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Archive for the tag “Spiritual Growth”

The Right Mix

Have you ever heard the phrase, “the proof is in the pudding?” Seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? A book I read recently had this phrase in one of its section headings. I can’t seem to recall the point the author was making at this time. However, when I read some Scripture this morning, this phrase came back to mind. The passage that spoke most deeply was from Galatians 5:22-23 concerning the fruit of the Spirit.

As believers, we are told we have received the Holy Spirit from Jesus at the time of our salvation. After we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are told there will be gifts that the Spirit brings with Him as He dwells in us. This fruit begins with love. Jesus’ love is planted in us as the Spirit is planted in us. The love is the seed from which all other attributes grow. The other attributes of this fruit is joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

For those who believe and have received the Holy Spirit, we already have this fruit in us. However, has the fruit been exhibited by our actions? This is where the phrase – the proof is in the pudding – comes to mind. We will be known by this fruit. As Peter wrote in his first letter, we are to crave spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2). As we grow, we become more fluent in the language of love – we exhibit these fruit characteristics more frequently and with greater strength.

Have you noticed recently we are missing these characteristics in the world around us? None of this fruit is exhibited in great detail in the world at large. There are small instances when the goodness and kindness seeps out into the darkness. Self-control seems to be lost in this day and age. Patience? It’s been lost in this fast pace world. We want it now and we demand it now. Instant and convenient has driven patience out of style.

It’s almost like we’re afraid to show these characteristics to others because we might be seen as weak. However, we are told that true strength is to show weakness and vulnerability. The world is craving a greater vulnerability – although they would never admit it. It is said that love trumps hate. However, actions show true identity of the fruit (or lack of) that dwells within. Love is an action.

We can give cards on birthdays and anniversaries declaring our love; but if it’s not followed up by action to prove that love really exists, the paper is thrown into the dustbin of history. Marriages will fall apart – families will fall apart – society falls apart. Love is glue that holds lives together. Without it, we’re hopeless.

The world is craving spiritual milk. The world doesn’t know it, but we as believers do. As believers, we are to grow beyond milk. The writer of Hebrews wrote in the fifth chapter we are to live on the solid food of righteousness and to be able to teach others these things. The writer warns us about falling away from the teachings of righteousness. Paul also had a few things to say to the Corinthians about needing milk instead of solid food. The Corinthians were acting like babies and couldn’t handle the truth Paul was ready to feed them. He wrote he could not address them as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly (1 Corinthians 3:1).

Yes, we still have much to glean from these Scriptures. Much of our time is spent in pursuing worldliness instead of godliness and the pudding has been exhibiting the fruit of our strivings. Paul wrote to the Philippians: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Yes, we, as believers, have much to consider. The pudding has almost set. It’s time to stir the pot and get the right ingredients in the mix before it’s too late. The proof will be in the pudding. Think on these things.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14

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Learning Lessons

When I was in high school, I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to do when I graduated. I knew I would go to college, but that was the extent of my grand ideas for the future. I had no idea what I really liked to do since I really hadn’t pursued anything other than sports. I took an accounting class my senior year. I was in horticulture for two years. I actually really loved working with plants. I liked to see things grow.

When I got to college, I still hadn’t a clue as to what I should pursue as a career. I took the advice of my Dad who said to go into business – “you could never go wrong in business.” So I did. And for twenty-five years, I struggled to find contentment in that field. At one point early on, I contemplated other avenues but nothing stood out to me. Also, it would mean I might have to go back to school to learn another trade, and I just didn’t know if I could do it. You see, I hate to study. So, year after year, I stayed in something that I was good at but felt drained day after day.

God provided through the jobs, so it was not all bad. I met some really good people in those places. I enjoyed life outside of work. I did what I had to do in order to live. God provided the opportunities each and every time. I would get restless and start looking for the next place. God would provide the next place. I figured out in hindsight, it was never about the job. God had lessons in each place where He placed me.

