“q” time

hourglassI wonder what is important to you?

Sometimes life gets in the way and what is urgent gets in the way of that which is important. The lines between what is urgent and what is important are often blurred.  A deadline that must be met.   A project that is past due.  A meeting that needs to be attended.  A person that requires your attention.  Are these urgent or important?  It very often might be that they are indeed both.

time bombOur priorities are easily revealed.  And it’s not as if the urgent mustn’t sometimes temporarily outweigh the important.  But the amount of time and attention we give to any particular person or practice tends to grant us insight into that which comprises our priorities.

We may say that our family is a priority to us, but if what our children see in us is that we are capable of granting all sorts of time and energy toward other people and other endeavors, and little time toward them, what does it communicate to them in regard to where they rate on our scale of priorities?  We may say (and even believe) that we love our spouse more than any other person on the face of the planet, but if we spend more time on the golf course or more energy at the office than we’d ever think about affording to them, what is communicated to them as to how intentional we are in validating the relationship that we share?  And what about God?  Where does He fit in?  We say that God is first in our lives?  Is He really?  How much focus is centered upon God during the course of your week?  Take church attendance out of the picture.  What attention does He receive?

tranquilSomehow we’ve found it extremely easy to con ourselves into believing that right theology equals right relationship.  The truth is, if our theology was right, we would find it all together impossible to think this way.

John Stott in his work, “The Living Church,” describes how on his calendar he would mark the letter “Q” on one specific day each month (Stott passed away in 2011).  The “Q” stood for “quiet.”  Once a month, on a day that he had designated and planned long beforehand, he would go to a quiet place.  Away from the office.  Away from the busyness of life.  Away from interruptions.  And he would spend 10 to 12 hours that day, by himself, “quiet,” with God.  One day a month with no agenda, other than “quiet” time with God.  Prayer.  Study.  Closeness.  Intimacy with God.  What does that say about Stott’s priorities?  What does it say about his desire to be with the Father?

What if you were to plan a “Q” day each month?  Or a “Q” hour each week?  Or “Q” time each day?

What would it say about your priorities?  How might it impact your walk with the Lord?

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

unity and oneness

Jesus Stained Glass Religious Stock Image

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.  Indeed we only truly know if we are united when we have differences.  In many ways we 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

darkness scatters

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness He called ‘night.’  And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day” (Genesis 1:1-5).

“God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.”

From the beginning of time.  From Creation.  From the word “go” (literally).  Light is separated from darkness.  They are opposed to one another.  Where one is present the other is not.

The Apostle John proclaims, “God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5b).  Christ boldly declares, “I AM the Light of the World” (John 8:12).  And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls us to be spiritual light in a spiritually dark world: “You are the light of the world!” (Matthew 5:14).

We are called to be light.  Light in a world of darkness.  Why is it then that we so often toy with darkness?  Why is it that we too often concede and rationalize and justify any relationship with spiritual darkness?  With that which is spiritually opposed to the God we serve?

The Apostle Paul writing of the spiritual tempo of our lives asks, “What fellowship does light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14b).  Light and darkness are enemies.  The presence of one defies the presence of the other.  How is that we can so easily walk out of spiritual light and into darkness?  Is our faith so shallow?

In Ephesians 2:8 he asserts, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”  He doesn’t even say, “We were once in darkness, but rather we were darkness.”  Outside of God.  Outside of His light.  But in Christ Jesus, our reality has radically changed.

Colossians 1:13 declares, “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves.”

John affirms our calling in Christ and challenges that if we “claim to have fellowship with God and yet walk (live) in darkness we lie and do not live by (in) the truth” (1 John 1:6).

The call is just that.  To accept and live into the calling that we have in this life in Christ Jesus to be light in a spiritually dark world.  A city on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14).  A lamp on a stand that gives light to all (Matthew 5:15).

Where there is light, darkness scatters.  In our lives and in the lives of those we influence to the glory of the God we serve.

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

transformative thinking

transformed

“You’ve heard it said…. But I say….” we hear our Lord proclaim over and over in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus reinterprets. He reforms. He reprioritizes. “I know that you’ve heard it this way….” “I know that human nature says to respond like this….” “I know that you bring your own presuppositions to the table….” “I know this is the way that you once thought of things… but now, things are different.”

Jesus steps into our world and transforms our thinking, our ideologies, our worldviews, our way of life.

Here’s a tough one He tackles: “Love your enemies.” “You’ve heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Love your enemies!? I have a hard enough time getting along with my friends!

Pray for (bless) those who persecute you!? Are you serious?

And it’s an active love for our enemies. And it’s a very tall order! More than just a passive bearing of persecution or hatred. Loving them. Blessing them. Doing good to them. For them. Regardless of who they are or what they’ve done.

In this and in countless other ways Jesus calls for a radical paradigm shift. A radical change of mind. A change of perspective. A change of heart.

We see Jesus exemplify His own teaching as He prays for God to forgive those who are responsible for His death (Luke 23:34). But what about we who are ultimately those who are responsible because of our sin?

The Apostle Paul connects the dots for us: But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:8-11).

You see while we were still enemies of God, Christ died on our behalf.

“Love your enemies.” It’s one of those areas of the Gospel and one of those areas of our life and faith that we would just as soon ignore. It’s about a radical change of mind. From a mindset that is worldly to one that is of the Kingdom. It’s about seeing the potential for the magnificent impact of the Gospel of Jesus in the most unlikeliest of places. Just like God saw it in you, and in me.

Glory to God!

Jason

straining at the oars

Sail Boat Bulletin Cover

At times we are tempted to think that we do this all on our own.

I was once talking with a friend who was struggling. He was going through a difficult time in his life and there was no easy solution. It was going to take time and it was going to take God.

