Archive for the 'Devotional' Category

It is Christ who Saves Us

spurgeonOur mission statement at Cool Community Church is that “We exist to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things for the joy of all people.” Another way of saying that is that life just isn’t about us, it’s about God and the tangible way that we make that manifest is by yielding to his authority as Lord. To be honest, that’s a pretty tough sell in a culture that is completely infatuated with the idol of “self” and yet I believe that it is a source of tremendous joy and peace to be so completely dominated by our great God and Savior that we lose ourselves in Him.

Spurgeon said it like this:

It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ…

Remember therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument – it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayer, our doing, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.Morning & Evening

November 26 2012 | Blog and Devotional | Comments Off on It is Christ who Saves Us

How Can I be More Present?

driver-distracted-by-drinking-iphoneThe other day I was out with my kids when I noticed something about myself. For some reason I kept feeling an irresistible urge to reach into my pocket, to pull out a small piece of glass and plastic in order to see if it had anything to say to me. There I was surrounded by my loved ones, enjoying an ice cream cone and yet a nagging question occupied my mind, “What is waiting for me inside of this phone?” It’s not even that there was anything pressing on my mind. I wasn’t waiting for a response from anyone. I wasn’t looking for any information in particular. I just wanted to know if there was anything waiting for me.

Life is full of questions. Some questions are important, like “Who will I marry?” Some questions are trivial, like “Who will win American idol?” But all questions have one thing in common, they are not neutral. Questions lead our hearts to different conclusions, which is why a large part of wisdom is learning to ask the right questions of yourself.

I’ve been deeply convicted that instead of asking the question, “What’s waiting for me?” in my digital devices, a far better question for me to ask is “How can I be more present where I’m at right now?” Rather than looking for ways to be distracted by the chirps, buzzes, and sirens of modern technology I should be seeking to ways to be more aware, more thoughtful and more engaged right here and right now.

June 11 2012 | Devotional and Digital Pastor | 2 Comments »

Divine Interruptions

I think one of the lessons that God is trying to teach me lately is that my plans are not always his plans. Last week I had a full week scheduled out complete with lunch appointments, outreach opportunities and counseling appointments. On Sunday night I was ready to go and launch out into my week, but on Monday my week came crashing down around me in a pile of  burning rubbish when my wife developed a horrible tooth ache that needed immediate attention. All of a sudden my beautifully laid out plans were thrown out the windows in a panicked search for an available dentist, because as all men know if momma goes down we’re all going down.

As I arranged for babysitters, called insurance companies and waited in the waiting room I began to reflect on Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I’ve usually thought about this passage in relation to salvation, suffering and other big theological categories but as I waited for Amy’s root canal to be finished it dawned on me that Isaiah 55:8-9 applies to everyday life as well. I may have my plans, my thoughts or my way of doing things but God’s ways are much higher than my way and He has the prerogative to interrupt me whenever he wants. Shalom comes when I simply recognize this truth and embrace His divine interruptions.

November 14 2011 | Devotional | 2 Comments »

“I Need My Stuff…”

cameraroll-1311714047.088795The other day I heard my middle child, Cody, say something that I hadn’t heard him say before. As he was sitting down on the couch, he said “Daddy, I need my stuff.” Somewhat bewildered I looked at my wife inquisitively as she proceeded to give him his blanket, two Barbie dolls (yes that kills me, but he does love these silly dolls), a stuffed bear, a stuffed dog, a small sword and a glass of apple juice. Not quite knowing what to think, I turned back to my iPad and let the moment pass me by.

I hadn’t really thought about this again, until last night when Cody and I had a horrible argument about his “stuff.” Amy was gone and it was just me and the boys at home. So, like any good Dad I decided to put on a movie. Just as Curious George 2 was getting started Cody began to grumble and complain that he didn’t have his “stuff.” Sensing where this was going, I began assembling what I could remember of the “stuff” that Amy had given him, but unfortunately I was too late and I quickly had a full fledged tantrum on my hands. Again, as any good Dad I followed my instincts and sent him up to his room…but then I started thinking about what was really going on in his heart and decided to give it one more try.

