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From the time you enter this world on the day you are born, you are growing in one form or another. From infancy through toddlerhood and eventually, to adolescence, you hear announcements like, “You are growing so fast” or “You have grown so much I didn’t recognize you.” From weight and height numbers recorded in “baby’s first book” to measurement marks on the door facing, you have evidence that you are growing. 

Then from adolescence into your young adult years, you experience moments, even years, of maturing. Whether physically, emotionally, or mentally, you can look back and see how much you have matured in stature, in knowledge, and in self-reliance. Through the moments of embarrassment, you want to forget, to the experiences of self-confidence you want to capture, you have evidence that you are maturing.

Interwoven into the fabric of your living, are experiences of being at one with God and creation. At times you recognize those experiences as growing spiritually, other times you articulate them as growing in faith, and still, at other times you are at peace with God and the people around you. These experiences are evidence that you are becoming who you have been created to be.

The Human Experience

Growing and maturing is part of your human experience. Yet when it comes to becoming more who God created you to be, sometimes you live as if you have arrived at a special place where your life and the world around you does not and should not change.

 You anchor your identity in special issues or beliefs and when those issues or beliefs are challenged there is no room for growth. Even to love the people who are challenging your life forming beliefs or tightly held positions is beyond open conversation and the possibility of transformation. Personal growth and emotional maturity are set aside as you draw a line in the sand, plant your stake in the ground, and refuse to interact with the people who hold different beliefs and opinions. 

Becoming Like Christ

For me, most of my growing and maturing has come with pain and discomfort because I had to change to live into the likeness of Christ. As one example, when I first became a Jesus follower, it was all about me being a good Christian. It was about me being saved, doing the right things, and believing the right beliefs.

As I have encountered Jesus in and through the people I have met over the years, I am grown to understand that being a Jesus follower means I am either a Christian or I am not a Christian. It is about my relationship with others, developing a sensitivity to people, and sharing life’s joys and hurts with people.

I have grown to understand I can only be who God created me to be when I am in a relationship with the people around me and that I can only know the joy of Jesus when I know the sorrow of Jesus.

Are You Growing?

That leads me to this question: how do you know you are growing in Christ? As a Jesus follower, what evidence is there that you have your eyes on Jesus and that you are maturing into a who God created you to be?

When I stop and reflect on these questions, Paul’s letter to the Philippians comes to mind. What I remember is this:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

The characteristics of Jesus’ life were humility, obedience, and self-giving. He did not desire to dominate but to serve. Jesus did not desire his own way but God’s way. He did not desire to exalt himself but to give himself for the glory of God and the goodness of the people around him.

Love So Amazing

So, to grow into the likeness of Christ means that you will exhibit humility, obedience, and self-giving in your ordinary daily living. Here are some things to remember.

  1. Jesus won your heart not by blasting you with power, but by showing you a love which moved your heart. My guess is, you did not say, “I cannot resist such power,” but you did say, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.” I bet you did not say, “I have been beaten to surrender.” But you did say, “I am lost in wonder, love, and praise.” It is not the might of Christ which reduces you to a defeated surrender; it is the amazing love of Christ before whom you kneel in transforming wonder. 

2. Growing and maturing is part of your human experience. So, imagine yourself growing into the likeness of Christ. The one aim of Jesus was to serve others, no matter what the cost of self-giving love. Jesus focused his eyes upon glorifying God. So, as a follower of Jesus, imagine yourself, not thinking of yourself but of others, not of your own glory but of the glory of God.

Can you see yourself with the same mind that was in Christ Jesus? 

Make Me Like Jesus

Let me tell you about Joe. Joe was known as a hopeless, dirty, drunk for whom there was little hope. Sleeping in the back alleys of the inner city, he was alone, known only as an alcoholic and a drug user. 

One night, trying to keep dry at the Salvation Army shelter during a heavy rainstorm, Joe met Jesus. Everything changed for him that night. He became the most caring person that anyone at the shelter had ever known. He spent his days and nights doing whatever needed to be done. Whether it was cleaning up the remnants left by a sick alcoholic or scrubbing the toilets in the men’s room, or offering words of encouragement to a person in detox, there was never a task that was too low or a person he considered beneath him. 

