limiting God’s love

ballCan you think of a time when you were rejected?

When I was in elementary school, during PE we played a lot of dodge ball.  (Maybe this was an ‘80s phenomena, or perhaps it still goes on.)  And it seemed like every day the same kids were the “captains,” in other words, the ones doing the choosing.  And it also seemed like the same kids were always chosen last, in other words, the ones who weren’t chosen at all and simply went to whatever team was left.  (I lived my life somewhere in between, in relative obscurity, and quite frankly, I was good with that!)

Maybe you were little and weren’t chosen for a team.  Or maybe, you’ve been excluded in other ways….  Excluded by friends (or so-called friends).  Excluded by family (or those who were supposed to be).  Excluded by loved ones (who did not love to the extent that you did).

ballUniversities will exclude you because you aren’t smart enough.  Companies will exclude you because you aren’t experienced enough.  Businesses will exclude you because you aren’t qualified enough.  Some who wear the name of Christ will even exclude you because you aren’t good enough (as if any of us are “good” enough).  But God’s love is not exclusive.  No one has the market cornered.

Is there a limit to God’s love?  The answer is a resounding, “NO!”

Children may refuse our love.  Spouses may reject our love.  Friends may abuse our love.  But there is no limit to the love of God.

Did Abraham ever find a limit to God’s love?  No.  Moses?  Absolutely not.  King David never found its limit did he?  How about the Apostle Paul?  The Apostle Peter?  Neither do we.

I pray that we might begin to comprehend “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18).

May we never limit the love of God revealed in His church.  And may we never limit His love as it is poured out to us.

Glory to God!

Jason

subtle devastation

desert

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).

There is a great battle that is taking place.  We may feel safe or believe we are immune.  We may sense some slight influence, but for the most part we truly believe that, all in all, surely we aren’t as mired as all that.

However, one of Satan’s greatest tools of devastation among God’s people is subtlety.

You see so many who claim to follow Jesus view other people as the enemy.  Satan subtly wags the dog and cons well-meaning believers of Jesus Christ into truly thinking that the enemy are those who differ.  Those who differ socio-economically.  Those who differ ethnically.  Those who differ in their beliefs.  “The enemy is those who live under bridges.”  “The enemy is those who live in gated communities.”  “The enemy is those who are black.”  “The enemy is those who are white.”  “The enemy is those of other religious traditions.”  “The enemy is those within my own tradition with whom I disagree.”

The subtle diversion of the true Enemy is to lull us into believing that the false enemy is anyone who isn’t exactly like us.  I envision this makes him very pleased.

However if we read Scripture carefully, and embrace God completely, and understand our imperfections clearly, and grasp our need for grace fully, how can we allow Satan such subtle devastating victories in our lives?  Like a cancer that consumes us internally.  Secretly.  Quietly.  Until we make the conscious choice to refuse to allow him to utilize us in any way in this game he has already lost.

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Glory to God!

Jason

satan’s native language

No Devils Allowed Sign

“When Satan lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar, the father of lies.” – John 8:44

As Christians I believe we easily acknowledge that Satan has one mission: To separate us from God.  That’s his mission.

“The thief comes to steal, kill, and to destroy.” – John 10:10

As believers we readily confess we have one mission: To connect others with God.  That’s our mission.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Satan never ceases in his attempts to derail our lives, our faith, our eternity.  However, not only is the enemy seeking to alienate us from God, he also attempts in every way to interfere in our relationships with one another.  To distance us from one another.  To create animosity or stress or distrust or anxiety within the community of faith.  Why?  Because it impedes our effectiveness.

He’s the “father of lies” remember?  He is the deceiver.  If he can convince us that disharmony (not disagreement, but disharmony) is acceptable, it limits our effective witness in the world.  When he is successful in deceiving us and convincing us that the enemy is a fellow believer with whom we have disagreement, the father of lies is “speaking his native language.”  Satan wants nothing more than to stifle momentum in Christ’s church.  And very often he accomplishes this not through outright sinful behavior, but by diverting our attention, and cloaking divisiveness in the shroud of religiousness.  The tension is such that if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.  When we allow the father of lies to whisper in our ears, we serve as conduits, as he shouts from the rooftops.  And very often, through well-meaning believers misguided in who the enemy truly is.

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other.” – Galatians 5:15

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12

Why do we so often play into Satan’s hand?

Glory to God!

Jason

fully aware of His goodness

sunrise

“…to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).

Does Jesus move you? 

