Monday, November 22, 2010

Almost Preaching the Gospel

As the youth pastor at my church I get to preach to the whole body every once in awhile. My pastor/friend, Andy has been gracious to allow me to preach out of the series he is currently doing in John. I am humbled each time I stand up to deliver to the saints the mystery in which angels long to look into - namely the gospel of Jesus. This past week was no exception.

My text was John 5:18-47 - a lengthy answer that Jesus gives to the religious leaders. The heart of the passage is Jesus defense of his equality with God, or His deity as it were. I carefully studied the passage all week and decided to cover mainly verses 30-47, in which Jesus explains those who give testimony toward Him being God. Jesus states that John the Baptizer, Jesus' works, God the Father, the Scriptures and Moses point to or declare His divinity. The reason John writes his gospel is stated clearly in John 20:31; "These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." So, John is not rolling out these witnesses' here for nothing. Jesus' testimony to the religious leaders builds John's case in the defense of imploring his readers that Jesus is the Son of God. This passage should do one of two things in a person; either strengthen existing faith or cause the person to examine whether or not they have put their trust in Jesus.

But Jesus is also laying out a counter charge to his listeners and to us. For the religious leaders they would have been men, who in the line of Abraham believe in the God of Isaac and Jacob, and who would have taught the Law of God and were supposed to be familiar to the Scriptures, Jesus brings the accusation that they are actually opposed to God, because they oppose belief in Jesus. We stand with them in opposition. Some of us in familiarity with the things of God and some in the their ignorance to the things of God. In our selfish, vain attempts at our own salvation. Jesus counter charges are seen in five ways. He says to them, of them, that "you do not have God's word abiding in you", that "you refuse to come to me", that "you do not have the love of God within you", that "you do not receive me", and "if you believed Moses, you would believe me."

I then said, that there are two types of people here today - those who believe and are still trusting in their works and those who could care less and are do nothing. And here is where I failed to preach the Gospel. I got somethings out of order as I was trying to wax poetically about posers and how there are religious posers. I never brought it back to land on the gospel. That it is not about what we do or don't do, it is about what HE did. I had laid guilt upon their hearts and minds and never brought it back to the Gospel. I mentioned the Gospel earlier in the message. How we need to please God only by faith. I even quoted John Piper. He says, "Faith is a being satisfied with all that God is for us in JESUS, not just an assent to truths (past or future) but heartfelt valuing and treasuring of all that God promises to be for us in Jesus."

That would have been nice after the two types of people remark. If I had only said Jesus is the third person - He was the only completely obedient one. We need to put our hope and trust in Him - we need to believe Him and what He has done - namely believe the Gospel. And instead I left everyone in the darkness of their guilt. No grace or hope was offered.

I failed Sunday to do the one thing I was trying to get everyone else to do - believe the Gospel. A friendly lady in our church messaged me on Facebook and shared with me her concerns. Ironically, they were the same as my wife's as we talked about it that late afternoon. I explained that I missed the mark and this is how I responded to her:

First of all, THANK YOU!
Thanks for listening and being willing to provide push back on something you heard that you disagreed with. With that being said, let me explain.
I missed the mark. I missed communicated. Your being rubbed the wrong way about the two types in the church was exactly the problem my wife had with my message. I should have followed that statement with the my whole reasoning for why I said it. There are only two types because Jesus is the third type. He was the only one utterly obedient. And when we put our trust and rest in Him and lean on that hope than we no longer have to perform or be the poser. AND you are right, that would lend itself to the third type, I suppose, the Gospel Centered person. I was merely trying to convince us that we don't have it all together - no one really does - and that by Faith we can walk in Jesus' grace that we don't have it all together and the Father still accepts us. I totally did not communicate that at all. I thought long and hard about it last night (so much so my heart and head hurt). I failed to do the one thing I was asking everyone to believe in - Give the hope of the Gospel. I think i rushed it and did not finish my thought and you were not the only one to think so. I know I ticked off a few others. I don't believe that our church is full of posers - but I do want our church to believe the gospel fully - that it's not about what you or I do it is about what He did. And therefore we "do" out of gratitude, love, faith and realizing that Jesus is our treasure.

