Showing posts from March, 2014

A Broken Heart

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit." Psalm 51:12 We don't always feel the weight of our sin. Sure we feel guilty that we messed up or in the least, got caught. But what of true brokenness before the Lord? Sometimes it comes when we have drifted from him. And when we are in this state, can we praise him? "David prayed, "O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise." In my journey back to the Lord, praise for him was non-existent. I saw afresh how my zeal in worship was mainly predicated upon my approval of myself. Oh Lord, if that's what I really am, how can I praise you? I didn't want to praise him. I wanted to feel sorry for myself and hide behind plausible-sounding excuses. When he came walking in the garden, i was busy fabricating my new fig-leaf outfit. I wanted to scurry past the memory of my sin and get everything tidied up so that I could approve of myself again. He taught me afresh th

David and the Holy Hill

We are almost finished with our Heroes series at the Bethel young adults gathering. I had a blast preaching on David Thursday. You can listen here.

When it pleases God

It was 1715 and Isaac Watts, the great hymn writer, penned an introduction to the memoir of his friend Thomas Halyburton. As I read it I was encouraged by one of his reasons for endorsement. "Another thing that gave me an esteem of this work, was the account that is given of an evangelical conversion, after the author had been long struggling with sharp convictions of conscience, and labouring under sharp agonies and terrors. He had been fighting with guilt and corrupt nature to attain holiness, pardon, and peace, by all the methods that the reason of man would naturally suggest, and by the doctrines and duties of the gospel itself, used in a more legal way and manner; and found his labours repeated and vain, and his work still to begin. Here he describes at large the utter insufficiency of all convictions and awakening words and providences, all tears and repentance, all religious duties of worship, public and private, all vows and promises, covenants and bonds with which he boun


"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 We are so easily moved away from freedom in Christ. Surely, we think, we must behave and earn something... But to Paul, freedom was the central and only part of Christianity.  "Now that he had found true freedom in Christ it was the incessant theme of his every thought... This freedom wasn't simply a preference for him; it was the very heart of the gospel. He had been a slave - to sin and the law - and now he was free."  We realize, however, that life is war; war against sin. "Yes, the Christian life is war, but it's not only a battle against slavery to sin. It's also a battle against slavery to the law. There are two fronts in our war to maintain freedom: the obvious one against sin and the hidden one against works-righteousness. Most of us have missed that second war entirely, haven't we? Two wars? A war against slavery to good wo

Fierce Love

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. " 1 John 3:1 Love, love, love. Life is all about love. If only I could love better, or be loved better. Love will change the world.  "Woven into every thread of our existence is the concept that love is the most important thing about who we are. When we are unloved, we feel that there must be something wrong with us; when we fail to love we know that we are blameworthy."  But the ultimate love has been given to us in Christ. And it is a love that we take for granted because we think it is like other loves. "His love is not flimsy or self-serving; it's fierce. It's far more like Aslan's than Santa's."  "Shake off your boredom and apathy. God's love for you is fierce, self-afflicting, white-hot, life-transforming. The goal of this love is that you may be cal

Suffering and Glory

"Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" - John 11:40 We love the message of grace and the truth of our rest in Christ. But we still have to live. We still have to face suffering, our own and others'. We are left with any number of questions why and what does it mean to God? Then we read the story of Lazarus. The friend of Jesus. When he hears that he is sick and in need of healing, Jesus waits. Long enough for Lazarus to die. Imagine the sisters' pain in the waiting for the friend, the One they knew could heal, to come and save their brother. How differently would they want it to play out in that moment, during those four long days? I do that with suffering. I want to instruct God how he would be most glorified, and it usually has to do with a quick resolution or solution to my problem. But he continues to wait. And I trust that because I know that Lazarus lived again. And I know that Jesus lived again. "

Long Pastorates

I have had the rich pleasure of being part of churches with pastors who desire to be in their roles for a long time. My senior pastor now, Dave Bechtel, has been at Bethel for close to 30 years and it is encouraging and educational to see how his DNA and that of the church have melded in those years. His and others' are stories of patience, waiting on the Lord, burying friends and discipling multiple generations. The idea of a long pastorate is not a new one but I am increasingly aware of young men who see each church as a stepping stone or stop on the journey. I notice the allure but I want to be among the many who spend their lives at one church, ministering to one community. H.B. Charles Jr. has shared some thoughts in praise of the long pastorate and I commend them to you. "I still believe it is best for pastors and congregations when a man plants his flag and determines to serve a local church for the long haul..." "It takes time to nurture a healthy congregati

God's Glory Alone

"I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. " Isaiah 42:8 Ready for some sobering news. Christianity is all about glorifying Jesus. It is not about us. If is for us, but it is not about us. God's goal is to bring glory to his name and that of Jesus. "His goal to exalt his Son is accomplished when we delight in the fact that salvation is completely of the Lord, and not at all of us (Acts 4:10). Our inability to save ourselves and our utter dependence upon his grace and power exalt him rather than us." This can be startling and some may find it fatalistic that we don't have the ability to save ourselves but in this truth is glory and power to actually be transformed. "If we don't see ourselves as desperately lost and utterly helpless, Calvary will become a cosmic overreaction meant to save people who really aren't all that bad. Jesus Christ will be devalued; the beloved Son will not be loved or cher

Thankful for the ones that get away...

