What to Expect in 2016

What to expect in

It’s been a while since I have been regularly posting on my blog. From April to September of Last year, I was posting almost weekly. After September, however, it seemed like the ideas weren’t coming as readily and October is the month where things start to get really busy for me, so I let it slide. Since then, I’ve only had three posts.

Part of me feels like that’s a failure. At the beginning of 2015 I wanted to write weekly. I wanted to be more consistent in my writing and be more intentional about sharing what was on my mind and heart. The great thing about last year is that I seemed to go through a season where I had a lot of ideas and I was able to be really consistent with my writing habits. That is, until I found myself in October with a lot to do without much to write about. What I’m beginning to realize, is that it’s not a failure when I don’t post. I’m not a professional blogger and I don’t have thousands of readers waiting for me to make another post. So this year, I’m changing my expectations for this blog. Continue reading

Change of Actions or Change of Heart

Photo Credit: Lawrence OP via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Lawrence OP via Compfight cc

I don’t know if it’s an epidemic in the American church. I don’t know if it has to do with our culture, but I do know that there is something that a lot of us struggle with, including myself, when it comes to living as a follower of Christ. We wrestle with the thought that we’re just not doing enough or that we’re just not good enough. We’re trying really hard and we could just do better then we’d be better Christians. The fact of the matter is, however, that our live of following Christ is not primarily about doing good things, it’s about being formed into a good person. Continue reading

You don’t have to be afraid of discipleship

Photo Credit: mharrsch via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: mharrsch via Compfight cc

Words can be very intimidating, especially if you don’t know what they mean. You may have experienced this when going to the doctor. A while ago, our daughter was sick and we took her to the pediatrician. When the doctor examined her, she told us that she had a virus and then gave us the name of that virus. For a split second, this this is scary, that is until she said that by the end of the week she’d be over it and she’d just have a sore throat.

Sometimes being a Christian can be the same way. People may use unfamiliar words to talk about being a Christian that if left undefined can seem intimidating or even scary. Disciple and discipleship fall under that category. They’re simply not words that we use on a regular basis outside of church and considering that the meaning of disciple in the Bible is somewhat rooted in what it meant to be a disciple of a teacher in the 1st century, it can be even harder for us to grasp. Continue reading

Saturate the World: A Review of Jeff Vanderstelt’s new book Saturate

How do we make disciples?

This question should be at the center of everything that a church does. How do we live out the great commission that Jesus gave us? The strategy for many is to get people into the church building so that they can be taught. We want them in discipleship classes, Sunday schools, Sunday services, and sometimes Sunday night services. Before I go on, I should admit that there’s nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves. I am a full time pastor, and I teach some of these kinds of classes. The problem is that by themselves, they fall short. The heart of discipleship is teaching people to be like Jesus and doing this in a classroom alone means that we don’t have the chance to show people how to live. People hear us speaking, but don’t get to see us live it. That’s why life on life discipleship is important, and to do really be able to do that we have to be like Jesus all the time. Our lives need to be saturated with Jesus and his gospel. Continue reading

Disciple, Know Thyself

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Photo Credit: graceinhim via Compfight cc

This last weekend I had the opportunity to preach alongside our executive pastor at Westbrook (you can listen to the sermon here). We are in the middle of the Freeway series from People of the Second Chance, and Rob and I preached on taking the step of discovery. As we shared in our message, the point of discovery is facing our past in order to move forward.

For many of us, this is probably counterintuitive to what we have been taught and believe about becoming a Christian. We are “new creations” in Christ! Our former way of life is in the past. In one sense this is true. You have been freed from the power of sin and from what you were slave to in the past, but now you are also called to keep in step with the spirit. New life in Christ means that we have to learn to walk in the ways of Jesus through the Holy Spirit and not continue to walk in the ways of our culture or family. If you have listened to or watched Peter Scazzero, author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, you’ve probably heard him say, “Jesus may be in your heart, but grandpa is in your bones.” Continue reading

Do you need to be Re-Evangelized?

What does it mean to be an evangelical?

I’m guessing that you’ve answered this question by identifying a certain set of political views. If you did, Lance Ford would argue that you’re defining the term incorrectly. Instead of defining Evangelical by politics, Ford writes, “An authentic Evangelical should be a ‘good news’ person. And not just any old good news. This is about the good news of the Kingdom of heaven—the good news that Jesus brought, lived, and taught.” This is the basis of Lance Ford’s new book Revangelical. At the message at the heart of his book is that Evangelicals need to be re-evangelized.

