Category Archives: The Good News

LA Infusion 2013 Top Ten

(Ok, it was just too good for only 10, so top 15)

1.) Getting to know my small group. Seven incredible young men of God who are ready to rock the world for Jesus!

2.) Honest conversations with the Infusion staff about life and God, especially Matt Perez, Daniel Chae, Hannah Prothero, John Ribeiro, Johnny Gillespie, Nick Mason, Chip Messick and others.   

3.) Showing the love of Jesus to people on the streets of Hollywood. Meeting Logan and Jon on the street and praying with them. Logan and I are still in conversation via text message.

4.) Let’s Go Down to the Water – inspiring song by Jake Mason about the complete forgiveness of God for ALL of my sin.

5.) Feast at Bronnie Lee’s house with Infusion staff. The Lee family rocks!

6.) Hearing from God as He opened up 1 John 2:3-6 to me following the first teaching by Joy Dawson. Knowing Jesus changes everything. See my blog post.

7.) Watching  Jake and Katherine lead the Infusion team.

8.) Seeing at least more than 80 young people realize that God loves them and does speak to them. That’s priceless.  

9.) Brian Brennt’s Love Revolution teaching on Wednesday in Hollywood. We are family!

10.) Talking with Infusioners about their future and identity in Christ.

11.) Powerful prayer encounters with various Infusion students and staff.

12.) Working in the kitchen with Teresa Kwon, Nicole Kwon, Matt Perez and John Romaine.

13.) Korean style prayer with the student leaders from GMI. These young people know how to pray with passion and love.

14.) Playing RAVE! Ball and getting three outs in the T-ball game during game night.

15.) Conversation with Johnny Gillespie about modeling Jesus’ radical love in marriage.

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Knowing Jesus Changes Everything

I just got joy bombed, or at least that is what I call it after listening to Joy Dawson speak on the subject of following Jesus and the glory of God. Dawson is an internationally known speaker and evangelist. But the real important thing is that she listens to the Holy Spirit and seeks to promote Jesus as the model for how we should live.

Dawson said, “We don’t know Jesus yet. We don’t understand what we are asking when we ask to see God’s glory.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. The apostle John spent years walking and living with Jesus during His earthly ministry. But when he received a revelation of the glory of Christ while exiled on the island of Patmos, he fell down as dead before the One he had known so well. This was Jesus in holiness and in fire. This was God in just part of His glory, and John was undone.

Have I ever experienced God like this? The answer is no. Few of us have. The apostle John received a great revelation that day. We still study it today in the book of Revelation – the unveiling of the glory of God. John received this great revelation while on a prison island – a dark place meant to isolate John could not keep him from what God wanted to reveal. This gives me hope.

Dawson said, “We can go through anything if we focus on Jesus, but it is a choice.” That is so true. The apostle John could have let his circumstances cloud out his heart for Christ. But that didn’t happen, because he chose to seek God even in the midst of darkness and isolation. Do you really want to have a deep, loving relationship with God? It is possible. But it does come at a great price. Jesus paid that price on the cross. And we have to pay a price to follow Him, but it is worth the cost.

Dawson said that Jesus came down to the earth for five basic reasons. These were to 1.) Show us what the Father is like, 2.) Die on a cross to atone for the sins of the world, 3.) Defeat satan and demonic powers, 4.) Show us how to live, and 5.) To be our life.
And Dawson asked what does the Lord require of His followers. She said, “Obedience is all that Jesus wants at any one time.”

The message of Jesus was simple. He put little children in front of the disciples as an example of the kind of faith they should have. Dawson added that Jesus called His followers to repent from sin, believe in Jesus and to obey Him, and to go do and tell what was commanded. It really is quite simple as long as you stay close to God and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This brought to mind a question that I have struggled with for most of my adult life. Can Jesus be your savior if He is not your Lord? Dawson suggested that obedience is a prerequisite to be a disciple of Christ. We spend too much time playing church and not enough of our lives being the Church. She said, “Satan doesn’t care how much that you sing to God in a church building if you do not get radical and go out and what Jesus did.”

