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Next Level Spirituality

I hear lots of talk about going to the next level in a variety of contexts, such as: exercise, cooking techniques, snowboarding proficiency, work commitments, teenage adventures, etc.  It seems to me that when people use this terminology, it’s to emphasize an improvement,  increase intensity or make something more extreme.

So what could going to the next level look like with spirituality?  Maybe “next level spirituality” first requires an honest assessment of our current level.  Who am I now?  What are my present comfort zones?  What do I naturally gravitate to?  It’s hard to go to the next level if we don’t even know what our current level is.

This makes me think about the first time Jesus met Peter, in Luke 5, when Peter was mending his net after a discouraging night of fruitless fishing.  While Peter was net mending, Jesus borrowed Peter’s boat & preached to a big crowd.  When Jesus finished, He told Peter to put his boat out to catch fish, which Peter did & caught a boatload of fish!!  I think Peter recognized a stark contrast between Jesus’ teaching & his own spirituality because of how he replied to Jesus after the miracle catch of fish.  Peter said to Jesus, “Away from me, for I’m a sinful man.”  And I love that Jesus invited Peter to the next level of spirituality, by answering, “Follow Me & I’ll make you a fisher of men!”

Peter responded to Jesus’ invitation by dropping his net, leaving his boat & following Jesus for almost three years.  I’d venture to say that Peter’s spirituality went into hyper-drive, getting to spend 24/7 with Jesus for these years.  In Peter’s next level spirituality, he had some incredible experiences like walking on water, distributing miracle provision bread & fish, seeing innumerable healings, along with some resurrections and heaps more.  At the same time, Peter’s next level spirituality also included some defeats, such as arguing with Jesus about denying Him, sinking into the water when he was distracted by the winds & waves, falling asleep in Gethsemane when Jesus most needed him, along with cutting of a servants ear when Jesus was arrested.

But I would suggest that the best way we can evaluate our spirituality and go to the next level is seen in Jesus’ conversation with Peter, in John 21, after His resurrection.  This conversation happened within a few days of Peter vehemently denying Jesus, Peter failing to keep watch with Jesus in Gethsemane because of being sleepy & after he cut off somebody’s ear.  Shortly after these failures, Jesus shows up on the shore of Galiee.  When Peter knows it’s Jesus, he  throws himself into this sea, so he can swim to Jesus, who is waiting on the shore with a toasty fire, fresh cooked fish and bread, a ready breakfast for hungry fishermen.  The subsequent  conversation that occurred between Jesus & Peter was all about genuine love.  And in my thinking, the highest level of spirituality is rooted in living genuine love.  I say this because of Jesus’ words in John 13:35, “People will know that you follow Me by your love for one another.”

Let’s be careful to appreciate that miracles are cool, character is vital, but genuine love is essential for next level spirituality.

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Posted by sarahbowling in fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, travel, values, watch, 0 comments

New Day, New Year, New You!!

“I got a new car!!!”  I’ll never forget my first new car nor my enthusiasm and commitment to take very good care of my new car!  I was massively devoted to doing the regular oil changes, using good fuel, doing a routine fuel injector and driving to loud music and the sunroof down to accentuate the cool factor.  This car was really special to me because I had a chance to do everything right that I’d done so wrong with my first car.

The first car I bought had about 65,000 miles on it and was more than ten years old.  It was a stick shift and the color was burnt orange – pretty ugly, but good for a sixteen year old.  On this car, I learned about grinding gears because I’d never driven a stick shift before.  I had no clue about fuel choices nor regular oil changes.  I accidentally drove over a concrete parking stop but didn’t know enough to look at the oil pan for a possible leak, which of course became a costly repair after most of the oil had drained through the leak.  I learned a lot about car maintenance on my little burnt orange treasure and I’ve put my mistakes and lessons to good use ever since.

I’d like to suggest that we could use the same strategy from last year’s lessons for this new year.  Before we leave this year and close the chapter on this decade, we would be wise to ask Holy Spirit to teach and show us lessons and mistakes so that this upcoming year and new decade can be better or at least different.

When I think about a new start, it reminds me about Jacob in Genesis 32 and his experience of leaving Laban (his father in law) after working for him for twenty years.  In this chapter, Jacob is making a fresh start in his life, having closed out the preceding two decades.  In his fresh start, Jacob had an all night wrestling match with the Angel of God.  Jacob was overpowered in this wrestling match, having his hip dislocated, but he refused to let go of the angel, who changed his name from Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (one who wrestles with God).  With this name change, I’d propose that Jacob became a new person, in a new place and settled in his homeland.

Looking at this new beginning for Israel, I see that he deeply valued God’s presence even at great physical expense to himself.  I also see that he let go of Laban and any expectations or links he had with him – he totally closed that chapter of his life.  When Israel looked forward into starting a new chapter, he came to terms with the wrongs he’d done to his brother twenty years earlier and we see him walk in a steady commitment with God for the rest of his life, no matter the twists, pains, joys nor losses.

