“You’re Spiritually Immature”

Has this ever been said to you? I certainly don’t like to hear it said of my Christian friends, and yet this is Paul’s verdict on the church in Corinth. “My friends, you are acting like the people of this world. That’s why I could not speak to you as spiritual people. You are like babies as far as your faith in Christ is concerned” (1 Corinthians 3:1). “You are jealous and argue with each other. This proves that you are not spiritual and that you are acting like the people of this world” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

Paul was an apostle. This means ‘Sent one’. He was sent out and planted several churches, including this one in Corinth he was writing to, so he’s like the head of the organisation – the one they would go to with any queries or concerns, and it’s Paul (not just anyone, but a person they respect) who’s calling them spiritual babies. How do they respond? Do they walk away from the church, never to return again? If you read 2 Corinthians, you’ll discover the reasons for Paul’s first letter. “I also wrote because I wanted to test you and find out if you would follow my instructions” (2 Corinthians 2:9). After receiving it, they confronted the wrong in the church and dealt with it. His letter resulted in their spiritual growth.

So, what will we do if someone calls us spiritually immature? Will we dismiss it, or will we take an honest look at ourselves because they meant it for our good?

“Never Give Up” Book-Review

If you’re considering this book because you’re looking for motivation to persevere with something, I’m sure it’ll help with that, but it’s really a book on how to navigate the whole of life – short chapters with themes such as perseverance, avoiding procrastination, and building on truth. With a title like “Never Give Up”, you might wonder whether it’ll make you feel condemned over past failures. I don’t think it does. On the contrary, it encourages you to move on from your past in order to embrace your future. I especially liked the chapters where the author gave examples from his own life. He says his style is to write short chunks with humour added in. He does this very well; some of his illustrations made me laugh out-loud.

I was looking forward to this book by John Mason because I reviewed (and enjoyed) his previous one – “Proverbs Prayers”. This is similar, in that it would be beneficial to have in your Kindle library to refer back to. I think my mum would like this book because she loves quotations, and this is packed full of them. A couple of my favourites? “Even a broken clock is right twice a day”, and: “Too much analysis always equals paralysis”.

The Thing They had to Offer

Have you ever had a moment when you were reading two books at the same time, and there seemed to be a recurring theme? This happened to me with Renee Swope’s “A Confident Heart Devotional” and Kenneth E. Bailey’s “Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes” (and by the way, I would thoroughly recommend both).

Day 44 in Renee’s devotional really stuck with me because it’s written with such empathy. It’s about Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well, who was from Samaria, and Renee calls her Sam because “it makes her feel more like the woman she really was.” In John 4:7, Jesus asked her for a drink. Renee writes: “Jesus asked Sam for the one thing she had to offer.” Coming to the well at the hottest part of the day to escape the accusations of others, she must have felt she had nothing to give, but sitting by a well, there was one thing she did have – water.

In chapter 11 of “Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes”, Bailey concentrates on the call of Peter. Peter (initially known as Simon) was a fisherman, who became one of Jesus’ closest friends. In Luke 5:3, Jesus asked Simon to row a little way from shore, then He sat in the boat and taught the people. Bailey writes that Luke’s readers will know Peter ‘Owes Him one’ because Jesus had just healed his mother-in-law, but there was more to it. Jesus was requesting Peter’s help – his considerable rowing skills. Peter didn’t have anything else; he’d just fished all night and caught nothing, but he did have his boat, and the ability to row. I was instantly reminded of Sam … and the one thing she had to offer.

Have you considered that Jesus could be asking the same of you – that ‘Thing you have to offer’, whatever it might be? For me, I think one of those things is my love of words, and the desire to share what I’ve learnt with others. I don’t know what it is for you, but are you willing to use it for the glory of God?

A Time to Give and a Time to Keep

In a Jewish wedding ceremony, a groom would suddenly come for his bride during the night; no one knew when to expect him. With this in mind, Jesus paints a picture: Ten young females, five wise and five foolish, waiting to attend the wedding. They carry lamps to light their way when they go to meet the bridegroom. Some of them think to bring extra oil.

