longing to see Jesus

Quiet Paths Religious Stock Image

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

the initiative

The_Initiative_Banner

The last three days at The Initiative (hosted by the Highland Oaks Church and Hope Network) have been filled with deep, abiding reflection upon the craft of preaching and the cost of following Jesus.

Rubel Shelly.  Richard Beck.  Randy Harris.  Anna Carter Florence.

Serious conversation.  Godly counsel.  Sage wisdom.

If you preach, and The Initiative is not on your calendar, you are seriously, seriously missing out.

Glory to God!

Jason

gnats, camels, and following Jesus

camel

“These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” – Matthew 15:8-9 (Jesus quoting from Isaiah 29:13)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” – Matthew 23:23-24 (Jesus telling the Pharisees what’s up!)

There is a point where religion gives way to faith. In order for this to occur there must come a point in time where God becomes real. To us. Where His kingdom begins to break in all around us. It is a pivotal moment. A crucial moment.

Maybe it comes about in a moment of victory. Maybe it’s in a moment of defeat.   Maybe it comes about through the words of God in Scripture. Maybe through the words of a friend. Certainly the Spirit is involved, softening our hearts. Whatever it is that brings it about, we must come to a point in our lives and in our faith when a decision is made. God is either God, or He is not. Jesus is either Lord, or He is not. The life-saving work of Christ is either everything to us, or it is nothing to us. Relationship with God is either a get out of jail free card at the end of this physical life, or it is the transformative covenant that it is intended to be here and now.

ugly camelSomehow, too often, discipleship is divorced from faith. As if that’s possible. As if that’s biblical. As if that’s acceptable! The call is to follow Jesus (faith). Not simply a system of belief (religion). And too often we find ourselves straining out the gnat but swallowing the camel.

What is discipleship? Taking up our cross daily and following Jesus (Luke 9:23).

Where does religion end and faith begin? Only, only, when we follow Him.

If we understand anything from the cross, anything from the resurrection, anything from the design of the Gospel, it is that half-hearted Christianity is a hollow shell of existence, and nothing compared to the overwhelming greatness that comes from living a life defined by Jesus.

Only when we willingly, intentionally give our whole selves over to Him will we begin to live into the fullness of the Kingdom. And only when we are defined by Christ, will we begin see life with the clarity that only He provides.

Until then we swallow the camel one loathsome chunk at a time….

Glory to God!

Jason

Summit 2014

biblical-studies-certificate

ACU Summit is such a blast year after year.

God ministers to me through every minute of Lectureship, excuse me, Summit….

The next four days will be no exception.

I’ll spend some needed time with friends in ministry.

We’ll pray and discuss and share and argue and eat like nobody’s business.

I’ll be renewed day by day from the likes of Randy Harris, Barbara Brown Taylor, Stanley Hauerwas, Chris Seidman, and Don McLaughlin.

I am very much looking forward to three classes from my friend Allan Stanglin, from the Central Church, focusing on the Kingdom work they are doing with the Amarillo downtown churches.

I used to go to workshops and lectures to get material for preaching.

How shallow is that?

Now I just go open to God, asking Him to to what He does.

summit-2014-hp

You can watch the Key Note Lectures live @ www.acu.edu/live/

Glory to God!

Jason

weeds and wheat

cow, farming

Jesus tells the story of a man who plants a field of wheat. But while everyone is sleeping an enemy comes along and plants weeds all throughout the wheat and then slips away in the night. As the first green shoots begin to appear the two look the same. But as the grain begins to form the workers soon realize the field is also inundated with weeds.

The farmer immediately recognizes what has occurred and that an enemy has planted the weeds right along side of his wheat. The farmhands are quick to ask if they should pull the weeds out from among the wheat but the owner knows what damage it would cause. “Let them both grow until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn’” (Matthew 13:30).

And Jesus says, “This is the Kingdom.” “The Kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field….”

He explains the One who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man, and those who belong to Him belong to the Kingdom. And the one who sowed the bad seed is the evil one. “The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels” (Matthew 13:39).

But here’s my question: Where do we fit in to all of this? If this is a portrait of the Kingdom – What’s our role?

To be wheat!

Right?

Do we uproot? Do we tear down? No! How much damage would that cause? How much damage has it already caused? No, our calling is to be wheat, in a field that is full of both weeds and wheat. To be wheat, and to show the field what wheat looks like.

And the amazing thing about the message of Christ is that the Gospel provides the way that a weed can become wheat. A complete metamorphosis. A change of state. A change of being.

In reality (if I’m not taking this parable too far) when it comes to being a part of the Kingdom of God, the Gospel should confront us of our own weediness (it’s not a real word but I like it!). The Gospel by design compels us to reckon our own weedy nature. Without the Good News of Jesus it is impossible to become or to be wheat.

The Gospel is designed in such a way that the message itself should and must compel us, and convict us, and radically alter our worldview so much so that we seek to live like the wheat we are called to be, in a world that so desperately needs to see what wheat looks like. The message of Jesus allows for the opportunity for weeds to become wheat!

Glory to God!

Jason