making room

 

“The church would be great if it weren’t for all the people.”

“Leave the church and get closer to God.”

“Jesus, Yes.  The church, No.”

I understand where those who make such declarations are coming from.  Or at least, I grasp what would evoke such statements.

Most often they originate from a moment of frustration.  At times, after years of effort.  These words are spoken out of angst and anguish.  Out of the burden and desire to unreservedly worship and praise and serve a perfect God in our complete and total imperfection.  These feelings and emotions are generated out of a belief that we make faith much more complicated than it was ever intended to be.

However when we look intently to the paradigm of the Kingdom, we become acutely aware that we need one another.  We cannot be all that God intends for us to be without Kingdom relationships.  Without Christian community.  We are greatly impeded in our ability to live up to our potential as believers without journeying through life together.  Without loving one another.  Encouraging one another.  Challenging one another.  We cripple the communal design of the Gospel and Kingdom when we do not develop intentional Christ-following, Kingdom-centered relationships.  Much of our journey of faith is based upon our own individual relationship with God.  Our own willful choosing to be His people every moment.  However, without Christian community we hobble our spiritual development and Kingdom impact.

What is needed is grace.  Not only God’s grace to us, but His grace from us.  God’s grace in us, freely given to others.  Openly extended to others.  We have to make room.  To allow room.  Each of us do.  To make room in our hearts for others.  The problem is that we are seldom aware of our own Pharisaical tendencies.  Relationships are not always easy.  But they are always healthy when they are focused upon Christ.  And when focused upon the greater purpose of the Kingdom.

Glory to God!

Jason

holy ground in waco, tx

City Lights at Night Worship Background

For the last 2.5 years Dr. Jim Martin has been the vice president of Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tn. Prior to this role Jim served in congregational ministry for over 35 years, 20 of those years being with the Crestview Church in Waco.

For the final five years that he was in Waco, Jim facilitated five one-year long discipleship groups, each year composed of 8-10 ministers from near and far.

I was blessed to be a part of one of those groups. We met once a month, usually in Jim’s home. We came together to disciple. To disciple ourselves and to disciple one another. To pray and to study and to grow and to challenge and to bring healing and to speak truth and to breathe life.

Each time we came together was sacred. Sacred space. Holy ground.

I didn’t realize it at the time (I understood how transformative our time together was for me, I recognized how truly blessed I was by Jim and by those were a part) but what I did not comprehend early on was that I had become a part of something sacred. Something transcendent. An alum of a moment in time that would be so meaningful and formational to me (and to so many others) for the rest of our lives.

And so yesterday, we gathered together once again.

Jim was going to be in Waco and orchestrated a reunion of sorts at Crestview for those who had been a part of the discipleship groups during those years in Waco.

And so what did we do?

We prayed. We studied. We grew in our faith. We challenged one another. We brought healing. We spoke truth. And God breathed life.

Exodus 3:5, “Take off your shoes, for the place where you are standing, is holy.”

Glory to God!

Jason

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.)

three messages

diana nyad

This past Monday, 64 year old, Diana Nyad, became the first person ever to swim the seemingly insurmountable 110 miles of open ocean from Cuba to Florida.   Nearly 53 hours.   Treacherous waters.  No shark cage (an apparatus designed to be pulled behind a boat to protect the swimmer from shark attacks).  Two nights of suffering.  Her face swollen and lacerated from the effects of exposure.  Serious abrasions from the stings of jellyfish.  Recurring nausea from ingesting salt water.  Her first attempt at the swim was 35 years ago in 1978.  She has been told over and over it was impossible.  But never believed it.  5 attempts and 35 years later she has proved the impossible possible.

Exhausted and depleted, Diana said that she had “three messages” to share: “One is, we should never, ever give up.  Two is, you are never too old to chase your dreams.  Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”  I am impressed with these three statements.  Whether she has thought of these “three messages” for decades, or if they were completely spontaneous, they speak us right where we are, in a spiritual way.

1) Never, ever give up. 

I wonder what have you given up on?  Who have you given up on?  Where have you conceded defeat?  How has Satan convinced you that you do not measure up?  What impresses me is that after four failures, Diana kept training, kept dreaming, and gave it another try.  (After 35 years, it sounds as if she’d have made a sixth attempt if the fifth had failed.)

2) You are never too old to chase your dreams.

I’m thinking of our life in the Kingdom.  What is it that God has called you to do for the world around you that you’ve come up with every excuse in the book as to why it wouldn’t work?  (Because that is fear whispering in your ear, not faith.)

3) It looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.

