Monday, April 17, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Receiving & Welcoming God's Love

A spiritually formed person participates in the life of Jesus

A little magic show...
We all know it’s not really magic. We say illusion because it appears as if something magical happened; but it didn’t.

Today, as we celebrate Easter, we recognize that it wasn’t ‘magic’ that put Jesus on the Cross; it wasn’t an illusion that He rose and conquered death; it was God’s love in action.

I don’t think our greatest problem is not feeling bad enough about what we’ve done wrong. I think our issue is not feeling good enough about what God has done right. We vastly under-celebrate the greatness and goodness of God. The goodness of Easter.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could magically become more Christ-like? Crucifixion and the resurrection was the way Jesus enabled the beginning of the journey for us, and then He modeled some habits & spiritual disciplines to aid in our growth.

Matthew 22:36-39
"Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses?" Jesus replied, "`You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: `Love your neighbor as yourself.'

These two are indelibly linked together. You really can’t have one without the other. The Greatest commandment can be called,

God For Dummies
God is to be loved with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. And share it with others.

Love is seeking the welfare of another. To receive God’s love is to the first part of the Greatest Commandment; love God with all of your heart, all your soul, and your entire mind. To welcome God’s love is to put it into practice by loving others. Practice is how habits form.

Love is the delivery system for the ingredients of life.

To receive God’s love we hear John in,
John 1:9-13
The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world. But although the world was made through him, the world didn't recognize him when he came. Even in his own land and among his own people, he was not accepted. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan--this rebirth comes from God.

A spiritually formed person loves God & others.

In some ways loving God is the easy part; it’s kind of like inviting your best friend over to your house for a visit; you think, no problem, it’ll be awesome. But then your best friend shows up with His entire family, and there are more people than you’re comfortable with; some of the newly arrived guests don’t look very likeable and some even grate on you before they get inside your house. Say hello to welcoming God’s love and the beginning of the journey of being made more like Jesus. It does take some effort because it entails some growth.

The kingdom of God is not opposed to effort, only earning.

There was a time when one could almost be afraid to call himself a disciple of Christ because it meant so much. Now one can do it with complete ease because it means nothing at all. Soren Kierkegaard

Notice the emphasis in the following statements: I need to get my act together. I need to get really serious about God. I need to get into better shape. I need to become a lifelong learner. I need to grow up in my walk with God. Now obviously personal ownership and motivation is a very good thing. That’s clearly a given. But might our attempts in fulfilling these quests be in part, the result of leaving out the most important context for our transformation—our community of faith?

Community matters. That's about like saying oxygen matters. As our lungs require air, so our souls require what only community provides. Without it, we die. It's that simple. Without a community where we know, explore, discover, and touch one another, we experience isolation and despair that drive us in wrong directions, that corrupt our efforts to live meaningfully and to love well. Larry Crabb

We think in very small circles, “the self” (individualistically)

If a tree falls in the forest does anyone hear? The idea is that it takes one person to speak and another to hear: community. Can you love as an island? Or as a solitary individual? That degenerates into Narcissism. The Trinity has always had three, the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit. And we know that the biblical idea of love isn’t feelings, but actions. Practices. Habits. The Jesus Habits.

“To hear God, we must join him in his work. We must stand so close to him that his scent rubs off on us." James Miller

“As we listen, we should be asking, ‘How do I become a person who has the heart of God?’

“A sculptor is not punishing the marble he is polishing. God wants us to be better specifically because he loves us." James Miller

"If I'd asked my grandfather, who was an ultra-orthodox Jew from Eastern Europe, 'Do you believe in God?' he would have looked at me with a blank stare, wouldn't know what I'm talking about. And what you do is you carry out the practices. Of course, you say 'I believe in this and that,' but that's not the core of the religion. The core of the religion is just the practices you carry out." Noam Chomsky

Those general ideas still hold true for us as Christ followers. When Jesus went to the cross to show His amazing love for us, it called into question everything we are and everything we have and everything we do. The kingdom of God demotes our most important priorities as secondary to the purpose of God in our lives and the life of the people we’re living among.

It doesn’t have to be impossible, or even a burden, though. Listen to our teacher, Jesus himself,

Matthew 11:28-29
Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.

Proverbs 15:2
The wise person makes learning a joy.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.

Now notice what follows as to the habits and practices of how to do that:

Proverbs 4:24-27
Avoid all perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you (Jesus). Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

Love is important because it is the primary ingredient in a relationship

"Happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life." Burton Hills

A method made up of practices and habits that help us to formed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. It helps us to let God be God in your life now & the future. It’s being able to say, So Far So God.

