life between sundays

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Spending time in prayer and in study and in silence before God, engaging in intentional spiritual disciplines, and committing ourselves to a rhythm of discipleship that naturally facilitates balance and simplicity, in a life filled with complexity, is such a Christ-like way to live.

But if I had to guess, if anyone gets cheated, it’s God. And you. And those that need you.

As resurrected people we live life between Sundays. On Sunday the Author of Life breathes life into us communally. We yearn for Sunday because on Sunday we come to the table. On Sunday we commune with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. And on Sunday we commune with one another as His church.

Yet the design of covenant is such that we experience communion with God in every facet of life. Our worship of God on Sunday is diametrically impacted (either positively or negatively) through our day by day, moment by moment worship of Him during the week. Our communal worship works in tandem with our daily spiritual practice (worship).

God exists in community. Father, Son, and Spirit. We are created in the image of God. Spiritually. We are spiritual beings.

Because of this, we too are created to exist in community. With God. And with one another. (Are we spiritual beings having a physical experience or physical beings having a spiritual experience? Yes.)

An amazing facet of why our God has given us to one another as His church is that we commune with Him and with one another. We share in, and engage in, life.

We are in need of recapturing the communal nature of faith (not solely Communion with a big “C” but communion at every level – though too often we lose the communal nature of Communion as we come to the table).

Communal worship on Sunday is the culmination of (and genesis of) our week, and works in synergy with the fundamental practice of spiritual disciplines throughout our rhythm of life.

The goal of which is a holistic way of living a life that honors the Father, and a way of life that looks more and more like Jesus.

We think of ourselves as being in pursuit of God. And certainly we do. Prayerfully we are.

But when we consume with wonder, into our hearts, that it is He who pursues us, the transformative reality of covenant relationship and living in sync with Him radically changes everything.

“Let heaven fill your thoughts.” – Colossians 3:2a (NLT)

Glory to God!

Jason Reeves

(This is a reworking of a previous post that I’ve submitted for a project a friend is working on that will include 52 communion devotionals.)

relentless pursuit

Tree on a Hill Church Worship Background

For all of its immenseness (yes it’s a word – all I had to do was hit “ignore” on spell-check!) the Bible, although a lifetime of study only scratches the surface, entails an extremely simple story.

God creates humanity.  Humanity rejects God.  God relentlessly pursues humanity.

The overarching story of Scripture is the redemptive work of a God who would not let us go.

Whatever the expanse between us and God, He will traverse the gap.

Our God is a pursuing God.

He pursues us with His grace, with His mercy, with His love.

The Gospel message itself is of a God who relentlessly pursues us through Jesus.

Glory to God!

Jason

blessing

blessing

“…pronouncing a blessing puts you as close to God as you can get. To learn to look with compassion on everything that is; to see past the terrifying demons outside to the bawling hearts within; to make the first move toward the other, however many times it takes to get close; to open your arms to what is, instead of waiting until it is what it should be; to surrender the priority of your own safety for love – this is to land at God’s breast.” – “An Altar in the World,” Barbara Brown Taylor (p206)

Glory to God!

Jason

covenant community

Fellowship Website Banner

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

top five books of 2015

This year’s “top five” (technically six) are near and dear to my heart. I always attempt to read broadly. This year I’ve especially seemed to have read from a broad spectrum of books. Most all of the ones that I read this year could have made this list. However, these were particularly engaging (and renewing)….

51ACcP3EhHL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen is a book of hope. It reveals not only our capacity for ministering out of the healing the Gospel of Jesus provides, but the design of God as we minister out of that God-ordained healing. In a world defined by it’s brokenness, believers are defined by the healing that only those of the Kingdom embrace. If you are familiar with Nouwen then you know that every word of his writings centers upon spiritual formation and spiritual renewal. The Wounded Healer is no exception. If you are not familiar with Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer is an excellent place to begin.

