Feb 06

His Faith

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“I want to state clearly that it is not just the narratives of Jesus that have helped me, but Jesus himself has carried me along through my grief and doubt. Jesus not only explains suffering, he experienced suffering. He endured the worst kind of alienation

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“I want to state clearly that it is not just the narratives of Jesus that have helped me, but Jesus himself has carried me along through my grief and doubt. Jesus not only explains suffering, he experienced suffering. He endured the worst kind of alienation possible as he hung on the cross, feeling that his Father had forsaken him. When we received the news about our daughter Madeline’s condition, I too felt forsaken by God. Jesus understands.

In his letter to the Galatians Paul wrote this moving narrative: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”(Galatians 2:19-20).

If you look closely at your Bible when you read this verse, you will probably notice a footnote after the phrase “faith in the Son of God.” The footnote in most modern translations reads, “or can be translated ‘the faith of the Son of God.’ ” This is because it seems to be a more accurate translation, and your Bible translators want to be honest. So why do most translations not read that way? I think it is because we tend to emphasize our faith in Jesus, and are not used to thinking about Jesus’ faith for us.

Jesus said his Father was good. Jesus also refused to affirm the idea that external rewards and punishments are given by God on the basis of our good or bad works. Rain falls on the good and the bad.

Sometimes we pray for rain (for our crops), and sometimes we pray that it will not rain (for our picnics). Both good and bad people get rained on, whether they want it or not. Jesus faced suffering, rejection and alienation, and the people jeered at him as he hung on the cross, questioning whether God was really with him. And Jesus believed. And he believes for me. He believes even when we cannot. He prays even when we cannot. We participate in his faith.

I affirm with Paul that I have been crucified with Christ. I do not understand that mystery, but I know that Jesus is closer to me than I am to myself. Christ lives in me, and I live by his faith. I am not alone. This is something more than simply getting my narratives right. It is allowing Jesus to live in and through and for me. The love of the Father, the redemption of Jesus and the communion I have with the Spirit are not based on anything I do. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit to believe in a God who is good even when things look bleak.”

Reflect – Why is carrying the words of scripture in our hearts and minds so helpful?

 

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, Blog, Uncategorized | Tags: / / / / /

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Jan 30

One in Whom Christ Dwells

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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

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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: / / / / / / /

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Sep 15

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

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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

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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

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Aug 04

The Message and the Manner

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Recently I went with a good friend to see Paul McCartney in concert. Both my friend and I have been life-long Beatle fans so we were very excited for this evening with a legend, hearing music we have been humming for decades. As we stood

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Recently I went with a good friend to see Paul McCartney in concert.

Both my friend and I have been life-long Beatle fans so we were very excited for this evening with a legend, hearing music we have been humming for decades.

As we stood in line with about 5,000 people waiting to get in the doors we were confronted by a man who was yelling and waiving a piece of paper.  He shouted for all to hear, “Stop the hating, stand up to the these people who protest at military funerals, who protest at children’s funerals, who are filled with hate for everyone except themselves.”

It caught us off guard.

Why was he telling us to stand up to the protesters?  What protesters?

Then I looked across the street and saw the familiar signs.  It was the people from a small church who are well known for protesting at funerals.  They were holding up the usual placards, the ones I had seen only on TV:  “God Hates Fags,” “You’re Going to Hell,” and “God Hates You.”

I had never seen them in person, only on TV.  I tried to look at their faces to see what, if any, emotions they had.  As we slowly walked in I looked over a few times at these folk, who stood silently, stoically, sadly holding their signs.  I noticed one of the sheets of paper the “protest protesters” (PP) had been handing out, lying on the pavement.  It had information about how to join them, and where to send your money to support them.

Apparently they had started their own organization, whose mission was to stand up to the protesters.Thomas_H_Ince_-_Megaphone_1922--wikimedia commons

As we turned the corner to go into the arena a woman right in front of me turned to the main PP leader and said,

“You are no better than the folks across the street.  You are offending my right to privacy, just like they are.” 

The man suddenly became enraged.  He pulled out his bullhorn and shouts,

“Ma’am, do you believe in Jesus?  Have you accepted him as your Savior?” 

The woman turned her back to him and began walking in line to the concert, shaking her head.

The bullhorn guy kept going:  “If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior you are destined to burn in hell.  The same is true of everyone in your family.” 

The woman shook her head in disgust and kept walking.  At this point any person who had felt supportive of the PP’s had lost sympathy, as the bullhorn guy continued to berate a woman who simply questioned their methods.  My stomach turned.

Caught in the crossfire it became clear to me: The gospel we preach determines the manner in which we preach it.

Their “gospel” (on both sides) is about a God who is distant, ready to punish us for incorrect doctrine or sinful practices.  Their narrative about God is that he is angry and poised to punish us if we don’t get it right.  As a result, the manner in which they preach their gospel is perfectly fitting.  Their gospel is a threat, and needs to sound threatening. Their “gospel” puts the onus upon us, upon our faith, upon what we do, and it rightly needs to be done with a bony finger pointing right at us.

