Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 15

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship WithJesus.You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 15: Communion Ain’t Supposed To Be Convenient: Being “with Jesus” in the Eucharist

– “All Christian power springs from communion with God and from the indwelling of divine grace – James H. Aughey

–  Eucharist – means thanksgiving

–  Last Supper – 25% of John is found in the upper room during the Last Supper

– Within 18 hours of breaking bread with his disciples, Jesus was crucified

–  The great sacrament is fully revealed not through the intake of bread and wine but through the outflow of the risen Christ living his life through his apprentices

Lord’s Supper, Communion, and Eucharist all are names for the practice of the sacrament of taking the bread and the cup in remembrance of Jesus’ blood and body sacrificed on the cross. But each one of those terms seem to have different meanings. Communion obviously is a connection to something, Eucharist is a thanksgiving, and the term Lord’s Supper just seems to reference the objective fact that the last drink and food that Jesus consumed was the bread and wine. Someone smarter than me needs to develop a thinking that melds all of these three terms into something that better captures the mystery of the practice.

Apprentice Activity: Let’s Make Communion Inconvenient

–  Find an Anglican, Episcopal, or Lutheran Church that practices open communion  and be a participant in the next 24 hours

–   Pray that God will be a real and living presence in every atom of your body

– Before making a decision take 15 seconds for a slow, deep breath and say, ” In this situation, live your life through me.”

Here is how I worked through this activity. I combined three exercises that I had committed to into one one hour session. It was fantastic. First, I committed to fast on Wednesday for lunch and supper. Second, I took the previous Apprentice Activity of reading John 14-17. Third, I decided to participate in the Lord’s Supper during my lunch on Wednesday. (I did find an Anglican church in my area that has an 11 a.m. Wednesday Communion service but I was afraid that I wouldn’t get back to work in time so I bought some grape juice and some crackers and went for it)

  1. I took my hour lunch break and began reading John 14-17 in one sitting
  2. I listened to some quiet worship music and then read the Matthew account of the Lord’s Supper
  3. I took the cracker and then the drink and sat in silence for a while. I sought connection with God and help for the rest of the day ahead.

What is Jesus teaching me? Just to constantly seek him. I am finding moments when I just long for his presence and I have no problem cutting off distractions to be with him.

Are you connected with Jesus? Do you seek him out? Do you want him to find you?

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 13

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 13: Life Is Too Long: When The Journey of Salvation Becomes Mechanical

– American Christians settle for an experience of God instead of learning to live our lives with God

–  “We have made it where Christ may be received without any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver” – A.W. Tozer

–  At the center of the universe is a relationship, at the center of existence is community

– We would rather play forgiven sinner than be an apprentice of Jesus

– The Christian life is an interactive and transforming friendship with God

I have been on a mission for several years now to express spiritual formation and discipleship as a common aspect of the Christian life. Just as common as attending church or reading your Bible. Still, people often see discipleship as a mere add on that isn’t a neccesity or even a requirement. How is this mentality expressing our love for God? We love him enough to sing praises to him on a Sunday morning but not live a life that reflects that love? That does not make any sense to me and that is why I am drawn to books such as this one.

Apprentice Activity: Lets Get Real

–  Read over John 10:10

–   Ask yourself if you are experiencing the “abundant life” of God

Confess to God where you are missing the abundant life, where you fail to be in conversation with your Master, and how you have reduced life with God to something else.

– Quiet yourself to hear a reply from God

The key part of John 10:10 for me is not the part about Jesus giving life and life more abundantly but the part about what Satan plans to do. Satan wants to steal, kill, and destroy. That is what strikes me and reminds me that the things of this world are just tools of Satan to destroy my life but the things of God will give me a life beyond anything that I can understand and appreciate. To make the contrast of Satan’s ways and God’s ways leaves me desperately seeking God and his Kingdom.

What is Jesus teaching me? Dallas Willard talks about a pattern of change that works. He calls it the VIM pattern. Vision, Intention, and Means. We all can guess at the means but we struggle with the vision and the intention. I feel that through this study, God has been giving me a deeper vision of what my life can look like when it is transformed by Christ. This chapter details how mechanical our view of salvation often is and develops in me a dream of my life enriched and empowered by the transformative power of Jesus.

Are you just a forgiven sinner that is missing an interactive relationship with Christ? Do you consider God as your friend?