for calvinismI thoroughly enjoyed reading two books designed to work in tandem with one another:against calvinism For Calvinism written by Michael Horton and Against Calvinism by Roger Olson. Horton is professor of theology and apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary in California. Olson is professor of theology at Truett Seminary at Baylor University. Both men are friends, and wrote the forwards for one another’s book, each being fully respectful of the other’s theological perspective, all the while making a concise case for their own systematic theology and belief system (note the tulips full of life on the left and wilted to the right). Whether Protestant or Catholic, Reformed or Arminian, Hyper-Calvinist or Remonstrant to the core, one of the brilliant aspects of these two works is the call to fully understand and respect where one another’s beliefs are founded, even, and especially, when we do not agree with the conclusions drawn.

surprised by hopeSimply Christian, Simply Jesus, and How God Became King are some of my favorite books by NT Wright. Wright’s hardwired academic posture and intentional pastoral heart are evident in his writing and ministry (I listen to Wright’s podcast constantly in the car). Surprised by Hope has possibly edged out How God Became King for my all time favorite book from my friend Tom’s pen. Surprised by Hope (a play on CS Lewis’ Surprised by Joy) is not only extremely readable (Wright can tend to be unashamedly very academic) but also super applicable and engaging for today’s postmodern/postChristian culture. Don’t allow the subheading “Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church” deter you. You won’t agree with everything in the book (if I only read those I full agreed with I’d only read me), I don’t, but you will indeed be challenged to think more critically in regard to the Kingdom of God and our role as those who are so blessed dwell within it.

interior castleWhen I propose these books each year I will often acknowledge that they have not all been written within the previous year or even previous several years. The Interior Castle is 427 years old. That’s probably a record for this venue. In The Interior Castle (El Castillo Interior), Teresa of Avila describes how, upon entering the “castle” (sense the concept of protection, safety, peace) through prayer and meditation, the human spirit experiences humility, detachment, suffering, and, ultimately, self-knowledge, as it roams from room to room. As we progress further toward the center of the castle, we come closer to achieving indefinable and perfect peace, and, finally, divine communion with God. Like her contemporary John of the Cross (cf. Dark Night of the Soul) Teresa is a Renaissance mystic. Out of the ancient mystic worldview we catch a glimpse of the contemporary call to spiritual discipline, humility, and to be overwhelmed by God.

eager to loveI’ve intentionally read much over the last number of years in pursuit of better understanding of, and better practice of, spiritual disciplines. My first book Renaissance: The End of Religion and Beginning of Something New focused on spiritual formation. My current work, Fortress: Timeless Spiritual Disciplines for Contemporary Christian Life, centers on spiritual disciplines (I’m only about a year into writing and still have several more before it’ll be released into the wild). I say all of that because much of my reading is bent in the direction of spiritual practices. Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi by Richard Rohr portrays the “alternative way” of following Jesus as revealed in the life of Francis of Assisi: one that disregarded power and privilege and held fast to the narrow path of the Gospel of Jesus. Rohr helps us look “beyond the birdbath image of the saint” to remind us of the long tradition founded upon his revolutionary, radical, and life-changing embrace of the teachings of Jesus. Rohr draws upon Scripture, insights from psychology, and literary and artistic references, to weave together an understanding of the tradition as practiced by Francis of Assisi. Rohr, a Franciscan priest, depicts how his own worldview and theology are firmly grounded in this way of life and teaching, and provides a perspective on how this “alternative way” to God can deepen and enrich our spiritual lives.

Well, there you have it. This year’s top five.

I read more than a dozen other books this year.

But if you ask me, these five are a perfect place to start.

Glory to God!

Jason

jamming gears and Jesus

old large gears

“Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’  ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied.  When He was accused by the chief priests and the elders, He gave no answer.  Then Pilate asked Him, ‘Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?’  But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge – to the great amazement of the governor” (Matthew 27:11-14).

Pilate is amazed.  He’s dumbfounded.  His gears are seriously jamming.  Jesus won’t defend Himself against His accusers.  He answers Pilate when he asks, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  But he won’t answer those who oppose Him.  And Pilate doesn’t get it.  He can’t fathom why in the world Jesus doesn’t answer them.  But that’s precisely why.  Because His Kingdom is not of this world.  And so He refuses to answer.

