November 18, 2019 - No Comments!

Pilgrimage Psalms: Part 1

When we read our preferred news source, or a email from a friend, or our favorite song lyrics, we treat those kinds of writing a little differently. They differ in purpose, and so we read them with different eyes.

The whole bible is true and helpful, and yet the books of the Bible are no different. The different genres are to be read differently and with different considerations

So then…what are the Psalms?

The Psalms were poems to be sung in community. The weren’t sermons or theological treatises but they are incredibly helpful in our understanding of God and how God’s people saw Him in the Old Testament.

We can gain fabulous insight into our everyday discipleship by paying attention to them. The pilgrimage psalms in particular (Psalms 120-134) are some of my favorites because I see my own journey with Christ in these words.

These 15 poems were sung in community three times a year during the three festivals that happened for the Jews up in Jerusalem. Each festival required that everyone make the haul from their homes up the hill to the city. Scholars tell us that the three festivals, Passover, Pentecost, and Day of Atonement, had different customs and procedures, but all three meant a road trip for the Jews and that meant these songs were pulled out. It was a significant journey because Jerusalem sits above the neighboring regions, thus an uphill climb from most directions.

Jesus’ parents made these trips (Luke 2:41)
Jesus himself would have made these trips.

The parallels for God’s people then, and you and I today are easy and obvious. We too find ourselves on the road. Perhaps a bit cliche, but our lives are a journey. We’re all hurling through time and space and heading somewhere. Between creation and recreation. Between the Garden as it was and the garden as it will be.

We, too, and moving towards the Heavenly city. We too, are heading toward a time when all of God’s family will be gathered as one. Regardless of what you think about God, or whether you even think he is real, your life is a journey.

I love the Psalms because there’s so much heart in them; not just heady facts about God, but an invitation to find God himself. I need the Psalms because they remind me that GOD sees everything in my chest.  And that includes the hard and heavy stuff.

The psalms say over and over and over again, that God sees all of it, He sees us, and He is with us in the midst of those honest prayers. I need the Psalms. And I suspect you do too.

September 09, 2019 - 1 comment.

Redeemed and Redeeming

We began our 6-week series walking through the book of Ruth verse by verse this weekend. One of the central themes in the book is in how Ruth’s redemption mirrors our own redemption.

My son asked me recently what it means to be a redeemer, and I charged headlong into a very eloquent and biblical explanation of what that word meant. The only problem? It didn’t make a ton of sense. I could feel my own wandering in the explanation. He nodded graciously. I knew I could do better.

This prompted a search to find something clearer and less clunky. I found a solid definition that read:
“A redeemer is one charged with the duty of paying a ransom, restoring the rights of another, or avenging wrongs.”

When applied to Christ we understand that He redeems us from all evil by the payment of a ransom, namely, himself. This definition is thought-provoking because it touches on the fact that we are both victims and culprits as it relates to our sin and brokenness. Christ pays in full the spiritual cost of both our own mistakes that wound others and avenges the ways we have been sinned against. In both our giving and receiving of hurts, Christ is mindfully aware. Rather than leverage that awareness to build an airtight case against us, (something not hard to do) he includes it in his exhaustive and expansive redemption. You and I have all the redemption we need now and tomorrow.

Christ redeems some now, and later in full, but He is the author of both. We are well-served and far less disappointed in ourselves and God when we remember this. The waters are rising and soon the whole earth will be flooded with only that which is redeemed, returning us to the garden we have always longed for. A place where the redeemed and the redeemer are face to face. In this sense, faith is no longer needed. A place where we are joyfully free to be everything God has made us to be and to relate in a redeemed way. This can not come soon enough.

Christ’s redeeming work is ongoing. We are both sealed and works in progress. I am thankful to know a redeemer that is able and steady. I certainly need it today and tomorrow.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

PSALM 19:14

August 19, 2019 - No Comments!

