Monday, April 14, 2008

Acts: The Revolutionary Empire of God Is Here!

Liminality- a place where we are not certain or in control, and where something genuinely new can happen. We realize that we are empty, an erased tablet waiting for new words. We are out of our comfort zone! Unlearning thoughts.

Unlearning- Stuff White People Like: The main reason why white people like these clothes is that it allows them to believe that at any moment they could find themselves with a Thule rack on top of their car headed to a national park. It could be 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday when they might get a call “hey man, you know what we need to do? Kayak then camping, right now. I’m on my way to get you, there is no time to change clothes.”

Though it is unlikely that they will receive this call, White people hate the idea of missing an opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities because they weren’t wearing the right clothes.

They pegged me- I'm still waiting for the call to go to Banff National Park!

This unlearning is what all of Eugene Peterson’s writing is geared to, including The Message:

I am trying to recover a respect for the life of the Spirit that is revealed in Jesus and the Scriptures in contrast to a life that is defined by consumption and achievement, competition and psychological profiling. I am trying to develop an imagination that is immersed in the operations of the Trinity so that I will not be constantly seduced into thinking that spirituality is a way of managing my own life and the lives of others, my life with me in charge with an occasional assist from the Spirit. I am trying to practice a way of language that is personal, particular, relational, a language of poetry and parable and metaphor, a language that welcomes mystery and counters the bullying, propagandizing, sloganeering, cliched and abstracted use of language that dominates our schools, our workplaces, our media, and, sadly, our churches.

We need to unlearn what is and has been ‘church’:
Mega Church the Game
Think of all the possibilities:
hire and fire staff
deal with idiots, naive volunteers, and denominational egos
earn points with god by winning souls for Christ.
write a mission statement
choose a logo
hire a professional musician.
PLUS, you can deal with real-life scenarios, including:
elderly donor who wants to buy a new organ
troublesome board members
the city starts construction in front of your building
but perhaps the best selling point is the last line:
“do it all without a degree, license or even the Bible! Just like Joel Osteen.”

Contrast that game with what the early followers of Christ were doing. They were huddled in prayer- not trivial prayer, manipulative prayer but more likely prayer to seek God and repent.

Are we willing to go through the process of repentance? The early followers huddled together, trying to get a grasp of what was happening, letting go of their control, releasing our views, reaching out to Jesus and it all starts with repentance.

This is the ultimate teachable space and one of the reasons life flourished in the early church.

It is a 24-7 orientation of what we only get a small taste when we’re together. Winston: “This’ll get me to Wednesday, man.”

On any given Sunday it’s just enough time to stop wondering whether you turned off the stove, or begin to get the kids- or our wayward emotions- under control.

No one comes to church expecting to hear something they did not already know.

"The last thing they expect to come from a pulpit is any news." Henri Nouwen

Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights, after which He was hungry in Matthew 3:2. It takes a lot of work to discover our true and real hunger. That’s what the early church was doing with Jesus, and while waiting for the Spirit.

We need to look at Acts with 1st century eyes and 21st century questions.

Ephesians 1:10
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

That time was now. It’s still ‘now’ for us! There is no deficiency in God’s sovereignty!

The Revolutionary Empire of God Is Here!

1 Corinthians 15:58- the resurrection doesn’t get us focused on heaven, it charges us up for today!

With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.

That’s the reason they replaced Judas- they needed 12 tribes to take the message out. They were the new Israel. (Acts 1:12-26)

It also contrasts the two different passions: that of Jesus and of Judas.

The passion of Judas ends in a car wreck. (Acts 1:18-19)

They chose lots to select a new apostle. Lots! How random & arbitray is that! Lots help us realize that we don't live in circumstances. God chooses, and if it doesn't quite work the way we wanted we surrender our desire for control.

The early followers were driven back to the Scriptures to unlearn and relearn what God was doing. They talked about old experiences and I’m sure had new learning’s. That’s why we get together and talk about life (Acts 1:12-15)

TAWOGFAT, The Authoritative Word of God For All Time

Dare to Become Dependent On God.

Receiving God’s love gives us a fire in our bones. It will keep our inner fire burning. God will give us a flame of purpose.

Otherwise we will say to the things we want, “I Lust You. I Lust You Very Much.” Idols and lust lead to the unsatisfied life, bondage and car wrecks.

We have A Hope that Frees.

"If you simply address the God-shaped blank that people think they've got, the God that you end up with is the God shaped by the blank." N. T. Wright

"The most creative thing they do is to watch television."

Acts 2:42-47 shows us what this all looks like.

We are being rescued form an old life to be delivered into a new one! It’s not optional.

Conversion calls you into being a part of this kingdom project!

2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you.

How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

The answer to ‘How?’ is Christ.
The answer to ‘How?’ is yes.

We need to get away from ‘how to’ and get with Jesus to ‘want to.’

This is what the kingdom of God looks like.
Christians blaze through this dark world and set it on fire with their love. It is contagious and spreads like wildfire. We are people who shine, who burn up the darkness of this old world with the light that dwells within us. And perhaps the world will ask
what in the world passed through here …
We are not just called to be candles.
Candles make for nice Christmas services and for a nice peace vigil. They can remind us that God’s light dwells within us and that we are to shine that light in this dark world.
But we are not just called to be candles. We are called to be fire.
Shane Claiborne

Tongues of fire. It isn’t ‘speaking in tongues’ as defined in charismatic nomenclature, it’s letting God so fill us we get on fire. What does that look like? Your neighborhood, work, family, school, and recreation- it’s all for God’s kingdom!

It’s all about how God’s people, you and I, embed ourselves into the muck of the world to influence hearts towards God’s revolutionary empire. That’s it!

We lose the idea of coming to church and realize that we are sent to the world.

"Those who have been called out or summoned for a special purpose." That’s what the church is.
Not a building, or a service. They had no buildings! There was no protection; it was all high risk, done in the context of their life. And they proclaimed that the revolutionary empire of God was now here.

What if we just had disciples? No home groups, no ministries, just disciples! What if we had disciples and we’d get together in our communities & reach our friends for Christ & love them. Not a bigger & better goal, but an unleashing, a decentralized ability to follow what God is asking each & every one of us to do.

"Saw a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac.” Don Henley

Have you sold out as a Christ follower? Are you living your whole life with Christ, not just a couple of hours on a Sunday or another night of the week?

Or are you more eager than ever to wait on God, to hear His voice and to say, “Yes!”

Are you willing to see the influence you have built up in your life surrendered to God and His revolutionary empire?!

I want to. That young musician in the video is doing it. Can we join our hearts together?

Let’s do it!


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