Jesus preached the Gospel. Why don’t we? Jesus fed the poor? Why don’t we? Jesus comforted the broken hearted. Why don’t we? Jesus healed the sick. Why don’t we? Jesus challenged dead religion. Why don’t we? Jesus spoke in power and under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Why don’t we?

Sure, some Christians do some of these things. But many of us don’t follow Christ’s example as much as we should in our daily lives.

As Dawson finished speaking this morning, the Holy Spirit prompted me to read I John 2:1-6. I particularly noticed a connection with what Dawson said and verses 3-6. The apostle John wrote, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

The apostle John clearly stated that those who know Christ should live as He did and obey His commands. Jesus gave a commission to His followers to spread His message and make disciples. Jesus has called us to preach to the lost and pray for the sick. Jesus declared that those who come after Him would do greater things than He did because He was leaving the work of the Church to us. While we will never be God nor ransom the world from sin and death, we do have the awesome privilege of caring the influence of Christ around the globe.

So do you really know Jesus? One true encounter with Him changes everything.

A Godly Revolution

Adam Edgerly, the lead pastor for Newsong Los Angeles, spoke yesterday at a training session for young leaders taking part in the Love Santa Ana campaign this weekend. Looking at the civil rights movement in the 1960s as well as the current racial divides and ethnic concerns in society today, Edgerly suggested a radically different process for social engagement. He didn’t say that people just accept injustice. Yet he also cautioned that taking to the streets should not be the first action for followers of Christ. He also said that certain actions may help be a temporary release valve for social tension although they don’t do much to solve the long-term problems. Rioting in the streets and vandalizing businesses may go a long way to hurt a movement instead of help it.

As a black leader and pastor, Edgerly spoke with conviction about real reform coming through the spiritual discipline of civil engagement. This seeks to bring change to public policy through altering the spiritual and physical reality of the world around us. He pointed to the actions of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 1 as a model for social reform. Overcome by the state of his people, Nehemiah sat down and wept over the state of Jerusalem. Its walls had been torn down, and the city was defenseless. Those who lived in the city were vulnerable and in a poor state.

Edgerly commented that the first thing Nehemiah did was to stop and encounter the pain of his people even though they were a long way off back in Jerusalem. He allowed the pain of others to impact his heart and drive him to action. Then, Nehemiah moved from pain to prayer where the concern was brought before God. This released divine guidance, inspiration and power to help impact the situation. Nehemiah started to develop a God-inspired plan. Prayer positions our hearts and minds so that we can hear how God wants to change the situations we see around us.

Nehemiah went from pain to prayer to planning and then to action where he sought the proper time to petition the ruling authorities for access and support to make the necessary changes to bring relief to those who were suffering in Jerusalem.

This involved a substantial risk for Nehemiah. As the king’s cup bearer, he had access to the king, but his request could be interpreted as disloyalty or rebellion. Nehemiah might find himself at the wrong end of the sword by making his request known. And it was never a good idea to be downcast in front of the king. Everybody wanted to put on their best face in the king’s presence. But if you want to make major change, you have to be willing to take a real risk.

Edgerly suggested the following lessons and process from the civil rights movement of the 1960s looking specifically at the example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1.) Christians should investigate the situation and collect the facts. Rumor and accusation are not the same thing as true injustice.
2.) Then, Christians should try to negotiate a proper resolution with those in authority.
3.) As the situation escalates, Christians should go through self purification to make sure that they cut any ties or support for the injustice taking place.
4.) Finally, Christians should engage in non-violent direct action to raise awareness of the issue and show solidarity with those who are being abused, hurt, marginalized or negatively impacted by a particular injustice.

Where is the Gospel?

More than any other book in a long time, Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson has really challenged how I look at what it means to be a Christian. And it has led me to rethink some of my practices when it comes to discipleship.

Dodson wrote, “Knowingly or unknowingly, everyone puts something in the center of discipleship.” For some people it is church activities while others focus on missions or following religious rules or observing rituals and liturgy. It can be easy to focus on leadership development or thinking of discipleship as merely leading a small group or a book study. Some see discipleship as primarily a personal thing while others believe it is best experienced in community.

