Tag Archives: Growth

A LOOK BACK: Growing in Grace

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

Worth the Investment

Read 1 John 3:1-3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

img_cheerleadingLast summer my oldest daughter began showing interest in cheerleading and started to convey to us (her mom and I) that she wanted to take gymnastics in order to get prepared for cheerleading. At first we were both hesitant because we were afraid that this was going to be just some new “phase” that she would grow bored with over time. After all, she had come to us on numerous occasions and told us she wanted to do this or that, only to find out later that, after investing money in what she wanted to do, that she no longer wanted to do it.

There came a point where I got frustrated, mostly because of the money that these whimsical pursuits were costing us. I sat her down and tried to reason with her regarding her discovering what she truly wanted to do. I told her that it is easy to say “I want to be this,” or “I want to do that.” But no matter what we want to be or do, we have to invest our time and energy into it. Flitting about from thing to thing without any real commitment doesn’t do us any good.

And there is truth to that. We can easily become a “Jack of all trades” and just as easily remain a master of none. The fact is, if we are going to be successful in anything, we absolutely have to devote ourselves to whatever it is and go for it at full throttle. As a parent, I want my daughter to be a person of commitment, one who sees things through to the end.

With that said, in my frustration I also failed to recognize something. How can we ever discover who we are called to be, and/or what we are called to do, if we never start somewhere and keep trying. My daughter had done nothing more than what any kid does in an attempt to find something that they love to do…something that aids them in their quest to discover their potential as well as their very identity.

Hasn’t God done the same for us? Which one of us starts in this world with a clear picture of who they are called to be? If I we are to be honest, none of us can claim that. Our identity and our purpose both take time to develop. And, even when we do come to an realization of who we are called to be and what we are called to do, there is often a world of other things that complicate our discernment process and diminish our clarity.

Yet God, had given us the room to live, to learn and to discover. Each breath we take is another opportunity that we’ve been give to discover just who it is we are being called to be, and what it is we are being called to do. Not everyone is called to be a pastor, not everyone is called to be a nurse, not everyone is called to be a cheerleader, but each of us are called to serve God and represent God’s loving presence in all that we do.

Eventually, my wife and I chose to invest more money in our daughter toward gymnastics who, in one year’s time, has gone from someone who has never been a cheerleader to someone who made the JV cheerleading team. All because, my wife and I decided to invest in her and give her the room to live, to learn and to grow. God does the same for us. God loves us, invests in us, and gives us the room to discover who we are, and what we are called to do. To God, everyone is worth the investment and, truth be told, we are being called to invest in others just as God invests in us. Everyone is worth the investment no matter what we are being called to invest in the lives of theirs.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become most truly alive.” – Oprah Winfrey

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for giving me room to live, learn and grow. Continually guide me to my purpose and give me the patience to make such room for others as I help in guiding them to theirs. Amen.

Two Simple Questions

Read Matthew 16:13-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“[Jesus] asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’” (Mark 8:29)

4741068-3x2-700x467Over the years I have been in ministry, I have developed a curriculum for teaching youth who are looking to be confirmed into the Christian faith. I feel that Christianity, particularly Protestant Christianity, has become rather lax in its education of confirmands and people in general. So, I took on the task of developing a curriculum that would educate those seeking confirmation so that in the end they knew why they were being confirmed and that they, indeed, wished to be confirmed into the Christian faith.

The curriculum started off with the history of Christianity, starting with Jesus of Nazareth and ending at our present age. And I didn’t just present the sugar-coated, Sunday School “history”, but a ten week study of the real history behind Christianity. Then I taught them the doctrinal and theological positions of our particular denomination, as well as its polity (or structure).

At the very outset of the class I assigned a paper to be written. I actually assigned two papers, but for the sake of this devotion, I will cover one of them. The paper I assigned was one that I actually had to write in seminary and I found it to be such a rewarding exercise that I included it in my confirmation curriculum. The questions I asked each of the students to answer are the following: “Who do people say that Jesus is?” and “Who do you say that Jesus is?”

These are the very questions that Jesus asked his disciples. They are very pointed and very important questions for anyone who places their faith in Christ to answer. None of us have grown up in a bubble. We have all learned who Jesus is from various sources. From reading the Bible, to Sunday School, to Church, to what we’ve gathered about him from our family and friends. All of those sources have helped shape our understanding of who Jesus is. And so the first question should be a fairly easy one for us to answer.

