Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Rock

I'm enjoying a much needed week of vacation. It's really a "staycation," since we are staying at home this week. My time has mostly been spent playing Wii, running a few casual errands, and working on Noah's new bed in the garage. It's such a grace to have a few days to put my hands to work on a project like this. Tomorrow will bring the big moment: assembly and unveiling for Noah's 6th birthday.

This afternoon while I was in the garage Hannah and Noah were on the street riding bikes and scooters with our neighbors. At one point Noah came to me and said, "Dad, check out this cool rock I found in Alex's front yard." I glanced at it and told him he needed to return it to their yard because I'm sure that Alex's father doesn't want to have to order more rock for his landscape due to little boys running off with his rocks one by one. He smiled and returned it.

As he strutted back across the street his eyes fixed on a rock in our yard. "Look at this one, dad!" I looked across twenty feet of pavement to see the one-inch rock he was holding up in the sunlight. "That's a pretty one, Noah."

"Can I keep this one, Dad?"

"I guess so. But, what are you going to do with it? It's just a rock!"

"I'm going to show it to people, so they can see what God made."

I paused from my painting and began to reflect on his answer. My interest in what I was "making" overshadowed my ability to appreciate what God has made and continues to sustain. I'm so thankful to have a son whose constant appreciation of God's goodness provides a daily refocusing for us as we hear his musings.

Jesus said that if the crowds hadn't praised him that the rocks would have cried out. Today I think I heard both child and rock declare God's praise. Thanks, Noah.

Friday, December 18, 2009


It's been tough to read the headlines about Tiger over the past few weeks. As each day brought news of another woman with whom he's supposedly had relations that leap over the boundaries of his marriage vows, one can't help but wonder how he's handling it all. I read today, one day after Elin was reported to have left the house with her children and belongings, that he's spending the day watching cartoons and hitting golf balls at night.

I can't help but think about the 32nd Psalm. David new his sin, but until he was willing to be out and open about it he was crushed under its weight. I am praying that Tiger would know the freedom of forgiveness through the gospel.

I've also been reflecting on how obvious it is that one cannot separate themselves as a professional from who they are as a person. I don't have much to say about this as more reflection is needed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Psalm 36

I've spent time this morning meditating on this great Psalm. The take away for me today: use this Psalm to cultivate humility that leads to wisdom and righteousness!

In the first four verses David speaks about the trajectory of the heart in the wicked. This man's underlying belief is that God will not find him out, that he will not have to give account for his sin. What pride! What foolishness!

The next section of the Psalm (vv. 5-9) is a recounting of God's glorious character and the reality that mankind can only find satisfaction and safety in God! This is antithetical to the one who is trying to find satisfaction in his iniquities and safety in his presumption that God doesn't see or know of his deeds.

Finally, in verses 10-12 the Psalmist prays for God to keep him from arrogance saying, "Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away." What he's saying is, Lord don't let humility and dependence upon you escape from me. He knows that his favor with God is of grace (vv. 5, 9) and he knows how easily each of our hearts can be fooled in a moment outside of God's saving activity (v. 6).

I needed to read this today. It is all too easy to look upon the example of the wicked and say, "I'm glad I'm not that man!" How arrogant! The reality of my daily situation is that any time I make a conscious decision to sin, or to allow myself near the ledge of transgression, I "have no fear of God before my eyes," (v. 1) and I'm acting outside of the wisdom of God! I tremble to confess that and pray myself that today Jesus would not let the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. For with Him is the fountain of life, in his light do we see light (v.8)!

New Worship Site Update

We've asked the leadership of an established church downtown to consider granting us permission to use part of their facilities on Wednesday nights for worship. They will be meeting December 15 to consider our request. If out request is approved we hope to begin our second site of worship by the third week in January. The interest in this new service among a few of our networks is growing and we are planning for around 40-60 people to be part of this from the start. We are praying regularly for Jesus to open this door if it's what he wants us to be about as the next step towards establishing many more local congregations around this city. His will be done! I'll have another update about this development late next week.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How Business Looks when Jesus is Boss

This Sunday I'll be opening up the Bible to Ephesians 6:5-9 to finish our series through the book. (A guest speaker took up 6:10-24 last weekend for us). I've been very refreshed by the view of work that the passage gives us. Ever heard the phrase, "I'm tired of working for the man!"? Paul says that we don't have to work for "the man" anymore. We're freed up to work for "the God-man," the Lord Jesus, the only one to whom we owe ultimate service.

Here's the question I'm asking today as I meditate on this passage: What would a company look like wherein each employee was working for the glory of Christ and where the manager/boss knew that he wasn't boss, but that Jesus is? If that question seems to idealized, then what about this one: What would a career path look like for an employee who is only interested in pleasing Jesus with his work?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Aliante Blue Star Launch Gathering

Aliante Blue Star is the name of our first missional community at CWR. Last night we had our kick-off meeting. I couldn't have hoped for a better evening. Paul Fletcher, our MC leader, did a great job of welcoming people and facilitating an interview with the spouses of deployed military personnel.

The kinds of things that these spouses shared were very insightful, giving great evidence of the real need that exists to minister to these families. Their need is a generally unnoticed one. Whenever we talk about orphans, sex-for-sale workers, or the homeless the need is obvious, but this group of our city's citizens has some very real needs too and I'm looking forward to seeing what opportunities come to serve.

Side note: Some may wonder what the name, "Aliante Blue Star," is all about. Whenever a family member deploys, his family is able to hang a banner, if they wish, that indicates such. The banner includes a large blue star. Since the initial mission of this group of people is to bring the love of Jesus to families suffering difficulty due to deployments, the name makes perfect sense. Don't feel bad if you didn't already know that. I just learned it three days ago myself.

Our next event as an MC will be a family BBQ on December 03 when Paul and the rest of the leadership team will be announcing our service opportunity for December. Can't wait to see how the Lord leads us in this endeavor.

Help is on the Way

Just wrapped up a great three days with Keith Robinson. For three years I lived next door to Keith while studying at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. He actually lived across the hallway of our on-campus apartment. Over the past two years we've kept in touch on a mostly irregular basis. Last June I asked Keith to consider the crazy idea of coming out to Vegas to live, work, and help us establish another worship site in the city. He visited in July. We began to pray. This week he came again to see exactly what kinds of opportunity for work would be realistic. He was offered two jobs. Keith is moving to Vegas in January.

This represents a huge milestone for us as we have prayed with increased intensity for Jesus to send more workers to the harvest field. Keith brings a different set of gifts to the mix, and a different perspective based on his own ministry experience. So glad he's coming. Can't wait until he's here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wrestling With our Idols

I recently read Tim Keller's new book, Counterfeit Gods. It's a great work that simply peals back the idolatries that most Westerners share. The subtitle of the book is: The empty promises of money, sex, and power, and the Only Hope that matters. Here's an excerpt from Keller's book:
"We should not think that one culture is less idolatrous than the next.
Traditional societies tend to make the family unit and the clan into an
absolute, ultimate thing. This can lead to honor killings, the treatment of
women as chattel, and violence toward gay people. Western, secular cultures make
an idol out of individual freedom, and this leads to the breakdown of the
family, rampant materialism, careerism, and the idolization of romantic love,
physical beauty, and profit.”

My reading has brought about deep challenges in terms of how influenced I remain by the idols of my own culture, and how counter-cultural I'll become as fullness or worship to Jesus becomes the norm of my own heart.

In a recent article by a friend of mine, Jon Tyson, says the following about how our own idols have made limp our efforts to stand out as light in the world:
"In the midst of this cultural fragmentation [this is evident all around us],
the church has tried to address the problem by calling people to a vision of
true community. But no matter how hard we try, the cultural forces are often too
powerful and persuasive to counteract. We are barely different from our culture
-- busy, driven, individualistic, and disconnected -- and so, we too have lost
our social capital. Our lives lack that mystical missing ingredient. We have become cultural consumers who no longer have the networks, norms, or values for anything other than our own peace and affluence. It shouldn't be this way. As people who are called to be a new and different kind of community -- a city on a hill -- we should offer something toward the common good and the renewal of our world. But because our schedules, practices, values, and networks are often identical to those who are not believers, we lack the ability to offer them anything different than the
fragmenting forces they are already encountering in society. We have somehow
forgotten that we are called to something bigger than our own fulfillment and

It's humbling to realize that the reason most of us aren't shining as lights in our communities is that we've still got traces of false worship in us. The lifestyle changes that would be reflected in different worship aren't visible because my worship is still polluted. We are still worshiping at the temples of our culture in the pursuit of "our own fulfillment and dreams."

Jesus called us to be a city on a hill. That won't happen because of any ingenious plan we can concoct to make impact in our neighborhoods. It will only happen when Jesus is the sole aim of all my affections, hopes, wants, and faith.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New York City

I'm in NYC with Angie this week to spend five days with other church planters from around the country. I've been looking forward to the time for over a month, now, and can't wait to see how Jesus stirs in my heart as a result of the conversations with them.

