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Showing posts from 2011

The Christmas Gospel

Christmas 101 = Gospel 101

Luke 2:10-11. The angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." 

These words announced by an angel that first historic Christmas night (and reiterated by Charlie Brown and millions of others since) provide for us the heart of the gospel. As a matter of fact, the word gospel means good news. The actual Greek rendering of this phrase employed by the angel is: "I evangelize or pronounce to you great joy." The heartbeat of the Christmas story is the announcement of a message of great joy.

And notice the gospel is a message of great joy intended for all people: shepherds, Magi, unwed mothers, insecure fathers, politicians, beggars, moral people, immoral people, blue collar workers, alcoholics, prostitutes, soldiers, auditors, children, victims, liars, poor people, religious leaders, angry people,…

Repent (and continue to do so)

At its most root level, the word repentance means a change of mind.  In the original language, the NT word is related to turning - specifically turning from sin and turning to God.  Repentance includes a change of heart that results in a change of action (that may or may not always be appreciated instantaneously). 

Other concepts related to the idea of repentance include: sorrow over our sin, forsaking our sin, pursuing what is right, and right decision-making. Other natural feelings often related to an attitude of repentance include: guilt, remorse, regret, sorrow, hurt, and a multitude of other human emotions.

Defining repentance on paper is easy. And it is also simple for us to prescribe what repentance looks like for other people: stop doing __________ and start doing __________.  When it comes to other people's sins, repentance is fairly black-and-white for us.  I am a "bottom-line" type person so it is easy for me to assume what repentance looks like for others. I…

God isn't Done with Us

One of the fascinating aspects of the Jonah story is the fact that even after Jonah's face-to-fish encounter, he still does not seem to get it.  Jonah is regurgitated on the seashore and instructed by God to fulfill his original calling - go preach to the Assyrians.  So after receiving a monumental second chance (and quite the fish tale in the process) and after what appears to be a heartfelt time of repentance, Jonah heads to Ninevah and proclaims God's message. But from all indications, he does so not because he has a heartfelt desire for the Assyrians to turn to God. He does so because life in the intestines of a giant fish is the opposite of pleasant.

Even after God's incredible work of salvific grace in Jonah's life, he is still a disgruntled prophet who obeys more out of fear of what could happen than out of an intense love for God or a passion to see people far from God turn to God.  In essence, Jonah is still a work in progress. As a matter of fact when the boo…

Mad at God for being God

This past Sunday I heard a message on the story of Jonah: Mr. Second Chance.  It reminded me of a series I taught a few years ago on the book of Jonah. During that series we spent 4 weeks looking at the four chapters of this Old Testament story of a prophet who was more than willing to receive God's grace when it was extended to him but unwilling to accept it when it was offered to those outside his comfort zone. The series was entitled Escape because at its heart that is what grace is: God providing an undeserved escape for us in spite of our sin. The story of Jonah revolves around the idea that God provides a means of escape for a wayward prophet who is trying to "escape" his divine mandate & ultimately God providing a means of escape for a people group who deserved anything but forgiveness and mercy.

The most fascinating part of the Jonah story to me is the last chapter. After God delivered Jonah from certain death (and from himself) and after Jonah witnesses one …

My Thankful List

Paul instructs the Thessalonian Christians to give thanks in all circumstances. My "thankful list" looks a little different this year based on life's circumstances. And although 2011 has been my toughest year to date, here are some things I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving:

- Jesus: your unconditional love and forgiveness gives me life and hope.
- The Gospel: I am in more need of its healing power than ever.
- The Cross: He bled out for my issues.
- Grace: its magnitude dwarfs my sins.
- Second Chances: He is the God of them.
- Jesus followers: many of them have been His hands and feet to me this year.
- The Healer: He is putting my heart back together.
- Brokenness: not easy to go through but necessary for true healing.
- Family: their love through this season has demonstrated the love of our Heavenly Father.
- My Kids: they love me in spite of me.
- My Wife: your love for me through this season blows my mind.