Every ministry has them. The hungry ones. They are active in the church and invite all of their friends. They are influencers of the culture rather than influenced by it. They seem to enjoy your preaching. They are the ones you have on your mind for leadership. And then they move away. Ryan is one of these guys. There have been quite a few actually in my short time in ministry but Ryan's words of thanks have been a great encouragement to me. He felt like it was time for a relocation and I am praying that the new place will be forever changed by his gospel influence. His last note to me said this: "Also, man, thank you for always leading with humility and a love for the lost. That is your greatest gift don't forget it! I never got the chance to tell you, but I appreciate, and respect you a whole lot sir. And learned a whole lot from you about Grace! Keep pressing to the goal!" Even by sharing this note I am proving I am not as humble as he thinks but I think what he is

Joy in Obedience

"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome." 1 John 5:3 If only I could live as the Lord commanded, perfectly. Life would be so much better! But as I hear them and read them, they seem a journey too far for my brokenness. But John tells us they are not burdensome. Perhaps when I see a burden, I have misplaced love. Think of Jacob and his example of working and waiting for Rachel. The work was tiring, sun cooked labor. But to Jacob the seven years of hard labor were but as days because he had so much love for Rachel. Then the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. He reminds the father of how he has served him for these many years. The service seemed hard when he was not receiving what he wanted, there was no love. Jesus chose to be as Jacob. "The One who crested the sun languished under its scorching beams and struggled to keep warm when the cold penetrated his cloak at night. The One who multiplied loav

Recipients of Undeserved Grace

"God's pursuit of his people is not based on merit. It is based on our need and  is grace-driven. Jesus' entire mission proceeds on this foundation. It assumes that human beings are not capable of restoring their broken relationship with God, including the destructive personal and communal consequences of sinfully striving to live independently of God. " Discipleship means becoming Christlike through ongoing dependence on him. This dependence involves more than just imitating Christ's actions. It means trusting  in his forgiveness and letting the impact of that forgiveness and loving commitment to us blossom and bear fruit. Changed hearts result in changed lives. Christ's example serves as a guidepost to his followers for the paths we should walk in this changed life. This desire to follow Christ arises in part from the realization that a person reconciled with God is, and remains, a recipient of undeserved grace." Gospel Transformation Bible commentary o

Lenten Love and Obedience

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15 When it comes to motivating, we use guilt far too much. Think of the way you tell the kids that they should clean their rooms because "don't you love me and want to do what I say?" Even when we look at biblical obedience, it is far too easy to motivate with guilt rather than grace. "It is true that the object of our love can always be detected in our behavior... If love for God isn't present in our heart, then Godward obedience will be absent in our life. But how do we grow our love without it becoming guilt-driven duty? And what does Jesus mean by these words that love will drive us to keep commands? "Jesus is lovingly stating a fact, but he's also making a precious promise: love will motivate behavior. He completely knows us, even the inmost thoughts of our hearts. He knows of our desire to obey and our shame and sadness because of our failures. But he also knows this: as our love f


I hate the brokenness of the world. And I hate my part in it. I wonder if the church can be more of a beacon of hope in the foster care system. This is a moving short film on the glimmer of hope. Jesus provides so much more. [vimeo] If you are in the Tri-Cities and could bless foster children through a camp experience, contact Bethel Church about Royal Family Kids Camp. HT: FaithIt

Permanent Perfection

"For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Hebrews 10:14 Yeah right. Who let this one slip into the Bible?! We all know we are not perfect. Think of the little ways (and big ways) I have missed the mark even today in the small hours. I have let anger brew. I have been short with my children. I have coveted greener grass. And these things are not just hiccups in a perfect life. They are sin, showing the marring of my flesh and disobedience. But this author of Hebrews has the nerve to tell me that I have been perfected for all time in Jesus. Blah. As if we have a hard time accepting this, to the readers of this letter, the truth may have been more startling. "You have got to get an idea of the shock the early believers would have felt upon reading these words. Perfected for all time? How could those words be uttered about anyone? They knew full well the sacrifices required to atone for their sin: a young bird, a goat, a bull,

