Thursday, December 30, 2010

Becoming a community of disciples...

I came across this quote in Josh Harris' Stop Dating the Church, a phenomenal little read. The fact remains that Jesus did not merely call us as individuals to be worshipers, evangelists, ambassadors, and disciples, but rather he called us to be a community of disciples. Josh Harris quotes Eric Lane as saying...

"To be a member of a family is to belong to a community bound by a common fatherhood. To be a stone in his temple means to belong to a worshiping community. To be a part of a body means to belong to a living, functioning, serving, witnessing community. Put together, you have the main functions of an individual Christian. Evidently, we are meant to fulfill these not on our own, but together in the church."

Josh Harris concludes...

"He's right. We can't live out our Christian lives on our own. When we're saved from our sin, we become part of something bigger than ourselves- a family, a body, a temple."

Monday, December 27, 2010

On Intentional Living in an "Always Connected" World

I have been reading this excellent book on how facebook (and other forms of social media) help and hinder life and community. It's called "The Church of Facebook", and the section below highlights how being constantly connected to the internet (and therefore, to one another) can hinder truly living with a purpose.

"There is no such thing as an unintentional life. All of us have, at times, felt like we were drifting through life or wandering aimless. Perhaps that's exactly where we find ourselves this moment. It is a common experience, but it does not mean we do not have intentions. It simply means we are not conscious of our intentions. We are not aware of them, even though they are present and determining the direction of our lives as much as a well-thought-out list of goals. This is what is meant by the old saying, 'Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.' When we are not aware of our intentions, we find that passivity and restlessness (most often in the form of boredom) take root and sprout up like weeds, covering over a clear life path until we are thoroughly lost.

The great challenge in being always-on [i.e., always connected to people and information via the internet, facebook, etc.] is that it rarely enables us to be consciously intentional. More often than not, it thwarts on-purpose living by creating in us a need to respond to what is most urgent rather than what is most valuable. In other words, hyperconnectivity can lead to hyper-reactivity."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Persistent Prayer

Enjoy the below from John Wesley on being persistent in our prayers.

"Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). Immediately after our Lord answered this request of His disciples, He showed them the absolute necessity of using prayer if we would receive any gift from God. 

He told the story of a man who begged his friend at midnight to get up and lend him three loaves of bread. Though his friend would not rise and give him because he was his friend, yet because of his troublesome persistence, his friend will rise and give him. Jesus said, "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given to you."

How could our blessed Lord more plainly declare the means- persistently asking- by which we may receive of God what otherwise we should not receive at all?

"He spoke also another parable, to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1) - to persevere until they receive of God whatever petition they have asked of him: "There was in a city a judge...and there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Avenge me of my adversary.' And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her'" (Luke 18:2-5).
Our Lord Himself made the application for those who cry day and night to Him: "I tell you that he will avenge them speedily" (Luke 18:8)."

What a penetrating truth- God doesn't answer lackadaisical prayers; he answers persistent ones.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Loving Jesus

A group from my church has been reading Francis Chan's Crazy Love. We have recently wrestled with the question, What does it mean to love Jesus? We talk loving Jesus alot, we sing about it in songs, and I know that many of us have experienced it, but how do we define it? Forgive me if the following raises as many questions as it does answers!

As I talk to fellow believers about our walks with the Lord, often time they say things are going well or not well because "I have (not) read my Bible and prayed daily." I often analyze my walk in the same way. Now these are good and necessary spiritual disciplines without a doubt, but we can't say that daily Bible time and daily prayer is the definition or sum of loving Jesus. Also the following verses and comments affect my thoughts...

John 14:15- "If you love me, you will keep my commandments..." This doesn't means that the essence of love is necessarily commandment-keeping. Or does it? It seems that commandment-keeping is a result of love for Jesus. For example, "If I love Kelley, I will pray for her..." Praying for her is not the sum or essence of love, but a result (or proof) that love is present. Maybe, maybe not?

1 John 5:3- "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome." Here it seems that John does equate love for Jesus with obedience/commandment-keeping. However, he adds that this obedience happens in such a way that it is not a burden! What does that mean? True love for Jesus, it seems, is obeying His commands- and being glad to do it! But then, if that's the case, how do we ever love Jesus through trials and hard times that are very "burdensome"?

1 Corinthians 13:3- "If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." This seems to argue against many definitions I've heard of "agape" love, that it is simply and heartlessly choosing to sacrifice. Paul uses grand examples of willing sacrificial acts (giving away all possessions, giving oneself over to horrible death), but says that those crazy things can be done - without love.

I ask and struggle through all this because I am simply unsatisifed with equating my spiritual walk and love for the Lord with a few daily hoops to jump through. Feel free to comment.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Be Holy (don't just be thought of as holy)

God tells his people in no uncertain terms to "Be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16; Lev. 11:14). It is obviously a command that we can't follow apart from God's grace. Nevertheless, it is a clear command for all followers of Jesus to actually be holy.

If you are anything like me, you care about what other people think of you. You and I struggle with valuing man and man's opinion over God and His opinion. In fact, I struggle with wanting people to think I'm holy. If I am to be brutally honest with myself, sometimes I don't care so much about actually being holy- rather, I care that others see me as holy. However, since those around me can't see my heart, my thoughts, and my desires, I can fool them into thinking of me as holy by a few simple tasks. Serve in the church, post a few Bible verses on twitter, and make friends with other holy people. God, on the other hand, I cannot fool with my faux holiness.

When we exhibit this attitude, it disgusts God. Jesus said to the Pharisees, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean" (Matthew 23:25-26).

That describes my sinful heart at times. If the outside of the cup is clean, and you think I'm holy, my spiritual mission is accomplished, and my work is done. That is simply detestable. What I must care about is actually being holy before God, regardless of whether others think of me that way or not! I paraphrase an old friend from The Master's College who said, "I'd rather be a holy man with no reputation than an evil man with a holy man's reputation."

How about you? Do you really want to be holy? Or do you simply care that others see you as spiritual? What does it mean to truly be holy before God?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cultivating Humility in the Morning, Part 2

More from CJ Mahaney's "Humility" on practices in the morning that cultivate humility...If you missed the first post, find it here.

"The second daily item is this: Begin your day expressing gratefulness to God.

'Thankfulness,' Michael Ramsey reminds us, 'is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.' That's exactly right and we want to cultivate that soil. So from the outset of the day, I want to greet my Savior with gratitude, not grumbling.

