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Transforming Wolves

August 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

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When we live God’s peace in the world, we show forth His lordship. The world system cannot bring peace. Only God can do that, and He did it by the cross. Love was manifested on the cross and was given to the world while we were yet sinners.

When I follow the politics of forgiveness and redemption, I find I’m following Jesus. When you answer the call to deny yourself and take up the cross and follow Christ, you are baptized to the imperative call to love your enemies.

Christ sending His sheep out among wolves is about love and not retaliation. The beauty of love and kindness is most strikingly seen in the darkest of places when they are demonstrated and not just spoken about.

Where are you shining the light of God’s love and kindness? I’m sure you shine it among the believers, but do you shine it among the wolves? We must never forget the wolf can be transformed. At last, “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;…” Isaiah 11:6a

 

 

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Isaiah 55:1 (ESV) “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

In Isaiah 54, God has offered forgiveness and now in chapter 55 the call to walk in forgiveness is given. It is not enough to be free; we must live free. We don’t have to order our lives around the axis of a world system that begs for us to dance as its puppets. We don’t have to order our lives around a fragmented social system that includes only those with more power.

In God’s order, everyone is included. We have a Christ centered alternative to be fully human and live fully human in Him and His redeemed order of justice. We have been given the choice of the one that choose us. In Christ, we are the tribe of Revelation 7:9-10

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (NKJV)

We are His redeemed community living a life of radical love in a sea of hatefulness. We render not evil for evil, but we love our way through this age until the age to come overtakes us, and death is swallowed up forever.

We need not use violence to fight for our rights, but instead as one writer has so eloquently put it, “Our violent ways find an end in the wounds of Christ, and in his forgiveness we are offered healing from our self-inflicted pain.”

For now, death remains but soon death will be swallowed up forever.

Isaiah 25:6-9 (ESV) 6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

 

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The only prophetic voice that spoke on Golgotha was from the middle cross. The man on the left cross-needed the man on the middle, and the man on the right cross-needed the man on the middle also.

The only redemptive work taking place that day was from the man in the middle. He was 100% man and 100% God. God in the middle was showing the world the only way to eternal life. Choosing the man in the middle makes you the only alternative society that has the right answer.

In a world of ugly, beauty can only be seen through the lens of the cross and what Jesus accomplished by willfully submitting to His Father’s will. Only by following the suffering of the cross can we live as sheep among the wolves of the left and right.

The only thing that will ever change the world is when His followers simply follow Him. When we choose the left we are not choosing Jesus. When we choose the right we are not choosing Jesus. Only when we choose the man in the middle do we choose the path that leads to Heaven and Earth coming together.

The cross of Christ takes away resentment and fills our hearts with hope. Down through the centuries, resentment and power have crucified many. However, resentment and power met its match the day it confronted Jesus.   Resentment and power  was confronted by love and love won forever!

Jesus took the dreadfulness and ugliness of a Roman cross and painted it with the beauty of God’s own blood so that humanity could be free from evil forever.  Freedom comes when you choose the man in the middle. Once we choose the man in the middle, we are called to a different way of living. We are no long left or right. We are now the middle. As the writer Brian Zahnd says, “We are to model what it means to be Christ-like in a Caesar-like world.”

Along with Paul, we cry out, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

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Don’t mute Jesus. Excel in making Him known through loving the unlovable. Jesus never chose sides. He loved the world. He hung on the middle cross loving both the one on the left and the one on the right. He chose them both, but only one chose Him that day. He chooses everyone that everyone might have the chance to repent and turn to Him in surrender. 2 Peter 3:9b teaches that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

The only division Christ came to bring was to a division that points all of humanity to a decision for Him or against Him. He did so because choosing Him or rejecting Him is the only eternal choice that really matters in this age, or the age to come. You must point humanity to the middle cross every day of your life through your actions and your words. People in our world are hungry to belong. They are hungry and thirsty to be heard, valued and love unconditionally.

Pointing humanity to the left or to the right will never satisfy the hole in their lives. Pointing them to the middle cross is the only answer. In John 6 Jesus speaking to the crowd said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus is still offering that call to the world today. He doesn’t offer it through himself (his physical presence) anymore because He sits at the right hand of the Father waiting to return. However, he still offers it through us, His children by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Christ followers,  you and I have the Spirit of God living on the inside of us seeking to serve and rescue the world. The rescuing of the world doesn’t happen by following the media, or by choosing the left or right. Rescuing happens by choosing to obey the command of love, and pointing the world to the middle cross where Jesus stretched out His arms wide to embrace everyone who would hear.

