to all of us. Different ones will be weighted in different ways, nuanced with different language and tailored to fit/attack our specific personalities and susceptibilities. However, these kinds of temptations are bait for the traps of pride or self-condemnation for all of us.
Which temptation bites more deeply...
When you hear the words, “Spiritual Disciplines,” what comes to your mind? For many, feelings of religious striving start to envelope their thinking. They may have difficulty listing many of the disciplines, but they don’t have trouble experiencing guilt, boredom, dryness or tiredness that the enemy wants to associate with these practices. Maybe it's just the word “Discipline” that sounds odious.
In reality, spiritual disciplines can be an incredible means of accessing God and experiencing His grace. Maybe it is more comfortable for us to call them practices. They are like maps that point us in the direction of God. They help direct our attention toward Him, and they can bring us a sense of closer proximity. Some of the practices that many find helpful relate to the Bible (reading, study and/or meditation); Prayer (silence, stillness, solitude, listening, dialog); Reflection (personal awareness, examination of conscience); ...
Do you walk through life with your head held lower than is needed? Are you hindered or tangled up by accusations, misunderstandings and/or sin? Have you somehow come to believe that this marred, somewhat hopeless life must be all that God has for you? Deep down – often deeper than you'd like to go – do you feel harassed and helpless?
It might be that you have tried to address your “stuff.” Possibly you’ve acknowledged your need and/or errors to God, and even tried your best to change and walk in a better direction. Yet, somehow, you keep finding yourself back in the mud. The enemy may taunt you with Scripture, saying, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)
Often the way out of bondage is simple, but a little scary. We may need to involve others in the process. James encourages us to "confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we may be healed. The...
How full is your life? Let me put it another way, how abundant is your life? The questions sound different, don’t they? Many of us have lives that are full, but not as many have lives that feel abundant.
In John 10:10, Jesus is recorded as saying “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Other translations say, “Have it abundantly.” The point is that Jesus came into the world to free us from all that binds us, and to release abundant spiritual life in our souls and in our midst. We are tempted to think that the life Christ has for us is smaller than the lives we are trying to carve out for ourselves, but actually the opposite is true. He who created you wants to give you the best and fullest life your frame can handle.
In a related way, Paul exhorts us to be “Filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) The full and abundant life that Jesus provides is realized through the filling of...
Can you articulate some of the primary needs, desires and burdens that you are carrying these days?
God wants you to express, to Him, the things are important to you. He is often more interested in our needs than we realize. You may not have what you want “Because you don’t ask God.” (James 4:2)
Our desires can become problematic, however. When we become obsessed with our “stuff,” when our concerns become too much of a priority, they can become toxic and destructive to our souls. Our wishes may seem harmless at first, but as they become a fixation in our lives, they begin to diminish our world. It is as if can only see the object of our obsession. God wants to raise our eyes.
1 Kings speaks of a widow who, along with her son, was starving . She was about to prepare her last meal for the two of them when she met the prophet Elijah. He said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do what you have...
When I was very young my older brother and I loved to play King. We would make card castles, and we would drape blankets over our shoulders. We’d throw cards at each other’s castles until we eventually destroyed them. Then we would traipse around with our blanket-trains following us, declaring that we were the conquering kings.
There is something deep inside our beings that loves the idea of kings and kingdoms.
A time is coming when, “the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15) Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords; every knee in heaven and on earth and below the earth will bow before Him. (Philippians 2:10) He is the Benevolent Ruler who gives life, rather than takes it. He fights to free people, not conquer them. He is the One who provides for His people, rather than receives provision from them. His...
“Where’d all the good people go?” That’s a question singer song writer, Jack Johnson, asked in his 2005 hit song, “Good People.” It seems that media has so highlighted dysfunctional, rebellious and selfish lifestyles that we may be forgetting what solid living looks like. Men and women are finding it difficult to find good people to date; some are getting frustrated and others are getting scared. Where’d all he good people go?
We all have our faults and areas of brokenness. However, we must choose to live with some bedrock values. Solomon mentions two such values in Proverbs 3:3-4, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”
They may not get many hits or views on YouTube, but love and faithfulness go a long way in real life. To love others is to treat them as God would treat them –...
When you hear someone speak or teach, do you consider who they are or just what they say? There can be merit in both approaches. Sometimes it is good to receive a message or an understanding from anyone – the content is critical. At other times it is important to consider the source … Are You Like Goldilocks? Do they know what they are talking about? Do they know how to do what they are teaching? Do they have experience in this area, or is their understanding based solely upon what they have read or heard?
When you really want to make changes or take new steps in life, you usually want to hear from those who have made the change and have walked in the direction you want to go. Their words carry weight.
But, what if their words seem difficult or require more change than you want to make – will you still listen?
Most people I know are like “Goldilocks;” they continue to search for insight until they find instruction that seems to feel just right. In...