Joe greeted everyone with a soft smile. He was grateful for the chance to help. Joe could be counted on to feed the hurting and broken men who wandered in off the streets. He was known to tuck them into bed when they were too out of it to take care of themselves. 

Is Jesus Like Joe?

One evening, the shelter chaplain was delivering his nightly sermon to the usual crowd. Most people present were simply waiting for the sermon to be over so that they could eat the evening meal. 

At the end of the sermon, an invitation was given. One man came down the aisle to the altar. He knelt there and began crying for God to help him change. He cried out, “Oh God! Make me like Joe! Make me like Joe! Please, O God, make me like Joe.” 

The chaplain knelt beside him to assist him. He leaned over and said to him, “You know, I think it would be better if you prayed, “Make me like Jesus!” 

The man looked up at the chaplain and said, “Why? Is Jesus like Joe?” 

Who Does Jesus Look Like?

Does Jesus look like Joe? Or does Jesus look like Tim? Does Jesus look like Sara or Amy, Dennis or Greg, Karen or Bill, or does Jesus look like you? For people who don’t know Jesus or know about him, they will be looking at you. “Who does Jesus look like?” If they are going to know Jesus or anything about him, it will be through someone they already know, someone they recognize, someone who is familiar, someone who bears the likeness of Jesus, someone like you. 

Can you see yourself growing into the likeness of Christ for the sake of the people around you? 

Your Turn

Over the next week, respond to these questions with your actions.

1. How will your actions show Jesus?

Where will you show mercy? In our day, mercy seems to be rare. When people sense it, it always seems to be extraordinary. Whenever you show mercy, you show Jesus. To grow into the likeness of Jesus is to engage in acts of mercy. Where will you show mercy this week?

2. How will your words show Jesus?

What message will you share? Dorothy Day said, “If I have achieved anything in my life, it is because I have not been embarrassed to talk about God.” Take a minute to write down five things you want to say out loud about Jesus. Now, have a conversation with your spouse, your children, your parents, your best friend. Tell each of them about who Jesus is in your life. Ask each of them to help you grow into the likeness of Jesus so that when you speak, your words show Jesus. What message will you share this week?

3. How will your relationships show Jesus?

With whom will you express God’s love? The love you experience in and through Jesus keeps you in a relationship with the people around you. This Christlike love knows no bitterness and always seeks the good of others. It may reside in your heart, but it does not originate in your heart. God’s love is given to you so you have the Christlike ability to love the unlovely and the unlovable. The love of God is given to you because you will need it to love those who do not love you. It is the very essence of the life of a Jesus follower. It is what makes a lasting impact on the lives of people God loves through you. With whom will you express God’s love this week? 

What one step will you take to grow into the likeness of Christ? As a Jesus follower, you have this strange and wonderful authority from God to be Christ for others, to be the very presence and love of God. You will not always see it. But, God’s grace is shown and known in your acts of mercy, in your words of kindness, and in your friendships. God’s love, when fully realized, leaves a lasting impact on who you are and what you do. 

What evidence in your life shows you are growing into the likeness of Christ? If you are not growing in pointing people to Jesus, then what is the point of your life? 

There is in most of us a deep uncertainty and tension about change.  On one hand, you want to grow, develop, and expand. Even when it brings anxiety, you may like some level of adventure.  Growing is a part of who you are. The idea of becoming more than you are is exciting.

On the other hand, you recoil at the change.  There is fearful anxiety of the unknown.  What will the “not-yet-experienced” be like? Then, when someone or something even suggests that you change, you defend yourself, dig in, and protect who you are.

Then there is the tendency to do nothing.  You just don’t want to make the effort to adjust to what change means or calls forth?

These are some of the inner challenges you face as you change and grow. That is why I ask the question: Do you want to grow? As a Jesus follower, do you want to become who God has created you to be?

Are you willing?

If you have been baptized, I assume that you have said, at least symbolically, “I want to grow” or “I am ready to grow.” Because with baptism, you respond to God’s invitation to grow into who God has created you to be. So, you have a desire to grow.  That is what you bring to growth, your desire, your willingness, your response to God’s invitation.

You know, that really is all you bring to the process of growth: your willingness or unwillingness.  You are created so that you can choose to either grow toward God’s dream for you or to set yourself against the tide and refuse it.  If you want to grow, there is no end to what you can become. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But this is precisely what is written: God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being.” (I Corinthians 2:9) But if that desire does not exist, because it has been choked out by fear or pride or shame or resistance, not even the God who made heaven and earth is willing to force it upon you.