It was said of Matthew Henry [famous pastor from the 1600-1700s] that 'he was an alert and thankful observer of answered prayer'; his gratitude for God's mercies was constantly 'sweetening his spirit, and he would often invite others to join him in giving thanks.' If you crossed Matthew Henry's path, you would quickly realize that here was someone taking thankful notice of all God was doing for him, and doing so in an attractively joyful way that was infectious.

How I want that to also be a description of me! Is this your desire as well?

What would happen if I crossed your path tomorrow morning? Would I encounter someone who was an alert and thankful observer of answered prayer, someone who in a pronounced way was grateful for God's many mercies?

We also want to continue throughout the day expressing gratefulness for the innumerable manifestations of God's grace. It's as if God is placing sticky-notes in our lives as daily reminders of His presence and provision. They're everywhere. How alert and perceptive of them are you? Are you a thankful observer of the countless indications of His provision, His presence, His kindness, and His grace?

An ungrateful person is a proud person. If I'm ungrateful, I'm arrogant. And if I'm arrogant, I need to remember God doesn't sympathize with me in that arrogance; He's opposed to the proud.

Let each of us recognize every day that whatever grace we receive from God is so much more than we're worthy of, and indescribably better than the hell we all deserve."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cultivating Humility in the Morning

These gems come from CJ Mahaney's "Humility: True Greatness." In this practical little book, he gives a few tips for cultivating humility at the start of each day.

"How we begin our morning often sets the tone for the day. I'm convinced that the most decisive time of our day is very often our first waking moments, because they color everything to come.

The first daily item from my list is this: Begin your day by acknowledging your dependence upon God and your need for God. Purpose by grace that your first thought of the day will be an expression of your dependence on God, your need for God, and your confidence in God.

Sin- especially the sin of pride- is active, not passive. Sin doesn't wake up tired, because it hasn't been sleeping. When you wake up in the morning, sin is right there, fully awake, ready to attack. So rather than be attacked by sin in the morning, I've chosen to go on the offensive. I've chosen to announce to sin, 'I'm at war with you. I know you're there, and I'm after you.' From the moment I'm awake, I've learned to make statements to God about my dependence upon God, and in this way I'm humbling myself before God.

This is simply a strategy for taking control of the thoughts we allow in our mind...Martin Lloyd-Jones asked, 'Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?' That's profound, and it's true.

Take a moment to review and examine your pattern of thinking from yesterday. Did you spend more time speaking truth to yourself, or was most of your time spent listening to yourself? Most of us spend more time listening to lies than we do speaking truth to ourselves. And the listening process usually starts as soon as we get up. The alarm has rudely interrupted the gift of sleep, and the listening begins. As we stumble through our morning routine, we're not directing the thoughts in our mind- we're simply at their mercy. We entertain complaints about what happened yesterday or worries about what's coming today. We look in the bathroom mirror and assess the damage, then brood over how we feel. We're not in charge of our thinking. We're just there.

But instead, you can declare war on pride by speaking the truth to yourself and set the right tone for your day by mentally affirming your dependence upon God and your need for Him."

Good stuff, eh? More to come from CJ later this week.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thoughts for a Holiday...

A few random encouragements to practice on the awesomeness of a holiday!

1. Think about the job you are not at briefly, and thank God for the opportunity to work and support your family.

2. Thank God for extra rest, and remember that he himself set an example of rest by resting after he finished creating (Genesis 2:1-3).

3. Think of the rest we will receive in heaven, and look forward to it with anticipation. There is a rest for the people of God, and we enter it by obedience to Jesus (see Hebrews 4:1-13).

4. The word "holiday" comes from the phrase "Holy Day" and means a "day with special significance." It is a day set apart from all the other days for a special reason. Think of how you, as God's child, must be different and set apart, and be holy.

5. Think of the cultural reason for the specific holiday, and thank God for it. For example, thank God for the ability to work on Labor Day, the protection and sacrifice of soldiers on Memorial Day, our country's relative freedom on 4th of July, and Boxing Gloves on Boxing Day :) Of course, specifically remember his birth, life, and death on Easter, Christmas, and every other day.

6. Redeem the time. What is a way you can serve God, your family, your peers with the extra time off today? Yes, husbands, mowing the lawn or taking out the trash for your wife may be a great way to do this!

7. Grill something.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Good thoughts on defining church success not by attendance.

Roundtable discussion with 3 studly pastors: Francis Chan, Mark Driscoll, and Josh Harris.

Media influence on teen sexuality.

You can see wildlife at Yellowstone live at this webcam. Kinda cool for dorky outdoors types.

This article on "hip Christianity" is worth a read.

The inevitable happens- Blockbuster plans to file bankruptcy...

You thought homes appreciated in value & cost? What about education costs?

Logical Arguments for God's Existence

Stephen Hawking: "Big Bangs Happen"
I was sent the above quote from famed atheist Stephen Hawking this week. It is really interesting to me why people will fight hard against believing in the existence of a God, choosing rather to believe that the universe created itself (to quote the non-quite Christian movie "Anchorman", "60% of the time, this works every time"). This quote also reinforced the rationality of a few key arguments for God's existence, in concise poor mann's terms below...

1. The Cosmological Argument- We live in a cause and effect system. The universe had to have a beginning and a cause. Since it is logically impossible for the universe to be eternal, it must have been started at a certain point. Atheists will claim that this was a spontaneous "big bang," but doesn't it seem a touch more rational to believe that an eternal, personal, powerful God chose to intentionally create?  Contrary to Hawking's words above, the universe cannot create itself out of nothing, because then the universe would have had to exist before it existed, which doesn't make sense, you know. Indeed, God is the most rational answer to the question of why we (or anything we see) exists.

2. The Teleological Argument- This is the argument for God's existence from the obvious design seen in our world and in our bodies. Not only must the universe have had a beginning, but it had to have a designer. A supreme lawmaker had to write the "law of gravity" which Hawking references; an Eternal Engineer had to create the processes and systems of life, digestion, photosynthesis, reproduction, energy, and give start to those systems; and only a Divine artist (not an impersonal big-bang) could create awe-inspiring landscapes, feelings of love, beauty, and hope, mellifluous melodies, and even the wonders found in vast corners of outer space. Something with such order and beauty demands an intelligent designer.

3. The Moral Argument- Where do we get morals from? Where do we get meaning from? Without a God who created, we have absolutely no logical reason to believe in right and wrong, good and evil. As CS Lewis reasoned, "A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?" You see, we do have universal morals, values, and meaning. We cannot call rape "evil" unless we know there is real good and real evil. God has given us a "straight line" of morality, so that we can look at rape, murder, and a host of other actions and absolutely call them "evil." The fact that we have right and wrong (in all societies) appeals to a Lawmaker who wrote those values and morals on our hearts.

