unity

I tend to make things more difficult than they need to be. I over-analyze. I over-think. I over-concern. I am too often more critical of myself than I ought to be. In some ways this way of thinking has served me well. In many, many ways, not so much…. Maybe you can relate?

To others the reverse perhaps is more the norm. Many are overly critical of others. The glass is always half-empty. Negativity reigns supreme. Aren’t there some whom when you see them coming you cringe when you realize they’re walking your direction? And now you’re suddenly on a collision course with gloom and doom. You brace yourself because you immediately realize you’re about to receive a beating that no one deserves. And not even necessarily because they’re going to beat up on you, but because you know that whatever the conversation is, it’s going to be negative. Aren’t there some Christians you’d swear were baptized in lemon juice (and who watch way too much CNN)?

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt…” (Colossians 4:6).

Faith is not complicated. We make it much more complicated than it was ever intended to be. Too often we get in the way. The simplicity and beauty of the message we’ve received in Christ and its call to fidelity is central. The Gospel ought to bring calm. It ought to restore peace. It ought to grant clarity. It ought to. It’s designed to. But does it? For you?

“Now, church, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importancethat Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…. …this is what we preach, and this is what you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4,11b).

In faith we open our hearts to God. And we allow Him to be God. We trust Him. We share with Him. We live life near Him. And because of covenant and because He is God we breathe a sigh of relief. Because He is in control. And in Him we are a part of that which is so much greater than ourselves.

In faith we share with other believers. We are a part of one another in Jesus. We engage in, and share in, life. We ought to at least. Our relationships with believers in Christ should be our closest. And when we struggle in our relationships as His children, we work through them. We allow nothing to disrupt our connection to Him and to each other, because we belong to a magnificent Father and to one another in Jesus.

In faith we allow the message to be revealed through our priorities. Our thoughts. Our convictions. Our beliefs. Our conversations. Our relationships. It’s the way it was designed to be. It’s the way things ought to be. Less complication. More Jesus.

Glory to God!

Jason

joy

“The one who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).

What is our Savior communicating to you in these nine words?

Jesus is in the home of Simon the Pharisee. The religious leader has gone out of his way to set the stage. Perhaps simply to gain a better understanding of what this proposed prophet from Nazareth is about. Maybe to make himself look good in front of his cronies by being the momentary big man on campus. Whether from false motives or pure, the fact is, the Christ has agreed to come.

But “when a woman who had lived a sinful life” is overwhelmed, simply by being in the presence of Jesus, crying as she is so humbled, overjoyed, as to be so blessed as to serve Him, Simon the host quickly turns into Simon the joy-stealer. “If this man were a prophet, He would know… she is a sinner” (V39).

“The one who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).

Have you been forgiven a lot or a little?

Are you sure that’s the perception others have of you?

If we view God as harsh and judgmental, guess what sort of lens we view others through? Exactly. If we see ourselves as somehow deserving of being in His presence, or of forgiveness, or of salvation, guess how we see others whom we do not deem as worthy or as orthodox as we are? (Do you sense a little sarcasm?)

What if you and I made a definitive decision today, that no matter what, that’s simply not how we’re going to be?

“The one who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).

And what about the one who has been forgiven much?

I’d say the one who has been forgiven much, refuses to steal another’s joy in the Lord.

Glory to God!

Jason

Jesus Stained Glass Religious Stock Image

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:13-16; cf. Leviticus 11:44-45).

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

I wonder if a greater awareness of the holiness of God might equip us to be more cognizant of our own holy calling? I wonder if willful, intentional contemplation of the holiness of our Father might assist us in realizing our own holy status in Christ Jesus? Certainly we are only made holy in Christ, however we are called to holy living. To a holy way of life. All of life is sacred for those who believe. The Apostle Peter is calling for conviction. He is calling for commitment. Half-hearted Christianity doesn’t cut it. “Just as He who called you is holy, be holy in all that you do.” We recognize our failings. We acknowledge we are spiritually bankrupt outside of covenant. However just as the Father is holy, we are to be holy. What if holiness were in our thoughts? What if holiness were upon our hearts? What if holiness were a viable part of our vocabulary and conversations? What if a sustainable facet of our faith was the practice of holiness?

Father we pray for an awareness of holiness. To be aware of your reality and your presence in our lives. And to be aware that we have been (and are continually) made holy in Jesus. Our hope is that we would be altogether incapable of being men and women who give little consideration to your character and nature, your purpose and our calling. Our prayer is that we would be a holy people. Light in a world of darkness. Our desire is that we would be like you. That we would reflect your holiness. That holiness would be such an integral part of who we are and so very definitive in what we reveal to the world around us that there would be no doubt as to who we are and whose we are. In the name of the Holy One in whom we place all hope, and all confidence, Amen.

Glory to God!

Jason

Cross of Salvation

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’….  And when Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:45-51).

From noon until 3pm, during the time of day when the sun is at its peak, darkness covers the planet, representative of course of the sin that Jesus bore on the cross.  At 3pm Jesus cries out in the words of Psalm 22, a Psalm of anguish and a Psalm of victory. Jesus cries out again and gives up His spirit, meaning, He chooses to die.  And “at that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

Here’s my question: How long was the curtain allowed to be torn?

