Breaking The Seal

It has been almost two years to the day since my last post. I have written a ton. Sermons. Email updates. Devotionals. Generations plans and material. I have written down stories. I have even written about the emotions and spiritual pressures in the lead up to starting a new faith community. While I was in the midst of it all, I found it difficult to share the words in writing. Like I said, I wrote a ton, but it did not seem adequate. At times what I would write seemed almost too good to be true, especially the numerous answers to prayers. Other times, I was scared to share because I did not want my words to be perceived the wrong way.

I was always conflicted in my soul as I secretly evaluated my journey of church planting. I would often compare it to others’ journeys. What was their training? What is their background? How old are/were they when they planted? What success are they having by the metrics of multiplication and disciple-making? The comparison was never out of spite or pride. I have been told enough times the comparison trap in life and ministry will eat you up and spit you out. I evaluated and compared the stories because I wanted to figure out exactly what God was doing. I wanted a better understanding of God expressed in these other stories so that I could better understand mine. What was He up to in the midst of all these different locations and planters’ lives?

My whole life I had been conditioned to get it “right.” I have always been good at gaming the test in order to get the answers “right.” Even when I tutor kids on Thursdays I find myself explaining the logic of test makers and how to reduce your options down to two without even knowing any of the material. What I have become increasingly aware of is my desperation to know the “right” answer once again. This time…it comes in the form of church planting. I want to get it right. However, for the first time in my life, there is no “right” answer on a graded test or argument to present to persuade. Because even if I got something wrong, as in the past, I could attempt to talk my way into a differing score. This experience is another thing entirely.

My subconscious would not let me escape the nag of getting it “right.” The desire of knowing exactly what God was up to came out in the first sermon series at Generations. KNOWN. The mystery that had been hidden for ages and generations was made known in Jesus, which is Christ in you (the Colossians and those of us that are believers) the hope of glory. Thy mystery of the “right” answer is only found the centrality of Jesus in my own life.

God has not given me some glorious picture of the future for Generations Church. Some perfectly “right” location that I can take it to and then be graded in order to be given an A. I am not sure why He would give me some insight into the other stories when they are viewed through social media or even passing conversations. During my yearly reflection, I have realized that some of my joy in seeing God work through others began to drift into a critical spirit about my own journey. Was I getting it “right” and can I prove it?

On this side of the “launch” of Generations Church, What God has reaffirmed in my soul again and again…what is known is Jesus. Give people Jesus. Point others to Jesus both in word and deed. Follow Jesus. The mystery made known is not how to get planting a church “right,” instead it’s Christ in us (those who believe) the hope of glory. I am the recipient of this good news of Christ’s presence in our lives being the hope and knowledge that we need.

To do the above well…I must pay attention to Him, pay attention to those in proximity to me, and give voice to what I see. I may never know what God is exactly up to across the country even though I like to analyze it. My journey in church planting does not belong to me at all. I am participating in a project that’s already underway. God is at work in Vancouver, WA.

He is at work in the lives of everyday people committed to expanding His family together because of Jesus for generations to come.

New Year. Same God.

“Sing a new song to the Lord for he has performed wonders; his right hand and holy arm have won him victory. The Lord has made his victory known; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.” – Psalm 98:1-3

It is day one of the New Year. As many look forward to the newness of the new year with anticipation, excitement, anxiety, and even determination, I find myself resting in the won victory of Christ. For me, that’s more than a cliche Christian response; it is a necessity. I (we, my family and I) need it to survive just like we need oxygen. We will live in Vancouver, WA for a full year in 2018. This is far away from immediate family, yet God is creating a new family around us. We will attempt to discern where God wants us to specifically plant. We will attempt to gather a core group of people who may want to be a part of a new church. We will begin to more clearly articulate the vision for the church God desires us to see planted. In all these, while I may not have every ‘i’ dotted or every ‘t’ crossed, I am confident in God’s track record of revelation.

I could not have confidence in any of the future plans if it was not for the assurance that Jesus wins. We know the ending to the story. God is sovereign. Therefore, His righteousness will be revealed to the nations (including Portland/Vancouver) because He has been revealing himself to the nations since the beginning of time. God will be faithful because he has been faithful and is being faithful.

We could not manufacture, program, or schedule God working in the ways He had in 2017. God is consistent and unchanging. New year, same faithful God.