At the center of discipleship should be Jesus because He is the one we are to follow and worship with our lives as Christians. Dodson’s premise is that many people have only a partial view or understanding of the Gospel. Some focus on forgiveness of sins and redemption while others believe in and practice the ability to be free from the grip of sin and temptation. Still some are dedicated to studying the life of Christ in the Bible and following His example, and yet they ignore the importance of the Holy Spirit. Dodson wrote, “Without the Spirit, we are powerless to believe the Gospel of Jesus , but those who are in Christ have the most powerful motivation for discipleship present in them — the very Spirit of God.”

So I have really started to ask myself, “What really is the Gospel?” And when I encounter a situation or choice to make I am asking, “How can I see the Gospel in action by how I think or act to a given situation?”

Quite simply the Gospel is the story of God redeeming, restoring and liberating humanity and the world from the impact of sin and death through Jesus, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit to the glory of God. It is ultimately about freedom and reconciling fallen humanity to a right relationship with God.

So in your life, if you are a Christian, you should be thinking how you can respond and act in ways that bring the Gospel to whatever situation you encounter. Where is the Gospel? It should influence our words, actions and thoughts as followers of Christ. It is not just a message about Jesus 2,000 years ago or merely doctrine to be affirmed in church. It is a lasting truth and present reality that impacts our lives and the world every day.

In future blog posts, I plan to cover more insights from Dodson’s book and hope to share my journey to more meaningful and intentional discipleship.

I Know God’s Will for Your Life … Do You?

The following is a speech I made at a high school graduation for one of the students  from my youth group. He graduated from a small home school co-op.

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Graduates, you are about to enter the biggest roller coaster ride of your life. It will be full of transition for both you and your parents. Over the next 5-10 years, you will meet new people, go to new places, and face new challenges. You will make decisions that could have ripple effects throughout your entire life. And you will likely be making these decisions with a lot less oversight and a lot more freedom than you have been accustomed to in the past. You are growing up, and it is time to wrestle with the joys and the challenges of freedom.

The good news is that even when you make a mistake or even outright commit sin, God can forgive you and turn around things for good. But you don’t want to make too many bad decisions and dig yourself into a big hole — right?

So, when I was in your shoes and faced the challenge of making decisions for myself with minimal parental involvement, I struggled with the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” As I have wrestled with that question through the years, I have learned a few things.

First, we tend to focus on the who, what, when and where of any situation. We want to know which career to pursue, what girl to date and eventually marry, or which place we should live. While those are all good questions, they alone won’t answer God’s will for our lives. God is more concerned with the how of our decisions. He focuses on primarily how we go down whatever path we choose. And more importantly, God cares about the kind of person we are becoming. God’s will is about more than just what we do — the focus should be on who we are — our identity in Christ.

A good question to ask ourselves is, “Do we have the heart and the mind of God about whatever we do?

Let me make a radical statement. You might find this hard to believe. I know what the will of God is for everyone in this room! You might think, “How could this guy know that? He hasn’t even met me. Is he a mind reader? How could he possibly know God’s will for all of these people?”

Those are good questions. But the reason I am so confident in my statement is that I can read. And while Scripture shows many instances of God’s will being done and revealed, only a few times does it make broad statements about God’s will. And the more I studied this issue I discovered how critical is this one thing to accomplishing God’s will for my life.

So, are you ready for the secret? It can be found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” While this statement was written to a specific group of people at a specific time. I believe it has relevance to every believer. Because no matter what we face in life, if we develop a thankful heart, we will be able to overcome any obstacle and move on toward God’s goal for us.

Being thankful can be hard because most people face some challenges in life. How can we be thankful in all circumstances? What about the boring, life-draining droll of adulthood? What about the time you spend waiting in line at the grocery store when the checker is moving beyond slow, and a child is screaming behind you? To make this worse, all you can think about is how your wife is waiting at home with a long honey-do list after your tiring day at work, and you just want is to be left alone.

Or, what about when your hard-to-please boss yells at you for not doing what he said should seem like common sense, but you had no idea he wanted it done that way? How can you rejoice when a difficult family situations arises, such as a rebellious child or an aging parent?

