Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Counter Culture series so far...

[Edit] David Platt tells a story I want to quickly retell here. 

David Meakins and his wife were missionaries to Africa in the mid-90's. flying home from Ethiopia to England, their plane was hijacked. Regardless of warnings from the pilot that the plane didn't have enough fuel, the hijackers told him to fly them to Australia.

After the first engine stops the pilot tells the passengers the grim truth. They're about out of fuel and the second engine will go out soon. He advised them to prepare to crash land in the Indian Ocean. This was all over the news and there was even video of it happening in 1996.

The story goes that as soon as Andy heard the pilot's announcement he unbuckled his seatbelt and stood up. He began sharing the gospel with passengers all over the plan. He walked the aisles inviting people to trust Jesus Christ as their savior from their sins. A stewardess did just that. She and others who survived the crash later told this part of the story. She said that Andy was preaching the gospel as the plane hit the water. (Counter Culture, David Platt)

Andy must have really believed what he preached. In fact, he has a fiery zeal for God and passion for the salvation of people that resulted in his compassionate and courageous living out and proclaiming of the gospel to those on the plane.

This is a picture of what this series is about. It's about us deciding what we believe and then living it out and sharing it verbally with conviction, compassion and courage. [End edit]

Our goal in our Counter Culture series at Grace is to learn together how to apply the gospel to the cultural challenges before us. We do this by picturing, and then, living and proclaiming that gospel with conviction, compassion and courage. The title is based on David Platt's book by the same title. 
 Counter Culture is a picture. It’s what our kingdom looks like when lived out.
 Counter Culture is a way of life. It’s what we do when we live it out and proclaim it. We counter the culture of the world.
Week 1 we opened talking about the gospel and culture. We used Paul’s sermon in Athens (Acts 17) to show how we talk to our culture so that they hear the gospel and have a chance to respond. Our two prayers were 1) That we’d grow in our zeal for God’s glory, and 2) That we’d grow in our passion for the salvation of people far from God. 
The bottom line application was to live and proclaim the gospel with conviction, compassion and courage. 
Week 2 we began talking about the gospel and sexuality. For two weeks we wrestled with living a gospel-centered sexual ethic in a sex-crazed culture. This particular week our focus what does biblical manhood and woman-hood look like? 
Our bottom line application was boldly be who you are and lead others to do the same. 
Week 3 we got into sexual immorality more directly. We didn’t just address homosexuality either. We hit them all (sexually immoral sin) and owned that we all are dealing with this. Porn, adultery, coarse jokes, lust, poor music choices, pre-marital sex and acting on homosexual desires. 
Our bottom line application was Flee from sexual immorality. And love your neighbor (who hasn’t yet) as you love yourself.
This week we’ll continue applying the gospel message and life to the cultural challenges or our day. Join me in praying that we’ll all, “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Only For Love

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (‭John‬ ‭10‬:‭11‬ NIV)

What shepherd lays his life down for his sheep?

Seriously. Sheep have value and a good shepherd will fight to save and protect them. But would a shepherd really lay down his life--sacrifice himself--for an animal?

Only if they're value goes beyond market value. Only if their value is in knowing them and being known by them. Only for love.

God is love. He sent his son Jesus to be the good shepherd for his people (those who know his voice).

So, no, a typical shepherd won't give his life for his sheep. But, then, Jesus isn't your typical shepherd.

What about us? We're not shepherds.

Actually, we are. Jesus invites us to follow him. That means to do what he teaches and models. That includes shepherding others.

What does shepherding entail?

Leading, feeding and protecting the sheep so they'll thrive and multiply.

Our job? The same. Except our sheep are people who 'hear his voice' and follow him as well. Like Paul, we say to them, "Follow me as I follow Christ." Sounds like a shepherd to me.

Who's my flock?

My family.
My extended family.
My neighbors.
My co-workers.
My workout friends.
My coffee shop friends.

What's God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What's refreshing, wise, joy-giving and radiant?

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. (‭Psalm‬ ‭19‬:‭7-8‬ NIV)

What stands out to me is how valuable David sees God's word. He uses several words to describe Gods' words:


God's word gives us boundaries like laws and statutes--but it's more than legal rules.

His word gives us principles, lessons and guidance like precepts--but it's more than a moral guidebook.

His clear will and ways are laid out before his people like commands--but his word is more than military instruction.

His word is, "Perfect, refreshing the soul." It's, "Trustworthy, making wise the simple." It gives, "Joy to the heart." It is, "Radiant, giving light to the eyes."

Yes, God's word is more than law, statute, precept and command--though it is surely all of these things. It's so much more. For these things alone do not refresh our soul or make us wise or give us joy. No, that requires someone behind the words of such glory that anything he says creates and transforms life.

