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.

The Sign of Jonah

“‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ So he left them and departed.”

- Matthew 16:4

In this passage we see two different groups with two sets of beliefs, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, coming to Jesus united in their goal of demeaning the Son of God. They demanded a sign from Him to prove that He was heaven sent. Their hearts were not ones that truly desired to seek God. Rather, they were seeking to disprove and disqualify Jesus. They were looking for a reason to not believe.

Jesus then retorts back with this comment calling them and evil and adulterous generation. He then says this line form the Old Testament, referring to Jonah. All of them would have known exactly what this passage was about. They most likely would have had it memorized word for word. Yet in their piety they had completely missed the point.

So what did Jesus mean when He said that the only sign will be the sign of Jonah? He could have referred to countless other examples from the Old Testament. But he specifically chose this one.

Now almost every single one of the kids at Ignite knows the story of Jonah. They have mental pictures of a whale swallowing him up and then spitting him back out on shore. But they have no idea what the story truly was about or how it applies to them today. This is the equivalent of the understanding of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Who although had eyes, were blind and ears, were still deaf.

So what is the sign of Jonah and how did apply to the Pharisees and Sadducees?

Earlier in Matthew we see what this “sign of Jonah” means. Chapter 12 verses 38-45 of Matthew show us 2 different aspects of this sign. The first is a parallel of Jonah’s time in the belly of the fish with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. The other aspect is the people of Nineveh standing up at the time of judgment condemning that generation. He says that these people repented by the mere words of Jonah and now here was one greater than Jonah. Jesus.

But they were truly blinded by their own piety. I have heard it said that all sin is rooted in pride and selfishness. Two things that the Pharisees and the Sadducees surely had.

However, the book of Jonah, besides being a foreshadow of God’s mercy upon those who fear Him and repent, mostly tells the story of a man who knew God intimately; a man who knew that God was a god of compassion. In fact, when God told him to go to Nineveh he ran away, not because he was scared to tell the message of God’s coming wrath but because he knew that God would relent and show compassion if they repented.

He didn’t want to be used as an instrument to bring those people to repentance. He felt that they deserved God’s wrath and he resented the fact that God would have mercy on them.

Even after the people of Nineveh repented, Jonah sat down next to Ninenveh to “see what would become of the city.” He couldn’t let it go.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees, like Jonah, believed that they were the only ones worthy of God’s mercy. And when Jesus showed compassion on others, even Gentiles, they resented it.

This goes beyond talks of Arminianism vs. Calvinism or Limited atonement vs. General atonement. This was not a theological debate about the nature of God’s grace.

This speaks more to a selfish heart that makes the Gospel about man’s merit or “worthiness” to receive grace rather than being about God’s simple pleasure in showing grace to whom He chooses and loves. This negates the true of meaning of grace and becomes man-centered.

Applying this to ministry, sometimes we see people that we deem as “great sinners” in the church receiving compassion and blessings from the Lord. And too often we become indignant. We limit God’s grace to ourselves.

“Why is “so and so” allowed to serve?”
“Who let “so and so” in here?”

And instead of having a heart of love that seeks to reconcile that person we shun them out of the body. Yet it is God’s compassion for the people of Nineveh that prevailed when fear and repentance entered the picture.

As leaders, our primary objective should be to always seek to communicate the message of God’s grace and mercy through fear and repentance first. God is more glorified through wolves becoming sheep rather then when wolves are beat down by the shepherd’s staff.

Of course if that message is not received and sin continues to seek and destroy those of the flock then by all means protect your flock and come out swinging. All seasoned with little bit of grace of course.

Dear Jesus,
Help to know full and well the depravity of my own nature and where you have pulled me up from that I may never judge and act first without first fulfilling the call to preach your grace. I love you.

In Jesus name amen.

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Today I was reading the ENT and studying for our quiz and I read the part about Merrill C. Tenney and the verse that he had written underneath his signature to that young student.

        “But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he
        shrinks back, I will         not be pleased with him.”

                                        - Hebrews 10:38

I then went back and reread Hebrews 10. And my eyes became fixated on verse 31, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” This might very well be the first time that I have fully understood what it means to fear the Lord. Unfortunately, although hearing about the fear of God and even wrestling with the thought of fearing one who loves me, my picture of God has been incomplete. I do not believe that most churches today do service to our God when we do not speak also of his wrath. I had a conversation the other day with a fellow Pac Rim student about a few lines from Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis.
        In heaven, there are people that God forgives and that he loves.
        In hell, there are people that God forgives and that he loves.

I argued that without repentance than there is nor forgiveness of sins and that there is only wrath stored up for the sinner.

This student then went on a postmodern rant about how that was my interpretation of the scriptures. God’s love had been so ingrained in his mind through what he has been taught at various churches that he held God’s love as His highest attribute. But I retorted back that none of God’s attributes are higher than the others; in fact his holiness, wrath, justice and others are all equal.

The conversation ended there as we both had other pressing engagements. But my mind kept thinking upon the fact that the “church” today has skewed the biblical view of God in order to be “relevant” to today’s emerging culture. But I would argue that by doing so they have become increasingly irrelevant because what they preach, even if it is touching many hearts is not the full truth. The danger is that God is not glorified to His utmost. The fear and reverence that He requires of us His people is being replaced with a warm fuzzy feeling (which is also good but not complete). And thus man is raised up as the object of God’s love and affection rather than God being the object of our love, affection, fear and reverence.

