Michael Kelley's Blog, page 7

March 23, 2018

Guest post by Rob Tims

While on vacation a few weeks ago, my oldest son rubbed 1 or 2 blisters on a foot. He was, after all, walking some 20,000 steps a day at the happiest place on earth, so it didn’t really come as a surprise. In fact, the blisters kind of became a point of pride for him. Not only did they symbolize just how much walking he had done (and therefore how much fun he had), but they also provided a small opportunity for him to realize (and sometimes share) that he was tough enough to tolerate it. Why, by day 4 or 5, he didn’t even remember they had a been a nuisance. He was as comfortable with them as he had been without them.

I have found this same principle to be at work when it comes to growing to know God through the Bible, particularly if one begins with the Old Testament. While I am more comfortable with the awesome, creative work revealed in Genesis (to say nothing of His relentless pursuit of sinful people like Jacob), it doesn’t take long for me to rub a “theological blister” when God makes a concerted effort to display His might at the expense of an entire nation (I am speaking of the plagues in Exodus 7 and following). It’s an incredibly uncomfortable thing to read what God is capable of. It’s quite disconcerting to not be able to fit God into a perfectly organized theological construct. Theologian Peter Enns says it well with regard to the Exodus story: “Who is this God who chooses a people for Himself, through no merit of their own, and then determines to mold them into His own image despite their repeated shortcomings and rebellions? A proper reaction to reading this story is simply to sit back and shake our heads in disbelief. God is beyond our understanding.”

Yet here I am, with more than 20 years of familiarity with these stories and nearly as long seeking after this God, and the fact that I have these “blisters” has not deterred me from walking with Him. In fact, you might say I rather enjoy them, as they are a constant reminder that while I may know much about Him, there is much more that I do not know and could not possibly fathom. I am, in effect, comfortable with my discomfort with God.

Take just a moment and consider what “theological blisters” you have from seeking to know the God of the Bible. Or start rubbing some new ones. It’s an uncomfortable thing you’ll soon get comfortable doing.

Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.

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Published on March 23, 2018 08:00

March 22, 2018

I don’t know a single Christian parent that doesn’t harbor at least a little anxiety about the spiritual development of their children. Many of us have read the statistics over the last several years about how frequently kids drop out of church once they leave the home of their parents, and have wondered if there is anything we can do now as parents to help our kids own their faith.

Certainly, we would acknowledge (I hope) that this is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit. That it’s only through the Spirit and not some clever program we can design as parents that kids persevere in the faith. And yet we also know that the Spirit uses regular moms and dads like us to have significant conversations and develop spiritual habits in our kids.

I was very interested, in light of that, to read the results of our recent LifeWay Research study on how kids really grow spiritually. The study analyzed 2,000 Protestant adults who finished their parenting journey with one or more kids now between 18-30. The study looked at faith characteristics of those kids now, all grown up, and looked at the parenting practices and habits of the children as they were growing up and identified the key influencers of spiritual health.

My friend and colleague Jana Magruder unpacks the research in her new book, “Nothing Less: Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of Faith.” You should read it and be influenced by it. I have. But in the meantime, let me give you a peek into some of those practices and habits that can help our kids own their own faith:

1. Help them read the Bible for themselves.

This one shouldn’t surprise us because the same thing that, statistically, is the most important practice for our own spiritual growth is the most important for our children – reading the Bible. There is no replacement for this. As parents, then, the absolute best thing we can do for our children is to help them read the Bible for themselves.

This can get a bit tricky, I’m finding, because as a parent you want to walk the line between encouraging this practice in your children and forcing it upon them. How do we do that? I think it’s through practices like reading the Bible with them, providing them with tools so they can read for themselves, and to actually let them see you doing this as a parent. I sense that if a kid sees that reading the Bible is not only normative, but necessary, for their mom and dad, that they will be more likely to pick up on the practice themselves.

2. Help them to serve in the church.

There is a distinction here. Attending church is important. Very important in fact. But even more than attendance, a child should have the opportunity to actually serve in the church growing up. Of course, there are limits here, and there should be. But every time we help our kids to pass out worship guides, or volunteer on a Saturday, or even pass the offering plate we are emphasizing to them that church is not just a place you attend and receive; church is something that you are where you give.

