I believe in Layers of Life. Our heart is soil and soil is the home of our spiritual growth. Its not an A to B, but a Depth to Be. Join me as I explore the depths of spiritual formation through what I call "The Layers of Life."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Flourish: Evangelism

Sharing personal beliefs come more naturally to some than others.

This is exactly why we have to ask ourselves, "do I share my faith?" Test your soil. Growing in Christ isn't about doing things that come naturally. It's about putting nutrients in your soil that will produce fruit.

Someone shared their faith with you. They flourished into sharing. Will you?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Enrich: Fasting

Fasting is not easy. It requires planning, discipline, and focus.

Fasting has become a sort of way to get-what-you-want from God. Or at least that is what seems to be taught sometimes.

But fasting couldn't be further from manipulation of God. Fasting is actually more of a manipulation of our self.

When you give up food, you are literally manipulating your body and your pattern of eating and digesting. But you do this to give special attention to eating and digesting something deeper.

Fasting enriches your soil, by giving something up, you are putting something in. Your soil is enriched by your discipline and sacrifice and attention to the voice of God and His Spirit.

Fasting reminds us we need more than what we can ingest on our own. We need Jesus. We need our soil to be enriched in a way only he can enrich.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Till: Bible Study

It breaks through the surface, creating a way to remove contaminants, and for your roots to go deep.

It's the Word of God, the Bible.

"The love of Christ controls us."

I remember reading this in the NASB. It immediately broke up thick ground. You see, control is something I have always struggled with, but when I read that Love is to Control us, my soil was tilled.

Have you been "breaking ground" lately?

Pick up your Bible. Read His Word and let the softening of your soil begin.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Flourish: Missions

To the ends of the earth...

A couple years ago I was sitting in a church in Malaysia. In the middle of the service the pastor lead the congregants in a prayer for the world. They also prayed for America, specifically for things happening that week in "The States."

It struck me that I was at the end of the earth, yet my "home" was still in need of Missions.

Missions is an act of Flourishing, and without a doubt, a biblical mandate.

At the depth of flourishing, we give out of the richness of our soil. Not because we are better in any way but because the love of Christ compels us.

Try reading 2 Corinthians 5. We are ambassadors of reconciliation. We are ambassadors for Christ, God is making his appeal to the world through us.

Flourish.

While spiritual formation may not be point A to B, our roots growing deep definitely has an element of "going". But not for us, for those still in need of the reconciliation of Jesus.

Look into how to go to the world in missions and give what has been planted in you.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Enrich: Giving

"It is better to give than to receive."

We've all heard it or even said it. But has it found its way into the heart of our actions?

Giving is an enricher. It might seem like giving would fall into "Till" since it involves letting go, or in "Flourish" because it blesses others, but it is in "Enrich" because in letting go and in blessing others, we are enriched.

I have a wife and 3 sons and at least the past few years I have become a difficult person to "buy" for. I think I've found why. Having family to give to has become the gift.

I am enriched when I am able to give. When I see the look on my boys' faces as they open a gift, something opens in me. I am enriched.

And so it is with our church community. God gives us opportunities at every turn to give and to be enriched.

Let go and give to others and find the soil of your spiritual growth nourished and enriched.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Till: Prayer

And this is how you should pray...

Prayer is one of those nutrients that may fall into more than one layer, but when I read The Lord's Prayer I see the tilling of our soil.

Think of each phrase or action as a spade striking the hardened surface of our soil, breaking up the ground, opening our soil to His Spirit.

Hallowed be Your Name

Your kingdom come and Your will be done

Give us this day our daily bread

Forgive us

As we forgive

Lead us

Not into temptation

Deliver us

With each phrase we strike at hardness and accept the tilling up of any fallow ground and the stirring up of the surface of our soil.

Prayer is what leads the way for our roots. Prayer tills up the way for enriching and flourishing to come.



In case you are unsure how to pray, our first suggestion as a place to start is to open to the Psalms in the Old Testament of the Bible and pray them back to God.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Flourish: Serve

"There is peace in serving."

I heard God say this to me years ago. I was dealing with anxiety over where I was going and what I was doing, then I heard Him say this to me.

Serving is something that flourishes in us. Jesus knelt and washed feet, told his disciples to become the least, and laid down his life.

His service was our fruit. Likewise, our service is another's fruit. I like to think we should have "low-hanging fruit." It shouldn't be difficult for others to receive acts of service from us.

Reflect on what it means to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

What if, instead of thinking highly, as though we are above, we think in terms of the depth of our roots. In this way we are always "under" those we serve.

What is happening below the surface of our soil will determine the fruit we give above the ground.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Enrich: Worship (St. Paul's Cathedral)

1400 years of history surrounded me as the worship of God enveloped me.

This week I've been blessed to be in England and the night before last I sat with the choir at St. Paul's Cathedral for their evening worship "Evensong".

I didn't sing, but sat in the rows of this ancient church structure. A 14 voice choir filled the entire structure with praise.

As they began singing "Praise be to the Father" I was overwhelmed and tears welled up in my eyes. I was Enriched. My soil that bit better.

The Father receiving glory somehow enriches and benefits the children.

Something to point out. I didn't sing a single word. I worshiped and my soil was enriched without being able to sing as well as the 14 men in choir, or even knowing the words of the songs they sung.

Don't find yourself believing that you can't do any of the nutrients because you aren't skilled or an expert. Spiritual formation isn't an expert's realm, but a place of permanent amateurism.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Till: Go To Church

It starts as simple as that. Go to church!

