A few words about two words …

Throughout our lives two words have been shared with, or directed toward, each of us. Our parents used them. Our teachers used them. Now, as a father, I use them, sometimes daily.

God uses these two words, too. He uses them frequently, offers them intently, and often phrases them differently. They are implied in Psalm 19:1-4. See if you can spot them.


The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.


You have said them; I have said them; and here, God says those famous two words: Pay attention.

Psalm 19 is an amazing psalm. It summarizes how God reveals Himself to us and speaks to us. Psalm 19 is only 14 verses long, take a moment and read it. Go ahead, I’ll wait here for you.

Now that you have read it — you did read it, didn’t you? — we can take a peek at it. Verses 1-6 speak to God revealing Himself through creation. This is know as God’s “general” revelation of Himself. It is general in the sense that He shows us some of His power, character, and ways. Verses 7-11 point to the beauty and benefits of God’s Word, the Bible. The Bible is known as God’s “specific” or “particular” revelation. In His Word God shows in detail Who He is, what He is like, and His will and ways. In short, creation provides a sketch of God’s presence and power, the Bible is a gallery of detailed portraits of the nature, attributes, work, and will of God.



Last Saturday, we enjoyed a kayaking trip on the upper White River. It was a part of the river that I had never seen. As you can tell from the picture, it was spectacular! As I soaked in the scenery, Psalm 19 simmered in my mind. Later that evening, after unpacking the Jeep, putting up kayaks, and applying globs of aloe vera gel to my sunburn, I visited Psalm 19. As I read it prodded me to take more time to observe — to look for Him. As your weekend begins, let Psalm 19 serve as a signpost for you to watch for Him around you, and to pursue Him in His Word.

Psalm 19 instructs us to observe His handiwork in creation, then to burrow into His Word and get to know Him. There is a difference between admiring craftsmanship and knowing the craftsman. Psalm 19 admonishes us to do both, and to pay attention as we do. We owe it to Him to be intentional in each of these.


Have a good weekend.

Pay attention, you won’t want to miss what He will to show you.



Picking out splinters and pushing ahead …

Closing out the year and preparing for a new one is exciting. We recall fond memories and fine times hoping for more to come. Oftentimes, as we look back on the best of times other thoughts slink in, thoughts that dim the outlook of the future. It happens to all of us.

Fortunately, there is an antidote for the poisonous thoughts of the past as well as strength for surging ahead. It’s found in Philippians 3:12-13:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,”

Re-read those words long ago penned by Paul. He wrote them while in prison. He wrote them as one who had known ups and downs, successes and failures. Now, re-read those verses again knowing that a man, just like us, in a hard place, just like we experience, wrote them. It amplifies their message, it concentrates their potency.

Through Paul, God gives us these verses as some of the most powerful and penetrating truths in regard to how to handle the past and the future. Let’s take in these spiritual truths — which also apply to the rest of life — one by one.

First, Paul shows us that growth is a process, not an event. He stated that he had not “obtained this” or become complete, yet. All growth is a process. Often, it is more gradual and tedious than we prefer. Progress in your spiritual life, at work, regarding health, or in relationships moves in inches, not feet. Paul knew that he had not reached his goals, and that it would require ongoing effort and dedication to become who Christ wanted him to be. The same is true for us. We must resolve in our minds that growth takes time, and then set our minds to moving on.

Speaking of moving on, Paul outlines a second truth that tempers us for growth. His response to not being where he wanted to be resulted in this determined statement in verse 12, “but I press on …” Paul was a Christian who was full of grace and grit! He would press on! We must press on, too. That is the solution to many of the down times, or mediocre times in life. When you do not feel like reading your Bible, or exercising, or overcoming a bad habit, press on anyway. You might be asking, “how do I press on, or how can I press on?” Glad that you asked.

Verse 12 reveals how Paul could press on in the toughest of times (remember, he was in prison). God provides a two-sided key to unlock our chains so that we can press on.

