Monday, December 29, 2008

"He loved me for I am"

As a youth pastor I always have one ear open for recurring themes within the high school generation's culture. Today I heard yet another hurt young lady say that the reason she dated and stayed with a particular hurtful and selfish young man is that he "loved her for who she was." Time and time again this mantra is repeated by young ladies to defend their choices in romance. Usually we hear it come from dejected, self-conscious young girls with little to no self confidence. And so they try to find that confidence somewhere.

Unfortunately, this same mantra can be heard by many adults as well who, instead of dealing with difficulty, choose to hide and isolate themselves from the problem and consequently anything related to the problem. A particular example that I have seen recently is a pastor who could not handle the pressures of being "The Guy". The one that everyone looked to for vision, leadership, counsel etc. As a result he emotionally and mentally isolated himself from the church, his family and his elder board. He felt that everyone wanted something from him. And so in the act of isolating himself he hid in another woman's bed. And that is when the mantra was espoused as an excuse for his adultery, "She loves me for who I am."

God has shown us that there is a different path to take than isolation and hiding. There is another source of confidence and strength when ours seems depleted. There really is a person who loves us. But not for who we are but because of who He is. And again not for who we are but despite who we are. That is grace. The Holy God, Creator of the Universe, knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows the depth of our compassion, kindness and love because He enables us to do those things. And he also knows that extreme depth of our sin because it was our sin that was placed upon his shoulders on the cross. That person is Jesus Christ.

So when we feel depleted, dejected, rejected and lonely lets remember Paul's account in 2 Corinthians 12:8,9:

"8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

He knows us best of all. Yet he still loves us.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Christless Christianity

Some awesome, thought provoking and convicting quotes from Christless Christianity and Tim Challies' review of the book:

"Just as you don’t really need Jesus Christ in order to have T-shirts and coffee mugs, it is unclear to me why he is necessary for most of the things I hear a lot of pastors and Christians talking about in church these days.”"

-Michael Horton in Christless Christianity

Through all of this I’d suggest the most important statement in the book may just be this: “It is not heresy as much as silliness that is killing us softly.” This is where the book may be most useful for the conservative Christians who are the audience most likely to read it. All of us can fall into silliness without tossing aside the gospel. We can hold fast to Christian theology, even while allowing silliness and levity to pervade the very fabric of our church. A once-serious institution can become overrun by programs and purposes that slowly erode the gravity and simplicity of the church’s unique calling."

-part of Tim Challies' review of Christless Christianity on

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Holiness Incinerates Flesh

1 Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.”

Malachi 3:1-4


Malachi is foreshadowing the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus. Most people believed that when Christ, the Messiah of Israel came he would bring peace, independence and prosperity with him. We see in Acts that many people rise up claiming to be this expected savior only to be killed and forgotten because their movements were form man and not form God. People had the wrong expectations of what Christ would accomplish. Verse 1 presents Him as the “messenger of the covenant in whom you delight.” But then the very next verse says, “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.”

Jesus was going to bring peace and prosperity but not in the way that everyone expected. To the sinner, which includes everybody, he will be like a fire or fuller’s soap. Fire burned away dross until the pure metal was left. Fullers soap was the soap that people would use to clean their linens and then people would lay them out on rocks and beat them with reeds. Either illustration would be seen as painful and opposite of what they were expecting. But this indeed marked Jesus’ ministry. He openly mocked the false teachers and Pharisees and he repeatedly told people that suffering accompanied following Him. Like pressure on coal makes diamonds; suffering on repentant sinners creates character.

He ends this paragraph by saying that the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord. This happens only after suffering produced character and right hearts. Right action without the right heart is gross the Lord.


People often believe that Jesus is there to be our healer, our comfort, our strength and our provider. While all this is true He also came to confront flesh.

I am often guilty of this kind of thinking. I love what Christ offers but I don’t like the road that I have to take to get there. Christ’s holiness is an affront to my flesh. But too often I compare myself to other people to make myself feel good. Instead of comparing myself to Christ and His holiness I compare myself to other sinners.

The Bible talks about the fact that in the presence of Holiness flesh will burn away. Even Moses could not look at the face of God. He was only allowed to look at his back. But we as Christians do not allow the Holiness of God in Jesus and the Holy Spirit inside of us to burn away our flesh. We let our flesh sit and mingle. We hold onto our desires to be first, to have much and to be made much of. Instead of killing our flesh in the face of God’s holiness.

I have to do this. Especially in ministry, if we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to do this than our enemy will definitely capitalize. We have to get away from the idea that following Jesus is an easy road. That He wants as we are and that it’s ok to stay that way. We need to let Jesus confront and destroy our sin not just save us from it.

The apostles were daily performing miracles and people sought them out. It is really easy to get prideful in this situation. We see them before Jesus’ death asking which one will be the first in Heaven. Thus the suffering kept them humble by killing their pride and forcing them to rely on the Spirit and Jesus.


Dear God,
Please kill my sin and build in me an increasing hatred for it. Help me to feel the weight of sin that Jesus had to bear.

In Jesus name Amen

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Suffer Well

“It is all one; therefore I say,
        He destroys both the blameless and the wicked
When disaster brings sudden death,
        he mocks the calamity of the innocent.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
        he covers the faces of its judges -
        if it not he, who then is it?“

Job 9:22-24


        Job’s friend Bildad offers his attempt at consolotion in the midst of his suffering by calling him a wretched sinner who needs to repent of some hidden sin against God. And while I think that this is practically always a good place to start, it does not offer the explanation for the suffering that Job is seeking.

        Job’s reply to this plea for repentance is that he understands the logic behind what his friend is saying but in reality he does not see that play out. He sees the wretched prospering and the upright suffering. He understands that no man can stand before God and offer a case that will compel God to reprieve his judgement. He says in verse 3, ”If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times.“ The word ”contend“ offers insight into the legal process that Job and Bildad are speaking about. On one hand he understands the truth of God’s justice and the truth that He upholds the upright. But he also knows the utter depravity of man’s heart. And that in the face of God there is no arbiter able to go between them and plead his case. He is stuck in between one of those doctrinal tensions where both are true but from our perspective it makes no sense.

        And so he defaults to what he knows is true; to what he can perceive and that is that the happenings of the world whether it be the calamity of the innocent or the prosperity of the wicked are governed ultimately by the Lord. He is confused and does not understand what is going on but although He doesn’t understand fully he defaults to what he knows to be true. God is a good God and that that good God is in full control. In the next chapter we see his heart poured out as he pleads with God for reprieve but still in utter confusion.

        But we know the the full story of Job in that he defaults to the truth that his life is in the hands of the Lord that he trusts, loves and submits to.


        When bad times come it is natural for man to assume that our actions had something to do with bringing that calamity. In fact it is probably a good thing to first look at our hearts and repent of our actions adn thoughts. But we shouldn’t assume that our actions are the cause of our suffering. With the eastern philiosophy of Karma our actions determine whether we experience suffering or prosperity. And too often this has been carried over into Christianity. But through mere observation we can see, like Job saw, the wicked prosper and the upright suffer.

        So how then are we to suffer well. How are we as Christians to understand the world when a 2 month old baby is mauled by a pitbull or when a loving husband and a father of 4 is killed in a train wreck leaving the family with a mortgage and no way of making ends meet? How are we to understand when our own families suffer the loss of a loved one or when godless men make millions and are apparently living the life?

