For God so loved...

A few years ago, a song called “How He Loves” was released by David Crowder Band.

In the song, there is this line: “When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory. And I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me.”

I love that imagery. Take a pause and hear it slowly…“Afflictions eclipsed by glory…how great Your affections are for me.” 

In John 3:16 and in the entire story that God unfolds in His Son’s life, death, and resurrection we see the God’s Will to love us.

To love us so that our real and complex afflictions. Hear me…our real and complex afflictions….can be eclipsed by the glorious presence of a loving savior. They can be eclipsed, my friends.

To love us so that our desires, which so easily bring us to places we never wished to be, wouldn’t destroy us, but that those desires would come alongside the affections of a good, good Father. These great affections can teach us to desire what God desires…amazing.

To love us to the point that there is no mistake about how much God loves…

So God gives the only Son…Jesus.

So God shows us perfect life, the deepest compassion, and the greatest love.

God won’t stop at anything to make this love FOR the world known TO the world.

God’s will is God’s Delight. 

God’s Delight is to be connected to God’s children. So, God’s Delight sends God’s greatest love…the only Son. Through the Son…through giving of the Son…even unto death…connects God back to God’s children. 

It is the most terrible and most beautiful gift ever given to the world. 

All so God’s will of delighting once again with God’s children…with us...with me…with you…might come into loving reality.

This is how He loves us, my fellow forgiven and loved brothers and sisters.

Tables flipped & set

Jesus sets the tables…if he doesn’t, they get messed up. 

I learned this is a small way when I was young learning how to set the table for dinner. It was an important part of meal time at my grandma’s or great aunt’s house. The fork would go left of the plate while the knife and the spoon would go right of the plate, and underneath the knife and spoon would be the napkin with some standard floral pattern imprinted on it.

This was the best way to set the table…because it was the familial and relational way to set the table.

Relationship and family mean a lot to Jesus. Jesus walked into His Father’s house. There is no greater love for the Father than seen in the Son, Jesus. Yet, when he walked into His Father’s house he saw tables set in a different way than they should be.

Tables in the Father’s house is set up to promote mercy/faithfulness/connection even more than sacrifice.

Tables in the Father’s house are set for both the sinners and for the righteous.

Tables in the Father’s house are set for both the unacceptable and the the acceptable.

Tables in the Father’s house are set in the fashion of prayer, forgiveness, and grace.

This is how Jesus sets the tables in His Father’s house. This is why we always let Jesus set the table.

There will be times where we will want to set the table ourselves. There will be times when our family and friends set a table for themselves as well. Anytime a table is set without the presence of Jesus, the table becomes disorderly, distorted, and detrimental. The table is there for relationship and for family. The table is there for connection with God and with others. If the table is mis-set, then the disorder and distortion can become a detriment to those connections.

This is why we pray for Jesus to turn over our tables and to start anew. This is why we look when Jesus turns over loved one’s tables and come alongside His good work. All of this dramatic turning over of tables is to simply make sure the table is set beautifully by Jesus himself…so that the connection to the Father and to each other works beautifully in grace, in mercy, and in purpose.

I pray that we all let Jesus set the table…and if the table ever becomes mis-set, we rejoice to see tables being flipped over.

INvitation  & Help on the journey

Last week, I completely and utterly forgot to write the blog. Sorry, my friends.

So, that means this week you get a 2-for-1 deal. Two themes in one blog. The voice of Sent saying both “Come to the Gospel wilderness” and “Confess or get out of the way.”

For me…this is a natural connect. Yet, it’s only a natural connect because I lived in Texas for almost a decade.

I know, I know. Y’all are probably sick of hearing about Texas either from me or social media or now even the news. So, I promise I won’t drone on about Texas for too long. Just one story.

It happened in the Spring of 2010. I had moved my family from beautiful, scenic, and majestic Marina, CA (Monterey Bay Area) to hot, humid, and bug-infested south side of Houston, TX. To say that the move was difficult and even disastrous at times would be a gross understatement. Honestly, my friends, the move had broken me and was breaking my family.

I had never felt so foolish, misled, and lost in my ministry time. I wasn’t quite 3 years out of Seminary and I did not have a clue what I was doing as a pastor. I wanted to quit. I wanted to run away. I wanted things to be simpler and I wanted to be more passionate like I used to be.

