May 28

A New Way of Living

by Leave a comment

tree sprout

“I am now a new person, a new creation, I also must live a new way. As one indwelt by Jesus, I can now live as Jesus did: in utter dependence on God, in a deep and intimate relationship with him, fully relying on God—not

...
tree sprout

I am now a new person, a new creation, I also must live a new way. As one indwelt by Jesus, I can now live as Jesus did: in utter dependence on God, in a deep and intimate relationship with him, fully relying on God—not my willpower—to live the Christian life. Jesus used the image of a vine and its branches to describe this new way of living:

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

Jesus (the vine) is the life force that flows into us (the branches), thus producing fruit (love, joy, peace, etc. [Galatians 5:22]). Cut off from the vine, the branches cannot produce fruit. The power of production is not in the branch just as the power to live the Christian life is not in us. In fact, apart from Jesus, we can do nothing.

That’s why Paul said, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20 kjv). When we separate ourselves from Christ, his life no longer flows in us, just as the branch cut off from the vine no longer has life flowing through it. But we are actual partakers and participants in the divine nature of Christ: “he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 nab). I am not God (or even a god), but I have been given a new nature. My faculties have been infused with Christ’s life and power. ..So the key is to abide in Christ.

How do we do this?”

I said, “To abide means to rest in and rely on Jesus, who is not outside of us, judging us, but is inside of us, empowering us. The more deeply we’re aware of our identity in Christ and his presence and power with us, the more naturally we’ll do this. We must get our narrative right and practice spiritual exercises to deepen our awareness of truth. In the end, Jesus’ way is easy. He said that his yoke was easy and his burden was light [Matthew 11:30]. Typically, we try to do what we think Jesus wants us to do—like you did with your bracelet—by your own strength. We can’t do that. But we ‘can do all things through Christ who strengthens’ us [Philippians 4:13].””

Soul Training – Further Reflection

How does it feel to know that the power to live the Christian life is not solely dependant on us, but God in us?


Taken from The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2009 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

Dr. James Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School; DMin Fuller Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith is currently a theology professor at Friends University, in Wichita, Kansas, and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He is the author of eight books, most notably The Apprentice Series (InterVarsity Press), which continue to shape the work of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith’s other titles include Devotional Classics (with Richard J. Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Room of Marvels, and Hidden in Christ.

 

Posted in A Good and Beautiful Life, Blog, Identity, Vision | Tags: / / /

More Less
Jan 30

One in Whom Christ Dwells

by Leave a comment

The Good and Beautiful God Conference by Apprentice Institute

“Craig is one of the people who took part in the experiment in developing a curriculum for Christlikeness. After being involved in an apprentice group, Craig began to notice some real changes in his life in the way he behaved toward his family, friends and

...
The Good and Beautiful God Conference by Apprentice Institute

“Craig is one of the people who took part in the experiment in developing a curriculum for Christlikeness. After being involved in an apprentice group, Craig began to notice some real changes in his life in the way he behaved toward his family, friends and coworkers. He is a zoo architect, which requires him to travel a lot. One day he and his business colleague were flying back to the United States from Germany when they got stuck in the Atlanta airport and were told their flight home would be delayed several hours. Those several hours passed, and a few hours more, and then finally they were told the flight had been cancelled. The delay meant that there were no options to get home that night, and they would have to spend the night in Atlanta.

The anger level in the concourse was reaching a fever pitch. All of the passengers were forced into a long line to rebook their flights. Craig and his business partner stood in line and watched as each person spoke harshly to the young woman who was trying to help them. When it was Craig’s turn, he looked at the young woman, smiled and said, “I promise I am not going to be mean to you.” Her countenance softened, and she said softly, “Thank you.” Their exchange was pleasant, and he got their flights booked for the next day.

As they walked down the concourse, Craig was smiling despite the disappointment. His business partner had been watching him. He said, “Craig, I have known you for a long time. A year ago you would have been enraged by what we went through today, and you would have lit into that woman at the counter.”  Craig said, “You know what, you’re right. But I have changed. I know who I am, and I know where I am. I am a person in whom Christ dwells, and I live in the kingdom of a God who loves me and is caring for me. I’m frustrated, but I’m still at peace. We’ll get home tomorrow. There’s nothing for us to do. Anger doesn’t help anything. I figure we might as well enjoy this unexpected turn of events.”

His friend just shook his head in amazement. “I’m not sure what you’ve been eating or drinking, but you have really changed.”

It was what Craig had been doing and thinking for the last year that brought about the change. Craig had followed his desire to become a different kind of person by signing up for the apprentice group and training for transformation. Craig was not alone. His desire to do the work, and the changes he experienced as a result, occurred only because of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Not by his own willpower.

 

Dr. James Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School; DMin Fuller Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith is currently a theology professor at Friends University, in Wichita, Kansas, and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He is the author of eight books, most notably The Apprentice Series (InterVarsity Press), which continue to shape the work of the Apprentice Institute. 

Taken from The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2009 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

Posted in A Good and Beautiful Life, Apprenticeship, Blog, Identity, Soul Training, Uncategorized | Tags: / / / / / / /

More Less
Jan 20

Living in Our True Identity

by Leave a comment

“He [God] will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3: 17     I have always known that God loves me. Singing Jesus Loves Me was as natural as breathing when

...

