Health Food

I remember the first time Peggy and I fed our son, Matthew, something other than milk. He was too young to form words, but he didn’t need any, because the contortion on his face conveyed everything that needed to be said: he was not pleased. (In all fairness, oatmeal would have been an easier transition step than carrots. Sorry, Bud.) Maturing the pallet is not an easy endeavor—infants graduate from milk only to encounter vegetables, those unwanted intruders banished to the outer reaches of toddlers’ plates everywhere. If it weren’t for persevering parents, they would eschew the nutrients they need in favor of the flavors they want.

Early church leaders understood the importance of spiritual nourishment, yet they also knew our capacity to ingest Kingdom truths evolves over time—it is a process. “Anyone who lives on milk [is] still an infant,” we read in the letter to Hebrew believers, “But solid food is for the mature.”1 What is spiritual milk? The writer goes on to describe elementary Biblical teachings: turning to God in faith, resurrection from the dead and facing eternal judgment, among others. If we’re still struggling with these truths, then Peter suggests we stick with the most elementary of foods, “Crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”2

Then our tastes grow as we grow, for “solid food is for the mature.”3 What do meat and veggies of the unseen variety look like? The Bible doesn’t provide a grocery list of senior staples, per se, but it does direct us to a daily diet of the Word: “Man shall not live by bread alone,” said Jesus to the tempter, “but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”4 So, we expand our appetite and take in truth, rounding out our regimen with the obedience that comes from trust, just as Jesus did: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”5

Given all that’s on our plate in a worldly sense, it is easy to skip meals that strengthen us for this life and the next. It is likewise tempting to pick at a passage without even tasting it. May I encourage us above all else to prioritize time to savor Scripture? Every word—milk, meat and even carrots—is life itself, both your life and mine.

“I am the bread of life… If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” (John 6:48-58)

Father, send your Spirit to slow me down and savor your word. Strengthen me in truth, and fill me with joy to do your work. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

1, 3 Hebrews 5:14
2 1 Peter 2:2
4 Matthew 4:4
5 John 4:34

Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish

My wife says road trips with me are “like traveling with a human TripTik”—once we’ve driven a certain route a couple of times, I pretty much know the mile markers where we’ll find certain fast-food franchises, specific gas station brands, and easy-access rest areas. While we’re both destination-oriented people—“just press on!”—it is helpful to anticipate where we can fill the tank, feed the stomach, dump the trash, and set out again.

We who live in Christ through faith are on a road trip of a different kind, a spiritual journey—destination: transformation. We are being changed into Jesus’ image, and Peter tells us what to anticipate ahead as we progress toward our goal: “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness … knowledge … self-control … perseverance … godliness … mutual affection … and love.”1 These are the recognizable markers along the road to maturity, the places we can rest and refuel, knowing we’re on the right path. Yet they also present us opportunities to toss our trash of spiritual immaturity and let it fade in the rear-view mirror.

What does this waste of the unseen variety look like? The early Corinthian church was a veritable nursery filled with “mere infants in Christ,”2 so let’s learn from Paul as he grows them up a bit. “You are still worldly,”3 he charged. It’s a common condition, so if our growth is likewise stunted by materialism, let’s pull over at godliness and dump our worldliness there. Are we, like them, caught up in “jealously and quarreling”?4 We can crunch up these empty bags now and discard them at mutual affection just up ahead. Suckered yet again by non-Biblical wisdom?5 Let’s leave this garbage behind once and for all as we fuel up at knowledge. What about spectacularism—elevating the worship experience above the God of our worship?6 There’s a recycle bin at self-control. Are we, in the words of Jesus, “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures” so that we “do not mature”?7 Then goodness is where we replace these distractions with “noble and good hearts,” whereby we hear the word, retain it and bear fruit at perseverance.8

“The Spirit gives birth to spirit,” 9 Jesus said. This is only the starting point, for as we are born into salvation, so we must “grow up in salvation.”10 It’s what God hopes for us—that we leave infancy behind and press on to maturity. Destination: transformation.

Father, send your Spirit to lead me away from my short-sighted focus on worldly desires and ever onward in the spiritual growth you desire for me. In Christ, I pray. Amen.

1 2 Peter 1:5-7
2 1 Corinthians 3:1
3, 4 1 Corinthians 3:3
5 1 Corinthians 3:18-20
6 1 Corinthians 14:18-20
7 Luke 8:14
8 Luke 8:15
9 John 3:6
10 1 Peter 2:2

Perpetual Playground?

There I was—fidgeting, enduring, gazing at the clock again, silently pleading its snail-paced little hand onward to the 3 while urging its friendlier big hand toward the 12 perched atop all the other numbers. This was the first grade, and all I wanted to do was play; whether recess, lunch or home, it did not matter—just let me play! One day while staring down my ticking tormentor, I thought, “I know school has twelve grades … and then my parents want me to go to college!” I slumped in six-year-old defeat. But what if somehow the clock hastened at my command and my curriculum became perpetual playground, my career aspirations ultimately rooted in recess? How far would tag, king-of-the-hill, and monkey bars have gotten me in this world? (Rhetorical question.)

We know the importance of preparing our children for life, and we do what we can—both at home and through school—to help them expand their knowledge, broaden their vision, and develop their capabilities, for the path to growth is largely through the mind. What we need to realize, as well, is that our spiritual maturity, which is of even greater consequence, also develops over time through understanding—both knowing about Christ and knowing Him relationally. Growing up “in the knowledge of the Son of God,” wrote Paul, we “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”1 It is God’s vision for us that we steep ourselves in the truth of who Christ is and, knowing Him, become living expressions of His godly character. For through knowledge, the Spirit develops us and expands our understanding, so that we “may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power … and giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”2

Like engaged and nurturing parents, God knows the Kingdom experience that awaits us, so He urges us to put monkey bars behind us, grow up in our knowledge of Christ, follow Him beyond the playground fence, and bring His powerful presence to wherever we are in the world. The clock is ticking.

Father, thank you for loving me and saving me. Help me to grow up in the knowledge of your Son, equip me to bear fruit for your Kingdom, and lead me in strength and joy into the world that awaits you today. Amen.

1 Ephesians 4:13
2 Colossians 1:10-12