Tag Archives: Spiritual Growth

Just like…

“In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”
Nehemiah 9:38 (NIV)

One of the benefits of studying God’s Message over time is that you eventually begin to make connections and see patterns across the Great Story.

In today’s chapter we have the Israelites gathered together. They’ve been defeated and enslaved by the Babylonians for 150 years, but the King has allowed them to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. They return, remember anew the Great Story and renew their commitment to God and His laws. They make a “binding agreement” to be faithful.

Just like when they were gathered in Sinai and Moses gave them the law to begin with…

Just like the multiple times they got rebellious and stiff-necked during their forty-years of wandering and renewed their commitment…

Just like at the dedication of Solomon’s temple…

Just like during the time of King Josiah when the law of Moses was found and read for the first time in a generation because the people had abandoned their faith to pursue pagan religions…

Just like… me and the countless “binding agreements” I’ve made with God at camps and conferences and workshops and worship services through the years, only to prove myself faithless again and again.

One of the themes of the Great Story is the same theme I see in my own spiritual journey. People are people. No matter how hard I try and however many well-intentioned “binding agreements” I make with the Almighty, I always fall short of keeping them. But, that’s the point:

[Jesus] saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)

…if we are faithless, [God] remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)

When in my repetitive, never-ending, cyclical faith-less-ness I finally stop trying to earn my spiritual merit badge, then I finally begin to understand the depths of God’s mercy, grace, and faith-full-ness. That’s when I truly begin to understand the Great Story. That’s when real Spirit-ual growth begins to occur.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Thessalonians 1

Derivative of 30px and 30px.Red version of Ima...
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Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NLT)

“How am I doing?”

As a child growing up, I wanted to know the answer to that question. School gave me regular feedback in the form of grades to help gauge where I was doing well and where I needed to put in extra work. When I entered the work force I soon learned that employers often built in regular feedback loops to help employees know how they were doing in their jobs. Much of the work I do today is part of my clients process of giving employees regular feedback regarding the quality of the service they are delivering to customers.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, there are precious few feedback loops. If I want feedback on how I’m doing in my spiritual journey I need to actively seek it out. It is usually going to come out of some kind of friendship that grows deep enough to bear the fruit of loving transparency, honesty, and accountability.

I thought about that as I read the verse above from today’s chapter. Paul’s gratitude for the Jesus followers in Thessalonica was spurred by two visible traits. First, their faith was flourishing. Second, their love for one another was growing. What a good litmus test for spiritual growth.

Is my faith flourishing? How so? In what ways? What’s the evidence?

Is my love for others growing? How so? In what ways? What’s the evidence?

Today, I’m asking God to help me determine where I’m at, how I’m doing, and where I need to grow.

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 16

The long and winding road
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Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.” Matthew 16:24 (MSG)

I’ve been on this earth a good number of days now. Today makes 16, 418 to be exact. You’d think that somewhere along the 10,000 day mark I’d have things pretty well figured out. I mean, even with the fact that your cognitive memory doesn’t kick in for a thousand days or so, there’s still plenty of days to get things figured out.

I think the I’m as much “in process” today as any time in my entire life. The first 4,000 days processes a lot of physical growth. Then social and relational growth kicks in for a few thousand days as you process how to walk with others in the midst of your community. While relational growth pretty much goes on your entire life, my experience is that the bulk of it happens in the first 10,000 days. The patterns are set and major changes are rare (though sometimes necessary). It’s fine tuning at that point. 

So after your 10,000th day, what is left to process and grow is largely spiritual. In my experience, that’s the hardest part of all. The phsyical and relational growth sort of happens naturally on its own, but spiritual growth happens mostly by choice, and choosing out of the process of spiritual growth is usually much easier in the moment than choosing in. Choosing to follow Jesus, by Jesus own admission, is a difficult path. It’s a lot about giving up possession and letting loose from control, and I’ve discovered I’m not very good at it. I am reminded today that the path that leads to Life first leads through suffering and the death. The path to the empty tomb leads first to the cross. [sigh]

I look back, then look forward, then peek deep inside. If the psalmist is right, I’ve got about 12,000 to 13,000 days left at best. Some days, I’m not sure it’ll be enough for all the spiritual processing that’s still needed.

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