Today Angie and I were able to just have some fun in the city. We started the day with a few hour tour of the Metropolitan Museum and followed that up with a stroll through Central Park. We had hot dogs for breakfast and for lunch. Seeing all the hot dog stands in the city made me wonder how many hot dogs are consumed in NYC on a daily basis. It's got to be a big number.

This evening we worked our way through the subway system down to Times Square. Quite a place! Reminded me of the Vegas Strip in some ways. After dinner we were walking back to the subway station when a kind woman walked up to me and asked if I'd like two tickets to Billy Elliot. "Sure. How much do you want for them?" I asked as I noticed $114.00 printed on the top ticket. "They're free for you to use if you are able to go into the show. It starts in five minutes. We had four people from our group fail to show up and we don't want them to go to waste."

So in we went to our first Broadway show, jeans, tennis shoes, and all. The performance was tremendous. That was quite a surprise.

The Lord showed us again that his provision is always at hand, even when it comes to unneeded Broadway tickets. We were very thankful for the reminder.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Newcomer Cafe

Tonight we hosted another Newcomer Cafe for City-Wide Redeemer. We were the privileged hosts of several great folks who shared dinner with us and heard a brief introduction to the history, vision and values of CWR, in addition to a few possible next steps as they seek to become further engaged in this community of Jesus followers, and in our mission to Las Vegas. From them we got to hear about their interests outside of work over dinner. That was cool. I now can say I know a painter, flautist, outdoorswoman, pilot, barefoot water skier, photographer, runner and boat restorer. What a fun group.

As an appetizer, Angie served this new black bean soup that she made for the first time today. It is a keeper. It was phenomenal. Can I say, "phenomenal" about black bean soup? I must. That's no exaggeration in this case. Thanks, Angie.

God is Good

The earliest memories of prayer I have were the pre-meal repetitions of "God is great. God is good, and we thank him for this food. Amen." Of course, "food" was pronounced so as to make it rhyme with "good"!

Yesterday morning I was reading Psalm 18:1 to my children. Long after they were off to school and I was into my own day I found mind wandering back to that verse: "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good." Each time I unexpectedly stumbled over those words as my thoughts raced around my head (almost the way one might trip over the vacuum cord when it gets left out in the hallway) I realized at a deeper level that my desire to give thanks is almost always tied to how well I think God's will for my life matches up with my desires. My heart's version of the verse goes like this: "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for my truck has been running three weeks straight without needing to be repaired," or "...for my bank account has enough in it to pay the bills." You get the point.

Are these good reasons to give thanks? Yes, to be sure, but without them I'm still being called by the song writer to consider the pure character of God that is reason in and off itself to give thanks. The very fact of my existence as a creature makes my Creator worthy of thanksgiving. He is the first cause of all things. Everything I experience from Him is all of grace. The creation itself has its roots of existence in grace--undeserved kindness from God. All this is to say that I'm refocusing my thanksgiving motivation on the Lord tonight. Just looking at Him. I'm not looking around, but up, you might say, and am finding every reason to give thanks as I encounter the character of my redeeming King.

Thank you, Lord.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Funk!

I've had a bit of a funk two Mondays in a row now. Not sure what that's all about. I'm fighting back with some extra time in God's word this morning. It's so helpful to be reminded of the innumerable ways that God is for us. I just don't think I can hear that enough.

Sunday morning at City-Wide Redeemer was a great encouragement to me. We have seen several guests over the past few weeks again. Looking forward to getting to know some of these new families.

Our Sunday morning set-up crew has been such a blessing to us. Not sure if most people realize what goes in to making the sound and video projection work like it does, but their work is so appreciated!

Looks like next week will mark the first meeting of our missional community here on the north side. Really looking forward to seeing how Jesus leads the group into new areas of service in our city. We have so many gifted people who share a great desire to be used by the Lord. He will use them, I'm sure of it.

We will also be starting two new missional communities (MC's) over the next couple of months closer to the city center. I am still praying much about these possibilities and beginning to meet with potential leaders for the communities. The possibilities there are also very exciting. If God is in this, those two MC's will likely begin meeting mid-week for regular worship as well. We may be on the verge of seeing seeds of our first church plant already! We're trying to go slow.

Philip Jr. was sick to the point of needing urgent care last night. They got him all fixed up, though, and today he appears to be on the road to recovery. He was disappointed that his illness would mean missed days at school. "I really wanted perfect attendance this year!" I couldn't believe my ears. What a difference being in a school where he's learning things that excited him makes. Very thankful.

I tried removing a ceramic tile in my kitchen in order to make preparations for a small modification I'm making to the cabinet arrangements. What a chore! Those tiles just don't want to come up. I was in there with a three lb hammer and cold chisel and only removing one or two square inches at a time while shards flew everywhere. I gave up. Maybe I'll get after it some more tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Double Yellow Line

Last night I returned home with Angie after spending six days (five nights) away in celebration of 15 years of marriage. Much could be said about my gratitude for her as my wife and best friend! We had a great time reconnecting and relaxing. I think my favorite moment was leading her by the hand deeper into the ocean than she had ever dared tread. We body surfed together. The moment struck me. We had the excitement of two kids on their fist date, but the mutual trust of a couple that's been married for 50 years. That was a special time.

As we drove from Huntington Beach to Santa Barbara where I preached Sunday morning we ran into a snag. As I pulled onto the 405 from the East 32nd Street on-ramp I gently eased over toward the HOV lane through heavy traffic. Even though it was heavy we still had to go 70 to keep from being run over! When I was in the number 2 lane I looked into my mirror to see that the vehicle behind was racing toward my bumper. As a courtesy I moved over the the number 1 lane. It was tight. I then noticed that the HOV lane was clear and I opted to move over immediately to get out of every one's way. As soon as I was in the lane flashing lights greeted by rear view. It took two miles to get over and off. I had crossed the double yellow line into the HOV lane. In CA they have special spots where you are allowed to enter that lane. In my concentrated effort to avoid traffic I hadn't noticed. Now I'll have a $434 reminder to notice next time.

While the officer was examining my documents and license I thought, "He's been gone a long time. That can't be good." It wasn't. He returned with my ticket, told me to sign, and told me how I could get back on the freeway.

I was so stunned that I wasn't even able to plead my case. It wasn't intentional. It was an effort to avoid causing an accident, not to avoid heavy traffic that I didn't want to sit in. When I went on to the CA website to check out the damage (the ticket included no numbers/fees) I was all the more disappointed to learn that this particular infraction can't be dismissed by the court. The legislature wrote it that way. So much for a trial by jury! Mitigating circumstances??? They don't matter.

This morning as I reflected on the incident I realized something further. I was stunned to get the ticket because as I sat in the truck with Angie and waited I was expecting grace. Yes, that's right! I was EXPECTING grace as though I deserved it or something. What a misunderstanding of grace. Now I'm wrestling with the deeper question of where I abuse grace from Jesus. Perhaps that's why God appointed Officer S. Clyburn to be there to write that ticket?

I've put a call out to his office in hopes that he hasn't yet filed the ticket with the Long Beach Court and that I might have the opportunity to ASK for grace.

These kinds of lessons are difficult, but I'm reminded of Eugene Peterson's summary of Hebrews 12:11: "At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Why the Misconception?

This morning I jumped on the scale for my Monday morning reveal. The digital readout displayed 202.8. I've hit another plateau, but I'm still enjoying the 20.2 lbs that are no longer part of my daily payload!

I hiked Mummy Springs trail on Mt. Charleston last Saturday. The views from atop the ridge line of the Vegas valley below were amazing. At one point on the trail my hiking partner and I viewed the oldest known creature on planet earth--a 4,000 year-old bristle cone pine. That's pretty cool to say the least.

I was hiking with a friend who was born in the states, but who has roots in Iran. When I was asking him about the religious climate in Iran he told me that roughly half the population there practices Islam. He then went on to say that it's much like what we see here in the states: some Christians practice; others call themselves Christian by name only.

"What does it mean to be a true Christian?" I asked.

"Oh, people who are practicing Christians go to church on Sundays and pray before meals."

After listening for a few moments I said, "Yes, that is a common misconception about what it means to be a Christian who's practicing faith."

His reply: "You're saying that I have a misconception?"

"Not exactly. Your perception is right on target. The misconception comes for those who go to church and pray before meals and think that's the basis for calling themselves Christians."

The whole conversation got me reflecting again on this thought: why is it that when people outside the Kingdom encounter Jesus' people, often the only thing that makes them different is their Sunday morning schedule and 20 seconds before eating? Is it that they're not getting close enough? Does the way we live not reflect anything of comparison to the rest of the world?

