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A Jesus Manifesto Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola

Shutterstock_33326869  I have always appreciated Leonard Sweet's thoughts, writings, and now his Tweets 🙂 The following article, or manifesto, was written by Leonard and Frank Viola and comes from the thoughts of their respective books "So Beautiful & From Eternity To Here."

As I read their manifesto I kept hearing myself say , "Yeah…uh-huh…that's right!" very often. People are hungry for an authentic God-invasion in their lives. Not another religious experience, or set of moral expectations. When we reduce Christianity, or following Jesus to those types of things we are dishonoring God and the men and women that He so desperately loves.

The key to all things is simply "Jesus." As you read, I hope you have some "uh-huhs" of your own…post your thoughts after you read…what think ye?

Dei Gratia,

Monty

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A Jesus Manifesto
for the 21st Century Church
 
By Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Christians have made the gospel about so many things … things other than Christ.
 
Jesus
Christ is the gravitational pull that brings everything together and
gives them significance, reality, and meaning. Without him, all things
lose their value. Without him, all things are but detached pieces
floating around in space.
 
It
is possible to emphasize a spiritual truth, value, virtue, or gift, yet
miss Christ . . . who is the embodiment and incarnation of all
spiritual truth, values, virtues, and gifts.
 
Seek a truth, a value, a virtue, or a spiritual gift, and you have obtained something dead.
 
Seek
Christ, embrace Christ, know Christ, and you have touched him who is
Life. And in him resides all Truth, Values, Virtues and Gifts in living
color. Beauty has its meaning in the beauty of Christ, in whom is found
all that makes us lovely and loveable.
 
What is Christianity? It is Christ.
Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology.
Christianity is not a philosophy. Christianity is the “good news” that
Beauty, Truth and Goodness are found in a person. Biblical community is
founded and found on the connection to that person. Conversion is more
than a change in direction; it’s a change in connection. Jesus’ use of
the ancient Hebrew word shubh, or its Aramaic equivalent, to
call for “repentance” implies not viewing God from a distance, but
entering into a relationship where God is command central of the human
connection.
 
In that regard, we feel a massive disconnection in the church today. Thus this manifesto.
 
We
believe that the major disease of the church today is JDD: Jesus
Deficit Disorder. The person of Jesus is increasingly politically
incorrect, and is being replaced by the language of “justice,” “the
kingdom of God,” “values,” and “leadership principles.”
 
In
this hour, the testimony that we feel God has called us to bear centers
on the primacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Specifically . . .
 
1.                  The
center and circumference of the Christian life is none other than the
person of Christ. All other things, including things related to him and
about him, are eclipsed by the sight of his peerless worth. Knowing
Christ is Eternal Life. And knowing him profoundly, deeply, and
in reality, as well as experiencing his unsearchable riches, is the
chief pursuit of our lives, as it was for the first Christians. God is
not so much about fixing things that have gone wrong in our lives as
finding us in our brokenness and giving us Christ.
 
2.                  Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his teachings. Aristotle
says to his disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Socrates says to his
disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Buddha says to his disciples, “Follow
my meditations.” Confucius says to his disciples, “Follow my sayings.”
Muhammad says to his disciples, “Follow my noble pillars.” Jesus says
to his disciples, “Follow me.” In all other religions, a follower can
follow the teachings of its founder without having a relationship with
that founder. Not so with Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus cannot
be separated from Jesus himself. Jesus Christ is still alive and he
embodies his teachings. It is a profound mistake, therefore, to treat
Christ as simply the founder of a set of moral, ethical, or social
teaching. The Lord Jesus and his teaching are one. The Medium and the
Message are One. Christ is the incarnation of the Kingdom of God and
the Sermon on the Mount.
 
