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

practicing the presence of God

Man In Prayer

Our journey of life is such that when we open our spiritual eyes we begin to see God at work all around us.

The Psalmist King, David asks, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths you are there” (Psalm 139:7-8). God is all around us. He is at work in and through us and everything in life if we will simply have eyes that see. I believe this is a crucial part of faith. And maybe where mature faith comes in? Because faith that is mature has the ability to see God at work in life. Faith that is mature has the ability to see the potential for God in every facet of life. A mature faith practices living in the very presence of God.

Our faith must be real to us, if it is to be real to the world. In order for our Father to be a present reality to others through the lives we live, He must first and foremost be a present reality to us. There is within every person an innate need for Christ and Christian community. A wholeness that only comes from relationship with God in Jesus. And yet do we reveal Christ and fidelity to Him in such a way as to compel others to acknowledge and pursue our Lord and pursue faith in Him?

Think about the things that so many are searching for… a sense of belonging, validation, approval, meaning and purpose in life, a greater understanding of self, acceptance, love, to be challenged, living beyond themselves, a banner under which to claim allegiance… all of which are only fully found and fulfilled in a relationship with God through Christ and within the community of faith.

But… is that what we offer them? And (maybe a better and more personal question)… do we wholly find our belonging, meaning, purpose, etc. in Him?

What if we daily practiced the presence of God? By that I mean, what if every moment of life we were intrinsically cognizant that we were in the presence of God? What if everything, every moment, of life was lived with the acute awareness that we were in our Father’s presence. (Because we are! Right?) What if we daily practiced fully living in His presence? How might that change things?

Paul says, “To live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21). Think about those four words…. To live is Christ. Can we (you) really say that and mean it?

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

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

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

getting off the ladder

dressupWhen we are children, we think about what we will become.  Who we will become.  We dream of who we will be.  What we will do.  The things we will accomplish.

It’s doubtful that we’ve all become cowboys, astronauts, and racecar drivers.  We learn to adapt.  We change our minds.  We face setbacks.

ladderAll of this thinking, however, is on a physical level.  No matter how high we climb the ladder our view is seriously impeded until we begin to see life through spiritual eyes.  Only when we get off the ladder and begin to ascend the mountain of God does the view ever change.  Only when we ascend the mountain does our perspective change.

The Psalmist exclaims to God, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13).

The Apostle Paul pens, “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

And in Ephesians 2:10 he affirms, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

mountainRegardless of vocation.  Regardless of situation.  Regardless of circumstance.  Regardless of victory or defeat.  To begin to see every moment of life as God-ordained.  Christ-centered.  Spirit-filled. And Kingdom-embracing.

God meets His people not at the top of the ladder, but upon the mountain (Hebrews 12:22).

Too often we assess our value as to where we are on the ladder (physical), rather than how we are living up to our calling as believers (spiritual).

When we get off the ladder and begin to climb the mountain of God it is then that we not only begin to become acutely aware of our calling in life, but it is then, and only then, that we begin to achieve the very things that our Father has created us and purposed us to do.

Glory to God!

Jason

giving up our rights

court house

“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 grandmother is 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 my impact some of our struggling relationships?

Glory to God!

Jason

preoccupied with preoccupation

arms outstretchedRecently in our Wednesday evening class we discussed these words of the Apostle Paul from Philippians 4, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11b-13).

In an extremely genuine and experiential way, the Apostle unveils his secret.  The secret to life.  The secret to a life that can weather the storms.  The secret to being content.  To being satisfied.  The secret to joy in life.  The secret?  Jesus.

So many are preoccupied with preoccupation.  What I mean by that is it is so remarkably easy for us to con ourselves into thinking that existence is life.  That the things that constitute our day somehow constitute life.  The full life that Christ offers.  Aren’t our lives bigger than that?  Jesus would put it this way, “Aren’t you much more valuable than those things?” (Matthew 6:26).

Angry, Frustrated WomanSo many of us grew up singing the song: “I’m all wrapped up, tied up, tangled up in Jesus” but now find ourselves “all wrapped, tied up, tangled up in life.”  But in reality it’s not life.  It’s existence.

The secret to life is Jesus.  The secret to a life that can weather the storms is Jesus.  The secret to being content is Jesus.  The secret to being satisfied is Jesus.  The secret to joy in life is Jesus.

The Apostle Paul says with a smile (I picture him with a smile), “I have learned the secret… Jesus.”

