I gotta fever and the only prescription is more JOY!

I gotta fever and the only prescription is more JOY!

The following originated from an email I sent to my fellow team members at Christ Chapel on January 8, 2018.

Good morning team,

On December 31st, I set about my morning bible reading asking the Lord to give me a passage of scripture for the new year. Up to this point, I had been journeying through the Psalms. At eventide of 2017, my foot set upon the golden shores of Psalm 16.

As I considered the entirety of this magnificent passage, I discovered a treasure I could hold in my heart at dawn of a new year…

 

“In your presence there is fullness of JOY.” (Psalm 16:11)

 

Unbeknownst to me, Pastor Ted Kitchens would announce on Sunday that the staff’s “theme” for 2018 would be ‘JOY’!

I too thirst for Joy! We all do. It’s been tough and trying year for many of us, and the only prescription is more Joy!

As I studied Psalm 16 again today, I couldn’t help but reflect on Jesus’s words in John 15: 1-11 (the True Vine). I encourage you to set both passages side by side and ponder them. One can’t help but be awe struck by how God has woven his word together. So, I pulled a couple threads I hope will encourage your heart as we embark on our voyage this new year.

Where do we begin?
Begin with the end in mind: Joy!

“in your presence there is fullness of Joy….” – Psalm 16
“that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full (or complete).” – John 15

How do we find this ‘Joy’?
Set the Lord before and abide in Him – the Vine

“I have set the Lord always before me…” – Psalm 16
“Abide in me (Christ)….” – John 15

By intentionally yielding our will in humble obedience, we enthrone Christ in our hearts to rule and reign. In turn, we yield fruit (which brings the believer Joy to the Father’s delight!). We are running to our Father shouting, “Father, father, look! Look at this beautiful fruit that you planted in my garden!” And the delight of the Father’s smile begets Joy in the hearts of his beloved children.

Can we find Joy apart from Christ?
The answer is ‘no’.

“I have no good apart from you.” – Psalm 16
“apart from me (Christ), you can do nothing” – John 15

So, Where do we end?
End with the beginning in mind: Joy!

Everyday – “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord’… in your presence there is fullness of JOY!” (Psalm 16)

Who’s Joy?
His Joy… our fullness of Joy!


Read previous post: Pondering Glory – For on this world the Creator has stood

If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Pondering Glory – For on this world the Creator has stood

Pondering Glory – For on this world the Creator has stood

Originally posted in December 2016

I have been reading Charles H. Spurgeon’s (1834-1892) collection ‘Christ’s Glorious Achievements’. Last night I awoke around 2am unable to sleep. So, I quietly made my way to my study and decided to read a few pages of Spurgeon’s book. My hope was that I would become sleepy again and wonder back to bed. I eventually did. But it was not until God put an impression on my heart and mind that I wanted to share with you.

I won’t go into details but 2016 has been a trying year for me. It has been a year of transformation and refining. As I wrote a few days ago, there has been grief around the passing of my father. Thank you for your love and support.

 

Today, I want to shift the gears from Grief to Glory.

My prayer for this Christmas is for the Lord to deepen the meaning and allow me and my family to experience His presence in a special way.

Below are two verses I’ve pondered many times in the past. However, this morning, I have treasured them in my heart. And now, I hold them out for your consideration.

“And, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14a)
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

The first verse states the Incarnation of Christ, Immanuel – God with us. The second verse states His mission then and now.

Consider the words of Spurgeon:

“You have often thought of it, but have you ever worked your mind into the very heart of it – that God has actually visited the world in human form – that he before angels bow has actually been here, in fashion like ourselves, feeding the hungry crowds of Palestine, healing their sick, and raising their dead?

 

I know not what may be the peculiar boast of other planets, but this poor star cannot be excelled, for on this world the Creator has stood. The earth has been trodden by the feet of God, and yet it was not crushed beneath the mighty burden, because he deigned to link his Deity with our humanity.

 

The incarnation is a wonder of wonders, but it does not belong to the realm of the imagination, or even expectation, for it has actually been beheld by mortal eyes…

 

From Bethlehem to Calvary he has traversed life’s pilgrimage. Thirty years of more yonder canopy of sky hung above the head of Deity in human form… for a thousand joys lie close compacted in the word ‘Immanuel’ – God with us, ‘The son of man is come.’”