When I was young I had a fear of cats because every time one came near it would dig its claws into my thigh. That’s why I will never own one.
In the same way “cats” have dug their claws into my thinking while growing up in church.

Oh God, please forgive me for taking so long to realize what true fear is. Help me to never, ever forget.

Godly Confidence - 1 Samuel 17:31-37

31When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32And David said to Saul, "Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." 33And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth." 34But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God." 37And David said, "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you!"

1 Samuel 17:31-37

David was the man. Every time that I read this chapter, chills flow down my spine as I read the words that come out of his mouth. His lines are better than Mel Gibson’s lines in Braveheart and better than Eric Bana’s lines in Troy. They are better than any movie line out there trying to prepare their troops for battle because his proclamation is not rooted in his own ability to fight. Even though he recounts the times when he struck down lions and bears and he uses a first person narrative to explain his actions, he gives context here in his last sentence, “The Lord who delivered me form the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear…” He knew the source of his strength and victory and he was confident in that.

God had raised him up to be a man’s man. But not the kind of man’s man that we think of today. He was the kind of man that was so confident that the Lord would rescue him that he was not afraid to take on anything or anyone.

He had grown up protecting the sheep of his father’s household from all manner of predators and now here he was read to take on yet another predator trying to take out the sheep of his Heavenly father. And God had prepared him for this day. He had a keen awareness of the Lord’s presence in battle.

He had become adept at using his sling. He had fought seemingly impossible battles against beasts that built up his confidence in the Lord’s ability to save and be victorious. And now he stood ready to fight again on the Lord’s behalf and he could not understand why everyone else was scared to go out and fight. After all, the Lord was behind them.

Sometimes we are faced with challenges that are seemingly insurmountable. And in those times we have a choice. Do we act and think like David who had seen God’s provision time and time again and so then took action with the confidence of the Lord as his source of strength. Or do we cower and wait for somebody else to step up to the plate.

There are things that we are all called to do. But if we lollygag and sit on our laurels instead of taking action because of our insecurity in the Lord, He will raise somebody else up in our place.

On the battlefield that day David saw something that had to be done. Not necessarily defeat the giant or drive out the Philistines, but bring glory to the name of God. Verses 46 and 47 tell us that David went out “…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with a sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s,…”

When wait to take action because of fear we are effectively saying that our God is not big enough to take on what ever is in front of us.

Can you hear me now?


1Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision…6And the Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ and Samuel rose and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am , for you called me.’ But he said, I did not call, my son; lie down again.’7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.8…Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the young man.”

1 Samuel 3:1-9


Samuel was the new guy. Eli was the priest. He was the one that had heard voices and seen visions in the past. Yet now here God was speaking directly to Samuel. This was effectually saying that God was now going to work through Samuel instead of through Eli. Yet Eli, in his humble and submissive heart was willing to teach Samuel how to respond to God.

“Speak, Lord, for you servant hears.”

Eli could have been defensive. He could have chosen to respond with a bad attitude and feeling of displacement. But we see here that he had a healthy fear and reverence for the Lord. He recognizes that God was calling Samuel. And he does not want to stand in the way. In fact he want to help Samuel hear and follow that calling.

Samuel had not yet heard the Lord directly and so he could not yet discern between Eli’s voice and the voice that he heard that night. Verse 1 says, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days;” and verse 7 says that “Samuel did not yet know the Lord.” And so because He was unacquainted with the Lord’s ways he did not recognize His call.

Upon waking up it says that he is scared to tell Eli the word of the Lord. This was the first testing of his role as prophet, to impart the Lord’s word to the people. There would be much harsher words to come. And so Eli was quick to teach Samuel that he should never hold anything back of what the Lord had commanded him to proclaim no matter how harsh for as he said “it is the Lord…”


They say that hindsight is 20/20. Thinking back to when God first called me I remember that It wasn’t a crisp, clear voice. I didn’t have a vision or a dream in the middle of the night. Yet it was clear calling on my life. But that calling did not come to fruition until 9 months ago. For 3 long years I tried to rationalize the call. I tried to convince myself that what I was hearing was from a different source. Maybe it was just my own thoughts or other people’s expectations.

But when I really started to grow and draw closer to God through His word I began to know Him. I mean really know Him. Not know everything about Him. But just know Him in relation to me. God as my sovereign, all knowing, Lord, Savior, Father, Friend, Teacher, Creator, Provider. And as I drew closer to Him, His voice became more and more clear.

The thing that gets me is that God never gave up on calling me. No matter how many times I tried to rationalize the calling as wishful thinking or just a ‘what if’ moment He stilled pressed on in my heart. And then when I responded to that call with a submissive heart He was faithful to provide what I needed to fulfill that call. People to come alongside me and encourage me and point me back to the Lord.

As leaders we need to be so close to the Lord; experiencing Him everyday. So that when we see others being called we can easily recognize it as God and point and encourage them towards that direction. We need to train our eyes and ears to see evidences of God’s call in other people’s lives. The best way to do that is to be in a constant conversation with Him and get to know his voice; his ways. And make sure that we clearly know when He calls us.


Help me to have a mind and heart that is focused on you. Help me to know you more so that when you call me and others I can clearly know its you. Help me never to second guess but just to follow at your first call. I love you Lord. Thanks.

