giving up our rights

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“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 maternal grandmother was 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 might impact some of the struggling relationships that exist today? In particular, relationships that are struggling with God….

Glory to God!

Jason

this is my Gospel

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“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  This is my Gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.  But God’s Word is not chained.  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:8-10).

I wonder if we have this very same perspective, or if we are too far removed (in both time and even belief) from the early church?  Are these our priorities?  Are these words as central to us as they were to the first century apostolic mission?

As the Apostle writes to his protégé Timothy, the sword that will fulfill his destiny can practically be heard as it is sharpened in the background (Paul, of course, is soon beheaded for his faith).  And so as with much of what we see from Paul’s pen, there is a great sense of urgency in what he seeks to communicate in this final letter to his dear friend.

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  This is my Gospel.”

“This is my Gospel.”  Now that’s a significant statement!  Is it not?

The word Gospel is utilized 96 times in the New Testament.  All but 20 are found in Paul’s letters.  76 times the Apostle Paul pens the word.  “Euangelion.”  “Good News.”  “Gospel.”  And each and every time he does, his intention is the same.  For there is no other Gospel that is Gospel.

This is my Gospel: “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.”

How do we, how do you, understand the word “Gospel?”

How do we define it?

Is “our Gospel” more?

Is it less?

If it is, then “our gospel” is not “the Gospel.”

Glory to God!

Jason

summit 2016

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I’ll be making my annual pilgrimage to the Mecca that is Abilene Christian University this week.

This is 16 years in a row that I’ve gone to ACU.

Although my degrees are from other institutions, ACU’s Summit, campus, profs, publishing, and spirit have had just as much of an impact upon my own spiritual life and ministry as my three alma maters have.

To me ACU has always felt like home.

The theme of the 110th annual lectureship is:

Love God, Love Your Neighbor: Living the Greatest Commands

We’ll hear from the likes of Jerry Taylor, Randy Harris, Landon Saunders, Sarah Barton, and Eddie Sharp, worship with thousands (and have coffee with a few), spend sacred time with close friends, and make a few new ones along the way.

Our God He is good and He is faithful.

And for the next four days I’m simply going to try to get out of His way….

Glory to God!

Jason

holy ground in waco, tx

City Lights at Night Worship Background

For the last 2.5 years Dr. Jim Martin has been the vice president of Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tn. Prior to this role Jim served in congregational ministry for over 35 years, 20 of those years being with the Crestview Church in Waco.

For the final five years that he was in Waco, Jim facilitated five one-year long discipleship groups, each year composed of 8-10 ministers from near and far.

I was blessed to be a part of one of those groups. We met once a month, usually in Jim’s home. We came together to disciple. To disciple ourselves and to disciple one another. To pray and to study and to grow and to challenge and to bring healing and to speak truth and to breathe life.

Each time we came together was sacred. Sacred space. Holy ground.

I didn’t realize it at the time (I understood how transformative our time together was for me, I recognized how truly blessed I was by Jim and by those were a part) but what I did not comprehend early on was that I had become a part of something sacred. Something transcendent. An alum of a moment in time that would be so meaningful and formational to me (and to so many others) for the rest of our lives.

And so yesterday, we gathered together once again.

Jim was going to be in Waco and orchestrated a reunion of sorts at Crestview for those who had been a part of the discipleship groups during those years in Waco.

And so what did we do?

We prayed. We studied. We grew in our faith. We challenged one another. We brought healing. We spoke truth. And God breathed life.

Exodus 3:5, “Take off your shoes, for the place where you are standing, is holy.”

Glory to God!

Jason

life between sundays

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Spending time in prayer and in study and in silence before God, engaging in intentional spiritual disciplines, and committing ourselves to a rhythm of discipleship that naturally facilitates balance and simplicity, in a life filled with complexity, is such a Christ-like way to live.

But if I had to guess, if anyone gets cheated, it’s God. And you. And those that need you.

As resurrected people we live life between Sundays. On Sunday the Author of Life breathes life into us communally. We yearn for Sunday because on Sunday we come to the table. On Sunday we commune with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. And on Sunday we commune with one another as His church.

Yet the design of covenant is such that we experience communion with God in every facet of life. Our worship of God on Sunday is diametrically impacted (either positively or negatively) through our day by day, moment by moment worship of Him during the week. Our communal worship works in tandem with our daily spiritual practice (worship).

God exists in community. Father, Son, and Spirit. We are created in the image of God. Spiritually. We are spiritual beings.

Because of this, we too are created to exist in community. With God. And with one another. (Are we spiritual beings having a physical experience or physical beings having a spiritual experience? Yes.)

An amazing facet of why our God has given us to one another as His church is that we commune with Him and with one another. We share in, and engage in, life.

We are in need of recapturing the communal nature of faith (not solely Communion with a big “C” but communion at every level – though too often we lose the communal nature of Communion as we come to the table).

Communal worship on Sunday is the culmination of (and genesis of) our week, and works in synergy with the fundamental practice of spiritual disciplines throughout our rhythm of life.

The goal of which is a holistic way of living a life that honors the Father, and a way of life that looks more and more like Jesus.

We think of ourselves as being in pursuit of God. And certainly we do. Prayerfully we are.

