do not be afraid

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“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” – Psalm 27:1

I believe fear drives us more than we are aware. It drives our lives, it drives our relationships, it drives our churches more than we’d ever like to believe.

When children are small they’re often afraid of the dark. Maybe it’s a fear of the unknown or an internal fear of darkness, but many kids (and not a few adults) are afraid of the dark. And it’s amazing how a dim, little light plugged into the wall can put those concerns so at ease.

And so David in Psalm 27 writes as fear gives way to faith. Boldness, because of the God we serve. “The Lord is my light,” he declares. He is our light! And not just some puny Walmart night-light. The Lord is the sun that scatters the darkness in our lives. David continues, “The Lord is my salvation.” He is the One who rescues and the One who saves. “Whom shall I fear?” he asks. And look at how personal David’s words are: He is “my” light and “my” salvation. The Psalm originates out of the trust and reliance of David upon God. A trust that has grown through experiencing the power and provision of Almighty God time and time again. “The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Only when we are close to Him, are we completely protected. Only when we reside in Him, can we fully be at peace.

I wonder what fears you have today? I wonder what might be weighing upon your heart or upon your mind this moment?

• The fear of not being enough.
• The fear of inadequacy.
• The fear of being left out.
• The fear of rejection.
• The fear of past sins.
• The fear of present worries.
• The fear of an unknown and uncertain future.
• The fear of being found out that you aren’t who others think you are.
• The fear of (fill in the blank)….

If you can relate to fear, may I speak a word of hope to you today? God is God! He is strong. And He is faithful.

366 times in Scripture, He declares to his people, “Do not be afraid.” 366 times! One for every day of the year, plus leap year! And I believe the reason He affirms this command to us so many, many times is that we need to hear it! We need to be reminded.

God’s desire is that fear would give way to faith in the lives of those who belong to Him in Jesus.

Do not be afraid!

Glory to God!

Jason

holiness

Angel Sculpture Christian Stock Image

Holiness. Not the easiest concept for us to grasp. Oh I think we have an idea of holiness when it comes to God. But I wonder if we see it and believe it in ourselves?

So often we struggle with self. We struggle with self-doubt. And we struggle with self-righteousness. The question should never be: How do I see myself? The question should always be: How does God see me? And, how do I see God? This places us and God where we need to be.

Isaiah steps into the Temple and he’s not expecting much. But when he opens his eyes to the wonder and power and holiness of God, it’s then that Isaiah the priest becomes Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 6).

God is holy. He is pure. He is righteous. He is worthy. We understand His holiness no more clearly than when we are confronted by His magnificence and our own inadequacy.

But in this we find the beginning of our dilemma. Because no one knows us better than us. No one knows our inability to measure up to God better than we do. The Gospel calls us not only to salvation, but to see ourselves through the eyes of God. As those who have been made holy through the holy sacrifice of Christ. Holy not because of us, but because of Him. Holy not because of us, but in spite of us.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21-22).

Holy in His sight? Without blemish? Free from accusation? Yes! How? Through Jesus. God sees us as holy because He sees us through the lens of Jesus. And this is what we call “Gospel.” This is what we call “Good News.”

We’re tempted to not believe it. Maybe we understand it intellectually, but we struggle with allowing it to take hold of our hearts. Because doing so compels us to relinquish control. And to allow God to be God.

When King David prays to God, “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7b), literally in the Hebrew his prayer is: “Un-sin me….” “Cleanse me. God, take away my sin. Make me whiter than snow. Remove all my sin stain. Remove my guilt. Make me pure. Righteous. Holy. Accomplish that which I cannot accomplish on my own. Make me more like you.” And the amazing thing is, through hearts that turn to Him, He does just that.

To see ourselves as God sees us grants significant insight into faith. It empowers us to live more into (and out of) the lives that He has created for us to live in Christ Jesus.

Two questions remain: Will we allow Him to make us holy? And, do we believe that He can?

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

leaving the curtain torn

Cross of Salvation

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’….  And when Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:45-51).