In a moment of frustration he said to me, “I feel like I’m a just a speck in the ocean that’s being tossed all around and nobody knows but me.”

Maybe you’ve been there.

Maybe you’re there now.

I had a professor who would say, “Speak to those who are weary and hurting. Speak to them often. We are so very fragile.”

And so if that’s you today, I want to share with you an encouraging thought from God’s Word.

In Mark’s Gospel the account of Jesus walking on the water generally the miracle itself is our focus. The event comes right after the feeding of the thousands on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and His disciples had actually travelled across the sea to spend some needed time away from the masses, but are immediately inundated as they arrive. After the crowds are filled and leave, Jesus sends the disciples on their way, now across to the other side, as He goes on a mountainside to pray and spend intentional time with God (we should learn from Jesus).

“When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on the land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night (3-6am) He went out to them, walking on the lake” (Mark 6:47-48a).

If you go on reading you see where Jesus steps into their boat and immediately, powerfully, divinely calms the wind and the waves and the storm. Looking to Matthew’s account we see where Peter has the faith to step out of the boat and actually walks on the water toward Jesus! But when he takes his eyes off of Christ and becomes fearful of the chaos around him, he quickly sinks (something we should take to heart).

Here’s what I’ve been getting at…. Mark says that the disciples were rowing in the boat in the “middle of the lake.” John affirms they were “three and a half miles out to sea” (John 6:19). Jesus, as He is on a mountainside praying, sees the disciples “straining at the oars.” They’re three and a half miles out to sea! At 3am! Half way across the Sea of Galilee at 3am and yet Jesus divinely sees those He is closest to struggling. He sees those that He loves “straining at the oars.” He sees them pounded by the wind and the waves, tossed back and forth in a sea of uncertainly, and it’s immediately upon seeing His disciples struggle that He is filled with compassion and begins to walk toward them across the water.

The love of Christ is revealed in our Savior’s actions as He comes to us in our time of need.

This is what I want you to hear: You are not alone.

You have a Savior who is filled with compassion as He sees you “straining at the oars.”

Glory to God!

Jason

do not be afraid

sf_HidingInSin_0004_Group 1 copy 6

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” – Psalm 27:1

I believe fear drives us more than we are aware. It drives our lives, it drives our relationships, it drives our churches more than we’d ever like to believe.

When children are small they’re often afraid of the dark. Maybe it’s a fear of the unknown or an internal fear of darkness, but many kids (and not a few adults) are afraid of the dark. And it’s amazing how a dim, little light plugged into the wall can put those concerns so at ease.

And so David in Psalm 27 writes as fear gives way to faith. Boldness, because of the God we serve. “The Lord is my light,” he declares. He is our light! And not just some puny Walmart night-light. The Lord is the sun that scatters the darkness in our lives. David continues, “The Lord is my salvation.” He is the One who rescues and the One who saves. “Whom shall I fear?” he asks. And look at how personal David’s words are: He is “my” light and “my” salvation. The Psalm originates out of the trust and reliance of David upon God. A trust that has grown through experiencing the power and provision of Almighty God time and time again. “The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Only when we are close to Him, are we completely protected. Only when we reside in Him, can we fully be at peace.

I wonder what fears you have today? I wonder what might be weighing upon your heart or upon your mind this moment?

• The fear of not being enough.
• The fear of inadequacy.
• The fear of being left out.
• The fear of rejection.
• The fear of past sins.
• The fear of present worries.
• The fear of an unknown and uncertain future.
• The fear of being found out that you aren’t who others think you are.
• The fear of (fill in the blank)….

If you can relate to fear, may I speak a word of hope to you today? God is God! He is strong. And He is faithful.

366 times in Scripture, He declares to his people, “Do not be afraid.” 366 times! One for every day of the year, plus leap year! And I believe the reason He affirms this command to us so many, many times is that we need to hear it! We need to be reminded.

God’s desire is that fear would give way to faith in the lives of those who belong to Him in Jesus.

Do not be afraid!

Glory to God!

Jason

the 2014 top 5

open book

Each year I post the top 5 books (aside from Scripture) that made the most impact on me during the year.

The year’s “must reads.”

5 books that stand out from among all the wonderful books that I’ve read during the previous year.

Some are recently published.

Others are from years ago.

Each however, profoundly influential in my own spiritual journey.

And that I pray, will be a source of courage for you as well….

Randy Harris’ newest book Life Work: Confessions of a Everyday Disciple completes a trilogy of work (cf. Soul Work and God Work) focused upon discipleship and following Jesus. Anyone who knows Randy or has learned from his teaching and preaching is familiar with the humility, dedication, and conviction he brings to every step of life.

I Knew Jesus Before He Was a Christian, and I Liked Him Better is the most recent book from Rubel Shelly’s pen (keyboard). Rubel has influenced generations of believers, and to me, I Knew Jesus Before He Was a Christian is Professor Shelly’s Magnum Opus.

I’m working on an eBook focused on the practice of spiritual disciplines, and so much of my reading during 2014 has centered upon this end. No author has influenced my life in this respect more than Henri JM Nouwen. No one. Every word from Nouwen yearns for Jesus. One book from my friend that has been especially meaningful to me during this journey has been The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence.

From Gabe Lyons, the author of UnChristian, comes the book, The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World. If you’ve ever overly-concerned yourself with the future of faith (as if it’s not safe in the hands of God), Lyons assures, the best is yet to come.

ACU professor of psychology, Richard Beck, writes regularly of the collision of theology and psychology at his blog Experimental Theology. In his work he consistently pursues the call of Christ for we who believe, to love God and love others. In his most recent book, The Authenticity of Faith, Beck considers what holistic faith truly looks life.

Glory to God!

Jason