In Christ’s name Amen.

Walking the Line - Joshua 22:19

“But now, if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the Lord’s land where the Lord’s tabernacle stands and take for yourselves a possession among us. Only do not rebel against the Lord or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the Lord our God.”

- Joshua 22:19

Israel had finally taken over the Promised Land through the power of the Lord. We see it written that there was peace on all sides; along every border. And so now the peoples of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe Manasseh, which came to fight alongside their people, were returning over the Jordan to the land which was given to them by God through Moses before Israel entered the land to fight for it’s purity.

They left with Joshua and the peoples’ blessing and started their journey. As they neared the Jordan where they would then cross out of the borders of the land that God had promised. There they built an altar to be “a witness between” them and the rest of God’s people, that the Lord is God. They put it there so that the generations to come will always remember the God that they worship and so that the people across the Jordan will not think that they have abandoned God. They had the best of intentions.

But Israel has had a long history of being entangled into other cultures and allowing foreign influences to sway them away from the one true God.

And so the people of Israel, upon hearing about this altar, sent Phinehas and 10 tribal chiefs to check on what was happening and to get them back on track with the Lord. Even though they had fought side by side to purify the land they were not going to take the chance and thus bring down God’s wrath again. And rightly so.

Praise God that the altar was made with good intentions and the right heart. But if it had not, then the entire people of Israel would have paid the price.

They even offered them the chance to return to the land and take a possession amongst the people that they might not fall into this sin.

The peoples of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe Manasseh were walking the line. God had set clear physical boundaries for his people. Within those boundaries were God’s people that were dedicated to staying close to Him and following his ways. But all of the filth that was there previously had now either been eliminated or forced out. Outside of the boundary lines were people who worshipped idols, performed immoral acts and everything else that went against what God had taught His people. And so it was natural to think, because of their past, that as the people neared it’s borders and mixed with other people that they would have strayed.

God has also set boundaries with our actions, our thoughts and our words. Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians about a few of the most important boundary lines. The lines that are clearly marked to make sure that we are within where God wants us to be and that is that we need to make sure that within our freedom in Christ, everything we do is to the Glory of God and that what we do does not cause others to stumble. Another boundary line that we read a lot of is love.

As Christians we need to stay well within the boundary lines that God has set for us, his people. If we play along that line, if we are on the fence, then we are more apt to be influenced by things that do not glorify Him.

Another thing that the bible talks about is the reputation of his people. As leaders, that call to guard our reputation is even higher. And if we play that fence than we should expect others to come and check on us. We should not be defensive and offended when others question our integrity.

We need to be above reproach. And that means that we need to stay as far from the fence as possible and not try to see how close we can get to the line. We now have freedom in Christ which means that through our regenerated hearts and the work of the Holy Spirit we now are free to choose to stay as far inside the boundaries as we can. We are free to choose the right as the Mormons say.

Forgive for my sins when I played with your boundary lines. In the name of freedom I stained your name and so I’m sorry and I repent. Help me to stay well within your boundaries that I might misrepresent you to others and that I might not fall into temptation. I love you Lord.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Judges 11:30,31

“30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, "If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering."

[ JUDGES 11:30,31 ]

        We often read passages in the bible and are immediately and completely taken aback. This passage is no exception. We think to ourselves, “Is this really the same God?”, “How could he allow this?”

        Jephthah offered his daughter as a burnt offering.

        Yet as we read, it wasn’t God who asked this of Jephthah but Jephthah himself that made this vow.

        This is when we ask, “What was he thinking?” or we say “What an idiot!” His if-then statement was a vow that was contingent upon the Lord coming through for His people. “If you will give…?” Was he trying to bargain with God? What did he anticipate would come out from his doors to meet him? A goat? Did he not know that his only daughter or another human being would be the one to welcome the victorious warriors home?

        From a human standpoint this whole scene seems wrong. It hurts our gut. It wrestles with our values. It makes us pause and question.

        Did we really just read that? He just offered his daughter as a burnt offering to the Lord.

        Yet from her words we can tell that she loved the Lord and was willing to follow Him no matter what that meant. She knew that her father had made a vow to the Lord and she would rather have seen that vow fulfilled; her father honor his promise to God than save her skin.

        Yet we find consolation in believing that this life is temporary and that the coming glory is far more supreme than the sufferings of this world.

        But the consequence of Jephthah’s rash vow was still his daughter’s death.
        So we see that what matters more is honoring that vow rather than what seems right.

        Sometimes we make those same rash vows today. “God, if you … then I will …” But we should stop and think before making those vows. Psalm 50 tells us that God lacks nothing and does not need to ask for anything. What he desires more than these sacrifices is a contrite and thankful heart. He shouldn’t have to do anything for our affection and devotion.

        Do we need to make these vows? It seems that these vows are more for our benefit and our motivation, than it is for God.

        We need to put away these senseless vows because they are conditional vows. If-then.

        Our devotion to God should not be contingent upon how much He does of what we want Him to do for us. Our devotion to Him should however be out of a thankful heart because of what He has done and what He promises to do.

        Past grace through Christ on the cross and future grace with Him in heaven. Remembering what He saved us from; why He did it; what he is going to do.

        Christ died and rose for our sins. He took our place. He saved us form hell. He promises us eternal life and an everlasting inheritance as children of God. He lets us into His family.

