Monday, April 13, 2009

Faith Upgrade

After returning for the Summit at Ladore, I've had a theme hit me from a couple of different angles. It's a question I've wrestled with for a while. Will I ever "arrive" as a Christian or will I always have this need to take my faith up a notch? We're all very familiar with the concept of upgrades these days--to the point that if your phone is more than two years old, it is considered an antique and perhaps more appropriate to hang on the wall at Friday's with the Star Wars memorabilia than to hang on your belt any longer. We have no problem upgrading our phone or our laptop--it's just part of the march of technology. The newest, nowest and wowest is bound to feel less than when compared to the latest rage from Apple.

But I often feel less than as a Christian that I have this need to have my faith upgraded from time to time. Not that I want to plateau as a Christian, but there are times quite often when I ask myself, "How long have I been on this journey with my Savior? You would think I'd have figured more things out by now." But then having what adventure educators term a peak experience causes me to re-examine my faith, sometimes my theology, always my daily walk and see what needs to be purified further in my life. There's a part of me that wishes I didn't have to go through the pain of realizing my own spiritual shortcomings, but I find an immense amount of growth and value come out of these upgrade seasons.

A couple of recent Len Sweet Napkin Scribbles have hit this point pretty directly. If Sweet's podcast isn't on your playlist, you need to get it now--mostly 5-6 minutes in length, they are always interesting and accessible and sometimes deeply challenging. He had a quote from St. Benedict the other day--"The Spiritual Life consists of replacing one desire with another." This could sound like a one time deal, but I think this concept is one of replacing each desire in our life with another better, more perfect desire. Not once, but continually.

Sweet's most recent podcast "The Amazing Disgrace of Amazing Grace" tells the real story of John Newton and his most famous hymn. It details how Newton came to grace while working on slave ships running between Liverpool and the African continent and the South (US) in the 18th century. Sweet illustrates how most people think of this hymn and the conversion of Newton as being the story of a slaveship captain and slave trader who encountered Christ and had a radical conversion. The real story apparently is that although Newton was converted while working on a slave ship, he actually chose to captain a slave ship after he was converted. He believed he was behaving in a perfectly acceptable way, piously praying, running Anglican services on board the ship that carried slaves, all of whom were abused en route and many of whom did not see the journey through to completion. His was a respectable profession endorsed by the church. Sweet, using Newton's own words, detailed how Newton had to come to a place of understanding just how wrong this profession was after he had been saved. He needed an upgrade to his faith walk.

Cotton Presley shared a story of being saved and yet, still smoking cigarettes. He said very candidly, "Look I was saved and I had overcome alcohol and cocaine addiction with God's help. I was a Christian, I just had to wait until later to overcome that last addiction to cigarettes." He shared, comically, how he would slip verses of scripture into the cellophane wrapper of the cigarette packs and mentioned how much of the Bible one can memorize while smoking a pack a day.

So, how will it be 10 or 20 years from now? Will I still feel the need to upgrade my faith--to examine my commitment to the Lord and find out if there is anything false or less than par in my walk. I hope so. General Gowans once said something about the frustration some Christians feel that "It will take a lifetime to get to get to know God. Maybe, that's what a lifetime is for," the General said, "Maybe that's what a lifetime is for."


Anonymous said...

Ask Joyce and Greg for their notes from the holiness conference. Awesome stuff!

laeger said...

I'm actually very tired of not being where I want to be. My frustration of late is that I can't seem to get there no matter what steps of discipline I attempt to undertake. I actually cussed out loud today (when I was by myself) because I was so upset at myself (and God) for not being where I wanted to be. I know that sounds lame, but it's where I am.

I can totally relate to the overcoming of certain addictions AFTER conversion, much later. Of course, the pressures of Christian life and ministry (and the need to maintain the perception of okay-ness) have cause some to develop these and worse addictions even after becoming a follower of Christ (e.g., Brennan Manning).

I'm just hoping I get it mostly right sooner rather than later. It's exhausting at times falling so short and still choosing to hold out for the hope of change.

Thanks for the heads up on the Leonard Sweet podcast. Downloading all 93 episodes now. Hope you and the family are well. Luke must be getting crazy big.

Andre L. Burton said...


"Maybe, that's what a lifetime is for." Those words shifted my thinking about a month or so ago. Thanks General John Gowans.

I , too, recall that very quote. The General began that sermon (God of Spirit) by saying, "staggering words are many in the Bible...but there are none more staggering than these." Read John 14:21-23. Or to hear for yourself, log onto Commissioner Jim's TCspeak and look for the link Salvoaudio. Click on. From there you'll be able to hear for yourself that quote in its full context. Look for sermons and General John Gowans. Click on God of Spirit.

Larry said...


great to see you back..i think none of us really get where we want to be. it is a process of holiness.

phil, hang in there. you will never know what your sharing will do for another who is struggling.

just when we think we have arrived, is when we fall. a great mentor of mine once said, "never read your press clippings." he knew how easy it was to fall when we thought we could do it on our own.