Spiritual Growth

Friends

Did you know that a golf ball has a sweet spot? The next time you tee one up, position it so that you’re hitting the label… hopefully with the sweet spot of your driver.

Did you know that a Christian life has a sweet spot too?

I have made many discoveries over the years, and many of them have been impactful. But this is one of the most important, powerful, and life-changing principles I have ever made in 40-plus years of being a Christian. This is going to sound a little over-the-top, but if you master this one principle, the transformation in your own life, to say nothing of your influence and circumstances, can be breathtaking.

On a broader scale, if the people you worship and fellowship with could really get this as a church, there is no limit to the influence you display.

Getting this – I mean really getting it – can explain why you tend to sabotage yourself after you’ve made progress toward a goal.

It may explain why your relationships go in frustrating cycles – hot today, cold tomorrow… intimate today, lonely later.

It may explain why you may have a lot of money or no money and not be affected one way or another in terms of your happiness or joy.

Discovering and practicing this one simple (didn’t say “easy”) idea can give you a shortcut to solving problems, healing relationships, and moving forward in every single area of your life.

Interested?

At least curious?

Okay, check back tomorrow.

Just kidding. [click to continue…]

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path(Fumes, Form, and Fashion, Part 2)

Something in the woods near his grandfather’s farm seems to call to Adam. Ever since he was a little boy and his dad took him hiking or hunting there, this is the place where Adam, now a father himself, returns.  It doesn’t happen nearly as often or nearly enough these days. After all, Adam has responsibilities and stresses, and there never seems to be enough time.

For Phillip, it means a return to old disciplines that kept him in good shape throughout his 20s.  Now pushing 40, the problem for Phillip isn’t knowing what to do. It’s finding the will to actually do it.

Jacob follows the trail of his biblical namesake.  Just as the Lord called the patriarch back to Bethel – a place where he had previously encountered the Lord – so also Jacob is sensing a stirring to return to a place of spiritual life and growth he has known in the past.

Each of these are examples of a powerful and important tool of renewal and restoration, regardless of who you are.  But this is particularly true of men.  It’s why you often hear football coaches talk about “going back to the fundamentals.”  The biblical language mentions things like “remembering the former days.”  Check this out: [click to continue…]

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student-in-lecture-hall.150603

(Defining Moments Edition)

“I believe every Christian walk has a string of defining moments.”

So wrote Brian Fouts, a former student. And since I’m buried in grading papers and watching for more treasures like that one, I thought Brian and some of his peers could show you a few of their defining moments.

The following quotations come from student assignments and represent amazing writing and insight, or a unique way of capturing truth or marshaling language. They taught me a thing or two about those defining moments we all have, and I think they’ll encourage you as well. Enjoy…

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Sequoia

I’ve received just under 10,000 calls, texts, or emails over the last few weeks, all wanting to know the same thing:  How’s the little sequoia tree doing?

So rather than answer it both all of them at once, I thought I’d give you an update here.

It’s ugly. [click to continue…]

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Cheerful smiling funny boy on a green background.

(The Spiritual Passion Edition)

What happens when senioritis and spring fever hit at the same time?  That all depends, I guess, on whether you’re the student who’s writing or the one who’s grading.

But even if you’re neither – if you’re the poor soul who must trudge off to work, there is something to be learned and something to be challenged by.

So while I’m plowing through papers in search of the next little nuggets of profound writing, I thought I would share some insights from former students.  These aren’t about spring fever, but spiritual passion. And they’re very well put. It’s a quick read, but I think you’ll be blessed and challenged.  And if you’d like to see more of these, click here and here.

So slow down a minute, enjoy these seven nuggets of great writing, but also take your spiritual pulse while you’re at it. You’ll be glad you did. [click to continue…]

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Web

It was spring 1973 when I happened to catch a little announcement in my home church bulletin that would change my life.  It was an invitation to “Mission 73” – a youth choir trip to Virginia Beach, Virginia, for anyone who had completed the ninth grade.

To say the trip was life-changing is to cheapen the phrase, and the memory of the trip.  You can read more about that here.