“Oh, but if you do this for me God, then I’ll follow you.”

He did it already. We don’t need to vow anything to Him. Our acts of obedience need to stem from a heart of thankfulness and joyful anticipation. If we do them because God did something that we asked Him to do, then our obedience becomes conditional. What if He didn’t fulfill our expectations. What if His answer was ‘NO’?

Let’s make our motivation Christ. Not how God measures up to our expectations or requests.

Let’s remember what he has already done.

Because to do otherwise is ridiculous.

Know that you know that you know

“I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”
                                                - Galatians 2:2-5

A false gospel had infiltrated the ranks of the brothers in Galatia just as it had earlier in Antioch. They were preaching a works based gospel which infuriated Paul and Barnabas and so there was “great dissension and debate” between these “false brothers” and Paul and Barnabas. So a contingent, including Paul and Barnabas, was sent to Jerusalem to get to the bottom of the truth.

And even Paul, having received the message of the Gospel not through interaction and debate with other disciples, but through a revelation from God and an enlightening of the scriptures through the Holy Spirit, was brought to doubt that message. He knew better than most the grace that Christ offers. In chapter one he quickly tells the Galatians his own conversion experience. For him it was not a conversion through a message preached by man. He had met Christ and Christ had implanted that message into Paul’s heart. His conversion was a true 180 degree turn. From killing those of the Way to being a man of the Way. And because people knew of this, they were praising God because of it.

What power the spoken word has; to cause doubt in this man.

Verse 2 says that Paul went up to Jerusalem “… in order to make sure I [he] was not running or had not run in vain.”

He goes on in verse 5 to say that he “did not yield in subjection to them even for an hour”. He was never carried away by their false gospel. But he seems to have had an inkling of doubt of the truth of the message that he was proclaiming. And so he was searching out the truth of the matter to ensure that he was representing Christ correctly. That was always his goal; to bring glory to Christ!

So they traveled to Jerusalem for the sake of the other believers that were being carried away and to “make sure that they had not run in vain.” Because if they could be saved by grace, than Christ’s sacrifice would have been for nothing.

They knew the gravity and influence that those in Jerusalem had over the church. And so they wanted confirmation of the truth of the gospel of God’s grace.

He had an unfailing devotion to the truth. It was a heart of love for the lost and an earnest desire to glorify Christ that urged Paul to fight for the truth.

And this truth was not a secondary truth. It was the agent of salvation. There are no gray lines when it comes to the Gospel.

And even as Peter was being hypocritical, Paul stood on truth and never faltered. He confronted him and brought him back to the cross.

The spoken word has power to change. Power to give life and the power to take it. Power unto light and power unto darkness. Power unto heaven and power to lead people towards hell.

The truth of spiritual gifts, gender roles in the body of Christ, eschatology etc.; these are all good things to think about but Paul drew the line at the Gospel.

There is no acceptable debate when it comes to the truth of the gospel of saving grace.

As preachers of God’s word we need to have an unfailing devotion to the truth. And as such we need to know what that truth is and ingrain it into our bones.

By virtue of our position, our words carry more weight. And as such we need to be sure that what we know is truth. We need to know where in the bible our truth comes from. We need to know that we know that we know that what we know is God’s truth.

But not truth for the sake of truth but for the sake of love and for God’s continued glory. Jonathan Edwards writes that truth and action without affection is nothing but legalism and God is not glorified.

When Paul confronted Peter on his hypocrisy he was not trying to correct him for the sake of being right. But he knew that if Peter did not live out his convictions and example the truth in his life then the power of the gospel to save and change lives would have been nullified. The power of not only Peter’s words but his own would have had a reverse effect, pushing people away from Christ and further confusing the gospel.

Deuteronomy tells us that the inheritance of the Levites was God. Well that inheritance is also available to us through Christ.

For those who have been called by God to preach his Word this passage has heavy implications. We are preaching an inheritance. Not necessarily a good life, happiness etc. But joy in the new birth as a child of God. That is our inheritance. Christ.

Preach truth and only truth.

And in this new world paradigm of post-modern thinking that calling and the need for that truth is ever stronger.

I thank you for your gift of grace both in the past and the grace that I look forward to in the future. Please instill in me a hunger for the truth as Paul had. Help me to have a clear mind and a humble heart as I approach your Word. I don’t presume to have a right to speak on your behalf and I thank you for allowing me to do so. Let no heresy ever be found in my words and my actions. Forgive me if there has ever been. I love you God.

In Christ’s name, AMEN.

Missional - Acts 26:28,29

Acts 26:28,29:

        “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you thing that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’
        Paul replied, ‘short time or long – I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.’”

        Paul had just laid out his defense to King Agrippa. He told of his reputation and the persecution that he perpetuated against the Christians. And then he went into his conversion experience and explained that the prophets had prophesied that the Christ would come and suffer rather than be this victorious militant king.
        Paul did not go about his defense by trying to defend and justify his actions. He did not take a defensive position and try to weasel his way out of punishment. Instead he simply told the truth and stood his ground. And even in this oppressive setting when he was in chains and people were all around him ready to kill or imprison him he still went on with his mission to lead the lost to Christ. His entire purpose had never been to defend himself but to reach those that were listening to him. He was proclaiming the Gospel.

