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

getting our hands dirty

How well do we minister to the needs of others?  Be honest.  And when I say, “We” I mean “Us.”  As believers in Christ, and as His church, do you and I minister as well, and as effectively, as we could?  Or as we should?

I’ll give you a minute to think about it.  Take your time….

Because really, when you get right down to it, whatever our initial gut-level response to such questions reveals where we are at with such things.  Ministry is messy.  There’s no way around it.  It just is.  But are we so changed by the message of Jesus (as individuals and as a church) that we are willing to get messy?  Because good intentions and 50 cents will get you a coke (at least it used to).

In order for us to be involved in one another’s lives to the extent that God desires and to the extent that Christian community is designed, care and concern are elementary.  Compassion is required.  And a big-picture of the Kingdom is paramount.  Does that describe your heart?  My heart?  For others?

In order for us to be involved in one another’s lives there is such a foundational need for vulnerability.  And if we would be honest with ourselves for a moment, most of us don’t do vulnerable well.  Do we?

I can’t help but believe that this is a crucial element we are missing in effective ministry to others (both those who are churched and those who are unchurched).  Maybe it’s the crucial element we’re missing.  I can’t help but think that the world would be more Godly and less worldy if we saw the world through the eyes of God, and if we were so prompted by His love and moved by His compassion to act, rather than do nothing.

If I say that a person is: “Not afraid to get their hands dirty,” what am I saying about them?  I’m saying that they’re not afraid to get involved.  Right?  That they’re not afraid to step in.  That they’re willing to at least try.

And what I can’t help but think is that we need more in the Kingdom who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty for the cause of Jesus.

Glory to God!

Jason

who’s to blame

A lot has been said about Chick-Fil-A and the events of last week.  Personally, I think two things happened on the 1st.  One good.  The other not….

First, I think a whole lot of Christians (who would not have otherwise) all came together for a common goal (that’s good).

But secondly, because of that, many in the homosexual community, in the process of it all, become further alienated from the Kingdom of God (that’s not).

We can’t loose sight of who’s to blame here.  We have to keep in perspective who the enemy is.  The enemy is not those who are homosexual.  Because those who are gay need Jesus just like you do, and just like I do.  They don’t somehow need Him more.  We, each and every one of us, need Him the same.  We can’t loose sight that the enemy in all of this is Satan, who is so very good at what he does.

Glory to God!

Jason

now i see

“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

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

searching for who we are

We place a lot of emphasis on appearances as a culture and society.  It many ways, regardless of era, this has always been the case.  Some of it stems from our own narcissism.  Some of it from our own feelings of inadequacy.  Perhaps it can be attributed to the influence of evil in the world.  But in large degree it comes from a desire to be accepted.  To be loved.  And to be thought well of.

If we are not careful we can easily get caught up in the web of people pleasing.  Saying and doing things primarily for the purpose of pleasing other people.  Why?  So that we ourselves can be affirmed.  Validated.  Looking a certain way.  Dressing a certain way.  Wearing the right clothes.  Weighing the right weight.  Being associated with the right people.  Driving the right car.  Living in the right neighborhood.  We’re only fooling ourselves if we think that this sort of thing ends after high school.  How many are so very caught up in pleasing others that they loose their sense of self?  None of us are immune to the pressures.  But what we do with them is what’s important.

Some are masters of disguise and at keeping up appearances.  Somehow life behind closed doors can be accepted as a shambles, as long as no one on the outside knows.  As long as it appears to others that we have it all together, somehow we can con ourselves into believing that our created fantasy is our reality, even though our true reality is nothing like it should be.  When you really think about it, what kind of sense does that make?  That those who are closest to me, those to whom I am most responsible, the family that I have a God-ordained connection to – can be falling apart and disintegrating, but, as long as those who I do not know well, those I am not responsible to, those who in many ways are relative strangers – somehow what they think of me is more important than those who are closest?

And in the process of it all, not only do we lose those with whom we are closest, we lose ourselves.  A lostness of identity.  A lostness of our sense of self.  When this is the case, how can we possibly think that we are emotionally or spiritually healthy people?

Satan preys upon our sense of inadequacy.  Upon our desire to be accepted.  To be loved.  To be thought well of.  When we begin to seek these affirmations outside of Christ, Satan is there waiting to trap us.  To trap us in the web of people pleasing.  Ultimately, his goal is to trap us into finding our worth and value outside of Christ.

In the familiar passage of Romans 12 the Apostle calls for our “offering ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.”  Most often our emphasis is upon the call to discipleship and fidelity in our journey of faith.  But there is a profound and innate need that is met when living a life of faithfulness before the Father.  We are pleasing to Him.  Pleasing to God.  People pleasing only leads to frustration and a false sense of self.  Seeing ourselves through the eyes of God and seeking to please Him in every aspect of life is the only true way to have peace and confidence within.  Only in Him do we find our sense of self and sense of value.  Everything else pales in comparison and leaves us searching for who we are.

Glory to God!

Jason

phenomenalness

Our God is so very good and so very wonderful and so very phenomenal.

Surely as mature believers we have come to know these realities intimately?

The Apostle John begins his first letter, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life.”

John is writing out of his experience.  “I know these things to be true.  You can believe my testimony in regard to the Messiah.  Because I’ve experienced Him in my life.  I’ve heard Him.  Seen Him.  Been in close proximity to Him.  Experienced life with Him.  And because of all this, I have something to say….”

