For as long as I’ve been a Christian, I’ve struggled with my assurance of salvation. As a writer and self-diagnosed chronic over-thinker, traveling down rabbit holes of thought and leaving no stones unturned is seared into my identity. I’ve approached my Christian walk with a similar investigative pragmatism which, when left unchecked, morphs into crippling doubt.
The deadline for voter registration in the state of Pennsylvania just passed, and as a resident of Philadelphia, I barely mustered up the emotional energy to click on the registration link. Registration day served as another glaring reminder that I, an otherwise upstanding citizen of this great yet conflicted nation, continue to wrestle with the looming reality of voting. Like for many Christians heading to the polls this November, the decision on who to vote for hasn’t been so black or white. Continue reading “Confessions of a Conflicted Evangelical During Midterms”
Overfed and Fruitless
The struggle to dedicate daily quiet time with Jesus is a common issue among Christians. For most believers juggling jobs, families, and ministries, finding half an hour every morning to feast on the Word, a few minutes to read a Christian article, or a distraction-free commute to play an online sermon can feel like a daunting task. To help alleviate burn out among those in ministry, I frequently heard pastors stress the importance of getting spiritually fed before getting poured out. But I rarely, if ever, heard the inverse of this issue being mentioned, which led me to ponder; is there such a thing as being spiritually overfed?
The reason I considered this possible oxymoron was because despite juggling a fair number of obligations myself, I rarely, if ever, struggled to make time to meditate on the Word, read a devotion, or listen to a sermon. In fact, I craved it. I couldn’t scroll past a Desiring God article on my newsfeed without halting everything I was doing to immerse myself in it. When audio books became the new hype, I couldn’t download books by my favorite Christian authors fast enough. At times, I found it challenging to tear myself away just so I could attend to daily tasks.
Before you assume I’m looking for a pat on the back, let me explain. Alone time, reading, and studying comes naturally to me. I’ve always been an introverted bookworm with an insatiable desire to absorb new information. Since this form of Christ-loving came easily to me, I considered it my primary path to following Jesus. I thought if I read every article, downloaded every sermon, and spent hours in the Word that I would become a Christian maven. A spiritual Steve Jobs, if you will, and it’s easy to understand why. The world tells us that if we wholeheartedly hone a craft or skill through constant saturation, we will excel at it. I thought that if I kept reading about Christ, that I will become more like Him. If I continued to feed myself on His Word, spirituality will manifest. I even became prideful of how much more time I seemed to spend in devotion than other Christians I knew. But Christ isn’t a skill to hone or a 30-day challenge to conquer. I wasn’t just getting full, I was growing spiritually fat. Even worse, I wasn’t seeing any fruit.
Death to Self Doesn’t Come Naturally
If I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. —Philippians 2:17
What I failed to realize is that as important as it is to get fed, it’s equally as important to get poured out. The reason I wasn’t experiencing spiritual fruitfulness was because I was stuck in one aspect of the sanctification process. I was failing to allow the spiritual food I was consuming to be regurgitated in the form of love and sacrifice so that the rest of His sheep could eat. While I served in ministry at my convenience, it came second to my first priority; gaining spiritual knowledge. I resisted being poured out because it didn’t come naturally to me (Hint: dying to self rarely feels natural, but resisting it can lead to a death far more severe.). But the more I kept my spiritual food bottled up, the more bloated I became. Clinging to my comfort zone was making me spiritually stagnant. Too much intake and not enough output was rendering me useless to the Kingdom.
If picking up our crosses daily just meant spending more time in study and devotion, the Pharisees would have been the prototype of a Christ-exalting life. Have you ever read a moving testimony about a monk who spent all his life holed up in a monastery memorizing scripture? Most likely, no. Instead, we celebrate the stories of apostles, missionaries, and pastors who spent their lives as empty vessels, waiting for their next fill of the Holy Spirit so they could pour it right back out. We celebrate the story of Jesus who, for as much time as he spent getting filled through prayer (Matthew 14:23), poured himself out all the more.
