stealing joy

joy

“The one who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).

What is our Savior communicating to you in these nine words?

Jesus is in the home of Simon the Pharisee. The religious leader has gone out of his way to set the stage. Perhaps simply to gain a better understanding of what this proposed prophet from Nazareth is about. Maybe to make himself look good in front of his cronies by being the momentary big man on campus. Whether from false motives or pure, the fact is, the Christ has agreed to come.

But “when a woman who had lived a sinful life” is overwhelmed, simply by being in the presence of Jesus, crying as she is so humbled, overjoyed, as to be so blessed as to serve Him, Simon the host quickly turns into Simon the joy-stealer. “If this man were a prophet, He would know… she is a sinner” (V39).

“The one who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).

Have you been forgiven a lot or a little?

Are you sure that’s the perception others have of you?

If we view God as harsh and judgmental, guess what sort of lens we view others through? Exactly. If we see ourselves as somehow deserving of being in His presence, or of forgiveness, or of salvation, guess how we see others whom we do not deem as worthy or as orthodox as we are? (Do you sense a little sarcasm?)

What if you and I made a definitive decision today, that no matter what, that’s simply not how we’re going to be?

“The one who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).

And what about the one who has been forgiven much?

I’d say the one who has been forgiven much, refuses to steal another’s joy in the Lord.

Glory to God!

Jason

the power of words

words

At WE we’ve begun an emphasis on Sunday mornings of the parables and “I AM” statements of Jesus.  The common theme of the messages is: “Words That Changed the World.”  Focusing upon the ministry of our Savior and how He intentionally communicated the reality of the Kingdom to those who would hear His message.  Certainly there are those who refuse to listen.  But for those who embrace the words of our Lord, lives are forever changed.

As we’ve stated, many of our adult classes (with others to follow), as well as our high school and junior high classes, are studying the same texts each week.  Although each class has a culture and barometer all its own, our hope is that as we connect our classroom study with the messages on Sunday morning we will foster an environment of connection and unity by doing so.

Words are powerful.  They are powerful.  And among all of God’s created, human beings are the only ones who communicate with words.

Trevor Hudson articulates well, “Our words, whether spoken or written, enable us to reveal or hide ourselves, to build or to break community, to help or to hurt our neighbor.  When used carefully, words facilitate self-disclosure, foster communion, and release healing.  When used carelessly, they create confusion, generate conflict, and cultivate chaos.  Well aware of this immense potential that inhabits our words, the writer of the Proverbs exclaims without exaggeration: ‘Death and life are in the power of our words (Proverbs 18:21).”

I wonder how acutely aware you are of the power of your words?  I wonder if you are intently cognizant that enveloped within the things you say lies the power of “death and life”?

How many relationships have been completely devastated by the speaking of harmful words?  How many who were once close have been injured, wounded deeply, distanced, through selfish, harsh, or uncaring words?

On the other hand, how many lives have been forever wonderfully impacted through encouraging words?  How many have been healed through the kind words of a friend?  How many believers has God empowered to accomplish great things for the Kingdom through the comforting, assuring words of a God-sent encourager?

The power to speak death.  The power to speak life.

“Out of the overflow of the heart,” our Savior affirms, “the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Glory to God!

Jason

gravitational pull

planets

I’ve been spending some time in the Gospel of Luke lately.  Not for a class that I’m teaching or for a sermon that I’m working toward, but rather, just for me (of course perhaps it’ll lead us somewhere as a church later).  But for right now, it’s just me, the Gospel according to Luke, and a cup of coffee.

Luke is the only non-Jewish author of Scripture.  Behind this reality lies insight that is raw and real and expressive.  In Luke’s account of the Good News we find Jesus telling stories more often, more readily.  Luke provides us with more parables than the other three Gospel accounts.  Many of these stories we find no place else (the Lost Son(s) come to mind, chapter 15).  Luke sees life through the eyes of the outsider.  The outcast.  Primarily because in the Jewish world, he is one.  In this, we find ourselves naturally drawn to the marginalized and to the margins because of Luke’s natural gravitation.  He opens our eyes to the poor, the sick, the foreigner, the ostracized.  He elicits/demands compassion and humility within us.  Luke places intentional emphasis in the Gospel story upon the role of women and Gentiles, who were seen as “less than” in the narrow field of vision of the religious elite.  Luke presents a wonderful Gospel that is inclusive rather than exclusive.  Moving rather than stationary.  Engaging rather than stagnant.  Liberating rather than burdening.