        We default back to what we know to be true. That God is good, able, perfectly wise and in full control.
        And so we have two choices. Faith or fear? Do we put faith in what we know to be true or do we fear what we do not know? CIrcumstances, future, reasons for suffering. There is so much that we do not know that can bring unhealthy fear into our lives. But there is one thing or rather one person that we do know and that is God. Not that we know about God but that we know Him as our loving father.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Glossy Eyes

“1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ”Look at us.“ 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk! 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.“

Acts 3:1-8


Peter and John had been eyewitnesses to Jesus’ crucifixion. After seeing that and His subsequent resurrection they were forever changed. Gone was their doubt in His name and His power. Peter would never again deny the Lord even to at the cost of his own life. And now they not only walked with a new confidence in Christ but also by the power of the Holy Spirit and through faith in Christ’s name. And so here they encounter this man that has been laying by the gate daily asking for alms. He had one concern, one focus and that was to get money. In his mind he thought that that was all that he needed. That was the utmost that he could think of ever needing to survive. And in his mind that was all that would ever be offered besides scoffs and the dust off of people’s feet. Never in his wildest imaginations would he have ever dreamt of an encounter like the one he had that day with Peter and John.

Here come two men walking straight towards him. They most like looked like any other men walking by. But then they both direct their gazes directly at him. It is most probable that most people would try to avoid his gaze like many of us do to the homeless man outside of our car windows. But these two stared at him intently and even commanded him, ”Look at us.“ And as he did perhaps there was a glimmer of hope that they would throw some money his way. But they were able to discern his heart; his yearning for silver and gold. But they knew that they had something much more valuable to offer him. And so they healed him through the name of Jesus Christ and it says that he got up and started leaping and praising God. He did not simply get up and walk and thank them for what they did. He recognized that it was indeed God who had healed him and that it was Him that deserved the praise. He had been given the gift of a renewed heart and a very tangible example of God uplifting the weak. His actions leave little doubt that he was hit by Peter’s subsequent Gospel message and that he was numbered with the 5,000.


Many times in my life I feel like God has told me to look at him. Not to simply look to him or for him. But at him. To gaze intently. To look at Him for who He claims to be; not who I wish him to be. Much like this lame beggar I often look to God expecting something that from my perspective would make everything better; would give me satisfaction and joy. But He has so much more to offer than what I am expecting him to give. In his infinite wisdom and mercy he knows exactly what I need. Just like Peter and John were able to perceive the true needs of that man so God know my true needs past the expectations that my glossy eyes convey. Most of the time what I think is good for me is not God’s best.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

2 sides of the coin

“Look, O LORD, and see!
With whom have you dealt thus?
Should women eat the fruit of their womb,
the children of their tender care?
Should priest and prophet be killed”

Lamentations 2:20

“19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse's bridle, for 1,600 stadia.”

Revelations 14:19,20


Here we see two different pictures of God’s wrath being poured out on people. In Lamentations we see God’s wrath poured out on His people in Jerusalem. The writer was expressing his sorrow over the loss of this great city and the people that it represented. Because of their unfaithfulness and unwillingness to repent God’s wrath was poured out on them. This wrath was far worse than the wrath of any dictator or invading conquerer. It was the wrath of the Lord. It was so bad that women were desperate enough to eat their own offspring. Jeremiah 19:9 says that it is because of the stress of the invasion that they are brought to this despicable act.

And yet this was still God’s wrath poured out on this temporary world. How much greater in the eternal realm.

John writes in apocalyptic style that God’s wrath is like a wine press outside the city gates. A wine press is a device in which grapes are placed and then either slowly crushed by a flat plate or trodden under foot. Juice then flows out of it. In this wine press blood flows out for 1,600 stadia or almost 184 miles. That picture is scary. It completely wipes away the “nice”, “peaceful” pictures of God sitting atop clouds and blessing his people. Instead it shows a picture of a righteous and holy God incensed at the sin of man.

In today’s Christian circles, hell and God’s wrath are not popular topics. People cry out “We don’t want to scare people into loving God.” This is largely a push against the old hellfire and brimstone preaching. But if we are to be teachers of the “whole counsel” of God then we have to preach both sides of the coin for both are products of the Gospel.

On one side we have the notion that God is loving and gracious and that in Him we have the fullness of satisfaction and eternal blessing.

On the other side Christ became our propitiation which means that He paid the price that it costs to appease God’s wrath on our behalf so that we no longer have to suffer the consequences of our sin. Namely God’s wrath and eternal suffering in Hell.

Both are true. Both are key components of the fullness of Gospel.

If we preach solely Hell and wrath than we breed God fearing people devoid of joy.

If we preach solely God’s blessings and fulfillment as adopted children of God than we create joyful people who don’t feel the weight and consequences of their sin.

To be faithful teachers I think we have to be committed to both. For there is no need for grace apart from the consequence of God’s wrath. The greater the consequence the greater the grace.

Preaching both has the potential to create a people secure in the grace of God, thankful for there salvation and living passionately so that others will come to know the same grace.


Some questions I need to answer:

How do I get these messages across to the High School students that God has placed under my care?

What words need to change?

How do I take it down to their level of understanding without compromising the truth?

What are some other ways of communicating these truths besides preaching?

How are these truths affecting me and my actions on a daily basis?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday in Washington

This Sunday has been one of the best Sundays in quite a while. This morning I had the chance to attend my parents' church, the Downtown Seattle Campus of Mars Hill Church and I was also able to visit Puyallup Foursquare's High School Ministry.

At Mars Hill Pastor Mark was not speaking this weekend so Pastor Tim Gaydos, the campus pastor, gave the message on the fourth chapter of Jonah. He was awesome. From a public speaking standpoint he had a few things to work on as we all do. But what made it powerful was his authenticity. His obvious radical love for Jesus and his passion to reach the city to which he has been sent. His message on Jonah was different from the moralistic/exemplaristic preaching that we see too often with Old Testament stories. He was on point with his context and redemptive historical acumen. At the end he cast vision for his community and called his congregation to live missionally in their community bringing the Gospel of Reconciliation to the lost while serving them lovingly. That is what I love about this church! They are always challenging and never complacent when it comes to their mission and calling as a "city within a city". Another thing that struck me was their worship. In a word it was...different. My parents totally don't get it at all but they love the community and so they stay. But what made the worship unique was the obvious theological bent to all of the songs. Case in point, we went from singing a great rendition of Amazing Grace to a song entitled 'Destruktor' which spoke of the hatred God has for sin and his obligation to punish sinners. I enjoyed the lyrics and what they made me ponder. I might not have worshipped with my lips singing praises as I just couldn't catch their melody but I did worship with my mind as I marveled at the the greater truths of God. I guess as long as God is worshipped any style will do for me!


A few hours later I went down to Puyallup to see my friend Chad Veach lead, coach and preach through an awesome High School service at Puyallup Foursquare. He preached an incredible message on the mission of the church (coincidentally along the same lines as Pastor Tim at Mars Hill). The high school kids were obviously pumped and from what I could see (especially from the student leaders) they understood, accepted and were living out the message. Chad was an awesome leader. He was hard when he needed to be and showed grace when he needed to. His team obviously loved and respected him. The culture of the team was one of unity, community and genuine love for each other and that seeped out into the congregation. There were a few other youth pastors there from Portland, OR shadowing Chad and seeing how the ministry runs. I just came to visit a friend but I got a lot more than I had planned. We three youth pastors were greeted warmly and we learned an incredible amount in a short time. I pray that my leadership and ministry would mirror some of the great qualities that make Chad and Puyallup Foursquare High School Ministry fruitful and successful at making Jesus famous.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Love = Action

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

John 14:21

“but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.”