Before our soil can be filled with vital nutrients of life, we have to break that ground up.

Going to church and being in an environment of worship and scripture and fellowship is something that tills your soil.

A local church is also an incubator of many other nutrients you might need. Simply by going to church you place yourself in proximity to these other nutrients your soil is seeking.

But remember, going to church isn't THE nutrient, but A nutrient. It is only one of the first that will till your soil.

The Fig Tree

In the gospels there is a story Jesus tells of a fig tree.

In Luke 13, a man owns a fig tree and wants to cut it down because it hasn't born any fruit in three years.

But the vine dresser says, "Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure."

I remember coming home from a failed internship after my senior year in college. One of my spiritual mentors sent me this verse. I've held it close to my heart ever since.

It's interesting to me that Jesus points out the digging and the fertilizing, not the pruning. I believe it is because growth doesn't come first from the condition of the fig tree, but from the health of the soil it is planted in.

Jesus, our vine dresser, digs around us, laying on manure. There is something beautiful here, something Jesus believes about us. If you aren't bearing fruit, Jesus doesn't believe that you CAN'T, only that you HAVEN'T YET.

Dig in to the Layers of Life. Your soil matters.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Nutrients

One of the biggest mistakes we make is thinking that focusing on one thing will produce the healthiest growth.


Plants don't grow that way, so why do we think that we do?

This is why I've picked out what seem to be 15 obvious elements or nutrients that till, enrich, and flourish our soil. Throughout the Bible you see these things happening in the lives of those that flourish.

But the great thing is, though we need to focus and think about more than one thing, we aren't always meant to be doing all of these things at once.

Different soils have nutrients that exist naturally. For me, worship comes naturally, but I can't expect my fruit to be healthy if that is the only nutrient I rely on. So I need to add other nutrients to my soil to be balanced and healthy.

Here is the list of nutrients. Do any jump out as the obvious nutrient missing from you soil?

Layer 1: Till - break up the ground
  • Church Attendance
  • Prayer
  • Bible Study
  • Christian Friendship
  • Confession
Layer 2: Enrich - feed the soil
  • Worship
  • Giving
  • Fasting
  • Sabbath
  • Being Discipled
Layer 3: Flourish - producing fruit
  • Serve
  • Missions
  • Evangelism
  • Discipling someone
  • Practicing Spiritual Gifts
It is also important to know that each of these nutrients don't simply belong in one layer. Being discipled is in the Enrich layer because that is seems to be its "primary" place, but being discipled can also till up your soil. 

So feel free to interchange where these nutrients belong... this is just meant to be a suggested starting place for knowing the condition of your soil.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Direction

I've always said that worship is the "direction" of our hearts toward God.

Does this line up with my philosophy of spiritual formation and growth when I'm saying that spiritual formation isn't about a walk?

Yes. Here's why.

One winter night in the midwest I was visiting my childhood home. As I walked around the garage toward the house I noticed a tree. Against a black night sky its limbs were stretched upward. Every day this tree reached. Its limbs had a direction.

This is what direction is. Direction is so easily added to the idea of a car or some other vehicle "moving", and rarely to plants "living". But every plant has direction as well and would not be alive without direction. Their limbs reach in the direction of the sun. Their roots reach in the direction of water and life.

You don't have to "go" anywhere to have direction. And so, in our layers of life, when we worship, we direct our hearts toward God. His sunlight feeds us, his water revives us, and our soil is enriched.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Feet or Fruit

Why did Jesus talk about fruit so much?

Fig trees, vines, in season, etc... Over and over Jesus brings us back to something that grows and something that is either good or bad.

On the other hand. He doesn't seem to talk about "distances" nearly as much. We see him travel quite a bit, so why not use distance as his schema more often? He tells a couple parables about travelers, but the distance they go doesn't seem to be the point of those stories (the prodigal comes back where he started, the Good Samaritan helps along the way, the 99 are left to find the 1 lost sheep).

Without a doubt Jesus told us to "go" but he never seems to say that the distance travelled communicates the health of our relationship with God.

Fruit is the standard. And the best fruit is born from the best soil.

In the coarse of my life I've found it's much easier to portray feet going forward than to produce healthy fruit. It's easier to walk on soil than to feed it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Layers: Till, Enrich, Flourish

Think about soil.

There are nutrients at work within that you can't see, and there are tools in your hand used to ready the ground for growth.

Some things till the soil, things as simple as going to church or having a Christian friend.

Others enrich the soil, like worship and fasting. When you read your bible you might be "tilling" but without a doubt you are "enriching" your soil.

Finally we flourish! The quality of fruit is related to the health of the roots and soil. Till, enrich, then flourish. This is where we serve, share our faith, and practice our spiritual gifts.

The great thing about depth rather than distance is that distance implies an end, but depth communicates something that continues.

Why Layers?

It almost seems instinctive.

Whenever I talk with someone about "Layers of Life" it's like a light bulb moment. Our spiritual formation isn't about point A to point B. I believe it's about layers of life. Different layers of soil in our soul.

One of our biggest problems is it seems everyone calls our life as a Christian a "walk." It isn't completely inaccurate. It just isn't completely helpful.

When we think of our life in Christ as a "walk" we measure by distance. Rather, we are meant to evaluate our life in Christ by fruit, by growth, by the strength of our faith. For me, all of these add up to measuring by depth, not distance.

As long as I measure by distance I will be giving myself permission to "go" miles toward Jesus, learning and knowing, without ever bearing any fruit.

Layers of life is my answer.