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Pursuing Jesus Christ, His centrality, supremacy, and the Eternal Purpose of God

In our pursuit of Jesus Christ
My family and I spent years involved in traditional, institutional forms of church in the western world, pursuing things others told us were the good or right things of a Christian life. As time went on, we recognized that often times most of what we were being told to do had to do with building that particular church’s membership or budget, and very little to do with what we read about in the scriptures.  We began to recognize a deep longing for something more had grown within us.  We had a desire to truly know the person of Jesus Christ and to find out what His desires are.  At the end of March 2009, my family and I gave up the pursuit of things and what others had told us about being a good Christian and stopped attending traditional, institutional forms of church.Journey Image

We had a longing that there had to be more to being a Christian, a true follower of Jesus, than what modern Christianity has to offer.  I remember thinking to myself, “Is this all the Christian life is about? Isn’t there more to being a follower of Jesus?” Asking myself, “What was so life changing that persuaded the disciples and those of the early church to live and give their lives, even unto death?”

Then we heard about the Eternal Purpose of God, the revelation of Jesus Christ as the central being, the main character of God’s grand “story.” That He is the fulfillment, the completion, the embodiment of the Eternal Purpose of God, and His desire to have His life expressed upon the earth is like a consuming fire that is burning away all that is not Him.  Jesus Christ has become our passion and pursuit. The people we share our lives with in this pursuit have become our family.

This revelation of Jesus Christ and the Eternal Purpose of God is the answer to that longing.  We have found fulfillment of that longing in living in community, with deep relationships, and expressing and sharing the Life of Jesus Christ with others under the headship of Jesus Christ alone. This is the missing element, the missing part of life, that we had not found in any traditional, institutional church we had ever been a part of.  Jesus Christ becoming the central being and supreme passion in our lives is what I will give my life for. He is what I live my life for.

It is a pursuit because Jesus Christ is leading us on a journey.  It is a journey that has been years in the making, and from all evidence, we will be on this journey for years to come.  As with most journeys, along the way you unlearn what you thought you knew, you realize you don’t really know much at all, you grow through the process.  And at some point you find yourself.

We’ve found ourselves in the person of Jesus Christ.  Our true identity can be found in Him alone.  Understand, I write here not because I have all of the answers.  But because I’m following the One who has the answers, the words of Life and often times I need help working through it all.  So I invite you on this journey with us, to read, to think, to share, to challenge, but most importantly to pursue Jesus Christ with us, and grow in your love for Him and those around you, to see His Life expressed on the earth, right where you are.

Thanks for stopping by re:Think. I pray Jesus Christ becomes central and supreme in your lives and you will live to see the Eternal Purpose of God.

-Tobias

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The School of Christ by T. Austin-Sparks

T. Austin-Sparks, one of the most influential voices, in regards to The Eternal Purpose of God, and living by the indwelling life of Jesus Christ, has a series available called The School of Christ.  It is one of the deepest looks into pursuing Jesus Christ I’ve ever read.  I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1: The Foundation of Spiritual Education

Chapter 2: Learning The Truth

Chapter 3: Learning by Revelation

Chapter 4: The House of God

Chapter 5: The Light of Life

Chapter 6: An Open Heaven

Chapter 7: Learning Under the Anointing

Chapter 8: The Governing Law of Divine Love

God’s Favorite Place On Earth

Frank Viola’s new book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth, has just released. If you get the book between May 1st to May 7th, you will also receive 25 FREE books from over 15 different authors.

Click GodsFavoritePlace.com to ordering information and easy instructions on how to get your 25 free books.

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Recommendations

“The best thing I can say about Frank Viola is this: When I read his books—and I read them all—I don’t think much about Frank Viola. I think about Jesus. And I learn to love Him more. This book is no different. Read it, and you’ll find yourself thinking, if you’re like me, ‘I knew Jesus was great, but… Wow!’ And that, at least from me, is as good as it gets.”

Brant Hansen, Radio personality and blogger

“In Frank Viola’s hands, the story of Lazarus—like Lazarus himself—once again comes to life. In a world where hope is battered and life can so easily beat down the human spirit, we are reminded once more of the possibility of becoming a host of Life.”

John Ortberg, pastor and author of Who Is This Man?

God’s Favorite Place on Earth realigned my heart toward Jesus and His mysterious, confounding, surprising, beautiful ways. It’s not often I learn something new when reading a book, but Frank Viola’s sharp storytelling and insightful interpretation made me hunger for more of the real Jesus.”

Mary DeMuth, author of Everything: What You Give

“God’s Favorite Place on Earth is the kind of book I’ve discovered I need to periodically find and read. Frank Viola’s pen and voice are consistently both penetrating and trustworthy. Beyond his invitingly beautiful writing skill—which makes reading a joy and a sight-seeing tour that brings God’s Word into 3-D when he relates narrative passages, I’m grateful for the depth of his themes.”

