Thursday, October 13, 2011

A sprinting toddler.

In recent weeks, I've been giving a bit of thought about what it looks like to really be 'in the Spirit'. I spent some time, found some verses, and asked around to get a full idea of how "Walking in the Spirit" is truly carried out. Being that my brain is wired the way that it is, I came up with the title above for this installment. An awkward picture, right? A tiny little baby just movin' their chubby legs as fast as they can to get to the finish line. This would strike most as odd, being that toddlers most likely wouldn't have a ton of experience getting places upright. Not exactly an awesomely descriptive and meaningful picture, but hey, I'm no Daniel. No metal and clay mixtures in this example.


In thinking about walking in the spirit, a few things came to mind. In Proverbs 19:2, it says " It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." In a lot of ways, when I decided to follow Christ, that initial decision was difficult, but not nearly as difficult as it's been to follow moment by moment, day by day. In looking upon what has taken place in my walk with the Lord so far, I see a lot of times where I have been hasty, and subsequently..missed the way. The battle here is that when I miss the way, I historically have struggled to accept grace, praise God for who He is, and keep on walking. In Galatians 5:26, Paul says "Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow(walk in, keep in step) with the Spirit." It's interesting that Paul says walk. Not run, not crawl, not sprint, not roll(ok, that'd just look funny)..but walk. I've had a number of conversations lately where in the midst of difficulty, the only advice I've been able to give is "Keep going. One front of the other..repeat."

  I read this recently from Francis Chan: "That's why I find the concept of walking by the Spirit so helpful. There's nothing about the term walking that suggests speed, style, fluency, or consistency. You just have to put one foot in front of the other. If you stop walking, all you have to do is take another step to get going again. If you fall down, you can keep walking. You just have to get up and take another step. Like a young child learning to walk, walking by the Spirit is something that becomes more natural over time."

I find the times it's hardest for me to walk in the Spirit is when I've been leaving an area of my life out of submission to God, or when I draw away from community. It's almost as if I go "Hey, crawling requires a lot less about just a day or two of crawling?" If you've ever done this, you know it's way harder to get used to walking again if you've been taking the snail's pace approach. The good thing is, God doesn't forget His promises. Invariably, as we step out in faith to do things we've never done before..there will be opportunity for..well..refinement. I struggle to see the work God is doing when I'm really having to push through something. Paul says this in Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Fear and trembling are a part of this. God is at work. He will fulfill His good purpose.

What I'm driving at is there is a time where we are just beginning to learn how to walk. If we were to try and jog, run, or sprint as an infant..we'd probably fall. If we're not super experienced in walking, it might be best to start hanging with someone who is. When we want to know how to run, it's a good idea to take notes from those who run well..and eventually join the race with them.

In Galatians 5:16, Paul writes: "I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh."  He goes on to talk about how the Spirit and flesh are opposed to one another so that we don't do what we want. This strikes me as pretty wild. Our natural behavior is not to walk in the Spirit, which implies we have to make a decision. If you read on in Galatians, Paul goes on to specifically name the fruit that will come as a result of (the choice of) walking in the Spirit. So, it seems we have two choices. Give into our flesh..or..walk in the Spirit. As a result, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self control become more and more a part of our lives.

Which of these do you wish you had more of? Which ones have you seen the Lord grow like crazy? What verses really push you through the times where the next step is the hardest yet?

I know I could use more patience and love to freely give in my walk.I think that in conjunction with aiming to see this chunk of Galatians 5 applied more in my life, I've often referenced this from Philippians 3:12- 14 as a piece of encouragement.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. "

I pray that we'll see these things change in each others lives, and that we'll be able to build one another up when it comes to taking the next step. Here's to marching on.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

This won't be a marathon post.

