a wretch like me

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“Where would I be without Christ?”

If I were to pose the question, and have you ask it of yourself, what thoughts immediately come to mind?

(I’ll wait a few moments for you to think and carry this through a bit).

“Where would I be without Christ?”

We all approach a question like this from differing perspectives. From varying backgrounds. Some were raised with a Christian worldview. Others come to Christ much later in life. But regardless of the journey, surely we’ve come to a maturity of faith that recognizes our reality in Jesus. And in our understanding of who we are in Christ, do we ever consider who we would be were it not for the Lord in our lives?

Without Christ we are lost. Lost. Lost to ourselves. Lost in ourselves. In our sin. In our own depravity. Perhaps a sober consideration of past failings brings us to an inkling of who we would be were it not for the Spirit of Christ. And I believe it can be extremely healthy to recognize who you and I would be without Him. The reality that without Him we would be morally ruined. Spiritually bankrupt. When we come to this conclusion, we in turn are better enabled to minister to those who are indeed outside of Christ.

The Apostle Paul opens our eyes to who we are outside of covenant with God when he writes, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were…” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). However, praise God his pen continues, “But, you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v11).

The wonderful question that comes out of Paul’s message to these Christians is: “Who can be saved?” And the answer that wonderfully springs to life in verse 11 is: “Anybody!”

Do we see those who are outside of Christ for their lostness? Are we aware that they are who they are and do the things that they do and live the way that they live because they’re lost? How else do we expect them to live? They’re lost! Do we see them in and for and through their lostness?

If so, does it elicit compassion or disdain on our part? In our heart of hearts, are we filled with the loving kindness of God for them? Or is there a slight (or not so slight) hint of contempt?

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.

Glory to God!

Jason

i once was lost

Green Field Website Banner

“Where would I be without Christ?”

If I were to pose the question, and have you ask it of yourself, what thoughts immediately come to mind?

(I’ll wait a few moments for you to think and carry this through a bit).

“Where would I be without Christ?”

We all approach a question like this from differing perspectives. From varying backgrounds. Some were raised with a Christian worldview. Others come to Christ much later in life. But regardless of the journey, surely we’ve come to a maturity of faith that recognizes our reality in Jesus. And in our understanding of who we are in Christ, do we ever consider who we would be were it not for the Lord in our lives?

Without Christ we are lost. Lost. Lost to ourselves. Lost in ourselves. In our sin. In our own depravity. Perhaps a sober consideration of past failings brings us to an inkling of who we would be were it not for the Spirit of Christ. And I believe it can be extremely healthy to recognize who you and I would be without Him. The reality that without Him we would be morally ruined. Spiritually bankrupt. When we come to this conclusion, we in turn are better enabled to minister to those who are indeed outside of Christ.

The Apostle Paul opens our eyes to who we are outside of covenant with God when he writes, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were…” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). However, praise God his pen continues, “But, you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v11).

The wonderful question that comes out of Paul’s message to these Christians is: “Who can be saved?” And the answer that wonderfully springs to life in verse 11 is: “Anybody!”

Do we see those who are outside of Christ for their lostness? Are we aware that they are who they are and do the things that they do and live the way that they live because they’re lost? How else do we expect them to live? They’re lost! Do we see them in and for and through their lostness?

If so, does it elicit compassion or disdain on our part? In our heart of hearts, are we filled with the loving kindness of God for them? Or is there a slight (or not so slight) hint of contempt?

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.

Glory to God!

Jason

communicating Christ

Megaphone

The way information is processed and is passed on evolves over time. From word of mouth and letters carried by the Pony Express to the latest multi-media blurb found on the internet, the way information is effectively shared and received continues to develop day by day, year after year.

In the early days of newspapers, when newspapers were the primary method of delivering the news, when something big had occurred, the publisher would not only publish the usual daily paper, but would also publish an “Extra.” The extra newspapers were sold on the street corners, often by newsboys, who had a stack of papers and would sell them to those who passed by. When an Extra was published, the newsboys would call out “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” to call attention to the fact that something big had happened, and an extra bit of pressing news had been published.

How do we go about sharing the Good News of Christ? How do we go about communicating Christ in a post-modern and, some would advocate, a post-Christian, culture? What is effective? What is not? What was once effective but no longer is? How do we adapt? It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over believing a different outcome will be the result. The message of Jesus remains the same. But how do we go about carrying out the mission of Christ in the contemporary world we find ourselves? Sound discussion has taken the place of fierce argumentation. Praise God!  However many today ask the question: “Is there really anything that’s worth discussing?”

Christianity has always existed as a culture within a culture. Being a mission-minded people and effectively carrying out the mission of Christ entails both a striving after the Kingdom and an understanding of the environments we find ourselves a part.

The Apostle Paul affirms, “I have become all things to all mankind, so that by all means possible, I might save some.” Same message. Differing methods. No one has all the answers. But I believe asking the questions is a step in the right direction.

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?

Pray Without Ceasing Christian Stock Photos

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

is the cross enough?

Cross of Christ

For the next three months our congregation will be investing into a study of 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Both Sunday morning classes and sermons will be pursuing these two wonderful texts. As a church we will be pouring ourselves into these letters and striving for a willingness and openness that would allow our Father to pour Himself into us as His holy people. “Ancient Church, Modern Challenges” is the general theme we’ll be working under. I cannot imagine a more timely, unifying study for us to engage in together.