Have you ever thought about that?  How long was the curtain allowed to be torn by the religious aristocracy? To the Jews who accepted Christ the tearing of the curtain meant no more obstruction, no more barrier between them and God.  To the Gentile it meant there was access granted to the One, True Living God that they had never known before. As believers today through this reality of 2000 years ago we recognize that we have access to the very presence of God and are ushered in to His glory through the sacrifice (and resurrection) of Jesus. But what about the Jews whose applecart had been upset?  Those who wanted everything to stay the same?  What about those “devout” Israelites who thought that they had the market cornered on God? What about the watchdog Pharisees who saw this as a threat to what was “right” and “proper”?

What do you suppose they did about the torn curtain?  The “veil that was rent” (to quote from the good king James)? Maybe they wrote it off as caused by the earthquake.  But Temple worship in Jerusalem continued another 40 years (until its destruction in AD 70). Did they leave the curtain torn do you think?  I bet not. Although well-intentioned, I would imagine they very quickly sewed it shut (or replaced it altogether). There’s no biblical or even extra-biblical evidence to support that notion.  But I just don’t see them leaving the curtain torn.  Do you?

Here’s my point: In Christ, God has unequivocally removed every hindrance from our living in His presence.  Right? And so why can’t we just leave it that way?

Glory to God!

Jason

Angel Sculpture Christian Stock Image

Wisdom.  Wisdom is not on our radar often enough.  We make choices based upon our feelings.  Our emotions.  Our own merit.  Upon how we are affected.  Upon our own understanding.  Certainly these are a part of the decision-making process.  But what about discernment?  What about wisdom?

And what about when we make poor choices?  Tragic choices?  Intentional choices?  When we sin?  When we doubt?  When we lash out in anger?  When we respond selfishly?  Self-servingly?  Worldy?  Where is wisdom then?

In the book of Proverbs wisdom is often personified.  And wisdom is a woman.  Read into this whatever you like….  But it’s extremely interesting that the voice of wisdom speaks, she constantly calls for humility.  She appeals to discernment.  She pleads for fidelity.

“Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech…” (Proverbs 1:20).

She goes to where the people are.  There is never any doubt as to her message.  There is no question as to the need for wisdom.  The need for discernment.  Only the question of whether or not we will listen.

Do we seek wisdom from God?  From His Word?  From His Spirit?  From His Son?  God never contradicts Himself.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  His character, His nature, His being, His purposes, are never changing.  He is constant.  He is true.  He is just.

Wisdom pursues His will for our lives.  Wisdom requests His will.  Wisdom seeks His will.  Wisdom accepts His will.  Wisdom is discerning of His will and does not confuse His will with our own.  Wisdom acknowledges His infiniteness.  And our finiteness.

The Apostle Paul when writing in regard to the ways in which God has acted upon behalf of humankind, speaks of the wisdom of God and His graciousness revealed to us in and through the Gospel of Jesus.  “It is because of Him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).  You see as believers true wisdom is found only in Christ.  Only in life lived in Christ.  Only in discerning God’s will for our lives and having the courage and faithfulness to pursue His will.

As Christians the voice of wisdom calls to us.  She calls us to right thinking.  To objectivity.  To faithful living.  To pursue the will of God.  To where true wisdom lies.  In God.  And in Christ.

But the question remains: Will we listen? 

Glory to God!

Jason

words

At WE we’ve begun an emphasis on Sunday mornings of the parables and “I AM” statements of Jesus.  The common theme of the messages is: “Words That Changed the World.”  Focusing upon the ministry of our Savior and how He intentionally communicated the reality of the Kingdom to those who would hear His message.  Certainly there are those who refuse to listen.  But for those who embrace the words of our Lord, lives are forever changed.

As we’ve stated, many of our adult classes (with others to follow), as well as our high school and junior high classes, are studying the same texts each week.  Although each class has a culture and barometer all its own, our hope is that as we connect our classroom study with the messages on Sunday morning we will foster an environment of connection and unity by doing so.

Words are powerful.  They are powerful.  And among all of God’s created, human beings are the only ones who communicate with words.

Trevor Hudson articulates well, “Our words, whether spoken or written, enable us to reveal or hide ourselves, to build or to break community, to help or to hurt our neighbor.  When used carefully, words facilitate self-disclosure, foster communion, and release healing.  When used carelessly, they create confusion, generate conflict, and cultivate chaos.  Well aware of this immense potential that inhabits our words, the writer of the Proverbs exclaims without exaggeration: ‘Death and life are in the power of our words (Proverbs 18:21).”

I wonder how acutely aware you are of the power of your words?  I wonder if you are intently cognizant that enveloped within the things you say lies the power of “death and life”?

How many relationships have been completely devastated by the speaking of harmful words?  How many who were once close have been injured, wounded deeply, distanced, through selfish, harsh, or uncaring words?