They all wake up to the news he’s on his way! The dopey ones (whose oil has run low) say: “Let us have some of your oil!” but the others realise there may not be enough to go around, so they’re refused. Off they go to buy some more oil and while they’re gone, the bridegroom arrives and the feast starts without them. They’re too late!

Maybe you never do this, but I’m a writer. I like to imagine different scenarios. What if one of the girls, out of love for her friend, pipes up: “Yes, here. You take my lamp; I’ll go and buy some more oil” … What would happen? She would miss out on the wedding.

* * *

This story shows me there are some things we have to do for ourselves. Let’s take that oil as a symbol of faith in Jesus. We can’t rely on somebody else’s faith to give us right standing with God. It’s no good saying: “I’m a member of this church group,” or: “I come from a Christian home.” When you stand before God, it’s your light He’s going to be looking at.

Maybe you think it’s impossible to give too much, but be careful not to do so much for others that you disqualify yourself. I’ve heard of people going into something on-fire for God, but then they’ve suffered because their dedication to the task has overtaken their desire for Him. A. W. Tozer cautions against becoming so engrossed in the work of the Lord and forgetting the Lord of the work. It’s important to acknowledge God, to remember that He gave us the ability, and to let Him refresh us and give us a heart of wisdom so we can serve Him more effectively.

Independence

This is a big one for me. As a blind person, independence is something you strive for. As a Christian, independence tends to be viewed as prideful because ‘We all need each other’. As a Christian blind person? Help! How do we get a balance?

I wrote about this subject before, and then I came across a quote in the handbook I use to support people recently diagnosed with sight loss. Torch Trust is a Christian organisation that works with blind and partially-sighted people. I think their aim is exactly right: Independence in activity and interdependence in relationships.

When someone’s said to me in the past: “You’re very independent”, I’ve replied that I’m God-dependent because I know there’s so much I wouldn’t have done without Him. Before I was a Christian, I wasn’t comfortable using my cane. At nineteen, when I left the house, I would always be with someone. Now I’ve lived in two flats on my own; I’ve taken myself as far south as London and as far north as Scotland on the train … Some might say I would have done that anyway as I matured, but even if I had overcome the self-consciousness, I probably wouldn’t have done it quite the same way. I would have regularly got angry or impatient when I couldn’t control outcomes; I might have treated staff who met me at stations as people there to serve me, rather than as people I could relate to. God has an amazing way of taking our focus off our own needs and putting it onto the people we’re with.

If you want to be competent, choosing to rely on God shouldn’t take that away from you. I read about a little boy trying to type. His mum had the power to tell him where the keys were, but she didn’t because she knew he had to learn. I believe God’s like that too. He wants us to learn how to navigate life, but don’t just take my word for it. Look at Jesus and His disciples. Jesus was asleep and they woke Him in a panic. He said: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” then He calmed the storm (Matthew 8:26). Later, there was another storm. This time, they were in the boat without Jesus. He came walking towards them on the water, and the Bible says: “He was about to pass by them” (Mark 6:48). I believe His desire was that they would have learnt from Him, and stilled the storm themselves. Independence in activity; interdependence in relationships.

For the rest of this series click here, or you can find other blogs on the Write31Days site

Insecurity

A friend was talking on her latest radio-show about someone daunted by their new job, who really needed peace. If anything’s unusual or doesn’t go the way we think it should, it can cause panic, can’t it? Because we don’t know what a future employer, a spouse, or whoever, might be thinking.

I remember another friend telling me about her husband’s funeral – how people said such lovely things, and she wished he had known what he meant to them. That’s why I try to point out the good in people. It does no harm to give encouragement, and better now than when it’s too late, but not everyone expresses themselves in words. If you haven’t read it, I’d really recommend Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love-Languages” for ideas on various ways people can show their feelings. They might buy you a gift, or do something extremely kind. If I expect a certain response from someone, eventually, they’re going to let me down. That’s not their fault; it’s just that nobody’s perfect, and (thankfully) nobody’s exactly like me.

