Showing posts from April, 2014

Pastoral Maturity

"A mature pastor does not treat his church as a reckless roll of the dice, but he is sincerely open to a searching and substantive reformation of that church. Every pastor is wise to ask, "What is there in our church that is worth protecting at all costs?" Some things are, but not everything is. "If you are a church leader and you have settled down in your ministry, grinding out a boring routine and picking up a regular paycheck and holding on until retirement, your problem is not a lack of opportunity. Your problem is that you've lost sight of the glory of Jesus. You've settled for something less. You need to repent of every inferior glory and serve your Lord again with joyful abandon." From Ray Ortlund's The Gospel . From what place do we face ministry and the things we have been called to do? Security? Adventure? Struggle? Money? Let us determine to have the glory of Jesus as our foundation, motivation and joy.

In Christ... you are loved by the Father

Christian. What does that name even mean? Don't answer that. The truth is, we could come up with a number of answers. Some would center around a political mentality or church attendance. Some may more  truthfully define the word as those that believe in Jesus, that he is God himself who lived a perfect life, sacrificed himself to cover sin and rose from the dead to give new life. This answer would be beautifully true. But here I want to define that word as someone united with, or in Christ. Upon belief, our union with Christ is the defining reality of a Christian. It changes our status, it give us privilege beyond our imaginations and secures us beyond our own stupidity. In the coming weeks I will be sharing, with random regularity, some brief thoughts on what it means to be "in Christ" as reveal in the Bible. Today we embrace the truth that in Christ we are loved by the Father as he loves the Son. Praying for his disciples (and us) before his death, Jesus says this in Jo

This is amazing grace!

What could be happier news on a Friday! [youtube=]

Is there One among you that does not belong?

In an article on productivity on Inc. Drake Baer shares nine tricks that influential execs use to improve the effectiveness of their meetings. It is a good list, mostly. What stood out to me was this about Evernote's chief: "Evernote CEO Phil Libin always brings a high-potential employee to participate." At any given meeting at Evernote, there will be someone there who doesn't belong. This is by design. The cloud note-taking startup has an internal program called "officer training," where employees get assigned to meetings that aren't in their specialty area in order to explore other parts of the company. "They’re there to absorb what we’re talking about,"  Libin says . "They're not just spectators. They ask questions; they talk." Libin got the idea from talking with a friend who served on a nuclear submarine. In order to be an officer of such a sub, you had to know how to do everybody else's job. "Those skills are repe

Replanting and Revitalization

I am looking forward to the forthcoming book from Darrin Patrick and Mark DeVine called Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again. It is the story of one church in Kansas City that was "replanted" with an emphasis on the gospel and new life in Christ. " Replant  describes the story of a church resurrection, a story that offers a multitude of divinely inspired, and practical possibilities for church planters. The result is a harvest of inspiring ideas on how to inspire new church growth. Discover a new openness to churches merging with other congregations, changing leadership, and harvesting fresh spiritual fruit—inviting us all to re-think how churches not only survive, but thrive." The church, Redeemer Fellowship is celebrating its fifth year. [vimeo] That sounds so appealing to me! In a church/seminary/evangelical culture that has recently so valued new church planting, perhaps we have lost an emphasis on church revitalization and repla


This weekend I will graduate from Western Seminary. It has been a four-year, thirty plus thousand dollar experience. I have been a full-time student on campus and have been a full-time pastor doing classes part-time off campus. I have made great friendships. I have learned to read the Bible rightly. I have dreaded tests and felt the relief of the end of a semester. And it all has been enriching and worthwhile. Graduation brings a season to an end. That is life, isn't it. Transitions. The close of one adventure and the anticipation of the next one. I love how God uses transitions to draw us closer to him and to trust him. Because while many transitions are fun or beneficial from our perspective, not all of them are. At times it can feel quite chaotic and we feel like a boat tossed about on rough water. But we have an anchor for our souls, an anchor for life. We know the One that holds the chaos in his hand. Who knows what the next adventure will be. I know that without paper deadlin

Washed for love and good works

[soundcloud url="" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]

The Tree of Life

"He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" Genesis 3:11 The moment of curse. The shame. The violation. The removal of the relationship that was good. The pity. The brokenness. Blood was shed to cover their nakedness. They were given a promise of resolution... One day it, He, would come. "We are all the same. We have plucked fruit from that forbidden tree. We have proudly declared that we know best, that we can take care of ourselves. We have crowned ourselves deities. "Have you eaten from the tree?" Oh, yes and yes, over and over again in ways both glaring and hidden." "But the God-man has been slain. The Lamb's blood has been spilt, and it covers us. Ours rags have been replaced with his robes. The garden has been reopened; we've been invited back in. "Here, eat of this, it will give you life." "Eat from the blessed tree, dear friend. Eat and eat and never