First, remember that you belong to Christ and are empowered by Him. Pressing on is not possible without realizing and relying upon this. Paul said that he could press on because, “Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Don’t miss that one. Because Christ has made us His own He will also provide what we need. Hope, strength, grace, and discipline are all gifts that He offers to His own. When you lack, ask. He provides abundantly.

Second, Pressing on requires moving on. Paul described moving on as “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Stumbles from the past — whether recent or long ago — can cripple growth in the present. Whether it was a recent bad moment, or a tragic event long ago, the past can paralyze the present, and assassinate the future. How many times have past struggles or shortcomings caused you to lean back from a challenge? We all have. It’s part of being human. But, it’s a dragon that can be tamed, and banished. It is defeated by trusting God through Christ to forgive us and to empower us to forget the past. Quick question: Why do we continue to recall and relive a past that God has already forgiven? Hmmm, it’s worth pondering. Back to the point. Paul moved ahead by moving on. Paul had plenty to forget, and he did so through Christ. Forgetting isn’t the whole solution, pressing on also requires “straining forward.” What a great picture! Paul tells us to forsake and forget the past and to strain, or press, ahead. I began running in 2016. It has given me new appreciation for this verse. In many 20K or half marathon races over the past year I have had to “strain ahead” toward the finish line. As you near the end the miles seem longer, not shorter, and more difficult. That is when we have to strain ahead, press on, grit it out. Whether you are running life on tired legs, carrying a heavy heart, or nursing a bruised soul you must push on.

In the verses that we have considered we have seen that God gives us the key to growth: forget the past and press on toward the future. Just in case we didn’t get the idea Paul begins verse 13 with “I press on … “ You get it. God wants us to move on from the past, it’s hurts, and the inner voice that continually brings them up. Forget the past, push toward the future. The future, including the next year, next day, and next hour are full of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and grace. You are powered by Christ to forget and press on. What are you waiting for? Go on!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Ole Bearded Acorn!

Small verse, big changes…


Autumn brings spectacular change. Falling temperatures remind us to open our windows and invite the cool air inside. Hay bales and mums decorate porches. And, of course, the leaves begin to display their fine autumnal hues. The change in the colors of the leaves is a complex bio-chemical process that boggles the mind. Thankfully, not all beautiful change is complex. In fact, deep and dynamic personal change can take place through a simple process; it is outlined in Jeremiah 26:13:

“Now therefore, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God…”


In Jeremiah’s admonition to God’s people he described how God-honoring change takes place. Let’s take a look at it together.


First, God-honoring change requires us take a hard look at ourselves. None of us enjoys this, but it is the intial step toward lasting change. Before we can “amend our ways and doings,” you and I must compare ourselves to the standard of God’s Word. We are to not compare ourselves to others (that’s self-justification) or compare ourselves to a standard that we have no intention of keeping (that’s hypocrisy). We must compare ourselves to God’s standards. Ouch! Hold on, there is good news. The gap that exists between your everyday life and God’s eternal standards is bridged by His grace to you in Christ. So, with courage, and encouragement, go ahead and take the floodlight of God’s Word and shine it onto your thoughts, motives, and attitudes knowing that His grace covers failures and forges change.


Second, the truth about ourselves produces a desire to change our ways.  “What needs to change?” you ask. According to Jeremiah 26:13 it’s our “ways and doings.” We are to amend our ways — the way that we think and live. Once we dial in on correcting our ways we will then see a change in our deeds. To attempt to change your actions apart from changing your ways is to ignore the inner problem of our sinful nature. The Pharisees were experts at this. If you intently focus God’s Word on your mind and heart long enough your ways will begin to change, then, so will your doings.


Third, continue to focus on and follow God’s Word. That sounds easy. It’s not. Your responsibilities at work and home, activities with kids, stresses and frustrations, and tight schedule can crowd out your consistent time in God’s Word. Busyness can create an un-focused and un-still mind that is dulled to what God is doing through His Word.  Beware, unless time and attention are devoted to God’s Word each day you won’t sense His direction and walk in His “ways.” You know what becomes of your “doings” if you aren’t walking in His “ways.” We’ve all been there before.


