The Spirit is forming your heart so that He can transform your way of living. The inner work is the root of the outer work. Fruit is evidence of the root. Christians can never settle for appearances. It can never be doing what we do to be seen of men. It is always doing what we do for the glory of the Father who has and is transforming us.
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NASB)
Father, this is your day on loan to me, and I want to be used by you for spiritual impact. I submit myself, my plans, my activities, and my interactions with others to you. I thank you that I have been baptized and sealed by your Spirit. I thank you that your Spirit dwells in me. Now I ask that your Spirit control every aspect of my life. Take control of my tongue, that my words will reflect your love and grace. Take control of my emotions that I may respond obediently and calmly. Take control of my thoughts, that my mind may be quickly cleansed of those things that will not honor you and be full of the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and praiseworthy. Control my actions in such a way that others will see my deeds and know that they have been influenced by you. Give me the strength to live this day in a way that pleases you. I submit myself to your control. In Christ’s name. Amen
(edited for space)
Richard Foster says it best: “Superficiality is the curse of our age.” I believe he’s right. We’re a megabyte, skim the surface, only the highlights, please culture. If you can’t condense it to 140 characters, we have no time for you.
So, what’s the problem with that? Well, look around. For starters, anxiety, depression and suicide rates are through the roof. We’re starving for wisdom and discernment, to the point that we can no longer differentiate between real news and fake news.
We need to flip the script, and I believe we can. We don’t have to allow speed and productivity to enslave us. I believe God created us for depth. Superficiality is, therefore, a spiritual problem. One that deserves a spiritual answer.
In God’s economy, character trumps reputation, integrity supersedes information, and who you are inside matters much more than who others say you are.
I want to propose several practices to push back against superficiality. You can call them disciplines or habits. Whatever cranks your car. You will notice several mainstay practices (Bible reading, prayer, worship, etc.) are missing. I’m not asking you to abandon those. My goal, however, is to specifically introduce you to practices that develop deep roots.
1. The Practice of Starting With “Yes”
For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory. (2 Cor. 1:20)
For some strange reason, we find our identity more from what we’re against than what we’re for. To start with “yes” is to start with love and acceptance. Rather than categorizing our neighbor as gay, black, white, Muslim, Republican or weird, we see them first as God’s image bearers.
This doesn’t eliminate “no.” God knows a timely “no” can be liberating. But we don’t start there. We start with yes.
Superficiality doesn’t look inside. There’s simply no time. So, we quickly attach labels and stereotype rather than seeing people the way God sees them. To start with “yes” requires slowing down and seeing the image of God. When we start with “yes,” we reflect God’s character. Let’s not forget that love is, first and foremost, patient.
2. The Practice of Living With Purpose
“If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step towards pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business.” —Steven Pressfield
Meaning is food for the soul. Without it, you can’t live. You can still breathe, of course, but you will be spiritually dead. Hope gives way to cynicism, love dies and fear fills the void.
Without meaning and purpose, hope and love give way to fear and cynicism. When you find something that ignites your soul, makes the world a better place, connects you with other people and most importantly with God, there’s really no place for stuff like addiction and binge-watching Netflix. Something awakens in you. Life makes sense, and love runs wild. You care more about people, and your intentions take precedent over your actions.
Meaning requires stick-to-it-ness and persistence. Living for something larger than you will inevitably bring disappointment, but it also inevitably brings patience and empathy.
3. The Practice of Contemplation/Meditation
“What happens in meditation is that we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct an inner sanctuary in the heart”. —Richard Foster
I know. Contemplation sounds too Buddhist and meditation sounds too hipster. I would call this discipline “prayer,” but for most Christians, prayer is more a few minutes in the lap of some Divine Santa than a transformative discipline.
Contemplation is the practice of being still, disconnecting from everything to be with ourselves and God. Contemplation clears the mind and heart, creating space for God stuff like love, grace and peace.