“He [God] will take great delight in you,

he will quiet you with his love,

He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3: 17

 

 

I have always known that God loves me. Singing Jesus Loves Me was as natural as breathing when I was a child. I suppose I also thought that loving everyone (even me) went with the territory of being the Supreme Being.  My life changed radically when I understood that “I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights.”  I realized that the “generic” love I assumed for years was really specific to me as Karen. As I have shared this concept with others I have seen the same blossoming and empowering in their lives.

Our perceptions of who God is and how God relates to us are very important.  The stories we tell ourselves about God influence how we respond to God. The twin ideas of God dwelling in us and delighting in who we are and who we are becoming are crucial for our spiritual formation.

First the dwelling:  The Gospel of John records Jesus telling his disciples that he is leaving but they should not worry. They can trust him, just as they have trusted God. He says that he is preparing a place for them.  Seeing the fear written on their faces, Jesus gives them life-changing information. God will be sending “another Counselor” to be with them forever – the Spirit of truth who will “live with you and will be in you.”  Furthermore, he promises not to leave them as orphans – bereft and lonely with a hole in their hearts where he once lived (John 14).

The disciples’ trust was put to the test. Before that promise was fulfilled, Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified, buried, and resurrected. He appeared to them several times before his ascension. And then, finally, the Spirit arrived with fire and wind and new power. That same Spirit dwells in us.  And that same power is available to us!

Now the delighting: I love the synonyms for the word delighting: taking pleasure in or revelling in, appreciating, relishing, savoring, enjoying another.  I am pleased when another human feels this way about me. But I am amazed when I realize that the Creator of the universe takes pleasure in me and cherishes a relationship with me.

Experiencing the Delight of God

Often as I tend my garden I feel delight in my creation.  A recent gardening task renewed my appreciation for the concept of God delighting in God’s creation – and particularly in me.

The task began when I realized that two formerly gorgeous daylilies were dying.  As I looked closely, I noticed dozens of little black and orange bugs crawling over blighted leaves.  Concerned that the blight might spread to the many other lilies in the yard, I dug the plants up. I nearly cried; these were the first perennials I had planted in this yard about a dozen years ago.

As I contemplated the empty spaces now present in the landscape, I decided to transplant a blanket flower which had conquered the border of the garden and was thriving even though it was squeezed between the border and the cement sidewalk.  Hot July days in Michigan are not the ideal time to transplant mature plants, but I dug it up anyway and moved it to the empty spot in the garden.

I really wanted that plant to survive.  I checked it at least twice a day and watered it regularly.  I trimmed back the dying stalks and plucked the dead blooms. I watched over that plant like someone who had created it, attempting to breathe life into it, delighting in every bloom and green leaf.  Days later when I checked the plant, it was thriving and I was thrilled!

That’s when the metaphor struck me.  As the creator and sustainer of all life, God hovers over me with the same delight and care as I showed that plant. He waters and prunes and watches in anticipation for me to bloom where I am planted – and transplanted. He longs for me to carry out the vision he had when he imagined me.  He delights in every bit of growth and beauty he sees in me and watches vigilantly for any weeds or drought or insects that might destroy my story.

Sometimes I wonder if we struggle to understand the kind of love God has for each of us because we are not capable of unconditional love. Since we need others and what they can give us, our love is conditional. We can work hard at creating relationships that are not based on need, but God does not have to work at it at all. God is overflowing with unconditional love because God needs nothing from us. God longs for our love and adoration and gratitude, but God does not need them. So  just as God delights in the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, God delights in us throughout our life under these ordinary skies – and eternally.

 

This blog post is an excerpt from Under Ordinary Skies, Living as Apprentices Every Day, written by Karen Bables for apprentices of Jesus everywhere.

Posted in Blog, Identity, Love, Love | Tags: / / / /

More Less
Oct 13

Lay Down Your “Divinity”

by Leave a comment

When you look at this icon (Christ Pantokrator, “almighty”), the two-sided face of Jesus jumps out. The left half is pristine, eye staring ahead, nothing off. The right half tells a different story. This eye looks stressed, taxed, a smudged line underneath. The mouth and

...

When you look at this icon (Christ Pantokrator, “almighty”), the two-sided face of Jesus jumps out.

The left half is pristine, eye staring ahead, nothing off.

The right half tells a different story.

This eye looks stressed, taxed, a smudged line underneath. The mouth and cheek droop, a bruised/shadowy cheek.

Take a few minutes and just sit with the image.

This is Jesus, the Son of God become man. Fully divine and fully human. An image pointing into the heart of a mystery of our faith.310px-Jesus_Sinai_Icon--wikimedia--public domain

When I practice gazing at this icon, I’m drawn to the left side. the divine.

Divine looks whole, perfect.

The human side looks worn down, aching, tired, longing for more.

Which is what we are–human, limited, reliant on forces outside ourselves for our very survival.

So, why do we feel the need to portray our “divine” self at church or in Christian gatherings? Why are we so slow to show our humanness, the very reason we’ve gathered in the first place?

