From a message by John Poundstone on 1/15/23 at Joy Church

They Worked It Out

Last Spring my wife, Sherry, and I did one of our favorite things. We went on a long road trip. We flew to Dallas and spent part of a day with our spiritual parents, Larry and Devi Titus.

We then drove a rental car across the country to the Asheville, North Carolina area, where we spent several days in a private spiritual retreat at a wonderful place called The Cove. It’s 1200 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, established by Billy Graham. There’s a chapel, training center and lodges.

Everything there is done with excellence and care… but intentionally is not luxurious, so that the worldly experience supports rather than overshadows experiencing God and His presence. I came away from that experience with many things, not the least of which was a much deeper and better understanding of the famous evangelist, Billy Graham, as a man… his personal nature and character.

Over the several months since, Sherry and I have weathered profound life events and changes. Then, just 8 days ago, we found ourselves in Dallas again. This time it was to join Larry Titus, now a widower, and our larger spiritual family, to attend the celebration of life service for Devi Titus.

Many highly influential leaders from all over the globe were there, some of whom I have known beyond their public ministries for some time. And just seven days ago, Pastor Jack Hayford—a man and leader we knew, deeply admired and who influenced us greatly—passed.

I started thinking  about how many lives, people groups and enterprises globally have been profoundly influenced by those leaders, Devi Titus, Jack Hayford and Billy Graham, and what they all had in common. They worked it out.

Scriptural Basis

The actual thrust of this is scriptures that follow:

But first, I’ll challenge some norms, and boldly so. I applaud those who would say, “Where is that in scripture!” My loving response is, “Good news; it’s what the Holy Scriptures actually say, consistently, all over the place!” There are some that really jump out that highlight what I’ll claim next. I hope you’ll read these in their full context.

This is about contrast—contrasting normal with new normal… which is not new at all. Instead “new normal” is the original normal that over time was overlaid by the current normal. So, I posit this in the role of reformer.

Work Out Your Salvation with Fear and Trembling

Let’s start with a verse, Philippians 2:9-12, that most every churchgoer at some point has heard, or will. It will be helpful for the reader to read this aloud with great fire-and-brimstone conviction. Ready, go!

Philippians 2:9-12, NKJV
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

Radical Transformation

Let’s go back to the time of Christ. Eventually there became twelve original disciples. Eleven walked with Christ in person before He was crucified, died and was buried, and rose again. Across those 42-ish months, these eleven were transformed gradually, bit by bit… but only somewhat. This, despite their direct contact with Jesus. Yes, Jesus was Emmanuel with them physically. But only so much actually took.

Their radical transformation began 72 hours after Christ’s crucifixion, death and burial. He walked through the wall and joined them! He resurrected! (John 20:19-30). I can only imagine how much that, and the next 40 days He spent with them prior to His ascension affected their paradigms and transformation.

I’m thinking that at Jesus’s ascension they found themselves full of recollection, full of information, full of experience, full of awe. Even so, they still lacked impartation and revelation, let alone the desire and wherewithal to launch a revolution. Surely they had questions. Likely, many.

The Holy Spirit Brings Divine Fire

But suddenly…! Ten days later, fifty days after Christ’s resurrection, it came! How? The Holy Spirit came—on them and in them at Pentecost. It was then that they truly assimilated Kingdom being, Kingdom living, their identity, their authority, their roles and responsibilities, their purpose and the divine fire to accomplish it. 

THAT’S when they began living, unleashing and spreading the ruling presence of God. Their deliverance from the kingdom of darkness, the kingdoms and culture of the world around them, their freedom, righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit only blossomed and blew up AFTER Jesus left. That’s when their deepest questions were clarified and, over time, because answered.

On the very night He was to be betrayed, Jesus promised: “I will ask the Father and he will give you another [Savior], the Holy Spirit of Truth, who will be to you a friend just like me—and he will never leave you. The world won’t receive him because they can’t see him or know him. But you will know him intimately, because he will make his home in you and will live inside you.” (John 14:16-17, the word “savior” is used intentionally). That very thing happened! And still does!

Eventually, there arrived on scene a 12th disciple and apostle. He never met Jesus before Jesus ascended. But he sure did…afterward… on a road, on his way to commit heinous acts against Jesus’s followers that were authorized by religious leaders (Acts 9). 