If kids can, right now, understand the participatory nature of being in the body of Christ, then they will begin to own their own faith by God’s grace.

3. Sing the truth together.

This element of the research surprised me. But the research says that the fourth biggest contributor to a child’s spiritual growth is whether or not they listen consistently to Christian music. I suppose, though, that this shouldn’t surprise me.

God has designed us this way. Singing, and music in general, connects with us at a level nothing else does. It lifts the eyes to heaven and the soul follows with it. Perhaps that’s why, throughout the history of Christianity, one of the greatest tools for teaching theology has been music. After all, one of the earliest Christian hymns is the great Christological passage of Philippians 2.

Kids need to listen to the truth, sing the truth, and see you as their parents singing right along with them.

Now if you do these things, and the others that Jana points out in her book, have you discovered the formula to absolutely, positively, guarantee that your children will own their faith?

No. You have not. This is not a formula like that. The best we can do as parents is to try and instill practices like these in faith, trusting that the Spirit of God will do what we cannot. And that the Spirit of God will make up for what we lack in our tainted intentions and sinful parenting hearts. That God, in His grace, would use even us to point our children to the gospel.

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Published on March 22, 2018 04:30

March 21, 2018

Here are a few links to some things you might have missed, or at least ones that caught my attention this past week:

1. He Never Wore Skinny Jeans

This short, to the point article is one of my favorites that I’ve read about Billy Graham over the past few weeks.

2. 3 Things I Learned Growing Up in the Black Church

Boy, I loved reading this article and am very thankful for the tradition represented here.

3. Spiritual Obesity

Great title to this article which points out that our dependence on God is not a question of fact; it’s only a question of awareness.

4. Phones are Designed to be Addicting

Be aware.

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Published on March 21, 2018 04:30

March 20, 2018

Life, I think, is about seasons. At least that’s what the teacher in Ecclesiastes wrote. That there is a time, or a season, for all things under the sun. It’s true in our churches. It’s true in our families. It’s true in our work.

On that last point, there are seasons when we work in which we will be busier than others. More stretched. More tired. More challenged. There will be times when we feel more satisfied than others. And then the season changes, over and over again.

But even as the seasons change in our work, there is yet a posture that does not. That posture is one of rest. Read how the writer of Hebrews described it:

“Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:9-11).

Illuminating, isn’t it? That if you defined “rest” using only these verses, then you come to realize that rest is not necessarily sleep; it’s not necessarily increased leisure; it’s not even necessarily inactivity, though all of those things matter. Rest goes deeper. Rest is a state in which we enter into – no, not only that we can enter into, but one that we should make every effort to enter into.

The passage likens this state we can enter into to the rest that God Himself entered into during His creation of the world. We should ask ourselves here why exactly God – the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, the Source of all there is, rested. Was He worn out? Did He need a break? I don’t think so. God rested because God was finished. Everything was done exactly as it should have been done. The rest of God, then, is a celebration of completion; it is born not out of necessity but out of doneness. The same thing is true for us.

We can rest because “it is finished.”

For us, it means that we can live in a constant state of the celebration of the finished work of Jesus. The state of true rest is one which we can only enter into through the gospel which tells us that because of what Jesus has done on our behalf, we can, at last, stop striving. We can live in a sense of wholeness and peace of heart because Jesus has finished His work on our behalf and for the glory of God at the cross. We don’t have to earn God’s approval; we don’t have to jockey for position; we don’t have to warrant any measure any more. It is finished, and we are the firmly established and beloved children of God.

If, then, rest is this state – this posture – then we can move through life, and work, while living in this state of rest. You can go to the office today and rest. You can lead the meeting today and rest. You can mark off items from the to-do list one by one and rest.

You can, in other words, work very hard all the while you are resting.