My lovely friend Becky from New York is a reader of this blog. After her husband proposed, he wrote her a poem. It’s really beautiful and I’ll just share a little of it here:
When you feel your feet slipping down into the deep and you’re looking for something to stand on,
My love will never be enough …
When you are determined to rely on God and not give up,
Then my love will be enough
.”

Can we take a leaf out of Becky and Dave’s book? If we feel the weight of insecurity, let’s give whatever’s troubling us over to God. “In Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). That means if I haven’t been the person I’d like to be or if I feel let-down, God can help us with our shortcomings. It’s only through Him that real transformation is possible.

If this has brought to mind a situation in your family, or the family of someone you know, why not pray about it? “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Selfishness

One of the highlights of my week is helping out with Open the Book – an organisation that partners with Bible Society to bring Bible-stories to children in primary schools. We have various volunteers throughout the town and we’re in most of the schools now.

This week, we’re telling the children the story of Peter and John at the temple gate, healing a lame man in the name of Jesus. Its point is that Jesus cared about everyone, even those who were ignored by others.

I thought I’d give us the same message we’re giving the children – to think what we can do, today or tomorrow, to help somebody. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). Isn’t that a good way to combat the selfishness in the world?

31 Jesus-Benefits: A Positive Change

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).

Day 21 and time to focus on one of the ways my faith has affected me:

I’ve become more outward-looking.

Previously I had been happy to absorb myself in the music I listened to, TV or writing for pleasure, but the first thing I wanted to do as a Christian was to help other people. That’s played out in several different ways, but one that comes to mind is the children I sponsor through Compassion. Compassion works in Asia, Africa, Central and South America. At school I had no interest in geography whatsoever. It was one of my worst subjects and I dropped it as soon as I could. Had I been a Compassion-sponsor back then, things might have been different. Now I love to read about Compassion Bloggers travelling to far-off places, or I find myself wondering: “What’s the weather like in India?” or “What’s the capital of Ecuador?” (it’s Quito, by the way). I can only thank God for this positive change in me.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is … kindness” (Galatians 5:22).

* * *

As we’ve talked about Compassion in this post, there’s a book I’d like to give away to one of my readers. The author is Compassion’s former president, Wess Stafford (if you’ve read his autobiography you’ll love him). This book is “Just a Minute”, and it’s about the impact our words can have when we spend just a minute with a child. If you want to leave a comment, to do with children or impacting those around you, I’ll announce a winner on October 31st. Don’t forget there’s also the Dayspring.com $500 giveaway if you want to enter that one.

31 Jesus-Benefits: Our Refreshing

“Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water” (John 4:6-7).

Day 11 of Write31Days and yesterday, we zoomed in on Jesus’ birth. Now here’s something He exemplified for us throughout His earthly ministry:

Finding refreshing in helping others.

Just for a minute, think of that well in the verses above as a Christian conference centre. There’s someone leading the worship, a speaker who’s helped and counselled for a while … Jesus comes in, worn-out after some time in ministry and in need of refreshment, but He plonks Himself down next to the most needy person in the room. They talk and as they do, the colour returns to His cheeks. He ends up revitalised, ready to go out again into the world He’s just drawn aside from.

As His followers, it’s the same for us. When we go somewhere to be ministered to, we may find we’re also ministering to others.

“Meanwhile His disciples urged Him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’

“But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about’” (John 4:31-32).

31 Jesus-Benefits: I can Stay Intact

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Yesterday, we looked at God’s forgiveness. Today I want to expand that to:

The way He’s taught me to forgive others and myself.

If you’ve lived on this earth for any length of time, you will have been hurt or disappointed. Forgiving someone may not keep your relationship intact; they’ve got to receive the forgiveness for that to happen, but it’ll certainly keep you intact. It’ll deal with the anger and bitterness you feel. You may have those feelings more than once and have to keep offering the situation to God in prayer, but He’ll be so pleased every time you bring it to Him.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).