Category: Spiritual Growth

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The day I stopped to listen (MLK Day)

The day I stopped to listen (MLK Day)

Martin Luther King Jr. day is one of those holidays that I always forget about. It seems to sneak up on me every year, and it passes by with little fanfare. This year as I sat at home with little to do, I decided to finally read Dr. King’s famous speech in its entirety. I was surprised to find how few of the battle lines have moved in the past 55 years. We still are dealing with issues of prejudice, bias, and hate today. Yet it seems like the weapons of our wars have changed drastically in the past few years. Today, I want to take a step back and look at how we fight. Are our actions leading us further into the society that Dr. King spoke of in his dream, or are we drifting out into the sea of injustice?

The day I met a feminist

A little less than a year ago, Jessica and I were out shopping at the Mall of America. Jessica decided to brave the crowds at the Bath and Body Works semi-annual sale to get some scents. We were separated by the crowds, and I began to wander the store looking for her. As I rounded a display table, I found myself in the path of a woman in her forties. She set her face in a scowl as she strode forcefully through the store. Her eyes flashed with anger, as if she were ready to challenge anyone there to a fight at a moment’s notice. I immediately dropped my gaze and stepped to the side (as did everyone else in her path). As she passed by, I noticed a button on her lapel. It read “This is what a feminist looks like.”

In the days following that split-second encounter, I looked back and wondered if the woman’s statement was really true. Is there a way that we can fight for freedom and equality without becoming wearied veterans? Is there a way to preserve my neighbor’s countenance even if we find ourselves on the opposite sides of a debate? Two months after my encounter, “Pride Day” rolled around. My Facebook feed filled up with angry, hateful, and ignorant comments from both sides of a modern debate. As I scrolled through the mutual hate and ignorance, I discovered the root of the problem.

Are we fighting for equality or superiority?

In every debate since history began, the world has been divided into “us” and “them.” But this attitude will never bring us into true equality. As soon as I divide the world into two groups, I lose the ability to set “them” on the same level as “us.” If the issue is about one of two groups gaining power, then I cannot honestly desire to see “us” enter the minority. Many of the debates I see today begin by drawing the battle lines and dividing us into factions. But “us” and “them” debates  will never bring change, save by violence or intimidation. If I want to see the chasms in our nation healed, it is up to me to stop placing “them” in a category and start treating everyone like my neighbor. (see Luke 10:25–29)

2000 years ago, God willingly gave up His power and majesty when He came to this world for our sake. He was the only person in human history to truly deserve a position at the top of Earth’s society. Jesus didn’t take what was rightfully His. Instead, He “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8) When Jesus gave Himself for us, He started a new movement: those in power willingly laying aside their positions for the betterment of their fellow man. If I can live like Christ through His power, I can begin to break down the barriers that exist in my life.

What this holiday has to teach me

As I read a little bit today about Dr. King and his efforts to bring equality to our nation, I learned a little bit about the opportunities I have to make a difference. In his speech, Dr. King called out the white people who joined the march for equality in his day: “many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.”Jesus commissioned every one of us to stand with the poor and oppressed. This means that I have a responsibility to listen and to care.

The answers aren’t always easy. But healing begins when we are willing to stop and understand each other. I cannot find my worth in my worldly position, but from my place in God’s hand. Armed with this knowledge, I can honestly rejoice when my neighbor is exalted, even when they reach a position far above my own head. “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Today, I want to begin placing the needs of others before my own. Justice starts when I lay down my rights and fight for the rights of my neighbor as if they were my own.

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Birthday update (25!) – Answering the call

Birthday update (25!) – Answering the call

Hey friends! I hope that it is not too weird for me to be the first to post on my wall for my own birthday. I wanted to stop and share a piece of my story with everyone who would wish me well today. God has been bringing a clearer definition to my life as of late, and I want to share the life update with you guys.

This particular story starts when I was 17. I spent the majority of my after-school time at church events. But I was still surprised when God began to make claims on my life. I don’t know exactly when it started, but amidst the tangled and embarrassing mess that makes up a high school boy’s inner thought life, a new image came. With increasing frequency, the image of myself standing before a crowd and speaking God’s Word would come to my mind. It was honestly very confusing. It sounded weird and possibly vain so I never mentioned it to anyone. But it felt nothing like the selfish fantasies that my mind naturally produced. It felt entirely foreign, but try as I might, I could not keep the image out of my head. During my Wednesday night Bible study in particular, the image would return, clearer and stronger each day than it was before.

