Lesson 3 Who are you? Developing a Personal Constitution
Over the past week Joseph has had follow up conversations with all of his students. Discussions around values and faith have come up often.
Joseph met with Eric a couple of times this week. Eric holds firmly that if God wants him on the mission field and he is certain that God does, then Eric can sit on the couch eating chips and playing video games and God will make it happen. Joseph agreed that God was fully capable of doing whatever He wanted. But he reminded Eric that even God typically chooses not to drive a parked car. There are lots of things God can do, but He won’t.
Sarah is very concerned with getting it all right and perfect. She seems terrified to make a mistake so has called Joseph several times and sent many drafts of the values list. Joseph has attempted to calm her concerns. The list is a beginning. Over time God will reveal other Scriptures and her life experiences will give other opportunities to establish a standard for living a righteous and holy life. In fact, over time the list of values should become more challenging and push us in many ways.
Sam is certain that he is right and here he is likely on target. Where he is strong on the values portion, he is very reluctant to gather others to call him on his choices. The whole accountability thing scares him quite a bit. Joseph talked about those men and women who coach super stars. These people that they are coaching are incredible, yet they take input from the coach so that they can become or remain the best in the world at their craft. While nobody really likes to have their flaws called out or told that their might be a better way, they know that if they want to excel they must take feedback.
Talking with Julie though out the week was a bit like trying to control a kite in a tornado. Her mind raced quickly from one idea to another without ever landing. Joseph worked to help her focus on a few key values that seemed to really speak to her. While she states that she is open to accountability, she is having trouble finding anyone that she trusts.
You, my reader. What are your struggles in considering your values? Is your life blowing in the wind or are you heading toward a defined target? Remember that what you are building may end up in a career or a marriage but really the target is to build character. What character must you have to live the life that you really want?
It was early morning and Joseph sat quietly slowly drinking his coffee and considering what week 2 might look like. He visualized the students and their struggles. When he had first decided to try to help people, he would become frustrated with their struggles. “How difficult can it be to write down who you are and who you want to be?” In those days he would become frustrated. More than once he decided that he simply did not have the skills to be able to teach these skills that had come so easy to him. It had been in those moments where he had heard the voice of God challenging him to grow in patience. The Holy Spirit nudged him toward creativity so that he could find new ways to communicate the material. Jesus, himself, spoke to Joseph through His Word and His example. For the most part the apostles really didn’t understand much of what Jesus was teaching until later after the resurrection and mostly after the Holy Spirit came to them and filled them in the upper room. Change take time.
Now on the morning of the next gathering; Joseph prepared himself by reflecting on his own Ethos Statement. This is the essence of who he is. While over time our values adjust with maturity our ethos is the core of who we are. This statement will include a personal mission statement, a key Scripture verse, some key words to describe who you are and some nonnegotiable statements of our values. In tonight’s training, the class will create a personal constitution. This document will give a solid baseline for the rest of their lives.
“Father show me who I am in Your sight. When I look at myself, I see a tired and weak man with great dreams but little to show for it. Some have called me hateful names in the past. Others hate me because I take a stand for you. Some hate me because they simply disagree with my philosophy of life. Some days I feel like I am falling short. Jesus, help me to be the man that you have designed me to be. Often, I am impatient. I do not show the love for the lost as I should. I can be greedy and selfish on so many occasions. I lust, I have hateful thoughts, I am full of judgment. Holy Spirit purify me. Wash me, cleanse me. As I open Your Word to me, let me know it, hear it and apply it.”
Joseph read a chapter of Proverbs, 5 Psalms and several pages of Scripture. Carefully he listened for anything that God might be telling him. Today, God seemed to be encouraging Him to listen. He sat, listened through the silence. The cat landed on the ground across the living room and took up her position near the fire. With a deep breath, Joseph closed his eyes and strained his ears to hear. The wind seemed to whisper to him as it shook the leaves right outside the back door. Peace washed over his soul and Joseph considered his life. He was tired. But there was much to do. Every student was important. Not only those that showed up in his living room from time to time but also those that had heard his recordings and read his books. “One more, Father. Just one more!”
