Spiritual Growth Spurts

Spiritual Growth Spurts

The people at Chewy must hate me. I keep changing the shipping date for the dog food. Our puppy is growing. Rapidly. He eats more than double what our aging Lab does and has caught up to him in weight.

He’s six months old.

Growth requires fuel, even spiritual growth. Valor gets his fuel from Chewy. Where do you get yours? What should you eat?

God’s Word: Jesus points to spiritual food during His temptation, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 NIV) No shortage of flavor choices here! Milk (Ten Commandments) or meat (Romans)? Savory (the historical books) or sweet (Psalms)? Is your spirit craving wisdom? Try Proverbs. God’s Word will fuel every need your spirit encounters.

God’s Will: In John’s record of the woman at the well, Jesus gives another food source, “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) God states His will plainly for many things. Love one another. Don’t lie. Pray. His specific will requires time and a willingness to wait for direction: Lord, what do I do about _________? Yet Jesus said that the doing of His Father’s will nourished His spirit like food fuels the body.

God Himself: Jesus offers Himself, I am the bread of life.” (John 6:48) The Bread of Life passage is found in John 6, which includes the feeding of the five thousand. Coincidence? Nah. The gist of John 6 is this: Feed on Me. Or: relationship, relationship, relationship.

Are you having a growth spurt or do you feel stunted?

Are you snacking on devotionals, podcasts, and weekly sermons or eating well-balanced meals of relationship, Scripture, and obedience?

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week:  Spiritual Growth Spurts

Memory Verse: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 NIV)

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)

Meditation Passage: John 6

Just Do It: Fuel the growth.

Change of Heart, Change of Clothes

Change of Heart, Change of Clothes

The breeze from the north this morning whispered of autumn, sweaters, and boots.

But who are we kidding? This is September. In Texas.

While I love my boots and sweaters, they’ll stay on the shelf a while longer. Texans layer as temps swing twenty to thirty degrees in the course of a day, so my shorts will stay close at hand.

God, however, calls for an entire wardrobe change. A change of heart calls for a change of clothes. Paul tells us what to throw out in Colossians 3:5-10 (NIV):

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Can’t you just hear Paul? “Get rid of it. Clean out your closet. No holding on to a few favorites. Out they go.”

Paul tells us what we should put on in verses 12-14:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

My son’s school requires uniforms. Khaki shorts and a polo that is red, white, or blue. It’s easy to figure out what to wear when your options are limited.

Since you can only wear one outfit at a time, limit your options to the good stuff.

The stuff that shows you are His.

Questions:

Why do you think Paul uses a clothing metaphor for character traits?

What clothes best reflect your personality?

Which of your character traits best reflect God?

What needs to go?

What will replace it?

Tweetables:

God calls for an entire wardrobe change. Click to tweet.

A change of heart calls for a change of clothes. Click to tweet.

Clean out your closet. No holding on to a few favorites. Out they go. Click to tweet.

Since you can only wear one outfit at a time, make room for the good stuff. Click to tweet.

The Discomfort Zone

The Discomfort Zone

Wails erupt in my backyard. I feel the neighborhood cringing.

I teach swimming lessons each summer. At present, I’m several days into a new session. Learning to swim is stressful. For most kids, swimming sounds fun until…

Until it’s not.

It’s hard.

It’s scary.

And it takes work.

While some kids truly are fearful, most are simply out of their comfort zone. Water in your eyes, nose, and ears feels weird.

When you step into water, you sink. But if you lie on it, the same water will hold you.

Right.

Kids cry, scream, and throw the grandest of fits—until the uncomfortable becomes normal.

That’s when the fun starts.

When the stroke has been mastered and the discomfort endured, kids enjoy the delight water is. They can handle water’s dangerous side because they’ve learned the necessary survival skills.

How often we act like God’s swim kids. As He nudges us into our discomfort zone, we cry, whine, and beg to stay home from lessons. We stall, mess with our goggles, and try to escape with a potty break.

Meanwhile, He waits for us in the pool.

He comforts us when we scream in frustration or clutch so tightly we leave nail marks in His chest. He encourages us to open our eyes under water, to close our mouth, hold our breath, and discover the wonders below.

He straightens our crooked kick and teaches us to do the impossible—float atop the very water only He can walk on.

