Spiritual living


A lot can be said about what a spiritually mature person looks like. Scripture gives several different verses and all around us we have an abundance of living examples that are imitations of those verses.

What has concerned me recently, however, is how many people consider themselves spiritually mature that aren’t. You might say these people have a lot of “head” knowledge. They can give mental assent to many truths. They read their Bible and even memorize verses. They seem like they have it all together when you hear them give an answer. Actually, some of them might even sound like know-it-all’s. However, if you pay really close attention something doesn’t sound right. On the other hand, others might think that by keeping quiet it helps them to come across as more mature (and in some cases that’s true). When they say too much though their hypocrisy starts to show through.

How many of us might have grown up in church and know all the right answers? How many of us might have consistent spiritual disciplines but something isn’t quite connecting? How many of us know that our hypocrisy isn’t right but we just cover it up and go on anyway?

This head game that we play with a watching world is only an illusion of spiritual maturity. Please don’t misunderstand me. Bible reading, scripture reading, evangelism, and in-depth study are all good and necessary. We are supposed to study and be ready to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15). By themselves they are empty though.

Over the next few posts I will unpack a few more ideas and will hopefully offer you some insights that you can use in your own personal life or with others around you.

Recently I have been involved in conversations about whether or not Jesus Christ is fully God. To be honest, I cannot faithfully recreate the various responses I have received to this question. I will not even try to do them justice. They are varied and some of them are downright confusing. It is a great question to be asking though. If you haven’t considered it let me encourage you to do so. To get you started here are a few verses to stimulate your thinking.

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John 1:1-3 

John 8:58 – This is a reference to Exodus 3:14 and anyone in that audience would have recognized its meaning and what Jesus was indicating.

Philippians 2:5-8 – This passage also does an excellent job of describing Christ’s humanity and death on the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20

Colossians 2:9

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Take the time to examine these passages and others. When you are looking at these verses remember to look at the context of how they are mentioned.

For further information, and a more detailed explanation to this question, you can go to carm.org & gotquestions.org online. Or, consider purchasing this book by Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine . All of these resources have been helpful in answering a variety of spiritual topics.

How’s that for a title? No, I am not off my rocker. That is really what I wanted it to say. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going with our youth group to Spring Hill. This was at least our 11th year and maybe our 12th. Let me put in a quick plug for a great camp! If you want a fabulous camp experience check out Spring Hill!

The way things worked out I was going to be teaching the first few nights before our youth leader got there. The text I chose was Ephesians 5:15-21. It was a four-part series on how to be the church. It was entitled “There Is A Better Way.” I spoke on wisdom (v15-18), encouragement (v19),  thankfulness (v20), and unity (v21).

I started off the first night with the lesson on thankfulness because I thought I only had two nights to teach. The song, “Me and My Teddy Bear”, was actually used as part of my introduction. The kids loved the song and it was something they sang all week long. I just hope they remember the main point more than they remember the song!

Below is the introduction that I gave…

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What kind of routines do you have with your family? Mealtime, bedtime, vacation, chores? Are there any that you’ve had from a very young age? One of the routines I can remember most vividly from growing up is my bedtime routine. Every night as we were getting ready for bed we’d crawl up the stairs while mom would sing to us. I can still remember the song. It was called “Me and My Teddy Bear” by Rosemary Clooney.

After we got up the stairs mom would tuck us in and we’d pray “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.” After that I can remember going through a simple routine of praying for all of our family. “God bless mommy, God bless daddy, God bless grandma, God bless grandpa, God bless granny, God bless pappaw, etc…”

Little did I know how much this routine would influence me. Now that I’m older, I realize the first prayer is not really accurate biblically. But I’ve also realized that it did teach me how to pray. Not only did it teach me how to pray but it also taught me how to be thankful as I recognized the important things in my life, such as family.

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From there I jumped into the passage and talked about thankfulness. In v20 of Ephesians 5 Paul challenges the church to be thankful always and for everything. That’s a big step for many of us!

The Jews developed a tradition of blessing God in and for everything. It was called a brakha or berakhah. The first word means thanksgiving and berakhah means prayer of thanksgiving. According to Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, the traditional line for each blessing, in use for the past seventeen hundred years, is this: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe,” or, in Hebrew, “Barukh atah, Adonai Elohenu, Melek ha-olam…” (p92).

