Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Advent Week 4: Love

Here is my excerpt from our Advent devotional at First Baptist Church of Bozeman, where I serve as one of the pastors.


As I’ve been saying each week, Advent is a journey. We began by striving to hold hope – even when hopelessness can so easily pervade our lives and our world. In the midst of death and sickness and war and divorce and all kinds of evil that have invaded our world, we cling to hope as we anticipate the coming of the hope of the world. We anticipate God’s redemptive goodness being birthed once again into our world of chaos and pain. Then, as we begin to trust that God is doing a new thing here – a new creation – we begin to gain a sense of peace. Despite the lack of peace all around us, God’s faithful presence and active involvement in the world endows us with a sense of assurance that could only come from the Prince of Peace. And then, when the peace of Christ has washed over us, cleansing us from the tyranny of violence, confusion, and chaos so prevalent in our world, we emerge from this baptism with a profound sense of joy – a joy that strikingly transcends the trite, superficial happiness the world so often pedals.

And finally, this journey brings us to the category of love. As we learn to struggle through this hope-peace-joy process, the journey of Advent, we emerge not just with a personal joy, but also with the capacity to love. We have felt and seen the presence, faithfulness, and love of God – even in the worst of circumstances – and this propels us forward to be present, faithful, and loving for the world. As Jesus says in John 13:34, “Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.” As we experience the love of God, we too are invited into the task of love. We are invited to help others find hope, peace, joy, and love in the midst of their despair, restlessness, depression, and bitterness.

So as this Advent season wanes and Christmas day draws near, may we not just anticipate the joyous arrival of the cute, cuddly infant in a manger. But may we also invite the God of love into our lives. May we allow ourselves to be shaped and transformed by a God that loves us enough to come near, enter into the mire and muck, and redeem the world from within. And may we be challenged to embody this same love for our world – to partner with God in creating a new heaven and a new earth – a wholly redeemed world.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent Week 3: Joy

Here is my excerpt from our Advent devotional at First Baptist Church of Bozeman, where I serve as one of the pastors.


“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

As author Frederick Buechner alluded to in yesterday’s reading, joy is a journey that one does not arrive at quickly. It is the ‘final’ word that is only reached through enduring the first word (and, undoubtedly, many other words). We, in the church, are quite skilled at masking our real emotions – the pain and hurt and confusion and anger that so often surround us – choosing to answer the frequently-asked question, “how are you,” with the stock response of “fine.” We know that joy is inherently Christian – a good emotion that we all ought to strive for in our lives – and yet, we haven’t been taught that true joy only comes as we learn to properly travel through our own grief and loss and brokenness. So we put on our happy faces and pretend that all is swell, when in reality we might be crushed inside and longing for a true joy that far transcends momentary happiness.

Which brings us again to the significance of the Advent season – because this is really what Advent is all about. We begin this season with an effort to hold hope, even when all seems so hopeless. The world is dark, and yet we’ve been given the promise of the Light of the World. And then, if we will be brave enough to truly wrestle with hope in the midst of our hopelessness, we might just come to some sort of peace – that no matter what, in all circumstances, in good times and bad, God will be with us. In the midst of an angry, violent world of war, we’ve been given the promise of the Prince of Peace. And then, as we experience a sense of peace in the arms of our ever-present, ever-loving God, we have finally made space for true joy to enter our lives – the Joy of the world – a joy that neither neglects our pain and struggle, nor allows that hurt and brokenness to define and control us.

And so, as we continue this season of Advent, may we be people who will embrace our brokenness without losing hope, encounter peace without succumbing to passivity, and then experience a joy that far exceeds the trite, meaningless quest for happiness that is so pervasive in our culture.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent Week 2: Peace

The following is my piece from week 2 of our Advent devotional at First Baptist Church of Bozeman, the church I help pastor.


Vengeance and anger and war have engulfed our world – surrounding and suffocating us in a prison of violence. From our front porch to Ferguson, from Bozeman to Baghdad, we are constantly bombarded with the reality of conflict. In fact, the U.S. has spent over $10 million PER HOUR on war since 2001. We have come to assume that this tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye way of thinking is not just normal, but right. We have come to know of no other way.

And yet, the Advent season begs us to dream of another way. In a world so steeped in violence that it has lost its collective imagination for any other way of problem solving, we are invited to wait for, and welcome, the Prince of Peace into the world. In a world where it is impossible to watch the news for any length of time without encountering enormous amounts of strife and conflict, we are invited to remember that violence and war and death do not get the final word in the Kingdom of God.