Fruitfulness is a Cycle, Not a One-Step Process
I had grown accustomed to living out my Christian walk like it was a one-step process, but a truly fruitful life is a constant cycle of getting filled up, poured out, and then filled up again. If we are to truly be like Jesus, we must remember His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. While time in the Word and seeking spiritual knowledge is a non-negotiable aspect of the Christian life, it’s simply the fuel that empowers us to lay down our lives for others like Christ did.
“When knowledge enters the head, it exalts me. When knowledge enters the heart, it humbles me.” – Edward Dennett
When we absorb God’s precepts as mere head knowledge, we’re glorifying our ability to become subject matter experts. When we allow His precepts to penetrate our hearts and pour us out, we glorify His ability to use us as living manifestations of His Word. Simply put, that is how spiritual fruit is produced.
If you’re stuck in a similar rut of getting fed without getting poured out or vice versa, revaluate and pray for strength to break the cycle. Settling for just one aspect of the process is settling for a life far less abundant than what Christ created us for.
When it comes to the current state of relationship statuses, we live in a Facebook-fueled era of idolatry. What used to be just single or married has now become: single, in a relationship, engaged, married and everyone’s favorite, it’s complicated. Our relationship statuses, or lack thereof, follow us around like a shadow, eclipsing how we perceive ourselves and how others categorize us. Not only is this prevalent in the world, but it is even present in the church. Continue reading “Your Identity is in Christ, Not a Relationship Title.”
The perception of power that Christians have is often cultivated by the world before ever walking in the freedom of Christ. The world teaches us that our measure of power is heavily tied to the outcome. Martin Luther King championed civil rights, Gandhi helped win India’s independence and Muhammed Ali was the best boxer of all time, but if you’re looking for the story about the guy who died trying to become the next great inventor, athlete, or blogger, you’re not going to find it. Given how we’ve been so conditioned to perceive what’s powerful, it’s not hard to understand why we feel so powerless as Christians. Continue reading “More Than a Feeling: Experiencing the Power of the Holy Spirit”
It’s like getting high. To be fair, I’ve never done any hard drugs to know the feeling first hand but I imagine getting high feels like those first few blissful months of a new dating relationship. The nightly conversations that go well into dawn, they’re the first person you think about when you wake up and even their annoying quirks are strangely endearing. The glorification and pursuit of this natural high makes millions of dollars at the box office, earns billions via dating apps and even has it’s own holiday. But before the beautiful, four-letter L word starts forming in your mind, ask yourself – is this love or just infatuation? In most cases, it’s the latter. Continue reading “3 Signs You’re in Infatuation, Not Love”
We’ve all been there.
You meet a seemingly appropriate man or woman somewhere “meaningful” like at Whole Foods or Bible study. Your “meet-cute” could rival those of mid-1990s romantic comedies.
In the span of a whirlwind romance, you’ve planned your whole life together, only to have your fantasies start ripping at the seam when you realize well, you’re both imperfect human beings and maybe this time, you’re not supposed to work the rest of your lives out alongside one another. Perhaps they were the first to realize it.
“Well, kind of like the story of Isaac and Rebecca, when I first meet my future wife, I’ll just know.”
As I read these words on my message inbox, I gulped. The guy at the other end of this exchange was a handsome pastor in training with theological insight to rival Billy Graham’s. A 2016 Boaz if you will. And this is what he wrote me a few weeks before we were supposed to meet for the first time.
The weight of his sentence made my stomach clench into a knot because, buddy, I’m no Rebecca.
As I scrolled down my News feed this morning, an article titled 6 Things Christians Should Stop Saying to People Who Doubt caught my eye. While a heavy eye roll was my natural reaction to yet another article that seemed to paint Christians in a negative light, I couldn’t resist clicking. As my eyes traveled down the page, the feeling of conviction grew heavier and heavier. Not because it painted Christians in a negative light but because of how valid most of the author’s points were. Needless to say, I was guilty of every single one of them.