Tag Archives: growing in christ

Fresh Oil

“Your anointing has made me strong and mighty. You’ve empowered my life for triumph by pouring fresh oil over me.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭92:10‬ ‭TPT‬‬

As I wait for my oil to get changed in my car, I can’t help but think of all the correlations between the routine maintenance work on my car and the need for routine maintenance of our walk with Christ. Someone was recently telling me a story about a guy who was never taught that his oil needed to be changed. He got a new car when he started college, but by the time he graduated, the engine broke down. His car wasn’t designed to go on forever with the original oil. It, like us, needed fresh oil.

Too many Christians try to live the life we are called to live without ever getting fresh oil. We try to survive our whole lives on the emotions of our initial salvation experience. When we try to do that, we break down, get tired and run out of energy. It gets hard to move when God says move because we haven’t done anything to grow the relationship. It becomes difficult to walk by faith because we haven’t done anything to improve our sight. We couldn’t stay in a romantic relationship based off of our initial feeling so why would we try to do that with God?

Imagine your first date with someone you love. There were butterflies in your stomach. Your palms were sweaty. Your voice might have even cracked. You were so enamored with the person across from you that you could just stare into their eyes forever. Now, many years later, life has happened. That initial feeling is gone. You’ve learned that to make that relationship work, you’ve got to do routine maintenance to the relationship. You can’t count on those initial feelings to keep the relationship going when times get tough. You’ve had to put fresh oil in the relationship if it’s going to survive.

For a Christian, we get fresh oil by spending time in prayer with God. I’m not talking about a one way prayer. I’m talking about dialogue where you sit and wait to hear back from God. You have to spend time reading and pouring through the Bible. Fresh oil doesn’t come from reading a chapter a day. It comes from digging through it, listening to the tone and finding how it applies to your life. You also get fresh oil from being around other believers. You can’t get that kind of oil just sitting in a pew next to someone for a few hours on Sunday. You have to break bread with them, hang out with them and have a relationship that stirs up each other’s gifts.

Fresh oil doesn’t come on its own. It’s something you have to take time out of your schedule for and will cost you something. If you’ve been trying to keep your relationship with God going on that initial feeling, you probably aren’t far from a break down. Spend time today getting back into your prayer closet. Take time to look deeper into His word than just the normal cursory look. I will also encourage you to connect with other believers who will challenge your faith and will push you beyond your comfort zone. When you do that, you’ll find a renewed love for God and an excitement that is deeper than your initial salvation experience.

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Your Potential Growth

To me, one of the coolest miracles is the miracle of a seed. I have packets of them sitting around. Some are for flowers, some are for vegetables and some are for trees. They can sit inside their packet for years and nothing will happen. However, when I plant them at the right time of year, the miracle begins. In the dark, wet earth, something in the seed wakes up and it begins to come apart as a small shoot makes its way out of it. That shoot pushes back the ground all around it and somehow knows to go upward in search for light. It continues growing in the proper conditions until it replicates in some form the plant or tree that produced it. Then, it produces its own seeds so that another generation can grow.

When I look at an acorn next to an oak, I can’t help but look up and ask God, “How do you fit an entire tree in this little nut?” When I think about it, He does the same thing with us. Each of us have an incredible potential inside of us waiting for the right conditions in order to grow and develop into something incredible. We all have hidden potential that is waiting to be discovered, but it needs the right conditions in order to start growing. Those conditions are usually dark times in our lives where we’re in over our heads and aren’t quite sure which way is up. The world around us seems to be pressing in on ever side, yet out of that, God births things in us that we didn’t know were there.

2 Peter 1:3 says, “Everything we could ever need for life and godliness has already been deposited in us by his divine power” (TPT). Just like every sin lives in you waiting for the right conditions to come out, every good thing lives in you waiting on the right conditions to come out. Don’t run from the pressures of hard times in your life because those are the places where God grows these deposits in your life. You have an incredible potential beyond what you can imagine. Just like a giant tree begins with a small seed, there is a giant in you waiting to come out. As you mature and grow, you will begin to reproduce other people in the faith. You will provide shade for them to grow in, when you have roots that go down deep into God’s Word. Isaiah 61:3 says, “In their righteousness, they (you) will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory” (NLT). There is a tree inside of you waiting to grow.
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Owning Your Maturity

When my son was a new born, my wife and I decided we didn’t want him to learn the behavior of crying for what he wanted. That started with the very first thing that babies learn to cry for – milk. We began to pay attention to his movements and sounds around feeding times so we could anticipate when he was hungry. As we noticed them, we would begin to warm up some milk and feed him. However, there were times when we were busy and missed his cues. In those moments, he would let us know he was hungry and ready for milk through his only means of communication- crying. The best part was when he began to hold his own bottle. Later, we was able to crawl to the bottle when he was hungry and began the maturation process of feeding himself.