To summarize, take an excuse-free look at yourself through the lens of the Bible, make difficult changes in your ways and doings as God points them out, and thank Him for His grace that forgives our sins and forges our change.


Thankfully, oaks and hickories do not demand to hold on to summer’s greenery. If they could, and did, we would be robbed of autumn’s splendor. Is there some of God’s splendor that you do without by holding on to your old “ways” and “doings?” It’s worth looking into…


Getting our feet set


First of all, I apologize for the delay between the last post and this one. Not that anyone was pacing the floor in anticipation, but I have been spending a great deal of time delving into the New Testament “one-anothers.” I hope that you will find the delay, and work therein, worth it.

Today I spent the better part of the afternoon going through the New Testament and reading each of the “one-another” statements in their proper context. I had previously made a tidy list of each of them a few weeks back, and today sorted it, re-sorted it, and assigned a few categories to them. Each of these slow steps has been rewarded with two responses: awe and comfort. Those two words do not usually find themselves parked parallel to each other. They make for odd partners, unless you are talking about Christ. Then, awe and comfort dwell together, and overlap.

How can awe and comfort walk side by side? Let me give an example of how they do not go together, as it is often better to find out what-not-to-do in order to find out what-to-do. So, let’s imagine that I am taking a Sabbath stroll around our family’s woodlands and happen to see a migrating bald eagle gliding on the column of thermals above me (this actually happened last weekend). The size of the eagle and its wing span evokes awe. It is a grand sight; there is awe present, but there isn’t any comfort in this encounter. Let’s then suppose that a friend is hurting, you and I go to visit with, encourage, and pray for him or her. They are comforted. But, unless you are much more compassionate than I am — which is not hard because I am a left-brained and un-emotional sort of fellow — and can pray with the very breathe of heaven, there is no awe. So, awe and comfort can be induced by an encounter and result in an internal sensation, yet the two rarely walk the same path.

So, for comfort and awe to exist together, there has to be something unusual present. That missing element is a combination of grandeur and love. That is Jesus.

In John 1:14 the apostle states:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John provides a Post-It note-sized portrait of Christ: full of glory as the Son of God, displaying both complete grace and eternal truth. Grace and truth; love and verity; comfort and grandeur.

So, Jesus brought grace and truth, or grandeur and love, into full view for John, and brings it to us still.

How does this tie into the “one-anothers?” In the “one-another” principles Jesus tells us how to live out grace and truth, as He did. Then, through living them out among fellow believers we know awe and comfort, courtesy of the Spirit of Christ.

We have begun a walk through the “one-anothers” of the New Testament that I have compared to a journey along a highlands fence line that separates God’s obedient sheep from the rest. It is a tough walk. But, what we will see in this walk through God’s commands for believers for living out our faith in Christ together will illicit awe, and comfort, often at the same time.

Here is a peek around the corner of what is to come. The “one-another” commands are:

  • Comprehensive – they cover the entire scope of the Christian life. There isn’t anywhere that we will walk that will not have this fence of separation and protection present.
  • Cohesive – they unite us, and build further oneness in Christ.
  • Adhesive – they cause our lives to meld together by the bond of the Holy Spirit, and by the display of true love which can draw us even closer to each other.
  • Continual – they are on-going, ever-binding, and ever-lasting
  • Specific – there is no room left for misunderstanding them, or claiming that they are vanilla statements that result in a common response on our part.  Check out the last part of 1 Peter 4:9 for a prime example of this specificity.
  • Demanding – they call us to look to, rely upon, and yield to Christ, not ourselves or default attitudes.

Knowing these facts will help us get our feet set on the rocky path, and in turn we will walk with a steady and more discerning pace.

These astounding princples are at the same time the fuel, engine, chassis, and lubrication for mutual life and community in Christ.

So, grab your Bible and look up some of the “one-anothers.” You will be stunned at the breadth and depth of them. You too will sense awe and comfort. Both are needed as we walk with Christ, and with one another, on this journey to live and love as Christ did.