I messed up, and I hope that you give me the benefit of the doubt that I do not believe we are without hope. I am a little glad, however that it stirred you up enough to write to me about it. At least so that I could explain and hopefully we can still be friends. :)
I just want people to fully lean on all that God has promised to be for us in Jesus. I played the role of the guilt layer devil on Sunday without offering the hope of the rejoicing Father. And for that I am sorry. Please, don't give up on me. We love you, too!

So, maybe people are talking about the Gospel. And maybe some will extend to me the grace I failed to speak of Sunday.

Monday, October 18, 2010


That is the question. Life has been coming at me at a hundred miles an hour. As my wife and I have taken in two little girls to care for them as our own. I have discovered how selfish and lazy I have been. My wife is amazing. She has rolled with being a Mom like it was in her from birth. It's like second nature to her to take care of these little girls. I am, however struggling to find balance between my walk with God, my job as a youth pastor and being a husband and a new dad.

So here I am thinking, "How can I blog about this? - or "why should I blog about this?"

I feel sometimes that the people who actually read my blog are people I am in conversation with. So, why write about stuff I talk to them about? I think I need a theme or something to create some unity and purpose to write. Just writing about me and my experience seems prideful and self-indulgent. I mean, I have several things that I am interested in but none that I feel worthy enough to write about. How do I serve others by writing a blog? Better yet, how can I glorify God and enjoy Him by writing a blog? Am I just adding to the noise? There are already so many good blogs out there. Why add to the clutter? And besides, who really wants to read commentary from a broken down, ordinary youth pastor, foster dad, lover of Jesus who likes movies and football? I don't know why I even wrote this post.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 16, 2010

100th Post

Where I Am
I am frustrated and worn, O God. I am distracted and entertained, O God.
I have been wallowing in self loathing and self pity. The world seems to overtake my thoughts and my sin is always crouching at my door step. I “feel” frustrated and unmotivated because I “feel” trapped in a rut of selfishness and apathy. I am truly confused. I want to do good things; be a good man. I want to be a good man but evil is right there with me. I get tired of the same old thinking of grace and Jesus. As if it is a painting I pass on the way to the toilet. And yet here I am, only seeing Christ out of the corner of my eye. Glancing unimpressed at His glory and beauty, I have become familiar with the mysterious crucified Christ. My Lord has become an obligation, nay an occupation that I MUST perform to. I have become hardened not by the study of Scripture but by the lack of love and care for intimacy with the Word of the Living God. God’s book is something I tell others to love but I myself am not lost in my lover’s stare. I do not gaze upon the beauty of the Lord as young girls flock to see old “what’s their face” in Twilight. I have been the whore who is easily drawn to lesser loves. I have given myself up to temporal wastes of time and energy all the while despising myself for not being with the King of glory. I have been restless and looking to the horizon. My mind ever consumed with the “What Ifs” of my existence. “What If” we get to adopt? “What If” I lose my job? “What If” I fail at being a faithful husband and Christian? “What If” I never lose weight? “What If” I plant a church? “What If” I do well at being a father and a husband? “What If” I can’t pay my mortgage? “What If” I am missing the point?
Truth is…
I am loved by God. He loves me, not because of the “What if’s”. He loves me because He has set me apart for His eternal glory and for my good. He is with me. He is with me! He looks at me not with anger or disdain, but rather He sees Christ. He sees Jesus. I have trusted that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And it is His righteousness that God sees in the place of my filth and my idolatry. Beauty is, I am not alone. Jesus is living in me, fighting sin, and thwarting the enemy. I am following Him because He is the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be (sorry Hit Man). Jesus will never leave me or forsake me. He has given all of Himself up for me. He is the treasure that is buried in the field that a man sells all that he has to obtain. I have the power and ability than to forsake all things that have no eternal significance and embrace the one thing that matters. Jesus died for sinners, of whom I am chief. I need to walk in the identity that I am a child, a friend, a servant of the Living God. That He has set me apart for His purposes. And I will sing a new song. He is the King of glory. Come Lord Jesus, Come. I am hidden under the refuge of His wings.
How to Be Honest
My sin has been exposed to Jesus. I do not need to fear you. I do not need to hide my sin. My sin is real but so is my Savior. Jesus has forgiven me. He also gives me the power to walk in His way. I have been given a new heart in order to love Jesus in obedience and faith. I sin against a holy God, who has forgiven me on and by the cross of Christ. I don’t believe this very well. I wake up with guilt from yesterdays gone by. I believe, help my unbelief.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I want to change things about myself.

