do we think enough of God?

faith-and-hope-church-worship-background

Don’t we find ourselves at times spiritually plateaued in our journeys of faith? And maybe not even plateaued, but rather, more like spiritually bankrupt? What do we do when we begin to feel this way? Maybe it’s found in the ebb and flow of faith. Maybe it only characterizes a small portion of time. Or maybe it is descript of decades. Years of complacency. No zeal. No excitement. No anticipation. No experience of God. What then? What next?

In his book Attributes of God, AW Tozer writes, A local church will only be as great as its concept of God.  An individual Christian will be a success or failure (in the Kingdom) depending upon what he or she thinks of God.  It is critically important that we not only have a knowledge of the Holy One, but that we truly come to know Him in all His majesty and wonder.”

Maybe what we “think of God,” as Tozer puts it, is directly related to our being spiritually plateaued or bankrupt.

Do we think enough of God? How much thought do we honestly give Him during the course of the day? How often do you engage in silent conversation with Him if even for a brief moment? How often do you pray? I mean really, really pray? Not as an aside. But heart and mind, engaged in prayer with our Father. How much time do you set aside in reading Scripture and being fed by God’s Word? How often do you read what others have written to broaden your concept of God? How many conversations do you have throughout the week with others who are seeking to be faithful to our Father as well? Do you seek out Christian insight from others who have faith? Because what we “think of God” is answered in questions such as these.

The Apostle Paul writes: I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” – Ephesians 1:17

The question is: Do we really want to know Him better?

Or maybe in asking what Tozer had in mind: Do we think enough of God?

Somehow spiritual discipline has too often been divorced from faith. Faith is too often seen as mental ascent rather than a life characterized by discipleship. No wonder we find ourselves so often spiritually anemic.

Discipleship. Living cognizant of the presence of God. Spiritual discipline. A life characterized by faith and faithfulness. When our practice reflects our concept of God – it is then and only then that we will begin to know Him better.

Glory to God!

Jason

everyone and anything

We Give You Thanks Christian Worship Background

“In the Kingdom of God everyone is welcome and anything is possible.”

I’ve repeated (and contemplated) that statement a number of times since the beginning of the New Year.

The first week it just sort of came out.

It was Sunday.

I was bringing the first sermon of 2016 to a close.

And, boom!

There it was.

It wasn’t planned.

I did’t have it in my notes.

It hadn’t crossed my mind until the moment it came out of my mouth.

“In the Kingdom of God everyone is welcome and anything is possible.”

The Kingdom in inclusive, not exclusive. Everyone is welcome.

Right?

I mean we believe that to be a valid statement.

Correct?

And in the Kingdom (the reign and rule of God) anything is possible.

Isn’t it?

Do you agree with me on that?

No matter who you are, where you come from, the guilt of your past life, the burden of your present circumstance, the anxiety of the future, God is the God of transformation. He’s the God who creates beauty out of ashes. Life out of death. Light out of darkness. He’s in the making all things new business. It’s what He does.

“In the Kingdom of God everyone is welcome and anything is possible.”

Is it a true statement?

Satan whispers in our ears that it’s not true. It’s not valid. It’s not real.

And so, maybe the question we should ask is not: Is the statement true?

(Because it is!)

Perhaps a better question is: Do you believe it to be true?

(Do I believe it to be true?)

Because enveloped within the answer to that question lies divine reality, purpose, blessing, and peace.

“In the Kingdom of God everyone is welcome and anything is possible.”

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

the practice of holiness

Jesus Stained Glass Religious Stock Image

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:13-16; cf. Leviticus 11:44-45).

“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 and into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

I wonder if a greater awareness of the holiness of God might equip us to be more cognizant of our own holy calling? I wonder if willful, intentional contemplation of the holiness of our Father might assist us in realizing our own holy status in Christ Jesus? Certainly we are only made holy in Christ, however we are called to holy living. To a holy way of life. All of life is sacred for those who believe. The Apostle Peter is calling for conviction. He is calling for commitment. Half-hearted Christianity doesn’t cut it. “Just as He who called you is holy, be holy in all that you do.” We recognize our failings. We acknowledge we are spiritually bankrupt outside of covenant. However just as the Father is holy, we are to be holy. What if holiness were in our thoughts? What if holiness were upon our hearts? What if holiness were a viable part of our vocabulary and conversations? What if a sustainable facet of our faith was the practice of holiness?

Father we pray for an awareness of holiness. To be aware of your reality and your presence in our lives. And to be aware that we have been (and are continually) made holy in Jesus. Our hope is that we would be altogether incapable of being men and women who give little consideration to your character and nature, your purpose and our calling. Our prayer is that we would be a holy people. Light in a world of darkness. Our desire is that we would be like you. That we would reflect your holiness. That holiness would be such an integral part of who we are and so very definitive in what we reveal to the world around us that there would be no doubt as to who we are and whose we are. In the name of the Holy One in whom we place all hope, and all confidence, Amen.

Glory to God!

Jason

tuesdays

tuesdayI usually type these articles on Tuesdays.  I’m most often out of the office on Mondays and so my normal mode of operation is to begin soon after our ministry team meetings on Tuesday mornings.  I don’t usually have any agenda or preconceived idea when I sit down in front of my laptop.  I just begin to try to put into words whatever it is that’s on my heart and in my mind at the moment.

On Tuesdays I’m thinking about our journey together as a church the previous Sunday.  I’m thinking about worship.  I’m thinking about conversations.  I’m thinking about hearts and lives, people whose lives I am honored to walk along side of.  Families whose journeys I am blessed to be a part of.  I’m normally off or at least out of the office on Saturdays and Mondays and I read even more on those days.  Especially in the mornings.  And so on Tuesdays I’m processing whatever it is that I’ve been reading.  On Tuesdays I think about what I have going on the rest of the week. What sermons and lessons I’m working on.  What ideas and thoughts and Scriptures I still need for God to bring together.  Praying for our Father to do what He does when He is real and present and active and revealed in the lives of His people.

What I love about Tuesdays is that everything is wide open.  I have no idea what God is going to do but I know it’s going to be His design and His will.  I simply strive to be open to Him and to just get out of His way.

Have you ever thought about what goes into baking a cake?  It’s amazing anything that tastes good comes from that?  Right?  Eggs and oil and milk and flour and sugar all just dumped in and mixed up.  But when it comes out of the oven, it’s a cake!

As we live life, all you and I can do is to strive to see to it that the ingredients are all there.  Our task is simply to be faithful to God, and to live out our faith in the ways He has gifted us.  But at the end of the day it’s God who makes anything happen.  On Tuesdays, or any other day.

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

spiritual oxygen

windOur bodies require oxygen.  I’ve heard of some who have argued that a glass of water can wake you up in the morning just as well as a cup of coffee because of the oxygen in the water (I of course do not buy this argument and would never think of starting the day without a cup of coffee, but to each his own….  And isn’t there oxygen, in the water, in the coffee?).  But it is a simple, physiological truth, the body requires oxygen.  An abundance of it.  When we take a deep breath, oxygen fills our lungs, and then floods the central nervous system, circulatory system, etc. with life.  When our bodies are oxygen depleted we do not function to our fullest capacity (those associated with the Tour de France can explain this well).  Without breathing in oxygen the body dies.  And without an abundance of oxygen the body suffers.

The Hebrew word for breath is “ruack.”  The Greek word for it is “pneuma.”  Would it surprise you that these same words (that can be translated “breath”) are also the very words that are translated “Spirit”?  The Spirit of God breathing life at creation.  The Spirit of God breathing life at baptism.  The Spirit of God renewing, empowering, uplifting, filling, flooding the body of Christ with spiritual oxygen today.

goldfish in fishbowlWithout an abundance of oxygen the body suffers.  The body of Christ requires spiritual oxygen.  When we find ourselves (as individuals or as a church) in need of renewal, in need of revival, where do we turn?  To whom do we turn?  The Spirit of God gives life.

James 2:26, “The body without the Spirit is dead.”

Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life (spiritual life) to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who gives you life.”

When was the last time that you prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill you?  To breathe life into you?  To renew Christ’s church?  To bring about revival?  To flood the body of Christ with spiritual oxygen?

I wonder what would happen if each of us would pray that prayer and if we were truly open to that prayer being answered?

Glory to God!

Jason