On the other hand, how many lives have been forever wonderfully impacted through encouraging words?  How many have been healed through the kind words of a friend?  How many believers has God empowered to accomplish great things for the Kingdom through the comforting, assuring words of a God-sent encourager?

The power to speak death.  The power to speak life.

“Out of the overflow of the heart,” our Savior affirms, “the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Glory to God!

Jason

hiding

There is an ancient legend from India that tells the story of a mouse that was terrified of cats.  He brought his complaint to the king who had his magicians transform the mouse into a cat, so as to relieve his fears.  This satisfied the mouse (pardon me, cat) for a little while until he met a dog.  Fearing the dog he pleaded to be changed into one and so the king again obliged.  Until he came face to face with a tiger.  And so once again he begged to be changed into that which he feared.  After not long living as a tiger the mouse-turned-cat-turned-dog-turned-tiger came to fear the hunter.  However when he approached the king to change him once more, the king refused.  “I will not again change you into that which you fear, for though you are a tiger, you still have the heart of a mouse.”

Is your comfort found in your IRA or 401K or 528i?  Is your security in what you possess or the life you’ve built?  Is your confidence in who you are or what you’ve accomplished?  Is your strength in your ability, your knowledge, your reason, your power, or your control?

Then allow me to ask: What are you afraid of?  What are you hiding from?  What do you need to let go of?

Your roar may be the loudest, but inside lies a heart gripped with fear.  Why?

“I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (fear), but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Glory to God!

Jason

carpentry tools“When Jesus had finished these parables, He moved on from there.  Coming to His hometown, He began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed.  ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked.  ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?  Isn’t His mother’s name Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Simon, and Judas?  Aren’t all His sisters with us?  Where then did this man get all these things?’  And they took offense at Him.  But Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’  And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Matthew 13:53-58).

It seems to me that God has a pretty hard time with leaving things alone.  We need not look any further than the sun as it sets and rises again or the seasons as they change and cycle to recognize that the Heavenly Father is constantly creating, intentionally changing, cognitively metamorphosizing (not a real word, but it works) the world around us.

Is it not the same with us?  As we willingly grant the Father creative license He changes us, molds us, shapes us, more into the image of Christ.  More into who He desires for us to be.  More into who we are created to be.

I wonder if that might not be a small part of why He chose for His Son to grow up as the son of a carpenter?  As one who creates.  One who repairs.  One who carefully crafts.  As through the carpenter’s son, He continues to create and repair and carefully craft today.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart would be opened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of His mighty strength” (Ephesians 1:18-19).

Glory to God!

Jason

Prayer

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

There is a divine connection between prayer and peace.  A divine connection that is undeniable.  An often untapped resource in which through believing prayer we embrace the peace of God.  The peace that transcends (that passes) all understanding.  It is not a random, nebulous, temporary state defined by this world, but rather, it is all together otherworldly.  It comes from no place else.  It can be experienced in no other way.  It is a gift from the Father to His children.  It originates in heaven.  From the throne of God.  From the heart of God.  A gift from Him.  To us.

Does God wrestle with fear?  Is He ever wrought with doubt?  Does He tremble with anxiety?  Of course not!  He is God.  He is sovereign.  And He alone is God.

This is the very peace of mind He offers to us through Jesus.  Through prayer.  A peace that guards our hearts and minds.  Why?  Because our hearts and minds are where the Enemy so often attacks.

The Apostle Paul utilizes a military analogy when he pens, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  The word “guard” can be understood as a garrison.  A fortress.  A place of seclusion.  Of protection.  Of strength.

His peace.

His peace that is beyond comprehension.  His peace that is experienced amidst tragedy.  In the middle of lunacy.  At the height of agony.

Peace that is granted to us from the throne room of heaven, and is a gift from the heart of God to those He loves.

Glory to God!

Jason

clockI turned 40 on the 18th of January.  My wonderful, oldest daughter has reminded me that I am now precisely at the mid-point in between graduating high school and social security.  Gee thanks, Kacey!

For some, 40 is a horrible number to move in to.  But to be quite honest with you, I’ve been looking forward to it.  I don’t really know why.  But as far as I’m concerned, bring on the 40’s!  (We’ll have to wait and see as I get closer to 50, if I feel the same way about that number.)

Christian maturity doesn’t have a time line.  Many who have been believers for decades are still childish.  No closer to being mature in Christ than they were when they started.  Others round the bases rather quickly, and the conviction that comes from being in Christ and investing into the Kingdom is readily revealed in life, perspective, and philosophy.

The question is: What does Christian maturity look like?

The writer of the letter to the Hebrew believers contends, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so” (Hebrews 5:13-6:3).

What I love about this passage is that Christian maturity is not defined.  Have you ever noticed that?  We’re told what its not.  But not what it is.  But what it is, is more like Jesus.  And what it is, is more open to the Kingdom.  And what it is, is more focused on the things that are important to God.  And what it is, is less focused on the things that get in His way.

What turning 40 has caused me to better acknowledge is that I don’t have time to waste.  I just don’t.  Life is too short.  And what we do with the life we’re given, too important.  We don’t have time to waste.  I don’t.  And you don’t.  The Kingdom is too important.

Glory to God!

Jason