The Stories We Tell Ourselves About God

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed each aspect of the Triangle of Transformation except for one – Adopting the Narratives of Jesus.

James Bryan Smith has brilliantly determined the best way to understand the nature of God is to let his son tell us. Jesus even tells us as much when he says that if you have seen me you have seen the Father.

Why use the term narrative? Because most of us don’t think in scholarly bullet points and doctrinal distinctives. Most of us, have a running story in our mind as to the nature of God and his interaction with us personally. This is where our spiritual life grows out of – our own, often false, narratives about God.

Smith points out that stories are the “central function of the human mind.” Think about it, we dream in narrative and even day-dream in narrative. Stories aren’t just our minds default but they are running our lives.

When Jesus cries out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, but then has the trust to tell God, “not my will but thine,” he is operating from a narrative of trust in his heavenly father. This trust comes from an intimate relationship between Christ and God.

We might not have the spiritual power of Christ but we can learn from him how to think and view the Father. This is part of having the mind of Christ.

So, as you read the Gospels, notice how Jesus discusses and teaches about his Abba Father. He didn’t just present God in a certain way for his followers benefit. No, his portrayal of his Father was his narrative, his thinking that he lived his life out of us. We can adopt these narratives as well.


Each week, I will be providing a glimpse into the discipleship training program that I have just started. This is a way for me to show you what I am learning and also allow you to progress along with me. For more information, I encourage you to read this. Also, if you like what you are reading, will you consider donating so I can continue with the program and be able to provide more helpful content so we can all reach true Christian maturity.

A Fresh Approach To Growing Up

Part of what I try to do here on the Grow Up Blog is present a fresh approach to Christian living. I try to push the reader away from long standing guilt driven and unrealistic approaches to life with Christ.

Along these lines is a book I have worked on periodically and submitted as a book proposal to publishers.

Just now, I sent an excerpt of this book to people who have donated $50 or more to my Fundraiser. In order for you to get this book sample as well as the Grow Up Playlist sent to you, won’t you consider donating?

This book sample will tell you why you are not Growing Up and present a vision for your growth in Christian Living that is marked by:

  • peace
  • thoughtfulness
  • freedom to serve
  • wisdom

The only way to get this sample is to donate. Your donation will keep quality blog content coming your way as well as allow me to continue learning and training so that I can share all that I learn with you.

Donate now and enjoy this book sample.

Don’t Attempt This On Your Own

Each week, I will be providing a glimpse into the 18-month discipleship training program that I have just started. This is a way for me to show you what I am learning and also allow you to progress along with me. For more information, I encourage you to read this. Also, if you like what you are reading, will you consider donating so I can continue with the program and be able to provide more helpful content so we can all reach true Christian maturity.


In this place, I have presented much of the steps for Growing Up as individual endeavors. This is to the detriment of one of the most essential parts of Growing Up – Community.

We have looked at the Triangle of Transformation recently and discussed the Holy Spirit and Soul-Training Exercises but what about Community? What makes Community essential to Growing Up.

First, according to Smith, the Holy Trinity is a grand community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If God is meant to exist in community, then perhaps we could benefit from it as well.

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Second, you need others to encourage and inspire you. It is much easier to love when love is already present and it is much easier to do good when others are already striving for good works.

Third, there is built in accountability (peer pressure). Peer pressure can be a positive thing when there is expectations on you to work on change and to try to improve. Individually, I may talk myself out of trying some spiritual exercise that I find difficult but when I know that others will be trying it too, I don’t want to be left out of the discussion and experience.

Do you have a group that is spurring you on? A group that challenges you? A community that inspires you and encourages you?

I have been guilty of being a Lone Ranger Christian but I was missing out on a fuller, richer opportunity for Growing Up.

 

photo credit: Troika consulting

 

Does God Care About Olympic Sports?

Gold medalist swimmer Maya Dirado, when discussing her Christian faith and its influence on her success said, “I don’t think God cares about my swimming very much.”

Later, in a interview with Christianity Today, she elaborated on this comment, “I think God cares about my soul and whether I’m bringing his love and mercy into the world. Can I be a loving, supportive teammate and can I bless others around me in the same way God has been so generous with me?”

I don’t pretend to know the extent to which God cares about competitive swimming, but I think Dirado makes a great point in emphasizing the inside out nature of the Growing Up process.

For Dirado, what God is doing with her spiritually is more important than what objective measures of success are out there. Then, based on how well she is letting God work on her soul and spirit, she now has the responsibility to impact others around her through love, compassion, and generosity. Attributes that have been demonstrated to her through Jesus Christ.

Dirado understands that man looks on the outside, God looks on the heart.

