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Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual Growth’

 

Our older son and his family enjoy a large magnolia tree in their backyard. Every spring it explodes into a breath-taking mass of pink and white blossoms, each one at least six inches across.

Unfortunately the dazzling display doesn’t last long. The petals soon fall to the ground, and thick, dark leaves begin to take their place. But when summertime heat arrives the family is grateful for the cool shade of that dense foliage.

 

 

In autumn, as the leaves take their turn to fall, the flower buds for the next spring become more visible. Compared to those on other flowering trees or plants, these are already about two inches tall—even in October. To form them, magnolias take full advantage of the sun’s energy during the summer months (1).

 

 

All winter long, those buds proclaim silent promise of the divine flowers to come. And then in March or April, as the days have lengthened and warmed, the furry buds begin to split open, offering a glimpse of their tightly-spiraled petals—a precursor of the stunning transformation just days away.

 

 

Were we to celebrate the magnolia tree for those few days she’s dressed in her chiffon-pink finery, we’d miss out on the joy of her shady embrace in summer and those hope-filled buds through fall and winter.

There is beauty in the becoming—whether it’s magnolia trees or people.

 

 

If those magnificent buds were capable of emotion, they would no doubt look forward to the glorious reveal in spring. Thankfully, we humans can anticipate our desires being fulfilled. And as God’s children, one of those desires is spiritual maturity–the day when we’ll be wise and self-sacrificing, calm and patient, peaceful and contented–to name a few traits we aspire to.

 

 

But if we’re always focused on the future, we’ll miss the wonder of what God is doing now. The question becomes, what can we celebrate as God carries out his beautification process within us? Here are two categories of possibilities to get us started.

1. Celebrate the moments when the fruit of the Spirit are on display.

For example, over the last few days can you think of occasions when you:

  • Spoke kind words or affirmation to others?
  • Shared the gift of smiles and perhaps laughter?
  • Held your tongue when tempted to argue?

Then you brought a bit of love, joy, and peace to others. Hurray for you!

 

 

2. Take note of the times when biblical truths guide your actions.

Again, review the last few days for such examples as these:

  • You found your mind wandering into negativity, then made an about-face when you remembered your goal to focus on everything excellent (Philippians 4:8).
  • You apologized for speaking harshly to someone, instead of pretending the offensive tone didn’t matter (Ephesians 4:2).

 

 

  • A stunning feature of creation grabbed your attention, and your first thought was to worship God for his incredible handiwork (Psalm 92:4).
  • The moment you recognized God’s protection, provision, or blessing, gratitude welled up in your spirit (Psalm 126:3).

 

Celebrate the growth of a renewed mind, humility, praise, and gratitude. You’ll be reinforcing the behaviors that contribute to your beautiful becoming.

 

 

“Growth, though silent as light

is one of the practical proofs of health.”

–Charles Swindoll (2)

 

Note Swindoll says growth is a proof of health—not perfection.

And when we honor God as the impetus behind the progress, we enliven our faith for the next steps of beautification he has in mind.

 

 

“Little by little

as God’s sanctifying grace works in us,

more territory of our lives becomes his.”

–Herbert Lockyer (3)

 

Right now we’re enduring the long winter of our development, but spring will come.

 

 

“He who began a good work in you

will carry it on to completion

until the day of Christ Jesus.”

–Philippians 1:6 NIV

(emphasis added)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise You, Almighty God, that as we grow in trust and surrender to you, we will become more like your Son, Jesus Christ. Day by day you are engineering experiences to that end. Thank you also we can enjoy the anticipation of that glorious day, when the beauty of becoming will finally be complete.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/home-and-garden/ct-sun-0226-garden-morton-20170221-story.html
  2. The Quest for Character, Multnomah Press,  1987, p. 172.
  3. Seasons of the Lord, Harper & Row, 1990, p. 351.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxfuel.com (2); http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.pikrepo.com; http://www.pixfuel.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixy.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pikist.com.

 

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(Steve and I are enjoying time with family this week.  I’ll return soon with  new posts.  Meanwhile, I’ll reblog previous ones.  Hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.  The following post was first published September 13, 2013.)

Women's Bible Study

“I know we have to persevere and not give up on what we sense God wants us to do,” Melissa shared at Bible study.  “And from the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and others in the Bible, I know God rarely smooths out  the path perfectly.  But what I want to know is how to proceed.  I’d like steps to follow!”

Heads nodded around the table, mine included.  Wouldn’t it be nice if God laid out for us to see ahead of time step one, step two, and so on toward his perfect plan?

That idea has been circulating in my brain for nearly a week now.  Here are some observations.

1. God values our growth in faith more than our comfort in a revealed plan.   

If it was best for us to know his plan in advance, then that’s what God would provide.  Instead, he allows our faith to be tested, in order to build our character.  That is important to him:

“The Lord detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Proverbs 11:20).

2.  God values the process of spiritual growth, not just the final outcome of a purpose fulfilled.

Times of challenge give us opportunity to develop maturity more readily than times of ease.  What might that development include?

  • Self-discipline–when we tackle difficult tasks.  Granted, the Holy Spirit empowers us (Galatians 5:22-23), but we must give ourselves over to him.  How?  Through frequent prayer, offered throughout the day, consistently asking for his guidance and help.
  • Self-denial–by doing without.  However, the attentive person will soon discover much to celebrate that may have been missed otherwise:  the stunning display of God’s creation, the joy of love and laughter with family and friends, the peace and strength from frequent communion with God.  Suddenly, gratitude flourishes in the heart, and what has been given up doesn’t seem so important anymore.
  • The full meaning of love–when given opportunity to respond in kind ways to difficult people.