Life had popped me across the face and I was down for the count.

Then one day sitting in my office feeling sorry for myself and my idiotic decision to move, I received a phone call. There was a man on the other end of the phone who introduced himself as “Mike.” He had he was from the district office and heard I might be looking for a new call. I half-heartedly told him my situation and a little bit about myself. This Mike guy sounded way too cheerful for the kind of mood I was in. 

Mike spoke to me about a position in Austin, TX working with the students at the University of Texas and the downtown community of city. He talked probably for about 15 minutes about the position, and ultimately I interrupted him with this incredibly unprofessional but vulnerable sentence, “I’m interested in anything that gets me out of here.” At this moment, Mike should have heard the desperation in my voice and politely excused himself and never talked to me again. But he didn’t. Instead, he offered me a chance to interview for the position, and low and behold I got the position. 

My dear friends, Mike understood how complicated the Gospel wilderness can be. He understood there were wild animals at work in my life but he also saw the ministering angels working to keep me going in following after Jesus. Mike fully saw a deep passion in me to confess boldly this Jesus and His love to the world, but he also saw a kid stumbling over himself who just needed to get out of his own way and trust the Spirit more. Mike, God bless him, in a simple 30 minute phone call accepted the invitation of Jesus to walk alongside this broken young pastor in his journey of being Sent, and because of that I can preach and teach amongst y’all today.

The same invitation is for us, my friends. Maybe you are being called to walk alongside somebody today who is being Sent and just needs a friend. Maybe you are directly being Sent out and you’re not sure what to do. Maybe this whole idea that we are not only Loved by God but also Sent by God is sort of new to you. 

No matter where you find yourself today, through the grace and strength of God I encourage you to accept the invitation to go deeper into the Gospel we follow and the Confession of faith that we share. Accept the invitation to journey with Jesus into a wilderness, into a conversation, or into mission to see how deep the Gospel truth goes and what kind of confession of faith it might produce in your own life. For truly this is what Lent is all about…and in following after Jesus we all need a little help and perhaps even a Mike to join us in the journey.

a charcoal gospel

This week has had several elements simultaneously happening.

A “Listen and Go” voice of Love found on the mountain of Transfiguration.

A “Desirable Delight” from our Delight book that taught us desire isn’t the problem but the focus is

A “Cross of Ashes” from Ash Wednesday which spoke of a crumbly & grimy cross to learn and live under

Those are a lot of elements. So, let me try to put them together in a simple phrase:

“The ashes have to listen, so they can catch fire in the desire to go”

Allow me for a moment, to put this phrase with an illustration from my love of BBQ.

At the center of any good BBQ is good fuel for the fire. If you are slow cooking, that’s usually some combination of wood, pellets, and/or charcoal. Yet, I got into BBQ at a young age and all I ever used then was simple charcoal from the store. I never wondered where or how the charcoal was made…it just was there on the shelves with a price tag.

So, here’s how charcoal is made, according to WikiHow: “Lump charcoal, which is made by burning pieces of wood until all the impurities are gone and only the coal remains” (

I love this description. Charcoal is created by burning out all impurities of a piece of wood until only the fuel, called coal, remains.

This is it, my friends. Take just 30 seconds to let it sink in. “The ashes have to listen, so they can catch fire in the desire to go.”

You and I are ashes…and ashes we’ll return. But we are told a different story by a voice that rends the heavens: “You are a beloved child.”

Wow! There’s no way, right?! But we are! These are the impurities that God is burning away in us. The impurities that we aren’t good enough for the love of God. The impurities that say there is no real love of God. The impurities that say we are deserving by what we have done of the love of God. Any kind of shame, arrogance, fear, or disbelief…God burns away in the ashy cross grounded into our forehead. 

Yet, that’s only the beginning. Now, we are ready to catch fire. Now, we are ready to burn with desire for what the Father wants and not what only we want. Now, we are ready to go and seek the kingdom of Jesus above all else and see the Lord’s righteousness at work in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

This is my prayer, my dearest brothers and sisters in Jesus…that we, ashes and dust that we are, catch fire with the desire to be SENT because we have heard the voice of the one who rends the heavens and speaks from the ashy cross that we are LOVED.