Sit Down and Believe

"We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything." 2 Corinthians 6:8-10 The preaching had ended for the moment but the peopled remained. So many. All hungry. What was Jesus and the disciples to do? Should they send them away or reward their attentive ears with a meal for their stomachs? Jesus desires to feed them as he has with this Word. But this presents a logistical dilemma. There is no food and not nearly enough money to buy food. "Have the people sit down," Jesus told the disciples. Then all of the hungry listeners ate an were satisfied. "Like them, we too, have nothing. We have no innate goodness, no righteousness, no wisdom, no strength, no miraculous power to enable us to work hard enough to meet the overwhelming need of our souls. We are completely

Draw Near

"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:22 Do you ever feel guilty about your prayer life? None of us pray as we ought... or as we are permitted, because we get in the way of the gospel reality of our life in Jesus and our opportunity to pray with confidence and genuine love. There are reasons for this... "The first reason we don't pray is that we don't really think we need to. Unless we are in an especially difficult trial, we are pretty satisfied in our self-sufficiency...We are confirmed in our self-sufficient blindness, convinced that we are doing okay. We don't believe that we are as sinful and weak as God says we are. We feel pretty strong; we are making it. We function like unbelievers." "The second reason we have little fervor in prayer is that we are not really very comfortable in God's presence. We suppose

Passed Over

"On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness." Zechariah 13:1 "On this day in Jerusalem a fountain has been opened for Jew and Gentile alike. It flows and flows, on and on, from his pierced side and covers over all our sin. It covers our religious sin. It covers our religious sin. It covers our irreligious sin. In one stroke, the Father has opened this fountain and with it he washes away all our sin and uncleanness. Our souls are cleansed by this water, atoned for by this blood. He opens a fountain that will never run dry; this well is sufficient for us all. We have pierced him. He has taken that blood and water and made us his own." "Dear friend, the day you are facing may seem like any other day: uneventful, business as usual, nothing to celebrate. But ask yourself, what makes this day different from any other day? Then look on him whom we have pierced and rem

Controlled by Love

"The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died." 2 Corinthians 5:14 "The desire to change isn't exclusively Christian. Everyone, Christina and non-Christian alike, wants to change. That's why bookstores are filled with self-help books and meeting halls are filled with people trying to overcome addictions to everything from gambling to pornography to shopping. Everyone wants to get better, to approve of herself, to have the respect of others, to be mentally "healthy," to keep her family together, to learn to be productive. Christians don't usually say, "I want to approve of my record." Instead they say things like "I want to feel good about myself," or "I know that this weakness of mine doesn't please God, and I'm so embarrassed." But there's a problem here for us: self-improvement isn't a Christian construct; death and resurrection are


"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29 Israel, as a people, had heard the promise of rest preached to them since Abraham. It was the gospel really, the message of God working to provide for his people and grant them rest. But stuck in the wilderness, with the utmost of provision and even God's presence, the people did not have faith. They didn't believe and they died in the desert. We hear the same preaching. The calls of Jesus to come to him and rest. We are given eternal life and are commanded to have joy, yet we are in danger of lacking belief in rest. We turn inward on ourselves and attempt to reach perfection through our own work and we never rest. And it is not that we are not called to strive, but what we strive for is different. "We are to strive to do something even more difficult (than

Hope of Glory

"Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness." 1 Timothy 3:16 The early church faced oppression in a way many of us, thankfully, will never have to. They lived through Nero's torture and the humiliation that forced them to hide in caves. But they had hope, hope that they were godly through the work of Christ. They focused on the finished work of Jesus to get through the day and no check-list of behaviors could make them godly. We live in a different time but the mystery of godliness remains. "What do you think I would hear if I asked the average person on the street how to become godly? What do you suppose he would say? My guess is that most people (after I explained what godly means) would answer that one needs to obey the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule. Other might talk about being nice,m reading the Bible, or attending church. Perhaps serious Christians would explain how to avoid sin and embrace holy living. But the mysterious truth that motivated

Safe in His Care

"The Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" John 18:4 Gardens play an interesting role in Scripture. It was in the first garden that the first humans has a comfortable existence with God. And it was in that same garden that the temper drew them away from God. They hid from him, and we are still hiding today. "We are all hiding. Hiding is what we do. We hide from everyone - from strangers, from those we love. We hide from ourselves; we hide from God. We fabricate a facade of goodness or beauty, humor or intelligence. We spend countless dollars and incalculable hours sprucing up these false fig-leaf identities. We want to look good and fool our neighbors. We cower behind bushes of prosperity; we clothe ourselves with our good deeds, one-upmanship, and name-dropping. We are none of us consistently authentic." Move forward, or back, to another garden. The hour is approaching when Jesus would be brought befor

