blessing

blessing

“…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

a bit of a sabbath rest

JesusStatue

I’ve been away from the blogosphere quite a lot lately (as if you haven’t noticed). With our move to Rockwall (which has been a house of healing for us), the busyness of family (everyone is doing fantastic!), the commitment of ministry (God is alive here!), and working on my next book (see the “my book(s)” tab above), I simply haven’t had the capacity to invest much time in this space. My plan is to take a bit of a sabbatical, post a “top five” in December of the books that I’ve read this year, and then reboot in January. “Talk” to you soon. God is faithful.

Glory to God!

Jason

unity and oneness

Jesus Stained Glass Religious Stock Image

During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. would speak of moving “from the who to the what.”  Both after the murders of Freedom Riders: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi and then after the beating death of Princeton Seminary student James Reeb in Alabama, King declared “it’s not so much who killed them but what killed them.”  And “when we move from the who to the what, in a very real way we begin to see that we are all in this together.”

Of course the “what” was the underlying motive of hate and bigotry and disunity that permeated so much of the world-view of the day.  A world-view which in many ways has yet to be overcome.  In regard to unity among races and cultures as a whole we still have a very long way to go.

In the church we are called to unity in Christ.  To be one in Jesus.  We who are many and yet comprise one body through the Gospel are called to oneness.  The Apostle Paul implores, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3-6).  Only God can bring this about.  We are different in many, many ways.  The call however is to unity, not uniformity.  To “move from the who to the what.”  That we would be united in spite of ourselves.  In spite of our differences.  Indeed we only truly know if we are united when we have differences.  In many ways we have a long way to go.  However we serve a God whose mercies are new every morning.  A God who has revealed Himself as faithful throughout the history of mankind.  And a God and who is at work in a wonderful way in the life of His people today.

We begin with the Gospel and we begin with grace.  For when we begin to see ourselves in our need for God and in our need for His mercy, the playing field begins to be made level, and all pride is taken away.  Only then will God begin to bring about unity.

Jesus on the night before the cross prays for Himself, His disciples, and then for us: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20b-23).

How is it that the world will believe and know the truth of God made manifest in Christ?

Only when they see unity and oneness in His people….

Glory to God!

Jason

the reeves crew and rockwall

er_welcome_logoThe Reeves crew is very excited to announce we’ll be making the move to Rockwall where we will be ministering with the Eastridge Church of Christ.

We’ll be burning up the road over the next several months, commuting on the weekends to Rockwall while the kids finish the school year in Tyler.

a_place_for_you_ministriesWe are so humbled to be a part of the amazing things God is accomplishing through the Eastridge Church. A church with a wonderful history of unity and Kingdom-thinking.

Please be in prayer for our transitional time.

Glory to God!

Jason

straining at the oars

Sail Boat Bulletin Cover

At times we are tempted to think that we do this all on our own.

I was once talking with a friend who was struggling. He was going through a difficult time in his life and there was no easy solution. It was going to take time and it was going to take God.

In a moment of frustration he said to me, “I feel like I’m a just a speck in the ocean that’s being tossed all around and nobody knows but me.”

Maybe you’ve been there.

Maybe you’re there now.

I had a professor who would say, “Speak to those who are weary and hurting. Speak to them often. We are so very fragile.”

And so if that’s you today, I want to share with you an encouraging thought from God’s Word.

In Mark’s Gospel the account of Jesus walking on the water generally the miracle itself is our focus. The event comes right after the feeding of the thousands on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and His disciples had actually travelled across the sea to spend some needed time away from the masses, but are immediately inundated as they arrive. After the crowds are filled and leave, Jesus sends the disciples on their way, now across to the other side, as He goes on a mountainside to pray and spend intentional time with God (we should learn from Jesus).

“When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on the land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night (3-6am) He went out to them, walking on the lake” (Mark 6:47-48a).

If you go on reading you see where Jesus steps into their boat and immediately, powerfully, divinely calms the wind and the waves and the storm. Looking to Matthew’s account we see where Peter has the faith to step out of the boat and actually walks on the water toward Jesus! But when he takes his eyes off of Christ and becomes fearful of the chaos around him, he quickly sinks (something we should take to heart).