1 Thessalonians 5.18: "Give thanks in all circ…

Getting My Way

One of the central components of the Christian faith is the doctrine of sin. We believe God acted on our behalf because there was a spiritual need for His intervention. In other words, our sin creates a need for redemption.
We are sinners. We need a Savior. God acted on our behalf.
The Bible speaks frequently of sin. As a matter of fact, there are over 20 different words utilized in the original languages to portray the various dimensions of sin.There is no way for me to unpack the depth of the subject of sin in a single blog post. However, I do want to mention a couple of key ideas that help define sin and why grace is so radical in light of sin’s nature.
One of the chief images of sin most often employed in the NT is the idea of “missing the mark.”Paul conveys it as “falling short” of God’s standard (Rom 3:23). In other words, the holy nature of God requires perfection and simply put: we are not perfect. We “fall short” of God’s mandate.We are incapable of meeting God’s requirement. T…

Joe Paterno & Romans 6:23

The sports world is ablaze with discussions about the scandal at Penn State and the subsequent firing of long-term and esteemed coach Joe Paterno.  Much of the debate regarding Paterno centers on consequences.  What are the appropriate consequences for Paterno's apparent lack of response and follow-through in this horrific scandal?  What is the apposite penalty for remaining uninvolved in such atrocious and inappropriate activity?

Appropriate or inappropriate consequences can be extremely subjective.  What I have learned through personal experience is that everyone has an opinion on what the appropriate consequences should be for certain behaviors or sins. If you did __________, then you should face __________. This sin should result in these consequences. And if you do not face the consequences of choice, then people feel that you somehow escaped or got away with it. The difficulty in this scenario is that everyone's consequence of choice differs because everyone has an opini…

Wounded but Healing

"By His wounds you are healed" (1 Peter 2:24)

These words leaped off the screen at me this morning when I was reading through 1 Peter. I have been intrigued with the life of Peter in recent weeks and I was reading through his final recorded letters this morning seeking some fresh insight into this capricious disciple. I wrote some of my thoughts on Peter in an earlier post. In that blog I ruminated on the process that was required in order for Peter to find his ultimate healing in Jesus. One of the truths that stands out to me regarding both my life and the life of Peter is that we tend to wound others because our own hearts are wounded. For that reason, we need healing in order to live whole and complete lives in Jesus.

As I read the words of Peter today, I realized again (but in a fresh way) that ultimate healing comes through what Jesus did on the cross.  I do not believe that our human minds can fathom the magnitude of what happened on the cross when Jesus died.  The lon…

R-rated

“You can’t rewrite the story”
These words echoed in my mind early one morning.For whatever reason, I have always been a person who wakes up early in the morning and thinks.And one recent morning as I lay in the stillness of the morning and wrestled with some of my life choices, God impressed these words on my heart: “You can’t rewrite the story.”
Each of us has a life story and each of us has parts or chapters of our story that we would love to redo, unwind, or omit.Erratic decisions. Sinful choices. Damaged relationships. Errant seasons. Selfish moments. Poor planning. It would be so nice to get a “do-over” in life.
Each of us has parts of our story that forever altered the story of someone else – sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.Our stories are intertwined with other life stories and when we make certain decisions, their stories are changed.
My life is a complex story. There are parts of my story that I love. There are parts of my story that I wish I could erase.Th…

Labels

As part of my healing process, God has been teaching me to learn to focus on my identity in Jesus and not what others think or say about me.  He has been teaching me a lot about identity - where & in whom it is and is not found.  As humans, we tend to label people based on their actions. Here are some of the labels that have been assigned to me recently:

Cheater. Liar. Manipulator. Unrepentant. Divorced. Deceiver. Hypocrite. Disqualified.

Labels hurt. And yet, most of these labels fit me at some human level. But the bigger and more important question is this: will I allow these labels to define me?

Perhaps even more difficult than the labels others assign us are the labels we consign ourselves. The names others prescribe us pale in comparison to the self-imposed marks that often haunt our own soul. Here are some of the self-assigned labels with which I struggle:

Unworthy. Guilty. Inadequate. Dishonest. Marked. Depraved. Undeserving. Unlovable. Unfit.