Pastor Jack Hayford, Chancellor of The King’s University, Los Angeles

“This is a masterfully engaging book that distills the vision of the Christian life into one focused quest: To be God’s favorite place on earth today. I recommend this little volume to all Christians and Christian leaders.”

Mark Batterson, New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker

“Combining masterful storytelling, historical knowledge, biblical insight and practical wisdom, Frank artfully uses the Gospels’ depiction of Lazarus and the small town of Bethany to lay out a beautiful and compelling vision of a God who longs to make every human heart and every church ‘His favorite place.’ This is a beautifully written, timely, prophetic work all would benefit from reading!”

Greg Boyd, pastor and author of Benefit of the Doubt

“A lot of people write books, Frank writes stories and in this one we once again see why he’s such a master. Honored to call him a friend, excited to call him an author I love to read.”

Jon Acuff, bestselling author of Start, Quitter, and Stuff Christians Like 

“Frank Viola surpasses himself in his best book yet—a work of serene, soaring magnificence. Part novel, part biography, part theology, part Bible study, Frank’s imaginative touch and command of prose haiku leaves the reader resolved more than ever to be a Bethany—God’s favorite place on earth.”

Leonard Sweet, Drew University, George Fox University, sermons.com

“Reading God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola, my soul began to burn from Chapter One. To delve into Lazarus’ heart and thoughts … I received a beautiful glimpse into the life of Christ on earth. Lazarus’ stories make a perfect foundation for God’s truth, God’s intimacy. I can’t wait to share this book!”

Tricia Goyer, USA Today best-selling author of 35 books

“In spite of my Ph.D. in Theology, I had never considered the importance of Bethany in the life of Jesus.”

Phil Cooke, media consultant and author of Unique

 

See all 47 Recommendations at GodsFavoritePlace.com 

Check out the book sampler and share it with others: http://frankviola.org/GodsFavoritePlace.pdf

Check out the short video trailer and share with friends: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RG_9TeE-BO8

 

Your Actual Identity, Part VI: Loved

I had hoped to post this earlier, but haven’t had the opportunity until now.

As the previous post explained, our brother, Michael Young, is running a series on his blog, All Things In Christ, entitled, Your Actual Identity. I am a featured contributor in the series with the latest post entitled, Loved. Check it out and contribute your thoughts in the comment section on Michael’s blog.

New Series: Your Actual Identity

Our brother, Michael Young, has started a new series of posts entitled, “Your Actual Identity,” where he has invited fellow bloggers from around the country to contribute to the series.  All of the posts in this series will appear on Michael’s blog, All Things In Christ, with links to the blog writers’ own blog pages.  I’m excited to say I have been invited to contribute and am excited about the series.

So far there have been three posts in the series and it has been great!  I invite you to check them out.  They are linked below.

Your Actual Identity, Part I: Holy by Michael Young

Your Actual Identity, Part II: Powerful in Weakness by Nathan Burgman

Your Actual Identity, Part III: Accepted by Heather Proctor

 

This post will be listed on the “Shared Writings” page of re:Think, so be sure to check there for it, with all of the updates, in the future.  I’m also linking each blog author’s individual blog page here as well.  The list of posts in the series, as well as the list of original blog pages of the authors, will be updated as the series progresses.

Blog Authors from the series “Your Actual Identity”:

Michael Young, Nathan Burgman, Heather Proctor,

The Lord Told Me To Share This

Ok, so…The Lord didn’t really tell me to share this message or that message with you today.  But I wonder, did you feel the weight behind the title of this post? Did “The Lord Told Me…” give you an added thought, burden, or draw to read this post?  If so, this is the exact reason I’m writing this post.

A brother in the Lord once encouraged us to use caution and discernment when people seek to add authority or power to what they say by prefacing their statements with phrases like “The Lord told me,” “God wants me to tell you,” “The Lord gave this to me for you,”or something similar.  When someone speaks using these types of phrases it is typically out of a desire to speak a word with authority.  But the simple truth is that authority may or may not be present in the words they are speaking.  In speaking a word to people, to declare, “Thus sayeth the Lord,” in such a way actually puts those who hear what is being said in a difficult position.  It puts them in a position, by their response to what was spoken, of having to choose between either validating what the person said to be ‘the word of the Lord’ for them, or of seeming to judge whether or not that person has actually heard from the Lord.  I’m sure anyone who has ever been in this situation would agree, it is a difficult and awkward position to be in.