Here, here, to a discipleship that is so life changing/encompassing that when people encounter us they know that something is radically different about us because of God's work in us!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Redemption Continues

It's already Friday and I've been meaning to post about Sunday. Last weekend we enjoyed a visit from Rick Schaeffer, a church planter in Long Beach, who preached from Joshua 23--a great word! He's a trusted friend who's walking down the same path and season of church planting as me, so his visit was a double encouragement to me as we celebrated God's work in spite of similar mistakes on our part along the way.

We also celebrated to witness eight baptisms last Sunday! These baptisms were so significant because they were the first people who've come to faith at City-Wide Redeemer because somebody else (besides Eric or myself) was sharing the gospel with them.

Then, on Tuesday our celebration of God's grace increased with news of another gal, Tiffany, putting her faith in Jesus. Eric's been meeting with her for about five weeks. It is such an honor to stand by and watch souls being rescued from despair and emptiness as they come into the freedom and joy of union with Christ.

God is doing something in Las Vegas. City-Wide Redeemer is not the only place where He's moving. Every week I'm hearing stories of His redemption from around the city. On an entirely increased level I'm believing with new faith that we may get to see large-scale redemption come to this city in our lifetimes! To God be the glory.

We're going to begin forming missional communities in our city to further engage our culture and it's citizens. Much prayer is happening as we prepare to take steps that we believe will be pivotal in making ourselves all the more available and equipped for His service in Vegas. More details will be published soon as God's leading becomes clearer.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

203 lbs and Losing

I have finally hit the 20 lbs lost mark. All thanks to the Lord for making my body feel so much better!

This is an exciting week for me on three levels. First, I've got a friend coming in from Long Beach, CA who has been planting a church there for around two years. We'll have the chance to compare notes about how the Lord is working in our respective mission fields and also to encourage each other in continued faithfulness. I'm really looking forward to that.

Secondly, Rick will be preaching while he's here. I can't wait to be encouraged by God's word as he opens it.

On a third level, this has afforded me the chance to do some different study this week. I'm thinking through many things related to getting a second worship site (eventual church plant) off the ground here in Vegas. God has introduced us to about three or four existing communities of people in whom He may be please to set the gospel loose to change many hearts. These communities would be the core of new church plants. I'll share more details in coming weeks as things get clearer.

I read a great article this week in Leadership magazine about decentralized leadership and idea forming withing different communities. The cases that were studied only solidified convictions to which I've been coming on my own about the kind of leadership that is needed with this generation of young adults. By God's grace I'll be up to the task of providing it. The missional communities that we're forming at CWR this fall will be the testing grounds for some of these principles. I'm thankful that Holy Spirit is actively working in spite of our ideas and convictions where they may be wrong.

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's Monday Again

I love Monday because (my favorite day next to Sunday) because of all that the week ahead offers. Today I'm still sick, though, so I'm not feeling quite as vigorous as usual.

The scale said "205" this morning. That's up a pound from last week, but still down 17 from the beginning weight. I'm betting I'll be at 203 by next Monday, though. I'm hoping so.

Gospel conversations are breaking out all over the place again. We're seeing cool things happen at the basketball court, with some bands in town, and in the neighborhood. In fact, Eric told me that last week a well-known local band asked him to be their chaplain. Pretty cool.

Some pretty significant things are beginning to fall into place for our next church plant here in town, but many more things still need to happen. I'll be writing more about that soon. In the mean time pray about it if you think about it.

I'm in need of more bed rest, but just wanted to at least post quickly to let everybody know that we're alive.

By the way, house repairs have begun after last week's fire. We got a window replaced and the stucco is half-way repaired. The construction guys have done an amazing job with the stucco repair. I'm very thankful for what they're doing. I'll post some "after" pictures when the repairs are done. That reminds me...tomorrow I get to buy a replacement grill. (Insert manly growls).

Monday, July 27, 2009


This is Sonita. She is an orphan at Cambri in Les Cayes, Haiti. She stole my heart. I hope to see her again someday soon.

Fire Sale--Not Really

Just as I was about to log into my blog last evening and begin catching up on our trip to Haiti and the lessons learned my bride reminded me that we needed to cook the chicked for dinner because it was already 6:30. I lit the grill and the whole thing flashed with fire and immediately the propane tank nozzle became a jet engine. The hose didn't even make the flames flinch.

All that was left to do was grab my wife, the kids, the dog, and head out front. We alerted our adjacent neighbors to the fact that an explosion was pending. The fire department arrived very quickly and soon the flames were out with nobody sustaining injury.

The Psalmist said, "The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: 'The right hand of the Lord does valiantly'" Our house was filled with songs of thanksgiving this morning during our time together as a family this morning. As we huddled in a driveway down the street and listened anxiously to the roaring flames we prayed that our God who calmed the sees would reduce the flame. He did just that. Within seconds the sound dissapated and the bottle was empty. My kids are learning--we all are learning--more about what it means to trust our powerful and present Lord.

The NLVFD Fire Investigators came out and confirmed that there was a failure with the valve on the propane bottle. I'm still waiting on my home owners insurance adjuster to call and come take a look. It's a bit wierd having plywood over the kitchen window. Hopefully we'll be able to have that window replaced soon.
Another point of thanksgiving was how well our youngest children did with going to sleep last night. God gave them peaceful rest throughout the night.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saturday's Summary

It's been 15 hours since the day began, and it feels like it's been two days.

When our hotel phone rang with the courtesy wake up call my eyes could barely register the "5:03" on the clock. Time to roll. Within forty minutes 33 of us were piled into a shuttle, with a trailer behind carrying 66 bags (50 lbs each) of supplies. Things with American Airlines from Ft. Lauderdale to Port-au-Prince went smoothly. That's when the fun began.

At Port we were inundated with men wearing red caps who were anxious to help us with our bags. I'm not sure any of them even knew where we were trying to go; they just wanted to help in hopes of making a few bucks. Thousands of other faces stared in through the chain link fence with hopes. I'm not sure what their hopes were. It would be eye-opening to speak with any of them, I'm sure.

After several minutes of organized confusion our contact from Les Cayes arrived and huddled us into two busses, with a third for our bags. We drove three miles to a seperate terminal and eventually boarded our 15 passenger prop plane. That ride was wild, but we did make it.

After a few hours to drop our stuff we were on our way to the orphanage in Cambry. I still don't have words to describe what we saw there. It was quite a moment. Check my Facebook page for pic's.

We're being called for dinner, so this is all for today.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mission to Haiti (Day 1)

We have safely made it to Ft. Lauderdale and are just about to creep into the sheets for about 5.5 hours of sleep before an early start tomorrow.

Today we really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know more about each other (that is the four of us from CWR). We grabbed a ride to Hollywood Beach and took in the waves for a few hours before enjoying dinner together at a place called the Moonlight Café. They had something called a stuffed cinnamon roll that was amazing (sorry, Weight Watchers). After dinner we met up with the other team members from Indiana, Washington D.C., Illinois, and South Dakota. Ted Powers, the lead for this entire team, took a few minutes to pray for the group and then to encourage us with something we all know, but needed to hear again.

His question: “Why are you going on this trip?” It was a great question, but rather than telling you what he said, I’m going to ask you the same question: “Why are you doing what you do as you play your role in God’s mission?” We can interact more on that Friday evening, July 24th during our “Storytelling from Haiti” evening that I hope many of you will make plans to join.

Tonight I know that each one of us is feeling our need for prayer. We want to be used by God. We want to show his love. We don’t know what to expect. We feel our weakness.

I was encouraged just now by reading Isaiah 58:6-11. There the prophet says that as we make ourselves available to the weak, God will cause us to be never-ending fountains of blessing. We don’t have to muster up the strength or the resources, we need only make ourselves available. On the heals of two very busy weeks and in the midst of feeling very much out of energy I needed to read that.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's Tuesday

I know that I forgot to make my weekly weight announcement yesterday. It wasn't as encouraging, but progress was still had. This week's weight was 208.4, down from 208.8! The scale read 207 this morning, so maybe that's a good sign of things to come.

For reasons other than my waistline, I'm absolutely full of joy today. I have had many days in my life when I was so overwhelmed with despair, fear, and/or anxiety that I could barely function. Today I can barely function because of the amount of joy that is welling up and over within me. I can't give definition to what I'm feeling except to say that I feel as though I'm going to burst apart at any moment because of an inability to keep the joy that is within contained.

God is pouring out his blessing in measures almost too difficult to hold. Here are a few snippets:

  1. We have received financial support for the month of July!
  2. We are experiencing a flood of people who are asking for support and friendship as they seek further understanding about God and his word. With each soul this is such an honor.
  3. Each one of our team members heading to Haiti this Thursday has experienced an outpouring of love and support from CWR that surpassed any expectation. 3 John vv. 5-7 speaks about the kind of support that should be given to God's ambassadors whenever we send them out. CWR has done that and much more to the glory of Christ's name.
  4. Our family is benefiting from many rich friendships.
  5. Our family is experiencing a season of unity and increased love for one another. It's been especially encouraging to see how Philip Jr. is loving his younger brother and sister by spending some great time with them. Because of his attention for them they are overflowing with joy.
  6. I was once lost and now I'm found. I am loved by God apart from my performance!

