a strange Christmas message.

The “Christmas message” this past Sunday morning in the worship gathering for @WestpointChurch was a bit different. While we certainly celebrated Christmas, heard our CompassKids sing, sang carols together, and even mentioned Santa, I decided to continue on in our series “on earth as it is in HEAVEN” focusing on Matthew 5:43-48. Not because it was just what was next in the series (and we can’t sway from that). But rather, because I felt like the passage embodied a central principle of Christmas – God came near to those antagonistic toward Him. Jesus loved even His enemies (“Forgive them Father, for they know not what they are doing”). And He commanded us to do the same.

I read the passage, and then asked the question:

Why focus on this passage today in this season of Christmas?

I gave three reasons why:

…because God took the initiative to come across enemy lines and restore fractured relationship.

His choice to act first to fix what He did not break, along with the fact that what happened in the Garden of Eden was not a surprise to God yet He made us anyway, is a clear indication that God loves first.

…because God’s choice to come near among us was based on His love for us, not our hospitality.

We clearly are not as lovable as we often think we are. And, God’s love is not based on how lovable we are or how well we perform. He allows it to rain on the just and unjust. He expects us to now love not just those who reciprocate that love (anyone can do that), but to love even our enemies. He gives love because of Who He is. Not because of who we are. And we must give His love away even to those who do not welcome us.

…because Christmas highlights God’s perfection.

The passage challenges us to love even our enemies, highlights the fact that God has done just that, and then wraps up in what, at first read, seems a bit strange. Jesus says, “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

What? How?

It forces us to ask a question – HOW IS GOD PERFECT?

The New Testament’s use of the words “perfect” and “mature” are very similar. They each emphasize an ongoing, need-to-keep-going process. Perfect is “being made perfect.” Mature is “maturing.” You cannot be perfect, with regard to the keeping of the law. So, God sent the law-giver to clarify why the law was given in the first place. To remind us that the law was given as practical commands for loving relationships, not performance-based cues for scoring a perfect life. AND, to enable us to walk a journey in relationship with the Law-Giver and most importantly the Love-Giver.

We spend far too much of our time living like Jesus came so that we could look in the mirror rather than live in loving community. It is as though following Jesus is just some alternative religion focused on self-absorbed spiritual improvement, rather than an abundant life made full because we deny ourselves and take up our cross, because we say no to living for me and instead live beyond self, because we quit looking for the fruit that fills us up and instead pour out our lives to fill others up. All because of what Jesus did on the cross . It was enough. Enough to restore us to be free from the shame and guilt that makes us hide as isolationists. Enough to enable us to come out of our segregated prison cells to live open, loving lives.

Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang on “love God” and “love people.” Maybe that’s how God is perfect. He is selfless. He is love. He chooses to put the interests of others above self. Which is the only way community happens, the only way relationships work, and the only way life doesn’t self-destruct.

Here’s THE BOTTOM LINE:

God’s perfection was not seen through a baby who never cried (like we sing in “Away in a Manger”) or a person who kept rules perfectly. Rather, it was seen in a baby who would one day weep over the havoc sin had caused and a Savior whose perfect love compelled Him to die for His antagonist. God is perfect because He carries out the most important command perfectly, and He both commanded and empowers us to do the same. He’s not making a list and checking it twice. He’s remaking us to love.

And we can love like Him. How? We must be able to. Jesus commanded it (John 13:34-35). And the Spirit blossoms out of us (Galatians 5).

NOW, let’s go and be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.

Love, even your enemies. We must, or the world will not see in our everyday the God who came near that 1st Christmas.

Lord, please be EMMANUEL through us.

Merry Christmas!!!

-jason

i have three daughters.

If you didn’t know, I have three daughters. And it is special. Challenging, but special.

One of my biggest trepidations is the coming battle with teen daughters over beauty and vanity and modesty. I know it will come, so I have a choice – to prepare for “battle” with my daughters now, as though we are on the same team, or to wage war against them later, as though we are on opposing teams. I understand that nothing I do now will guarantee what happens later. However, I do know that preparation now ensures the best chance that we will still live like we are on the same team later.

So, when I came across this article from ALL PRO DAD, an enewsletter I subscribe to, I found it worth sharing. It suggests five things to be thinking about and emphasizing and communicating about with regard to MODESTY. Worth the read. Click here if you want to check it out.

One of the Scriptures I am definitely trying to teach my daughters, and that my wife teaches and models for them, is Proverbs 11:22. It says:

A beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.