Time and place

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” Acts 17:26

The long-held, oft-rekindled day dream was assassinated suddenly and viciously, sniper-style. One simple half-verse from Acts 17:26 did the deed. This portion of a verse that was mentioned in a Sunday sermon, in passing nonetheless, exposed the daydream, and then dispatched it.

Let’s rewind a few decades to set the context. All boys want to be heroes, often in some other era or locale. I was no exception. Eventually, all boys become men — at least in the chronological sense. So, even into my forties a smidgen of this type of daydreaming had remained. The idea of living in and thriving through yonder times of greater simplicity and civility were enticing, yet unreal.

At times, the Bible had curbed this occasional daydreaming. But the lack of a specific verse, or at least the impact of one, had made it possible to return to my intermittent daydreaming of things being different: a different time, different place, different role in life, etc. As best that I can tell, these occasional spells of a discontented mind and spirit are a universal symptom of a fully-baked-in sinful nature. It runs in my family; it runs in yours too.

This went on for years, waxing and waning parallel to my wanting and whining. Then, for no reason — at least not one of mine! — this auxiliary verse in a sermon blind-sided me. As I began to read and re-read the verse, the pastor’s voice garbled, and then faded as the spiritual spotlight narrowed onto the verse. Then, the hands of honest examination and conviction had my long term malady firmly in grasp, and asphyxiated within seconds.

Note the phrase in Acts 17:26, “having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” Dang. This spoke with clarity and precision. No nuance or clemency present there.

The truth here is clear. God has designed each life for a place in time, and for time in a place. His purpose is for me to be here, now. And in the now, I am to be here. The dream of living in a time (more simple) or place (more natural and less civilized), or both, can be a camouflaged shirking of my current Kingdom purpose and responsibility. The real danger for us — not just a road sign warning — is that in longing for a different station in life we will focus on “what if” instead of “what is.” “If” versus “is” can be a distracting duel at best, paralyzing at worst.

After struggling against this spiritual current in Acts 17:26 for a minute or so, I gave up, repented, and the merciful floatation device of grace was cast my way. I took on a lot of water in that short struggle. The water-logging was good for me, and still is.

Do not suppose that I am suggesting that imagination — or fanciful thinking — is wrong, or sinful. Or, that daydreaming is sinful. Joy and imagination are important to my life, and should be so long as they do not scale the fences of Scripture and scurry into momentary longing for something other than God’s design.

As I thought on these things that afternoon, another verse came to mind: “Aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and work with your own hands, as we commanded you…”   1 Thessalonians 4:11.

Well, that does it. A solid one-two gut punch from Acts 17 and 1 Thessalonians 4:11. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians add some specificity to those in Acts 17:26. We are to aspire to lead a quiet/simple life (wait, that fits with my daydreams), mind our own business/affairs (that destroys the daydreams), and work with our own hands where we are (that buries the daydreams and firmly packs down the soil). Thanks, Paul, apostle of truth and terseness; you are correct, again.

The next time that my boy-headed thoughts trot off into another era to pretend to be bigger, better, or more with less, I will remember that I was divinely inserted into this time and place for the King. He has decided for me about this place in time, and time in this place.

Small is good, and best…


Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 states: “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”

As I left work the other evening I was reflecting on my day. I enjoy my work and the people that I work with. When I stepped outside into the parking lot it was cold. “Bad cold,” as my dad would say. It was so cold that it makes your teeth ache. Yet, I love cold weather; the colder the better. As I walked to my truck I caught myself humming. I was humming a hymn. The fact that I was humming, and unaware of it caught me a little off guard. I began to think about why I was humming. It was simple. I was looking forward to seeing the kids and eating supper (I love to eat, it is not an emotional thing or coping mechanism, I just love the taste of food). It wasn’t remarkable things like the fact that my blog received the most daily visits in its short history (4 weeks), or such, that had me in such a good mindset; it was simple things like food and family.

