What AE Is All About

Some of you have asked to know a little more about the actual nuts and bolts of the Apprentice Experience. Here is what we have already done and what our daily routine will look like when we meet this week.

Back in August, we were assigned weekly readings and then answered questions related to those readings.

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Readings:

The Good and Beautiful God, chs. 1-3, by James Bryan Smith

The Divine Conspiracy, chs. 3-4, by Dallas Willard

The Good and Beautiful Life, chs. 1-3, by James Bryan Smith

Hidden in Christ,  Smith, chs. 1-5, by James Bryan Smith

The King Jesus Gospel, chs. 1-2, 4, 5, 9  by Scot McKnight

We also read articles and excerpts from a wide range of sources. My personal favorite was Chapter 2 of Thomas Smail’s book The Forgotten Father. This clearly illustrated our need to understand God as our good Father before venturing off in other spiritual matters.

This week will be our first of four week long Gatherings. During this week, we will have teaching, small group time, and spiritual practices. This is the first time that the whole Community has been together. We will then meet next March, the following September, and then March of 2018. All of our Gatherings are in Wichita, Kansas except for the last one that will be in California.

The Daily Schedule – Oct. 31-Nov. 4

7:30 – Morning Prayer

8:00 – Breakfast

9:00 – 12:00 Classroom

12:00 – Lunch

1:00  – 3:00 – Classroom

3:00 – 6:00 – Free Time

6:00 – Dinner

7:00 – Group Discussion

8:30 – Evening Prayer – Eucharist

Master Teachers for the Apprentice Experience include James Bryan Smith, Scot McKnight, Curt Thompson, Shane Claiborne, Keith Matthews, Jan Johnson, John Carroll, Matt Johnson and Myrna Craig.

Watch this video for more about the Apprentice Experience:

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Despite Unlikely Circumstances, Here I Am

Nearly one year ago, God began revealing in me what the next few years might look like.

What started out as a simple interest and desire of mine began to take shape as an opportunity that was tangible and the promised next steps in my faith journey. As I have said in a previous post, the pattern has been God asks me to do something and I just go about doing it. There hasn’t been too many road blocks or hang ups, at least from me personally. God just keeps presenting himself and his will to me and I just move forward despite some hard circumstances that have been largely out of my control.

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That has led to this point. On Sunday, I will be traveling to Wichita, Kansas to spend the next five days in Community 3 of the Apprentice Experience. This week will be one of four that we will spend as a group of 27 people from around the country. We all have been doing readings but up until now, we have not met as a community. The week will be filled with study under the teaching of James Bryan Smith, Scot McKnight, Jan Johnson, and others. We will also be participating in spiritual practices, discussion, and community worship. It promises to be a deeply rich and rewarding experience and one that I am highly looking forward to.

As a reader of this blog, you know my heart is to help others Grow Up in their Christian Spiritual Life. You know that I am not just about personal spiritual experiences or Christian thrill seeking. I truly want this experience to change me so that I can help demonstrate to others how Christ wants to change them also. The Apprentice Experience is just another step in God’s work in my life and in the growth of my ministry efforts through Grow Up Ministries, where I plan to help people live the life that Christ intends for them to live.

I will be taking good notes and will be chronicling my experiences but will wait until I get back to share with you the particulars.

Please pray for me. Pray that nothing will get in the way of me experiencing the fullness of God’s blessing during the week. Pray for the entire group that we will quickly draw close together as a group of believers. Pray for my family, who is gracious enough to let me be away for this long. Finally, pray that I can take what I have learned and it will make a difference moving forward in the lives of those that I am around and try to minister to.

Also, I am still in need of some support so that I can complete the program. Please donate so that what God has started to grow in me and my humble efforts will result in something that has a real impact on many people’s lives.

How To Find Maturity Through Acting Like A Child

We have three children at various stages of development. There is the 17-year-old about to venture into the great unknown of the rest of her life. There is the 13-year-old trying to identify who she is and what is truly important to her. And there is the 8-year-old who lives mostly in the present and, though not oblivious to the pains of the world, can experience joy at the drop of a hat.

Which one of these three stages of development corresponds the best with where a Grown Up Christian is supposed to be in their spiritual life?

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Paradoxically, I would say the 8-year-old stage of development most closely resembles where a Christian is supposed to be in their relation to God. Jesus even said as much in the gospels:

“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

What does he mean by this?

First, we must look at what is commonly meant by growing up. Dallas Willard had this to say about this normal human processes. “‘Growing up’ is largely a matter of learning to hide our spirit behind our face, eyes, and language so that we can evade and manage others to achieve what we want and avoid what we fear.” In other words, our spirit (the non-physical side of us) is not connected to our bodies. We hide so much of ourselves in order to be normal and not draw too much attention.

