the God of the towel

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Ministering 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).

John’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

you are not alone

“God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:16b-18).

There’s a lot that has brought the Apostle John to this point in his first letter.  There are those who feel as if they have the market cornered on God and who readily belittle others who they consider as “less spiritual.” John writes to encourage those who are taking criticism and who are truly seeking to have high view of God and humble view of themselves.

The theme of “love” is a thread that runs throughout John’s literature.  John assures that the very nature of God is love.  The Apostle affirms that love is not only the foundation of our relationship with the Father, but is foundational in our relationship with others.  With both those whom we agree and those we do not.

Everything of course is encompassed within Jesus’ beautiful message: “God so loved…” (John 3:16).

But here in 1 John, the Apostle moves from “love” to “fear.”  “There is no fear in love.”  “Perfect love drives out fear.”  The connection to love (and context of John’s message) is enveloped in relationship.  Relationship with God.  And relationship with others.  And what I believe our Father through His servant John hopes to communicate with us in this is that for those who are in a right relationship with God fear is not a part of the equation.  The perfect love of God revealed in the Gospel of Jesus drives it away.  However, if we were to be honest, we each, very often, have our fears.  And even though John is speaking of eternity and how there is no fear (“condemnation” to use Paul’s word – cf. Romans 8:1) for those who are in Christ Jesus, I wonder what might be weighing on your heart and mind right now?

I wonder: What is it that you’re afraid of?  What is it that is causing you concern right now?  What is it that is weighing you down?  What is it that is keeping you up at night?  What is it that is dividing your attention?  What are your fears?

Because the message of Jesus can be summed up in these words: “You are not alone.”

Jon Walker in his book, Costly Grace, writes: “Fear whispers in our ear that we face danger alone, that God is unaware of our plight and that Jesus is unavailable in our time of need” (p217).

You are not alone.  You can trust God.  You can trust our Father.  You can trust Him.

You are not alone.

Glory to God!

Jason

the pursuit of God

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For all of its immenseness (yes it’s a word – all I had to do was hit “ignore” on spell-check!) the Bible, although a lifetime of study only scratches the surface, entails an extremely simple story.

God creates humanity.  Humanity rejects God.  God relentlessly pursues humanity.

The overarching story of Scripture is the redemptive work of a God who would not let us go.

Whatever the expanse between us and God, He will traverse the gap.

Our God is a pursuing God.

He pursues us with His grace, with His mercy, with His love.

The Gospel message itself is of a God who relentlessly pursues us through Jesus.

Glory to God!

Jason

making room

 

“The church would be great if it weren’t for all the people.”

“Leave the church and get closer to God.”

“Jesus, Yes.  The church, No.”

I understand where those who make such declarations are coming from.  Or at least, I grasp what would evoke such statements.

Most often they originate from a moment of frustration.  At times, after years of effort.  These words are spoken out of angst and anguish.  Out of the burden and desire to unreservedly worship and praise and serve a perfect God in our complete and total imperfection.  These feelings and emotions are generated out of a belief that we make faith much more complicated than it was ever intended to be.

However when we look intently to the paradigm of the Kingdom, we become acutely aware that we need one another.  We cannot be all that God intends for us to be without Kingdom relationships.  Without Christian community.  We are greatly impeded in our ability to live up to our potential as believers without journeying through life together.  Without loving one another.  Encouraging one another.  Challenging one another.  We cripple the communal design of the Gospel and Kingdom when we do not develop intentional Christ-following, Kingdom-centered relationships.  Much of our journey of faith is based upon our own individual relationship with God.  Our own willful choosing to be His people every moment.  However, without Christian community we hobble our spiritual development and Kingdom impact.

What is needed is grace.  Not only God’s grace to us, but His grace from us.  God’s grace in us, freely given to others.  Openly extended to others.  We have to make room.  To allow room.  Each of us do.  To make room in our hearts for others.  The problem is that we are seldom aware of our own Pharisaical tendencies.  Relationships are not always easy.  But they are always healthy when they are focused upon Christ.  And when focused upon the greater purpose of the Kingdom.

Glory to God!

Jason

another way of life

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In January of 1863 Abraham Lincoln made public his intentions to abolish slavery in the United States, in the form of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Civil war erupted.  Lincoln was soon assassinated.  And it wasn’t until December of 1865, nearly three years later, that Lincoln’s dream was realized as the 13th Amendment of the Constitution was passed, abolishing slavery.

Word soon spread throughout the country.  From Capital Hill into every state of the south the headlines of every newspaper read, “Slavery Abolished!”

Yet something happened that no one had expected.  Something that no one (especially in the north) could have imagined.  A war had been fought.  A president assassinated.  A law had been signed.  However many slaves in the south, who had been set free, willfully chose to remain with their masters.  To, in essence, continue to live as slaves.  Many for the rest of their lives.

And the question that began to be asked was, “Why?”  Why would once enslaved men, women, and children who had been freed, emancipated, why would they continue to live in bondage and in fear.  As brutal and as cruel as their old master was, why would they willingly choose to work in his fields, live under his oppression, and remain under his thumb?  Why after being liberated, would so many choose the security of slavery, over the risks of liberty?