        How many opportunities do we have to share our faith? It seems that even us in ministry have a tendency to turn our faith off and on. I’m not saying that we don’t try our best to live consistent and balanced lives. But we often have chances to share our faith with people that we just let pass by.
        Yesterday I went to get a haircut. I had a prolonged time with my barber whom I have built a relationship with. This was far from the hostile environment of King Agrippa’s court. But still it had not crossed my mind to share with her.
        Last week I was on a plane twice sitting next to two people for 5 hours. And again I did nothing to share with them.
        We should be living missional lives meaning that we have been sent out as missionaries for Christ. As a youth pastor I have been called to minister to youth but I have an overall, prevailing calling on my life to witness to all. To have my radar turned on all the time to people that need Christ. I think we all need to live our lives with a sense of urgency.
        Working at a restaurant we always heard that term “sense of urgency” People would be standing around doing nothing when there was much to do. And then a manager would come by and just say “sense of urgency” and then we would all scramble and start getting to work.
        Well the Bible also tells us to have a sense of urgency; a sense of readiness for the Lord could come at any moment.

Numbers 34:1,2

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Command the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance, even the land of Canaan according to its borders.’”

[Numbers 34:1,2]

The Israelites had finally arrived at their inheritance, the promised land. Years of rebellion after rebellion against the Lord and after many years of wandering they had arrived.


They had arrived in a dry land full of dust and enemies that wanted nothing but their destruction. They had to fight tooth and nail for every inch of that land. If God went out to war before and with them then they would be successful. But if they rebelled against God again he would remove His hand and they would fail. This was the nature of their inheritance. It was indeed given to them by the Lord but it came with a price.
From their perspective I imagine that they felt pretty good about themselves, after routing out their enemies. Oftentimes in the midst of success we think that we have accomplished much when in actuality we did nothing but be used by God. But if you think about it, what kind of inheritance is that?

Usually when people receive an inheritance they don’t have to put their blood, sweat and tears into it. How far they had fallen. The inheritance that the Lord intended was infinitely better than what they were now going to receive. The Lord created man perfect and had a perfect inheritance for them, to dwell in the Lord’s dwelling place forever. But due to sin the inheritance had dwindled down into this tiny parcel of land that came through much effort and pain.

How far we have fallen. Pre Christ our inheritance was hell. It is a place devoid of all good things; devoid of God himself. Eternal separation. But through Christ, praise the Lord our inheritance is once again God Himself. A relationship with Him that transforms our very nature and changes the course of our lives from being hell bound to being heaven bound. To being tied to the world to being tied to Christ. And now is the time to sell all that we have and buy that field where the treasure lies. With the reality of what we have been saved from and what we now look forward to, our hearts can only be thankful. We can only live lives that glorify Him. Or so we would like to say.

But it is an all too common reality that we forget about our treasure. We forget the new inheritance that we have been given. We forget about His saving grace.

I think that effect is unfortunately amplified in ministry. As we go about our day and we get busy doing “ministry” I think that we have a tendency to forget our first love, our treasure. That zeal and excitement that Jesus talks about that would cause a man to sell all that he has joyfully and then buy a field with a treasure in it.

Let’s never forget that. This application may not seem like the more practical devotions that I have written before, It might seem abstract and almost Christianese to say get back to heart, or remember your first love; Or perhaps this is the most practical thing that I could write about.

To do a quick heart check:
        Do I treasure Christ?

To remind myself:
        What is my inheritance?

In the midst of ministry this is the most important aspect. To keep our hearts correct. To remember what we are here for. Yes, to help people. Yes, to bring others to Christ. Yes, to make it fun and relevant to kids. But always with a pervasive theme that what we do is all for the Glorification of our God.

If we do all those things but our hearts are not correct then we dishonor God and He is not glorified by it.

        13Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words
and honor Me         with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me,
and their reverence for Me         consists of tradition learned by rote,  14Therefore behold, I will once again deal         marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous;
and the wisdom of their wise men         will perish,
and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed."

                                                        - Isaiah 29:13

Let’s not force God’s hand. Let’s not wait for him to deal with us marvelously. Let’s bring glory to Him now. Out of our own volition. Let’s have that fear of God’s marvelous work.

Forgive me for not treasuring you like I should. You are my treasure, my rock, my savior. Please glorify yourself through me and the ministry that you have entrusted to my hands. I love you and thank you for the opportunity.

In Christ’s name, AMEN.

Psalm 15

Psalm 15

A psalm of David.

1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart

3 and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,

4 who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,

5 who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
will never be shaken.

David starts off this Psalm with a couple of questions.

        “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?”
        “Who may live on your holy hill?”

The word dwell can also be translated into abide or sojourn. Basically it means to live or stay in the sanctuary of the Lord. This does not refer to priests and their duties in the sanctuary; where they go in and out. This speaks to a prolonged stay, a relationship.

A plumber might go in and out of your house as he does his work but one cannot say that he dwells in your house. He is simply performing a service.

But rather the word dwell connotes some form of relationship; where one is welcome to stay.

Then David creates a list of actions, not sacrificial ceremonies or mantras to be said but rather morally righteous acts. And he lists these as the answer to his initial queries.
And so I think that it’s reasonable to assume that these listed actions are not some arbitrary list or a set of laws like the 10 commandments. David’s list is a list of actions that come from a righteous heart. And so the issue that David is addressing is not so much the actions as it is the condition of the heart.

