The Experience Is Wrapping Up But the Blessings Will Continue

The re-launch of this blog started in May of 2016.

It was rebranded Grow Up and I began to talk about issues of Christian maturity and Christlikeness. Also, I wanted to raise some funding to complete the Apprentice Experience (I should be in the picture from the link but I had left the day before the picture was taken) and chronicle my journey through this intense 18-month discipleship program. March 5-9 will be the last of our four gatherings and the end of the program.

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Since the Apprentice Experience began, a good friend died, my oldest graduated from high school, my Dad died, I became a director of a library, my wife started a brand new career, and I relied on God more than I ever have before.

I want to use this space for the next few weeks to discuss some of my observations from the Apprentice Experience and to mention some of the highlights. I can’t recommend the Apprentice Experience highly enough and I hope to express the value of it in the next several posts.

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An Ash Wednesday Challenge For Those Who Didn’t Know It Was Ash Wednesday

You may not care a lick about Ash Wednesday and think people that would put ashes on their forehead or go without chocolate for 6 weeks are strange but let me challenge you anyway.

There are six weeks until Easter. There are six weeks to get to know Christ, to understand who he is, why he came, and what the cross means. Open up the Gospels and consume the information and the good news of Christ.

There are six weeks until Easter. Six weeks to bury your wrongs and mishaps and high propensity to mess things up. Bury these things with Christ in that tomb so you can fully understand the power of his resurrection and your own.

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There are six weeks until Easter. Six weeks to share in Christ’s suffering. Because he suffered for you, what would it look like for you to suffer with Christ? Why would that be important? This sharing in suffering will cleanse you and refine you for obtaining resurrection.

There are six weeks until Easter. Six week to become like Christ in his death. We need to die to self and crucify our old self so our new self can emerge.

For when that day comes, when Easter arrives, we can celebrate the resurrection that puts death to death. That turns the world upside down. This resurrection that we can obtain and will obtain.

 

We Are All Imitators of Something

My daughters like to watch the TV show, “America’s Next Top Model.” This is a reality show where aspiring models compete to be the top pick and get a modeling contract. Throughout the show they are coached and guided by experts, other models, and people who are experienced in the industry. My daughters have started to pick up on tricks and tips that the models try to implement to create great photographs. We joke around the house about the way to walk, hold your lips, “smile with your eyes,” etc. My daughters are imitating what they are seeing, even playfully, on the screen and letting it inhabit what they do.

I can’t stress enough how much we imitate what we see around us. There are many ministry majors that I have seen at colleges I have worked whose only aspiration was to be a youth minister like the one they had in high school or to be a worship leader like their favorite traveling worship band. The gist of what they are doing is simple imitation. We are hardly capable of our next move without turning it into a form of imitation.

America's Next Top Model Is Already Coming Back—Without ...

Who are we imitating to Grow Up in our spiritual life? Do we have models of Christlikeness around us? Or, do we have models but not very good ones. I have been in church my entire life and many of the models of Growing Up I have seen around me are rather weak and less than inspiring.

So, if you are a veteran follower of Christ, how are you modeling that reality? Does it reflect the Christ of scripture or the watered-down, culturized Christ American church people have settled on? What Growing Up do you still need to do before you can be a model for others?

And if you are a new Christian, who are you trying to imitate? I would warn you to understand everything you can about Christ from scripture. Then, when you start to see that version of Christ reflected in individuals, then they are worthy of imitation but if not, keep looking.

Our goal is to echo the words of Paul and say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Jesus Is Not In A Panic But We Often Are

I thought 2017 was a tough year for me and many of the people I work with but 2018 has already been marked by one report of bad news after another. I have that same sinking, weak, and impotent feeling I had last summer when my Dad died. My knees seem to constantly be in a state of weakness.

Thankfully, God provides messages and resources in my weakness. For my time with God, I like to read the meditations put together by Jan Johnson in her book, Meeting God in Scripture. In part five of the book, the theme is “Facing fears, frustrations, and discouragement.” The first passage that she walks the reader through is Mark 4:35-41, the time when Jesus is taking a nap on a boat while a huge storm erupts and has the Disciples fighting for their lives. Johnson pointed the reader to a Rembrandt painting of this scene.

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Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

I found it so interesting to observe the disciples and all of their different responses (including the one heaving off the side of the boat) and then to ask myself which disciple most resembles the reaction that I would have.

At first glance, I identified with the lone disciple at the back of the boat straining at the rudder, trying to keep the boat on a steady path. He is all strain and little progress. Rembrandt seems to really like the dark and so it is hard to see that there is one disciple who is kneeling before Jesus, perhaps begging for him to do something, or crying out for mercy. Some scholars think this is Rembrandt himself, placing himself in the painting. Where are you in the painting and this scene?

Take a few moments and read the passage and then observe the painting. Which disciple are you in your current situation? What response do you wish you had in light of how the scene plays out? Will you ever be able to just calmly sit next to Jesus during your stormy seasons? How will faith help remove the fear in your life?