Now imagine the power and humility involved with such an act of grace. Would you trade your home, comforts and lifestyle to be born into a shanty town to a poor family – from a people ridiculed by the world only to die for those who hurled insults at you? I wouldn’t.

Christ is come and Christ remains. Why?

To seek and save the LOST.

Spurgeon said, “Proud men do not like us the preach this truth.” I completely agree with him as a man of former pride in being lost. Are you too proud to consider yourself as ‘lost’? By ‘Lost’ I mean the depraved condition of your being, your thought patterns, your selfish motives, habits and addictions, secret envy and hatred toward good – maybe you attempt to exist under a shiny veneer of ‘imaginary holiness’ or comparison to others who overtly behave worse than you. Only God’s spirit can make you understand you are in fact ‘lost’. Otherwise, we all continue being lost in our lostness and without hope. We are like blind men grappling in darkness on the edge of the abyss we refuse to acknowledge exists.

But, think of it. “God with us.” God is come in the humble form of an infant babe whose mission in life and death is to seek and save the lost. Our finite minds cannot fathom the depths of this grace. But, dead men see the light and He makes them live. Everyday for 2000 years, the lost have been found. As the Lamb of God trods the pathways of time, do you feel the earth tremble beneath His glorious steps?

For on this world the Creator has stood… “and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

No human could possibly contrive such a revelation of a personal God condescending to his creation to save it, thus revealing his ultimate Glory.

Merry Christmas!


Read previous post: Blurry Lights – Grief and the Holidays

If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Blurry Lights – Grief and the Holidays

Blurry Lights – Grief and the Holidays

I have been keeping a journal for nearly ten years, and every year at the end of December, I have a tradition of reading through the previous year’s entries. Sometimes, I get lost in the pages of my own writings and I am swept back in time.

On the morning of February 5, 2016 I journaled a prayer for my dad’s ‘routine’ gall bladder surgery later that morning. He had been experiencing a great deal of pain.

My prayer: “Lord, I pray that you would use this trial in his life to draw him closer to you … bring him out of this a changed man.”

 

That morning, I was reading Psalm 36 as my devotional. The theme of this Psalm is God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

There is a huge difference between knowing the meaning of a passage in your head and understanding it in your heart.

Shortly before noon on February 5th, I entered the crucible with my family. The surgeon walked into the waiting room with a file folder in his hand. He seemed to be a bit young to be a surgeon of his caliber. But, I brushed that aside remembering that I’m older than I think. The doctor sat down next to my step-mom and began to speak. The surgery was a success and dad’s gall bladder was removed. The doctor opened the file folder. Inside it were hi-res photos. Then the words came, “Jim has cancer.

58 days later on Saturday April 3 at 9:33 p.m., after indescribable suffering, my father succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Poppa was surrounded by his family when he drew his last breath of Texas air and woke up in eternity a changed man. The words of the old hymn “Finally Home” washed over me and gave me comfort.

“But just think of stepping on shore – And finding it Heaven!
Of touching a hand – And finding it God’s!
Of breathing new air – And finding it celestial!
Of waking up in glory- And finding it home!”

A couple days ago, I woke up early in the morning as is my habit. I turned on the lights on our Christmas tree in the dark room where it sits in a corner, lovingly decorated by our children. On this particular morning, the lights were blurry. A wave of grief ushered in my quiet time with God as tears had blurred my sight. I did not know the tears were there until I turned on the Christmas lights.

“In your light do we see light.”

I now understood the meaning of the passage in my heart.

This holiday season, there may be an empty chair at your dinner table. You may wake up early on Christmas morning to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to the one you love only to find them gone. There will be a void in life. There will be an embrace and a voice missing from the greetings and conversations. That distinct familiar laugh from the other room.
There will be blurry lights.

Therefore, take heart! It’s okay to grieve. To grieve is at the core of what it means to be human. Grief tells you that you have loved and been loved. It reminds you that you must truly live. Grief should point us to God as our help and comfort in this broken world. We can draw near to Him and to each other.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

 

In the light of God’s love, there is sufficient grace for me and you. In the midst of the storm and fog, there is a kindly light and peace to be experienced.

