The Two Opposites in Spiritual Growth

There are two places where spiritual growth can happen in the life of a believer.

The first is whenever we step out of the crowd to experience silence and solitude. Sometimes we need to step away from the noise and busyness of life to listen for the voice of God. A quiet morning reading the scripture or pausing for prayer can allow God to work in the deepest parts of our souls.

The second place we can grow is in community. The group can force me into situations that help me expand my heart and mind. I can learn from the wisdom of the aged and share my insights with the next generation. People are often the hammer God uses to mold our souls into more loving, grace-filled, and knowledgeable people.

For most people, the tendency is to lean strongly into one of these facets. We love to be alone, or we thrive on community. Faith’s challenge is pushing ourselves into the place that makes us the most uncomfortable. In those spaces, we experience the growth we might not expect.

Stretching ourselves to step away from people or draw closer to them will cause us anxiety and headaches, but those are often the very things we need to become like Christ. 

Start Somewhere

Returning to my office after the Thanksgiving break, I was greeted by a desk full of documents and piles of tasks to do. I stood for a few minutes, looking at all the work before me, wondering where to begin. 

Should I start with the most manageable tasks or the most difficult ones? Would it be wise to begin with the most significant job and work till I reach the least important one? Maybe I should develop a plan starting with the quickest project and work my way to the one that will consume the most time.

Finally, I decided to “start somewhere” and dig into each job as I came to it.

That does not sound profound or insightful, but I believe it is still a helpful analogy. Whenever we decide to change our lives in any area, we tend to focus on developing a plan more than just getting started. Sometimes the most challenging step is beginning. 

It is possible that the change you want to make in your life does not require a grand design as it does the will to start somewhere. Once you start, it is easy to adjust and improve. Every great change begins by taking on a single task and seeing where it leads.   

The Monday After Thanksgiving

It only takes a few hours to transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas. By today the idea of Thanksgiving is a distant memory, and everyone is fully immersed in the Christmas spirit. 

Still, one quest for the Christian is to keep the spirit of Thanksgiving alive in their soul for the entire year. Gratitude is at the heart of a follower of Jesus. We are blessed beyond measure through the work of the cross with mercy and grace. We are loved by God and adopted into his family as believers. Our cup overflows with the blessings of God.

Make sure you thank God this holiday season for all you have received in Jesus before you ask for anything more.

Do Something Good

For no reason at all.

Not because of the holidays. Not because you hope to get something in return. Not because it looks good on a resume. Not because you need community service hours. Not because you want to impress other people on social media.   

Do something good for someone for no real reason at all. 

Do it because you follow Jesus, and doing something good for others is a significant part of your identity. You love Jesus, and the result is that you love others with no strings attached.


I saw a store that listed their items as “Preloved.”  They were not second-hand, antiques, vintage, and certainly not used. 

When I read the sign, all I could think about was Romans 5:8. It says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God loved us through the work of the cross while we were disobedient, non-believers. 

Maybe it is helpful to think of people without Jesus this way. They are not failures, sinners, or ungodly pagans; they are simply preloved.    


I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but God is greater.

He is greater than any obstacle you are facing.

He is greater than any struggle you find yourself fighting.

He is greater than any temptation you are facing.

He is greater than any sin you have committed.

He is greater than anything evil can throw at you, whisper in your ear, or tell others about you. 

Take Courage; God is greater.

Finish the Race

A marathon is 26.2 miles.

Supposedly the race was to be 26 miles in the 1908 Olympics but to finish directly in front of the royal family viewing box; they added 385 yards to the course. After that, races varied from 24 miles to 26.2 until 1921, when the official distance was established. 

The people who run marathons fall into two distinct groups. First are those who race to win. The second group is those who run to finish. It is quite an accomplishment to say you ran that distance. 

But here is the deal, you have not run a full marathon unless you finish the final .2 miles. It is a fantastic feat to go 26 miles, but unless you run the last 385 yards, you have not completed the race.

Life is long. The goal for a follower of Jesus is not to live for him and come up short of the finish line. The goal is for us to keep running until he says we are done. Don’t quit just shy of the finish line; keep running until you break the tape and complete the course. Just know that the final stretch may feel like the hardest.


Something untapped is full of unused potential.

Something untapped has an ability that is available but not used.

We all have a part of our life that is not being used for God. We have gifts and abilities that are available, but they are not working for the kingdom of God.

The rewards of eternity will not be given for potential but for our use of the resources given to us. 

Making the Most of It

A person I know shared a picture of their child dressed up for some meaningful life event. It was the first day of school, kindergarten graduation, a birthday, or some moment I forgot. A wiser older parent commented, “Time flies. Be sure to make the most of every moment.”

It was not the first time I had read a statement like that connected to a picture. Some older adults and/or grandparents often offer similar advice. 

My question is, “What does it mean to make the most of every moment?”  If this person had life to live over, what exactly would they change?

I am convinced that it has nothing to do with actions and everything to do with feelings. Most people are trying to enjoy their children when they are young. They make a big deal out of every possible life event, first experience, and celebration. In fact, most people’s schedules are packed because they are trying to do too much.

The problem is that we are consumed with other things while doing these actions. We have anxiety about the party, anger about a less-than-expected outcome, busy planning the next thing, or a thousand other distractions in our heads. Making the most of life is not about adding more to your busy schedule; it is about enjoying the moments as they come. It is about being fully present in each activity without anxiety or stress.

When older people tell younger people this advice, they are saying they wish they enjoyed the experiences more while they were in them. 

Making the most of life involves adjusting our feelings in our actions. You do not need more time in your schedule; you need to be more present in the time you are given.


In 2012 my children encouraged me to rent and watch the DVD of “Hugo.” During the movie, I was introduced to something I did not know existed beforehand. There is a device in the show called an automaton. It is a mechanical creation made in imitation of a human being. This machine “performs a function according to a predetermined set of coded instructions, especially one capable of a range of programmed responses to different circumstances.”

I will not ruin the movie for you, but one of the central pieces of the plot revolves around this robot-looking device. It includes getting the correct pieces, the proper key, and discovering the programmed actions. 

One part of the theological framework of the Church I serve is that we believe God did not create us to be an automaton. Instead, he made us free-willed individuals with the power to choose. Each one of us is not acting on some predetermined script written by God. 

You see, once Hugo gets the automaton working, it will not suddenly become a child to him. Even if it could write or say, “I love you,” it would be empty as it does not have the choice to do anything to the contrary. Robots do not express any meaningful emotions, no matter how sophisticated they might be.

The downside is obvious; if someone has the opportunity to choose, then they can also reject returning the love that is desired. Yet, God, in his enormous power, decided to limit his control over our will so that we could love him without strings. He was out to build a family of love, not a collection of automatons.