You can rest today while you work today. But that doesn’t mean you’re not at work. It doesn’t mean you’re not physically tired. It means instead that you can to your soul and say the same words that Jesus offered time and time again: “Peace to you.” He offered that greeting then and now for the same reason – that He is risen. And because He has risen, it is finished.

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Published on March 20, 2018 04:30

March 19, 2018

You probably have a calendar. In fact, you probably have several calendars. Unless you’re of the type who puts endless sticky notes on every surface to remind you of things, you likely use that calendar to organize your appointments, priorities, and dates to remember.

For most of us, using a calendar is a necessity because of the amount of things we have going on at a given moment. If you’re a parent, compound that a few times because you’re not only keeping track of your stuff, but you’re keeping track of their stuff, too. Once upon a time parents looked forward to the day when a kid would turn 16 so they wouldn’t have to drive them to all their stuff any more; I suspect that we are getting close to the point when that sense of parental freedom comes when a child gets their own personal calendar rather than a driver’s license. That way they can keep up with all their stuff on their own.

Until then, though, many of us would be lost without these simple day trackers. We need them to tell us what we’ve committed to and where we should be. And for many of us, the calendar often seems to get out of control as we say “yes” to things we should be saying “no” to, all the while bemoaning the fact that there’s not enough time in the day.

Perhaps, though, taking control of your calendar isn’t just an issue of time management. Maybe there’s something deeper going on here. Maybe taking control of your calendar is actually a spiritual discipline; maybe it’s an act of discipleship. And here are three reasons why:

1. You should take control of your calendar because you are a steward of time.

When we think about stewardship, we think primarily about money. That’s a good and right thing; Jesus certainly taught us about about personal finance, setting up money the primary competitor to God in our lives (Matt. 6:24). At the same time, stewardship is not exclusively about money. Instead, it’s a holistic view of God as the owner, and we as His servants who have been entrusted with all kinds of resources, each of which provides an opportunity for the sake of the kingdom of God. Time is one of those resources.

Like money, we have been invested with a certain amount of time. Further, we don’t know how much time we have because it could be over tomorrow. In the meantime, though, we should take an active role in managing our calendars not only so that we can have time to make every appointment and meet every deadline, but because we are stewards of this resource and are responsible for using it in non-wasteful ways. Perhaps this is at least part of what it means when we ask the Lord to “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts” (Psalm 90:12).

2.You should take control of your calendar because you know your own limits.

In Romans 12, Paul told us that we ought that “everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think” (Rom. 12:3). Instead, we should have a “sensible” or “sober” estimation of ourselves. In the context of Romans 12, Paul was addressing the church in which we might think more or less highly of our position and our gifting in the body of Christ. And yet the same principle applies here. When it comes to ourselves, we should have a sensible and reasonable estimation of what we’re capable of. One of the ways we reflect that is through taking control of our calendars.

We don’t over schedule ourselves because we know our own limits. Further, we don’t over schedule ourselves because if we do, we will be far more likely to succumb to temptation, trusting in other things besides the Lord for our comfort and sustainability. Having a sober estimation of ourselves means that we don’t have to play the hero in our daily lives; that’s a good thing because we already have a hero who doesn’t grow tired or weak, and He is even now advocating for us.

3.You should take control of your calendar because God has planned good works for you.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 2 that “you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). But he didn’t stop there. The next verse reminds us that we are being saved for something:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.”

Whether you recognize it or not, God has planned good works for you today for you to walk in. That means in your regular pathway of going to work, having meetings, picking up kids, and everything else the Lord has sprinkled in opportunities for the sake of His kingdom. If we only had time for them.

If only.

We take control of our calendars because by faith, we believe that there will be opportunities today – and every day – for the gospel. Because we don’t know exactly what those are, we would do well to make sure that we build in some time to our days “just in case.” If we don’t build that time in then we are likely to see those opportunities as interruptions to an already crowded schedule rather than a chance to speak and demonstrate the gospel.

We do not know how much time we have, friends. But even though we don’t, we can still manage well what we do. In faith, manage your calendar. Make it serve the Lord, rather than serving it instead.