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 10

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 10: The Bad: I Am Worse Than I Can Imagine

–  Honesty is the starting block for change

–  “The intelligent person recognizes that his or her well being lies in being in harmony with God and with what God is doing” – Dallas Willard

–  Essence of sin – that God does not have our best interest at heart

– Find the honesty to admit utter ruin that results from living severed from the energy of God

I cannot tell you how crucial the concept of sin expressed in this reading has been for me. The idea that we have to take care of ourselves because God doesn’t know what is best for us is so much more transforming than listing a bunch of activities that we know God hates. I can think of direct times in my life, some even this week, when I overcame temptation simply by asking myself, “Do I believe that God knows what he is doing regarding this particular situation or I am I going to reject Him and take matters in my own hands?”

Apprentice Activity: Owning the Bad

– Apart from God the soul is ruined

–   Find a quiet place and think about how your life runs when you are in control

Ask these two questions:

How do things go in my life when I am in control instead of God?

What are the ways that I can make sure I am allowing God to be God – today?

The crux of this chapter has been on honesty. In order to achieve change, you must be able to recognize where change is needed and why it has been so difficult to change. This activity will certainly help us become more honest but I wonder if some of us are truly able to be honest with ourselves? I wonder if we all might need a little outside help, maybe from a trusted friend or family member?

What is Jesus teaching me? Give up control. Give up control. Give up control. The more control I have on my life the less I am walking with Christ in this apprentice relationship. I remember a low point in my life a few years ago when I felt that I had so little control over my life that I was determined to train our dog simply to show that I could control something. It didn’t work. I let myself get more discouraged instead of falling at the feet of Jesus and giving up my will for the chance to walk in his.

What do you need to turn over to God? Do you believe that God has your best interest at heart? Do you believe that God knows what he is doing?

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 7

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 7: Emulating the Master’s Creativity: The Joy of Originality

–  Three most common character traits of God – creative, compassionate, and community

–  To be God’s apprentice means, among other things, to be our most creative selves because he is creative

–  God has made us to experience joy in imitating his creative activity

When thinking about being an apprentice of Jesus, one would not immediately think about becoming more creative. Being creative is one of God’s most enjoyable things to do. The Bible tells us that each day of God’s creation included a time when God admired what he had created and said that it was good. If you think about it though, are there more enjoyably proud moments than when something that you had a hand in creating comes to fruition? This pride isn’t self centeredness but joy similar to God’s joy in his creation.

Apprentice Activity: Being Creative “with God”

–  Make a list of everything you do that is creative

–   Ask yourself, “Which of these creative tasks is most life giving?”

Narrow your list to one and find some time to be creative “with-God”

I have a huge interest in music and have some friends who are really good at it. I admire the ability to create a song with an enjoyable melody and piercing lyrics. Occasionally, I will try to write up a song. Here is one song, entitled “Mega Church Blues,” that I wrote the lyrics to and my friend David put to music. Besides music, I just enjoy writing, as you can tell if you have visited this blog very often. Some things just come to me and I enjoy playing around with the ideas. It is fun. For example, here is my Guide to Selecting A Rock Band Name:

1. You can not use numbers in your name

2. You can not use interstellar references (planet, star, rockets, etc.)
3. Words big and super can not be used at any time. Neither can small or little.
4. No quality band has ever used the name path of adding “and.” Such as Echo and the Bunnymen, Homer Hickam and the Rocketboys, etc.
5. You cannot use colors in your name
6. Try to use a two word name. These are easy to remember and roll off the tongue with ease. Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Public Enemy.
7. The longer the name the more chance of obscurity. Indie band names keep getting longer and longer for some reason.
8. Animal references are to be used sparingly. How many wolf and bear bands have come out in the last 10 years? Too many to name.
9. The best place to find names is in songs from your favorite band. There used to be a band named the Barefoot Servants which was named from a line in the Dylan song All Along the Watchtower.
10. Do not use references to famous people. Yule’s Big Blue Brenner is a terrible name.
11. Unless you are bilingual, do not use Los in your name.

What is Jesus teaching me? I have tried to honor God by this blog. I have struggled with whether or not I make this blog more about me than about God and his glory. The lesson today gave me some reassurance that my efforts in creating, designing, and managing this blog are my way of emulating God’s creativity. I thank God for this opportunity and how he has used this venture to help grow me and transform me and hopefully benefit others.

What do you learn about God through your creative moments? How can creativity be a way to worship God?

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 6

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Booksand Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 6: Love Is God’s Money: Compassion As The Economy of the Trinity

–  1 John 4:16 –  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

–  We are created to love and be loved in return

–  Self-forgetful love brings pure joy

–  The key to joyfulness is the spiritual power of the Trinity, self-forgetful love

Though you never want to be in the habit of reducing God, scripture does it for us with its mention of God as love. To be created in God’s image is to be created in love and for love. Americans especially think that something that is more complicated is more valuable. Though God is complex and a mystery, we can understand him and his ways by just understanding love.

