All Posts in Devotions

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.

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

July 03, 2018 - No Comments!

Voices

This last Sunday we launched our third annual “Voices” series where we invite outside speakers to come challenge our community. It’s one of my favorite “traditions” we have as a church.

The series revolves around the themes of needing wisdom from others, the benefit of an outside perspectives, and being mindful of what voices we listen to in our lives.

As always, we make an effort for our liturgy to be shaped by the themes of the series we are working through. To that end, I wrote and read this in our confessional moment in the gatherings Sunday.

CONFESSION OF VOICES
We respond to God because of his grace. We need his grace because we fall short. Because we fall short we confess when we gather. To help us remember what is true, to invite humility, and recognize that we are not God. Confession is an opportunity to enjoy God and His grace.

We always have a renewed reason to respond, because God’s grace has recently responded to the recent ways in which we have not loved him and others.

So let us confess:

We have fallen more in love with the sound of our own voice than yours.

We have held others to higher standards than ourselves, and thus shut out their voices from our lives.

We have elevated our preferences and diminished others needs.

We have sought to be right more than to understand.

We have taken your presence for granted, forgetting that you sit over all creation and have no obligation to be near us, yet choose to never leave us.

God, may we experience your compassion in the way we sinfully choose to heed other voices. May we listen to your voice above all others. your voice is one of grace, truth, and empathy.

May 03, 2018 - No Comments!

A Liturgy for Lust

We recently covered the portion of the Sermon on the Mount on lust and sexuality. I knew leading up to this Sunday that the “confession” portion would need extra attention and care, and that the Call to Worship would need to connect the dots topically as directly as possible. To that end, the prayer below was used for our Call to Worship, a prayer I found and adapted for our Sunday.

Lord Jesus Christ, 
We confess that you are our Creator 
(John 1:3) 
including our minds, hearts, souls, and sexuality. 

We confess that you are our Savior, 
that you have ransomed us with your blood 
(1 Corinthians 15:3, Matthew 20:28). 
We have been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ; 
our life and our bodies belong to God 
(1 Corinthians 6:19–20). 

Jesus, we present ourselves to you now t
o be made whole and holy in every way, 
including our sexuality and the desires of our hearts. 

You ask us to present our bodies to you as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) 
and the parts of our bodies 
as instruments of righteousness 
(Romans 6:13). 

Worship Leader: The Lord of all creation knows all, sees all, and yet still loves His people.
(here the prayer moves to individual emphasis)

I offer you our body,
my sexuality, my gender
and my sexual nature to you. 

Be Lord over all of me Jesus Christ.
I desire the joy and fullness 
that only comes from walking with you.

Amen.

February 28, 2018 - No Comments!

The Nicene Creed

One of the many elements we employ in our liturgy are prayers and creeds from church history. The “low hanging fruit” in this area are certainly the foundational creeds that all Christians (let’s be honest, all Christians can’t agree on anything) hold as helpful, true, and clarifying. The top three most widely accepted and accessible would inarguably be the Nicene, Apostles’, and Athanasian Creeds.

The Nicene Creed, so named because it was adopted by the Church in Nicaea (modern day Turkey) by an important meeting known as the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. The Nicene Creed’s history is fascinating, particularly that it has weathered the test of time so well. Very few things have endured the combative and complicated path of church history as well as this creed. Most creeds were penned to combat specific heresies on the rise, in this case Arianism, which posited that Christ was created by the Father and as such, less than the Father in “godness”.

One of my favorite effects of using creeds in our gatherings is the unifying power it brings, not just historically but even to those in the room from different backgrounds.

The version we used last Sunday is formally called the Reformed Version, and I believe it to be helpful in its choice of terms, particularly with how the word Catholic has changed over time. Consider using this in your gatherings sometime!

We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.


Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.

The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life.
He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He spoke through the prophets.

We believe in one holy universal and apostolic church.
We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and to life in the world to come.
Amen.

October 08, 2017 - No Comments!

Hear My Complaint, Lord

Recently, I used Psalm 55 as a call to worship. I read the section below over our congregation:

“Give ear to my prayer, O God,
and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
Attend to me, and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
because of the noise of the enemy,
because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
and in anger they bear a grudge against me.”

My daughter is five years old. She is beautiful and sharp, but has a propensity towards the glass being half-empty. The running joke in my home is that she starts every afterschool conversation with us with the same phrase:

“Welllllllll, one bad thing was that…”

Shes five. There’s a lot of hard things happening in the world of a five year old. We rehearse with her how to find the good in any situation. We walk her through how to recall God’s grace over our family’s life. We practice making a list of the things we are thankful for. And yet, every drive home from school sounds the same.

I’m not sure that most of us are much different. I think I’d be a bit embarrassed if I was able to see in real-time the percentage of my conversations with God that hover around dissatisfaction compared to contentment. Don’t get me wrong, God desires to hear our longings and desires for his kingdom to replace what is broken in this world. But I’d also bet I kind of sound like my daughter most of the time too. I don’t think our discontentment is the only thing God wants to hear cross our lips.

My experience tells me that complaining and gratitude are both highly contagious, and tend to gain momentum with repetition. To put it another way, if you are always on the hunt for what’s wrong or needing fixing, you’ll find it every time.

I want to roll out of bed with a disposition towards celebration. I want to surround myself with people that are joyful and focused on the good things we share. I want to place myself in the fray with celebrators. I want to hear evidence of God’s grace in everyday conversations and not just dedicated prayer times with other leaders. I want to run to God with all of my anxieties and complaints, and all of my gratitude that things won’t stay like this forever.

Lord, help me see the good.

Save

Save