What an overwhelming Sunday we had last week as a church!  Especially as we unpacked our upcoming 24 Hours of Prayer!  What an overwhelming, rewarding beginning to what will no doubt be a day of blessing and power and grace and forgiveness and healing, and will no doubt set into motion mountains cast into the sea!

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 here in this place.  Make sure to sign up for a block of time.  See any of our ministry team to do so.  Our relationships with others and within our own families will certainly be blessed as we invest ourselves in one another’s lives through this wonderful event.  Friday May 4th @ 8am through Saturday May 5th @ 7am.  And what better way to wrap up a time of 24 Hours of Prayer than by having breakfast, sharing, and praying with one another, together on Saturday morning at 8am? (And what better to eat on Cinco de Mayo than breakfast tacos?)

Good.  Wonderful.  Phenomenal.  Describe our God so very well.  May His goodness, His wonder, and His phenomenalness (rejected by spellcheck, but I like it!) surround this church in an amazing way through our investment into the lives of one another and through our investment into His Kingdom, as we pray for and with one other on May 4th and May 5th.

Glory to God!

Jason

jean

A freelance reporter from the New York Times interviewed a woman named Jean in the late 1950’s.  The reporter was aware of woman’s painful past, how she had endured a childhood of neglect and abuse and had been shuffled from one foster home to another. Her childhood led into adulthood in which she now continued the vicious cycle of neglect and abuse.  One husband after another.  One relationship after another.  One pursuit after another.  Each one affirming what she felt inside.  She had little value.  Little self-worth.  Even if no one else could see it, she knew.

At the end of the interview the reporter asked her, “Did you ever feel loved by any of the foster families with whom you lived?”  “Once,” she replied, “when I was about seven or eight.  The woman I was living with was putting on makeup, and I was sitting on the counter watching her.  She was in a happy mood for the moment, and for whatever reason, she reached over and patted my cheeks with her rouge….  For that moment, I felt loved.”

She would seek to duplicate that feeling for the rest of her life, never succeeding.  So much so that even in a very public relationship with the president of the United States he would refuse to kiss her on the lips because of his “ethics.”  Again affirming how little she was valued in this life.  “Jean” or “Norma Jean” as she was known by her friends or “Marilyn Monroe” as she is known by the rest of the world, had tears in her eyes when she remembered the event where her foster mother had touched her cheek, the one single, solitary moment she felt loved.

And the question we ask is why?  Why did this one moment mean so much?

Here’s what Gary Smalley in The Blessing writes: “The touch lasted only a few seconds, and it happened decades before. It was even done in a casual, playful way, not in any attempt to communicate great warmth or meaning. But as small an act as it was, it was like pouring buckets of love and security on the parched life of a little girl starved for affection.”

We are designed as such that we yearn for, we long for, love and affirmation.  Ultimately, love and affirmation that are only fully found in our heavenly Father.   In a God who so readily affirms who we are if we will but allow Him.  Through the message of Jesus and the relationship that our Father grants to us in Christ we are affirmed as loved, as valued, as important, as cherished.

You will search your entire life for affirmation and meaning and purpose and blessing to no avail, until you find in all in relationship with God….

Glory to God!

Jason

the secret to happiness

What would it take for you to be happy?  I mean life-is-good, smile-on-your-face happy.  What would it take?  Most often our response comes out of wherever we are for the moment.  Whatever our aspirations are.  Our goals.  Whatever we’re struggling with.  Whatever we’re worried about.  Whatever brass ring that’s just out of reach.  Whatever dark cloud looms overhead.

For some it’s money.  There’s a pawn shop in Garland, Tx that has a sign that reads, “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure pays the bills.”  For others it’s status or accomplishment or house or possession.  And I don’t want to diminish the things that often concern us.  Maybe it’s the house that sits on a hill that you’re striving for.  Or maybe, it’s simply the house you’re living in that’s falling apart that you’d repair if you could afford it.  Maybe you have a dream car in mind.  Or maybe, you’d just like to not have to pray that the car you have will start every morning.  For many the answer is relational.  And this is the most difficult one of all.  The perfect marriage.  The perfect relationship.  How many marriages have fallen apart because one or both have come to the conclusion: “I’m just not happy any more.”  How many relationships are on the verge right now of breaking up because of the sadness and apathy of one or both in the marriage?

How many times have you said: “When I finally get this job, then I’ll be happy.”  “When I finally finish this degree, then I’ll be happy.”  When I pay off this loan, then I’ll be happy.”  “When I….  If I….”

Have you found that contentment is illusive?  What does it mean to be content anyway?

We seek happiness, and I know that some would argue that happiness and contentment are two different realizations, but I can’t help but think that if we could come to the point in life that we were content, we’d then be happy.

Perhaps no Psalm is more loved and more quoted than Psalm 23.  It brings comfort and solace because it draws us into the arms of a Father who is so very welcoming and so very sufficient.  In verse 5 David pens, “…my cup overflows.”  In Scripture one’s “cup” is one’s lot in life.  There is abundance in his life attributed only to God.  It’s not a situational concept.  It’s an internal one.  An emotional one.  A state-of-being.  The blessings of living near the Father.  A Father who lavishes His love upon us.  His grace upon us.  His goodness.  His strength.  He saves us, and then, renews us.  What a description of abundance and belonging.  “My cup overflows.”  “It is overfilled.”  “Filled to overflowing.”  Because I belong to God!

The Apostle Paul writes, “I have learned the secret of being content…” (Philippians 4:12).

The secret?  Jesus!

Glory to God!

Jason