The second question, however, is one that forces us to go beyond what we’ve heard and learned about Jesus. I forces us to search our soul and our own personal experiences. It forces us to reflect on how we’ve experienced Jesus in our lives. How has he been revealed to us personally? How has he influenced our lives? How has he communicated with us? The apostles didn’t just hear things and learn things about Jesus. They knew him personally. They walked with him, asked him questions, and followed him. They witnessed him after the resurrection.

If we claim Christianity as our faith, if we believe in Christ, there has to be a reason why. Is the reason merely based off of second or third or fourth hand information passed down to you? Is it because you feel you have to believe it? If that is the case, then perhaps it isn’t belief at all. Surely, somewhere along the line you have experienced the presence of Christ in your life. Somewhere along the line you have been transformed by the presence the love of Christ.

Today’s challenge is for you to seriously reflect on the above two questions. Who do people say Christ is and who do you say Christ is? Take the time to sit, meditate and seriously reflect on who Christ is to you and why you believe the way you do. It is not an easy process, but it is certainly a rewarding one. As you grow your beliefs will adapt and grow as well. So make this exercise a part of your faith journey this Lent and beyond. Every so often revisit these questions and really see how God is working in your life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham

PRAYER

Lord, as I continue to walk in your light, illumine me. As I continue to seek your way, strengthen me. As I continue to grow in my faith, reveal yourself to me. Amen.

The New Year’s Challenge

Read Psalm 119:101-105

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The American Bible Challenge hosted by Jeff FoxworthyIn the late summer of 2012, Jeff Foxworthy hosted a game show show called “The Great American Bible Challenge.” The premise of the show was to quiz people with questions centered on the Bible to see how Biblically literate they were. The contestants were not actually competing to win money for themselves, but would represent a specific charity and the winners would donate their winnings to that charity.

The show, which first premiered on the Game Show Network August 23, 2012, debuted as the network’s highest rated program of all time, bringing in 2.3 million total viewers on its first night. That was the largest amount of viewers in the network’s seventeen year history, proving that the Bible is still very much a marketable venture for entertainment companies to pursue.

Yet, when you look at Biblical literacy in America, the statistics are astounding. According to a Gallup Poll, 16 % of Americans say that they read the Bible daily, 21 % read the Bible on a weekly basis, 12% say they read at least once a month, and 41% say they rarely, if ever, pick up a Bible. Readership of the Bible has declined from 73% to 59% from the 1980’s to our present time. Those numbers are staggering.

I have often heard people say that they find that the Bible is boring, that they don’t understand it, that they don’t have time to read it, and a host of other excuses. Yet, people clearly have an hour to watch a Bible Quiz Show, or ten hours to watch a Bible miniseries. People don’t seem to find the Bible boring when they are Hollywood-ized versions of the Bible and they flock by the millions to soak it all up.

The problem is that Hollywood tells the stories usually from a very narrow perspective. By nature, they need to be told that way; however, the Bible is so much more exciting when read and studied, particularly in a group setting, then when it is being fed to us via a television show. If you like steamy, scandalous romance, check out Samson and Delilah (Judges 16) or David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). If action and adventure suits you, check out the Exodus led by Moses (all of Exodus). God knows there is plenty of horror in the Bible (Judges 19, Daniel 5, Mark 1:23-26, Revelation 13, etc.). If you like drama, check out a book like Esther who rises up over her circumstances.

The challenge to you for this new year is to not become a statistic! Pick up your Bible and read it. Actually read it! There are plenty of things in there that will catch your fancy. If you come across something that doesn’t make sense or grab your interest, move on to something else; however, read your Bible. In fact, join a Bible Study. Join one that will look broadly at the Scriptures and encourage the kinds of open-ended questions that promote learning, understanding and growth. It is my prayer for you, in this new year, that you will find the depth and relevance that the Bible has to offer you in your life. It is my prayer that you will find it to be an life changing, and illuminating, resource in your life. It is my prayer that it will indeed become a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

PRAYER

Lord, I pray that you inspire and motivate me to engage scripture and that, through such engagement, I may grow from who I am to who you want me to be. Amen.