Articles

A Simple Theology

A Simple Theology

I believe God is always saying one thing: “I love you.” And He always follows up with a question, “do you believe me?” What would our lives look like if we could answer this one question that God is always asking?

Loving God Doesn't Make You Right - Put Your Sword Away!

Put Your Sword Away! "I don’t understand" races through Peters mind over and over and over.

Shaking and disoriented, Peter breaths heavy. There’s blood on the ground, it’s spattered across Jesus robe. Peter can taste the iron saltiness of it on his lips. He stands, frantic with desperation, over a mutilated piece of flesh. Angry tears blur his vision, he grits his teeth as he moves to strike the man again.

“Put your sword away!” Jesus demands.

Peter barely recognizes his lord and friends voice. Everything is falling apart. The night is full with panic and horror.

Jesus speaks again.

“Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

It felt like a slap across the face; everything Peter believed, being sifted like wheat.

Peter watched as Jesus leaned over the man he'd just struck with his sword. The man had fallen to his knees and now clutched the right side of his head; blood running between his fingers and down his arm.

Jesus “touched the mans ear and healed him.”

Peter had seen this so many times, Jesus kindness, His goodness, His healing, His sovereign love.

“I don’t understand” races through Peter's mind again as Jesus, the man he loved, the man he followed with all his strength, the man he had just given his life for, reprimanded him, “All who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

“I don’t understand,” tormented Peter as he followed the prisoner Jesus is into the temple grounds.

“I don’t understand” ravaged his heart as he denied that he knew the man he loved, once, twice, three times.

“I don’t understand” dismantled him, as he caught Jesus eye from across the courtyard.

“I don’t understand” sifted him like wheat as he fled the temple.

“And he went out and wept bitterly.”

Just hour’s earlier Peter thought he understood. “Lord I’m ready to go with you to prison or death.”

Just hours earlier Peter believed that Jesus kingdom on earth would need swords and men willing to use them. It would require sacrifice, the wiliness to die for Jesus, and also, the willingness to kill for Jesus.

The sovereign control narrative perverts everything, even our passionate love of God! It manipulates love into a desperate defense of our broken ideology.

We see it evidenced throughout history, well meaning Christians committed to murder in order to defend their idea of God.

The mindset is alive today. Open up Facebook and you’ll see it, well meaning Christians attacking others to defend their idea of God.

It’s everywhere, well meaning Christians preaching from church pulpits, political platforms, across the web, across the airwaves, attacking a person or organization in order to defend their idea of God.

Well meaning Christians destroying families and friendships and derailing great moves of God; well meaning Christians manipulating scripture to develop cult like devotion to the desperate defense of ideologies absolutely contrary to the revelation of Jesus.

Please get this, Peter didn’t defend Jesus, he defended his belief about Jesus. Peter believed that, if the kingdom was to be established on earth as it is in heaven, at some point Jesus must assume control. Except, Jesus never once modeled this.

If your understanding leads to anxiety, you don’t understand. Put your sword away!

If your love of God leads you to act out of fear, you need a greater revelation of His love. Put your sword away!

If you feel you must attack someone in order to defend your thoughts about God, it’s a good sign your thoughts about God are wrong. Put your sword away!

If you find yourself desperate and insecure on Gods behalf, you don’t have the whole story. Put your sword away!

Desperation is not a sign of spiritual maturity, it’s a sign we’re still journeying into His goodness, our minds still being renewed; it’s a sign we are still growing sure in sovereign love.

After the resurrection, Jesus met Peter on a beach and three times restored him with the question, “Do you love?”

“Lord you know” Peter answered.

Lord you know. That’s the answer God trusts.

This interaction wasn’t about whether Peter loved Jesus; that was never in question. This interaction was about where Peter would put His faith. Would it be in his understanding, in his love for God, or would it be in Gods sovereign love for him.

In the garden, Peter attempted murder because of his zealous love for Jesus. It nearly killed him. Our faith can never be in our love for God.

In the garden, Peter attempted murder in defense of what he knew. It nearly destroyed him. Our faith can never be in what we know.

In the garden, Peter attempted murder to help Jesus assume control. It led to bitter sorrow. Our faith can never be in sovereign control.

