Tag  |  spiritual-growth

Disciplined for Freedom

My dog has been trained to always come back to me the instant I call or whistle. It’s taken a lot of work to get this response. And now he consistently listens for me and responds immediately—no matter what distraction is vying for his attention. Since I can trust him, I’m able to take him off his leash and let him run around and explore the fields and woodlands. In short, because he’s been properly trained and can be trusted even when facing temptation, he can enjoy his freedom.

What Will We Become?

I spent my birthday this year at a conference with my husband and some friends. At the end of the conference, I enjoyed taking some time to talk with an acquaintance that is a year younger than I am. As we chatted, he said, “The older I get, the more I realize I haven’t accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish by now.” Then he wistfully remarked, “I may never accomplish it.”

Breaking Toward Freedom

Inky the octopus saw his chance and broke for freedom. In 2014, fishermen found Inky, a small octopus (roughly the size of a volleyball) trapped in a crayfish pot and severely injured. The fishermen delivered Inky to New Zealand’s National Aquarium. Though Inky seemed to adjust to his new home, one of the curators observed how they needed to “keep Inky amused” or he’d get bored.

A Spiritual Powerlift

A physical trainer friend of mine will sometimes present his clients with a weightlifting bar with a large amount of weight on each end. He then instructs them to lift the bar, and—of course—they can’t. Next, he tells them to try and lift the weight several times a day for several weeks. After the allotted time, they return and unfailingly report that they can lift the weight over their heads. They often remark that, at first, they never thought this growth in power would be possible!

Leading Somewhere Good

A friend and I once did an eight-day hike from Lindisfarne Island to Durham in north England. We went to learn about the godly men and women who had brought Christianity to the region—people like Aidan, Cuthbert, and Bede. I also took the pilgrimage because I was searching for direction.

Necessity of Suffering

A chrysalis was hanging from a branch. Inside, a butterfly seemed to be struggling. Curious to witness its emergence, an observer waited. Time passed, however, and the insect was still trapped in its self-made prison. So the person made a small tear in the chrysalis—hoping to relieve the butterfly’s struggle and suffering. It soon died, for the struggle to be free is essential to making a butterfly strong enough to survive. Without adversity, it won’t achieve maturity.

A Better Song

In Greek mythology, the island of Sirens was where beautiful temptresses ensnared passing sailors with their sweet songs. The music led the men to the shore where they were shipwrecked and destroyed. Odysseus ordered his men to plug their ears with beeswax, but being curious and to avoid being tempted, he instructed them to bind him to the mast. Upon hearing the song of the Sirens, Odysseus commanded his crew to release him, but they refused and bound him tighter. Jason of the Argonauts, on the other hand, hired a skilled musician to play a tune as his ship sailed within earshot of Sirens. His boat floated by with the crew unaffected by the alluring tunes.

Blinding Blue Pants

Oh, Dad . . . Dad,” he said with equal parts love and horror. Pointing at his father’s shocking blue pants, he went on: “It looks like you’re an aging youth pastor trying to look young.”

Another View

I do not enjoy being at a loss for words. I feel helpless when I can’t offer comfort to someone who’s hurting. Facing unexpected circumstances with a loved one is difficult enough, but sometimes we feel powerless in not being able to answer their question, “Why?” In our desperation, we rifle through our thoughts in an attempt to at least ease their pain. But those who’ve been through deep waters of trial can attest that the silence of a friend is more golden than misspoken words, especially when the attempt to form answers only produces more pain.

Unbreakable

Ulfberht. No, that’s not a typo. It’s the name for a special type of Viking sword that far exceeded the quality of any other European sword of its era. Where other swords would shatter, Ulfberhts were able to bend and still keep their edge. This was a huge advantage on the field of battle, where one’s life depended on the quality of his blade. Modern-day researchers have discovered that what made these swords so special was the extreme heat in which they were forged. The high temperature allowed for more impurities to be removed, resulting in a far stronger and more flexible blade.

you choose Q: i'm feeling restless in my local church, what should I do?

Q: I am personally battling an issue of restlessness, and by that I mean my soul is restless, my spirit seems restless and I am contemplating leaving my home church. Not because of the people or the size, but because I am seeking to go higher in God and right now I don't feel the connect (fire) there that I…

steps to nowhere

Serving with a group of students, I was picking up trash from the grounds of a home when I found a set of three sturdy brick steps. An ordinary set of stairs in every way, but they led nowhere. Climbing to the top simply led to the plank siding of the old, worn house.

correcting blind spots

In The Call to Joy and Pain, Ajith Fernando, a Christian leader from Sri Lanka, wrote: “The church in each culture has its own special challenges—theological blind spots that hinder Christians from growing to full maturity in Christ. . . . I think one of the most serious theological blind spots in [today’s] western church is a defective understanding of suffering. . . . The ‘good life’—comfort, convenience, and a painless life—have become necessities that people view as basic rights. If they do not have these, they think something has gone wrong. . . . One of the results of this attitude is a severe restriction of spiritual growth, for God intends us to grow through trials.”

are we there yet?

