longing to see Jesus

Quiet Paths Religious Stock Image

Each and every one of us brings our own experiences to the table. Our experiences, whether good or bad, influence greatly how we view the world in which we live.

For so many the term “Christian” is one of blessing and comfort. To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. It succinctly defines not solely a reality as those who have answered the call of Christ, but also depicts a way of life as “followers of the Way.” There is such authenticity and genuineness found in the simplicity of being Christ followers when we truly see ourselves for who we are called to be in Jesus. When we truly see every moment of life as God designed and God lived.

The reality, however, is that many have not had such experiences. To them the term “Christian” elicits adverse emotions. Perhaps their negative perspective has been conditioned by the hypocrisy of one who claims belief in Christ, but whose life simply does not reflect the authenticity salvation calls for. Maybe their negative experience came by way of arrogance or pride or exclusivity witnessed in the lives of those who profess faith.

Certainly we can only be accountable for ourselves. As well, certainly there are treacherous moments when we do not reflect our Lord. However, not only does the Gospel message call us to fidelity to our Savior, but an unbelieving, skeptical world longs to see it. They long to see faithfulness. Authentic faith. Genuine faith. And they long to see it in us. Even if they don’t realize it. It’s Jesus they’re longing to see.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

When they see the reality of Jesus lived out in the reality of our lives, it is then that they will be drawn to follow the Way of Jesus.

And isn’t it this very reality of our Savior that first called us to follow Him ourselves?

Glory to God!

Jason

weeds and wheat

cow, farming

Jesus tells the story of a man who plants a field of wheat. But while everyone is sleeping an enemy comes along and plants weeds all throughout the wheat and then slips away in the night. As the first green shoots begin to appear the two look the same. But as the grain begins to form the workers soon realize the field is also inundated with weeds.

The farmer immediately recognizes what has occurred and that an enemy has planted the weeds right along side of his wheat. The farmhands are quick to ask if they should pull the weeds out from among the wheat but the owner knows what damage it would cause. “Let them both grow until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn’” (Matthew 13:30).

And Jesus says, “This is the Kingdom.” “The Kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field….”

He explains the One who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man, and those who belong to Him belong to the Kingdom. And the one who sowed the bad seed is the evil one. “The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels” (Matthew 13:39).

But here’s my question: Where do we fit in to all of this? If this is a portrait of the Kingdom – What’s our role?

To be wheat!

Right?

Do we uproot? Do we tear down? No! How much damage would that cause? How much damage has it already caused? No, our calling is to be wheat, in a field that is full of both weeds and wheat. To be wheat, and to show the field what wheat looks like.

And the amazing thing about the message of Christ is that the Gospel provides the way that a weed can become wheat. A complete metamorphosis. A change of state. A change of being.

In reality (if I’m not taking this parable too far) when it comes to being a part of the Kingdom of God, the Gospel should confront us of our own weediness (it’s not a real word but I like it!). The Gospel by design compels us to reckon our own weedy nature. Without the Good News of Jesus it is impossible to become or to be wheat.

The Gospel is designed in such a way that the message itself should and must compel us, and convict us, and radically alter our worldview so much so that we seek to live like the wheat we are called to be, in a world that so desperately needs to see what wheat looks like. The message of Jesus allows for the opportunity for weeds to become wheat!

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

humility and discipleship

crown of thorns

One quality that really impresses God (and it’s not a very long list) is humility.  Humility is one of those things that just when you think that you’ve got it, you don’t.  And it’s one of those qualities of Jesus that is most evidenced in the lives of those who are genuinely seeking to imitate Him.

Jesus is fully God.  He steps into the world as Immanuel “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).  In Colossians the Apostle Paul is writing to address issues that have arisen in the church in which some are questioning the deity of Christ.  He affirms, “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Christ), and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things” (Colossians 1:19-20a).

And yet he “emptied Himself” and became “obedient to death, even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8).  And for this reason we are called to have the very same attitude and mindset as that of Christ Jesus (v5).