But this isn’t the goal of Growing Up into spiritual maturity, at least according to Jesus. Receiving the Kingdom of God as a child means that our body is genuinely present (not hiding behind false pretension) and our spirit is connected not to ourselves but to God.

James Bryan Smith says, “Children do not need to be in control. They have very little authority or power, and live each day in dependence and trust, receiving everything as a gift.”

A mature Christian then is a person of submission to God to the point where nothing about themselves really matters other than living in the reality of God’s presence, his care for them, and the life transforming power of his work in their lives. That is enough.

That is the Grown Up Child.

phot credit: farrago510

You Have a Unique Spiritual Personality

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God knows the number of every hair on your head. Before you were born God shaped you.

We know as a fact that no two people have the same finger print. Our individuality and uniqueness is often on display for all to see.

If you are so unique, then why would you think that a cookie-cutter, one size fits-all approach to Growing Up would suffice? My wife doesn’t like to read as much as I do. Do you think me throwing a book at her and telling her to just read this is going to be the best approach? No, she responds to words and actions and a chance to serve others.

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I have a friend who says,”I am a geek, God speaks to me in geek.”God touches him, inspires him, and challenges him in a way that works exactly with his personality, learning style, and preferences. He is not ashamed of the fact that his relationship with God may look different from yours. He has come to embrace it.

One of the first steps we can make on the way to Growing Up is to find out as much as we can about ourselves. Do a Myers-Briggs assessment. Take a Love Language inventory. Find out your learning style. All of these will inform how God will best interact with you. These inventories bind us to nothing but it demonstrates that God has created us with unique features and characteristics because that is how he wants to work through us and be with us.

Try this: Think about a time when you felt closest to God. What were you doing? What preceded this moment? Was music involved or words of declaration or were you reading scripture? What does this moment tell you about yourself and how God likes to interact with you? What could you do today to cultivate that interaction based on your personality and giftedness?

photo credits: wikicommons

Quit Focusing On Inadequate Examples of Growing Up

Superficially, many of our hang ups on the road to Growing Up don’t involve anything to do with your deep personal spiritual make up.

Often, you are hesitant to Grow Up because of the poor examples of “mature” Christians you see around you or observe a church culture that you want no part of. This is the wrong focus. God isn’t asking you to match someone else’s faith or fulfill some here today/gone tomorrow church trends, he is asking you to join the Kingdom of God. The what you ask?

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The Kingdom of God is where what God wants done is done. The Kingdom of God is what Jesus spent many of his parables discussing. As James Bryan Smith has said, “It is much more difficult to find a teaching of Jesus that was not about the kingdom than to find one that is.”

The interactive life with God that is the Kingdom of God is what you should strive for. The Kingdom of God is a place where you hear from God and know what to do next. A place where you receive assurances of your standing with him and experience the deep love and mercy of the Father. A place where you can drop all pretense and be humbled because God is working and in control.

The Kingdom of God transcends individual examples of “good Christians” or church marketing slogans. Scripture tells us that it is so precious that a man would sell all that he had to assure he could obtain it.

So quit looking around to human examples of faith that lack substance and aren’t true to your deepest longing. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. Then, so much will be added to you. You will even Grow Up.

Scenes From the First Grow Up Event

Last Friday, I hosted the first Grow Up Event, a Fund Raising Party. After rain earlier in the day, the skies cleared up late Friday afternoon and the weather was perfectly cool and pleasant. The ground was hardly wet or muddy. God set up a great evening for us.

Around 35 people came and enjoyed excellent tacos from El Taxqueño Taquería and then settled in for music from Ben Coleman and then from Chad and Melissa Edgington. The songs were a perfect backdrop to the evening and set a great tone for a pleasant and uplifting night.

In addition to the music, I was able to tell a little bit of my story and what I feel God is leading me to do with the start of Grow Up Ministries. I mentioned how He has led me to the Apprentice Experience training as an act of faith and that now, I will be pursuing opportunities to help struggling and stagnant Christians find the ability to live the life Christ intends for them to live.

After the music, people had the chance to give. At the end of the night, we raised $525 that will go to the completion of my training and the start up of Grow Up Ministries. God is good.

See pictures below.

Even if you were unable to make it, you can still give by going to my fund raising page:

https://igg.me/at/bkFj2UfykB4

By contributing you will receive the following:

At least $25 – The Grow Up Playlist full of songs that have helped me in my spiritual life.

At least $50 – A sample chapter of an eBook I worked on a few years ago called More of Christ, Less of Everything Else.

At least $75 – A resource pack full of the list of tools that I use to grow closer to God.

At least $100 – A short eBook that I am creating called the Devotional Lives of Famous Christians.

