Personal and Spiritual Growth

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Philippians 2:1-11

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God; did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This is the best passage of scripture I have found to guide me in my relationships.  Whether I’m working on my marriage, family relationships, friendships, or any other relationship, this short reading challenges me to be my best.  Specifically, it challenges me to seek: unity, humility, service, obedience to God, and purpose.  If you will regularly read these verses, and put them into practice, your relationships will be transformed!

Philippians 4:4-9

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”

What a great passage!  If you really need peace in your life, and are willing to do a little homework, take this passage to the next step: Get a journal and make time each day to write down something good (“true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy”).  Through this regular exercise, you can train your mind to focus on the good things in life, which will boost your mood and your attitude.  If you combine this with regular prayer about those things that are challenging you, you can count on God’s peace being with you.  Go back and read it again for yourself.  Then try it out for a month.  Enjoy the peace!

Walking with God: Talk to Him. Hear from Him. Really.” by John Eldredge

John Eldredge has written another immensely valuable book, this time not geared toward men and masculinity, but toward all those who long for a daily real-life walk with God.  Practical, insightful, challenging, personal – this one will really make you think.  It may just transform your relationship with God!
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero

This is one of the most significant books I have ever read!  It has deeply impacted my life in a short period of time, and I’m sure it will be one I will slowly re-read again and again over the years.  According to the author, drawing from his own painful growth experiences as a pastor and husband, “You cannot be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”

Celebration of Discipline” and “Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home” by Richard Foster

These books will take your spiritual life to a much deeper and richer level, if you are willing.

The Spirit of the Disciplines,” “Hearing God,” and “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard

Just as with Richard Foster’s work, Dallas Willard’s powerful writing offers rich authentic insight to guide you to greater maturity and intimacy with God.  Be prepared to be transformed!

Every Man’s Battle” by Fred Stoeker and Stephen Arterburn

Every Christian man in America needs to read this one!  These guys are extremely blunt and open in their very personal discussion about the problem of lust and pornography.  The good news is, they are also very helpful and practical in how to win this battle and live according to God’s high standard: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Ephesians 5:3

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O” by Shel Silverstein

Don’t stop at the cover, thinking, “This is a children’s book!”  Trust me, read it.  It is a profound book about life, relationships, and the pursuit of fulfillment.

You Are Special” by Max Lucado

Again, this one may just look like a “children’s book,” but it is a very meaningful and emotional read.  If you have never really felt accepted, or feel like you have to spend way too much energy trying to impress others, you need to read this story.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box” by The Arbinger Institute

This one is really hard to describe.  I couldn’t put it down, and I thought about the concepts daily for a long time after I read it.  You’ll just have to read it to understand it.

The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning

If you feel something is missing in your Christian walk…If you don’t particularly feel joyful in your spiritual journey…If you are longing for a greater sense of freedom…READ THIS BOOK!  As you learn to let go of the perfectionistic religious image, and embrace your status as a ragamuffin before God, you will find a new level of peace, joy, and freedom.

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