Quote: Confident

Christians, many of us are living lives of disregard and consequently having little impact. Despite our big buildings and our big budgets and our big publishing empires and our big voting blocs and our big events and our big numbers, we are living in such a way to be disregarded. We are making lots of noise … inside our inconsequential bubble.

We cannot afford to go quietly. Exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Because we are being remade in the image of God’s Son, we may be as confident as Christ is supreme.

–Jared Wilson

The Warfare of Discouragement

One day you’re smooth-cruising through the halls, high-fiving random strangers and yourself and soaking in the standing ovation, and the next minute you’re in the valley of a fresh oozing wound inflicted by the ugly, brutal weapon of words. You’re playing the endless loop of that three-second sentence, a fishing knife scooping out your guts, forcing your chin down like it weighs the size of the world. At any moment, in any place, discouragement can uppercut your soul and keep you down way past ten.

The occupational hazard of ministry, a wise pastor once said, is discouragement. That’s true for all of us. It’s unavoidable. It’s a fog that seeps into all our work, our words, our interaction, even the taste of food and the vibrancy of colors. There’s really no dancing around it, so we must deal with it.

At the center of this fog are truths and lies that fight for our sanity, and that war will be brought to the battleground of our emotions. We must, kicking and screaming, bring that fight up to the doorstep of our mind and in light of God’s Word. Regardless of how we feel, there’s a truth that exists. We press into it, or don’t. Press in.

Continue reading “The Warfare of Discouragement”

Quote: Rocked

“The gospel was drilled into me by the dry ranks of seminary. I learned it in a scholarly, theological, and academic setting. Part of that broke me, in a bad way. Because I embraced it logically.

But the Gospel is not logical. Smart bloggers who steep their minds in rich toxic theology forget about humanity, the struggle, the sweat, blood, tears, Jesus. It’s become a weapon, blunt force trauma or sniper rifle. I’m no better.

I just want grace, and to preach it with joy. To know I am loved, and that there is nothing better than to love Jesus. Loosened by love. Sharpened by discipline. Rocked by grace. It’s not logical. The cross assaults me better than doctrine ever could.”

Quote: Heart

“It is good to learn early on that suffering and God are no contradiction, but much more a necessary unity… I think God is closer to suffering than to happiness, and to find God in this manner gives peace and rest, and a strong and courageous heart.”

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Quote: Apex

“So if God is ultimately about God, if God is after the praise of His glorious grace, then God is ferociously about your joy in Him.

So then, the Law of God is good. The commands of God are good. When He says, “This is marriage,” He’s not trying to take from you, but rather give to you. We’ve got to get out of our mind as Christians that we’re in this kind of moral cage, but at least we’ve got heaven. Because that’s not reality.

The teachings of God on sex, money, family and all of those things are not God robbing from you, but rather Him leading you into ever-increasing joy. Why? For the praise of His glorious grace. And the apex of God’s plan to bring glory to His name is in the coming of Jesus Christ. The pinnacle of God’s glory is seen as God puts on flesh and blood and saves sinners.”

— Matt Chandler

What About The Guy In The Back? – Why Bigger Worship Is Not Better Worship

At retreats, revivals, megachurches, and your average Sunday service, there is always someone in the back who has lost sense of it all. The music blaring, people hollering, lights piercing, front row hopping, lead singer strutting, fog machine fogging, and bass drum beating the guts out of your bowels. Right in the middle of it, you get detached and distracted and disillusioned and you see it for what it really is. Whether you’ve been in church for ten minutes or ten years, this whole stageshow can wear you down instantly. One Sunday you’re enveloped in bliss; the next Sunday you’re watching with arms crossed, a migraine setting in, every riff on the electric guitar an assault on your brain. Everyone else is singing triumphantly but you don’t get it anymore.

While we can chalk this up to an anti-institutional mind of a younger, skeptical generation, we do suspect that praise and worship in the local church has strayed from something pure, raw, real. We’ve flooded the congregation with so many artificial devices and cues that it’s hard to tell if the Spirit is actually working.

I’ve heard, “What you win them with is what you win them to.” When you show a funny video every Sunday with high-caliber production values, it creates a strange appetite for slick perfection. No need for the Spirit. No room for reliance. It’s scary to think that an entire church service full of thousands can be built without one move of the Holy Spirit himself.

