The Way

Acts 24:14 “However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way…

The Christian life involves re-understanding our entire lives and the whole world in light of God’s revelation.” Eugene Peterson

This is Christianity in a nutshell. This is the Way. What is interesting about the early believers in Jesus Christ being called the Way- believing that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)- is that Christianity is really and truly a journey. A journey of being on the way, the narrow road. It is a journey of re-thinking and re-understanding our lives based on Jesus Christ, the revelation of God. That is repentance. Repentance is not just the forgiveness of sins, but also following the ways of Jesus. Repentance is realizing you need forgiveness but also knowing there is a different way of being human, something God intends that you can become. Jesus is the way to the Father, but he also shows us the way to be. In both of these, we are on the way. This is what it means to say that Jesus is Lord of your life. He is Lord, and you must follow him and begin to live life accordingly. He challenges all other lords- things that demand our attention and allegiance. He challenges with a simple call, “Repent.”

Matthew 4:17 “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and it is for you! And to be a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven means that you must begin to live under the lordship of Jesus, the government of the ways of God, on earth right now. Your attention and allegiance are to be to him. In this we find abundant life. This is life as God intends it to be as we wait, longingly, for our Savior to return and bring the Kingdom in it’s finality. This is to be on the way, to be on that journey. Following Jesus and becoming. It is a purposeful life of faith in which you engage with God, allowing him to take the lead step and write your story. It is entirely intentional. Not that you can force things to happen, but you engage with God and allow him to make things happen. When he takes the lead step and begins to write your story, he may wreck, reshape, remove, or add. He will surprise you. He will not always fit into your understanding. He will cause you to turn from the fallen ways and systems of the world. He will cause you to turn from the fallenness in yourself. He will do this while on the journey. In shaping you he can be like the strong wind of a storm or like the quietness of a whisper. But even though he can be like that strong wind, more often than not these things are more subtle than the boom of fireworks. Mostly you will notice your ‘becoming’ as you look back while on the journey. He will take you somewhere.

Jesus says follow me, I am the way, I will make you into… (Mark 8:34, John 14:6, Matthew 4:19)

We believe, confess, repent. We become a Christian. Synonyms such as justified, forgiven, made a new creation, born again, and citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven are enacted.

We then follow. We become Christian. We continue in repentance and sanctification, living as citizens of the Kingdom with lives marked by good deeds. In following we have fellowship fulfilling the relational aspect of creation. In fellowship we become. God changes us. In our becoming we keep on the process of living out of the ashes of our sinfulness. And as we become, good deeds come from our lives. Simply because of change. Intentional and unintentional. In this we are light of the world, salt of the earth. We live each day in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ. We live each day in such a way that we need him. We live each day that if he did not exist, we would be rather absurd. This is the life of faith. All guided by (learning to) loving God and loving neighbor.

We do this in anticipation of the return of Jesus.

We are saved, are being saved, and will be saved. This is belonging to the Way.

Two Questions

Two questions have occupied my thoughts for some time now. Simple questions. Questions that can receive easy, trite, and mechanical responses from the average Christian. But to think them through, based on what Jesus did and said and taught, cause far reaching implications. Even as far as to say that to really think them through you will find yourself at questions that cannot easily be answered (I will venture to say that most of these hard questions have to do with the treatment of human life). Remember, it’s easy to say we believe in Jesus, much harder to truly follow him and live by what he said. So…

How far am I willing to be remade to exemplify the nature of Christ?

How much do I really believe in the life to come?

How far am I willing to be remade to exemplify the nature of Jesus…even if it is entirely counter-cultural? Even if it does not make any logical sense? Even if it is beyond my understanding? Even if it turns out to be different than I have always thought? Even if it is different than the way everyone has always done it? Even if it trumps nationalism? Even if it is surprising? Even if it puts me at a disadvantage?

How far you are willing to go will be guided by the second question: How much do I really believe in the life to come? Our worry is not to gain the whole world now, lest we lose our soul. But rather to live in such a way that we believe in the life to come so much we are willing to lose, if necessary, this world (and lose at the game it plays) as it is now.

For example, maybe a place to start with these questions, and there are certainly many places, can be Matthew 5:3-12- the Beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Not necessarily an easy place to start, but will get you into the mix of things rather quickly…

Here is a quote attributed to J.R.R. Tolkien (yeah, the Lord of the Rings guy), “Living by faith includes the call to something greater than cowardly self-preservation.” I think that is a good, thought provoking, place to close.

Blessings

A blog post about blessing- but maybe not what you had in mind when coming to read this. Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) with a series of blessings (Matthew 5:3-12). They have been named the Beatitudes. Blessed are you if this is yours or if you come to have this. Accompanied is how to receive that blessing. I believe these are things we need to pay very close attention to. Jesus purposefully reveals them to us. He closes the Sermon on the Mount by saying that if you put into practice “these words of mine”, what he just got through saying, you will be like a wise man that built his house on the rock. Here is how he began “these words of mine”:

You are blessed if the kingdom of heaven is yours.
You are blessed if you are comforted.
You are blessed if you inherit the earth.
You are blessed if you are filled with righteousness.
You are blessed if you are shown mercy.
You are blessed if you see God.
You are blessed if you are called a son of God.
Again, you are blessed if the kingdom of heaven in yours.
You are blessed if great is your reward in heaven. As a matter of fact, you can rejoice and be glad.

When you think of being blessed, do you think of these kind of things? We should. Maybe, just maybe, these are the blessings that are greatest of all. After all, beatitude does mean supreme blessedness. The reason they are called the supreme blessedness throughout church history is because they are the blessings that cause and are the lasting things of all. And how do we receive these blessings?