“Let the sea and all that fills it, the world and those who live in it, resound. Let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains shout together for joy before the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth/ He will judge the world righteously and the peoples fairly.” Psalm 98:7-9

How To Stay In The Conversation (Part 3)

images.jpegI stumbled across this show on CBS called Bull. I probably have binged a little too hard on it, but the show has been fascinating. The lead actor plays a psychologist who is an expert in trial science. The premise of the show is how every case has facts and every jury (every day people) hear these facts differently. So, Dr. Bull and his team weave the objective facts of the case with a creative narrative together to win legal cases. In most episodes, Dr. Bull chooses to work for the innocent party. The defendant will likely be found guilty aside from his help because the jury has already subconsciously found the defendant guilty prior to any case being heard. Sometimes this subconscious verdict is based on the media, sometimes on how the defendant is dressed or appears, or even the jury’s own self-projection from their life experiences. Dr. Bull and his team choose to present a case and narrative together which highlights the facts the jurors will actually hear.

Throughout the episodes, the narratives usually get quite creative. However, what has never been argued: 1) the objective and verifiable facts, 2) our experiences color how we see and interpret these facts, and 3) there are always more facts to be discovered.

The natural question in today’s world: Can we ever be objective about the facts?

In my optimism, I believe we can get objective facts, but what to do about those facts and how we interpret them will always be highly subjective.

The initial blog post asked: How do you stand firm in a Kingdom worldview while remaining humble and teachable in posture?

My answer: Resilient communication.

So far, I have shared the first two steps (saturation & care). The third step is FACT.

I define FACT as information without bias. Bull provides a colorful depiction of how difficult it is to present the facts without spin. It is inherent in our nature to filter everything we hear through our own lens.

In our culture where truth is “relevant” or “subjective,” FACT seems like an elusive word. The term Fake News has been tossed around. CNN recently ran an ad campaign about defining facts (to which some of you may find ironic). In most cases, everything has a spin. Most facts are articulated from personal perspective and experience, which come in layers and vary widely. Give the NY Post’s quiz on how Facebook defines hate speech a try to see how subjective statements can be. What is the core truth beneath these layers?

Because people are not all-knowing we must learn to ask good questions about the potential narrative being sold to us. Therefore, when staying in the conversation we should present what we think we know humbly and sincerely. Direct information with no judgment is a must. Statements without sentiment should be shared to find common ground from which a relationship can be built.

I would argue whatever facts we do present should be loosely at our fingertips, ready and willing to hear new information. When new information is discovered, we should show grace. Further, avoid leading or suggestive questions. In a conversation which you are trying to listen and learn, you must be careful not to skew the potential response. Suggesting a prepackaged answer will likely create barriers, rather than take them down. We tend to share our views of the facts or our interpretations of them to win, persuade, or achieve some hidden objective.

If the goal is to stay in the conversation, then we must learn to present information without bias. Here are some examples of FACT:

  • Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the national anthem to raise awareness about the police brutality against black men, women, and teenagers.
  • Marijuana affects the parts of the brain that control emotions, memory, and judgment.
  • The Bible is God’s special revelation of himself.

These three sentences could be stated very differently.

  • Colin Kaepernick is desecrating the American flag.
  • Marijuana causes negative damage to a person’s body and image.
  • It is wrong to believe in both evolution and the what the Bible says.

These are probably exaggerated and not the best examples. However, when we are in the heat of conversation, we need to be aware of which statements are facts and which sentiments are our feelings toward what has happened.

As a Christian, we need not fear Christianity in the marketplace of worldviews. I believe a Christian worldview is unparalleled to any other worldview. The narrative of God himself coming to rescue and renewal all creation through the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ is the ultimate narrative. Any other narrative which competes for supremacy will inadequately deal with the brokenness of life.

As you talk with your neighbors, co-workers, friends, family, and others online, do you espouse a worldview consistent with Christ, or bias and barriers?

Find the facts. Listen and learn. Stay in the conversation.

Dealing With The Bible

Is the Bible truthful, reliable, and trustworthy?

That’s a loaded question, but one worth attempting to answer (I will not answer it in this post). Last night, Ruth and I hosted a group of teenagers in our apartment. I had them write questions down they had about the Christian faith. In some form or another, the number one question asked was the one above. God saw this coming. For some reason last year, I felt I needed to continue school and pursue an M.Div. I needed more education in the areas of systematic theology and apologetics. I am glad God led me down that path. The indirect liberal answers to tough questions about the Bible were not satisfactory. I had been well schooled in practical ministry, but undereducated theologically. God has been challenging me to better articulate how the Christian worldview stands up in the marketplace of ideas. In the church planting journey, I have been on, I am thankful for God’s providence.

Over the last year, I have done my own exploration of the topic question. I have pushed back hard. The extremes of Bible worship and Bible irrelevancy both have many unanswered questions.

Bible worship: unabashed allegiance to the Bible as inerrant without any critical thought or scrutiny.

Bible irrelevancy: dismissal of the Bible because of conflict with science, pragmatism, or various Christian interpretations.

Maybe you have heard the saying, “You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Bible worship holds onto the baby, the bathtub, and the dirty water. Bible irrelevancy gets rid of both. It is blind adherence versus total subjectivity.

