ALL THINGS NEW

New Years excitement has a lot to do with the idea of getting a new start. Somehow on New Years Day we can hit the Control, Alt and Delete, keys or if you’re a MAC user the Apple and Force Quit keys and magically get a chance to re-boot into a fresh start. This has always been an intriguing idea for me. Perhaps it is because in so many things I think that I need to have the chance at a new start, a kind of rebirth, the past left way behind, with nothing but opportunities, that I will recognize, in front of me.

I was just saying this to my wife before we both headed to our offices this morning. Having had some successes in life, I was reflecting, that there were far more opportunities that I missed than those that I recognized. I told her that I wish I had a do-over, knowing what I know now.  But after she left, I realized, knowing me, that I would just see some things and still miss others and that later in life it is the others, the ones I missed, that I would wish I had grabbed a hold of.

I need to say that my wife is one of the good choices I have made. She puts up with me and keeps me from missing the mark, most of the time. I am grateful for her. She is one of the ways I know God is real. She is no accident of nature, no kind of random occurrence brought about by evolution and survival of the fittest. And somehow God gave her the temperament to not just tolerate me but to love me. I can talk to her about the deep, soul, things and not be afraid of being judged and found crazy or somehow inadequate. I hope she finds that she can rely on me in the same way!

Back to the desire for a new start; There is something important about new beginnings. They are part of the fabric of the universe, and, they are central to the way God deals with us. The Scripture is full of stories of the new beginnings God has orchestrated for the people Scripture tells us about. In many ways God tells us about who He is by telling us the stories of people whom He granted new beginnings. It is very exciting to see all of this as you read the stories and if you haven’t experienced the wonderful personal journeys that serve and a back story for the faith we have in Jesus I strongly encourage you to pick up a Bible and begin to read. You will meet some great people. You will be changes people. Indeed you will be changed too!

But, for right now I want to get to the end of the Book and talk about one person’s new beginning – briefly.

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” (Revelation 4:1, NASB95)

The Apostle John was in exile on the island of Patmos when out of the air, he heard these words, spoken by Jesus. A lot had happened in Revelation chapters one, two, and three before Jesus said this to John but what is important here is the call Jesus made to John. A call that had John entering a whole new realm to learn some NEW THINGS, things that he could not have had any clue about. This same thing happened to a guy named Abram in Genesis Chapter 12.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;                     (Genesis 12:1, NASB95)

Wow, “leave everything behind and go to a place; and I am not going to tell you about it or where it is, but I will tell you when you get there.” I am all up for that, for sure. Bring it on. Where do I sign up?

But Abram went and God changed the world, and changed him too.

John answered the call of Jesus to join Him in Heaven and he was changed and the world still is being changed because, he did go up!

On January 2nd as I think about the New Year and what New Year means for me I want to commit that I am going to answer the call to do that which I have no idea how to do. To go to a place I have not seen and do things I do not know about, as a result of hearing the call of God the Father in my life. I tell you that no resolution I or you make, to do whatever, in your or my power will ever take you to the places that Abram and that John went. None of my resolutions have ever really amounted to anything when looked at in the light of God… It is only what He has done through me, surrendered me, that has amounted to anything! I do not have the mental tools or wisdom to do anything of value on my own. But when God is at work through surrendered me He can accomplish much. And He is about His business right now… Near the very end of the book it says,

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…”      (Revelation 21:5, NASB95)

In this New Year let each of us surrender to Him as He makes us and all things new, realizing that the old has to end to make way for the new!

I pray that the New Year brings you insight and blessing from God as you learn your part in the Ichthysgeneration!

robert curtis, Santa Rosa Beach Florida

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Knowledge & Wisdom

One of my favorite pastimes, my passion, really, is to seek out and learn things that I do not know about. This passion is an inexhaustible source of adventure. Around every corner and wherever I look there is something to find out about… In our age this pastime my be entered into by most of us who have access to an Internet connected computer and can read.

Today there is less and less excuse to be ignorant and we should never proclaim opinions about something that we have not thoroughly researched. In general I dislike opinion but the last thought is most certainly an opinion and as such there will be many who take exception to it….

The thing is, (here it comes, another opinion) knowledge can be dangerous to your person… The problem seems to be that the more we know, the more we think we know. It is what we think we know that will inevitably cause us a problem. Great learning should produce a different result. In striving for great learning we should come rapidly to that place where it becomes clear how ignorant we really are. Yet we see people every day proclaiming great things and great understandings, even to the point that some people have been heard saying, “There is no God…”

The Apostle Paul took the road less traveled as he proclaimed the strange new message of the One True God.