Our faith must be in the sovereignty of His love.

And when it is, we can be trusted with a sword.

"Feed my sheep…"

This is excerpted from Jason's forthcoming book, The Whole Story.

Jason Clark is an author, speaker and director of A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children. Jason’s new books, Prone To Love Untamed, are available where books are sold.

The Whole Story - Jesus, Control and a Unicorn

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The Hidden Things Were Being Made Plain “I see it! It’s a dolphin!” My college roommate Doug was acting like he had just discovered a cure for Ebola.

“Sure, I see it too. I said sarcastically. “It’s riding a motorcycle while eating a hotdog”

“No, serious!” he said. “It’s a dolphin in the ocean. Can’t you see it?”

Then another of my college friends erupted, “I see a pirate on a ship!” He was standing just a few feet away looking at one of the other computer-generated pieces of “art.” There were twenty or so pieces on display in the room.

“This one is the Terminator!” a third friend exclaimed with what seemed to be sincere wonder.

I thought they were playing a joke on me, making it up. All I could see was a repetitive digital mess of shapes and colors. Every poster size presentation looked like Max Headroom had attempted Jackson Pollock.

And much like a Jackson Pollock, each piece in this public art gallery, was obscurely titled. One tiled jumble of dots and triangles was labeled, The Dolphin, another, A Pirate on a Ship, and then of course, Terminator. The image I was looking at was apparently a, Unicorn and a Rainbow.

I played along, “This unicorn is clearly representing humanities internal obsession with the illusion that is our external reality,”

Doug joined me. “You seriously can’t see it?” He asked incredulously.

“Whatever,” I scoffed, but I was starting to think the fellas actually saw something I couldn’t see.

Then Doug, ever the helpful friend, patiently began to describe how there was a 3D image hidden in the repetitive design of neon squiggles and squares. He began to coach me.

“If you unfocus your eyes, the image will suddenly appear.”

I tried to unfocus, which isn’t even a word. It didn’t work.

Doug kept encouraging me while the other guys threw out random instructions between their outbursts of amazement. They seemed to see each new 3D image with greater ease.

“Squint your eyes… wow, it’s a space ship flying over the moon.”

“Spin around, it helps if you’re dizzy... cool, Darth Vader!”

“Just stare at your nose while keeping the picture in front of you… that doesn’t look like Pocahontas!”

I stood in front of that stupid picture of a unicorn and a rainbow for thirty minutes. Doug stuck with me for at least ten until he lost patience, “Just unfocus!”

“Unfocus? How does one do that?!” I thought, and also, “How do you know what Pocahontas looks like?”

The guys eventually moved on to whatever else that art gallery offered. But I stood there, a stubborn, dizzy, cross-eyed idiot trying to will a mythical creature to magically appear.

Eventually the fellas got bored and let me know they were going to leave without me if I didn’t join them at the car. I left dejected.

Over the next few years, 3D hidden art became an American experience. I couldn’t go into a bookstore without one of those picture books mocking me with my absurd inability to see 3D images hidden in a sea of monotonous digital striations.

Stupid unicorn.

Then one day at a Barnes and Nobles, while my new bride Karen stood beside me obnoxiously exclaiming every 3 seconds, “I see it, A Bird on a Wire”, or “oh, that one is fun, it’s Daffy Duck…” I saw it! That blessed beast, the legendary unicorn!

The image was titled Lady Liberty, and suddenly she exploded off the page in all her glorious wonder. Then, just as quick, she was gone. Just dots and shapes again.

I didn’t move. I willed myself calm, I waited, “come on out” I coaxed. I didn’t want to spook her. Something began to shift; I could feel my eyes adjusting, seeing in a way they never had before. “Easy now, careful” I encouraged.

And then, there she was again. Clear and indisputable and brilliant!

I didn’t take my eyes off the page. I didn’t move. I wouldn’t risk it lest my eyes revert to their old way of seeing. I wasn’t going to give her opportunity to hide again. I stood in awe.

After some time, with a small measure of confidence and excitement building, I cautiously flipped to the next page. New neurons and synapsis’ started firing; it was all there, The Dolphin, The Pirate, Darth Vader…

“He’s right, that looks nothing like Pocahontas!”