As the first glimmer of the sun showed itself, Joseph could hear the Father say, “I know you. I am pleased with you. You are my son. I love you more than you can comprehend. Those feelings that you are describing come from My enemy. They come from your flesh. Do not listen to them. Focus on me. Listen to my Word. Obey.”
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." –Jeremiah 1:5
Throughout the day Joseph played and worked and enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation around him. He would walk through the woods close to his house and listen for the Father to speak. He reflected on his life verse, Micah 6:8.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. –Micah 6:8
As evening approached the students appeared. The teacher was ready. While Joseph was in the kitchen preparing some snacks the students all found their places. Tonight, they all seemed a bit subdued. Joseph smiled as he noticed that they had all chosen the same seats as they did the week previous.
Sipping the tea, they discussed the assignments from the week prior. This assignment had been easy for some but more difficult for others. Sam looked at those who had found it challenging as if they were idiots. As if he could read Sam’s mind, Joseph began.
“One day the beaver called forth all of the animals of the kingdom and said that they would have a contest to determine who would be the new ruler of all. The best and brightest of all the various species of creatures were all there. This contest would have only one event said the beaver. All the animals considered the possibilities. The fish hoped that it was a swimming event. The monkey hoped that it was a climbing event. The crocodile and the lion both hoped that there would be a meal involved. All the birds hoped that it was a flying event. Finally, the beaver spoke, “Are we agreed that the winner is the ruler and we all will obey our new king?” All agreed and ready to begin. Stillness rested over the forest as they awaited the announcement. “The contest will be to build the strongest dam across the river.” While the birds could make a nest, the idea of a dam to span the river seemed beyond their ability. Most of the creatures had no idea. By nightfall the beaver was the new king of the forest.”
The students laughed but not out loud. A gleam crossed the eyes of Joseph.
“Now realize that if the event had included hunting on land, the lion would have won. If the event would have included swimming a fish certainly would be the new ruler. What if the event had been hunting in the river, the crocodile would have taken the prize? My point is that we all have our strengths. God has created us that way. He did that so that we would depend on each other. If we all had the same strengths some of us would not be needed.”
Sam looked as if he had been punched in the gut. No one looked around. Each was looking within themselves and feeling ashamed. They had all made judgments about each other.
“On this side of Heaven, perfection alludes us. Often, we fear those things that we do not understand. We are trapped by a desire to be known. Yet, at the same time we are convinced that if others knew us, they would neither love us nor like us. Consider this flesh.” Joseph lightly touched the skin on his forearm. After a short pause he also lightly brushed the skin on his face. “It is a temporary structure. Many of the relationships that we find so dear today simply will not matter tomorrow.”
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1
“If my wife were here, she would show you pictures of me in the 80s with a mullet. Oh, I thought I was so cool. I got my hair done like that to impress a girl. Today, I don’t even remember her name. This body is simply a costume that covers over our true selves. Our true selves can be found in our souls. What is in your soul? What was God’s plan for you? This is what we are looking to discover this week. Would you be the beaver who was clever enough to speak first so that the contest would favor him? Maybe you would want to be the lion or one of the birds. Regardless, we are examining deep within us to discover who we are. First, recognize that all of mankind is made in the image of God. We are image bearers whether we believe in Him or not.”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
“When you choose to sin, to disobey any part of the Word of God you are choosing to mar that image. It might be just a smudge, but the image is now incomplete. Incompleteness causes pain and suffering.”
Julie stood up and walked thoughtfully to the back of the room. She wanted to speak but was not sure how to word her question. A look of anguish crossed and re-crossed her face as she considered different ways of asking the question.
“But we think different in this room. Each of us belongs to different churches. What of other faith groups or even non-faith groups? They all point out sin. But they all define it different. What is sin in one culture is honored in another.” She then gave some examples. These differences have led to wars and all sorts of vile acts. How can we say that any one path is correct? I think it is best to pick and choose what is right from all of the faiths.”
