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.