Christianity 201

January 14, 2017

6 Roadblock to Christian Growth

We’ve featured popular Charismatic Christian author J. Lee Grady here several times, but not in the past few years. I really enjoy the balance his writing provides. This appeared at Charisma News a few days ago; his writing can also be found at the Charisma blog Fire in my Bones. I encourage you to read it there by clicking the link in the title below.

6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

J. Lee GradyA few days ago, I was driving from my home in Georgia to a church in Alabama to preach for five days. I didn’t think the predicted “snowpocalypse” would hinder my trip until I arrived in the town of Anniston—where state troopers had blocked the main road due to ice on bridges.

The road was closed, and I couldn’t get to Birmingham on Highway 431. When I tried a different route, I ran into more ice and more roadblocks. This had never happened to me in Florida—we don’t have ice on roads. So I was stuck. I had to turn around and go home.

Thankfully, my host rescheduled our meetings, and I arrived at his church two days later, after all the feared ice had melted. But the whole experience reminded me that there are times when we can’t get where we need to go because our roads are blocked.

As Christians, we are called to move forward in our faith. The apostle Paul set the example for us when he said: “I press toward the goal to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). You are not supposed to stay in the same place spiritually year after year. God wants you to grow. But often we get stuck, usually because of one of these six roadblocks:

1. Lack of spiritual hunger. Let’s face it: The main reason many Christians get stuck in a rut is they are happy to be there. But God is looking for people who refuse to be content with where they were last year. He is calling you higher. You must ask the Holy Spirit to set your heart ablaze with a desire for more of His presence and power.

David is our example of spiritual hunger. He wrote: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after You, O God” (Ps. 42:1). He actually felt lousy when he wrote those words, so we can’t use our discouragement as an excuse. David fanned the flames of spiritual fervor even when he felt like quitting.

2. Plain old laziness. Many of us become motivated at the beginning of the year to pray, study the Bible, go back to school or lose weight. But nobody wins a race by sprinting the first 50 feet and then sitting down. Winners must stay in the game. You must be determined to finish what you start instead of leaving a trail of aborted attempts.

Paul exhorted the Romans to be “fervent in spirit,” but first he warned them not to be “lazy” (see Romans 12:11-12). The Greek word used here, okneros, is the same word Jesus used in the parable of the “lazy servant” who didn’t invest the money he was given by his master. If you are sitting on your dreams or procrastinating when you should be growing your faith, the “lazy” label applies. Don’t just start and then give up. Be consistent and keep going.

3. Unpacked baggage. The Israelites who left Egypt could have marched into the Promised Land in a matter of weeks, but they ended up in a holding pattern for 40 years. Why? They were dragging their sin with them. The more weight you drag behind you, the less likely it is that you will reach your destination.

I knew a Christian guy who had a thriving ministry to college students. But because he refused to get help for his pornography habit, his addiction prevented him from functioning normally. It finally weighed him down so much that it destroyed both his marriage and ministry. You may think you can “manage” your sin, but it is more powerful than you are. You can’t move forward while carrying a load of shame and addictions. Repent, confess your weakness to someone else and get free.

4. Fear of change. Many people feel a tug in their hearts that says: Start that Bible study. Go on that mission trip. Write that book. Launch that business. But they never get past step one because they feel frozen in their tracks. Nothing will keep you in spiritual limbo like fear. It paralyzes.

Some people keep their dreams inside them for decades—and then they take them to the grave. If you want to grow, you must take risks. Don’t let your fear of public speaking, airplanes, crowds, strangers or people’s criticism stop you from trusting in the God who is bigger than all those things.

5. Shallow relationships. Who are you hanging around with? Abraham had to part ways with Lot because they had very different goals. Lot had a selfish motive, and Abraham was fully surrendered to God’s plan. If you spend all your time with selfish people who are content to live spiritually fruitless lives, you will end up just like them.

If you want to move forward spiritually in 2017, don’t expect the crowd to go with you. Some people don’t want God’s presence. Don’t let them drag you down. Be willing to find new friends who will support your spiritual commitment.

6. A religious spirit. Religious people build memorials to honor what God did in 1967, sing songs from that era and write books about “the way we’ve always done it.” Yet when the Holy Spirit calls them to “sing … a new song” (Psalm 96:1), or if He starts doing “a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19a), they get offended. They insist God must move the exact same way He did 50 years ago.

But God does not stay in the same place or do things the same way. His character is unchangeable, but He always has a fresh word and a new anointing to pour on His people. He loves to surprise and overwhelm us. Don’t let religious inflexibility keep you from experiencing the adventure of following His Spirit.

J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression.

September 14, 2013

Call to Repentance

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Exodus 2:11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”

14 The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

There’s a story of a young man in a small rural church who decided to study for the ministry. After completing an undergraduate degree in Theology, he surprised his congregations and supporters by announcing he would be pursuing an additional two years of study to complete a Masters degree. After six years total, the church’s pastor thought it would be nice if he would return to preach the Sunday morning sermon in his home church. Because he was a home-town boy the service was heavily advertised and the place was packed. What would the young man have to say that would reflect all those years of study?

When the time for the message came, he stood up in the pulpit, slowly opened his notes, and then, after a long silence, he bellowed in a strong voice,, “REPENT!”

The story is purported to be true, and if it is, I suspect he had more to say beyond that.

We who have been on this faith journey for a long time tend to admire preaching that contains a number of fundamental propositions, supplemented with related Bible texts and historical background information. But sometimes a one word message — like ‘Repent!’ — is what we really need to hear.

I promised I would keep this shorter today after a longer post yesterday, but if you made it all the way through yesterday’s item, I want to invite you to hear a message based on the above story of Moses  — available as either audio or video — which has a very simple premise, but one that invites us to bare our souls before God in a greater way.  The teacher is Steve Carter, preaching just a few days ago at Willow Creek’s Midweek Experience.

Click here to either listen or watch.  (Shovels and Thunder: Seasons in the Life of Moses – 36 minutes)

Also, for those of you who love sermons online, Alpha Course founder Nicky Gumbel returned to his home church to preach a few days ago.

Click here to watch. (The Drama of Destiny – 34 minutes)

February 10, 2011

Don’t Let My Love Grow Cold

Sometimes the fire in our heart seems to die down to nothing more than glowing embers.  Sin has done its work, guilt has doused the flame, fear has driven us away, love has grown cold.  We want to light the fire again, but we are guilt-ridden and afraid.

It happened to King David.  He had sinned with Bathsheba.  He tried to cover it up, justify it, forget about it. But finally he found himself cornered by unconfessed sin.  A kind of claustrophobia made peace of mind impossible.  The inner fire of spiritual passion no longer burned.  Lacking the fresh wind of God’s breath, the fire in his heart was no more than a glowing coal. Only when confronted by Nathan the prophet did David come to terms with his sin. The king confessed his sin and pled with the Lord to rekindle his heart. The Lord heard him and lit his fire again.  And the dying embers that had been doused by sin were reignited.

Are you wretched, poor, and naked?  Has sin doused the flame of God’s love in your heart? Do as King David did, for the remedy is the same. Confess your sin to God and ask Him to breathe new passion for Him into your heart.  Ask him to light the fire again.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. ~Psalm 51:10-12 NIV

from My Heart for His Glory; Thomas Nelson 2002; devotion for July 2nd