This 12th disciple met Christ the same exact way you and I did, or can, this very day. That guy’s name? Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the Apostle. That’s who eventually penned that letter to the followers in Philippi, from which we read the excerpt earlier. Please read slowly and carefully those same verses from a different translation, in context…

Philippians 2:6-13, TPT

Philippians 2:6-13, TPT (Emphasis added)
[Jesus] existed in the form of God, yet he gave no thought to seizing equality with God as his supreme prize. Instead he emptied himself of his outward glory by reducing himself to the form of a lowly servant. He became human!
He humbled himself and became vulnerable, choosing to be revealed as a man and was obedient. He was a perfect example, even in his death—a criminal’s death by crucifixion! 
Because of that obedience, God exalted him and multiplied his greatness! He has now been given the greatest of all names! 
The authority of the name of Jesus causes every knee to bow in reverence! Everything and everyone will one day submit to this name—in the heavenly realm, in the earthly realm, and in the demonic realm.
And every tongue will proclaim in every language: “Jesus Christ is Lord Yahweh,” bringing glory and honor to God, his Father
My beloved ones, just like you’ve always listened to everything I’ve taught you in the past, I’m asking you now to keep following my instructions as though I were right there with you. Now you must continue to make this new life fully manifested as you live in the holy awe of God—which brings you trembling into his presence.
God will continually revitalize you, implanting within you the passion to do what pleases him.

Salvation & Deliverance

Here’s the point. It’s great news. The words save and salvation, before they were translated from the original languages to English mean deliverance. Becoming delivered from one way and existence to another, over and over again—rinse n’ repeat! Salvation is not a singularity, a one-time thing, a prayer. It instead is incremental, full deliverance from one kingdom to another: From the kingdom of darkness and the kingdoms of this world to the Kingdom of Light and Kingdom of God.

Salvation IS a process, it IS transformational loss, change and growth over time. Salvation IS trinitarian. As images and imagers of God, we are three persons in one, body, soul and spirit. Born anew from above, born again, converted, our spirit person is made completely new, all the old is no more (John 3, 2nd Corinthians 5).

Alive with God and Dead to Sin

At conversion our spirit person is alive with the ruling presence of God, completely dead to sin and utterly no longer of this world and its ways and systems. Our soul person and flesh person are invited and fully supported to come into alignment with our spirit person. This all is wholly dependent upon relationship with the person of Holy Spirit. The deeper and better we forge relationship with Holy Spirit, Christ is more fully revealed.

The more and better we know Christ, we cannot help but develop intimacy with Him. Intimacy only leads to trusting and obeying Him. And that is the path that leads to the greatest prize and existence of all: Proximity to Abba Father, full of glory and dignity!

Apostles - Sent Ones

That is what happened to each of those twelve disciples. Then they were sent out. That is the very definition of apostle—a sent one. It is a nautical term. A conquering empire would send out advance ships. Their job was to sail to lands previously under other rule, enter that land and establish the conqueror’s rule and culture. Not to take over existing civil governments and culture—no, no. Instead, establish and flourish their king’s rule and culture. 

That is exactly what disciples do. They live their king’s way in the lands to which they are appointed. They spend the rest of their lives being transformed into actual imagers of their King, manifesting their King’s ruling presence and their king’s culture. They actively renew the way they think, move and have their being. They are very much engaged in the world and the systems around them but are no longer at all satisfied with being of that existence. They pledge allegiance to a different ruler. 

How the Church Can Help

You might ask, “Well then, how is the church supposed to help?” Myriad scriptures give us the answers specifically. For a great synopsis, let’s look to the book of Ephesians 4:11-15, TPT. This is the same yesterday, today and till the end of time. Because Jesus is. (Hebrews 13:8).

Ephesians 4:11-15 TPT
And [Jesus] has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors, and some with grace to be teachers. And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ. These grace ministries will function until we all attain oneness in the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God, and finally we become one perfect man with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed in the abundance of Christ.  And then our immaturity will end! And we will not be easily shaken by trouble, nor led astray by novel teachings or by the false doctrines of deceivers who teach clever lies. But instead we will remain strong and always sincere in our love as we express the truth. All our direction and ministries will flow from Christ and lead us deeper into him, the anointed Head of his body, the church.

That IS salvation! That also IS discipleship! Two aspects of the same process, two sides of the same coin, a distinction without an actual difference!

