Of Frogs, Kettles and Spiritual Renewal

3

I want to take something of a personal detour in the blog today—but one that I think relates very much to the media-and-message flooded world in which we swim these days. Specifically, I’m going to reflect on something that anyone who’s been a Christian for any period of time probably knows, but something we so easily and quietly drift away from: our need for spiritual renewal through prayer and immersion in God’s Word.

First a brief spiritual biography to set the stage:

I placed my faith in Christ at the tender age of 8, shortly after my dad had a powerful conversion of his own and began taking me to church. My mother became a Christian a few years later, and I grew up in a rock-solid community Bible church in rural Iowa. My teen years were marked by angst and spiritual drift. But by God’s grace, when I went away to college, I was surrounded by people who thoroughly loved Jesus. Even though I was on the run spiritually, I couldn’t resist the winsome way they embraced me despite my prodigal prickliness.

I got deeply involved with a college ministry that transformed everything in my life: the way I saw God, the way I saw myself and the way I saw other people. At the center of that transformation was a relationship with an older believer named Steve who met with me weekly for several years. We’d read the Bible together, talk about what it meant and pray about how it applied to our lives. It wasn’t rocket science. But Steve’s steady commitment, both to me and to God’s Word, ingrained in me a deep love for Scripture as the lens through which I look at everything in life.

That transformation began in late 1988—nearly 27 years ago. Since then, I’ve worked for two different ministries, married a woman who serves as a pastor in our church and sought to, as the apostle Paul says, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called ” (Ephesians 4:1b).

Lately, some health concerns have resulted in deep battles with anxiety—battles that have propelled me in dependence back to God and Scripture. It’s not that I quit reading His Word or praying. But, as sometimes happens, I think it’s safe to say that just getting through each busy day, each busy week, had encroached upon the kind of focus I had on Scripture earlier in my spiritual journey. Perhaps something like what Jesus described in the parable of the sower in Mark 4:18, where He observes of certain seeds, “And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”

There are so many things that can quietly begin to strangle our fruitfulness if we’re not vigilant. Each day is bursting with pressure and responsibilities, sometimes from the moment we get up to the moment our heads hit the pillow 18 hours later.

It’s no wonder, then, that in our discretionary time, we often want to escape those pressures. And we’ve never had so many engaging, alluring and entertaining ways to do so as we do today. From smartphones to tablets, hundreds of cable channels to streaming music, satellite radio to social media, it’s increasingly normal to spend most of our waking moments (apart from our core responsibilities) doing something media-related. It’s so very easy to whip out our smartphones every chance we get—especially if our life circumstances feel overwhelming at the moment.

It is, one might say, like the old frog in the kettle conundrum—becoming so gradually enmeshed in a way of living that we don’t even notice what’s happening to us, that we’re being slowly cooked.

I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed trying to come to grips with the deep anxiety I’ve suffered through recently. But I’ve also wondered if maybe God knew He needed to get my attention in a fairly dramatic way, pulling me out of some patterns and habits that kept me from getting into His Word with the kind of relish I did when my faith was new and fresh (and before the Internet, I might add).

Lately, I’ve found myself returning once again to a passage we’ve talked about often at Plugged In over the years, Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

These verses powerfully teach that there’s the way the world thinks, and there’s a transformed way of thinking (and seeing and feeling and living) that comes only from encountering the truth of God’s Word and letting it shape us into Christlikeness. And there’s no shortcut. We’re either in the process of being squeezed into the world’s mold, or the opposite: being sculpted by truth into people whose lives look radically different than what the world says is important.

I share this exhortation not in a scolding or nagging spirit, but as someone who knows this truth but is once again rediscovering it as I recommit to spending more intentional time in God’s Word. It’s so easy to let what the late Christian singer Rich Mullins once called “the stuff of earth” to crowd out the renewing, reviving truth that our souls need to flourish. But it’s only as we cling to that truth—and cling to the God who graciously gives us Himself—that we experience the freedom and joy of the abundant life He’s promised.

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Kal El More than 1 year ago
I've been experiencing a similar change in priorities myself lately. The past few months have been pretty agonizing, and it really is showing me how much I need a closer, stronger walk and foundation with Jesus. So I just want to validate what you are saying and going through and also to say thanks for sharing, it's a very important reminder for us all, wherever we may be at in our own lives and beliefs. :-)
Love you, Adam! Keep pressing in!
George Fry More than 1 year ago
Hello cousin,
First of all I want to apologize for not making the time to reach out to you. It is in fact a tragedy of our society that with all of the opportunities at our finger tips to stay in touch with family that our busyness keeps us apart. I haven't read your blog before, but I will make it a point to do so from now on.Thank you for your transparency in sharing your story. If  as Christians we were all more open about our struggles and our failings maybe Christianity would be seen in a different light. I think that most, if not all of us can relate to what you have so eloquently shared. Blessings on you and your family and prayers for your continued healing from anxiety.
Yours in Christ,
George Brian Fry
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dear Adam, 
I apologize for not taking the time to read this particular article at this time...busy mom of young kids :-) but was recently on plugged in and lookin at sponge bob movie. A few movies down was "pass the light" which sparked my interest, as I thought it was a Christian movie directed at young adults. I wondered why it only got a few plugs.....so I began reading.  I can't thank you enough for bringing correct theology into the misleading movie. Makes me so sad to see that now people are bringing forth a counterfeit Christian movie without understanding God's true love for them. While the world tells us love love love is so important.  What is love? If not Biblical love, then we are missing the eternal point :-) thank you for your Biblical insight and for your wisdom. Prayers for you and your family to continue to proclaim truth and for the ministry of focus on the family and plugged it! Blessings, Amy