Jesus doesn’t answer because He is in complete control.  Of Himself.  Of the situation.  It may seem as if things are spiraling out of control, but they are far from it.  God is sovereign.  Jesus doesn’t answer because “as a sheep before his shearers is silent he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).  Jesus is fulfilling the plan of God, the purposes of God, in every way.  And He knows it.  Though His actions He’s fulfilling prophesy.  Intentionally.  Jesus doesn’t answer because His critics wouldn’t listen even if He did.  Would it change their minds?  Their hearts?  No.  And so He doesn’t answer.

One more crucial reason that I believe Jesus doesn’t answer is because He knows who He is as He stands before the Father.  He is complete.  He is whole.  He is without blemish.  Without defect.  Without fault.  And ultimately, it matters not what the critics think of Him; of who they believe Him to be.  What matters is that He fulfills the will of the Father in His life.  Beyond that, does anything else really matter?

Who we are in the Father’s eyes matters more than everything else.  When it is all said and done, it’s really all that matters.

Glory to God!

Jason

playing hide and seek with God

hide and seek

Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse of Scripture that speaks to the hearts of many (it is Tiersa’s absolute favorite verse of Scripture).  “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.”

However I wonder how familiar we are with verse 13?  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Perhaps we recognize the words.  But are we aware of the context in which they are found?

They are words spoken by God through the prophet, communicated to His people as they find themselves living in a world contrary to their calling.

Seeking God.  Pursuing God.  Searching for God.  In a world that is unfair, consumed with self, and spinning out of control.  Does that sound anything like our calling today?

“You will find me,” God declares, “when you seek me.  When you actively look for me.  When you search for me.  With all of your heart and with all of your soul.  With everything that you are.  Then, and only then, will you find me.”

Are we seeking God?  In our lives.  In our worship.  In our hearts.  In our motives.  In our families.  Are we seeking Him?  Do we long for Him?  With all our hearts?  With all our souls?

Did you ever play hide and seek as a child?  Sure you did.  Sometimes you were the one hiding.  Sometimes you were the one seeking.  But what about now?  Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing?  Do you find yourself seeking God one moment and hiding from Him the next?

Our calling is greater than that.

Glory to God!

Jason

ten words

blurred, man standing, subway

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14).  Ten words.  That changed everything.

In an instant, everything changed.  It was all in God’s divine plan.  All in His divine providence.  All founded in His divine initiative.

Decades later (and especially a century later), the incarnation would be at the center of debate.  There were many who questioned the validity of the Word becoming flesh.  It wasn’t entirely Christ’s deity that was under scrutiny.  It wasn’t solely His humanity that was doubted.  It was the mental gymnastics required to accept that He was both.  Divine and human.  Simultaneously.  Upon initial consideration, can we blame them?  We have the benefit of 2000 years of theology.  But the reality that Christ was 100% God and 100% human, you have to admit, is a doctrine that must be based solely upon faith.  Because it makes no earthly sense.

But He was.  Christ was with God in the beginning (John 1:1).  And then He became (John 1:14).  He became, He took on flesh, and He lived and walked and ministered among us.  The incarnation is intended to blow our minds.  And it should!  That God was willing, that Christ was willing, to “take on the nature of a servant” and be made “in human likeness” and to become “obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:1-11) should amaze us!  It is certainly designed to.

walkAnd the amazement of the incarnation must not end there.  Because the wonder of it all is that Christ is “incarnate” in us (if we can use that terminology).  God is revealed “in the flesh” when His people live out our calling as those who belong to Him.

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).  Verse 27 comes at the conclusion of an entire section of Paul’s letter to the Colossian church which centers upon the incarnation of God in Jesus.  He then transitions to the incarnation of Christ, in us!

That a holy God would, through His perfect Son, reside within an unholy and imperfect people should amaze us!  It is certainly designed to.  Our reality as those who have been sanctified by the Spirit purposes you and I to reveal His deity in our humanity.  In our divine and human nature(s).  Christ is us, the hope of glory.

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14).  Ten words.  That changed everything.  Ten words.  That change us still.

Glory to God!

Jason