I want to lose weight; be more disciplined; love my wife better; fear God with sincerity; love my neighbor more consistently; plan my ministry better; be more intentional about giving a reason for the hope that I have; behave like a person that has hope; practice the spiritual disciplines more frequently; be a man that longs for Jesus' return over the return of my favorite sport season, be more generous; be able to balance priorities and fun; be a better master to my dog...

I am starting to read this book:

You Can Change by Tim Chester

Get it from Amazon: Here

Let’s see what happens.

The Gospel-Driven Church: Your Church Might Not be a Church If . . .

Jared Wilson shares his thoughts on Church in this post on his blog... Check it out.
The Gospel-Driven Church: Your Church Might Not be a Church If . . .

You can't remember when you last heard the name of Jesus in a message.

The Easter message isn't about the resurrection but "new opportunities" in your life or turning over a new leaf.

On patriotic holiday weekends, the message is about how great America is.

On the other weekends, the message is about how great you are.

There are more videos than prayers.

People don't sing during "worship," but watch.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Quick Note

1. I promise to write more on here.
2. You promise to comment more.
3. I am recently a foster dad to two girls. LeeAnn and Baby Bree.
4. I am at Student Life Camp with Jr. Highers.
5. Pray for us (mostly Kimberly, my wife) - See 3 and 4

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Honesty: Death to Performance Post 2

And you probably thought this wasn't going to happen (so soon)

I had a talk with Andy on Monday. We usually do Sunday debrief and catch up on Mondays. We do the "Monday morning quarterback" for church pastors. The usual, "how do you think this went?" or "how was the (fill in the blank)?" We discussed the weaknesses and strengths of my message from Sunday. We chatted about his trip to Jacksonville for the district conference and how he was able to catch up with some old California friends. He was excited to be serving on the district board. He shared about his time with Jarred, one of our students who has gone to serve as an intern with 2nd Mile Ministries. We went to lunch with James Blackwood as is the custom for JAB (James, Andy & Brian) Monday Lunch. And then we came back from lunch and I had to "man up".

Why "man up"?

I have been holding some of my thoughts and heart back from him. He's my friend, my pastor and kinda like my boss (although we don't really have that awkward Michael Scott - Jim Halpert type of relationship). I have had problems talking about things with others I have been in similar relationships with. It's on me because Andy has never really given me the impression that I could not talk to him about such things. He's actually always been approachable and easy to talk with. So, I had to "man up" because I was living in fear of the conversation. Mainly because as a people pleaser, I did not want him to dislike me. A step for me in killing performance was to talk with Andy about these things.

Such "things"?

Now that I have jumped the hurdle of talking about it with him, I do feel more free to write about it here. My heart has been heavy for awhile. As I am learning what it means to walk in mission and live out the call of Jesus in my life, I have been wrestling with what that is for me. I talked to him about my future, my passions, my thoughts and my calling. We discussed what I had been wanting to discuss for months, namely "Where am I headed?" We spent a good bit on how I can utilize my time here at Hope for the Gospel and for my growth as a follower of Jesus, a husband, a pastor and so on. How can he and others help me process my gifts. I feel relieved, not because I know what is in store for me in the future but I know that my ally, Andy, is going to help me with egos stripped away so that we can make much of the Gospel here, there and everywhere (a little Seuss never hurts).