The Costly Results of Forgetting Jesus

Monday, I mentioned the importance of remembering the good news of Jesus. Today, I would like to tell you the dangerous ramifications of forgetting Jesus.

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  1. You have no power except your own. Many years ago, I was the sole breadwinner for a young family of three. I was trying to finish a graduate degree and my job kept me away from home many nights. I wasn’t taking care of myself spiritually and emotionally and began to fall into a depression. I was breaking down. Why? Because I had forgotten Jesus and was trying to manage my life without the help of Christ. I was still at the center of my own life and hadn’t made Christ, with all of his power, the King over all of my existence. I was powerless to accomplish anything  because I was relying on my own power.
  2. You can be easily deceived. By forgetting Jesus and the good news of his life, death, and resurrection, you become susceptible to anybody with a sense of authority in spiritual matters, to tell you what you, as a Christian, need to be doing, even if it runs counter to the message of Christ. If your mind and heart aren’t focused on Christ and all that scripture tells you about him, then you lack the clarity to recognize the difference between what is truly important and was is secondary or even false. This can affect you on a personal level as you pursue paths that have potential for disaster. But it can also affect you on a larger social or political level as the risky marriage of politics and faith turns to manipulation, exploitation, and the inability to see your faith expressed in more creative and life-giving ways.

The only way to avoid these pitfalls is to return to Jesus. Take in his very presence, learn from him how to live your life, understand what he stands for and why he died, and revel in the power of his resurrection. Remember Jesus and live a life of power and truth.

photo credit: jijis

The One Thing You Can’t Forget

As this political cycle tries to tell you that your faith is nothing more than a political bent, don’t forget Jesus. As the media tries to tell you that your faith is nothing more than a stance on one specific issue, don’t forget Jesus.

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In 2 Timothy 2:8-9, Paul says, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David, this is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.”

Our gospel is Jesus Christ; being sent, living and teaching, dying for us, raising from the dead, and ascending to God’s right hand. God’s word is not chained by politics. God’s word is not chained by media. God’s word is not chained by education or location or race or bias or past sins. Christ came, Christ saves, His Kingdom is available to us.

Don’t forget Jesus.

photo credit: arbyreed

Why I Am Starting Something New?

I relaunched this blog back in May. There was a lot of prep to get it started again but I have never felt burdened by it. I started the Apprentice Experience in August and have been doing weekly readings and assignments. This has taken a little bit of time away from the blog but I have never felt overwhelmed by the time commitments.

This is the pattern that I am noticing on this journey. God directs me toward something and I go do it. There hasn’t been a lot of fuss, or hand wringing, or feelings of desperation. I simply move forward in obedience and things progress forward. There has been a flow forward that has been rewarding, refreshing, and uplifting.

I never thought that anything more than some words in a blog or some additional advice to friends and mentees would spring from these ways forward but I was wrong. God has made it apparent, just as he did with the blog and the entry into the Apprentice Experience, to take up a new task; one that is bigger and more out there than anything I have done previously. But, now that I know the pattern, I can just start to move forward in obedience and see where this takes me.

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Here is the new task: Grow Up Ministries. To take the content of the blog and the lessons and skills I am learning from the Apprentice Experience to create retreats, workshops, or individual session so that Christians can learn to Grow Up and live the life that Christ intends for them to live. I would make myself available to churches, parachurch organizations, and other ministries, and show their people that maturing in the Christian life is not only for spiritual superheroes or preacher types but for everyone who has a desire to grow.

Wise, mature, transformed Christians are desperately needed in our world and I want to do my part to help people make the spiritual changes they desire and that God has planned for them.

Friday night’s event is a kind of kick-off event for this new ministry venture. In the midst of all of the great music, I will briefly explain the plans and goals of this ministry.

What does that mean for you, faithful reader of the blog? Not much except for maybe a new web design and additional opportunities to see/hear me speak in person.

This is all kind of scary for me. I am not always the most optimistic person in the world but now that I know the pattern I can be confident that I just have to move forward and God will provide a way and a result.

Grow Up Event and Big Announcement

Don’t forget that if you live in Texas or the Dallas/Fort Worth area, you are invited to our first Grow Up Event, Friday, Oct. 7. Here is why I am doing this:

  • I want this night to be a celebration of God’s work among his people. To reflect on the many ways that God has helped us all to Grow Up.
  • I also want to use it to raise some additional funds toward my discipleship training efforts.
  • Finally,  I will announce some exciting news regarding my ministry efforts in the near future. I will share more on Wednesday’s post.

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All are welcome, including kids. Chad and Melissa Edgington will be providing the entertainment and the Tacos are some of the best I have had in the area. This is going to be a great night. Would you join us?

You can email me if you have additional questions. scott.jeffries@gmail.com