John 14:31

In the book of James we see that faith necessarily manifests itself through good works. This saving faith imparts the Holy Spirit in us and that indwelling relationship MUST change us. If we say that we are saved and that the Holy Spirit is in us yet we see no change, no progression then we are revealed as liars. It would be like if I came to work and told every one that I had been hit by a bus while walking across the street but I had no physical markers of that encounter. An encounter with a bus would have to produce some sort of mark. Likewise, an encounter with the all powerful creator of the universe would have to leave its mark.

But here Christ is talking about more than simple faith. He is talking about love. An affection for God that provokes us to action. He even likens our obedience to Him with His obedience to the father.

When a person is in love with someone they will go to great lengths to please that other person. When I first started dating my wife I didn’t mind staying up late and talking on the phone, driving far distances just to see her for a few minutes, spending ridiculous amounts of money to get her things that she probably didn’t even want but that I thought would be cool for her to have. I would do whatever it took to please her. It was easy. I didn’t think twice about it.

That is what Christ is talking about. A people so in love with God that pleasing Him becomes our number one goal. It becomes second nature. It is what drives our obedience. Not just faith but a deep love relationship. So deep that when we stray far from Him our hearts ache. And when we spend time with Him and enjoy His presence our hearts beat fast.

The sad truth is that the initial passion wanes. Much like marriage, there is the honey moon phase, and then there is a time when we have to fight for that passion; to be deliberate about keeping it alive. We have date nights, we cook for each other, we surprise each other romantic gestures etc. Not to say that the love is not there. But it is inevitable that passion will wane and it is out Job to fight to bring it back.

It is the same with our relationship with God. Our flesh loves to make war with our spirit. It loves to make much of the temporary and little of the eternal. We get caught up in life and that passion wanes. It is our jobs to fight to bring that passion back.

What are some ways that I can get that passion back and sustain it?

How can I change my devotional time so that I am meeting with Jesus rather than simply checking off that part of my schedule.?

One of the ways that I get filled is theology. Some people hate theology. They would leave it up to pastors and teachers to know that “stuff”. But I think that the more we get to know God. The more we learn to love the doctrines that help inform our view of Him than the deeper our worship becomes.

Another way that I try to sustain it is by reading about His work through the lives of others like Spurgeon, Edwards or missionaries like Titus Coan.

I also like to get away form the hustle and bustle of life and just spend time with Him. Not simply time alone surfing or hiking but making the most of that time by praying or simply pondering Him.

Each person’s strategies will be different. But the goal is the same. To kindle a passionate love for our God that produces obedience so that the world will know that we love God.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Recently Matt Chandler posted a candid letter that he wrote to his worship leader, Bleeker about some convictions that he had about income generated outside of his role as pastor of his church family.

My post here doesn't line up exactly with the sentiments in his letter but it was sparked by his words.

I am not a senior pastor. In fact I am a 5th and 6th grade pastor. However God has given me strong convictions to proclaim the truth of the Gospel through preaching and teaching. I have a job that pays me to play dodgeball, watch kids eat and do crazy things and preach His word. I also have a graphic design business on the side that generates some income for my family. Times have been tough lately and so I have been taking on more design projects and spending less time with my family and ministry as a result.

I have been trying to find a balance between believing that God will provide and my calling as a man to work and make things happen.

I have not fully worked it out yet, but I feel like God wants me to stop doing graphic design. I am way more reliant on my ability to provide a service and get paid for it than I am on God. That is evidenced by my worrying mind and having my priorities moved around just to make ends meet.

I know that I am called to be a husband and a father. I know that I am called to be in ministry and preach the Gospel. I also know that graphic design pulls me away from both.

God is convicting me that I have not been relying on Him. I have not been a state where faith was possible because I tried to do it on my own strength. Oh that He would grant me faith enough to obey Him when He tells me to stop designing and start praying.

Hermeneutics and Preaching to Children

John Walton posts about Hermeneutics and Children's Curriculum.

The 5 most common fallacies that he cites are:

1. Promotion of the trivial
2. Illegitimate extrapolation
3. Reading between the lines
4. Missing important nuance
5. Focus on people rather than God

This was extremely interesting to me and something that I have been milling about myself. Since I pastor 5th and 6th graders they come straight from our children's ministry. I have found that they have learned the biblical stories but have no idea how they fit together in the biblical narrative and more importantly how they all point to Christ.

I don't teach from a curriculum and so I have freedom to build a synopsis that is gospel centered. Although many times I do often preach a little over their heads. My struggle has been, as is every preachers struggle to, contextualize the gospel as seen throughout scripture in a way that these "tweens" can understand.

Ours is most definitely a generally proactive ministry meaning we don't have as many years of life experience to be reactive to and confront with the Bible. They are still moldable, tender and "innocent" in some ways. I believe that if we can imbed the truths of God's love, grace, sovereignty, justice etc. They will be better prepared to face the challenges ahead and through them bring glory to Jesus.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In this rejoice...

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.“

1 Peter 1:3-7

Peter was writing this letter to a people that were undergoing severe persecution and suffering. Peter has been called the ”Apostle of Hope” and in this first chapter we see that it is with this hope that he encourages his readers to endure the hardship of being a follower of Christ.

Here Peter repeats Christ’s encouragement in Matthew 5:12 where he says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ”

The reason for our rejoicing is that we have an inheritance awaiting us in heaven. And this inheritance was not bought with anything that we had to offer but was given to us by God in His grace through Jesus. In that there is great hope, even a guarantee, because if we were the ones who had purchased it with our own deeds there would be the grave possibility of losing that inheritance but verse 5 reassures us that we “by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” We can stand secure in the fact that it was God’s choice based on who He was not what we’ve done. It cannot be taken away.

This hope in the future is a life sustaining truth. It is a joy filling, peace giving hope. Something to hold on to in our times of pain and weakness because of the cause of Christ. Being obedient to Him is a hard path.

I often hear and have even said myself that it’s easy to be a Christian in America. That there are other places in the world where being a Christian is difficult and dangerous.

But now that I think of it, being a Christian in America is very hard. But not in the same way as it is difficult in North Korea, China or Iran. Here we have so many things competing for our affections and it is easy to be comfortable and complacent. There is no pressure to pursue Christ or not. We can call ourselves a Christian or not and there is no real impact on lifestyles and situations. Now the case is different for certain individuals in different familial settings or college classrooms but generally speaking there is no danger. No great cost. We are not asked to change much.

But the road of salvation is a difficult one. In one setting the road is difficult because of outside physical threats and tangible fears. However, in this setting I think that the road is difficult because we have so many things competing for our affections. Too many of us, myself included, are not living the radical lives prescribed in the Bible and so the world for the most part tolerates us because the difference is not great. Our values are still similar.

That is why I have often struggled with giving this future inheritance the value that scripture affords it. Because of the high value that I have placed on the temporary, the value of the eternal is lessened. Although mentally I understand that my hope is ultimately in that inheritance, practically speaking I don’t live it.

However in persecution and suffering, our strength is poured out and we are found wanting and it is often at that point that we finally surrender to Christ and hope in Him and the inheritance that He has prepared for us.

It is for this hope that those facing death and imprisonment in other countries readily count their Familial relationships, material possessions and even their lives as loss for the gain of Christ.

Like the man who found a treasure in a field and then covered it and in his joy went and sold everything that he had in order to buy that field and obtain that treasure.

This idea of rejoicing in suffering is one of those things that we often get in hindsight. We have those, “Oh, now I get it.” moments. We can see God’s hand when we pull back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like the TV show 24. I once watched the entire first season on DVD in one sitting. In the midst of watching the season I would get anxious and the suspense would get to me.

“What’s gonna happen next.“ I would say. I couldn’t sleep or get peace until I knew what would happen next and so I ended up watching the whole thing through. But then when I would catch a rerun on TV I didn’t have to finish it. I wasn’t entrenched in the story. I knew the end so I had a peace about what would happen next. In fact I would even just have it in the background while Idid something else. Why?