Questions from Jesus

Do you remember the story of Jesus walking beside the pool of Bethesda?  There were sick people gathered by the pool.  The tradition was that when the waters stirred an angel was nearby and the first person to get into the pool would be healed of his/her affliction.  People came from all around with the hope of being healed.  As Jesus moved through the gathering of sick people, his attention was drawn to one man who had been lying there for thirty-eight years.  Jesus went over to him asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

On the surface that sounds like a ridiculous question.  That man had been waiting for thirty-eight years. Of course, he wants to be healed. Yet Jesus was aware that change is never simple. Have you read the story?  The man’s response reveals his uncertainty and tension regarding change.  He begins to make excuses and shifts the blame to other people.  He says, “The problem is, I have no one to help me into the pool. When the water bubbles, someone else always gets in ahead of me.”

Jesus’ Persistence

Notice that Jesus does not let him sidestep the issue.   Jesus asks him again, “Do you want to be healed?”  I can imagine the conversation going like this, “Man, the real issue is your willingness to be healed. Have you become so accustomed to this life of lying here and blaming others that you really don’t want to change? After all, there are benefits to being sick. No one expects anything of you.  You don’t have to work.  You don’t have to face the pressures of being active. You don’t have to do anything any different than what you have been doing.

Truthfully, would you really accept the help if it were offered?  You would have to become vulnerable enough to acknowledge you need help and then accept it. You must swallow pride and shame and a sense of self-sufficiency.  So, I am asking you the real question. Here and now, do you want to be healed?”

The Answer

For the first time in thirty-eight years, the real issue was spelled out for the man.  He could no longer evade it or blame it on someone else.  So, when confronted by Jesus, the man dared to say, “Yes, I want to change.”  Immediately the process of healing began.  A thirty-eight-year cycle was broken, and a new way of living began to take shape.  He began to take responsibility for carrying his own load rather than being carried.

Sure, there were pains in this new life. Significant change brings both gain and loss. But, look at the new possibilities available to the man. Once he made the decision to grow, to change, he had a whole new world before him.  It is the same for you when you are willing to become vulnerable by stepping out in courage to brave the new reality. The good news is, it is never too late to start growing again. You are never too old to start. If after thirty-eight years of immobility this man could begin to move again, why can’t you?

Your Turn

Do you want to grow? As a Jesus follower, are you willing to do what it takes to become who God has created you to be? If so, then here is what you need to do:

  1. Name four trusted friends with whom you are willing to become vulnerable.
  2. Through prayer and reflection, focus upon who God has created you to be. Test your desires with your friends.
  3. Trust your friends to name what must be addressed for you to step out in courage to brave your new reality?
  4. What one thing will you do, today, to step into that new reality?
  5. Now, with the love, care, and encouragement of your friends, step out in faith to live the life God created for you.

Do you want to grow? If you do, then the sky is the limit.

God is “able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20.

There is nothing more basic than the desire to grow. If the desire is present in your life, no number of obstacles can keep God from finishing that which God has begun.  If the desire is not present, then not even our great creator God can make God’s dream come true.

Do you want to grow?  Then, in the name of Jesus, get started!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you hear the story of the little boy who fell out of bed? When his mother asked him what happened, he answered, “I don’t know.  I guess I stayed too close to where I got in.”

It is easy to do the same with our faith.  It is tempting to stay close to where we got in and never move.

Growth is important to every Christian. When a Christian stops growing, help is needed.  If you are the same Christian you were a few months ago, be careful.  You might need a checkup.  Not on your body but on your heart. You don’t need a physical checkup, you need a spiritual checkup.

Growth is especially important in becoming a courageous leader.

Courageous, faithful leaders are growing leaders. Courageous leaders know when change is needed. Here's a four step check-in process for staying in touch with your growth & development. #tgif #grow #courage #faith #christian #transformingmission Transforming Mission

 

Becoming a Courageous Leader – Grow

A few weeks ago, Sara Thomas introduced us to a weekly checkup called TGIF: Trust, Gratitude, Inspiration, and Faith.  She wrote, “…if all leadership begins with self-leadership, there are things that need to improve.”  She continued, “I know the impact reflection has on transformation.  If you want growth, stop and reflect.”

