Why You Should Throw Away Your Christian Checklist

Why You Should Throw Away Your Christian Checklist

It’s well past time for you to throw away your Christian checklist. But first, quickly, what are the things you DO as a Christian?

If you’ve spent any time in church at all, you probably immediately list prayer, Bible study, and attending church services. And if you’re a relatively new believer you may find those activities incredibly meaningful and even exciting. If you’re really into spiritual disciplines you may also think of fasting, praying in the Spirit, giving, sharing your faith with others, and perhaps more.

But too often our spiritual lives can become all about doing certain things. As long as you pray, read your Bible, and go to church you somehow check off a list in your head and feel you’re at least a reasonably OK Christian. Don’t do those things and you have to start expending emotional energy to quiet the little imps of guilt building up in your soul.

But have you ever known someone to become a believer because they just couldn’t wait to do those certain behaviors? “I’ve just got to become a Christian so I can spend 30 minutes a day reading my Bible and sit in church an hour every Sunday.” Not a chance! Any time our spiritual life becomes about a list of behaviors it quickly becomes dry, empty, and potentially destructive.

And yet there are things Christians do. Our behaviors do make a difference.

So how are we to think about our Christian behaviors without letting them become dry, empty, or worse? Why do we do the things we do? What’s the point?

Continue reading...
When Prayer and Bible Study are Not Enough

When Prayer and Bible Study are Not Enough

God is always enough. He has all the answers. There is no higher calling in life than to know Him, love Him, and follow Him. But in serving Him there are plenty of times when prayer and Bible study are not enough.

We as human beings too easily put things in boxes. We either over-spiritualize every aspect of our lives or separate (perhaps unconsciously) the earthly and heavenly parts of our existence. Some people believe they’re serving God more than adequately if they spend an hour or two in church each week and a few minutes a day in personal or family devotions. And other people may devote hours each day to prayer and Bible study while their marriage, children, bank account, friendships, mental and physical health, work, and home go unattended.

God made you and me as integrated, whole human beings. You cannot separate the physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual parts of you from one another any more than you can separate the flour, sugar, eggs, and salt from a loaf of bread. What impacts one area of your life impacts all the other areas. Every dimension of our lives needs adequate tending and nourishment for us to be our best and serve God with our whole being.

Failure to understand this has often led to serious problems for believers:

  • The person with diabetes or severe depression who refuses professional help while praying for healing
  • The seminary student preparing to be a pastor and seriously addicted to pornography
  • The wife spending hours alone reading the Bible while her husband starves for intimacy
  • The Christian leader whose ministry is cut short through the health effects of obesity
  • Believers frustrated when urgent matters (such as helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey) “interfere” with their spiritual pursuits.

While the greatest miracle of all is the salvation and restoration of a human soul, most of Jesus’ earthly miracles were focused on very earthly things – food, storms, physical illness. God is equally concerned about and invested in every dimension of our lives.

Here are three dimensions where we must be careful to not over-spiritualize.

Continue reading...
10 Ways to get Mental/Emotional/Spiritual Nourishment

10 Ways to get Mental/Emotional/Spiritual Nourishment

You and I are full of leaks. The good things we get filled up with only last so long. We can feel top-of-the-mountain right now, and in an hour, a day, or a week feel empty and discouraged. Our souls get hungry. We need regular soul nourishment if we are to function well and be of any use to anyone.

Jesus knew this well. On Earth He was constantly being drained through interactions with people and with evil. He regularly needed to get away in order to get filled up again.

With our physical food God makes an infinite variety available. But you and I are responsible for knowing when we are hungry, and for finding, choosing, preparing, and taking into our being the food we need. Some food tastes better than others, and some is more nourishing than others. Food is available, but God doesn’t drop food into our mouths.

It’s the same with mental/emotional/spiritual nourishment. There’s an infinite variety of soul nourishment available, but we are responsible for knowing when we need it, for finding it, choosing it, and taking it into our being.

Different people get filled up in somewhat different ways. The kind of “leaks” you have (work, family, other stresses) affect that somewhat. So does your personality. If you already know what fills you up, do more of that.

On the other hand you may need some ideas of where to get healthy soul nourishment. If you’re empty, hungry, dry, try some of these things.

Continue reading...
God Doesn’t Always Fix You

God Doesn’t Always Fix You

By that I mean, God doesn’t always fix you in some magical single moment. In the ultimate sense God always helps you. The Bible says so. I’ve experienced it. You’ve experienced it. But sometimes your heart has a hard time believing it. Sometimes it seems as though God is doing everything else except help you.

When you pray and struggle and nothing seems to get better your faith is challenged.

  • You are sick and in pain, and keep praying for God to heal you.
  • You have more bills than money, and keep asking God to send you resources.
  • Your mind wrestles with depression or anxiety, and you keep asking God to take it away.
  • You struggle with an addiction to pornography or alcohol, and keep asking God for deliverance.
  • Your marriage is in trouble, and you keep praying for God to fix it.

It’s always right to pray. Always. But sometimes that’s not all you need to do. Frequently you need to put legs on your prayers.

Frederick Douglas said, “I prayed for 20 years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” Perhaps it’s time to start walking!

Repeated scientific research on spirituality and health demonstrates that when facing tough stuff, those who see themselves working together with God come through their challenges with better wellbeing and spiritual resilience. Those who either try to do it all themselves or sit back waiting for God to do it all do consistently less well. It’s Philippians 2:12-13: God works, and we work. It’s you and God working together.

Here are 3 ways to pray with your legs.

Continue reading...
The Most Powerful Prayer I Ever Prayed

The Most Powerful Prayer I Ever Prayed

Not all prayer is the same. Intellectually we know that God hears every prayer, but it sure seems some prayers just “work” better than others. I learned through hard experience what the most powerful prayer can do, and that changed everything.

The Bible assures us that God hears us if we ask according to his will (1 John 5:14). And we know He desires our good. It’s also possible to ask “with wrong motives” (James 4:3), or for our prayers to be hindered (1 Peter 3:7). The disciples could see how vital prayer was to Jesus, and asked Him to teach them to pray the same (Luke 11:1). Some prayer is truly effective and accomplishes much (James 5:16).

So if all prayers are not the same, what makes an effective prayer?

As a young professional I went through a period of severe distress that rendered me nearly unable to function. My physical and psychological symptoms went on for some years in spite of professional help. I looked good on the outside, but inside I was a mess. I spent long hours crying, or sometimes literally curled up on the floor.

Yes, I knew God had the answer, but I wasn’t finding it. I kept trying this and that, searching and praying for relief. I wondered if I was someone who was destined to live broken. While I’d always gone to church, coming to know Jesus personally during that time began to make a difference, but my progress was still miniscule.

Learning the Most Powerful Prayer

Continue reading...