Will you obey and follow His leading, or will you be a quencher of the Spirit? Will you mute Jesus today by choosing the left or the right or will you live for Him and promote Him today by choosing the middle? The middle cross is still the only answer for the world because Jesus used it to defeat evil forever. Jesus turned an ugly cross of Rome into a vision of beauty that rescues the world.  His crucifixion was the greatest act of love ever accomplished for humanity, and it’s still the only path that leads us home.

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I’m not a big fan of cursing the darkness. As a Christ follower,  we should be primarily concerned with being salt and light. While it’s true, the Bible calls us to reprove the works of darkness, reproving darkness and cursing the darkness are two different approaches entirely.

Cursing the darkness is throwing condemnation at those who are outside of Christ, while reproving darkness is shining our light as to awaken the sinner from their sleep. The first is done in the same spirit Jesus rebuke James and John for when they wanted to call fire down on those who rejected Christ. (See Luke 9:54)

The latter is done in the Spirit of love that understands that those outside of Christ are under condemnation already, and we have no need to throw more their way. (See John 3:18) If we are to win the world to Christ, we must do so in the greatest power know to man, which is the love of God.

Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart. Jesus died to prove love real. We are called to do more than talk about grace; we are called to demonstrate grace to everyone. Yes, Even the ungrateful and evil. (See Luke 6:35)

In Ephesians 5,  we are called to take no part in unfruitful works of darkness. We are told to expose them. We expose them by  letting our light shine, and be visible, not by trying to curse the darkness and win a religious argument. When we love like Christ, His light shines and awakens the sleeper from darkness to light.

Many Christ followers need to return to trusting in the love of God to win the lost. We need to  stop trying to win them by persuasive arguments of men, arguments of condemnation.

Allow me to say it again, Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart.

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Authentic worship shapes the Christ follower into God’s image. Whereas; counterfeit worship run the extreme risk of shaping God into our preferred image.  We are called to live authentic lives of worship that is free from the smell of the counterfeit worship of religious array.  For His glory; for our good, and the hope of others, we must live authentic lives of worship before the world.

It’s easy to have a form of godliness; but a form of godliness will never awaken the world from its zombie like apathy.  Authentic lives of worship shows  the image of God in a world that desperately wants their own way instead of wanting and embracing what they truly need.  As Christ followers, we are called to awaken the dead by living and giving them the true life of Christ.

We awaken the dead when we turn the other cheek. We awaken the dead when we move beyond being regularly offended at everything the world does and simply reflex God regardless. We awaken the dead when we feed the hungry, cloth the naked, give water to the thirsty, love the unlovable, visit the sick, take in the stranger, and go to them which are in prison.

We are called to help people see God. However, in order for us to help people see God we must not live lives that show  the idolatry of shaping God into our own images. There must be a daily death of self and a daily obeying of entering the harvest field of the walking dead.

Humanity that has long suffered in darkness calls to us to be awakened. Light has come into the world by Jesus Christ and His light is the only light that defeats darkness and awakens the sinner.  We must show them Jesus and not our religious routes. Jesus is the only way. We must show them Him. In John 14:9 Jesus proclaimed the amazing by saying, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

Let’s show them the Father! Let’s awaken the world from their sleep! Let’s show them the redeemer and lover of their souls. It’s our call; it’s our duty; it’s our grand privilege, and it can’t be done with religion.

The awakening can only happen when we start showing the world the true Jesus that is beyond the religious version that idolatry tries to shape. There is an echo from the future calling to us, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Let’s answer that call!

Let’s go awaken the dead!

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The latter part of the verse found in Luke 6:35 rocks my world and I think it will rock your world if you read it slow enough for it to read you. Jesus of course, if you will remember, is talking about loving your enemies.

Jesus is saying things like, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” He then goes on to take His grace and mercy to deeper extremes that often causes our flesh to cry out, “INSANITY!”

I can’t speak for you, but if I wrote those verses myself, it would have to read something like the following to make sense to me. I would write, “Crush your enemies, do the worst thing to them before they can do something bad to you, don’t pray for them that abuse you, they deserve what they have coming.” I think you get my point.

It’s deep in us to seek revenge on those who mistreat us, and to point the accusing finger at the unjust and evil people of the world. However, the latter part verse 35, found in Luke 6 deals the ultimate conviction to the soul.

