grati–W–O–W–tude

What an EPIC week! Weeks like this are rare indeed.

We had the Grand Opening for the church we have been so privileged to help start here in our hometown. It was crazy. Like awesome crazy. The only way I have been able to describe it to people is that it was “happy chaos”.  It wasn’t chaotic because we weren’t prepared. It wasn’t chaotic because anything bad happened. It was chaos because over 910 people showed up…in an ice storm…in Arkansas.  That might not seem like a big deal to you, but in our little River Valley paradise nestled between mountains and the Arkansas River, people just don’t get out in the snow and ice.

And last night we launched our student ministries with an incredible night. It was so good. 

So now I’m sitting here in my “mancave” enjoying the breather. I’m looking forward to my weekend (Friday & Saturday) and getting ready to start it all over again in less than 72 hours. Life is so stinking good right now. I feel blessed beyond my capacity to handle it. It pushes me in the best possible ways. And before I head upstairs to get some sleep I am just trying to share this inexplicable sense of gratitude I am feeling.

It’s always good to be one of God’s kids–but it doesn’t always feel this good. 

Praying with Peter for Protection, Perspective, and Promise

So I just couldn’t avoid the alliteration. Praying is something we could all use more of and my goal for 2014 is to pray more scripture over my house, child, spouse, and life. So I am sharing my first few prayers for the year which are from 1 Peter 1.

I love reading about the disciple Pete. He went from being the knuckle-head fisherman following Jesus—to the missionary who preached at the Day of Pentecost proclaiming Jesus as Messiah with such boldness and passion that the mocking crowd changed their hearts, asking “what should we do?” When Peter instructed them to repent and be baptized, 3000 people were added to “their number.” I say their number (which is how Luke recorded it in Acts 2) because they weren’t a “church”, movement, religion, or even Christians yet. They were still just a group of Disciples. So let that sink in, from knuckle-head fisherman to church planter (literally planting The Church not just a church) in a few years. I think there might be some weight in what the Holy Spirit wrote through him in his first recorded letter, 1 Peter.

So here goes three things we can pray from 1 Peter.

Protection: [from 1 Peter 1:3-5]

Praise You God! Thank You for Your mercy and living hope that draws ______ to You. Through their faith and Your power, God shield and keep careful watch over. ______.

Perspective: [from 1 Peter 1:6-7]

Even through their trials and suffering, God allow ___________ to rejoice greatly knowing these are required to produce genuine faith of great worth! Let their faith be proven and cause much praise, glory, and honor.

Promise: [from 1 Peter 1:8]

By faith (without seeing You) let ________ love You! Let them believe in You and filled with inexpressible and glorious joy for their salvation. Lord let their faith lead them to salvation in You!

Definitely what I want for my son: salvation, eternal perspective, and protection from Satan’s schemes. Will you pray these with me in your homes this week?

I am not here to debate the logics of praying scriptures, whether we should or shouldn’t, if the version matters, if you have to quote the Bible verbatim (kinda hard if you don’t speak Greek or Hebrew anyways), etc. I am in no way qualified or interested. But I believe praying scriptures answers the questions 1) what should I pray and 2) am I praying according to God will. I also believe praying God’s Word from our heart and mouth draws our spirit closer to God and teaches us more about the character of God as we proclaim His promises in the lives around us.

Jamie

Noah: Willing Different

God looked at the state of His creation and was greaves by the corruption, violence, and evil. It pained Him enough to regret having made humanity. That’s a pretty shocking declaration concerning the state of the world.

But Noah was different. God liked what he saw in Noah. (Genesis 6:8 MSG)

In the midst of absolute wickedness Noah stood apart. There was something different about him. The story goes on to show that Noah obeyed God. He played a role in saving the world—literally.

Maybe for us to be used by God all we really need to do is be a little different than the crowd. I’m not talking about being unique for the purpose of sticking out. Many today throw themselves so fully into a contrived attempt at uniqueness that they lose themselves in a noisy mob of similar pretenders.

Noah stood out, not because he was unique but because he was what God was looking for. He was willing to obey. He was willing to work. He was willing to wait. Noah was willing.

Perhaps all that is holding back a miraculous change in the lives of those around you, is for you to be willing. What if you could read Genesis 6:8 again with your name in Noah’s place? What woukd it take to get you to that place with God? What is holding you back?

But _______________ was different. God liked what he saw in _________________. (Genesis 6:8 MSG)

December 31 – Faithful & True

Revelations 19:11-16; 21:1-6

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. (Revelation 19:11 ESV)

I don’t know what this was like for you, but for our family this past year was kind of crazy. There were many significant changes and challenges that came along. There were lots of prayers and lots of prayers answered. It has been quite the ride.

One thing stands out from among everything else this year. Jesus is Faithful and True! I am not always either of the two, but he is incredible.

All year long, just at the right time, encouragement came my way. When we needed it most provision was there. Jesus is Faithful!

At every turn I have grown ever more convinced that Jesus is True! I started off writing A Year With Jesus to challenge my readership to walk closer with him. I pulled from a lot of my notes I have compiled over the years, and going through it all everyday has pushed me to consider Christ in the fondest of light. I am by nature a consistent doubter, but none of those doubts surround the person and work of Jesus. That he is True, I have never been more convinced!

So, whether this is your first time to check out the blog, or you’ve been reading along all year long, I hope you have had an awesome year with Jesus. Here’s to many many more!

December 30 – The Hand of God

Read: Hebrews 1:1-14

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1 ESV)

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV)

I like working with my hands. In a career where my primary responsibilities usually revolve around study, communication, and spending time with people (all of which also love) using my hands to make, repair, or lift something can sometimes come as a nice change of pace. Even in the hobbies I enjoy like guitar, video games, and art—my hands are vital to the process. Hands are important.