Six months after this began, my church went on a mission trip/retreat. Late in the week, the speaker gave the altar call – something that I had heard many times before. But on the next day, he gave another call that would change the course of my life. He asked if anyone here felt like God was calling them into ministry. The thoughts and images from the past six months flooded my mind. After a moment of wrestling, I began to raise my hand. Simultaneously, the speaker clarified the call: “Again, if anyone feels called into full time ministry, please raise your hand.” It was too late to turn back. I knew that God had singled me out for something apart from my own plans. He wanted to do something with me that would displace my own hopes and dreams. I had no choice but to answer the call.

When I met with my youth group after the service, I was surprised to find that no one else was surprised by my action. My youth pastor told me that he knew I was going to raise my hand. My parents told me that they had committed me to the Lord as an infant to do whatever He willed. After the trip, I wondered what would happen next. Would I have to give up my dreams of becoming an engineer? Would I ever be able to do the things that I love?

Fast-forward a few years. The same call visits my mind from time to time, but no opportunity has ever clearly presented itself for me to follow. I’m turning 25 today. I have been given everything that I feared I’d have to give up when I raised my hand into the unknown. I went to college and became an engineer. After a handful of friendly rejections, I met the one woman who was crazy enough to marry me. We bought a house a few months ago. We are both working our dream jobs. And we spend four evenings per week with our local church. We are blessed on every side with family and friends. In short, my life is full. Sure I will always want more from life (kids come to mind). But my heart is fully satisfied today with the gifts that God has given.

If God took my life tomorrow, I would not feel cheated. But I would feel cut short, like an arrow that was snatched out of the sky mid-flight. I have faced death once already. I spent a week in the ICU in 2015. My friends and family didn’t know whether I would survive. But God came during that time and reminded me of the call I had received. I knew that my life would not end then because I had not yet fulfilled the purposes that God has for me. I had full confidence then that something greater was on the horizon. The same unwavering hope still fills my heart today.

And that is why I want to share this story today. Many friends have inquired whether God is merely calling me to do church ministry on the side. For many people, (perhaps most) this is all that God asks. I don’t challenge my friends to change their career paths to become missionaries or evangelists. But I am serving at my full capacity and I still feel broken for the world (and America in particular). Glimpses of another call shine through the cracks in my life every day. And it’s getting stronger.

I met with a trusted friend on Monday and shared the whole story. He helped me overcome the fear and anxiety I faced over the unknown, but the call still remains. Every day something draws it nearer. My personal studies the sermons I listen to, the council of friends, every visit to the “real world,” all seem to be converging upon some unknown point in the nearing future.

And that’s where you come in. For my birthday this year, there is one thing I desire most. Leave a note on my Facebook (I promise I’ll read it this year). Give me a gift if you want to. But beyond all that, would you pray for me? My life is full, but it is by no means complete. I am often broken by the incredible weight of an unanswered call. I know that the ministries I partake in are not the only gift I have to give. There is something more for me. Please pray that God will reveal this, or else give me peace in His timing.

To be clear: I have never yet felt inclined to leave my job. As a married man, I will not make a move until both my wife and I are confident in God’s leading. I know that God wastes nothing. God has given me my job, house, friends, and church for a reason. I want to be ready to give all for Christ’s sake, but I do truly doubt that I will be asked to sell all these things we have. If God has more to teach me in this season, then I am willing to wait. If it takes 25 more years for God to bring about the realization of the call that I received, then I want to serve diligently where I can even as I wait. But I truly believe that this next step is near. And I want to be ready to meet it when it arrives.

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Soul 30 – Learning to live without distraction

Soul 30 – Learning to live without distraction

I would be lying if I claimed to be at peace with my days. My week may be full of great events and opportunities, but I often find that something is still lacking. Many days, I catch myself wasting every moment that wasn’t dedicated to a particular event from the start. My office is littered with unread books, my mind is filled with unwritten thoughts, and my soul is clogged by unspoken prayers. Many times, my career is affected and my work ethic begins to wane. My calendar appointments with the Church become lone islands of nourishment in a sea of apostate lethargy. On my good days, wonder why it’s so hard to live the life that I want to live. On my bad days, I don’t even have the wherewithal to even ask the question.