He ends his Psalm by stating “He who does these things will never be shaken.” But again, I don’t think that it is the action of “doing these things” that will make a man unshakeable. Rather it is the balanced mind and the heart that relies on God.

All of the things listed are things that might make life easier for a person in the short run. Lying, taking usury, taking bribes, doing wrong to your neighbor for self-gain, etc. All of these things are selfish ambitions that rely only on oneself which is obviously moveable.

Who can really do all of these things? I can’t even fathom saying that my way is blameless. But what I can do is make sure that the condition of my heart is a right one.

Genesis 20:11, 22:12


“Abraham replied, "I said to myself, 'There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.'”
                                                - Genesis 20:11

"Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."
                                                - Genesis 22:12


Here in the first verse we see a hypocritical Abraham. He has ventured into this land and because his fear of man there was greater than his fear of God, he chose to lie and sin. Here we see the man called the Father of Faith stumble due to his lack of faith. He even blatantly says “There is surely no fear of God in this place…” But the lack of fear in God was in himself.

But two chapters and we see a transformed and obedient Abraham. Here we see him being tested by God. God wanted to test the condition of Abraham’s heart by asking him to sacrifice what was most important to him. Abraham must have been confused because this was the son that was promised to him as a miracle from the Lord in his old age; his only son with his wife Sarah. But he still obeyed the Lord to the very last moment. He knew now that God knew what was best for him and his family, even for his son. And so he obeyed. But what a heavy heart he must have had. His precious son was no doubt in dismay as he began to realize just what was happening. As his father tied him up, I wonder if he struggled. I cannot begin to imagine the anguish in Abraham’s heart as he raised that dagger. Yet his faith and fear of the Lord was greater than that pain.

But I wonder about the time between these two occurrences. On one hand we see a complete lack of fear and faith. But on the other hand we see a complete surrender to God through faith and fear and trembling. But what happened in between that caused this radical change? What caused God to become more and more real to Abraham? What caused this blind submission and utter fear and reverence of God?

In chapter 21 we see different events unfold. The birth of Isaac, the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael, the treaty at Beersheeba.

We see the realization of a promise which no doubt strengthened his faith in God. We see the difficult decision to send away his first son and maidservant which was a decision based on faith in the comforting words of the Lord, “Do not be distressed…” Effectively telling Abraham that he will take care of them. And then we see Abraham taking a strong leadership role in the survival of his people. Stepping up to Abimelech with the fear of the Lord as his backbone. We see a gradual development of an awesome man of faith.


Many times as Christians, and especially as developing Christian leaders, we dwell too much on our shortcomings. I know that certainly rings true in my life. I look around at awesome men and women of God who seem to know it all. And in comparison I seem but a child in my own eyes. Yet I know that God has called me to be here, doing what I am doing. Much like Abraham’s calling as prophet, a father, a husband and a leader. He didn’t start off perfect nor did he finish perfect. But the important thing is that he was open to God working in his heart and through his life. If he had had a hard heart and wallowed in his lack of faith then when those circumstances happened his reaction would have been completely different and thus his development would have either been stifled or completely skewed.

What kinds of heart issues can keep us from experiencing life the way that God would want us to and developing the way that He intends?
What can cause us to miss out on the joy of glorifying God?

Misplaced fear.
Misplaced faith.

If we want to develop into the men and women that God wants us to be then we must be wary of these things and do a constant heart check. We must also remember what He has already done.

Looking back on how he has worked in my life thus far allows me to see clearly His hand on my life. They always say the hindsight is 20/20.


Heavenly Father,
Forgive me for the times when my fear of anything else was greater than you. I only want to serve you with complete obedience. Help me to guard my heart from attack from within.

In Jesus name Amen.

Pastor Rod:
God will provide opportunities to be authentic.
Innocent due to ignorance vs. integrity.

Abraham’s faithfulness due to God’s faithfulness.
God is always first.

He called us first.
He found us first.
He loved us first.
_ _ _

Lost Coins

“’Or suppose a woman has ten coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” In the same way, I tell you there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”’
                                                        - Luke 15: 8-10

Jesus was communicating the value that He places on sinners who repent. Here, he likens that value to that of a silver coin or drachma, which was equivalent to a full days wage. And he goes into the effort that He puts into finding them and bringing them back to Him. The woman called out to her neighbors when she found it and asked them to rejoice with her. This gathering could have easily cost more than the coin itself. And so from the world’s eye view this parable doesn’t make sense. But when applied in the spiritual sense and when set against the backdrop of a relationship with Jesus it makes perfect sense. The value that Jesus places on the lost and gaining that relationship back is more than anything else.

Jesus then gives us insight into the mindset of the angels in heaven as he says, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

David had this same joyful experience when the Ark of the Covenant was brought back to Israel. He could do nothing but dance for the Lord out of pure joy because The Ark had been restored.

I often have to check my heart as I go along in ministry. I start doing ministry and lose sight of the things that God truly values. Whenever I have been used by God towards or witnessed a salvation I have never brought people together to rejoice with us. When I have baptized someone, the gravity of that decision to be obedient to God sometimes does not hit me. And so I don’t rejoice.

A good friend of mine read his devotions aloud the other day and he said something that I have heard many times before. He spoke about success and what true success is. And even though I knew all of these things in my head I often base my success on other peoples’ views. When we do an awesome event, and lots of kids come and are stoked, and our team is rocking then somehow I feel good and joyful. And while all of these are definitely good things that we should rejoice, I need to get back to heart. Get back to why we do all of these things.