But when we consume with wonder, into our hearts, that it is He who pursues us, the transformative reality of covenant relationship and living in sync with Him radically changes everything.

“Let heaven fill your thoughts.” – Colossians 3:2a (NLT)

Glory to God!

Jason Reeves

(This is a reworking of a previous post that I’ve submitted for a project a friend is working on that will include 52 communion devotionals.)

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

blessing

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“…pronouncing a blessing puts you as close to God as you can get. To learn to look with compassion on everything that is; to see past the terrifying demons outside to the bawling hearts within; to make the first move toward the other, however many times it takes to get close; to open your arms to what is, instead of waiting until it is what it should be; to surrender the priority of your own safety for love – this is to land at God’s breast.” – “An Altar in the World,” Barbara Brown Taylor (p206)

Glory to God!

Jason

top five books of 2015

This year’s “top five” (technically six) are near and dear to my heart. I always attempt to read broadly. This year I’ve especially seemed to have read from a broad spectrum of books. Most all of the ones that I read this year could have made this list. However, these were particularly engaging (and renewing)….

51ACcP3EhHL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen is a book of hope. It reveals not only our capacity for ministering out of the healing the Gospel of Jesus provides, but the design of God as we minister out of that God-ordained healing. In a world defined by it’s brokenness, believers are defined by the healing that only those of the Kingdom embrace. If you are familiar with Nouwen then you know that every word of his writings centers upon spiritual formation and spiritual renewal. The Wounded Healer is no exception. If you are not familiar with Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer is an excellent place to begin.

for calvinismI thoroughly enjoyed reading two books designed to work in tandem with one another:against calvinism For Calvinism written by Michael Horton and Against Calvinism by Roger Olson. Horton is professor of theology and apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary in California. Olson is professor of theology at Truett Seminary at Baylor University. Both men are friends, and wrote the forwards for one another’s book, each being fully respectful of the other’s theological perspective, all the while making a concise case for their own systematic theology and belief system (note the tulips full of life on the left and wilted to the right). Whether Protestant or Catholic, Reformed or Arminian, Hyper-Calvinist or Remonstrant to the core, one of the brilliant aspects of these two works is the call to fully understand and respect where one another’s beliefs are founded, even, and especially, when we do not agree with the conclusions drawn.

surprised by hopeSimply Christian, Simply Jesus, and How God Became King are some of my favorite books by NT Wright. Wright’s hardwired academic posture and intentional pastoral heart are evident in his writing and ministry (I listen to Wright’s podcast constantly in the car). Surprised by Hope has possibly edged out How God Became King for my all time favorite book from my friend Tom’s pen. Surprised by Hope (a play on CS Lewis’ Surprised by Joy) is not only extremely readable (Wright can tend to be unashamedly very academic) but also super applicable and engaging for today’s postmodern/postChristian culture. Don’t allow the subheading “Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church” deter you. You won’t agree with everything in the book (if I only read those I full agreed with I’d only read me), I don’t, but you will indeed be challenged to think more critically in regard to the Kingdom of God and our role as those who are so blessed dwell within it.

interior castleWhen I propose these books each year I will often acknowledge that they have not all been written within the previous year or even previous several years. The Interior Castle is 427 years old. That’s probably a record for this venue. In The Interior Castle (El Castillo Interior), Teresa of Avila describes how, upon entering the “castle” (sense the concept of protection, safety, peace) through prayer and meditation, the human spirit experiences humility, detachment, suffering, and, ultimately, self-knowledge, as it roams from room to room. As we progress further toward the center of the castle, we come closer to achieving indefinable and perfect peace, and, finally, divine communion with God. Like her contemporary John of the Cross (cf. Dark Night of the Soul) Teresa is a Renaissance mystic. Out of the ancient mystic worldview we catch a glimpse of the contemporary call to spiritual discipline, humility, and to be overwhelmed by God.

eager to loveI’ve intentionally read much over the last number of years in pursuit of better understanding of, and better practice of, spiritual disciplines. My first book Renaissance: The End of Religion and Beginning of Something New focused on spiritual formation. My current work, Fortress: Timeless Spiritual Disciplines for Contemporary Christian Life, centers on spiritual disciplines (I’m only about a year into writing and still have several more before it’ll be released into the wild). I say all of that because much of my reading is bent in the direction of spiritual practices. Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi by Richard Rohr portrays the “alternative way” of following Jesus as revealed in the life of Francis of Assisi: one that disregarded power and privilege and held fast to the narrow path of the Gospel of Jesus. Rohr helps us look “beyond the birdbath image of the saint” to remind us of the long tradition founded upon his revolutionary, radical, and life-changing embrace of the teachings of Jesus. Rohr draws upon Scripture, insights from psychology, and literary and artistic references, to weave together an understanding of the tradition as practiced by Francis of Assisi. Rohr, a Franciscan priest, depicts how his own worldview and theology are firmly grounded in this way of life and teaching, and provides a perspective on how this “alternative way” to God can deepen and enrich our spiritual lives.

Well, there you have it. This year’s top five.

I read more than a dozen other books this year.

But if you ask me, these five are a perfect place to start.

Glory to God!

Jason