A hymn I wrote this weekend. “i Need You.” I so need Jesus. So grateful He graciously came near and stays near.

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i need You.

You didn’t need, but were compelled.
To share communion, love, and worth.
The Word existing beyond the now
Breathed life in dust, brought heaven to earth.

I think I need more than You gave.
Delight in more. Discontent. Ongoing strife.
The Word made flesh one time You came
Resurrection needed. My untombed life.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

Need forgotten. Accolades.
Pride swells. Favor won.
You were already proud of me
Not my own merit. But Your Son.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

Help me remember. Keep believing.
My independence no longer chase.
So unaware how much I need You.
More gratefulness for Your grace.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

We need You. Lord we need You. Every breath we need You.
You’ve blessed us now our Savior. You came to us.

Christian – what is the essential message we have to share? Are we really sharing it? Please consider this…

Last night I had the privilege of hanging out with a group of Central Florida Spanish pastors. Our language barrier was less impeding than I expected it to be. Our kindredness was tangible, these broken hearts of leaders longing to see “Christians” go near with Jesus, burdened to see lost and lonely know they are fully loved. And the issue came up again.

It is an issue that has come up multiple times in conversation with leaders over these last years. The issue that we know Jesus intended His church to live sent, but why?

What is the essential message that we as His followers have to share? The message that we believed. The message that we hope others believe. And why?

Is that essential message the declaratoin that people are lost and hell is imminent and you need to choose Christianity? Is it the assertion that truth must be defended and a culture must be protected and so those pagans need to change? I am afraid that much of American church culture has mistaken that essential message to be one of or at least a derivative of these.

Hell is real. The Scriptures speak of it. I believe it. But I would suggest that Jesus lived and died and lived again to declare more than the message of hell’s imminence and the call to people to get their act together and grab a ticket out of it. He intended to give more than an alternative religion. He died to give life.

Truth is real. It is not an “it,” though. Truth is a person. Jesus needs not my strong defense for the sake of cultural preservation. Rather He asks for our selfless love for the sake of cultural restoration. This will not happen through our country’s capital. It will only happen through our respective community’s hearts. Jesus lived and died and lived again to go near with His love through His church’s going near with His love.

And maybe that is the essential message we have believed that we are now compelled to share. Could it be that simple?

The message I have believed and keep believing is that I am loved by the God who came near. The God Who did not wait for me to say I was sorry. Who did not leave me in my loneliness and hopelessness and hurt and shame and lostness. Who did not love me because I was lovable, but rather while I was still wayward and selfish and sinful and condemned did not condemn me. Who ached to give life again and was willing to lose life to be raised to life again. Who became “God with us” and asked me to go with Him, to love like I had been loved, now and forever.

Maybe the essential message we are to believe is that God loves us. Maybe the essential message He has intended that we share is simply that – we are loved by the God who made us, whom we spurned, but Who came near anyway.

Jesus, in fact, taught this to Nicodemus in John 3. God so loved the world, and those who “unbelieve” this are condemned by their own unbelief (John 3:16-18).

The two questions I have been asking friends, and for that matter that I keep asking myself as a reminder, are:

“What do you think God thinks of you?”

“Do you believe that God loves you?”

Lord, forgive us, please. Have mercy on us, please! Those of us here in America who call ourselves Your church have far too often called people to moralism rather than to You, the Messiah.

He does not want us just to live FOR Him. He desires that we live WITH Him. And He came near to restore us and invite us into that relationship.

Abundant life does not come when we live perfect and give our best. Abundant life comes and keeps coming when we live loved and give love as it has been given to us.

Sin was not worth dying for because it was the symptom of rules broken. It was worth dying for because it was the symptom of relationship broken. It is the evidence of death. It is the result of life not present, of love not trusted.

We believe we are loved and are fully secure in Him and that love compels us to love as we have been loved. That is good news worth sharing!!!

You are loved!!! You are loved fully!!! You are loved securely!!! You are loved graciously, even in your feelings of not being worth loving.

Jesus thinks you are worth dying for!!!

And why do we share this message?

Because not trusting that we are fully loved by the God who made us, believing that He is hiding something worth knowing from us, choosing to pursue what we can know rather than pursue knowing Him, that is the root of our problems. The cause of all evil. The source of our loneliness and isolation. The brokenness of humanity.

May we share His message. Surrendered. Grateful. Selflessly.

People we encounter every day do not believe they are loved and are lost, even trapped, in that brokenness. May that break our hearts like it broke God’s heart. May we remember our own brokenness that we did not fix ourselves. May we go near like He came near to us.

May the world believe in the One who was sent.

