Taking the Next Step in Spiritual Growth (aka: Was the Apostle Paul a Hottie?)

I think I’m developing a little crush on the Apostle Paul.

(just kidding!)

But really, I am so grateful for Paul’s willingless to obey. His faith. His dedication to writing letters to other believers. I’m pretty positive if I was sitting in prison I’d be feeling sorry for myself rather than writing letters to encourage, call out, and build up the church.

Right now I’m reading Hebrews. Hebrews 10 and 11 were exactly what I needed to hear today. Paul wrote about the basics of what we need to be doing and how we should be living:

  • Drawing near to God
  • Holding unswervingly to Him
  • Encouraging other Christians toward love and good deeds
  • Putting my faith in action

I don’t know if Paul meant these to be sequential steps, but if so, I’m ready to take the next step. I’ve spent the past four years committed to reading through the Bible (almost) every day. I’ve read through the Bible three times and this year I’ve been doing a deep dive in the Gospels and Paul’s letters; but now I ready for more.

In addition to reading and studying the Bible and praying daily (Drawing near to God), I want to jump into the other three simultaneously:

Holding unswervingly to God: this is where I think practicing spiritual disciplines like solitude and silence, memorization and meditation, and fasting come into play. This article does a great job explaining how to incorporate these spiritual disciplines into our Christian walk.

Encouraging other Christians toward love and good deeds: Community and accountability. I long for this. Not just friends. But a small tribe of women who are on fire for Jesus. I’ve heard many times that people are the “average” of the five people they surround themselves with. I don’t know if this is true, but I want to find five women who are at a similar place I am spiritually – and ideally a few who are more spiritually mature – who will push me, encourage me, and hold me accountable. And even though I’m not old (mid-40’s is the new 30’s, right?), I want to find younger women who I can encourage and spur toward good deeds.

Putting my faith in action: I know my primary mission field: the three beautiful people who live in my house. I need to be working my mission field everyday. Secondarily, I also believe God is calling me to be active in encouraging other women to spend time with Jesus every day and to be active in loving and supporting women facing unplanned pregnancies. I know my purpose. I know what God is calling me to. Now is the time to step forward in faith and take action on living out my purpose.

It is time to put Paul’s instructions to the early church into practice and go deeper in my walk with Jesus, taking each step in submission and obedience to Him.

P.S. Paul, thanks for writing these letters. Don’t worry, I don’t really have a crush on you. That was a joke. But, I can’t wait to meet you someday.

Feeding My Soul

I am not a body with a soul. I am a soul with a body.

Unknown, random quote, most likely on a beach gif

I saw this quote recently while scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. I don’t remember who posted it. I think it was a fashion or travel blogger. Someone whose blog isn’t focused on faith and for all I know they were talking about yoga rather than God . . . but still, it stuck with me.

Today I read John 4, which has a theme of nourishment and physical and spiritual sustenance, which took me back to this quote and made me question the effort I put into making sure my soul is fed versus my physical body.

I am not a “foodie.” Theoretically, I’d like to be, but realistically I don’t like to cook or bake. I don’t like grocery shopping. I am a picky eater. If I go to a great restaurant, I usually get the most conservative, bland item on the menu. Eating grilled chicken is out of my comfort zone. But I try not to eat too much processed food. I try to drink enough water. I’m trying to eat more greens. I know that eating good, healthy, clean foods is better for me. I know there is a correlation between the health of my cells and the food I ingest. I am conscious of this correlation, and I know that if I am disciplined and selective about what I eat, I will have better physical health.

In John 4, Jesus talked about physical and spiritual nourishment:

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. )

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

John 4:7-15

Our souls need nourishment just as much as our physical bodies. The “living water” that Jesus offers is salvation. By believing in him, our soul is quenched (see: John 7:37-38). A relationship with God is the only “drink” that offers life to our souls. Without Jesus, our souls will always be thirsty, seeking something to sooth it.

Jesus also talked about nourishment that comes from obedience to God:

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

John 4:31-34

Throughout John 4 there are also several references to Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine, which foreshadows the last supper when instead of turning water into wine, Jesus had the disciples drink wine that represented his blood, which he would shed for our sins.

