First of all, I would like to greet my readers a Merry Christmas! I hope that Christmas is a joyful and meaningful season for you as you celebrate Christ.
I have two more posts for 2018, which has been a year of low writing output. I’ve just been really really really busy with my current startup life, which includes being a startup husband (2 years), a startup dad (1 year), and a startup CEO (3 years). Much of my last post, the 2018 Finale post, will be a synthesis of these experiences. The title of that post is The Light from a Soul Burning and the Brightness of a Thousand Different Sparks.
The other post is this one, at least the one that follows this introduction. It’s is my Christmas post for the year.
I wrote it in on our trip to Taiwan last week, after listening to my father speak on the following verse:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 ESV
As I listened to my dad’s preaching about The Promise of Christmas; as he read the verse in Isaiah 9 describing Jesus as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; I remembered a recent article I wrote about what makes someone spiritual. I realized that the descriptions of Jesus in the verse, words describing the coming baby Jesus, speak of not just any baby, but a spiritual one. A Wonderful Counselor who would have transcendent wisdom, an Everlasting Father for an enteral horizon, and a Prince of Peace that values shalom, an amazing concept of spiritual harmony that comes from our restoration with God (sacred values).
But I missed one, like I miss a thousand things. I missed Mighty God, and that’s an important thing to add. A truly spiritual person, has evidence of Supernatural Power, a power that comes from being deeply connected to God. It’s not enough to have wisdom, to have eternal love, nor to pursue Shalom. We also need the power to put that wisdom into practice, to turn the love we get from God into love for others, and to achieve harmony in life. That’s why I wanted to update my list of spiritual traits and add Supernatural Power.
Let me summarize it here:
Wonderful Counselor – Transcendent Wisdom
Mighty God – Supernatural Power
Everlasting Father – Eternal Love
Prince of Peace – Bringer of Shalom
It’s no accident that Christmas has a spiritual feel to it. While the busy-ness of the season many times distract us, there’s enough power in the tradition to bring families together, to cause some gratefulness and reflection that we sometimes simply think of as nostalgia. But it’s more than just warm feelings for a time past. It’s a yearly call to embrace the spiritual, to go beyond just the material here and now, to seek transcendent wisdom, to live for an eternal horizon, to pursue the sacred value of Shalom, and to be animated by the supernatural power of a Mighty God.
Here are some reflection questions to ask during this season:
Am I thinking and acting with eternity in mind? Or am I simply reacting to the here and now, and chasing temporary things?
Am I making decisions based on Transcendent Wisdom? Or am I simply relying on common sense, human knowledge, and my own feelings?
What is my source of strength? Is it a good night’s sleep? A good meal? The compliments of others? My money? My body? My mind? Or am I finding strength by worshipping a Mighty God?
I asked myself these questions, and my honest assessment is that I haven’t done a great job living a truly spiritual life, as defined by the criteria I listed. The most damning point being that I am many times more preoccupied with temporal things instead of sacred and eternal matters. Many times the day to day responsibilities suck up the spirituality from my life.
This is why personal reflections are important. It’s beneficial to take yourself out of the busyness and recalibrate spiritually.
Christmas is a perfect time to do this.
Christmas is also a perfect time to worship. When my reflections reveal a man lacking in every way, I turn to God. I may not be the best model of spirituality, but I trust in someone who is more than a model. I follow the one the verses were talking about, my Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
V. 17 And to Adam, he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
I had this thought, “Are the things we speak to our partner making their life more difficult? Are the requests, expectations, and comments improving the peace and rest? Or are we a ‘curse to their ground’, someone who makes their life more difficult, more painful, more thorny, and more tiring? What do I bring with me?”
While this verse is talking about Eve’s effect on Adam, the verse is clear that God put the responsibility and the consequence on Adam. I also think it’s very possible (and is not uncommon) for a husband to make life difficult for his wife.
As early as Genesis 3, the Bible was already revealing one major way we kill relationships: by making their life difficult by the things we ask them to do, particularly, asking people to sin. And what is sin? Is it simply asking someone to do something society agrees is bad? The Bible takes it further. Sin includes anything that gets in the way of us and God. Eve asked Adam to partake of something she thought was pleasing and beneficial. Are we asking our partners to partake in things that are seemingly pleasing and beneficial but actually lead to them having a more difficult, painful, thorny, and more tiring life?