Many will assume that atheism appeals to science and logic whereas belief in God appeals to "blind faith." Wrong. I choose to believe in God because it is most rational and logical to do so. Belief in God is certainly by faith, but it is not a blind faith. In fact, I would argue that it takes more faith to be an atheist!

As CS Lewis said again, "Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning."

Addendum- A few apologetics resources I use. There are several good ones out there.
STR Place (apologetics for students)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Enjoy the bloom

The above flower is a hibiscus. Her name is Heidi. I bought her for Kelley on future Mothers' Day.

We love our hibiscus because she is so very rewarding. We planted her and watered her and every now and then (like good parents) we re-potted her. And every few days, especially during the warm season, she puts out these huge, gorgeous flowers. And we subsequently stand at our backyard balcony door, pull out the camera and take a few pics.

We never attempt to take credit for the awesomeness of a hibiscus flower. Never once while enjoying these blooms have Kell and I got in a fight over who should get credit for the flower's health. "I watered it last! I made this happen, babe!" "Oh yeah? But if I didn't re-pot it while you were watching baseball, the petals would never be this pink, now would they?" That would be stupid to argue over! We simply enjoy the bloom.

Paul compares the ministry of the church to cultivating a plant. "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers..." (1 Cor. 3:7-9).

In the life of my church, many people have come to know Jesus as their Savior, sometimes people I have conversations with. I'm sure in your group of friends you have people who are interested in becoming a Christian, or interested in killing sin and committing their lives to Christ more fully. And you know what? We all play a part. It doesn't matter what part you play. You can be an example. You can offer instruction, comfort, teaching, encouragement, and prayers that draw others closer to the Lord. And guess what? You don't need to be a pastor, a worship leader, or an elder to do this.

Do you realize that you are God's fellow workers? It does not matter if you are in front of the church, or befriending people by the donut table in the back (save me a maple bar). What matters is that you work hard and get your hands dirty for the kingdom, and when God moves, step back and enjoy the bloom.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Are we more connected?

Much emphasis these days is on "being connected." We have instant access to information, communication, and relationships. Sites like Facebook & Twitter (not to mention old-school email) allow us instant communication with our friends & acquaintances. We can see pictures of these individuals, hear stories of the joys & frustrations of their weekends, and see all the annoying things they "like" or "dislike." And all of this can be done from a cell phone on a freeway!

Honestly, sites like Facebook are pretty cool. A great way to stay in touch, to stay connected. But are we really more connected now? Are we better friends? Are we closer to one another because of Facebook and other instant online communication? I say no, not necessarily...

Let me explain. Facebook is a great tool to enhance friendships. But it is a horrible replacement for face-to-face, voice-to-voice relationships. Facebook can give me information on what friends, family, and acquaintances are up to and how they are enjoying it. But the key is what do I do with this information? Do I encourage? Do I pray? Do I serve?

My main contention with Facebook's monopoly on interpersonal relationships is that you cannot fulfill the biblical "one-anothers" sufficiently via Facebook:
- "Love one another" (John 13:35; 15:12; 7 times in 1/2 John). 
- "Outdo one another in showing honor...Live in harmony with one another" (Romans 12).
- "Instruct one another (Romans 15:14). 
- "Comfort one another" (2 Cor. 13:11). 
- "Serve one another" (Gal. 5:13). 
- "Bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). 
- "Be kind to one another" (Eph. 4:32). 
- "Encourage one another" (1 Thess. 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; 10:25). 
- "Do good to one another" (1 Thess. 5:15). 
- "Confess your sins to one another" (James 5:16). 
- "Show hospitality to one another" (1 Peter 4:9).

I'm sorry, but I do not think that we can fulfill all these commands through online, virtual interaction.

Once again, use Facebook. But use it, not primarily to pass time or be entertained with the pics, comments, and posts of others (very funny at times). Use the information you gain from Facebook to enhance your relationships, fellowship, friendships, evangelism, and to fulfill the above convicting list of God's commands to one another!

I would write a little more, but I think I have a few notifications that I must checkup on...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Apathy- Spiritual Nakedness

I have noticed in many of my peers a heightened interest in health, dieting, and exercise. There are generally 2 components to getting in shape. First, you have to quit some unhealthy practices, like eating Taco Bell for every third meal or playing World of Warcraft 28 hours a day. Second, you have to start some active and healthy practices, like exercising or playing a sport. If you don't do both of these things together- quitting unhealthy practices and starting healthy practices- the quest for fitness will be greatly hindered.

And it's the same way with our spiritual lives. Following Christ by faith not only means that we stop doing things that don't honor Him, but also that we start doing things that do honor Him.

In my relative few years of counseling and teaching, both at my college and at my church, I have noticed that most of my fellow Christians aren't stuck in any blatant, crazy sin. What I have observed is that while many of have eliminated (or hidden really well) "huge sins" that dishonor Jesus, we also don't practice positive things for Jesus. We are apathetic. Let me explain. Many of us don't have a problem with murders, affairs, monetary fraud, drugs, alcoholism or child abuse. But many of us also don't practice things God's Word clearly tells us to do: evangelism, missions, disciplined Bible Study, giving money generously toward Kingdom work, ceaseless prayer, Biblical confrontation and restoration, helping the poor, or assisting the addict. In effect, we are the person who has stopped eating Taco Bell all the time, but we still refuse to get up and work out. As a result, we are not nearly in as healthy a spiritual condition as we should be. We are an apathetic people, glad that Jesus has saved us from hell, but confused and careless about the tasks we must pursue passionately while on earth following Christ.

The Bible teaches in Ephesians 4:22-24 that followers of Jesus should indeed remove all sins that dishonor Christ- "put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires." But we should also positively pursue Christ likeness- "put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." If we only "put off" and refuse to "put on", we are spiritually naked, with no change and passion to show the world. Don't be an apathetic Christian. Remove dirty clothes that dishonor Christ, but don't forget to put on clean clothes that bring Him glory.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Chinese school has a solution to help boys be more like boys.

Apparently, some "global warming" claims are based on faulty thermometer readings. Like, really faulty.

Mark Driscoll's blog post on "Boys Who Can Shave." Very good and moderately funny.

Switchfoot singer Jon Foreman gets forcibly removed by a cop from one his acoustic after show in a Tampa parking lot.

Jon Foreman responds to the police situation.

