explaining why

wave

Horatio Spafford and his wife Anna had moved from England to the United States to build a life together. They had 5 children: four daughters and a son. The family settled in Chicago where Spafford began a successful law practice.

Within a matter of a few years the couple’s life began to fall apart. Their infant son passed away without warning in 1871. Later that same year Spafford’s law office burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire, ruining him financially. Two years later, 1873, as they were seeking to rebuild, Anna and the girls set sail to visit family in England. Horatio, delayed by business, made plans to follow in the coming weeks.

On its way to England, the SS Ville De Havre, the ship Anna and the girls were aboard, collided with another ship and sank. As Anna reached the shores of Europe she telegraphed her husband two crippling words, “Saved alone.” All four of their daughters had drowned. Only she had survived.

While trying to make sense of all of the tragedy that had occurred and was occurring in his life, as he crossed the Atlantic Ocean, Horatio Spafford penned these words on a borrowed piece of hotel stationary….

When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

When peace like a river attendeth my way…. What I hear Spafford describing is a beautiful portrait of a gentle river that runs along side the pathway he is travelling. It is a river that accompanies him on his journey. And it is a river of peace.

The Apostle Paul writes of a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). A peace that transcends reason. A peace that even in the midst of tragedy accompanies us on our journey. A peace that is found in Christ.

I wonder if we truly know that sort of peace? I wonder if we experience it often? A peace that stills anxiety. A peace that quiets stress. A peace that heals tragedy. Does that sort of peace accompany you every step of the way in your journey of life?

True peace is found only in Christ. Only in closeness with Him. So often we find ourselves searching for calm. Searching for serenity. Searching for inner stillness. What we are seeking is a peace that is only found in Jesus. Wonderful, soothing, healing peace.

And when peace begins to overwhelm and characterize our lives – especially in those moments when we cannot explain how – we can indeed explain why.

Glory to God!

Jason

the gratitude we embrace

Daddy and Daughter Religious Stock Graphic

Corrie ten Boom in her book, The Hiding Place, relates an incident she endured as she and her sister, Betsie, were housed at the Nazi concentration camp, Ravensbruck.  Upon entering the barracks, they found them deplorable, extremely overcrowded, and flea-infested.  The Scripture reading that morning came from 1 Thessalonians.  From a smuggled Bible quietly verses 16-18 of chapter 5 were whispered to the group.  “Be joyful always.  Pray continually.  Be thankful to God in all circumstances….”  Betsie encouraged Corrie that they should stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters.  Every detail.  Even the fleas!  Corrie at first refused, but Betsie persisted.  Finally, reluctantly, “Father, thank you for the fleas.”  During the next several months at Ravensbruck, they were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible studies and meet together.  They prayed and quietly worshipped with minimal Nazi interference.  Finally they came to learn how they had been so blessed as to have lived with such little intrusion… the guards had refused to enter the barracks because of all of the fleas!

“Be joyful always.  Pray continually.  Be thankful to God in all circumstances….”

Matthew Henry in the late 1600’s was attacked and robbed.  Later he wrote, “Father, I thank Thee first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.”

“Be joyful always.  Pray continually.  Be thankful to God in all circumstances….”

Helen Keller, blind and deaf from birth, once wrote: “I thank God for my handicaps.  For through them, I have found myself, my life’s work, and my God.”

“Be joyful always.  Pray continually.  Be thankful to God in all circumstances….”

The thankfulness we exemplify in life reflects the relationship we share with our Lord, the objectivity and perspective we have of life, and the gratitude we embrace in His love for us.

Glory to God!

Jason

straining at the oars

oregon coast

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 college 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 we’re presented a unique perspective of 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 church family that loves you dearly. And you have a Savior who is filled with compassion as He sees you “straining at the oars.”

Glory to God!

Jason

a radical change of mind

man praying

“You’ve heard it said….  But I say….” we hear our Lord proclaim over and over in the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus reinterprets.  He reforms.  He reprioritizes.  “I know that you’ve heard it this way….”  “I know that human nature says to respond like this….”  “I know that you bring your own presuppositions to the table….”  “I know this is the way that you once thought of things… but now, things are different.”

Jesus steps into our world and transforms our thinking, our ideologies, our worldviews, our way of life.

Here’s a tough one He tackles: “Love your enemies.”  “You’ve heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Love your enemies!?  I have a hard enough time getting along with my friends!  Pray (bless) those who persecute you!?  Are you serious?

And it’s an active love for our enemies.  And it’s a very tall order!  More than just a passive bearing of persecution or hatred.  Loving them.  Blessing them.  Doing good to them.  For them.  Regardless of who they are or what they’ve done.

In this and in countless other ways Jesus calls for a radical paradigm shift.  A radical change of mind.  A change of perspective.  A change of heart.

We see Jesus exemplify His own teaching as He prays for God to forgive those who are responsible for His death (Luke 23:34).  But what about we who are ultimately those who are responsible because of our sin?

