Beginning To Explore “Spiritual Maturity” For the Rest of Us

Messing With the Spiritual Growth Model

Recently I saw a video from a men’s ministry group. The leader of the organization talked about making “spiritually mature” disciples. Apparently, he knew what that would look like and how to get men to that point. By engaging in his program, he would help men get there. I applaud his sincere heart. In the South they’d say, “Bless his heart!” Which means, “Nice try, partner.” Yet, this experience has really got me thinking about spiritual maturity. It has sent me on an exploration I’d like to share with you over the next few weeks. 

I feel like David picking up some stones to throw at Goliath. I am a nobody looking to conquer a huge behemoth so advocated by evangelical Christians. The task is way beyond me. However, there is so much confusion and misinformation surrounding “spiritual maturity” that someone needs to take it on. I’m foolish enough to try. 

Everyone believes in spiritual maturity, right? Isn’t that the goal of the Christian life? Don’t we all want to grow spiritually until we reach maturity? Who would question that idea? 

Please bear with me. I’ll be doing lots of thinking out loud. I’ll be challenging some core beliefs. I’ll be messing with a few commonly accepted ideas. I’ll be questioning my own questions. I’ll be attempting to formulate a fuller and more robust “model” for our spiritual lives. I am no expert on these things. I just have a desire to see where the evidence leads. 

My goal is to help you enter more fully into the life God has designed for you. I think that the current model of spiritual maturity may be hindering you from that fuller life. I want to see if that’s true or not. 

You can get in on the exploration by reading these posts, by seeking to understand, by asking questions, and by sharing this information with others. 

Let me begin with two statements that will get you thinking: 

  1. Jesus does not invite you to be spiritually mature. He invites you to be perfect. “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5.48). 
  2. “While most Americans are relatively content with their spirituality ‘as is,’ millions aspire to grow spiritually.” This statement comes from a 2009 report of the Barna Research Group. The full report can be found here. I’ll be referring to it from time to time. 

Thank you for engaging The UnCommon Journey were the approach to the Christian life is real, unconventional, and substantial. Our only goal is your spiritual flourishing. I want you to live life fully in the life of the Trinity. 

Do you have questions about “spiritual maturity?” Send them to me below. Thanks!! 

Dr. K   

One Practice That Shapes You Into A Thankful Person

"Giving thanks always and for everything..."

The practice of giving thanks for all things continues to mystify me. I am still learning and therefore inconsistent – like yesterday when I honked at a guy who stopped his Lexus in front of me in the flow of traffic. I didn’t even think to say, “Thank you.” Yet, I’d like to invite you to journey me in this effort. You are invited to radically give thanks for ALL things. 

In obedience to Ephesians 5.20 — giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ — and taking this verse literally, develop a thankful heart.

Here’s the practice: Say “Thank you” for everything you see and experience.

QUALIFIERS

  1. Resist the temptation to analyze the thing or experience – “This is worth being thankful for; this is not.” Don’t classify or evaluate. Just say “Thank you.”
  2. Resist the temptation to add an outcome to the thing or experience – Thank you for ________ because ___________. Just say “Thank you.” For example: You might want to say, “Thank you for the rain because it makes the veggies grow.” No! Just say “Thank you for the rain.” This removes your attempt to be in charge and control outcomes.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

As I drove to a appointment a while ago, I did this. I thanked God for everything I saw whether I liked it or not. “Thank you for this truck. Thank you for these keys. Thank you for this driveway and home. Thank you for the sunshine and clouds. Thank you for my neighbors. Thank you for the squirrel (tough one). Thank you for the stop sign. Thank you for this winding road. Thank you for the 55 speed limit (tough). Thank you for the hunger I feel. Thank you for the person I’m meeting. Thank you for the long line (tough). Thank you for the unhappy clerk (tough). Thank you for the cigarette in his hand (really tough). Thank you for the barking dogs (tough). Thank you for the smell of food. Thank you for this drink. Thank you for a successful meeting. Thank you for these cars that keep coming at me. Thank you for that school, post office, church, signal light, gas station, slow driver, two lane road, hill, silence, and life. Thank you for your goodness and beauty. Thank you for a safe trip.”

This occurred in approximately 2 hours. When I got home from the appointment, I had a deep sense of peace, joy, and contentment way beyond the usual. Saying thank you for ALL things did something in me that shaped my heart and perspective.