 

“The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings… in your light do we see light.”

Those who grieve can help the grieving. When the lights are blurry, remember many others experiencing the same thing. Do not allow the ministry of grief to be wasted. We who grieve have the privilege to come alongside those who are grieving. We do well to acknowledge and validate the pain yet lift each other up in love. God’s kindly light shines through the fog of pain and grief. The warmth of that light is felt in a loving touch, a nod of the head or a kind word of encouragement.

I’ll leave you with my closing words from dad’s memorial service. I pray it will minister to you if you are grieving and encourage you to be sensitive if you are not.

“It is part of the pathos of mortality that we only discover how dearly we love things after we have lost them.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
It is the law of the cross, it is a sacrificial law.
“Christ gives rest to the heart by giving burdens to the shoulders. And, as a matter of fact, it is in being burdened that we usually find rest… Heavy luggage is a cure for weary hearts.” So, we must bear each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

F.W. Boreham

Lord, “in your light do we see light….” Even if the lights are blurry.

Originally posted December 14, 2016


Read previous post: Local Outreach: Philosophy of Ministry Part 1.

If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Local Outreach: Philosophy of Ministry Part 1

Local Outreach: Philosophy of Ministry Part 1

Today, I am going to share the philosophy of ministry I have the privilege of leading.

Preface: This post begins a series intended to help other church leaders understand the way we do ministry within Local Outreach at Christ Chapel Bible Church. This is not the ‘only way’ but ‘one way’ to approach ministry. I’m not stating that there is one right way to do ministry. Context is important.  You will adapt ministry to serve in your context. We’ll get into some of the theology and why I believe every church should have a robust community outreach in later posts.  I have tried many things an failed and I’ve made plenty of mistakes.  My hope is that you will see this as a starting point on a journey.

There must be a philosophy of ministry undergirding mission; in this case, community outreach.

 

A bit of background:

I’ve been on staff at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas for three and a half years. Perviously, I was doing my own thing in the wealth management and insurance industries until I received a call from the executive pastor at my church. He was convinced that I was the next Local Outreach Pastor. After three months of wrestling, one early morning God made it crystal clear, he had called into full-time ministry. That said, I continue to have a deep appreciation for business done well and the entrepreneurial spirit. I love visiting with business owners and entrepreneurs. I believe that ministry could use more business acumen and business could use more ministry acumen.

The Local Outreach Ministry (I also refer to it as ‘Local Missions’) at Christ Chapel existed for decades before I took the helm in 2014. The ministry has grown and evolved as the church has grown from a couple dozen folks to nearly 7,000 attendees, two campuses and over 1500 folks streaming every Sunday.  A solid foundation had been laid by others prior to my arrival.  I am so thankful for their work.  It is a privilege to build upon it.  I pray that I pass the baton well.

We refer to Christ Chapel as a ‘church without walls’. This means we believe we must move out of the confines of church buildings and into the surrounding community to serve and share the love of Jesus Christ.

We believe that church staff exists ‘to equip the the saints for the work of the ministry…’ (Ephesian 4:12a). My role as Local Outreach Pastor is NOT to do everything myself. My role is to equip our people and give away the ministry. Then, I get behind lay-leaders (volunteers) and support them in their work.

One person is limited to he or she can accomplish in a day alone.

But, many ministry leaders work as if everything depends on them.  This form of ministry is exhausting and prideful. Little wonder pastors suffer from burnout and leave ministry. It’s unbiblical for one man or woman to do ALL the work. At the moment Jesus called his first disciple to ‘follow me’, he began giving away the ministry. Jesus provided the New Testament model and philosophy of ministry. We are called to give it away.

I was taught at an early age to surround myself with people who are smarter and have more talent than I have. You don’t have to know everything to lead. It’s a good thing if someone else has more passion for the poor or serving children or single moms than you do. It’s a good thing if someone knows more about homelessness or prison ministry than you do! God has placed those desires in their hearts and they have gifts you don’t have.

It is the pastor’s responsibility to celebrate that passion and talent and then provide opportunities for those people to express it.