Today is one of those days. I don't think I'm the only one that has them. One of those days that just seems a little bit dehydrated. Nothing really blatantly wrong happening, just, well..feelin' it. That's how I describe it. The dissonant moment between times with the Lord where the rest of the world is able to distract/lie to you a little and get you thinking about all the differences between then and now. A day where reading Psalms seems like the most cathartic thing one could do. Yep. Used that word. I'm curious what others do when these times occur.

So, this begs the question. What causes one to get here? How do you get your fill?

Feedback below!

Monday, May 9, 2011

An appetite for sin, God in moderation.

God is quite the masterful teacher. 

Today I read a quote from a pastor challenging a group of young believers that said something to the effect of "Stop flirting with the world and remain faithful to Christ". For whatever reason, this grabbed me. It didn't grab me because it was some super advanced insight into our behavior and relationship with God. It didn't grab me because it was something I hadn't conceptually heard before. I think it grabbed me because it so simply encapsulated the way we/I tend to passively treat the Lord.

A few months ago, I made a similar comparison in my own head. It had to do with food consumption. The thought was centered around the idea that we know exactly what is good for us nutritionally; however, we constantly make decisions to eat food that falls outside the "good for us" realm. This observation comes mostly from my own life. I know a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a can of Pepsi (a favorite combo of mine) holds little to no nutritional value. I also know I couldn't bear to eat it every day.  If I find myself eating things outside the "good for us" category more often, I do my best to supplement with healthy foods and maybe even extra exercise.This helps me to feel more balanced, but definitely doesn't help me to obtain an any more visibly or internally healthy physical form. It does, at times, make me feel like I've done my part to stay exactly where I am. Unfortunately, my default attitude when it comes to the Lord all too often directly resembles the aforementioned.  I read Proverbs 1:29-33 today and felt it applied.

Proverbs 1:29-33 
29 Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, 30 since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, 31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. 32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; 33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Now, I would not consider myself an active hater of knowledge or one who has chosen not to fear the Lord. I generally feel like I have a desire(and sometimes a matching work ethic) to follow Christ. I generally understand what is required of me.  I also have a desire to not have a muffin top. I have yet to love doing crunches/ab workouts. Point is, a desire is one thing, responding to it is another. I greatly desire the result of verse 33: whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear or harm.  The conflict lies in the actual putting to practice of these things. I know there are plenty different opinions on how one might practically go about this, but this verse is a long-referenced one in my own walk.

Psalm 119:9-16
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 12 Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.1 4 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. 

I think it's significant that the psalmist emphasizes seeking God through His word and meditating on God's instruction. It's all over the Old Testament. The apostle Paul's letters always seem to point back to his prior instruction, and an appeal to recall/live by it. I, to some degree, understand grace. I am so thankful that I don't have to earn my salvation, and that God isn't looking for me to be impressive. He is; however, looking for me to be obedient. It makes sense. God gives us a way to be made right with Him at the expense of His only Son, we logically would respond with lives that are worthy of His name.

Deuteronomy 30:16-17 says 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them.

The idea throughout seems to be that we need to continue in seeking God, putting His word on our hearts, and meditating on His ways. It seems implied that we have to work for it, lest we forget our instruction.  We must rejoice in following God's rules, understanding their value. We must be reminded in order to do so.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-2
1 Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

There seems to also be a caution to remind us what we'll be given to if we turn our hearts away. I hope that God never becomes a binge diet. My prayer is that I would replace the areas of sin I choose, with the only real alternative of God's way instead of surrendering to my appetite for sin. I for one, don't desire for my soul to be hefty with the burden of being far from God. I can see the results all over my life when I lack the discipline to really be seeking God and praying for a heart that aligns with His. Similar to the way I'm reminded Ben & Jerry's will grow my stomach as my appearance becomes more..shall we say..hefty. Perhaps the term for the drag I feel when I've not spent an adequate amount of time with the Lord is a spiritual muffintop. Spending enough time consuming the spiritual junk food of the world will surely result in a change in our walk (a stretch, I know). I know God knows that I don't mean to treat him as the spiritual health food I eat when I "need to feel better". I am constantly reminded that I need grace on a daily, even hourly basis. The question I'm left with is this: "At what point do we fully develop an appetite for God and decide to cut out all the worldly junk food?"