So, in this Advent season, may we hold out hope that the Prince of Peace might show up on the scene afresh, with a new, revolutionary message of shalom in the midst of our terribly broken world. May we have eyes to see how our God of redemption might be knitting together a tapestry of peace and love and justice for all. And may we be courageous enough to partner with God in being agents of this peace, love, and justice…here, and now.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ten Years and Running...

Well…today is a special day. Today I celebrate the tenth anniversary of my marriage.  I can’t believe we’ve had a decade together…wow!

As we reach the age where we are watching a number of our friends’ marriages beginning to dissolve, I consider myself SO fortunate and blessed that after 10 years together, I am more in love with my wife than I was when we met. I fully understand that it’s not always that way – and I try to never take my relationship for granted.

The last 10 years have certainly been an adventure. I was 21 years old at our wedding and am a completely different person today than I was then. And Mandy is different too. But we have journeyed together through all of these changes, committed to the process of growing and maturing and transforming together.

We have lived in 3 different states. We have lived in a dorm and apartments and the big city and in community with other people. And now we own a home.

We, collectively, have 4 more degrees than we had when we started. We have continually been committed to the process of learning, and much sacrifice has occurred in order to make that happen – mainly by Mandy in allowing us to pack up everything and move to Seattle for seminary. I will always be grateful for her sacrificial and adventurous spirit – because moving to Seattle changed our lives in so many ways and I will always be grateful for our time there.

And now we are here in Bozeman with the two most amazing kids in the world – putting down roots, forming lifelong friendships, committing to the place where God has us. Life has changed so much – in some ways slowing down to a delightful crawl and in other ways speeding up to a hectic chaos. But life is good and I love every day.

I have no idea what the future holds for our little family, but I am so glad to have a partner for the journey. I’m sure there will be joy and pain, ease and struggle, hope and despair – but there’s no one I’d rather share this life with. Mandy continually challenges me and stretches me and encourages me and loves me. She is an incredible wife and mother and woman and I am so blessed to have her in my life.

Here’s to the next decade.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Cycle of Hatred

Here's another beautiful, prophetic cartoon from Naked Pastor. There's a ton of wisdom in this.

HT:  Naked Pastor

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Bit About Our Plans

Here's some information about the Sunday night service that we are starting at First Baptist Bozeman. I thought you all might appreciate seeing what kind of language I've been using to talk about what we are trying to create with this service. This is the information that is being added to our church website.


Sunday Night Service @ First Baptist Church
120 S. Grand, Bozeman MT

Meal @ 5:30pm
Worship @ 6:00pm

The Sunday night service at First Baptist Church exists to provide an alternative worship experience for people who are not currently attending our morning service. Perhaps you covet your weekends and just MUST sleep in on Sunday mornings? No problem - join us at night! Or maybe you want to spend your Sunday hitting the slopes or the trails? Perfect - come worship in the evening!

Or maybe typical morning church isn’t your thing? That’s great - you’ll find the night service to be a welcoming place, regardless of where you are on your faith journey. Come worship, grow, learn, change, and serve with us as we seek to encounter the good news of Jesus as a faith community and then become the good news of Jesus for our Gallatin Valley community.

Each week we will share a meal together and then head into the sanctuary for a time of music, prayer, learning from Scripture, and Communion…and we will do it all in community. We will pray for each other, teach one another, and serve one another. And we will hope to be gradually transformed into people of Jesus - people of grace, peace, and love. I hope you’ll join us on the journey!

If you have further questions, please contact Pastor Jason at or the church office at

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A New Adventure

The following are a few words I wrote in our monthly newsletter at First Baptist Church of Bozeman (where I work) about the Sunday night service we are about to start. I'm both excited and scared about this new undertaking, so I tried to capture my ambivalence and ask for prayer in this time of uncertainty.


 I used to sleep well. I would plop down on the pillow, only to be wakened by the glow of the sunrise. But those days are gone.

Now most of this newfound sleeplessness is a result of ‘baby number two’ and the round-the-clock attention she requires. But not all of it. I also find myself lying awake at night thinking and dreaming about the Sunday evening service we are about to begin. I find myself thinking about people I’ve never met—wondering who will attend and where God will lead us as a group. I find myself praying that as we journey together in the way of Jesus, we will encounter his good news. And, in return, be good news for our world.