This past Sunday, I woke up with a very clear conviction in my heart. If I want to overcome my inherent laziness, I need to change the things I am feeding my soul. Of course, this idea wasn’t merely my own. Some of our close friends have recently completed the Whole30 diet. Over the past four weeks, we have been listening to their experiences as they learned to live without some of the foods that they have consumed for their entire lives. The Whole30 diet is unique because it was designed to be temporary. Right now, these friends are re-introducing foods to their bodies one-by-one to see what is good for them and what is bad for them. I have decided to apply the same principles to the things that I am feeding my heart and soul.

The Problem

If you want to get shunned and ignored in most churches today, all you have to do is suggest that perhaps Christians shouldn’t engage in certain aspects of our culture. I understand, the Bible doesn’t directly tell us how we should interact with movies, sports, social media, video games, etc. And I don’t believe any of these categories are inherently evil or should be thrown out by default. But when I read the Bible (the Psalms and Paul’s epistles in particular, just read Psalm 119), I see a love for and dependence on God’s word which I just can’t claim for myself today. It only seems logical that the way I spend my time might affect my spiritual appetite.

The man I am today is much less than the man I aspire to be. I know from my past that my “down time” often becomes a distraction and a source of busyness. I must set aside my preconceived notions and give my pastimes a fair trial. Jesus clearly asked me to deny myself if I seek to follow Him (see Matthew 16:24). I will not lie to myself; if something is holding me back, I first need to know about it and then I need to do something about it.

The Challenge

I’m calling my challenge “Soul 30” because I’m a dufus and I thought it sounded catchy. Naming aside, this is one of the best ideas which has entered my head in a long time. (Likely because it didn’t enter by my own accord.) Everything I have written on this blog so far was meant to encourage. But today, may I step out and offer a challenge? I want you to join me in this endeavor. Please ask yourself, “could this Soul 30 challenge change the way I live my life?” For many of us, I believe the answer to be “Yes.”

It’s okay to be skeptical. I have tried “Facebook fasts” before, and they almost never work. We are very capable of exchanging one distraction for another. I recently heard someone say that he was meaning to watch less Netflix so he could play more video games. I hope to accomplish much more than that through this month. Only by eliminating all distractions will I be able to understand how each affects me. There is no halfway.

The Details

For this month, I am using a whitelist approach to my free time. (A whitelist, in contrast to a blacklist, is a collection of good things which should be allowed to supersede a general rule.) Instead of listing all of the things I should not be doing, I want to focus on the positive. Where can I invest my time? Here are all of the things I will continue to do this month. For anyone who is willing to join me, feel free to modify the list to suit your needs.

  • Work – My career – and everything I am required to do/research, etc. will remain unaffected.
  • Friend/Family/Church commitments – My focus is on my personal time, so I am not going to reduce the number of commitments I have.
  • Prayer – Without this, the whole challenge is meaningless.
  • Reading the Bible and encouraging books
  • Journaling, writing, (this blog)
  • Internet when I have a specific purpose in mind – Paying bills, planning dates, etc. Does not include mindless browsing or online window shopping.
  • Uplifting music – I will listen to music while working, but I will turn it off when I can to provide opportunities to listen for God’s voice.
  • Texting and calling people
  • Budgeting (max 3 times per week) – I like to look at my money more often than I need to. That’s not a good use of time, but I will check in every now and then in case something goes sour.
  • Social Media (Less than 1/2 hour per day) – For me, social media is a small distraction, but is also a necessary way to keep up with certain people.
  • Time spent with friends/family, etc.

The list I provided above may seem awfully sparse. But boredom is not an absence of things to do. I often go downstairs, look inside a full fridge, and then declare that there is nothing to eat in the house. My problem is I have taught myself to crave something which I cannot have at the moment. I fully expect to find myself staring at the wall a few times during the first week. But I hope to see my tastes change in time as I begin to re-train my soul to crave the things of God.