Saying “Thank you” will transform you into being a thankful person. 

WHEN IT’S HARD TO SAY THANK YOU

The hardest things for which to say “thank you” are those that aggravate and upset you. Thank you for President-elect Trump. Thank you for President Obama. Thank you for my headache. Thank you for this (pitiful) paycheck. Thank you for broken air conditioning. Thank you for this slow traffic. Thank you for my unruly child/grandchild. Thank you for this boring sermon. Thank you for this (stupid) conversation. Thank you for this poorly prepared food. Thank you for my spouse’s insensitivity. Thank you for this lazy employee. Thank you for people who love guns/hate guns. Thank you for that person who ignores me. Thank you for this flat tire. Thank you that my team lost. Thank you for my struggles – childhood and current.

WHY?

When you practice saying “Thank you” for ALL things, you:

  • train yourself to accept difficult situations that arise in your life with calm, compassion, and grace.
  • learn to place relationships above issues.
  • begin to understand that what you think is “bad” for you is for your good.
  • find love and joy replacing anger, impatience, frustration, and judgmentalism.
  • sort out the things you have from the things you want.

Will you accept this invitation and begin to say “Thank you” for ALL things? Share your experiences below. 

Dr. K 

Struggling With Superficiality

Is there such a thing as "Superficial Depth?" Maybe its "Deep Superficiality?"

I probably know why this is on my mind today. But, I couldn’t help sharing my propensity for superficiality with others. That’s what I do. 

 

And this pretty much says it all…

superficial1

Yet, there is hope for all of us…

superficial2

Please pray for me!

Dr. K.                    

Here’s A Solution For Dealing With Your Reactions to Election 2016

Surprise! It's a Prayer

The election is finally over. Thank God!! We can now move on with our lives without the constant shrill of half-truths, innuendo, and empty promises. However, the election is not over for many of my friends. Some continue to pine and whine while giving in to anger. Others gloat and glory believing that righteousness has won the day and nirvana awaits. Obviously, the main event has resulted in someone being declared the “winner.” However, do we really know who won and who lost?

We little peons watch the “big boys” duke it out believing that the final results will radically alter our lives. Who has truly won? Who has truly lost? It’s too bad that politics is seen to be another heated, violent, blood-boiling competition like boxing or the NFL. When viewed this way, we often miss the true nature of what it is to be human voting-4let alone be Christian. Having to win usually conflicts with loving all people as Christ did. 

I actually have a solution for you who are troubled and you who are giddy. And, yes, it’s prayer. Not just any prayer, however. But, a specific prayer. When you say this prayer daily and live in it, your perspective will begin to be nurtured in the direction of the Kingdom of God. You will sense God’s will being experienced in your life. You will know the peaceful, joyful and thankful way of navigating anything that comes your way – even a presidential election. 

Here is the prayer: 

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day, reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will; teach me to pray; pray You Yourself in me. AMEN. 

Now, reread each sentence of this prayer in light of your political feelings. Stop! Did you do it?

How Saying This Prayer Helps You

  1. This prayer helps re-orient your heart to be centered on a merciful Triune God who is more actively concerned about you than who wins or loses. To God, losses and wins are means to shape you into His image. That’s why St. Paul could write: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called for his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8. 28-29, ESV). God has bigger purposes for you than giving you what you want in an election. 
  2. This prayer also reminds you that you live in a world radiating with the presence of the Almighty. He is actively involved in you and around you. Nothing happens without Him being present in his mercy and grace. You acknowledge that God has a hand even in unforeseen events.  He can direct your will and guide your thoughts and feelings. Your role is to participate in what He’s doing. 
  3. Lastly, this prayer uniquely orients your life towards others. You are asking God to help you deal with others with God’s blessings, peace, and guidance.  It’s important that you act wisely so that you don’t embarrass others. 

Here’s what happens. As you say this often and live into it often, you slowly begin to change. If “Christian” means anything to you, then you’ll allow this prayer, in God’s grace, to shape you into the Christian you really want to be. 

At this time of our lives, we all could use a little more of that. 

I recommend saying this prayer in the morning as you begin your day.

Let the Journey Nation know how it goes for you below. 

