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

gigi

My beautiful grandmother, Laura Rains Hargrove, slipped quietly into eternity this morning as she slept. She was awesome! A woman of grace and humility and prayer. And the epitome of cool. She was a constant for our family. Steadfast. And she will be painfully and dearly missed. But we will see her again. Glory to God!

I love this picture of my grandparents:

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transformative thinking

transformed

“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 for (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 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

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

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

life between sundays

worship, word

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.  We yearn for Sunday because on Sunday we commune with God the Father, Son, and Spirit, and we commune with one another as His church.  But 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 worship of Him during the week.  Our communal worship works in tandem with our spiritual practice.  Worship on Sunday is not the culmination of our week but rather works in synergy with the fundamental practice of spiritual disciplines throughout the week.  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 prayerfully we are.  But when we consume the 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)

What conversations, practices, and disciplines allow “heaven to fill your thoughts” as you live life between Sundays?

Glory to God!

Jason