Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Has Helped Me Grow in the Lord?

This past Sunday our Sr. Pastor preached on the 7 things that have helped him grow the most. It was a great message. It got me thinking about what has helped me grow spiritually. Here is my list of 7:

1. Time Alone With God - Nothing has helped my relationship more than spending daily time alone with God. The best way to grow close to another person is to spend time with them. This is most true about our walk with God. I am amazed that even Jesus, who had an eternity of fellowship with the Father built up before coming to earth, still took time on a regular basis to pray and be alone with His Father. This one will always be #1 for me.

2. Small Group - This has been huge for me. All of my Christian life I have been in a small group, especially an accountability group with other men. "As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another" (Prov. 27:17). God made us to need others in our walk with Him. I don't know where I would be today without my "Iron Man" group in Wisconsin and my current men's group on Georgia. I desperately need others to hold up my arms when they get weak. Howard Hendricks once said, "A man who doesn't meet with other men for encouragement and accountability is an accident waiting to happen."

3. Church - This would include everything from corporate worship to biblical preaching and fellowship. I love the local church, even with all her faults and failures. God has often spoken to me through a sermon, moved my heart during worship, and encouraged me to go further through the people I fellowship with at church. I love to sit under anointing preaching, and I love to get lost in worship. When I was in college and attending Watkinsville First Baptist (where I am now an Associate Pastor), I did not want to go home on weekends because I thought revival might break out and I would miss it. Oh that we would have a hunger to meet with God ... at CHURCH!

4. Timely Books and Conferences - Someone once said, "We are most influenced by the people we know and the books we read." I agree. I love to read an anointed book when it speaks to something that God is doing in my life. Books like "The God You Can Know", "Victory Over the Darkness," and most recently "Crazy Love" have been used of God to keep my heart tender toward the Lord. In addition, I will never forget the time at a Piper conference I was touched so deeply that I wept uncontrollably for over an hour.

5. Understanding the Exchanged Life - For many years I tried hard to be a good Christian. I almost burned out. Praise God the Holy Spirit introduced me to Galatians 2:20 - which is now my life verse - where instead of me trying hard to live for God, I need to allow Jesus to live His life through me in the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, when I feel weak, I rejoice and exchange my weakness for His divine power - this is the exchanged life: exchanging my life for His.

6. Being Out of My Comfort Zone - We often trust God the most when we are out on a limb and feel very inadequate. For me this has come when I have gone on mission's trips and been called to serve in some way that made me uncomfortable. When I was a college student I did some open air preaching at the University of Minnesota. Wow - that was out of my comfort zone. Pastoring in and of itself is out of my comfort zone, but through it I have grown so much. Someone once said, "God wants us to feel wholely inadequate that we might wholely depend on Him."

7. Extended Times in Prayer - I try to take one day every month to pray and seek God in a deeper way. These times have served to take me deeper with the Lord and to hear His voice. My dad used to have a poster in his church office that said, "God speaks to those who are still enough to listen."

As you read my list, what is your list? What has helped you grow the most? What can you do to faciliate greater growth. Let's seek the Lord with all our hearts! Let's go as far with Him as He will allow us to! What a privilege to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.