Because I knew how the story ended.

Likewise, in the midst of our suffering the Bible tells us what the end will be. We have a hope to look forward to. Todays troubles are not everything. In fact once we know what the future holds we can almost put our suffering in the background while we pursue Christ’s transformation in our hearts and Christ’s will for us in other places. Knowing that He will never leave us nor forsake us and that He is preparing a place for us in heaven.

I need to get this. Consistently. I need to not just ”get this“ but to apply it. To live it.

Please help me realize the treasure that I have in Christ and to feel the weight and the value of my future inheritance in comparison to this temporary world in which I am in exile from heaven. I pray that you would work on my heart tonight that I would have a renewed passion for the pursuit of Christ. Help me to count this world and all the it has to offer as loss compared to the all surpassing glory of Him whom you have sent for me. Help me to not have to wait for suffering to understand this hope that I might make you famous today.

In Jesus name, AMEN.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Conviction Salted With Grace

Ray Ortlund on the "Truly Reformed" (check out the comments too):


I believe in the sovereignty of God, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Solas of the Reformation, I believe that grace precedes faith in regeneration. Theologically, I am Reformed. Sociologically, I am simply a Christian – or at least I want to be. The tricky thing about our hearts is that they can turn even a good thing into an engine of oppression. It happens when our theological distinctives make us aloof from other Christians. That’s when, functionally, we relocate ourselves outside the gospel and inside Galatianism.

The Judaizers in Galatia did not see their distinctive – the rite of circumcision – as problematic. They could claim biblical authority for it in Genesis 17 and the Abrahamic covenant. But their distinctive functioned as an addition to the all-sufficiency of Jesus himself. Today the flash point is not circumcision. It can be Reformed theology. But no matter how well argued our position is biblically, if it functions in our hearts as an addition to Jesus, it ends up as a form of legalistic divisiveness.


What unifies the church is the gospel. What defines the gospel is the Bible. What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike. What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love (Galatians 5:13).

My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart – toward them or away from them? If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people. Blood-bought people. People with whom we are eternally one – in Christ alone.

View the full post here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Prayer that changes things

“10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.“

Hebrews 12:10-11

The writer of Hebrews is exhorting his readers to endure; to push through suffering and temptation. In verse 4 he writes, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” He asks us to “Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you(we) may not grow weary or fainthearted.

He tells us to look back at Jesus’ example for encouragement in our own trials.

He then moves onto the discipline of the father and writes a phrase that hit me like a ton of bricks:

“...but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

In the past I’ve preached on this idea that God imparts His righteousness on us because of Christ’s propitiation on the cross on our behalf and in our place. But for some reason as I read these words in Hebrews the weight of that statement was renewed in my heart.

This perfectly holy and eternal being actually shares His righteousness with me, a sinner.

But an important part of this verse that we mustn’t overlook is that we get to share His righteousness through the path of His discipline.

Too often we pray for God to fix this situation or to get us through that situation; to know His will for our lives that we might have something to hold onto in our times of trouble.

Kind of like my friend in high school who would pull out his policeman dad’s business card whenever we would get pulled over. He would never learn and we would get pulled over again but all he had to do to change his situation was pull out his dad’s card and we would again escape the ticket.

But in light of this verse I think that our lives and our prayers should be different. They should sound different.

Instead of asking Him to change our situation we should ask Him for strength and patience to endure; for open and teachable hearts that we might learn from His discipline and be able to share in His holiness. We should be begging Him for joy in the midst of our circumstances.

Dear Lord,
Help me to have eyes to see and ears to hear what you are trying to teach me through trials and discipline. Forgive me for being so blind and selfish at times to only pray for situations to be change but not hearts. I pray for a renewed perspective and a teachable heart.

In Jesus’ name, AMEN

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Obedience and Faith: you can't have one without the other

“18 Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:

though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red like crimson,

they shall become like wool.

19 If you are willing and obedient,

you shall eat the good of the land;

20 but if you refuse and rebel,

you shall be eaten by the sword;

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Isaiah 1:18-20

“The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.“

Titus 3:8


In Isaiah’s prophecy we see God telling His people that he will clean them of their sins. That the red stain upon their souls will be turned white as wool with this condition: they be willing and obedient.

Then we see Paul urging Titus, right after proclaiming salvation by faith alone in the mercy of God through Jesus, to insist on right living according to correct doctrine as seen chapter 2. Orthodoxy leading to orthopraxy. Right thinking that leads to right practice.

He is clear in pronouncing our salvation as solely dependent upon God’s mercy and grace. But he is quick to remind Titus of the purpose of this insistence: ” that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.“

In preparing to speak at Thrive High School Camp about discipleship I have been pondering what it means to be a believer and a disciple of Jesus. What I have found is that many people disassociate belief and obedience. They think that a saving faith in Jesus is simply acknowledging His atonement on the cross for our sins. They think that being a Christian means having that knowledge imbedded in their hearts. And to be true there is a great truth to that. None of our actions will ever be effective in changing God’s view of us. It is only up to His loving mercy.

Salvation IS through repentance and faith in Christ alone.

But in thinking about that statement more deeply I have come to realize that even that very first step of repentance is the first step in a lifetime of steps towards obedience to Jesus.

You can’t have one without the other.

There are folks who say that good works are a result of faith. The good fruit born of the good tree. But repentance is not simply a turning form sin. It is a turning towards God. It is an about face. It is a step of obedience.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book The Cost of Discipleship writes, ”Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.“

They are forever intertwined.

The true believer’s life is marked by this devotion to do good works.

Too often man will justify their sin by proclaiming God’s promise to forgive those in Christ Jesus. It is a false sense of comfort. This kind of grace is self imposed and unbiblical. It justifies the sin but does not justify the sinner.

A true believer in Christ is a person broken before the Lord because of their sin but bold in life because of God’s forgiveness.

God’s grace does not simply wash us clean but it also urges us to get back up when we fall and keep on contending for our faith.

Accepting God’s forgiveness is the same as saying, ”Yes Lord, I will follow you.“


As a pastor I am called to bring the people that God has placed under my care to an understanding of this concept. That being a Christian, being saved means becoming a disciple of Jesus at great cost to our flesh. It is a renunciation of one life for another one.

Sometimes we put a few coins into a vending machine to get some Funions or something. But when we place that last coin in nothing happens. The coin is stuck and so we don’t get the bag of chips.

The Gospel for far too many is like that last coin. It is in their minds. They have knowledge of it. They may even feel the weight of Christ’s sacrifice but it hasn’t dropped into their hearts. And so it does not produce emotions and affections that bid them to obedience. Their is no bag of chips and God is left waiting.

2 Corinthians 13:5 says:

        ”Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not         realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet         the test!“

It’s not too popular to question ones salvation. People often feel judged and become indignant when their faith is questioned. ”Who are you to judge?“ they ask.

But Paul’s admonition to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith means that there are people who are deceived into thinking that they are saved but their actions show no objective evidence.

I praise God that the coins have dropped in my heart. I am not perfect by any means but through obedience and constant repentance I am assured more and more that Christ is my savior.

I think instead of becoming indignant we should welcome the challenge to test ourselves.


Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your grace. Please forgive me of my disobedience. Holy Spirit, please continue to form and mold me that your grace would flow out of me through my actions in obedience to you.

In Jesus Name, AMEN

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My 3 girls...

My 3 girls waiting for me at home...My wife (Janeen), my baby girl (Eliana) and my dog (Lexi).

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Is it over already?