I made my way up the stairs, opened his door and in between sobs I asked him to come sit in my lap. When he finally calmed down I told him, “Cody, you know that Daddy loves you don’t you? Daddy loves you and that’s why Daddy is so worried that you love your stuff so much. I think that you love your stuff more than you love your Daddy, but I want you to love me more than you love your stuff.” Now, I’m not sure how much of that actually got through to him, but as I sit here tonight reflecting on this little incident I know that I’m feeling freshly convicted that I need to love my Heavenly Father far more than I love the “stuff” that He gives to me.

October 19 2011 | Devotional | 2 Comments »

“I trust Daddy…”

cameraroll-1316898581.493784I think we’ve crossed something of a parenting mile-stone with our oldest son Micah. For the longest time we worried, struggled, and labored on Micah’s speech delay and while he’s still making progress on that front he is now able to speak enough that there are times that we have to ask him to stop Smile.

Micah, like most 5 years olds, is very curious about everything that our family does. It seems that whenever we get ready to go somewhere he has to know exactly what we’re doing and why. Now that wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that he has developed opinions about our comings and goings and like to voice those opinions to the powers that be. It’s not uncommon to find us driving down the road with Micah arguing that he wants to go to Target (where they sell his favorite sugar cookie), while we insist on going to Home Depot to pick up supplies for the house.

On one occasion I looked at Micah and out of desperation said, “Micah, I want you to repeat something after me.” Eventually, he looked up at me through his tears and nodded his little head. I said, “I trust Daddy,” to which he replied, “I trust daddy.” Now, it’s a rare day that this strategy actually changes my sons heart but what I’m trying to do is to teach him the discipline of trusting me so that when he grows older and the stakes are much higher than a sugar cookie, he will be able to trust his Heavenly Father to take care of his needs as I take care of his needs today.

It’s funny how the Lord uses our children to teach us about ourselves. When I look at Micah, I have to realize that he and I are very much alike. I too want to argue with my Father and demand my own way, yet in the Lord’s kindness he tenderly takes my hand and asks me to trust Him because that is where I find rest.

October 10 2011 | Devotional | 1 Comment »

What is Worse than a Fool?

Proverbs 26:12 – Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

One of the things that makes this such an interesting passage of Scripture is what comes before it. Verses 1-11 of chapter 12 give a lot of attention to the nature of a fool. Fools are people to be avoided at all costs, they are people who need whips and bridles to be corrected, they should not be given honor, they cause nothing but harm to those who are associated with them and they delight in that which is disgusting. Yet, with all of the negative descriptions of a fool in verses 1-11, there is one who is even worse off than the fool, the man who is “wise in his own eyes.” The only thing that is worse than being a fool, is giving into pride and refusing to listen to wisdom.

August 08 2011 | Devotional | 1 Comment »

The Wisdom of Keeping Silent

Proverbs 17:27-28 – Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

One of the most obvious manifestations of the foolishness of pride is the desire to air our own thoughts and opinions. That’s why Solomon says that "even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." Even if a person isn’t intelligent, the fact that he keeps silent leads others to believe that he is humble and wise.

This is a theme that runs throughout the book of Proverbs. In verse 11 of chapter 29, Solomon writes, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” In verse 20 he writes, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” The idea seems to be that as bad as folly is, what is worse is a man who does not know how to keep silent. An abundance of words is almost a sure sign of pride and folly.

August 01 2011 | Devotional | Comments Off on The Wisdom of Keeping Silent

Meditation on Psalm 39:11

Psalm 39:11 says, "When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him…"

Sin is largely about our affections. It’s about what we desire and what we’re willing to sacrifice for what we desire. At the same time redemption is about affections. It’s about God changing our affections from our insane love for ourselves to that which is supremely lovely and valuable, Jesus Christ.

Now, this changing of affections is not easy, it is not without discipline and it is not without pain. That’s why the Psalmist says, "When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him." A large part of redemption is the process of God consuming the things which used to hold our affections and replacing those desires with an even greater affection for Jesus Christ.