"Don't Waste Your Life Sentence." Piper's ministry to prisoners who got saved after getting behind bars. You can buy the documentary HERE.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just a Big Hole in the Ground

(written previously on that facebook thingy)

Some time ago, I visited the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona with Kelley. For anyone who has seen this majestic sight in person, he or she can relate to the unexplainable feeling of awe and wonder that fills our finite imaginations at this beautiful sight.

One will often hear in regards to the Grand Canyon the sarcastic comment that it's "just a big hole in the ground." I got to thinking -- that's exactly what it is! When explaining this sight from a standpoint concerned only with physical matter, there is a vast absence of matter that creates a sizable hole in the ground. For miles and miles around the Grand Canyon, there is relatively flat land; yet, strictly 
speaking, it is just a big hole in the ground.

So what then attracts humans from all over the world to this place? It is not physical matter, it is not science, it is not even history. It is beauty. It is majesty. It is glory. There is an unquantifiable, immeasurable reality of the beauty that our hearts enjoy when viewing a creation so vast, so glorious, so breathtaking, and so awesome in its splendor, that cries out that we were made for a great God. One simply cannot explain our universal attraction to places like the Grand Canyon without admitting that Someone has created natural beauty and deserves to be admired and praised for that creation. Science can attempt to posit the natural causes that formed the Grand Canyon; but science can never explain the beauty, the awe, and our sense of our own smallness when we visit the Grand Canyon.

Not only does the Grand Canyon in its splendor point to the existence of the one true God, but it also points to the GREATNESS of this God. Standing on the edge of a steep canyon wall that reaches downward for thousands of feet into beautifully colored rock makes us realize that we were not created for personal significance, and we were not created to live for ourselves. It's undeniable! We were created to worship and enjoy the only God who is truly significant! Our identity, our joy, our pleasure, our purpose, our lives must come from Him, and our lives must be lived to give Him glory and praise. That is why all humans love places like the Grand Canyon, or the Rocky Mountains, or cliffs overlooking the northern Pacific. We find true happiness, not when seeking to glorify ourselves, but only when we are seeking to glorify this Great God. Are we happy with displaying and enjoying this immensely beautiful God?

Monday, August 23, 2010

No Excuses

And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:19-22)

In the passage above, we see 2 characters express a desire to follow Jesus. Jesus had been calling disciples to himself with the simple command, "Follow me." Each individual has an excuse for not following Jesus in that moment. One wants to wait until his father dies and he receives his inheritance. One is afraid to leave his hometown. But Jesus demands obedience greater than these examples.

As a follower of Jesus, we too often resemble the characters above. Jesus commands us to follow, and our most frequent response is, "Wait." Many times, we claim that we are trying to "figure out God's will" or say that we are waiting for guidance, direction, or a specific calling from God.

There is nothing wrong with trying to figure out what God wants. But I fear that many of us use this as an excuse to not follow Jesus, like the 2 characters above. I don't recall many of us waiting to watch Avatar or Twilight 12 times until God led us in that direction. When the Angels' game is on, I don't pray to determine whether I should watch or not- I simply watch & cheer (I should probably pray for their mediocre record this year!). My wife doesn't wait for a sign from heaven when Nordstrom Rack is having a sale!  Many of us don't wait to see if God wants us to buy those new clothes, or play that new video game, or head straight to the beach at the first sign of a south swell. No, rather, we simply do those things we love to do.

Maybe you don't know what God wants you to do with your whole life. Maybe you are torn between being a brain surgeon and kick-boxer, and that's ok. But God has given you today, and he has filled His Word with clear directions about what to do today. Be a light (Matt. 5:13-16). Love your neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40). Love your enemies (Luke 6:27-36). Be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). Give thanks and pray always (1 Thess. 5:17-18). And, trust me, there's more.

No one devours a whole tri-tip in one bite (though some of my college friends could challenge that assertion). And no one lives a whole life in a day. Open God's word, and find a bite-sized portion, and (drumroll please) apply it to your life. Today. No excuses.

Friday, August 20, 2010


It is reported that nearly 1 in 10 adults have what is classified as "mood disorders," most of whom are categorized as being "depressed." One of the leading causes of such depression is "trauma and stress." It seems like a reasonable connection. People go through really challenging events in their lives, and they end up in prolonged, relentless states of sadness and emptiness.

I cannot profess to be an expert on depression. I can't say I've ever personally struggled with it, though am very close with some who have. Some Christians would debate on the validity of medications such as antidepressants and otherwise. I don't wish to do that here. Whatever it is, and whatever combinations may cause it, it is clear that a large amount of adults deal with it, and a wide variety of cures & aides are suggested. Whatever the case may be, the largest ammunition humans have to fight their bouts of depression is the truth God's Word. When earthquakes strike, the buildings with firm foundations stand. When lightning & fire ravage the forest, the tall & strong Sequoia trees live on. And I believe there is a solid foundation offered to us in the example of David.

If you or I think we experience "trauma and stress," I'd like to posit that David experienced more. Consider the below:
- David is anointed to be God's chosen King over Israel (1 Samuel 16).
- Saul (the current king AND David's father-in-law!) tries to spear David twice while David is playing music for Saul (1 Samuel 18).
- Saul gives David military tasks, hoping David would die in battle (1 Sam. 18).
- Saul orders his servants and his family to kill David (1 Sam. 19)
- Saul tries to spear David a third time (1 Sam. 19).
- Saul chases David through the wilderness attempting to kill him. David has a chance to kill Saul, but spares his life. This happened TWICE (1 Sam. 24 & 26).
- Wars occur between Saul's family & David's kingdom (2 Sam. 3).
- David's son, Amnon rapes one of David's daughters, Tamar. David's son, Absalom, then murders Amnon for revenge. Absalom then revolts against David's kingdom. Yikes (2 Sam. 13-18).

As you can easily see, much of David's life was covered by the blackness of family drama, fear for his life, and trouble at work. And yet, read below what David himself writes when recalling these decades of drama (read it slowly, and read it a few times).

Psalm 18:1-2- "I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

Consider those words: strength, rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, shield, stronghold. These are words of power and safety. These are words describing the immovable foundation that upheld David's life during decades of drama, stress, and likely depression. Reflecting on those years summarized above, David's conclusion is that a life founded on our unchanging God and his promises is a safe, secure life to live.

Everyone has a rock. Some found their lives on friends, sports, work, money, popularity, hobbies, sleeping, facebook, blogging, reading, self, love, or family. These "rocks" are things we feel we need, that we must have in order to function properly.  These are foundations on which we build our lives, and everyone's got one. The question is whether your rock of choice can actually hold you, protect you, and guide you through the good & bad of life. The depression- or a wide variety of other struggles that often plague us- will come, and it may injure us for a time. But God our Rock will uphold, will protect, will sustain. Don't take it from me. Take it from David. 