Ecclesiastes 2: 24-25 came to mind. Take a moment and read those two verses. Read them slowly and then ponder on them. In these verses Solomon is telling us that one of the best things in life is a good meal, and being satisfied at the end of a day of good work. He states that this is from God’s hand. It is astounding that the Bible tells us that some of the best things are the smaller and more common things. Family, meals, warmth, work, a good book, all of these can satisfy.

Here is a subtle but tremendous truth that emerges from these verses, and from the verses that follow it as well: God’s people have the ability to enjoy the smaller things because they know that they are from Him, are enabled to do so, and have the wisdom to do so. Those who do not know Christ cannot and will not savor the simple things from God. For the unredeemed, these things may be enjoyable, but will soon fade because they are seen as means to some other end. Namely, they are seen as temporary pleasures that line the road to greater pleasure. They are seen as small parts, or portions, not as the whole.

Simple is better. Most folks would agree with that. But, there are a blessed few who know it, pursue it, and are content in it.

In 2 Corinthians 11:3 Paul is concerned that the followers of Christ in Corinth would be led astray from the simple and pure life that is in Christ.

Driving complexity out of the Christian life is one of the primary things that we should be mindful of in these hurried and harried days. The Christian life is challenging, but it is designed to be simple. Let us guard against and fight complexity tooth and nail, for the sake of our joy, for the sake of our churches, for the sake of our Lord.

Of the many things that God’s Word does for us, one of the most necessary and urgent is that it clarifies and simplifies life….if we listen to it, think on it, and apply it.

Good food, time with family (in-laws not included), a book, a quiet moment, all are some of the richest moments in any day, and in life. See them as gifts. They are. Enjoy them. Recognize some of them today and thank Him.



Beautiful work…


Matthew 26:1-10

In this passage both the woman and her act are familiar to us.  Jesus said that both would be famous (verse 13). This singular act by a common person will be shared throughout time wherever the Gospel travels. In my mind that is un-get-a-hold-able. To put ourselves in the middle of this passage, and gather in the magnitude of what was being done and said, imagine that Jesus took one of your acts of service to Him and declared that it would be forever known to and remembered by His future followers. Gulp. It is a remarkable scene.

Meanwhile, the chief priests and elders were gathered at “the chief priest’s palace” plotting to kill Jesus (verse 3, note: a good rule of thumb is to avoid any clergy, pastors, or leaders who have “a palace”). While the murder of Jesus was being planned by the elite at a palace, Jesus was settling in at the house of a leper named Simon. Remember that a leper in Jesus’ day was rejected by society and forced to live a hermit’s life, and a life of shame. So, here in the home of this social outcast, reclining at the dinner table was the Lord of the universe and Savior – Jesus of Nazareth. Grace was actually sitting at Simon’s usually vacant and lonely table.

Enter a woman who came to offer to Jesus something that is so humble, intimate, tender, and sacrificial that it is beyond words. In fact, in the original language of the Bible (Greek in the New Testament) it is tricky to translate her act into plain ole’ English.  The phrase for what this woman did is rendered by different translations as “good work,” “noble deed,” and my favorite … “beautiful thing.” It is the only time that this phrase is used in this way in the New Testament. How about that? The word for her deed is multi-faceted. It has the idea of beauty, goodness, and nobility. Wait, there’s more; it also has the idea of an outward beauty or goodness being expressed due to inward beauty or goodness. Yahtzee! Are your eyes moistening up now? Mine are.

This lady comes with a “very expensive” ointment — think months of wages – in an alabaster flask, and anoints Jesus’ head with it … in humble adoration and worship. The disciples then go Baptist-like and complain about the cost of the ointment, and its misuse, and even find a reason to justify their opinion on the matter. Sound familiar? Jesus then tells the tight-waded, bone-headed disciples to hush their fussing and learn from her. He says, “for she has done a beautiful thing to me” to prepare for my burial.

Jesus was telling them that it was about time for His death – His death for them, and for us – and they were missing it because their heads and hearts were wrongly focused and loosely vocal. We all suffer from that malady. Picture this whole scene, and let it unfold in your mind, and soul: the inner beauty of this woman’s heart for Christ was expressed through her humble, sacrificial, and worshipful act. Jesus declared it as “beautiful!”