Contemplation is a lost practice in Western culture because it doesn’t feel productive. Don’t believe me? Go ahead, tell your boss you need a 30-minute contemplation break every day and see what happens. Two words: Pink. Slip.
But contemplation is more than productive—it’s transformative. Recent studies link stillness and meditation with increases in empathy and emotional intelligence, as well as decreases in stress, depression, anxiety and even inflammation.
Most importantly, stillness allows God to come in to your life. If I could force you to implement one of these practices, I would pick this one.
4. The Practice of Accepting Suffering and Pain
”There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” —Louis L’ Amour
Let’s be honest, for most of us (myself included) life is a glorified soap opera. I’ve never personally watched one, but considering the same shows feature the same actors for decades, I get the general idea. In soap operas, there’s a lot of drama and cat fighting. People marry and divorce. A girl sleeps with her best friend’s man. Then, they marry, and the guy mysteriously dies. There’s a lot of action. But nothing really happens.
Suffering, for a reason I can’t explain, comes to us like a cold bucket of water in a deep sleep. It wakes us from our slumber, life’s hamster wheel, and reorients our priorities.
Suffering will make a theologian out of anyone. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know what I mean.
Suffering is inevitable. So, why is it a spiritual discipline? Because a culture predicated on speed would much rather avoid suffering than learn from it. We would much rather deny, numb or medicate pain than grow from it.
The practice of suffering means you learn from pain rather than run from it. The practice of accepting suffering means you give pain, discomfort and their subsequent emotions your full attention. When hard times come, you don’t run or medicate. You cry, mourn and grieve, but most of all, you trust. You don’t lose hope, and you learn from pain. You have faith that something better is waiting on the other side.
by Sheri Tesar
There are a number of reasons that I have not posted a blog entry in over a month. I have actually begun (but subsequently abandoned) quite a few possible posts. But I think this is where I’m going for today ….
I have always liked animated Disney movies, and Cinderella is one that I have especially enjoyed for some reason. Maybe it is partially because I had Disney’s Cinderella on one of those late 1960s era 45 RPM records that came with the little book. You may recall the ones that would say “Ding — turn the page.” I remember mine had a scratch on it near the end of the story: “That was all the Duke needed — That was all the Duke needed — That was…”
Since falling and breaking my foot last Sunday, I have spent a great deal of time sitting and watching a variety of movies. Yesterday, I watched Cinderella again with my youngest daughter.
During the scene when Cinderella and the Prince were dancing at the ball, I paid attention to the song’s lyrics more than usual. In all fairness, the song was probably not written for deep contemplation; just for a fleeting scene in a movie. Even so, it made me wonder what we have been teaching children for decades. If you’ve watched Cinderella much, then you may remember the waltz written by Mack David, Jerry Livingston, and Al Hoffman, entitled “So This is Love.”
There really aren’t many lyrics.
So this is love, mmmm; so this is love
So this is love. Really? So what exactly is love? Is love being dressed up beyond recognition and dancing for a few hours with a man who doesn’t even know your name or anything about you? Is love going to a party and being the center attention when you’re accustomed to being used, abused, and unappreciated at home? Is love escaping everyday life with a handsome stranger?
This is infatuation, perhaps, but this is not love. THIS is love:
I don’t want to lay all of the blame for the sad state of marriage in our country at Walt Disney’s feet, but surely the “So This is Love”/”happily ever after” lies we have been buying for decades haven’t helped.
Of course, we should know better than to expect Disney to accurately teach our children what love is or to expect a children’s entertainment company to be able to say with certainty “This is Love.” We have already been told what love is by one who knows:
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11 NIV).
Or don’t forget:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:4-8a NIV).
What examples do you have that define “So This is Love”?
Looking for a place to worship? Looking for a place to serve others? Looking for your next step closer to God?
We’re a new Christian church in Erie and we’d love to get to know you. You are welcome to stop by any Sunday. You don’t have to dress up fancy; everyone is welcome.