Whether stoked out of your mind this morning or depressed & in the dumps, what efforts are we making to set God alone as our Rock?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Church: What if no one Yelped?

When planning an activity, date night, or a visit to an unfamiliar place, I use a few online tools to aid my research. Yelp and Trip Advisor are two of my favorite places to get ratings and reviews on local activities, restaurants, and lodging for wherever it is that I may be going. The websites provide basic info and listings (much like an old school phone book) on businesses: addresses, phone numbers, menus, prices, etc. But the most helpful part about sites like these is the user reviews. A hotel may look like a great place to stay until a recent user review points out the large cockroach infestation. A restaurant looks like the perfect setting for a date night, until a user reports the recent drop to a 'B' rating. These user reviews provide firsthand information and insight so that other users (like me) can make good & knowledgeable decisions.

When I visit Yelp and Trip Advisor, I do so selfishly. I only read others' reviews; I don't leave any of my own. The thought recently occurred to me, "What if no one left reviews?!" If everyone acted like me & didn't leave reviews, sites like these would lose their value.

I figure that many of us church-goers today have the same relationship with church that I do with Yelp. We attend when it is convenient for us, or when we want or need something specific, yet we never offer our gifts, experiences, wisdom, and insight to help other members of the community. We are content to use the church, but we are often too selfish to be used in the church. Yet the church as described in God's Word clearly mandates that all Christians use their gifts to serve the community: "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 4:10-11).

If everyone treated Yelp selfishly & refused to leave reviews to benefit others, no one else would be served. Likewise, in the church, you & I are mandated to not merely show up, but to "Yelp" so that others in the community can glorify God. The church was not set up so that a few select people could carry the majority of the work of service. The church was meant so that "each one" who has "received a gift" could come not only to be served, but to serve. As Paul writes, "For the body does not consist of one member but of many...But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?" (1 Cor. 12:14-31).

And so I encourage us this morning- how are you "yelping" at your local church? What gifts, talents, experience, and wisdom has God given you so that you can bless others? If you aren't active in your church, what would happen to your church if everyone had the same inactivity?

Monday, August 16, 2010


A few intriguing news stories and other random selections for your mundane Monday.

- If I were a Lake Tahoe resident, I'd be wondering if a few members of our local church youth group mocked the pastor for his receding hairline. No other explanation for the intriguingly humorous bear invasions reported in this article.

- It's not everyday you hear a young NFL running back (and fantasy football handcuff for Frank Gore owners) call it quits in response to God's call on his life.

- A thought-provoking article on Christianity's efforts to be hip, by Brett McCracken.

- Tongue-in-cheek Christian Guidelines for twittering. Or tweeting. Or whatever.

- If my daughter was bitten by a barracuda, I'd probably react differently than this guy. At least I hope...

- Fried chicken AND red velvet cake batter? Not the best meal idea.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Big gulps, huh?

HT: Eric Durso for finding this remake.

If my friends and I had as much % of the Bible memorized as we do the Dumb & Dumber script, we would be very holy people. Enjoy the humorous remake.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Progressive Sanctification and God's Patience

My wife and I had a great conversation recently on struggling with sin. The question came up as to why God would save His people from their sin and yet somehow allow us to still sin. If I am really a redeemed creature, why wouldn't God make me perfect on Day 1? Why still allow me to sin against him and struggle daily? In my uber-finite human wisdom, it doesn't seem to make much sense as to why our Heavenly Father would allow his children to remain in the self-inflicted muck...

Now, certainly, God's will for me is perfection. Paul said as much: "By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? ... So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:2, 12). But why in his great plan does he not immediately remove me not only from sin's punishment, but also from it's practice?

My answer to this question is from some bible inferences & my own experience. (If anyone has biblical support for this specific idea, please pass it along.) We know that all God does is to show his glory and thus receive the praise he is due. This can range from the creation of man (Is. 43:7), the creation of the heavens and earth (Ps. 19:1), to the salvation of mankind (Eph 1:3-14). So we know that God chose to not make us perfect right away and that this glorifies him somehow.

My estimate is this. God certainly had the power to make us perfectly holy right away. But it would not allow him to show the fullness of his discipline and patience that he, as Father, has on us, His children. If I never messed up in my family as a child, I would never have experienced the mercy & patience that sometimes my dad gave me by not dealing out a hefty swat. 

It is likewise with our Heavenly Father. Every time we stumble, "he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9). We see firsthand the patience of God as he leads us on to holiness, one step at a time. It is a patience that we would not experience in the same way if we were immediately made perfect upon our conversion. No, his patience does not excuse our all-too-frequent-sin- "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" (Rom. 6:1). But our status as an "already, but not yet, resurrected, fallen man" enables us to experience God in a deeper way, and praise him with a deeper passion, and shine for him with a brighter testimony.

Therefore, we claim with Paul, "But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life" (1 Tim. 1:16).

Monday, August 9, 2010

America's Religion

In my news updates this morning, I came across an interesting USA Today column that highlights the need for and value of religion in 21st century America. While I will always find intrigue in articles that wrestle with the big questions of life such as this article does, the conclusion is disconcerting.

"Yet as important as community, worship and service are, I am convinced that religion's greatest contribution to society is even greater. Religion makes us want to live."

Essentially, the gospel preached in the USA Today is this. "Truth matters not. Meaning, purpose, and quality of life reign supreme. It does not matter where you find that meaning or purpose, only that you find it. Call it Jesus, call it God, call it a higher power, call it spirituality. Call it what you wish, for it is not consequential what you find, only that you think you have found it."

Sound satisfying to you? Because the Bible tells us that our hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17:9), a statement we have empirically proven accurate over the millenia, I cannot trust that which simply makes me feel good, since it may very well be the wrong thing. Does my warm affection for something make it right, or prove it true? Does my child-like enjoyment of Christmas render the myth of Santa's late night visit a historical fact? No, no, no. What matters ultimately is not our feeling of purpose gathered from so-called religion. But, at the end of the day, the question we must answer is not, "Do I find purpose in this?" The question is "Is what I find purpose in true?" As for Christianity, Paul wrote clearly, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins...If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:17-19)." If Jesus isn't true, and if his bodily resurrection wasn't historically factual, you should pity my purpose, not celebrate it.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." He proved this statement by raising from the dead. His death took place in history on this planet, and his resurrected lips bid us to believe. Though his call, his redemption, and his presence in my life indeed brings me a sense of purpose, the purpose is not the ultimate reason why I believe. The truth is.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Get to Give

Sorry for my all-too-infrequent posts. It's been a busy summer on the road much of the time. Mom, I promise to write more.