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Published on March 19, 2018 04:30

March 16, 2018

Guest post by Rob Tims

We love our 30 year-old home, but it does have one relatively significant flaw: it is a LOUD home. Most of the furniture is made of wood or metal. All of the floors are hardwood, laminate, or tile, and there are only a couple of rugs. The result is that you can hear “inside-voice” conversations taking place through the ceiling above you, and other similar issues.

Now, a loud home has its benefits. For example, our children can hardly get away with anything upstairs because we can hear it taking place or being discussed before it takes place. But if you want to have a truly private conversation or simply find a quiet place to clear your head, you have to step out of the house. True privacy and solitude are nowhere to be found in our house unless you are completely alone.

I thought about this recently while reading from the book of Exodus. For 430 years, the Jews lived in Egypt, and as slaves for a good portion of that. Under such conditions, how did anyone hear God? How did they have any kind of hope or faith that God was at work? If I am reading the account correctly, most—if not all—did not. They flatly and frequently rejected Moses’ leadership and message, and who could blame them. Under the oppressive “noise” of Egypt’s culture, the Jews had all but forgotten their own.

If the Jews were going to hear from God again, they were going to have to get out from under Egypt’s “noise.”

And leave they did, and in grand fashion. Chapters 8-11 of Exodus describe what Eugene Peterson calls “an elaborate exorcism, a casting out of demons, so to speak, that freed the Hebrews from domination by evil so that they would be able to hear and follow and worship God.” In order to hear from God, they to get out of the noise they’d grown accustomed to living with.

One of the many lessons I’m taking from this passage is this: God will position us so that we can hear Him. When He is bent on doing something in and/or through us, He will move us to the place we need to be in order for Him to do what He has determined He will do. The only question is whether we will join Him in the movement, or go kicking and screaming.

Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.

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Published on March 16, 2018 04:30

March 15, 2018

It was the beginning of the end. Jesus knew it, even if His friends did not. He carried that knowledge alone, despite the fact that He had told them on numerous occasions about what was going to happen in just a few hours.

The load was heavy, but the garden was cool. Gethsemane, a garden area located just eat of Jerusalem, was where they found themselves. One weighted down with sorrow and anxiety; the others weighted down from a long day battling the crowds of the city during the busiest season of the year. Once there, he took Peter, James, and John with Him further into the garden. Then He left them to go and pray, but He made a request of His tired friends:

“Stay awake. Keep watch with me.”

Why I wonder? Was their presence for Jesus’ benefit, or their own? Perhaps both. These were, after all, the closest of the close.

This isn’t the only time in the gospels that these three were singled out; Jesus also invited them up to the Mount of Transfiguration. Here, at this moment of great sorrow and anxiety, He asked them to pray along with Him.

But not only did Jesus ask them to come with Him, He also opened up emotionally to them, telling them He was sorrowful even to the point of death. Jesus, maybe more than any other point in His life, was experiencing incredible inner turmoil. He would pray to the Father, but He also asked His friends to remain and pray along with Him.

So He went to ask the Lord a similar question that most of us have asked at one point or another, albeit from a different perspective: “Is there another way? Is this truly Your will?”

He fell face down to ask the question, and the words rolled over and over again. They rolled like the sweat forming on His brow. And here we see the great humanity of our Savior. Jesus, more than any of us, knows anxiety. He knows the difficulty of aligning our desires with the will of God. And He knows that we can only find the strength we need to do so through the power of God. But unlike us many times, Jesus courageously gave Himself over fully to that will. In fact, it is precisely because we do not give ourselves over to the will of God that Jesus was going to die.

Jesus didn’t approach the cross glibly. He was realistic about the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain He was about to endure. Though He was tempted to avoid pain, as we all are, Jesus was confident in the plan and goodness of His Father. He knew the Scriptures:

“Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him forthe iniquity of us all…

“Yet the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely.WhenYou make Him a restitution offering, He will see His seed, He will prolong His days, and by His hand, the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished.He will see itout of His anguish, and He will be satisfied with His knowledge. My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will carry their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4-11).