I need to find ways to get myself out of the funk of ministry work and tasks. And I believe that starts with what I value.

How much do I value salvations?
How much do I value those “I finally get it” moments?
To what ultimate end are all my efforts and energy going to?

Heavenly Father,
Forgive me for the times when I don’t place true value on the things that you value. For give me for sometimes just paying lip service to those victories but not truly rejoicing in my heart. Help me to have your heart for the lost. Help me to see people as you see them. I love you Lord.

-In Jesus name Amen.

Luke 2:49-51

“’Why were you searching for me?’ he asked.’ Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom stature and in favor with God and men.”

                                                - Luke 2:49-51

Jesus and his family had been on a journey. During this time they had stopped off in Jerusalem and then moved on. Mary and Joseph just assumed that He was somewhere in the caravan probably playing with the other kids. But even at 12 years old, Jesus was keenly aware of his role on the earth and his duty to God the Father. That is why he asked that question…”Didn’t you know…” But he was also called to live a perfect life and thus fell under the authority of his parents and the call to “Honor your mother and father”.

And so Jesus, even though he knew the ultimate purpose of his incarnation, also followed God’s moral will, to honor his parents.

Many times as Christians we can know our calling or our gifts. And we can use those things as an excuse to ignore the moral will of God. We see a need that needs to be met but because it does not fit into our original calling or we don’t have a gifting in that area we try to kick it off to someone else or some other ministry.

Starting up Ignite has been a hectic and tiring process. I have often had to perform tasks that did not necessarily have to do with my calling as a pastor. Other tasks were difficult and tiresome for me because I was not at all gifted in those particular areas.

But the truth is that even though those things did not align with my calling, I was still called to do them. Sometimes though, in my heart a battle is raging. I want to ask, “Don’t you know that I’m supposed to be doing such and such instead?”

Other situations include moral issues like speeding on the freeway to make it on time for church functions etc.

In contrast to Christ, he bible talks about something called ‘corban’ when a son or daughter forsook being obedient to their parents using God’s service as an excuse.
“Oh, I couldn’t take out the trash because I had to go to bible study.”
“Sorry, I didn’t have time to clean my room because we had an event.”

As ridiculous as that sounds we do the same thing with God.

“Sorry Lord, I couldn’t help that old crippled lady load her cart full of groceries into her car because the weekend service was tiring and I was just too tired.”

Following Christ needs to be consistent in all facets of life. Love needs to infiltrate every second of every day. It needs to be systemic in my attitude and lifestyle.

On the road or off. At home or at the office. At church or at Costco. The church parking lot or the UH parking lot.

Please forgive me when I have not been consistent. Thank you for forgiveness in the past and the future. Please help me to be consistent in my calling as a follower of Christ no matter where I am.

In Jesus name Amen.

Consistent living

“‘Abraham is our father,’ they answered. ‘If you were Abraham’s children,’ said Jesus, ‘then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.’ ‘We are not illegitimate children,’ they protested. ‘The only Father we have is God himself.’“

                                                        - John 8:39-41

Jesus was here debating with these Pharisees about their own spiritual state. From their perspective they were made righteous through their heritage. They make the claim that Abraham, known as the father of the Jews as well as the father of faith, is their father. But Jesus is quick to correct them. Their notion of what Abraham was all about was twisted.

They had missed the point. Abraham believed and because of his faith he was deemed righteous. Jesus was telling them that if they were truly of God and spiritual children of Abraham they would have the same faith that he had. Yet he brings into contrast their deeds versus the faith of Abraham. He then goes on to say that they act more like their own father than as descendants of Abraham, the father of faith.

They quickly retort back by claiming God as their father. Yet Jesus quickly corrects them by telling them that they are children of the devil.

Jesus knew their hearts and so he was able to make correct judgments on them. But their actions are just as telling. Here Jesus tells them that their actions reveal where they are truly from and that their true identity and lineage comes form the devil.

Oftentimes Christians can deceive themselves into thinking that because they have prayed the sinner’s prayer they can live their lives in whatever way they wish. They claim God as their father and Jesus as their savior but their lives do not reflect that claim.

So whose children are they really?
Is their claim any different from the one made by the Pharisees thousands of years ago?

Well, in a sense it is even more grave.

Claiming Jesus as our savior and then living opposite from that claim makes a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice, forsakes His Lordship over our lives and misrepresents His message to the rest of the world.

Being saved means becoming part of God’s family; becoming his child. And as such our actions need to line up with that relationship. The Pharisees in this passage claimed God as their father yet it was evident through their actions that that relationship was non-existent in their lives.

Working in ministry has taught me many lessons and I have grown greatly because of it. But perhaps one of the most important lessons learned has been the one of consistency. Living out my faith in a consistent way at church, at Ignite, at the office, at home, as a husband, as a brother, as a son, as a friend and whether I am in Hawaii or Seattle or Los Angeles. I need to be consistent. And the only way to be consistent is to stick close to my Lord. If it becomes real to me that God is right here next to me al the time then I will never have room for error. But when I forget, or rather choose to forget that He is there, I mess up. I stray. I become a hypocrite.

My life must be consistent with what I profess.

