Friday, October 26, 2012

Grow or Die

At a conference a few years ago, then 98 year old Jim Downing called together all those present who were above the age of seventy. He then gave them a message that only one of his years and stature could give to that group: “If you’re not growing you are dying.”
I’ve made a study of those who are old in years but are young in their spirit. They are still pressing hard in the abundant life that Jesus gives. They are people like Caleb who said “I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in.” (Joshua 14:11)
The one common denominator I’ve found with such people is that they keep growing. So how does one continue to grow as a person? A couple of years ago, I created the acrostic GROWTH to help me remember some key components in my own growth. They stand for:

God Caused
Response to Circumstances
Oneness with Christ
Word of God
Truth and Love in Community
Hidden Spiritual Disciplines

I need to keep a handle on the fact that God is the author of growth – He causes it. That helps me respond correctly to the circumstances of life, because by faith I can see God’s hand in all things, always working for my growth. I only have the ability to see and respond rightly to these life circumstances through my oneness with Christ, my unity with Him as I abide in Him. I am able to abide in Him only to the extent that I abide in the Word of God. I live out the truth of the Word of God as I love people in community. My secret energy source for continuing to grow is directly tied to a few spiritual disciplines that are largely hidden from view, but are part of my intimate relationship with Christ. Those are the elements of growth in my own life and I’ll work to unpack these further in my next few posts.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Keep Things Simple

When Jesus sent The Twelve out on their first missionary trip, he told them not to take anything for the journey - no staff, no bag, no bread, no extra clothes. The Message gives a hint as to why:

“He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. 
(Luke 9:3–4 MESSAGE)

According to the Message, the reason that Jesus did not want the twelve to take things on their missionary journey was that he did not want them loaded down with extra baggage. They themselves were the equipment that God would use.

Later Jesus said  “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16–17 NIV)

Jesus teaches two main lessons here. First, he teaches that no person is disqualified from the Kingdom based on their physical age or maturity. Children are welcome. The second teaching is that children actually have an advantage when it comes to the Kingdom because all must receive the Kingdom of God like a child. The message stresses the simplicity of a child. While adults seem to complicate things, children see things in a simple way. In order to experience the Kingdom we must receive it in a simple way.

Be wary of overly complex solutions to advancing the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom moves in the simple hearts of children. We must strive to keep our teaching about the Kingdom accessible, viral, reproducible and simple.

Lorne Sanny once said that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. This old guy thinks that keeping things simple is a key to finishing well. “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
(2 Timothy 2:4 NAS95)