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

the pursuit of God

37769255_2118617195128764_2316490731356684288_o

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

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

not of this world

37686279_10157980839129466_8050974311554482176_n

Covenant with Christ radically shapes our worldview.  Covenant overcomes our culture.  In order for us to be as missiologically effective as Kingdomly possible we have to transcend our biases.  To overcome our presuppositions.  To place Christ at the center of our life and paradigm of life.  To see others not for where they are but for where they could be.  To view each and every person on the planet as created in the image of God.  As valuable.  Not only valuable to God.  But valuable to us.  This way of thinking is not of this world.  It is altogether other-worldly.  It is Kingdom thinking.  Kingdom processing.  And it runs contrary to our natural tendencies.  Left to our own devices we create a religiosity that places ourselves at the center, rather than Jesus.  If and when we do, suddenly God likes all the things we like and hates all the things that we hate.  Suddenly God accepts all of those we accept and rejects all of those whom we reject.

Our Master however calls for radically different senses.  To have “eyes that see and ears that hear.”  To consciously acknowledge and actively participate in the Kingdom of God.  Conquered and empowered by the Gospel of Christ.  Congruent with the Holy Spirit.   It is a Kingdom in which we as believers are to pledge our complete and total allegiance.  A Kingdom not of this world.  A spiritual Kingdom.  As a viable part of this Kingdom we therefore view life and all that it contains through the lens of faith.  We willfully engage life desiring unity with God and His Word and His Spirit.  Intentionally striving to get in Jesus’ Way, and at the same time, to get out of His way.  To anticipate the breaking in of the Kingdom.  To see every facet of life from the perspective of the Messiah.  To be so in tune with the voice of God that His counsel and direction are unmistakable and undeniable.  To be one, in harmony, in unison, and in sync with the magnificent, spiritual, harmonious, powerful, radical Kingdom of God.

In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer asks (and answers), “Why do the ransomed children of God (that’s us) know so little of the habitual, conscious communion with God which Scripture details and offers?  The answer is our chronic unbelief.  Faith enables our spiritual sense to function.  Where faith is defective the result will be inward insensibility and numbness to spiritual things.  This is the condition of vast numbers of Christians today.  No proof is necessary to support that statement.  We have but to converse with the first Christian we meet or enter the first church we find open to acquire all the proof we need.  A spiritual Kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it.  God Himself is waiting for our response to His presence.  The eternal will come alive the moment we begin to reckon its reality.”

Glory to God!

Jason

always before me

Dealing with Depression Christian Web Banner

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me…” (Psalm 51:1-3).

King David.  The man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22; cf. 1 Samuel 13:14).  The David of David and Goliath.  Confesses, “My sin is always before me.”

My sin is always before me.

My sin is always before me.

“I can’t get away from it.”  “It consumes me.”  “I am overwhelmed by it.”

And yet, over time and by God’s grace, he does get away from it.  And it ceases to consume him.  The burden is removed.  David becomes overwhelmed not by his sin but by God’s grace.  And finally, finally, he breathes a cleansing sigh of relief, as his sin is no longer always before him.

When we consider Psalm 51 in it’s entirety, we witness God doing for us that which we cannot accomplish for ourselves.  Taking away that which positions us in conflict with Him and with ourselves and with others.  And allowing us to not be defined by our sin, but rather, to be defined as men and women after His own heart.

“Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.  O you who hear prayer, to you all humanity will come.  When we were overwhelmed by our sins, you forgave our transgressions” (Psalm 65:1-3).

“My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.”

Glory to God!

Jason

a wretch like me

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

Christ and culture in conflict

Slide8

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”  “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied.  “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me.  What is it you have done?”  Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my Kingdom is from another place.”  “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.  Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king.  In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” – John 18:33-37

There is a collision between Christ and Culture.  When we respond to the call of Jesus and cling to the Kingdom of God it is required of us that we release the kingdom of this world.  The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world are in conflict with one another.  They are opposed to one another.  Jesus declares, “My Kingdom is not of this world.”  And only to those who are of the Kingdom does that make any sense.

So why is it that so much of what occupies our thoughts is worldly?  Why is so very much of our focus upon the temporal?  Why do we give the worldliness of this world such an audience?  And how can Jesus so readily be relegated to an afterthought?

Do we recognize what is of the eternal Kingdom and what is of the temporal kingdom?  Do we elevate the eternal when we look to the day to day?  What I mean is that as we go about our day-to-day living are our minds and hearts in tune with what really matters?  Because in the grand scheme of it all only the things of God matter.  Right?  Why is it then that we spend so much energy focusing upon the minutia of the kingdom of this world, rather than the wonder of the Kingdom of God?