A blessing of Love and Sent-ness be to each of you in this Lenten journey.

Love invites us to taste healing, even when it's hard (Week 5)

I never saw my great aunt Dorothy sick all through my childhood. She was as strong as an ox and as bold as a lion in the way she approached life. I am sure she was sick and I am even more certain she had days she wanted life to go away. Yet, I never saw those moments. I just saw the woman who ran her own business, took care of my grandmother at times, and faithfully went to church almost every Sunday.

When I was told my great aunt Dorothy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I honestly did not believe it. I could not believe anything could stop the immovable force that was my great aunt. I thought she would ride directly into heaven, like Elijah did in the Old Testament. Yet, when I saw her for the first time, I knew it was true. She looked more lean and feeble than I’d ever seen her, even though her strength and boldness were left mostly intact at that time. She looked at me and smiled, liked she’d done a thousand times before, yet then the smile faltered for a moment into confusion and delusion. For a moment, she forgot the name of who she was smiling at. Those moments only grew over the next several years.

During those years were many difficult moments, but during those years were also many moments of laughing, eating too much food, spectacular pinochle games, and lots of healing of old wounds. My great aunt Dorothy did not own her own business anymore, my grandmother now took care of her, and she rarely attended church service more than once or twice a month. Even in all this, God showed off His healing in constantly giving this woman the strongest belief He was with her no matter what. She constantly talked, in almost nonchalant ways, about how she may be forgetting everything but she isn’t forgetting that God loves her and He is in control.

Jesus came into Peter’s household and healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus touched people with sickness and they were healed. Jesus rebuked the unclean spirits within people and in doing so gave freedom back to those individuals. Jesus shows up in the everyday and is willing to give healing, restoration, and hope to anyone and everyone. Yet, do we want to taste and see this Jesus? Healing, in the way we want it, is not guaranteed when we taste and see. Restoration is not always the kind we thought about when we prayed to God. Freedom sometimes looks extremely strange or even shocking in the light of Jesus. Yet, in all of our lives, Jesus is willing to bring His presence and His healing…but are we willing to taste it?

My great aunt Dorothy was not healed from her Alzheimer’s disease. She died 7 years after her diagnosis, and frankly from the outside looking in it was a very sad and tragic 7 years. Yet, from the kitchen table, where all that laughter, eating too much, and pinochle games happened…God was present and my great aunt Dorothy was willing to taste that presence. From that tasting she found a different kind of healing, and because of that she was able to find not only delight in life but also she was able to serve others, in reminding them of God’s love and presence, from the space of that delicious delight.

My dear friends, I don’t know what your circumstance is and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Yet, I know that Jesus’ presence brought healing. Healing of the mind, heart, body, and soul. The healing then invited the tasting of the good food of Jesus…His Word, His bread, and His very presence. From that tasting came even more healing. Finally, in all that beautiful healing and tasting and tasting and healing, came delicious delight that helped people serve one another. The food, the fruit of all the healing and tasting bore forth a kitchen table where delicious food could be served, laughter could ring out, and serving one another was seen as a privilege and not a chore. We see this in our Scripture passage from Mark 1. We see this in chapter 4 from our Delight book. And I got the honor of seeing this in the life of a bold woman sitting at a kitchen table knowing she was loved by our Lord.

Unexpected darkness, unfailing Love (Week 4)

Growing up in Kansas, I had several experiences of the lights going out. They went out in bad thunderstorms. They went out in days of heavy ice or snow. They sometimes even went out because the heat was too much. Being plunged into unexpected darkness was just part of growing up in Kansas.

I think sometimes we are surprised when we are plunged into darkness. We are followers of Jesus. We go to church, pray consistently, generally try to be good people, and give thanks to God for all good things. So, when we discover we are walking in darkness, I think it totally takes us back. 

Jesus, however, never seemed to be surprised by finding darkness around him or in other people. I guess, you could call him a good Kansan (lol). He knew what to do when he saw darkness…he would call people out of it. He had this beautiful way of speaking directly into the darkness and guiding people, through His words and love, into the joyful, even playful reality of His light.

This is exactly how my mom taught us kids to handle being plunged into darkness. Listen for the voice of love (my mom) and then turn it into a bit of a game in finding the right flashlight or candle so light could pour back in. 