A Word of Warning

My heart behind the Soul 30 is to teach myself (and others) to control distractions and to seek God first. To be fair, this isn’t a strictly Christian activity. You could eliminate distractions for a month in order to become a better businessperson, a better parent, or a stronger athlete. But I focused my list on Christian activities for a very specific reason. God created each of us with a unique eternal purpose in mind. Focusing on the things of this world and cutting out spiritual discipline is like taking a road trip and throwing the GPS out the window. Knowing where you want to go and knowing how to get there are two very different things. The only way to reach our dreams without destroying our souls in the process is to continually lean on God.

If you are reading this and you don’t know Jesus Christ personally, may I suggest that this challenge is not for you? You might unlock the ability sell yourself more wholeheartedly to some specific passion, person, or career. But what happens when that thing inevitably lets you down? You will lose your identity, your very self. God came down to Earth and suffered on our behalf so we don’t have to find our identities in incomplete things. He wants us to give ourselves wholly to Him so He can show us who He designed us to be. We will never discover ourselves until we begin to place our lives in His hands. If we settle for anything less, then we are merely substituting one distraction for another.

In Conclusion

If you have resonated with anything I have shared above, please consider joining me in this endeavor. There is a great need in our nation today for men and women who are ready to wholeheartedly give their lives to Christ. This challenge is not, in itself, going to change the world. But we have much more to gain than we have to lose if we dare to set aside lesser things in the pursuit of the greater. Together, let’s “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:2)”

If I have convinced you to try this Soul 30 challenge, I would love to hear about it so I can be praying for you. If not, please pray for me when you think of it. I expect the road ahead to be rough in places, but I know that it is well worth the effort. Thank you for taking the time to hear my thoughts and to share in my journey.

P.S.

In the past week as I have worked on this blog post and have shared my story with the church, you have continued to encourage me. I now know that this challenge is merely my way of answering the call that millions of Christians have already answered: the call to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Christ. (Luke 9:23) To everyone who has shared your stories with me this week, thank you. I thank God that this road I am on, though difficult at times, doesn’t have to be lonely. I have learned that fasting can result in joy more often than sorrow, and I have been strengthened and encouraged at every turn.

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More than the sparrows

More than the sparrows

It has been an interesting week for us. On Sunday, our beloved Jeep lost compression in her 5th cylinder. She was dead, but we wouldn’t know for another day. As I sat in church, distracted and worried, God brought Matthew 6:26 to my heart: “Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” God dealt with me graciously through the morning, and by the end of the worship service I was convinced that this problem was not too big for God to handle. Feeling compelled to write, I sat down and began to share the lessons God was teaching me. As I reflected on God’s faithfulness to us, I wrote the following:

Was the car trouble an attack on our faith, or a gift from God Himself? I suppose we won’t know for a while. I do know that it’s time I started making more room for God’s providence in my plans.

When Monday rolled around, we took her to the shop and learned that we no longer had a working car. Repair cost? $4500. I will admit, I fought back tears a little when I told Jessica that the car which took us on our first date and climbed countless mountains with me was no more. But the tears flowed freely when our friends called us to offer their car as a free rental for as long as we needed. The help and support we received on Monday was extraordinary. I received so many phone calls that day that I had a plan together before I got off work with little effort on my part. Things have been looking up since then. Perhaps more importantly, the crisis has given me the chance to reflect on the way we invest our lives.

When God had my back

When I was in college, I had a few thousand dollars to my name, and no way to replenish it once I ran out. As the years passed me by, I learned to trust God with the little I had. There were of course times and ways when I trusted myself to get through, but overall the looming knowledge that one emergency could cripple me didn’t hurt day-to-day. I knew God had my back, and I knew He would provide for my needs. But when I became an engineer, the continual revenue stream began to change my way of thinking. We don’t have more in the bank than we had two years ago, but I see our income outweighing our expenses, and I know the law of averages will eventually begin to line our pockets.

And perhaps that’s the problem. Two years ago, we were hopeful, not just for our own future, but for the ministry that we were going to do. We wanted to set aside an emergency fund for ourselves and another for God’s leading. We were going to go way above and beyond a mere 10% tithe. And for a while we did. My first bonus went straight to the church. But my second didn’t. Neither did my third. I have been slowly training myself to look at the ledger more and more times per day. I have been trying to predict the irregular sources of income that once used to surprise and delight me. But I believe God heard our promises two years ago, and He will hold us accountable to our promised intentions.