God used the circumstance to train me up; to become more spiritually mature. I am still a work in progress. I am still learning and hopefully growing. I wrote a few weeks ago, that I really didn’t see much growth over the past year. Maybe it was there, but it wasn’t significant for me to see. There were subtle shifts in my thinking. Some of my struggle is over financial concerns. God has been at work in this season of my life.

When I begin to be anxious about the future, God sends me a reminder that my future is in His hands. I saw this just yesterday. I have been praying for direction on what I should do next. Sell my house or stay? Look for another job? Where do I go, what do I do? I asked God to take my hand and lead me to the next place.

I opened one of the books I have been reading on a daily basis called The Seeking Heart by Fenelon. On this day, I just happen to read the chapter “Depend on God.” Okay; not a coincidence. The first sentence read “The best place to be is where God puts you.” And more statements about the future: “Do not think too much about the future. Worrying about things that haven’t happened yet is unhealthy for you. God Himself will help you, day by day.”

I was reminded of Elijah while he was by the brook during the drought. God sent ravens to feed him until the brook dried up; then God sent him to a widow lady in Sidon. God provided for Elijah through this woman’s meager supplies. The supplies never ran out as long as the drought persisted.

Elijah believed God would provide. He didn’t seem to have any trust issues like I do. I have always been self-sufficient. I have lived independently – or so I thought at the time. It was God who provided through the job opportunities. Before I left my last job, I would not have imagined the future of living without a fixed income. God has provided for the last six years. It’s all come from God. The ravens may have not been instructed to feed me, but others have come along at just the right time.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, except to trust God more and me less. I want to be where God wants me, doing what He wants me to do for the Kingdom. I still like to see things grow, but today it’s more than plants. As part of the Body of Christ, we are all meant to grow. We all struggle in different areas of our lives. Mine is financial, yours maybe something completely different. God will put us in a place where we can learn best the lessons He wants to teach us. I will sit by the brook, until I am instructed to go to the next place – all in God’s time, not mine. Let’s be faithful where He plants us and grow to be the men and women of God He wants us to be.

But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. Psalms 1:2-3 (NLT)

Growing Up

I was in the gym one day contemplating my muscularity. I know, there’s really not much to contemplate there. After a few years of working out, I should have lots of definition in my body if I am doing it properly. I should see growth from one year to another. That thought led me to another thought about my spiritual growth. There should be a growth from one year to another spiritually. I was listening to a sermon at lunch time before I went to work out. There was a point in the message about personal ministry growth. Each of us should have an increase year over year of our personal walk with the Lord. But the pastor said in most cases, that is not what is occurring. We get to a plateau then actually start a decline for whatever reason.

I thought about this point as I was working out. I know for many years there was no growth at all in my spiritual walk. I was still such a spiritual baby. I didn’t read my Bible. I didn’t attend study groups. I often didn’t attend church – these were my college years and a few years beyond. Joyce Meyer made a comment in one of her lectures, if we birth babies and only feed them on Sundays for one hour, what were the chances the babies would grow or even live? Babies need to be fed constantly in order to grow (and live). I believe this is the case as well for spiritual growth. We need to be self-feeders. Just getting the one hour a week feeding will not sustain us. We need to learn on our own and not rely on others to feed us.

As muscles develop, they need to be put to a strength test in order to become stronger. As we age, it actually takes more effort to keep the muscularity that we have. So as I am becoming stronger, I need to build even more muscle in order to show growth. My responsibility as a follower of Christ is to become more like Him. If I am not putting in the effort to grow, then I will hit the plateau. I have to be intentional about my growth. Last year, I was intentional about learning about the Holy Spirit. This year, I am concentrating on love. I have been reading what Jesus says about love. I have been reading books on the subject. I have accepted the challenge of going on mission with my church. I am growing up, but I am still so far from where I need to be. God is not finished with me yet, since He hasn’t taken me home yet. So be patient with me, God is not finished His work yet. I am a work in progress!

Do you see a difference in your spiritual walk?

No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. Ephesians 4:14-16 (The Message)

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