our commitment to the Kingdom

prayer

To what degree are we committed to the Kingdom of God? For many the answer resonates quickly. Commitment is readily affirmed. But I’m talking specifically about what is revealed in our actions. Do our actions demonstrate a commitment to the Kingdom? Or, do they demonstrate something wholly different than perhaps we even feel within?

Christianity is, by design, relational. Our relationship with God. Our relationship with others. With His church. With the world. As in any relationship, what is within must be expressed in order for it to be truly valid. Too often in many personal relationships the goodness that is within is scarcely expressed. At least, it isn’t conveyed well enough. What I mean is this… sometimes a husband and father may in his heart love his family. He truly believes he loves them. And in his heart of hearts, he does. But somehow that love stays inside. He may within himself feel that he loves his family. And the family may witness glimpses of that love. But primarily what they experience is a dad who is tired all the time, complains a lot, never seems satisfied, and for the most part wants little to do with the interworking of the home and gives a sense that he just wants to be left alone.

As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.”

The same can be said of faith. The evidence of our commitment to the Kingdom is revealed not by what is within, but rather by what is expressed through intentional action in our lives.

In Galatians 5:22 the Apostle Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Paul says to us, “This is what it looks like when the Spirit of God resides within you. Love is revealed. Joy is made evident. Peace sooths from within. Patience is a constant. Kindness is our natural response. Goodness is pursued. Faithfulness is what we are about. Gentleness is the norm. Self-control is a given.” And if we think things through, as God orchestrates the design of Scripture, it is the Spirit Himself, guiding Paul’s pen, saying to us, “This is what it looks like when I live within you.”

Second Century Apologist, Irenaeus, writes: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” I cannot help but think our being “fully alive” is conditioned by our relationship with God through Christ, an acute awareness of God, and by our commitment to the Kingdom.

Glory to God!

Jason

the scandal of the Cross

cross

“For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18

These words of the Apostle Paul encourage we who have faith. They affirm to us that no matter what others think or say or believe, no matter the lack of conviction or lack of faith of others, the reconciling message of the Cross of Christ is powerful to us, even if it isn’t to them.

But most often in our conversations and in our emphasis, we place a little too much distance between verse 18 and verse 17.

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel – not with words of wisdom, lest the Cross be emptied of its power.” – 1 Corinthians 1:17

Now don’t think for a moment that the Apostle Paul is downplaying the role of baptism in one’s response to the Gospel. Rather, I believe what the Apostle is emphatically seeking to convey is the overwhelming centrality of the message of Christ and the total reliance upon the power of God – that completely rests within the content of the message itself.

Paul strips away anything that we ourselves could add to the message by assuring that it is not with anything that we bring to the table that makes the message more influential. Not by any oratory prowess or skill, or by any honed, tactical argumentation – but rather the power lies within the message. “…not with words of wisdom, lest the Cross be emptied of its power.” It is the shock of the story of the Cross. And the shock of the story of the God of the Cross that motivates and prompts response.

The Gospel has always been scandalous, because it is a message of grace. Grace is scandalous because it releases control. It relinquishes control to the only One who truly possesses it. The scandal of the Cross is that it is God Himself who “is both just and the One who justifies” (Romans 3:26).

Christ brings the Kingdom (Reign) and the Cross (Sacrifice) together, which no one can fathom. Therein lies the power of its message.

Glory to God!

Jason

what good is knowing about Jesus?

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15th century monastic, Thomas A Kempis, writes in his masterpiece The Imitation of Christ, “Indeed it is not learning that makes a person holy and just, but a virtuous life that makes one pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than to know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and then live without the grace and love of God? Vanities of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.”

We are linear thinkers. A+B=C. We like reason. We like logic. Much of New Testament theology develops out of a hermeneutic, an interpretation, derived from reason. But the goal of Scripture is not mere knowledge or reason (is it?), rather, the goal is assimilation.

Jesus asks, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:25). Derived out of the call to take up our cross and follow Him, the Messiah asks, “What good is anything that we can possibly gain if in the process we lose our very selves? What good is anything we could accomplish, if we fail as disciples?

We are called to have a high view of God and His Word and a humble view of ourselves. However, if our understanding remains intellectual exercise and mental ascent (that which is cognitive), rather than that which is relational and covenantal, we’ve missed the calling of Jesus.

Too often we approach the Kingdom like a math equation. Like a test we’re trying to get an A on (or at least a passing grade), rather than the only way of life that is truly worth living.

Somehow I’m afraid we’re tempted to believe that “right thinking” equals “right relationship.” That somehow if my theology is “right” (as if any of us have the market cornered on God or have mastery of His Word) my relationship with Him is as it should be.

In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul gives us such insight when sharing, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (vv11-12). Paul, in one sense, compels us to recognize that we are nearsighted this side of eternity. However he sternly refuses to allow us to shy away from the call to conviction the Gospel demands. Both are crucial.

