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We tend to pride ourselves on being self-sufficient. As Americans it’s in our DNA. We began out of a desire for freedom. Not just freedom of religion (or freedom from religion) or “give me liberty or give me death”or “no taxation without representation” but out of a desire for the freedom to forge our own way. “We don’t need your help.” “We can do it on our own.” (I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but as a Texan especially, this “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality is just a part of who we are. Right? Cross that river? No problem. Run that race? Sure thing. Climb that mountain? Ya’ll watch this!

There’s nothing that MacGyver can’t do with a Swiss Army knife and a paperclip, or that Bear Grylls can’t overcome with a piece of paracord and flint. And we like it!

We don’t rely on others very well. Do we?

And yet Christ’s church is designed as such that we are to 1) rely upon God and 2) to rely upon one another. We are to share life with one another. To share our triumphs and our defeats.

But in order for me to walk along side of you when you are hurting or struggling or grieving, or in order for you to walk along side of me when I am in those shoes, one thing is required that we too often don’t have an ample supply: vulnerability.

We do self-sufficient.

But we don’t do vulnerable.

And this is a problem.

When we don’t open up to God or to one another as covenant relationship through Jesus is designed we find ourselves stubborn, needy people. In need of love, support, guidance, rebuke, challenge, but too stubborn to accept. And the results are disastrous.

What is vital is humility. Humility that plunges the spiritual depths.

What is indispensable is Jesus. The example of Jesus and the spirit of Jesus.

To practice discipleship. Following Christ and following Him together.

And to embody an openness that intimacy with God and closeness with one other reveals.

It’s God’s design. It’s what God wants. But is it what we want?

The minister/spy/martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “The church only exists when it exists in community.”

The first question to ask is: Do we believe that statement to be true?

If we do, the second question is: What are we doing to foster covenant community?

Glory to God!

Jason

you are not alone

“God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:16b-18).

There’s a lot that has brought the Apostle John to this point in his first letter.  There are those who feel as if they have the market cornered on God and who readily belittle others who they consider as “less spiritual.” John writes to encourage those who are taking criticism and who are truly seeking to have high view of God and humble view of themselves.

The theme of “love” is a thread that runs throughout John’s literature.  John assures that the very nature of God is love.  The Apostle affirms that love is not only the foundation of our relationship with the Father, but is foundational in our relationship with others.  With both those whom we agree and those we do not.

Everything of course is encompassed within Jesus’ beautiful message: “God so loved…” (John 3:16).

But here in 1 John, the Apostle moves from “love” to “fear.”  “There is no fear in love.”  “Perfect love drives out fear.”  The connection to love (and context of John’s message) is enveloped in relationship.  Relationship with God.  And relationship with others.  And what I believe our Father through His servant John hopes to communicate with us in this is that for those who are in a right relationship with God fear is not a part of the equation.  The perfect love of God revealed in the Gospel of Jesus drives it away.  However, if we were to be honest, we each, very often, have our fears.  And even though John is speaking of eternity and how there is no fear (“condemnation” to use Paul’s word – cf. Romans 8:1) for those who are in Christ Jesus, I wonder what might be weighing on your heart and mind right now?

I wonder: What is it that you’re afraid of?  What is it that is causing you concern right now?  What is it that is weighing you down?  What is it that is keeping you up at night?  What is it that is dividing your attention?  What are your fears?

Because the message of Jesus can be summed up in these words: “You are not alone.”

Jon Walker in his book, Costly Grace, writes: “Fear whispers in our ear that we face danger alone, that God is unaware of our plight and that Jesus is unavailable in our time of need” (p217).

You are not alone.  You can trust God.  You can trust our Father.  You can trust Him.

You are not alone.

Glory to God!

Jason

top 5 “must reads”

Man carrying large stack of books

Top 5 “must reads” of 2011….

1) The Radical Disciple by John RW Stott

When John Stott passed away a few months ago, to my surprised, I cried.  It was weird.  But what I came to realize is that so much of my life and theology and thinking and ministerial philosophy have been shaped by dear “Uncle John.”  The Cross of Christ and The Incomparable Christ are both well worn as they sit upon my shelf.  The Radical Disciple is Stott’s final work.  And he knew it.  Through the prologue Stott wonderfully says his “farewells.”  In The Radical Disciple Stott speaks from the heart and the end of a valiant and humble life.

2) Radical by David Platt

Platt confronts any inkling of self-righteous, pharisaical religiosity.  Radical is a call to faith that is real.  Faith that is authentic and genuine.  Faith that is truly, fully, wholly faith.  Our ministry team went to the D6 conference in Dallas a few months ago and Platt was one of the speakers.  Toward the end of his time he said, “I realize that after everything I’ve shared I’ve made a few of you angry.  But I’ve learned in ministry that about 10% of those who listen aren’t going to like me, and frankly, I’m good with that!”  🙂  Our Tuesday morning group worked through Radical chapter by chapter.  We are better Christians, disciples, husbands, and fathers because of it.

3) Why Jesus? by William Willimon

At the Tulsa Workshop last year Terry Rush advocated Will Willimon’s Why Jesus? to our Thursday morning group.  Following Jesus will lead you into dangerous territory.  Too often we seek to avoid conflict.  But if we’re following Jesus how can we avoid it?  Willimon calls us to a close, intimate understanding of this One we hail Lord and Master.  The challenge of faith is to follow.  And to follow Jesus.  Not Jesus as a flannel-graph.  But Jesus as the Way, Truth, and Life.  I’ve read Willimon for years.  You can’t go wrong with anything that comes from his pen.  But Why Jesus? is arguably his best work yet.

4) Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

“He has shown you what is good.  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).  “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice'” (Matthew 9:13).  Tim Keller’s The Reason for God and especially The Prodigal God are both phenomenal.  If I had done a top five list of what I read last year The Prodigal God would have been at the top!  And so if you haven’t read it you’d be extremely blessed if you did.  Generous Justice is what is becoming to me “vintage Keller.”  Intellectual and yet practical.  Both sophisticated and heart changing.  Keller’s treatise is to live like Jesus.  Compassion.  Humility.  Conviction.  To have a Kingdom purpose and vision.  Eyes that see and ears that hear.  To see life through the lens of Christ and to love God and love others in a way that we as Christ’s church have failed miserably in previous generations to attain to or even aspire to.  If a big picture view of the work of God is what your seeking, Generous Justice is an excellent place to start.

5) Costly Grace by Jon Walker

If you know me well at all you know my affinity toward all things Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I’ve read The Cost of Discipleship at least a half a dozen times.  Jon Walker’s wonderful work Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship is an invaluable companion.  He takes the themes that Bonhoeffer unpacks in Cost and runs with them.  The pursuit of costly grace and denial of anything that cheapens the grace of God made manifest in the Gospel of Jesus.  If you’ve never read Bonhoeffer or do not know his history you’re missing out!  If I were you, in 2012 I’d read: 1) The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer 2) Eric Metaxas’s brilliant biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and 3) Jon Walker’s Costly Grace.  And in that order.  If you’ll do that in the coming months, you’ll never be the same.

I’ve read about 20 books this year.  Most of which were published over the last couple of years.  There are others that came very close to edging out one or two of the five that I’ve listed here.  But if you’re asking me, these five are an excellent, excellent place to begin.

Glory to God!

Jason