He Is Not Confused

I preached a few weeks back from 1 Corinthians and as often is the case, the treasure in the passage was hiding behind the obvious parts. In between discussing the role we all play in the church gathered and reminding them that he knows he’s writing something inspired by God, Paul offers a beautiful phrase that each and everyone of us should memorize this week:

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”

We experience confusion, don’t we? One fight with a friend, or crisis at work, or kid that acts out, or change to our calendar, or lab results from the doctor, and we become a hot mess real quickly.

Why are we confused at times? Just start by looking at how we fit together.

1. We have a soul that longs for eternity packed in some low-grade “cardboard” packaging that will last 70-80 years (if we’re fortunate to go that long). Those of us in Christ have a heart that’s being made new but still carry a flesh that hates God and hates answering to anyone else except ourselves. (John 6: The Spirit gives life, the flesh is no help at all.”)

2. We live in a beautiful world that’s also a fallen world.We get to see Christ working today but don’t see the finished work until he returns.

3. We have hopes for our own future and responsibility for making a plan for today but we don’t know what the next chapter holds. We never have ALL the information.

4. There’s a whole realm we can’t even see with angels and demons fighting battles around us whether we are awake or asleep. Demons, having studied humans for thousands of years, are whispering lies and enticing us to abandon the ways of the Kingdom.

5. We have limited time, intellect, creativity, imagination, ability, energy, money, capacity, and relationships.

With just this small sampling of factors, is it any wonder we feel confused at times? But here is why our confusion is ultimately dangerous:

We are quick to think that Jesus is confused like us.

But he is not. This is PHENOMENALLY good news for you and me right now.

God is not confused about you.
He is not confused about your future.
He is not confused about how he feels about you.
He is not confused about the prayers you have prayed.
He is not confused about the choices you have made.
He is not confused about His love for you.

I don’t know about you but I’ve given him ample reason to end this relationship or at least renegotiate…but he keep’s going. He is certain. In fact, it’s impossible for him to be uncertain because he’s omniscient. You can’t know everything, and wonder what’s going to happen. God’s plans happen. And to any of you that wouldn’t consider yourself a Christian reading this, I’m sorry for the ways that I or my fellow Jesus-followers have confused you about what we believe. I know we Christians act very confusing at times. But I promise that our God is not confused like us, especially not about love and grace.

“And we are quick to think that Jesus is confused like us.:”


Not only does Jesus not author confusion, he also isn’t frustrated with us in our confusion. He’s patient. When we feel lost, he guides us home. When we feel turned around, Jesus offers us rest. Because he’s not the king of confusion but He is the prince of peace.

The spirit of God is convicting but not confusing.
The spirit of God is not controlled but not chaotic.
The Spirit of God is unpredictable but never unpurposeful.

Let’s give our confusion to Him, the one who clearly sees all and loves us still.

June 20, 2019 - No Comments!

Many Parts

We’re about 75% of the way through the book of 1 Corinthians at Doxa. The last few weeks we’ve spent time looking at the ways in which God gifts his children for the revealing of his character, the benefit of those around us, and witness to the world. For the “call to worship” these past few weeks, I asked the room to extend their hands in a posture of receiving as I recited prayers for a subset of the giftings we see in scripture. Some of those prayers are below.

TEACHING
Help those with the gift of teaching communicate your perfect truth with care and precision. Help their joy for your words to us move them toward obedience. Spirit, fill them with the ability to help our hearts understand your will. Help them love those they instruct, and always maintain a posture of learning for themselves.

GIVING
Thank you Father for the generosity of this church. Bless those that give sacrificially and let their willingness to make your kingdom first be contagious for all of us. May the freedom they experience remind us of the temporary nature of most of what our hands hold.

MERCY
In light of the brokenness we see outside of us, and feel inside of us, help those with this gift to minister to us. Give them the care and concern of your son Jesus, to weep with those that weep, and mourn with those that mourn. Many of us need a friend to speak words of mercy, so raise up more of us to mirror this aspect of your perfect love.

