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Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Way of The Lamb





For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17 ESV)


As followers of Jesus, we are on a journey of growing into his likeness. Sadly, we often get sidetracked, or more accurately deceived by the Dragon into seeing things from a dark perspective. The Dragon (Satan) works covertly behind the scenes, to prompt or motivate us to live by the standard of the world below, as opposed to embracing the heavenly Kingdom, from above. Regrettably I sometimes find myself choosing wrong methods, which are from below, as opposed to the way of the Lamb, which is from above. Our goal should be to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit, as he works the way of Jesus into our hearts.

The Bible clearly teaches us about the spiritual battles being waged behind the hostility we see going on in the world around us.  The Dragon is the source and power behind our political, and racial conflicts that we see in the world today, and throughout all of human history. His influence is seen in the Church when we embrace the marketing strategies of the world around us. And, when money and prestige are promoted over humility, and godly living.

God's Kingdom dose not operate the same way that worldly governments, or the entertainment industry functions. Life in the Kingdom seeks the good of our neighbor, and rejects excessive materialism while seeking to esteem others, more than ourselves. We are called to confront evil with good, and to impact the world. with hope and healing, as we resist evil in all its forms.

The way of the Lamb is the way of peace, the way of the Dragon is continuous conflict and selfish behavior. Worldly governments are called to protect its people, and that may include a "just war" in certain circumstance. But, the Church is called to the peaceful way of the Lamb, which always sees our real enemies as being spiritual unseen forces, not people. We must seek to learn the way of Jesus, which is overcoming evil with good. - Bobby

Note: This blog post was inspired by, The Way Of The Dragon Or The Way Of The Lamb, by Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin. It will be released in January 2017.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Messiah Comes in Humility Scripture: Zechariah 9:9






The Messiah Comes in Humility

Scripture: Zechariah 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The God We Hardly Knew

by Óscar Romero
No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God — for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

DOWNWARD MOBILITY

Author Henri Nouwen writes, “The story of our salvation stands radically over and against the philosophy of upward mobility. The great paradox which Scripture reveals to us is that real and total freedom is found only through downward mobility. The Word of God came down to us and lived among us as a slave. The divine way is indeed the downward way.” He continues, expanding upon this vision of Jesus,                    
Indeed, the one who was from the beginning with God and who was God revealed himself as a small, helpless child; as a refugee in Egypt; as an obedient adolescent and inconspicuous adult; as a penitent disciple of the Baptizer; as a preacher from Galilee, followed by some simple fishermen; as a man who ate with sinners and talked with strangers; as an outcast, a criminal, a threat to his people. He moved from power to powerlessness, from greatness to smallness, from success to failure, from strength to weakness, from glory to ignominy. The whole life of Jesus of Nazareth was a life in which all upward mobility was resisted.
There is something beautiful about the downward path, but its beauty has nothing to do with how easy it is. Jesus, Paul tells us, “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant … he humbled himself” (Phil. 2:7-8). Jesus’ gracious entrance into the world was not met with welcome and celebration (John 1:10-11). He was rejected. This is the harsh reality we must come to grips with as we consider this downward path. Jesus makes it known that the same world that hated and rejected him will hate and reject us as well (John 15:18-19). Often, we hear God’s call to embrace our weakness or move in sacrificial love and we imagine that ultimately this will result in our heroism – overcoming all odds and becoming powerful. In other words, we imagine that Jesus has just given us a more surprising and challenging way to achieve power and success. We still believe we will get what others want, but the difference is that we will go about it “in the right way.” This is simply not what Jesus tells us. Embracing the way from above is often a hard and lonely road, but it is the true path of life.
The way of Christ is the way of vulnerability and love. These are two central features of living a genuinely human existence, and yet they are often the very things we are afraid of. We want love, but we want love without vulnerability. We want love in our strength, but not in our weakness. But that is not love. We think we want community, but deep down we want to be in a group that makes us feel special. Jesus offers something else, something distinctively more profound. Jesus calls us to himself, that we may partake in his life. But Jesus’ life was marked, not by success, domination, and victory, but by love. In this world, love is marked by suffering, crying out, and a deep and abiding longing for the day when God “will wipe away every tear” (Rev. 21:4). While being a witness to the invisible way of Christ won’t often feel like the path of life, it is the calling of faith to embrace this way regardless. This is the way against evil, and as such, it is the way of Christ.

Prayer
O Lord our God, as we celebrate again the festival of Christmas, we ask you to make us humble and loving like Jesus, who did not come to be served but to serve, and who said that it is better to give than to receive; so that, in his name, we may devote ourselves to the care and service of all those who are in need. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.
Stephen S. Smalley

Jamin Goggin & Kyle Strobel
Taken from the new book The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that has Abandoned It, Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Source:

Culture and the Arts Center for Christianity, The Advent Project, 11/30/2016.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Rest And Attachment





And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. (Genesis 2:2 ESV)


Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)


Resting in God is not a passive act. It is being fully engaged with the triune God, who is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In short, it is learning to "abide in Christ" taking on the easy yoke that Jesus promised to give to all that would be willing to lay down their lives, and come to him. Unbelief is the real enemy of God's rest. (Hebrews 3:19)
 We can't rest with someone we really don't know and trust. Our trust in a person is gained through an ongoing relationship with them. 

