Spiritual Formation

Lessons from Peter

A successful entrepreneur with a thriving fishing business, Peter was a natural leader who was willing to take risks. He was bold, impulsive and often stuck out his neck in pursuit of being with Jesus. This zealous side of Peter served him well, but it also got him into trouble. Throughout the Scriptures, we see Peter struggling to let go of his agenda and accept God’s agenda, and in doing so, he sets himself up for failure time and time again.

While Peter didn’t lack for motivation, he did refuse to deal with many of the “know” and “below” barriers that prevented him from being the man God intended. Aware of Peter’s tendencies, Jesus allowed Peter to put himself in positions to fail, because in doing so, Jesus knew that Peter would also put himself in positions to grow. Every time Peter failed, he learned something about life and every time he learned something, he grew. And in learning from his mistakes, Peter became a different man.

Presented with the same challenges and opportunities, we would likely respond like Peter, who boasted too much, prayed too little, acted too fast and followed too far away. However, the good news is that just like Peter, who learned from his mistakes, there is a gracious Father who wants to do the same wonderful work in our lives as well. But that takes a commitment on our part. First, to be courageous enough to face our own “know”, “go” and “below” barriers to spiritual growth. Second, to trust God’s plan and purpose for our lives.

Becoming the Person God Intended

The most important task of our life is not what we do, but who we become. Since we are God’s people, created for his plan and purposes, he knows what we are intended to be. And being in Christ and growing in him means we are moving towards God’s best version for us.

Peter’s full name at birth was Simon Bar-Jonah (Matthew 16:17), meaning “Simon, son of Jonah” (John 21:15-17). But as one of his disciples, Jesus gives Simon another name, Peter, which means “rock.” However, before God could do the work he desired through Peter, he first had to do a work in him. Over time God would take a fisherman with an ambivalent, vacillating and impulsive personality and shape him into a rock like leader. And in God’s training process, Peter learned that in spite of his weaknesses, the Lord wanted to use him and had great plans for him.

Similarly, as God grows you, he wants to use the situations of life to refine and shape us for the mission he has called us to. God made you to flourish and to produce blessing beyond yourself. Flourishing is God’s plan and gift, and when you flourish, you are in harmony with God, other people, creation and yourself. And it means you are becoming the person God had in mind when he created you. It is moving towards God’s best version of you.

Just like Peter, God has a purpose and plan for you, but he won’t discard the raw material. He just redirects it.

The Kingdom of God

In the Kingdom of God…

…a person is lifted up by humbling himself, not by exalting himself in the eyes of others.

…strength is found through weakness, not by being confident in your own abilities.

…fullness comes by becoming empty, not by running after pleasure.

…life is gained by losing it, not by looking out for “number one.”

…riches come by giving them away, not by storing them up.

…greatness comes by becoming a servant, not by seeking power and celebrity.

by Roy Lessin, DaySpring Cards

Iron Sharpens Iron

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  – Proverbs 27:17, NIV

Last night was a great night! I got to reconnect with my college buddies from UC Santa Barbara. These are friends I’ve known for over 25 years. And as we sat and talked together, I was reminded of God’s goodness and grace in my life. My life has truly been blessed, in that I have been surrounded with so many great people, who reflect Jesus in beautiful ways. People who have helped me grow spiritually and experience a quality of life that is exuberant and life-giving. These people have spurred me on in the Christian race and have inspired me to be my all for God. However, as I sat with my college buddies last night, I recalled how special these friends were in particular.

From my group of friends at UCSB, six of us went on to serve in vocational ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ, and that’s not counting some of our friends from other area schools. I guess you might expect to find that from a Christian university, but this was my experience at university with a “reputation” of being a “party school”! What brought us together, is the same thing that has kept us together, our common faith and commitment to living that out in our world.

As I sat there with my friends, I was thankful, because I realized that God had used my friends to help shape me into the person I am today. It reminded me of the principle, “who we spend our precious time with, will in part affect the direction we go in”. And in this circle of friends, we were all committed to loving Jesus and living according to His plans and purposes for our lives. Therefore our lives took the trajectory of those with whom we had associated with.

If you want to grow into a solid and faithful follower of Jesus, it’s important to spend time with others who are just as committed to spiritual maturity as you are. As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat!”. In other words, you become what you take in and accept into your life. So choose to connect with others who are looking to grow in their spiritual maturity and you will find yourself maturing and becoming the person God wants you to be.

I’m thankful for my friends and for the many others who inspire me to become God’s best version of myself!

Bearing Fruit

This past weekend, I had the privilege of co-teaching with our Senior Pastor Doyle Surratt! In our current series, Grow, we’ve been talking about how to grow spiritually, by unpacking many of the verses that refer specifically to bearing fruit and that barrow illustrations from agriculture. In the video below, I unpack the Parable of the Fig Tree in Luke 13:6-9 and discuss the conditions necessary for greater spiritual fruitfulness in our lives. Have a listen and rejoice in the reality that God is for you!

Things You Can Count On

A grace that’s sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9);
a mercy that endures (Psalm 136:1);
an atoning blood that cleanses (1 John 2:2);
a hope that doesn’t disappoint (Romans 5:5);
a love that never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8);
a purpose that works all things together for good (Romans 8:28);
a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7);
a joy unspeakable (1 Peter 1:8);
a kingdom that’s unshakable (Hebrews 12:28);
a foundation which is indestructible (2 Timothy 2:19);
a High Priest who prays (John 17);
a Savior who lives (1 Corinthians 15:1-11);
a Spirit who comforts (2 Corinthians 1:4);
a Father who cares (1 Peter 5:7).

