In the Life of Job

Consider Job. Here is a man who experienced a dark night beyond telling. Job had great wealth, many friends, and many children. God had beautifully blessed him. And what happened?

God took it all away.

Job’s dark night occurred suddenly without warning. An angel didn’t send him an email saying, “Get ready, there’s a big one coming!” God didn’t throw a Facebook snowball at him saying, “Look out, Job, you’re going to lose everything in one day.” No, there was no fax, email, or superpoke announcement.

It came without warning. In one day, Job lost his cattle, his crops, and his children. It appears that God went on vacation. This was Job’s dark night. God was silent, but He wasn’t absent. The Lord was present throughout the ordeal, from beginning to end. In fact, He was actually behind it—allowing it.

Job’s drama was being played out on a double stage. Aside from the earthly events, there were things happening in the heavenly realm of which Job was completely unaware. Job was experiencing his evening, his darkness.

Let me remind you: The evening always has within it the promise of the morning. The night always has within it the promise of the day to come. When you go through the dark night, as a church or as an individual, remember that the morning is gestating, growing, and it will eventually appear.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5 NKJV).

Job endured his evening. He was bombarded on every point to lose his faith in God—by pressure from his friends and his own wife. Yet Job maintained his integrity. His words are revealing: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.”

Yet after the evening—after the night—Job experienced his morning. God restored everything Job had lost and more. Job received double what was taken away (Job 42:10; James 5:11). He received more children. He received more wealth, more cattle, and more crops.

Not only that, but Job lived for 140 more years, and God blessed him during each one of those years.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I read that account, I think to myself: But what about those kids that are buried in Job’s backyard?

I have to believe that the Lord eased the pain and softened the memory somehow, and Job lived a peaceful, satisfied man the rest of his days. For comfort and peace are contained within the blessing of God.

Again: You and I have a God who takes away so that He may establish. And what He establishes is always better than what He took away. 

From Revise Us Again by Frank Viola, author

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Pastor Jed

     Let me add a word about the psychological dynamics that occur when a person hears a message that challenges long-held beliefs and assumptions.

      There are essentially three responses. One is to reject it out of hand (which often entails attacking the messenger). Another is to embrace it by making the needed adjustments for which it calls. But the third is more subtle. It’s to embrace it in word, but reject it in deed. Let me illustrate with an actual event.

      There was once a pastor named Jed who began reading some “subversive literature” on church renewal and restoration. Pastor Jed had preached the Bible from A to Izzard. But the material in these books was entirely new to him.      

     They called into question virtually everything he believed and practiced about the church. They argued against a clergy system. They argued that the entire congregation . . . all of God’s people . . . should minister, should function as priests in God’s House, and should be responsible for carrying the burden of church ministry.

      Pastor Jed’s reaction was three-fold. He was shocked, alarmed, and excited. The excitement won out. So he began sharing these books with his fellow pastor friends in town. They too began devouring them and reacted the same way that Jed did.

      Six months later, Pastor Jed mounted his pulpit one Sunday morning and made the following announcement: “I have some exciting news to share with all of you. For the past six months, I have been reading a number of books that have shaken me to my core. They have shown me that Jesus Christ wants to be Head of His church. They’ve shown me that the Body of Christ . . . you . . . are called by God to carry out the ministry of this church.

      The day has come for clergyman like myself to step back and liberate the laity into ministry. In fact, there is no such thing as a clergy or a laity in God’s eyes. I have passed these books on to some of my fellow pastors in town. And they too have been ignited by reading them.

      We feel that God is speaking to us all, and there needs to be some major changes made. So two months from now, we’re going to be holding a very special conference to discuss liberating the laity and giving the church back to Jesus Christ, its rightful Head.”

      When the service ended, a young couple immediately walked over to the pastor and said, “Pastor Jed, you don’t know how long we’ve been praying for this. We think we know the books you’ve been reading; we’re so excited that this conference is going to happen. We don’t want to miss it. Can you give us the exact dates so we can mark them down in our calendar?”

      Pastor Jed smiled at the couple and quietly said, “I’m really sorry, but you can’t come. It’s a clergy only conference.”