3.                  God’s
grand mission and eternal purpose in the earth and in heaven centers in
Christ . . . both the individual Christ (the Head) and the corporate
Christ (the Body). This universe is moving towards one final goal – the
fullness of Christ where He shall fill all things with himself. To be
truly missional, then, means constructing one’s life and ministry on
Christ. He is both the heart and bloodstream of God’s plan. To miss
this is to miss the plot; indeed, it is to miss everything.
 
4.                  Being
a follower of Jesus does not involve imitation so much as it does
implantation and impartation. Incarnation–the notion that God connects
to us in baby form and human touch—is the most shocking doctrine of the
Christian religion. The incarnation is both once-and-for-all and
ongoing, as the One “who was and is to come” now is and lives
his resurrection life in and through us. Incarnation doesn’t just apply
to Jesus; it applies to every one of us. Of course, not in the same
sacramental way. But close. We have been given God’s “Spirit” which
makes Christ “real” in our lives. We have been made, as Peter puts it,
“partakers of the divine nature.” How, then, in the face of so great a
truth can we ask for toys and trinkets? How can we lust after lesser
gifts and itch for religious and spiritual thingys? We’ve been touched
from on high by the fires of the Almighty and given divine life. A life
that has passed through death – the very resurrection life of the Son
of God himself. How can we not be fired up?
 
To
put it in a question: What was the engine, or the accelerator, of the
Lord’s amazing life? What was the taproot or the headwaters of his
outward behavior? It was this: Jesus lived by an indwelling Father.
After his resurrection, the passage has now moved. What God the Father
was to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is to you and to me. He’s our
indwelling Presence, and we share in the life of Jesus’ own
relationship with the Father. There is a vast ocean of difference
between trying to compel Christians to imitate Jesus and learning how
to impart an implanted Christ. The former only ends up in failure and
frustration. The latter is the gateway to life and joy in our daying
and our dying. We stand with Paul: “Christ lives in me.” Our life is
Christ. In him do we live, breathe, and have our being. “What would
Jesus do?” is not Christianity. Christianity asks: “What is Christ doing through
me … through us? And how is Jesus doing it?” Following Jesus means
“trust and obey” (respond), and living by his indwelling life through
the power of the Spirit.
 
5.                  The
“Jesus of history” cannot be disconnected from the “Christ of faith.”
The Jesus who walked the shores of Galilee is the same person who
indwells the church today. There is no disconnect between the Jesus of
Mark’s Gospel and the incredible, all-inclusive, cosmic Christ of
Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The Christ who lived in the first
century has a pre-existence before time. He also has a post-existence
after time. He is Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, A and Z, all at
the same time. He stands in the future and at the end of time at the
same moment that He indwells every child of God. Failure to embrace
these paradoxical truths has created monumental problems and has
diminished the greatness of Christ in the eyes of God’s people.
 
6.                  It’s
possible to confuse “the cause” of Christ with the person of Christ.
When the early church said “Jesus is Lord,” they did not mean “Jesus is
my core value.” Jesus isn’t a cause; he is a real and living person who
can be known, loved, experienced, enthroned and embodied. Focusing on
his cause or mission doesn’t equate focusing on or following him. It’s
all too possible to serve “the god” of serving Jesus as opposed to
serving him out of an enraptured heart that’s been captivated by his
irresistible beauty and unfathomable love. Jesus led us to think of God
differently, as relationship, as the God of all relationship.
 
7.                  Jesus
Christ was not a social activist nor a moral philosopher. To pitch him
that way is to drain his glory and dilute his excellence. Justice apart
from Christ is a dead thing. The only battering ram that can storm the
gates of hell is not the cry of Justice, but the name of Jesus. Jesus
Christ is the embodiment of Justice, Peace, Holiness, Righteousness. He
is the sum of all spiritual things, the “strange attractor” of the
cosmos. When Jesus becomes an abstraction, faith loses its reproductive
power. Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead
people live.
 