– Roy Lessin, DaySpring Cards

God is On Your Side

The Lord will fight for you.”  – Exodus 14:14

I read these words and draw in a deep breath.
I need them right now.
Don’t we all? Oh, we may not go to war.
But we fight…
for relationships
for dreams

We battle…
against illness
against discouragement
I think of you staring at the screen, perhaps feeling your strength is small.
Oh, yes, I know what that’s like.
But victory isn’t up to us.
And those words you sometimes hear? “You’re not worth fighting for.”
They’re a lie. Nothing more.
This is the truth from the heart of One who calls you His own:
You are loved.
You are worth fighting for.
You are even worth dying for.
So go into your day, strong friend, knowing that nothing can defeat you. You’ve already won.

by Holley Gerth, DaySpring Cards

31 Questions

Over the years, I have accumulated ideas and questions that have been helpful to me in transitioning casual conversations into spiritual ones. Here is that list of those conversation starters. Perhaps some of these might help you easily engage others in a conversation about faith…

  1. Where are you on your spiritual pilgrimage?
  2. Who is the most impressive person you have ever met?
  3. What single thing would you like to make absolutely certain you do (if at all possible) during your lifetime?
  4. What historical character, from any period of history, would you like to meet?
  5. What are you reading for leisure these days?
  6. How do you know you’ll go to heaven when you die?
  7. How are you growing personally?
  8. In your opinion, how does one become a Christian?
  9. How would you describe your father and his impact on your life?
  10. Do you have a mentor?  Tell me about his or her impact on your life?
  11. What do you think would probably surprise most people about you? Why?
  12. What is your greatest strength, and what are you doing to develop it?
  13. Why do people do what they do? What are the assumptions you make about people?
  14. How do you handle pressure?
  15. What do you consider to be the two major turning points in your life?
  16. What is something you consider to be a great personal success? Why?
  17. What is your key to maintaining balance in your life?
  18. What are two or three major truths upon which you base your decision-making?
  19. Tell me about two of your life long friends, and why they have had such an impact upon your life?
  20. How would you describe your mother, and her impact on your life?
  21. In your opinion, who is Jesus Christ?
  22. If you could know God personally, would you be interested?
  23. What have you found to be the best way of absorbing disappointment, rejection, distress and discouragement?
  24. If you could ask God any question, what would you ask?
  25. What is the most important thing in the world to you, and why?
  26. What gives your life value?
  27. Does your worldview, have an answer for why there is pain, suffering and evil in the world? If so, what is it?
  28. What is your basis for morality (what is right and wrong)?
  29. If you were to inherent a million dollars today, and couldn’t spend it on yourself, what would you do with it and why?
  30. Has anything ever happened to you, which was dramatic, personal or spectacular enough to have caused you to be certain there is a God who is both infinite and personally caring?
  31. What in your opinion is the meaning of life?

The Power of a Question

When’s the last time someone challenged you to step out of your comfort zone and to make a difference? Think about it! Seriously, when was the last time you pushed the limits of your comfort and you truly had to depend on God to do his wonders through you? Whether for personal gain or for God’s eternal glory, the idea of stepping out of our comfort zone is often met with excuses, rationalizations or indifference.

As a pastor and Christian leader, challenging men and women to follow God’s call to step out and serve others is part of what I do. I know that life is best lived in following God’s principles. And to speak into people’s lives and challenge them to become the person God designed them to be is a privilege. I absolutely love it when the light goes on and they get that God wants to use them to make a difference in our world.

Many years ago, I asked a college student to consider giving himself to serving God for one summer before giving the rest of his life to serving in the corporate world. It took a great deal of courage and faith, but that soon to be college graduate, believed that God was up to something and trusted him to overcome some big obstacles in order to spend the summer working with international students at UCLA. That summer God did something amazing in this young man’s life and today Steve Hong serves as the Fund Development Director for Epic, a ministry of Cru, helping other Asian Americans overcome their own obstacles and live radically for Jesus.

Recently Steve retold some of his story for a video to be used by Epic. In the video below, Steve talks about how he took baby steps to follow God’s leading in his life and what he saw God do! He shared the video link with the “disclaimer” that everything in the video is accurate, with the exception that the person who plays me is Asian. Had to laugh.

In watching the video, I am reminded of the power of a question! And I’m thankful to have made a difference in Steve’s life and for those who continue to challenge me to live in absolute surrender to God’s plan and purposes.

Change Your Life

It’s been said that the two biggest life change factors in your life are: 1) the people you hang out with; and 2) the books you read. God’s been reminding me lately that this is so true in my life, and that this truth has so many implications:

  1. This is why our personal time with God is so important. Spending time reading God’s word and in prayer can be the biggest catalyst for change in our lives. I am always at my best after spending time with Jesus!
  2. This is why we need to constantly assess who we’re hanging out with and make sure we’re rubbing shoulders with people who are wiser, smarter, more successful, and closer to God than we are. Lately I’ve been reminded that you can only take people only as far as you have been. So I’ve been seeking out those who are further along in the journey than I am and the result is that I’m being uniquely challenged in my leadership as well as in my walk with the Lord.
  3. This is why we need to be even more diligent and systematic in our personal reading and leadership development time. I read quite a bit, but not as much as I need to. Right now, I’m reading: Move by Greg Hawkins & Heaven by Randy Alcorn, but there are still plenty of unread books next to my bed that are begging to be cracked open. Leaders are readers.

So, who are you hanging out with? What are you reading? If you tell me the answers to those two questions, I’ll tell you what you’re becoming.

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