There are lots of lessons we can learn from the past and good lessons, if we let Holy Spirit be our teacher.  But if we don’t let Holy Spirit be our teacher and just settle for self-education, it’s very possible that we could learn the wrong lessons.  Additionally, no one knows you better than your Maker, so letting Holy Spirit teach you is essential to being your true self – the real you!    As we finish out this year and decade, let’s make two resolutions:

  1. To let Holy Spirit be our teacher, being committed to learning lessons from Holy Spirit
  2. To stay committed to God, no matter what the future has. We can do this by taking one day at a time.

Feel free to share this blog on your social media stuff to help others have a great new start!

Happy new day, Happy New Year, New Decade and New You!

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 1 comment

The Ambition Factor

Are you ambitious?

That’s a really loaded question.  If we answer “yes” then we run the risk of being perceived as selfish, driven, neglectful, insensitive, demanding and lots more.  If we answer “no” then we might be perceived as unmotivated, lethargic, non-productive, aimless and inert.  No matter what your answer is, the external perceptions aren’t as important as your internal motives.  To this end, if insecurity, fear, selfishness, pride impatience, anxiety, etc drive our ambition, then the chances for a trainwreck and hurting others skyrocket.

I’ve been thinking about ambition as I’ve been reading about David being anointed to be king & then running from King Saul for ten years, just to stay alive.  In these ten years, David has some opportunities to kill Saul & take the throne which would be ambitious and easy to justify because Saul was a jerk & David was anointed by Samuel to be Saul’s replacement.  But David kept his ambition in check because he valued God’s anointing.

Furthermore, when Saul & Jonathon were killed in battle, David didn’t promote himself as king to save the day for Israel.  When David heard that Saul & Jonathon were dead, his immediate reaction was to grieve and write a lament about the loss of these important men.  In relation to David’s possible ambition to become the next king of Israel, it’s very insightful look at David’s words and action in 2Samuel 2:1, “Then it came about afterwards that David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up to one of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” So David said, “Where shall I go up?” And He said, “To Hebron.”

In this verse and the succeeding verses, I see several helpful keys for being ambitious:

  1. Seeking God:  raw ambition is often impulsive.  As a result, seeking for God’s input and direction is a very effective way to prevent the fallout from hasty, impulsvie and raw, unchecked ambition.  After mourning the death of Saul and Jonathon, David’s first action was to seek God.
  2. Clear Direction:  David had two questions for God.  The first was about action and the second was about location.  When we seek God, that helps to neutralize the impulsive nature of ambition.  Once we have some input from God, it’s helpful to pause for more clarity, direction and input from God.
  3. Be committed:  once David had God’s input and direction, he moved to Hebron, took his wives, kids and all of his loyal followers to settle down and reside in Hebron.  If we are driven by raw ambition, it can be very difficult to put down our roots and be committed in a community, in relationships, a church job, marriage etc.
  4. Get confirmation:  once David, his family and followers moved to Hebron, we still don’t see David being pushy, assertive, demanding nor self-promoting.  On the contrary!  In 2Sam 2:4 we read, “Then the men of Judah came and there anointed David king over the house of Judah.”  From my perspective, David waited for Judah to come to him.  Maybe we could say that ambition pursues but anointing pauses and waits.
  5. There’s more:  even though David was anointed to be King in Judah, the rest of Israel didn’t accept David to be their king until seven years later.  Unfortunately, human ambition settles for less than God’s best and fullest promise. Patience can vaccinate our human ambition so that we receive the full potential of God’s promises.

If God puts a dream in your heart for your life, let your highest priority be to walk with God even more than achieving God’s goal or dream. Walking with God will get you to the dream God puts in your heart, along with shaping your character, deepning your relationships and most importantly, knowing God with ever increasing intimacy.  Let’s make our life’s ambition to revolve around knowing God and letting God be known through our lives!,

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Posted by sarahbowling in busy, enemies to intimacy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 1 comment

5 Values of Process

I like to achieve goals & accomplish stuff. And I recently read about David killing Goliath which was a huge achievement!!

Sometimes I think we can get so goal oriented that we miss or neglect the value & maturation that we gain in the process to achieve such goals. Indeed, David went through lots of process to culminate in the Goliath victory: 

  1. he killed a lion & a bear: don’t belittle “small” victories 
  2. he became super proficient with a slingshot: sometimes what is a hobby or “play” has powerful application in our future 
  3. he knew that Sauls armor didn’t fit a shepherd persona: don’t be anyone but yourself 
  4. he was scrappy with his brother & most importantly: feisty can helps us confront bigger giants
  5. he was confident in God:  let’s not trust anything nor anyone more than we trust God

Let’s value the process & journey not just the outcomes & destinations!