As Christians, we go through a maturity process as well. When we first accept Jesus as our savior, we are merely spiritual infants. We need the milk of God’s Word to help us grow. We need to learn simple concepts that are easily digestible. As we mature, we should graduate to more difficult concepts and spiritual disciplines. Just like a baby, there is a transformation that takes place in our lives. Our inner faith should grow as we mature and learn how to reconcile our inward faith with our public life. As we drink the milk of God’s Word, it begins to change how we live so that our lives become more Christ like.

1 Peter 2:2 says, “In the same way that nursing infants cry for milk, you must intensely crave the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word. For this “milk” will cause you to grow into maturity, fully nourished and strong for life” (TPT). Each of us need to own our own maturation process. It’s not the responsibility of the church to grow us. We must intensely crave spiritual food Monday through Saturday and learn to feed ourselves. Reading God’s Word daily puts food into our spirit. Meditating on verses is like the chewing process. It breaks it down and releases nutrients that are vital to your growth. Wherever you are in your maturation process, there’s always room for more growth that fully nourishes your soul and leads you into a stronger spiritual life.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

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Maturing In Faith

Years ago I had an early childhood development center. One of the things that was always confusing for me was when there were parents who didn’t want their children to mature and grow up. Sometimes they struggled with weaning their child. Sometimes they would break down and cry when it was time to move from the baby room to the toddler room. One of the biggest struggles, especially if it was their last child, was to get them to potty train their child. That’s the final stage of babyhood into childhood to many. After that, their child would be more independent of them, but that’s what growing up is. The more you mature, the more you can do things on your own and take responsibility.

Let’s translate that into our Christian walk. Many of us have been saved for years, but we haven’t weaned ourselves off of milk and onto meat. Some of us are still crawling when we should be running. The Church’s responsibility is to grow you into maturity so you can take responsibility for your relationship with Christ. As we mature, it’s up to us to feed ourselves daily through reading the Bible. We have to grow our relationship through prayer and seeking God. Maturity in Christ should be the goal each of us have. The great news is there’s always room for every one of us to grow more. There’s always a deeper relationship to be had with God. There’s more to learn too, but it falls on us to want to mature and then to do the things necessary to grow.

Here are some Bible verses on maturing in the faith.

1. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].

Romans 12:2 AMP

2. Now, those who are mature in their faith can easily be recognized, for they don’t live to please themselves but have learned to patiently embrace others in their immaturity.

Romans 15:1 TPT

3. I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature [pursuing spiritual perfection] should have this attitude. And if in any respect you have a different attitude, that too God will make clear to you.

Philippians 3:14-15 AMP

4. So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.

1 Peter 2:1-3 MSG

5. Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT

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The Importance Of Encouragement

One of the things I’m studying right now is the different stages in our walk with Jesus that we all go through. In the beginning stages, we explore Christianity and Christ to see if we want to be a person of faith. In the next stage, you make a decision to follow Jesus and want to grow your faith. However, you’re not sure that you’re ready to let that faith permeate your whole life, nor are you ready to be public with it. After that stage, you grow into a deeper faith where you begin to depend on Jesus daily. Your relationship with Jesus moves from a Sunday experience to a daily one. While you are moving close to Christ, you remain in the driver’s seat of their life. That leads us to the final stage where your life is centered around Jesus and what He wants. When you’re here, your love for Jesus is your driving force. You give tithes, serve in the church and evangelize more than in the other stages. You’re on the brink of spiritual greatness, but often there’s a gap between your love of God and your love for people.

