Last week I wrote about the word “repent” and how it it is about returning to Shalom or harmony with God – if you missed it, you can read the archive on our website. Moving towards harmony however, is more than wanting to, it is good to be reminded how to. Putting our lives in harmony with God’s will and desires is not easy and is a process – it happens continually over time. This is a part of Spiritual Formation: “the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” (from M. Robert Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey) Being in harmony with God has a purpose: for us to be transformed to be more like Christ. Which leads to two questions: How can we know God’s will? And what is our role in moving towards harmony? All I can write about is how God has worked in me – I am by no means living a life of perfect harmony with God, but my life has been transformed significantly from where I was ten years ago and I feel in much deeper peace with Him now that I was then. I’m not trying to be “preachy” so apologies if it comes off that way, I am simply sharing experiences. Here is a list of ways through which I have experienced transformation:
Pray and Study Scripture: Did you really think I was going to start anywhere else? The single biggest change in my life (yes, bigger than my wife and kids) came eight years ago and it started with prayer. It’s a long story so here is the nutshell: I was in a not-so-good place. I was going to church, I was involved in ministry and small groups, and I was a pretty good guy. But I was also on a path looking for my own desires and seeking my own way. I was in a rut, and I knew that my life was stuck and I remember having one of those cry-it-out-to-God prayers where I asked God for motivation to get my life moving again. In reality I was just asking for strength to make a few minor changes. Of course, that is not what the answer to my prayer was. The following Sunday, God gave me a purpose to my life through a pretty intense call to serve Him. Within a few months I was going back to school after 15 years, had quit my job for something which gave me more time to study, and had cut free from a few unhealthy relationships. It was then that I started to read Scripture with “new eyes” and it made sense to me in new ways entirely. I look back and see my path towards Shalom with God started with a really tough prayer.
Get Out There and Do It: Phillip Yancey said “I do not get to know God more deeply and then do His will, I get to know Him more deeply by doing His will.” I don’t think it is a mystery to anyone some of the things God clearly calls us to do. If you aren’t sure, listen to Pastor Sam Earp’s message from Sunday. Don’t start with trying to fix your own sins, don’t focus on other people’s sin. Start by answering the challenge “where is the church?” Start by being a neighbor to people who need one. Something amazing happens when you experience God’s love through others. When you can go from knowing about God’s love to experiencing it, something clicks in your head. For me, it clicked after my first missions trip. After my second trip it clicked for me that missions is not a destination but a mindset.
Practice the Disciplines: I think a lot of people feel disciplines aren’t necessary in “modern Christianity” or that they are more for “baby Christians” and don’t apply to them. I disagree. Dallas Willard likens disciplines to an athlete practicing their craft. The goal of practice for an athlete is to increase physical strength and build muscle memory so when the time comes for the game, they don’t have to think – it is automatic. The same is true for Spiritual practices. Practice disciplines but don’t just do it because someone said so. Fasting without knowing why only makes you hungry. Research how to practice them,and what they are for. Probably two of the best resources out there are The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Sure, they may not be the most exciting books out there but they will change how you practice disciplines. At the very least, google “spiritual disciplines” to see what others think about it.
Hear it and Share it: Call it discipleship or spiritual mentorship, it is something I encourage all of you to do: find someone who has more experience than you in the Christian walk and meet with them, one on one, on a regular basis to pray together, share life experiences, discuss Scripture, and work on how to live out the Scripture with your lives. Then turn around and do the same with someone who is less experienced than you. I can’t even begin to tell you how huge this has been for me. #1 – you are forced to not just talk about it and study it but to actually live it out. #2 – you get to know each other and grow over time which means discussions, advice, and accountability are more personal.
Is this an all-encompassing list? Not by any means. Life Groups have been huge for me, so has praying for others and being prayed for. Fully engaging with the church instead of just attending. Sharing the Good News with non-followers. Sharing the Good News with followers. If you aren’t already, get out there and experience it. If you already have experienced it, share it with others so they can learn from your triumphs and defeats; and celebrate both with you. This is my prayer for all of us this week: that we can experience God continually, both through Scripture and through life, and in that experience know Him and His will better.
trying to follow, not just believe,
P.S. One last prayer request. As many of you know, my family will be a part of a team heading out to Paraguay in less than two weeks. One of the team members, Desire, is still waiting to hear back from the Paraguayan embassy and have his visa approved. They have taken almost four weeks now and we still do not know if he can go with us yet. Please keep Desire and his visa in your prayers; we need him and his experience on our team but are running out of time to purchase the ticket with less than two weeks left. Thank you.
photo by: GollyGforce