moving from the “who” to the “what”

Christian Gathering Faith Stock Photos

During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. would speak of moving “from the who to the what.”

Both after the murders of Freedom Riders: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi and then after the beating death of Princeton Seminary student James Reeb in Alabama, King declared “it’s not so much who killed them but what killed them.” And “when we move from the who to the what, in a very real way we begin to see that we are all in this together.”

Of course the “what” was the underlying motive of hate and bigotry and disunity that permeated so much of the worldview of the day. A worldview which in many ways has yet to be overcome. In regard to unity among races and cultures as a whole we still have a very long way to go.

In the church we are called to unity in Christ. To be one in Jesus. We who are many and yet comprise one body through the Gospel are called to oneness. The Apostle Paul implores, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3-6).

Only God can bring this about. We are different in many, many ways. The call however is to unity, not uniformity. To “move from the who to the what.” That we would be united in spite of ourselves. In spite of our differences. We truly only come to know if we are indeed united when we encounter differences.

In many ways we indeed have a long way to go. However we serve a God whose mercies are new every morning. A God who has revealed Himself as faithful throughout the history of mankind. And a God and who is at work in a wonderful way in the life of His people today.

We begin with the Gospel and we begin with grace. For when we begin to see ourselves in our need for God and in our need for His mercy, the playing field begins to be made level, and all pride is taken away. Only then will God begin to bring about unity.

Jesus on the night before the cross prays for Himself, His disciples, and then for us: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20b-23).

How is it that the world will believe and know the truth of God made manifest in Christ? Only when they see unity and oneness in His people….

Glory to God!

Jason

is the cross enough?

Cross of Christ

For the next three months our congregation will be investing into a study of 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Both Sunday morning classes and sermons will be pursuing these two wonderful texts. As a church we will be pouring ourselves into these letters and striving for a willingness and openness that would allow our Father to pour Himself into us as His holy people. “Ancient Church, Modern Challenges” is the general theme we’ll be working under. I cannot imagine a more timely, unifying study for us to engage in together.

The Corinthian letters center upon effective ministry. How is the church to be effective in a culture that is so very contrary to the God we serve? How might the relevance of the Gospel of Christ be communicated in a world that sees no need for faith? How can those who are followers of the Way of Jesus be united with one another, when while we’ve chosen to follow Christ, we did not choose one another? How do we as Christ’s Church today serve as a powerful, effective witness for the Kingdom? Unabashed. Unashamed. And unhindered

These are questions that the Corinthian letters will address.

Chapter 1 sets the stage: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (vv10-18).

Are we sharing the fullness of the Gospel message or are we simply speaking with “wisdom and eloquence” emptying the cross of its God-designed, God-designated power? Is the message of the cross enough for us? Is the cross, and the cross alone, truly the power for we who believe and are being saved?

It all begins with the question: “Is Christ divided?”

It all begins with the decision: “I follow Christ.”

And it all begins this week!

Glory to God!

Jason

less complication. more Jesus.

unity

I tend to make things more difficult than they need to be. I over-analyze. I over-think. I over-concern. I am too often more critical of myself than I ought to be. In some ways this way of thinking has served me well. In many, many ways, not so much…. Maybe you can relate?

To others the reverse perhaps is more the norm. Many are overly critical of others. The glass is always half-empty. Negativity reigns supreme. Aren’t there some whom when you see them coming you cringe when you realize they’re walking your direction? And now you’re suddenly on a collision course with gloom and doom. You brace yourself because you immediately realize you’re about to receive a beating that no one deserves. And not even necessarily because they’re going to beat up on you, but because you know that whatever the conversation is, it’s going to be negative. Aren’t there some Christians you’d swear were baptized in lemon juice (and who watch way too much CNN)?

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt…” (Colossians 4:6).

Faith is not complicated. We make it much more complicated than it was ever intended to be. Too often we get in the way. The simplicity and beauty of the message we’ve received in Christ and its call to fidelity is central. The Gospel ought to bring calm. It ought to restore peace. It ought to grant clarity. It ought to. It’s designed to. But does it? For you?

“Now, church, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importancethat Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…. …this is what we preach, and this is what you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4,11b).

In faith we open our hearts to God. And we allow Him to be God. We trust Him. We share with Him. We live life near Him. And because of covenant and because He is God we breathe a sigh of relief. Because He is in control. And in Him we are a part of that which is so much greater than ourselves.

In faith we share with other believers. We are a part of one another in Jesus. We engage in, and share in, life. We ought to at least. Our relationships with believers in Christ should be our closest. And when we struggle in our relationships as His children, we work through them. We allow nothing to disrupt our connection to Him and to each other, because we belong to a magnificent Father and to one another in Jesus.

In faith we allow the message to be revealed through our priorities. Our thoughts. Our convictions. Our beliefs. Our conversations. Our relationships. It’s the way it was designed to be. It’s the way things ought to be. Less complication. More Jesus.

Glory to God!

Jason

unconditional

handWe are a confusing people.  We say we wholly love.  We contend we are fully committed.  We promise we are all in.  But how often we fail.  How very often we fall short.  We are a people of conditions.  “If you’ll scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”  “I’ll forgive you if you will jump through these hoops.”  “Do things my way and then we can be friends.”  “Let’s get on the same page” (and by same page, we mean our own).  “I love you, but I’d love you more if….”  In many ways we are conditioned to be conditional.

We are a confusingly, conditional people.