Whatever stage you’re in, one of your greatest needs is to be encouraged and to be challenged to go deeper in your faith. You need people in your life who will, as Proverbs 27:17 puts it, sharpen you as iron sharpens iron. You need people who will encourage you to make a deeper commitment to Jesus, to love others the way you love God and to dig deeper into the Bible. It’s not enough at any stage to simply read the Bible. Each of us must meditate on what we’ve read. We need to think about what’s being said, why it was said and how does it apply to us. Our prayers can’t be just a once or twice a day thing. They need to be a running dialogue with God throughout our day where we seek Him for guidance, tell Him about things that are happening and express our love for Him.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (NLT). If you recognized what stage you are in, let me encourage you to grow into the next stage. There’s always more in Christianity. None of us ever have it totally made. We’re all growing. We’re all learning. We’re all being called into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Jesus. We each need to find someone who has a greater relationship with Jesus and to ask them to help us grow. We each need to be finding someone who is in the same stage with us so we can encourage each other as we navigate this life of faith. Finally, we need to find someone less mature in the faith so we can encourage and guide them through the places we’ve already been. We all need encouragement, so let’s start with giving it to others instead of waiting for someone to give it to us.

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Grow Down To Grow Up

Have you ever grown a tomato plant? I haven’t since I was younger, but I remember that when the tomatoes started growing we had to brace the plant. Sometimes we drove a stake into the ground and loosely tied the plant to it. Other times we made a round cage from chicken wire and put it around it to help it. While it’s body is strong enough to hold the tomatoes, it’s not firm enough to hold them up. The more it produces, the more help it needs.

The same thing is true in businesses. The larger they get, the more structure they need. If they grow too quickly without the right structure in place, they’ll fail. It can also happen in our spiritual growth. The more we grow in Christ, the more structure and support we need. Colossians 2:7 says, “Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong.” Paul knew that as we grow, we need deeper roots to support us.

If you want to grow in your relationship with God, you have to let your roots go down first. You can’t grow up until you grow down. Your success in your ability to stay strong as you get closer to God depends on your ability to grow your roots. A big tree is easily blown over if it has shallow roots. The top side can be healthy, green and growing, but of it doesn’t have deep roots, it will get pushed over by the first storm that comes along.

The foundation for a skyscraper is a lot different than the foundation for a house. A shallow foundation on a large structure will crumble. Our foundation has to be built on Christ. Colossians 2:2 in the Amplified says, “That they may become progressively more intimately acquainted with and may know more definitely…Christ.” We are to progressively know Him more. We are to continue growing beyond our initial salvation experience. We are to move from milk to meat. The only way we can successfully grow more is to put down deeper roots.

We put them down by progressively spending more time in the Bible and in prayer. Your growth is directly tied to how much time and effort you put into it. I’m talking about after your salvation experience. Christ does that work because we can’t. Our growth comes from actively seeking Him. It comes from putting structure in place to help you grow. It comes from reading books on faith, having people in your life who are stronger in their faith than you so they can help you and from having people around you who are weaker do you can help pull them along. Your roots are key to your growth.

In Ephesians 3:16-17, Paul says that he prays that God would empower us with inner strength through His spirit. Then, after Christ makes His home in our heart, our roots will grow down deep into Gods love and keep us strong. The more we trust on Christ, the deeper our roots will grow. The deeper our roots grow, the closer we can get to Him. If your desire is to grow upwards in Christ, spend time working on your foundation. Do the things that will give you a clearer understand of who God is and build on that foundational knowledge of Him.

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Exposing Your Weakness

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Last week, a mentor of mine posted a video of himself working out. He held a barbell above his head and squatted multiple times. He then moved over to a chin up bar and did several chin ups. After that he went back to the barbells. He repeated the process until he couldn’t go on. I watched as he began to struggle. His arms twitched. He had to refocus and retry a few times as he got wore out. Finally, he stopped and walked off the mat. His caption said, “One thing Crossfit does, it exposes weakness in areas you might have thought you were strong in. But I love it!”

That phrase stuck out to me. Most of us want nothing to do with having our weaknesses exposed. We like to keep them hidden from others and pretend they don’t exist. We like to focus on areas where we’re strong and show that side to the world. We like to put our best foot forward and rarely let others see who we completely are. We’re afraid others won’t like us as much or will look down on us. Fear plays a big role in keeping our weaknesses covered up. Unfortunately, that fear is what keeps us from being more of the person God wants us to be.

