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.

Me and Angie

Me and Angie
December 2010