8.                  It
is possible to confuse an academic knowledge or theology about Jesus
with a personal knowledge of the living Christ himself. These two stand
as far apart as do the hundred thousand million galaxies. The fullness
of Christ can never be accessed through the frontal lobe alone.
Christian faith claims to be rational, but also to reach out to touch
ultimate mysteries. The cure for a big head is a big heart.
 
Jesus does not leave his disciples with CliffsNotes for a systematic theology. He leaves his disciples with breath and body.
 
Jesus
does not leave his disciples with a coherent and clear belief system by
which to love God and others. Jesus gives his disciples wounds to touch
and hands to heal.
 
Jesus
does not leave his disciples with intellectual belief or a “Christian
worldview.” He leaves his disciples with a relational faith.
 
Christians
don’t follow a book. Christians follow a person, and this library of
divinely inspired books we call “The Holy Bible” best help us follow
that person. The Written Word is a map that leads us to The Living
Word. Or as Jesus himself put it, “All Scripture testifies of me.” The
Bible is not the destination; it’s a compass that points to Christ,
heaven’s North Star.
 
The
Bible does not offer a plan or a blueprint for living. The “good news”
was not a new set of laws, or a new set of ethical injunctions, or a
new and better PLAN. The “good news” was the story of a person’s life,
as reflected in The Apostle’s Creed. The Mystery of Faith proclaims
this narrative: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come
again.” The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to
complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of
living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught
that love is what makes life a success . . . not wealth or health or
anything else: but love. And God is love.
 
9.                  Only
Jesus can transfix and then transfigure the void at the heart of the
church. Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his church. While Jesus
is distinct from his Bride, he is not separate from her. She is in fact
his very own Body in the earth. God has chosen to vest all of power,
authority, and life in the living Christ. And God in Christ is only
known fully in and through his church. (As Paul said, “The manifold
wisdom of God – which is Christ – is known through the ekklesia.”)
 
The
Christian life, therefore, is not an individual pursuit. It’s a
corporate journey. Knowing Christ and making him known is not an
individual prospect. Those who insist on flying life solo will be
brought to earth, with a crash. Thus Christ and his church are
intimately joined and connected. What God has joined together, let no
person put asunder. We were made for life with God; our only happiness
is found in life with God. And God’s own pleasure and delight is found
therein as well.
 
10.              In
a world which sings, “Oh, who is this Jesus?” and a church which sings,
“Oh, let’s all be like Jesus,” who will sing with lungs of leather,
“Oh, how we love Jesus!”
 
If
Jesus could rise from the dead, we can at least rise from our bed, get
off our couches and pews, and respond to the Lord’s resurrection life
within us, joining Jesus in what he’s up to in the world. We call on
others to join us—not in removing ourselves from planet Earth, but to
plant our feet more firmly on the Earth while our spirits soar in the
heavens of God’s pleasure and purpose. We are not of this world, but we
live in this world for the Lord’s rights and interests. We,
collectively, as the ekklesia of God, are Christ in and to this world.
 
May
God have a people on this earth who are a people of Christ, through
Christ, and for Christ. A people of the cross. A people who are
consumed with God’s eternal passion, which is to make his Son
preeminent, supreme, and the head over all things visible and
invisible. A people who have discovered the touch of the Almighty in
the face of his glorious Son. A people who wish to know only Christ and
him crucified, and to let everything else fall by the wayside. A people
who are laying hold of his depths, discovering his riches, touching his
life, and receiving his love, and making HIM in all of his unfathomable
glory known to others.
 
The
two of us may disagree about many things—be they ecclesiology,
eschatology, soteriology, not to mention economics, globalism and
politics.
 
But in our two most recent book From Eternity to Here and So Beautifulwe
have sounded forth a united trumpet. These books are the Manifests to
this Manifesto. They each present the vision that has captured our
hearts and that we wish to impart to the Body of Christ— “This ONE
THING I know” (Jn.9:25) that is the ONE THING that unites us all:
 
Jesus the Christ.
 
