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Prone To Wander Myth

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 What if your heart is no longer 'prone to wander?'  What if God is more interested in releasing a noble goodness He's already placed within you, rather than pressuring you to be more 'holy?'  Discover the book by Jim Robbins.

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Friday
Nov022007

New Podcast: "Rescuing the Heart"

Is the mission of Jesus simply to forgive us and give us a pass to heaven? Or is there more? He came to "save," but save what, exactly? What has he come to rescue?

Click here to listen.

Friday
Oct192007

The Gospel of Appetite

 

“We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment;
we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent.”
-G.K. Chesterton

The Gospel is a gospel of appetite.
If one isn't hungry or thirsty, the Gospel cannot help them. I've noticed this especially with Christians. There's a sad irony about that: Those who know the Lord are often the least hungry and thirsty - being satisfied with too little, contented with fast food spirituality and not the richer fare of the Bridegroom's table. As Scottish poet George MacDonald lamented, "Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because he would give the best, and man will not take it."

What are we reading these days? Look at the best-seller lists for Christian publishing; there are exceptions, yet much of Christian publishing is no more noble or helpful, than the nearest "life coach" offerings on news magazines or talk shows.

What are we watching? Christian television pundits and preachers are the new celebrity culture for the church. Are they offering us the richer depths of the Gospel or a superficial and therapeutic gospel where being blessed with a life that works is the goal? This blessing-centered gospel is more a result of American consumerism than it is biblical joy. In any case McSpirituality leaves us under-nourished.

What are we listening to? Frankly, I can't even listen to most contemporary worship music today, as it drones out unthoughtful variations of the same tired and cliche'd three-chord progressions. We, the Church, once offered the most respected, insightful, and creative work of the day. We were once considered the cultural creatives who could represent God to culture without dumbing down our artistry or the Gospel. But now, we've settled for insipid and pedestrian efforts at glorifying a God, who, by contrast, loves to create and creates because he loves.

We have lost our appetite.

Yet there are signs of hope. If you want to find out more about cultural creatives - those who offer art, music, writing, and thinking that is not mired in trite mimicry - go to Dick Staub's site, www.kindlingsmuse.com where you'll find interviews with some of these standout cultural architects. Not everyone has lost their appetite.

Thursday
Sep062007

New podcast! -part two

PODCAST: "A Better Way to Relate to God - part two - Better Assumptions"

This week's podcast is a bit shorter than last week's; and offers a solution to the false gospel of spiritual pressure and "not enough." The true Gospel is built upon better assumptions about the Christian's heart.

Saturday
Aug182007

Cotton Candy Christianity

What happens when, in an effort to be "relevant" to culture, the Church ends up capitulating to culture? - Offering nothing different than culture, because it has become the culture? Christianity-lite, as Dick Staub calls it, offers its own brand of celebrity-adoration: preachers-performers who fill stadiums and mega-worship places. Or, you can find our own brand of 'cool' pop-grung worship leaders whose clothing styles, cool hair, and postmodern chic our local worship leaders love to imitate.

When we become culture rather than offer a meaningful alternative, we settle for mediocrity. Our current superficial art and artistry values self-expression and the self-indulgent rantings of the artist rather than enduring goodness and the mastery of craft that expresses an alternate Kingdom reality. Our lyrics, therefore, become vacuous and immature; and our music drones out the tired chord progressions and unthoughtful imitations that are now found in our churches as much as anywhere else.

When we imitate the surrounding culture rather than transform it, our preaching becomes driven by felt-needs rather than the thorough and glorious transformation of humanity. The richness of the Scriptures gets supplanted by sound-bite messages that offer nothing more than pop-psychology with a spiritual veneer.

When we give in to the reigning pop culture that surrounds us, we no longer have anything meaningful to offer. We have only the cotton candy gospel that tastes great but is less filling. It satisfies our sweet tooth but offers little nourishment. It's pretty but can't give life.

Solution: church leaders have to reconsider what 'relevant' really means. The relevance of Jesus means offering a meaningful alternative to superficial fluff. It means we must engage the whole person, not simply their felt needs. For, aren't we to love God with all our heart, mind, and body? This means leaders must decide to more richly engage their own minds, hearts, and bodies in the Kingdom habits of Jesus - rather than expending the majority of their energies keeping the ministry machine running smoothly.

As leaders, we must read widely and deeply - a broader scope than the top-ten evangelical best-seller list. What have the old ones who have gone before us said? What are the current Christian spiritual masters saying? We must read work that is substantial and rich in content - which does not have to imply intellectual headiness.