Or what about when God “doesn’t come through” as you expected? You thought God had promised something, but He delayed in fulfilling your expectation. Or, just like Job in the Bible, maybe God never answers the question you want answered most? Or how about when you are sick and don’t feel like moving? There are many tough situations that are difficult to rejoice about.

Do we need to deny how we feel or dismiss the pain that we encounter in this life? I believe the answer to that question is a big fat NO. That attitude would not be real nor would it lead to a truly thankful heart. It would merely be putting on a fake mask before God and acting religious. That might work if all God cared about was the outward appearance at any one moment. But God’s heart is not just that we would do the right things; He is more focused on us becoming the right kind of people. Jesus want us to have His heart and mind about our lives, the world and others. We must become who we are already in Christ.

So how do we develop a thankful heart?

Well, for starters, a thankful heart is born long before the moment of challenge. Most of the time I simply react out of the storehouse of experience, personality and perspective that I have obtained over my life. I don’t usually stop and carefully thing through every incident that arises. Honestly, neither do you. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. If you develop a thankful heart — realizing how much God has already done for you even if He never answers another prayer, then you are more likely to default to a more godly response. If you realize that God is sovereign and ultimately does care about you, that can bring hope in even the darkest hour.

A thankful heart is not overcome by hardship even though it is free to mourn loss. Just as Jesus cried in the Garden of Gethsemane, we are free to express our true emotions to God. But we can’t let those feelings be all there is to our internal process. We have to realize that truth is bigger than our perspective or even our challenges in life.

A thankful heart has a godly perspective and sees beyond the moment. But this is hard — even impossible to accomplish on our own. This faith response is rooted in God’ work. We just have to believe it and submit to it.

I believe the answer to how we develop a thankful heart comes from a very familiar passage. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect.”

The Apostle Paul called early Christians to think differently from the world. Instead of being conformed to the world’s perspective, we are to have the mind of Christ. We are to be less like water that conforms to the shape of whatever cup it is in, and we are to be more like ice that is molded under cold temperatures into a solid block and will retain its shape in different types of containers. While it will melt over time, the ice takes its shape from the mold it is formed in, and for Christians, that mold is our new lives in Christ.

Also, this passage doesn’t just say our actions are transformed. The Lord wants to renew our minds and our hearts. Remember, this transformation is not just about what we do. Our actions should flow from who we are, and our identity in Christ. We are a thankful people because we are aware of how much God loves and has done for us. We are thankful because we realize the truth that he who has been forgiven much loves much.

So how do we have the mind of Christ? We take on the mind of God by reading Scripture and letting it challenge us. Through prayer, including listening prayer, we give our heart to God and position ourselves to hear directly from the Holy Spirit. By allowing God’s truth to change how we look at our situation, we find that He fashions our heart anew to rejoice despite whatever we face.

We praise God in the midst of the storm because He is worthy regardless of what is going on around us. This requires faith as well as reliance on God’s ability to transform and change the things we can’t do anything about.

So, God’s will for your life is to give thanks and rejoice in who He is. The Lord wants all of us to find our hope in Him and not in our situation. If you allow God to build this heart attitude in you, you will be able to realize the fullness of God’s plan. Until then, you may get frustrated, disillusioned or confused when things don’t work out like you had hoped or expected.

There are too many so-called Christians who have found that their faith wavers when God’s will turns out to be something far different than what they expected. There are many situations and decisions where the Lord may give you lots of freedom to make whatever choice you want. There may not just be one perfect person for you to marry. Nor is there one ideal place to live. Your career and work may change a lot through your life. But I can guarantee you that if you allow the Lord to create a thankful heart in you — you always will be able to navigate whatever comes up, and at least in one way you will be living out with certainty God’s will for your life.

What’s Your Story?