What a thought that we could be and do something for Christ that he would describe as beautiful. Is there anything any better, or more humbling, or soul-satisfying than that?

A follow-up question is: what can we do for Christ that meets that mark? Hold on to your noggin, because the answer is in…

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

The answer is that to do what this woman did only requires you to be yourself in Christ, for Christ. We do not have to be or do things that are extraordinary to honor Christ and serve Him in ways that are beautiful to Him. Really, we don’t!

Check out three straightforward principles in Ephesians 2:10:

1. God created you.
2. You are “His workmanship.”
3. You are created to do good works – and beautiful ones – for Christ.

The second point deserves some un-packing. In the original language the word for “workmanship” is the Greek work “poiema.” Does that look like the word “poem” to you? Indeed, not a coincidence. The idea of that word is workmanship, or craftsmanship, or a work of art. Here’s the point: God made you as His handiwork out of His perfect artisan wisdom and power. So, your status is one of being His child and poetic workmanship; your role is doing good works unto Him out of that status.

Let’s line this up with Matthew 26:10. The woman’s outward, beautiful service was a reflection of her inward beauty and goodness in Christ. That made her deed “beautiful.” Your good service for Christ is a result of you being God’s workmanship. The poetry of her soul and service were aligned, yours can be too…by design and by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, fulfill your poiema role in life – namely, you being who God created you to be in the fullness of Christ – and let Him take what He has made you to be and cause it cascade into what you do. Beautiful!

You may feel like a dusty, scratched up fiddle in God’s closet. In Christ, you are a Stradivarius ready to be finely tuned, and played for Him, so that the finely created instrument and music match … beautifully!

Emptiness to fullness


In Ephesians 3:19 Paul states that he wants believers to “know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, so that they may be filled with all of the fullness of God.”

Christ’s love for us does something amazing: it surpasses our very knowledge and understanding of it.

When I have thought of the word “surpass” in the past, I have thought of it wrongly — as I have just discovered.

Here are the variety of definitions that I previously had filed in my head for “surpass:”

  • to outrun, or catch up to and run past.
  • to rise above, as in gaining stature or position above something else.
  • to have more than another, as in surpassing riches.

All of my descriptions show an error in thinking. Namely, my error was thinking that two things were equal, or close to being equal, with one eventually overtaking the other. While this may describe an earthly definition of “surpassing,” it is wrong when thinking of the love of Christ surpassing our knowledge. Bad wrong.

Christ’s love and my knowledge, or any human knowledge, have never been peers, or stood within any measure of being comparable. Christ’s love has always exceeded my knowledge, or yours, or all of humanity’s combined. At the bottom of the rung of Christ’s love and the top rung of our knowledge of it lie an incalculable chasm.

The correct definition of “surpass” in Ephesians 3:19 is that one thing (Christ’s love) transcends the reach, capacity, or powers of another (our knowledge). So, Christ’s love for us transcends the reaching hand, available capacity, and weak powers of our knowledge. Or, to put it more plainly, the greatest reach of our knowledge, deepest capacity to learn, and keenest powers to know fall eternally short of comprehending His love. Period.

I can only know the infinite love of Christ when He makes it known to me, and fills my weak, shallow, groping mind beyond its ability to grasp, contain, or appreciate it.

Thankfully, His Holy Spirit will reveal His love to us. In fact, Romans 5:5 tells us that God’s love is poured out (abundantly) into our hearts by His Holy Spirit. So, the pressure is off. My mind and heart cannot strive for, or grab hold of the depth of the love of Christ. Rather, it is given freely by His grace and poured into my heart. It’s the same for you too.

Let’s circle back to last part of Ephesians 3:19. Paul longed for believers to have the fullness of God in Christ. Today, each of us still has that same desire. To receive God’s fullness requires that we must know the love of Christ. To gradually and increasingly — it’s not an event; it’s a process — know this we must first understand that we cannot know it on our own … because it is beyond our reach. So, in a sense, to gain fullness we must continually understand and embrace our emptiness of ability to know His love apart from Him revealing it to us through His Word and by His Holy Spirit.