What is My Part?

You might say, “Okay, I’m starting to get the story, and why it’s important. But what’s my part in it?” And THAT is THE question. For each person, THAT question is FAR MORE important than whatever answer a man, a book, a seminar, a degree, a subscription, a video series, a denomination, a church (including the one I lead) or a program could ever answer.

The good news? God not only has all your answers, He IS the answer. His eager desire for you is to keep asking. He is even more eager to answer in the ways He knows best, and to help you go from the known to the unknown in attainable steps. THAT is salvation; THAT in its very essence IS discipleship. It is inward salvation by the person of the Holy Spirit, and inward discipleship by the person of the Holy Spirit!

Your Salvation. Your Discipleship.

But you reasonably say, “I don’t think I can do this on my own,” or reasonably ask, “What is my part in all this?” Your salvation, your discipleship plan, is tailored by God to you. You are a once-in-all-history event. No human can tell you your process, let alone should try. I have GREAT news. God provides that too! Here’s a great start—seven ingredients constantly mixed in and stirred to create over time an ever-evolving, beautiful, appealing, powerful seven-layer cake.

This is from Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Peter. It provides us a great summary. (2 Peter:3-11, TPT). Please read these verses slowly and carefully.

2 Peter 1:3-11 TPT
Everything we could ever need for life and godliness has already been deposited in us by his divine power. For all this was lavished upon us through the rich experience of knowing him who has called us by name and invited us to come to him through a glorious manifestation of his goodness. As a result of this, he has given you magnificent promises that are beyond all price, so that through the power of these tremendous promises we can experience partnership with the divine nature, by which you have escaped the corrupt desires that are of the world. So devote yourselves to lavishly supplementing your faith with goodness, and to goodness add understanding, and to understanding add the strength of self-control, and to self-control add patient endurance, and to patient endurance add godliness, and to godliness add mercy toward your brothers and sisters, and to mercy toward others add unending love. Since these virtues are already planted deep within, and you possess them in abundant supply, they will keep you from being inactive or fruitless in your pursuit of knowing Jesus Christ more intimately. But if anyone lacks these things, he is blind, constantly closing his eyes to the mysteries of our faith, and forgetting his innocence—for his past sins have been washed away. For this reason, beloved ones, be eager to confirm and validate that God has invited you to salvation and claimed you as his own. If you do these things, you will never stumble. As a result, the kingdom’s gates will open wide to you as God choreographs your triumphant entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Messiah.

Salvation: It's Not Complicated

The four pillars that frame and support salvation and discipleship:

Over time, as we continually submit more and more areas of our life to God and His processes, we change and grow. Our identity, authority, purpose and destiny come into sharper focus. And we acquire the tailwinds of heaven to accomplish who and what God intended eternally.

The Love of God They Radiated

I think of my experiences last Spring getting to see much better who Billy Graham was. I think of my experience 8 days ago, once again seeing those leaders, their track records and their hearts. I think of my experiences with Pastor Jack. I understand more deeply the attributes they hold in common, along with the source of their appeal and their power.

It wasn’t evangelical appeal or charismatic zeal, though those are wonderful and God-breathed. Instead, it was the presence and the love of God they radiated. I realize, though, that is an outgrowth. They trusted God and yielded to His loving salvation and discipleship across time. At a deep level, people were drawn to them and related to them more as a true disciple of Christ and, eventually, as a father or a mother.

I’ll wind this down from that same heart to the best of my ability. As a reformer, I’ll lean on Billy Graham, who said something both prescient and beautiful almost 58 years ago.

"Multitudes of Christians within the Church are moving toward the point were they may reject the institution that we call the church. They are beginning to turn to more simplified forms of worship. They are hungry for a personal and vital experience with Jesus Christ. They want a heartwarming personal faith. Unless the church quickly recovers its authoritative Biblical message, we may witness the spectacle of millions of Christians going outside the institutional church to find spiritual food."
Billy Graham (in 1956!) as quoted in "World Aflame," pp. 79-80

As for “church growth”…

Consider the following Quotes:

There have been some who were so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. C.S. Lewis

Jesus is God's exegesis of himself. Jesus is God's ultimate sermon. Bruxy Cavey

To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul's paradox of love. A.W. Tozer

God is...a man on a cross, loving people who don't love him. That's God. Will Willimon

Normality is a paved road. It's comfortable to walk but no flowers grow on it. Vincent van Gogh

When the church resists change, it is a classic case of letting the dead bury the living. Leonard Sweet

As for transforming and maturing as Christ followers ourselves…

My Challenge - Throughout 2023 Engage!