When the believer finally let’s go of the preoccupation and reaches to “Him who gives me strength,” it is then and only then that contentment will become an ever present reality.

Glory to God!

Jason

ten words

blurred, man standing, subway

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14).  Ten words.  That changed everything.

In an instant, everything changed.  It was all in God’s divine plan.  All in His divine providence.  All founded in His divine initiative.

Decades later (and especially a century later), the incarnation would be at the center of debate.  There were many who questioned the validity of the Word becoming flesh.  It wasn’t entirely Christ’s deity that was under scrutiny.  It wasn’t solely His humanity that was doubted.  It was the mental gymnastics required to accept that He was both.  Divine and human.  Simultaneously.  Upon initial consideration, can we blame them?  We have the benefit of 2000 years of theology.  But the reality that Christ was 100% God and 100% human, you have to admit, is a doctrine that must be based solely upon faith.  Because it makes no earthly sense.

But He was.  Christ was with God in the beginning (John 1:1).  And then He became (John 1:14).  He became, He took on flesh, and He lived and walked and ministered among us.  The incarnation is intended to blow our minds.  And it should!  That God was willing, that Christ was willing, to “take on the nature of a servant” and be made “in human likeness” and to become “obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:1-11) should amaze us!  It is certainly designed to.

walkAnd the amazement of the incarnation must not end there.  Because the wonder of it all is that Christ is “incarnate” in us (if we can use that terminology).  God is revealed “in the flesh” when His people live out our calling as those who belong to Him.

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).  Verse 27 comes at the conclusion of an entire section of Paul’s letter to the Colossian church which centers upon the incarnation of God in Jesus.  He then transitions to the incarnation of Christ, in us!

That a holy God would, through His perfect Son, reside within an unholy and imperfect people should amaze us!  It is certainly designed to.  Our reality as those who have been sanctified by the Spirit purposes you and I to reveal His deity in our humanity.  In our divine and human nature(s).  Christ is us, the hope of glory.

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14).  Ten words.  That changed everything.  Ten words.  That change us still.

Glory to God!

Jason

the fullness of obedience

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As I write this article I have eight commentaries, four Bibles, and two hermeneutical texts on my desk to help with one particular verse that I’d like for us to consider today.  I seldom refer to quite so many, and generally choose for us to be less technical during our “time” here, but in this case I wanted to unpack one specific verse of Hebrews a bit, only to begin to initiate our thoughts in this direction.

First the context: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.  Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and designated by God to be High Priest in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:7-10).

Jesus’ submissiveness and faith is certainly at the center of the Hebrew writer’s thesis.  The Messiah willfully chooses the cross so that we might be saved.  He is our High Priest, interceding on our behalf as both priest and king, without beginning and without end (“in the order of Melchizedek” – see Genesis14 – Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness”).

But the one idea I’d like for us to focus upon is that our Savior “learned obedience” from what He suffered (v8).  I understand the author’s impetus in that Christ is “made perfect.”  He is made whole/complete/glorified as He is resurrected by the power of God.  Atonement for sin is achieved.  Eternity secured.  But what does it mean that He “learned obedience”?

Are we to deduce that Christ had not “learned obedience” until the cross?!  Absolutely not.  So what then does it mean?

Transforming CrossWhat if we were to read verse 8 like this: “Christ experienced obedience from what He suffered”?  Does that help us in our understanding of what is being communicated?  Or, “Christ learned by experiencing the fullness of His obedience”?  Does that change our perspective?

Christ’s entire life and existence defines discipline and fidelity to the Father.  Obedience characterizes the whole of our Savior’s existence.  We are called to imitate His obedience and discipline as we strive to live called lives (Philippians 2:1-11).  And yet what is being communicated to us here in Hebrews 5:8 is Christ’s experience of the fullness of His obedience.  The Apostle John shares something similar as he describes the Upper Room scene where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love” (John 13:1).  It’s not as if He had not revealed His love prior to the moment.  And certainly His love will be made manifest the follow morning!  But through the servanthood of the Lord in the Upper Room, the Apostle describes the revelation of the Savior’s love as it is experienced by His disciples as He washes their feet.

The culmination of the life of Christ, a life lived in complete and total surrender to the Father’s will, is revealed as He “humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).  As Christ experienced the fullness of His obedience.

Therefore when Jesus calls us as His disciples to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23) experiencing the fullness of obedience, each and every day, is what He is after!

Glory to God!

Jason