I devoured picture after picture, then book after book, hidden 3D images realizing before my eyes, each quicker than the last. I couldn’t see enough of them!

I had broken the code, I had shifted my lens, I had entered a new paradigm, I was living in a new narrative, the mysteries were being revealed, the hidden things were being made plain…

The Whole Story

Years ago I stopped reading the whole Bible. You read correctly. For about a two-year period, I only read the gospels. Well, that’s not fully true, occasionally I would brave my way into Psalms and Proverbs, but otherwise, I strictly and stubbornly stayed away from every book of the Bible except Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

I had discovered the unicorn and I wasn’t going to take my eyes off it.

I had caught a glimpse of something hidden in plain sight. I could feel the eyes of my heart adjusting, seeing in a way they never had before. I couldn’t afford to look away, not even for a moment. I wouldn’t risk it lest my eyes revert to their old way of seeing and I lose sight of this glorious revelation – Jesus. I was seeing Him in such powerful ways.

I cautiously flipped the pages; excitement building, new neurons and synapsis’ firing…

I remember my first picture bible; I was 5 and so proud to have my very own. My dad read the whole book to me over the following months.

I still have my One Year Bible; I read the whole of it when I was 13.

When I was 18 I went to Bible College where I studied the whole bible.

I love the whole bible, every page. I will continue to grow in my knowledge and love of it. But when I intentionally stopped reading the whole bible for those two years, I did so for a reason. I had some unlearning to do.

Unlearning is a lot like unfocusing, except unlearning is actually a word.

During those two years, I was not denying the whole bible; I was resetting my lens. I had seen the unicorn. I had discovered my core conviction, my whole theology - God is love, and His love is always good and He looked like Jesus!

Jesus is the clearest way to know what Love looks like, acts like, sounds like, dreams like, teaches like, interacts with Father like, walks in the Holy Spirit like…

Jesus is perfect theology - the clearest and truest way to know what God is like.

You see, most of my life I developed whole thoughts about who God was by reading my whole Bible. By that I mean, for too long I had allowed Job’s to carry as much weight as Jesus’. I don't do that anymore.

I am not suggesting God can’t be discovered in Job, but Job is the question, Jesus is the answer.

And Jesus is the whole answer. Jesus is the whole truth. Jesus is the whole perfect revelation of God. Jesus is what the whole Bible is about. Jesus is what everything before points to and what everything after is built upon. Jesus is the beginning, the end, everything in between and everything after. Jesus is the whole story – His, yours and mine.

During those two years in the gospels, I saw Jesus. And I couldn’t look away. Not for a second. He is wholly beautiful, wholly kind, wholly loving. During those two years when I wouldn’t read the whole bible, Jesus was making me whole.

I began seeing in a way I never had before. My old eyes, old thought patterns, old understanding of God, were being renewed. I began seeing life in a new way. I discovered a better language, a truer paradigm. The mysteries were being revealed; the hidden things were being made plain. God is love and His love is always good!

And He looks like Jesus. And I fixed my eyes on Him and only Him as the Author and Perfecter of my faith, the whole story.

The revelation of Jesus as the whole story began shifting my narrative, my foundational approach to our relationship, to every relationship, to every circumstance and to how I would eventually read the whole bible.

Jesus is my lens, my true narrative. His perfect love is my conviction. His goodness is my faith. Every question I have, every relationship or circumstance, every scripture, including the tension Job represents, is measured against the measureless revelation of Jesus.

I have discovered the unicorn. Jesus is the whole gospel, the whole story.

And just so, I have discovered the lens by which to know the sovereignty of God...

Jason Clark is an author, speaker and director of A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children. Jason’s new book Untamed is available now.

I Don't Know... But God Is Good

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Shortly after my book Prone To Love released I came across a review. The reviewer was an earnest believer who graciously but systematically challenged many of my core thoughts regarding the perfection of Gods always-good love. The review was thorough, the disagreement thoughtful, surgical and, because of the reviewers sincerity and the fact that scripture supported each challenge, convincing. As I read it I felt anxious. Not because the reviewer disagreed, I don’t need agreement. It was how the reviewer used scripture to methodically undermine the truths I had written. I felt a heavy obligation to systematically respond to each question raised. There was one problem, I wasn’t sure I had the answers.