Joseph scratched his chin, thoughtfully. In the evening his normally clean-shaven face would start to have the beginnings of whiskers. With the dim light in the room, no one would notice that but for some reason it disturbed him tonight. Insecurity spoke to Joseph’s heart as he prepared his answer. He desired to honor God with his answer. This girl was wide open. In some ways this was a blessing for her. She was highly teachable, mold-able. However, he was concerned. Being open to anything can be dangerous. There are many who would twist this openness toward evil. An image of Julie in an abusive relationship crossed his mind. Deep was calling to deep within him. This was a key moment for Julie. He longed to set her free from the lies of the enemy.
“What you say is true. The Bible has indeed been used to justify racism, slavery and oppression of every type. It breaks my heart.”
A single tear slid down his face.
“Many take single passages and hold them dear. Anything that disagrees with their understanding of that passage or that belief is totally discarded. While they accept the idea of the love of Christ, they do not practice it. While God calls us to serve one another. They choose to serve themselves in the name of God. This is false teaching.”
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. –James 1:22
“The Scriptures teach that we actually have two vile enemies. One is Lucifer or Satan. Most are familiar with him and what he represents. He is very real. It is foolishness to deny his reality. He wants to destroy you. But he is not alone. Your other enemy is your flesh. Your flesh is totally focused on itself. Constantly this flesh, this costume of our souls, is calling out for pleasure and a freedom from pain. The flesh will lie, steal and cheat if need be to gratify its own desires.”
…but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected. -1 Corinthians 9:27
“The truth is that this flesh is dead. It is true though that sometimes, it forgets. Sometimes when that flesh wakes from its slumber it seeks to commit to sin and justify it by twisting Scripture. Remember that when Jesus was tempted the devil, himself, also used Scripture. “
The students seemed to recall that portion of Scripture. Julie looked around the room. “But that still does not answer my question. I mean Sam would call drinking a sin. My church says that is ok. What do we do with things like that?”
“First let me clarify something. So far, I have only stated that we are all made in the image of God. Sin does mar that image. However, there is more than simply being an image bearer of the King. There must be more. Even Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were made in the image of God. Yet it seems apparent that they made choices that marred that image. Consider that it is not only the large intense sins that mar the image but even sins that we consider minor that mar the image. Do you want to know if an action is sinful? Examine the Scriptures and find the truth. Also look to see if it causes hurt.”
It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. -Romans 14:21
“When we put our mind on the benefit of the soul of others, we make different choices out of love. I had an aunt that I loved dearly. She was beautiful and fun. She had an addiction to alcohol that kept tearing her apart. Because she was a hard worker, she often would get promoted wherever she was working. However, ultimately, she would relapse and become less dependable and ultimately lose her job. She would have to start over. Treatment would help for a season, but the issue kept coming back. Ultimately, she drank herself to death. In those days I did not have any real understanding of addiction recovery. Today, I understand more. She would come to a family function and would be determined to stay sober. She used the skills she learned in treatment and support groups. My family was like your church, Julie, they saw nothing wrong with alcohol. The assumption that we all had was that since we were not forcing anyone to drink that it was ok. My drinking was not hurting anyone. She would be strong for a while but before the night was over, she was drunk and someone would have to drive her home. Consider what love would have done at those family functions. Out of love we would have chosen not to drink. If we would have made that choice and asked what we could do to help her. Maybe, just maybe she would be alive. So, when we are looking to see what sin is, ask what would love do or not do. All of Scripture is there to help us figure out what love would do.”
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, -2 Timothy 3:16
“While we are all image bearers, we are not all equal. Some have chosen to be adopted by the King. What do we call those that are the sons and daughters of a king?”
The students looked at Joseph. While it was a simple question, they were not sure if he was really asking them. Ultimately, Julie answered. “Royalty. Prince or Princess.”
“That is correct. In the church world we call them the saved. These are the ones that are destines for Heaven.”