I find my body racing through the gamut of emotions—one second filled with excitement and passion, while the next, terrified with doubt and anxiety. But I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be when you embark on a new adventure. Like a young hobbit leaving the Shire for the first time, you ought to be all-at-once filled with excitement and anxiety, bravery and terror, wonder and doubt. That’s the nature of God’s call. It will most-certainly leave you trembling with both anticipation and trepidation. It will ask more of you than you thought you had in you, but will also fill you with an overwhelming sense of God’s presence on the journey.

So as we begin this new venture, I covet your prayers. There are many ways that you can be of assistance as we embark on this new outreach ministry (and I would love to talk with you about those), but first and foremost, I ask that you would pray. Pray for me and our leadership team. Pray for those who might attend—people we have not even met that might soon be part of our church family. And most importantly, pray that the evening service would be a place where the good news of Jesus is both encountered and shared. 


Sunday Night Service @ First Baptist Church
120 S. Grand, Bozeman, MT

5:30p - Communal Meal
6:00p - Worship Service 

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Fun Facebook Convo...Sprinkled with Sarcasm & Seriousness

A few days ago I had a really fun, helpful conversation on Facebook with one of my best friends, Nate Larson. I asked him if I could post our conversation here on my blog, partly because I think we are hilarious, and partly because I feel like some really meaningful things were said. This conversation is a pretty even mix of sarcasm and seriousness, but I trust that you will be able to tell the difference between the two. To set the context of this conversation, Nate and I were talking about another pastor who was going to be preaching on the Sermon on the Mount. Enjoy!


Nathaniel Larson
smart! mennonites love the sermon on the mount

Jason Bowker
Baptists love Romans!
Nathaniel Larson
no doubt!
Jason Bowker
True. Cause he actually taught stuff instead
of just telling weird ambiguous stories

Nathaniel Larson
yea, Jesus was a hippy whose systematic
theology needed some work


Jason Bowker
And terrible evangelist. Always telling people to
be silent about who he was

Nathaniel Larson
yea, i wish people talked about that more

Jason Bowker
Yeah no one talks about the underground
covert nature of the gospel

Nathaniel Larson
nope, the gospel revealed by people in the
context of real community revealed by our lives,
not by marketing campaigns, tracts or tshirts


Jason Bowker
I love all those t-shirts. So convincing.
Makes me wanna turn my life over to Jesus

Nathaniel Larson
me too! i became a christian because of one,
and a bumper sticker, i was like - wow in case
of rapture that car will be unmanned, that is scary,
i love you Jesus and i want to follow you


Jason Bowker
If that person's boss is a Jewish carpenter,
I want mine to be one too!!

Nathaniel Larson
ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Nathaniel Larson
Like the born again thing, which is a total crack up
to me. Cause Jesus only said that to one guy one time.
And then there was that whole born again movement.
You know where everybody said you had to be born
again. And I was going, 'why, am I Nicodemus?'
What happened to the passage that said, 'if you want
to follow Me, give up all you've got and give it to
the poor and take up your cross?' Do we all have to
do that too? Wheaton College April 11, 1997


Nathaniel Larson

Jason Bowker
I think the born again conversation has some
bearing for us. But not what we have made it.
It's original intention is that the person who
is born again is radically changed in every way.
A completely new person with all new behaviors
and language. Not just that I made some
one-time commitment that eternally
secured my eternity with god

Nathaniel Larson
what do you think about its relation to what
Jesus says to the rich young ruler?

Rich Mullins is the quoter of the quote i sent you
in affect Jesus said each thing to one person

Jason Bowker
I think those things are both specific and general.
Both intended for that person and to help shape the world.
But the main point is that the good news is
certainly not the same for everyone. It is contextual.
It meets us where we are and offers hope and
peace and grace into our specific circumstances

Nathaniel Larson
well put

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I Resolve To...

I believe in the power of setting goals. So, without further ado, here are the goals I have set for this coming year. I'm sure I'll be blogging more about each of these throughout the year, and hopefully this process will hold me accountable to fulfilling my goals.

Read 18 books (12 non-fiction & 6 fiction)

Each year I have a goal of reading a certain number of books, but usually I only read non-fiction books. So this year I'm adding some fiction books to my goal. There are a number of book series that I have been wanting to read, including The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, but I also want to finally read some classic series like Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Blog at least once a week

I used to blog a lot. A long time ago. But for quite a while I have been incredibly inconsistent with my blogging. So this year I want to commit to blogging about once a week. That's not a lot, but at least it's a goal that is attainable and sustainable.