What a refreshing perspective she has and a much needed one in a world that wants to distort Christianity to just perceived legalisms, hypocrisies, moral stances, and political sound bites.

What if Dirado’s faith philosophy is more correct than we realize? To allow God to work on us, to bring Christ into our life to transform, change, and develop us so that we can be a blessing to others. Pretty profound, huh?

That sounds like a goal worth striving for.

 

 

Why You Have To Plan To Grow Up

Each week, I will be providing a glimpse into the discipleship training program that I have just started. This is a way for me to show you what I am learning and also allow you to progress along with me. For more information, I encourage you to read this. Also, if you like what you are reading, will you consider donating so I can continue with the program and be able to provide more helpful content so we can all reach true Christian maturity.


So, if it is true here and here, why does Growing Up still seem so hard? Why does my spiritual life often seem like one step forward and two steps back.

To have the faith of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t I be making more progress than I am?

Here is where we get to the part of the Growing Up plan that involves our input. In order to cultivate our faith muscles and be obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit we have to participate in Growing Up Exercises (traditionally these are referred to as Spiritual Disciplines or as James Bryan Smith calls them, Soul-Training Exercises).

The concept of Growing Up Exercises is simple – working directly on our spiritual selves so that God can have the largest impact on our lives.

Sure, could God completely change me and turn me from an impatient person to a patient person, from a greedy person to a generous person, from a angry person to a loving person on the spot? He absolutely could and does, on occasion, but his preferred method is to give us his promises and tools and work with us to create change.

Even Paul talks about his need to Grow Up. His life was turned upside down on the Road to Damascus but there were still parts of Paul that needed to Grow Up. So it is with us, and spiritual disciplines allow us to train so that God has the biggest impact.

The list of Growing Up Exercises are vast, you can find the most helpful ones here and here. The issue is not which exercises you are doing but are you in training? Are you working to Grow Up because you know that your call to salvation under Christ is also a call to a mature, transformed, fulfilled life?

God has provided the gifts, tools, and power but there is a part for us to play. So start Growing Up and get training!

 

photo credit: Robert Hruzek

The Life I Now Live

One of the things I had to learn after I made Christ the center of my life, was that my transformation and growth was not up to me. If I was to Grow Up, it would be through Christ working inside of me to accomplish what I can’t accomplish on my own.

Scripture says, “I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

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Though you never hear it translated this way, most Bibles will provide a footnote after the section in the verse above that says “by faith in the Son of God”. The note will say “or can be translated ‘the faith of the Son of God.'” If this is the more accurate translation, then my life, if indwelled by Christ, is empowered by the faith OF Christ.

Jesus had full confidence in his Father, that is the faith we now possess. Jesus loved his Father deeply, that is the faith we now possess. Jesus loved others deeply, that is the faith we now possess. Jesus served others sacrificially, that is the faith we now possess.

This isn’t just the faith we possess but the faith we now live by.

If you desire to Grow Up and you have made Christ Lord of your life, then everything is different. You aren’t even living under the same power. Christ lives in you and is working out his faith through you.

We all know that Growing Up takes time, but aren’t you glad the responsibility for your maturity isn’t just up to you.

photo credit: ckaroli

How The Holy Spirit Helps You Grow Up

Each week, I will be providing a glimpse into the discipleship training program that I have just started. This is a way for me to show you what I am learning and also allow you to progress along with me. For more information, I encourage you to read this. Also, if you like what you are reading, will you consider donating so I can continue with the program and be able to provide more interesting content so we can all reach true Christian maturity.


I often have been confused by the role and responsibility of the  Holy Spirit in Growing Up.

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Last week, we looked at the four essential components of Growing Up presented by James Bryan Smith in his Apprentice book series. The center piece of the Triangle of Transformation is the Holy Spirit. Smith describes the work of the Holy Spirit like this:

The Spirit leads us to Jesus, reveals the Father, exposes falsehood, offers correction, and gives us the needed encouragement that make growth and transformation possible. The Spirit helps us change our narratives by leading us into truth, enlightens us as we practice the disciplines, and binds us together in community. If not for the work of the Holy Spirit, transformation simply will not take place.

 

The Holy Spirit is so essential to our faith, that scripture says that no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. We need to understand that trying to Grow Up without the Holy Spirit is like trying to nail a board to a wall with a Fischer Price hammer. It might happen but it is unlikely.

So it is our job to work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to make change possible. We can do this by making ourselves available to the work of the Holy Spirit. Invite the Holy Spirit and acknowledge that any desire I have for growth, any movement towards God, and progress in the spiritual life is coming from the Holy Spirit.