Arranging for God’s blessing

Greed is the only vice that blinds before it attacks. A man in adultery is fully aware of what he is doing. A covetous man often is not. When I cling to every penny that passes through my hands, I make it much more difficult for God’s blessings to surprise and delight me. God tells me that all of these material things will be added if I only seek His Kingdom first. So I’m making a change. I am not about to be reckless on all fronts. Jesus had a lot to say about avoiding debt and living within our means. But He also had a lot to say about walking by faith and always asking for the things that we truly needed. If we need a new car, God has a means to provide it. When we are truly putting God’s kingdom first, nothing is impossible. If I refuse to be faithful until I feel safe in my own accomplishments, I will never actually step out in faith.

Living by faith is the most difficult when I feel like I can solve the problems myself. I recently realized that my consistent salary is the true problem I should be solving for. Our low budget will solve itself in due time. But if I’m not careful, I will become like every other dollar-chasing American. “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36) So I am making changes to keep us dependent on God, even during the easy times when were surrounded by consistency and stability. Here are some practical things I plan to do:

Walking by faith when the grass is still green

First, I am going to let the budget go. Mint was a great tool to get us on track, and I would recommend it to anyone who struggles to live inside of their means. But we have the opposite problem today. Every day, I shuffle and tweak our budget to enable us to splurge just one more time. There is just no room for ministry in a life like that. We are going to cash out a fixed budget week so there will be no need for micromanagement. Moreover, I am deleting my finance bookmarks and blocking those sites on my work computer. Can I still access them in a pinch? Of course. Will I be able to sit and watch the pennies add up every day? By God’s grace, no.

When I take my hands off of the wheel, I enable God to once again bless and surprise us. By simplifying our spending habits, I will avoid the temptation to spend a dollar simply because it is there. We will still have an emergency fund, but God’s demands will always come before our own. If God asks us to take a plunge into uncertainty and give every dime to a missionary or event, we will be ready to meet the call, not only without fear, but with joy in the knowledge that a great story of God’s goodness is about to be told.

God’s providence today

I don’t expect this mindset to make sense to all of our friends and family. Reducing our spending and using cash is a good idea. But refusing to watch our finances closely and preparing to give more than we can afford to the things of God? That is crazy talk by all accounts. But “God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27) I know without a shadow of a doubt that our “luck” will never run out if we trust God first, because it is not in fact luck but divine providence. We are stepping up, and we are excited to watch God work wonders as we continue to serve Him in dependent gratitude.

 

P.S.

I am fully aware that I am writing this story before I know the ending. Last night, we found a grey Mazda5 Sport and put a deposit on it, pending inspection. It fits into our budget, but just barely. We’re going to be in a dangerous position for at least a month. Any unforeseen disaster could be crippling. But I don’t mind being here. We’re in a state of full dependence. We don’t know the answers, so we’re trusting God to get us though. And I know I want to keep trusting God like this even when the answers are more clear.

 

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Good, Better, More: How God transcends our expectations

Good, Better, More: How God transcends our expectations

I often wonder if Jesus’s teaching is lost on us today. Most days, I approach God looking for a better quality of life. Naturally, I want to live the best life possible. Better, of course means a life full of happiness and devoid of suffering. But when I read Jesus’s teaching, I find something quite different. We are promised suffering in this life. We are asked to take up our crosses and follow Him. The modern church has tried to dull the promise of suffering in an attempt to sweeten the message, but I think Jesus had something else in mind.

More than seven times throughout the four gospels, we find a promise similar to the following: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24, Luke 11:9, John 14:13-14, John 15:7, John 15:16, John 16:23). If we believe God is merely offering us a better life, we are likely expect that God will give us everything we ask for whether it is for our benefit or not. But someone who gives into every one of their child’s tantrums is, frankly, a bad parent. God won’t leave us in our immaturity for long because He isn’t promising us a better life. He is promising more. He wants to transform me so He can better bless me in the end.

Embracing the mindset of Christ

It takes no genius to see how selfishness powers our world’s economy. “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” is the founding principle of modern society. We make friends who can benefit us, whether emotionally, financially, or otherwise. In romantic relationships, give so we may receive a return. If my employer didn’t give me my money at the end of the month, I wouldn’t stick around for long. Even our charity can become about something other than the needs of individuals around us. We are unable to live for more than ourselves without help.

