Lazy Christianity

wake_upContinued from here.

The reason that so many Christians are living in defeat is that they are spiritually lazy. Priscilla Shirer says that God does not place His blessings directly into our hands. Instead, He puts them in our reach. We must reach – stretch ourselves – to grab hold of them. Thus, numerous Christians are living in day-to-day defeat because they are unwilling to stretch themselves and develop the muscles needed to reach the blessings. How God’s heart must break to see our deliverance hanging overhead but never grasped because we refuse to engage in spiritual disciplines and awaken long enough to see the deliverance that is within our reach.

The enemy is happy to continue playing soft lullabies to lull us into a state of spiritual sleep. As long as we are asleep to the realities of the spiritual world, he need not fear God’s children. A sword left in its sheath does not provide protection.

So, stop being a lazy Christian and WAKE UP! God did not place you where you are to take a long nap. He placed you there to accomplish a Kingdom purpose, and you need to WAKE UP to do it! Wake yourself up by DOING WHAT GOD TELLS YOU TO DO.

In which area of your life are you struggling the most? What does the Bible say to do about it? Then DO IT!! Is your heart broken in two? God says to pray for the person you broke your heart and forgive him or her. As you do this, you’ll receive the healing you seek. Is your bank account empty? God says to tithe, and he will open the floodgates of heaven into your life.

The Bible is a weapon – a sword! – that empowers you to break free from all that ensnares you, but your sword isn’t going to do you any good while it’s sheathed. Pull it out. Meditate on God’s Word. Do what the Bible tells you to do, and WAKE UP!!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace playing a drum and yelling, “Wake up!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Clarity of Spiritual Awakening

exerciseContinued from here.

As long as we are interacting with the world using our physical senses, we are never going to act and react in a Christlike manner. We need to see our circumstances through a spiritual lens, and that is only going to happen if you are developing your spiritual muscles. This happens by engaging in spiritual disciplines, such as the seven fundamental practices. Following God requires discipline. As long as you live your life based upon what you feel, you will never be spiritually victorious because our feelings flow out of our thoughts. When our thoughts are aligned with God through engaging in spiritual disciplines, positive feelings flow out. Otherwise, our feelings are going to reflect the state of a mind that is not in alignment with God, resulting in negative feelings. Reacting to those negative feelings kicks off a downward spiral that can be challenging to stop.

You are not going to develop spiritual muscles by accident. Because we live in a fallen world and inhabit bodies controlled by our sinful nature, we have only two options: (1) engage in spiritual disciplines to align our thinking and behavior with God; or (2) choose not to engage in spiritual disciplines and allow our thinking and behavior to align with our sinful nature.

Think about the body of a disciplined athlete and contrast it with the body of a couch potato. The couch potato may wish and pray for an athlete’s physique, but he’s never going to get it by lounging on a couch. If he wants the toned body of an athlete, then he must discipline himself to do what an athlete does. An athlete also finds the temptation of lounging around on a couch appealing. However, he has decided that pushing through that desire and disciplining himself to build his muscles is worth the sacrifice.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running on a treadmill. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Building Spiritual Muscles

barbellContinued from here.

The way to develop strong muscles is to first break them down. When I do bicep curls, I am breaking down the muscle in my biceps, and this process causes short-term physical discomfort. If I push myself particularly hard, I might feel soreness for a couple of days. As my bicep muscles build themselves back up, they grow back stronger than when they were broken down because they know more strength is needed to withstand the pressure that was previously placed upon them.

The same concept applies spiritually, assuming I chose to view the circumstances in my physical life as a spiritual workout. Using the example of developing patience, each time someone does something annoying, I have a choice – I can react using my physical nature by fighting back, or I can choose a spiritual reaction of meekness: bridling my kneejerk reaction and choosing to extend grace rather than anger.

My teenage son recently did something that annoyed me while driving (he has his learner’s permit), and I was tired, so my initial reaction flowed out of the physical realm. I saw the potential danger, particularly while he was behind the wheel, and did not react in a patient or kind way. He reacted to my physical response, and things could have spiraled out of control quickly. Thankfully, I have been exercising my muscles for patience for a long time, so I was able to rein in my reaction and not do the dance of one-upping each other in our anger. Instead, I was able to de-escalate the situation so that we were soon laughing and no longer angry. I even humbled myself to apologize for my crankiness and got a very rare hug from my son!

I would not have been able to react this way (particularly when tired) had I not been exercising the spiritual muscle of patience. In the moment, I needed to see a bigger picture. The conflict with my son really wasn’t about the words we were using. Spiritual unity is more important than “being right” and is a much more effective tool in redirecting behavior than seeking to dominate someone else using physical words.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lifting a barbell. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritually Asleep

sleepContinued from here.

I spent decades of my life as a sleeping walking Christian. I went through the motions of Christianity – said my nightly prayers, read my Bible, went to church and Bible study, etc. However, I lived my life based on what I could see. I was asleep to the spiritual realities that affected the physical world around me.

For example, if I had a conflict with someone, I only saw the physical aspects of it. I saw my way as “right” and the other person’s way as “wrong.” I had physical tools I could use to attempt to manipulate the person or situation into bending to my will. I was asleep to the reality that personal conflict is a physical manifestation of a deeper spiritual issue.