July 25 2011 | Devotional | Comments Off on Meditation on Psalm 39:11

How Youth Ministry Made Me a Better Pastor

This past weekend I got to preach to about 150 JH & HS kids at the Equip Conference here in Northern California. I had a great time talking with the kids, hanging out with the leaders and just enjoying the camp experience.

I’ve been a youth pastor for around 10 years now and while my role has recently changed to that of a lead pastor, I am so thankful for the experiences that God has given me in working with youth. Here are just a few of the ways that God has used Youth Ministry to make me a better lead pastor.

1) Youth Ministry has made me a much better preacher. It’s one thing to preach to adults, but it’s something entirely different to preach to a room full of screaming Junior High students and to win their attention.

2) Youth Ministry has made me a more compassionate pastor. Working with young people can be heartbreaking. Sometimes it’s because of their bad choices, but often times it’s because of their circumstances (i.e. divorce, abuse, etc.). Working with youth has really given me a greater love for the least of these and I think that makes me a better pastor.

3) Youth Ministry has made me more realistic about ministry. College and Seminary can make you very idealistic about how ministry should be, but Youth Ministry has a way of slapping you back into reality with over-nighters, mission trips, and Fear Factor food competitions.

4) Youth Ministry taught me a lot about authority. I’m so thankful for my experiences as a youth pastor, because they taught me how to minister as one under authority, something I struggled with a lot as a young man.

5) Youth Ministry made me a better administrator. The fact of the matter is that if you can’t handle details in youth ministry, you’re going to drown really fast. Youth Ministry helped me learn how to manage budgets, boards, and volunteers in a way that’s been extremely beneficial to me as a lead pastor.

6) Youth Ministry made me a “funner” pastor 🙂. I believe that ministry should be fun, it should be a lot of fun. Youth Ministry has taught me not to take myself too seriously, but rather to have a good time while I shepherd the flock of God.

July 05 2011 | Devotional | 1 Comment »

How Should a Pastor Give?

church-offering-plate-thumb1620291I’ve been thinking about the topic of giving a lot lately, especially as it relates to Pastoral Ministry. I’m taking for granted the fact that pastors should give and should give generously, as the Lord allows them to do so. A Pastor who doesn’t give generously to his church is really nothing more than a hired hand, because he isn’t participating in one of the most important aspects of the community that he’s serving.

When I started serving at my first church 10 years ago, God placed it on my heart to begin giving as much as I could to support the work of the ministry of the church. At first it was a very small amount, but over time it has become a very significant part of our family budget and a tremendous source of joy.

However, the other day I was sitting in church after the announcements as the plate was being passed and I realized that I had been making a terrible mistake that needs to be rectified. Now, I’m pretty comfortable with technology, so for a number of years I’ve been using Online Bill Pay to pay our mortgage, electric bills, etc. The most natural thing in the world for me was to do my tithing in the same way, but what I’ve just recently realized is the fact that by doing so I have  robbed the congregation of seeing me participate in this significant part of our corporate worship.

A pastor is to be an example to the flock in every possible way. He is to be a “one woman man”, so his marriage is always on display as an example to the flock that he serves. He is called to be an active participant in worship, which is why it’s so bad for a pastor to be working on his sermon as the congregation is singing. Even a pastor’s parenting is to be an example to the flock as he is to keep his children under control…or for those of us with little children, some semblance of control :-). The point is that those of us in pastoral ministry are to lead by example. When the plate comes and we nicely smile and nod at the usher, that sends a message that we probably didn’t intend to send. You see, that usher doesn’t know and the people behind us don’t know that our tithing is coming in the mail, they just see what happens on Sunday mornings.

Maybe this is part of ministering in more of a rural setting where folks still carry cash with them and write checks or use cash to pay for big purchases (one of the ladies in my church actually bought a car with $16,000 in cash a few years ago). But, at least in my context, the answer to the question of how a pastor should give is: Publicly. Not ostentatiously or with great fanfare, but publicly nonetheless, participating in the life of the community just like the rest of the flock that we are setting an example for.

June 27 2011 | Devotional | Comments Off on How Should a Pastor Give?

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