Within these bounds, we find many different perspectives all attempting to provide a viable solution to the “problems” we find in the Bible. Is the Bible even beneficial and necessary? Or, is it hurtful?

The popular speaker and blogger Rob Bell has written, “In the beginning, someone wrote something down.” Rather, than specifically engage Bell, here is a website which may allow you to listen to review for yourself other views.

I would like to exhort Christians and pastors to do some research. Be informed. Provide good and substantive answers that address the real concerns skeptics, seekers, and even teenagers in your church have about the faith. Be honest about what you know and do not know.

I would like to also exhort young people (including myself) to seek out good answers, rather than “like” the most popular view of the Bible. Just because the answers are not always easy to find does not mean good answers are not out there. Also, just because someone promotes the traditional or classic view does not mean it is irrelevant.

The Bible itself it honest about the concern of the Scriptures; questioning the legitimacy of the Bible is nothing new. Mark Clark in The Problem of God cites Luke 24 as an example:

In Luke 24, Jesus approaches a cluster of his own disciples shortly after his resurrection from the dead. They saw him brutally killed and don’t yet know he is alive again. They are feeling defeated, and in response to their mourning, Jesus delivers some unexpected words: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). When Jesus speaks of “the prophets,” this was a Jewish way of speaking generally about the Bible.

In other words, the disciples of Jesus were the first skeptics of the Bible as it related to Christianity.

Christianity is unique. Christianity is rooted in history and is corroborated by science and philosophy, Christians have at their disposal ample evidence for its truthfulness. The Bible is the primary witness to the nature and character of the Christian God because it is God’s revelation of Himself. The Bible guides and shapes the Christian worldview.

Jesus showed these skeptical disciples evidence to prove they could trust the Bible (Luke 24:26–27). The disciples were faced with the evidence.

Skeptic, are you willing to do that if the Bible can be shown to be trustworthy and reliable by the standards of historical research? Are you willing to consider that the Bible might be true and allow it to change your life, as it has millions of people throughout history?

Pastor, are you willing to do research and provide substantive answers for your congregation? Are you willing to engage the underlying skeptical questions of your congregation?

Christian, are you willing to learn how to ask good questions and engage your neighbor with love?

We cannot bury our heads in the sand anymore and talk past each other. Let us converse well for the betterment of our world.

Meditation Connections

God has been teaching me to meditate more on specific passages throughout the day. Meditation has been a reoccurring theme in what I have been reading. Books, blogs, social media posts have drawn my mind toward focused thought on Scripture.

I have disciplined myself to get in the Psalms during my morning time with God because I am less likely to analyze them. Studying poetry in English class throughout school always produced more frustration than any other subject. Instead of dissecting the passage, I am more likely to just read, listen, and let the words sink in throughout the day. One of the Psalms I have been “working” through has connected to some other interesting quotes.

Psalm 103:13-18

My soul, bless the Lord,
and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
My soul, bless the Lord,
and do not forget all his benefits.

He forgives all your iniquity;
he heals all your diseases.
He redeems your life from the Pit;
he crowns you with faithful love and compassion.
He satisfies you with good things;
your youth is renewed like the eagle.

The Lord executes acts of righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He revealed his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.
He will not always accuse us
or be angry forever.
10 He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve
or repaid us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his faithful love
toward those who fear him.
12 As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed
our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.
14 For he knows what we are made of,
remembering that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass—
he blooms like a flower of the field;
16 when the wind passes over it, it vanishes,
and its place is no longer known.
17 But from eternity to eternity
the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear him,
and his righteousness toward the grandchildren
18 of those who keep his covenant,
who remember to observe his precepts.


“Digital life isn’t real life, and virtual experience is no substitute for real experience. Most of us say that, but we don’t live that way…We need habits that act as mile-markers in our lives and remind us there’s more to the world than what we see. Spiritual disciplines are a crucial part of this process, and we particularly need disciplines that engage the heart, the imagination, and the body. Things like praying the psalms, Ignatian prayer and meditation, fasting, and feasting. Even the simple practice of praying over a meal—stopping to thank God for his provision—helps to reorient the heart and remember there’s more to life than what we see.” – Mike Cosper

“Most Americans believe that what their problem is something that has happened to them, and their solution is to be found within. In other words, they believe that they have an alien problem that is to be resolved with an inner solution—when the gospel says that what we have is an inner problem, and the only solution is an alien righteousness.” – Albert Mohler

“The public and personal reading of Scripture offers us, first of all, our true identity as a people. Scripture teaches us to know ourselves not as autonomous, self-inventing “consumers” driven aimlessly by market forces, but as God’s people, the body of Christ. We are given purpose and hope by the biblical story in which we are caught up. And we’re given one another, a community of brothers and sisters that transcends national identity and breaks down the barriers we erect to protect ourselves.” – Richard Hays