You don’t have to just take my word for it. Here’s my challenge:

Let’s work it out! Together!

Together let's ask:

Careful Conversion

For Heaven’s sake (literally), let us not convert to Christianity, Churchianity, Doctrinanity, Denominationanity, Politicanity or any other inanity or insanity. Eternal life, God-life (John 10:10) was not, is not and never will be found in any ism, ology or sin-based construct. 

Let us instead convert to a PERSON: Jesus, our Savior, our Lord, our Healer, our Deliverer, Discipler, Source, our King now and coming.

Let us instead become His FOLLOWERS, showing ourselves His followers and making Him famous!

Let us instead fully manifest this new life in Christ as we live in the holy awe of God—which brings us trembling into his presence! (Philippians 2:12)

Let us instead work out a life of ridiculous love and acceptance, of radical forgiveness and outrageous hospitality.

Let us commit to this today!

I speak into your spirit, and over you, your family, and those about whom you deeply care: May it become fully so!

Isaac Watts lived in London. Isaac was extremely good-hearted. Oh, how Isaac loved God. Isaac was very gifted artistically. One problem: He didn’t fit into the conventional church world. Making it worse for himself, his thinking and his views just would not stay within the boundaries of normal and accepted doctrine and dogma. In short, Isaac was a bit of an insurgent. If Isaac were around today, he might be a punk-rock or urban rap artist. 

Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

One of Isaac’s so-called shortcomings was he insisted upon reading the Old Testament from this side of the cross. Somehow he deeply understood that the Ascendent Christ fulfills the laws, prophets, types and shadows of the Old Testament. Isaac discovered that there is far richer treasure in the Old Testament when viewed properly—through the lens of a resurrected Jesus.

Sharing Joy with the World

Isaac was an outlier… and an influencer. Spoken words, poems, lyrics and more just came pouring out of him. So would profound literary and scientific works. More than 750 songs, several profound writings and books on logic, children’s literature, and more, survive him. Many are still in use in various ways today. Here’s the thing. Isaac was born in 1674. Yep.

Joy to the World

Isaac would occasionally get lost in his pursuit of finding the present-day reality of Jesus—and the now and coming Kingdom of God—in ancient scriptures, particularly the Psalms. One time he got hung up doing this with Psalm 98. Out of that came a song that still today we all know well. It’s a Christmas Carol sung worldwide: Joy To The World! It was published well over 300 years ago!

The definition of Joy

The original words to Joy To The World are posted below. Take a few minutes to digest them slowly. You will immediately see the joy talked about there is something quite different from happiness. It bears no resemblance to “living my best life” or living “my personal truth”. 

Happiness

Happiness is an outcome. It is a trailing indicator arising from other sources. “Living my best life” or “my personal truth” limits one’s outcomes, experiences and results horribly. Why? One is inescapably limited to the extremely narrow and small kingdom and sandbox of “my… SELF”.

There’s nothing wrong with happiness. After all, God invented it. It’s just that happiness is hooked to situations, circumstances and attitudes. Happiness is a characteristic of personality. Happiness and lack of it arise from one’s personal and family history, his/her physical, mental, emotional, social and financial well-being. As such happiness is highly volatile.

Joy as an Action Word

Joy in Christ is hooked to the eternal Kingdom of God and Christ via the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Joy in Christ is existential… a way of being. Joy in the bible is often stated more as the verb, rejoice, rejoicing, etc.. Rejoice is an action word. Joy in Christ is completely unhooked from circumstances, situations and outcomes.

The King of Joy

Joy in Christ stems from transferring the kingship of one’s life from her/himself to the one true good King—a King Who has known you since before time. A King Who constantly contends for your highest possible good. A King Who is always sovereign over all and everything, Who is always good, Who always knows the end from the beginning. A King who loves nothing more than to see you flourish in your destiny and purpose, among a tribe and habitat that nurtures that. A King who is knowable, touchable, close, available and powerful beyond words.

The Greatest Gift

May I suggest that this Christmas the greatest gift you could ever give yourself, those you love, those you influence (and those you will) is pledging your allegiance to the One True King and His Ways, Truths and Life. May I urge you to wait expectantly for His ruling presence, to draw near to Him and He to you. 

