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

closeness with God

God of this City Church Worship Background

When you get right down to it the Christian faith is about closeness with God.  Certainly we are in need of salvation.  We are in need of forgiveness.  We are in need of the strength that only God can provide.  But when we look objectively at faith (and life) we begin to see the innate need each of us has for closeness to our Father.

And I believe this is a struggle for many.  Because God seems so very distant.

As God descends upon Mt Sinai He does so in power.  He had delivered Israel with power out of their slavery in Egypt.  There was no doubt to any of them that He alone was God.  As He leads them to Mt Sinai to engage in covenant with them He establishes a boundary around the mountain.  No one was to come near.  They were all to be kept at a distance.  The glory of God encompasses the mountain in thunder and lightening and fire and trumpet blast.  The mountain shook violently.  Smoke billowed from the mountain “like a furnace” (Ex 19:18).  “To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain” (Ex 24:18).  “When the people saw the thunder and lightening and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear” (Ex 20:18).  And they stayed at a distance….

However in Christ we have a different reality.  If we’ve learned anything from the Gospel of Jesus, anything from what God has accomplished through our Savior, anything from the cross and resurrection of our Lord, it is that our Father desires closeness with us.  He wants us near.  He has come near to us in Christ and so desires for us to engage Him in a close, intimate relationship in this life.

Read these powerful, comforting words from the Hebrew writer of our present reality in Christ: “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.’  The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’  But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…” (Heb 12:18-24).

Our reality in Jesus is of a God who brings us near.

Glory to God!

Jason

anyone

water“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37).

Anyone.  Anyone who is thirsty.  Anyone.  Anyone who thirsts.  Anyone who has become dissatisfied with a lifeless life.  Discontent with existing but not living.  Anyone.

Jesus stands on the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles and declares that for those who are spiritually thirsty, living water is a present reality.

During the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles there were two primary ceremonies.  One was the Festival of Lights in which lamps were lit all around the Temple courtyard on the final night commemorating the restoration of the Temple by the Maccabees during the intertestamental period.  It is as the light of these lamps floods the Temple grounds that Jesus stands and exclaims, “I AM the Light of the World.”  Earlier on the final day of Tabernacles was the water libation ceremony in which water would be poured out before the people upon an altar symbolizing the water from the rock in the desert wandering (Exodus 17) through which God saved and provided for His people.  It is during this ceremony that Jesus stands and declares, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture reveals, streams of living water will flow” (John 7:37-38).

Ripples in the Blue WaterA few chapters earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus had spoken similar words to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink the water I give them will never thirst again” (John 4:13-14).

“This water” (I envision Jesus motioning toward the well).  Physical water.  The water of this world.  Or “living water.”  The choice is ours.

Why do we continue to believe that this world has anything to offer that satisfies?  Why do we find ourselves returning to the well of despair?  The well of heartache?  The well of futility?  Rather than drinking deep from the well of life?  The living water of the Kingdom of Jesus.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8a).

“As the deer pants for streams of water so my souls longs for you O God.  My soul thirsts for the Living God” (Psalm 42:1-2a).

Living God.  Living water.  Life that is life.  Life that is filled.  For anyone who is thirsty.  Anyone.

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

He brings us near

When you get right down to it the Christian faith is about nearness with God.  Certainly we are in need of salvation.  We are in need of forgiveness.  We are in need of the strength that only God can provide.  But when we look objectively at faith (and life) we begin to see the innate need each of us has for nearness to our Father.

And I believe this is a struggle for many.  Because God seems so very distant.

As God descends upon Mt Sinai He does so in power.  He had delivered Israel with power out of their slavery in Egypt.  There was no doubt to any of them that He alone was God.  As He leads them to Mt Sinai to engage in covenant with them He establishes a boundary around the mountain.  No one was to come near.  They were all to be kept at a distance.  The glory of God encompasses the mountain in thunder and lightening and fire and trumpet blast.  The mountain shook violently.  Smoke billowed from the mountain “like a furnace” (Ex 19:18).  “To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain” (Ex 24:18).  “When the people saw the thunder and lightening and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear” (Ex 20:18).  And they stayed at a distance….

However in Christ we have a different reality.  If we’ve learned anything from the Gospel of Jesus, anything from what God has accomplished through our Savior, anything from the cross and resurrection of our Lord, it is that our Father desires closeness with us.  He wants us near.  He has come near to us in Christ and so desires for us to engage Him in a close, intimate relationship in this life.

Read these powerful, comforting words from the Hebrew writer of our present reality in Christ: “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.’  The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’  But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…” (Heb 12:18-24).

Our reality in Jesus is of a God who brings us near.

Glory to God!

Jason