Monday, June 16, 2008

4 PRACTICES FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Frame the pattern of your life around these primary practices...and see how you grow

HEALTHY AND GROWING? It occurred to me just a few years ago that there are four essential ways we grow spiritually--both at a personal level and with others. Since then, I have tried to frame everything that I plan and do around these "four fronts of spiritual growth." Without exercising in each dimension, we weaken and atrophy. The best-laid plans that do not include these primary Christian practices may come to nothing. Through their continuous practice, however, we are enlivened by grace and become more like Jesus and the Body He intended us to be. This summer, I challenge you to begin to build these four practices into your weekly schedule, routine and planning. Reshape your pattern of life so that it reflects these primary practices--whether you are working, volunteering, attending school, parenting, problem-solving, or planning for the future.

1. PRAYING. Let your longing for a deeper, more vital Christian experience begin right here. Confess your heart's desires. Tell God your hopes and hurts. Bring your world into God's presence. Hold nothing back. Then, be still and wait before your Creator, Redeemer, Healer, and King. Contemplate God's provision, receive God's counsel, respond with active faith to God's direction. Now, make this your daily practice.

2. WORD CENTERING. Life is too easily carved up by faux realities, our passion dissipated in trivia, and our focus scattered in myriad ways. Let the Word focus you. "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Is it guiding your path today? Today's challenges need today's Word. Dig in again, by all means. Read solo. Study with a partner. Reflect in a group. Explore in a Sunday School Class or Bible Study. Live what you learn. Share what you glean. Let the Word come alive in and through you.

3. INCARNATING CHRIST. Serving others is the simplest and most profound way we serve Christ and make him known to others and in the world. Apart from service, we atrophy spiritually--not later, but now. Every growing Christian is serving others and the world. Serving may not be easy, convenient, recognized, or personally satisfying, but it is the way we experience Christ in others. Reach out to a neighbor, a struggling friend, a student, an older person. Reach across borders, out of your comfort zone. How and where can you serve others--directly or indirectly--today or this week?

4. GATHERING. Fire lives and shines brightly when singular embers are close together. So do believers. Reuben Welch quips: "We really do need each other." We belong to each other when we belong to Christ. So, draw near. Be where you belong. Engage. There's a place waiting for you at the table. The church won't be the church without you.

APPLY WITHIN. First, commit personally to these four practices. Make a written plan for daily and weekly action on each of these four fronts. Check yourself often. Have someone hold you accountable for each front. Then, look at your family, church and community life through these four fronts. What are your opportunities for prayer, Word-centering, border-crossing service, and gathering? How can we help one another move toward these four practices? Address each of these fronts of spiritual warfare and breakthrough simultaneously.

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. To share yours, click on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

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