The answer?

Because they knew no other way of life.

“I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a child belongs to it forever.  So if the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).

I wonder if that might hit home for some of us?

Glory to God!

Jason

top 5 books of 2017

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It amazes me how quickly this year has passed by. For whatever reason, for me, 2017 has absolutely flown by! That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it really has.

Practically everything I’ve read this year has been from CS Lewis. Everything. I’ve always been a CS Lewis fan but wanted to be intentional in reading books from his pen this year, as well as what others have said about his life and work.

If you’re looking for a place to start with CS Lewis, start with The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape is a fictional work in which Lewis, through his vivid, brilliant imagination, allows us to peer into the spiritual realm of darkness. In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis grants us access into the “correspondence” between the “elder devil” Screwtape as he communicates to the novice Wormwood on how to best derail his “patient” (his assigned human) and turn him against “the Enemy” (God). I’ve read Screwtape a number of times over the years. Over a decade ago I told my friend Kevin that I was not interested in reading anything fiction: “I’m an academic I don’t have time for that nonsense.” Kevin replied, “But surely you’ve read The Screwtape Letters?” He was appalled when I said that I had not and immediately sent me a copy in the mail. I read it in two days. And I was hooked! Each and every time I’ve read it since it draws me in. What a concept! Since reading Screwtape, I’ve ventured in to the lands of Lewis’ Narnia, as well as Tolkien’s Shire and Middle Earth. These adventures are dear to me.

The next stop should be Lewis’ Mere ChristianityBringing together Lewis’ legendary broadcast talks during World War 2 Mere Christianity provides an unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear this powerful apologetic for the Christian faith.

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of my Early Life is Jack Lewis’ autobiography. And when you read it you’ll find out why family and friends called him “Jack.” In Surprised by Joy, Lewis takes readers on a spiritual journey through his early life and eventual embrace of the Christian faith. He begins with his childhood in Belfast, surveys his boarding school years and his eventual atheism in England, reflects on his experience in World War I, introduces us to his friend and colleague JRR Tolkien, and then concludes with Oxford where he became “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” As he recounts his lifelong search for joy, Lewis demonstrates its role in guiding him to find God.

Another book that I thoroughly enjoyed this year was A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War by Joseph Laconte. I read this book just a couple of years ago but reread it anew recently. The subtitle of the work is: How JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918. One commentator writes, “The First World War laid waste to a continent and permanently altered the political and religious landscape of the West. For a generation of men and women, it brought the end of innocence—and the end of faith. Yet for JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, the Great War deepened their spiritual quest. Both men served as soldiers on the Western Front, survived the trenches, and used the experience of that conflict to ignite their Christian imagination. Had there been no Great War, there would have been no Hobbit, no Lord of the Rings, no Narnia, and perhaps no conversion to Christianity by CS Lewis.” I will say that A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War is not for everyone, but if you are a CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien fan you won’t be disappointed.

Another biography that I’d recommend is The Narnain: The Life and Imagination of CS Lewis by Alan Jacobs (Humanities Professor at Baylor). Tiersa and I went to the play earlier this year, The Most Reluctant Convert at the Eisemann Center and the actor who portrayed Lewis recommended Jacobs’ biography. From the description on Amazon: “Alan Jacobs masterfully tells the story of the original Narnian. From Lewis’s childhood days in Ireland playing with his brother, Warnie, to his horrific experiences in the trenches during World War I, to his friendship with JRR Tolkien (and other members of the ‘Inklings’), and his remarkable late-life marriage to Joy Davidman, Jacobs traces the events and people that shaped Lewis’s philosophy, theology, and fiction. The result is much more than a conventional biography of Lewis: Jacobs tells the story of a profound and extraordinary imagination. For those who grew up with Narnia, or for those just discovering it, The Narnian tells a remarkable tale of a man who knew great loss and great delight, but who knew above all that the world holds far more richness and meaning than the average eye can see.”

There are so many books from CS Lewis you could read and not go wrong: Narnia, The Weight of Glory, Reflections on the Psalms, The Four Loves, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, God in the Dock, and on and on and on. All are challenging and inspiring and timeless. But if you’re interested, these first five that I’ve listed by or about Jack Lewis are a great place to start.

There you have it! 2017’s top five….

Glory to God!

Jason

Christ and culture in conflict

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Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”  “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied.  “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me.  What is it you have done?”  Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my Kingdom is from another place.”  “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.  Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king.  In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” – John 18:33-37

There is a collision between Christ and Culture.  When we respond to the call of Jesus and cling to the Kingdom of God it is required of us that we release the kingdom of this world.  The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world are in conflict with one another.  They are opposed to one another.  Jesus declares, “My Kingdom is not of this world.”  And only to those who are of the Kingdom does that make any sense.

So why is it that so much of what occupies our thoughts is worldly?  Why is so very much of our focus upon the temporal?  Why do we give the worldliness of this world such an audience?  And how can Jesus so readily be relegated to an afterthought?