The Corinthian letters center upon effective ministry. How is the church to be effective in a culture that is so very contrary to the God we serve? How might the relevance of the Gospel of Christ be communicated in a world that sees no need for faith? How can those who are followers of the Way of Jesus be united with one another, when while we’ve chosen to follow Christ, we did not choose one another? How do we as Christ’s Church today serve as a powerful, effective witness for the Kingdom? Unabashed. Unashamed. And unhindered

These are questions that the Corinthian letters will address.

Chapter 1 sets the stage: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 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” (vv10-18).

Are we sharing the fullness of the Gospel message or are we simply speaking with “wisdom and eloquence” emptying the cross of its God-designed, God-designated power? Is the message of the cross enough for us? Is the cross, and the cross alone, truly the power for we who believe and are being saved?

It all begins with the question: “Is Christ divided?”

It all begins with the decision: “I follow Christ.”

And it all begins this week!

Glory to God!

Jason

less complication. more Jesus.

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

words of wisdom

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

acknowledging our brokenness

brokenLast week our focus Sunday evening was upon the Bread of God.  We began with the manna from heaven in Israel’s wilderness experience (Ex 16).  We then transitioned to the call of the Ezekiel, as the Prophet eats the scroll of the Word of the Lord (Ez 2:8-3:4).  The scroll tasted sweet as honey, like manna.  Our next stop along the way together was the Psalms, where we read from Psalm 19:7-10 and connected to David’s praise that “the Law of the Lord” and “the precepts of the Lord” are “sweeter than honey.”  Our final text came from John 6 where Jesus explains that He is the Bread of God, that gives life to the world.

Our emphasis was upon being sustained by God.  Being filled by God.  Being satisfied by God.  In every way.  Recognizing and receiving the daily bread of the Lord (His Word, His Spirit, our experiences, the simple joys of life).  Our call was to filled by Him.  Spiritually.  And we acknowledged that we are only filled to the extent that we hunger for Him (ref. Mt 5:6).

Communion BackgroundBut I want to flesh this out (pun intended, see Jn 6) and take it a step further (and if this finds its way into a sermon later on just act like you’re hearing it then for the first time)….  As we come to the table each week and commune with our Savior and commune with one another and commune with the body of Christ the world over, we break the bread in remembrance of the Messiah (Lk 22:19).  Jesus says, “This is my body given for you.”

And as we accept the Lordship of Christ we become a part of the body of Christ.  When in Christ we are the body of Christ (1 Co 12:27).  As we commune with our Lord each week, we celebrate the Good News of Jesus.  And we refocus ourselves upon who the Gospel calls us each to be.  But I wonder, do we see ourselves in the bread?  (Stay with me for a second….)  Because only when we are broken, can God do in us and with us and through us what only He can do.  Only when we take ownership of our brokenness can our Father begin to create within us that which is Christ-like.  When we accept the Lordship of Christ, as we are baptized into Christ, we acknowledge our brokenness and we come to Him to make us whole.  As we break the bread each week, do we recognize our brokenness?  As those who are the body of Christ, are we in that moment consciously aware that only in Him we are made whole?

Glory to God!

Jason

the avenues of God

Anytime a Christian struggles with faithfulness to God, the avenues of God, readily available to the believer, are intrinsically granted in the covenant that Almighty God has given us in His Son Jesus.

Paul speaks of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6 by which we “take our stand against the devil’s schemes” (v11).  The belt of truth.  The breastplate of righteousness.  The shield of faith.  The helmet of salvation.  The sword of the Spirit, God’s Word (His spoken, written, and Living Word).  These implements are defensive in nature.  Protective by design.

In Roman armor the belt is secured first.  The breastplate, once in place, is then connected to the belt with leather straps.  The helmet was often also, once in place, connected to the breastplate in a similar manner.  There are two swords that were at the Roman soldier’s disposal.  One was long.  An offensive weapon.  The other was short.  More easily maneuvered.  In battle the shorter sword was often held in the soldier’s off hand because it was utilized primarily as a defensive weapon.  Paul’s description here is of the shorter, defensive sword.  It further depicts God’s covenantal, protective nature and the avenues relationship with God though the Gospel of Jesus provide us as His disciples.  But, do we devote ourselves to them?

What are the avenues God has given us to draw nearer to Him during times of temptation?  To protect us during times of attack from Satan?  In order that we might prove faithful to Him?  I believe four primary avenues He has granted us are: His Spirit, His Word, prayer, and each other.

However, do we truly invest ourselves in these pivotal facets of our faith?  How in tune are we with His Spirit that resides within us?  Are we aware of the Spirit’s direction, counsel, and the spiritual strength He provides?  Do we read Scripture?  Do we hide His Word in our hearts?  How much time do we spend with God in His Word?  And in prayer?  Do we intentionally pray?  Do we set aside intentional time to pray to our Father?  Do we commune with Him every moment of life?  Do we strengthen one another?  Hold one another accountable?  Do we have the relationship with committed disciples of Jesus as faithful participants in the Kingdom that covenant provides and faithfulness requires?

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3)

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful.  He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

“Everything we need,” Peter assures.  “A way out,” Paul affirms.

But do we pursue the avenues of God?

Glory to God!

Jason