I've recently been reading the life of David. The prequel to David's life begins with the birth of Samuel. As you may know, Samuel's mother, Hannah, could not give birth for a long time. Since she was 1 of 2 wives of Elkanah, she felt inferior to the other wife, as thought God had deliberately cursed her (this is a great reason why you should probably avoid polygamy!)

To make an average-length story average-length, Hannah prayed that God would bless her with a child. As part of her prayer, she vowed to God, "If you will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life (1 Sam. 1:11)." In Hannah's case, God granted her request upon the birth of Samuel. Yet she did not merely vow to give Samuel back to God in a spiritual or emotional sense. She actually gave Samuel physically to God. Samuel would live in the temple and serve and worship God alone. This young boy would not live day in, day out at home with his mother. Rather, because God had blessed her very specific request, she made good on her very specific promise, sacrificing the enjoyment of having her son at home with her in order that God and his worship could be furthered.

I ask for a lot of things. But not often do I ask for something for the sole purpose of giving it back to God. I've asked for a job, a place to live, a wife, a car that runs for longer than a few months AND has locks on the doors. But most of my requests are for, well, me. I get the job to pay MY bills. I got the car to drive MY butt around. My requests, though not sinful in and of themselves, are not the same as Hannah's.

Many times, we give to God so that we can eventually get from God. We serve, love, and sacrifice with only our own benefit in mind. Let's think about the things we ask for. Is there something we can request from God solely so we can give it back to Him in order to further his worship? In order to spread his gospel? In order to make his love more known in this dark world? I, all too often give so that I can get. We, like Hannah, must get from God so that we can give to God.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Psalm 18- God is my Rock

Sermon on Psalm 18 from Sunday, May 30. Sound quality is quiet bad, so if you ever wanted to hear a sermon from my front left jeans pocket, you are in luck. If not, have a great day!

Audio. (Might have to turn the speakers up.)


Simply Amazed

There are a few epic reasons why one would travel to Chino: Flo's Cafe, the Chino Prison, and the annual Chino Airshow. I have been to 2 of those 3 recently. At the 2010 version of the airshow, my dad, brother, and a friend and I enjoyed watching both older & newer planes fly for several hours.

Now, people enjoyed the Airshow for various reasons. Some enjoy the history, some enjoy the physics & science of flight, and some simply enjoy watching cool planes bank over a semi-redneck crowd. My dad is a lifelong employee in the aerospace industry, working for Rockwell (company that designed the Space Shuttle) and Boeing (maybe you've heard of them). He was intrigued by the physics & design of the planes flying. He enjoyed the physics, propulsion, drag, loads, and a bunch of other words that you & I don't care about. I, for one, did not care much for the specifics of the physics. I simply enjoyed getting buzzed by an F-16 or watching the massive C-17 steeply bank over the crowd. I didn't understand everything that went into those planes, but it did not limit my amazement and enjoyment of them.

I find that we can enjoy God and his word for these 2 different reasons as well. Sometimes, we enjoy the truth of his word by digging deep, studying hard, parsing verbs, or reading books written by dead people so we can understand the depth & specificity of the theology contained in passages and books of God's Word. I studied deep and hard throughout my undergrad program, and enjoyed what I learned from digging deep. This is the way my dad enjoyed the Airshow- by understanding and appreciating the physics, science, and bla bla bla, that goes in to flying large airplanes at great speeds.

However, there are also times when we may not dig deep, we may not study hard, but we can see the simple truth of God's word, and though we do not understand it in its entirety, we still stand in amazed worship. (This is the way I enjoyed the Chino Airshow.) Let me give an example. I recently taught on Psalm 18, and came across this verse: "God rescued me, because he delighted in me." David talks about how God rescued him from his many enemies (most notably Saul) on his ascension to the throne as God's chosen King of Israel. And there is enough scriptural support to say that this is how God delivers and treats all his children as well- "He rescues us [from sin, from hell, from trial & temptation], because he delights in us." It amazes me that a holy God can look at a wretchedly sinful mann like myself (and like David the adulterer & murderer) and "delight in me." That is truly a love that is too amazing to explain. Much like a jet going Mach 2, I don't understand the depths or all the implications of the love of God "which surpasses knowledge." But I can still stand simply amazed.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Here's one for the "I suck" moments...

My wife jokes that after a sermon or Bible Study that didn't go exactly as amazingly as I had planned, that I experience "I suck" moments. I anticipated a deep & passionate response to the study, and at the end it all felt pretty mundane. The comment below from a pastor really helped me to think long term about my all-too-mediocre teaching ministry. Apparently, when "I suck," God still rules! (HT Justin Taylor)

"All is not lost when the after-sermon desert offers no water. This moment may have been meant to prepare some for what they have yet to face. It may be meant to call out to others months from  now when they are more heedless or needy than they are today. It may serve as one more evidence of the hardness of one’s heart. It may serve as one more piece in a puzzle God is putting together for another–the picture will not complete for some time, but completeness will not happen without the corner-piece offered by the sermon today. Those who are changed seemingly in a moment by your sermon today have had multiple moments of God’s working prior. Take heart. There is seed there though it lay beneath the ground. Step out into the barren field dear friend, and pray for His rain to fall."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"This is an A & B Conversation..."

If you went to a real, public elementary school, you undoubtedly were insulted a few times with the following "joke": "This is an A & B conversation, so C your way out of it." Ha. Very funny, I know. If you were to interject your own statement into the conversation of 2 much cooler children, you would be met & subsequently humiliated by this joke.

I find that I need to say this at times in my relationship & communication with God through his word. Let me explain. I get several opportunities to teach the Bible each month (7 times in May alone). This means that I spend a lot of time each month preparing & studying for lessons. This is all good & enjoyable, since I get to do what I love- study God's word- in preparation for these lessons. But...

Since I work a full-time job whose main function is not teaching the Bible, this means that I can be short on time to prepare. So many times I attempt to "kill two birds with one stone" by coupling my personal devotion time with sermon preparation time. I tell myself, "It's still the word of God, right? God's word is still powerful and active in my life, whether I'm reading it for leisure, devotions, sermon preparation, homework, at church, home, school, isn't it?"