Please help me to live consistently wherever I am at, in whatever situation I am in and in whatever relationship I am in. Help me to be a better son, brother, friend and husband. Please help me to be consistent.

In Jesus name amen.

What is our price?

“Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, what are you willing you give me if I hand him over to you? So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”

                                                - Matthew 26:14-16

        What could Judas have been thinking? He had been side by side with Jesus and had been witness to countless miracles. Yet he sold Jesus out for 30 silver coins. The so-called “wasteful” use of the oil was the last straw that pushed Judas over the edge. He had given up everything to become a disciple of Jesus. And now Jesus was talking about being killed by those whom he provoked with his message. And now this lady uses her perfume which I have heard it said would be equivalent to about $45,000 today on Jesus instead of giving it to the poor; and rightly so. Jesus is quick to correct Judas’ priorities when he objects. Judas could not see the value because he did not see Jesus as the Son of God. His heart had been skewed and twisted by his own machinations and paradigm.
And so for 30 coins, which equates to about $15,000 today, he sold out Christ. He started the path that led to the cross.

        Many people read this and get angry. “What was he thinking?”, “How could he do such a thing?”. But the reality is that it wasn’t Judas’ actions that brought Christ to the cross. The thing that brought our God to humble himself in human form and then be crucified was sin. And it is easy to say this when we talk about the fallen nature of man and sin in general but I really think that we need to make it more personal. We need to take more responsibility for the crucifixion of our God. Why did He have to die? For that sin that we committed yesterday. For that sin that we are going to commit today. For that sin that we are going to commit tomorrow. Judas sin was the betrayal of Jesus and his price was 30 silver coins. What is our sin? And for how much to we commit it? What do we gain? Sometimes it is a fleeting pleasure, or some temporary financial gain. Sometimes we sin to make ourselves feel better. What is our price? What is so important, so precious to us that we would crucify Christ for it?

        Judas took action because his view of Christ was not complete. He only saw him as a man who talked a good talk, but was wasteful. I would even venture out to say that Judas believed Jesus to be prideful when He talked about the kingdom and when he allowed others to use perfume on Him. How do we see Christ? What is our view of God? Is it complete? And most importantly is it real? Do I really believe that He is here and there and everywhere, even when I am sinning? How do I see God? What is God to me? Who is He to me?

Help me to see you for who you completely are. Help me to see that value of who you are as my King, my Savior, my Father, my God. Forgive me when I act as if you are nothing more than a fleeting thought. Some person in History.

In Jesus Name, Amen

Elihu and Paul


                                                - JOB 32: 7-9


                                                - 1 CORINTHAINS 2:4,5

        Elihu and Paul lived thousands of years apart. Yet they knew the same God and the same wise principle that true wisdom did not come by age or experience but through God’s own Spirit.

        Elihu had waited patiently on the sidelines listening and watching the events of Job unfold. He bit his tongue while the older, and supposedly more wizened men had their say. He listened while Job’s three friends told Job over and over that he was being punished because of his own sin. And he heard Job again and again refute them by telling them from his own heart that he was blameless and had not sinned as to bring this upon himself. But Elihu the youngest of the group opens his mouth, being stirred by the Spirit to speak. He reprimands Job for even complaining to God. He refutes Job’s claims that he is pure and without sin and he reminds Job that no one can fully comprehend the wisdom and actions of God. He reminds Job of his position as a creation of God and that the only thing that they all deserved was to go into the pit. Yet God in his graciousness saves us from that pit. Elihu knew the truth of the Gospel which is intertwined with the loving nature of God.

        He says, “God does all these things to a man, twice, even three times – to turn back his should from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him” (Job 33:29,30).

        How could he know this apart from the Holy Spirit revealing it to him?

        Like Elihu, Paul spoke with wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Yes Paul was very educated and he spoke well; but those were all tools that God used through Paul. Without the component of the Holy Spirit imparting all wisdom and the very message to be spoken through Paul than all those skills and all that education went to work against the Gospel. But once the Spirit entered Paul those things were redeemed for God’s glory.

        I love being a pastor. It is a lot harder than I thought it would be and I definitely have so much more to learn. So much more =) But I just can’t imagine doing anything else right now. Still, sometimes I fall into a slump. The passion wanes a bit and I feel as if I am just going through the motions. These are quite obviously the times when I am not letting the Holy Spirit guide my steps. When I am not sticking close to my creator.

        Sometimes, God forgive me, even when I am preparing a message I try to do it without asking God first. As if I have everything that I need to preach the Word of God and so I don’t have to ask God for help. How presumptuous! God is the one that will be speaking, not me!! Paul reiterates Isaiah 29:14, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” If I don’t invite God into everything that I do then he will frustrate me until I turn back to Him and rely on his wisdom and understanding. He has done since the beginning and throughout the history of His people. Whenever the Israelites would turn away from Him, he would bring hardship upon them until they finally repented and turned back to Him. Elihu spoke this truth to Job and his friends. Telling them that the only thing that they deserved was to go down to the pit; but God in his compassion would bring hardship on them in order to save them from the pit!!

Heavenly Father,
Thank you Lord for giving me the gift of your Holy Spirit. Spirit, please work in and through me. I don’t want to speak any words but those that you want to speak through me. I love you God. You are so awesome and you pour out so much on my life. Please use me to speak your message.

In Jesus precious name I ask these things. Amen