My prayer is not only that my daughters will know God declares their worth and be confident that their Daddy sees them as beautiful inside and out, but also that they will see that a lack of discretion with their beauty is the same as dragging themselves through the mud.

Hopefully this will encourage you as it did me. If you are a parent with daughters, let’s pray for and hold each other up.

I’m thinking about moving to Siberia til they turn 35. Or western Australia. Deep in the thick of the bush. Yeah – that would be better. I like koalas. Or, I guess I could walk closely with them, remind them of their beauty daily, love them unconditionally, hold them close as often as possible, pray, and trust God that learning and living His ways with them will suffice. Everything else is out of my control. Except for having a big gun hanging in the living room, interviewing every boy who has eyes for my daughters on the couch underneath it, and having an uncontrollable twitch in my left eye. That might help, too.

We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll keep enjoying being called “Prince Charming” and being asked to dance and even being asked to play Barbie.

do you KEEP SCORE or GIVE LOVE in your relationships?

This past Sunday, December 13th, we continued the series entitled “on earth as it is in HEAVEN” – a study of Matthew 5 to 7. The passage we focused on was Matthew 5:38-42. You can listen to the entire message, which my dad (Jimmy Dukes) and I co-taught by CLICKING HERE.

For those of you interested, here’s the outline and the bottom line:

1 – So, where does “the one who hurt me should get what they deserve” fit in here?

>> Relationships don’t work unless we live with a posture of forgiveness at all times. Hopefully, others are doing that for me.

2 – And, where’s the balance between “being trampled” and “defending myself” in this “Don’t hit back at all” stuff?

>> The balance is found in the tender, fierce love of Jesus flowing in and through me.

3 – Oh yeah! What about “that’s not fair!!!” – cause this isn’t very fair, is it?

>> What was fair about the cross? Jesus is not asking us to do anything He has not done, or anything that He will not help us to do.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Choosing love makes the score uneven and usually not in my favor. But, living generously is always a win, even if it means great loss for me? Why, because no relationship has a chance unless at least one person involved chooses oneness over winning. And no broken relationship can be restored unless at least one person involved lays down the scorecard, lets go of revenge, surrenders the grudge, and chooses love.

LEAVE YOUR THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS BELOW.

Come gather with us Sunday morning the 20th as we celebrate Christmas together and study Matthew 5:43-48 (entitled “Christmas was God’s perfection with skin on”).  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

empty promises

@WestpointChurch (I cringe writing our Twitter name, because “at” is at the front and “at” shouldn’t go with “church” since “church” is people, but nonetheless) continued to walk through the teaching series entitled “on earth as it is in HEAVEN” this past Sunday. It is a study of Matthew 5 to 7. Here is “the bottom line” I concluded with – it is simply a personal prayer:

God, I am sorry for how often I either knowingly or unknowingly make promises to You that I either can’t or don’t keep. Please help me to simply listen for Your voice among the many and to simply say YES or NO, as Your Spirit prompts me. No more empty promises. I will surrender my life daily to the real Owner.

Jim posted the podcast of the teaching time. You can grab it by CLICKING HERE. Hope it encourages us all to relate more lovingly with Christ and cultivate His Kingdom to keep blossoming on earth as it is in heaven.

great newspaper article about HOUSE BLEND CAFE

Huge props to all that God did in and through Josh Taylor and an amazing team of volunteers on Thanksgiving Day last week. The West Orange Times published a story about it. You can read it by CLICKING HERE.

Read more about HOUSE BLEND CAFE on the Westpoint Church website (click here).

Thankful for Josh and Kelly Taylor and so many others who serve our local community so faithfully.

Let’s keep being the church together!!!

why do I love Christmas?

Why do I love Christmas? Simple. God came near. It is the Gospel.

The three words imply so much. They imply my desperate need for God to take the initiative to fix what I broke and come near to restore relationship with me. They imply God’s desperate love that moved Him to put on skin, become a dependent baby, and give His life away for those dependent upon Him for the very breath we breathe. They imply that His mission is to come, and He now sends us just like He sent His Son. They imply that divinity was intended to connect with humanity and that humanity was intended to connect with divinity and that God’s love is actually most seen in the together connection we have with Jesus and with one another.

God came near. Emmanuel. That’s why I like Christmas so much.

May we as His church come near to the culture God loves. May we not stay far off in judgment and safety, but rather become desperate to give love and life the way He was willing to do when He was laid in a manger.

Enjoy this video from the Jesus Storybook Bible folks. Click here for the VIDEO. If you want to learn more about the Jesus Storybook Bible, click here.

Merry Christmas!