Life on the margins is the way of Jesus.  And it is the call of His disciples.  Reaching those who have been marginalized in this world, and recognizing that because of our Kingdom designed role in this life, we are called to live marginalized.  We are to live marginalized.  Because we are not of this world.  We pledge allegiance to another King.  We belong to another Kingdom.  And because of this reality, we feel the gravitational pull toward the margins.  Because in life at the margins we find our Savior.

Glory to God!

Jason

putting it all together

Little ChefTiersa is capable of composing something great out of seemingly nothing at all better than anyone I know.  “What’s for dinner,” I’ll ask her.  “Let me see what I’ve got,” she’ll say.  And she’ll take a bunch of things that to me don’t even appear to go in the same pantry, much less on the same plate, and she creates something incredibly wonderful (she would dominate on the Food Network shows Chopped and Iron Chef!).

At Creation, God creates something out of nothing.  He speaks life into existence.  “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” (Genesis 1:1-2).  The word translated “created” in Hebrew is “ex-nihilo.”  Literally it means, “out of nothing.”  Technically the text could read, “In the beginning, God, out of nothing, the heavens and the earth.”  Cool stuff!

groceriesAnd we believe it.  Right?  We believe that God speaks everything that is into existence.  Don’t we?  We believe that “ex-nihilo” God creates through His Word and breathes life through His Spirit.  Do we not?  Why then do we find it so difficult to believe that He can accomplish the same in and through us?

Very often, you and I, we look at our lives and all we see is what I see when I go the pantry the day before Tiersa goes to the grocery store.  We see nothing that’s good.  Nothing that is appealing.  Nothing that can be put together, or that can be salvaged, or that’s worthwhile.  But God sees you and I like Tiersa sees all of that stuff in the pantry, that to me looked like starvation.  For what it could be.  For what we could be.

God is in the putting it all together business.  He is an expert in stepping in and saving the day.  He continually creates something absolutely wonderful out of a complete mess.  Triumph out of defeat.  Beauty out of ashes.

View of Earth From SpaceLook to Scripture.  Look to the lives of fellow followers of Jesus today.  He’s still doing it!  “Ex-nihilo.”  God.  Out of nothing.  Faithful, strong, redeemed, alive, made new, made whole, focused, joyful, at peace – men and women of the Kingdom.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” (Isaiah 61:1-2b; cf. Luke 4:18-19).

Glory to God!

Jason

it’s supposed to be overflowing

half empty, half full“How’s life?” someone will ask.  “How are things?”  “Well, you know… I’ve got this worry, I’ve got this concern, I’ve got this stress.  My car’s not fast enough.  My portfolio isn’t impressive enough.  I couldn’t find a good parking spot at Salsarita’s and had to walk 50 feet.  I can’t take that trip to Europe until next year….”

And somehow, we, the ransomed people of God, those who have been saved, resurrected from lifeless life, by and through the cross and resurrection of Jesus, somehow, the body of Christ can’t see past the end of our nose.

Somehow we’re blind to the transformative reality we’ve encountered in Jesus and we immerse ourselves in the world rather than the Kingdom.

Consider the emotion of God.  The heart of God.  How do you think God feels when His chosen share more political (pro- or anti-) posts on Facebook than they share anything encouraging or centered upon the Kingdom?  Or when His redeemed share things that belittle?  Or when His sanctified share things that are unholy?  Go and look at your wall (yes, I’m still talking about FB or any other social media) and see what it reveals about you.  What it reveals about who you are.  What it reveals about what is important to you.