That is what God's word does. His perfect and holy character wrapped in his enduring love make anything he says true and life-giving. Nothing compares to that.

What is God saying to you?

What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Making a Difference Thru Clean Water

2014 Project Update from Water Missions on Vimeo.

Is Church a Safe Place?

In his recent talk given at Catalyst West last week, Andy Stanley called for the local church to become the “Safest place on the planet for students to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction.”* I encourage you to read his full quote. 

His plan of action boils down to this: Instead of the Church focusing on the “culture war,” focus instead on following Christ. Simply put: faithfully live out the life-changing gospel daily and watch our culture change. That is another way of saying what I’ve been preaching—the gospel--lived and proclaimed--is what changes lives and cultures. Live and proclaim the gospel with conviction, compassion and courage today. 

* - Link 1 Also here, with comments Link 2

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


We had a full day Sunday. Full of rain, threatening weather (tornado watch), and dark clouds. But we also saw a devoted church family gathering despite this. 

We met in the auditorium to keep our setup and takedown people drier. Inside we endured warm temperatures throughout the building—except in the auditorium itself where it was cold enough to hang meat in.

Why share this? I think these inconveniences were worthy of comment. I had someone approach me Sunday morning. Not angry—but clearly ticked off—about a lack of communication within a particular ministry team. I could empathize with him as I've been there. He faithfully carried out this responsibility that day (as usual)—but so did someone else. Double work. 

While I felt for him, I couldn’t help but think how little it takes for me to get out of sorts over inconveniences in my daily life. It reminds me of the hashtag “First World Problems” on Twitter.

#FWP is a campaign somebody started to call out people who complain about things in our beloved first world without considering this situation in the larger context. Most of our world lives in third world conditions. 

To build on this theme, Martha Fletcher also shared Sunday  morning about her recent mission trip—to, of all places, Haiti. Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere, if not the world. Very little is convenient there. Suffering is the norm. 

We got a taste of this through Martha’s beautiful presentation and stories. One person commented to me later that they quit thinking about the uncomfortably cold room after the Haiti talk.

Inconvenience is a very mild form of suffering. God calls us to discomfort when following Christ. Jesus himself calls us to embrace suffering when he says, “If anyone come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

I encourage you to begin praying for God to help you be more content in all your circumstances—comfortable, convenient and otherwise—and to embrace the suffering that comes your way when following Jesus. It’s time we decided whether or not we really believe the Apostle Paul when he writes “all things” here:

“And, in all things, God works for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Easter Sunday Around the World (3 min)

I thought this was a powerful visual of how many people around the world read the Bible using their App Easter Sunday. Imagine what it would look like if it included physical Bibles.

I encourage you to download the YouVersion.com Bible app today. It's excellent.

Do I Believe or Do I Trust?

Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way?

but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance.” (‭1 Samuel‬ ‭6‬:‭6, 9‬ NIV)

These Philistine priests and diviners amaze me.

They speak confidently to their fellow Philistines as if the Lord God is real, powerful and actively involved in their world events. They sound not just like men of faith but men of God. They clearly believe that the Lord is at work on behalf of Israel (if not the only God).

In v. 6 they are still talking about the Exodus with Moses--which happened 500 years earlier! And they even remember the reason the Egyptians were defeated: Their hard hearts. Then they ask the Philistines why they hardened their hearts against the Lord God. I'm left thinking, "As opposed to what? Trusting and following the Lord? Had they?"

Yet, this is what the Lord wanted to do through Israel all along. Be their God so powerfully and faithfully that other nations would see God, be drawn to God, trust and follow God. The Philistines aren't trusting and following God--but they're on that trajectory here.

In v. 9 we see more faith by these Philistine priests and diviners. As a part of their instructions on how to properly return the Ark of the Covenant to Israel, the priests and diviners decide they'll be able to tell if all of this was coincidence or the God of Israel at work.

With confidence, they say, "...but keep watching it (the cart). If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance.” (‭1 Samuel‬ ‭6‬:‭9‬ NIV)

Did you notice it? They never considered it a possibility that if the cart goes to Beth Shemesh that it might also be by chance. They believe that the God of Israel will reveal his activity through the Ark.

That's faith.

I find it interesting that you can have a level of faith in God that doesn't appear to lead to salvation. Faith that God works but not a faith that leads you to reorient your life around a God you can trust with your life.

I think we have these folks around today too.

Now these priests and diviners could have been followers of God. I think it's unlikely, but who knows?

I do think it's possible that these priests and diviners, as well as people today, could have a head faith that doesn't connect with their heart.