These are weighty labels th…

In the Healing Business

I wound because I am wounded. 

I have been wrestling with the depth of that statement in recent days. I hurt people because I am broken. My actions & words often wound other people.  Why do we say or do things that cause such pain to those we claim to love? God has been teaching me that it is because I am in need of healing. The damage I cause is most often the result of my own degeneracy.  I need Jesus to repair my brokenness.  But here's what God is also teaching me: healing often takes time. And personal healing sometimes requires a lifetime.

When Jesus was on earth, there were times that he healed people instantaneously. He touched them (or spoke the word) and they were immediately and completely healed.  Blind eyes could suddenly see. Diseased skin was immediately cleansed.  Dormant limbs were fully restored.  The activity of Jesus often produced instant and direct healing.

At other times, healing came over time. I am not necessarily referring to physical healing here bu…

The Healer - part 2

Just a reminder for those reading this blog that my thoughts here are simply a reflection of what God is teaching me right now. Writing is a therapeutic release for me. Hopefully my words mirror the humility and brokenness of my heart as God heals me. And hopefully God can use my words to help you in your journey as well. 

When we started Grace Point Church in North Las Vegas, we began with the philosophy that we believed God called us to help restore the shalom of our community.  The Hebrew concept shalom in the Old Testament is most often translated peace but what our English translations often miss is that the idea runs much deeper than just the traditional understanding of peace - the absence of conflict.

Shalom has to do with wholeness, completeness.  When we talked about restoring the shalom of our community, we meant that we believed God wanted us to help make our community a better place in every way - socially, spiritually, etc. We believed we were called to be Jesus to our …

The Healer

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One of the most common beliefs about Jesus is that He was a Healer.  While Jesus was on earth He healed diseases, opened blinded eyes, enabled the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. He cleansed lepers and brought dormant limbs to life.  He restored life to the dead.  A large part of his popularity revolved around His ability and desire to heal.  Multitudes flocked to Jesus with their sick loved ones and friends to find healing through the touch of the Great Physician.  At other times, Jesus sought out certain individuals and provided one-on-one care for them.  I am fascinated by these stories of individual healing. They reveal not only the supernatural power of Jesus over earth's contamination and infection but they also demonstrate the personal and unique care that Jesus exercises toward individuals. It displays the interactive work of God among both masses of people and individuals.  His desire is for the individual to find healing. He is a personal God.

Recently God has been …

Be or De

One of the random thoughts I have been processing lately...

Because of my sin, I put people in an awkward position. My life choices forced people to have to choose how to respond to me. I will live with that reality for a long time.

When we make sinful choices (or any choice with which others disagree for that matter), responses vary from person to person. Some agree. Others disagree. Some choose to withdraw. Others choose to reach out. Some offer grace. Others prefer judgment. Some resort to isolation. Others seek restoration.  And to be honest, many simply do not know how to respond. I get that. My actions caused that.

I hurt people with my choices and as a result, some chose to defriend me.  I use the term defriend here because it is a common and easy practice in our facebook-infused, social media world. If you dislike or disagree with someone, you can simply defriend them with the click of a mouse. So I use the term defriend emblematically (although it did happen literally as wel…

A Brief Update

I have been receiving a number of e-mails, texts, etc asking me how I am doing so here's a brief overview of some of the things going on in my world for those interested. 

I now live in North Alabama. I live here for one primary reason: to be near my children. Fortunately God has provided me a job where I can travel from any major airport so I live in North Alabama and fly in and out of Huntsville almost every weekend. I am blessed to have a schedule that allows me to be with the kids half the week and travel the other half. When I am home, I can focus on my family, the kids and building our new life in Alabama. I am thankful for the flexibility my career provides in that regard.

I am adjusting to life in the "country." It definitely has its advantages and disadvantages. Thankfully I get to visit some great cities throughout the country now so I get my "city fix" through my travel. 

God is teaching me a lot about my own depravity, His incredible grace, the ma…