Knowing what your weaknesses are and putting them in the open has a lot of benefits. First, knowing your weaknesses gives you direction and focus. It shows you exactly what you need to work on. Just because you are weak in an area of your life, it doesn’t mean you can’t get strong there. Don’t fall for the lie that it’s just who you are or it’s just in your nature. You are only weak in areas of your life to the extent that you allow yourself to be. You have the power to get strong in those areas if only you will push yourself. When you do, you will find other areas of weakness. Simply repeat the process.

Another benefit to exposing weakness is that it opens you up to accountability. As long as you hide your weakness, it will eat away at you and hold you hostage. The moment you expose it and ask others to help, you set yourself free. You are free from the mind games it has played with you and used to keep you down. You are free to work on that area and to get help. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to say to someone else, “Here’s where I’m weak. I need you to hold me accountable and to help me beat it,” you begin to turn that weakness into a strength. You begin to take control over it instead of letting it have control over you.

In Psalm 139:24-24, David prayed to God and said, “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; cross-examine me and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about… then guide me on the road to eternal life.” David understood this principle. He asked God to test him and to expose his weaknesses so that he could be guided on the road to eternal life. Each one of us have areas of weakness. Each one of us fail God in our lives. But not each one of us dare to ask God to expose it and then to guide us to a deeper walk with Him. Take that first step today and ask God to expose your weaknesses. Then find an accountability partner to help you strengthen that area. You’ll be glad you did.

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Free From Drifting

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It’s Free Friday! Today is the day you let go of the things in your life that keep you down or hold you back. To celebrate, I’m giving away “Great Leaders Grow: Becoming A Leader For Life” by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

I grew up playing in creeks that were near my house. When I would visit my grandmother, we would cross a huge cow pasture and go down to the creek to swing on vines and jump in it. Later in life, I went to the Frio river in west Texas to float down it. I’ve even been to the Nile river and taken a sail boat out on it several times. One thing I’ve learned about creeks and rivers is that they always take the path of least resistance. The get to their destination, but it takes a lot longer than it has to because they twist and wind instead of going on a straight line.

In life, I’ve found that I’m not much different than a river at times. I’ve let my life wander and meander wherever it took me. I’ve lost site of where I was going a time or two. I’ve been beat against the rocks and sent a different direction. I’ve forgotten where I was headed and pooled up at that spot. Something will inevitably happen, the dam will break and off I go again to wherever life takes me. Does that sound like you too? I don’t think that’s how God intended us to live our lives though.

I believe we are to live our lives on purpose. I believe we are to make paths where there aren’t any. God doesn’t want us to meander through life taking the path of least resistance. He wants us to pursue Him and go to the places where others won’t. He wants us to be leaders, not followers. He put in each one of us the ability to grow and the ability to lead. Too often we only think of ourselves as followers because we’re all following somebody. We forget to look behind us and see that there are others who are following us. Don’t believe me? Look at your Facebook page. How many friends do you have following you? Exactly! Some may have more than others, but each of us have someone following us.

It’s important that we lead with purpose and conviction. It’s important that we grow. I heard Harry Connick, Jr. say something profound this week. He said, “Do the things that are hard. Do the things that are uncomfortable and you’ll get better.” He’s saying that we won’t get better or grow unless we’re willing to do things that are not on the path of least resistance. He’s saying we have to do things that push us out of our normal, every day routines if we’re going to grow. If you want a better relationship with God, get up earlier and spend more time with Him. If you want more understanding of scripture, take a Bible course. If you want to be a better leader, force yourself to grow.

I like to tell people that I grow the most when I fail. I only fail when I take risks that put me in position to fail. I also gain the most ground when those risks pay off. It’s all about perspective. Failure to me is an opportunity to grow and get better. It’s a way to learn how not to do something. I don’t look at it as embarrassing or demoralizing. It’s actually energizing and challenging. Whether you fail taking a risk in life or for Christ, you will learn something new. You will find growth. Don’t just take the path of least resistance. Make a straight line for your goal and get there. Paul said that he pressed on for the (not drifted to the) high calling and we should too!

If you would like to win “Great Leaders Grow” by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller, all you have to do is go to my Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (March 8, 2014) who has liked my page. If you have already liked my page and enjoy reading these daily devotionals, you are already entered. Please invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.

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