This is a weighty question.
I gleaned this question from Eugene Peterson in a statement he makes in the introduction to his book Under the Unpredictable Plant.
Let’s break it down.
Spirituality is the ways we intentionally respond to God’s presence and activity in our lives. God always initiates. We always respond. When I take time to pray, I am not initiating relationship with God. I am responding to his presence and wooing in my life.
What is the state of your spiritual life? What are your regular practices? How are your responding to God’s pursuit of you?
Sufficient doesn’t mean good enough, rather more like robust enough.
I am learning that the further I get on this journey, the deeper he invites me into communion with him. And the deeper he invite me in, the less my past spirituality suffices.
Vocation does not merely mean one’s job or career. Our English word “vocation” comes from the Latin vocare. I am no Latin guru but my understanding of the word is more akin to “calling.” Our vocation encompasses all of our lives.
For example, here is my vocation: I am an adopted son of the Triune God, a husband, a father, a friend, a shepherd-teacher – and I hold various roles along the way.
As I mature in my true identity, my life responses will dynamically mature as well. Well, neither of those elements – my identity nor my responses – automatically mature. That is why this question deserves some lengthy pondering. Otherwise we age without maturing. We can become older and NOT wiser.
Thus, is how I am responding to God’s invitations into deeper communion with him sufficient to that invitation as it is lived out in the breadth and depth of who he has created and is redeeming me to be?
Is your spirituality sufficient for your vocation?
How would you like to reflect upon that?
How is God inviting you to experiment with some new responses to him in life?
Remember, part of our response to God is sacrificial service to others. This is also a key aspect of our response to God, of becoming matured.
Is your spirituality sufficient for your vocation?
I’d love to hear what God is showing you in this stage of your life.
Sarita Hartz has a sharp mind and heart and has seen some of the tough side of life in the Kingdom. She graciously approached me about an interview related to my book. Her questions are thoughtful, provoking, and laced with experience of her own hard-earned hurts serving others.
Please check out the interview and her stellar blog.
Every year I send out an annotated list of some of the books I read. Attached is my annual reads list from 2017. In case you missed last year’s, I have added 2016’s as well.
I am always on the hunt for good books – please do share.
We are in a war. And the main enemy is within.
Let me clarify, because this is not a trendy idea.
The Word is clear. We have three enemies which stand against us in our relationship with God. Each is to receive an appropriate response.
We are to resist the devil (James 4:7; Ephesians 6:10).
We are to resist the world and its seductive influences (See Galatians 6:4; 1 John 2:15-17;
But the flesh, that requires a different response. We are clearly instructed to mortify our flesh. Yes, mortify – as in the really dead kind of dead.
The spiritual forces around us get a great deal of air time. 90:1 I hear people lay their life problems at the feet of the enemy and not their own choices. How many times do we hear ourselves pray publicly (or privately) against the forces of darkness vs. the number of times we pray for the Spirit to deliver us from our own turned-in-on-oursleves desires?
Yes, I believe in a literal Satan and his legions. I honor the authority of the Word of God on the topic. I don’t require logical, cognitive understanding to accept truth. Mystery abounds. Besides, I have seen and heard and felt realities in dark places of this world.
However, of our three enemies – the flesh, the world, and the spiritual forces of darkness – we are told to pursue elimination of only one of them. Paul says that by the Spirit we are to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:9-13). Sobering. But that is the point.
Essential is vigilance about what desires are surfacing in us and what is driving those desires. We tread thin ice here. Too easily are we duped by our own selves.
Persistent Pursuit of Renewal
Throughout the New Testament Epistles we are exhorted to pursue renewal.
Research has shown that one of the key markers of those who finish well is regular seasons of spiritual renewal.
Finishing well is here defined as living one’s life to its end faithfully walking with God and doing what he has show one to do. Such a journey is primarily a relational one, not a knowledge- or skill-based one. Yes, we need knowledge (e.g. Word, doctrine, Theology, history, self-awareness, etc.) and skill (how to do certain spiritual practices, relational skills, professional skills, etc.), but all of this is sourced in relationship. The Trinity is the basis of all reality.