Gently, but firmly, He teaches us to survive—and thrive—in a habitat that is not our own. Out of our comfort zone, in a place where danger is always present, He equips us to handle it.

Hebrews 12:11 (MSG) says, “At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.”

So, hold your breath. Kick your feet. Flip over and float. Work through the discomfort zone, because once you get it, you won’t want to get out of the pool.

Questions:

Did swimming come easily for you?

How do you act out of your comfort zone?

When has the discomfort zone become second nature?

How would you encourage someone in the discomfort zone?

Tweetables:

As the uncomfortable becomes normal, that’s when the fun starts. Click to tweet.

As He nudges us into our discomfort zone, we cry, whine, and beg to stay home. Click to tweet.

He teaches us to survive—and thrive—in a habitat that is not our own. Click to tweet.

Work through the discomfort zone, because once you get it, you won’t want to get out of the pool. Click to tweet.

Spiritual Meal Planning

Spiritual Meal Planning

We’re eating out more. Not that I mind cooking, I don’t. But the busy schedule makes it easier to pick something up instead. My favorite? Healthy fast food—unlike the burger my son could eat seven days a week.

Spiritually, we often eat the same way. It’s easy to get hooked on a steady diet of devotionals. Nothing wrong with devotionals, but if that’s all you’re eating, spiritual growth will be limited, and you won’t grow strong and healthy.

So try some spiritual meal planning:

Protein: Protein staves off hunger and builds strong muscle, and Scripture is spiritual protein. You don’t need sixteen ounces at a time. Small portions throughout the day will keep you fueled and will optimize your spiritual growth. Compare different versions for added insight, say NIV and The Message.

Carbs: Carbs give us energy and the more complex they are, the better. Simple sugars provide a quick rush. Complex carbs and whole grains fuel over the long haul and keep blood sugar from spiking. Likewise, worship and prayer are indispensable for spiritual growth. They keep us connected to God morning, noon, and night, and provide power to fend off the enemy when he pokes his ugly head into our day. And they’re good to-go foods too. Granted, we want some sit-at-the-table time with both prayer and worship, but they’re great for eating on the run. Keep worship playlists handy and trying keeping specific prayer needs on your phone.

Fruits and Veggies: You knew we would get to these. However, they don’t have to be yucky. Fruits and vegetables offer unique flavors and textures other foods don’t as well as nutritional elements like vitamins and minerals. Spiritual disciplines do the same for spiritual growth. Disciplines like meditation, fasting, and simplicity add variety to our spiritual diet and boost our essential elements. I’m currently working through Spiritual Classics edited by Richard Foster. This book provides creative ways to practice the disciplines in very time-friendly manner. Check my Amazon site for a copy.

Healthy snacks: Devotionals are great for snacks—before work, at breaks, pre-workout. Some of my favorites are Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest and Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling.

Fats and Sweets: Healthy fats like those in olive oil and avocados are necessary for a balanced diet too. And God created honey and chocolate for a reason. Both round out our diet, but both must be monitored and kept in check. Christian books, both fiction and nonfiction, supplement a healthy diet beautifully. Novels (C. S. Lewis and J.R. R. Tolkien), biographies (Corrie ten Boom’s Tramp for the Lord or Eric Metaxas’s books on Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce), or books on Christian living (Swindoll to Bro. Lawrence) can encourage us in our walk.

A healthy diet doesn’t require hours in the kitchen or fancy dishes. Many elements can be eaten on the run. Experiment and find your favorites, but keep your diet balanced.

Questions:

What does your time with God look like?

Are you heavy in one thing but light in others?

How can you have a more balanced diet spiritually?

Family Application:

Discuss the need for a healthy diet—physically and spiritually. What happens when one area gets a lot of attention while another is left out?

Do some spiritual meal planning. How can you fit different elements—Bible reading, prayer, worship, Scripture memorization, spiritual disciplines—into the weekly schedule?

Tweetables:

It’s easy to get hooked on a steady diet of devotionals. Click to tweet.

Try some spiritual meal planning. Click to tweet.

Scripture is spiritual protein. Click to tweet.

Worship and prayer are indispensable. And they are to-go food as well. Click to tweet.

Disciplines like meditation, fasting, and simplicity add variety to our spiritual diet and boost our essential elements. Click to tweet.