Spiritual food for your faith journey and encouragement for hard times.
Spiritual food for your faith journey and encouragement for hard times.
What we choose to swallow matters, as made mighty clear in this story from Craig Groeschel’s book Soul Detox: Clean Living in a Contaminated World. (Did you guess how this story ends?)
When it comes to anything we consume, a little bit of poison goes a long way…
Here’s the best illustration that I know of this timeless truth. A loving mother demonstrated this principle to her son, Cade. When his friends invited him over to watch a movie, one just released on DVD and rated PG-13, Cade begged his mom to let him see it. His mom asked him her usual questions, “Buddy, is it a good movie? One that won’t hurt your Christian walk?”
Knowing it had some less than appropriate scenes, Cade shuffled from one foot to the other and searched for the right words. Not wanting to lie to his mom, he tried to walk on the edge of the truth. “Well, it’s not as bad as a lot of movies,” he said enthusiastically. “And all my friends have seen it. There’s only a little bit of bad stuff in it.” He held his breath, awaiting his mom’s final verdict on his moviegoing fate.
Ann Voskamp explores the deep-rooted link among surprise, joy, and humility. [Excerpt from Selections from One Thousand Gifts: Finding Joy in What Really Matters.]
Perhaps there is no way to discover joy but as surprise…
The humble live surprised. The humble live by joy. The humble are the laid-low and bowed ones, the surprised ones with hands open to receive whatever He gives.
He hands them the earth. The earth. [Matthew 5:5]
But is it any wonder? That word humility itself comes from the Latin root humus — the kind of earth that grows good crops. God gives the earth to the humus-people, the humble ones. Humility is that good humus that grows gratitude that yields abundant joy.
Jesus gives us life — so, what do we do with it? John Ortberg reflects in this excerpt from The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” [John 10:10]. We may have heard that without understanding what Jesus offers. When he says he has come to “give life,” what exactly does he mean?
We all feel that we know what life is when we see it, but life turns out to be surprisingly tricky to define. So we might start here: Life is the inner power to make something happen.
Throw a rock, and it soon stops moving. But put a seed in the ground, and something happens — it sends out a root, takes in nourishment, and grows up to be fruitful. To be spiritually alive means to receive power from God to have a positive impact on your world.
Ann Voskamp shares a discovery from her spiritual practice of counting gifts. [Excerpt from Selections from One Thousand Gifts: Finding Joy in What Really Matters.]
I had read it often, the oft-quoted verse: “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). I would nod and say straight-faced, “I’m thankful for everything.”
But [in] counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things. A lifetime of sermons on “thanks in all things” and the shelves sagging with books on these things and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.
If you had to pick five words to describe the Christian life, would these make your list: wonder, whimsy, beauty, magic, adventure? These five elements are bursting at the seams of Joel N. Clark’s new book Awake: Discover the Power of YOUR Story.
I haven’t encountered a book like Awake before – I could call it a Christian adventure memoir, but it’s more. In Awake author and filmmaker Joel N. Clark shares stories that challenged him to live a bigger story, one suffused with wonder and deeply connected to God. As Joel reveals in this exclusive interview, he believes God created all of us to live that way, pursuing Him “fully awake.”
Read on as Joel discusses what we stand to gain if we accept the “fully awake” challenge. -Adam Forrest, Zondervan
ZBLOG: You write that you want to live “fully awake.” What does a fully awake life look like?
JOEL: For much of my life I’ve heard pastors say, “God is not just found in the four walls of the church, but he’s found in our places of work, in our homes and in our daily lives.” Yet for many years my relationship with God came down to the times I prayed, read the Bible, worshiped (which usually meant singing) and went to church. This was the entirety of my relationship with God and therefore I was bored with him and all things Christian.
Living “fully awake” is about more than finding God in the midst of ALL of my story. It’s about experiencing him fully, his pleasure, his heart and his presence in the midst of every part of it. This is something that doesn’t come naturally, but he is speaking and acting constantly throughout the day.
When I am “fully awake” I am able to see and hear him in all of it and my life is filled with wonder, beauty and magic, even in the seasons of pain and heartache.
ZBLOG: In Awake you recount many of your adventures, and some are quite dangerous! Some readers may be tempted to say, “Joel is just addicted to danger” – but you claim you’ve never been an adrenaline junkie.
So, what is it that drives you?
Want to change harmful habits? First change your beliefs, explains Craig Groeschel in this story about breaking free from materialism. [Excerpt from Craig's new book Soul Detox: Clean Living in a Contaminated World.]
