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Spiritual Growth Steroids

“Maturity takes time.”

—Alan Fadling

Hi, my name’s Joe, and I play guitar.

(And in the silence of our minds, some of us just heard a group say, “Hi, Joe.”)  (But that’s another story for another time.)

I’ve been playing guitar since 3rd grade, when a family friend showed me some chords.

Along the way, others showed me more stuff.  I’ve even taught people how to play, and loved every minute of it.  It’s been a fun ride since 3rd grade.

But here’s the problem: let’s say somebody has been playing guitar for 10 years.  Has that person made 10 years’ worth of advancement?  Or only 1 year, or even less time, simply repeated for 10 years?  There’s a difference.

Grabbing a nearby guitar and hammering a few familiar chords or licks is fun.  But putting the instrument down after banging through a few favorites doesn’t take the player forward.

It’s true in our faith development as well.  “Maturity cannot be hurried, programmed, or tinkered with,” writes Eugene Peterson.  “There are no steroids available for growing up in Christ more quickly.”

I’m afraid I can name a few spiritual steroids I’ve tried.  Some were tasty samples, a few became addictive, but none worked for long without negative side effects.

Jesus had a lot to say about this in Luke 18:4-15.  It’s a short story about our spiritual growth and development, told as a seed-planting process.  It ends with this phrase: “bring forth fruit with patience.”

Maybe today the right spritiual practice for some of us is to slow down and prayerfully read Luke 18:4-15.  

Apply as needed.

I am Happy All the Day, part 2

Yesterday we looked at the ending of the chorus of a classic hymn: “…and now I am happy all the day.”

The key is found at the beginning of that chorus: “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light.”

There’s a connection between the cross of Christ and our profound happiness.

By the grace of God, there’s a connection.

And by the same grace of our same God, may we live in that connection today.



I am Happy All the Day

“I am happy all the day,” someone said in a Bible Study I was in yesterday.

Okay, that’s not exactly what happened.

“I am happy all the day,” someone sang in a Bible Study I was in yesterday.

Okay, that’s not exactly what happened, either.

“I am happy all the day,” all of us sang in a Bible Study I was in yesterday.

It’s the end of the chorus of #359 in our official United Methodist Hymnal.

“I am happy all the day,” is what we all  sang five times.  Once after each verse.

“Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed, and did my Sovereign die?” is how that song begins.

And in its entiriety, the chorus goes like this —

“At the cross, at the cross,

Where I first saw the light,

And the burden of my heart rolled away;

It was there by faith

I received my sight

And now I am happy all the day.”

Pretty bold statement to conclude this classis Isaac Watts hymn from 1707: “I am happy all the day.”

What’ “burden of [your] heart” needs to be rolled away today?

Let’s pray for each other that today we move one step closer to being “happy all the day.”

I will if you will.

Denial is Not a River in Egypt

“Denial is not a river in Egypt” is one of those great lines I wish I’d written.

No idea who did.  Picked it up along the way and love it.

“Denial is not a river in Egypt” is a call to stop pretending and face what’s real.

Jesus said, “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”  (John 8:32, the Message version)

Are you living in the freedom of Christ’s truth today, or are you drowning in what’s not a river?

Substance over Style

Follow my example,

as I follow the example of Christ.

— St. Paul, 1st Corinthians 11:1

St. Paul wasn’t writing about style.

He was all about substance.

He wasn’t telling people how to comb their hair or what color of clothes to wear.

He was writing about The Most Substantial One and advising us to join him as together we follow the example of Christ.

Only then does it make sense to invite someone to follow my example.

Serious stuff.

May we be able to say to our friends and family, Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Could make for a much more interesting week than last week.

What Will Your Verse Be Today?

Put into practice what you learned from me,

what you heard and saw and realized.

Do that,

and God, who makes everything work together,

will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

— Philippians 4:4-9, The Message version

“What will your verse be?” asks a commercial.

That’s a quote from Whitman.

Many of us first heard the question in the Dead Poet’s Society movie.  As John Keating, Robin Willimas said this:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.

And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?”

Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

St. Paul wrote that by living our lives in Christ, God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.  

Where will you join with others today in practicing your part, and “what will your verse be” today?

“Copy Off Me, Daddy Scheets”

“Copy off me, Daddy Scheets,” said 5 year old Joseph.

I knew it was serious, because he called by my full name.

“Copy off me” was a directive to do exactly as he was doing.

Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw, says our old friend St. Paul in Philppinas 4:9.

How would it be if people learned ho to live as Christians by copying off you and me?

What if people put into practice what they saw us doing and heard us saying?

More about this tomorrow.

For today, let’s be aware that someone is noticing.  Someone is watching.

Dare we say, “Copy off me” or should we do things differently first?


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