We just got back from our Summer Camp at Camp Erdman. Going into to it I really had no idea what it would be like. There was so much to do in preparation that I always felt that I was forgetting something. I was worrying about the outcome so much. Thankfully the Lord convicted me a few days before about trying to go it alone, without Him.

I stopped. I got down on my knees. I prayed.

Now on the "victory" side of camp, I don't see how I got anything done without Him. The team grew and came together, more kids signed up, the kids were stoked and the team was single minded in loving the kids throughout the weekend.

Forgive me for doubting. Thank you Jesus.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Putting up with others for His names' sake...

“12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. “

Colossians 3:12,13


Paul uses the term ”put on“ here in verse 12. It gives us the sense that believers must choose to put these character markers on like one puts on a shirt. He also calls them ”God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved...“ God sees them, sees us, as holy and beloved. In the preceding verses he tells us that in Christ there is no difference between Jew or Greek, slave or free man etc. This is the basis for what he tells them to do next.

He tells the Colossians to put on love most of all because love is like the umbrella that all of these falls under. As Christians they were to show no partiality because Christ showed none. In His eyes all who were in Him were seen as holy and beloved, not because of anything they did, or the way they looked, or how much money or power they had. It was solely based on His choice; ”God’s chosen ones...“

In verse 13 he tells them to bear with one another. This greek word for ‘bear’ is anechō (ἀνέχω). It can also be translated ”put up with“ or ”endure”. The idea is that even though they are a body of believers they still have sinful tendencies that need to be forgiven as Christ forgave them. This obviously applies to us today as well. If we must choose to put on compassion, humility, meekness, patience and love then that means we can also choose to be uncaring, mean spirited, prideful, boastful, impatient and unloving.

He finishes this passage by telling us to do everything in the name of the Lord in other words, do it all in order for Christ to get all of the glory. That truly is what Christianity is about.

Christianity is not about ME going to church, ME reading the bible, ME being in a small group and ME sinning less.

Although those are certainly good things, ultimately the reason we are in Christ is so that He might be glorified. The reason we were saved was so that He might be known more. This may sound horrible to some. To think that God is self-centered. But I just read today in 2 Kings 20 about 2 instances where God saved His people form annihilation for His names sake. A simple word search for the term “for His names sake” produces countless other examples. Even Paul’s conversion was done so that the patience of God might be shown. From 2 Kings 20 we also see that when God is glorified is to our good. I don’t think that you can separate the two. In God’s pursuit to glorify Himself our joy is fulfilled.

It’s like the last line of the theme song of Married With Children:

Love and marriage. Love and marriage.

Go together like a horse and carriage.

This, I tell you brothers.

You can’t have one without the other

Just like love and marriage, God’s glory IS our ultimate joy. In a way, “you can’t have one without the other.”


To ‘put up with one another“ is key to unity in the body of Christ and this unity is key to making Christ known.

As John 17:22,23 says:

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Too many times I have seen leaders criticize the work of other leaders or volunteers. Because they might not be as organized, or the event did not go off as well as planned. I have seen youth form cliques and exclude the uncool or not as talented or not as old etc.

All of this is rooted in the thought, whether conscious or unconscious, that one is better than the other. That somehow because we are more attractive, more talented, have more money, pull off awesome events, fundraise tons of money or whatever it may be, we are better than someone else.

People who think like this are like a vending machine. You put in a few coins for a bag of chips. But that last coin hasn’t yet dropped and so you don’t get your bag of chips. The coin is in the machine but it has not yet been fully deposited. And just like that vending machine, these people intellectually understand grace but it has not dropped into their hearts affecting their emotions and affections and so their is no fruit of that grace evident in their lives.

As receivers of grace, we must be willing to bear with one another for the sake of unity in the body.

The American ideals of individualism and consumerism have seeped into the church. “If this doesn’t work for me I’ll get a new one.“ And so we see a pin ball effect where people are bouncing to and fro from church to church never building relationships. Or people stay within a particular body of Christ but become poisonous and acidic to those around due to their bitterness.

The only way to combat this is to fully understand grace and forgiveness which places everyone on the same level and urges us to put up with people’s sinful proclivities and not only that but to forgive as Christ forgave.

Do we allow sin to flourish and just simply endure it with no rebuke? By no means. But even the rebuke must be rooted in love with the ultimate goal of reconciliation to Christ and His body.

The idea is to never give up. Whether that means you giving up on the church and leaving or you giving up on the person and allowing them to continue sinning.

Both are a danger to unity.

So let us pursue unity in the body with love and grace as our foundation. Let’s pursue Christ with reckless abandon of our own pride and glory. So that unity flourishes and Christ is magnified and made known.


Please root out of me anything that is working against your purposes of unity in the body. I lay my life down at your feet knowing that you love. Please use me as you please to love on others and glorify your name.

In Christ’s name, Amen

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pushing through the quitting moments

Lakers take game 5, bringing the game to Boston.
I believe in miracles.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Best Brand of Kicks - the Gospel of Peace

“and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.“

                                                                                        Ephesians 6:15

This short passage in Ephesians 6 is the well known and often preached passage on spiritual warfare and the armor of God. I have heard many different takes on what spiritual warfare entails and what this set of scriptures is talking about. I still don’t understand it fully but what I do know is that the majority of everyday spiritual warfare is not battling demonic possession, casting demons out and the like. The majority of the battle is demon oppression fought in the mind.

Doubts, worries, concerns, desires, mislead passions, guilt, unbelief. All of these and more wage war against our souls; against the truth. But Ephesians 6:15 urges us to put on readiness of the gospel of peace as shoes.

In this passage I see three things that are key to understanding what is meant. Shoes, readiness and the gospel of peace.

Shoes protect our feet which is what we use move, to strive forward and stand tall. They give us something to stand on and walk in.

Readiness is self explanatory. Since we are talking about feet I think that this is the readiness to move. To take action.

But to understand what readiness really means we need to understand what the Gospel of Peace is. The gospel is God’s message to His people that the enmity that was once between us and Him is now gone through the power of Christ’s blood. His wrath which was ready to be poured out has been absorbed by Christ and no in place of enmity is peace; an open relationship.

Paul here is not telling us to put on the gospel as our shoes. He is telling us to put on readiness. The readiness to move with the gospel. To go where the gospel is going.

The readiness given by the gospel which says that our righteousness has been given to us through Christ not our own merit. And with that readiness our sense of self, our self esteem, our identity is no longer found in ourselves. And with that truth imbedded in our hearts the lies thrown at us hold no water and we are ready to move on when struck.

The Armor of God is presented as a defensive armor. The only offensive weapon is the word and the word IS the gospel of peace.

It has been said that the best defense is a good offense. And I think that that principle holds true here. As we live out the gospel, as we spread out the message, its truth becomes imbedded deep within our souls and we are continually ready to move. Never being hindered by the enemies fiery darts of doubt, despair, guilt or depression.

On the flip side, another weapon that the devil uses are our own proclivities and desires. Pride, selfishness, self-glorification, greed. The gospel of peace deals with these too. A good understanding of the gospel reveals our own depravity and need of a savior. It breaks down pride by taking away all of our power to make ourselves righteous and gives it to Christ. All of our action become filthy rags when compared to His righteousness.


This is way harder than it sounds. To live out the gospel and really believe it 24/7 is tough. Mentally I can understand it, but often when I look at my actions they don’t match up to my beliefs. I let other people’s view of me determine my self worth. I find myself trying to do my best not for God’s glory or to love on people but so that people will see what I’ve done. I know better. I believe in the gospel of peace but my actions don;’t always reflect it. Paul fell into this cycle of doing what he didn’t really want to do. But He knew God’s grace well. And that is truly the gospel of peace. God’s grace allows us; even urges to get back up and pursue Him once more. If it truly is all for His glory then it would do no good to stay down.