When Jesus went willingly to the cross, He did something no one else had done before. He sacrificed Himself entirely selfishlessly. The Bible assures me that I am incapable of becoming good on my own and invites me to look to Him for help as the author and perfecter of my faith. (Hebrews 12:2) I need His power in my life if I am ever going to become like Him. Through Christ, I have everything to gain, nothing to lose, and every resource at my disposal! Charity becomes not only logical, but easy. Every debt I have to God has been lavishly repaid, so how can I hold a debt over my neighbor? All the wealth of the Kingdom of Heaven is promised to me, so how can I keep my earthly treasure to myself?

The foundation of contentment

This is the great reversal of Grace. Christ already paid my debt in full, and He is preparing infinite joy for me even now as I sit here and write. If I think about these two things and keep my mind firmly fixed on these promises, I will begin to “store up treasures in Heaven” (Matthew 6:19) by living a life of charity and grace here. Instead of living for my own earthly well-being, I am free to live the life Christ prescribed for me here, for every good deed I do will be justly rewarded in due time (Luke 18:29-30). When Christ died on the Cross, He enabled every one of us to care for others with no thought of a return. For the first time in history, we were truly able to pay it forward.

This is the foundation we must lay before we can talk of asking for things from God. As Christians, we should be seeking the well-being of others above our own. Once we have begun to live that life, we will come to find, as Paul did, the “secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phillipians 4:12) With this secret comes the keys to the Kingdom. Jesus described the life of a generous Christian in the following way:

God’s cycle of trust and giving

First, we give our earthly possessions to those in need (Luke 12:33) and share the good news of Christ’s victory with our neighbors (Matthew 28:18-20). As we prove ourselves worthy, we are given more and more to manage (Matthew 25:29). God promises to pour the blessings we give back onto our own heads (Luke 6:38). These blessings are not strictly “ours,” though. I am a steward for the coming Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 16:10-12). Jesus gave a strict warning to every would-be prodigal. (Matthew 21:43)

There is only one word for those of us who squander God’s eternal wealth on our earthly pursuit of fleeting pleasures: Embezzler. God knows our hearts even before He sees our actions, and He will have a tight fist towards anyone who will have a tight fist. (Matthew 18:21-34, Proverbs 11:24) To those who will freely distribute their inheritance to the world around them, the storeroom of Heaven is wide open. All of the Earth’s wealth is dust to God. Just remember that your primary job is to bless others, not to bless yourself.

The Storeroom of Heaven

Perhaps everything I have learned while writing this can be summarized by a quote from C.S. Lewis: “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. (Lewis, Mere Christianity).” God cannot be bought. There are no tricks or schemes we can pull to “get rich quick” from His Grace. But if we are willing to die to ourselves, to give everything we have to Him and for Him, then we will find eternal riches at our right hand (Proverbs 3:16, Psalm 16:11).

I don’t expect my personal income to double. Jessica and I can tell you our recent story about God’s material blessings, but we fully expect to experience our fair share of loss as well. I am thankful for the things God has entrusted to me, but I am a thousand times more thankful for the friends and family I get to share my mere wealth with. In the end, we will take people, not possessions, with us into God’s eternal kingdom.

Life as a pursuit of more

I’m not naive enough to think that my salary gives me an advantage in the Kingdom of Heaven. I know I am less in the Kingdom of Heaven than the widow who gave both of her pennies in the temple treasury. (Who can give more than their everything, and I have yet to give a quarter of that!) I want to invite my friends to consider their priorities as well. Knowing an account will be made for every penny that passes through your hands, do you trust yourself enough to ask God for these things in prayer? “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)

The risks are great. So are the sacrifices. But I can say this much from experience: There is no greater joy than following God’s will for your life. The pursuit of more is a thrilling, addicting, and ultimately rewarding pursuit. If you feel empty, pursue more. If you’re missing love, ask for more. Lacking a purpose? Strive for more. If you need hope, peace, joy, or goodness, seek more. And if you want more, then seek nothing less than Jesus Christ Himself.

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Overcoming Spiritual Paralysis

Overcoming Spiritual Paralysis

Lately, God has been reminding me of my own weakness. I cannot do any good in this world except by God’s help. I’ve been trying to follow the plans He has revealed for my life, but I keep getting overwhelmed by all of the things I am supposed to be. It seems like every day, I am discovering a new commandment I am failing to live up to. If I’m honest, I’m living a small life because I’m afraid of failure. I put way too much stock in my own actions, and I forget that the battle has already been won.

