Monday, April 24, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Stories

A spiritually formed person participates in the life of Jesus in order to become like Jesus.

“We would not only claim to be Christ followers; we’d actually act like Christ followers.”

The focus isn't on the 'product', as in needing to attain 'perfection; the focus is rather the 'process', the aligning of our beliefs and actions!

A spiritually formed person embraces the stories of others who love Jesus.

Story is the main way in that God reveals truth. Not only is truth embodied in story, it is also fully revealed in a person...we have a relationship with the TRUTH...Jesus!

Are you enjoying the way you are following Christ? In going from Jasper to Banff you can travel via Edmonton & Calgary & the rather boring & predictable Highway 2, or you can take the beautiful Icefields Parkway. The joy can be in the journey.... the joy can BE the journey. Getting from A to B can be satisfying. Such is the life of a Christ follower. The journey, the transformation along the way, is the goal!

Turn Off the Autopilot. When you think of Highway 2 you think of ‘autopilot’.

Listen. Your life is happening. You are happening. A journey, years long, has brought each of you through thick and thin to this moment in time as mine has also brought me. Think back on that journey. Listen back to the sounds and sweet airs of your journey that give delight and hurt not and to those too that give no delight at all and hurt like Hell. Be not afraid. The music of your life is subtle and elusive and like no other—not a song with words but a song without words, a singing, clattering music to gladden the heart or turn the heart to stone, to haunt you perhaps with echoes of a vaster, farther music of which it is part.

…God says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him. Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him…
Frederick Buechner The Sacred Journey

‘Can my church help me experience God and experience personal transformation?’ By this question, we’re asking to not just ‘learn about’. Desire transformation. Desire to want to learn Christ. Then you flip the question around to its proper state: ‘Can I help the others in my community, those fellow travelers experience God and personal transformation by sharing my story?’

Stories are a Journey of Change

'If you love me you need to love my people' says God. Following Jesus is always communal. Character is tested in isolation, but developed in relationships. That’s what Jesus is doing along this journey that we find ourselves on.

The word experience comes from the Latin words ex pericolo, which mean "from danger." Our stories become our danger in which we learn from.

We find our story in ‘His story’ through the characters in Scripture; through their experiences; & through the challenge to transform & grow and the stories of others. The evidence of that character growth is revealed in the fruits of the spirit. This character growth is anchored in our stories. These stories affirm our journey & encourage us to embrace each other’s stories.

See the Jesus Habits as a Way of Life Not Another Program.

It's more like getting an entirely new system, and some of the old programs are incompatible!

Following Jesus through the Jesus Habits cannot be trivialized as little more than a devotional lubricant to keep us from stripping our gears when pursuing our own lives. We have tried to reduce it to quiet times and Sunday mornings, which are highly privatized, spiritualized, disconnected, and event-oriented efforts. Our modern culture around us still defines the good life.

We are what we repeatedly do. Aristotle

We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. Jonathan Swift

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. G. K. Chesterton

Lets get beyond information, ‘about stuff’, to transformation-life change!

"While you are sleeping, a miracle happens and you become much more Christ-like. Because you were sleeping you are unaware of this miracle. When you are awake, what will you notice that you are doing differently?"

"Imagine you are changed on the inside; your character reflects more of Jesus. What does that internal change look like on the outside? How is your behavior different than before?"

That miracle actually did happen last night and the night before that. It'll happen tonight, too, and tomorrow if you'll let it.

Faith as a way of life: being held by the truth rather than trying to grasp, hold and possess the truth. Live the truth through your story. People often said Seinfeld was a story about nothing, but that was completely wrong; Seinfeld was successful because the mundane stories were all about relationships!

Grace is not opposed to effort (in actions) but to earning (an attitude).

On Sunday we had a conversation with our friend, Ronda, who had been reflecting about the knowledge base her dad has as an 'oilwell doctor’. She said that it was amazing how much he knew. And he’s only one man!

Michael Polanyi, in his book Personal Knowledge writes the following, "It follows that an art which has fallen into disuse for the period of a generation is altogether lost. There are hundreds of examples of this to which the process of mechanization is continuously adding new ones. These losses are usually irretrievable. It is pathetic to watch the endless efforts -- equipped with microscopy and chemistry, with mathematics and electronics -- to reproduce a single violin of the kind the half-literate Stradivarius turned out as a matter of routine more than 200 years ago."

Stradivarius had what is known as "elbow knowledge" as a 4th generation violinmaker. The art of apprenticeship; the art of mentoring and the art of disciple making has been lost in modernity. You learn to follow your master even when you can't analyze or account for the detail. You watch and learn unconsciously, even those intuitive rules not explicitly known to the master. The challenge of great teaching is to take what a person does intuitively and make it accessible to others.

This type of knowledge doesn’t reside in books like the "Idiot's Guide to Violin's." Surrendering uncritically to the imitation of the master is the only way to assimilate it.

"Practical wisdom is more truly embodied in action than expressed in rules of action." Could following Christ have become pre-occupied with just words? Could we have lost this wisdom and the art of disciple making, mentoring, apprenticing? Hve we lost the ability to embrace each other's stories as a means of our growth?

Discipled, mentored, apprenticed.

Disciple = "student of the art." Disciples are apprentices of Jesus.

