Monthly Archives: August 2008

Living for Something More than Your Appetities

“When you walk with Jesus, life may seem routine. But it never is. When you have a routine that focuses beyond yourself, anything can happen, and everything will happen.” – Dick Foth, minister in the Washington D.C. area


Dr. Dick Foth is a guy I love to hear talk. He has a nice way of telling you what you need to hear but don’t want anyone to tell you.

In a recent sermon at National Community Church in D.C., Dick made the above statement. It really impacted me because the Christian life is not supposed to be ordinary. It is supposed to be full of moments where the divine comes to earth through God’s people.

A Christian should live in such a way that a godly legacy is left in his or her footsteps. In a culture known for its consumerism and decadence, I wonder if we will ever the simplicity of what Foth said. Looking back on the greatest moments of my life, the key theme seems to be how others were impacted and God was glorified. We don’t have time to waste because life is short.

The best life now is a life that is poured out for God in service to His kingdom and other people. I want to live that kind of life. Do you?


Unified in Death

Pastor Dave Simiele from MCC spoke about unity in the church last Sunday. I found his comments to be right on the mark. Unity only comes when we set aside our rights and humbly seek to serve others in the name of Christ. This requires us to look beyond ourselves and our own interests. It calls us to really trust God and others we are called to connect with in Christian community.

Pastor Dave said, “Simple unity can only live where humility exists.” I agree. We must realize that everyone has a part to play in the life of a church. This is especially true when it comes to the different generations coming together to celebrate and understand each other. 

Then Dave told a story about how he did something to honor his wife for her birthday even though he generally disliked the activity. It ended up giving them a real good time to further their relationship. Dave said that we must come to realize that “What is death to me can be life to someone else.”

Jesus called His disciples to a radical mission. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

That is a radical call to live a life greater then your own desires. The question is, “Are we ready to embrace such a radical message?”

Listen to Pastor Dave’s sermon at

Can Barack Obama Really Be a Christian?

After the Saddleback forum between the two presidential candidates, I had a conversation with someone very close to me who questioned my post about the event. This person said they thought it was good except they don’t believe that Barack Obama is really a Christian. In my post, I took both candidates at their word when they claimed to have a deep personal faith in Jesus Christ.

The unidentified critic couldn’t see how Obama could be a Christian if he was such a staunch supporter of abortions, including procedures that many Democrats find hard to support. While I understand where this person is coming from, I don’t believe it is my place to sit on the judgment seat about the soul of another person. That seat belongs to God alone, and He will judge us all for our words, actions and thoughts.

I believe someone can have political or cultural views that doesn’t seem to line up with Scripture and still be a Christian. I believe someone can be living in sin and still be a Christian. This gets to the whole issue – What really determines the salvation of an individual person? Is is our stated beliefs, our actions, our relationship with God,  divine grace or some hard-to-calculate combination of all four? That question is difficult to answer with certainty because each person is so different. To quote Obama, “It is beyond my pay grade.”

When it comes to salvation, I consider the question that the Apostle Paul asked, “Who am I to judge some else’s servant?” As long as someone claims to follow Christ and acknowledges Him as Lord, I believe that person may very well be a Christian even if they support things that God hates. The Bible is full of people who loved God and yet did incredibly horrible sins. That is where grace and mercy come into play.

At the same time, a person can claim to be a Christian all they want and not really be one. Only God and that person really know the truth. I don’t believe that Jesus can be your savior unless He is also your Lord. The problem is that the lordship threshold is hard to define since we all sin in some way.

Personally, I believe abortion is wrong and should be outlawed in most cases. I have no intention of voting for Obama. I find some of the comments of his pastor impossible to reconcile with Jesus’ teaching. But that doesn’t mean that I think the guy is going to hell. Obama will have to account to God for his support of abortion rights and his role in extermination the unborn children of this country.

At the end of the day, only God knows for sure if either of the candidates are really part of His kingdom family. I hope they both are the real deal.

What does real revival look like in a local church?

Revival is a curious thing. All Christians seem to think different things when they hear that word. Some think of tent meetings or prayer gatherings. Others think about miraculous signs and wonders. Others think about famous preachers who tell it like it is. Still others talk about great evangelistic crusades, the Great Awakening or missions efforts to spread the Gospel.

I have thought about what revival means to me after a good friend asked me two hard questions this past weekend. He asked, “Are you really ready for revival?” Then he asked, “What do you think revial would look like in your life and your local church?”

Wow! Those are tough questions. 

I would like to say that I am ready for revival but I know that I struggle to fully trust with everything all the time. And I know that revival starts with trust. I must abandon my will over to God’s divine purposes for my life. That is hard to do, especially in the moment when He asks us to sacrifice something that we hold dear.