This however, is not the Jesus Way.

God has no conditions when it comes to His love.  Don’t mishear (or misread) what I’m saying.  Covenant with God is conditioned upon our being in Christ.  But, His love for us is absolutely unconditional.  Completely unconditional.  No strings attached.  No hidden agendas.  And it is at our worst of moments, when we are at our most unlovable, that this reality is most beautiful and most powerful.  And in those moments (as if it were possible) it feels as if He loves even us more.

“God demonstrates His own (unconditional) love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8).

“For if when 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?!” (Romans 5:10).

At the first of each year we tend to reflect upon the previous year and consider the one that lies ahead.  My hope is that you enter into this new year knowing that you are deeply and unconditionally loved by our Father.

Glory to God!

Jason

a community of refugees

“They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the Apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as they had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

God creates humanity in His image.  Spiritually.  He created you and me, in His spiritual image.  No one can be you but you.  You are unique in the way that you reveal faith to others.  Pretty profound stuff if you ask me….

God exists in community.  Father, Son, and Spirit.  We too are created to exist in community.  With God (the Father, Son, and Spirit) and with one another.

A mark of Christian maturity is how we go about intentionally ministering to others.  Specifically, how we minister to the spiritual needs of each and every person of whom we come into a close proximity.  How we minister to those who are “churched” (those who are a part of faith).  And how we minister to those who are “unchurched” (those who have little or no experience in faith).  However a crucial demographic that we are to be so very intentional in our ministering, is those who are “dechurched.”  And what I mean by “dechurched” is that we are intentional in our ministry to those who have had bad experiences in organized religion.  That we are intentional in our care and in our nurture and in our ministry to those who have come to have a invalid poor opinion of Christ, because of a valid poor opinion of those who wear His name.

To facilitate a community of Christian “refugees.”  Where Christian refugees feel safe and protected.  To foster a community where Christian refugees are healed and empowered.

A community of refugees….  Sounds an awful lot like the Kingdom of God!

Glory to God!

Jason

one church

For weeks now, as a church family, we have been building up to our “One Church” bilingual worship service which will come to fruition this coming Sunday morning, August 26th.  It has been something that we as a ministry team have been in conversation about since our “One Church” gathering last year.  And a time that we have been especially envisioning since the beginning of this year as to what our time together might look like.  Having confidence that no matter our plans and discussions, our God will reveal Himself in a wonderful way through our time together in worship, as well as our fellowship at the FLC and beyond.

What an encouraging, amazing opportunity for our English-speaking and Spanish-speaking congregation(s) to come together as one.  To learn from one another, to encourage one another, and to praise our Father together.  And what a phenomenal opportunity to experience, in a very real way, the presence of God, as we acknowledge our oneness of need, our oneness of desire, our oneness of faith, and our oneness of conviction.  Our oneness in following the Way of Jesus.

In Ephesians, the Apostle’s prayer is that “the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18).  He reminds us there is “one body and one Spirit,” “one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

John records in his Gospel, the desire of our Savior, as He prays we would be one, just as He and the Father are one (John 17:21).

We talk often about unity.  About oneness in the Kingdom.  About being one in Christ.  Unity amidst diversity.  But I wonder if we’ll every fully get it, this side of eternity?  Too often it proves difficult in the narrowness of our worldviews or presuppositions and, if we’re honest, in the shallowness of our hearts, to make room for others.  Some do well at this.  Others of us need “the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened” a bit.

We’ll get a glimpse of oneness in Christ this week.  I ask you to be in prayer.  And to pray the prayer of Paul for the church then and the church now.  That “the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened.”  To pray the prayer of our Savior.  That we would be one as He and the Father are one.

For it is through hearts that are open and willing that our Father does His most amazing work.

Glory to God!

Jason

a chosen people

But you are a chosen people,

a royal priesthood,

a holy nation,

a people belonging to God,

that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God;

once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy….

– 1 Peter 2:9-10

Glory to God!

Jason

one in Christ

During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. would speak of moving “from the who to the what.”  Both after the murders of Freedom Riders: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi and then after the beating death of Princeton Seminary student James Reeb in Alabama, King declared “it’s not so much who killed them but what killed them.”  And “when we move from the who to the what, in a very real way we begin to see that we are all in this together.”

Of course the “what” was the underlying motive of hate and bigotry and disunity that permeated so much of the world-view of the day.  A world-view which in many ways has yet to be overcome.  In regard to unity among races and cultures as a whole we still have a very long way to go.

In the church we are called to unity in Christ.  To be one in Jesus.  We who are many and yet comprise one body through the Gospel are called to oneness.  The Apostle Paul implores, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3-6).  Only God can bring this about.  We are different in many, many ways.  The call however is to unity, not uniformity.  To “move from the who to the what.”  That we would be united in spite of ourselves.  In spite of our differences.  In many ways we indeed have a long way to go.  However we serve a God whose mercies are new every morning.  A God who has revealed Himself as faithful throughout the history of mankind.  And a God and who is at work in a wonderful way in the life of His people today.

We begin with the Gospel and we begin with grace.  For when we begin to see ourselves in our need for God and in our need for His mercy, the playing field begins to be made level, and all pride is taken away.  Only then will God begin to bring about unity.

Jesus on the night before the cross prays for Himself, His disciples, and then for us: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20b-23).

How is it that the world will believe and know the truth of God made manifest in Christ?  Only when they see unity and oneness in His people….

Glory to God!

Jason