Do we recognize what is of the eternal Kingdom and what is of the temporal kingdom?  Do we elevate the eternal when we look to the day to day?  What I mean is that as we go about our day-to-day living are our minds and hearts in tune with what really matters?  Because in the grand scheme of it all only the things of God matter.  Right?  Why is it then that we spend so much energy focusing upon the minutia of the kingdom of this world, rather than the wonder of the Kingdom of God?

“You are right in saying that I am a king,” Jesus affirms.

But the question remains: Is He really your King?

Glory to God!

Jason

a win/win

If at the end of the day I were to ask you to give me an itemized itinerary of the events of your day and how they unfolded, you’d readily be capable of describing how the day progressed. For me, most mornings the alarm clock goes off and off I go. By 830am my two youngest boys are sitting in their desks at school. By 930 several days a week Tiersa has our youngest girls are in class and she’s in her classroom. I’m either in the office or at a coffee shop depending upon the day. Now that’s only a short timeframe, a couple of hours from start to finish in the morning, but a whole lot more went into that time right? I failed to mention whether or not the kids were in a good mood by the time they walked out the door or if I had to referee. Whether or not we left in plenty of time to get where we were going or had to break several laws of man and a few laws of physics to get them to school before the tardy bell rang (not that I ever do that!). I haven’t told you about all the things on my mind during that morning timeframe. Concerns. Commitments. Complications. From the things on my to-do list that I just need to get done, to things that I have no idea what to do about and am still waiting to see how God works through them.

My reason behind this is to acknowledge to you that as much as we are striving to simplify, as much as we are striving to keep the main things the main things, we live lives that involve some degree of complication. Some complications we can actively do something about. But the reality is, for other complications, we’re in a holding pattern.

Process these words of the Apostle Paul, “But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silasand Timothy, was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but in Him it has always been ‘Yes.’  For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1:18-20a

What Paul assures is that everything in life is a “Yes” when we’re in Christ. Everything is a “Yes!” That somehow amidst good and bad, calm and chaos, triumph and tragedy, when we are in Jesus, it’s all a “Yes.” It’s not that it’s all easy.  It’s not that it always makes sense. But somehow when we see life through eyes of faith everything is a “Yes” because God is God. And in Jesus, we are His people. And because we are His, everything is a “Yes.” So you got a promotion? It’s a “Yes” in Christ. So you lost you’re job today? It’s a “Yes” when you’re close to our Savior. The cancer is in remission? It’s a “Yes” in Jesus. Your counts are looking like the cancer has returned? It’s a “Yes” when in relationship with God.

Somehow when we are in Christ Jesus, everything is a “Yes.” If you are being faithful to God, it’s a win/win situation. No matter what complications you’re in the middle of. No matter how promising or how bleak a circumstance. In Him it has always been (and always will be) “Yes!”

Glory to God!

Jason

getting off the ladder

princess in front of mirrorWhen 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

the secret to happiness

What would it take for you to be happy? I mean life-is-good, smile-on-your-face happy. What would it take? Most often our response comes out of wherever we are for the moment. Whatever our aspirations are. Our goals. Whatever we’re struggling with. Whatever we’re worried about. Whatever brass ring that’s just out of reach. Whatever dark cloud looms overhead.

For some it’s money. There’s a pawn shop in Garland, Tx that has a sign that reads, “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure pays the bills.” For others it’s status or accomplishment or house or possession. And I don’t want to diminish the things that often concern us. Maybe it’s the house that sits on a hill that you’re striving for. Or maybe, it’s simply the house you’re living in that’s falling apart that you’d repair if you could afford it. Maybe you have a dream car in mind. Or maybe, you’d just like to not have to pray that the car you have will start every morning. For many the answer is relational. And this is the most difficult one of all. The perfect marriage. The perfect relationship. How many marriages have fallen apart because one or both have come to the conclusion: “I’m just not happy any more.” How many relationships are on the verge right now of breaking up because of the sadness and apathy of one or both in the marriage?

How many times have you said: “When I finally get this job, then I’ll be happy.” “When I finally finish this degree, then I’ll be happy.” “When I pay off this loan, then I’ll be happy.” “When I….  If I….”

Have you found that contentment is illusive? What does it mean to be content anyway?

We seek happiness, and I know that some would argue that happiness and contentment are two different realizations, but I can’t help but think that if we could come to the point in life that we were content, we’d then be happy.

Perhaps no Psalm is more loved and more quoted than Psalm 23. It brings comfort and solace because it draws us into the arms of a Father who is so very welcoming and so very sufficient. In verse 5 David pens, “…my cup overflows.” In Scripture one’s “cup” is one’s lot in life. There is abundance in his life attributed only to God. It’s not a situational concept. It’s an internal one. An emotional one. A state-of-being. The blessings of living near the Father. A Father who lavishes His love upon us. His grace upon us. His goodness. His strength. He saves us, and then, renews us. What a description of abundance and belonging. “My cup overflows.” “It is overfilled.” “Filled to overflowing.” Because I belong to God!

The Apostle Paul writes, “I have learned the secret of being content…” (Philippians 4:12).

The secret?  Jesus!

Glory to God!

Jason