Wednesday, September 28, 2016

City Notes 27: The Pursuing God Part 1 of 3



City Notes 27: Books in 30 minutes or less


City Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read.

Here are links to the previous City Notes books:


Finding more words, works, and ways I hope to glorify Jesus in Joshua Ryan Butler's The Pursuing God: A Reckless, Irrational, Obsessed Love That's Dying to Bring Us Home


Since the last City Notes were also by a Portland author, might as well follow up with another. Actually, Joshua Ryan Butler's The Pursuing God: A Reckless, Irrational, Obsessed Love That's Dying to Bring Us Home is my favorite book of 2016, so it's not merely a follow up. 

As God continues to mature me, I hope one day I share about Him with the joy, empathy, wisdom, and whimsicalness that Josh does. It's a joy to read these words about Jesus. Both of his books have led me to worship Jesus in ancient and refreshing ways. So I can't thank him enough for that.

And I owe him one. This summer I happened to be in Portland and reached out to him via social media to see if he'd be willing to have lunch together. He generously obliged. And for all the ways I love the way he writes, he's an even more generous and joyful person to hang with on a sunny summer Portland afternoon. When I told another pastor who I also greatly respect in Portland that I was having lunch with him, he said, "He's such a kind guy. My church needs a pastor like him." I would agree. Emmaus City needs a pastor like him, too. And he even bought me lunch in the end. So I owe Josh one for that, and for the excerpts that are to follow. I hope they help you wonder about the possibility of not only a God who pursues you, but the God who has come as Jesus, and has died and resurrected to bring you love and life today.

City Notes 27: The Pursuing God Part 1 of 3


The Pursuing God: What if God's the one pursuing us, and our job is not to discover the light but to simply step out of the shadows? ... Not to ramp up our search for God, but to receive God's search for us? ... God's divine grace bears down upon us, calling us to turn and receive his love. As his footsteps draw closer, the sound of his voice breaks through the silence, and the light of his encroaching presence begins to pierce the darkness. The question we're then faced with is not whether we've been good enough, jumped high enough, or sought hard enough ... The question is, do we want to be found? + pgs. xiii-xiv

1 | The Artist in the Painting: Incarnation

Into the Canvas: At his birth, the Artist steps into his masterpiece. Through his incarnation, the Creator enters his creation, merging his eternal life with the canvas of his world, becoming part of the work his hands have made. Jesus is God in the painting. 

The Creator creates us for communion with him. The Deliverer desires to dwell with us forever. The Resurrector reaches out to us for relationship. We're invited to participate in the restoring life of Jesus, the Artist at the center of the painting. + pgs. 5-6


The New Captain: Sin attacks and degrades our humanity. It makes us less human, not more. By not sinning, Jesus is more human than we are. ...  
Jesus doesn't use a superhuman advantage to win; he refuses the inhumanity we all participate in. The Artist is unwilling to unleash corruption into his painting, and thus is more a part of his masterpiece than we are. His incorruptible will makes him not less human, but more. Jesus is true humanity. + pgs. 16-17

The New Captain: Jesus pours out the love of God, intending to fill the world with it. Jesus is true humanity ... Not because he's backing away from our mess, but because as he dives into it, it cannot corrupt him. Not because he's unwilling to step into our pain and brokenness, but because as he jumps in, he brings healing and restoration with him. Jesus' movement is toward the muck of the world, willing to fully enter our filth and grime, but our sin can't taint his soul. + pg. 18


The New Captain: The gospel doesn't say, We need to do better. It says, We need the power of God. A moralist looks at Jesus in the desert and immediately jumps to, We need to pony up, try harder, and be faithful under temptation! A worshipper observes the wilderness around her and responds more simply: We need Jesus! + pg. 20

The New Captain: The Artist absorbs the dark, deadly destruction in his masterpiece, soaking it into the dregs, until it destroys him  in order to restore his masterpiece. Jesus is willing to go to the greatest lengths to make his home with us. + pg. 23


Key Idea  
Caricature: Jesus stays at a distance and tells us how to get clean.
Gospel: Jesus gets dirty, in order to make us clean.

God on the Prowl: Like a parent searching high and low, banging on all the neighborhood doors, looking for his lost and wandering children, God bustles through the brambles and briars, rustling through the wild and shaking up the jungle, calling, Where are you!?! The Father goes looking for his runaway kids. + pg. 28


God on the Prowl: You will be like God. This is a tempting affair: we want to be like God rather than with God, to determine good and evil for ourselves, to rule the earth on our own. Adam and Eve's story is our story. As theologian Thomas K. Johnson has observed, we "can take the account of Adam and Eve hiding from God behind a bush or tree as a metaphor for the history of the human race." + pg. 29

God on the Prowl: We have created something new in the world: distance from the Father. Only, this distance is not truly a created thing. It is an un-thing, an anti-creation, a not-the-way-things-are-supposed-to-be thing. This crack in the foundation will fissure its way through creation, with the stark new reality of this distance characterized by one thing: destruction.