In Genesis 2:19, God delegated responsibility and limited authority to man in naming things in the created world. God has been about giving it away since the beginning.

As pastors and leaders, we are not God. So, we can’t do everything ourselves. God has always modeled giving away (or delegating) responsibility and authority. So should we.


Read previous post: Unbridled Skepticism: Rebelling against EVERYTHING .  If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Unbridled Skepticism: Rebelling against everything

Unbridled Skepticism: Rebelling against everything

Unbridled skepticism undermines our thinking.  It is a revolt against knowing.

The belief that nothing can be known for certain has run amuck in modern western culture. People claim they are absolutely certain that nothing can be known for certain.

Therefore, I refer to it as ‘unbridled’.  Why do I say that?

The history of Western thought is for another day.  Sufficed to say, during the Renaissance man made himself the center of all existence, completely autonomous and jettisoned meaning.  This gave rise to humanism – which has no basis for right or wrong.  In the 20th century, Post-modern philosophy claims that there is no objective truth (relativism).

Relativism is the root of unbridled (modern) skepticism.  The presupposition of relativism is that objective truth cannot be known. This presupposition self-refutes because its an objective truth claim. In addition, it rejects any basis for knowing truth.  Therefore, truth is subjective and relative to the individual (arbitrary).  Unbridled skepticism manifests itself in contradiction, hypocrisy and ultimately futility.  It undermines itself.

Conversely, I believe healthy skepticism is essentially a search for truth in the matter of things that matter most. In fact, in Greek, skeptomai means ‘to search, to think about or look for…’ The most important endeavor in life is the search for truth. Without it, existence is meaningless and leads to futility like doubting one’s own existence.

Ravi Zacharias says that one must test a truth claim by asking two essential questions:

  • Do the facts (claims) correspond to reality?
  • Are the corresponding facts (claims) coherent? Or to put it another way, when you pull all of the corresponding facts together, do they make sense logically?

Unbridled skepticism constantly undermines itself because it’s based in relativism. Therefore, it can’t seek truth as healthy skepticism can because what the ‘unbridled’ skeptic is seeking is amorphous.

An anchor thrown into a cloud will not hold a vessel.

Unbridled skepticism rebels against knowing anything for certain.

I find G.K. Chesterton’s following statement interesting when I observe unbridled skepticism.

“All denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind and the modern skeptic doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it.  Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then writes another book, a novel in which he insults it himself.  As a politician he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then as a philosopher that all of life is a waste of time.  A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself.  A man denounces marriage as a lie and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie.

 

The man of this school goes first to a political meeting where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts.  Then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting where he proves that they practically are beasts.  In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is forever engaged in undermining his own mines.  In his book on politics he attacks men for tramping on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for tramping on men.  Therefore the modern man in revolt becomes practically useless for all purposes of revolt.  By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”
– G. K. Chesterton

You may or may not agree, but it is worth considering.


Read previous post: A Man’s Morning Prayer – November 4, 2017 .  If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

The art in the ordinary of life

The art in the ordinary of life

There is an art in the ordinary in life.

I was reflecting on Oswald Chamber’s ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ this morning and remembered something important.

Our actions and attitudes during the quiet moments of the ordinary tell quite a bit about our character and spiritual life.

We live in a culture and time when ‘you only live once’ has become the motto of daily living. As a culture, we have chosen to define quality of life on the basis of ‘epic moments’.

We’ve decided that a row of exclamation points (!!!) is more important than the preceding sentence. It is evident, some have gone so far as to stop writing sentences and strive to create meaning with only “!!!” (exclamation points).

A microwave cannot create great art.  An ‘epic moment’ cannot create a beautiful life.

A beautiful life is created and sustained by learning to live in the ordinary. Learning the art of walking in the ordinary leads to a beautiful life well lived.  Small brushstrokes on the canvas of our lives express depth, balance and richness. The broad strokes of flashing color from epic moments have no meaning without the lines, shadows and delicate detail of the ordinary backdrop.

An approaching thunderstorm’s beauty is found in the deep blues and grays of the sky. Lightening is simply an explanation point at the end of the sentence.

Read “Getting into God’s Stride” – by Oswald Chambers


Read previous post: Can you look into the world and feel it’s pain? If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.