The church should certainly be excellent at all it does; as D.C. Talk once said, “If it’s Christian, it oughta be better.” I am not a hipster advocating outdoor church with hemp-made chairs and a bearded surfer with a banjo. Yet when I read the Bible and look at today’s church, something is lost in translation. Most of all, that guy in the back with his arms crossed has lost intimacy with the King. He only sees the crude plastic scaffolding of desperate entertainers and pragmatic preachers, but none of it fully reveals God on His sovereign throne.

Continue reading “What About The Guy In The Back? – Why Bigger Worship Is Not Better Worship”

Quote: Adventurously

“The self-made prison of the maintained soul constrains the human heart and robs us of adventurous joy. At some point we stopped living adventurously and began living fearfully: when?

The goal of God’s transformation is to make us more human, not less. To be free with peace, dignity, passion, joy. The crux of the Bible is the simple presence of God, that God is with us, that we are known and loved, and by His Spirit we incarnate His love.

We can supernaturally delight in Him amidst hurts and temptations and evil and failure and rampant wickedness. Jesus is the heaven in our heartache. He gives us the power of joy when we want to feel sorry for ourselves. That’s freedom. That’s the adventure.”

Question: Not Talented

Anonymous asked:
Does God give everyone talents? I haven’t figured mine out yet and i’m starting to believe that I dont have one.

Yes. God just about everywhere in the Bible is clear about uniquely wiring people with certain gifts for specific tasks, and I’d say every single person has got at least one super-wow ability to be unleashed on the world. Our brothers Oholiab and Bezalel were filled with the Spirit of God to sculpt the freaking temple where God lived. So God gave these brothers even the skill to swing a hammer in a ferocious way.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and Romans 12, God talks about individual gifts given from the Holy Spirit to serve the church and the world. Most would argue this is different from a “talent.” Theologically, they may be right. But I do think we sometimes separate too much the “secular” talents and the “spiritual” gifts. Both are inherent to each individual, meaning we can’t really copy someone else’s abilities down to the letter, and these gifts are also to be cultivated and trained.

Discovering how God has uniquely wired you is the easy part. Just try everything. Not just what you like, and try it in large groups, and alone. Read a lot. Ask around.

The harder part is gut-checking your motives. Get this right: the purpose of your life is not the purpose of your life. You find a talent or a million, great, but that by itself is worthy of two seconds of applause or a search on YouTube. The purpose of your unique purpose is for God’s purposes. Seek that first and you know, everything else will be thrown in.

Quote: Empowers

Generally, Christians tend to see the grace of God as a grace that forgives your sin when you blow it, which is true. But the grace of God also empowers your life so that you live differently, passionately, and purposefully.

— Mark Driscoll

Quote: Word

The Word of God is the focal point by which all things and relationships make sense. If your job is for your glory, that’s always unstable because you can lose your job. If your job is for the glory of God and you lose your job, God is stable and you will be too. If you love your wife for yourself, you’ll act out when she doesn’t serve you. If you love your wife for God, that’s a consistent love even when she’s ‘crazy.’ If your focal point is emotions, your money, your image, your ideology, you’ll be easily shakeable because those things can be shaken.

The Word of God — the story which says you were created, broken by your choice, redeemed through God’s Son, and restored to His purpose — is the only anchor that gives you the peace and stability to persevere. His Gospel keeps all things in their right place, so you’re not foolishly fighting to elevate the created above the Creator.

Flashback Post: The Best Years

Written April 20th, 2008.
I was never the tall kid, the best-dressed, the one that girls looked at twice. Never the coolest, the most popular, the most likely to succeed. Just a flower in the wall. Sometimes I was told I had potential, but mostly I was lucky to get by.

I wish someone had told me back then that those years spent in fear were the best years of my life. I wish someone had said, “Why are you holding back. Why don’t you go crazy. You’ll thank yourself later.”

This is the universal burning of all people – that we wish we knew then what we know now. Only later we regret that we couldn’t live out the entirety of our dreams.

I went alone to the senior prom because I knew no one would go with me. I was the awkward Asian, terrified of rejection, head down and unmoving. I remember that my dad let me borrow his Cadillac for prom and said, “She will like this expensive car. She is fortunate girl.” He adjusted the lapels on my tuxedo and made sure the fake red rose in my front pocket was just right. He said it felt like only yesterday when he carried me on his back through an old playground and pretended that we were flying in an imaginary sky that stretched into some kind of forever.