How encouraging to know that my growth doesn’t have to come from my own will power, my own talents and abilities, my own determination. Growing Up is a by product of the Spirit working through my limited capacities and humble attempts at devotion and formation.

What a gift.

 

photo credit: Chris Sloan

portions of this post were found in a previous entry

What My Dad Taught Me (And Is Still Teaching Me) About Growing Up

My dad has had cancer since last October. He is suffering through treatments right now and hasn’t had too many good days lately.

I love my Dad for many reasons but largely because of all that he has taught me about life and life with God.

I decided to share with you some of the things he has taught me:

Love much, laugh often, and pray each step of the way: This statement, in various forms, has been spread around for years. I don’t know where my dad heard it but it has become one of his favorite prayers for most of my life. This pretty much sums up his philosophy of life. Love those around you, show care for them, take an interest in others. Enjoy the simplicity of a good laugh, a small joke, a uniquely peculiar moment. And pray as much as possible. My dad is not the most theologically sophisticated guy but I know that he faithfully reads his Bible, reads short devotionals, and prays.

dad

Being critical of people is not necessary: I remember as a kid feeling kind of ashamed at the dinner table when I had just spent the last few minutes bashing someone. My parents don’t make this kind of talk a habit. I am sure they had their own conversations about people but being critical was always unbecoming. They aren’t oblivious to the realities of people and life, they just don’t think that criticizing others is going to accomplish much other than making the person talking look unattractive and negative.

Too many people’s default position is to complain about others. What a valuable lesson it was to learn that there may be a better way. A way that honored people, that was conscious of my own failings, and was willing to be patient with people.

The Serenity Prayer: Another one of his go to prayers. You have heard this prayer before, “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the power to know the difference.”

It is pretty obvious why this prayer is one of the most highly used written prayers in history. For my dad, he has been willing over the years to let each aspect of this prayer be a motto for life, not just one that benefited him in the moment. His willingness to grow and let God move in him is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you reach the age where you are expected to be set in your ways. God is still working in my dad, I have seen it through his fight with cancer and throughout my life. That inspires me to keep working on my own spiritual development and keep growing.

I hope you, the reader, have as good a role model for Christian living as I have had with my dad.

 

 

My Favorite Songs For Experiencing God

In 2012, I wrote the following: “I think that I would be less of a person if I did not have music in my life. And I also think that God uses music to reach us because to experience music is to participate in something that is more than just an intellectual exercise or a rational exchange but a spiritual activity… I also find that when I am enjoying music the most is also when I am most in tuned to God and his inspiration.”

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I still believe this today, so I decided to create a playlist full of 12 songs that have helped me in my attempts to Grow Up. Music is a very subjective thing, so some of you may be perplexed by some of my choices but I guarantee you that some of the songs will have great impact on your ability to reflect on God, your own life story and God’s work around you.

Get the playlist.

Scripture tells us to behold the glory of the Lord. One of the best ways I know to do this is through music and these songs are at the top of my list to make that happen.

To listen to the full playlist and see my notes on how these songs have impacted me, donate any amount here and I will send the playlist to you.

For a preview of five of the songs see my Facebook page from this week.

Happy listening.

Get the playlist now.

photo credit: under the bridge

Essential Components of Growing Up

Each week, I will be providing a glimpse into the discipleship training program that I have just started. This is a way for me to show you what I am learning and also allow you to progress along with me. For more information, I encourage you to read this. Also, if you like what you are reading, will you consider donating so I can continue with the program and be able to provide more interesting content so we can all reach true Christian maturity.


Why am I writing this blog? Why am I spending so much screen space and digital characters on Growing Up?

Because Growing Up is hard to do and few people try to show you how to do it. Too many times, the only advice that is given is to pray more and to read your Bible more. There is nothing wrong with this advice, and much benefit can come from doing these two things but the advice neglects trying to understand how human beings work, our unique giftedness under God, and best practices from 2,000 years of Christian living.

James Bryan Smith, in his Apprentice book series, reveals what he calls the Triangle of Transformation. There are four components of the triangle – Adopting the Narratives of Jesus, Engaging in Soul-Training Exercises, Participating in Community, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

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Do you see how this is a much more well developed and robust approach to Growing Up?

Scripture reading and prayer are important parts of developing the right narratives and are essential exercises but they are just a few elements that make up the Growing Up process.

The four components of transformation show us how the Holy Spirit works through a small group of believers, how other spiritual exercises work the right spiritual muscles, and how learning from Jesus how he thought and spoke about his Father help bring clarity and focus to our attempts at Christian maturity.

What about you? Which component have you been neglecting? Let me know if there is an element of Growing Up that you might need some help with. I will be happy to show you what I know and am attempting to practice.