Asking the above question is a good way to find out what makes other people tick. It can also be the start to a very long and frequently interesting discussion. I thought a lot about story today after watching a video on sharing the Christian Gospel with other people. The video was by Caesar Kalinowski of the GCM Collective, a group focused on developing communities based on the Gospel. You can view the video at http://www.gcmcollective.org/article/story-training-videos/

Anyway, I love what Caesar said about the power of story when it comes to sharing the Gospel. Too many times we treat the Gospel as a bunch of facts or religious creeds that need to be memorized and then spouted off on cue. Sure, the Gospel contains information and doctrine. But it is much more than that. Caesar made the point that if you present a bunch of facts about the plight of orphans around the world it is not as easy to remember as telling a story about a particular orphan and then wrapping some general statistics up in the narrative of the story. The point is that we better remember key principles through stories and pictures than we do through lots of mere facts or creeds.

When you get right down to it, the Gospel is a story. While it contains truth and is the path to life, it is also a story. It is not a fictional story. And it does pertain to our lives today even though it began long ago. The Gospel is a story that has been going on for thousands of years and continues to be written today. It is the story of God and His relationship with mankind. And we are part of that story.

Too often people think of the life of Jesus as something separate from their everyday existence. But Scripture is clear that Jesus lives through His followers today. The story of Jesus was propelled into significance for us when He died and rose again. Yet, it didn’t stop there. It continues today as we carry on the work, life and Spirit that He gave us. 

And that my friends is a game changer. When you realize that you are part of a cosmic story that has echoed through ages passed to our world… right now. That is amazing. Telling a story is not hard, especially when it is our story. We just have to find the courage to open our hearts and speak what we know is true. Others may reject it. But that’s not the point. The most important thing is to be true to what we believe and have experienced. And I believe the story of Jesus is the most liberating, awe inspiring thing I have ever heard. And the Good News is that I get to share it.

What is the Gospel?

I wonder if I have at times become “so familiar” with the Bible and especially the Christian Gospel that I lose sight of its epic, boundless quality. Can you have heard so many sermons that you begin to think there isn’t much new to be learned about God? Or does this reveal a faulty mindset that has lost its way? If God is beyond description, why do we look at His Word as something less than supernatural, epic, and majestic? The Bible (God’s book) is beyond whatever else we might read on a daily basis. I was thinking about this tonight after Pastor Tim Matthews spoke on the parable of the sower and the seed from Matthew 13. He challenged the youth group to dare to study the Scriptures, soak in it and live it. Beyond looking for good principles to apply, Pastor Tim encouraged us to seek to be transformed. He challenged us to be good ground that would produce fruit in God’s Kingdom.

The Bible is not a self-help book. I admit that on many occasions I have taken the “I already knew that” attitude toward something found in Scripture. But the strange thing is I may not have been living by the light of that knowledge. Many times I needed to hear something again that I already supposedly knew.

So I feel led to revisit the basic Christian message, commonly known as the Gospel. What is it really? Is the Gospel just ten basic beliefs about God and His relationship with mankind? Is the Gospel merely about statements of faith? Or is it something more — an ethic, a call to become like Christ? Is the Gospel something that ever changes? Or is it something that only changes us? Is the Gospel fully realized now or a forward looking hope for a better world? Is the Gospel even really about mankind? Or is its core preoccupation mainly God and His glory revealed to humanity?

These questions have led me to develop what I am calling the Gospel Challenge. I am encouraging anybody who has a relationship with God through Jesus to take 30 days to wrestle with what the Gospel is based on Scripture and your own reflection as you pray and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May you look to see how the Gospel is lived out in your world. Specifically, I am encouraging other Christians who know me to take up this challenge.

It starts with reading the Bible daily while looking to see what your reading reveals about the basic Christian message. You should ask questions like, “What does this story show us about God? or How does this passage depict God’s Kingdom?

Second, you develop a list of key beliefs explaining what the Gospel is and how it should function in our daily lives. What really is this Good News that we are called to share with the world? I am starting with a simple computer document that says, “The Christian Gospel is….”

Third, refine your list and share some insights with others to see what they think. I intend to ask other believers, “If you had to explain the Christian message in 3-5 minutes, what would you say?”

Fourth, wrestle some more with the concepts that arise as you study, pray about the Christian message and discuss the Gospel with others. The last part of the challenge is to come up with a basic Gospel statement or creed and attempt to live according to these beliefs on daily basis.

So who is with me? What does the Gospel really mean to you? I welcome others to post on my blog their thoughts on what the Christian Gospel is and how it functions in the world.