We must consider our art, worship, and artistry, as to whether it offers lasting and enduring meaning to our culture. Is it good art? Good music? Or is it simply indulgent self-expression - expression that hasn't been grounded in a deeper life. Or do we think we can call it worship merely because it focuses on God, yet doesn't reflect the brilliance of the Maker's Art?
We must remember why we got into this thing called 'ministry' in the first place. Surely, it wasn't simply to manage the machine and function as event-planners. We must return to a richer and more thoughtful life as citizens of the transforming Kingdom.

Tuesday
Jul242007

Shallow Hall...elujiah's

I thought I'd pass on a very engaging article on the state of contemporary Christian worship/music/art. This is an interview with Steve Bell, an award-winning Canadian folk singer who is well-known for his thoughtful lyrics in the Christian music industry.

Steve convincingly expresses what I've been bemoaning for several years now about the state of contemporary worship and Christian artistry.

Visit Steve Bell's site: be sure to click on "Steve Bell" in the left navigation and go to his "Music" page. His album, Simple Songs is a refreshing gem that gives more the more you listen to it.

Steve Bell interview:

Interviewer: "Your website includes a message board where people are lamenting the lack of depth in modern worship music. You chimed in, saying that one big reason for that is 'simply that the art itself has been devalued and sacrificed to the god of the seeker-friendly pop culture churches and radio stations. But when a 'lowest common denominator' aesthetic precludes any serious thought about art and excellence, the result will be music that tickles the ear and animates the body but rarely will it provide access to the interior castle wherein the King of Peace resides.' That's quite a statement."


Click here to read more of the interview with Steve Bell.

 

Friday
Jun292007

Conversational Feasting

Perhaps there's a roaring fire in the hearth, smelling of scorched oak and old stone; wood beams of golden hardwoods and great windows that look out over the vineyards and the sprawling stands of blue spruce beyond. The sons and daughters of the King stride across the ancient floor as they make their way to the Table, expecting good conversation, laughter, and refreshment. Wines and cheeses. Fruit from the orchards. Perhaps a roasted stag the archers killed in the King's wood that afternoon - seasoned with coriander, onion and wild black walnut.

How does conversation go around the King's dinner table? Doesn't he say, "Tell me, what did you do today?" I can imagine one of the sons declaring that he took one of the horses - the dapple grey mare - from the paddock and enjoyed a gallop in the East Wood that morning.

Perhaps one of the King's daughters says she took her artist easel over to the meadow where lupine, baby's breath, and wild rose grow. Another son eagerly points to the high ridge beyond the meadow, saying that he approached the ridge from Fir Grove, climbing past the falls and beyond timberline to see the view over the ridge that the old ones said was breathless.

A grandmother runs through the King's vineyards like a giddy school girl, running with an energy she only knew in her youth.

A pair of old friends share conversation with unfettered transparency, finally enjoying all the matters to their hearts. There is nothing like good talk that comes from healed places.

And the King asks us, "Where did my Kingdom take you today?"

 

Monday
Jun042007

Walking through heaven

The question we so often get wrong is, "Where does God live?"

It's true that he "lives in our hearts" when we trust his Son. But the magnificent and boundless God can't simply be contained in the human heart. So where does he live in the larger sense?

He lives in heaven. Well, where's heaven? ... and there begins our problem.

Don't we tend to locate God far away ... in the heavens? Aren't we apt to say, "God's smiling down on us." Or, "Grandpa's up in heaven now, sweetheart." Up there somewhere.

Certainly, there's some Old Testament language that suggests heaven as "up there somewhere." God's people ask him to, "Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our forefathers, a land flowing with milk and honey." (Deut. 26:15)

And we have the command that, "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below."(Exod. 20:4)
Despite the apparent location of "heaven" as a place above and beyond the earth, there is still an intimacy and nearness with the God of the Old Covenant. He makes himself obvious as a giant tiki torch to guide his family, or in a burning bush or as a hiking companion in the Garden.

But something shifts with the arrival of Jesus. His kingdom becomes so near, you feel God breathing on your cheek. Your ears prickle as he whispers your name. When you believe him to be seated in your fellowship in "the empty chair" or in the car seat next to you, you're not imagining it or wishing it to be so: he is quite literally occupying that space. More than once, I have sensed God speaking behind me, over my shoulder.

As occupants of the Near and Now Kingdom, we are literally walking through heaven. Heaven is a kingdom that saturates the air around us as Dallas Willard (The Divine Conspiracy) reminds us: "But it is precisely from the space immediately around us that God watches and God acts." When he comes to deliver us, he doesn't journey to us from far off, or take the red eye, or fly in from space - he comes from out of the air next to us.