ENCOURAGEMENT
Give them the words we need to hear from you. Help them speak into the deepest wounds and bring healing to us through words of kindness and empowering grace. Help those of us who lean towards the critical to receive from them.

PRAYER / INTERCESSION
Father help those with the gift of prayer find you in their quietness. Help them pray for what you desire for our lives, instead of things we substitute for you. Help them lead us towards greater dependence. We have so many needs in this season, yet you are our supply.

SERVING
Many hands are required for the thriving of your local church. Thank you for those that use their gifts today. Help them see their service as a beautiful act of worship. Help them see how their service looks like your kingdom. That your hospitality extended, your truth taught, your family cared for is our very purpose for living.

EVANGELISM
You have sent us into the world to love others and share with them who you are. Give them courage. There is nothing the world can take from us that lasts. Give them the words, forgive them for ever treating others like projects, and may our own humility and sacrifice be attractive to those around us.

DISCERNMENT
For those with this gift let their discernment lead them to deep care for others and not judgement. Give them the patience to watch your plans unfold. Lead them to ask questions that encourage your saints towards greater obedience and lives of holiness.

April 03, 2019 - No Comments!

Single-minded

As part of our series in 1 Corinthians, we recently spent some time on chapter 7. Interestingly, most would say this passage is primarily about singleness and marriage, but zooming out we can see Paul’s driving point is wholehearted devotion to the Lord. In other words, being single-minded on God’s purposes and His kingdom. I wrote and read this confession in our gathering to draw our attention to this theme for the day:

For all our distractions and pursuit of other things,
Father forgive us.

For all the ways our competing cares lead us to forget you,
Father forgive us.

For our frenzied and chaotic thoughts, believing that busyness is what matters most,
Father forgive us.

For all the ways we leave no room for you, when everything we have is yours,
Father forgive us.

Whenever we confess, we always recite or hear an assurance of pardon to remind our people that our confessions are never met with silence from the Father.

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Eph 2:4
-7

May we be a single-minded people, attentive to the needs of those around us, and devoted to making our lives count.

March 19, 2019 - No Comments!

Gospel Friendship: Part 2

In part one of this series on Gospel Friendship, I identified four ways to spot counterfeit or lacking relationships.

Now taking a look at Christ, we can see how he navigated friendship. As I said before, friendships are a major factor in our quality of life and discipleship. For a variety of reasons, including mission, influence, care, sanctification, joy, and many more, God cares deeply for our friendships. Whether we are paying attention to it or not, our relational health is affected by how we invest, neglect, or sabotage our friendships.

Below are five life-learnings for me that I’ve seen both in Christ and my own life:

1. Significant gospel friendships aren’t with everyone.
In his humanity, Jesus could be one place at a time, just like us. While Christ is a friend of sinners and loved almost everyone he encountered*, he was still limited by his location. Jesus had twelve disciples and three “inner-circle” friends. This is incredibly profound. In his humanity, Jesus had relational limitations, evidenced not only by his friend roster but also in his patterns of silence and solitude away from the crowds.

In other words, the kind of love and friendship he gave the crowds and they way he loved the disciple John was different. If the only man to ever be relationally perfect chose and heeded limitations, why in the world would we believe that we wouldn’t need to do the same?

Many of us live as though our relational well has no bottom, that we can continue to draw up as much energy and margin as we need to…and that is simply not true. The truth is that we do have relational limitations and ignoring them will cause relational strain and destruction.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – 
Proverbs 18:24

2. We can’t have gospel friendship with no one.
While it’s a true that we can only go deep with a short list of people, we also need to go deep with a short list of people. I covered this a bit in my last post, but we can’t thrive when we don’t have friendships in our lives. Jesus made time for this, and we see him lean on them multiple times (even if they didn’t always reciprocate or nail it). To fully experience the love of the Father, we must receive real love from others who know the real us.