Jesus sits at the right hand of God. It’s a place of honor for the God-man and King. It’s not a subservient place. It is equal footing. As Jesus is the Hand of God.

When I want to work to fix something I use my hands to do the job. I have to pick up the pieces, I have to make the repairs, and I have to hold the tools. God did something similar, but eternally and infinitely more wonderful than my weak analogy could ever capture.

God reached into human history, as Jesus. Jesus is the handprint of God that marks all of human experience. Jesus is the touch of kindness and measure of mercy. Jesus is the grip of compassion and strong arm of justice that guides the course of eternity. Jesus holds the rod that will rule the future of all futures forever. Jesus is the Hand of God.

December 29 – Jesus Far Above

Read: Ephesians 4:7-10


You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there. (Psalm 68:18 ESV)

He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:10 ESV)

In about 1000 B.C. King David prophesied that Jesus would ascend into heaven. It was written that Jesus would take the the souls of departed Christians with Him. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians mentions the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Jesus did come down out of Heaven. He was murdered for our sin. He descended into the depths of the grave. He took back themes to life. And he ascended again into Heaven—first stopping by to encourage and pastor his disciples for 40 days.

Today, Jesus is far above. In metaphysical terms I believe that he is omnipresent. He is able to be everywhere always. In speaking of his exalted status as King of all—he is far above. We serve a King who sits in authority over, and even far above, all things.

How does that play out in your life? If you’re struggling with some terrible need, whatever it may be, Jesus sits in authority above the powerful captivity you might be facing in light of your need. He holds in his hand the power and authority to release a good work on your behalf. And perhaps the best thing about this King of ours who sits far a above is that he will often do just that. He is far above all, but he is not far from.

December 28 – Life Giving Glory

2 Corinthians 3:1-18

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6 ESV)

The Spirit of God changes people. He changed me. He keeps changing me. He keeps reminding me of errors, pointing out needed improvements, and guiding toward necessary refinement in attitude, doctrine, and discipline. The Spirit changes me.

The biggest and most impactful change the Spirit of God has worked in my life is salvation. I have crossed over from the destiny of death into one of life. Jesus made that possible. God made it sufficient. The Spirit has made it life.

Everywhere that I go. Everyone that I contact and connect with. I hope that I am able to give and share life everywhere! Just as the Spirit has called, empowered, and encouraged me; I hope that I will give life—the life of Christ—always and anywhere.

December 25 – The Other Christmas Story (Invading Enemy Territory)

Read: Revelations 12:1-17

She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne (Revelation 12:5 ESV)

Christmas is awesome. By far my favorite holiday. I love the festivities. I love the traditions, and the time with my family. But, more importantly, I love the reason for the season.

The story of Jesus’ birth is amazing. Many miraculous events surrounded, and preceded it. But it is so much more than the cutesy candy coated Sunday School story we all know and love so much.

The Christmas Story is a story about invasion. It is the beachhead for the divine campaign to reclaim Creation, redeem humanity, and restore the Kingdom. God had set events in motion to become a man. He would walk the Earth. He would feel dirt beneath his feet and oxygen in his lungs. He would work, sweat, eat, love, and even die.

The Apostle John had a unique relationship with Jesus. He was almost like Jesus’ kid brother. And he lived long after the rest of the disciples. Having been exiled after surviving several attempted executions, John was visited at his island prison by Jesus. The Holy Spirit worked in John and granted to him a supernatural vision full of wondrous things—many of which are nearly impossible for me to comprehend. He wrote them all down in a book that has come to be called The Revelation. It is the last book of the Holy Bible, and it includes a passage that always rings so incredibly for me at Christmas time.

Jesus was born into tumultuous human times, but it was happening alongside epic supernatural events. Jesus invaded enemy territory. He stepped into death and brought life. He stepped into defeat and brought victory.

I like the Christmas Carols. Silent Night and Joy to the World are beautiful songs. But I imagine that first Christmas to be something more like D-Day than the latest Christmas Special. And all these centuries later, Jesus is still invading enemy territory to restore families, mend hearts, and breathe hope into hopelessness.

Merry Christmas.

December 23 – The Free Gift

Romans 6:15-23

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 ESV)

Either by willful commission or apathetic omission each of us sin. We do the wrong things, or we choose not to do the right thing. But our sin is not the central message of the Bible.

If sin were the main theme of the Bible it would be a book primarily focused on morality. And while I do believe that the answers to all moral dilemmas are found within its pages, I don’t believe it is because morality/sin are its chief issue. Jesus is the central focus of the Bible.

Every book points ahead to Christ. Every book of the Old Testament is a Spirit-inspired wrapping—just as every book of the New Testament is a joyful declaration of the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus is the Good News. Jesus is the hope of the world. Jesus is the central figure of human history, the main idea of the Bible, and the Free Gift of God.

December 19 – Through Faith

Romans 4:13-25

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:20, 21 ESV)

Abraham trusted God’s promise. He wasn’t the only one. There are numerous examples in scripture of God leading his people toward something, and them putting their faith in Him.

Faith in Jesus is a powerful thing. It is the foundation of hope, and the cradle of belief. It is precious. It is up-lifting. It is life-giving and life-changing.

Abraham’s faith was potent, not because of his mental capacity to understand, or his soulful yearning to believe. Abraham had a complete faith, in that his faith influenced his behavior. Faith caused him to do stuff.

It is through our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior that we find freedom from sin and death. This faith is demonstrated by our actions and reactions. It informs and influences the initiative we take to help others, and the way we respond to how we are treated. Faith carries us through hard times, but it’s also through faith that we will know everlasting peace and assurance.

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