None of these valuable traits of discipline, selflessness, and love would fully develop without lessons of experience.

3.  God values the development of our prayer lives–not for his benefit, but for ours.

Jean Nicolas Grou, a Jesuit priest of the 1700s, described healthy prayer as humble, reverent, loving, confident, and persevering.  As we practice those traits in our prayer lives, surely they will overflow into our character, in our actions and reactions.

Patient pursuit, then, is best applied to God’s ways, and then to God’s plan.

(photo credit:  http://www.st-tims-church.org )

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DSC05030b

When Steve and I moved from South Florida to north of Tampa, we were delighted to see the abundance of live oak trees. Each one reaches wide with graceful, curving branches that outline intriguing free-form shapes.

Live oaks can grow to be eighty feet tall and just as broad over a life-span of hundreds of years.  The key to their longevity is their root system, which reaches down into the soil about four feet, and extends laterally to ninety feet. Such depth and width offers strong support for the tree.

Of course, roots also provide water and nutrients. A mature oak can take in more than fifty gallons of water per day, much of which evaporates and keeps the tree cool.

Such facts give me greater understanding and appreciation for Jeremiah 17:7-8.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.”

Doesn’t that sound satisfying and peaceful? Yet too often I’ve been more like a tumbleweed in the desert—dry, flitting here and there, and anything but peaceful.

Tumbleweed

How do I turn my tumbleweed self into a mature, flourishing tree?

The secret is in the roots. Oak tree roots grow wide and deep; tumbleweeds have none.

I have to send out my roots into the soil of God’s Word. That’s where the nutrients of strength, wisdom, and encouragement will come from. The deeper and wider my knowledge, the more empowered I’ll be to withstand the buffeting challenges of life.

The soil also represents God’s love (Ephesians 3:17-18). I must learn about my loving Heavenly Father and spend time with him in order to know him. As intimacy develops, trust grows.

And when roots grow deep into God’s Word and his love, when we practice his presence, we can remain strong when life turns up the heat…

  • When our kids make foolish choices
  • When the boss’s high expectations ratchet up a few more notches
  • When the paycheck will not stretch another penny
  • When a disagreement becomes an impasse
  • When a decision must be made and the pros and cons swim endlessly in our heads

We express our trust by affirming what we know about God. And we affirm our confidence in him by reviewing his promises–not once a day in a quick morning prayer, but moment by moment.

Roots are continually absorbing water and nutrients. We must do the same by praising and thanking God all day long. Even our concerns can be expressed with praise and gratitude:

“Father, I lift up _______ to you as he looks for another job. We are trusting you to provide, knowing that those who seek you lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10). Our hope is in you because no one who hopes in you is put to shame (25:3). I thank you that he is looking to you, God, and seeking your path. You are a good and upright God; you will instruct ______ in the way you have chosen for him (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Hallelujah!”

As our roots grow deep, our spirits can reach high and strong like live oak branches — in adoration and praise for our trustworthy God.

I am DONE with tumbleweed living!  How about you?

(Photo credits:  www.nativetreesociety.org; http://www.sonoragardensinc.com)

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Women's Bible Study

“I know we have to persevere and not give up on what we sense God wants us to do,”  S. shared at Bible study.  “And from the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and others in the Bible, I know God rarely smooths the path perfectly and makes every door open without me even turning the knob.  But what I want to know is how to proceed.  I’d like steps to follow!”

Heads nodded around the table, mine included.  Wouldn’t it be nice if God laid out step one, step two, and so on toward his perfect plan?

That idea has been circulating in my brain for nearly a week now.  Here are some observations.

1. God values our growth in faith more than our comfort in a predetermined plan.   

If it was best for us to know his plan in advance, then that’s what God would provide.  Instead, he allows our faith to be tested, in order to build our character.  That is important to him:

“The Lord detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Proverbs 11:20).

2.  God values the process of spiritual growth, not just the final outcome of a purpose fulfilled.

Times of challenge give us opportunity to develop maturity  more readily than times of ease.  What might that development include?

  • Self-discipline–when we tackle difficult tasks.  Granted, the Holy Spirit empowers us (Galatians 5:22-23), but we must give ourselves over to him.  How?  Through frequent prayer, offered throughout the day, consistently asking for his guidance and help.
  • Self-denial–by doing without.  However, the attentive person will soon discover much to celebrate that may have been missed otherwise:  the stunning display of God’s creation, the joy of love and laughter with family and friends, the peace and strength from frequent communion with God.  Suddenly, gratitude flourishes in the heart, and what has been given up doesn’t seem so important anymore.
  • The full meaning of love–when given opportunity to respond in kind ways to difficult people.

None of these valuable traits of discipline, selflessness, and love would fully develop without lessons of experience.

3.  God values the development of our prayer lives–not for his benefit, but for ours.

Jean Nicolas Grou, a Jesuit priest of the 1700s, described healthy prayer as humble, reverent, loving, confident, and persevering.  As we practice those traits in our prayer lives, surely they will overflow into our character, in our actions and reactions.

Patient pursuit, then, is best applied to God’s ways, and then to God’s plan.

(photo credit:  http://www.st-tims-church.org )

 

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