Never Good Enough

"I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law , then Christ died for no purpose." Galatians 2:21 We have a long list of heroes. Maybe they are modern-day 'saints' or celebrities. Maybe they are the hard-working members of the family from generations past. But for many of us the list of heroes includes a number of biblical characters of old. Samson and his strength. Noah and his obedience. David and his heart after God. The list could go on. These heroes all have one thing in common with us. They were never good enough. They failed. They could not meet the requirement of righteousness before God. "Not even Moses, the giver of the law, was able to keep the law." We, like them, need faith in someone else to be saved. And we are granted that in Christ. "You and I are so completely unable to obey the law that we can't do so even when we want to. We may have good intentions, but the ability to fulfill those intentions is n

Future Past

Been listening to this lately. [youtube=]

Look to Jesus

"Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary of fainthearted." Hebrews 12:3 Even this morning I am longing for sin to be erased. I find myself in situations where I am greatly distracted by my "care" for others but in my caring I am experiencing pride and self-motivation rather than Christian love. I hate it. But I am called to endure through it, and the way the Bible tells me to kill that sin is by looking to, and considering Jesus. You know the language well, run the race with endurance... looking to Jesus. Hebrews 12 gets right at the heart of Christian life and the pursuit of holiness. It should be a salve to our souls. "That's the nature of sin. We love it and we hate it. We know it's killing us yet still we pet it and want it near. Of course, this analogy breaks down because our problem isn't a ring hanging on a chain around our necks. No, this dreadful wickedness lives within us, in ou

Remembered by Jesus

"And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into you kingdom."' Luke 23:42 It is a new week, there will be new challenges and new people to love. Without fail, it will get hard and we will muster all we have but still fall short. This is actually good news because we know the empowerment to live comes from outside of us. "Ultimately, our primary need is not trying harder to love the unlovely. Endless self-effort and its resultant guilt never generate love for those who mistreat us. Motivation to love and forgive our debtors is found only while resting in the love and forgiveness of our Savior." Think of the three men on crosses on that hill so long ago. All found guilty by those in control but each with a different perspective. One mocks and joins in with the jeering of Jesus. He is angry and damned. The second man reminds the scoffer that they are receiving what they deserve. In a place of humility he asks the One in the middle to be remembered and to

The Eternal Supremacy of Christ

Jared Wilson's final session at the CBNW annual conference on 2 Corinthians 3:12-18.

The Gospel's Superiority to the Law

Session three from Jared Wilson on 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 at the CBNW annual conference.

The Supernaturality of Christian Ministry

This is the second session from Jared Wilson at the CBNW annual conference. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, the Supernaturality of Christian Ministry.

Pastoring the Heart

This week Jared Wilson preached through 2 Corinthians 3 at the CBNW Annual Enrichment Conference. This is the first session on verses 1-3, pastoring the heart. Be forewarned, the audio is low. 

Unfazed by Grace

"The servant fell on his knees, imploring him, "Have patience with me, and i will pay you everything." Matthew 18:26 As we finish the first full week of lent we have reveled in the truths of Jesus' grace for us, his lifting of our burden, his marriage arrangements and his silencing of the accuser. Today we will think on "how grace impacts not only our self-perception but also how we perceive and treat others." Think of those people in your life that are hard to forgive. Maybe the old friend that has betrayed you one too many times. Or the boss who shows you no love and expresses her low opinion of you to others. Maybe the spouse that is selfish and demanding. Why is it hard for us to forgive them, or even graciously interact with them? Have we missed something in the connection between the grace we have been given and the grace we are called to give out? Just as we are pondering these questions Jesus tells the story of the indebted servant. The servant owe

Covenant Community

After three days in Seaside, OR we are heading home (after we reclaim the kids in Portland). While it was nice to be at the beach for a rare sunny and warm snap, we came to gather with other pastors and church leaders to revel in the truth of the gospel and be encouraged. Both of these goals were soundly met. The event was the CBNW Annual Enrichment Conference and while I was blessed by Jared C. Wilson's series of messages on 2 Corinthians 3 (which I will share here eventually,) it is the people who made the week worthwhile. 253 churches make up the CBNW in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska. The diversity among church style and locale is often significant, but by mission we desire to be in covenant with each other and build our churches on and with the gospel. And in the two years that I have been part of CBNW it has been clear to me that these covenantal relationships run deep which has been what draws me to the association. While I serve on a large staff, it is nearly impossi

Accuser Silenced

"And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God." - Revelation 12:10 "If you belong to Jesus today, your enemy, Satan, has two goals: to remind you of your sin and to accuse you continually before God." This sounds awful but it is true. The enemy whispers and some times screams to us about how sinful we are. And if that wasn't bad enough, our prideful hearts join in. We wallow in our brokenness. And we let Satan's reminders move our eyes off of Jesus. But there is a solution. Not only did Christ defeat the accuser on the cross on our behalf. He allows us to have a testimony that pushes back the accuser as well. '"Oh yes," our testimony rings out as our Accuser seeks to flog us with our failures, "I do sin and sin grievously, but Jesus Ch

