Friday, February 16, 2018

"Enriching the Soil" for Ongoing Spiritual Growth

Good soil is the first necessity of healthy growth for any plant. And, as John
Malek reminded Patrick Osborne and myself in one of our recent Thursday morning Panera conversations, “good soil” (as it is used, for example, in James 5:7 and Mark 4:8) is the first necessity for spiritual growth as well.

It was a stimulating conversation that followed as we spoke of specific things involved in maintaining a “good soil.” Those things include a grateful heart towards God that is eager to learn and obey; the ongoing practice of reading the Bible carefully and with a willingness to apply it’s truths; keeping in place wholesome spiritual disciplines; the stimulating fellowship of like-minded saints who provide accountability, inspiration, and assistance; a commitment to holy, counter-culture living that confidently invests in the world become; and a winsome, happy sharing of the fruits of the Holy Spirit to those around us.

That morning's discussion then prompted me to take inventory of some of the things that have helped enriched the “good soil” that I’ve enjoyed in these first few weeks of 2018. I share a few in hopes you might find something of value.

* Claire and I are again engaged in a read-through-the-Bible program, one that keeps us in the word daily as we read along while listening to Alexander Scourby’s stirring narration of the text.

* This year Claire and I have added another reading practice by reading from selected books of the Bible every week. That's 3-4 chapters a week when it's an Old Testament book, 1-2 chapters when we start into New Testament books. (We're currently still in Genesis.) We take notes over what we read and then find a time each week to discuss our ideas, applications, and questions.

* The Panera meeting mentioned above where I meet with John and Patrick is a terrific help to me. Our purposeful conversations over what we’re reading, doing, and praying about are priceless as a sanity check, an encouragement, and a source of inspiration to stay on course for the Lord. This is also the case with the two other coffee conversations I have every week with good friends — one with Dick Wilson and the other with Allen Nelson.

* New to 2018 for Claire and I is reading the daily email devotional from Joni
Eareckson Tada. These have been superb and we couldn’t recommend them more highly.

* The “good soil” of 2018 has also been well-tilled, watered, and tended to by my reading some excellent books. Those include Randy Alcorn’s Happiness, Francis Schaeffer’s No Little people, Paul Tournier’s The Meaning of Gifts and The Adventure of Living, and Jan Karon’s Out to Canaan.

* And then there’s the conversation and prayers emerging from our ongoing Thanksgiving Jar project, our concerted prayers at the abortion business, correspondence with friends far away, our many activities with Vital Signs Ministries, and, of course, the effects of various sorrows and trials of life which, when responded to in humble faith, also enrich the soil in which one’s Christian growth occurs.

Do any of the above sound like they might be helpful in increasing the potency of the “good soil” in which your Christian faith is planted? If so, please give them a try.