It's true, theologically speaking, that God's word can always be effective for its purposes (Isaiah 55:10-11; Hebrews 4:12-13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). However, when I am studying for a sermon, I am bringing a third party into the conversation. As I read and pore over Scripture, I am not simply thinking about what God demands of me or what he is revealing about himself. Rather, I am thinking how I can package and express His truth to a third party (usually ADD high schoolers). The more I try and couple my devotions with my sermon preparation, the less I focus on the A & B conversation that must be happening.

I grow spiritually from my sermon preparation & study. I really do. I am forced to learn things and express things that I would not normally come across in personal devotion. However, this cannot replace the one-on-one relationship that I so desperately need with my Creator. It would be much like only going on double dates with my wife & another couple, and never ever spending quality time alone. When I've been teaching a lot, and therefore studying a lot, and yet I find myself dry, it is most often because I've never truly been alone, in an A & B conversation with God through His word.

Not everyone reading this is a teacher. So what or who is the third party for you that you too often allow into your conversation with God? Is it leading family devotions? Is it reading your Bible only while at church being taught? Is it reading only in groups of other believers? I fear too often that we I don't have the mind of David, who wrote, "One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple" (Psalm 27:4). If anything or anyone is getting in the way of this "gazing on the beauty of the Lord," I think our response must be, "Hey, this is an A & B conversation..."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Shepherd God- Psalm 23

Sermon preached at Revive Church, Glendora, on May 2, 2010.


Bible Passage.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Joyful Humiliation, Joyful Exaltation

Sermon given on Philippians 2:1-11 at Good Shepherd Church in Glendora, Sunday, November 8, 2009.


Bible Passage.

Paul's Teammates- Roll Call :: Colossians 4:7-18

How does one preach a sermon from a passage where Paul simply communicates greetings? Find out here! Final Sermon preached in Colossians series at Revive Church Glendora.


Sermon Outline HERE.

Bible Passage.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Freedom that isn't Free

I have recently re-watched one of my favorite movies, Into the Wild. It is a story of a young man named Chris, recently graduated from college, who is seemingly obsessed with the idea of adventure of being free & isolated in "the wild." Though he has a family who misses him, and though he makes many friends who admire & love him along his journey to Alaska, he spurns their friendship for his adventure. For those who haven't seen it (but should), the movie portrays a very happy character once he reaches his destination- an isolated, beautiful location in Alaska. However, as time goes on, the loneliness sets in, and he wishes to be back in community. His wishes are denied, as the early spring creek he had crossed is now a rushing river, literally trapping him in the wild. To ruin the story further, he dies, thinking of the people he loved.

This movie, based on a true story, intrigues me for many reasons. I can relate to many aspects of the protagonist's life: an affinity for the outdoors, a recent college graduate, and, heck, our fathers both make a living in the aerospace industry! But more than that, Chris had an obsession. He dreamt long and hard about the freedom and vibrancy he would experience if only he were left alone, away from society, out in the wild. Yet, when he had finally achieved this "freedom" which he sought, it became a master to which he yielded his life. He had convinced himself that happiness lay in his idea of freedom; but his idea of freedom, he soon realized, wasn't really free, but just another form of slavery.

I wonder how often we do this with our lives. We fixate our minds on our ideas of freedom, happiness, pleasure, comfort, and purpose. We work hard for popularity, for money, for pleasure, or for possessions. We create false ideas of freedom and happiness by saying "I will be happy when ________________." Or "I will finally be free if _________________." Yet, even if you've lived as long as I have (which isn't very long), you soon realize that your idea of freedom or happiness really doesn't deliver in the long run. Sure, money can thrill us for a season, but soon we realize that Jesus' words ring true- "one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." We place our hope in pleasures, in power, and in life going exactly according to our plan. But soon, Solomon's conclusions when he tried the same thing come back to haunt us- "Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun."

Not many of these things I have in mind are "evil" in and of themselves. Heck, even in the movie, the idea of a trip into the wilderness can be a great thing! (If that were a sin, shoot, my dad would take Paul's title of "chief of sinners"). But when we fixate on them- a trip into the wild, getting away, happiness, sports, sex, popularity, promotions, possessions- the small creek in spring turns into a raging river in the summer, and our souls become trapped and dead. The only freedom that really is free, comes in drinking of the water that Christ gives. When we place our Creator's desires above our own temporal ones, we live as we ought to live. And though his desires for us feel like slavery for a time, in the long run, we realize that "his commandments are not burdensome" and true freedom has been found! 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

RAMBLE: Christianity, Experience, and The Bible

We live in a sensual culture. Everywhere we turn, our senses - usually all 5 at once - are being stroked & stimulated. The art & aim of every entertainer, producer, & advertiser is to enhance our experiences in order to secure our approval. We as humans (especially as sensual, existential 21st century Americans) live our lives with much attention & focus given to experience, feelings, & emotions. Often times, it is not the content of an event/story/etc. that affects us. Rather what is most important is how the event made us feel...

Consequently, there is a danger that we face as Christians in the 21st century. Heck, I think this is a danger that Christians faced in the latter 1st century. I notice at times a recurring & frightening habit creeping up, not only in the lives of churches, but in my own life. There are moments & seasons when, gulp, I live & experience my so-called "Christian walk" with the Bible at arm's distance from my heart. The inevitable result of this neglect of God's Word is not an ultimate rejection of my faith (I still believe in the gospel, I still attempt to live a God-honoring life, etc.) Rather the result of neglecting a steady diet of God's word in my heart is much more subtle...I begin to analyze my Christianity & my "spiritual walk" based solely on my experiences. I begin to form my theology based on my independent emotions. In short, I myself become the standard of my own life.

The fault that I see with this is not strictly with emotions, experiences, & feelings. These are God-given faculties that we use to know & serve God. However, apart from the Bible, we don't know Jesus. Apart from the Bible, there is no "Christianity." Apart from the Bible, there is no foundation for what to believe & what not to believe. Apart from the Bible, there is no idea of how to worship or Whom to worship. Apart from the Bible, there is no clear standard for right & wrong. Apart from the Bible, there is no hint of any exemplary attitude of humility & worship that we should live by...The Bible is God's revelation of himself...It is the way he has chosen to communicate with humanity! Apart from it, there is no communication with our creator & savior...

So...why am I content to live day-in & day-out apart from God's word? Why am I content to allow my experience, emotions, and personality to become the standard by which I live?

The apostle Peter would not allow this in his life, nor in the lives of the churches he shepherded. Consider a few simple thoughts from a stunning passage in 2 Peter 1:16-21.