In James 2:19, James says that even the demons believe there is a God--and shudder in terror. No doubt there.

Yet we know that the demons don't trust and follow the God they know created them. I guess in a way they don't even have to believe he exists. They've seen him. But I digress...


To me, the question to ask ourselves is, "Do I believe God can do things or do I trust God enough to reorient my life around his good, gracious, and great ways? Do I trust my Creator with my whole life--here and hereafter?"

What is God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Discipleship Starts at Home

And the Lord said to Samuel: “...At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. (‭1 Samuel‬ ‭3‬:‭11-13‬ NIV)

A sobering reminder that the Lord sees all and that he holds his people accountable to be faithful to him. We will reap what we sow. We will often reap what our kids sow.

Eli was a father who did not discipline his sons. As a result, they not only ran his household but the temple and sacrificial system. They made a mockery of their father, Eli, and of God in the process. This continued even after God warned Eli to do something about it.

Neither position, talent nor success guarantee children who grow up fearing the Lord. When we do not take our responsibility to disciple our family seriously, there will be consequences. Eli is another tragic example.


God blesses us to be a blessing. That starts and ends with leading people to know, trust and follow Jesus. It starts at home--our first mission field.

The positive motivation is that it leads to a healthier family dynamic and blessings to share. It also leads to a family on mission with God together. This multiplies families on mission. Why? Because healthy things grow and reproduce.

The negative motivation is that when God's people don't do this, even though they know the Lord, they will reap the consequences. In many cases, the generational fruit will be death, dysfunction and suffering instead of health and blessings.

What is God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Broken Family on Mission

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. (‭Ruth‬ ‭1‬:‭16‬ NIV)

This passage shows the sweet love of a daughter for her mother-in-law.

Naomi's loving family of two sons who'd recently married turned broken and tragic when the sons died widowing their wives and seemingly wrecking Naomi's future.

Naomi, a Jew, and her sons showed Ruth how a family of God lives. This apparently appealed to Ruth so much that she wanted to live with Naomi after being widowed instead of staying home with her own family in Moab.

Normally, a young widow would stay near her own tribe and look for another husband. This was a simple matter of survival. Prostitution was often the only other option. Instead, Ruth stays with Naomi whom she loves and goes to Israel a broken family.

When Christ-following families live like Christ, it's attractive to non-Christ-followers. They are drawn to these families, their mission, and  Christ.

This is what a family on mission looks like. In this case, the family is almost totally decimated with the death of Naomi's two sons leaving her with two daughter-in-laws and no grandchildren. Her future looked bleak.

However, God had other plans and blessed Naomi and Ruth for generations to come. As a result, Ruth became the grandmother of King David and eventually found herself in the line of Jesus Christ.

Living as a family on mission isn't just a good idea. It's how Christ calls each of us to live collectively. It's a powerful apologetic drawing unlikely followers towards Christ. It's also a joy to experience.

What is God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?

Monday, April 06, 2015

Man of Truth

Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. (‭John‬ ‭7‬:‭18‬ NIV)

This verse speaks to me as a preacher and teacher, as well as, his daily follower.

If anyone had the authority to speak "on their own" it was Jesus. After all, he's God in the flesh. Yet, he doesn't. Ever.

Jesus is totally yielded and committed to his Father's leadership. And rightly so. His Father sent him. And even though his Father sent him with all authority, he continues to yield to his Father's leadership.

Whether he's in front of thousands or three, Jesus only speaks what his Father tells him to. He only does what he sees the Father doing and leading him to do. This is clearly evident all through the Gospel of John.

Jesus gives us a glimpse into the heart of the man or woman who speaks on their own. They do so to "gain personal glory." What a tragedy.

And it's so easy to do. I've done this more times than I care to admit. Even when I preach. Not consciously. But over the years I've stood and preached the word of God caring more about my glory than God's.

Jesus calls me out here. I sobering reminder that in doing this I betray the very one I preach in service to. Temptation can be so subtle.

In contrast, Jesus says, "He who seeks the glory of the one who sent him (in our case, Jesus) is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him."

"Man of truth. Nothing false about him."

Oh that this would be true of me week-in and week-out. I want to seek Jesus' glory in all that I say--not just preaching. I probably do nothing with more potential for Jesus' glory (or self) than to preach the good news.

This applies to each of us. We all have the opportunity to "speak" for our gain or his glory. Every time we open our mouth, we do one or the other.

Father, forgive me when I speak to gain personal glory. I repent of that mindset (even subconsciously) leading me to betray the gospel and you.

Thank you for changing lives despite my imperfections. Change my mind and heart so I will consistently speak, preach and teach for your glory alone. In Jesus' name and for his glory I pray, amen.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Is Less...More?