Thus we seek constant renewal. We are in a war. The enemy never stops. There is no half-time or or vacation or sabbatical from the war within. We are utterly, continually dependent on God in this war. He is not lobbing rations from the back line up to the trenches where we live and die. No, he is in the trenches with us. Jesus lived and died in this very trench. He invites us to draw near.
Statistically, Odds are You Won’t Finish Well
Dr. Bobby Clinton’s research has shown that 2/3 of leaders do not finish well. The majority of us will fail at finishing well. What are you doing to be part of the minority? Statistically, the odds are against each of us.
Deliberate, budgeted, scheduled seasons of renewal are in order. These practices happen daily, weekly, monthly annually and seasonally. That sounds like massive investment, maybe a tad self-absorbed, so let’s break this down.
Ways of Renewal – Are your life/spiritual practices sufficient for your life-ministry responsibilities?*
Daily – Word, Prayer, exercise, core relationships, rest, diet, and, yes, sacrificial work
Weekly – Sabbath, day of to play, and rest. Do not be accessible via tech all the time.
Monthly – a day of prayer and solitude, time with community, hobbies
Yearly – Vacation, times to reflect, pray, plan, extended retreat, intake events (where you receive not give as the main purpose of the event – such as a conference or guided retreat).
Seasonally – Sabbatical, further training, extended retreats…
There is much to reflect on here. If you are too busy to live into these let alone to reflect upon them, well you are just playing into the enemy’s hand.
The principle is this: We are in a war and renewal through deeper communion with God and others is key to finishing the fight well.
What facilitates your renewal? Please comment and share.
* Eugene Peterson first put me onto this question in his book Under the Unpredictable Plant.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.
We sure do forget easily. As an attempt at anti-forgetfulness, I will pray Psalm 143:8:
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life (NIV).”
We need to be reminded every single morning of God’s love. We too easily lose track of this one central reality that orients all our other life circumstances.
Peter Taught Me This Shepherd’s Role
In 2 Peter 1:12-15 Peter states three times that he will constantly remind the sheep he cares for of central truths:
“12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things (NIV).”
Refreshing the memory of believers of Gospel truths was a central feature of Peter’s ministry. It helped orient their perspective in complex, fluid times. We need that orientation too.
A New Testament Theme
A quick survey of the New Testament reveals that many of the writers took this reminding role seriously.
Paul wrote the book of Romans to remind the believers there of core tenets of their faith (15:15).
Paul sent Timothy to Corinth to remind them of his ways in Christ (1 Corinthians 4:17).
In 1 Corinthians 15:1 Paul writes, “I remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… (ESV).”
To his young proteges Timothy (2 Timothy 1:6, 2:14) and Titus (Titus 3:1) Paul wrote to remind them of their calling and that in their role as leaders they were to remind the churches they cared for of how to conduct themselves.
Fiery Jude wrote to remind his readers of the prophecies of Jesus concerning the last times (1:17).
The church in Sardis is reminded through John of what they have received from Jesus in Revelations 3:3.
In Hebrews 10:32 the readers are reminded of earlier days in their faith journey when they endured hardships to encourage them as they face a new round of trials.
Hebrews 13:3 reminds us to not forget those imprisoned for the name of Jesus.
Hebrews 13:7 tells us to remember the modeling of faith we have received from our spiritual leaders – Jesus being supreme in that category.
Shepherd’s are Refreshers of Minds
This quick, incomplete survey, shows that shepherds keep reminding others of central spiritual truths. We are easily distracted so we need others to point us back to our essential focus.
Sadly, we will get bored communicating the same truths over and over again long before others have adequalty appropriated them. We are too often on the lookout for new and dazzling messages. But we all need to keep hearing the gospel – what God has done and is doing and will do on our behalf and his new-every-moment invitation to receive him.
Keep reminding yourself and others every where you go of the Father’s love which he has clearly displayed in his Son (Romans 5:8) and constantly spreads abroad within us by the Spirit (Romans 5:5). In so doing, like Peter did, you will help to firmly establish others in the truth.
How has God been reminding you of his love of of late? Who has he used to refresh your mind of his love?