When this distance is introduced, however, when sin first enters the world, notice one thing: who flees and who pursues. God goes searching in the garden. He responds to our distance by crossing the divide. He sets sail to find us, invades our shores, and ambushes our defenses, pulling back our facades and crying out: "Where are you?" God still comes for us today, calling, "Where are you?" God wants to be with us. The question is: Do we want to be with God? + pg. 30


Romance in the War Zone: Incarnation. Jesus is God searching in the garden of his world, calling out for his lost and wandering children: "Where are you?" He is the glory of God coming down the mountain – from heaven to earth – to dwell in the presence of his people. Jesus is God's presence crashing into the neighborhood, as the Creator breaks into our world, divinity takes on flesh, and the king is born. Jesus is the Pursuing God. + pg. 40

Romance in the War Zone: "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." God's mission isn't to tell us how dirty we are; it's to wash us clean. It isn't to shout at us to get our act together; it's to invite us to drop the act and be together – with him. It isn't to point out our distance; it's to throw us over his shoulders and bring us home.

If God wants us, what's the problem then? Our problem, John goes on to tell us, is not that we didn't try hard enough, jump high enough, or perform well enough to earn God's affection. Rather, our real problem is that we "loved darkness rather than light." We love the darkness: want it, crave it, need it. Eugene Peterson translates it this way: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness.

Like Adam and Eve ducking in the bushes, we run for cover from the presence. Like Israel throwing a mask over Moses, we try and shield ourselves from the glory. Sunrise dawns, and we jet for the shadows. Glory arises, and we crawl for the shade. Our problem is not that we're reaching out for God and he's refusing to be found. It's the opposite: God's reaching out for us, and we're scattering in other directions. ...

God comes for us, and he can take whatever we've got to bring. There's no one too distant, no person too far. The Father's not afraid of being tainted, scared for his safety, concerned for his reputation. God's goodness and mercy are on the hunt, tracking down our world to captivate us by love, encroaching closer and closer, with us locked in their sights. ... 

In Jesus, we're invited to receive the King of the universe, whose arms are outstretched on the cross to embrace and make us whole. We don't need to discover the light, but simply to step out of the shadows. We don't have to make ourselves lovable, but only to let him place the wedding ring on our finger. + pgs. 42-45 

Key Idea  
Caricature: God can't stand to be in the presence of sin.
Gospel: Sin can't stand to be in the presence of God.

Welcome Home: God's not only big enough to handle our prayers; he wants us to bring 'em. Trusting God's reckless love means we can bring the fullness of who we are before him  even when it's ugly (and let's be honest: it often is)  trusting that our heavenly Father is for us. God takes joy in the simple fact that we trust him enough to call out his name  even when we're a mess inside.

The trouble is, it's often easier to vent to our friends or write a fiery blog post about God, than to bring our troubles to God. This can become a danger when we use our anger or confusion to build a platform for ourselves in distance from God, rather than bring it to him. God has given us the vehicle of prayer to approach him with the fullness of who we are.

I love this about the Psalms, the historic prayer book of God's people. The songwriters are willing to lament and struggle with God, to bring it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here's the thing, though: When they bare their hearts before God, they bare them before God. When they struggle with God's faithfulness, they bring their struggle to the One who is faithful. When they raise their fists and cry out, "Why?" they unleash their frustration upon the Who delighting to uphold and embrace them  the One who is, at a deeper level than they may even realize, their hope of redemption and salvation. Because they trust he's big enough to take it. More important than the content of our prayers is the One to whom our prayers are addressed. Now, as we experience the Father's embrace, we gradually grow in bolder trust, the content of our prayers more seasoned with holy grace. + pg. 62 


Welcome Home: For Jesus, lost means God is coming after you. It speaks more to the heart of our Creator than the state of people. If our Owner wasn't looking, we wouldn't be lost. We wouldn't be missing if God didn't want us back. This story is about the Great Searcher, and the declaration that under his gaze of love, we are the sought after

Key Idea  
Caricature: Lost means you need to go find God.
Gospel: Lost means God's coming to find you.

A Mighty Oak: God likes unlikely heroes. We see this throughout the biblical story. God takes Israel, a nation of slaves getting their tails kicked on the outskirts of the empire, depicted as the last, least, and weakest of the ancient world, and sets them at the center of the nations to display his glory to the mighty, ancient, bloodthirsty, wicked, powerhouse empires. God picks David, the runt of his brothers, who nobody thought worthy of inviting to the party while he's out with the sheep, to be the greatest king in Israel's history and the great-great-ever-so-great grandfather of Jesus.

Jesus picks his twelve disciples, and let's just say they're not the ancient cream of the crop. Tax collectors, fishermen, and revolutionaries whose faith is a mess. When we want to start a movement, we get the wealthy, influential, and powerful, but God does precisely the opposite. As Paul observes, God loves using the weak to shame the strong, things considered foolish to upend the wise.

God's generosity looks irrational to the world's eyes  not only in how generous he is, but in who he uses to spread his generosity. If we had more time, I'd love to tell you about the prostitutes and disabled who've started thriving small businesses in Hanoi and are spreading the good news of Jesus to their neighbors. I'd tell you about the ex-con drug addicts and tatted-up gangsters who've become some of the strongest preachers in the city. They didn't bring God their resumes; they brought their willingness to receive. + pg. 79


A Mighty Oak: The Generous Farmer is the Father, who lavishes his life upon the creation he loves. Jesus is the seed that goes into the ground, in his death and burial, to bring forth new life through the power of his resurrection. Their Spirit takes root deep in the soil of our lives, bringing us to die to ourselves and live unto God, bearing fruit for the neighborhood. The Father, Son, and Spirit invite us to join their gardening project, to lavish their life upon the landscape of our world. To become their generous fools. + pg. 80 

Key Idea  
Caricature: Jesus emphasizes how to be good.
Gospel: Jesus emphasizes the goodness of God.

Next post: City Notes 27: The Pursuing God Part 2 of 3

 Sully

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