There were over thirty people on board boats that traveled with Diana.  Cheering her on.  Keeping her confidence up.  Searching the surrounding waters for dangers.  Encouraging her when she was physically exhausted and emotionally depleted.  That’s precisely who we are to be for one another.  Sometimes you’re the one navigating the treacherous waters.  At other times you’re in the boat warning of dangers or providing encouragement and direction.  But this Christian life is not a solitary one.  It takes a team.

Three messages, that maybe today, you needed to hear.

Glory to God!

Jason

there are no more beautiful words

Waking upHow much sleep do you get each night?

Not enough I imagine….

Studies show that adults are in need of 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Teenagers need 8.5-9.5 hours of uninterrupted rest.

And children require 10-14 hours a night to be 100%.

With how little we actually rest, compared to what is required, it’s no wonder so many are so tired.

When I was at the police department I had a friend that I worked nights with, who on his days off would stay up all day the first day, sleep at night the first night, but then stay up all the next day and then, all the next night (for over twenty-four hours).  Basically, he missed a night’s (or day’s) rest each week.  And he did this for years.  He went in to a doctor because he was not feeling well and told the doctor his sleeping pattern (or lack thereof).  The doctor told him that he had to get more rest.  There was no way around it.  Until he got enough sleep there would be no way he could feel like he was supposed to.  When he finally started getting enough rest he realized that he had really been walking around in a daze for years because his body and mind were so very tired.

Newborn BabyI wonder if you might be tired?  If you might be weary right now?  Maybe you find yourself depleted.  In a season of life that is extremely difficult.  Maybe you’re exhaustion comes from trying to spin too many plates.  Maybe, as the old folks say, “Your plow is loaded.”  Maybe you’ve been trying to do it all on your own but have come to the conclusion that what you’re doing is not working, and you’re simply tired.

When you are emotionally and spiritually exhausted, rest, rest in Christ is the only cure.  He persuades, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest“ – Matthew 11:28.

When you are tired.  When you are weary.  When you are depleted.  When you are exhausted.  There are no more beautiful words.

Glory to God!

Jason

together we will say: “amen”

24hoursof prayer“To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!  Amen” (Jude 24).

Whoah!  Read it again!  What powerful words from our friend Jude as he gives all glory to God in the wonderful doxology that concludes his letter.  He ascribes praise to the One who is gives us strength.  Praise to the One in whom we stand pure and holy and righteous.  Praise to the One who alone deserves it.  Who alone is worthy of (and in possession of) glory, majesty, power, and authority.

Jude (the brother of Jesus, and whose name is derived from the tribe of Judah) places and envisions God high and exalted, and we as those who praise His high and holy name together.  “Before all ages, now and forevermore!  Amen.”

In one week we will come together for 24 continual hours of prayer as a church family here at WE.  24 hours of prayer.  24 hours of praise.  24 amazing, humbling, gut-wrenching, Spirit-empowering hours of pouring our hearts out to the Father together.

And together, we will say: “Amen.”

Friday May 3rd at 8am through Saturday May 4th at 8am.  24 Hours of Prayer.  See any of our ministry team to sign up for a block of time.  Keep the requests coming.  Put some thought into them.  Search your heart, and search the heart of God, as we pray with and for one another during this holy time of prayer.  And what better way to wrap up 24 Hours of Prayer than by having breakfast (and coffee) together on Saturday morning at 8am in the FLC?

Be planning.  Be preparing.  Be anticipating.  And be praying.

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

a chosen people

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 into His wonderful light.

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God;

once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy….

– 1 Peter 2:9-10

Glory to God!

Jason

stubborn loyalty

The second practice Augsburger brings us to in Dissident Discipleship is what he calls Stubborn Loyalty.

Stubborn Loyalty “to the community of the Spirit is joining the circle around Jesus as the primary social location where we learn to act toward all others as, in reality, we act toward Jesus” (p57).

Augsburger describes Stubborn Loyalty as “solidarity in community.”

The church encounters Christ in community.  The church only truly, fully exists when it exists in community (there’s some Dietrich Bonhoeffer for you).  Augsburger’s emphasis is upon the unity that only exists within the community of faith.  The call is to encounter Christ within the God designed communal nature of the church.  Throughout the text, Augsburger intrinsically balances our commitment level, compelling the believer to consciously acknowledge that it is Christ who unifies.  Not just loyalty, but stubborn loyalty.  Commitment.  Resolution.  Is what God desires/requires….

Our Stubborn Loyalty is to Christ and to His Kingdom.  The church is defined by Christ.  As we engage in authentic Christianity and discipleship, the community of faith that we are formed into is designed in such a way that we are continually called beyond ourself and to fidelity in Christ.  Relationship with God and with others culminates in the spiritual reality of being an integral part of the Christian community that God has made possible through the Gospel message.  Stubborn Loyalty to God, Christ, His Kingdom, and to the purposes He has called us to in Jesus.

Glory to God!

Jason