      What happened? Pastor Jed had processed everything he read according to the grid that was firmly planted in his brain—a grid that was shaped by his own experiences and assumptions. And he was filtering everything he was reading through that grid. He only took away those things that “fit” that grid and was blinded to everything else. The same was true for the other pastors.

      Amazingly, you and I can hear or read something provocative, and in our spirit know that it’s true, yet our brains can work overtime to subtly filter out what we don’t wish to apply. I’ve watched this happen for many years. It’s one of the most incredible phenomena I’ve ever witnessed.

      That said, the book you hold in your hands was written to be more than an engaging discussion about an alternative way of being church. Consequently, if you are someone who is part of a traditional church, and you’ve been challenged to discover the church on the other side, I would like to recommend a number of other books for you to read. Know that there is another way of being and doing church, and it’s picking up momentum in this hour.

      On the other hand, if you are meeting in a non-traditional church, the lessons contained in this book are designed to be translated into a guidepost for group reflection and discussion. And more importantly, application.

by Frank Viola Author

 

Jesus Now vs. Jesus: A Theography

Frank Viola, author, in an interview:

“Jesus: A Theography tells the story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation, whereas Jesus Now explores the present-day ministry of Christ. It answers the question, “What is Jesus doing now?” It’s an entire study on what Jesus’ ministry has been since His ascension and until His second coming, and how it benefits every believer.

I embarked on the journey because I know of no other book that’s addressed this specific subject in any detail and in a way that every reader can understand. So I felt an exploration of the seven aspects of Christ’s present-day ministry was needed.”

See also Frank Viola Author Resources

Frank Viola’s Websites

The following are authoritative websites for Frank Viola author. They contain accurate and up-to-date information on the author:

http://www.amazon.com/Frank-Viola/e/B001IGSJX0

http://frankviola.com

http://violafrank.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/rethinking-frank-viola/

http://frankviola.info

http://frankviola.me

http://frankviola.org/frankviola-author

http://frankviola.net

http://authorfrankviola.com/

http://frankviolaauthor.com

http://frankviolaauthor.org

http://frankviolaauthor.info

http://frankviolaauthor.net

Knowing the Lord

      Whenever I speak on the subject of knowing the Lord, I’m typically sitting in a living room with a small group of Christians who are gathering outside the traditional church. We spend days discussing practical ways of exploring Christ, encountering Him, fellowshipping with Him, and loving Him as individuals as well as a group. It’s always been a life-changing experience for virtually everyone involved.

      We will not be leaving the ozone layer in this post, however. Instead, I want to spread a wide canvas and share some thoughts that I hope you’ll find both insightful and encouraging. They are things which burden me very much.

      I will start out by saying that there is a difference between seeking God’s blessings and in seeking Jesus Christ. And there’s a difference between pursuing spiritual things and pursuing Christ Himself.

      When I first became a Christian, I was turned on to what is often called “Revivalist Theology.” That theology is built on a single supposition: Now that you are saved, God’s ultimate purpose for your life is that you get others saved. You and I exist to be soul-winners, delivering people from hell.

      As a result of imbibing this message, I was jazzed to win others to the Lord. For a number of years, as a college student, I experimented with all sorts of ways of presenting the gospel to the lost. What was I doing? I was pursuing evangelism—a spiritual thing. I wasn’t pursuing Jesus Christ.

      When I use the phrase “knowing the Lord,” therefore, I have something quite specific in mind. I have heard Christians speak about “knowing the Lord” as if they possessed an exclusive corner on it.

       “I know the Lord” . . . “I met the Lord” . . . “I touched the Lord” . . . are common phrases that they wear like badges. I find this quite troubling to be honest. What comes to mind when I hear people talk like this is as follows: “Excuse me (cough), but were you aware that you cannot be a Christian unless you know the Lord? Has it ever dawned on you that all genuine Christians know the Lord?”

      Consider the words of Jesus Christ in John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

      What is salvation? It’s meeting Christ. It’s touching Christ. It’s knowing Christ. So if you are Christian reading this book, you know the Lord. Period, end of sentence.