Jesus always goes about being “God with us” from a position of humility.  It’s never a power play with Jesus.  The only One who actually has the right to demand everything from a position of power because of who He is, comes to serve and comes to show us what true love and humility look like.

Too often we’re not enough like Jesus.  We manipulate.  We force.  We coerce.  That’s not Jesus….

Jesus’ call upon our lives is if we want to be His disciples we must first deny ourselves.  And I believe humility plays a crucial role.

Jesus never forces Himself on anyone.  “Do you want to be my disciple?  Take up your cross and follow me,” He says.  “Do you want to come and learn and share and be a part of the bigger picture and the things that I am about in the Kingdom?  Good.  Follow me.”  Discipleship is a choice.  Following Jesus is a choice.  And humility is a choice.

When you are full of yourself, God cannot fill you.  Only when we empty ourselves can our God fill us.  Only when we empty ourselves of all pride and all arrogance and all selfishness… only when we “humble ourselves before the Lord” can He then lift us up (James 4:10).

Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit… (Matthew 5:3).”

Maybe that’s a good place for us to start.

Glory to God!

Jason

less complication. more Jesus.

unity

I tend to make things more difficult than they need to be. I over-analyze. I over-think. I over-concern. I am too often more critical of myself than I ought to be. In some ways this way of thinking has served me well. In many, many ways, not so much…. Maybe you can relate?

To others the reverse perhaps is more the norm. Many are overly critical of others. The glass is always half-empty. Negativity reigns supreme. Aren’t there some whom when you see them coming you cringe when you realize they’re walking your direction? And now you’re suddenly on a collision course with gloom and doom. You brace yourself because you immediately realize you’re about to receive a beating that no one deserves. And not even necessarily because they’re going to beat up on you, but because you know that whatever the conversation is, it’s going to be negative. Aren’t there some Christians you’d swear were baptized in lemon juice (and who watch way too much CNN)?

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt…” (Colossians 4:6).

Faith is not complicated. We make it much more complicated than it was ever intended to be. Too often we get in the way. The simplicity and beauty of the message we’ve received in Christ and its call to fidelity is central. The Gospel ought to bring calm. It ought to restore peace. It ought to grant clarity. It ought to. It’s designed to. But does it? For you?

“Now, church, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importancethat Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…. …this is what we preach, and this is what you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4,11b).

In faith we open our hearts to God. And we allow Him to be God. We trust Him. We share with Him. We live life near Him. And because of covenant and because He is God we breathe a sigh of relief. Because He is in control. And in Him we are a part of that which is so much greater than ourselves.

In faith we share with other believers. We are a part of one another in Jesus. We engage in, and share in, life. We ought to at least. Our relationships with believers in Christ should be our closest. And when we struggle in our relationships as His children, we work through them. We allow nothing to disrupt our connection to Him and to each other, because we belong to a magnificent Father and to one another in Jesus.

In faith we allow the message to be revealed through our priorities. Our thoughts. Our convictions. Our beliefs. Our conversations. Our relationships. It’s the way it was designed to be. It’s the way things ought to be. Less complication. More Jesus.

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

words of wisdom

Angel Sculpture Christian Stock Image

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

unconditional

handWe are a confusing people.  We say we wholly love.  We contend we are fully committed.  We promise we are all in.  But how often we fail.  How very often we fall short.  We are a people of conditions.  “If you’ll scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”  “I’ll forgive you if you will jump through these hoops.”  “Do things my way and then we can be friends.”  “Let’s get on the same page” (and by same page, we mean our own).  “I love you, but I’d love you more if….”  In many ways we are conditioned to be conditional.

We are a confusingly, conditional people.

This however, is not the Jesus Way.

God has no conditions when it comes to His love.  Don’t mishear (or misread) what I’m saying.  Covenant with God is conditioned upon our being in Christ.  But, His love for us is absolutely unconditional.  Completely unconditional.  No strings attached.  No hidden agendas.  And it is at our worst of moments, when we are at our most unlovable, that this reality is most beautiful and most powerful.  And in those moments (as if it were possible) it feels as if He loves even us more.

