Archive for August, 2006

Is All of Life Spiritual?

August 13, 2006

As a believer, you will have two basic kinds of interaction with the Lord: Quiet, intimate, internal times which are deliberate and focused on Him directly, and active, interactive, outwardly directed times which are more incidental. Both kinds of times are good for fellowshipping with God. In my understanding of these two kinds of times, neither is inherently “more spiritual” than the other, but they are complementary and equally necessary for growth in the Lord. Sometimes our walk is contemplative and other times it’s more “vocational” or even social. It’s all Him, though. And I don’t think there’s meant to be a strong distinction between these… they’re both ways to know Him. But the point of describing them is that we need both. Without one, the other suffers. Each one gives meaning to the other.

The same basic idea is true in marriage. Sometimes you have intimate times of focused, deliberate attention and affection. Sex comes to mind, of course, particularly since I’m male. But at other times you simply “live with” your mate and do whatever else it is that you do together. Both are a part of your marriage. If you only have one of them the marriage will suffer. Each one is meant to enrich the other. A marriage that’s all sex and no “hang out” would be shallow and superficial. On the other hand, a marriage that deliberately avoids physical intimacy would strain the relationship to the point of breaking except for rare circumstances. A healthy marriage has both.

Life in the church is the same way. Sometimes the saints focus their attention inwardly towards the Spirit of Jesus within; these are quiet times of affection and adoration with the Lord inside each of us. Other times their attention is directed outwardly towards the Lord in each other. They hear Him speak and they interact with Him in His many diverse representations. Any and every activity that the church undertakes is endowed with God’s Spirit because the Body of Christ is involved.

I used to say simply that “All of life is spiritual.” My mentors in the Lord taught me to see it that way, and to say it that way. That has always been the way that I have approched the things of God in my life. But my experience is teaching me something that they never taught me. All of life isn’t necessarily, automatically “spiritual.” A better way to put it is that “All of life can be spiritual.”

A spiritual activity is not defined as something done by your spirit as opposed to by your soul or body. That’s too atomistic– too reductionistic. The question is one of motivation. A “spiritual” activity is defined as anything done by a person who is driven by the Spirit of God in whatever he is doing. It could be balancing your checkbook. It could be playing with a child. It could be mowing a yard, going to work, watching a movie, or reading a book. It’s not only while praying or singing or sitting in silence.

It’s like asking “What’s Christian Music?” The answer is that a Christian song is a song sung by a Christian. Strictly speaking, a song cannot be “Christian.” It’s not about which words are used. It’s not as if a properly arranged group of words constitutes a song being Christian. When a believer writes a song about loving his wife, it’s a Christian song because it was written and sung by a Christian. It doesn’t even have to explicitly mention God or Jesus. Similarly, a song written by an unbeliever may serve well as a song of praise or adoration towards God when a believer appropriates it for himself (rememeber when Paul said “all things are yours…”).

It’s the same way with our lives. What makes what we do spiritual is not that we are doing the right set of things/activities that can be universally labelled “spiritual.” No, what makes them spiritual is that we are doing whatever we are doing as one “in Christ.” Whatever you do in word or in deed, do in the name of the Lord. Life cannot be divided into spiritual parts and non-spiritual parts. Incidentally, I believe this also holds true for the church. We should not try too hard to distinguish “spiritual meetings” from “non-spiritual meetings” of the church. That would produce an artificial division of the things that we do. To appropriate a beautiful phrase, “Can Christ be divided?” The implied answer is No.

All of life can be spiritual. HOWEVER… that does not mean that all of life automatically is! Paul wouldn’t have told them to do everything in the name of the Lord if that were so. There are ways in which almost anything a person or a church does can be “unspiritual.” Consider this: If even religious observances themselves can be motivated by the flesh, then certainly other things can be, too. How many times have I become sick to my stomach while listening to the prayers of believers who are laboring under the illusion that it’s all about their own self-improvement or “empowering”? I see the mark of the human flesh all over that. But this is no less misguided than when a group of free-swinging believers dedicate themselves to following every whim of their own natural cravings simply because they party under the illusion that everything they do is necessarily spiritual and divine in origin.

What I’m trying to say is that there are two opposite ditches to this path that we walk. Those naturally inclined to “spiritual things” sometimes downplay the everyday. They stress the transcendence of God at the expense of His immanence. But others flatten out our lives as if all things we do are equally “of the spirit” simply because believers are doing them. This shows no discernment of the Spirit. No sense of smell.

I look forward to the maturing of our vision, when we can see the pointlessness of running to opposite extremes when it comes to “walking by the spirit.” There’s so much more to say about this, but I’ve said enough for now. I hope it makes sense to whoever reads it.

Half the man I used to be

August 9, 2006

Man, it’s been a long time since I posted anything. I’m still here, I’ve just been really preoccupied, I guess. I split my time this summer between teaching summer school, exercising, and writing a book! I made it about three quarters of the way through the first draft of the book but then the end of the summer smacked me in the face. Now I’m stuck in teachers’ meetings all day and I’m already feeling my fat cells preparing to store up for winter. I’m determined to keep going with the exercise, though, so I can feel a little less like 32 and a little more like, I dunno, 22. Check out the pounds I dropped during the last 6 months…

Some things in my life got a little hard back around Christmas time, and I discovered a great way to relieve stress: Exercise! You can tell from the comparison above just how stressed I must have been. Over the last six months I’ve dropped 40 pounds.

I got sick back in January (pneumonia) and got to the point where I began to fantasize about breathing deeply. Once I got a little strength back I hopped on the bike my lovely wife got me for Christmas and rode around a bit. Then I started running short distances each day until I got up to a mile, then two, then three, and now as far as four miles in a run (I’ve never been able to do that!). I’ve been eating a lot of salads, fruits, and veggies, although I gotta have at least a little chocolate every day, or I get a little moody. Can’t deprive myself of all those health benefits from chocolate, you know. Not to mention the seratonin, or whatever’s in that stuff. Love it!

Meanwhile, I’ve been chewing on something else (pun intended) that I feel it’s time to post. I hope it means something to somebody out there. So for all five of you people that used to actually read my blog (that is, back when I used to POST stuff on it!), it’s my first useful thought suitable for blogging since June. But you’ll have to check back next time to read that life-changing gem 😉