From the beginning, the Father knew that His Son would be the atoning sacrifice for sinners. Jesus, too, knew He was the suffering servant described in Isaiah 53. When it came to the moment, Jesus wasn’t questioning the will of God. He was fully given over to fulfilling His purpose. He and the Father were one in their intent and plan. Jesus was asking if there was another way to accomplish their unified will, which was the salvation of mankind. In the end, though, Jesus released Himself into the hands and plan of His Father.

In that time alone, He was reminded of the goodness of His Father. Of the wisdom of His plan and the greatness of His justice. He gazed upon the character of the very One who willed that He be there that night, and He came away more convinced than ever of what He must do.

But what of the three? What of those left sitting by the tree, so weighed down by lesser loads than the One who went off by Himself? How would they look back, over the course of the years, and remember that night?

Three times Jesus returned to find His friends sleeping.  Oh sure, they wanted to stay awake; Jesus knew it. But their flesh was week. While Jesus prayed fervently and followed obediently the will of God, the disciples succumbed to the temptation for something as common as sleep.

In the later years, perhaps they reflected back on that night. In doing so, they might have remembered their Savior who braved temptation to follow the great plan of redemption. Their sleeping would serve as a lasting reminder of just how much they needed Jesus’ commitment to the plan of God, for He died for the sleeping sinners. Both then and now.

Jesus, our champion, did for us what we could never do for ourselves. While we find ourselves sleeping away instead of following the will of God, Jesus battles on our behalf. He did so in the garden, and He continues to do so even now.

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Published on March 15, 2018 04:30

March 14, 2018

Here are a few links to some things you might have missed, or at least ones that caught my attention this past week:

1. Praying for Our Children

This is a beautiful, simple prayer from a father. You might not have the same words, but I think you’ll resonate with the sentiment.

2. The Darker Side of Small Group

This article is written in the style of The Screwtape Letters, and deftly exposes the danger of assumption.

3. Studying God’s Word When You’re Tired and Busy

Here’s a method of Bible study that might be helpful to you if you find yourself in a tired and busy season of life.

4. A Walk Through a Flooded Nature Preserve

This is a short eerie, but peaceful video.

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Published on March 14, 2018 04:30

March 13, 2018

There is a particularly troubling command from Jesus recorded for us in Luke 14:25-27:

Now great crowds were traveling with him. So he turned and said to them: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

No one ever accused Jesus of being a great marketer. In this case, there were throngs of people going along with Him. Some were there out of faith; some were there to see the show; some were no doubt there because it was just “the thing” to do. But regardless, Jesus was the best show in town. And a ton of people were recognizing it. This would, no doubt, be a great time to seize the momentum; pour gas on the fire; take advantage of the opportunity. If ever there was a moment to take His ministry to the next level in terms of His platform and notoriety, surely this was it. But Jesus did the exact opposite.

Instead of drawing the crowds, He dispersed them. Instead of making it easier to follow Him, He made it more difficult. Instead of telling them what they wanted to hear, Jesus told them the hard truth. And in this case, that hard truth was about family:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.

What are we to make of this? And what are we to make of this command to hate our families especially since Jesus is decidedly pro-family, saying that we should love our fathers (Matt. 19:19)?

Jesus’ point here is one of allegiance. When we are following Him, then everything else not only takes a back seat; everything else is irrevocably changed. All our priorities. All our expenditures. And, yes, all our relationships. Our allegiance to Jesus is of the highest order so much so that everything else revolves around it.

What, then, does it look like to “hate” our families in this sense, especially when we love our families? Let me offer three suggestions:

1. Let them go.

When Jesus and His kingdom are our greatest allegiance, then we come to understand that our families are another part of our stewardship for the sake of His kingdom. If we are to “hate” our families, it means we must be willing to let them go for the sake of His kingdom.

For some, that means walking away from the family values and priorities that don’t align with Jesus and His kingdom. We must be willing to break from that authority when it competes with the authority Jesus lays over us.