One possible spiritual cause of conflict in a relationship is spiritual attack. For example, let’s say I prayed for God to help me develop more patience. Suddenly, I find cranky people all around me who seem to believe I am the best receptacle for their emotional discomfort. While a person is speaking words that cause a rise of frustration in me, the actual cause of the person speaking those words is taking place in the spiritual realm. The enemy sees that I am seeking to transform into Christ’s image in this area, so he stirs the pot, pulling strings to get people around me to find me annoying and behave negatively toward me.

Meanwhile, God knows that the only way for His child to develop patience is to be placed into situations requiring it. So, he stands back and permits the enemy to stir the pot, giving the child the opportunity to develop this truth. I firmly believe that the reason God allows spiritual attack into our lives is so we can only find relief through transforming into Christ’s image. He allows the discomfort to help shape us into who we need to be. As we make the transformation, the physical world loses its power, and we are able to walk victoriously in situations that once challenged us.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sleeping on the letters “ZZZZZ.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritual Awakening

Priscilla Shirer has written a 90-day devotional entitled Awaken: 90 Days with the God who Speaks, which includes spiritual reflections that come to her as she goes about her day-to-day life. The title “Awaken” is appropriate for these reflections because each time something in the physical world teaches us something about our spiritual journey, we are gradually awakening to the truth of God.

The Bible uses the term “sleep” for someone who is lulled into believing that the physical world is all there is. By contrast, those who are “awake” view the physical world through the lens of the spiritual:

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
‘Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’ ~ Eph. 5:13-14

So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. ~ 1 Thes. 5:6-10

The theme of being “awake” versus “asleep” is woven into scripture, and it’s not talking about physical sleep. Thus, you and I might be sleepwalking through our lives, lulled into believing that what we can see and touch is all there is. What does it mean to be awake versus asleep spiritually? That’s the focus of the blog this week.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Awaken: 90 Days with the God who Speaks. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Being Mindful that We Each Have Our Own Challenges

workin_itContinued from here.

People who compare themselves with me will sometimes envy the blessings they see that God has given me without noticing the costs I have paid. For example, one of my greatest blessings is that I do not stay angry with people and have the ability to extend grace, even as I am being hurt. This keeps me joyful even when enduring unfair circumstances – not that I do this perfectly, but my rebound period is fairly quick because I immediately go to God in prayer for those who hurt me. I learned to do this at great cost – I suffered for decades as deeply-ingrained bitterness sucked the life out me and made me a miserable person who cried and complained A LOT. Today, I am quick to forgive because I lived in heavy bondage for most of my life, and I refuse to go back. People seem to assume praying for my enemies and extending grace is easy for me, but it’s not – it’s a discipline I paid a heavy price to learn.

Another example is people envying my ability to sense God’s leading in specific areas of my life. This is something else I have developed over the years after investing much time in seeking God with my whole heart. For me, this involves prioritizing the first hour of my day in quiet time with God, even when I travel, am sick, have struggled with weeks of insomnia, etc. It also involves observing the Sabbath each week, meaning I must cram 7 days’ worth of work into 6 to make this happen, and it comes with a cost: I have little free time to do what I want to do because I’m working most of the 6 days and then spending my time honoring God on the 7th. I am frequently tempted to watch a secular movie on the Sabbath because I simply don’t have time to watch it during the week, but I don’t because I love God more.

When you are tempted to covet someone else’s relationship with God, pay attention to the costs that the other person is paying. Are you engaging in similar spiritual disciplines? Are you putting forth the effort required to get the results you would like to see in your own life? Take your focus off the other person and place it onto your relationship with God. Comparison robs you of joy. The key to joy is God, not having what someone else has.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running on a treadmill and lifting dumbbells over the words, “Workin’ It.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Comparing our Relationships with God

Continued from here.

In his book, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God Henry Blackaby, along with Richard Blackaby and Claude King, points out that each Christian’s relationship with God is unique. Thus, the way God speaks to me is going to differ from the way He speaks to you. He pointed out that there’s only one burning bush story, only one story of God talking through a donkey, only one wrestling with God story, etc. in the Bible. This is because each of us encounters God in a unique way as we each have a unique relationship with Him.

People sometimes say to me that they wish they had a relationship with God like I do. I always reply that He’s the same God and is just as available to them as He is to me. If people want to compare themselves with me, don’t compare the outcome – compare the spiritual disciplines with the intention of engaging in them as I do … not in HOW I do them but THAT I do them.

As an example, I set aside the first hour of each day for quiet time with God. A friend sets aside the last hour of her day for similar quiet time. She’s not a morning person, and she sleeps better by spending time with God at night. It’s like God “tucks her in” at the end of her day. There’s no need to compare my mornings with her evenings or even what we do during that quiet time. What matters is that we are both engaging in the spiritual discipline of prioritizing time with God.

If we must compare, let’s compare only enough to spur one another on to engage in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, prioritizing time with God, studying the Bible, giving, church attendance and service, praise & worship, and other practices that help us develop a deeper relationship with God. But let’s not compare HOW we do them. God may be calling me to study the Psalms while He is leading you to study Revelation. In both cases, we are engaging in the spiritual discipline of studying God’s Word, which is deepening our relationship with God. God doesn’t want us to be clones – His purposes and plans for you are not the same as His purposes and plans for me, but both are good.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Courtesy Amazon. ]