Toy Easter ChickMaybe that’s not you.  Ok.  What do you talk to your friends about?  Where do you take your conversations?  Our conversations and where we lead those conversations say a great deal about where are hearts are.  “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).  What does your mouth say about your heart?  Do you spend more time talking about the weather or Jesus?  The stock market or the Kingdom?  Obamacare or the God who cares?

It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you’re clucking with the chickens.

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Because for those who follow Jesus, it’s supposed to be overflowing!

Glory to God!

Jason

sticks and stones

Beach Rocks“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

That old adage may bring some comfort to a little boy who has just gotten his feelings hurt at school, but it doesn’t hold a whole lot of water in the real world does it?

Words are powerful.  They are powerful.  And among all of God’s created, human beings are the only ones who communicate with words.

Trevor Hudson articulates well, “Our words, whether spoken or written, enable us to reveal or hide ourselves, to build or to break community, to help or to hurt our neighbor.  When used carefully, words facilitate self-disclosure, foster communion, and release healing.  When used carelessly, they create confusion, generate conflict, and cultivate chaos.  Well aware of this immense potential that inhabits our words, the writer of the Proverbs exclaims without exaggeration: ‘Death and life are in the power of our words (Proverbs 18:21).”

communicationI wonder how acutely aware you are of the power of your words?  I wonder if you are intently cognizant that enveloped within the things you say lies the power of “death and life”?

How many relationships have been devastated by the speaking of hurtful words?  How many loved ones have been injured, wounded deeply, distanced, through selfish, harsh, or uncaring words?

On the other hand, how many lives have been forever wonderfully impacted through encouraging words?  How many have been healed through the kind words of a friend?  How many believers has God empowered to accomplish great things for the Kingdom through the comforting, assuring words of a God-sent encourager?

angerThe power to speak death.  The power to speak life.

“Out of the overflow of the heart,” our Savior affirms, “the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

And so consider the words that you speak, and the words that you have spoken.

What do your words say about your heart?

Are there any fences that need to be mended?  Or relationships that need to healed?

Glory to God!

Jason

giving up our rights

court house

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).

“He must become greater, I must become less,” John the Baptist (John 3:30).

“Paul, a servant of God….” (Titus 1:1).

Humility is elusive, because just when you think you’ve got it… you don’t!

For some humility is a gift.  It comes extremely naturally.  To very few humility is second nature (my grandmother is like this).  However, for most, humility is a daily choice that runs contrary to our nature.  A decision that is willfully made.  Day after day.  Moment by moment.  To humble ourselves and be ever so willing to become obedient to death, even death on a cross (connect Philippians 2:8 with Luke 9:23) whether that cross is physical or metaphorical.  To give up our rights and die to ourselves so that Christ might be lifted up and exalted through us.

When someone is being questioned in regard to a crime by a governmental official they will first be advised of their rights before any questioning begins.  The Miranda warning reads, “You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to have an attorney present prior to and during any questioning.  If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one to you.  Should you choose to begin answering questions, you have the right to terminate the interview at any time.  Do you understand you’re rights?”  When the answer comes back, “Yes,” the next question asked is, “Will you voluntarily waive your rights and answer some questions?”

In Christ, humility demands that we give up our rights.  We give up our rights to be first.  We give up our rights to be center stage.  We give up our rights to be heard.  To be proven right.  To be exalted.  In order that He might be first.  Center stage.  Heard.  Proven right.  And exalted.  The cross of Jesus requires that we give up our rights, take up our cross daily, and follow Him.  That we would willfully empty ourselves of self.  And that in turn, we would be filled by Him.

I wonder how this God-ordained approach my impact some of our struggling relationships?

Glory to God!

Jason

the fullness of obedience

Cross Life Website Banner

As I write this article I have eight commentaries, four Bibles, and two hermeneutical texts on my desk to help with one particular verse that I’d like for us to consider today.  I seldom refer to quite so many, and generally choose for us to be less technical during our “time” here, but in this case I wanted to unpack one specific verse of Hebrews a bit, only to begin to initiate our thoughts in this direction.

First the context: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.  Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and designated by God to be High Priest in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:7-10).

