Showing posts from March, 2015

Ugly Trees Bear Fruit

We have a pretty ugly tree in our back yard. It is a pomegranate tree so it twists and reaches for the sky in a gnarly fashion. It seems to be an old tree. It has seen a lot of life, drought, heat and the occasional kid swinging from its limbs. But did I mention that it is ugly? I don't think it would ever find its picture on a gardening magazine cover or in the lot of a model home. But this tree, as ugly as it is and as old as it is still bears fruit. This week I was struck by the beauty of its blossoms, the red flower that is blooming. That little beauty on the ugly tree will become fruit. The tree's worth is not in its appearance but in its fruit. Now think of the fig tree. After the triumphal entry to Jerusalem, Jesus is hungry and approaches a fig tree. It was probably beautiful, it had all these leaves. But it had no fruit. Jesus curses the tree and it immediately withers. It is an interesting story for holy week, and it is really about the faith that could command a tree

Not a drop, but lavished

Paul in the letter to the Ephesian church opens with a wonderfully beautiful and compelling account of what is our when we are united with Christ through belief in him. There is adoption, inheritance, an ontology of (being) holy and blameless, salvation and sealing by the Spirit. And this: " In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us..." (Ephesians 1:7-8).  We love the redemption, the forgiveness of sin, and we love that it comes according to the riches of his grace. But we don't get "lavished." In fact we kind of live like we think we are only given drops of grace or sprinkles of it, when we need it... because we are doing quite well thank you! Viewed this way grace becomes something of a niche, a nice little category that "new" Christians should cling to but not something of much value down the road. But our redemption, forgiveness, inheritance, bein

Prone to Critique

I have greatly benefited from reading Scott Sauls' book, Jesus Outside the Lines , this week. Sauls is reminding me of so many important things for living in the grace of Christ. By way of example, here is where I want to be: “Rather than rushing to find fault, we should proactively see opportunities to catch others doing good and to encourage (literally, “put courage into”) others by verbalizing the ways that we are “happy at them” - whether they believe as we do or not. Jesus certainly understood this, and so must we.”

Can We Talk About Our Common Salvation?

Jude would prefer to talk about the grace of Christ than have to warn the church about division and wrong motives. I think I am a lot like Jude. I am much more eager to talk about the goodness of salvation in Christ than correcting bad teaching, or confronting the few sheep in the flock that keep biting the other sheep. But Jude's encouragement is to contend for the faith, and we must be about that. "Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." He wants to revel in the greatness of Christ (and he will) but it is necessary to handle some business before hand. It seems there is division creeping into the church. Random teaching that challenges the Apostles' and strive to meet the disgruntle person's preference rather than the good of the church. It is a warning against such things. But right when we expect Jude to

Pitch a Tent of Grace in My Weakness

In reading Paul in the Bible, I am always struck by the lack of tension for Paul in thinks I think there should be tension. Obedience and God's work in sanctification; Inheritance and earned reward; and labor and Christ's power in us. In his letter to the church in Colossae this is apparent in his life and ministry. " Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me" (Col. 1:28-29).  For I toil... with his energy. I work; in his power. Ah. So an inexperienced, punk without pedigree can do ministry? Christ empowers, his energy meets the toil of the elder looking to protect the flock? Seems so, at least according to Paul. I need this power. I am lazy and aloof on my own. I want to struggle with his energy and oh does it powerfully work... The Valley of Vision prayer "A Ministers Confession" articulates my pr

To Lead the Church

Today at Grace Church North County we announced elder nominees. I am very excited about serving along side these men. [embed][/embed]

The House on the Rock and Suffering

My good friend Ben recently preached at a mens' retreat at Redemption Hill Church in DC (he also happens to be an elder there). Here he interacts with Matthew 7 and the reality that the house built on the rock will still face storms. [youtube=]

Christian, Jesus is not and will never be ashamed of you

I hate bad preaching. And I don't meaning boring,  uninteresting preaching. I mean sermons that deliver trash instead of truth and lay burden on its hearer rather than the freedom that is to be had at repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus. Too many exhausted, obedient-with-all-their-strength believers of Jesus are fed a guilt trip week after week instead of the rest that Jesus declared was ours in him. This is preaching that kills. So how can we tell when the sermon is a death trap rather than the gift of life that is the gospel? Look for the take away. Do you walk out confident in Christ's substitution for you and his righteousness given to you as a gift, or do you leave with a sense that if you just try harder you will make God happy? Does what you heard seem to match Jesus's claim that his "burden is light and yoke is easy," or do you feel the pressure of a new list of things to do to earn your disciple status? Now, without a doubt, apart from Christ,

I Surrender

I know there are some that don't favor "surrender" language in worship music. After all, it was Christ's surrendering to the will of the Father that benefited us and even given our best efforts, we too often fail at surrender. But that doesn't change the fact that I want to surrender to God. I want to entrust my life to him. I want to know him more. I want him to breathe life into me. So to that I end, let's worship together! [youtube=]

How the world knows

To this day I can remember the interview with the deacon at the Assemblies of God church I grew up in. My family, of which I am gladly the youngest child, had just completed the multi-week membership class and we were taking the plunge to become members of the church. Its just what your do as a Christian, right? Thankfully, for the reputation of the church, I was only made a "junior member" and had to wait until I was 18 to obtain full membership. In the ensuing years, I actually became a gospel believing and professing Christian and have been a "member" at a few churches. I have to put that in quotes because each church had its own understanding of membership (from none, to name only to actual, accountable membership). And now as a pastor of a church in transition, membership is an important part of the life of our church going forward. I will one day tell stories of the guy that left the church because he couldn't be considered for eldership because he refused

Already Clean

My friend Justin shared a devotion from John 15 with our church board and I was so encouraged by it. He took us to John 15 and the moment when Jesus end his upper room discourse and starts walking to the garden with his disciples. You probably know the section of Scripture well. He is the vine and the Father is the vinedresser. We bear fruit when we abide, or remain in him and we can nothing apart from Jesus. This chapter in John is earth shaking good news. But zoom in on verse 3. And hear Jesus speaking to you. " Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you." (John 15:3-4) Did you get that? YOU ARE ALREADY CLEAN BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF CHRIST. Sorry for the all caps, but some of us need to latch on to this truth anew today. All that scheming to clean yourself up or those awful sermons you heard about needing to clean yourself up before Jesus would love you are utterly devastated by the words of Christ. Now abide in him, in his