Spiritual Growth – Table of Contents
Articles to encourage and empower your spiritual growth as a follower of Jesus Christ.
- How to Detect God’s Signs for You (video podcast)
Hebrews 2:3-4 holds the key to experiencing joy even in the midst of trials and sufferings. By knowing how to read God’s signs, you can discover that he truly cares about your problems. God’s signs, which he provides as often as we need them, gives us reason to rejoice. God always reassures us that he cares and that he’s involved in helping resolve our problems. Learn how to identify the divine interventions that he’s providing for you right now, today.
- The Surprising Truth About Mercy
From time to time, I “go on retreat” by immersing myself in a creative project with acrylic paints and canvas. When I do this, I ask the Holy Spirit to inspire me with an idea for the painting’s subject. It always has to have a message, or else I’m not interested in it and I doubt that anyone else would be. By the time it’s finished, it has spoken to me, ministered to me, restored me, and told me its name. And I hope it will do the same for someone else. Recently, a landscape painting named Mercy had a lot to say.
- Who condemns you? Not God!
Jesus said he does not condemn us, not even when we sin. He is not the one who judges us (see John 12:47-48). Nor is the Father. We know this because Jesus told us that by knowing him we also know the Father (John 14:7). Nor does the Holy Spirit condemn us. We are loved deeply and completely, no matter what.
- The key that unlocks the power of God
Recently, I heard the story of the man who had become more and more possessed by demons. Efforts by priests to exorcise them were unsuccessful. Then he sought help from someone who asked him, “Do you have hate in your heart for anyone?” The man admitted that he had a long-standing hatred for someone. When that was resolved, the effects of the exorcisms took hold and he was freed.
- Jesus wants to accomplish much through you!
Jesus calls us to whole-heartedness: total surrender, throwing ourselves and our lives at his feet to do with whatever he pleases. Jesus accomplishes much with (in and through) those who are totally available to him. When we feel spiritually dry or confused or blocked, or if it seems like we’re in a battle with demonic forces and our victory is elusive or temporary, it’s often because we’ve said “no” to God somewhere, sometime, perhaps a long time ago.
- What are you afraid of?
Much in our lives is ruled by fear. God wants us to overcome fear, but we’re so used to its influence, we often don’t even recognize how much it’s holding us back from being all that God created us to be: how much joy, satisfaction, peace, purpose, and freedom to truly know God’s love and mercy and forgiveness.
- What is faith? What does it do?
Faith makes you humble such that you always stand beneath God, and never above him. It is the sun’s light that shines on the desolate moon of our imperfections and our failures and heals, redeems and transforms them into the radiant light of God’s love and mercy which shines into eternity.
- What is Faith? Do you have enough faith? Yes!
Do any of your prayers go unanswered because you don’t have enough faith? No! — because faith is union with God. If you believe in God, and if you believe that he loves you, and if you love God, then you have faith. Praying with faith is the act of communing with him through everything that happens in life, whether you are conscious of it or not.
- Who is Jesus to you? (use this like a private retreat)
“Who do you say that I am?” This question in Matt. 16:13-23 is what Jesus asks each of us. We especially need to answer this whenever our relationship with him needs to improve. Oh, isn’t that everyday? This reflection contains a spiritual exercise. You can find healing and renewal in your friendship with him by meditating on the different names for Jesus or attributes of his nature.
- Did Jesus struggle like you do?
Besides being fully divine, Jesus was also fully human. That means that he had to learn to live the Sermon on the Mount long before he preached it. He had to discover how to love his enemies. Doing good to people who hurt or opposed him probably wasn’t always easy. He didn’t enjoy giving to everyone who asked or stole from him. Although he never sinned, he had to grow in spiritual maturity.
- Examination of Conscience based on the 10 Commandments
Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” In other words, it is only when we have a growing relationship with the Lord Jesus that we are empowered to live more and more the way God commands us to. Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit to help us understand and obey the Father’s commands.
- The Nicene Creed: What Do You Really Believe?
Every Sunday in Mass, we utter the Nicene Creed, a summary of Christian beliefs. When we pay attention to the words we recite, our faith can grow. In this examination of the Nicene Creed, we can discover where our faith still needs to grow. The depth of faith is revealed by how we love, not by what we profess to believe.
- Growing through the Beatitudes
The Blessings of True Humility: A prayer using Matthew 5:3-10. Forgive me, Lord, because I do not want to fully empty myself to become poor in spirit. I want to be in control of my life, my desires, and the people around me. I want to be important, applauded, admired, listened to and believed. I want the glory to go to me, not just to God. I want more than God’s approval ~ I want the approval of people, too. Lord help me! I belong more to this world than to heaven.
- Living the Beatitudes
The first set of Beatitudes (verses 3-6) focuses on our relationship with God. The rest of them will center on our relationships with each other. This pattern reflects Jesus’ core message: first love God with all your heart and soul and mind, and the second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37).
- What does it mean to be full of grace?
Every December 8, we celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception, i.e., the fact that the mother of our Lord Jesus was conceived in her mother’s womb free from the stain of original sin, so that she would be full of grace and, 14 or 15 years later, God, who is totally pure and holy, could become a child in her womb. Because of God’s decision to create a daughter who did not carry the guilt of Eve, Mary was born sinless. Because of her own daily decisions, she remained sinless.
- What Jesus teaches us about true friendship
He was a good-hearted person, honest, frank, but considerate too. If something did not seem right about the other, we talked about it with respect and, even if we disagreed, we could say “I’ll think about it, maybe you’re right”. It seemed like a true friendship. But there was a disconcerting detail: He was an atheist! Moreover, he believed communist ideology.
- The Highest Form of Friendship
A true friend first loves God. A true friendship puts God in its center; He is the tie that binds. True friends look at each other through the eyes of God. This means that we must first be IN God so that we have HIS eyes. The friendship must glorify God, serve God, enjoy God, bring us closer to God.
- How hope can change the world
What today’s world needs most for conversion to Christ, and for developing a desire to repent from moral relativism, self-centeredness, and rejection of true faith, is a witness that speaks the language of hope. The world needs Christians who can see and practice holiness as a way of life that is very desirable.
- How a baby teaches us to have peace
I love babies. Anyone who knows me well knows this statement to be true. There’s just something incredibly wonderful about new life. I feel such a sense of wonder and awe and peace when I catch sight of a bundle in it’s mother’s arms and am instantly drawn into their charm. I usually stop whatever I’m doing to take a closer peek and tell the mother what a beautiful baby she has.
- Keys to True Joy
Here’s a list of scriptures that contain the keys to true joy — the kind of joy that isn’t easy, the kind of joy that only God can provide and that is only learned by following Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field (Matthew 13:44 NIV).
- Overcoming Perfectionism
Many of us have a hard time forgiving ourselves when things go wrong. To find out how big of a problem this is for you, take the following test … If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you do not forgive yourself as readily as God forgives you. If you answered yes to most or all of them, you have a major problem with self esteem and are a great candidate for God’s healing love!
- Does your faith waver when you pray?
Is your faith wavering because God has not answered some of your prayers? Maybe your faith is still strong but you’re getting frustrated, because when you pray, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Well, maybe he’s trying to get your attention so that he can assure you that his goodness is just over the horizon, just beyond your vision.
- Turning Failure into Success (A message from Jesus to you)
“One of the things to admire most about you is that when you fall, you get back up on your feet and climb higher than you ever went before. Praise God for the blessings of each fall! Praise God for each failure! They are the grains of wheat that fall to the ground to die and become an abundant harvest…”
- Your Alabaster Jar of Love for Jesus
What’s in your alabaster jar? What talents or treasures or wisdom have you stored up, saved, protected, and developed, or what have you put on a shelf and forgotten about? Mark 14:3-9 and Luke 7:36-50 show us the passion of a woman who anointed Jesus with perfume.
- How to Live Fully in the Kingdom of God here and now
When we were baptized, we were brought into the Kingdom by the price Jesus paid for us on the Cross. But over the course of our lives, we have been taught the ways of the world. Jesus is inviting us to let go of our attachments to the world so that we can enter fully into His Kingdom and experience His unconditional love each moment of every day.
- Are you a stranger in your native land because of your faith?
To be friends with the world but also its enemy, to live in it without feeling like you belong here, to transact worldly business without disobeying the principles of the Kingdom of God, to conform to its usages without compromising the Truth, THAT is the life of a true Christian. But oh! What a challenge! It means living as a stranger in your own home town.
- The Treasure of Humility in the Story of Christmas
Why do we think of Jesus as being poor? Poverty does not always equate to humility. Perhaps we think it does because Jesus was born in a manger. But His father was a carpenter, a very respectable career. Jesus was not born in a manger because He was poor, but because there was no room for Him anywhere else.