Joy Has a Name

Joy has a name. It is Jesus. You may never know the depths of His riches—how much He loves, cares and wants for you, as His riches are boundless and unfathomable. (Ephesians 3:8) But oh, He so desires you plumb the depths of His love, mercy, grace, truth and transforming power. (Luke 12:32)

Joy Outside of Self

Our friend Isaac knew just such a King. And lived just such an existence. Isaac’s joy came from outside the box of self. It came from Another who lived within him. Our friend Isaac repeatedly surrendered to the choice to take Jesus the Christ at His Word. “These things I have spoken to you, that MY joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. ~ Jesus (John 15:11, emphasis added).

Joy and Peace to You

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13) This Christmas season and every day thereafter, may you “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We love you. Yes, you.

Joy To The World, Isaac Watts, 1719

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

World peace. Fundamentally, who does not want it? Miss Congeniality, old as the movie is, does a great job of weaving this throughout the screenplay. It was a strong sub-theme. See a summary here.

Much of the church world sees the path to “world peace” is to hold and exalt a “biblical world view”, especially for elected officials. There are problems. Both terms—world peace and biblical world view (as 'churchianity' defines them)—are oxymorons in the eyes of God. Both are self-contradictions; both mutually exclude themselves. To explain…

How Scripture defines Peace

Your enemy the devil, manipulating mankind, rules the world and all its systems and has since the great fall. God’s peace is not of this world. The holy scriptures clearly define a biblical world view as something wholly different and utterly unlike mankind’s. (Genesis 3, John 12:31-33, John 14:30, John 16:11, Matthew 4:1-10, Ephesians 2:1-3, Ephesians 6:12-13, Hebrews 2:14, 1 Peter 5:8-10, James 4:4-7, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Matthew Chapters 5-7, et al.)

God's peace is vastly superior

Cessation of war, violence and hostility? No adversity? Everyone just get along? John Lennon’s song, Imagine? Sure, those describe various peaceful conditions, even are legitimate desires. However, those and any construct of man pale in comparison to how God defines peace. God’s peace is far beyond and vastly superior. (See notes at the end of the article)

God’s peace came to Earth 2000 years ago, just like all the ancient prophets predicted. (Luke 2). 30 years later Jesus invoked an entirely new, replacement government and system. That happened the very moment He spoke, “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change the way you think, change your life and believe the Message” (Matthew 3:2, Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15, Romans 12:1-2)

Peace I leave you with

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” ~ Jesus, to his disciples and us just a couple hours before He would be betrayed (John 14:27a) “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus, to his disciples and us just a few minutes before He would be betrayed (John 16:33)

The very next morning He was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day he resurrected. He suddenly appeared to His disciples. The very first words out of His mouth? “Peace to you!” (John 20:19)

Waiting for God's Peace

I can’t even count how many times in my life I have heard others, or my own internal voice, say, “Don’t just stand there, do something!” How about you? Christ followers are different and do differently. We build habits, then a lifestyle, to seek first God’s leading and His intimacy (Matthew 6:33). Many(!) times God will indicate, “Don’t just do something, stand there.”

God’s subtext might be, “You don’t know the end from the beginning. I do” or, “I’ve got this; I’ll let you know when I need your help”, or “I love you. You’re interfering; please step out of My way”. Foremost, God says, “My wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. (Philippians 4:7)

Peace through intimacy with God

Accepting and acting upon Christ’s desire for facetime with us is the key. Expectantly waiting, pulling on God’s presence, kindling the flame of His love and radiance within, investing time with Him and others doing so too. Advent is exactly for that: Intimacy with the Living God, Jesus the Christ. Cooperate with Him. Let Him. Pursue Him. Pause. Anticipate Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Wait expectantly.

Peace to you

This Christmas Season and ever after, may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, [peace, joy and love], fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in Him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with His super-abundance until you radiate with [all your promises in Him this Advent]! (Romans 15:13) Merry Christmas. We love you. Yes, you.


[Notes] Theology is not the aim of this post. Some other time we’ll explore that. Want to explore on your own? Do a bible word search on the term (peace). Maybe look up the word on Google or Wikipedia in its original bible languages—shalom (Hebrew), shlama (Aramaic) and iréné (Greek- eiréné, εἰρήνη).