Help me to live what I know to be true. I love you.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Submitting to Christ is like playing "Simon Says"...kind of.

In July I have to speak at our High School Ministries Summer Camp on Moloka’i. I am both excited and petrified at this notion. The teaching theme given to me is “Modern Day Discipleship”; what it means to be a follower of Christ today.

The first session is supposed to be on what it means to “Count the Cost”; What does it cost to follow Christ?

There are many things to be said on this particular subject but as I was getting ready for bed tonight a thought popped into my mind that following Christ is kind of like playing Simon Says.

In Simon Says the players give up their rights and submit to the absolute authority of “Simon”. Whatever Simon tells them to do they must do it. If Simon doesn’t “say it“ and they do it they are out of the game.

The difference then is in the ”Simon“.

In the game, the role of ”Simon“ is to try to trick the players into doing an action that he didn’t say to do. ”Simon’s“ goal is to get people out.

But when Christ is the ”Simon“; when He is in the position of authority He gives us everything we need to stay in the game. He even pushes, prods, disciplines and rebukes us to make sure that we stay in it. And when we do something that goes against Him, He is quick to forgive those in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

God Draws Near to Us in Christ

“In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;“

Romans 15:17-19


Paul lived a missional lifestyle. He calls himself a priest to the Gentiles. He went around and proclaimed truth to a disobedient people and because of that he was often persecuted, jailed, whipped, and stoned. If anyone was to boast of his efforts and perseverance for the sake of the Gospel, it would have been him. But he doesn’t boast. His very words say that it was Christ who did the accomplishing; the Holy Spirit who gives hope and changes hearts. He was merely a vessel. With this mindset that he was merely a joyful pawn in God’s hands being used to bring Gentiles to repentance he had no room for pride. It wasn’t him. It was Jesus.

In today’s culture proclaiming truth is looked down upon. People don’t want to be told that what they believe is wrong. They call Christians who hold to the idea that Christ is the only way bigots, or closed-minded or narrow. They seem to think that as people get more educated and more modern, ideas about Christ should dissipate. In their eyes Christianity is backwards and ancient, not relevant today with all that we know now. When I was in college I would hear the same thing all the time, ”Don’t try to force your beliefs on me.“ They think that if you say ”What I believe is right and what you believe is wrong.“ then you are arrogant.

The thing is that they are doing the exact same thing. They are saying that they believe one thing and that what I believe is wrong. They are being ignorant and arrogant. All of the worlds belief systems and religions are to some degree based on the works of the individual to make them righteous or to get them closer to God.






Christian Science.




Bahai Faith.


Jehovah’s Witness.

The International Church of Christ




Followers of all of these all find their sense of self worth and justification from their own merit. What they have done or are going to do.

They have room to boast and be prideful and look down at others because its all about what they’ve done.

Christianity is the only one that says our sense of self worth is found in God’s view of us. And His view is not based on our actions but on His love. Man is sinful and unable to please God apart from Christ

The worlds religions have prophets who tell people about the path to get closer God or Enlightenment or Happiness or whatever.

Christ is the only one who claims to be God Himself drawing close to us.

Paul got this. It was all about Christ not himself.

Friday, May 30, 2008

James on authentic faith

James has long been one of my favorite books. Whenever a new believer asks
me what books to start with in the bible I often point first to John then James and then 1 John.

My family has a history steeped in Catholicism and growing up in Simi Valley I had many opportunities to speak with Mormons both as my neighbors and as missionaries. Both faiths use James 2 as an example of scripture pointing to a works based salvation. And one can easily see why they came to that conclusion based on this chapter alone. In numerous places it says that we are justified by works and faith alone. But when read objectively, taking into account the rest of the book we see a clear picture. James is not even close to being antithetical to the message of Paul in his epistle to the Romans. In fact, when understood correctly it is a perfect complement.

Faith necessarily produces good works. Faith = Works.
The equation cannot be reversed.
Good works produce nothing in and of themselves.

A true authentic faith will be manifested through works.
Faith without works is then indeed dead because it is not a true and saving faith. It is a false hope. It is a mere intellectual assent to certain truths about God but it never makes that proverbial leap from the mind to the heart.

As pastors, teachers and preachers we must never preach the Gospel and then say, “Ok, you’re good to go. See you later.” The call is to make disciples not merely “converts”. And a disciple is one who follows in the footsteps of their teacher meaning that their works, actions, thoughts, mirror that of their teacher. In our case, our teacher is the God of the universe. We are a mirror reflecting his image and we must reflect well. Sin came and shattered that mirror. Christ came and sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and begin the process of rebuilding that mirror until that day when we meet Christ face to face and that mirror will be made whole. Imago dei.

All praise and honor be to God.


14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:14-17
        Paul does something very interesting here. He takes the usual road of faith and he flips it. He gives it to us backwards. Instead of: God sent preachers -> They preached -> People Heard -> People believed; Paul takes us down the natural backwards progression of questions. How can they believe if they have not heard -> How can they hear if nobody preaches -> Who will preach if they are never sent. But he leaves the next logical step out which would be “How can they be sent if there is no God to send them?“
        Why wouldn’t he walk us through the entire progression? Why stop there? Why assume that the people that would hear his message believed in a god. The reason was most likely that most people did in fact believe in some sort of deity. But in verse 16 we see that he is not just talking simply about belief in God but about the Gospel; about Jesus.
        Now assuming that we believe in God I think the next question that we need to ask is ”Who is sending preachers out?“
        In today’s world there is no shortage of people that think they have a message that everyone needs to hear. Whether it be global warming and green living, how to get rich fast and stay that way, gay marriage and a woman’s choice and so many others. They may not want to be called preachers but they certainly are preaching. Al Gore is a preacher. Barack Obama is a preacher. Oprah Winfrey is a preacher.
        The very idea of preaching at is one of the current generations most hated ideas. A speech will often be premised by, ”I don’t mean to be preachy but...“
        Preaching has been turned into a negative idea because of the form that it has taken over the years and the current generation’s understanding of truth. When one preaches a message they are unequivocally saying that they believe their position is the correct one. And the rest are false. Even if they preface their messages with statements like, ”I am just one person in a much larger discussion.“ or ”Everyone has their own truth but...“
        And when truth claims are given to a generation that say they don’t believe in truth except for their own than it makes it very hard to win over hearts (unless of course your message is supported by the mainstream media and Hollywood). Especially if your message is one that is counter cultural, which in the case of Christ, will always be.
        Many try to engage the culture so much that they end up being the ones engaged. Meaning that the culture infiltrates not only their style of worship and services, but the very core beliefs of their message. The substance is lost for the sake of relevance. When this happens, what we see is a bunch of churches pursuing social justice and global responsibility preaching that this was Jesus’ main message. That the church’s job was to bring the kingdom of heaven down here by loving on others.
        Don’t get me wrong. This type of service to others in and of itself is not wrong by any means. I think that this type of service should be typical of all churches in America. However if the very heart of the Gospel is not preached which is God’s redemptive work through Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross for the salvation of sinners from God’s wrath (Romans 2,3:21-26), then what that produces are vibrant, energetic, philanthropic, culturally hip yet spiritually dead congregations.
”For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
I have too many thoughts to write in one posting but I will continue later...

God's glory; Our joy

"God is most glorified when His people are most satisfied in Him.”