She proposed taking time each week to reflect upon four TGIF questions to assist in growing in faith and in developing as courageous leaders:

  1. What am I TRUSTING?
  2. For whom or what am I GRATEFUL?
  3. What is INSPIRING me?
  4. How am I practicing FAITH?

T.G.I.F.

Today, I want to share my experience with this spiritual habit.  It has become a weekly checkup for me.

Trusting

What am I trusting?

I am trusting the habit of prayer. I have been reflecting upon Paul’s words to the Roman Christians, “Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer” (Romans 12:12 CEB). I have learned that the only way I can deepen my prayer life is to pray.  In fact, I am trusting a shift in my habit.  It is a shift from having a prayer life to living a life of prayer.

I have also learned that courageous leaders have a habit of prayer.  So, let me offer you some encouragement.  If you want to deepen your prayer life, then pray.  Trust your relationship with God and pray.  Don’t attend a prayer lecture, engage in prayer discussions, or read “how-to” pray books.  Each activity is important, but the best way to establish a habit of prayer is to pray.

Grateful

For whom or what am I grateful?

This week, I am grateful for trusted friends. I am grateful for those so close they not only love me just the way I am, but they give of themselves so I can become who God created me to be. I am grateful for the embodiment of unconditional and unselfish love. I am grateful for the habit of meeting with or connecting with those who can speak truth with such love that I want to be more like Jesus.

It has been my experience that courageous leaders are surrounded with trusted friends who love so deeply they can speak the truth that brings transformation. As leaders, we have the opportunity to model such love.  I have learned that without those trusted friends, it is easy to compete with one another, insist on our own way, and quarrel with one another.  Courageous leaders, surrounded in love, step into the world to live and lead in such a way that we model the love of Jesus.

Inspiration

What is inspiring me?

This week, the habit of worship is inspiring me. Consider the words from the letter to the Hebrews, “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing.  Instead, encourage each other especially as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25 CEB).  Because I worship in different churches, with different Christians, at different times, I have learned to celebrate God’s love in every act of worship.

Through my experience of worship, I have learned that courageous leaders are inspired in and through a habit of worship. So often, as leaders, you and I need support and encouragement.  We need to be with people who celebrate God’s love in Jesus and who share God’s love as natural as breathing. We need the fellowship of like-hearted people, focused upon Jesus, leading the mission of reaching out and receiving people in God’s love, introducing people to God’s love, practicing God’s love, and engaging the community in God’s love.

Faith

How am I practicing faith? I am practicing faith by fixing my eyes on Jesus. My Lenten journey has me engaged in reflecting and sharing the grace I have experienced in and through Jesus and my friends.

This week I have reflected upon Jesus looking at the broken and distorted parts of my life. Instead of judging and condemning me, Jesus knelt in front of me and, from the basin of grace, he scooped a palm full of mercy and washed away my sin.  This week I have reflected upon how he has taken up residence in my life and has given me the opportunity to offer the grace I have received.  Because he has a forgiving heart, I have a forgiving heart.  Because he has forgiven me, I can forgive others.

Are you growing in your faith? Courageous leaders know when change is needed. Here's a four step check-in process for staying in touch with your growth & development. #tgif #grow #courage #faith #christian #transformingmission Transforming Mission

Courageous Leadership

John, in his Gospel, writes, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash each other’s feet.  I did this as an example so that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14-15).

As courageous leaders, you and I must look beyond the literal reading of that scripture and allow ourselves to be washed by God’s love.  Courageous leadership is rooted in the message of God’s mercy.  Jesus offers unconditional love so we can offer unconditional love.  God’s grace precedes our mistakes, so our grace precedes the mistakes of others.  Those of us in the circle of Christ have no doubt of his love.  We now have the responsibility of enlarging the circle to include others who should have no doubt of our love.

If you and I are going to be who God created us to be, we need to keep growing in our faith. So, how are you growing in faith? What are you trusting? For whom or what are you grateful? What is inspiring you? How are you practicing faith?

Courageous leaders don’t make the mistake of the little boy.  They have habits that help them grow beyond where they started, engage in God’s love, and grow to become who God created them to be. So, let it be!