The last question may be even harder because revival can look so different depending on the person and the local congregation. Here are some things that I came up with while discussing the topic with friends.

Revival in my church (and my life) would look like…

  • Greater unity and a coming together of various age and culture groups
  • Repentance, prayer and brokenness
  • Less negative talk and more words of faith
  • Abandonment to do whatever God asks without complaining
  • Deeper commitment to spiritual disciplines
  • Hunger for more supernatural encounters that require us to live by faith
  • Increased vision and heart for the lost and spiritually wounded in our community
  • Commitment to make Jesus number one in every aspect of life
  • Using spiritual gifts and equipping all believers to serve
  • Deepen mentoring and discipleship relationships as spiritual fathers and mothers raise up the young in the faith
  • Looking for opportunities to serve those who are marginalized, poor or oppressed
  • Walking in humility as we relate to those outside of the church
  • Seeking to reconcile with those we have hurt or hurt us in the past
  • Tearing down institutional idols and mindsets that keep us from reaching our culture for Christ

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Is Personal Liberty A Bad Thing?

“Emergents find the biblical call to community more compelling than the democratic call to individual rights. The challenge lies in being faithful to both ideals.” – Tony Jones, Emergent Village coordinator and author

I believe the Emergent thinkers are absolutely right when it comes to this point. The idea of personal liberty is important to have true community and collective liberty. At the same time, selfish motives can easily be justified by a culture aligned around individualism. There is a point where personal liberty gets in the way of establishing God’s kingdom on earth. That has happened in many instances in American Christianity today.

Many well-intentioned people treat being part of a church as more of a consumer experience than a radical call to a covenant community. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that Jesus called His disciples to forsake their personal liberty for the sake of God’s kingdom. As Christians, all of our rights belong to God. Everything we have should be trusted to the careful hands of God.

I am not suggesting that Christians live minimalist lives in some type of neo-communist community. But I do believe we have to be willing to sacrifice to show God’s love. And we have to embrace the simple yet seemingly impossible concept, “It’s not about you or me.”

Struggling to Understand the Present Reality of God’s Grace

Tonight The Stars Speak by The Glorious Unseen

Tonight the stars speak of your infinite love
And it serves to remind me
That what I have means nothing at all
Compared to your glory, Oh lord

How long till your voice speaks clearly?
How long till your arms envelope me?
I cry be my strength when I am weak
Oh Lord have mercy on me please

My spirit is willing but my flesh is so weak
I cry in your arms now
God grant me the strength to rest in you
I lift my hands and cry

The above is a song of yearning. It captures the heart cry of a sinner who is coming to grips with  the reality of his or her brokenness. It reminds us that we have to look to a power beyond ourselves. I had the pleasure of attending a worship service tonight where the Glorious Unseen played this song.

It really seemed to capture the depth of my sense of isolation from God. At times, I feel so far away even though I know that God is closer than I can ever imagine. At times, it feels like I have to beg God for love and mercy when He has already given me everything I need in Christ.

The Holy Spirit spoke to me while singing this song tonight. He said, “You don’t need to beg for my mercy. I have already provided it to you. All you need to do is walk in what I have placed before you. Get up and get going in the reality that I died to secure.”

This was swift kick in the gut. I started to realize that I struggle to believe the basics of the Christian Gospel. Although I know it  to be true, I seem to forget the impractical reality of God’s grace in my live. It seems too good to be true. And it is. That is what makes the Gospel the greatest reality in human history. That is why it is the source of all hope. I am reminded of the lyrics from this other Glorious Unseen song.

Forever Holy
God, You stand when all has fallen
You embrace the long forgotten
I guess it’s just hard to believe
The Grace You’ve poured out on me
I guess I’m just starting to see
How You’re working in me

This is what makes my head spin
You’re forever Holy
God of all creation
Pour Your life into me
This is so overwhelming
You’re forever Holy
God of my Salvation
Clothe me in Your Glory

Reflections on Saddleback Forum

Kudos to Pastor Rick Warren for providing a civil exchange. I think he did a good job not to be a political expert. His questions seemed fair even though they did hit on a few hot button issues of importance to the evangelical community. Generally, I thought Pastor Rick avoided the media circus approach that other debates or forums have encouraged. This format allowed the audience to contrast both candidates as they addressed virtually identical questions.

I actually believe both candidates did a good job of appearing personable and at-ease on issues of faith, leadership and wordview. The big difference is how the two men answered the questions.