In sum, realizing our emptiness precedes receiving His fullness. That makes perfect sense; a full container cannot be filled further. If we are full of ourselves, and an expectation that we can attain understanding or growth in Christ on our own, we will not see the need for the thing that we lack. When we see what is missing from or impossible for us, we can then take the first steps toward knowing His love and receiving His fullness. The road to fullness in Christ begins at the intersection of self-emptiness and surrender. It is an intersection that we do not like to approach, but it is where growth begins.

Here are some words of advice: if you decide to proceed to the intersection of self-emptiness and surrender, do not rush through the intersection; pause at the intersection, stop and sit on the curb … and linger there. The time spent there will make a difference later. A big difference.

The Main (non)Event

As a follow up to, or overflow from, my previous post on the difficulties of the Christian life, I want to offer some personal application.

All of us have expectations, pressures, and responsibilities that rest upon our restless shoulders. At times, the weight of these may feel like we are shouldering an Atlas-like load. Stress and responsibilities with work, family, and life in general are common to us all. This assumes that you are not a 23 year old skateboarder who buys his jeans three sizes too large, lives in his parents’ basement, and is the neighborhood X-box champion (though the other contenders are 13 year olds). If any of you fit that profile, here is some sage advice from the Ole’ Bearded Acorn: turn your ball cap around to face forward, shower, iron a shirt, and go leap into gainful employee, and into adulthood. Leap headfirst! Your mother and father will beam with nervously optimistic pride.

Back to life for the rest of us, real life — life that is trying and strenuous. When I am treading in deep water, there are a few things that I recall from the book of Philippians that provide some much needed buoyancy:

1 . According to Philippians 1:6 the Christian life is a process; it is not an event. Note the words “began” and “complete” in this verse (I assume that you looked it up). This shows that God’s work in us is an ongoing process. Some approach the Christian life as though it were a string of special events. There are some events – a sermon, a book, a conference, a mime skit (no, not really) – that encourage, shape, and edify us. Those are the exception that should be appreciated and not the rule that should be pursued. The geuine article is the ongoing, daily process of discipleship. Specifically, growth takes places as we read God’s Word, pray, walk in the Holy Spirit, and live wisely. It is a process that moves at the speed of osteoporosis.

Special events such as attending a conference or hearing an exciting speaker appeal to us. One of the reasons for this is that something is being taught to us, or done on our behalf; we are passive to the process, it is the speaker or teacher that is active. I am by no means saying that such events are bad. They are good, and helpful, but should never take the place of our own time in God’s Word and prayer. Events serve as supplements to the process of discipleship, they are not the meal. The pitfall for some is that they will try to live from event to event instead of bearing down on a day-to-day commitment to following Christ (see Luke 9:23).

Following Christ is a process, not an event, or series of events.

2. God is the one doing the work in you. Philippians 2:13 states that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” He does the “willing” and the “working” in you so that your “willing” and “working” aligns with His. We can relax and cease striving from religious exertion because we know that He began, continues, and will complete His work in us. We have to follow and be disciplined, but we do not drive or complete the work.

3. Knowing that He is at work and will complete it gives us a proper view. Namely, we begin to look at our circumstances and obstacles from an eternal, God-honoring viewpoint rather than a temporary, self-focused one.

Two weeks ago this distilled out in my thoughts. After a few days of internal and unnecessary churning over a stressful situation, the application washed across my thoughts: Everything is preparation for something.

The mental storm clouds broke and the downpour ceased. Whatever you or I face is preparation for building Christ-likeness into us for other things that we will bump up against in the future.

For a reminder of this stated in another way please see Eph 2:10.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” ESV

This verse tells us that we are created for good works in Christ. They are prepared beforehand. All that is waiting is our readiness to walk in them. That readiness, or preparation, does not come through flashy events, but rather through day-to-day faithfulness in following Christ.