So if/when we find ourselves in that position, we can choose to 1) validate what they spoke, essentially going along with what they said, without questioning or weighing it against the scriptures and the Spirit of the Lord; 2) question what was said, potentially causing them to feel like we are questioning their  ‘spiritual ability to hear from the Lord, or 3) go against what was said, risking the same results as option 2.

Option 1

When someone seeks to bring this added weight to their words, if we go along with what was said because we were told it was from the Lord, we do ourselves an injustice, for this is not the way the Lord intended it to be in His Body.  He intends for us to know Him more, to hear His voice and recognize it, to live by His indwelling life.  Taking everything a person says is from the Lord and treating it as such robs us of such learning and knowing of Christ.  We must allow Him to work His life into us in this way.  We must allow the Lord to cultivate that relationship within us so that when He speaks, whether it be through a brother/sister, the scriptures, or another avenue, when the Spirit quickens us inwardly, we recognize it as the Lord and we align our lives with it.  This is not something most of us just learn over night.  It takes time, faith, and sometimes we miss it.  Sometimes we get it wrong.  But the Lord is gracious and will call to us again, and again, and again.  He is constantly working in and through us to strengthen faith, give hearing, understanding and knowing of His life and leading.

Options 2 & 3

But what happens when we question what is being spoken or go against it?  If we choose to question or go against what was spoken, we are essentially telling the person who spoke they may have gotten it wrong, or they did get it wrong.  Which, would be the same as telling them we don’t think they heard from the Lord correctly, or they didn’t really hear from the Lord at all.  I don’t know many people (any really) who want to be the one to tell someone they didn’t hear from the Lord correctly, or they didn’t hear from Him at all.

As I’ve seen many times, either option doesn’t typically sit well with the person speaking the ‘word of the Lord’ to others.  It usually involves pride, anger, hurt, uneasiness, frustration, resentment, and a myriad of other feelings.  Many times parties on both sides of this coin experience the same frustration or difficulty in trying to deal with the situation as best as possible, with one trying to re-explain what they meant, the other trying to maneuver around it without offending them.  Often times, as things are examined and weighed in light of the scriptures and the Spirit within, we begin to see or understand the person who spoke ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ may have indeed received something of the Lord, but in their humanity (which we all deal with) may have added their own thoughts to the mix, or may have only received something in part, and so they have tried to piece the rest of it together based on previous experiences or situations.  Examples could go on and on.

Humble Suggestions

In all of this, I see a couple of options that may help avoid or resolve these situations in the future (I’m sure there could be more, but I’m starting with these).

First, in anything, it is wise to search the scriptures to find Christ, to be mindful of the ‘inner quickening’ of the Spirit within, showing us the path to Life, revealing the Lord to us.  This is the responsibility of every follower of Jesus.  I can not emphasis this enough.  For too long people have been taught that being a Christian means attending a service/meeting, listening to a sermon, or sponging off of others who speak in meetings.  So many people have learned to rely on others to hear from the Lord for them, or to pursue the Lord passively, and to choose what they think to be right or good.  This is not what the Lord intends for His Body.  We must move beyond passivity when it comes to knowing the Lord and expressing His life to others.  As members of the Body of Christ, we must take the responsibility upon ourselves to seek the Lord, pursue His mind, and express His life.  We must become a people who learn, hear, understand, receive and discern the Lord’s life for ourselves.  Then we share our portion of Christ with our brothers and sisters in a way that encourages them to do the same and Christ is expressed in a fuller and broader way.

Second, we must lay down our desires and tendencies to have what we speak carry the weight and authority of the Lord.  Understand that does not mean we are to begin speaking our minds and spouting off the first things that come to mind in a given situation.  No, we are still responsible for what we speak.  We should always strive to speak Christ, to have His life flow through our words.  Doing so brings life, Christ’s life.  But we must stop being a people who act on the feeling of needing to add a ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ to our own words, thoughts or interpretations.  We must seek to reveal Christ when we speak, but offer it as plainly as possible and allow those who hear to discern or recognize Christ in what we speak.  To put it simply, we are to learn and know the Lord and then allow His life to speak to others, allowing Him to add His authority and weight to what we speak because His life is in it.  In reality, if the Lord is truly speaking in and through you, the person/people you’re speaking to will recognize it because there will be life in what you speak.  In such times, most people will affirm what you’ve spoken on their own accord.  If there is not life in what you’re speaking they will recognize that as well.  In either case, you will have done them a service by allowing them, another opportunity for the Lord to bring His life and to grow within them.  I would dare say you will experience a little humility in doing so, as well.

The Christian Life

If Christ is in you, then the Christian life is not about striving to be something you are not. It is about becoming what you already are.

– Sweet & Viola, Jesus Manifesto, pg. 58

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