Jesus was sent to the wilderness by the Spirit immediately after his baptism. In the wilderness he spent forty days and nights fasting and did battle with the devil. That this happened for Jesus immediately after his baptism might suggest to us
that his experience would be somewhat normative for us who seek to follow him. If he is an example for us, then surely his example of temptation in the wilderness exemplifies an experience that we all will walk through.But many Christians try to avoid the wilderness. They feel that something is wrong with them if they find themselves in the wilderness, as though God has left them. Ancient Christian testimony teaches that God is more likely closer than ever when we feel ourselves in the wilderness. The Bible teaches this in Jesus' own experience: it was the Spirit who "drove" him out into the wilderness, and it was the angels who ministered to him once the temptation was over. The grace of God, bookending Jesus' wilderness time. One writer says we should look for those who have walked through the wilderness and look to them for help and guidance.
We could begin by regularly reading, and even praying, the psalms. The psalms are a map for finding our way in the wilderness. In this collection of the songs of prayers of Israel we have many "laments," which describe the spiritual experience of feeling absent and away from God, questioning his presence in life, and finding one's way back to him, only to find that he never actually left but was with you the whole time. Sadly, many contemporary Christian "worship" songs take a line or two from the laments psalms as a jumping off point for a more "pleasant" worship aesthetic. Take Psalm 42 and the popular song, "As the Deer," as an example
.In addition to our map, the psalms, we can find
a compass for orienteering ourselves in the wilderness in the Biblical concept of hiding scripture in our heart. This article discusses how our technology changes our modes of thinking and remembering, so that we are remembering less information and more of where to find the information
. This means we may not be recollecting scripture as readily as we need to when we need to. Are we hiding scripture in our hearts, or on our iPhones? What do we do when we need a word of comfort but our smartphone is dead?
By reading the psalms, we'll learn the ancient, Biblical practice of scriptural meditation, spending time with the Bible, learning it, embedding it deep within us, so we can recall it in our time of need. The psalms are our map through the wilderness, and the practice of memorizing scripture, hiding it deep within us, is our compass to guide us. These two disciplines awaken us to God, who is right in the middle of the wilderness with us.
On Sunday, I preached from Colossians 3 on the theme of "How to Grow Spiritually." If you think of spiritual growth as a puzzle, these are the pieces of the puzzle that will enable you to grow spiritually.
In my opinion, if you do these things, you will grow spiritually. Obviously, I am not taking away from the work of God. This is about creating space for God to work. We need to both cooperate with God and build basic foundations for God to work with.
Look over this list. How many of them are you doing? Which are you not doing? How good or consistent are you with them? Is anything missing? What do you think?
1. Attend worship every Sunday.
2. Attend at least one class each week for teaching and fellowship and to model good behavior for others.
3. Read at least one chapter of the Bible each day, reading through books.
4. Record the main idea of each chapter in a notebook and compile, over time, a base of information you can use in your own teaching and understanding.
5. Look for ways to apply the main idea you took from your daily reading.
6. Pray every day over your main idea, for yourself and for others.
7. Always be working on training and teaching one other believer to do these same things.
8. Always be working on mentoring an unbeliever in faith, doing these same things, and teaching by example.
Questions are from Proverbs 4:20-5:6 and Colossians 3:1-17. The focus is on spiritual growth: what is it, and how do we do it.
As usual, please share this with others if you find it useful.
| Devotional Guide: September 4-10, 2011|
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In carpentry, the phrase "measure twice, cut once" is used to encourage people to slow down, focus on what's important, and be careful. Our faith is the same: instead of getting caught up in division and other people's power-plays, we need to "measure twice" by focusing on our own spiritual growth and then the spiritual growth of others.
I've been reading a few pages each day from a positive attitude book
for the last couple weeks. My Dad recommended this book awhile back, so I picked it up, read it, didn't apply it, and stuck it on the shelf. We had an email conversation a couple weeks back where we were discussing the author, Jeffrey Gitomer
, so I pulled the book back off the shelf and began reading it again. As usual (at least with me), the second time through is providing gem after gem.Today in my reading Gitomer was discussing the need to take action and apply the things we know. Rather than saying "I know that!" and feeling confirmed in what we think we know, we should ask "How good am I at that?" By moving from a declaration of achievement to a question of improvement, we will be able to continually grow in different areas of our lives.This has a direct spiritual application as well. When we read the Bible (or other spiritual books), we are often confirmed in what we believe. But we need to challenge ourselves to go deeper.
For example, when we read something in the Bible about forgiving others, rather than feeling justified that we know what we ought to do, we need to challenge ourselves in the area of forgiveness--who do we need to forgive and how will we accomplish this? In other words, "How good am I at forgiveness?" By making this simple transition--from understanding and knowledge to action and application--we will find the growth in our lives
that we want.
Do you find bible reading difficult and challenging? In this 6 minute audio, I offer a few simple suggestions that will help you read the bible to grow spiritually.
You don't grow spiritually merely by thinking about it; you must take action on biblical principles to grow spiritually.
Start your morning out right by reading or listening to something encouraging and uplifting. Then, act upon what you learned.
Spiritual maturity is not achieved when you put your own needs first. Spiritual maturity is achieved when you serve others in faith.
To grow spiritually, we need to regularly engage in four different areas of relationship: with God, with believers, with neighbors, and with strangers. This graphic describes these four areas by focusing on a core thought, a key scripture, a leading action, and several examples of each.
My personal view is that we should always be focused in our relationship with God and at least one other significant relationship in one of the other three areas. We can supplement this with ongoing activity in the other two relationship areas.
By taking action, we'll grow.
What do you think?