Let me ask you in another way: When you contemplate the wonder of Christ, does you’re heart respond with emotion?

Perhaps it would benefit to ask it of yourself like this: Am I stirred when I consider what relationship with God through Christ brings to my life? 

In 2006 Barna Research was interviewing church leaders across the country in regard to church growth and church decline and as to what they attributed each congregation’s present experience.  Then, at the end of the dialogue, the interviewer would ask each leader one final question: “What does Jesus mean to you?”  The responses they received were honest and genuine: “He is my savior, my redeemer, my friend.”  Each response was honest and genuine, and yet, each was what we would expect.  Except when they asked it of a man who ministered in small, isolated church in the northwest.  When asked what Jesus meant to his life, the minister began to cry.  Incapable of even responding verbally.

Folks that’s the response of a life that’s abandoned everything for Jesus, and is fully aware of His goodness.

I believe too often we’ve been conditioned to respond void of emotion.  Our conditioned response is clinical.  Academic.  Detached.

When is the last time you’ve stood speechless before sunrays pouring through the clouds?  When were you last moved to tears in praising His name?  Have you ever been driven to your knees when singing, “I Stand in Awe”?

There are some who argue emotion challenges reverence.

I say, they’re missing out.

Glory to God!

Jason

getting off the ladder

dressupWhen 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

one church

For weeks now, as a church family, we have been building up to our “One Church” bilingual worship service which will come to fruition this coming Sunday morning, August 26th.  It has been something that we as a ministry team have been in conversation about since our “One Church” gathering last year.  And a time that we have been especially envisioning since the beginning of this year as to what our time together might look like.  Having confidence that no matter our plans and discussions, our God will reveal Himself in a wonderful way through our time together in worship, as well as our fellowship at the FLC and beyond.

What an encouraging, amazing opportunity for our English-speaking and Spanish-speaking congregation(s) to come together as one.  To learn from one another, to encourage one another, and to praise our Father together.  And what a phenomenal opportunity to experience, in a very real way, the presence of God, as we acknowledge our oneness of need, our oneness of desire, our oneness of faith, and our oneness of conviction.  Our oneness in following the Way of Jesus.

In Ephesians, the Apostle’s prayer is that “the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18).  He reminds us there is “one body and one Spirit,” “one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

John records in his Gospel, the desire of our Savior, as He prays we would be one, just as He and the Father are one (John 17:21).

We talk often about unity.  About oneness in the Kingdom.  About being one in Christ.  Unity amidst diversity.  But I wonder if we’ll every fully get it, this side of eternity?  Too often it proves difficult in the narrowness of our worldviews or presuppositions and, if we’re honest, in the shallowness of our hearts, to make room for others.  Some do well at this.  Others of us need “the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened” a bit.

We’ll get a glimpse of oneness in Christ this week.  I ask you to be in prayer.  And to pray the prayer of Paul for the church then and the church now.  That “the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened.”  To pray the prayer of our Savior.  That we would be one as He and the Father are one.

For it is through hearts that are open and willing that our Father does His most amazing work.

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

following together

I am blessed to be a part of a mentoring group that meets in Waco once a month.  The discussion and direction is guided by Jim Martin who preaches at the Crestview Church.  Jim is a genuine, humble, passionate disciple of Jesus.  Qualities which when combined are a true rarity in this world and are precisely why our Father ministers so very wonderfully through Jim and his wife Charlotte’s life together.  Our group is comprised solely of ministers.  Specifically preaching ministers.  We pray.  We study.  We discuss.  We dialogue.  We decompress.  We challenge.  We pray some more.  It’s an amazing group to be a part of.  Everyone brings their own skill set to the group.  We each leave renewed and “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).

As believers discipleship is what we are about.  Correct?  We’re called to be disciples.  We’re called to facilitate discipleship in one another.  It’s the nature of our calling in the Gospel message.  We look to Jesus as He calls the Twelve.  And yet, what we too often miss is that He calls them together.  As Jesus calls the Twelve to follow Him, He calls them to follow together.  He does not call them one at a time, each spending time with Him and then sent on their way to go and imitate Him in the world.  Rather, He calls them all to come and follow Him together.  Together.  At the same time.  I believe this is significant….

We need the relationships that only being a part of the body of Christ provides.  We need these Christ-centered relationships in order that we might live in to (and up to) our potential as believers.  If we are to be the men and women of faith our calling in Christ demands we must invest in a way of life that makes us more like Him.  A rhythm of life that is conducive to cross-shaping, heart-softening, and disciple-forging.