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Blog post numero uno. Such pressure. Being that this isn't my first blog, I know just what will happen between the time I click 'submit' and the next time I find enough to talk about to justify another post. It's got to be similar to the first song a person ever completes. All of life's experience until that point being pushed into one set of verse/chorus formatting. Lots of pressure to get the whole point across..

Alright, enough procrastination. Here goes.

Ok, so..background. I grew up Catholic. Like a lot of people, I was baptized as an infant, took communion in 2nd grade, and went to church on some Sundays and most holidays. Heck, I was even a part of youth leadership and a 'Christian' band. I saw a boatload of hypocrisy through most of my early years which left little room for an accurate view of God. Ultimately, I decided I wanted nothing to do with God or the church at age 20. I spent a solid three years raging against the god I had compiled based on people who claim him. I thought if that's what Christianity looks like, I don't want to take any part in that(I'd at least admit I was living carelessly and not use religion as an insurance policy..somehow that seemed more righteous in my mind). A little more than a year ago, I began(at least, visibly) a wild journey that will arguably last my entire life. All of the experiences of my life, though short it have been to this point, coming down to a monumental question: Where will you spend eternity?

Back up.

I'm not sure I could explain all the routes through which I arrived at this question being posed at the perfect time, but I can say for certain what gave it a rhyme and reason. A co-worker at the time shared Acts 17:26-28 "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'"

After having spent three years not caring, I had begun to examine just how I ended up exactly where I was, surrounded by the combination of people, and the context of all words being spoken around me. It began to go from hazy and confusing to quite clear. God had been working out a plan all the while. Using all the experiences I'd had for better or worse, for His kingdom. Now, I'm not going to dive into some wild debate on whether each step/thought/action was predestined to get me where I was, but I could for sure see God(mind you, the one I had 'not believed in' for three or so years) orchestrating something with a greater cause. The Bible, which in my mind was archaic and loosely accurate, had begun to demonstrate it's accuracy in a new way. Hebrews4:12 states For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

I had come to a point of growing transparency where I could no longer deny the lives of the people around me living for the Lord. A couple of people that were pretty close to me had gotten saved to which I responded "investigate your beliefs" assuming they would, find the same hypocrisy I did, and return to hanging with me. Well, they didn't. They kept digging and found that the Bible is indeed God breathed and that Jesus Christ is exactly who he claimed to be. They were not, in fact, living by the blind faith I had seen so commonly growing up.

Alright. So, I'm a long winded type. My apologies.

The reason I even embarked on this whole thing is to bring a point into perspective. (cutting to the chase)
God is moving. Whether we live the rest of our lives hard of heart or in denial, there is a day coming where we all have to face the question I began to face about a year ago, Where will you spend eternity?. I'm not here to smash anyone, or to execute some well orchestrated theological attack to get people to follow Christ. I am simply here to open up about the way in which God reached me at a time where most considered me unreachable. I've heard many responses to the question of eternity. Hurt, distrust, anger, resentment, pride, apathy, complacency, and rebellion. I'm sure there are more. Regardless, it's of utmost importance that you don't leave the question of eternity unanswered. 1 Peter 4:5-6 states "But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit."

It is so important to ask the question of where we stand with God. Have you been made right with Him? If you are reading this and think this all sounds foolish, investigate it. If you are a believer and are struggling with God or with your faith, seek out those who know the Lord and can build you up. If you hate God with your whole heart, ask yourself why. Ask a Christian why they believe the way they do. Work through the tough stuff and seek out the truth about who God is. It is arguably the most influential decision I've ever faced. The same goes for everyone. The question is, when is the right time to answer it? How much time do we really have?