Luke 6:35 says, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, (THEN HERE IT IS) for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

Yes, that is correct! You read that right. God is KIND to the ungrateful and the evil. Now that is love. That is God’s love, and it should be our love. If He can love like that, then He can still love like that through us if we submit to His control and leading.

Anyone can have a ‘invite a friend to church Sunday,’ but can you have a ‘invite an enemy to church Sunday?’ Now that would change the world- don’t ya think?

I know you can love the loveable, but can you love the unlovable, the ungrateful and the evil? God does and I’m convinced that you and I can also. It’s hard but not impossible.

I challenge you with the words of N.T. Wright,“Think of the best thing you can do for the worst person, and go ahead and do it.

God has called us to be like Him and being like Him means you must love and seek to do good to the ungrateful and the evil. I bet if you do, you just might smell a little bit like Jesus.

Serving Jesus can’t be detached from serving others; otherwise you are not serving Him at all. Also, serving Jesus without serving your enemy is not serving Him at all also.

Peace

Divine Moments

March 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

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“Divine moments are around every corner if we will just make the turn when He speaks. I’m afraid many times a hurried life and fear lead us rather than the Spirit of God. What we honestly need is to submit to a Spirit-led life once and for all. We need to give Him all of our lives. We need to go beyond the label of Christians and become true Christ followers, submitted to His voice no matter the cost. After all, salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you. A hurried life is unquestionably an unproductive way of life. We are in a race to go everywhere and never truly make it anywhere. I think we’re in a hurry on purpose because we’re afraid that if we slow down we might just find out how unfulfilled our lives actually are. When we slow down, we see more clearly and we see what we are truly missing.”

Wright, Steve (2012-03-18). The Descent To Compassion (p. 59).  . Kindle Edition.

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Do you have a life worth imitating? I once heard a speaker ask that question and it stopped my world for a while. I asked myself over and over that whole day, “Do I have a life worth imitating?”

My first reaction was, “no!” I could hear a voice coming from somewhere saying, “You’re not horrible but you are way to messed up for anybody to imitate.” I could feel myself giving credence to the voice of distraction. The voice was somewhat correct. I am kind of messed up.  I imagine you feel the same way at times.

Then it hit me. It was the Apostle Paul who said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “ Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” The great and messed up Apostle himself giving a command to allow others to imitate him as he also imitated Christ.

Imitating Christ is the key and not me being perfect. In Christ, I’m righteous and forgiving. In Christ, I’m a mess in the working. In Christ, is the only answer I have because He is the only answer.

N.T. Wright speaking about the resurrection of Christ says this, “The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.” You are invited to belong even as messed up as you are and you’re heading toward eternal life. When you understand that, you then can easily understand the necessity to invite other to imitate you as you imitate Christ.

Paul knew a perfect and freeing fact! Listen with your heart to what he wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15-16, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”

Now get out there and find someone to disciple by calling him or her to imitate you. That’s how disciples are made, and yes, sometimes it’s messed up and muddy. That is what happens when you get up closer with each other.

Do You Notice?

February 22, 2013 — Leave a comment

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One of the greatest comforts the Bible demonstrates is that Jesus takes pleasure in breaking away from the crowd to take care of the individual. It is simply impossible to be lost from Him in a crowd. In Mark 5: 24-34, we read the story of a woman in the crowd.

We are told that she had suffered for many years. In fact, she had been suffering for twelve years. Her condition was growing worse daily, and she was out of money. We are told that she touched the cloak of Jesus and immediately she was healed. Jesus felt power issuing from Himself. Jesus then turns to look for who touched him. Once she is identified, by falling at his feet, the real miracle takes place. She is validated in front of everyone.

As soon as Jesus was face to face with this woman the crowd faded into the background; the crowd was forgotten and there seem to be no one there but Jesus and her. She had His full attention. Now that is the true miracle simply because she had captured the full consideration of God. You see, the world is still full of people lost in the crowd, and they are searching for their healing. They are waiting for someone to give them the same attention God gave this woman in Mark 5.

We are called to notice people. We must stop walking by the suffering because we are afraid to emerge from our schedules. Someone in your path today needs to be noticed, and God wants to use you to meet them. Think about it. Life is short, and each day must count.

Wright, Steve (2012-03-18). The Descent To Compassion (pp. 47-48).  . Kindle Edition.

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