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!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Examining the Pastor

I'll be out of town for all of Tuesday (leaving early and getting back late) for meetings with pastors in California near Burbank. Eric will be orally examined by several colleagues in ministry as to his theological competence and biblical knowledge. He's ready. He's nervous. I'm sure he'll do very well even though this kind of examination is not his thing.

As I've witnessed his competence over the past year of ministry in LV together I've been most impressed with the heart that God has given Eric for others. He's not naturally a people person. He's an introvert who could very comfortably hang out in an office all day reading books and designing ministry strategies on a white-board. But God's calling on Eric's life has made him a people person. He goes after the lost, the hurting, and lonely. His ability to communicate truth with grace is a great gift to the church. His willingness to be stretched and vulnerable makes him a powerful tool in the hands of God's Spirit. I couldn't be more thankful for his partnership in ministry.

I'm confident that the committees examining him tomorrow will see that he's got the brain power to faithfully execute his calling as a pastor. I'm hopeful that they will be able to see the man, the man after God's own heart who wants to be used in some part to bring hope to this great city.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Super Bowl Party

It's official. The Arizona Cardinals are in the big game. This means that we are going to have a City-Wide Redeemer showdown.

Here's a quote of a text I received from a friend in the church just minutes before the Steeler's victory was official: "Should we have a CWR party before the church splits?"

This is a legitimate concern (not really) because I have been public about my support of the AZ redbirds while Eric, a PA native, has been very outspoken about the Steeler blood that fills his vascular pathways. Beyond the church planters, several families have been long time fans of either one of this year's Super Bowl participants. The church may be split right down the middle.

All these ingredients could make for a very interesting Super Bowl party. I can't think of a scenario where the interest could be higher for us or our friends.

I think that we could see face painting. We will certainly see kids wearing the jerseys of their parents' loyalties. We may even see Eric with no shirt, painted from head to waist in gold and black. Really, anything is possible. I have only this to say: "May the best team win, and may the Steelers be gracious in defeat!"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Back from the Gym

Just got back with our children from a birthday party at this huge gymnastic training center. The kids had a blast jumping into this huge pit filled with 12" x 12" cubes of foam that looked like cheese. I'll have some pictures to share soon. I heard several of the men say that they want their birthday parties there next year too.

Several folks from CWR were there. As I drove home I was reflecting on how good God has been to our family. In just a little more than one year He has surrounded us with too many good people to count--people who really care for us and for our children. We are thankful.

I've got split duties tomorrow morning with Eric in worship. He's preaching and I'll be leading worship, an area of service that is always good for my soul.

We continue to meet several people each month who are open to discussing the gospel. People in this city are hungry for God, they often just don't know it. We are praying for about 30 people right now who have shown signs of God's Spirit at work in their lives. I'll be posting some more specific stories in the weeks ahead.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It’s Wednesday afternoon and I realize that I haven’t posted on my blog for several days. I was able to take off three days last week and feel incredibly refreshed.

I’ll be boarding an airplane here in Salt Lake City about three hours from now and can’t wait to be home again with Angie and our children.

The two days in SLC have been very productive. Mission to North America hosted what they billed as a Western Key Leaders Meeting and invited me to come for the second year running. About twenty guys are invited to come. (Apparently they haven’t yet figured out that I’m not a key leader. If they invite me next year I’ll come again because the food is good and the time listening to other men who actually know what they’re doing couldn't be more profitable.)

Last week’s worship at City-Wide Redeemer was encouraging to me. Not just because of the eight or so visitors, but because the time during the Lord’s Supper ministered to me deeply. As we do from time to time, last Sunday everyone from within the congregation came forward to be served. That was precious to me because many of our families have been out of town for three to four weeks over the Christmas and New Year’s break and we haven’t seen them. Further, there are so many people at worship now that I don’t get even the opportunity to greet everyone. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper this way I’m still afforded that privilege.

...just got home and am able to finish this post. The kids had a great "Welcome Home!" sign on the garage door. It's so good to be loved.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I Don't Even Feel Badly About It!

It's 7:37 on the evening of January 1, 2009. As I type I've just dropped another bite of Coolwhip oppressed pumpkin pie into my mouth...and sipped again out of what remains from a 2 liter bottle of Coke. Nice.

No regrets because I have no new year's resolutions regarding diet. It's great.

[Another sip of Coke]

[And that's good]

I do have other resolutions. The highest on the list is to do less. That's right, especially as a church planting pastor. I want to do less and pray from this point forward. Don't get me wrong, 2008 was a year of tremendous growth in our prayer life. Living on the edge will do that to you even if it's not a new year's resolution. Each month we had to trust God for grocery, mortgage, and utility monies. We had to trust God for a place to meet for worship, moving once in the middle of the year with only weeks notice. We live in prayerful dependence as we spoke the good news of God's saving work through Christ Jesus to people yet unaware of God's judgment or His love.

But this year there are bigger reasons to pray more.

[Sorry, needed another sip]

After what many people would consider major "successes" in the first year of a church plant, with several conversions, growth in the church both numerically and in terms of people's maturity in the faith, and an increasing presence in the community we don't feel stronger. We feel weaker.

Now more than ever before I can see that the task it too much for a man, or a whole group of men and women for that matter. Transformation in my own heart cannot happen without His help. Transformation in this community through our meager efforts is even more crazy to imagine. Unless God shows up. Unless God's Spirit awakens men and women all across this valley to His Kingdom agenda to set right all that's wrong beginning with individual repentance and a new commitment to love God and love neighbor.

That's my new year's resolution. Less doing, more praying.

I hope you'll join me.

Me and Angie

Me and Angie
December 2010