The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ (‭Judges‬ ‭7‬:‭2‬ NIV)

How can you have too many men to fight in a war? Especially when the enemy has more armed men and camels than you count. Especially when they've been oppressing you for years because of their strength--and because your own God is against you.

Yet that's exactly what God tells Gideon here.

The Lord culls Gideon's army down from 32,000 to 300. After all, we wouldn't want to get in each other's way when we fight.

This is how the Lord does things.

We think bigger is better. Not God.

Why does God do this? So that he gets the credit he deserves and we don't let it go to our heads as if we were the ones who pulled off the great victory.

God is all about his glory. Not because he's some egomaniac. He actually IS the greatest being in and beyond all of creation. It's more than appropriate that we worship him.

We NEED to worship him. It keeps us grounded in healthy perspective. One way God does this is limiting how we do things; causing us to do things that make it obvious that success wasn't because of us--but God.


I tend to think "more is better" a lot. When I was a youth pastor, I tried to get as many kids on the bus to camp as possible. I'd do financial gymnastics to help a kid afford the trip. I'd use my best persuasion to convince them that they'd have a blast if they went. I'd beg parents to let their kids go. Because more is always better (or so I thought).

But, what I'm learning in church ministry and in making disciples is, less is usually more. In fact, more is often worse--not better.

Jesus operated along these lines. He would speak to thousands at a time. And the crowds kept growing until he intentionally taught messages designed to thin the crowd. (ex. John 6)

Jesus spent the bulk of his three years of ministry investing in his disciples. (some estimate he spent 80% of his time with the Twelve) Mostly he was the Twelve but it probably included about a hundred disciples. At one point he sends out 72 disciples (besides the Twelve and he) in pairs to make disciples in the towns of Galilee.

Jesus' key leaders were the Twelve. And out of this group he invested the most in Peter, Andrew, James and John. They led the early church.

Sometimes God says I want you to cull down the number of people you're trying to disciple (aka go to battle with). Trust that when they are properly discipled they'll do what you modeled for them and growth will come--exponentially.

Jesus sure proved this to be true. Perhaps it's time we stop trying to justify ourselves with numbers in the short-term. Let's do this like Jesus did. Then, when the numbers or results do skyrocket, God will get the glory--as he should.

What is God saying to you?

What are you doing about it?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

It Only Takes One Generation

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. (‭Judges‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NIV)

Andy Stanley defines faith as "Believing that God is who he says he is and that he'll do all that he's promised to do." This verse seems to reflect that definition. 

Note what happens. 

The generation that defeated most of the promise(d) land (under Joshua's leadership and faith) died off. The next generation grew up with the job unfinished. The writer tells us two things about this new generation 

1) They didn't know the Lord, and 

2) They didn't know what the Lord had done. 

This directly led to their inability to defeat their enemies. They did not know the Lord or what he was like. Neither did they know what he'd done. 

This is stunning to me.

We're not talking about 3 or 4 generations later. We're talking the NEXT generation. This is their kids, or, best case, their grandkids.  But still, this is gross spiritual negligence.

The one thing Moses preached over and over again was for them to remember the Lord and what he'd done. Then to teach their kids to do the same. 

Joshua's last words were the same. Remember the Lord and all he's done for us. Pass this along. 

As a result, the nation of Israel goes from dominate and full of faith to weak and apostate.

I realize they did not have the Holy Spirit in them like Christ-followers do today. That's a huge difference to be sure. Perhaps that's the point. 

Perhaps God wants his people to look back and see that no matter what he teaches them to do, they won't follow through without God's spirit at work in and through them. 

So key points to note are:

+ Faith only survives if it's passed on.

+ The Holy Spirit is essential in fully and faithfully following the Lord and leading others to do the same.


The Lord gives us the same command. And, even with the Holy Spirit, we sometimes fail as well.

First, the Lord wants us to know and follow him and all that he's done. And he wants us to lead others to do the same (pass it on).

Second, the Lord reminds us that we will not fully and faithfully follow him without his Spirit in us.

If we miss these lessons, it only takes one generation for faith in the Lord to evaporate.

Imagine what would happen if every Christ-follower not only knew the Lord but rested in who he is and all he's done. Imagine if we passed that on to family, friends and neighbors. Imagine if we fully relied on God's spirit to empower us to do this.

For Israel, they'd have conquered the entire promise(d) land. They would have been free from enemies within and safe from their enemies on the outside. They would continue to pass along their faith generation after generation.

For us, if every Christ-follower did this, we'd see exponential growth in the Church no matter how hostile our culture becomes. Deep AND wide. We would see a Church community that loved their God and loved all people fully and faithfully generation after generation.

What's God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?