Dr. K

voting-6voting-8voting-8

Learning From Jesus That Prayer Is Relating With The Trinity

Elevate Prayer From Utility To Union

I want to attempt to connect some dots that will help summarize the last few posts on prayer. Dot 1, Prayer. Dot 2, Communion. Dot 3, The Trinity. Prayer is a relational love activity allowing entry into the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Communion is “co” – with (co-captain, co-conspirator) + “union”  – onenness = being in oneness with those who are one. In reality, there is only One who is perfectly one, in the union of Three. By prayer, in communion, you are united with the Three.

Called Into Jesus’ Union With The Father 

Every Christian is called into this already existing communion of the Father and the Son. St. Paul illuminates this reality when he writes: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the communion (fellowship, partnership) of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1.9). With whom is the Son in perfect communion, partnership, or fellowship? The Father and Spirit, of course. You are called into this same communion. 

Now, let me expand the first dot with the prayer Jesus gave His disciples. If prayer primarily exists as a means of “co-unioning” with the Trinity, then the prayer Jesus gave his disciples must be a primary way for them to enter that union.

From the very heart and lips of Jesus come the words that open the door into the inner sanctuary of Jesus’ communal relationship with the Father and the Spirit.

He gives His disciples access into this holy kingdom, this sanctified community, this intimate fellowship by means of this prayer. It’s the key that unlocks the door of paradise.

They’re not magical words. They’re majestic words. It’s not a formulaic incantation. It’s a deific liturgy. 

Elevate Prayer To It’s Proper Place

I conclude these posts on learning to pray as Jesus taught His disciples by saying: 

Prayer is best learned in relationship with the Trinity.

True prayer is basically being in dynamic relationship with God. It is relational in nature. So relational, in fact, that some scripture writers refer to it as a communal partnership. So then, the best gauge of your relationship with God is your prayer life. In prayer your heart opens to the heart of the Trinity and the relationship deepens in love.

Prayer is not something you make up; it is something you enter into.

In teaching His disciples to pray, Jesus invites you to enter the ever-flowing communion of the Trinity. He has even given you the uniquely uncommon words of the “Lord’s Prayer” to enter into their fellowship. Pray these words as a means of communing with the Trinity until you learn what it is to know God in prayer.   

How well are you grasping the significance of this prayer for your life? In what situations will you pray the prayer Jesus gave his disciples? Share below. 

Dr. K 

Yes! You Too Can Have A Consistent Prayer Life

Learning to Pray Takes Time

Generally speaking, there is nothing instant in the Christian life. Most of what you learn about your relationship with God comes over time. There may be “Ah-ha” moments that surprise and delight you. Yet, there follows the need to appropriate and practice a different set of activities until real change happens. You would like it to be different perhaps. Yet, there is a depth and satisfaction that only comes with learning something over a longer period of time. This is true of prayer as well. 

We learn from the prayer life of Jesus, and what he taught his disciples, that: 

Prayer is best learned over time.

Gift & Habit

Prayer isn’t found beautifully displayed in a welcome basket ready to be chosen by the new Christian. You don’t simply pick it up, take it home, display it on the mantel and look at it on occasion. Prayer is more like a gift from God that you unwrap. Inside, you find a high-quality sweatshirt made to last forever.

But, you must put it on to experience it’s warmth and comfort. It becomes your favorite garment as you wear it year after year. You discover over time that the thread adjusts to the temperatures so that it is just as comfortable in the summer as the winter. Prayer becomes your “habit.” 

Not Automatic

Neither is prayer automatic or innate to living the Christian life. The desire to be in communion with God comes with faith. There is within your heart a yearning to be with the Trinity. Yet, time is needed to learn how this is done. The gift of longing is to be developed over time until you are living out the longing in reality. The longing becomes real. Don’t assume you know how to pray just because you have made a faith commitment to Christ. Nourish the seed of prayer that is within. Develop your prayer life more fully. 

Prayer is slowly learned in struggle, failure, effort, and acquisition along your Christian journey. It’s more like becoming a professional baseball player who learns to hit little-league95 mph fastballs. A boy starts out hitting off a tee at age 5, plays little league and learns to hit 50-60 mph pitches. Then in college he begins to battle 70-80 mph fastballs. If he progresses, he’ll be able to deal with changeups of that velocity and fastballs close to 95 mph.

It’s a long and intentional journey. He doesn’t wake up one morning, at age 25, and decide, I’m going to play pro ball and go out and do it. 