In the wisdom and economy of God, He decided that the best way to grow me up, call me out, expose my weaknesses, and reveal my gifts was to put me on a bus or plane with a group of people for a short-term trip, where the mission was serve Him well or fail terribly.  It started with that one trip, continued on through my high school and college years, including a couple of individual or personal partner trips for extended periods, then later internationally to places like the Ukraine, Prague, Vienna, and Thailand.

Now this year we are pleased and excited to announce the launch of a ministry that provides that opportunity to others. After months of talking, praying, planning, and waiting,  LifeVesting International will officially open its doors sometime near June 1 of this year, for the purpose of supporting the work of Christian pastors or other Christian leaders worldwide by providing assistance in the form of volunteer labor, consultation, and/or training.

We recognize that there are many different organizations, large and small, whose purpose is to fill Christ’s Great Commission.   What does the world need with another one?  Why are we doing this?  Aside from simple obedience God (the ultimate consideration), here are seven reasons. [click to continue…]

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Two boys go hiking with backpacks on a forest road bright sunny day

Are we there yet?

No.

When are we gonna get there?

Five minutes sooner than the last time you asked.

We’re never gonna get there.

We’ll get there.

When?

Soon enough.  Look outside and see how far we’ve come and how fast we’re moving.

Are we there yet?

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I’ll bet you’ve had a few conversations like that if you’ve ever been on a road trip with kids (or maybe a few adults).  And inevitably, the younger he or she is, the sooner this question pops up:

Why does it have to take so long to get there?

And the only right answer, which they can never seem to grasp at that age, is, because to get there, first you have to go here.  And here is where we are.  But we can still enjoy being here until we get there.

The Christian life has its own version of “There Yet.”  [click to continue…]

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Rope Stretched

One day you’re going to use the same technique for praying that you have seen God respond to time and time again.  But your prayer won’t get what you consider a positive response.

One day you’re going to claim that healing, rebuke that sickness, or do whatever you’ve done repeatedly to see the Lord respond in situations like that. But he healing won’t be coming.  At least not the way you believed it would come.

One day you’re going to repeat the same steps or process you have used dozens of times before and seen genuine fruit or progress in your personal life or ministry. But this time it’s going to come up a bust.

One day you’re going to turn to your pet theology (excuse me… I mean your belief system), where things have made sense and given you wisdom, insight, and clarity for years.  But this time your pet theology will have no answers.

And let me go ahead and cut to the chase – all of this is deliberate, and it’s God’s idea. [click to continue…]

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SAMSUNG

There’s no arguing that you’re busy.  No question that whatever you do or don’t get done today, plenty will be waiting for you tomorrow.  Yet somehow you can’t help but feel a little like Rip Van Winkle.  At least a part of your life has been asleep at the wheel, and you’re wondering how you got left behind.

Maybe it was your finances.  Maybe your relationships.  Maybe it was your professional life, or your grasp on what’s cool in the culture.  Regardless, you can’t help but feel alone, isolated from the pulse and vibrant sensations of a life of awareness and relevance.

You’re busy, but suddenly awakened to the fact that you’re living in obscurity.

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You have the restless sense that something is broken, and you’re called to fix it.  Something’s missing in the church and/or the world.  The church and its message seem choked of life and the world and its values are increasingly hostile.  And there you stand, somewhere in the middle.  You have a sense of calling; a fire of truth burns in your belly and you’ll die if you don’t get it out there.

And yet, despite the confidence you have in your place in God’s plans, nobody’s giving you a chance to actually live it.  Nobody’s interested in what you have to say; nobody’s taking what you’re offering.  You’re reaching out in love to anybody who will listen, and they’re responding like birds to a scarecrow.

So there you stand, heart and arms outstretched in desperate obscurity.

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Shepherd Birth

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever (Psalm 131).

Soul-check time:  How “at rest” are you?  The answer to that will make all the difference in your worship, and your work.

This psalm of ascent is the confession of a soul at rest – a “weaned soul.”

The first verse speaks of three things the psalmist has turned away from – a proud heart, haughty eyes, or a mind that tries to figure out the impossible.  The common theme in each – I know my limits.  And I know my place.  I am free of selfish ambition and arrogance toward others.

Are you ready to start your ascent today?  [click to continue…]

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