When you walk to your car, you walk through heaven. When you stand in line at the supermarket, your standing on royal grounds. The Kingdom of Heaven occupies the space around you, buzzing with the happy energy of the Royal Family. The kingdom of God has come near, as Jesus shouted. Heaven is now the real world.

Thursday
May242007

A different look at 'obedience'

Yesterday, I was speaking to a dear woman who could be considered a model of the "good Christian woman." She's in her late sixties, teaches pre-schoolers, loves her family, and serves on mission trips. She loves God and is firmly committed to the ways of Jesus.

Yet, she's still uncertain if she's obedient enough to go to Heaven. I got the sense that if her faith wavered, her eternity would be in jeopardy.

I tried to lead her into a different way of thinking about it: First, it's impossible for us to maintain our faith in Christ at a 100 percent level for the rest of our lives. There's simply too much set against us. It's an unfair and unrealistic expectation of us.

Secondly, as I've noticed in my own journey, we can begin to obsess about our capacity to trust Christ, wondering, "Do I trust him enough? Do I love him enough? Am I doing enough? Obedient enough?" Notice the first person singular pronoun in each sentence. And, notice the word 'enough.' Are we not making faith a new work here? Isn't obedience to the law a tyranny of the 'enough?' It seems as though we've unwittingly made our capacity to 'trust and obey' the new benchmark for worthiness.

Perhaps a better way of looking at obedience is to find security in the obedience of Jesus himself. Our salvation wasn't simply secured by the Cross. It was also won by the daily obedience and goodness-of-heart of a Son towards a Father. At every momentary point of decision and each posture of the heart, Jesus' own obedience to the Father turned back a wayward humanity. He wasn't born into sin, nor made the choice to, yet he did have the capacity to. This aspect of his humanity is absolutely critical if his followers are to have any hope of becoming like him. It was not enough that he should die in obedience to the Father: he also had to live a life in obedience and settled confidence in our Father.
That very obedience has now been transferred to us. Not simply 'credited' to us; but deposited into our new hearts.

The obedience of Jesus is now ours. His life of moment-by-moment trust in the Father fully satisfies God and is fully sufficient for our secured place in him. What's more, the delight our Father had for Jesus is ours as well. Our unity with the death, resurrection, authority ... and moment-by-moment life of Jesus leaves us secured and free in the kingdom. There's no pressure to obey, no fear of lapsing in faith. There is only the shared life of Jesus with his brothers and sisters who are now and forever bound to the freedom and security of his well-lived life.

Tuesday
May152007

The things we leave behind

There's a line in a Michael Card song that goes,

"And we can't imagine the freedom we find
from the things we leave behind."


I'm struck by that challenge: "Trust me to take care of you. Seek first my Way, my Kingdom, and I will provide. You will be o.k."

 

After recently leaving a way of thinking about "church" that I've known for 41 years, God has been asking, "Will you trust me Jim? Will you leave behind things that have given you security and meaning so that you can have more of me, more of the life you most deeply want?"

We want to tether ourselves to those things that are most familiar to us, because it's easier to value security than the life of our heart. There's part of me that wants to return to the familiar, even if it costs me my heart. But in moment's of clarity, where my heart's not pinned down with fear, freedom takes over and declares, "No! That's not what I most deeply want. God can be trusted with my journey."

Thank you for the mercy of disruption, God; for the better promises in things left behind.
(lyrics from Michael Card, "Things We Leave Behind" - Poiema CD)

Tuesday
May082007

"Give us THIS day ..."

Within the last month, I've lost a significant source of income, left a meaningful opportunity for using my gifts, and uprooted my family from a way of life we've known for over 40 years. My wife and I chose this because we knew God had more for us. However, I am now in an in-between state of apprehension and loss. I'm asking, "When will God bring about the community we long for? Will He restore my sense of purpose and the opportunity to once again use my gifts in a way that matters? Will he bring each member of my family the life we ache for?"

In my utter frustration with God, I've raged, sunk into depression, and had great difficulty hearing anything from Him. My heart itself felt sick: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." (Prov. 13:12)

God, however, has offered me some perspective. While still holding to a more complete fulfillment of my heart's desires, I've also begun to pray: "What are you giving me now? God, help me to better receive from you. Surprise me. What are the gifts You want to give this day?"

When hope seems distant, the assumption I too often make is that my desires simply aren't that important to God, particularly when hope faulters or circumstances aren't going well. It's too easy to allow trust to disintegrate into a posture of futility: "Why bother hoping? Why trust that my heart matters? Perhaps God really is the 'hard man' the parable of the talents speaks of."