Apprentice Activity: Getting Into The Flow  — With Simple Acts of Kindness

–  Other-focused love has great benefit to our souls

–  Think of three people you can surprise today with a simple act of kindness. Then ask God to help you carry out your plan. Notice how it feels to become lost in other-focused love.

I failed on this activity for a couple of reasons. I still intend to do it but at the time I failed to make it happen. For one reason, I was not feeling well. I was feeling drained, I was dealing with severe allergies, and stomach problems. If you want to have a disruption to your spiritual life, then just get sick. You other-focused mentality quickly becomes self-focused.

Another reason that I failed was because I was too busy. There was too much going on at home and with activities involving the home that I was running around too much to even focus on helping others. I hope that acts of kindness are a natural part of my life that I don’t have to have set moments to participate in kindness but I know that I could have been more intentional in response to this activity.

What is Jesus teaching me? I am slowly learning how to step into the Trinity and trust. I don’t know if this example will make any sense but on Saturday I found my self just trusting God for my daily energy, concentration, and security. I took the reigns off my controlling nature  involving time and my to do list and just trusted God. Though my day was busy and filled with many activities, I just had a calm about me and a confidence that God knew what he was doing. I ended up having the time and the energy to get done what I needed to get done plus do some things that I enjoy.

What part of your life do you need to hand over to God? As a Christian, you have already trusted God for your salvation but have you trusted him for your life?

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 5

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Booksand Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 5: Desiring to Dance With The Trinity: God as Joy in Motion

–  At the center of the universe is a relationship…a loving community known as the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)

–  This Trinitarian framework is a community of love

–  Each member of the Trinity interacts with the other members with mutual love and delight

–  God is not static but a life or a kind of drama – a dance

– We are called to enter the dance

– More than pious productivity, we are called to learn to dance with God and value loving relationships

– Within the dance you do not feel alone, lost, or confused

What Moon is trying to say with all of this talk of  “the drama” and “the dance” is that the Trinity is the perfect example of proper community and relationship. In the Trinity we learn about submission, mutual respect, and unity. Moon wants the reader to understand that to fully become changed we must become immersed in this Trinitarian framework.

I find this hard to grasp and visualize in my own life. But, the robust and dynamic way of looking at the Trinity is profound and worthy of more attention from me. We hear few sermons or studies on the Trinity and when we do it is more to explain what each member of the Trinity does as opposed to how they work together in a community.

Apprentice Activity: Re-visioning The Trinity

–  Find a quiet place and read Jesus prayer for his disciples (John 17). Then slowly re-read both John 17:3 and 17:20-23

–  Jesus’ only description of eternal life is found in verse 3.

– Joy is a dominant theme that surrounds Jesus

Find a mirror and say the following to yourself:

“I am an apprentice of Jesus Christ, and I can live the rest of my life “with God,” in interactive relationship, receiving help, advice from God, joining in the dance of the Trinity.”

In the reading from John 17,  Jesus prays for the following: for his followers to be ‘kept in the name,’ to be one, to have ‘my joy fulfilled in them,’ to be kept from the evil one, to be sanctified in the truth, to be one just as ‘you and I are one’, and to see the glory ‘which you have given me’. What a list and to think that Jesus prays that for us, even now.

In this blog, I often stress taking smaller chunks of scripture and meditating over them rather than having marathon Bible reading sessions. I could spend weeks pouring over John 17 and meditating over its richness. I encourage you to read this passage over and over this week. It is not a one sitting reading. It will take a lifetime to understand Jesus’ deep love and care found in this prayer.

What is Jesus teaching me? I think becoming like Jesus is a difficult thing to do but it is not impossible. In fact, it is highly possible once I understand what all has already been done in my behalf to make it a possibility. Just rereading the prayer of Jesus and to think that he is voicing this prayer over and over for his people should give us the hope we need that we can change not because of what we are doing but because of what Jesus and the Holy Spirit are doing in us. We have unbelievable resources working on our behalf and at our disposal. We need to move into this reality and live beyond spiritual doubt, fatalism, and frustration. There is no room for these things in the Kingdom of God.

What has held you back from the confidence that you can become closer to God? Do you know what Christ has done for you to bring you the ‘with-God’ life?