While, I’m not saying darkness is a game, there is a playful delight that Jesus is calling us into from the darkness. As he gave voice to the darkness dwelling in the man in the sacred synagogue so He could bring the man into the light for healing, so Jesus calls us, in whatever darkness we are facing, into a playful delight of following after Him and experience healing.

Jesus does this through His powerful words and His present love. The way He will do this may seem strange, even comical in some way. Yet, this is the way of Jesus, my friends. We, who have been known by the Father’s love and seen by the Father’s eyes, are now called to follow after this Jesus who will always be there when we are plunged into darkness. He will be there with these powerful words and He will be there with His never failing present love. 

Whatever darkness we are falling into or finding ourselves plunged into in these difficult days, know that the Jesus, who you follow, hasn’t left you nor forsaken you. He is speaking powerful words over you and through His present love calls you out of the darkness and into His playful, delightful light. Hear those words again, my friends. Feel that love again, my friends. And follow after that light that has overcome all darkness and given us great healing.

The delight of being asked to Follow (Week 3)

I’ll never forget the first time I was asked to on a delivery with my grandma.

You see, my grandma for a few years worked for my great aunt Dorothy (my grandma’s older sister) in a florist shop.

My Aunt Dorothy was a master florist and even better a master community builder. She loved here little community of Chanute, KS, and she took great honor is being one of their florists.

Anyway, my grandma was her helper, secretary, bookkeeper, and many times delivery person. I sat in the back of the florist staying out of trouble (mostly) and playing with my toys.

Yet, one day, I have no idea how old I was (maybe 9 or 10), my grandma said to me, “Come on, Jon! Let’s go deliver some flowers together.”

The whole world exploded in that one moment. I, yes little ole me, was being asked to come and follow after my grandma on her deliveries. This sparked years of knocking on doors, seeing surprised looks on people’s faces where they worked, quietly peeking into hospital rooms, and even rummaging through old cemeteries to find that one right and special headstone to place flowers in front of.

All of these kind of emotions, I believe, were present for the original disciples when Jesus said to them…”Follow me.” 

The words were approval. The words contained permission. The words were wonder and delight for the disciples that they would be asked to follow along and actually go on adventures with Jesus. The road wouldn’t be easy and they had to leave family, toys, and routines behind, yet they followed after Jesus and it seemed like the most natural thing to do after experiencing Jesus in their lives.

Such a delight of approval and being asked should be the same impotence for us to answer Love asking us, “Follow me.” We should not follow Jesus out of manipulation, guilt, shame, or coercion. Just as much we should not follow Jesus out of comfort, routine, or ease of access. No. If we are going to follow Jesus, it will be because His voice will sound like the voice of my grandma that one fateful day. The voice will fill us will awe and wonder. The invitation will resonate within us with approval and acceptance. From that place of delight, we drop all of our toys and run after Jesus…and look forward to all of our adventures with him.

Being Seen and delighted in (Week 2)

It’s not enough to be opened up…you have to be seen and then told you’re delighted in.

I remember these kind of words (not exactly, but close) from my first counselor when I was a boy. My counselor, Pam, made it her mission in life to work with youth and children who had found themselves in dark spaces. She would use anything, from pop music reference to simple puppets, to get kids to open up to her. Yet, that was just the beginning.

She would constantly ask more questions about how I felt about something happening at home and then how I saw myself in that event. She knew that I loved hanging in the background of all the “craziness” of my household, but then afterwards blaming myself for the whole event and beating myself up.

It took years to not only open me up…but then to convince me that she saw me in all this and she was proud of me how I handled it all.

This is God’s first good work with us: to open us up with His voice (remember Jesus’ baptism) and then through love convince us we are seen and are truly delighted in.

This is what Nathanael (and Philip) discovered in John 1:43-51. This is what Justin was writing about in chapter 1 of “Delight.” 

We are seen! We are delighted in! When God sees us he doesn’t shake his head and move on. God sees us for who we are and where we really are in life, and then he shouts out, “Woohoo” because he loves seeing and being with His kids.

Yet, it doesn’t stop there. He then invites us to see our families, our friends, our co-workers, the stranger on the street, and even ourselves in the light of the love and delight He has for us. 