What if we lived life being thankful to God for everything and in all circumstances? How would that change our approach to life?

How would that change the church?

There really is a better way!

A teacher shared this letter with me regarding one of her students. The gist of the letter talked about how the student improved in her recorder playing skills this year. Her letter said something like the following… “I put the songs in my head and they came out in my mouth! Thank you Mrs. So-and-so.”

I thought that was the perfect way to put it and got a great laugh out of it. Upon reflecting a bit I realized there was one thing missing – the heart. Music not played from the heart is lifeless, even if it is note-perfect.

That’s the way it is with God’s word too. Yes, memorize it so you can let it come out of your mouth. Share with people and pour into their lives. But don’t leave the heart out of it. That is a dangerous thing.

Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11, NKJ).

These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me – referencing Isaiah 29:13 (Matthew 15:8, NKJ).

“Bad pastors beat their people up with their failures. Bad pastors are always disappointed. Good pastors know grace is true and Jesus is Lord, so they are ready to challenge every self-despairing soul with the wonderful truth that in Christ we are approved by God. Good pastors tell people they do have what it takes when they have Jesus’ righteousness.”

(from 10 Simple Things Good Pastors Say)

I read these lines above and they cut me to the core. This is terrific wisdom I wish I had known in my early years working with youth (and even later at times!). I have not always responded with grace. I have been easily disappointed and unfortunately I have let those I lead know. How refreshing it is to know we are covered by grace.

How refreshing it is to know that my own sinful life is covered by grace!

Father, forgive me for my shortcomings as a leader. Thank you for the grace you offer. Help me to lovingly extend that to others as both a shepherd of your people and as a shepherd of my own family.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).

“Believe in the Lord Jesus; and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31, ESV).

I really enjoy this time of year for a variety of reasons.

  1. Winter is almost done – I’m pretty tired of the cold weather by this time of year
  2. All the new growth reminds me of God’s faithfulness
  3. All the new growth reminds me of the opportunity I have to grow
  4. It’s a great time to pray while I’m planting the garden, tilling, or mowing

If I didn’t have to deal with the aching muscles that go along with all this it would be even better!

Here’s the irony… by the end of the summer I don’t feel the same way. Mowing and gardening become a chore. Cold weather and winter killing everything off start to look good. My prayer life become more of a complaint list. However, God’s faithfulness does not change. Just ask the Israelites. They wandered around for awhile after leaving Egypt. God provided for them but their complaining didn’t stop. They had a price to pay for their unfaithfulness though.

Let’s learn from their lesson.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:23-24, ESV)

Today I was very humbled and impressed by a very simple request.  The request was this, “Could you please turn off the lights?  We do not want to use all the energy when we can see already.”  This young woman then proceeded to have me turn off three or four lights around the church.

Here’s a little background… Our church hosts a Chin congregation that meets in our building every Sunday afternoon.  For those of you that might be unfamiliar with the Chin, they are an ethnic group from Myanmar.  Many, many Chin have come to the United States because of religious persecution.  You can read a little more about them here.

Actually, as I sit here typing this I am listening to them sing “As the Deer” in their mother tongue.  It is a beautiful sound.  One day people from every tribe, tongue, and nation…  Yes, Lord!  Come quickly!

So, at her request, I turned off the lights and went into the worship center to start putting away chairs.  This same young woman proceeded to stop me and let me know that their young men would put up the chairs and I didn’t have to do anything.  I tried to explain to her that it was no problem, but she insisted.  So I sat there and watched while they put away the chairs.  To be honest, I didn’t really watch.  I just tried to look busy because I felt bad.

Like I said earlier, I am very humbled that someone would be so conscientious about something so small.  Maybe we should all be more like that.

So, what if…

  • We all had our roles and pitched in to accomplish something?
  • We all stewarded, with more wisdom, the resources we have been given?
  • We all faced a little more persecution?  Would it cause us to care a little more?
  • We all prayed for a people group different than our own and did something to serve them?
  • We were the hands and feet of Christ to those all around us?

What if?

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