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Posted by Sarah in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Open During Construction

I drove by a hospital & read the sign, “Open During Construction”.  And I began to think about the possibility of the hospital being closed during construction.  To be certain, construction is a pain in the neck because it creates detours, messy environments, unpleasant views, health hazards & communication confusion. But usually, construction is the attempt to take what’s normal or rundown & make it better.

To this end, as a follower of Jesus, it feels like I’m always under construction. And despite being under construction, I still have to function & engage in daily living, kind of like being open during construction. So let’s appreciate & be gracious with each other, that Holy Spirit is working in us, so that we look & act like Jesus more & more!  2Cor 3:18 🙂

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Posted by Sarah in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

3 Helpful Steps for Growing

I’m firmly convinced that God has made each of us to be growing individuals and not merely in girth or width 🙂

We can grow in lots of ways that include:  emotional maturity, relationship skills, intellectual acumen, communication improvements, spiritual development, self-control enhancements, budgeting skills & heaps more!  And if I’m fully honest with you, I like myself better when I’m growing rather than when I’m stagnant.

Here are 3 helpful steps for growing & feel free to add more ideas in the comments!

  1. Always Learning:  learning new skills, exploring new topics, reading a variety of books are a few ways that we can position ourselves to be life-long learners.
  2. Permission to Make Mistakes:  mistakes and failures seem to be the complementary counterparts to growing and success.  Indeed, I think I learn more from when I fail than when I continually succeed.
  3. Rest and Run Rhythm:  When I’m always going, I get worn down & I find it harder to learn and grow because I’m tired.  On the other side, when I rest too much I get lethargic and my ability to grow and learn seems to dwindle.

Let’s be committed to grow into the person God has made us to be!  Eph 2:10 🙂

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Posted by Sarah in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

3 Steps for Giant Killing

The story of David killing Goliath is really well known & it can be encouraging to remember when we are facing what seems to be impossible.  It’s the quinessential story of the underdog defeating a monstrous bully.

I’ve been thinking about this story and here are some helpful observations you can apply today:

  • obeying dad:  the whole story starts with David obeying his dad’s direction to check on his brothers at the battle line with Saul.  We need to stay committed to obeying our Heavenly Father
  • leave the stuff:  David left the sheep for which he was responsible and David left his luggage before he even knew about Goliath.  It’s possible that we might be carrying too many responsibilities and too much luggage
  • run to the action:  David ran to the battle line two times, once to meet his brothers and once to meet Goliath.  Running away from action can often make giants and obstacles get bigger and last longer

Whenever you face a giant or an obstacle, strengthen yourself in the Lord!  He will give you the victory in one fell swoop or through various steps 🙂

 

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Posted by Sarah in busy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

3 Ways to Grow from Feedback

In the recent days, I’ve had lots of feedback on sermons, writing, clothing, makeup, communication styles, etc.  In general, I much prefer the positive affirmation in contrast to stuff that’s more critical.  But alas, my potential to grow and improve is higher with the critical feedback more than only positive affirmation, with a few important ingredients:

  1. Be committed to growing & improving.  In darwinian speech we evolve through change or we become extinct with stagnation.  And no, I’m not a Darwinist so don’t get jittery 🙂
  2. The motive for feedback isn’t the main issue.  Sometimes people have good motives and sometimes people are trying to hurt us with their feedback.  What you do with the feedback is more important than the motive in which it’s given
  3. Don’t let the communication style distract you.  The way in which some people communicate is prickly on a good day.  But no matter how something is delivered, we can almost always find something helpful to grow and improve.

Finally and most importantly, stay in love with Jesus & stay true to His divine purposes.  Doing these two things aligns us for God’s participation in our lives to make lemonade out of lemons, based on Romans 8:28 🙂

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Posted by Sarah in busy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, listen, living, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

My Smart Neighbor

We have new neighbors & it’s fun to watch them get settled in the neighborhood.  I recently discovered a “rogue garden” while I was taking a walk. This garden is outside the neighborhood fence & it’s very well cultivated. One day during my morning quiet time, I saw my neighbor walking with a bucket to the fence & I surmised that he’s watering his garden.  I’ve also noticed that my neighbor has stopped up the drainage culvert to make some fertilizer that he takes to his garden from time to time.

It’s really fun to watch my neighbor & learn about gardening, making fertilizer, weeding etc.  Whenever I talk with him, he tends to be friendly but not very expressive, so I smile & enjoy watching & learning 🙂

Watching my neighbor is a daily reminder to watch for Holy Spirit in my daily living – learning to cultivate Gods Word in my heart, using adversity as fertilizer & keeping the weeds minimized 🙂

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Posted by Sarah in busy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments