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Take steps toward Christian maturity

Many of you have seen me walking around town. Sometimes I walk alone early in the morning. Most of the time I walk with my wife, Catherine. We started walking years ago, but got more serious about it when our insurance company began offering us money to walk -- and get healthier and save the insurance company money.

I walk about 40 minutes most mornings. After walking, I eat breakfast and get ready for work. Then I walk to work. Then usually I walk home or to Rotary for lunch and sometimes walk back to church and then home after work. I've even started walking around the church when someone calls me on my cell phone! The goal is to get in 12,000 steps a day, which is almost 6 miles. If I do that every day, I'll earn all the money the insurance company offers me.

I started walking years ago because I thought I would keep at it. I have joined a health club before, but didn't keep working out. I've played tennis before, but didn't keep playing. Walking isn't going to make me Lance Armstrong, but it will keep me in pretty good shape because I'll keep doing it. I'll take "pretty good." The insurance company is willing to pay me to be "pretty good."

God pays us to be "pretty good" too. He pays us with fruit. This summer at church, I've preached about the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23-24). I've said that we are saved by faith, but we grow by the decisions that we make day by day. Spiritual growth comes by making decisions daily that become habits -- habits of prayer, Bible study, fasting, journaling, and meditation. And God uses those habits to develop fruit in us -- "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

Eugene Peterson says, "It is not difficult... to get a person interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim."

What step toward Christian maturity will you take? What is one thing that you can begin to do that will, over the long run, help you become more like Christ? Read the Bible? Join a Bible study? Meet with someone weekly for prayer? Begin reading Christian books? Will you take one step -- and keep doing it? Lao-tzu says, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Will you take one step?

John Barnes is senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Thomson.

Web posted on Thursday, August 25, 2011

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