I expect to be able to post short sound bites about our time in Haiti on my facebook page, assuming that the international phone connection I've signed up for works as it should. My facebook page can be found at .

I'll be preaching Sunday evening in Les Cayes, Haiti. I'm more than a bit nervous about that, but trust that God will somehow make it useful to His people there.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Catching Up

Here are a few quick sound bites from the past two weeks:

  1. I spent June 16-18 in Orlando being part of a national conference of pastors with the PCA. I went there hoping to connect with some new financial supporters for our work of church planting in Las Vegas. God had others plans. I'm not sure if I made any connections that will grow into partnership with our work, but I my soul was deeply nourished through the preaching at the evening services of worship and in a couple of the breakout sessions. I also treasured the opportunity to catch up with some dear friends I've not seen in a year or more.
  2. After the conference I headed down to Ft. Myers with Eric Phillips. We drove through several rain storms. That was nice. While in Ft. Myers we met with an older pastor who told us that he has only a few days remaining before his body concedes to the cancer he's been fighting for a few years. It was a rare opportunity to receive a life's worth of wisdom that's been refined and focused by these few years of suffering. This man is dying well because his faith is strong and his love for family is evident. I was honored to be a guest in his home that day.
  3. Before we flew home Eric drug me out onto a 20' to go shark fishing with some of his buddies from the area. I ended up dragging in a 4' black tip shark. Amazing! I'm still waiting on the picture to be emailed.
  4. Weight loss continues to be a steady fight. I weighed in Monday morning at 208, 14 lbs lighter than I was six weeks ago when this journey began. Angie and I are almost a combined 30 lbs lighter. Most importantly, the lifestyle changes regarding food are becoming second nature and our energy levels are starting to rise. I hope this translates into more stamina for service to our neighbors.
  5. I continue to play basketball on Monday evenings with a group of guys from CWR, some employees from the Venetian Hotel and Casino, and a regular group of men from the surrounding neighborhoods. I'm pretty excited about where some of these relationships are going.
  6. People at CWR are doing an amazing job of loving each other. I could tell stories for hours about the ways that folks simply recognize needs and work together to find solutions, trusting God for the necessary resources instead of being paralyzed by thinking that everything depends on their efforts alone.
  7. Our missions trip to Haiti is only 10 days away. I'm really beginning to feel pumped about this time to serve, learn, and to do it all with my oldest son. Our church family is growing in their vision to be used of Jesus for kingdom expansion and witness. Again, amazing!
  8. We are in the middle of a three-week project to sort through all of our five-year old's Legos. Slow going, but we are getting there.
  9. I'm looking forward to the series on Ruth that begins in two weeks.
  10. We praying for Jesus to send more workers into his fields in Las Vegas. We are especially hoping for some men and women who will more actively pursue the middle and high school kids in our community. They are very hungry for relationship, the gospel, and discipleship. Pray with us about these opportunities.
  11. I'm in the middle of a book called, "Family Driven Faith." So far it gets a "Highly Recommend" rating from me.
  12. We've had two cars break down in as many days. The immediate temptation is to go and buy a new car. I'm fighting through it and hope to have both cars repaired by week's end. I'm still not sure what the $ damage will be for the van.

Life goes on. The mission continues to move forward. We are growing in faith. To God be the glory!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Another Monday

Ok, first, I have good news to report on the weight loss front. Today's weight was 211, another two pounds less for my knees to endure with every step. God has been so gracious to allow for this to continue going well. Angie hit her first goal weight today, having dropped five percent of her total body weight in just 28 days. Way to go Angie!

The most encouraging thing has been the increased self-control that God has given us with respect to food. We are actually beginning to want what's healthy for our bodies. Don't get me wrong, the Snickers bar on Saturday while I was out with Philip tasted delicious!

I just read in the paper that police have arrested a 30 year-old woman for broadcasting live sexual assault on her children over the Internet. She has four kids, ranging from 18 months to four years, the article said. My heart aches. When will this evil stop? I have hope, though, for both this mother and her children. These are just the kind of souls for whom Jesus came--to seek and save the lost. Thank God for a Savior!

Just read Psalm 29 again. It's wonderful to consider the incredible power that God holds at his disposal. For 10.5 verses we read of His unending strength. Then we read why. It's all for the sake of bringing peace to his people. Amazing. Simply amazing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Another Monday

Today was great! I was humbled to get on the scale this morning and discover a reading of 213.6! That's another 2.2 lbs for the week. I can't believe it.

I had to repent yesterday, though, with respect to my goals for weight loss. Motivation is fine. Goal is great. Level of time committed is also good. Trusting in my own efforts--bad. I don't know why, but when it comes to something like this my first thought isn't Jesus' words when he said to His men, "Apart from me you can do nothing." So I've added a prayerful dependence in my efforts to remain true to the menu plan and exercise schedule. Even something as basic as weight loss reveals the remaining streak of self-dependence my heart lunges for when left unchecked.

I played basketball tonight. Played three games. Won three games. Playing with the four guys on my team a golden retriever could have won three times. They are all very good. Fun to watch.

The gospel continues to run here in Vegas. I have heard from three or four friends who were engaged by others this past week to learn more about this "Jesus stuff." Hopefully they will experience the freedom of the gospel soon.

Angie is thrilled to be finished with her home school year for our oldest. They both did such a great job. He'll be in high school this fall. Angie doesn't know what to do with herself. I'm sure that the camera will get more use now that she's got the time.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Desired Effect?

So, as part of my new diet and lifestyle I decided to finally give a colon cleansing routine a try. I'm taking the simple route with some all-natural capsules to be taken once each day until the bottle is gone. The notice on the side of the bottle nearly killed me due to laughter as I read. Here's what it says:
"Take two capsules daily with a large glass of water. If you don't get the
desired effect, add a capsule a day until you achieve the desired effect. Do
not exceed 5 capsules a day."

What exactly is the desired effect? I'm thinking, as a colon cleansing novice, that if I'm not getting the "desired effect" that the last thing I'm going to want to do is add to the number of capsules I'm taking.

Teenage Girls

I spent an hour on Tuesday evening with some of the girls who gather at Laura Stremmel's house for study each week.

One thing to say: What an amazing group! As I was speaking to them about what the Bible teaches us concerning baptism their ability to interact and follow showed a rapidly growing grasp of the gospel on their part. Laura and Kellie Raih are doing an amazing job loving and instructing these girls!

The other thing that really struck me was how many of their friends they regularly pray for, not to mention the number of friends with whom they are sharing their faith and inviting to be part of this study. Their boldness and confidence in the face of relativists, atheist, evolutionists and otherwise apathetic friends shows how beautiful the gospel is for each of these young women. They love Jesus and want others to follow him as well. I'm sure that this group will be used by God to change the lives of many people to come.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Weekly Weight Numbers (6/1)

Monday's my weigh-in day. The moment I stepped on the scale this morning was filled with much anticipation. I wasn't able to work out of the past few days as much as I had hoped, but things are still moving forward. Here's the update:

5/18: 222.0 lbs
5/25: 219.0 lbs
6/1: 215.8 lbs

I couldn't believe that I've lost 6.2 lbs thus far. That's equivalent to 21,700 calories! I'll check back in a week and let you know if the progress continues. This is not easy. I wish it were!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

More on the Diet

I've been doing some more thinking on the matter of food in my life. Here are a few of my own confessions and new insights that might spur some further personal reflection for some of you:
  1. I should not be enslaved by food. I'm not my own, I've been bought with a price. Jesus is my master, not my stomach.
  2. As part of the body of Christ, whereby we experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit on both a corporate and individual level, I should not defile it with excess body fat.
  3. Taking care of my body, through my diet, is a matter of stewardship. The body matters to God. The resurrection declares that truth.
  4. I'm surprised that we are many times quicker to criticize the way somebody uses their money than we are to take stock of the way we are treating our own bodies with the food we eat.
  5. Gluttony is a sin. I can't avoid that.
  6. I shouldn't be surprised by the fact that my body functions better when I fill it with the kinds of foods, in proper proportions, for which it was designed.
  7. When I'm functioning in good health because of proper diet and exercise I'm in a better position to help my neighbor when needs arise. This truth makes my overeating selfish.

Still lots to learn.

I've got my weekly weigh-in tomorrow morning. It should be encouraging, but I'm more thankful for what the scale shows about the transformation going on in my own heart.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Where have I been?

Wow, I can't believe that my last post was ten days ago. I'm fine. I haven't died. In fact, I've been getting healthier. I started a journey to health with Weight Watchers. Yes, that's what I said.

I like the program because it's all about math. No special meals, just simple math. I can do math, so I understand how to have reasonable expectations.