Galatians 2:20
I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Micah 7:18 (Message)
Where is the god who can compare with you-- wiping the slate clean of guilt, turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, to the past sins of your purged and precious people? You don't nurse your anger and don't stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty.

Do you want to become like that?

Romans 7:18-21 Message
I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.

Atlantic Monthly columnist Jonathan Rauch wrote an article in which he declared that the US had made a major civilizational advance. What was this remarkable achievement all about?

That Christians have become lukewarm and apathetic about faith in God. Rauch, an acknowledged atheist, calls the behavior apatheism. In his article, Rauch explains that apatheism is “a disinclination to care all that much about one’s own religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people’s.”

He notes that people are going to church less often, and when they do, they go more to socialize or enjoy a familiar ritual than to worship. According to Rauch, this new breed of religious person doesn’t invest much in an actual commitment to faith. The things these folks are really seeking are comfort, spiritual reassurance, and a God who doesn’t expect too much in return for their valuable time. Rauch is more than a little pleased by the trend because he believes it is better to be apathetic than to be “controlled by godly passions” for the simple reason that religion “remains the most divisive and volatile of social forces.” Followers of the way of Jesus, as described in the book of Acts, would probably agree that Rauch’s last statement is true!

“I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people willing to be nuts and bolts.” Rich Mullins

Love always begins with the person closest to you. It does not begin with nameless and faceless people. It begins with those you sweat and struggle with--those who frequently disagree with you and put you down. That is why it is so hard. It is easier to love the world than your closest relative. The world is general. Your relative is specific. The world is vague. Your relative has character... Whom will you love today? ... It won't be easy. Love is never an option. Jim Smoke

Love transforms us for a mission – reconciling others to God and to each other in three stages:

Stage 1; purgative way - a catharsis of sex, money and pride, not to get them out of your life, but to face sex, money and pride and to recognize how driven you are internally. Jesus is our model and way because He wasn’t driven by money, sex or power.

Stage 2; illuminative way – once the curtains of our inner life are pulled back, we are ready to be bathed in the light of Christ. Practices include daily prayer - i.e. bathing in front of God, breath prayers (Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner), singing, etc. We begin to absorb God. We begin to have a God scent.

Stage 3: unitive way – you experience the daily presence of God in order to be an ambassador,
2 Corinthians 5:17-20
What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ's ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, "Be reconciled to God!"

These stages keep cycling and learning and deepening, and ultimately transform us.

There are going to be two kinds of people when it comes to the Jesus Habits: doers and complainers. The doers are the ones who will do it and make the world go around. Complainers usually try to find something wrong with what the doers are doing.

Another way to look at these two groups of people is to see red apple Habits and green apple Habits. The Bible teaches clearly that God is using the circumstances of life to ripen some people to the need to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. There's no point following for a person who isn't ripe. They are the ones too busy singing "I Did It My Way".

We would call a person who isn't ripe to the Habits a green apple. He or she is not thinking about God & how to align their life with the habits of Jesus. You may share these ideas with them, but they're likely to say, "I don't care about this, I don't need this." They're not ripe to the Habits yet. It's only God who can ripen a person, and he uses the painful circumstances of life to do that in the hearts of the people he's drawing.

Some of you are familiar with Jack LaLanne. He was a pioneering fitness leader who began his career in the 1940s, focusing on being physically active through stretching. And he has never stopped stretching. He is still getting up at 5 AM to exercise and swim two hours per day! And He's 91 in this picture! He said, “The only way to hurt your body is not using it. That’s the killer: inactivity. Sitting around on your big fat butt and thinking about the good old days.”

The same is true for the spiritual; the relational; the intellectual and the emotional realm. The killer is inactivity!

"Just Do It!" Alcoholics Anonymous has a slogan "One day at a time".

Are you still stretching? Are you learning new things, trying new things, open to new things?

Or are you slowly shrinking? Is your heart getting smaller? Are you less compassionate than you used to be? Are you less in love with God?

You will remain spiritually fragile until such a time as you are able to find a place to practice the Jesus Habits with a group of fellow pilgrims to journey with.

Start the Jesus Habits one day at a time. Celebrate His goodness and share it with others.

If my significant relationship had more love, how would my life be different? If I shared more love in all my relationships, how would their lives be different?


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