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

life in the furnace

fire

The Desert Fathers (and Mothers) of the fourth and fifth centuries, referred to time spent in silence/solitude as “life in the furnace.” Beyond prayer and study and Christian community is silence. Solitude. Stillness.  Aloneness. With God.

Henri Nouwen writes, “Solitude is the furnace in which transformation takes place” The Way of the Heart, p10.

“Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. Jesus himself entered into this furnace” The Way of the Heart, pp15-6.

“Solitude is the place of the great struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers Himself as the substance of the new self” The Way of the Heart, also p16.

In silence we embrace conversion at the deepest level.

When there is nothing between us and God, and we are completely vulnerable before Him.

Why the desert, why the wilderness, for the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the fourth and fifth centuries?

Because it is in the desert we are made vulnerable. And in the desert we find silence. And solitude.

And if we will allow, God, and ourselves….

Life in the furnace.

Where everything else is burned away.

Everything that hinders, all that weighs us down, all that holds us back, is consumed.

And all that remain are us and God.

I’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible in the furnace lately.

To be still.  To be quiet.  For all of the static to fade into nothing.  And to simply attempt to be in tune with God.

This is what I’ve learned from these last 40+ days….

1) God is faithful.

2) My wife and children are beautiful.

3) God is the one in control.

“Our God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4, Hebrews 12).

Glory to God!

Jason

a message of hope

Jeremiah 29:11 is Tiersa’s absolute favorite verse….

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Found smuggled within a letter that Jeremiah sends to the elders that have survived among the exiles in Babylon, the prophet pens a word of hope to a people who are weary.

Jeremiah writes while in Jerusalem.  The city of the living God.  And he writes to the remnant of those Israelites who had once lived within her walls, but now find themselves aliens in a land not their own.  In a place that is far from the city of the Lord.

If you read the entire message, it is one of hope and of certainty.  It is a message calling God’s people to trust.  Calling His people then and now to rely upon the Lord.  To seek Him with all of our hearts.  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (v13).  To live faithful unto Him who is faithful.

The letter is one not only of confidence in the future but also one of hope for today.  Hope in the present.  Hope amidst pain.  Hope in the middle of alienation.  Hope proclaimed in seeming hopelessness.  As the Apostle Paul exclaims, “Hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?” (Romans 8:24)

And maybe that’s why Jeremiah’s message speaks to us so clearly.  Perhaps that’s the reason why many are drawn to this passage and specifically, this verse.

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Hope in the present.  Hope amidst pain.  Hope in the middle of alienation.  Hope proclaimed in seeming hopelessness.

Glory to God!

Jason

as fear gives way to faith

“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.  365 times in Scripture He declares to his people, “Do not be afraid.”  365 times!  One for every day of the 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

peace like a river

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

straining at the oars


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 said, “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.

I was reading recently in Mark’s Gospel 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