As I was typing my thoughts on this verse, I remembered another verse I never thoughts was related:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
This is followed by what seems like an oxymoron of a yoke and burden combined with rest:
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
There is a similarity that they’re both invitations to attractive things, but one ended in pain and weariness, the other leads to rest. Which invitation am I taking? Which invitation am I offering?
Jesus never removed responsibility and burdens to achieve rest (which is what our leisurely culture likes to do) nor did he glorify the lack of rest as a sign of responsibility (which workaholics like to do). In fact, who was He inviting? Those on vacation? Those with no issues? Those with no concerns? No. He was inviting those who are working, who are carrying large responsibilities. You don’t invite someone you don’t want to welcome. He wants to welcome us to His rest.
As a worker, and as a person with growing responsibilities, I find it helpful to listen to God’s voice, to look for what He’s saying through circumstances, through others (such as my wife), and through His word, which is why I make time to do my morning devotions. Everything else can wait.
As a leader, as a husband, as a father, as a friend, I am convicted and led to repent. Am I gentle and lowly in heart? Do I lead in such a way that our goals and achievements are not causing others to be further away from God and further away from His rest? What do I bring with me? I can see many areas I can improve. I am grateful that I have Jesus to look up to.
Let it never be said by God to anyone, “Because you listened to the voice of David… …you are cursed.” What a chilling thought. #DB
This is not a theological article. It is simply my personal thoughts during my devotions.
Yasmin, and I were talking about a simple question on the drive to Clark from Subic. That question was: What does it mean to be a Christian? Thinking back to it, I think “simple” isn’t the best word to describe it, when it’s really more a “central” question, a question so important to know the answer to if one is to follow Christ.
I thought about that question this morning in my devotions, but given my lack of mental power, I’m treating it the way I treat everything: moving away from never-ending intellectualising of a concept and concentrating my thoughts on how it can be applied and practiced.
What is a Christian Spiritual Man? There are many people who say they’re not religious but spiritual. I would respect this answer more if many of the people I’ve asked, “What do you mean by spiritual?” could answer it more meaningfully. But many times it’s a cop-out given by someone who is actually very minimally spiritual and incredibly materialistic. I wanted to learn for myself, in my simplified way, what is a Christian Spiritual man?
I ended up with these three indicators:
Bellow are my thoughts on the three points.
Has received Christ
What does it mean to receive Christ?
I thought about how I can go through the day, in fact, most days, and not acknowledge my reliance on God for salvation, love, and provision. This shows clearly how un-spiritual a person I am. In fact, I would be lying if I ever said, “I am not religious. I am spiritual.” when the fact is I am neither. The more honest assessment is “I am very temporal.” as seen by what I m preoccupied with most. But a Christian recognizes this, and sees it as further proof of my need for a savior, that even in my best efforts, I am nowhere near as spiritual as I want to be nor need to be. When I realize this, and I am reminded of this almost daily, I do what Christians do: I repent and turn back to Christ, putting my trust in his salvation, love, and provision once more.
Is led by the Holy Spirit
I’ve always wondered about teachings connected to the Holy Spirit, particularly those about the Power of the Holy Spirit, the Speaking of Tongues, and what it exactly means to be “led by the Spirit”. I think most of my questions are the result of not knowing enough, from lack of knowledge, which is why I’m taking the time to study for myself what the Bible has to say on the topic. I do have to admit that I don’t understand many of what preachers say about the Holy Spirit, and worse, I don’t know how to apply it to my daily living. As I learn more, I am sure I’ll be able to improve my understanding in this area. To simplify it for myself, for now, instead of focusing on the more magical teachings on this subject, expecting some zap of power, some electric buzz, to help me do the right thing, I’m focusing on two questions:
Produces the Fruit of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. – Galatians 5:22
There is a lot that has been said about this verse, but another verse keeps haunting me every time I read Galatians 5:22, and it’s this:
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. – Matthew 7:15-20
This is probably one of the simplest and soundest pieces of advice I have ever read on determining whether a person is credible and worth listening to: You will know them by their fruits.
It’s very clear that it’s not about titles, not about reviews, not about who they’re connected to, and not about popularity. It’s possible to have all of those yet not bear the kind of fruit that comes from a good Christ-centred seed.
This is also a good way to honestly determine my own spirituality. Is my life bearing the right fruit? Is my life even bearing fruit? What fruit am I bearing?
As usual, that one question I take to God in prayer leads to more questions than answers, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is a journey after all, one that’s full of romance, mystery, and depth. Of course it leads to more wonder. Wonderful things lead to more and more wonder. #DB