    Christians don’t follow Christianity; Christians follow Christ.
    Christians don’t preach themselves; Christians proclaim Christ.
    Christians don’t point people to core values; Christians point people to the cross.
    Christians don’t preach about Christ: Christians preach Christ.
           
Over
300 years ago a German pastor wrote a hymn that built around the Name
above all names:                          
                                                                                               
            Ask ye what great thing I know,
that delights and stirs me so?
What the high reward I win?
Whose the name I glory in?
Jesus Christ, the crucified.
 
            This is that great thing I know;
this delights and stirs me so:
faith in him who died to save,
His who triumphed o’er the grave:
Jesus Christ, the crucified.
 
 
Jesus Christ – the crucified, resurrected, enthroned, triumphant, living Lord.
 
He is our Pursuit, our Passion, and our Life.
 
Amen.
 
*****

We also suggest listening to the YouTube song “Give Me Jesus” while reading this manifesto.
 
 

Buddha Reborn as a Teen?

Buddha
On Nov. 12 In Nepal, a silent teenage boy exited the jungle and began to receive worship as the reincarnation of "The Buddha." That first caught my attention because when we discuss the Buddha, in the sense of the original Siddhārtha Gautama who became the enlightened Buddha, he had reached enlightenment and therefore even in their own philosophical/religious beliefs, he would not be reincarnated, but he set the example of attaining Nirvana.

So this teenager comes out of the Jungle, doesn't say a word, touches some people on the head, shows no signs of the supernatural, and people believe him to be "god." Here are a couple  reports you can check out:

 http://news.aol.com/article/devotees-say-teen-is-buddha-reborn/244051

http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2006/12/buddha_boy_said.html

Thumb-buddha_boy_01
T
he only "proof" that the devotees are clinging to is that they "heard" he had been fasting for 6 months, some have said for 3 months. Some reports I read said that the boy had said he had been living off wild herbs. It wasn't proven just assumed. And I thought to myself…"HHmmm, it's amazing with all the historical evidence, Biblical evidence, Extra Biblical evidence, eyewitness accounts, and personal testimonies to the supernatural life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we have, and still people have a hard time believing." Perhaps if Jesus simply extended his 40 day fast in the desert to 6 months he could have bypassed the whole cross thingy 🙂

So, what are your thoughts on the latest "god" sighting? One thing it tells me is that our world is hungry for a God-invasion, and the really cool thing is that it actually has happened, and Jesus longs to be discovered by those searching for a God-invasion.

MC

Buddha Reborn as a Teen?

Buddha
On Nov. 12 In Nepal, a silent teenage boy exited the jungle and began to receive worship as the reincarnation of "The Buddha." That first caught my attention because when we discuss the Buddha, in the sense of the original Siddhārtha Gautama who became the enlightened Buddha, he had reached enlightenment and therefore even in their own philosophical/religious beliefs, he would not be reincarnated, but he set the example of attaining Nirvana.

So this teenager comes out of the Jungle, doesn't say a word, touches some people on the head, shows no signs of the supernatural, and people believe him to be "god." Here are a couple  reports you can check out:

 http://news.aol.com/article/devotees-say-teen-is-buddha-reborn/244051

http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2006/12/buddha_boy_said.html

Thumb-buddha_boy_01
T
he only "proof" that the devotees are clinging to is that they "heard" he had been fasting for 6 months, some have said for 3 months. Some reports I read said that the boy had said he had been living off wild herbs. It wasn't proven just assumed. And I thought to myself…"HHmmm, it's amazing with all the historical evidence, Biblical evidence, Extra Biblical evidence, eyewitness accounts, and personal testimonies to the supernatural life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we have, and still people have a hard time believing." Perhaps if Jesus simply extended his 40 day fast in the desert to 6 months he could have bypassed the whole cross thingy 🙂

So, what are your thoughts on the latest "god" sighting? One thing it tells me is that our world is hungry for a God-invasion, and the really cool thing is that it actually has happened, and Jesus longs to be discovered by those searching for a God-invasion.

