Growing Spiritually?

I often wonder why I find myself where I am in life.  Did I arrive on purpose or by accident?  Or was it a series of good or bad mistakes?  There’s not much around me that resembles the dream I once had.  Maybe the dream was just a personal fantasy not born of God.  Maybe the dream was born of God and yet I wouldn’t get out of the boat to walk on the water.  Maybe the past poor decisions is keeping me holding onto the shore instead of launching out into the deep waters of His provision.

I know we all grow at different paces… kind of like cycling.  We all respond to God’s leadership in different ways.  I also realize that the older I get the less likely I am to take risks like I did when I was younger.  I don’t ever want to get to the place where I settle down in life just because others think that is what I should do.  I don’t want to settle because that’s what my circumstances dictate to me.  I may ride an older bicycle but I’m still pedaling.  I’m still going the distance.  I may not be getting there as fast… but I’m getting there.  The point is to not give up.  No matter where you find yourself keep striving for the goal.  We aren’t here specifically to please others or to impress them.  Keep reaching, learning, and growing in Jesus.  Keep your eyes fixed on God in Jesus.

“…the moment you realize that God’s purpose is to get you into the right relationship with Himself and then with others, He will reach to the very limits of the universe to help you take the right road.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, July 1.

“If you find yourself asking, “I wonder why I’m not growing spiritually with God?”— then ask yourself if you are paying your debts from God’s standpoint. Do now what you will have to do someday. Every moral question or call comes with an “ought” behind it— the knowledge of knowing what we ought to do.”  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, July 1.

“You don’t want to take a wrong turn…”

A friend of mine asked me after church where I was going to me riding my bicycle that afternoon.  After I told him where I was heading he said, “You don’t want to take a wrong turn.”  The problem with his statement is that I was already concerned about riding out there since I had never been there before and that I was going alone.

Matthew 6:25 is a verse of the Bible referenced in today’s devotional by Oswald Chambers.  As I read this today I was challenged by the words of Jesus, “…do not worry about your life…”  So often, I get out there in life and worry about this, that, and the other thing.  Once I sink into my worries I forget the promise of Jesus that is found just a few verses later, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:33).  What do you do when you can’t seem to get beyond the “worry”?

I realize when I worry there is this disconnect in the faith-walk I desire to live.  When worry sets in so do the feelings of desperation.  I got a small glimpse of this in the events that transpired while I was on a 48 mile bicycle ride yesterday.  It was a route I have never ridden, in a part of the county I am not familiar with, and I was out by myself.  Just over 2 hours into the ride the battery on the phone died.  I took a wrong turn about a mile or so later.  Another couple of miles later I found myself at a crossroad without any signs letting me know what the names of the roads were. (I could have stopped the moment I realized I was heading in the wrong direction but I could see a nice little downhill ride that was too tempting to pass up). How often do we give in to what feels good at the moment to be left with a problem to deal with at the end of the good feeling?

At the crossroad, I sat there wondering what I should do…  I also recalled those words, “You don’t want to take a wrong turn.”  I could go back (remember it was a good downhill… which is now a good uphill) or try to head off in a direction that I might be the way to go.  All I could see was the uphill climb behind me, the crossroad, trees, and a occassional car that passed by.  I had this un-nerving feeling that I was lost… 40 miles into my ride.  After several minutes I decided to go through the intersection.  As I crossed the road, I saw a house back over my left shoulder and someone walking in the front yard.  I rode over and asked for directions back to the Budweiser Plant where I had parked my car.

With posted “No Trespassing” signs all around their yard the folks that lived there gave me directions.  Once I got to the end of the road I realized I had been on this road before (many years ago)… I relaxed because I knew where I was.  I was now about 3 miles from where I had parked my car.

I have thought about this experience and how much this relates in so many ways to life.  I could have sat there and worried about my situation and waited for the sun to set.  Instead of sitting there I moved and kept watch for something that I might recognize.  The lesson here is to not surrender to our worries but rather to Jesus and seek first His Kingdom and righteousness!  When we seek Him first he will provide the answers and the direction we need to get to where He wants us to go.  We should never give up on the dreams he has for us and always be watching for the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives… no matter how tempting the downhill may be.

The Challenge

In the late 80’s I decided to start cycling as a sport.  I really didn’t know much about it.  I purchased a Road Bike from a friend who had just begun competing in triathlon’s.  (The frame was too big for him) My first time out on my bicycle some idiot guys came by and opened their car door on me.  They missed and I ran off the road.  I turned around, went home, and put the bike away until the mid 90’s.  Even then I only rode around the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary when I had a moment or two to spare.

I was preparing to move to New Mexico when I began to get excited about Mountain Biking.  I began to ride more then.  But I never really got to a place where I felt like I was committed to the sport.  I was more committed to getting out and seeing the scenery from my bike more so than I was about the sport itself.  After a move to Kansas road biking became a focus once again.  Yet, it lacked the sustained commitment I needed.  I basically rode then in order to deal with the stress of working in a church.  I found cycling to be a great stress reliever! 

A couple of moves later and now I am back in Georgia.  After being here for several years I have been back on my bike now for over a year.  I’ve logged over 1,500 miles in the past year.  View from the SaddleI would like to say I am committed to cycling now… Finally at age 46.  Last year, I was challenged to enter into the  Bike MS150 Cox-Atlanta Ride 2011.  Training to ride in this event gave me the focus I needed to ride.  I kept at it through several set-backs from Shingles at the beginning of my training in February 2011 to numerous problems with my Centurion Accordors (the one I bought in the 80’s – and the one I still ride today).  I met my goal for that ride in September 2011… I finished.  Other benefits along the way were for my health.  My doctor took me off of my blood pressure medicine, I lost a little bit of weight, and I just felt better.

While on a recent ride, I kept hearing my “coach” (my step father) in my head telling me to focus on various things.  He wasn’t with me but several things he has spoken to me on some training rides kept coming back to mind as I peddled.  Then I began to think about the Holy Spirit and how He constantly brings the teachings of Jesus back to my mind.  I have also been thinking about the years I have been following Jesus and about my own commitment to following him.  I may not still be in “ministry” vocationally but my goal still is to please him and to follow him.  I want my relationship with him to be more than my desire to be vocationally serving him or a local church.  I want my commitment to him to be more than the scenery along the way.

As I have begun to be more serious about cycling, I have also begun to get more serious about my over-all health and the food I eat. (I do treat myself from time to time with a nice chili burger from Ross’ Diner… yum!).  I also read more about the sport and fitness trying to put those things into practice.  My good friend recently told me his plan is to just “ride”.  Taking his advice and applying it to life would be to just “live”. 

Maybe there is some truth in that.  It’s on that thought I will continue to be challenged… not only in cycling but also in following Jesus.  For me, the challenge each day is to keep my eyes focused on Jesus and his teachings. (Hebrews 12:2-3)  Too often I get my eyes focused on the “scenery” or the benefits of following Christ more so than on Jesus himself and his teachings.  I am reading in the Book of John in the New Testament now.  This is a quote from the Message found in John 6:45-46,

This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, ‘And then they will all be personally taught by God.’ Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally—to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it firsthand from the Father. No one has seen the Father except the One who has his Being alongside the Father—and you can see me.

Today’s challenge is to walk faithfully with Jesus.  Inviting the Holy Spirit to teach and work through me.  To be committed to the life of a faithful servant.  To be like Peter when he told Jesus in John 6:68-69,

“Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.”  (The Message).