“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1–5, NASB95)

And yet today from many pulpits in many churches across the United States and around the world we hear another message proclaimed veiled behind, sometimes not so carefully,  the message of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. We hear a gospel that is not a gospel at all. It is the message of self righteousness. The message of what we must do to be “saved”, oh so carefully couched to emphasize that we are not claiming that our works save us, but  a message of works righteousness none the less.

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1–3, NASB95)

So then Paul proclaimed a gospel (good news) of the completed work of Jesus on the Cross. There is actually no more to be done. He did it all and gave the gift of His deliverance for those who came after to receive, merely receive.

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”” (1 Corinthians 1:26–31, NASB95)

It is not by your credentials that you are delivered into immortality; not by your good works; not by your winning personality; not by your wisdom; not by your love; not by your relentless memorization of Scripture; but by His Finished Work on the Cross and in His Resurrection that you have entered into Life.

YOU ARE SET FREE! THE VICTORY IS WON. Now you can pursue all good things in Him and with Him for Joy’s Sake and not in pursuit of righteousness. His Righteousness IS ALREADY YOURS.

Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, As in the day of trial in the wilderness,” (Hebrews 3:7–8, NASB95)

Do not harden your hearts by looking for a means other that the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross to deliver you to immortality. The price for you is paid in full and you need not and cannot by any means add a penny to the charge. Jesus has delivered you from Death!

Accept the Gift,

Begin New Life In Him,

Rejoice.

 

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Some thoughts on “Renegade”, by Vince Antonucci, Founder of Verve, Las Vegas & A True Renegade

“All holy desires grow by delay; and if they diminish by the delay, then they were never holy desires.”  Saint Gregory *

Vince Antonucci, fonder of Verve a church on the Strip in Las Vegas, has some challenging things to say to all of us who claim to be following Jesus, about living the “sold out” life…

One of the most important things he says is that God is speaking to all of us. The reason most of us do not hear Him is that He is telling us to do things that we do not want to do…

Some would like us to believe that God no longer, actually, speaks to us. But the Scripture tells us that,

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages to come. ” (Hebrews 13:8, DARBY)

God speaks as He has from the beginning. You are not specially blessed when He speaks to you. He is speaking to all of us and for the most part we do not hear… But this is our problem… He is still talking! But we do not like what He is saying.

For my part as I walk with Jesus,

God has not once told me to do something I want to do.

He has not once told me to do something that I know how to do.

He has not once told me to do something comfortable.

He has not once told me to do something that would bring me any credit.

And He has not once told me to do a thing that would make me friends…

I agree with Vince, this is the problem… Who among us seeks out to be stoned and left for dead, or ship wrecked, or whipped, or imprisoned? Paul did. Not is his power but in the power of God Almighty,

The God who speaks.

The Only God,

The God who began it all with a word, “LET THERE BE LIGHT…”

Remember that the Scripture tells us,

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

(Romans 8:16–17, NASB95)

“… if indeed we suffer with Him…”

We cannot decide for ourselves what is good and go do it. We must by the very nature of God’s work in our lives, hear from Him and do only that which He TELLS us to do. (John 5:19 & following, Romans Chapter 7, Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 1:6.)

Another thing Antonucci says is that if you start doing what God tells you to do you had better be prepared to wait. This is also a truth. It is in the fire of waiting that God builds us into His instrument for His work... I am waiting…

“I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:1–3, NASB95)

Let yourself go and cast yourself adrift into the arms of your Heavenly Father… He will catch you!

“Renegade” is a challenging read. Dare you try? Dare you not!

http://tinyurl.com/ouehbae

*quoted from “Renegade” by Vince Antonucci

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The Gift – A New/Old Way of Living…

In his book “Linchpin” Seth Godin makes this statement,
“I must have been absent that day at Stanford business school. They don’t spend a lot of time teaching you about the power of unreciprocated gifts, about the long (fifty thousand years) tradition of tribal economies being built around the idea of mutual support and generosity. In fact, I don’t think the concept is even mentioned once. We’ve been so brainwashed, it doesn’t even occur to us that there might be an alternative to “How much should I charge, how much can I make?”*

The gift, living your life committed in the mutual support of your neighbors, is the heart of successful community. If you haven’t already discovered this you will discover a new freedom to live to the full when you wake up every day unconcerned with the need to be secure and instead find yourself most absorbed with what you can do for another!

Jesus came to show us how to live this way. He did it, so that we could see it can be done and what happens when we decide to follow Him. We need to see that this abundant life of giving and service was His incredible Gift to us. He came to save the world and to teach us how to live in the world but not of it.