Like hitting a fastball, prayer cannot be mastered. There will be more misses than hits. Prayer is a mystery filled with adventure, exploration, surprises, failures, commitment, joys, and challenges. All the more reason to do it. 

From Jesus to Apostles to You 

The first followers of Jesus learned prayer by watching Jesus, listening to his teachings, and putting them into practice. For example, the Apostle Peter lived a liturgical prayer life, as Jesus taught, going to the Temple to pray at a certain (9th) hour (Acts 3.1) and to a roof top at the sixth hour (Acts 10.9). He prayed for Dorcas’ healing (Acts 9.36-41) and was the recipient of faithful prayers (Acts 12.6-17). Later, he was able to give instructions out of his own experience – “be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers (1 Peter 4.7). 

Just keep praying. If you haven’t started, begin with the prayer Jesus gave his disciples (see this post).  Learn from Jesus for the rest of your life.

Never walk around naked.

Keep swinging. 

What do you need to do now to learn to pray over time? Share some of your prayer journey below. 

Dr. K 

Here’s How To Quickly & Easily Learn to Pray

Ask the Master of Prayer

I have a confession to make. I don’t like to ask for help. Can you relate? In my pride, I have this independent stubbornness which (I falsely think) enables me to do anything I put my mind to. It’s a sickness that keeps me isolated from people who can help me and want to help me. I’m getting a little better at asking for help now that technology is way beyond my experience, now that my body is physically unable to do what it used to, and now that I’m getting more honest about my spiritual sicknesses. I am poor and needy (Psalm 40.17, 70.5, 109.22). I need help. This is particularly true when it comes to prayer.

From Jesus’ exchange with his disciples after one of them requested, “Lord, teach us to pray,” we learn that…

Prayer is best learned by asking.

What Would You Ask For? 

Of all the things the disciples could have asked Jesus to teach them, prayer took precedence. Did the disciples feel weak in prayer? Did they see Jesus praying in ways they did not understand? Did they recognize the utter significance of prayer as they observed Jesus communing with His Father?

Seriously. If you were one of the twelve, would your request have been “Teach me to pray?” Or would you be like me, “Teach me to be a great father and husband.” Or, “Teach me to be a successful entrepreneur.” Or, “Teach me to really love people.” Or, “Teach me to win the world to Jesus.” I wonder if we’d be all that interested in prayer.

Yet, the disciples of Jesus saw prayer as a priority, perhaps the very core of their living. They needed to learn to do it.

Asking & Humility 

Asking is truly an act of humility. It is admitting you don’t know something. Asking acknowledges your need for help. It also indicates an eagerness to learn. Does this describe you? 

How about your experience of prayer? Could you use some help? Come to the Master of Prayer for help.

Begin by praying, “Lord, teach me to pray.” Ask him everyday. Ask him several times throughout the day. Then, see how He answers.

Isn’t that amazing? You pray to learn to pray. 

What is preventing you from asking Jesus to teach you to pray? How will you begin today? Share below. 

Dr. K 

P.S. I recognize that the disciple requests of Jesus, “Teach US to pray.” There is certainly a plural aspect to his request that is meaningful to you as well. I am making application of the request to individuals. However, I’d also encourage you to ask Jesus to teach your family, small group, church, or group of friends to pray as well.

Modern Christian Culture Has LIED To You

Our Ways are not God's Ways

 

Here is the full quote: 

Woe to those who are rich, who are full, who laugh, and who are praised. But good shall come to those who endure every wrongful accusation, beating, robbery, or compulsory difficulty. This is com­pletely opposite to what people usu­ally think and feel! The thoughts of God are as far from human thoughts as heaven is from the earth. How else could it be? We are in exile; and it is not remarkable for those in exile to be offended and in­sulted. We are under a penance; the penance consists of deprivations and labors. We are sick; and most useful for the sick are bitter medi­cines. The Savior Himself all of His life did not have a place to lay His head, and He finished his life on the cross — why should his followers have a better lot? The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of preparedness to suffer and bear good-naturedly all that is sorrowful. Comfort, arro­gance, splendor, and ease are all foreign to its searching and tastes. Its path lies in the fruitless, dreary desert. The model is the forty-year wandering of the Israelites in the desert. Who follows this path? Ev­eryone who sees Canaan beyond the desert, boiling over with milk and honey. During his wandering he too receives manna, however not from the earth, but from heav­en; not bodily, but spiritually. All the glory is within.