The kingdom of heaven is yours if you are poor in spirit.
You will be comforted if you mourn.
You will inherit the earth if you are meek.
You will be filled with righteousness if you hunger and thirst after it.
You will be shown mercy if you are merciful.
You will see God if you are pure in heart.
You will be called a son of God if you are a peacemaker.
The kingdom of heaven will be yours if you are persecuted because of righteousness.
Great is your reward in heaven if you are insulted, persecuted, and have false evil things said about you because of Jesus. The same was done to the prophets before you.

Again, how do we receive these blessings? What do these words and phrases mean? That’s found in the searching and the Holy Spirit’s leading. I won’t try to explain them all. But to a point, take them at straight value in what Jesus said, not using the ‘yeah, but’ add ons. Let them mean what they mean.

I want to be blessed, as you do. I want the things that are lasting. I want my house built on the rock. And according to these words of Jesus, I have some things to work on…

Hope: a short

There is hope for this world.
There is hope for mankind.
There is hope for you.

Or Jesus wouldn’t have come.

Are you crazy enough, like an old poetic prophet, to believe that?

There is hope in the midst of weighty despair.
There is hope in the midst of deep gloom.
There is hope in the dark, long valley.
There is hope for the shackled in sin.
There is hope for the bound and lame.
There is hope for the suffocation of poverty.
There is hope for dehumanizing hatred.
There is hope for the ravages of violence.
There is hope for ear and eye turning indifference.
There is hope- even after you watch the news.

Or Jesus wouldn’t have come.

Are you crazy enough, like an old poetic prophet, to believe that?

There is hope in the restoration of salvation.
There is hope in a new way of living.
There is the great hope of the return of the King; resurrection, all things made new.

Or Jesus wouldn’t have come.

Are you crazy enough, like an old poetic prophet, the believe that?

So, there is hope for me.
There is hope for you.
There is hope for all people.
There is hope for a new future.

You haven’t given up, have you?

The most wonderful time of the year

It is once again the Christmas season. The Christmas season full of songs, trees, presents, family, movies, eggnog, and all that. As the song says, maybe truly so, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. I’m all for all that. My wife has a yearly struggle with me to keep the ‘Christmas all that’ under wraps until Thanksgiving is officially over. She’s some sort of Thanksgiving purist or something. Now that Thanksgiving is over, we are into the ‘Christmas all that.’ But in the middle of all that, let’s not lose our soul.

So, more appropriately, this season is Advent. The focus, the daily thinking, the heart moved to worship…Immanuel, God with us. The heavens did rend, God did come down (Isaiah 64), just not as they thought. God, the Word, broke into this world, broke into darkness and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory (John 1:14). The lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world has come (John 1:29). A baby, born in a stable of sorts, placed in a manger. The wonder of parents, angels, shepherds, and Magi to come. The King, the Lord of Lords. The Messiah. A cross in his future.

So let’s focus, in the middle of ‘Christmas all that’, let’s meditate on words and phrases found in some of the scriptures about the birth of Jesus. What do they mean to you? What do they move in your heart? What do they tell us about the most wonderful time of the year? Of course, there is a lot more, but below is a little sampling…read the passage, then take time, real time, throughout the days of the season to meditate on some of the highlights of each passage.

Read Isaiah 9:1-7.
no more gloom
a great light
increased their joy
shattered the yoke that burdens them
For to us a child is born
the government will be on his shoulders
Wonderful Counselor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace

Read Matthew 1:18-25
conceived from the Holy Spirit
the name Jesus
he will save his people from their sins
the virgin will be with child
they will call him Immanuel -which means “God with us”

Read Luke 2:1-20
good news of great joy
for all the people
a Savior has been born to you
he is Christ the Lord
Glory to God in the highest
on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests
glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen

Let’s enjoy the Christmas season. Sing the songs, hang the lights, shop till you drop, hug your family, and drink too much eggnog. But let’s have our hearts set on Advent. Let’s be moved in wonder and awe, joy and gladness- the good news has come!

Persevere

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author an perfecter of our faith…

The race is marked out for you. Run the race with perseverance. All the while, keep your eyes on Jesus.

The race is marked out for you. You cannot make it up as we go along. Lose your life in order to gain it. The Kingdom, a harvest, growing within you. Not being shallow, casual, and loose spiritually. But being serious, purposeful…living life in such a way that you need God. Not just knowing you need His forgiveness, but a life of faith that depends on Him. Not a legalistic points earning way of living, but literally rethinking, with conviction, your life based on Jesus Christ. All of your life, not just parts of it. In that, willing to lose what you need to lose in order to have true life- abundant life. Even if that is not a fallen society’s idea of success or happiness. Even if it surprises you at times. And with this, the great legacy of passing along The Faith as you have received it.

Run the race with perseverance. It is not always easy. Don’t give up. Keep going. Keep grinding. Throw off sin. Stay strong in the face of persecution. Work through your doubt. Get up when you fall. As Eugene Cho posted on Twitter:

Don’t be overwhelmed.
Stay the course.
Be encouraged.
Be tenacious.
Do not quit.
Take heart.
Persevere.
Have faith.
Press on.
Trust.
God.

All the while, keep your eyes on Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of your faith. He is what you hold to when it seems there is nothing else to hold on to. He is your savior. He is always there. He is the beacon in your darkness, in your struggle, in the midst of your trial.

Hebrews 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

When you persevere, when you have done the will of God, the reward promised is great. It’s wonderful. It is life in its fullness. It is everlasting life.