From the time I wake up in the morning until the time I go to bed, my body sends my brain messages about what it needs. My stomach reminds me it is time to eat. My caffeine addiction tells me to make coffee. Sometimes I get a headache from too much of a substance or not enough of another. Sometimes I get shaky or have trouble consecrating. I hear these messages, and I usually know what they mean. If not, a quick visit to WebMD will give me a clue.

I am not just a body with a soul. I am a soul with a body. I need to tune into what my soul is telling me and make sure it is being fed.

  • Am I losing my temper? I need more time reading the Bible.
  • Am I anxious? I need more time in prayer.
  • Am I lusting? I need to practice obedience.
  • Am I coveting? I need to serve others.
  • Is my soul tired? I need to rest in Jesus.

Making sure my soul is fed with the Bible, prayer, and spiritual disciplines is just as important as making sure my stomach is fed.

Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.

Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Jesus, John 6:26-27,32-33,35

Meditation for Christians

Tips for incorporating meditation into your daily walk with Jesus.

“Meditation”

What comes to mind when you hear the word “meditation”? For me, several things:

  1. Julia Roberts in the movie “Eat Pray Love” – sitting in a serene setting in India, meditating;
  2. My mom warned me as a child against Eastern religious meditation practices that involve clearing my mind;
  3. Meditation is repeatedly mentioned in the Bible.

May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord. Psalm 104:34 NIV 

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. Psalm 119:15 NIV 

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.  Psalm 1:1-3 

How should a Christian meditate? Most meditation guides are geared toward Eastern practices and the mind-clearing practices my mom warned me about, while the Bible clearly says when we meditate it should be focused on God’s laws, precepts (rules), and ways. Over the past several months I’ve been working to incorporate Christian meditation into my daily walk with Jesus. Below are some tools that I have found helpful:

Bible Meditation Podcast: Most mornings, before I start my #DailyBibleReading, I listen to a 10 minute guided meditation podcast by Nikki Rach. I love the format – breathing and meditating on a verse, followed by reflection and prayer. I highly recommend. For more information, visit her website here or listen to the podcast on iTunes or other podcast players.

Meditate on a verse or passage in the Bible: Start with taking 10 minutes before bed for first thing in the morning. Keep your mind focused on a Bible passage or list from the Bible. Keep your eyes closed, stay relaxed, and when your mind starts to drift to other things, return to the passage or list. Some good starting points:

  1. Psalm 23. Memorize the 23rd Psalm and then meditate on it. See yourself in the green pasture. Imagine God refreshing your soul and leading you on the path of righteousness.
  2. Love: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Memorize the attributes of love and say the passage over and over in your mind. Keeping in mind that these are also the attributes of God as He is love.
  3. Fruit of Spirit: Galatians 5:22-25: Memorize the fruits of the spirit and go over that list if you mind. Breath deeply. Think about love. think about goodness. Think about gentleness.
  4. 10 Commandments: Go over the list of commands, just as King David did.

Meditate on God’s Mighty Deeds (Psalm 77:12): This is why reading through the Bible is so helpful – there are so many stories of God’s power and might from Genesis to Revelation. I love just to sit still and visualize and think about some of the examples below:

  1. God, in the form of fire or a cloud, leading the Israelites. I imagine the sights, smells, power, provision of God.
  2. Jesus dying on the cross: the ultimate sacrifice, out of love for me. I imagine the pain God was experiencing. The pain Jesus was experiencing. The unconditional love they have for me.
  3. Jesus as a vine, me as a branch.
  4. God parting the sea for the Israelites to pass.

A few other tips:

  • Start slow, 10 minutes, once a day.
  • Find a quiet, relaxing, comfortable place to sit.
  • Unless you are listening by podcast, put all your electronic devices away.
  • When your mind starts to drift to other things, refocus back to God.
  • It is okay to converse with God during meditation – pray, confess, praise.
  • Don’t quit just because it gets difficult or you don’t “feel” results.

I wish you well on your meditation journey. Please message me with any tips or helpful practices you’ve incorporated into your meditation.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV