scattering darkness

light, darkness

“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 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

leaving the curtain torn

Cross of Salvation

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’….  And when Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:45-51).

From noon until 3pm, during the time of day when the sun is at its peak, darkness covers the planet, representative of course of the sin that Jesus bore on the cross.  At 3pm Jesus cries out in the words of Psalm 22, a Psalm of anguish and a Psalm of victory. Jesus cries out again and gives up His spirit, meaning, He chooses to die.  And “at that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

Here’s my question: How long was the curtain allowed to be torn?

Have you ever thought about that?  How long was the curtain allowed to be torn by the religious aristocracy? To the Jews who accepted Christ the tearing of the curtain meant no more obstruction, no more barrier between them and God.  To the Gentile it meant there was access granted to the One, True Living God that they had never known before. As believers today through this reality of 2000 years ago we recognize that we have access to the very presence of God and are ushered in to His glory through the sacrifice (and resurrection) of Jesus. But what about the Jews whose applecart had been upset?  Those who wanted everything to stay the same?  What about those “devout” Israelites who thought that they had the market cornered on God? What about the watchdog Pharisees who saw this as a threat to what was “right” and “proper”?

What do you suppose they did about the torn curtain?  The “veil that was rent” (to quote from the good king James)? Maybe they wrote it off as caused by the earthquake.  But Temple worship in Jerusalem continued another 40 years (until its destruction in AD 70). Did they leave the curtain torn do you think?  I bet not. Although well-intentioned, I would imagine they very quickly sewed it shut (or replaced it altogether). There’s no biblical or even extra-biblical evidence to support that notion.  But I just don’t see them leaving the curtain torn.  Do you?

Here’s my point: In Christ, God has unequivocally removed every hindrance from our living in His presence.  Right? And so why can’t we just leave it that way?

Glory to God!

Jason

what are you afraid of?

hiding

There is an ancient legend from India that tells the story of a mouse that was terrified of cats.  He brought his complaint to the king who had his magicians transform the mouse into a cat, so as to relieve his fears.  This satisfied the mouse (pardon me, cat) for a little while until he met a dog.  Fearing the dog he pleaded to be changed into one and so the king again obliged.  Until he came face to face with a tiger.  And so once again he begged to be changed into that which he feared.  After not long living as a tiger the mouse-turned-cat-turned-dog-turned-tiger came to fear the hunter.  However when he approached the king to change him once more, the king refused.  “I will not again change you into that which you fear, for though you are a tiger, you still have the heart of a mouse.”

Is your comfort found in your IRA or 401K or 528i?  Is your security in what you possess or the life you’ve built?  Is your confidence in who you are or what you’ve accomplished?  Is your strength in your ability, your knowledge, your reason, your power, or your control?

Then allow me to ask: What are you afraid of?  What are you hiding from?  What do you need to let go of?

Your roar may be the loudest, but inside lies a heart gripped with fear.  Why?

“I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (fear), but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Glory to God!

Jason

the only voice we hear

girls yelling

If you were to sit down and list the events of your day, from morning until night, what would that list look like?  If you were to put pen to paper (or hands to laptop), and just allow yourself a few moments to consider what it is that consumes your days, you, like me, would probably find yourself readily listing item after item after item.

And what if you did the same thing, and made a second list, only this time you listed those things that occupy your thoughts?  Concerns.  Worries.  Burdens.  Stresses.  Fears.  Anxieties.  Those things that consume your mental energy.  Elevate your blood pressure.  Deplete your spirit.  Perhaps that list would fill up rather quickly as well.

We each have a lot of voices vying for our attention.  Some that indeed need to be heard.  Many that are of importance.  Others that are wearily urgent.  A number, however, that are counterproductive.  Voices that distract.  Voices that detract.  Voices that all too easily shift us off course.

The Apostle John records these wonderful, affirming, assuring words of our Savior, “I tell you the truth, the one who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  The one 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 the know his voice” (John 10:1-4).

Tuning in to the voice of Jesus amid all of the static, amid all of the distractions, is so very crucial for His followers.  It is a discipline to be practiced.  An artistry to be pursued.

Yet when His voice is the only voice we hear amidst all that is encompassed within those two lists, the result is peace and clarity and confidence.  Aspects of the Christian life that perhaps more a few of us are in need of.

Glory to God!

Jason

the God of the towel

Eyes of Faith Stock PhotosMinistering to others is the primary way in which we reveal Jesus to a lost and broken world.  Allowing the love of Christ to bring healing to a broken world through those who themselves are continually made whole in Jesus is what serving and sharing and ministering is all about.

Jesus sets the pace:

“The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him” (John 13:2-5).

Angel Sculpture Christian Stock ImageJohn’s Upper Room narrative intimately describes the motive and method of Jesus.  God has placed all things under His authority.  Jesus is in complete control.  John acknowledges Jesus’ awareness of His divine nature and authority, “He had come from God and was returning to God.”  And because of His divine prerogative, the God of the towel rises from the meal, wraps a towel around His waist, and pours water into a basin.  Jesus’ connectedness to God and divine reality as God incarnate compels Him to take the nature of a servant (cf. Philippians 2:6-8).

Isn’t it the same with us?  Isn’t it such that our connectedness to God and spiritual reality as those within whom His Spirit dwells, compel ministering to others, and bringing hope and healing to a broken world?

But, is this you’re perspective?  Is this your philosophy?  Is this your practice?

Glory to God!

Jason

fear, doubt, and anxiety

Sunlight Shining Through Forest

“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it!’ (Numbers 13:30).

I love the story of Joshua and Caleb scoping out the Promised Land.  I think most of us do.  They covertly travel the landscape with ten other “spies.”  They return and confirm that the land God had promised to them was more than they could have ever thought possible.  Caleb declares before the entire Israelite community, “What are we waiting for?!” (It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul will write in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”)  But what do the other ten spies who went with Joshua and Caleb come back and say?  “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:33).

Twelve men, two perspectives.  It is a story of fear versus faith in God.  Doubt versus trust in God.  Anxiety versus confidence in God.

A few weeks ago we held a premiere of the movie “Home Run” in the FLC.  We had 250+ in attendance, many of whom were invited by friends, all of whom benefited greatly from the evening together.  The movie centered upon struggling with addiction and struggling in relationships.  Ultimately, the movie centered upon trusting God.  One of the best lines in the movie was, “Nothing great happens when you hold back.”

Fear, doubt, and anxiety hold us back.  As a people.  As a church.  We fear failure.  We doubt God.  When we do, anxiety reigns, the Kingdom is crippled, and the enemy is pleased.

When will we understand, “Nothing great happens when you hold back.”

And so I ask you these questions:

  • What do you need to let go of?
  • Is your faith as strong as it ought to be?
  • In what way are you not trusting wholly in our Father?
  • What creates anxiety within you?
  • What do you need to give to God?

Caleb asks the people of God, “What are we waiting for?!”

Today, I ask the same.

Glory to God!

Jason

three messages

diana nyad

This past Monday, 64 year old, Diana Nyad, became the first person ever to swim the seemingly insurmountable 110 miles of open ocean from Cuba to Florida.   Nearly 53 hours.   Treacherous waters.  No shark cage (an apparatus designed to be pulled behind a boat to protect the swimmer from shark attacks).  Two nights of suffering.  Her face swollen and lacerated from the effects of exposure.  Serious abrasions from the stings of jellyfish.  Recurring nausea from ingesting salt water.  Her first attempt at the swim was 35 years ago in 1978.  She has been told over and over it was impossible.  But never believed it.  5 attempts and 35 years later she has proved the impossible possible.

Exhausted and depleted, Diana said that she had “three messages” to share: “One is, we should never, ever give up.  Two is, you are never too old to chase your dreams.  Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”  I am impressed with these three statements.  Whether she has thought of these “three messages” for decades, or if they were completely spontaneous, they speak us right where we are, in a spiritual way.

1) Never, ever give up. 

I wonder what have you given up on?  Who have you given up on?  Where have you conceded defeat?  How has Satan convinced you that you do not measure up?  What impresses me is that after four failures, Diana kept training, kept dreaming, and gave it another try.  (After 35 years, it sounds as if she’d have made a sixth attempt if the fifth had failed.)

2) You are never too old to chase your dreams.

I’m thinking of our life in the Kingdom.  What is it that God has called you to do for the world around you that you’ve come up with every excuse in the book as to why it wouldn’t work?  (Because that is fear whispering in your ear, not faith.)

3) It looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.

There were over thirty people on board boats that traveled with Diana.  Cheering her on.  Keeping her confidence up.  Searching the surrounding waters for dangers.  Encouraging her when she was physically exhausted and emotionally depleted.  That’s precisely who we are to be for one another.  Sometimes you’re the one navigating the treacherous waters.  At other times you’re in the boat warning of dangers or providing encouragement and direction.  But this Christian life is not a solitary one.  It takes a team.

Three messages, that maybe today, you needed to hear.

Glory to God!

Jason

there are no more beautiful words

Waking upHow much sleep do you get each night?

Not enough I imagine….

Studies show that adults are in need of 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Teenagers need 8.5-9.5 hours of uninterrupted rest.

And children require 10-14 hours a night to be 100%.

With how little we actually rest, compared to what is required, it’s no wonder so many are so tired.

When I was at the police department I had a friend that I worked nights with, who on his days off would stay up all day the first day, sleep at night the first night, but then stay up all the next day and then, all the next night (for over twenty-four hours).  Basically, he missed a night’s (or day’s) rest each week.  And he did this for years.  He went in to a doctor because he was not feeling well and told the doctor his sleeping pattern (or lack thereof).  The doctor told him that he had to get more rest.  There was no way around it.  Until he got enough sleep there would be no way he could feel like he was supposed to.  When he finally started getting enough rest he realized that he had really been walking around in a daze for years because his body and mind were so very tired.

Newborn BabyI wonder if you might be tired?  If you might be weary right now?  Maybe you find yourself depleted.  In a season of life that is extremely difficult.  Maybe you’re exhaustion comes from trying to spin too many plates.  Maybe, as the old folks say, “Your plow is loaded.”  Maybe you’ve been trying to do it all on your own but have come to the conclusion that what you’re doing is not working, and you’re simply tired.

When you are emotionally and spiritually exhausted, rest, rest in Christ is the only cure.  He persuades, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest“ – Matthew 11:28.

When you are tired.  When you are weary.  When you are depleted.  When you are exhausted.  There are no more beautiful words.

Glory to God!

Jason

a win/win situation

If at the end of the day I were to ask you to give me an itemized itinerary of the events of your day and how they unfolded, you’d readily be capable of describing how the day progressed.  For me, most mornings the alarm clock goes off at 645am.  (Some of you you’re thinking: “I only acknowledge one 6:45 during the day and it’s not 6:45AM!”  For others of you, you’re routine may be that you get up even earlier.)  By 8am all the kids are sitting in their desks at school.  And by 815am I’m either in the office or at a coffee shop depending upon the day.  Now that’s only an hour and a half’s time frame, but a whole lot more went into that hour and a half than that right?  I failed to mention whether or not the kids were in a good mood by the time we walked out the door or if I had to referee.  Whether or not we left in plenty of time or had to break several laws of man and a few laws of physics to get them to school before the tardy bell rang (not that I ever do that!).  I haven’t told you about all the things on my mind during that hour and a half either.  Concerns.  Commitments.  Complications.  From the things on my to-do list that I just need to get done, to things that I have no idea what to do about and am still waiting to see how God works through them.

My reason behind this is to acknowledge to you that as much as we are striving to simplify, as much as we are striving to keep the main things the main things, we live lives that involve some degree of complication.  Some complications we can actively do something about.  But the reality is, for other complications, we’re in a holding pattern.

Process these words of the Apostle Paul, “But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’  For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silasand Timothy, was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but in Him it has always been ‘Yes.’  For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1:18-20a

What Paul assures is that everything in life is a “Yes” when we’re in Christ.  Everything is a “Yes!”  That somehow amidst good and bad, calm and chaos, triumph and tragedy, when we are in Jesus, it’s all a “Yes.”  It’s not that it’s all easy.  It’s not that it always makes sense.  But somehow when we see life through eyes of faith everything is a “Yes” because God is God.  And in Jesus, we are His people.  And because we are His, everything is a “Yes.”  So you got a promotion?  It’s a “Yes” in Christ.  So you lost you’re job today?  It’s a “Yes” when you’re close to our Savior.  The cancer is in remission?  It’s a “Yes” in Jesus.  Your counts are looking like the cancer has returned?  It’s a “Yes” when in relationship with God.

Somehow when we are in Christ Jesus, everything is a “Yes.”  If you are being faithful to God, it’s a win/win situation.  No matter how that hour and a half looks.  No matter what complications you’re in the middle of.  No matter how promising or how bleak a circumstance.  In Him it has always been (and always will be) “Yes!”

Glory to God!

Jason

Christ-defined or situation-defined?

Those of you who have raised children know very well the up and down emotions of a child.  They can be crying one moment and laughing the next.  Hungry and dissatisfied and throwing a “wall-eyed fit,” and then minutes later content and satisfied and happy as they could possibly be (I don’t know exactly what “wall-eyed fit” means but I’ve come to understand – it’s not good!).  The emotions of a child run the gauntlet readily.

But aren’t we sometimes equally as susceptible to running the gauntlet?  Don’t we often allow the situations we find ourselves in at times to take control of our emotions?  Don’t we at times allow external situations to overwhelm how we feel about everything else?

Sometimes what upsets us is a very real and present stress.  The loss of a job.  The loss of a loved one.  An uncontrollable plummet of emotions.  But at other times (and more often than not) it’s something minor that sends us into orbit.  Traffic lights when were running behind.  Formatting a Word document on a computer different than you’re accustomed to.  Trying to navigate through traffic when the GPS is telling you to go down a road that is blocked off due to construction.  (I just thought I’d throw three recent personal examples out there…).  🙂

Our current situations will continue to define our happiness until we are Christ-defined rather than situation-defined.

Haven’t you seen Christians who right in the very middle of the crisis of a lifetime reveal such a trusting faith in Jesus?  Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself.  The peace that transcends all understanding as the Father brings comfort amidst turmoil.  Tranquility in the middle of anxiety.

However beyond the tragic is the everyday.  And I believe that one of the many things we struggle with as a people is the ability to calmly, rationally, objectively engage life.  And as believers we ought to do better at this.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again, ‘Rejoice.’”   Where is the Apostle when he writes the letter to the Philippians?  Prison!  Rejoice?  Have joy?  You better believe it!  But only, in Christ.  And only when Christ-defined rather than situation-defined.

Glory to God!

Jason