The Art of Measuring

Except for the rapid adolescent years, which involve a lot of acne, vocal squeals, and disproportionate appendages, growth is most often a slow, quiet process that is only noticed after a examining a start and end point separated by a long period of time.

Even harder than noticing physical growth is mental or spiritual growth. And I’ve found that measuring it can be a challenge.

Still, just as important as it was to measure your height against the family door frame with a ruler and pencil when you were 7, it’s important to be able to measure and track your growth spiritually, relationally, and mentally.

Here are a few of the reoccurring self-measuring standards I use when taking stock of my own growth:

•What is my power-to-knowledge ratio of God?

Exodus 33:11 tells of Moses’ relationship with God in the days of the Tent of Meeting like this: “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.”

Even if my wife had an autobiography and I read it everyday – though beneficial – it would not even come within the same paradigm as actually knowing her for 10 seconds in person. Likewise, while the Bible and countless books speak to the awesomeness of God, is my relationship with him “logos” knowledge only?

When was the last time I sensed his presence strongly within me? The breath of God breathing a “rhema” word on me? How long has it been since I’ve had a face-to-face? When did I last allow his heart for people to break me, his joy in creating life to excite me, his passion for the Kingdom to consume me? I’ve had encounters in past years where I was physically immobile from his overwhelming presence; is that now just a part of my history with him, or am I helping cultivate my availability to him today? It’s not about what I get, it’s what he gets out of the deal.

If I push myself in physical exercise, do I push myself when I’m in Sunday morning worship to be more than just an exercise?

•Who is actually benefitting from the knowledge and power I’ve amassed in God?

If a dying man’s last words carry any weight, the combination of Jesus’ parting commands in Matthew 28 and Mark 16 need to ring in me daily. And do they?

How many people can I name individually who are receiving the Christ-in-me on a consistent, regular basis?

Likewise, is the power and presence of God being coupled with genuine boldness and compassion in such a way that people are healed, convicted, and moved when they’re around me in Wal-Mart?

•How am I at loving my wife? (For those not married, I would refer you to Eph. 6:2).

If I’m commanded as a husband to love my wife like Jesus loves the Church (Eph. 5:25), and that his model of loving was serving her in the epitome of selflessness (Matt. 20:28), how selfless am I being with regard to my wife’s wellbeing? Am I helping her through life, modeling Christ-likeness in my treatment of her? Do I actively help her pursue her dreams, ease her burdens, and secure her future?

It’s interesting, because much of this I learned in first serving my parents.

Similarly, am I a walking, living, breathing model of Jesus for my kids? (Prov. 22:6). Far more important than evening Bible stories or if they learned the new Sunday school song, is how am I treating them? Am I responding or reacting to their needs, errors, and achievements? Is my discipline appropriate for the moment? Is my praise and encouragement hard to acquire or easily entreated?

•How do I respond to bad news?

Psalm 112:7 says, “[A righteous man] is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”

Do I fuel drama with more drama? Or does my unfazed response to crisis bring the stabilizing anecdote of God’s peace?

Similarly, how do I handle reactionary people? Do I exude patience? Or am I quick to judge and speak more than I am quick to listen? (James 1:19)

•Are physical environments getting better or worse after I spend prolonged amounts of time in them?

I learned long ago that how I treat things, how I treat people, and how I treat God all share the same 2 roots: my heart and my habits. Sometimes I can see my unspoken treatment of people in how I treat my car, my office, or my lawn.

•Am I an asset or liability to my local church?

Long before I had a “paid position” as a pastor, I was and still am a member of my local church. So the question begs to be asked, am I someone I’d have to pastor if I wasn’t a pastor?

Do I show up to help? Do I tithe? Do I complain about what’s wrong or do fill the need of what’s missing?

One of the greatest life lessons my parents could have ever taught me was learning the gift of serving over receiving (Acts 20:35). We never went to church to “get” anything growing up: we went to give. As a result, there was never a bad Sunday, a bad message, a bad worship set, or a bad carpet color.

Because we were there to serve people.

This list is far from exhaustive; so what are some of your personal measuring marks? ch:

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  • Jason Clement

    Wow. I was JUST thinking about this the other day…

    “If I push myself in physical exercise, do I push myself when I’m in Sunday morning worship to be more than just an exercise?”

    I was thinking about how we (by we, I mean me) put so much time and effort into kids sports, mastering the latest CSS techniques, making the house look nice, being physically fit (not so much me), etc, so forth and on. Most of these things I fail at despite the effort, imagine if I put the same effort and energy into my relationship with God.

    I am saving this post to reread often… so many great reminders! And I NEED those reminders.

    • As you know, I’m honored my writings are of help to you buddy. So love and appreciate you.

      While I get hat you’re saying, just think back to where you were 5 years ago. Yeah. Pretty encouraging. 🙂

  • Great topic! One indicator for me spiritually is prayer. Ravenhill said, “No man is greater than his prayer life.” So true.
    Relationally, its time to back up when i find my words toward my family are grumpy, because if i am noticing ir then it has been going on for some time.

    • Good quote from Ravenhill. Although, I’ve never really had the prayer-life I envision “great leaders” having.

      And I’ve never had the confidence to speak on this until recently, when one of the greatest women of faith I know of told me what her devotional life looks like. In effect, it looks nothing like what you expect is “should” look like.