3500 calories burned equals one pound of weight loss.
Eating 1000 calories less than you burn each day equals two pounds weight loss per week.
Losing two lbs/week from now until mid August equals a healthier me.

It's not been easy. I'm now 9 days in, and have to admit that part of the reason I haven't posted is because I'm keeping myself busy with other activities besides sitting in front of this computer. I'm in rhythm now, though, and will be able to keep you all up to date.

Here's what the numbers look like so far.

Beginning weight on May 18: 222 (Yikes! That's a lot for my knees to handle!)
Weekly weigh-in last Monday: 219 (It's all down hill from here!)
Took a sneak peak this evening: 217 (Wow!)

I'll keep posting every Monday as part of my own accountability. I hope to write more tomorrow about how this experience has opened my up to a whole new area in my life desperately in need of Jesus to overhaul in His grace.

I'm thinking about my hunger pangs now so that's my cue to go to sleep.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Santa Barbara

I know some of you are wondering if I'm ever home in Vegas anymore. I'm starting to wonder the same thing! This weekend was spent in Santa Barbara, CA. It was only 73 degrees yesterday! The shock of hitting 112 degree weather in Barstow on our way home was not an easy one to absorb.

The official reason for the trip: preach and worship with a congregation in SB. The time with those people this morning was great. God showed up among his people with great encouragement.

I missed being here with our dear friends at CWR.

This trip was one in which I could bring the kids and Angie. So glad I did! Yesterday we bought tickets onto a 64' boat that gave about 40 people a 3 1/2 hour ride around the Channel Islands. We saw flying fish, sea lions, two humpback whales, and 1000 common dolphins. You could see the dolphins roaring through the water under the boat as they coordinated their efforts for lunch. Absolutely breathtaking!

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I hope to repeat at least once more.

Lot's to do this week. Better get the rest of this needed Sabbath rest!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fatherly Apostleship (1 Cor 4)

I can't believe the way Paul lays things out for his beloved children in the faith. His humility is established in the opening verses of the chapter: "This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God."

Good stewards are good example setters, to the extent that Paul says, "Be imitators of me." What would we imitate? We would imitate a man who has been faithful in his stewardship of the gospel and love for those who need to hear it. Paul was not a man looking for the easy life. The Kingdom is too important for that. Rather, he was, "like a man sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake...To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands."

That's the kind of gospel worker I long to be. Would that the gospel becomes so important to everyone of us in the City-Wide Redeemer community that all else is loss compared to the glorious riches we have to enjoy and share in the gospel!

Last Week's Boca Trip

Many of you prayed for me during my time in Boca Raton. Thank you. The week at Spanish River Church was an incredible encouragement to my soul as I continue to try and play my unique part in God's huge world mission. I was able to chat with a few guys planting churches in the Manhattan area. Very cool stuff. I also spent time with a church planter in Haiti who has now seen God multiply his efforts over the past 11 years into 42 church plants, 2 seminaries, and orphan care for 2300 children. He's one of my heroes of the faith for sure!

The time Sunday afternoon at the beach was much needed. There is something incredibly therapeutic about being in the surf as one wave after another grooved by and smashed into the retreating water from the beach. So glad I remembered my sun screen too. That could have been bad.

On the way over to the beach I encountered a first, at least as far as I can remember. It was a ramp in the road that lifted up in order to allow drivers to skip over the downtown area just before arriving on Deerfield Beach. You can see the picture below. I think I made it about 3,400 ft before landing squarely into my parking spot on the top level of the parking garage. Invigorating! Time for new shocks.

OK, so that's not what happened. It's just a draw bridge that allows the rich and famous access to and from their inland docks. Cool nonetheless.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sad News in Vegas

Death is always horrible, but sometimes its ugly and sinister nature is tempered a bit when life is lived out to years beyond 70. This morning as I drove into downtown you could sense, even from the expressway, that the entire town was stunned. Acclaimed entertainer, Danny Gans, dead at age 52. News reports came across the radio waves as local dj's struggled to keep their composure in the midst of reporting the death of their friend. Out of 13 years in Vegas he was voted Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year 11 times. He was a friend to the city. He loved to help the helpless. Graciousness defined his interactions with others. He was known as a follower of Jesus. He was loved by many. Death is always horrible.

Thank God for the Lord Jesus Christ!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Lord is at Hand (Phil 4)

It was one of those mornings when I just flipped open my Bible without any intended landing point. I'm still working through my reading of 1 Corinthians, but randomly ended up in Philippians 4. The words jumped off the page: "The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything..."

I don't know what you might be working through right now, but how do those words affect your ability to face your circumstances with faith?

I jotted these sentences down:

I'm not sure how we are going to get groceries. The Lord is at hand.

My wife seems to be getting weaker in her fight against disease. I feel
weakened by the task of caring for her, the children, and maintaining my work
load at the office. The Lord is at hand.

I'm afraid at night. The Lord is at hand.

I'm facing new temptations this morning. The Lord is at hand.

My boss wants me to do something terrifying--give an oral report to the
board. The Lord is at hand.

I'm facing death. The Lord is at hand.

Somehow these words have enabled a visual sense of his presence and power. Paul doesn't say, "I'm at hand," or, "The President is at hand," or, "Superman is at hand." He says that the one who made me, who conquered death, who loves me--it's Him--He's at hand.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I'm in the middle of my layover in Phoenix en route from Birmingham to Las Vegas. The last two days have been spent with T.J. Wolters, a great friend who is pastoring at Covenant PCA in Birmingham. He's been one of the greatest advocates of our ministry work in Vegas. From day one he has been one of our most vocal encouragers, writing, texting, and calling frequently to see how we are doing. You can't embark on this kind of work and maintain any kind of endurance without the benefit of outside voices who encourage and continually point back to the faithfulness of Jesus. T.J.'s solid in both categories.

Yesterday over lunch he invited me to share an update on the work God's been doing in Vegas with the missions board there at Covenant. Last evening was spent with other personal friends who wanted to hear more about the work, some of whom have already given critical finances over the past year or so. It was such a privilege to meet them and share some Greek pasta (no idea what it was called, but it was delicious) in their company. The campfire chat that followed was the perfect cap to a great day.

This morning one of those men at last night's dinner met us for breakfast, and then another contact from another one of the guests took time out of his morning to discuss our work and financial needs going forward. He had been encouraged by one of the men at the dinner to meet with me before leaving town. He made time right away. I'm always amazed when someone entrusts me with a relationship by way of an unsolicited referral. Humbling stuff!

Getting away from the work to share a few of the stories allowed me to realize just how much God has done in our presence over the past year. Unbelievable!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Contemplating Discipleship

I had a great lunch today with a guy I've known here in Vegas for over a year now. He's heard the gospel many times. He's contemplated it even more.

Today he and I were discussing the ramifications of making a whole-hearted commitment to follow Jesus. He knows what Jesus demands of his followers--everything. He said that it's difficult for him to imagine giving up his passion for music. What?

That's not his fault for thinking that way. Somebody told him that.

I'm so glad that came up. He is a great musician, with a passion for writing really good stuff. I shared with him the reality that Jesus wants musicians to follow Him. He wants musicians who will make great music, with lyrics that speak truth and grace. Jesus didn't take the fishermen out of Peter, James, and John. Instead he oriented three fishermen toward people, for the purposes of God.

The example of Eric Liddell's life was a helpful one for him. It was cool for him to know that God used a man so mightily who liked to run.

I think God's got the ropes around the ship of this man's heart and that it will be coming to dock in the bay of God's glory and grace soon. No more tiresome bobbing on the sea of dissatisfaction with all of this world's idols.

I can't wait to see how God employs him in His kingdom.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Can't Have Two Masters (Luke 16)

The first 13 verses of this chapter will be the topic of my preaching this Sunday. At first blush this has got to be the most difficult of the parables that Jesus shares in the gospels.

There's a master. He has a chief of staff who has been wasting the master's goods. It's not quite on the level of a Bernie Madoff because there is no indication that he's wasting his master's investments on himself (stealing and laundering the goods), but the results are equally bad.

The master wants an accounting, but instead of going into the records to prove his innocence and diligence, he pulls aside some of the masters larger debtors and cuts their debt by around 500 dinari each. That's a huge adjustment, that will indebt each of the men to this conniving servant once he's kicked out of the master's house.

Then Jesus seems to commend the guy. What???? He says that he acted "wisely." But he still called him a "dishonest manager" in v. 8 too. Well, actually, the master commended the servant he's about to fire, saying that his situational wisdom toward his peers exceeds that of the "sons of light" toward their peers.

Jesus wants his disciples to emulate this kind of wisdom (not unrighteousness). He wants them to make friends for themselves (v. 9). How? Use the worldly wealth at your disposal--that which is fading away or may get in the way of your dependence on God alone--to make friends. Why? So that at the time when their possessions fail to effect any welfare (even on the day of their death) they might be welcomed into heaven.