A second, and equally poor assumption, is that God is not at work, or will only provide something in the remote future, if at all; and that any good gift is distant and tenuous. A better and more hopeful assumption is: "God, what do you have for me now? What do you long to give me this moment? Today?" This better assumption believes that God is always giving.

God is always giving.

Wednesday
Apr252007

New podcast

I just added a new podcast called, "Heart Not Behavior." click here

Wednesday
Apr112007

Books I'm reading

Thought you might like to know what I'm reading these days:

1. I recently finished two books on wilderness adventure. (Suburban Florida offers little in the way of surviving avalanches, grizzlies, and cold, so I thought I'd read about others surviving such things.) Wild Men, Wild Alaska is written by a Christian outfitter-guide living in Alaska. Rocky McElveen dishes out fantastic and unbelievably true stories of Alaskan survival. He's danced with a charging grizzly and woken up to find wolf prints circling his tent.

The second book is called Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzalez. Though the author doesn't allow for the rescuing hand of God in the stories he chronicles, he does a great job of explaining why some people live and others die in the wilderness or other high-stress situations.

2. I've also found Michael Card's A Sacred Sorrow very helpful. He argues, in contrast to much of the Church's teaching, that it is appropriate to cry out to God in our pain, even to accuse God. Card reflects upon the desperate, and seemingly irreverant cries of Job, David, Jeremiah, and Jesus. He asks us to recover the "language of lament" because in our lament and even accusations against God, a bridge is built from our hearts to his, allowing us to stay connected to him in our pain. Those who refuse to cry against God's seeming indifference and insist upon editing their grief actually are in danger of losing heart. Lament is an act of intimacy and connection.

3. I'm well into John Eldredge's most recent book, The Way of the Wild Heart. As a complimentary book to Wild at Heart, this new book gives men in our culture a path for masculine initiation. How do we help our young sons become men - in a way that they know they are authentic men? More than a description of meaningful ceremonies and initiation events, Eldredge provides a map for each stage of the masculine journey: from Beloved Son, to Cowboy/Ranger, to Lover, to Warrior, to King, and finally, to Sage.

4. I've just started Bill Mckibben's, Deep Economy. Don't let the title fool you: the book is more about genuine and sustainable community than economics. McKibben wisely insists that our western culture of 'more is better' will leave us in ruins, and ultimately won't give us what we most deeply want. He points us in a better direction so that "more" is replaced with better and more meaningful.

5. I'm currently reading God Is Closer Than You Think, by John Ortberg. I respect Ortberg, not because he was a former teaching pastor at Willow Creek, but because he's very well read. He's a great storyteller and sees below the surface of pop Christianity.

Tuesday
Apr032007

Recovering the rest of Easter

For years, I was frustrated by Easter. All the talk about 'new life,' and 'hope' in Christ seemed rather vague. I could agree that we'd find that new life in the future .. when we go to heaven. I could also agree that we'll have hope ... someday. And this kind of news will bring you joy .. for a little while; until you lose your job, or come down with cancer, or can't recover from depression, or the other collective stressors that rob us of life-in- the-now.

Part of the problem is how we talk about Easter. For one, we usually talk about it in terms of the Cross and its forgiveness, and have only a vague sense that the Resurrection will bring us hope, one day, when Jesus brings the Kingdom to its fullness.

Sadly, we've short-changed the Resurrection by placing its benefits only in the future. If all we are is forgiven and waiting until heaven, what a hopeless life that is. But in fact, we are far more than forgiven: we are offered restoration even this day. That recovery of life is more than we've been told. As Francis Schaeffer says, we are offered substantial restoration, substantial healing of our hearts, substantial healing of relationships. We are offered wholeness. Not complete wholeness, for that waits for the coming return of the King; but substantial and meaningful wholeness - a very present restoration.

Where there is death and decay - in relationships, in our bodies, in our breaking hearts - there is an offer of life. "Those that have the Son have the life" now, not simply 'later.' We take our place in his Resurrection daily. It is ours, now. We are bound to his unshakeable life. Not just later, but now.

"I have come that they might have an overflow of life." What kind of God would make you that promise and then withhold it only for 'later?' - Not our God who comes for our hearts even now.
Happy Easter.

Monday
Mar122007

Blog kick-off!

Welcome to my new blog!
"RobbinsWritings.com" will be the central hub for all of my writing projects. It now includes a link to my former blog, Outposts of the Kingdom, and to my storefront where you can preview or buy my previous book, Outposts of the Kingdom - Life After Church As We Know It.

P.S. Don't forget to test your knowledge with the Quiz. The answers may not be what you expected!

Thanks for connecting,

Jim

Thursday
Nov291990

Podcasts

Podcast: "What Have You Been Told?" (Mar. 21, 2007)

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