Creating Bullet Proof Christians

If our interactions with Christ can move from mere belief to a trusting relationship, then wonderful things such as obedience, holiness, and love follow. We Grow Up.

This kind of trusting relationship comes from knowledge of Christ. In one of his letters, Paul discusses knowledge of Christ and that knowledge leading to endurance, joyfullness, and an inheritance of God’s kingdom. He is not talking about knowledge, as in memorizing some facts and figures to regurgitate later but knowledge that comes from a relationship.

When my wife and I play games like Charades or Fish Bowl we have a way of understanding what each other is hinting at way before others are able to catch on. This is because we know each other well enough to know what is inside their head at a given moment.

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Photo by Yuri Catalano on Pexels.com

That is the type of knowledge that Paul is talking about when it comes to knowledge of Christ. When I rely and trust Jesus to be who he says he is, then I am not just relying on facts to see me through my days but I am relying on the knowledge I have gained from interacting with Jesus and developing an understanding of what is close to the heart of Christ.

Could it be that the entirety of scripture is not to prove that God exists but to prove that God can be relied upon and trusted? This is a huge difference. When God is unhappy with his called out people, the Israelites, he doesn’t criticize their belief in him, he criticizes their disobedience and their willingness to chase after replacements for what God can bring them. Similarly, Jesus discusses people’s lack of faith, not their understanding of doctrine.

By combining knowledge of Christ, as described above, with trust in Christ we have a recipe for growth that can create individuals that can endure, that can withstand trouble, that can change the world. The early church is proof of this and we can be too.

*This post was inspired by portions of Scot McKnight’s book, The King Jesus Gospel.

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Moves Like Jagger

When I was in college, I was part of a Summer Staff position at a Conference Center. Throughout the summer, we would have various activities among the staff. One of these activities was a Lip Sync contest. My buddies and I decided to enter and do a Rolling Stones song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

I was tasked to fill the role of Mick Jagger in the group. I was prepared for this because I was a huge devotee of the documentary, Gimme Shelter. I had probably watched that film 50 times and could quote you the majority of the lines. I had also become a student of Jagger and his frantic moves on stage. I could imitate his facial expressions, the way he likes to strut, and his ridiculous hand gyrations.

The day of the contest came and we did our thing. I was Mick Jagger. One fellow staff person said that, “I was a better Mick than Mick is.” I embodied the movements and style of one person doing one thing. I have no intention of being Mick Jagger. His hedonistic, material, free love, and self indulgent ways didn’t then and doesn’t now appeal to my Christian worldview (Though I would love to sing “Honky Tonk Women” in front of the full band one day).

My imitation of Jagger was light years away from being Jagger. And so it is with our imitation of Christ.

For example, take the story of the woman caught in adultery , where Jesus diffuses her execution. If, by some chance, we found ourselves in a similar situation, we could say the words and take the action that that could make a difference but still not have the same heart as Christ. Jesus had no condemnation towards the woman but I could still condemn her and judge her in my mind. My point is, imitation alone is just half the work.

A transformed heart takes deep work of the Holy Spirit, intentional development of our mind and body, and the encouragement of others. One time, Jesus’ disciples failed to heal a demon possessed boy and his dad had to appeal to Jesus for him to do it. Jesus said that the reason the disciples couldn’t drive it out was because of their lack of faith. These disciples knew the words to say and the moves to make and the prayers to recite to heal most people but they hadn’t built up their faith in order to embody Jesus’ power.

This could sound discouraging. “What? I can’t even fake my way to Christlikeness? Why even try?” But, our imitation is a sign of our faith and a level of trust that our practices will make a difference. And if we possess Christ within us and are indwelt by him, he is going to do the work to turn our small faith into a transforming faith. In just a short time, these same bumbling, lacking faith disciples were healing crippled people, miraculously busting out of jail, and speaking in tongues.

Christ’s power will use our small imitation of him and make it work.

 

 

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?

When You Tell Jesus To Go Away

Occasionally, I teach a Bible Study at my church. Yesterday, I taught from Luke 5:1-11. This is the story of Jesus telling Peter and other would be disciples to, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” If you have read this before, you know that once the disciples did this, the load of fish that they caught was so great they needed help just to get the fish to shore.

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What struck me about this passage and how it relates to Growing Up is Peter’s initial response to Jesus after Jesus told him to “put out into deep water.” Peter said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Peter’s response was reluctant, skeptical, and downright doubtful. He was really telling Jesus that Jesus didn’t know what he was talking about and that nothing is going to change. Peter gave Jesus a courtesy response with little expectation of anything significant happening.

By the end of the story, Peter is so ashamed at himself and his lack of faith that he falls to Jesus’ knees and tells Jesus to “go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

Is Jesus talking to you? Is he asking you to go deep? Are you being asked to put down your net one more time even though it feels as if you have already done it a 100 times with little result?

You need to have more confidence than Peter. Read scripture, pray, meditate, worship, speak that word to a friend, and listen to God once again.

Let down that net and see the abundant catch that only Jesus can provide.

Sometimes You Have To Do Something Crazy

I am fascinated with Grand Gestures. Those out on a limb efforts that signal a no turning back approach to pursuing a goal or completing a task.

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In 2002, my wife and I, and young daughter, made the Grand Gesture to leave a comfortable, safe existence with a clear career path for a ministry with inner city families and the poor. We had the promise of a place to live but little else and those around us thought we weren’t being very sensible and some thought we didn’t know what we were doing. But God did, and he provided us with an income, a vehicle, and other needs that I have probably forgotten about.

In the Gospels, I love the stories of Jesus calling his disciples. He is inviting them to take a Grand Gesture and leave their livelihood and the comfort of their home and surroundings and see what following Jesus may do for them. The scandal of the “rich young ruler” is not that Jesus asked him to sell everything that he had but that the young man was unwilling to make a Grand Gesture on account of his faith.

Now, I am not leaving my job, or moving hundreds of miles away but I am making a Grand Gesture towards the next stage of God’s plan for my life. I am pursuing an 18 month training in discipleship and spiritual growth. I have long desired to pursue something like this because I knew I would be enriched by it but I also knew that I could help other Christians. There are so many  that desperately long for a mature faith full of wisdom but don’t know where to start and don’t have someone to guide them.

I want to be that guide. And just like in 2002, I am willing to step forward with God’s plan even when I don’t know how exactly that plan is even possible.

Will you help me?

Please consider giving towards my fund raising efforts. You have been reading my blog and you know my heart and my desire to Grow Up and help others do the same. My Grand Gesture needs your Grand Gesture of giving. There are all sorts of gifts I will send your way if you give but more than anything,  I will have the testimony of God’s faithfulness to share with others just as I did back in 2002.

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