This is so huge for me. I was living with a giant cloud of fear over my head. I wasn't trusting Jesus. I was sinning. I was sinning! I was afraid that if I was honest with Andy about my process, he would just write me off. "Go" or "I am the pastor, not you, and I will make decisions for this and that" was what I heard in my head as the scene played out. I was so scared that I was going to come across as this arrogant jack ass that thinks he knows the things of God. Truth is, I don't. I have been given but a glimpse through God's Word about what He wants from me. This is what I also took from the Honesty conference. I am still trusting God to do a work in me. To be honest and give people the benefit of the doubt has been a tough lesson to learn (still learning). I had been projecting my insecurities and past experiences onto Andy. He shot me straight, though. Told me that, in his opinion, I have a fear of the "settling down" - that in my life there seems that I need to have drama. Moving, new job, new whatever - and I agree that is a problem that I have. I am willing to work that out. I will try to figure out if that is driving these other things. Is that "need" driving my heart for church planting? I don't know but I am going to think about it.

Until next time:

26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:26-39

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Death to Performance (Part One)

Honesty: Death to Performance

I spent the day, yesterday, in Franklin, TN with a few of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Here are some thoughts that I had.

First of all, I want to say that I was confronted by the Holy Spirit (more on that later).

I was looking forward to Honesty:Death to Performance, mainly because I like being around Acts29 guys, but also because we would get to hear from Ray Ortlund Jr., Ed Stetzer, Scott Thomas and Jamie George. The subject matter was secondary to being able to hear from these guys. Something turned after we got there and I found myself being confronted with my sin. The sin that so easily entangles me is my lust to gain approval from others. I have struggled with it most of my Christian life (prior to coming to Christ it wasn't a "problem" per se, it was just a symptom of my unbelief). In some ways my pride of wanting people to like me (sin) was fed by various things in my story, but nowadays the sin manifests and feeds itself through my career (ministry). I always want the parents in our youth group to like me and I want their kids to like me. I want the elders and deacons to approve of what I do. I want to be on the "right" side of certain theological discussions so that people respect me or like talking to me. I steal glory from things like sports teams or movies or bands so that others will identify me as one of their own and thus like me (living in Alabama with two SEC teams to choose from makes this complicated). My job is one that requires interaction with people and this feeds the addiction of wanting people to "like" me. It's not enough that people respect me or whatever; it's that I want them to really like me.

The other edge of the sword is that I also struggle with the sin of self-pity or self loathing. I feel that I don't measure up to my own expectations and the bully of it is that I am the one setting those expectations. When I was a kid, I would punish myself before my mom could get to it. I would put myself in the corner or whatever, so my mom tells me. In some ways I still do this, only I do it with my Father in heaven. I become aware of my sin and instead of mortifying the sin I punish myself in various ways or I would even view things not going my way as God's tangible punishment.

Yesterday, God met me in Franklin, through his men. As they unpacked (as Ed Stetzer would say) what Gospel centered living, and for me ministry, looks like I found the grace of God running deep there. I found that I had been caught up with performance in my head. I disguise it by saying things like, "I wish I had more kids in our Sr. High youth group". The sin behind a comment that can actually be viewed as good, is at the heart of that I am really believing the lie that God isn't sovereign and has precisely who he wants in my life. Could I do more? Sure. But do I trust that what I am doing is given to me by God to do and He is the one in control of the results? No, if I am honest, I don't trust - this is sometimes called unbelief.

Yesterday, I fell into the depths of His mercy. I heard things that I had probably heard before. The Gospel isn't new to me. However, it is still as much needed for me today as it was when He began this good work in me. The Gospel isn't just the beginning of my Christian walk, it is the middle and the end as Ed Stetzer put it; it is the journey to live out who I am in Christ; from performance (to please God) to response to what God has done, namely Jesus' gospel(this pleases Him). That gospel being the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus for the glory of God and my gain. Yes, my gain. Jesus' propitiation for my sin covers these sins too. The thought that God approves of me because of Jesus is overwhelming but so true. Gospel. There is nothing that I can do to make him love me any more and there is nothing that I can do that would make him love me less because that love is found in Jesus. I am in Him and therefore the Father sees Jesus when he looks at me. That is good news. And it is grace. That which I couldn't do Jesus did. That is a release of a lot of pressure. Ed Stetzer said, the gospel is not about getting people to turn over a new leaf, but for them to embrace new life. I am that person.

More later.