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- -John 1:12
“While the image bearer identity is given to all without question; the opportunity to accept our royal position is up to us.”
Joseph stopped and looked around the room. A large smile crossed his lips and he took a sip from his cup of tea.
“I am in a room of royalty. While you are of noble blood, never forget that all men are made in the image of God. Seek compassion, seek to love the lowly. When you choose to hate, you choose to hate the King.”
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ –Mathew 25:40
“That is the beginning of identity. If you cannot accept that truth than the rest of what we are trying to do here may be more difficult. You see you are more than the roles that you play, more than what this flesh presents. To be honest you are even more than whatever mission that you perceive God has for you.”
The students were quiet and thoughtful. Each studied the fire in deep thought.
After a moment of purposeful silence, Joseph looked around the room. Casually, he moved to light a couple of candles. On the kitchen table and the dining room table were large pieces of paper and colored pencils, crayons and markers. Tonight, we are going to begin working on helping you discover who you really are. What we are looking for is how God sees you? I am not talking about what others in this room think about you. Instead we are seeking what God thinks of you. Specifically, tonight we hope to discover at least a small taste of what he has in mind for you.” Joseph plugged his phone into some speakers and started some classical music. “Tonight, you need to be creative. Creativity is an attribute of God. Because you are made in His image, you too have this attribute. Sit where you like, I have some supplies there for you to begin your work.”
Each of the students found a place. I am going to ask you some questions and as I say them, I want you to write. I have provided journals and paper if you prefer to communicate in pictures. After each question I am going to give you five minutes. Write of draw for the entire time. Do not stop until I tell you to. When five minutes have passed, I will ask another question. You must not go back and try to clean up past work. Does everyone understand?
Question 1: Imagine you are at a funeral. You recognize many people, but you are uncertain whose funeral it is. As you make your way up toward the front you realize that this is your own funeral. A close relative is getting up to speak. What will they say? Write what you hope they would say.
Question 2: A casual acquaintance is getting up to speak next. What do you want them to say?
Question 3: A business associate speaks next. What do you want them to say?
Question 4: A follower, someone who has worked for you is next to speak. What do you want them to say?
Question 5: Now think back to your childhood. Maybe you are five or six years old. Describe that life. Most people lose their childhood dreams as five or six. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Question 6: List 10 things that you are good at. Don’t try to be modest here. Write an honest list of 10 things that you can do well. Quickly now you only have 5 minutes.
Question 7: List 5 things that you are passionate about.
Question 8: Fantasy moment: List all that you can in the next five minutes of things you would like to own if money was no object.
Question 9: Fantasy Moment part 2: List all that you can in the next five minutes of things you would like to do or places you would like to go.
Question 10: Fantasy Moment part 3: List all that you can in the next five minutes all of the people you would like to meet.
Question 11: For the next 5 minutes write down all of the non negotiable values in your life.
Take a break and go for a little walk. You and the other students feel a little glassy eyed and mentally a bit tired. You walk around for a few moments and you try to shut your brain down. Likely you are thinking of something that you wish that you would have liked to have written down. This is not a test so you can go back and write those things in.
Now look through your pictures and stories and lists. What are the common denominators? Do you see any themes emerge? Take a moment and capture your theme in one or two sentences. Here is mine currently.
Joseph noticed that the students were excited and tired all at the same time. I believe that is enough for tonight. Too many people rush their lives and never establish a solid direction for their lives. Take this home with you and continue to nurture this statement. Also do the remaining projects over the course of the next week. Again, I know that you are capable of doing this much quicker. But a roast taste better than fast food any day. Take your time. What you are creating is a personal constitution. This will be your guide. This statement will change in wording and focus over time. But today you have begun your journey to be capable of living like a hero.
Project 2: Consider Bible verses that speak to the themes of your statement. Find several and consider them all over the course of the week. By the end of the week select one to be your key verse.
Project 3: Looking back through your notes; what are key words that you would like to be used at your funeral?
Project 4: Those non-negotiable values. Add that to your sheet.