Philippians 3:12-14: I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to…

deliberate

Due to my love for music, I want my kids to know its inherent beauty beyond their ability simply to hear notes. So with no hidden dreams of creating prodigies, my husband and I have invested our finances, time, and oversight into making music a priority. We’ve given our kids certain choices along the way, but we understand that we…

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> christian living

Is This Heaven?

In the fantasy-drama Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella heard a mysterious voice whispering from his cornfield: “If you build it, he will come.” In time, Ray realized the voice was calling him to build a baseball field among his rows of cornstalks. When he built the ball field, major-league baseball players from the past miraculously emerged from the remaining cornstalks to play ball.

Tongues Afire

Over the past month or so, my wife and I have had some hard conversations. Places of deep hurt have become visible again. As we’ve talked, amid much sadness, I’ve had to reckon with a lasting wound I left on her heart. Years ago, before we were married, Miska and I endured a significant conflict. In that turmoil, I spoke words to her that were foolish and immature, words that lodged into the most tender and vulnerable places of her heart. I didn’t speak in anger or malice, but rather with ignorance and stupidity. I’ve asked her forgiveness multiple times, and she has freely forgiven me. Still . . . the wound is there. My words can’t be taken back.

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

> daily devotional

Calling on the Caller

One of my favorite lines in Donita K. Paul’s Realm Walkers book series is, “The called must call upon the caller.” I don’t usually pause to ponder wording in the middle of an action-packed book, but this line left me thinking about what it means to be called.

Only the Beginning

We introduced our sons to the TV series Lost in which marooned passengers from a crashed jetliner try to survive on a mysterious island. It didn’t take long for our boys to start to groan at the end of each episode, aware of how masterful the writers were at creating cliffhangers. There appears to be no ending, only a series of new beginnings.

Disciplined for Freedom

My dog has been trained to always come back to me the instant I call or whistle. It’s taken a lot of work to get this response. And now he consistently listens for me and responds immediately—no matter what distraction is vying for his attention. Since I can trust him, I’m able to take him off his leash and let him run around and explore the fields and woodlands. In short, because he’s been properly trained and can be trusted even when facing temptation, he can enjoy his freedom.

> ethics

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

if My people

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as our nation believes in the separation of church and state. We cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

> faith

Big and Small

Some big interviews lay ahead as I continued my quest to join the UK’s Royal Navy as a chaplain. That included psychometric tests, practical leadership tasks, planning exercises, and the writing of essays. I needed to take several trains down to the interview location, plan my interview techniques, and practice answers.

Hearing Loss

According to the World Health Organization, more than a billion young people are at risk of hearing loss because of personal audio devices and damaging levels of sound at some entertainment venues, where noise levels can top 120 decibels for hours on end! Doctors warn that a steady onslaught of loud noise, particularly through earbuds, is damaging the hearing ability of a generation.

Climb On!

George Mallory was an English mountaineer who was last seen heading toward the summit of Mount Everest in June 1924. It’s possible he actually reached its peak but succumbed to the weather on the way down. We’ll never know what happened, for the details passed with the great explorer. Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Everest. His answer was simply, “Because it’s there!” This may make no sense to most people, but to a mountaineer it is perfectly logical. Climbing the mountain is something to strive toward that’s an end in itself. The impressive peak is all the fuel Mallory and countless other mountaineers have ever needed.

> health

Real Rest

During the long, harsh Alaskan winter, Denali National Park rangers rely on teams of sled dogs to help them patrol the vast, snowy wilderness. Dogsled patrols can last up to 6 weeks, and the dogs are always raring to go.

sweet sleep

Recent research concluded that Americans are among the world’s worst when it comes to sleep deprivation. The published statistics reveal: The US (along with France and Taiwan) ranks among the top three most sleep-deprived nations in the world. Indians (54 percent), Americans (49 percent), and Singaporeans (43 percent) reported not getting enough rest due to being too worried or stressed out. Most sleep-deprived Americans (66 percent), however, can’t sleep because they’re anxious about finances and paying their bills.

Your Body

I like to write out my thoughts before I type them. But when I use an old pen that rolls roughly across the paper, my thoughts thump along in fits and starts. When I can’t squeeze the ink out, I can’t squeeze the words out, and I quickly toss the pen aside for a better one. A free-flowing pen opens my mind, and the words often come pouring out as fast as I can write them.

> relationships

Distance

Reasons? He has many. As he passes several churches during his drive to the park for his Sunday run, he enjoys his solitude. In fact, he reflects on how he can connect with God just as easily—if not more so—on his own. But deep layers of pain, a multitude of rehearsed excuses, and complicated explanations mask a simple reality: Church has not been a safe place for him.

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

You’re Called

Martin Luther challenged the medieval idea that only priests, monks, and nuns possessed a divine call. He said that just as people are made right with God by salvation in Jesus, they’re also called to serve Him in whatever jobs they do. In this way “the entire world [will] be full of service to God, not only the churches but also the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop, and the field of townsfolk and farmers.”