Kiss my wife once a day

Please read this goal as completely innocent. In this goal, I am simply acknowledging that with kids now in our lives, it is easy to focus so much on kids that we forget to prioritize our marriage. I simply want to remember daily that I love my wife.

Find our rhythm as parents of two small children

This year will bring about a completely different life for us as we welcome child #2 into the world. We will need to find a new, healthy rhythm that works for our family.

Make some more friends in Bozeman

This was a goal for me last year too, but I need to be intentional about making a few more friends here in Bozeman. It's tough to make friends when you work all day and then go home to your family at night, so I need be really intentional in finding more people to share life with here.

Develop my pastoral role at our church

I have spent most of this past year (my first in Bozeman) finding my way as an employee at the youth center, so I'm looking forward to exploring my role as one of the pastors at our church this year. I have one huge idea of how this will happen, which I will be writing about in the coming months.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

God With Baggage

Once again, Naked Pastor has produced an incredibly thought-provoking cartoon. I don't have time for commentary on this, but the cartoon speaks for itself. Enjoy.

HT: Naked Pastor

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Some Brilliant Basics of Faith

In a previous post I included some of my favorite quotes from Nadia Bolz-Weber's book Pastrix. One brilliant section was a little too long for that post, however, so I thought I would dedicate an entire post to these thoughts.

When Nadia first came back to the church, years after leaving the fundamentalist church of her youth, she attended an ELCA Lutheran church where her fiance was an intern. When she decided to join the church she needed to take a membership class that was taught by the pastor. In the book, Nadia included the five main points that the pastor spoke about in this class. These five teachings are a great place to begin with people that are new to the church and I can definitely see myself "borrowing" (aka 'stealing') these in the future as I speak to new members at my church. Here are the five:
  1. God's grace is a gift that is freely given to us. We don't earn a thing when it comes to God's love, and we only try to live in response to the gift.
  2. No one is climbing the spiritual ladder. We don't continually improve until we are so spiritual we no longer need God. We die and are made new, but that's different from spiritual self-improvement.
  3. We are simultaneously sinner and saint, 100 percent of both, all the time.
  4. The Bible is not God. The Bible is simply the cradle that holds Christ. Anything in the Bible that does not hold up to the Gospel of Jesus Christ simply does not have the same authority.
  5. The movement in our relationship to God is always from God to us. Always. We can't, through our piety or goodness, move closer to God. God is always coming near to us. Most especially in the Eucharist and in the stranger.
While these five certainly don't encompass all Christian thought and belief, they seem like an appropriate place to start with people who are new to your church. I think they are incredibly helpful.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

It Made My List Too

As 2013 has been coming to a close over the past month, I have seen a handful of lists from bloggers I follow about their top books over the past year. And one book seems to consistently show up on each list - Pastrix: the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Pastrix is Nadia's first book, a memoir, and after finishing it last night (just after midnight), I can safely place it on my top-10 list for 2013 as well.

I have no intention of this post being a book review, but simply a place to post some of the most memorable and meaningful quotes from the book. Basically, her memoir is the story of God's redemption and resurrection, how God constantly ushers light into darkness, bringing life out of death. Here are some of my favorite parts from Pastrix.

"Grace is when God is a source of wholeness, which makes up for my failings. My failings hurt me and others and even the planet, and God's grace to me is that my brokenness is not the final word."

Nadia's husband, in response to Nadia wanting to leave a church with a difference of beliefs: "There's not enough wrong with it to leave and there's just enough wrong it it to stay. Fight to change it."

A suggestion of what their church slogan should be: "Welcome to House for All Sinners and Saints. We will disappoint you."

"...the job of a preacher is to find some kind of good news for people. And that good news really should be about who God is and how God works and what God has done and what God will do."

"But as a chaplain, I felt that people really just needed me to mostly shut the hell up and deal with the reality of how painful it all is."

"'Nothing' is God's favorite material to work with."

"Sometimes the best thing we can do for each other is talk honestly about being wrong."

"...addressing pain and tragedy is one of my main responsibilities as a pastor. I'm asked to find God in the suffering. And every time I go looking for God amidst sorrow, I always find Jesus at the cross. In death and resurrection."

 "Jesus brings a kingdom ruled by the crucified one and populated by the unclean and always found in the unexpected."

"The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up...being present to what is real, what is actually happening."

I highly recommend this book. It is a really fast read and will leave you inspired to live out your faith, regardless of where you are in your spiritual life.