But for others – for those, for example, who are trying to raise their kids in a home that loves and honors the Lord – this means we must be willing to let our children go. We must be willing to encourage in them the desire to take the gospel to the nations. We must be willing to embrace that they might not have a career that pays a lot of money, and yet will pay dividends in heaven. We must be willing to love that they might not ever be married but instead remain single so that they might have greater mobility for the sake of the gospel. We must let them go and live far away from us. And we must let them go from the dreams of comfort and prosperity we have for them.

2. Reflect kingdom priorities.

“Hating” our families in this sense also means that we must be committed to having kingdom priorities. That means all the opportunities our families have – and there will be many – must be held in light of what we know about the kingdom of God.

There are all kinds of implications here, each of which might make the family less comfortable. It might mean that instead of spending more on family vacations, we choose to allocate our money to give more generously. Or it might mean that a travel sports team has to take a backseat to church attendance. Or it might mean that certain relationships with other kids have to be questioned by parents. All of these things are filtered through the lens of Jesus’ kingdom – and there is a cost to each one.

Kids in the family might not understand these decisions because it seems to them like loss – that they are losing out on a potential opportunity for advancement in popularity, social standing, or athletics. And yet that choice is made specifically according to the priorities of God’s kingdom.

3. Point them to Jesus.

One final way we “hate” our families when we love them is that we are always, always, always pointing them to Jesus. In our discipline, we point to Jesus. In our conversations, we point them to Jesus. In our playtime, we point them to Jesus.

In all things, Jesus is center.

No doubt, a thing like this might get tired and old to certain family members, especially of the younger variety. They might even think that we are more concerned about Jesus than we are about them.

Good. Because that is true. And it should be. Kids ought to understand that they are not the center of the family – Jesus is. And for a time, this might seem to them as though we hate them. But we don’t. We love them. But we love Jesus more. And because we do, we are doing all we can in light of both.

Jesus was serious when He told us to count the cost in following Him, for the cost is great. But He was also serious when He told us that those who do count the cost, and do follow Him, will find true life on the other side of the loss.

May that be so for us. May it also be so for the families we “hate” in light of Jesus.

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Published on March 13, 2018 04:30

March 12, 2018

The Bible shows us over and over that the life of the Christian must be characterized by growth:

Psalm 92:12: The righteous thrive like a palm tree and grow like a cedar tree in Lebanon.
1 Corinthians 3:6: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the grow
Ephesians 2:21: The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord.
Ephesians 4:13: … until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.
Ephesians 4:15: But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.
Philippians 1:9: And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment…
Colossians 1:10: … so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.
1 Peter 2:2: Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation …
1 Peter 3:18: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

In other words, all of us who are in Christ are on the move. We are changing. We are growing, and we are growing up in Christ. That is, we are daily being conformed more and more into the image of the Son of God.

But if we are to “grow up” in Christ, we must also “grow down.”

That’s simple enough, right? And there are certain things that come to mind when we consider these twin truths. If we are to grow up in holiness, we must grow down in our willingness to sin. If we are to grow up in hope, we must grow down in our momentary pleasure. If we are to grow up in faith, we must grow down in our fear.

But then there are other areas that might not come to mind as quickly if we are to grow up in Christ:

We must grow down in complexity and grow up in simplicity.
We must grow down in self-reliance and grow up in dependence.
We must grow down in privacy and grow up in authenticity.
We must grow down in anxiety and grow up in trust.
We must grow down in apathy and grow up in passion.

All these things we must grow down in? Well, these are things that all of us as regular adults have come to embrace as part of our lives. Over the years, experience, pain, hardship, and sin have beaten out all the simplicity, authenticity, trust, and passion that come to us so naturally as children.

One lens through which you can view our road to spiritual maturity, then, is that we are on the road back to becoming like children. We are growing down at the same time we are growing up. The words of Jesus still ring so true:

“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 10:17).

My new book, available for pre-order now, is built on this idea. It’s called Growing Down: Unlearning the Patterns of Adulthood that Keep Us from Jesus.

I’d love for you to order a copy and come with me on this road of discovering how we become like children so that we might grow up in Jesus.

Order at:



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Published on March 12, 2018 04:30