Reflecting, imitating Christ, is our call.

What good is knowing about Jesus, but never knowing Jesus?

What good is reading about His love and grace, but never truly experiencing His love and grace?

What good is having an understanding of the Kingdom, but never fully living into the Kingdom?

Glory to God!

Jason

to be Christian, but not a disciple

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“Once when Jesus was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’ ‘But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God.’ Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And He said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’ Then He said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, they must deny themself and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:18-23)

This is one of my favorite passages. For so many reasons…. When Jesus asks the disciples who the crowds understand Him to be, to be honest, I don’t think He’s really concerned with their answers. Certainly He knows what their responses will be, the generalizations of the masses. The presuppositions of those who have heard of His ministry. And so the disciples respond with the understanding of others. “John the Baptist?” “Elijah?” “Maybe a prophet from long ago who’s come back to life?” Jesus wanted them to say it. He wanted them to mentally process it. He wanted them to verbalize it. But then He asks the question to which He truly wants an answer. “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” Of course it’s Peter who responds with the belief of those who are closest to Him: “You are the Christ of God.” “You are the Messiah.” “You are God, in humanity, who’s come to redeem the world!”

You see what Jesus truly wants an answer to is personal. “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” I think we’re tempted to think that this is a verbal acknowledgement. And although included, I think it’s much deeper than that. Who we believe Jesus to be is profoundly revealed in our fidelity to Him. In our commitment to the cause of our Savior. In our beliefs. In our faith. In our priorities: How do I spend my time, my energy, my money, my life? Am I faithful in every way? To my Lord? To my spouse? To my family? Am I kind to my children? Do I cultivate faith in them? Am I a trustworthy friend? When others look to me are they convinced that I believe Jesus to be the “Christ of God”?

It is for this reason that Jesus calls for His disciples then and now to deny ourselves. To die to ourselves and take up our crosses of sacrifice daily.

Then and only then will we be capable of fully following Him. Fully following.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to fully belong to Him and to be fully committed to Him. Half-hearted Christianity is not Christianity.

Is it possible to be Christian, but not a disciple?

Who do you say Jesus is?

Does your life confess what your lips acknowledge?

Glory to God!

Jason

longing to see Jesus

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Each and every one of us brings our own experiences to the table. Our experiences, whether good or bad, influence greatly how we view the world in which we live.

For so many the term “Christian” is one of blessing and comfort. To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. It succinctly defines not solely a reality as those who have answered the call of Christ, but also depicts a way of life as “followers of the Way.” There is such authenticity and genuineness found in the simplicity of being Christ followers when we truly see ourselves for who we are called to be in Jesus. When we truly see every moment of life as God designed and God lived.

The reality, however, is that many have not had such experiences. To them the term “Christian” elicits adverse emotions. Perhaps their negative perspective has been conditioned by the hypocrisy of one who claims belief in Christ, but whose life simply does not reflect the authenticity salvation calls for. Maybe their negative experience came by way of arrogance or pride or exclusivity witnessed in the lives of those who profess faith.

Certainly we can only be accountable for ourselves. As well, certainly there are treacherous moments when we do not reflect our Lord. However, not only does the Gospel message call us to fidelity to our Savior, but an unbelieving, skeptical world longs to see it. They long to see faithfulness. Authentic faith. Genuine faith. And they long to see it in us. Even if they don’t realize it. It’s Jesus they’re longing to see.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

When they see the reality of Jesus lived out in the reality of our lives, it is then that they will be drawn to follow the Way of Jesus.

And isn’t it this very reality of our Savior that first called us to follow Him ourselves?

Glory to God!

Jason

london grace reeves

gracie

London Grace Reeves.

“London Gracie” as Shelbi calls her.

“Gracie,” after Tiersa’s grandma.

She’s been ours for sixteen long months, but today she officially became ours!

What an amazing day!

What an amazing little girl!

We are so very blessed.

God is so very faithful.

And our Gracie is so very sweet.

For the second year in a row we’ve adopted.

For the second year in a row Judge Clark has looked to me and asked what new name we were giving a daughter.

For the second year in a row I was overwhelmed with joy.

Glory to God!

Jason

holiness

Angel Sculpture Christian Stock Image

Holiness. Not the easiest concept for us to grasp. Oh I think we have an idea of holiness when it comes to God. But I wonder if we see it and believe it in ourselves?

So often we struggle with self. We struggle with self-doubt. And we struggle with self-righteousness. The question should never be: How do I see myself? The question should always be: How does God see me? And, how do I see God? This places us and God where we need to be.

Isaiah steps into the Temple and he’s not expecting much. But when he opens his eyes to the wonder and power and holiness of God, it’s then that Isaiah the priest becomes Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 6).

God is holy. He is pure. He is righteous. He is worthy. We understand His holiness no more clearly than when we are confronted by His magnificence and our own inadequacy.