At a workshop over the weekend, I heard a quote that lamented how people feel they can be more candid in bars than in churches.

Sad thought, huh?

Maybe the same thing that draws my eye to the divine is drawing you and I to put on “divinity” in life. And, that false divinity becomes a barrier to true relationship, to true humanity.

Jeff Bjorck spoke about the “illusion of autonomy” (we can’t do it on our own, but we think we can), which is connected to this divine thing. God is the only being who is self-sufficient, and even God exists in constant communion: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Bjorck went on to explain that bearing one another’s burdens breaks down this illusion of self-sufficiency. But the hardest part of bearing one another’s burdens is letting others bear our own burdens.

Read that last part again. Because bearing others’ burdens, though difficult, still lets us be in control, lets us be divine.

We’re helping. We’re serving. We’re bearing.

Letting others bear our burdens makes us face the reality that we can’t bear them alone (even if we thought we could). It makes us look more like the right side of the icon.

We won’t be transformed into the image of Christ until we’ve laid down our false pretense of divinity.

Once we’ve laid down our “divinity,” we’ll discover the possibility of true transformation. The freedom from the false divinity we’ve put on for so long.

Instead we’ll begin to live into our true identity: One in whom Christ dwells and delights. This transformation doesn’t sweep our humanity under the rug, it wraps our burdens in a new possibility (new creation and all that). Then our burdens and struggles cease to be something we hide and begin to be something that draws us to one another:

“The cross of Jesus Christ shouts that we are loved–as we are, not as we should be. We are never going to be ‘as we should be,’ as if there were some perfect version of us that we must strive to be in order to deserve love and, until then, we must live in shame. Guilt does not produce holiness, only shame, hiding and separation. God, in Jesus, reveals the great mystery: God is love, and we are his beloved. He did not enter into our world to condemn it (John 3:17). He became one of us to reconcile us to God, to remind us that Love itself has created us and calls us home” (James Bryan Smith, Hidden in Christ, 133).

A divine thought, indeed.


Do you have a hard time laying down your “divinity?” What barriers do you face?

 

Posted in Blog, Identity | Tags: / / / / / / / / / /

More Less
Sep 15

Why You Shouldn’t Get Hung Up On the Details (Hint: The Devil Hangs out there)

by Leave a comment

Have you ever undertaken a home/apartment improvement project? Over the summer, my wife and I began readying the nursery for the bundle of joy who will be gracing us with her/his presence in the next month. We decided not to paint. Instead, we opted for wall

...

Have you ever undertaken a home/apartment improvement project?

Over the summer, my wife and I began readying the nursery for the bundle of joy who will be gracing us with her/his presence in the next month.

We decided not to paint. Instead, we opted for wall decals.

They’re like stickers for adults, and no one yells at you for putting them on the walls.

Anyway, they’re triangles. And they have to be individually applied. I’m not cut out for this sort of detail work. My lovely wife, is.

So, I took the stickers off and she went through the (more difficult) work of applying them in straight lines across the wall.

She did an incredible job. But there are a couple minor places where we had to shift the spacing to compensate for the design. So, each and every space isn’t exactly the same.

I know where those spots are because I spent an entire afternoon staring at that wall.nursery

I also changed out the light fixture. The new fixture’s ceiling plate didn’t fit the outlet, so I bought the only one I could find that would.

It’s plastic, not the highest quality material, but it’s small and looks good. But, I know it’s plastic because I spent more than an afternoon (and some help from my father-in-law) hanging it.

The funny thing? No one else who’s seen the nursery has said a word about the triangle spacing or the ceiling plate.

They think it looks great, and are nothing but complimentary.

Which my co-worker (John) brought up would be a great topic for a blog.

Because we apprentices of Jesus do this a lot.

You see a minor mistake here or a blunder there (recent or distant) and when you look at the project that is your life, you can’t not see the whole because of that little imperfection. A constant reminder that you are as bad as we thought you were.

But the folks around you don’t get hung up on those chinks you can’t look past. They’ve got more than enough grace for you.

They look at your life and see a beautiful part of the body of Christ, a beloved ember of their community. Someone who isn’t perfect, but whose life is defined by more than that minor thing you keep turning into a major hurdle in your mind.

Because they have the ability to see the whole picture (your “glaring glitch” included).

Some people love to talk about grace and some think we talk about it too much.

But I don’t think you can grow into the fullness God calls you to, until you accept that grace. Until you let God’s word on your life (I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights) define your life, instead of always seeing the chink in the armor. Until you can look at your life as the beautiful room or home improvement project that it is.

It’s not that the chinks aren’t there (you’re not Jesus), but you can begin to listen to those around you and God, and let them show you the beauty of the whole, and just how beautiful transformation (this whole “in Christ” thing) can be.

Quit wallowing in the minor details, they say the devil hangs out there anyway.

 

**Featured Image Photo Credit: el diablo is in the details–torbakhopper / CC 2.0

Posted in Blog, Identity | Tags: / /

More Less
123
Back to top

Sign Up

Nam ut dolor at erat dignissim pellentesque. Aliquam erat volutpat.