If you have not already done so, be sure to read Hope, Part 1.

The Bread of Life

“I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I am the Bread—living Bread!—who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self.” ~ Jesus. (John 6:35, 48, 51)

The Light of the World

“I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in. I am the world’s Light.” ~ Jesus. (John 8:12, 9:5)

The Gate

“I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find [provision and protection]. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” ~ Jesus. (John 10:7-10)

The Good Shepherd

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd.” ~ Jesus. (John 10:14-16)

The Resurrection and Life

“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all.” ~ Jesus. (John 11:25-26a)

The Path

“I am the [Path], also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!” ~ Jesus. (John 14:6-7)

The Vine

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.” ~ Jesus. (John 15:1-4)

Why not give him your heart?

Jesus said those things. He’s an audacious God doing outrageous things. He makes bodacious claims. He then fulfills them. He is those things: Touchable, tangible, measurable, provable. He knows all your “I am’s” intimately. He constantly contends for your highest possible good. He knows your heart. Why not give it to Him right now—for the first time or again.

Picture this: You and the generations before you—in fact your whole nation—had known nothing but awful… for thousands of years. Defeat. Captivity. Oppression and brutality of the worst kinds. Yet, somehow, the gravity of despair was constantly overpowered by the magnetism of hope. How?

Facts, Feelings and Truth

Maybe it boils down to dividing realities. There are three: Facts, feelings and truth.

Facts 

The reality of our conditions, situations, circumstances, experiences. That translates to what’s happening around me, to me and in me.
Fill in the blank:

The _____________________ around me is ___________________ . I am undergoing ______________________.  I have (or lack) _____________________________ . I experience __________________________ .

Facts are real. They matter. They influence. They must be acknowledged and accepted. We must treat them with respect and with care. Classifying facts as bad or good seldom is productive. Discerning good from evil is at times wise.

Feelings

Feelings are reality too. We tend to discount that, or even at times deny it. That seldom brings a happy outcome. Sad, happy, angry, content, lonely, among, full, empty, helpless, powerful, frustrated, victorious, flat, enthusiastic… and the rest in the catalog are real.
Feelings matter. They influence. They must be acknowledged and accepted. We must treat them with respect and with care.
There is no such thing as a good feeling or a bad feeling. Labeling feelings as good or bad only leads to trouble. Instead, feelings are somewhere on a sliding scale between pleasant and unpleasant. At any given moment all of us feel one emotion or another. To some degree of intensity, it is either pleasant or unpleasant. Embrace that reality.

Truths

Truths are greater reality—separate and independent, beyond and higher. Truths are more real than facts and feelings. They carry much greater influence and power. Facts and feelings arise out of other things and are highly variable. Truths are existential and unchanging, and matter far more than facts and feelings.

Example

Those people thousands of years ago? They planted their hope in two things. Turned out both were “I am’s”. They knew in their deepest knower a Truth Moses imparted: A vast, loving “I am Who I am” God (Exodus 3:14) Who proved over and over He was Who He said he was. Their second anchor of hope was in a Messiah who all their prophets said was coming. He did.

If you have not already done so, we suggest you first read our prior Advent article. Ponder a bit, then…

Picture a great emperor… no, the very greatest emperor ever. Yeah, that’s it! Picture an emperor who makes puny by comparison every president, every king, every ruler, every general—even every Marvel superhero! Now imagine this emperor is unstoppable. He and his empire will step from eternity, intrude Earth and spread throughout the entire planet. 

The nature of government

Every current government and nation of any kind and size rules by decreeing right vs. what is wrong. Then they enforce its ways and expand its reach. Naturally, laws are passed to systematize all this. Some nations pass laws and create systems that seem more humane. However, there is an underbelly of every such government—the rulers and the ruled. The DNA of all such empires is encoded in up-vs.-down power and violence, competition and comparison. Security, survival and prosperity are fueled and enforced by a broad spectrum of punishments (and fear thereof). 

The Good Emperor

Now picture an emperor who completely throws out all such systems and changes history. Yeah, that’s it! Picture this great emperor turning the entire world inside out and upside down. Oh, but this emperor and his ways are utterly different—unrecognizable even. His DNA, his new normal is… well, not normal. No, no, this emperor will introduce and spread an entirely different rule and reign, and culture. 