To have more than a social club that we call church we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we are no longer conformed to the systems of the world. We must make of our lives a living sacrifice expecting nothing in return. We must consider the needs of others first and learn to live serving our neighbors…

Wow. Is this even possible?

*Godin, Seth (2010-01-19). Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (p. 150). Penguin Group.

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Vision

This is a great article from Tom Harper @ Chruch Central on the nature of vision. http://tinyurl.com/aghdtyt

Got me thinking – so here are some of my thoughts on Vision, Leadership, and Community;

Real vision is not about showing those around you an engaging view of the future to attract a following – real vision is about helping those around you to see through the distortions of bias and opinion into a kind of thoughtful clarity that sees and experiences the world as it really is.

Vision is not comfortable – it always produces pain, both in the visionary leader and in those who resonate with the vision. Vision does not necessarily produce crowds of followers, crowds are just crowds, the least common denominator will gather a mass of people. Mediocrity is the best crowd maker of all. Crowds like comfort. Crowds don’t care for it when the bar of excellence is set too high or even talked about. Jesus told us about crowds,

““Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Matthew 24:28, NASB95)

and Jeremiah reported God’s thoughts about crowds,

A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: “Don’t listen to the sermons of the prophets. It’s all hot air. Lies, lies, and more lies. They make it all up. Not a word they speak comes from me. They preach their ‘Everything Will Turn Out Fine’ sermon to congregations with no taste for God, Their ‘Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen to You’ sermon to people who are set in their own ways.” (Jeremiah 23:16–17, The Message)

Vision is not at all comfortable. Vision carries us through the valley of despair and aloneness before it brings us to still waters and green pastures. Real vision carries us headlong into the Valley of Death.
Real vision produces commitment, produces a plurality of strong leaders and results in strong team commitment. Real vision produces people of character by purifying hearts in the fire of cataclysmic change. Real vision produces a people who work together and care deeply for one another. Real vision produces enduring, supportive, distinctively different kinds of community. It casts out the status quo and forges ahead into uncharted waters where the mettle of pure hearts is forged. And after all of the superficiality of human endeavor is burnt away in the fire of struggle all that is left is abiding, overwhelming love.

I pray for us all that we accept nothing less than a real vision for our lives. You can only find this as you, YOU, yourself come to that place where you stand in the full gaze of God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe. No preacher, guru, parent, pastor or teacher can do this for you. You must take the journey yourself. Jesus has made the way – He has opened the door to Life Abundant – You must walk through it yourself. Nothing less will do. When we have finally come to the end of ourselves, only then will we see the LORD, high and lifted up. Oh loving Father in Heaven, I beseech You, bring us to the end of ourselves that we indeed might see You and LIVE! I pray we all hear Him as He says,

“…Come up here and I will show you what must take place after these things!” (Revelation 4:1)

Have a wonder filled day!

Robert Curtis, member of The Icthusgeneration, in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

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The “Traditional” Church

No one has seen the “traditional” Church since before Constantine. Constantine merged Roman religious practice with Government, then incorporated Christ into what became the State Religion. (this, of course, is the short course)

Since all of the Scripture was written prior to 100 we can see what the Church looked like there. The Bride of Christ is a community of completely committed followers of Christ bound together in LOVE and demonstrating LOVE to all those around them. They daily and at all times carry out the ministry of the Gospel which is the ministry of LOVE. The Bride of Christ looks like Acts 2. The Bride of Christ looks like Romans 12.

The Bride of Christ is counter cultural, bold in LOVE, lives as God tells them to, says the things that God tells them to, is deep into the culture without being of the culture, is an attractive people and God is adding daily to the number of those being saved.

The Bride of Christ is lead by the Spirit and when the flesh man interferes The Bride of Christ responds with The Grace of God, Gentle but Firm in Him, constantly pointing each other to Jesus the Savior of the World and the Author and Perfecter of Life.

How Can This Be?

The disciples of Jesus were told to wait in Jerusalem until they had received power from on high. Then and only then they would be Jesus’ witnesses.

We must wait in “our” Spiritual Jerusalem, until we have each received power from on high before we can begin. WE must find our “upper room” in which we can wait together in prayer. We must do this together for as we can see in Scripture this is a together thing.

The whole of the Gospel is a together thing. The power both they then, and we now receive is the power to witness and witness too the great things of God. Recall that is what those gathered were doing after they received the promised power from the Spirit. They were proclaiming the Great Things Of God in all the tongues of men.

So we must find our “upper room” and pray and wait until He Himself reveals to us what He would have us do.

