To stop growing is to cease living. Living things grow. I never want to stop growing. But growth does not happen while we live on auto-pilot. We need a plan to grow, a process, tools. The goal is not to know more. It’s always to connect with God, be open to God, draw life from God.
Our younger daughter, Christy, gave me Paul David Tripp’s excellent devotional, New Morning Mercies, published in 2014 by Crossway. Christy and her husband, Stirling, discovered this book at a marriage conference at their church, where Tripp was the speaker. Much of what Tripp writes about is applicable to marriage. It also applies to all people who are single, divorced, widows, widowers or married. It’s regular morning reading for me. It’s relevant to life as we know it today, biblically grounded and full of grace. Each concise reading ends with a (usually) brief suggested Scripture to read. It speaks to me.
Mary and I have for a long time read the classic devotional, Streams in the Desert, complied by L. B. Cowman. As the title implies, in struggles, set-backs, disappointments, dead-ends, doubts, illnesses – all familiar territory – we can often find refreshing streams. It jogs our memory that while grieving over a disappointment or being discouraged while suffering, we can often find God at work. Trouble we do not want, becomes a door to growth and full-toned faith if we allow it. Those short daily readings will challenge you over and over. Life can be a mile wide but only an inch deep without the quandary of perplexity.
I read the Bible daily. Beyond question, it’s the most valuable resource for living in print. A modern translation is a must. There are many. I like the New Living Translation. The Message by Eugene Peterson, though a paraphrase, gives Scripture a simulating clarity. For some time I have used The Renovarè Spiritual Formation Bible. It’s the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. It’s notes add insights on the meaning of the sacred writings for our spiritual formation. There are many Bibles with added commentary that shed light on the text that motivate us to dig deeper, and help us apply Scripture to daily living. We’re all casual theologians, trying to find meaning and make sense of life. None of us will do that well without regular reading of the Bible.
About a year ago, I stumbled into a journal that has a goal to be “A Forum for Authentic Transformation.” For all of us who have ever felt stuck, going nowhere, these writings may help move the needle for you as they have for me. Called Conversations, it “Provides spiritual accompaniment and honest dialogue for those who long for radical transformation in Christ. It stimulates hunger and illuminates the path by drawing on classical wisdom and practice, exploring the vital role of community, and illustrating the journey with realism and hope.” Only rarely have I been as excited as I am about this spiritual formation resource.
Right now, I’m reading a book about Baptist life, by Editor Walter Shurden, published in 1999 by Smith & Helways. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper is part of a series of books titled, Proclaiming the Baptist Vision. You may not get as revved up about this topic as I do. But why not read something about your own Christian tradition that just might grow the meaning and significance of your faith?
Pick one or two things that interest you and will work for your schedule. Taking on too much will weigh you down and put the kibosh on your goals.
The end result of intentional growth planning can be staggering. Dr. Henry Wilson is quoted in Streams in the Desert as one who intentionally allowed God to be the center of his life. This was Dr. Wilson’s result: “For twenty-one years it has been not only a living reality to me, but a reality growing deeper and richer, until now at the age of seventy years, I am in every sense a younger, fresher man than I was at thirty” (reading for September 27). Did that happen while living on auto pilot? You know it didn’t.