Picture an emperor who is hope personified. Peace personified. Joy personified. Love personified. Whose entire reign and rule founds on and is fueled by a wholly different source: love, unfailing and unending. And this government runs on radical forgiveness, unbounded mercy and outrageous hospitality. Now there’s an emperor I could become a subject of!

A new citizenship

But how could anyone ever cross over from their current citizenship and mindset, let alone commit allegiance to the new emperor? And how could they adapt to this utterly unfamiliar way, truth and life? It’s as though they’d have to be reborn and made anew. And then let the new emperor deliver them from the old empire to the new one. And then learn, grow and mature in a new habitat and culture.

Picture this great emperor who rejected a security detail, administrative assistants, barriers, a corner office or a crown. Picture him straight-up saying right to you, “Yup, I knew all that. Here you go. I would LOVE to do all that for you and with you… and more!”

Jesus Christ our good emperor

This great emperor? He crashed into Earth 2,000 years ago. He willingly laid down all his privileges and lived fully as a human. Then, through a process both horrible and beautiful our emperor ended up stepping back into eternity. He rules from there right now. He is coming back. We celebrate his birth every year on December 25th. He forever established his empire on the earth way back then. It has been available, knowable and doable ever since. 

Picture a magnificent love-fired emperor whose manifest ruling presence is in our midst—knowable, tangible, reachable—right now. Hope. Peace. Joy. Love. Presence. What more could any person need or want?

Come and Get It!

Such is the message and the reality of the season of Advent. Expectant waiting. We say, “There must be more.” And God says, “There is. Come and get it.” Let’s chase after this hard, together. What do you say? We love you. Yes, you.

Advent: we say that word a lot around here this time of year. A fair question: “What’s the big deal about Advent”?

History of Advent

You may not be familiar with the Advent tradition and season. It goes back at least 1700 years in the church. The tradition largely died out over time, except in more liturgical denominations (Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, higher Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian churches, etc.) In those traditions it is still practiced. There, a lot of attention and resources are directed to Advent.

Advent revival

Advent was brought back in certain circles in the first third of the 20th Century. That was in part because leaders and influencers at the time thought Christmas was becoming too commercialized and the “Reason for the Season” was starting to get lost. They stated at the time they wanted to return to the rightful focus: Christ. Almost 100 years later, it’s brilliantly evident they were right! For us at Joy! Church, that seems reason enough to participate.

A vision for Advent

There is more. We also view Advent as prophetic in origin and nature (defined as bringing Heaven into Earth). A worldwide community of any size that is yearning for, pulling on, desiring the MORE of Jesus the Christ—who is the same yesterday, today and forever… that’s something we want to get in on!

It is a perfect prophetic season to draw near to God; to renew intimacy with Him. Whenever one sincerely and sacrificially invests in doing that, hope, peace, joy and love manifest. We don’t believe it’s any accident those are the 4 Sundays—signified by 4 candles—of Advent.

Questions to ask God during Advent

Advent is a perfect season to ask great God questions. Here are some:

Surely there must be more?

Why do I feel pulled toward the deeper things of God?

What’s God really like?

What does He really think of me?

What things and aspects of me does God especially like, would love to nurture and prosper?

What aspects and ways does God lovingly desire to renovate in me?

What would God like me to center upon and focus on in the coming year?

Celebrating Advent

Many people (me included, sometimes) find that “high church” environments are wonderful places to experience the nearness of God and intimacy with Him. There’s just something about the liturgy, formality, repetition, pomp and circumstance. It’s easy to spit out the “bones” of dead tradition and feast on the “meat” of the wonder, majesty, reverence, holiness and power of God. Advent is one of the seasons best suited!

Resources for a Traditional Advent Celebration

Maybe you would like to explore traditional Advent? Click here for a very good interactive resource to learn more. It’s short, simple and useful. 

If you feel pulled toward learning more about the deeper sacred practices of the Advent tradition, you really can’t do better than Brian Zahnd’s works. Click here for a summary of those.

Interested in a very good daily devotional for the Advent Season that you can use every year? Brian Zahnd wrote one! It’s available from various booksellers. Click here if you want to see it at Amazon.

Advent Blessing

May you find this Advent Season to be rich in the hope, peace, joy and love who is Christ. Event better, may He find you and fill you. We encourage you to make that easy for Him. We love you. Yes, you.

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