3. Gospel friendship always involves risk.
Think on this: Jesus chose his closest friends knowing in advance they would:

lie to him
“But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.
” – Matthew 26:35 

abandon him
“
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter.” – Matthew 26:40

betray him.

“The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” – John 18:17

He was literally left to die. 
Yet, he still engaged them and invested in them. I am not making a case for subjecting yourself to abuse or ignoring patterns of abandonment or neglect in your relationships. Just because relationship requires risk doesn’t mean you should subject yourself to any form of abuse with someone who calls you friend.

“Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” – Proverbs 26

Any friendship on this earth means opening yourself to another imperfect human. As a result, there is no version of friendship (or any relationship) that doesn’t contain an element of risk. All friendships are work so pick the ones that are worth the risk.

4. Gospel friendship means inviting others into the whole story.
Jesus brought his closest friends into his greatest suffering and most amazing experiences. 
This shows us that real friendship means access to the good and the bad. 

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to the mount of Transfiguration Mark 9:2 (which makes the Superbowl half-time show look like a pre-school play) 
but he also takes them to the Garden of Gethsemane.

In Mark 14 when he’s emotionally and spiritually preparing to be beaten, stripped naked, and suffocate on a roman device of torture, he does something subtle but very important:

“And he took with him Peter and James and John

Notice the language that “he took”. He actively invited them into the adventures and the suffering. Some of us prefer to only show the wins and highlights of our lives to others. Some of us only reach out when things are spiraling downward towards disaster. This is something we all need to better balance in our lives.

5. Gospel friendships are worth it.
Jesus pursued friendship and spent most of his time with others building relationships. 
This shows us that real friendship is something to treasure. Being known and loved is one of our greatest needs for human flourishing. There is no healthy discipleship or existence without the presence and love of others in our lives.

If you have friendship like this, continue to feed it. 
Be thankful for those in your life that have lived these things out. Don’t forget to celebrate the ways in which you have been blessed by your friends. Has someone been there for you in hard times? Has someone said something encouraging that deeply affected you? Thank God and them for that right now. Send a text or make a phone call simply to thank them for bringing such a great gift to your life.

In the last post in the series, I’ll offer a few practical ways to pursue gospel friendship in your own life. Check back soon.

March 08, 2019 - No Comments!

Worship as a Weapon

Music affects the mind and soul in unique and powerful ways. It’s a soundtrack to our lives and has profound affects on our physiology. Song expresses the common longings of the human heart and effortlessly carries story. All this I readily accept.

But what else is musical worship for?

At times I wonder if I have missed out on what God has given to his kids in musical worship. I frequently find solace in the songs of the Church. I have  found encouragement in hearing something expressed perfectly, that I too feel, in the poetry of the songs of the Church. I have felt the “lifting up” and invigoration that can happen when singing in the company of many others needing asking their Creator for the same change.

Would I describe worship as a weapon in my everyday fight?

I recently wrestled with and realized my own ignorance around this purpose of the songs we sing as a community. Prompted by a new song we  introduced to Doxa Church this Sunday called “Raise a Hallelujah”.  It was written around the idea that our singing is a weapon against doubt and struggle in our life with Christ, penned as the author wrestled with doubts that God would heal life-threatening illnesses that affected his pastor’s two children right before Christmas (the kids recovered, but read the story here).

I don’t believe any of us, including the most theologically astute, fully understand how musical worship functions as a form of attack against, and protection from, that which is evil in the world. Yet I can’t deny that there is enough evidence in scripture for us to pay attention to, and practice, musical worship as a weapon. To that end, consider these three statements:

1. Musical worship can be Biblical and mystical at the same time.
I love my Bible. I believe it is sufficient and lacking nothing in terms of needed revelation from God. God’s word is timeless and essential in the life of the believer. This is why, in part, our gatherings are saturated with scripture.

I also notice that most reformed folks go to great lengths to avoid the mystical nature of God. They prefer clean constructs and tidy theologies. While I deeply appreciate the desire for thoughtful accuracy and biblical precision, there isn’t always a labeled box for what I see God doing. He is other.

