Curiously Strong

altoidsI’m kind of a Altoids freak. You know: The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Mints.

Since 1780 these little white explosions of freshness have been doing a good work on behalf of all humanity. Perhaps they have saved marriages from pesky morning breath. Undoubtedly conversations have been redeemed from chronic oral malodor. Certainly many a social train-wreck has been averted just with the proper application of these tiny “habitual halitosis helpers”.

My appreciation for Altoids (frankly, all manner of breath mints) began while pastoring my first youth group in California. Each week one of my youth leaders would come up to me after I preached an impassioned message and she would hand me a couple mints or a stick of gum. At first I didn’t think much of it. I would say, “Thanks,” then pop it in my mouth and go about with my interactions with young people. Then a started to pick up a pattern. It was happening every week. Finally I asked the question: “Hey, do I really need this?” Her response was clear and concise: “Yes, John…you do.” It wasn’t so much the wording but rather the corresponding look in her eyes that alerted me to the gravity of the situation.

I was 20 years old and I quickly became very, very active in this silent war. Sadly, I wish I would have enlisted for battle years earlier: in my early teen years. Without question, it would have greatly improved my dating potential!! Now I know why I pretty much leaned against the wall during my entire Homecoming Dance!

Over the years I’ve found that my relationship with Jesus can sometimes get stale and a bit lifeless. It looses some of its minty freshness, per se. Now, first off let me say: this is normal. Every Christian goes through highs and lows. Like in marriage, our relationship with Jesus will sometimes experience morning breath. This is part of growing closer to the Lord. If we think that Christianity is all “a bed of roses” and that we’ll never have problems or struggles then our biblical understanding is incomplete.

But when our relationship with Jesus becomes less than fresh are there some things we can do? Yes, there are. I’ve discovered a few principles that have helped “freshen up” my Christian life. These ideas are small but curiously strong.

Look for the Evidence of God…
Take a quick look around you. God is at work everywhere. Romans 1:20 tells us that, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen.” Don’t miss the evidence of God. He is not dead. He is alive and well and doing amazing things all over the world (and in your neighborhood!). If you’re finding yourself becoming less than fresh in your Christianity, then commit yourself for the next 10 days to actively look for the handiwork of God. It’ll be like a Binaca Blast to your soul.

Pray in the Fullness of the Spirit…
Years ago I asked a mentor and friend to tell me what he does to keep his relationship with Jesus vibrant. He didn’t hesitate: “I pray in the Spirit for an hour a day.” Wow. Now, don’t get tripped up on the whole “hour thing,” but rather be captured by the potential of the kind of freshness you can experience as you suppress the flesh and feed the spirit. One of the great resources available as a byproduct of the Spirit-filled life is spiritual language (tongues). I am grateful for this gift. When I’m feeling stale in my relationship with Jesus I have the Spirit-infused blessing of praying in my spiritual language. I encourage you to seek the giver of the Spirit (Jesus) and for the next 10 days to spend a few moments praying in the fullness of the Spirit.

Observe the Uniqueness of People…
Something that really charges me up is to simply sit and watch people. Watch how they interact. See how they respond to situations. Make notes about their mannerisms and demeanors. When I spend a few moments each day just observing people it does something refreshing to my relationship with Jesus. I think this is why we are to be in community and why we are not to forsake the gathering of the church. God knows that we need one another and he knows the ill effect it has on our spiritual growth when we separate ourselves from people. So for the next 10 days make a conscience effort to lift your gaze and see the uniqueness of those around you.

These are just three of many potential ways to freshen up your spiritual life. Are there other ways that you’ve discovered?

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