“You are right in saying that I am a king,” Jesus affirms.

But the question remains: Is He really your King?

Glory to God!

Jason

getting off the ladder

princess in front of mirrorWhen we are children, we think about what we will become.  Who we will become.  We dream of who we will be.  What we will do.  The things we will accomplish.

It’s doubtful that we’ve all become cowboys, astronauts, and racecar drivers.  We learn to adapt.  We change our minds.  We face setbacks.

ladderAll of this thinking, however, is on a physical level.  No matter how high we climb the ladder our view is seriously impeded until we begin to see life through spiritual eyes.  Only when we get off the ladder and begin to ascend the mountain of God does the view ever change.  Only when we ascend the mountain does our perspective change.

The Psalmist exclaims to God, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13).

The Apostle Paul pens, “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

And in Ephesians 2:10 he affirms, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

mountainRegardless of vocation.  Regardless of situation.  Regardless of circumstance.  Regardless of victory or defeat.  To begin to see every moment of life as God-ordained.  Christ-centered.  Spirit-filled. And Kingdom-embracing.

God meets His people not at the top of the ladder, but upon the mountain (Hebrews 12:22).

Too often we assess our value as to where we are on the ladder (physical), rather than how we are living up to our calling as believers (spiritual).

When we get off the ladder and begin to climb the mountain of God it is then that we not only begin to become acutely aware of our calling in life, but it is then, and only then, that we begin to achieve the very things that our Father has created us and purposed us to do.

Glory to God!

Jason

too easily derailed

tracks-through-forest-worship-background

Imagine as Christ’s church our having to meet in secret because of persecution. We tend to trivialize the notion in our Western worldview but the reality is that much of the church of both the past and present was/is forced to gather together in secrecy for the valid fear of oppression and persecution (either by government or society and culture). The first century church and Christians today in Muslim and Communist countries have much in common.

Beneath the city of Rome lies hundreds of miles of “catacombs.” The catacombs are underground burial places where Christians often met for worship and fellowship. For the almost three hundred years after Christ, Christians sought asylum in this underground maze of tunnels beneath Rome seeking to worship God in community with one another and as they were in constant fear of Roman violence.

In these underground tunnels a common inscription has been repeatedly found. Many recognize the symbol as the Jesus or Christian fish (the Greek word ichthus means “fish”) but it served as an early acrostic, which stood for: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior.” (I avoid acrostics at all costs in preaching – but this one I have to let slide….) What we have as magnets on the back of our luxury SUV’s complete with seat warmers, originally served as a ray of hope in caverns of darkness (physically and spiritually) for the early church.

I wonder about our investment of the Christian life. If in our ease of worship and ease of faith we aren’t crippled in our commitment. Not that I’m praying for persecution. But in times of oppression in the church’s history valiant faith has abounded. Why? Because it forced our hand whether we were in with both feet or not.

Here’s my question: Are we? Are we all in? Are we completely, totally, whole-heartedly invested (heart, soul, and self) into the Christian life?

Luke records these words of our Savior: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:24).

We’re tempted to think that Jesus is talking about “them.”

I think it’s about us….

Steadfastness. Dedication. Investment. An investment of self. An investment of life.

We are too often too easily derailed.

We tend to take lightly the things we have not wholly invested in. The things we’re not completely committed to. Arenas in which no sacrifice has been required. The same is especially true of faith. For this reason Christ calls us to make every effort.

Glory to God!

Jason

this is my Gospel

190252-good-news

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  This is my Gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.  But God’s Word is not chained.  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:8-10).

I wonder if we have this very same perspective, or if we are too far removed (in both time and even belief) from the early church?  Are these our priorities?  Are these words as central to us as they were to the first century apostolic mission?

As the Apostle writes to his protégé Timothy, the sword that will fulfill his destiny can practically be heard as it is sharpened in the background (Paul, of course, is soon beheaded for his faith).  And so as with much of what we see from Paul’s pen, there is a great sense of urgency in what he seeks to communicate in this final letter to his dear friend.

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  This is my Gospel.”

“This is my Gospel.”  Now that’s a significant statement!  Is it not?

The word Gospel is utilized 96 times in the New Testament.  All but 20 are found in Paul’s letters.  76 times the Apostle Paul pens the word.  “Euangelion.”  “Good News.”  “Gospel.”  And each and every time he does, his intention is the same.  For there is no other Gospel that is Gospel.

This is my Gospel: “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.”

How do we, how do you, understand the word “Gospel?”

How do we define it?

Is “our Gospel” more?

Is it less?

If it is, then “our gospel” is not “the Gospel.”

Glory to God!

Jason