getting off the ladder

princess in front of mirrorWhen 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

a great story

book1-1

One of the connections that God has made possible in our life as His people is the connection to the greater story.  We connect to the epic story of God.  Because we belong to Him through Christ, His story is ours, and our story becomes His.

The Apostle Paul writes, “You are sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ….  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 4:26-29).

We can trace our spiritual lineage to the promise and action of God at work within humanity because in Christ we are a part of the greater story.

Hebrews 11 is a chapter that we love dearly.  Great heroes of faith are placed before us systematically one right after the other.  By faith Noah….  By faith Abraham….  By faith Isaac….  By faith Jacob….  By faith Moses….  Immediately when their names are mentioned we know their stories.  We know their history.  We know the magnificent ways in which God worked through the lives they lived.  And yet somehow the writer of Hebrews declares that “only together with us are they made complete” (Hebrews 11:40).  Because the story lives on in us in radically revealed ways, as those who live this side of the cross of Jesus.

We love a story.

Think about the books we read or movies we watch or stories we tell.

We love a great story.

The Gospel is the greatest story ever told.

It is a story that continues to be told.

It is a story that continues to be written.

Because we are a part of it’s legacy.

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

getting off the ladder

princess in front of mirrorWhen 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

victorious in our salvation

alive in christ

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

words of wisdom

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Wisdom.  Wisdom is not on our radar often enough.  We make choices based upon our feelings.  Our emotions.  Our own merit.  Upon how we are affected.  Upon our own understanding.  Certainly these are a part of the decision-making process.  But what about discernment?  What about wisdom?

And what about when we make poor choices?  Tragic choices?  Intentional choices?  When we sin?  When we doubt?  When we lash out in anger?  When we respond selfishly?  Self-servingly?  Worldy?  Where is wisdom then?

In the book of Proverbs wisdom is often personified.  And wisdom is a woman.  Read into this whatever you like….  But it’s extremely interesting that the voice of wisdom speaks, she constantly calls for humility.  She appeals to discernment.  She pleads for fidelity.

“Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech…” (Proverbs 1:20).

She goes to where the people are.  There is never any doubt as to her message.  There is no question as to the need for wisdom.  The need for discernment.  Only the question of whether or not we will listen.

Do we seek wisdom from God?  From His Word?  From His Spirit?  From His Son?  God never contradicts Himself.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  His character, His nature, His being, His purposes, are never changing.  He is constant.  He is true.  He is just.

Wisdom pursues His will for our lives.  Wisdom requests His will.  Wisdom seeks His will.  Wisdom accepts His will.  Wisdom is discerning of His will and does not confuse His will with our own.  Wisdom acknowledges His infiniteness.  And our finiteness.

The Apostle Paul when writing in regard to the ways in which God has acted upon behalf of humankind, speaks of the wisdom of God and His graciousness revealed to us in and through the Gospel of Jesus.  “It is because of Him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).  You see as believers true wisdom is found only in Christ.  Only in life lived in Christ.  Only in discerning God’s will for our lives and having the courage and faithfulness to pursue His will.

As Christians the voice of wisdom calls to us.  She calls us to right thinking.  To objectivity.  To faithful living.  To pursue the will of God.  To where true wisdom lies.  In God.  And in Christ.

But the question remains: Will we listen? 

Glory to God!

Jason

no time to waste

clockI turned 40 on the 18th of January.  My wonderful, oldest daughter has reminded me that I am now precisely at the mid-point in between graduating high school and social security.  Gee thanks, Kacey!

For some, 40 is a horrible number to move in to.  But to be quite honest with you, I’ve been looking forward to it.  I don’t really know why.  But as far as I’m concerned, bring on the 40’s!  (We’ll have to wait and see as I get closer to 50, if I feel the same way about that number.)

Christian maturity doesn’t have a time line.  Many who have been believers for decades are still childish.  No closer to being mature in Christ than they were when they started.  Others round the bases rather quickly, and the conviction that comes from being in Christ and investing into the Kingdom is readily revealed in life, perspective, and philosophy.

The question is: What does Christian maturity look like?

The writer of the letter to the Hebrew believers contends, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so” (Hebrews 5:13-6:3).

What I love about this passage is that Christian maturity is not defined.  Have you ever noticed that?  We’re told what its not.  But not what it is.  But what it is, is more like Jesus.  And what it is, is more open to the Kingdom.  And what it is, is more focused on the things that are important to God.  And what it is, is less focused on the things that get in His way.

What turning 40 has caused me to better acknowledge is that I don’t have time to waste.  I just don’t.  Life is too short.  And what we do with the life we’re given, too important.  We don’t have time to waste.  I don’t.  And you don’t.  The Kingdom is too important.

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

the fullness of obedience

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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

following Jesus. hearing His voice.

At WE we’ve spoken a lot lately about simplifying.  Focusing on what really matters.  Removing the clutter from our lives.  Freeing ourselves from the noose that we’ve slipped into.  “Throwing off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily trips us up and running this Christian race well” (to paraphrase Hebrews 12:2).

We’re unpacking some key spiritual disciplines on Sunday mornings together.  We’re seeking to practice the presence of God and striving to live lives that reflect the Lordship of Jesus in very real and very practical ways.  Discipline is key.  And as we’ve set things into motion over the last few weeks, we’ll consider in the weeks ahead not only the familiar disciplines of prayer and study and Christian community, but also the not so familiar disciplines of fasting and silence and contentment (as well as others).

Jesus says, “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.  The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:2-4).

I can’t read these words of Jesus in John 10 and not think of what the writer of the Hebrew letter reveals to us as he states, “Therefore brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body… let us draw near to God….” (Hebrews 10:19-22a).

Jesus is the way to God.  In Him we have access to God.  In Him we are brought near to God.  It’s a close, intimate, spiritual connection and relationship.

But… can we hear our Savior’s voice?

Tuning in to God.  Getting rid of the static of our lives and hearing our Savior’s voice.  “He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.”  How can we follow Him well, if His voice is drowned out by all the noise we are allowing in?

Glory to God!

Jason