Sit Down and Grow

One of the most important steps we can take if we want to grow like Jesus is to simply spend time with Jesus. I know, it makes sense in a way that makes you say, “Well, duh.” But in light of the obvious truth we have to ask an obvious question: Why don’t we actually do it?

It’s not like God isn’t available to anyone who wants to spend time with Him. Ask and you will receive. Knock and the door shall be opened. God is there – everywhere, all the time. Omnipresent.

I know a man who claimed to have a near-death experience. You know the kind: The doctors said he was gone. Call-the-hearse-dead. Then, mysteriously, he was alive again. As far as I know, he’s the only person alive who claims to have died and then didn’t write a book about it. But he did tell me that while he was “out of body,” he spent part of the time sitting on a log visiting with Jesus.

I neither believe his story nor doubt his story. He was, as they say, eccentric, but in a believable sort of way. But I do believe we don’t have to die (or nearly die) to talk to Jesus. He gave us the Holy Spirit. He gave us the Bible. He gave us prayer. So if we want to grow like Jesus, we can start by sitting down and talking with Him. Not just to Him, but with Him. The means we talk some and we listen a lot. Then we obey.

We don’t spend more time with Jesus, frankly, because we think we have better ways to spend our time. Harsh, but true. We’d rather sleep a little later, work a little longer, play a little harder. We have things to do, places to go, people to see. Color me guilty. But when those “things to do” don’t include spending time with Jesus, we miss a chance to connect with the God of the universe and experience real spiritual growth.

Bill Hybels, the pastor at Willow Creek in Chicagoland, tells a great story of how life-changing it can be to pull up a chair and spend some time with Jesus. Here’s a link to the 10-minute video. Watch the video, then pull up a chair and spend some time with Jesus.

Layers from the Word

layers“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

The more I’ve re-read this verse, the more layers I’ve discover. Consider:
+ The word of God is alive — but not just alive, it’s active. It could be alive and passive, much as my faith sometimes seems to be. But it is actively doing things.
+ So how is it active? What actions does it take? It penetrates my very soul and spirit, my joints, my bones. Not only that, it actually judges my thoughts and attitudes.
+ How does it do that? How do words on a page become active? I get that they penetrate, but that happens when I reflect on them and allow my soul and spirit to understand their meaning. But it’s more than that. The word of God actually judges my thoughts and attitudes and it convicts me in ways that are beyond my own reasoning.
+ Is this the work of the Holy Spirit? Or is this Jesus? Or both? The Hebrews passage doesn’t capitalize “word,” but it’s the same Greek word — logos. And we know that one of the names given to Jesus was the Word.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. “ — John 1:1-3
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” — John 1:14

Note from A Greek philosopher named Heraclitus first used the term Logos around 600 B.C. to designate the divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe.

An Untoward Generation

My wife and I read a prayer in a devotional one morning that asked God’s assistance in the lives of children in “a crooked and untoward generation.” Now, when you see the phrase “untoward generation” you immediately know this wasn’t written yesterday. But you also no doubt know that today’s generation is as “crooked and untoward” as any in history, including the one in the 1600s when Jeremy Taylor penned the prayer.

What also hasn’t changed much in the last 600 years is the needs of our children. Taylor, an English cleric known for his poetic writing style, asks God to give children “healthful bodies, understanding souls, and sanctified spirits, that they may be thy servants and thy children all their days.”

Then he prays for their protection, which is where you see this literary gem: “So order the accidents of their lives, that by good education, careful tutors, holy examples, innocent company, prudent counsel, and thy restraining grace, their duty to thee may be secured in the midst of a crooked and untoward generation.”

The accidents of their lives. Yep, our children will make mistakes and poor choices. We want those “accidents” to lead them somewhere holy. Good education. Yep, want them to learn the right stuff. Careful tutors, holy examples, innocent company, prudent counsel. Yep, we want some good influences around them. And, of course, restraining grace. Yep, we want God’s grace to shower them.

We immediately prayed this for our children, who are grown, but also for our grandchildren. Later, upon reflection, I prayed it for myself.

Note: If you want more from Jeremy Taylor, there’s plenty on the internet. That prayer is in several compilation books, including The Whole Works of the Right Rev. Jeremey Taylor, Volume III. If you’re a Kindle type of person, you can pick up several of Taylor’s books for as little as 99 cents.