The Appearing

"Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing ." 2 Timothy 4:8 There is a day set. All if prepared for it. Judgement will arrive. The skies will be rolled back and the rider on a white horse will appear to strike down the wicked. It will be a day of great fear and awe. But it will also be a day of great rejoicing. "By his grace we have been made to love his appearing. His astonishing love at Calvary has caused us to love him and overcome our fear. Yes, he is coming as a righteous judge to judge the world, but for you, he's coming as a husband with gifts. Instead of a sword, you'll get a crown. In the place of pleas for protection, you'll be filled with praise, rejoicing at the sight of the lover of your soul." "How shall we live now, while we await his coming? By faith alone; not faith in our ability t


From Liz Vice [vimeo]

Waiting on Righteousness

"Through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness." Galatians 5:5 We are like kids on Christmas. We can't wait to open the gifts. We don't want to sit through dinner any longer, we want the promise on the inside of the box with a bow and paper. This is us waiting on righteousness. When we embraced this Christian thing we heard, and believed we would change. We would be more Christlike. But it comes slowly. And we are waiting on it more often than not. And we need hope in the waiting. "Like you, I need hope today. I need hope to believe that one day I will be completely righteous. But when I survey my life, I have to admit I find that difficult to believe. My conscience is grieved and stricken by my lack of love, my pride, and my selfishness, yet even so I have a niggling sense that I'm still not being fully honest about my sin. Today, right now, I need faith to believe that I can indeed hope for righteousness. But where w


"We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world." 1 John 4:14 Life is full of endings, divestitures, good-byes. Sometimes it is the loss of loved ones, the job that moves you away, the possessions that break or are stolen. And none of this is easy but it is part of our experiencing life. How do we approach it as Christians? The reality is that "we've never known separation and loss like (Christ). Thank God that we never will." The pain of separation from the Father as Jesus lived among man and eventually hung on a cross where the Father would pour out all of his wrath against sin on his beloved son. Jesus is left asking "why?" and we are left with a savior that has "been there" when we go through loss. "He invited us into his prayer so that we could know his heart; "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am" (John 17:24). Can you see how importan

Abide in the Vine

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love." John 15:9 Many of us are simply incapable of resting. No, not the sleeping or sitting on the couch type of resting, I mean spiritual resting. Resting in the completed work of Christ. And not just for your salvation (justification) but also you holy life. As the author of Hebrews says, "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified ." (Hebrews 10:14 ESV) This is awesome... He, Jesus, has perfected me for eternity, it is done, even in the midst of my being changed to be more like him. Notice I am not the one doing the work here. Don't hear me wrongly; we are called to be obedient but we are not the ones making the change, doing the work of transformation. We can rest in that it is done by another, and he has a great track record. If we learn to rest in this way then, what does it mean for us to "abide?" "Yes, I know I need to abide in him,

Jesus and the Bible

Todd Miles is a pretty smart guy and someone we can trust, mostly because he used to go to Bethel (my church!) at least that is what someone said in a meeting where I mentioned his name. I think having a PhD and being a theology professor also helps his credibility. So when Todd says something, we can at least agree his words are worth a hearing. I commend this article to you in that case . Discussing the Bible and the message of the Bible, Todd concludes that the "Bible is all about Jesus." Wait, all of it? Yep. "To their surprise, their new traveling companion called them “foolish” (24:25).  The word sounds harsh, but Jesus was not calling them moronic.  They were “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had written.” They did not understand the redemptive purposes of God.  Jesus told them that all the events of recent days had been necessary.  The Christ had to suffer “these things.”  Notice verse 27: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpret

The Overcomer

"In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33 Life can be rough. It can be dark. Imagine being a disciple hearing Jesus talk about tribulation and then actually realizing it when the One you have followed is executed. It was dark, and they were unsure. We live like that a lot too. God's plans don't alway make sense to us. "We are so frequently misguided about God's plans. Day by day we measure or progress toward anticipated goals; we judge God's faithfulness and our performance by the proximity of the desired accomplishment... And then the kids fail (again!); foreclosure looms; we discover that the boss not only doesn't appreciate us, but he's considering demoting us. Hold on! We think. This isn't what I signed up for. This isn't right. I've followed God. Where is he now that I really need him? What happened to all the plans we made together?"  "We suffer because we mistaken