Why do we presuppose that encountering the dynamic and transcendent maker of the universe wouldn’t involve a little mystery?  Let’s recognize that musical worship is as much mystical as it is cardinal. Part of the mystical nature of music tangibly changes the outcome of situations in scripture.

A few examples:
a. God incorporates musicians in his armies, and their songs directly impact the end result of the battle (see 2 Chronicles 20).

b. Paul famously sings his way out of a jail cell. (Which by the way, was a disgusting and loathsome place. Any modern county holding cell would comparatively feel like a night at the Hilton.) This is no small thing, and I can imagine the jailer had no problem believing that God works through song.

c. Singing is commanded in the same breath as warfare language in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5. Part of putting sin to death, is to engage battle in song.

“Let’s recognize that musical worship is as much mystical as it is cardinal.”

2. Music is the handle, and God’s word is the blade.
The picture of God’s word as a sword is certainly more than poetry. Repeating what is true in song is a powerful way to sever our thoughts from what is false and deceptive about our lives. Focusing on the simple declarations of Christ over our lives cuts through the chaos of our inner thoughts and anxieties. Music is a powerful way of wielding the part of the weapon that actually does the work; the blade. Like a gun with no bullets, music itself is powerless to do spiritual battle.

3. We would be wise to more quickly reach for worship in the face of our own battles.
You might think as a worship pastor I would regularly burst into song when I feel discouraged or when I’m not sure how to solve a problem. The truth is that’s not the case. I’m much more quick to reach for a logical assessment or a tactical plan. Taking a moment to sing can feel like the absolute last thing that would help a situation.

I can’t help but wonder how often the outcome in a difficult situation would have looked differently if my first reaction was to reach for the same power that decimated armies and shattered jail bars. I’m thankful for all the aspects of musical worship that I do grasp, but know that God’s thoughts are higher than mine and yours. If we would ask God to show us more of what He desires to accomplish in song, we would likely be surprised. Like finding a weirdly shaped tool in your Dad’s old toolbox, and not understanding its purpose until you watched him use it.

I want to grow in using musical worship as a weapon. I want to hear more stories of musical worship changing the outcome of things. Not because we are saying magic words, or because any of us are able to manipulate Christ’s will, but because our Father in heaven is incredibly powerful, majestically mystical, and a big fan of His kids music.

January 03, 2019 - No Comments!

Gospel Friendship: Part 1

Almost every time I drive my kids to school in the morning, we rehearse their mission statement.

“Be yourself.  Be a good friend. Be a good learner.”

These simple statements frame up a lot of our discussions around how they navigate life at school; a framework for them to make decisions and figure out relationships when Mom and Dad aren’t around. In a way, the statements are a “north star” that I as their father have planted in their sky.

I care deeply about my children’s friendships because, on the whole, I didn’t have a lot of healthy friendships or modeling of friendship growing up. I played a bit of catch up once I got to high school and college in some healthy and unhealthy ways. For a long time, friendship seemed elusive and always just out of reach.

As an adult, I’ve learned that gospel friendships are a major factor in our quality of life and discipleship.
 C.S. Lewis is often quoted on this topic:

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Many of us feel shame around friendship because we are constantly told and shown that friendship comes easy for everyone else (this is a lie). It seems everyone else has lifetime best friends (another lie) with whom they never disagree (lies) and always share great meals together in hip locations (more lies). Social media is more media than social, and it makes it more difficult to remember that real world relationships are more than a highlight reel. Gospel friendship is a treasure…and that treasure takes time and work.

Let’s start with a look at what gospel friendship is not.

1. Gospel friendship is not just digital. 

Our online presence is a mere shadow of reality, and often misleading of what we truly are. I don’t mean interaction online with people you do physical life with. I’m talking about people that know what they know about you because of your social media feed. 