Certainly we bless and encourage and strengthen one another through our time together on Sunday or Wednesday (or any other time we come together).  Certainly our Father is the One who creates a wholeness within us that we attain nowhere else in this life.  And yet, following Him, not simply on our own, but together, is a crucial facet of faith.

It takes effort.  It takes an openness that we are often uncomfortable with.  It takes intentionality, because believe me it doesn’t just happen.  It takes God.  And it takes relationships that only He provides.  Relationships that are God-sent and God-designed.

Whether it’s driving over two hours to Waco or down the street at Panera Bread for coffee with a friend or in an office on Tuesday morning with faithful brothers in Christ or around your own dining room table in the evening with your wife and kids.  We need these relationships where we mentor one another.  Where we become a part of one another.  Where we aspire to the oneness that Christ prayed for on the night before the cross and the conviction that His cross demands.  Without them, we are less than who God intends for us to be.

Glory to God!

Jason

our concept of God

Don’t we find ourselves at times spiritually plateaued in our journeys of faith?  And maybe not even plateaued, but rather, more like spiritually bankrupt?  What do we do when we begin to feel this way?  Maybe it’s found in the ebb and flow of faith.  Maybe it only characterizes a small portion of time.  Or maybe it is descript of decades.  Years of complacency.  No zeal.  No excitement.  No anticipation.  No experience of God.  What then?  What next?

In his book Attributes of God, AW Tozer writes, A local church will only be as great as its concept of God.  An individual Christian will be a success or failure (in the Kingdom) depending upon what he or she thinks of God.  It is critically important that we not only have a knowledge of the Holy One, but that we truly come to know Him in all His majesty and wonder.”

Maybe what we “think of God,” as Tozer puts it, is directly related to our being spiritually plateaued or bankrupt.

Do we think enough of God?  How much thought do we honestly give Him during the course of the day?  How often do you engage in silent conversation with Him if even for a brief moment?  How often do you pray?  I mean really, really pray?  Not as an aside.  But heart and mind, engaged in prayer with our Father.  How much time do you set aside in reading Scripture and being fed by God’s Word?  How often do you read what others have written to broaden your concept of God?  How many conversations do you have throughout the week with others who are seeking to be faithful to our Father as well?  Do you seek out Christian insight from others who have faith?  Because what we “think of God” is answered in questions such as these.

The Apostle Paul writes: I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” – Ephesians 1:17

The question is: Do we really want to know Him better?

Somehow spiritual discipline has too often been divorced from faith.  Faith is too often seen as mental ascent rather than a life characterized by discipleship.  No wonder we find ourselves so often spiritually anemic.

Discipleship.  Living cognizant of the presence of God.  Spiritual discipline.  A life characterized by faith and faithfulness.  When our practice reflects our concept of God – it is then and only then that we will begin to know Him better.

Glory to God!

Jason

one in Christ

During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. would speak of moving “from the who to the what.”  Both after the murders of Freedom Riders: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi and then after the beating death of Princeton Seminary student James Reeb in Alabama, King declared “it’s not so much who killed them but what killed them.”  And “when we move from the who to the what, in a very real way we begin to see that we are all in this together.”

Of course the “what” was the underlying motive of hate and bigotry and disunity that permeated so much of the world-view of the day.  A world-view which in many ways has yet to be overcome.  In regard to unity among races and cultures as a whole we still have a very long way to go.

In the church we are called to unity in Christ.  To be one in Jesus.  We who are many and yet comprise one body through the Gospel are called to oneness.  The Apostle Paul implores, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3-6).  Only God can bring this about.  We are different in many, many ways.  The call however is to unity, not uniformity.  To “move from the who to the what.”  That we would be united in spite of ourselves.  In spite of our differences.  In many ways we indeed have a long way to go.  However we serve a God whose mercies are new every morning.  A God who has revealed Himself as faithful throughout the history of mankind.  And a God and who is at work in a wonderful way in the life of His people today.

We begin with the Gospel and we begin with grace.  For when we begin to see ourselves in our need for God and in our need for His mercy, the playing field begins to be made level, and all pride is taken away.  Only then will God begin to bring about unity.

Jesus on the night before the cross prays for Himself, His disciples, and then for us: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20b-23).

How is it that the world will believe and know the truth of God made manifest in Christ?  Only when they see unity and oneness in His people….

Glory to God!

Jason