photo-1434145175661-472d90344c15Scott Jones – Gilbert Campus Pastor

So we went to Florida to visit my family about a week ago. There’s always a risk leaving home in July during monsoon season in Arizona. You never quite know what you might find when you return. I’ve come home to fallen trees, windows screens thrown onto my roof and rain blowing sideways through my front door. I’ve had lawn chairs blown across the yard, seat cushions blown over the wall and dust blown through my windows. So we battened down the hatches and took off on July 9.

Our ace in the hole was my son Noah’s friend who I will not name in this blog post. But his initials are Bryce Gallini. Bryce is a real responsible teenager and we knew we could count on him to watch over things  – water a few plants bring in the mail, skim the pool. He had done an outstanding job in the past. We were in good hands. The moment we returned I scanned the front yard. All was well. I went into to the house and straight to the backyard. And that’s when I saw it. Nooooooooooooooo!

The pool was a murky shade of green. I’d been there before so I know what it meant and I knew what I was going to have to go through. After a mild rant, I turned to Noah and said, “Why didn’t Bryce say anything about this?” And to my astonishment he replied, “Oh yeah, he texted me a picture but I didn’t think it looked that bad.” I think I paused but I’m not sure. I am sure that I didn’t say what I was actually thinking. I am a pastor after all. But I think I murmured something sarcastic like, “Since when did you become an expert on swimming pool water clarity?”

Algae had overtaken my pool. My crystal clear oasis had turned into a cloudy, slimy – in the words of Jethro Bodine – “cement pond.” There’s really only one thing that permits algae to get into the pool and grow, and that’s a lack of chlorine. After a quick diagnosis, I discovered that my salt cell had a calcium build-up and stopped making chlorine about two days into our trip. Four days without chlorine in 110° temperatures is only going to lead to one thing. And I had it.

$100 of chemicals, 972 brush strokes on the pool surface and 72 hours of continual pump running later and the curse was reversed. All things were restored to their original design. I begin to reflect on that experience.

I noticed a very powerful similarity between a swimming pool and our spiritual life.

Pool water left on it’s own in 110° summer days in Arizona is a breeding ground for algae. There’s just no way around that. The water requires chlorine to keep it pure and in balance. In the same way, our lives left on their own are a breeding ground for “spiritual algae”, or what the Bible calls sin. The Apostle Paul names it specifically as the “desires of the sinful nature.” He describes all of us as having a natural bent toward sin. We don’t have to try. Sinning comes quite naturally to us and to some of us it comes more naturally than others. Paul said this is what it looks like.

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.” Galatians 5:19-21

Not something you post on Facebook, and too many characters for a tweet. But this is what we get if we are left to our own devices. And Paul had this warning for some Roman believers 2000 years ago. “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.” Romans 8:13

In other words, if we choose life on our own, apart from God, even if we are believers it will lead to the suffocation of the life of God within us. It will feel, even though it may not be true, that we are not believers at all because what makes us feel alive is missing. What is that, you say? It is the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

Now just to be clear and theologically accurate, if you are a true follower of Jesus, then you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you. Paul affirms this to the church at Ephesus. “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” Ephesians 1:13-14

But just because the Spirit’s presence is with you doesn’t mean his power is with you.

His presence is your guarantee of life with God in eternity. But his power is your choice for a vibrant life now. It’s a choice we must make. Here’s the choice from Paul’s pen. “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” Galatians 5:15 A parallel idea is found in Ephesians 5:16 where Paul writes, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Both passages carry the idea of surrendering our will to the Spirit and choosing to allow him leadership of our lives. Easier said than done, but imperative if we want to live.

My pool required radical attention. It needed to be filled with chlorine, lots of it, fast, or the algae would return. I had to shock it and then stabilize it. We have to do that with our spiritual lives as well. Some of us have so much “algae” in our lives that we need to “shock” it. We need an intense dose of God – confession, repentance, crying out to God in prayer, immersing ourselves in Scripture, “in your face” challenges from people who care about us. And that’s just Day 1. And then we need to stabilize. We need to develop and maintain the spiritual rhythms that will keep our lives free of the “spiritual algae” that will return if we do nothing at all. But we don’t want to just kill the “algae” in our lives. Like a pool, we want to “sparkle.”

Two things happen when we let the Spirit guide our lives. First, we are less inclined to crave the behavior that hurts others and us. Secondly, it produces the life of God within us that spills over on to others.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22

Now I’ll post that to Facebook all day long and at 133 characters, it qualifies for a tweet!

So imagine your life as a pool. What does it look like?

  • Is it crystal clear with everything in balance? Thank God, keep doing whatever you’re doing and show others the way.
  • Is it a bit cloudy but still looks clean? Pay attention to what is happening inside you. Ask a close friend or someone in your group if they have any concerns.
  • Is it getting murky with patches of algae in hidden places? Get honest with yourself. Open yourself up to God’s power and leading and to others who can help you on your journey.
  • Is it green and overtaken with bacteria? Stop right now. Get on your knees and cry out to God. Invite the Holy Spirit to give you courage to make the changes you need to make so you can live again. Start a daily focus in the Scripture and prayer. Get in a Life Group or some other form of community that will strengthen and support you in your journey. Get out of any dating relationship or peer groups that are going to pull you away from your true spiritual desire.

And no matter how badly you may be doing, give yourself grace. God is with you. God is for you. God goes before you; inviting you to discover and live the life he created you for.

Happy swimming!



Algae and Your Spiritual Life

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