The Apostle Paul connects the dots for us: But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!  For if, while 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!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:8-11).

You see while we were still enemies of God, Christ died on our behalf.

“Love your enemies.”  It’s one of those areas of the Gospel and one of those areas of our life and faith that we would just as soon ignore.  It’s about a radical change of mind.  From a mindset that is worldly to one that is of the Kingdom.  It’s about seeing the potential for the magnificent impact of the Gospel of Jesus in the most unlikeliest of places.  Just like God saw it in you, and in me.

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

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

peace of mind

Prayer

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

There is a divine connection between prayer and peace.  A divine connection that is undeniable.  An often untapped resource in which through believing prayer we embrace the peace of God.  The peace that transcends (that passes) all understanding.  It is not a random, nebulous, temporary state defined by this world, but rather, it is all together otherworldly.  It comes from no place else.  It can be experienced in no other way.  It is a gift from the Father to His children.  It originates in heaven.  From the throne of God.  From the heart of God.  A gift from Him.  To us.

Does God wrestle with fear?  Is He ever wrought with doubt?  Does He tremble with anxiety?  Of course not!  He is God.  He is sovereign.  And He alone is God.

This is the very peace of mind He offers to us through Jesus.  Through prayer.  A peace that guards our hearts and minds.  Why?  Because our hearts and minds are where the Enemy so often attacks.

The Apostle Paul utilizes a military analogy when he pens, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  The word “guard” can be understood as a garrison.  A fortress.  A place of seclusion.  Of protection.  Of strength.

His peace.

His peace that is beyond comprehension.  His peace that is experienced amidst tragedy.  In the middle of lunacy.  At the height of agony.

Peace that is granted to us from the throne room of heaven, and is a gift from the heart of God to those He loves.

Glory to God!

Jason

just to be

Ocean BulletinI like Thanksgiving more than Christmas.  Is that ok for me to say?  It’s not that I dislike Christmas.  Or that I dislike giving gifts.  Or receiving Starbucks gift cards… (Hint.  Hint.)  Both holidays provide an atmosphere of thankfulness and appreciation that we choose to embrace.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy traveling or eating or sharing or spending time with extended family.  I do.  We do that with both holidays.  I think what it is, is, the busyness of it all.  To me, and maybe this is just me, but it seems like with Thanksgiving there’s less of an agenda.  Sure we plan and schedule and balance time with family and friends, but I think I like Thanksgiving more simply because Thanksgiving just is.  It just is.  The goal is just to be.

We carve out time just to be.

Sail BoatI love the portrait of Christ and His followers in Mark 4.  Jesus’ disciples find themselves in a desperate situation as their boat is overwhelmed in a storm, at night, on the Sea of Galillee.  Where is Jesus?  Asleep.  As He stands to His feet after being awakened by His panic-stricken followers, He “rebukes the wind, and says to the waves, ‘Quiet!  Be still!’  Then the wind dies down and it is completely calm” (Mark 4:39).

Here’s my point: Things are about to get busy.  For you and your family.  If they aren’t already.  And odds are that between now and New Year’s some of us are going to find ourselves a bit overwhelmed.  A little overextended.  Slightly (ok, maybe more than just slightly) overcommitted.  And maybe even more than moderately stressed.

My prayer, is that we would allow Christ to step in and bring calm.  That we would be receptive of Him as He speaks stillness into our lives.  That we would intentionally create opportunities to simply be still.  And to carve out time to just be, with Him.

To “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

If we will, I believe we will find the seas of life a little calmer; and face the storms of life with a little more boldness.

Glory to God!

Jason

sanctuary

SanctuarySLIDE

At WE on Sunday mornings we are investing into a pursuit of “Sanctuary.”  An admission on behalf of God’s people that we yearn for solace.  And an admission on behalf of God’s people that true sanctuary is only found in Him.

“A place of refuge” is our subheading that we are working under.  The theme of God as our refuge is a common thread throughout the Psalms and so each week we are centering ourselves and building upon one of the Psalms that invite us into the presence of God as we take refuge, solace, sanctuary in Him.

Psalm 18 is one of my favorites.  It’s not one that we are going to consider as a primary text during this Sunday morning series largely because I fully acknowledge that I come to this well very often.  But truth be told, I come to this well often because, for me, it is so deep, and it’s water so pure.  It is a Psalm like so many of the Psalms that indeed ushers us into the wonderful presence of God.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:1-3).

Our working definition of “Sanctuary” is: a place of refuge; a safe haven; a space of protection; a quiet, still place of rest.

In the coming weeks we’ll navigate through the theme of God as our sanctuary, we as His sanctuaries, and the church as sanctuary.

I want to encourage each of us not only to intentionally come and be a part of our time of worship with one another, but to also seek out friends and loved ones who might be inclined to share in this theme of “Sanctuary.”

Because if I’m correct in this, there are many who could use a little more sanctuary in life.

Glory to God!

Jason