Like many of us, Ford grew up in the politically conservative evangelical world. The problem that he discovered, however, is that this definition of Evangelical doesn’t always line up with the good news of Jesus Christ. He writes, “Many of our positions on issues such as immigration, the poor, and justifications for war have been formed more from a desire for economic stability, self-preservation, and national interest than from the perspective and edicts of God’s Kingdom and the teaching of Jesus.“ Instead of basing what we believe on the Gospel, life, and message of Jesus, we choose to believe based on political parties and radio or television personalities.

Now, evangelicals need to become Revangelicals. Ford is calling us to reorient our lives to Jesus. By the very definition of word, an evangelical (which comes from the Greek word for Gospel) should be someone who lives by the Gospel and as Ford writes, “take the words of Jesus seriously.” We need to re-evangelize ourselves and recommit to making Jesus central to our lives.

While the culture I grew up in wasn’t nearly as over-the-top conservative as Ford’s upbringing in Texas, I was raised in a politically conservative environment. I understand where he is coming from and agree with his premise that large number of people in the American Church has valued conservative politics over the words of Jesus. This is because many have allowed their politics to inform their view of Jesus instead of Jesus informing their view of politics.

To that end, this book doesn’t hold back and calls out a culture that has put the words of Jesus in second place at best. I think a lot of people need to read this book and really take the challenge to heart. Honestly, all of us need to ask the question of whether or not we value the words of Jesus first and foremost. Because, to be fair, there are politically liberal Christians who have done the same things as conservatives. The point of this book, however, is not to defame a specific political party and raise up another as being better, it is to help us recognize that as Christians we are to follow Jesus first.

Ultimately this book calls into question our discipleship. Are you a follower of Jesus first, or have you let certain political and social views reign supreme in your life? Whether you are conservative, liberal, or moderate, if you are a Christian, we all need to be careful to follow Christ first, and Revangelical is a good reminder to choose Jesus.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from TyndaleHouse Publishers through netgalley.com. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Feed Me

Photo Credit: Still_life88_second via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Still_life88_second via Compfight cc

I have a confession to make. I’m not very proud of this, and in fact I laugh a little at myself for thinking it, especially for when I had the thought. When I was in high school, I thought that I was not being fed spiritually. I was convinced that I had achieved a level of spiritual maturity beyond that of what was being given to me. The problem, however, was that I didn’t understand what maturity in Christ meant. I had grown up in the church, went to Christian school, and participated in Bible Bowl. In other words, I (thought) I knew the Bible really well. I had large chunks memorized and at times could identify the chapter of the story or quotation. I was equating knowledge with maturity. On top of that, I was a good kid. Obviously I was doing something right. Continue reading

The Importance of Being Connected

 Photo Credit: rorowe8 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: rorowe8 via Compfight cc

Legos by themselves are good for one thing and one thing only: causing massive amounts of pain when you step on one barefoot. As we heard last weekend at Westbrook (listen to the Sermon), Legos are made to be connected and by themselves they can’t fulfill their purpose. This is a great example for the Christian life, because we need to be connected to the body to really function.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12 that the body is not made up of one part, but many and further emphasizes the need for a variety of gifts to do all the work of the body of Christ. We do not all have the same gift, but need each other to function. In terms of spiritual formation, we also need each other to grow and mature. Paul in various places writes that we should love one another, honor one another, live in harmony with one another, instruct one another, encourage one another, serve one another, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgive one another, teach and admonish one another, and spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Continue reading

A Disciple’s Home

Recently, I’ve been writing about the different parts of being a disciple. We’ve talked about what a disciple’s schedule and work look like. It’s also important to talk about what a disciple’s home looks like. Much like our schedule, it can be really easy to relegate spiritual activity to a specific time or a specific place. Many people see a place of worship as the place where they are spiritual. Some may even include a weekly Bible Study or small group, which may or may not happen in their home, as a time and place where spiritual formation happens. Just like our schedule, however, living as a disciple encompass everyplace that we are. Continue reading

A Disciple’s Work

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Photo Credit: mark sebastian via Compfight cc

In the last post, we explored how the entire schedule of a follower of Christ is devoted to God and not jut the part labeled church, Bible study, or small group. This leads to very practical questions about how the different parts of our life are brought under the rule and reign of Jesus. One of the first that comes to mind in our society is work. What do we do about our jobs? How do change the way that we see our occupations as a disciple? Continue reading