Here’s what I’ve been getting at…. Mark says that the disciples were rowing in the boat in the “middle of the lake.” John affirms they were “three and a half miles out to sea” (John 6:19). Jesus, as He is on a mountainside praying, sees the disciples “straining at the oars.” They’re three and a half miles out to sea! At 3am! Half way across the Sea of Galilee at 3am and yet Jesus divinely sees those He is closest to struggling. He sees those that He loves “straining at the oars.” He sees them pounded by the wind and the waves, tossed back and forth in a sea of uncertainly, and it’s immediately upon seeing His disciples struggle that He is filled with compassion and begins to walk toward them across the water.

The love of Christ is revealed in our Savior’s actions as He comes to us in our time of need.

This is what I want you to hear: You are not alone.

You have a Savior who is filled with compassion as He sees you “straining at the oars.”

Glory to God!

Jason

i once was lost

Green Field Website Banner

“Where would I be without Christ?”

If I were to pose the question, and have you ask it of yourself, what thoughts immediately come to mind?

(I’ll wait a few moments for you to think and carry this through a bit).

“Where would I be without Christ?”

We all approach a question like this from differing perspectives. From varying backgrounds. Some were raised with a Christian worldview. Others come to Christ much later in life. But regardless of the journey, surely we’ve come to a maturity of faith that recognizes our reality in Jesus. And in our understanding of who we are in Christ, do we ever consider who we would be were it not for the Lord in our lives?

Without Christ we are lost. Lost. Lost to ourselves. Lost in ourselves. In our sin. In our own depravity. Perhaps a sober consideration of past failings brings us to an inkling of who we would be were it not for the Spirit of Christ. And I believe it can be extremely healthy to recognize who you and I would be without Him. The reality that without Him we would be morally ruined. Spiritually bankrupt. When we come to this conclusion, we in turn are better enabled to minister to those who are indeed outside of Christ.

The Apostle Paul opens our eyes to who we are outside of covenant with God when he writes, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were…” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). However, praise God his pen continues, “But, you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v11).

The wonderful question that comes out of Paul’s message to these Christians is: “Who can be saved?” And the answer that wonderfully springs to life in verse 11 is: “Anybody!”

Do we see those who are outside of Christ for their lostness? Are we aware that they are who they are and do the things that they do and live the way that they live because they’re lost? How else do we expect them to live? They’re lost! Do we see them in and for and through their lostness?

If so, does it elicit compassion or disdain on our part? In our heart of hearts, are we filled with the loving kindness of God for them? Or is there a slight (or not so slight) hint of contempt?

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.

Glory to God!

Jason

communicating Christ

Megaphone

The way information is processed and is passed on evolves over time. From word of mouth and letters carried by the Pony Express to the latest multi-media blurb found on the internet, the way information is effectively shared and received continues to develop day by day, year after year.

In the early days of newspapers, when newspapers were the primary method of delivering the news, when something big had occurred, the publisher would not only publish the usual daily paper, but would also publish an “Extra.” The extra newspapers were sold on the street corners, often by newsboys, who had a stack of papers and would sell them to those who passed by. When an Extra was published, the newsboys would call out “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” to call attention to the fact that something big had happened, and an extra bit of pressing news had been published.

How do we go about sharing the Good News of Christ? How do we go about communicating Christ in a post-modern and, some would advocate, a post-Christian, culture? What is effective? What is not? What was once effective but no longer is? How do we adapt? It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over believing a different outcome will be the result. The message of Jesus remains the same. But how do we go about carrying out the mission of Christ in the contemporary world we find ourselves? Sound discussion has taken the place of fierce argumentation. Praise God!  However many today ask the question: “Is there really anything that’s worth discussing?”

Christianity has always existed as a culture within a culture. Being a mission-minded people and effectively carrying out the mission of Christ entails both a striving after the Kingdom and an understanding of the environments we find ourselves a part.

The Apostle Paul affirms, “I have become all things to all mankind, so that by all means possible, I might save some.” Same message. Differing methods. No one has all the answers. But I believe asking the questions is a step in the right direction.

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