One of my dear friends, Bill Connors, asks a question of the text at this point. Why? Why will they be welcomed into God's presence? The answer: Using all that is at our disposal for the benefit of others is an act of faithfulness to our master, the Lord Jesus.

We are confronted with the reality that our faithfulness to the master is seen in how we related to our material goods. I'll leave you to ponder that one for a while.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Life Change

Yesterday morning after worship I was speaking with a young man who has regularly been with us for about two months. I haven't gotten to know his well yet, but look forward to the opportunity to hang out with him soon. Two months ago he started following Jesus. When we were speaking yesterday I asked him about how his life is most different as a Jesus follower. His answer was quick and clear: "I have hope now." It's not hope like the kind of hope that Cubs fans have every year, but it's the certain hope of a guaranteed future that gives a new perspective to all the pain of our past and present.

That says it all!

Easter Worship

So, I'm just now regaining my equilibrium after a very full day yesterday. When I woke up I was so excited to relive the events of the actual day when God the Son performed a round-house kick on the rock of his grave (creative license...his powerful presence alone could help but clear the way before Him) and forever loosed the bondage of death for his people. Death is forever dead!

Our time of worship was a great encouragement to many. In fact, there were many people there. We don't get a count, but there were probably around 100 souls. I lost count of the number of people who shared some way or another in which God spoke to them, encouraged them, or challenged them in His love during the morning. I didn't preach, but a friend, Simon Peter, did. SP and his bride, Joy, are from Uganda Africa and they were glad to share the morning with us. I was glad too. It's so good to be able to call them friends. SP preached on Luke 15.

Below are a few pics from the service.

After worship we grabbed SP and Joy to join us for some Mexican at a great little place in NLV called Cafe Rio. I highly recommend it. As I write I'm fighting the urge to go get something from there right now.

Later in the day I piled our family (my parents visiting from Phoenix included) into our van and headed a bit north to the Valley of Fire state park We had an awesome time together. Noah kept talking about his "hiking ability." He's got some skill. A little too much for Angie's comfort. But that's why God gave boys dads, so they could be encouraged to try the crazy, insane and downright dangerous! Here are a few pics from the scenery there:

1 Cor 3

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."

There's something quite humbling about that statement, and quite freeing too. There's no sense in assigning honor to God's men because of what seems to be happening as a result of their labor--it's all God's doing. Then could one surmise that the workers are nothing, just pawns in God's game of redemption? Not at all! That's not it either. Paul calls God's laborers "fellow workers".

The wise worker builds upon the foundation of Christ, which assumes that growing God's people to maturity doesn't move them away from the foundation to some sort of "higher knowledge", but rather to fuller dependence upon Christ. To do otherwise is short sighted and even destructive.

In the end, the counsel for all is this: become a fool for Christ. Know that God has accomplished and given all in Him alone.

Increasingly I am believing this with my whole being. I'm part of the church planting culture, by virtue of being a church planter. Guys are always looking for the next bit of insight or wisdom that will allow them to grow a church or increase its impact. For the most part their heart is in the right place. They want to see Christ Jesus lifted up. But is there any weapon more powerful than the gospel, which is the "power of God unto salvation?"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

1 Cor 2

Two things stand out to me about these few paragraphs. First, the man whose preaching turned the Gentile world upside down is self-described as one who "was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, that you faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

If this man, this leader in the church, went down--which he would--the church that was established would not be thrown into chaos, because the knew that their existence was not owed to the master planning, charismatic magnetism of a man, but the Spirit of the living Christ.

Secondly, Paul is saying what Solomon said in the proverbs: The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. If we are to see people gain understanding into the things of God it will not be because of our amazing teaching skills, but it will be because the Spirit of God has changed the heart to be disposed to trust the Lord.

Are clear communication and strong leadership to be despised? No way, in fact Paul would elsewhere say that we should speak with clarity and boldness (Colossians 3), but the power for affecting change, the power for imparting God's truth, is God's power.

As a parent this brings an interesting application very near. How will I capture the heart of my kids for God? In light of these paragraphs in God's word, now what does the place of prayer-led, Spirit-dependant parenting have in my hopes of raising kids to successfully navigate life with an unswerving dependence upon the Lord?

No Longer Alone

It should be just a few hours now until I'm re-united with my bride and our three wonderful kids. Angie is leaving Phoenix in about an hour to make the half-day drive back home to Vegas. It will be so nice having them home again. But I will have to make certain adjustments...

No more extended quiet moments in my study without the distracting noise of little children arguing over who's turn it is to let the dog out.

No more will I get to personally check out any suspicious noises downstairs in the middle of the night, instead of just sending my brave wife and the dog to investigate. (Hey, this is comedy here, no letters of reprimand, please.)

No more walks with the dog following him around with a little plastic bag to pick up the portion of dog food his body did not deem to be nutritious.

No more easy parking into the wide driveway with just one vehicle.

No more $12 trips to the grocery store.

No more of straightening the couch cushions only to have them stay where they belong.

No more turning off the TV and not having it "magically" turn back on again when I leave the room.

Yes, I'll have to make some significant adjustments, even sacrifices to have them in my daily company once again...but they're worth it! I can't wait to hold them.

Friday, April 10, 2009

1 Cor. 1

Holy smokes! Last night, and again this morning, I was reading 1 Corinthians 1. The context is straightforward: Paul is writing to some old friends in the 1st Century city of Corinth. He's writing to friends in the gospel, friend to whom he preached the amazing news that God had become a man in the person of Jesus, died for them, and rose again from the dead in order to bring about their redemption, forgiveness, etc. Many of the people in what was a very contemporary city in Asia Minor embraced the good news that Paul brought to them. Once they began following Jesus they had been gifted with many gifts of the Spirit, given to them for the work of engaging in Jesus' mission to redeem the whole world from the deadly effects of sin, death, and the devil.

As you might suspect, there are problems in this church, problems that will become more clear as the letter unfolds. There are sects within the church who are beginning to believe that their are levels of knowledge within God's economy of spiritual growth. This led, among other things, to an idolization of their favorite respective leaders, hence the comment by Paul that some are arguing about who they follow (v. 12). If these people were on facebook they would have had those little posts that say, "Sally Jane is now a fan of Cephas," or "Bruce is now a fan of Christ."

Paul had to open up a can, and expose their debates for what they were: quarreling! I love the fact that he couldn't even remember whom he had baptized! That's the scripture I refer to when I can't remember if I did a wedding, baptism, or if I got all the kids out of the car after going to the grocery store!

Then comes his first blow against this false knowledge garbage, the belief that their was more to know than Christ as it concerns reaching spiritual maturity. I couldn't stop pondering vv. 26-30, especially, "He [God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption." Everything I can ever hope to attain in terms of wisdom, holiness, right standing before God and others, and ultimate redemption is bound up completely in the person of Christ Jesus. It's all in Him.

The implications and applications for that are endless, but I'm still pondering what that means for a guy who wants to make an impact in this great city and who never feels smart enough, strong enough, righteous enough, or connected enough. Being any of those things would actually disqualify me from having an impact ministry since God has already decided to use the foolish, the weak, and the low to change the world through the simple proclamation of Jesus Christ.

I've got all I need to make a difference, and so do you. I've got nothing to defend, nothing to work for, nothing to try and maintain in terms of access to God's power and wisdom and might. Pretty cool!

Sunday, April 5, 2009



I had a great day of rest. Angie and the kids are gone. I miss them much. She is spending some time visiting her family and a few friends in the valley of the sun (Phoenix).

As a "geographical bachelor" I was the beneficiary of two lunch invitations today. That was so kind. I was really able to enjoy the time with the family who got to me first (either option would have been a home run). Their kids are really into Star Wars and Star Trek. It was fun to listen to their descriptions of recent episodes.

I'm having to walk the dog most while the family is gone. I think I'm the one getting walked. Tomorrow I think I'm going to put the collar around my neck and let him take us where he wants to go. It will save all the fighting. I wish he would learn to do his business earlier on in the walk so that I wouldn't have to carry the plastic bag for so long!

Finished Series

We finished up with another group of CWR folks who have been walking through the six-week series we refer to as ETC (Equipping the Church). What a great group, as the others have been. I always learn so much through that process, and really enjoy seeing how the idea of living missionally impacts God's people. This group really gets it. It will be fun to see how Jesus works through them as they follow him. Some great things are already happening through them.

Great read

I read a great book by Tim Keller yesterday called "The Prodigal God." The title could be misleading, but it's a look at the "Heart of the Christian Faith" through the lens of God's dealing with both prodigal children of Luke 15. I recommend it to anyone who wants a devotional look at our great gospel of grace. It could be read comfortably in about 20 fifteen-minute sessions.

Neighbor love

My neighbor is about to have her baby--any day now. With Angie and the children out of town I'm now the official middle-of-the-night-sit-with-the-kids-guy should she go into labor at an untimely hour. They've invited me to dinner tomorrow if the baby's not delivered by then. Hope he's one day later!