But in this we find the beginning of our dilemma. Because no one knows us better than us. No one knows our inability to measure up to God better than we do. The Gospel calls us not only to salvation, but to see ourselves through the eyes of God. As those who have been made holy through the holy sacrifice of Christ. Holy not because of us, but because of Him. Holy not because of us, but in spite of us.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21-22).

Holy in His sight? Without blemish? Free from accusation? Yes! How? Through Jesus. God sees us as holy because He sees us through the lens of Jesus. And this is what we call “Gospel.” This is what we call “Good News.”

We’re tempted to not believe it. Maybe we understand it intellectually, but we struggle with allowing it to take hold of our hearts. Because doing so compels us to relinquish control. And to allow God to be God.

When King David prays to God, “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7b), literally in the Hebrew his prayer is: “Un-sin me….” “Cleanse me. God, take away my sin. Make me whiter than snow. Remove all my sin stain. Remove my guilt. Make me pure. Righteous. Holy. Accomplish that which I cannot accomplish on my own. Make me more like you.” And the amazing thing is, through hearts that turn to Him, He does just that.

To see ourselves as God sees us grants significant insight into faith. It empowers us to live more into (and out of) the lives that He has created for us to live in Christ Jesus.

Two questions remain: Will we allow Him to make us holy? And, do we believe that He can?

Glory to God!

Jason

what we think of God

Lighthouse on a Hill Ministry Stock Photo

Don’t we find ourselves at times spiritually plateaued in our journeys of faith? And maybe not even plateaued, but rather, more like spiritually bankrupt? What do we do when we begin to feel this way? Maybe it’s found in the ebb and flow of faith. Maybe it only characterizes a small portion of time. Or maybe it is descript of decades. Years of complacency. No zeal. No excitement. No anticipation. No experience of God. What then? What next?

In his book Attributes of God, AW Tozer writes, A local church will only be as great as its concept of God. An individual Christian will be a success or failure (in the Kingdom) depending upon what he or she thinks of God. It is critically important that we not only have a knowledge of the Holy One, but that we truly come to know Him in all His majesty and wonder.”

Maybe what we “think of God,” as Tozer puts it, is directly related to our being spiritually plateaued or bankrupt.

Do we think enough of God? How much thought do we honestly give Him during the course of the day? How often do you engage in silent conversation with Him if even for a brief moment? How often do you pray? I mean really, really pray? Not as an aside. But heart and mind, engaged in prayer with our Father. How much time do you set aside in reading Scripture and being fed by God’s Word? How often do you read what others have written to broaden your concept of God? How many conversations do you have throughout the week with others who are seeking to be faithful to our Father as well? Do you seek out Christian insight from others who have faith? Because what we “think of God” is answered in questions such as these.

The Apostle Paul writes: I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” – Ephesians 1:17

The question is: Do we really want to know Him better?

Somehow spiritual discipline has too often been divorced from faith. Faith is too often seen as mental ascent rather than a life characterized by discipleship. No wonder we find ourselves so often spiritually anemic.

Discipleship. Living cognizant of the presence of God. Spiritual discipline. A life characterized by faith and faithfulness. When our practice reflects our concept of God – it is then and only then that we will begin to know Him better.

Glory to God!

Jason

moving from the “who” to the “what”

Christian Gathering Faith Stock Photos

During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. would speak of moving “from the who to the what.”

Both after the murders of Freedom Riders: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi and then after the beating death of Princeton Seminary student James Reeb in Alabama, King declared “it’s not so much who killed them but what killed them.” And “when we move from the who to the what, in a very real way we begin to see that we are all in this together.”

Of course the “what” was the underlying motive of hate and bigotry and disunity that permeated so much of the worldview of the day. A worldview which in many ways has yet to be overcome. In regard to unity among races and cultures as a whole we still have a very long way to go.

In the church we are called to unity in Christ. To be one in Jesus. We who are many and yet comprise one body through the Gospel are called to oneness. The Apostle Paul implores, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3-6).

Only God can bring this about. We are different in many, many ways. The call however is to unity, not uniformity. To “move from the who to the what.” That we would be united in spite of ourselves. In spite of our differences. We truly only come to know if we are indeed united when we encounter differences.

In many ways we indeed have a long way to go. However we serve a God whose mercies are new every morning. A God who has revealed Himself as faithful throughout the history of mankind. And a God and who is at work in a wonderful way in the life of His people today.

We begin with the Gospel and we begin with grace. For when we begin to see ourselves in our need for God and in our need for His mercy, the playing field begins to be made level, and all pride is taken away. Only then will God begin to bring about unity.

Jesus on the night before the cross prays for Himself, His disciples, and then for us: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20b-23).

How is it that the world will believe and know the truth of God made manifest in Christ? Only when they see unity and oneness in His people….

Glory to God!

Jason