Mar 29 2019

Simple Instructions

We started a reading plan this year with the goal of reading through the entire Bible in chronological order in 90 days. You tend to notice the thread of God’s grace a lot easier when you read at this pace, and you tend to recognize one common theme throughout the Old and New Testaments which is pretty simple and straightforward: do what God tells you to do and everything will be OK. Actually, better than OK, God promises that we will be blessed when we are obedient. It’s amazing what God will do in our lives if we simply choose to live according to his word, and not allow anything apart from his word to have an influence in our lives. It almost seems too simple. But the reality is that the gospel of Jesus is very simple. We tend to complicate it, but it really just comes down to following our King wherever he leads us, and that can be through the written word of God, through the Holy Spirit’s leading, through messages delivered by angels, or even through hearing God’s audible voice. I have found that when we give his word precedence in our lives, he speaks to us in amazing ways. The problem, of course, is that there are so many other competing voices that want to have influence in our lives. We all tend to look for the quick fix or the quick answer, especially in this fast food age where everything we need is at our fingertips all the time. But Jesus wants us to do something different. He wants us to sit at his feet. He wants to keep it simple. He wants us to focus on the guidance and direction that he gives. And a great place to start is by reading and studying the written word of God, and applying each of his principles to our lives. A verse in Galatians 6:14 jumped out at me a few days ago; “The world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” I have come to the point that I really don’t care what the world has to offer. It used to interest me, but not anymore. I just want more of Jesus, so I can have an even greater impact in the lives of people I encounter every day. I remember someone telling me a long time ago about how the Bible could be thought of as this acronym: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Simple instructions, but a powerful message. And when we apply it to our lives, we are able to live in a way that honors the sacrifice of Jesus. By the way, if you are interested in our Bible reading plan, you can find it on our resources page here.

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Mar 1 2019

Spiritual Maturity

If we look back at our childhood and teenage years, from the perspective of an adult, we can quickly recognize how much maturity we gained as we grew older. We can also recognize how the influence of others may have helped or stunted our maturity, or in many cases, how our youthful obstinate attitudes slowed the maturation process. We all seem to mature at different rates, and this is also true with spiritual maturation. Just like physical maturity gives us a greater understanding of how to make healthy choices and behave appropriately in society, spiritual maturity also helps us to do the same when it comes to spiritual choices and interaction within the spiritual realm. If we look back at our spiritual journey, many of us can recognize when we went through seasons of growth that increased our maturity in a way that enabled us to make adjustments to the way that we think, believe, and live. 1 Cor. 13:11 speaks to this reality, that as we mature, we need to put away childish perspectives. As children, we don’t understand why we need to behave in certain ways, but as we mature, we learn more about what appropriate behavior looks like. This is the same thing in the spiritual realm. As we mature, we learn to put away perspectives and practices that are not appropriate for the children of God to allow into our lives.

We meet with people throughout each week, and often receive questions about healthy and unhealthy spiritual practices. Spiritual maturity helps all of us to recognize unhealthy spiritual practices. But those who are not spiritually mature have a difficulty in understanding the wisdom of God, and just as we were as children, we have to grow to a mature state and avoid obstinate behaviors that can slow the spiritual maturation process. We all need to recognize that unhealthy spiritual practices can create ungodly spiritual influences in our lives. As we become more spiritually mature, we become more spiritually aware of the importance of this danger. Sadly, for many believers, it’s not until the later years of life where we begin to figure this out. Part of the reason for this is because, in the past few hundred years, the church has not served us well in teaching about the spiritual realm or the supernatural ways of God. As a result, many believers have pursued supernatural encounters through ungodly processes. Some of those processes are overt, such as fortune tellers, psychics, or Ouija boards. Others are quite covert because they have non-Christian spiritual roots that are not immediately obvious to the spiritually immature. Some examples here are Yoga, Enneagram, Mindfulness, and Reiki; all of which are rooted in Hinduism, Buddhism, and other mystical beliefs that are anti-biblical. These fall into the category of the “childish things” we see mentioned in 1 Cor. 13:11 because they are actions born out of an immature spiritual state. And they are dangerous practices because all non-Christian religious practices are influenced by demonic spirits, who are seeking to create ungodly influences in our lives.

Another question we often receive in this realm is about why some Christian leaders support the notion that these other religious practices are perfectly fine to participate in and even teach that they are helpful for a follower of Jesus. That answer eluded me for a short time until the Lord revealed the reality of spiritual maturity to me through a friend and local minister. I realized that we can be mature in some areas and remain immature in others. I think we can see parallels to this in the physical realm as well. Someone can be mature in some areas of theology, and be immature in others, because they were never properly trained or discipled in those areas. This goes back to my earlier point about the church not doing a great job at teaching about the spiritual realm. We don’t know what we don’t know. Unfortunately, immature spiritual areas of our lives become very susceptible to deception from the enemy. It’s easy to be deceived when you don’t know better. And once you are in deception, you rarely know that it is happening. Spiritual immaturity can also lead to self-righteous attitudes forming in our hearts, that keep us from accepting the possibility that we have been tricked into believing a lie.

For me, all of this comes down to a simple perspective. It’s not about theological positions of judgement vs. grace, legalism, or allowing believers the liberty to form their own doctrinal opinions; it’s about pursuing a lifestyle of holiness. Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God,” which means pursuing what he has for us above all else, and not looking to anyone or anything else to define our identity or provide us with spiritual experiences. We are called to be set apart, to be in the world but not of the world. We are called to pursue Jesus with everything we have. As we pursue Him, we grow in spiritual maturity. As we grow in spiritual maturity, we more easily recognize the “childish things” we shouldn’t allow into our lives. And as we set aside those things, we continue to reach greater levels of maturity. It’s a journey we are all on together, and we need to have grace for everyone as we grow through the different stages of our spiritual maturation process. Now here’s the secret to accelerate your spiritual growth: let Jesus be everything and every answer for you, and don’t let anything or anyone else ever take his place!

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