Any friendship rooted only in that space is destined for minimal impact and depth. You are more than the sum of your favorite dishes and vacations. You are more than a status update. When we receive positive attention for the curated or fake version of us, it feels like counterfeit love, because it is.

2. Gospel friendship is not shallow.

If you never share openly about what’s happening behind closed doors or what keeps you up at night, you have yet to discover true gospel friendship. Undoubtedly, discernment and care should be used in inviting others into the “messy” parts of your life.  But if no one knows the gritty stuff of your life, you’re blockading the roads God has built for you to be encouraged, supported, and truly known.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. 
- Proverbs 17:17 ESV   

3. Gospel friendship is not built on sin.
Drunkenness, gossip, and sexual immorality are all possible activities through which one can form relationships. 
In the video above, my daughter Harper said you shouldn’t copy your friends when they make bad choices. This is great advice. It’s easy to forge unions when you share a common enemy, a common struggle, or a common sin. 
Alcoholics tend to know lots of heavy drinkers.
 Gossipers recognize and gravitate towards others who like to share juicy bits of news.
 This is never the foundation to healthy relationships of any kind.
A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
 – Proverbs 16:28 ESV

4. Gospel friendship is not forever, yet.
99% of the time, friendship is given to us for a season. True friends are rare and when they do come, they are often for a particular chapter of life. This temporary nature to friendship reminds us of the mirror in 1 Cor 13  or when James 4 says that our lives are a mist. 
The best things (including friends) that we enjoy in this life barely scratch the surface of what heaven holds for us. When Christ returns, that begins never-ending relationships free of conflict or separation.

With a bit of understanding on what gospel friendship is not, let’s look at how a perfect friend does friendship. The next post in this series will look at what we can learn about friendship from the life of Christ.

Stay tuned.

October 03, 2018 - No Comments!

Older + Younger

We’ve been walking through the Lord’s Prayer over the last several weeks at Doxa. This last week we looked at the phrase, “forgive us as we forgive others”. Our teaching pastor spent time looking back at the prodigal son story, many of us are familiar with.

Preachers have often stood behind a pulpit and asked their congregations which brother they identify with. My answer has always been both. I can easily reach for self-righteousness as I can shame. I can hold others in derision and then do the same for myself. I can feel entitled and unworthy in the span of 10 minutes. To that end, I wrote this for our liturgy and read this as a call to worship in our gatherings last Sunday.

I am the younger
I want my inheritance now
I don’t like waiting
you say you’re good, but look at all this mud
I knew I couldn’t trust you

I am the older
oh, ‘they’ get to come back
they haven’t hit rock bottom
they don’t mean it
they’ll mess up again
and you’ll look like a fool

I am the younger
I’ve messed up big this time
now I’ve done it
this is my third strike
your doubts about me are true
I’ve burned this bridge for the last time

I am the older
sure they said sorry
but I’m not sure they mean it
they just want a hand out
they just want to walk over me again
they’ll never change

I am the younger
if I keep my distance, i won’t feel guilty
you can’t hug me if your arms are crossed
I’m running out of options
maybe I should go back
maybe I could work for him

I am the older
they doesn’t deserve this
I haven’t struggled with that for minutes
someone is going to teach them a lesson
I mean, I guess he’s home,
that’s not so bad

I am the younger
the father knows me, sees me, and forgives me

I am the older
the father knows me, sees me, and forgives me

August 24, 2018 - No Comments!

Everyday Endings

The good people over at Saturate recently posted my final installment in the Gospel Liturgy series. Many of the questions I get around this topic are addressed there so read the series for a brief but hopefully helpful explanation about how I incorporate these elements in our gatherings.

Additionally, you can view some sample Gospel Liturgy slides that are used in our gatherings here. We use these to visually cue our congregation with both the categories and content of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

If you yourself would like help building out a Gospel Liturgy for your church, or if you’d like hands-on training for your worship leader, I offer coaching around these topics. I’d love to help you shape your gatherings with gospel intentionality. Let me know if you’re interested!