Jesus replied, “This is the work of God-that you believe in the One He has sent.”
(John 6:29 HCSB)

Cultivating Daily Valentine’s Week: are you unmarried but wish you were? wish Valentine’s Day would fall into the abyss of hurtful, lonely days? You are not alone…

Maybe you are unmarried or not even in a relationship that indicates you are at least a baby step closer to marriage, but you really wish you were. Then all this Valentine’s Day stuff happens, and the loneliness that you endure is highlighted with every email and e-card and cheesy Valentine you see. Facebook posts about undying love sting. Flowers smell less sweet. And even those color-dyed, sugar candies with messages like “kiss me” become annoying rather than cute.

If that’s you, you are not alone.

Believe it or not, I know some folks who are married and feel the same way. Having a mate close to you who is not close at all can be very lonely, too.

I don’t pretend to know how you feel or understand your current pain. It has been over 13 years since Jen and I tied the knot, and I am so grateful for her. But I do hurt for you. I have thought about you this week. I have hoped that you will remember that you are loved, even worth dying for, to a God who has come near.

Now, I am not throwing that out there in a cold, Christian-cliche kind of way. I promise. That’s not intended to be some cure-all salve for your heart, or some “suck-it-up cause you are supposed to be more spiritual than that” kind of message. I sincerely mean it. I pray that you actually believe that, because I have found in the different seasons of my own personal loneliness that remembering that Jesus actually does love me and thinks I am worth dying for is about all that I had to help me endure.

Enduring loneliness is so hard. Hope remains only when hope is believed. Perseverance is strengthened only when a persevering love is present. And focusing your thoughts on what i true is about the only thing that reorients the abstract reality of profound loneliness toward the Emmanuel-reality resurrected unto us in Christ.

The verses that I memorized and quotes over and over and prayed over and over in my own personal loneliness were Philippians 4:4-9. I wanted to share them with you here hoping they will offer encouragement to you.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

May our minds dwell on what is true and real and beautiful, not on the lies and abstractions and ugliness and fears that we tend to imagine for our future when we are walking in the darkness of loneliness.

It will not be any easier, but it will likely lead you down a destructive path unless you let your mind dwell on His imagined future for you rather than on your imagined future.

I hope your future will include a beautiful, difficult, worthwhile marriage. But even if it doesn’t, I pray that you and I both will never, ever, ever forget that to Jesus we are worth dying for.

That’s the Valentine’s Card otherwise known as the cross.

You are loved. I know, I know. You are lonely. But you are not alone. Again, this is just a reminder. A compassionate one.

I pray that somehow in some specific way that this weekend will include a significant reminder of that truth and a near embrace from the God who put on skin to come near.

Much love.
-jason

Cultivating Daily _ Valentine’s Week: imagine the power of a thoughtful Valentine…

We gave those meaningless Valentine’s back in third grade, too. I don’t even remember the “theme” of the card I gave, much less the themes of the cards I received. I think my son gave Jeff Gordon Valentines cards a couple of years ago, which is appropriate since he digs #24 but inappropriate since cards should be about the one to whom we are giving the Valentine I think.

Can you imagine the power of a thoughtful Valentine?

Kind of like any gift. There are those gifts you get that mean nothing. You open it and think, “Yeah, I saw this on the Clearance rack at Target, too. I didn’t really need another oven mit.” And then there are those gifts you open and think, “Oh my goodness. How very thoughtful of you to remember me mentioning that and put the effort in to get it and give it. It is as though I am actually loved.”

Now back to the Valentines thing. Don’t you want folks to open their Valentine from you and think the latter thought in the above paragraph?

Yeah, me too.

How powerful that might be. Especially if they might think they are loved.

After all, that is the reason for our existence, isn’t it? To believe that we are loved. More specifically, to believe in the God who demonstrated His love for us in this way – He gave up His Son. If that is our reason for existence, then maybe the reason for the church’s existence is to be a people among whom that love is on display and through whom that love is given into the lives of the lost and lonely and unloved of our world? If we go near to them, thoughtfully, caring more about what they are becoming than what we are becoming, how powerful could that be? How transforming?

That others who question the near love of Christ might witness it right before their eyes through the near love of a Christ-follower.

I guess that sort of makes His church a Valentine-giving agency. Maybe that’s a stretch. Or maybe not.

May we NOT be the sort of churches that give those generic Valentines-ministries that are more about who we are than about who the receiver is. May we instead give thoughtful, intentional, wise, near letters of love daily.

PRAY _ Lord, to whom might You be leading me to give a very thoughtful Valentine tomorrow? Please grant me wisdom regarding that gift, that it might demonstrate with much power how near Your love really is to us.

Grateful.
-jason