This is one of John Piper’s most famous statements through his work at
Desiring God. He has said it almost every time I have heard him speak.
And rightly so because this is the crux of why we were created. It is
our purpose here on earth. And yet it seems like we generally run away
from this concept. People like Richard Dawkins hear this phrase and
are disgusted. They see it as a true depiction of a megalomaniac that
we call God. A selfish, egocentric, angry being that allows all kinds
of pain and chaos to happen to his creation. This breaks my heart.
These people have such a twisted view of the Biblical God that it
negates the entire phrase. God is not glorified and people are trying
to find satisfaction in everything else but Him.

So does this really make sense? Is God really so passionate about His
own glory. Is His outlook really that self-centered?

I would answer yes.

But how could God be so passionate and centered on Himself and not be
a megalomaniac?
How he be so into himself and not be narcissistic and an egomaniac?

When this statement is viewed upon the backdrop of all God’s
attributes that answer becomes clear.

Because God loves us he wants the best for us. He wants us to have the
one thing that will ultimately satisfy; ultimately fulfill. He wants
to make that one thing so glorious and so awe inspiring that we would
be drawn to it. He does this through people that have already attained it;

people that have already tasted what it means to be truly satisfied; people

that know what it means to be joyful in all circumstances. People that have

finally realized that everything else that they try to find fulfillment and

satisfaction in is wanting of any lasting significance.

And that one thing that provides all of this is not a thing at all. In
fact is a person. In fact it is God himself.

People often miss the point of the Gospel. They think that eternal
life, or being saved form hell is the prize. They think that because
they are saved they will have better lives. They look at the
peripheral benefits of God’s grace and completely miss the point.

The point is we get God. Period.

Everything else is just fluff. Just a side note. So when God is
glorified it is to the benefit of His people and it comes through a
heart motivated by love.

When I think of self glorification I often think of selfish people
like Donald Trump or some other famous person only looking to get more
glory for themselves and I think, “What an idiot.” or “That’s just
demonic.” The world looks down on supposed selfish gain even though it
is exactly what everyone is doing. So when they hear about God’s
desire to glorify Himself they freak out. And so it is my job to make
much of Him. So that people would see that and start to worship and
glorify Him and then in turn lead others to do the same.

As Pastor Gary always says, make God famous. But by doing so, know
that His glory loves on us because He is what is for our best.

Preaching to entertain? May it never be.

Tonight I had the opportunity to speak at Growing Deep/Growing Strong
(GDGS). New Hope’s membership class. I was given the topic
‘Salvation’. They gave me the outline and the accompanying scriptures
and told me that I had 20 minutes to preach. This was a topic that I
had spoken about at previous GDGS’s. However, this time I had this
nagging conviction. While preparing for the message, I found that each
point was chock full of necessary, God glorifying material. The points
were as follows.

1. Who God is.
- God is love.
- God is holy.
- God is just.

2. Who we are.
- We were created good but became evil.
- We deserve to die.
- We are spiritually helpless.

3. The Significance of Christ.
- He was God and also man.
- He became our substitute.
- He offers us eternal life as a free gift (grace).

4. Our responsibility. (What do we do with Jesus.)

As you can see each of these points could easily be a year long sermon
series!! SO what was I to do. I didn’t want to simply skim over some
topics for the sake of time. There were definitely people there
tonight that had said yes to Jesus but had no idea what that meant.
They had no idea what implication that had on how they should live
their lives. And so in preparing for the message I prayed and typed
and prayed some more and typed some more. I tried to allow more of the
Spirit to guide the direction of the sermon rather than me.

So I decided that I would preach what I had prepared and not skimp on
any subjects. Long story short, I went for 50 minutes instead of the
allotted 20 minutes. I got off the stage with some of the staffers
looking very annoyed at me. But I got off that stage with a peace in
my heart, still hoping and praying that the words that proceeded from
my mouth had glorified God and cut into some hearts.

Afterwards I got the usual “Good job up there.”, “Great message.”.
Some were convicted and told me so. Some were surprised that God
pursues us not necessarily for our own good but more for His glory.
Then I got the most random comment I had ever received, “I was very
entertained. Thank you very much. Very entertaining.” Did this lady
not get it? I had just told her how horrible her sins are to God. How
huge and perfect and loving and terrible our God can be. I just finished
telling her how desperate she should be for God instead of trying to
find satisfaction and purpose in other things. And she was entertained
by that?!?

May it never be again. I pray that the Lord would not let me utter
another word that would simply entertain someone. Biblical preaching
is not about entertainment and how much people laugh at your jokes.
Although humor is an awesome tool to get into people’s hearts,
stirring up affections, emotions in people’s hearts for God is what
it’s all about. My pastor from back home in Simi Valley, CA once told
us that every preacher has a choice to make. Whether they want to be a
good preacher or a powerful preacher. Good preachers work on
communication skills, story telling, humor etc. All good things. But
powerful preachers are ones that put down their pride and allow the
Holy Spirit to direct and guide and speak.

In the red (grace mentality vs. works mentality)

“My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth,

then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor:

go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor.

Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.”

Proverbs 6:1-5


This verse speaks about a pledge made between people. It pleads for urgency in resolving this pledge; in paying it off, that one might be free from the bondage of the debt. We read verses that say “save yourself”, “hasten” and “plead urgently”; it says that “you are snared in the words of your mouth,” It uses all of this intense rhetoric but gives no reason as to why this kind of debt would be a bad thing.

Verse 5 even likens us to an animal in the hands of a hunter. There is a sense of the immediacy of death in being indebted to someone.

Being indebted to someone means that we are subject to their desires. We are no longer free to follow God. They make our decisions for us. This is dangerous because they are not God. They are not wise. They are not righteous.

It doesn’t say it here in the passage but I think one implication of being free from a human debt is that we should rather be indebted to Christ.

If the epicenter of our worldview is ourselves than salvation becomes about how much we have. It becomes a works based mentality where our efforts have allowed us to gain some ground with God. Grounds to be able to say “no” when what we thing that what He is asking of us is too difficult or too large. Because salvation becomes about what we have done and no longer about what He has done we now somehow have rights.

But the truth is that we have a great debt to pay. Salvation has been given to us as a free gift. Most evangelicals would affirm this idea with a decided head nod and an “amen, praise the Lord“.

But do they really get it? Do we really get it? Do I really get it?

If Christ has imputed His righteousness on me freely than I truly have a great debt to pay. There can’t be anything that I have any right to say ”no” to. If I truly understand the gravity of His sacrifice than “no” is not an option. We can’t just obey Him on the small and easy things like being kind to our neighbors or serving on teams where we feel accepted and loved. Or even on the bigger more easily avoided sins like shoplifting and murder. I’m not really even talking about not committing sins. Because the opposite of sinning is not not sinning. It is in fact doing righteous things. Things of eternal worth. Hard calls like giving up our prized idols in order to feed the hungry or clothe the poor. Giving up our pride and self glorification in order to make much of Jesus.


Recently a friend of mine was offered to have a free baby sitter. But upon contemplating it he couldn’t conceive of receiving that service for free lest he get a late night call asking for his help in buying a car. All right. I know that this is an exaggeration but the principle is the same. If he didn’t do or give something to earn that service than she could have asked for anything.

So it is with God’s grace. If we had any part in our salvation; if our own actions somehow earned us some merit than we would have some ground to stand on in saying “no” to God’s calls. But as it stands we have none. Since our salvation is completely based on faith in God’s grace as a free gift; nothing earned than He can ask for anything and we have no right to say no. Yet we still act like we don’t have to. Like we are somehow a citizen of heaven who has paid our taxes which earns us some right to say no to the governing authority. But His Lordship is supreme and His grace is not only sufficient but the only thing necessary for our salvation. And thus we must obey. There is no thing too large for Him to ask for. We owe him our lives.

                “For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ                 Jesus our Lord.”