It's such an honor to be trusted by our neighbors with their children should they need the help. This causes me to reflect on the honor it always is to be able to serve others in Jesus' name. I can remember being a child and getting so excited when my dad would let me turn the wrench while he was working on the car engine. It was an honor to help. I would run inside and tell my mom and brother, "I got to turn the wrench!!!" Being called to image our great God in the everyday circumstances of getting to serve our neighbor is even cooler.


Today's sermon was on Luke 14:25ff. Great text. I'm deeply challenged to live as a completely sold-out follower of Jesus. We had several guests today. God keeps sending people to worship with us.

I'm really looking forward to worship next Sunday. We'll have a guest preacher from Africa. Our God is a global God, doing his work everywhere.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Men's Conference

I'm about to get on an airplane in beautiful Tucson, AZ after a great couple of days in southern Arizona. Eric was able to join me for this trip. The time together to process all that we've been experiencing as a result of God's Spirit was needed.

Yesterday I was able to have lunch with Dave Murrow who wrote, "Why Men Hate Going to Church." That was an interested conversation. I also was able to eat with Dave Sonderman who ministers at Elmbrook Church in their ministry to about 3,000 men. That was a great conversation.

The last couple of days have also been very restful. I'm looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow.

Oops, my plane is being boarded. I'll reflect more in a couple of days.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rewriting the Guest List

Today I was preaching on Luke 14:1-24. The topic of Luke's text is hospitality. Jesus said some pretty radical things, both to his fellow guests and to the host of the meal he was invited to attend. The summary of his rebuke was that both the guests and the host were using others to gain social recognition, material benefit, and/or security through their relationships. Nobody was there simply to enjoy the company of the other. Their were perverse motives that permeated all aspects of the meal.

The alternative to such usery is hospitality--genuine welcome simply for the sake of loving others. Genuine experience of hospitality is free from the need to use others. It's free from fearing that others are out to use us. It's only possible because Jesus has already provided everything we're after when we use other people in our attempts to gain recognition and security.

This afternoon I've been contemplating the kind of misrepresented hospitality that some non-Christians have experienced at the hands of professing Christians. I've spoken with some who have felt like a target, not like a person. They've experienced the kindness of Christians that seemed only to be shared as bait to get them to listen or to believe. When they failed to convert their Christians "hosts" simply ceased in their "hospitality." I wish I could have the opportunity to speak to each person who's experienced that to say, "We are sorry."

When God's people really begin to live out of God's provision, out of His ultimate hospitality and welcome through Christ Jesus, we are not only freed from using others in attempts to gain recognition or security, but we are freed from simply using our kindness as bait. It doesn't mean that we don't share the gospel with others. Quite to the contrary we do, but even that sharing is because of love for them, not because we've feigned love simply to get a few words about the gospel in while they are paying attention.

A real understanding of God's love and welcome transforms the way we relate to all people. We are free to risk through generosity and welcome because we know that God is the one who gives what we give. Every invitation to receive hospitality can be received with thanks, not with an eye for gain. Every opportunity to show hospitality can be an opportunity to demonstrate and reveal God's goodness, not with an eye for gain.

I'm hopeful that as a community we can really continue to live this out with greater capacity. I'm hopeful that I can live this out with greater capacity. It's very freeing to be able to see others as image bearers and not as steps toward whatever I'm trying to attain. I've got all I need through Christ!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thy Will be Done

It's Wednesday morning and I can't believe it. Where has the time gone this week?

Today we are officially a family of "big kids." Our youngest has accomplished a full week's course of not sucking on his thumb. Angie promised a small surprise from the store if he could do it. He did. Today in his excitement he tried to talk Angie into going to Target in her pajamas so he wouldn't have to be too delayed in getting there. She talked him down. He's patiently waiting.

A few of the young ladies at CWR are hosting an outreach bible study to teenage girls. The group continues to grow in size. Last night they saw their first converts, two or three. I'm still getting the details, but I am in awe once again of the "power of the gospel for salvation for everyone who believes." I can't wait to hear the stories that come out of that study over the next few months.

I'm reviewing a great book this week titled, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. This weekend I'll be preaching on a peculiar passage in Luke that has Jesus correcting both the guests and the host of dinner he attends, all the while giving great hope for the outsiders who are observing the meal. Great stuff. While I'm on the subject, Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring is another fantastic book on the subject of Christian hospitality. I recommend both works. The latter is less academic and easier to read, just depends on what you're looking for.

Last evening our community group discussed these words of the disciple's prayer: "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." The author of the study we're using, John Smed, broke down the implications of praying that in this way. First we are praying to accept God's will, second to approve God's will, next to enter into his will, and finally to do God's will. For the first time I was able to see how Christ-centered this is. Isaiah 41 explains that God's will is going to be ultimately carried out "on earth as it is in heaven" through Jesus Christ. With Christ as the lens through which we pray, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," one could break down the above implications in this way: First we are praying to accept the person and work of Christ, second to approve of Him and trust Him, next to follow Him, and finally to imitate Him as the Holy Spirit transforms us into His image. I hadn't made this connection before.

I'm excited to discover what this day holds as Jesus' rule is further realized in my life and in His world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Proverbs 3:5-6

It's a passage that almost every Christian has memorized at some point in their journey with Christ:

"Trust in the Lord with all you heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and He will make straight your paths."

If that's true (and I believe it is along with everything else preserved for us in God's word, the Bible) I wonder why we struggle to apply it in our lives.

Maybe I'm alone. Probably. I'm sure that everyone else is living by this beautiful truth. But just in case you're not, I'll speak to my own situation and you can listen in and perhaps grab something helpful to chew on as you walk about through your day.

When I need to solve a problem I begin to tackle that problem as though my ability to take in the data, process the options, and work towards the best solution is all I've got. This mindset assumes that God had no idea my challenge was coming. He's as surprised as I am. But that's obviously not the case. What if the Lord knew what I was going to face? What if He is working all things for my benefit in Christ? What if He already knows the way forward?

Hmm? I'm thinking that leaning on my own understanding would not only be the least helpful thing, it would be absolutely foolish. Why do I insist on doing that, though?

I forget that He's God in heaven, Lord of all--present, past, and future. I don't have to hope that I "get it right," as I lead His people in His mission in Las Vegas because He will get it right. He will "make straight our paths."

I'm glad that Jesus is the church planter, really glad. He will succeed. His name will be made great.

My plans aren't in the trash, they've just been put off to the side while I wait for God to lead.

Friday, February 27, 2009

So close

It was early morning one day this week. The sun was barely peaking over the eastern mountains when our group teed up on the 5th hole at Durango (a local municipal golf course for the average Joe). No wind, 167 yards to the flag, and a six iron in my hands. The ball leapt off the club face and headed for the cloudless sky. "That's headed right at it," remarked a friend. "That's got a chance," followed another. One bounce in front of the flag and right into the cup...and out again only to rest 24" from the cup.

When I got on the green I noticed that the flag had not been replaced properly by the group in front of us, leaning slightly back and left. Would it have made a difference? I'll never know.

So close.

At least I had three hours outside with good friends in the beauty of the desert.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Glenn's Got a Place

Yesterday was an incredible day for me personally, and for the whole of City-Wide Redeemer. Many people know Glenn's story. We met Glenn on the street about six months ago. He was without one leg, in a wheelchair, and homeless. God provided what was needed to pay a doctor in town to build a prosthesis for his leg. Once he began walking again, Glenn began his search for work. His search continues, and he has spent most nights in a shelter downtown.

The biggest challenge with the shelter has been that Glenn never gets any rest. Sleeping in a place where thieves are always on the lookout for their next target means that the sleep Glenn has been getting for the past few years has not been refreshing.

Last night that all changed. We were informed that a friend of someone in the congregation has a condo in town that is not being used. He offered it to us to use in any way we saw fit. The decision was easy. A quick announcement during our worship yesterday morning led to nearly a dozen deliveries of consumables and perishables for Glenn's new place.

When we picked up Glenn yesterday afternoon we turned his attention to the back of Eric's van. "That's all for your new place, Glenn." He could not hold back the tears, and neither could I.

This morning Glenn called me. He sounded so refreshed. Tomorrow he will resume his job search, with clean clothes, no backpack to drag around with the sum of his possessions, and a refreshed appearance in his eyes. After we spoke for a few minutes he said something I'll never forget. He said, "This means more to me than you can imagine. I can't believe this is happening to me. God is real and I know he loves me. All the glory to God! I know you guys did this, but I just want to give him the glory!"

Me too, Glenn. Me too.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ready the Troops

Bob Roberts, the pastor of Northwood Baptist Church in Texas, has written a trilogy of books (my description, not his) on being the missional church. I've just finished reading Transformation, in which his basic biblical premise is this: Church planting happens through discipleship as Christians experience life transformation and move out into their communities and into the world as kingdom participants. The focus is very much centered on discipleship, so he often has to remind his readers of the need for God's people to focus on being the church as opposed to going to church. True, true.

