Welcome to our new series: Be transformed by experiencing God’s love.
Do you ever wonder (like me) what it means to grow as a Christ follower?
Is growth about a list of dos and don’ts? (“No.” Thank God!)
Or is it about how much you serve God and others? (Depends.)
Or is it about how we conduct ourselves at work, or how we treat family, our friends, and our enemies?
And if a spiritual transformation in Christ is about first being transformed by God’s love so we live differently as shown by changed relationships, what is the process?
We’ll dip into James Bryan Smith’s book The Good and Beautiful God as our guide. He includes practical tips he calls “soul-training exercises.”
I highly recommend getting his book if you want to go deeper because we’ll skim his book here.
According to James. B. Smith, the four components of heart transformation are:
(1) changing the stories in our minds,
(2) engaging in new practices,
(3) in reflection and dialogue with others who are on the same path,
(4) all under the leading of the Holy Spirit (pp. 23-24).
For a visual, see the photo above as it is from Smith’s book The Good and Beautiful God, p. 24:
- “The Holy Spirit.” [Key!]
- “Adopting the Narratives of Jesus.” (This the focus of this post.)
- “Participating in Community.” (Yes!!! Join us.)
- “Engaging in Soul-Training Exercises.”
Earlier, we talked about sleep as the first exercise in spiritual formation [becoming like Christ in word, deed, and desires.]
Your response via e-mail and in the comments to my post inspired this series.
Before you can change the story in your mind, you must identify the story (assuming you don’t like the story’s end, so you want to change it).
Hint: This is part of our renewing our mind (see Romans 12:1-2).
From our earliest memories, our parents, our siblings, our grandparents, and we as children are telling ourselves stories.
When you remember a significant event, it is often embedded in a story.
Think of the story of Paul Revere or the story of the Warriors winning the championship the first time (or whatever sports team you like/love).
“We are shaped by our stories. . . our stories, once in place, determine much of our behavior without regard to their accuracy or helpfulness.”James B. Smith, The Good and Beautiful God, 25.
What story are you telling yourself today about a situation you face at work, in parenting, or in a relationship, be it a friendship or in marriage?
You may think, who cares what stories I’m telling myself?
Well, the stories we tell ourselves are “running and (often ruining) our lives. That is why it is crucial to get the right narratives [or stories].” (Smith, 25).
Are you a prophet of doom and gloom? A friend of mine calls it “catastrophizing.”
I’ve believed lies about God, myself, and life (and I sometimes still do but much less). If you’ve read 7 Days of Soul Care, you know some of those lies.
Please hear me: I am not saying to paint on a happy face when you’re sad.
I’m saying: we can learn to tell stories like David did in the Psalms. Or the way Jesus did in the Gospels, always pointing back to God.
David shared the ugly wail of pain, the desire for his enemies to get the boot, along with praise for God’s presence and love.
Jesus always looked to God for his perspective and for what to say (see John 12: 49-50). As Graham Cooke reminded me: I can’t afford to have a thought about myself that God doesn’t have.
For example, does God say, “Why aren’t you more like so and so?” No. God doesn’t compare his children but his children sometimes do.
- God looks at each beloved child as unique and a delight. No favoritism. If you grew up in a family where a parent or parents played favorites, you know how painful that can be.
Even if you grew up with the message, “you’re nothing special,” please hear God saying: “You’re special because I created you in love for love.”
- Reading Scripture enables you to tell a different story
For weeks, I’ve been praying Jeremiah 17:14 for myself and friends. Healing comes in different shapes, sizes, and shades.
Your turn, if you’d like, write a story (past or current) about a situation (sad, happy, ordinary, or fabulous).
- Write without editing. Or talk and record if you’re not a writer.
- When you’re done, read it, then see if you can see what you’re believing in when it come to yourself, God, the situation, or someone else. Then compare it with what God says in the Bible.
- Let God help you author a new story. (I highly recommend. Sometimes you may do many revisions of your story with God (across decades).)
- If you need help, finding a Bible verse, let me know in the comments or in our closed Facebook group or via a FB message.
If you want to share in the comments, please feel free.
This is what I sometimes do when I journal as part of my prayer time.
What do you think?
I always appreciate hearing from you.
(*) For observant readers: I changed the series’ name from the first post, “You are blessed and loved.”
P.S. Thanks for praying for Sunday’s talk on Psalm 23. God in His impeccable timing reminded me through Jesus Calling‘s May 14 reading: God uses the weak when I surrender my weakness to Him (see 2 Cor. 12:9). Grateful for each person who prayed! Best of all, I loved meeting some of the residents like Kim, who even in her full body chair, radiated God’s love. So Thank You for your partnership!
Photo of sheep’s face via Xavier Teo via Unsplash.com
Linking with encouraging Holley #CoffeeForMyHeart