                Romans 6:23

And being indebted to Christ is not the same as being indebted to people. He is righteous. He is wise. He does love us. He does want the best for us. He can deliver and will deliver on His promises. The more we get this part of the Gospel the more God will be glorified and the more joy we will have when we can free from serving God’s created things and have the freedom to serve the only Uncreated one. When it comes to Christ we are always in the red. We can never give enough to pay our debt back. But praise God that through His grace he has paid that debt for us.


I am a great sinner and you are a great savior. Thank you for reconciling me to yourself. Help me to feel the weight of your sacrifice daily that I might live as one indebted to a righteous King. I gladly place my life in your hands. Ask what you will God. And I pray that you will continually work on my heart as well as my wife’s that we might say yes rather than no.

In Jesus name, amen.

“Spiritual Smirutual…” - catching the vision

“12And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said, 13"Remember the word that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, 'The LORD your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.' 14Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, 15 until the LORD gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise."

16And they answered Joshua, "All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you, as he was with Moses! 18Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous."”

[ Joshua 12-18 ]

In this passage we see that Joshua had been given the mantle of leadership of the Israel people. God had given him the charge:

        “’Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all         this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.’”

                                                        - Joshua 3:2

And Joshua, having been Moses assistant, caught that vision quickly. He knew exactly what he needed to do. And as we see in the rest of the passage he took charge and “…commanded the officers of the people, 11"Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, 'Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.'"

Then we see him reminding the Reubenites, the Gadites and the tribe of Manasseh of their oath that they had made to Moses. And he passed down the vision of taking the land that the Lord had promised. He passed on all that the Lord had given him and made it clear as day as to what they had to do. They caught the vision. As we see above in verses 16-18, they were on board and were ready to go. The vision was clear and they were encouraged to obey the Lord and obey Joshua, the Lord’s chosen leader over His people.

I have always struggled with vision. At New Hope it seems that vision is constantly being pushed. We have to have vision, we have to catch the vision, we have to cast the vision. But what is it? To your average churchgoer it might sound like a supernatural occurrence where you receive this vision from the Lord in a dream and then wake up knowing exactly what you need to do. I know that I used to think that growing up.

But I also know that just because it does not come in the form of a dream or an actual vision form the Lord it does not mean it is not supernatural.

In the quest to be balanced and theologically correct in their own estimation I think too many people have gone astray in thinking that experience has nothing to do with Christianity. They rely solely on their own abilities and are dreadfully frightened of the more spiritual aspects of life in Christ. Yet the very reason we have a relationship with Christ in the first place is the Holy Spirit. To be sure there are fanatics who take the “spirituality” and the “experience” of Christianity to new levels never mentioned in the Bible. But let us never forsake our relationship with the Spirit of God for the sake of distancing us from that sort of extra biblical fanaticism. He is as the bible describes Him, our guide, mentor, teacher and friend. He is the one that passes on the vision we are to have as leaders.

In sitting down and hashing out the vision that God has for our ministry we must include Him in the process or else it becomes our vision and our ministry. It becomes about how visionary we are and it becomes about our leadership gift. But let it never be. We never want to take the glory from God and so we must always give the chance to work through us. He will never force us to obey Him because he wants our true worship and obedience.

In writing sermons and prepping for messages and even right before I open my mouth to preach I pray to God that the words coming out of my mouth are His words to the people. That the things I prep for are what He wants His people, including me, to catch.

Yet even in praying this I don’t think that what comes out of my mouth are just forced words from God being released through me, the vessel. If they were, He might as well use a radio. He could even speak through a demon for that matter. But what does occur is that, as I commune with Him daily and He implants emotions and affections in my heart about Him and His word, His character and His desires become clear. Feelings of thankfulness, admiration, glory, repentance and others that define my relationship with Christ form the base. And out of that base a message takes form. Words that stem from those emotions, come out of my mouth and its those words combined with the workings and impressions of the Holy Spirit upon my heart that create an effective and authentic message form the Lord.

Now how do I take that principle and apply it to vision. When working out vision I too often try to go it alone.

Joshua’s vision for the people was directly given by the Lord. But in casting that vision upon the people he communicated it through the heart that he had for the Lord. His passion, his zeal and his earnestness came through. God used everything that was Joshua to communicate His plan. Again he could have just used a rock to speak to the people. But he didn’t.

God commanded Joshua to keep His word in his heart.

        This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate         on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is         written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have         good success.
                                                        - Joshua 1:8

This was not for posterity’s sake. It was to encourage, bless and protect His people. It was to keep Joshua’s heart in line with His.

We must do the same.

So as we as leaders go about building a vision let’s not forsake the supernatural. Let’s stick close to Jesus and imbed and meditate on His Word.

The clear vision makes decision making easy. And so we must allow the Holy Spirit to implant that vision into our hearts by meditating on His word and His relation to us. So that our decisions which greatly affect others whether we know it or not are in line with the will of God.

God, I pray that you would continue to draw me in. Forgive me for the times when I’ve tried to go it alone. It was never Joshua’s vision, or Moses’ vision. It was always yours. Help me to keep the communication lines clear by sticking close to you. Let no one ever say, “What great vision Leon has for the ministry.” Rather, let all the glory go to you.
In Jesus name, amen.

God in our image?

Most of us have heard or read of the story of David and Bathsheba.
David committed adultery because he was blinded and enticed by his lust and more than likely (the scriptures don’t say) he was drunk off his own pride and power that he thought he could get away with it. And by all accounts he did. The people that would have known were either dead or silenced by fear. He was scot-free. Except for the fact that God is all knowing.

Last night I spoke to a small group of high school students about the fact that at any given moment we could be face to face with the lord owning up to our sins. And how that reality needs to dictate every on of the choices that we make.

But after leaving the house and thinking more on the subject, I came to the realization that we are already face to face with God. We are already held accountable for our actions. He sees everything we do and think. That is the reality that we need to live with. David unfortunately lost sight of this fact.

He thought that he had made it; that no one would ever find out; that his dark secret was hidden away. But God had other plans. He revealed David’s sin to Nathan the prophet and he then went straight away to King David and had an audience with him. He used a parable of a king who doesn’t want to take any of his own sheep to entertain a guest and so he forcibly takes a lamb that a family raised and deeply loved. He paralleled this to David and Bathsheba and then told David of God’s impending judgment. And David responded with these words, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Then Nathan responded, “The Lord has put away your sin, …”

David’s repentant heart leads to God’s forgiveness. Weird how that works. Then we see David entreating God on behalf of his unborn child. He had already been told that the child would die yet he knew that God was a God of grace. Showing mercy to those undeserving of it.

The thing is it didn’t work. The child dies and here is where things start to get interesting. Instead of reacting to the death of his child the way that everyone expected him to, David gets up, cleans himself off and then eats a meal.

The servants are bewildered. They are taken aback by this response and it is because of the simple fact that they do not know the Lord as David does. Intimately.

Oftentimes, when God doesn’t come through the way we think or want him to, we react in the exact way the world would react. In the midst of the pain we ask God why? We think that our circumstances give us a reason to disobey God’s word when he says “rejoice always.” The worry and stress and amount to us trying to rush the Lord, “Come on God, show up already.” But the Bible says wait on the Lord.

The more we know God. Not the more we know of God or the more we know about God. But the more we know God than our expectations of him become more biblical and less “manlical“. The big one for me is that God is sovereign. Kind of like knowing and trusting as a child that my step-dad had everything under control and wanted our family’s best. Granted that probably wasn’t the truth. But we know that it is true with the Lord. A proper understanding (or at least what he allows us to grasp) of His sovereignty against the backdrop of his love should assure us. It allows us to live like David lived. To rest in his grace.