Jesus’ gospel does not need to be shouted because it is not a threat but an invitation to an abundant life of peace, hope, and love.

Jesus’ gospel does not put the burden on us, on our faith, or even our commitment to Him.  It is not our faith in Jesus that matters, but his faithfulness on our behalf; it is not our commitment to Jesus, but his commitment to us, that is the focus.

Jesus’ mission is to infuse his life into each of us here and now, that we might become people in whom Christ dwells and delights, and in so doing infuse us with His faith, His hope, and His love, offering us something we do not have in ourselves.  When we come to know the God Jesus reveals, it becomes clear that God is our beloved Abba to whom self-surrender is natural, and leads to unending bliss, not a threat to be averted.

Therefore, the manner by which we preach this gospel is determined by its content.

Our good news does not need to be shouted, it needs to be lived

That is the only way we will draw others to accept this grand invitation.

As we entered into the arena I thought of something that happened several years ago.  Those same protesters were protesting outside of my sister’s church because the funeral going on that morning was for a man who was homosexual.  It was a chilly morning.  My sister and her fellow apprentices of Jesus took some hot chocolate out to the protesters to help keep them warm.  Some of the protesters actually drank it.  It seemed to me that hating the haters only adds to more hate, and that Jesus’ instruction to bless those that curse us is actually the only way that works because it is the way He himself lived.  Put simply, maybe cocoa is the way to go.

 

**Featured Image photo credit: “Bono & Macca” by The_Admiralty – Flickr. CC 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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Jun 18

Life is Like…

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…the World Cup. Yesterday, the guys had the Brazil-Mexico match on as background noise in the office. I went out for a creative stroll–thinking, walking, enjoying the sunshine–and when I got back to the fourth floor, the score was still 0-0. Exactly the same as when

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…the World Cup.

Yesterday, the guys had the Brazil-Mexico match on as background noise in the office. I went out for a creative stroll–thinking, walking, enjoying the sunshine–and when I got back to the fourth floor, the score was still 0-0. Exactly the same as when I had left the office. Nothing had happened.

There wasn’t a stoppage of play and no major catastrophe delayed the game, but still nothing had happened. Or had it?

The players still gave 100%, fighting for every ball, there might have even been a yellow card (penalty) or two. The fans were ecstatic. Maybe a shot sailed just over the crossbar. Maybe there weren’t any shots on goal.

We Americans aren’t big soccer fans. (I see you guy/gal who is engrossed with soccer and knows the game inside and out and even follows the MLS [what? look it up].)

I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s just not rewarding enough for us. Basketball and football are more palatable. They’re high scoring games with almost constant action.

Baseball is about as close as we come to an unrewarding past time. (I hear you hockey fans, but we don’t have much of a following in Canada, eh?…)

At least baseball scores can get up to ten and sometimes even the teens. Soccer games? You’re lucky to see a 5 on the scoreboard.

90 minutes of running around, for a 0-0 draw. Not even a win or a loss.

But sometimes soccer is more like our life than we care to admit.

Running around all the time. Busy with work, school, kids, our DVR and “to read” shelves ever expanding far beyond our capacity to complete them.

We fill our time with good things: exercise, study, family, friends, church, soul training exercises, prayer, but at the end of all of it, we sometimes wonder: where did it get us?

Sometimes life feels like a draw.

In those moments it’s important to have teammates. People who will come along side us and encourage us. People who will remind us of the story that we’re trying to (play) live.

As exciting as a high scoring game is, life isn’t about winning, and neither is the World Cup.

Only one team will win the cup. One out of thirty-two hopeful teams. So, as crazy as it sounds, for some teams, winning the world cup isn’t the goal. The passion you see on their faces while wearing their country’s colors on the largest stage in their sport is all you need to see to realize that. Just watch pre-match emotions as their national anthem is played.

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**Copa 2014 by Gisele Teresinha / CC 2.0

They’re playing for something bigger than a score, they’re playing for their pride. To represent the people who sent them, well. To return home able to hold their heads high, whether they make it out of group play or not.

The same is true for us as Christians. We don’t play for a score. No one’s counting your number of conversions, or the minutes you spent in solitude today, or the number of acts of kindness you did this week.

Those aren’t bad things, but trying to stack them up to prove your worth isn’t going to get you very far.

Which kind of stinks.

I’d rather stack my achievements up to the sky so I could show you how great I am. (I’m sure I’m the only one.)

But this whole following Christ thing isn’t about that, it’s about remembering the story: that I’m one in whom Christ dwells and delights and so are you, and so are the other folks we’ll encounter today.

And that means they’re not a tally on my good deeds-heavenly stars in the crown scoreboard. Nope, they’re someone else who’s running with everything they’ve got to follow this God who is on the move (Ex. 3:14). No matter what the score is at the end of the game, their score, their identity is secure in Christ.

But sometimes we all need to be reminded of that, when life feels like a drag draw.

I prefer American football, but this whole life with God thing is much more like the other futbol.

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