Jesus’ submissiveness and faith is certainly at the center of the Hebrew writer’s thesis.  The Messiah willfully chooses the cross so that we might be saved.  He is our High Priest, interceding on our behalf as both priest and king, without beginning and without end (“in the order of Melchizedek” – see Genesis14 – Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness”).

But the one idea I’d like for us to focus upon is that our Savior “learned obedience” from what He suffered (v8).  I understand the author’s impetus in that Christ is “made perfect.”  He is made whole/complete/glorified as He is resurrected by the power of God.  Atonement for sin is achieved.  Eternity secured.  But what does it mean that He “learned obedience”?

Are we to deduce that Christ had not “learned obedience” until the cross?!  Absolutely not.  So what then does it mean?

Transforming CrossWhat if we were to read verse 8 like this: “Christ experienced obedience from what He suffered”?  Does that help us in our understanding of what is being communicated?  Or, “Christ learned by experiencing the fullness of His obedience”?  Does that change our perspective?

Christ’s entire life and existence defines discipline and fidelity to the Father.  Obedience characterizes the whole of our Savior’s existence.  We are called to imitate His obedience and discipline as we strive to live called lives (Philippians 2:1-11).  And yet what is being communicated to us here in Hebrews 5:8 is Christ’s experience of the fullness of His obedience.  The Apostle John shares something similar as he describes the Upper Room scene where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love” (John 13:1).  It’s not as if He had not revealed His love prior to the moment.  And certainly His love will be made manifest the follow morning!  But through the servanthood of the Lord in the Upper Room, the Apostle describes the revelation of the Savior’s love as it is experienced by His disciples as He washes their feet.

The culmination of the life of Christ, a life lived in complete and total surrender to the Father’s will, is revealed as He “humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).  As Christ experienced the fullness of His obedience.

Therefore when Jesus calls us as His disciples to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23) experiencing the fullness of obedience, each and every day, is what He is after!

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

victorious in our salvation

In Luke chapter 4 we are given insight into the human and divine nature of our Savior as Jesus is led into the desert by the Spirit.  During forty days of fasting (or at the conclusion of them depending upon your understanding of the text) Jesus is tempted by Satan.  “‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’  Jesus answered, ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’  The devil then led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And he said to Him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.  So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’  Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’  The devil led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple.  ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here.  For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’  Jesus answered, ‘It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’  When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:3-13).

Much could be said about this event in Jesus’ life and ministry.  The fact that it occurred (when you consider Matthew’s account) immediately following the baptism of Jesus is significant.  Jesus’ discipline and complete and total reliance upon God in fasting during this time powerfully speaks to us.  Jesus’ response to each test while abiding in God’s Word is crucial.  Certainly Satan’s distortion of Scripture in Jesus’ testing is something that should be emphasized.  But what I’d like for us to consider are the reasons behind the specific ways in which Jesus is tempted/tested.

“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”  Notice Satan’s condescension: “If….”  Did Satan know that Jesus was God’s Son?  Absolutely.  Did Jesus know?  You better believe it!  Was there anyone else present for this conversation besides the two of them?  No.  So why begin with question?  He’s testing Jesus’ character!  And why bread?  Because of Jesus’ hunger?  Yes.  But even more so, if ever there was going to be a moment where Jesus was susceptible and fragile in His humanity this would have been it.  Our Lord, however, stood firm.  And why the temptation of the kingdoms of the world?  Power.  Prestige.  Authority.  Ego.  The temptation of salvation while falling from the pinnacle of the temple?  Along those same lines: Pride.  Arrogance.  Ability.  Worth.  The writer of Hebrews acknowledges that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  And we see this reality clearly lived out in our Lord’s life in His testing.  But in doing so, do we to see our own humanness as we are tempted by Satan every day as well?

John the Apostle writes, “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16).  Precisely the three areas in which our Savior was tempted.

We are in such dire need of salvation.  So God sent us Jesus.  But He sent Christ not only to save us, but to show us.  To show us how to live victorious in our salvation.

Glory to God!

Jason