MC

Three Blind Mice

Mice
I remember mumbling the words to the early nursery rhyme over and over. For a young skull full of mush, the rhythm can begin to numb and soon explode into a cosmic clash of wonderment in the imagination.


Three blind miceThree blind mice
See how they run
See how they run
They ran all over the farmers wife
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife
Did you ever see such a thing in your life
As three blind mice

Ya know, when your little, you just don’t tend to ask what the rhyme means, you just repeat it because you have a picture of three cute little furies beasts with dark glasses and a white cane, simply trying to make their way in the world.

Interestingly enough, the rhyme is a religious/political propaganda piece. It seems the farmers wife was really Queen Mary I who had the nickname of "Bloody Mary"  because of her persecution of Protestants. Under her regime, Protestants were not welcomed or tolerated, only being Catholic would do…so the Three Blind Mice represented three nobles who were not Catholic, (some have suggested the three men were Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer. These three Anglican nobles were convicted of plotting against the queen who had them burned at the stake.

Now isn’t that a sweet little nursery rhyme! As I have really been praying about, and looking at the relgio-political world scene over the last weeks, I wonder what kind of rhyme will be sung by babes about the killing in Israel and Palestine. I watch the news, read the articles, and soon my mind becomes as numb as it did when I was little mumbling rhymes without comprehension.

Topshellafpgi
As I look at Arab and Jew, with the strike-counterstrike-counterstrike-strike happening, I begin to think about another story I learned when I was young about blindness. Jesus is telling the story, and while the Hebrew humor is lost in translation, Jesus talks about a man who is mad at another man for some fault, or screwup. Jesus doesn’t tell us what the screwup was, probably because He knew we would focus on the sin and miss the point, but he says that this one guy is angry and pointing his finger at the mistake of the other…In Jesus’ terms, he makes a metaphor of the mistake calling it a speck in his brothers eye…the part that is so funny though is Jesus’ sarcasm. He says the guy who is pointing out the speck, or flaw, in his brother has a massive log protruding out of his own eye socket!

Can you see it? Quick translation: A Man with a boat-load of sin is judging another man with a little bit of sin. Jesus teaching is that we should take care of our own sin before thinking ourselves sin surgeons for others. In that picture I see the offspring of Isaac and Ishmael pummeling each other for logs and specks. To be sure, some of the logs and specks are hideous and evil, but as I look at the world scene it appears that the blind are in a full scale war without the aid of sight.

Can you imagine being God and seeing your creation pummeling each other day after day? Wouldn’t you want to end the playground fights and ignorant ravings done in your name? But God, in His wisdom has a plan I don’t see, because I have this nasty log in my eye! It’s when I think the log has dislodged itself that I am really the most blind.

The heart of every religio-political struggle is the exaltation of self and the love of power. One of the most powerful traits of Jesus is that while He was God, He didn’t have to shout others down to prove His pedigree…When you have truth, it is the truth that has the capacity to change things, not our proving of it.

The world fights, kills, and maims for scraps of dirt, and electronic credits that measure global wealth. No one ever has enough, so the power struggle to fulfill the desires of the self grow until it is taken from someone else. To justify the self-power domination, we must make enemies so that we can sleep at night in light of the things we do stay happy.

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The amazing thing is that Jesus had the answer with his lesson on logs and specks…look in and be honest. Remove masks, get naked before God…Look out with love towards those with specks and logs in their visionary path. If we live the light, trusting that the Light is the change agent, many logs and specks will dislodge, and the Kingdom of Heaven will have arrived for another masterpiece of God.

In the end, we are all blind mice to someone, but to God, we are valuable enough to allow men and women more days on earth before He returns. Today, let us allow the Light of Christ to illuminate of journey.

Illuminate Deo,
Monty