Beautiful ripe peach on the tree, Entz Family Orchard near Whitewater, KS

Being a “not quite ripe yet” Christian

I get really frustrated with myself a lot of times. Because I can get into the habit of thinking I know everything. I know I don’t really know everything. But I can convince myself that I’ve got a pretty good handle on the Christian life.

I’m not saying you can’t ever get there. I know people who have. But I’m not there yet. I still stumble and fall on my face far more frequently than I care to admit. And then I add pride to my tab, telling myself I’ve got a particular sin by the tail just before it reaches back and bites me.

Beautiful ripe peach on the tree, Entz Family Orchard near Whitewater, KS

Beautiful ripe peach on the tree, Entz Family Orchard near Whitewater, KS

Today’s verses are Romans 7:21-25.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

Paul wrote this, and he was probably one of the greatest Christ-followers who lived. If he didn’t have it all the way sorted out, there’s no way I do.

You’ve all heard everyone admit to being “not perfect,” right? Everybody says it. Nobody’s perfect. And that’s obvious. You’d think something so obvious wouldn’t bear repeating so often, but we do it anyway in some lame attempt to excuse our shortcomings.

But the truth we need to understand is that once you’ve chosen to follow Christ, you have two natures living in you. You have your human nature–the fallen nature, the one that desires to live for self and do what feels good. And then you have the Holy Spirit and your redeemed nature, the part of you that has been resurrected to communicate with God. These two natures are constantly at war with each other, so, Christ-follower, if you ever feel torn at times, now you know why.

Every day is a battle between our fallen nature and our redeemed self. There’s a war raging inside us between our two natures, and then there is a war raging outside us, the spiritual forces of heaven and hell fighting for our attention. But the choice to obey one rather than the other is up to us. The choice to focus on one rather than the other is in our court.

And that goes for people who’ve been Christians for a long time too. Don’t think that just because you’ve been “saved” since you were young that you’re immune. Oh, no. If anything, you’re more at risk than someone who’s recently come to Christ. If you’ve known Jesus for most of your life, you’ll be tempted to rely on your own knowledge or understanding of a situation. You’ll say you’re trusting God, but you’re really just doing things they way you want to do them.

No one is safe. No one escapes the desire to be the one calling the shots. We all want it, and some of us get it, only to realize too late that we aren’t qualified to call the shots.

Don’t ever delude yourself into thinking you’ve got the Christian life figured out. God’s bigger picture for all of our lives is too big to wrap our heads around. The moment you start thinking you’ve got it made is the moment God is going to have to remind you that you don’t. And, trust me, that is not a fun place to be.

So the next time you’re feeling confident in your own abilities or your accomplishments, take a moment to chill out. Remember who gave you everything you’ve got. Remember who is actually responsible for getting you where you are today. Maybe you worked for it, yes, but who gave you the strength to work?

Give God the credit He’s due. Keep your perspective straight. Remember that we are all just sinners saved by grace. Not one of us is better than another. None of us have this down.  And all of us–even those who’ve been Christians forever–still have a lot of growing up to do.

Rose outside Manna House, Bromley, London, England

Practice makes permanent

When I was in college, my speech instructor insisted that we all had to practice our speeches repeatedly if we were going to present them with any excellence. She had a little axiom she wanted us to remember: “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect permanence.”

I’d never thought about it until that point, but she was right. Whatever you practice is generally what you’ll perform. How you practice a speech or a part in a play creates habits and expectations in you, and how you practice becomes how you perform. So if you practice without the right words or without the right actions to go with your words, you’ll have a hard time breaking those habits when you get on stage.

I don’t know if anyone else struggles with this, but practice is difficult for me. That’s why I eventually dropped music because I didn’t have the discipline to practice. I wanted to sit down at the piano or pick up my viola and be perfect straight out, but music doesn’t work like that. It’s a skill you have to develop over years and years and years of practice.

Practice doesn’t just work with music, though. It works with everything. Even living.


Rose outside Manna House, Bromley, London, England

Rose outside Manna House, Bromley, London, England

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:9.

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

When Jesus lived on Earth, He lived the kind of life we should seek to imitate. I don’t get the people who claim to be Christians but refuse to live the way Christ did or doubt the things He said. That makes no sense to me.

Paul had patterned His life after Christ so he could be an example to everyone around him, but he didn’t become an example overnight. Paul had a miraculous conversion, yes, but just because his opinion changed, his lifestyle didn’t change at the same rate. Habits are hard to break. Paul had to practice the kind of life God says is right before he could be someone to look up to.

Just because you’ve accepted Christ doesn’t mean that the rest of your life will transform immediately. If anything, the only thing that will change in your life immediately is your perspective on it. You have to take steps to change the elements and the influences in your life that lead you to actions God says are wrong. You have to practice living the way God says, and that choice isn’t always easy.

Practice is hard. Practice feels like doing the same thing over and over again with the same results. And sometimes it feels like putting on a show in front of an empty theatre, with no one to appreciate how hard you’re working.

But perfect practice makes perfect permanence. If you practice following Christ in the good times, you won’t blink when the bad times come. Doing what God says to do will be habit to you.  And slowly your life will change. As God becomes the central focus of your life, everything will change.

So don’t be discouraged if your life is the same today as it was yesterday. And don’t get frustrated having to do the same thing over and over again in your faith.  If Paul had to keep putting what he learned into practice, so do we.

We know how to live. God revealed all we need to know in the Bible. Jesus gave us an example of how to love others. And the Holy Spirit whispers in our hearts. Take what you know, take what you’re learning, and actually use it.