Instead of trying to convince you of the importance of budgeting, saving, and planning (all of which are important and necessary), I’m going to offer something often overlooked that should come before we try to change our behavior. Remember our first problem is a belief problem. Belief overflows to behavior. First we need to change what we believe. When we truly change what we believe, we’ll gladly change how we behave.
I’ll give you an example. Amy and I have always enjoyed keeping our house nice, especially for company. Years ago, if you called and told me you were coming to visit in an hour, our routine would have looked something like this: I’d run to tell Amy that you were coming. She’d ask when. I’d tell her in an hour. She’d panic. For the next 59.5 minutes we’d run around throwing stuff into a closet and explaining to the kids that “under no circumstances do you open that closet!” Then we’d light some candles to give our home that welcoming scent. My job included putting on a worship tape to set the spiritual mood. (If you don’t know what a tape is, ask someone over forty.) After freshening up we’d wait for you for the final .5 minutes to put on the ourhome- and-family-are-perfect show.
Cash Luna identifies two motives for seeking the power of the Spirit, and offers biblical tips on drawing near to God. Why do you draw near to God? [Excerpt from In Honor of the Holy Spirit: He Is Someone, Not Something.]
My father-in-law [told me] the following story:
One day, the leaders of a church were in the process of deciding whom to invite to minister at one of their meetings. One of them, an older man, insisted on inviting a young person who had demonstrated God’s anointing on his life and through whom God was performing signs, wonders and miracles. He was so insistent that another member of the group became angry and said: “Why does it have to be that young person? You make it seem like he’s got a monopoly on the Holy Spirit.” To which the older man replied: “Certainly not, but the Holy Spirit’s definitely got a monopoly on him.”
After sharing the story with me, my father-in-law concluded by saying: “You can never have control of the Holy Spirit, but you can seek to be that young person whom the Holy Spirit is in control of.”
Many people would like to be used by the Lord to transform the lives of others, but few are willing to be transformed by Him… The anointing that transforms will only rest upon people who desire to be transformed…
Jim Cymbala traces some vital ingredients of spiritual revival in this excerpt from his book Spirit Rising: Tapping into the Power of the Holy Spirit.
“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!” (Isa. 64:1).
Before Israel settled in Canaan, Moses got to the heart of the matter [of why God's presence is so vital. When] he pleaded with God for more help to lead the people… “The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Ex. 33:14–16).
How astounding is Moses’ prayer! Especially when compared to our satisfaction with far less than the best God has to offer. Moses told the Lord not even to send them toward the Promised Land unless he was with them. How else would others know God’s approval of Moses and Israel if there was no glorious presence?
Someone pulled a knife on the dusty streets of Cité Soleil, and Joel N. Clark’s life was never the same… But not for a reason you’d expect. Check out Joel’s story about a “real-life hero” in this excerpt from the book Awake: Discover the Power of YOUR Story (The Book You Can Watch).
I watched as they dragged a screaming woman into the dusty streets of [the Haitian city] Cité Soleil. Stopping directly outside our truck, a group of men threw her to the ground, savagely ripping the shirt from her body. One man jumped in with fists flailing. He was trying to drive away the others, but there were too many… At least ten men were involved in the fighting, but the crowd that had gathered to watch easily numbered more than fifty, and it was growing by the second. My eyes were glued on the woman who was at the center of it all, being pulled back and forth like a rag doll.
Father Rick Frechette — whom I simply call “the priest” — was talking on his cell phone, not yet aware of the brutality happening just outside his eyeshot. Only when a man was shoved against the side of the truck did his attention shift… Unable to make myself move (and unsure what I would do if I could), I sat and watched as the violence began to spread. Some of the spectators — men and women — were beginning to join in the fight.
Have you ever taken a personality test that gave you disappointing results? I’ve had this experience, and it made me think, “With strengths like these, who needs weaknesses?” You will like this story from Cash Luna on personality and the Person of the Holy Spirit. -Adam Forrest, Zondervan. [Excerpt from In Honor of the Holy Spirit: He Is Someone, Not Something.]
Some years ago my wife and I went on a retreat for married couples. The two friends with whom we shared a cabin talked to us about the temperaments that psychologists describe as characteristics typically present from birth…
When I heard of the advantages of [my temperament], I was encouraged to read about the positive traits, but I was disappointed to learn of [the] weaknesses. My first thought was: “With traits like these, I will never get anywhere.”
I wanted to serve the Lord in His strength, not mine.
That night I could not sleep thinking that my whole life would be doomed by the weaknesses of my temperament. I wanted to serve the Lord in His strength, not mine. I did not want to boast in achieving success through my own natural abilities, nor did I want to end up frustrated by failure due to my own shortcomings….