1. The story of Jesus is true. Peter makes it very clear that the Person we follow is worthy of following, because he really lived, really died, and really rose again. He says, "We did not follow cleverly devised myths...but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Peter 1:16). Peter & the disciples knew Jesus is God because they saw him real, actual, time-space history.

2. Peter had crazy experiences following Jesus. In order to further prove the reality & historicity of King Jesus, Peter refers to the experience of seeing Jesus transfigured gloriously on the "mount of transfiguration" (see Matthew 17:1-8). He talks of this experience emphatically by saying, "we ourselves heard... for we were with him on the holy mountain" (2 Peter. 1:18). I imagine the experience of seeing Jesus' transfigured into glory caused chills down Peter's spine. I imagine it was an incredible "high" to gain a peek of how glorious Jesus will appear to us in heaven. Yet, Peter did not stop his "breakdown" of the story there...

3. Peter says that God's Word is more trustworthy than his own experience. I'm not making this up. Peter writes, "And we have something more sure [than our crazy experience], the prophetic word..." WHA??? Peter claims that the word of God is a more sure foundation for his daily life as a Christian than his own emotional & dramatic experience with Jesus.

So, what's the point? Peter sums up and writes, "You will do well to pay attention to God's Word as to a lamp shining in a dark place..." There exists much uncertainty about truth in our world, and even in our own hearts. Yet the answer is not to hang on to a shallow Christianity, one that is interpreted by emotions, cliches, movie clips, and experiences. Rather, because the Bible is true, our entire lives should be committed to what is revealed in God's Word. Peter walked with Jesus, saw a transfigured Jesus, denied a convicted Jesus, and spoke with a resurrected Jesus. Yet after all those highs & lows (and the emotions that accompany them), his message was simple- above all else, cling to, worship, obey, and follow Jesus through the Word of God, written and preserved for you.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Community Transformed- Colossians 3:5-17

Audio and Handout for a sermon I preached on March 14, 2010, at Good Shepherd Church in Glendora, CA. This was part 6 in a 9 part study in the book of Colossians done with my brother and our friend Drewbert.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Part of a sermon I recently preached with much mediocrity...

It's nice to get insight from professionals. I know I sure would like it if Kobe helped me with my jump-shot, if Tiger helped me with my golf swing (and nothing more...), or if James Cameron helped me with my science-fiction, graphics-heavy movie-making. Surely, they would reveal secrets, processes, and tips in order for one to greatly improve in their line of work, right?

As Christians, we are all ministers. We are all servants. We are all equally members of the body of Christ. That means that regardless of job or occupation, we each have community responsibilities to minister to one another. My dad works for Boeing, which is, by the way, NOT a church! Yet he is a minister there & everywhere. And so am I. And so are you. Fortunately for me & you in our efforts to be ministers and servants with a biblical foundation, an expert minister divulges some of his vision, his secrets, and his goals in Colossians 1:24-29. The apostle Paul tells us clearly how he ministered, what he ministered and why he ministered. It gives us a clear and simple definition and guideline for our ministry!

1. The Method: A minister practices joyful sacrifice.
Paul says in Colossians 1:24 that he "rejoices in his sufferings for your sake..." Paul suffered- physically, spiritually, and emotionally for the churches that he ministered to. Yet he did not do what I do when I suffer- have self pity as I pout and whine. Rather, he claims that he "rejoiced." This is because simply, he cared more about the good that he was bringing into others' lives by being a conduit of God's grace. Much like the Olympic athletes that we recently watched, Paul sacrificed everything for the reward and crown of helping others come to know Jesus and live like him. For an Olympic athlete, the gold medal justifies the painful workout routines, the strict diet, and the stringent schedule that one must practice.  These athletes rejoice in their sufferings because of the reward. Same with Paul, and hopefully, same with us!

2. The Message: A minister focuses on spiritual realities.
In 1:27, Paul claims that his main message is earth-shattering- "Christ in you, the hope of glory." I could chew on this truth for awhile. The foundation for Paul's ministry was his message that by faith Jesus is personally in each believer, giving a new identity with which to stand for truth, fight the powers of the world, and defeat sin. The spiritual reality that each person now has a completely new nature in Jesus permeated Paul's entire vision and ministry. Sadly, it seems many ministries that we receive and give in our churches don't possess the same vision. We focus on how to become a better parent, sibling, spouse, dog owner, bowler, singer, etc. without focusing on the fact that our holy Savior himself occupies each one of our lives.

Consider a ridiculous example for one minute. Cesar Millan is more commonly known as "the Dog Whisperer" & has a ridiculous ability to train the craziest of, you guessed it, dogs. He takes the most wild, aggressive, and disobedient canines (dogs, for the layperson) and shapes them into an obedient and perfect pup. If I claimed that I had "Cesar Millan in me," what would one expect of me? You would, obviously, expect that I would possess similar abilities and talents as Cesar. You would expect that my dog would be a perfect pooch, obeying my every command. You would expect that I would have the abilities to train your wild dog...

Similarly, the spiritual reality of "Christ in you" that formed the foundation for all of Paul's ministry should have a radical impact in our lives. Frankly, we should possess increasingly similar attributes and characteristics to Jesus himself, right? Knowing that this power resides in me and every believer formed the vision for Paul's ministry.

3. The Mission: A minister’s goal is Christ-like maturity.
Once Paul lays the groundwork of how he does ministry & what he focuses on in ministry, he establishes his mission for ministry- "to present every man mature in Christ" (1:28). What is our goal in relationships? Is it fun? Is it avoiding loneliness? Is it companionship? Not that any of these things are wrong, but our main goal, as Paul's was, should be to make those around us more like Jesus. This type of loving ministry can only be done by relying entirely on the strength, wisdom, and guidance of Jesus Christ (1:29).

Let me finish with one example very close to my heart. This last baseball season, the Angels again played the Red Sox. In the 9th inning with runners on, down by 1 run with 2 outs, Vlad Guerrero came up to bat. He had not played well in pressure situations in the past. At this point, it was his turn and his turn alone. He could have complained that someone else was better for the job...He could have created excuses for why he couldn't get the job done. But, regardless, fate had it that he and he alone was the batter up, and nothing could change that situation. He had no choice but to give it all he had and swing for the fences. (And, yes, he delivered).

Here's what I tell my students often...I tell them that they may be the only "pastor" or the only "Jesus" that some of their friends and family ever taste! We each have a responsibility to be faithful to the call to minister to those in our lives. Oh yeah, we can complain that someone else is better for the job...we can argue that maybe we will get around to it when we have more time. But you and you alone are up to bat. No use in complaining or making excuses. God has given you the job. And he will give you the strength.