Seeing the Eternal Purpose

      Western Christianity has been preoccupied with two things. One is getting people to heaven. The other is getting those who are going to heaven to live good Christian lives on the earth.

      For years I sought these two pursuits. I never questioned them. The gospel that was preached to me since I was a child was about saving souls and being a good Christian with a tiny footnote on the Kingdom of God, and an even tinier footnote on the church, and an even tinier footnote on knowing Christ deeply. And as far as God’s ultimate purpose went, well, there was no footnote.

      In April 1992, that all changed. I was introduced to a gospel that was infinitely higher than anything I had ever heard before. I had taken a full dose of the gospel of Jesus Christ. En. According to Romans 16:25-26, Ephesians 3:1-11, and Ephesians 6:19, the full gospel includes the mystery of God’s eternal purpose. As a result, my understanding of the Christian life was profoundly upgraded.

      I discovered that God’s ultimate purpose was not to save souls. God created humans not in need of salvation. Go back and read Genesis 1 and 2 and you will discover that there was no sin in the universe when human beings made their appearance. God had a purpose for men and women before the Fall. And it’s His pulsebeat.

      The Lord in His good mercy gave me a ground breaking revelation of what Paul called “the eternal purpose.” That revelation floored me. It struck me deaf and dumb. It set my soul on fire and my heart to dancing. I was spiritually intoxicated, enthralled, and shaken to my core.

      But it did more than that. It marked me for life, opening up an entirely new universe that I never knew existed. In a word, it ignited a still-burning fire with me.

      I’m well aware that some Christians find the word “revelation” to be quite mysterious. Perhaps spooky even. This is understandable. I’ve been in several Christian movements where there was an unspoken segregation between those who “had revelation” and those who didn’t. I’ve always found this to be as silly, let alone harmful.

      The New Testament authors use the word quite frequently. Hopefully, I can de-mystify (and defang) the word here. A revelation is simply an unveiling or an uncovering. When God “reveals” a spiritual truth to one of His children, whether it be through the reading of Scripture, listening to someone preach, or through another avenue, they are receiving revelation.

      What does it look like? Have you ever heard someone preach a message and you’re reaction was, “Oh my goodness, it’s true.” Or have you ever read something in a book or in the Bible, and you thought to yourself (or you blurted it out), “Wow. That’s awesome. That’s incredible. I never saw that before.” Well, you just received revelation. The Holy Spirit “uncovered” and “unveiled” something of Jesus Christ to you.

      There are those revelations that cause us to say “Oh my goodness, it’s true. What a Lord.” And there are others which bowl us over, knock us to the ground, and forever ruin our lives. The latter is what I call an “earth-shattering” or “ground breaking” revelation. The revelation of the Lord that I received in 1992 was of that type.

      The revelation of God’s eternal purpose came to be like a blinding vision. In one flash of light, I saw that everything in the Bible shared one common thread. It was all connected by one controlling narrative.

      The spiritual gears within me began to drop into their proper slots. Deeply cemented paradigms began to shatter, and a storm of change took root in my entire understanding of Christianity.

      I realized that God had an eternal purpose and being a Christian was joining in that purpose. In addition, I saw that the purpose of God was His central passion. It was the missing ingredient that explained everything—the Christian life, the church, the creation of the universe, mission, etc. I have never recovered from that first sighting. It’s become an ever-growing unfolding within me.

      Sadly, I, as well as most of the Christians that I knew, were blissfully ignorant of the Divine purpose.

      Some fourteen years later, I attempted to set forth in print the vision of God’s ultimate purpose with the same power and incise clarity with which it was revealed to me. That setting forth is contained in my book, God’s Ultimate Passion. This book is a retelling of the Biblical story to contemporary ears. It’s a stab at narrative theology—a theology that flows out of reflecting on the broad story that Scripture tells. And that story is the story of God’s eternal purpose.

      I will simply say that no church, whether traditional or non-traditional, should exist for any other reason than to fulfill the eternal purpose of the living God. To do otherwise is a scandalous failure in my opinion. Indeed, the church after God’s own heart is a church that has the eternal purpose flowing through its veins.