But why am I afraid of failure? God is judging me based on His own merit, not mine. If I succeed, it is for His glory. If I fail, it is a reminder of His grace. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Rm. 8:1-2) If there is no condemnation, then fear has no place in my life anymore. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The burden of the Law

If you pick up a Bible and begin reading from Genesis 1, you may notice the abundance of rules. There are an estimated 613 commandments in the first five books of the Bible alone. By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, there were groups of the religious elite who made a full-time job out of trying to keep all of the thousand-plus laws that they had at the time. One would expect Jesus to give them a pat on the back for doing such a great job, but He did the exact opposite. After condemning them for being hollow and shallow, Jesus pulled the noose even tighter. It doesn’t matter if you actually commit adultery, you are a unholy sinner if you let your eyes wander for a second! Can you imagine the despair on the faces of the crowd when they heard this? Their best was horribly insufficient.

The point is, and has always been, that we cannot keep the law on our own. The law isn’t just here to enhance our lives, it’s here to show us the extent of our need. The Law exitst to point us to a Saviour. Jesus kept the law to its fullest extent, and He suffered the fate of the worst of criminals so we who can’t keep it for even a day will be treated like someone who never once faltered.

Are we moving backwards?

It seems to me that we’ve returned to the exact same spot the Pharisees were in so many years ago. Our churches are filled with people who want to (or at least pretend to want to) keep the law, but we know deep down that it is impossible. I have, on more than one occasion, suffered paralysis on the light of the law. There are so many things a Christian is called to be. Am I feeding the poor, visiting the sick and prisoners, sharing the Gospel on the streets, being generous with my wealth, putting all others before myself and putting God above all? No. I will never get off the ground if I try to be all things at all times to all people. But God gave us a few secret weapons to help us overcome paralysis.

If we are the body…

The first thing that God gave us is each other. In the past few months, I have come to realize that I can’t be all things at all times to all people (I know, #thickskullproblems). The revelation came through my small group when we got together to buy Thanksgiving meals for families in need. I couldn’t spare a dime that month, but my friends were able to. We all contributed what we could, and God did great things with it. What would happen if I started reading the Bible as God’s letter to His church, not just to me? All of a sudden it becomes manageable. I’ll take the call to proclaim His name, you look after the prisoners, and our other friend can be an advocate for the oppressed. We were called to be the body of Christ, parts in a whole. How foolish have I been for assuming I can be God’s hands and feet all by myself!

God told me to write, and that’s what I’m going to do. I will send my money with those who have taken a different call. I will continue to meet with the Body of Christ regularly to see if we are forgetting something. We won’t be perfect, but we can do much more together than any of us could ever do alone. I recently told a partner in ministry about my plans to transition elsewhere. With incredible wisdom, she replied, “Of course, serve where you feel called. There’s no guilt, only joy!”

The strength of Christ

I would be remiss if I talked about the Body of Christ without mentioning the head. Many of us are so caught up with the worries of this life that we don’t have any time left to think about ministry. We must take our cares to the foot of the Cross. The Law isn’t about rules anymore. Jesus proved to us that we can’t keep the rules, and then He provided a better way.

The apostle Peter told us that angels never tire of looking into the Gospel. How can I? When I fully understand the Gospel, the law will become irrelevant. In Galatians 2, Paul tells the story of Peter acting hypocritically. Instead of quoting the law (which he knew better than any of us), Paul asked Peter to think out the implications of the Gospel. He reminded Peter that if Christ died for all, then there is no superiority among us, and therefore no ground for racial discrimination. If we look for Jesus on every page of the Scriptures, we will begin to find a story that is deeper and more wonderful than we could have imagined. The only response will be to obey with joy.

I am just beginning to experience the joy of God’s calling over me. I’m sure that there will be many failures along the way. But when we fix our eyes on Christ, we don’t have to measure ourselves by our success or failures. Work just becomes work, and ministry just becomes ministry. It’s all an offering of praise to Jesus who did the only truly great work on our behalf. Perfect love casts out all fear, so let us seek to understand the great love He has for us, and let us live out of that love.