|Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness|
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We can feel overwhelmed as we think about becoming more like Christ. But rather than scolding herself, Jan Johnson asks "What can I do in the next 10 minutes to connect with God?" In Invitation to the Jesus Life, Johnson takes a closer look at several scenes from Jesus' ministry and the Godly traits He demonstrates. She then offers practical exercises in spiritual growth to help you practice these qualities. By connecting with God and spending time with Him, His love and character will begin to flow through you, from the inside out.
Invitation to the Jesus Life
Christianbook.com Interview with Jan Johnson
Q) Where did the idea of Invitation to the Jesus Life start? Was there a particular question you wanted to answer, or an event that sparked your interest?
A) I’m concerned that much is made of spiritual disciplines or practices such as: Have you read your Bible today? Have you prayed today? These practices are not to be elevated and checked off for the sake of doing them (as the Pharisees did) but they are wonderful means of connecting with God. Knowing God is the point, not just doing practices.
I wrote this book to put Jesus front and center and to help people meet the Trinitarian person of God as revealed in Scripture. Then at the end of each chapter about Jesus, I offer 15 or so practices that help us connect with God today.
Q) What makes your book different from others that address
similar topics of spiritual formation and the spiritual disciplines?
A) While I have written a great deal about both, I want Jesus
and the kingdom life that Jesus offers us today to take a front seat.
Q) Can you give any advice to folks who have difficulty finding
time to be still and connect with God?
A) Don’t try too hard. Take a walk. Do something slow you like
to do. Enjoy just being with God. Don’t even try to hear God. Just be still and
love that God is God.
Q) You talk about how “For Jesus, listening was a vehicle to
love people.” What do you think this demonstrates about Jesus’ character? About
A) First, all three members of the Trinity are relational. They listen to and love one another and
invite us into that circle of love. They teach us that loving others is about
submitting ourselves to each other in the form of listening deeply without thinking of what I want to say next. They put each other first; through
listening to each other, we learn (with difficulty!) to put one another first.
Q) Please elaborate on how God uses our tears to develop
compassion. How can this become a spiritual discipline?
A) A weeping heart—whether this manifests itself in physical
wet tears or an inner mourning—comes from God. God wept and mourned for the
nations throughout the Old Testament prophetic books. Today as I read the
newspaper or the internet news I must not do so just out of curiosity, but out
of a concern for the world God so loves. I read so that I may know how to pray
for this world. Closer to home, a concerned heart for my neighbor with cancer
makes me pray for him and act to help him have what he needs today. Weeping becomes
a discipline when we pay attention to what breaks God’s heart in a society that wants only to be happy.
Q) You give suggestions at the end of Chapter 11 to help the reader “absorb the fearless courage of God.” Many of these exercises involve reading, meditating on Scripture or visualizing yourself as the participant in a Biblical scenario—how does focusing on the Word calm our fears?
A) It does so as we immerse ourselves in the activities and phrases of the passage. If I can be in that boat that’s about to capsize and turn to Jesus for help, I’ll also do it in life. I need to imagine Jesus speaking to the wind and sea and absorb the truth of that. I need to be mesmerized by the image of Jesus walking on the sea in the moonlight, terrified that my friend Peter is going to do it too and then finally wish I’d had the courage to try it! I need to relish repeating throughout my day from the deepest part of myself: “Dread nothing! The Lord your God, who really is present with you, is great and awesome” (Deuteronomy 7:21). When my plane is late and I’m worried that I’ll miss my speaking engagement, I need to live inside the idea that the Lord really is my shepherd and I really do have everything I need (which is why I’m the strange person mumbling at the airport).
Q) Would you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert? Do you think personality types or traits figure into learning to become “slow to speak?”
A) While I am an introvert, I have directees who are introverts and extroverts so I know we all struggle with being “slow to speak.” While the extrovert processes out loud and so finds it difficult to be quiet, the introvert is processing inside (often non-stop) and has to pause that inner conversation to be quiet before God. Being “slow to speak” is about that pause. Can I abstain from speaking and trust that God will work without me rushing in with my fabulous insights?
Q) You touch briefly on the importance of beauty in Jesus life, such as when He’s anointed by Mary in Matthew 26:10. There seems to be a strong connection between beauty and worship. How does beauty figure into our expressions of worship today?
A) First, we need to understand that Jesus as the “beautiful shepherd” showed a deep inner goodness that was beautiful and attractive. One way beauty then figures into our worship is to present Jesus as simply beautiful. Rather than hurrying into application, we need to pause after reading a gospel passage and say, “What a beautiful thing for Jesus to do! I want to be like Jesus!” Contemplating God’s beauty helps us worship. When I hike, I find myself bursting into “Holy, Holy, Holy” because of the beauty around me. Beauty in our gathered worship space also helps us celebrate God. Imitating our God of creation, we can worship with art work, fabric, poetry, dance and dramatic reading—as long as we focus on God and not on performance.
Q) How can we avoid becoming overwhelmed in our journey to
become more like Christ?
A) My job is not to become Christlike. The Holy Spirit does
that in me. My job—this year, this week and in the next ten minutes—is to
connect with God in ways that God is leading me to do because they make sense
to my way of being. That’s why I love to say, “You do the connecting; God does
Q) What do you hope your readers will take away from Invitation
to the Jesus Life?
A) I’m praying that reading the book will help pull back the
veil of ordinariness about Jesus and help readers see Jesus’ wise, exquisite,
radiant being so they’ll be caught up in and bathed in the love and power of
God. I’m eager for readers who have let that happen to try the experiments at
the end of the chapters and see what happens to them!