“God demonstrates His own (unconditional) love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8).

“For if when we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life?!” (Romans 5:10).

At the first of each year we tend to reflect upon the previous year and consider the one that lies ahead.  My hope is that you enter into this new year knowing that you are deeply and unconditionally loved by our Father.

Glory to God!

Jason

satan’s native language

No Devils Allowed Sign

“When Satan lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar, the father of lies.” – John 8:44

As Christians I believe we easily acknowledge that Satan has one mission: To separate us from God.  That’s his mission.

“The thief comes to steal, kill, and to destroy.” – John 10:10

As believers we readily confess we have one mission: To connect others with God.  That’s our mission.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Satan never ceases in his attempts to derail our lives, our faith, our eternity.  However, not only is the enemy seeking to alienate us from God, he also attempts in every way to interfere in our relationships with one another.  To distance us from one another.  To create animosity or stress or distrust or anxiety within the community of faith.  Why?  Because it impedes our effectiveness.

He’s the “father of lies” remember?  He is the deceiver.  If he can convince us that disharmony (not disagreement, but disharmony) is acceptable, it limits our effective witness in the world.  When he is successful in deceiving us and convincing us that the enemy is a fellow believer with whom we have disagreement, the father of lies is “speaking his native language.”  Satan wants nothing more than to stifle momentum in Christ’s church.  And very often he accomplishes this not through outright sinful behavior, but by diverting our attention, and cloaking divisiveness in the shroud of religiousness.  The tension is such that if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.  When we allow the father of lies to whisper in our ears, we serve as conduits, as he shouts from the rooftops.  And very often, through well-meaning believers misguided in who the enemy truly is.

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other.” – Galatians 5:15

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12

Why do we so often play into Satan’s hand?

Glory to God!

Jason

stubborn people, humble goats, and the Kingdom of God

stubborn coupleYou have to admit that we can be pretty stubborn sometimes.  Right?  Or at least, let me confess: “I can be pretty stubborn sometimes.”

Webster’s defines “stubborn” as: “inflexible, determined to have one’s own way.”  I wonder how often our unwillingness to be flexible or our determination to have things our own way has negatively impacted the relationships we share with others.  And I wonder, how our stubbornness has often undermined the God that we purport to belong to.

Rocks with a Small TreeWhat place does arrogance or stubbornness or inflexibility or the attitude of “my-way-or-the-highway” have in the Kingdom of God?  None.

Jesus says, “If someone wants to steal the shirt right of your back, willingly give the thief your coat as well.”  “And if someone manipulates you and coerces you into going a mile out of your way for their own selfish benefit, go even further for the sole purpose of Kingdom revealing” (Matthew 5:40-41 in my own words).

The Apostle Paul places it in these terms, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests (how selfish would that be), but look also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:4-5).

Egoism.  Stubbornness.  Inflexibility.  These are not the Kingdom.  The Kingdom is: “Righteousness.  Peace.  And joy in the Holy Spirit” (see Romans 14:17).

In any given situation you are not the most important person.  Neither am I.  Jesus is!

Stubbornness damages the Kingdom.  Every time.

goatDuring the Reformation of the 16th century Zwingli and Luther and had come to an impasse.  Both were perplexed as to how there could be unity between the two of them with their differences.  Until one day Zwingli observed two goats approaching one another from opposite directions on a treacherous, narrow mountain path.  A wall of rock on one side, and a thousand foot cliff on the other.  As they approached one another, the two goats lowered their heads, as though they were about to crash into one another, but then the one going up the mountain trail lay completely flat on the path and allowed the one descending the mountain to step on top of him.  After he had safely passed, the one who had humbled himself then continued his climb.

I wonder what you and I might learn from that?

Glory to God!

Jason