From noon until 3pm, during the time of day when the sun is at its peak, darkness covers the planet, representative of course of the sin that Jesus bore on the cross.  At 3pm Jesus cries out in the words of Psalm 22, a Psalm of anguish and a Psalm of victory. Jesus cries out again and gives up His spirit, meaning, He chooses to die.  And “at that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

Here’s my question: How long was the curtain allowed to be torn?

Have you ever thought about that?  How long was the curtain allowed to be torn by the religious aristocracy? To the Jews who accepted Christ the tearing of the curtain meant no more obstruction, no more barrier between them and God.  To the Gentile it meant there was access granted to the One, True Living God that they had never known before. As believers today through this reality of 2000 years ago we recognize that we have access to the very presence of God and are ushered in to His glory through the sacrifice (and resurrection) of Jesus. But what about the Jews whose applecart had been upset?  Those who wanted everything to stay the same?  What about those “devout” Israelites who thought that they had the market cornered on God? What about the watchdog Pharisees who saw this as a threat to what was “right” and “proper”?

What do you suppose they did about the torn curtain?  The “veil that was rent” (to quote from the good king James)? Maybe they wrote it off as caused by the earthquake.  But Temple worship in Jerusalem continued another 40 years (until its destruction in AD 70). Did they leave the curtain torn do you think?  I bet not. Although well-intentioned, I would imagine they very quickly sewed it shut (or replaced it altogether). There’s no biblical or even extra-biblical evidence to support that notion.  But I just don’t see them leaving the curtain torn.  Do you?

Here’s my point: In Christ, God has unequivocally removed every hindrance from our living in His presence.  Right? And so why can’t we just leave it that way?

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

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

always before me

sadness“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me…” (Psalm 51:1-3).

King David.  The man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22; cf. 1 Samuel 13:14).  The David of David and Goliath.  Confesses, “My sin is always before me.”

My sin is always before me.

My sin is always before me.

“I can’t get away from it.”  “It consumes me.”  “I am overwhelmed by it.”

And yet, over time and by God’s grace, he does get away from it.  And it ceases to consume him.  The burden is removed.  David becomes overwhelmed not by his sin but by God’s grace.  And finally, finally, he breathes a cleansing sigh of relief, as his sin is no longer always before him.

sadnessWhen we consider Psalm 51 in it’s entirety, we witness God doing for us that which we cannot accomplish for ourselves.  Taking away that which positions us in conflict with Him and with ourselves and with others.  And allowing us to not be defined by our sin, but rather, to be defined as men and women after His own heart.

“Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.  O you who hear prayer, to you all humanity will come.  When we were overwhelmed by our sins, you forgave our transgressions” (Psalm 65:1-3).

“My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.”

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

anyone

water“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37).

Anyone.  Anyone who is thirsty.  Anyone.  Anyone who thirsts.  Anyone who has become dissatisfied with a lifeless life.  Discontent with existing but not living.  Anyone.

Jesus stands on the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles and declares that for those who are spiritually thirsty, living water is a present reality.

During the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles there were two primary ceremonies.  One was the Festival of Lights in which lamps were lit all around the Temple courtyard on the final night commemorating the restoration of the Temple by the Maccabees during the intertestamental period.  It is as the light of these lamps floods the Temple grounds that Jesus stands and exclaims, “I AM the Light of the World.”  Earlier on the final day of Tabernacles was the water libation ceremony in which water would be poured out before the people upon an altar symbolizing the water from the rock in the desert wandering (Exodus 17) through which God saved and provided for His people.  It is during this ceremony that Jesus stands and declares, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture reveals, streams of living water will flow” (John 7:37-38).

Ripples in the Blue WaterA few chapters earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus had spoken similar words to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink the water I give them will never thirst again” (John 4:13-14).

“This water” (I envision Jesus motioning toward the well).  Physical water.  The water of this world.  Or “living water.”  The choice is ours.

Why do we continue to believe that this world has anything to offer that satisfies?  Why do we find ourselves returning to the well of despair?  The well of heartache?  The well of futility?  Rather than drinking deep from the well of life?  The living water of the Kingdom of Jesus.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8a).

“As the deer pants for streams of water so my souls longs for you O God.  My soul thirsts for the Living God” (Psalm 42:1-2a).

Living God.  Living water.  Life that is life.  Life that is filled.  For anyone who is thirsty.  Anyone.

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