As Kyle Stroble and Jamin Goggin said in their book, Beloved Dust, "...our culture equates rest with escape. Escape is about detachment, while true rest - as defined by God - is attachment."(1)

In Christ, God has chosen to become attached to his body, the Church, also known as the temple, or the place of his dwelling. He dwells with his people, both corporately and individually.

The incarnation of God, in Christ, was God's plan from eternity past to save his people from their sins, and identify with broken humanity. God is offering rest for those that will cease striving and know that he is God. (Ps.46:10) Jesus has taken the work out of salvation on our behalf, so that we can work for his Kingdom purposes, with a power that is not our own.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

We work out our salvation with "fear and trembling" from a place of rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross.  We live our lives in light of the resurrection, empowered to overcome sin, as we live a life of faith, in the grace of God. It is finished! - Bobby

Source:
1. Beloved Dust, Jamin Goggin and Kyle Stroble, page 9.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Truth, Justice, And The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson



"The ways employed in our North American culture are conspicuously impersonal: programs, organizations, techniques, general guidelines, information detached from place. In matters of ways and means, the vocabulary of numbers is preferred over names, ideologies crowd out ideas, the gray fog of abstraction absorbs the sharp particularities of the recognizable face and the familiar street. My concern is provoked by the observation that so many who understand themselves to be followers of Jesus, without hesitation, and apparently without thinking, embrace the ways and means of the culture as they go about their daily living “in Jesus’ name.” But the ways that dominate our culture have been developed either in ignorance or in defiance of the ways that Jesus uses to lead us. 
Jesus as the truth gets far more attention than Jesus as the way. Jesus as the way is the most frequently evaded metaphor among the Christians with whom I have worked for fifty years as a North American pastor. We cannot skip the way of Jesus in our hurry to get the truth of Jesus as he is worshiped and proclaimed. The way of Jesus is the way that we practice and come to understand the truth of Jesus, living Jesus in our homes and workplaces, with our friends and family. 
The local congregation is the primary place for dealing with the particulars and people we live with. As created and sustained by the Holy Spirit, it is insistently local and personal. Unfortunately, the more popular American church strategies in respect to congregation are not friendly to the local and personal. The American way with its penchant for catchy slogans and stirring visions denigrates the local, and its programmatic ways of dealing with people erode the personal, replacing intimacies with functions. The North American church at present is conspicuous for replacing the Jesus way with the American way. 
Jesus’ metaphor, kingdom of God, defines the world in which we live. We live in a world where Christ is king. If Christ is king, every thing, quite literally, every thing and every one, has to be re-imagined, re-configured, re-oriented to a way of life that consists in an obedient following of Jesus. A total renovation of our imagination, our way of looking at things—what Jesus commanded in his no-nonsense imperative, “Repent!”—is required.
We can—we must!—take responsibility for the way we live and work in our homes and neighborhoods, workplaces and public squares. We can refuse to permit the culture to dictate the way we go about our lives. 
Ways and means that are removed or abstracted from Jesus and the Scriptures that give witness to him amount sooner or later to a betrayal of Jesus. In this kingdom-of-God world, the person that we follow is the primary shaping influence on the person that we become. Christians follow Jesus."
Excerpted from The Jesus Way: a conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way by Eugene H. Peterson (Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans, 2007), pp. 1, 4-5, 9, 13, 15.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Refiner's Fire by A. W. Tozer




"Slowly you will discover God’s love in your suffering. Your heart will begin to approve the whole thing. You will learn from yourself what all the schools in the world could not teach you--the healing action of faith without supporting pleasure. You will feel and understand the ministry of the night; its power to purify, to detach, to humble, to destroy the fear of death and, what is more important to you at the moment, the fear of life. And you will learn that sometimes pain can do what even joy cannot, such as exposing the vanity of earth’s trifles and filling your heart with longing for the peace of heaven. What I write here is in no way original. This has been discovered anew by each generation of Christian seekers and is almost a cliché of the deeper life. Yet it needs to be said to this generation of believers often and with emphasis, for the type of Christianity now in vogue does not include anything as serious and as difficult as this. The quest of the modern Christian is likely to be for peace of mind and spiritual joy, with a good degree of material prosperity thrown in as an external proof of the divine favor. Some will understand this, however, even if the number is relatively small, and they will constitute the hard core of practicing saints so badly needed at this serious hour if New Testament Christianity is to survive to the next generation." - A. W. Tozer