      “I talk to God when I fold laundry. I rarely have time to read much of the Bible anymore. I’m too busy serving my family, serving people, and pouring my life out to study or be stuck in a prayer closet.” And yet this woman has one of the single most effective deliverance ministries in the French speaking world and puts the fear of God in me every time I’m around her.

      The point being, I share much of that same testimony. I feel like my prayer life is one of constant communion where I’m aware of him every single moment, available to his words, and sensitive to his ebbs and flows, if you will. We chat often. I don’t really ever kneel down, say, “Dear Jesus,” and end with, “Amen.” Granted, I freely admit that could be a reason I don’t see more than I do in regard to “effectivity.”

  • Beth Walrath

    Wow awesome post. The thing that hit me the most was the line, it’s not about what I get out of the deal it’s about what He gets out of it.
    I’ve stopped going to church just for me along time ago, I started realizing that I need to go to help others. Anyway I can get more knowledge & wisdom to benifit someone else is what I look for.
    Guess I need to turn my focus more towards His benefits.

    This post kinda goes with my recent post on Upgrading. We constantly need to be upgrading & measuring our progress.

    • It’s a sign of maturity when we leave ourself checked at the door, and pick up the tab for others. Awesome Beth. Thanks for sharing!

  • Unfortunately, sometimes in life, I find myself measuring the distance I have put between me and God. Your picture shows a ruler, and sometimes I think an odometer would be more appropriate. The beautiful thing about God is that He knows us, He understands us, and He loves unconditionally. It is in that knowledge that I find peace, because no matter how much distance I put between me and God, He is always right behind me when I turn around to Him. My life is so much poorer if I step outside of His blessings, and so thank you for posts like this that remind to step back in within them.

    • You’re welcome, Will. And thanks for the genuine comment. I love the 24kt.

      What’s fascinating is our perception of distance, or space, between us and God, when the reality is He’s omnipresent, and omnipotent. More often I find myself having to exchange the word for “distance” with “sensitivity.” I know certain behaviors in my life make me more numb to his Spirit, making me “feel” far; likewise, countless other behaviors make me acutely aware of his movement and stirrings.

  • Bethany

    WOW! Umm so I am sitting here crying my eyes out…this soo hits home.
    I work out 5days a week some mornings waking up @430am to make sure I get in my time @ the gym. I never miss a day,it is my routine. Yet I can not tell you the last time I took more then 5minutes to read my Bible or really soak in the presence of the Lord. Yes I pray and sing and praise Him all day but i never just have alone time…why is that? I actually don’t have “alone time” with anyone..except the gym…why do i make things so hard. I have built such a wall and yet it could be broken so easily…ugh yup this hits home…thanks Christopher…definitely reading this over and over to keep on track!!

    • I’m thrilled for your new sense of liberty, Beth. Often it’s the “perceived” expectations of tradition that keep us confined (demonic) in the name of holiness, when the most holy thing we can do is bask in relationship! Having watched my own wife, I recognize the sheer amount of devotion and dedication she gives our family, and it is nothing less than Christ-like in the most fundamental and valuable of ways. Yet she has little to no time physically alone! Is she any less of a Christian because she is not up to par with the “disciplines” she exhibited as a teenager? Far from. If anything, she is more Christ-like in these days than I have ever known her. This does not discredit the disciplines – I long for more alone time than ever to be and read and meditate – but rather, these thoughts emphasize the preeminence of relationship through walking with Jesus throughout your day.

  • Dude! My blog I wrote this morning is along the same lines! Your’s is just a bit more in depth! 🙂 good stuff!

  • Christian Fahey

    Christopher, this was really good. REALLY good. The questions are incisive and your perspective really edifying. Really liked the points especially about fueling drama with more drama (versus antidote of God’s peace) and going to serve (hence, no bad Sundays, services, etc.). Two thumbs up!

    • Interestingly enough, that point about Psalms 112 is what ignited this whole post.

      I remember being a little boy and thinking a lot “what if I lost my dad” (which, as you know, I almost did), and “what if my best friends died,” etc. Heavy thoughts for a little guy.

      Then one day when I was about 12 or 13, the Lord “gave me” Psalm 112 as a promise for me life. Reading that one verse especially set me free. I’ve received a lot of the kind of phone calls you don’t want to get; every time, by his grace, I’ve managed to respond with precision, grace, and unusual peace.

      • Christian Fahey

        12 or 13? Interesting. Doing the math tells me God was prepping you for your Dad’s accident and recovery before it happened. There are a great many orchestrators in showbiz (Nelson Riddle, Lalo Schifrin, etc.) but God is the ULTIMATE orchestrator. Inspiring how He was actively fathering you as a teenager–in advance of a very tough time– with gold that has yielded to this day!

        • Actually, the plane crash was previous to this (probably what instigated the early fears), however, his multiple surgeries, as well as some major post 12-year-old events (including later ones as an adult, like Amber’s accident, and Danielle’s car accident last November) do find their roots in these gifts from the Holy Spirit.

          • Christian Fahey

            True that. It amazes me how the Holy Spirit makes a portion of Scripture “jump off the page” and into our hearts and how it holds us for years to come. Excellent!

          • Truth is potent, and therefore timeless.