The next time I sat down to write, instead of further developing the book I was working on, a book about sovereign love, a book that releases later this year, I began to develop a rebuttal.

I opened a new Word Doc on my MacBook. But after only ten minutes of writing I was uneasy. If I responded to each scripture reference, I would be at it for days, maybe even weeks; and after all that, I wasn’t sure I would be able to deliver convincing answers.

Then I heard God laughing.

“What are you doing?” He asked.

“I’m trying to get answers to the scriptures used in that review.” I responded.

“Any luck?” He asked.

“Not yet, and it’s a little overwhelming.” I responded.

“Well, whatever you do, don’t make them up.”

I smiled. “Father, You are so good. I love You.”

“I love you.” He replied.

Then I slid my little MacBook navigation arrow up to the left corner of my new Word Doc. I clicked the dark grey dot, which triggered the on screen prompt, “Do you want to save the changes you made to this document?”

“Don’t Save,” I clicked, smiling again, all anxiety gone. Then I went back to writing what I had been invited to write, I leaned into His pleasure.

My Fathers gracious interruption had done two things. First, He identified the source of my anxiety. I had started defending instead of revealing. Many years earlier I had come to the freeing realization that God doesn’t want, nor need, to be defended, but He loves to be revealed.

And I love to reveal Him. It’s my great joy to seek after and reveal His perfect love nature; to discover wisdom that I might have answers to the questions. Thats why I love Proverbs 4:7

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” 

Wisdom, it’s both a gift and mandate. And we have been both invited and instructed to seek after it until we have understanding. And this world needs men and women who have wisdom and understanding - who have the answers. This world needs leaders confident in His always-good love nature.

As believers, it’s not just our joy to discover the answers, it’s our honor to reveal them. And as Christians, we have all felt the cultural pressure, the expectation to provide the answers - all of them, even when we don’t yet know.

That’s why I believe this next phrase is so important.

I don’t know…

As I mentioned, my Fathers gracious interruption of my brief attempt to write a rebuttal had done two things. The second, He empowered me to live in the tension of not knowing. He removed from me the anxious striving to have all the answers and in so doing, He invited me into the process of wisdom and understanding.

I don’t know… is the humble gift we offer to the One who wants nothing more than to reveal Himself more fully to us. I don't know frees and then empowers us to discover.

You can't fill a glass that's already full. My point, greater revelation is only available to those who don't have it. The willingness to not have an answer is what positions us for THE answer.  A humble "I don't know" will lead us into wisdom and understanding quicker than knowing ever will.

I don't know is the invitation to discover His goodness in greater measure. Because, while there is plenty I don't know, there is one thing I am absolutely positive about, God is good.

I don’t know but God is good. That phrase has been one of our family and ministry motto’s for years. It’s a faith statement that has served us well.

The first half of that statement is extremely powerful only because we believe the second half with absolute conviction. We have made it our position on everything.

Why did we experience a miscarriage, I don’t know, but God is good.

Why did we lose our business, I don’t know, but God is good.

Why are we not experiencing breakthrough? I don’t know but God is good.

Why are we being persecuted for loving the lost, choosing honor, seeking His presence, revealing family, hoping where there is no hope, giving beyond comfortable, choosing life, living wildly faithful...

I don’t know, but God is good is the grace that empowers us to live between the tension of not knowing and His invitation to know, to get wisdom and understanding.

Wisdom is the gift given to those who are willing to embrace both mystery and revelation. Understanding is discovered by those willing to live in the tension of not knowing while believing He is good. The answers are imparted to those who have made intimacy the answer.

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)

The good news is, He really wants to tell us the answers! He really wants to give us wisdom and understanding.

I recently stumbled across that contrary review - the one that had briefly caused such anxiety. You know what’s funny; I can answer the questions now. In fact, I was surprised to realize I had unknowingly answered many of them in my forthcoming book.

I am convinced the gospel is easy, He loves us, and we grow sure. Just so, I am convinced ministry is easy, we are loved, we believe it, and we reveal His love.

I don’t know... but God is good and that’s more than enough.

May you grow sure in His pleasure!

Jason Clark is an author, speaker and director of A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children. Jason’s new book Untamed is available now.