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 3

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 3: Why Paul Rarely Quoted Jesus

–  Paul only quoted Jesus three times – Acts 20:35, 1 Cor. 11:23-25, 2 Cor. 12:9

–  Paul refers to us being “in Christ” or to Christ being “in us” 160 times

– Paul stressed the possibility of entering into union with Christ

–  Key passage – staying connected to Jesus – John 15:1-5 (Vine and branches)

– “I do good because of Christ in me not because I read the Sermon on the Mount”

I found this chapter very enlightening as I have struggled with the apparent differences between Jesus’ emphasis and Paul’s. Recently, the topic has also been hotly debated among scholars and theologians. Moon makes a great case for Paul’s understanding that Jesus’ teachings were only doable as long as the believer is attached to Jesus and Jesus attached to them. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – Colossians 1:27.

Apprentice Activity: Take Communion Forty Times A Day

–  Because of God’s vastness and greatness as well as his intimacy with believers, to breathe is to commune with God

– List three things that you will do frequently over the next 24 hours

–  When you do these things, take a 20 second break and work through the following:

1. Inhale and say, “Jesus, I invite you to the center of my being”

2. Exhale, “I don’t way to be a Vampire Christian.”

3. Inhale, “Christ, I want a total transfusion of your life into my own.”

4. Exhale, “Live your life through me.”

The three activities that I chose were: placing things in the trash can, going to the bathroom, and being stopped at a stop light. Because these things are so common place, it took me a while to remind myself to work through the statements above. In the bathroom was probably the easiest to remember. I started this activity on a Saturday which means that I was at home. With three kids under the age of 12, the days are not filled with quiet rhythms and reflection but with frequent interruptions and distractions. This activity not only helped me stay focused on God during the day but also helped me in my interactions with my kids. “Live your life through me” became a much repeated prayer throughout the day.

What is Jesus teaching me? I am a pretty disciplined person. I set a goal to shoot baskets for 15 minutes everyday when I was in fourth grade and I didn’t stop until I was a senior in college. So, practicing the things of Jesus isn’t always my problem but doing them in the strength and power of Christ within me is something that I am just recently coming to realize. My will power is no comparison to the resurrection power of Christ working in my life. In James Bryan Smith’s book, The Good And Beautiful God, he stresses that Christians are “Ones In Whom Christ Dwells”. Facing up to that narrative in our lives is enough to change our thinking and begin to change our actions.

Are you one in whom Christ dwells? What does that reality mean for you now?

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 2

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 2: Getting Beyond Vampire Christianity (Transformation as Transfusion)

–  Christians seem to want to fight about politics and religion, and music styles and stay away from the tough issues: actually becoming like Jesus

–  Vampire Christianity – we want Jesus for his blood (forgiveness and eternal life) but not for a total transfusion of Jesus’ life and character

– Apprentices – daily relationship that begins with conversation and progresses into intimate communion

– “Salvation that emphasizes forgiveness of sins over a lifelong journey to union with God is not salvation.”

– Transformation = Transfusion

Yesterday, our pastor at our church was preaching on love for God and mentioned that sometimes we love the idea of salvation more than we love God, the architect of salvation. He mentioned that it is almost like we are just using God for his salvation. This reminded me of this chapter on Vampire Christianity. How our faith got so distorted I have no idea but I am grateful that there seems to be a push among believers to find a more well balanced view of salvation.

Apprentice Activity: Lets Begin By Imitating Some Drunks

– Dallas Willard – “Any program for Christian Spiritual Formation will look a whole lot like an AA program.”

– Moon takes the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and modifies them for the purposes of Spiritual Formation. He calls them the 12 Confessions. You can find the 12 Confessions here (copy and paste the link into your browser):

–  Make each a confession to God. Pause after saying each and ask yourself if you truly made this step. Do all 12 but focus on the first three.

Through my readings in spiritual formation I have often come across the value of AA for real change and eliminating addictions. I have seen its effectiveness in friends I have known who have had to go through it. I was delighted to see Moon using the 12 Steps as a model for our transformation from a ruined heart to a transformed heart.

What is Jesus teaching me? Because I work on a Christian college campus and have spent some time in seminary classes, I have been in my fair share of discussions about doctrine and have wrestled with theology from a purely academic perspective. I have had my fill of it. I just want Jesus to be who he intends to be in my life. I believe that he is God’s son and that he came to give me an abundant life. I accept him at his word and pray for him to transform my heart to reflect his own. This process is a lifetime activity. I don’t have time for discussions that focus on the mind without also considering the heart.

What do you want Jesus to be in your life? Are you using Jesus? Or are you living to be his apprentice?