Then as together we do what He tells us and say the words He gives us to say we become the Body of Christ, which is the Bride of Christ, which we can then and only then call the Church –  this is the Church we read of in the New Testament beginning in Matthew 16:18. Jesus says ” I will build MY Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” Anything else is an institution made up by, and administered by man, and not of God.

Of Jesus’ “My Church” we read in Revelation Chapter 3, Jesus speaking, ““…He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. ‘Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. ‘Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. ‘I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. ‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:7–13, NASB95)

This is the Church. It is engaged in the world, not of the world, with the ministry of the Gospel, which is the LOVE of God. Remember Philadelphia means “City of Brotherly Love.”

Jesus is alive and indwells the Saints who are His Body, His Bride, His Church. We just have to enter into His Rest and receive this great inheritance. All we are, all the Church is, is in Him, is done in Him and by Him. He is the Church and we, each and every one of us,  are in Him. All Praise Be Unto His Mighty and Glorious Name.

Remember Jesus Said, “They will know you are my disciples by the Love you have one for another.”

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Should We Live By The Book?

This morning Larry Shallenberger (@LShallenberger on Twitter) Tweeted this post “Do We Annoy God By Using the Bible to Solve All Our Problems?” He introduces his post this way,

“Is it okay for a pastor to wonder if the way we handle the Bible dosen’t make God grind his teeth a bit?” 

His question and the post in general got me thinking about the question. Actually I am always thinking about the question. It occurs to me that after the question about God we have all faced, that the question about what the Scripture means to us, and for us, is THE question. The question we must answer.

In the first chapter of his book “Living by The Book” Dr. Howard G. Hendricks makes a remarkable statement,

“The Bible was written not to satisfy your curiosity but to help you conform to Christ’s image. Not to make you a smarter sinner but to make you like the Savior. Not to fill your head with a collection of Biblical facts but to transform your life.”

This statement resonates with me. For I see in the Scripture the certainty that, “We are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 NASB) From this and all the rest of the Scripture it seems that this is our Father in Heaven’s primary goal toward human kind, that we should be conformed into the likeness of Jesus, His Only Begotten Son.

So first, if you desire to live out of God’s plan for your life you will want to live the life you live by the “Book.” There are so many reasons for this but for our purposes here I am going to share what Dr. Hendricks says on the matter.

“Bible Study Is Essential To Growth.” “As newborn babies long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)

“Bible Study Is Essential To Spiritual Maturity.” “Concerning (Christ) we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for some one to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For every one who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14)

“Bible Study Is Essential To Spiritual Effectiveness” “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Dr. Hendricks’ three Essentials show us the necessity of Scripture “Self-Study.”

Then as we look at the Scripture further we see in Romans chapter 8 verses 12 through 17 we read the following;

“So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”  

We can see here that while we may still find ourselves living according to the flesh it is unprofitable for us to do so. To gain the life God intends for us, His adopted children, we need live by the Spirit. And I say to you and to myself (everyday) He Himself makes this possible for us to do.

For us, who live in an age where the Scripture is readily available to us we have “The Book” to give us ready access to the life transforming truth which is Jesus. We see that we will profit as we receive in ourselves this gift of God for our Spiritual development. While it is possible to receive the saving work of Jesus and His Father on our behalf without access to the Scripture, we who have access have been blessed beyond measure.

The Bible is valuable treasure for us as we labor to “solve” our spiritual “problems.” As we dive deeply into the Scripture’s substance we are changed, day-by-day from glory-to-glory!

How do the Scriptures stack up as a resource for “solving” the other “problems” we face as we live in the world? Well I am going to save most of my thoughts on this subject for another day. However Dr. Hendricks and Jesus both have something to say on the matter.

First, Prof Hendricks, “…you are either in the Word and the Word is conforming you to the image of Jesus Christ, or you are in the world and the world is squeezing you into its mold.”

Now our Lord, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NASB95)

If we live and “solve” our problems and face our trials with the methods of the world we will get the results of the world.

If on the other hand we rely on the Scripture and trust in Jesus, living our lives in Him we will see God’s solutions for the “problems” we face.

This latter is not our natural way to live. But thanks be to God WE HAVE BEEN BORN AGAIN IN CHRIST JESUS. We have been “born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13  And He is our ever present help in time of need. We no longer live in the natural, but, “..it is Christ who lives in us.” Galatians 2:20

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;

From where shall my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip;

He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel

Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;

The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun will not smite you by day,

Nor the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all evil;

He will keep your soul.

The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in

From this time forth and forever.  Psalm 121:1-8

Have a beautiful day in the Lord.

Robert Curtis – Activist, The Ichthysgeneration – Santa Rosa Beach Florida 

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