So it's easy to ready people with whom you already agree, granted, but he provides some fresh language for concepts with which I've been wrestling for some time. I highly recommend the read to anyone interested in the topic.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book came as he writes under the heading, "What Is the Church and Who Is the Pastor?" Here's part of what he says:

If the church were a base [for the spiritual operation of advancing into
global evangelization], then the pastor would look less like a chaplain or
preacher and more like a soldier mobilizing the troops for massive advances. I
didn't realize my new role until a few years after we got into that mode of
operation. If fact, when I once asked a panel of my advisers, "Do you think of
me more as a preacher or as a pastor? the response was intriguing

One of the men quickly said, "Neither." That concerned me, since we were
evaluating my role and the church. fortunately, he swiftly followed that
statement with another: "Bob, you're a soldier, and you're turning this church
into an army!"

He was right, I had evolved into a new paradigm for the role of senior
pastor. In [this] model, the role of he pastor undergoes specific shifts--from
chaplain/preacher to soldier/diplomat. From a stateside motivator to the
in-the-field model of how it's to be done.

This is the kind of discipleship model that we pursuing at City-Wide Redeemer. It seems to most parallel that pattern of Jesus. It requires a leadership that is teaching and modeling the truth in the context of going down the road, so to speak. It's life-on-life, not information-on-life. It's the player-coach model versus trying to organize and orchestrate things from the offensive coordinator's box high above the playing field. And to be honest, it's a great privilege to be on the front line getting such an up close perspective on the action as God does His work in and through His people.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Misc Items from the Past Week

It's Monday morning and another week is already upon me. My family is well. I began a weekly Bible study breakfast with my oldest last Friday. We are working through the book of Proverbs together first. So far we've just made it through the introduction.

I've got yet another difficult passage to preach next Sunday, Luke 12:49-59. Sure isn't rainbows and unicorns, that's for sure. It's been helpful for me to remember that the One who said the things He did in Luke 12 was on His way to be killed for the sake of us rebels. Even His warnings are gracious.

I am really enjoying the time I have each week with a Journey group that I'm leading. Being able to learn from the other men as we discuss, apply, and pray through different aspect of faithfulness as disciples has been deeply encouraging to me.

We have several new families beginning to join us on Sundays for worship at CWR. I am thankful to see how new people are greeted with genuine kindness by the others.

A couple members of CWR have begun an outreach bible study to teenage girls. They are giving away six bibles tomorrow to girls who have never owned one. I can't wait to see where this goes.

Our community group is going to meet a man whose wife died suddenly in the shower about six months ago. He is left with three children. He has also gone blind over the past couple of years, so cooking for his children is impossible. I hope that we can be an encouragement to this family. I am amazed at the ways God brings these people into our path so that we can have the privilege of knowing and serving them, and growing as a result their relationship.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Work Continues

I was speaking with a teen this afternoon who said to me, "I hate who I've become...I can't stand to see myself in the mirror. I feel sorry for the ways that I've fought with my parents, the language I've been using, [etc.]"

That was a great opportunity to share with this young man that repentance is still an open door forward. I told him that God is calling us to a willingness to change. There is a sorrow that leads to a willingness to change, and to be changed, but there is a sorrow that leads unto death--the one that is without repentance and only leads to further self contempt and rebellion.

As our conversation continued I invited him to read from 2 Corinthians 7. He cried through the reading. He knows the gospel, but today I believe it became more real to him as he looked again to Jesus.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


That hurt. At least we were able to watch the game with 50 great friends from City-Wide Redeemer at Eric's place. Thanks, Eric.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


There's this mega-church in Las Vegas that gives out stickers to all of its members that simply say GF with a circle around it. The letters stand for God First, but unless you're an insider you'd never guess it. But their rear view window theology is a great introduction to something I've been processing for a couple of weeks.

When new believers, or transplants from other cities who are already Christians, are recognized publicly as those who are following Jesus we invite them to a six-week series on Sunday afternoons called Equipping the Church (ETC) where we spend time realizing together that God is on a mission in the world and that we have a significant role to play. Our time together involves recognizing the purpose of pastors who equip God's people for the work of ministry, discovering our own gifts, passions, and personalities, and beginning to take steps in the direction of getting fully engaged in Jesus' mission.

A few months ago we began meeting with 10 or so men who have gone through ETC and who want to engage in further discipleship. This is called The Journey. In these groups we are currently reading a book called "The Answer" by Randy Pope. Randy tells the stories of glory, grace, and truth, taken from John 1.

The first section, the story of glory, is a great piece that attempts to get at understanding the gospel with respect to that for which we were made (to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever)--to live in God's glory. Randy speaks about the glory that Adam had received from God as that which defined his total satisfaction before God, and the total satisfaction that will define our existence after we who have been called, justified, and sanctified are finally glorified (Romans 8).

Randy summarized the Bible's teaching by saying that after Adam and Eve sinned against God they lost that glory that had been theirs, and that every person born after them knows something is missing (the glory/satisfaction, etc.). This definition of "glory" also has much to do with trust. When we glorify/trust God we receive glory/satisfaction because we were made for the glory that only He gives.

That's where an understanding of our sin gives light to the whole search for glory. Our sins are only the visible manifestation of our search for glory/satisfaction/fulfillment/purpose in other people, things, or activities besides God. These false hopes for glory are idols.

What was interesting to me is that Randy gets to the point that their are no neutral pursuits--we are either seeking glory in God or in empty idols. Since God is the only one who can satisfy, all other pursuits are not neutral, they are actually the vehicles for withdrawals on the glory for which we were made. We are hurt by them; by them we are emptied, not filled.

This explanation of sin through idolatry shines bright light on what the Bible is talking about with respect to repentance.

Here's what I mean: I speak with people all the time who say that they aren't ready for Christianity, or church, or Bible study, because they have too many things in their life that they aren't really ready to clean up. They don't want to give up their porn, or their adulterous relationship, or their stealing at work, etc. and they assume that becoming a Christian will mean that at some point they will have to give up those things they know instinctively to be opposed to God's pattern for life. But this is short-sighted because repentance isn't first about stopping bad habits and wicked practices. It is first about seeking for all that those idols promise in the Lord Jesus.

This is surprising to many people because they have never really understood biblical repentance and faith--they've never really heard the gospel. If you and I survey people on our street and ask them if sleeping with their neighbor's spouse would be wrong, or stealing their neighbor's grill, or falsely accusing their neighbor, or killing their neighbor they would say, "Yes, those things are all wrong. No doubt about it." They might even say that taking the Lord's name in vain and not keeping the Sabbath are wrong. But I guarantee that they will not have a problem with breaking the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me." And that's the root of the issue. It is when we have other gods before Him that we will break all the other commandments in our pursuit of what's missing in our lives. But people who don't understand the reality that Jesus came to restore us to our God, to deposit His glory in our hearts, and to bring forgiveness for our idol pursuits will not understand the beauty of repentance--that repentance is about finally and fully finding what we've always been looking for, but could never discover anywhere else.

Maybe we need to do a better job of describing repentance in terms of what God is giving ahead of what we are being called to give up. If we just harp about particular sins and fail to get at the root idols that are driving people to their destruction then repentance will not make sense. But, if we help them to see what is at the heart of choosing idols over God, then the fullness of change that comes in repentance will make sense. With the psalmist we will sing, "Blessed are those who keep His law, who seek Him with their whole heart!"

The gospel is beautiful. The gospel is good news to Las Vegas.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Armed and Dangerous

Eric and I returned home from LA just before midnight Tuesday evening. He is now armed and dangerous (I'll explain in a minute). Yesterday was a recovery day. I'm officially recovered.

As a mission church of the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) we enjoy the fellowship of several other pastors of churches in this region (Nevada and South/central California) who are committed to the mutual protection of each other's hearts and the purity of the gospel within our ministries. This collection of pastors/elders make up what what is called a presbytery. Presbutero is the transliteration of the Greek for "elder," so presbytery means "collection or gathering of elders." I personally am hoping that we can change the name to elder dudes, but then I guess we'd have to say that we are part of elderdudenism. Maybe we'll just stick with being Presbyterian.

As a presbytery, these men often invite candidates to gospel ministry into their gathering for the purpose of being tested as to matters of the heart and soundness of theological understanding. This process includes a couple years of internship/seminary education and concludes with the steps of being licensed to preach and finally ordained (called) to vocational gospel ministry.

Eric's oral testing of the floor of presbytery went very well. He proved himself to be a faithful servant of the gospel and of our Lord. He is a man full of the Holy Spirit. In May, Lord willing, he will undergo further exams ahead of being ordained in the PCA.

It's good to be home. The drive back into town from the south provides some incredible views of the lights and buildings that make up the downtown of this great city. May God continue to make His name ever greater here!

Me and Angie

Me and Angie
December 2010