There is so much healing in this, I can’t even describe it to you. Just know that you are seen, my friends, and you are delighted in by God. Start there. Let it sink in. And then hear the invitation to start seeing your entire world and yourself through the lens of love.

Known by Love (week 1)

This week we have dove deep into the baptismal waters of Jesus, my friends. In these waters, we have discovered our own renewal through being known by love.

I really enjoy how Justin in “Delight” describes God’s love that knows us intimately: “God loves you and delights in you in a visceral, emotional, intellectual, and playful way.”

When I think about this description, Jesus’ baptism comes back into my mind. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all show up for this event…which in itself is quite cosmic and multi-sensory. 

However, that’s not all.

The heavens rend open. Wow! What a visceral sight to behold. I can’t imagine what my insides would be doing if I saw the sky tear open. They probably would be doing backflips!

Then the Spirit descends from the heavens. I don’t know about you, but when I think about the Spirit I think about my emotions. When I’m overly emotional, I sometimes say my soul or spirit is on fire. Can you imagine the emotional experience of the Holy Spirit descending upon you?!!

The Spirit may bring emotions, but the way it falls from the heavens is downright playful, as far as I’m concerned. The Spirit descends onto Jesus in the form of a dove…a bird. Now, there’s some Old Testament references going on here that’s important…but for the 21st century reader a divine spirit coming in the form of a bird is straight out of a fun fantasy book. It’s whimsical; it’s playful.

Finally, the Father speaks. Speaks directly into how Jesus should think about himself: “You are my Son, whom I love.” Right after that, the Father’s voice informs Jesus how He thinks: “With him, I am well pleased.” The voice is deep in both perspective and in identity. It’s practical, philosophical, and deeply intellectual.

That’s all great for Jesus…but what does this all have to do with us?

Well, it’s like Justin says…all the love, all the rending, all the Spirit, all the Father’s voice, all of it…it’s for us, my friends. It’s all a gift to rend us open and proclaim us to be children of the living God. 

Before we take one step further down this road of being Loved & Sent….stop and experience the visceral, emotional, intellectual, and playful love of God. Whether for the first time in the a long time or whether it’s the tenth time it’s happened this week.

The Father’s voice through the power of the Holy Spirit by the gift of Jesus’ baptism proclaims over you today and for the rest of your life - “You are beloved…and you are known by my love!”

What is Loved & Sent (Intro)

What is the Loved & Sent vision series all about?

Well, mostly…it’s about you. Yes…you, my friends.

Most vision campaigns, series, or programs are about the church institution, corporation, or process.

What kind of buildings can we build? What kind of programs can we start? What kind of staff can we hire?

While all these are completely fine and even important to talk about, it’s not the core subject of what this Loved & Sent season is all about.

We will talk a bit about the building and how to best use it for kingdom work and steward it as it ages.

We will talk a bit about programs, especially the kind that form community and serve neighborhoods.

We will even talk a bit about staffing and what this means in challenging time as this.

However, if you really want to know what this Loved & Season movement is about…it’s about the movement of our hearts and lives as we interact with the Spirit.

This is why this season is about you. It can’t be about “the church.” It can’t be just about this idea or vision or concept. It has to be about who we are, where we are, and what we want to do about it. This season is all about our hearts and lives and how they interact with being loved and being sent by the Triune God.

That’s it. That’s as complex as it gets. I’ll do sermons, write blogs, and even teach on this concept…but it will all be just saying in different ways that one central concept: we are loved and we are sent by God.

So, for you who like a guide for how we are going to present this, I offer you this small token. 

The Loved part will be broken up into 3 couplets, as will the Sent part. Then there will be 1 hinge Sunday swinging from Loved to Sent, and then there will be a grand finale on Easter Sunday. 14 weeks of Loved & Sent. 14 weeks to be reminded of how much we are infinitely loved by God and how much we are intimately sent by God.

Are you ready, my friends? And oh…did I mention there’s a book that accompanies this adventure. Yes, of course, the Bible will be central. I’m talking about another book called “Delight” by my dear friend Justin Rossow. Alright, this is long enough as it is…I’ll get you more info on the book later.

Being Loved and Sent,

Pastor Jonathan