Touch Him

"His disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, 'Who touched me?'" - Mark 5:31 We know the story. The poor woman, unclean for twelve long years, has only a sliver of hope. Would the One known for healing, heal her? The isolation. The despair. The bleeding. It would all end with this touch. The touch to the hem of a garment. And he knew. Jesus knew that he had healed someone in that moment. It is not as if he didn't know who touched him. But he wanted her to come to him. I wonder if she was afraid in that moment. But Jesus calls her "daughter." A name of relationship, of closeness. How long had it been since someone was close to her? We walk in our sin in much the same way. Despairing. Tired. Ready for it all to be over. And we are scared. Scared we will be found out and accused. Scared that we will be punished. Jesus though, wants us to touch him. "Don't be afraid to go to him now. He isn't fazed by

Legal Death

"Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God." Romans 7:4 We are no longer bound or committed to the law, the burden that left us making constant attempts at perfection and performance. Instead, we are alive to Christ and all that he has for us so that we might bear fruit for God. And too often, out of our desire to produce fruit, we re-embrace the law and duty thinking it will achieve our goals. But in doing this all we are doing is taking back on a burden that we have been freed from. "He (Paul) knew that striving to obey the law out of grudging duty will inescapably produce a greater desire to disobey, and disobedience produces death." But instead it is looking to Christ that our desires for obedience grow and we obey out of a different motivation than the law. "Who will deliver us from our wretchedness an

The Coming Wedding

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." - Ephesians 5:25 The burden of the law has been lifted from you. "You are no longer under obligation to try to obey the law as a way of earning favor with God, because every demand of the law has been satisfied in Jesus Christ." If truly is such good news. It changes everything. All of the days of comparison are over. The days of feeling ashamed because of our brokenness are done. When we were granted Christ's righteousness through the work of the cross we we made pure, whole and clean. "Christ has given himself up for our disgrace. His blood has washed away all our impurity. He has completely cleansed us so that we're without spot, wrinkle, or blemish of any kind. No stain, no disgrace, no defect. All our shame is gone, and he declares us to be holy." Let that sink it. Now imagine your worst day... the day you fail terribly. Not let that truth sink in. It is so g

Start Over

Don't forget to jump ahead tonight... [youtube=]

Burden Lifted

"For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression." Romans 4:15 The law, or at least the sense of the law surrounds us. We know how to behave to earn things. We follow a speed limit. It is everywhere. Even more so when our minds attempt to figure out how to relate to God. 'Surely I must do this or that" we think as if our actions will generate love from God. It is just not true. And even in our best moments we fall short and can't live up to the expectations we think are put on us. Allow the burden to be lifted: "because Jesus Christ perfectly obeyed every facet of the law in your place and then died bearing all the guilt and wrath that was rightfully yours, you are no longer obligated to obey the law as a way to avoid his (God's) wrath." Whew. No way! At Jesus' obedience I am freed from the burden of behavior and the law. This freedom is amazing. It is the hope of grace because I know how incapable I am and how my

Celebrate Jesus

"As often as you eat of this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." 1 Corinthians 11:26 Communion is such a great reminder for us. We can make it a solemn and hard things but as it is model for us in Scripture, it is a unifying celebration of what Christ has done for us and how that changes us. We need this reminder, far more often than quarterly or monthly. We need it daily and during Lent we can remember often. "Celebrate Jesus! Although it might seem absurd to tell Christians that we need to remember him, it's my conviction that none of us thinks nearly enough about him and what he's done. We don't consider how the gospel - the good news about him - is meant to affect every facet of our day-to-day life." That's it! When we see the gospel penetrating our daily lives, we can't help but celebrate. Let us be about that today as the ashes of yesterday are a memory but the cross impacts us even now. "Procla

Jesus loves you where you are


Ashes and Celebration

Let the celebration begin! "There's something intrinsically wonderful about being with other around a shared joy, isn't there?" - Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross. Lent is upon us. Today is Ash Wednesday the symbolic start to a season of reflection leading up to the church's celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter. For many, sadly, Lent is a season of woe. There is deep reflection, perhaps fasting and sacrifice. And it carries on for more than forty days. There are silver linings though each week for the devote. Sundays are mini-easters meant for celebration. While this model is fine and steeped in tradition, I think we need more celebration. More coming together around a shared joy. For those of us that believe in Jesus, he is our shared joy. He is our primary joy and all we need. So, for the next weeks leading up to Easter we will share devotions reminding us of the joy of the gospel (Jesus' incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary dea

Obedience has always been response

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve theLord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and h