All of us have relationships, at least informal ones. But few of us recognize the potential for transformation in them. Deliberate, proactive steps, can be taken so that relationships can become mentoring and apprentice relationships where spiritual formation can happen. Usually mentoring is not best done via setting up of programs but by using already existing situations.

We let Jesus mentor us through his Habits and guidance of others around us.

In Revolt of the Masses, by Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset, he states that each of us has a destiny that is a non-transferable work to do, a part of our being that is ours alone. He goes on to say that if we do not live up to this destiny, it follows us like an accusing shadow for the rest of our lives. I believe that you could substitute the word ‘story’ for destiny.

Each of us has a non-transferable story to live; a part of our being that is ours alone. If we won’t live that story, it will follow us like an accusing shadow for the rest of our lives.

We are called to learn from our story. A great concern for us should be “Being out of alignment with my destiny (story).”

Ephesians 2:10
“For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

‘Walk in them’ is simply ‘living your story’, writing your story, rewriting it, and learning from your story, ‘your danger’.

Do you honestly feel that there is some way of good works, a story for you to live, prepared beforehand for you to walk in? Can you embrace that reality?

Discipleship should be like orthodontic braces…a little effort and energy consistently applied over a long time will eventually change the location of your teeth. In the same way, it’ll change a person’s character. Our character.

Are you putting that consistent work into understanding and learning from your own story? Is your story a story of redemption, like the flow of the Bible, or is it a tragedy? A comedy?

Shortly after becoming a Christ follower I experienced sever back pains that lead to surgery. A friend gave me a book by Tim Hansel, You Gotta Keep Dancin’. In it a climber falls about 50 feet and lands on his back. The book chronicles his rescue and his life adapting to the degenerative pain his back injury cause him. It is a powerful story of resilience and spoke to me profoundly. Even to this day. I said to myself, or more appropriately God said to me, "You can learn from Tim's story. In some ways it's you story too."

When you read God’s word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, “It is talking to me, and about me.” Soren Kierkegaard

The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts. A. W. Tozer

Philippians 3:10-11
I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

We always want the power, don't we? What we need to desire first is the passion! The passion always precedes having the power.

I believe that one of the ways this happens is entering into the stories. Let’s look at Peter’s story to see what it can say to us…

It is said that conversion, like wisdom, takes a lifetime. If conversion were a coin it would have two sides: a point in time and a process. Some of us recall vividly turning to follow Jesus at a specific time. Others of us recount it more as a gradual releasing of all that we are in obedience to God over a period of years. Neither is ‘right’ to the exclusion of the other. We are all undergoing an ongoing process of character change.

Another way to look at conversion is contrast between a birth certificate and a driver’s license. A birth certificate metaphor asks the ultimate question, “What do I need to get to heaven?”

A driver’s license metaphor asks, “How do I love God?” the former is concerned about a moment; the latter is concerned about a life. Jesus Habits are more like driver’s license than a birth certificate. A birth certificate proves we were born on a specific day in a specific location. A driver’s license gives us permission to drive, permission to ‘operate a motor vehicle’.

When we produce Christ followers with a birth certificate we produce babies that need to be pushed around in strollers and fed milk. When we practice the Jesus Habits we produce adults who can operate with love for God and others wherever they go.

Think of the life of Peter. When was he converted to the Jesus Habits? Let’s observe several vignettes; stories from the Bible about his life:

John 1:35-42 Introduced To Jesus

2. Luke 5:1-11 Confession As A Sinner

3. Mark 8:27-30 Confession of Jesus As Messiah

4. Mark 14:66-72; John 21:15-22 Restored By Jesus

5. Acts 2 Receives The Holy Spirit

6. Acts 10:28-29; 34-35 Jesus is Lord of All

7. 1 Peter 2:18-25 Fully Embraced Life Of Jesus

Peter’s life gives witness to the ongoing work of transformation through the Jesus Habits. Life as a Christ follower is more than just an event; it is a process to be embraced. It is a lifelong series of gentle and not so gentle prods to our soul. The question of when someone is converted is much less important than that they are converting!

1. Peter suspects Jesus might be the Messiah.
2. Peter recognizes Jesus as someone profoundly superior.
3. Peter confesses Jesus as the messiah, although he disagrees with the Messiah on whether or not the Messiah needs to suffer!
4. Peter realizes that the Messiah must suffer.
5. Peter confesses Jesus is Lord.
6. Peter realizes that Jesus is not just the Lord of the Jews, but Lord of all. Peter finally grips that the Jesus Habits are about loving God and all others!
7. Peter fully embraces Jesus’ life as the way of living.

Peter’s growth is not linear and consistent because it is his story, his life. Can you see any of your story in Peter’s story?

“All individual human beings are unfinished…still struggling toward the fulfillment of the dream of God for us, implanted in our being, created Imago Dei”. James Fowler

In the community of Jesus, each story is embraced. Can we embrace our own story so that it doesn’t remain a tragedy?

The Jesus Habits are about our being lead by the Holy Sprit into the life of Jesus. God has placed all around of us people whose story we are drawn to. As we are drawn to those stories of resilience, redemption and resurrection, God is giving us guides along the journey. We must reach out to those people God has placed in our life.

Who in your life can become a mentor to you on the journey? Who in your life is looking to you as a guide on the journey?

What story are you having a difficult time embracing from your own life? What story are you having a difficult time embracing from those around you?


Post a Comment

<< Home