Obama took a thoughtful approach trying to keep from alienating various people in the audience. He never really tried to self himself to the crowd like McCain did on many occasions. Obama seemed more postmodern in that he avoided specifics in many instances. Some critics believe this was his way of ducking the questions. I disagree. I think it reflects his worldview, which is one of collaboration and avoiding the appearance of extremes that cause polarization. He was clearly trying to portray himself as a moderate – the kind of leader who considers all sides and stays cool and calm during any situation. And Obama seemed to succeed on this point. The only major exception is the Supreme Court justice question where he showed a very liberal attitude toward court appointments.

McCain by contrast was very direct in his answers.  He was much more personable than I remember him in the past. McCain used a number of stories to give his arguments a human face. He didn’t come across as a maverick who shot first and ask questions later. He talked liked an informed leader who spoke from a lot of personal experience. 

Some Obama supporters have suggested that McCain secretly heard all the questions, which gave him an advantage. I don’t believe he lied about it or heard the questions. If that could ever be proven, it would seriously harm his credibility. Both of the candidates were provided some of the questions ahead of time to prepare. Another point to consider is that Obama went first, which means that more people probably heard him than McCain. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t have the patience to last through two hours of political discussion. Let’s be real honest most Americans were doing something “better” on a Saturday night than watch two politicians talk to a pastor. Thus, I don’t believe it will have much affect on the election.

The good news is that I believe the process clearly contrasts the leadership styles of the two candidates. It helped further develop my opinion of the two men. One is a very direct, strong leader who generally knows what he thinks about things. The other guy is more of a community organizer who leads by building consensus and alliances. It seems to me that Rick Warren did what he set out to do which was to give the country a chance to understand the two leadership styles of the candidates. Both leadership styles have their strengths and weaknesses.

Given all the chaos and problems in the world right now, I would rather have a guy who has the experience and already knows mostly what the right call is in most situations. I personally believe McCain is more that guy than Obama.

I think Obama failed to understand that his subtle arguments would seem like political dodge ball to the average American. We don’t like anything that smells of political spin or bull. McCain just came out as the straight shooter. And that is why his answers seemed more genuine to many viewers.

I believe that both men are Christians who do care about the issues and want to see things improve. They simply have very different leadership styles and attitudes about what needs to be done to turn this country around. 

One question that I would have liked to see both men answer was, “Describe a time when U.S. military action or foreign policies has backfired and caused more problems despite our good intentions. Why do you feel our actions were a mistake and what do we learn from this episode?”

Here are some news sites that had various takes on the Saddleback forum.

08 Campaign Goes to Church

Pastor Rick Warren wil moderate a civil forum tomorrow featuring both major party candidates for the U.S. Presidency. It is a historic event that will focus on social issues, the worldview and leadership style of the two candidates. In some ways I am looking forward to hear what both men have to say. I am worried it will be nothing but a big photo op where each candidate will strive for “unity” instead of truth. As a journalist, I am frankly not sure that Rick Warren will ask tough questions. But I hope that I will be proven wrong.

Check out the discussion at

“Church Is Dead”

Emergent thinker Tony Jones wrote in The New Christians, “In the 20th century, it’s not God who’s dead. It’s the church. Or at least conventional forms of church.”

Jones’ new book is one of the resources that I have to read for an upcoming class this fall on missional evangelism. I don’t know where I stand on the whole Emergent movement. I am not ready to castigate postmodernism like many fundamentalists. But at the same time I do believe that some things are too sacred to toy with just so that we can be relevant. I don’t always trust new things. And I find something comforting about ancient traditions, practices and theology.

What I do know is that Jones hit on an important point. I agree that conventional forms of doing church are suffering a disconnect with both God and people. I don’t know if denominations and institutional Christianity is dead. But it certainly is in flux.

Let’s be clear here. Jones is not saying that The Church is dead. No that would be brash even for him. The Church belongs to Jesus. And He is eternal life. It will never die. The Church extends beyond the building and even the people. It is the body of Christ throughout the world. It is the most powerful force on the planet because its life comes from Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that our ways of doing church and being the church reflect God’s intent. Sometimes we got it right for a while but stray from God’s best. There are times and seasons in history. Things change, and our methods and practices may need to change with it.

Here are some questions that I will seek to answer over the next semester as I wrestle with how best to do church and be The Church.

1.) Is institutional Christianity dead? What can churches do to respond to the current angst and disconnect that has taken place for many Christians?

2.) How does the church process through the tug-of-war between liberal and conservatives interests?

3.) Is it the methods or the theology that need to be rescued?

4.) Why are so many people leaving institutional churches for home churches or small groups? Will this trend change as some people become disillusioned by these new expressions of faith?

5.) Is the real problem church or something deep within us? Maybe our expectations are off? Maybe our abandonment to God needs work.