I drove the Cadillac to the senior prom. It was okay to be alone. I lied to my dad because I wanted him to believe I was the best, that I was the one that all the girls wanted, that I was a son he could be proud of.

Maybe in that world of other possibilities that never happen, I could’ve had the courage to ask some girl to the prom. Some fluffy girl dressed in a pink strapless gown and her hair would’ve smelled like Herbal Essence and she could’ve held my hand when I walked through that intimidating doorway and we could’ve danced to Fatboy Slim and the Electric Slide and Stand By Me and she would’ve sat with me at one of those glittery tables and smiled at things I had to say.

I don’t have a senior yearbook because there was no one I wanted to remember and no one wanted to remember me. I look at my yearbooks from middle school and mostly everyone just wrote “Have a nice summer,” because that’s what you say to someone you don’t really know. I flip the pages and look at all the pretty white girls who would never say hi, and these were my daydreams during class, that one of them might shake my hand and find out how cool I really was. If I had only just stepped up. If I had only just a lot of things.

I dream about them sometimes, walking through the high school hallways and seeing their faces. People I hated, people I wanted to know, people who were like me with their heads down. It’s usually the same dream – late to class, running late, can’t find it, going up and down stairs, running across the grass, backpack bouncing up and down. In dreams at least, the people actually wave and give me high fives and pat me on the back. It’s all frantic but they notice me.

Sometimes I dream about them because I want to go back and do it all again, but mostly because I want to go back and stay there. I want to fly there into some sort of forever.

Most of those teen high school movies give the nerd some redemption, a happy ending. It doesn’t happen much in what we call real life, but it did happen for me once.

Four months before graduation a counselor approached me. He was very fond of my awkwardness — most counselors were — and he offered me a spot in the multicultural festival. Meaning I could do a Tae Kwon Do demonstration in front of the entire high school.

I was reluctant at first. This could be another opportunity for embarrassment. I was confident of my ability but in front of all those smoldering eyes, I didn’t know. It could all just be disaster. I might slip, fall over on my face, and what a crock that would be during lunch time – oh hey did you see that Chinese kid fall over throwing a kick and pretending to be one of us, one of the cool people, did you see that crazy insanity. How dare he.

I thought about it for a day and I went back to the counselor. I said, Yes, of course I will.

So I got ready. I got the music, I practiced the routine, I busted myself into shape. I jogged miles and miles, I kicked the bag until my legs went limp, I did push-ups and sit-ups and jump rope like I was fighting for the championship title. I punched that bag and imagined I was punching my past, punching my weakness, punching all the charisma I was lacking to be like them.

The day grew closer and I grew giddy, nervous, scared, excited, nauseous. I hardly slept the night before showtime, and then the morning arrived.

I drove to school with my black belt and uniform next to me. I played the music for my exhibition over and over in the car, and then I parked and took the keys out and cried. I didn’t know what else to do; I just cried and cried. All those years of high school and I had been shut off, shot down, shut out, and this was the one chance to redeem myself in front of the whole school, and all I could think was —

Can’t do it. Too scared, I can’t do it.

Because some part of me wanted to remain the wallflower.

I cried, man. I cried like a baby. Every time someone called me chink, every time someone called me a pancake face, someone calling me Buddha, someone yelling ching chong in the hallway, someone sucker-punching me and saying my father killed his dad in Vietnam, some girl telling me I was too ugly to date her, someone calling me a Chinese busboy.

I cried because I was afraid. Maybe I was never supposed to be the cool guy. Maybe I was just the nice guy who never said much and ignored all the insults, and that was that. No one would remember me and I could look back at all those scribbles of “Have a nice summer” and be content with being mediocre, and I could tell my father that yes, the demonstration went well and the students loved it, they sure did, and I could’ve smiled through that whole lie while my dad would’ve smiled back when he really knew I was lying.

Instead I grabbed my black belt. I grabbed my uniform. I didn’t believe in God back then but I prayed to him. I asked him to forgive me for not trying harder. I asked him to give me the courage I never had.

I went inside the high school gymnasium and they were all waiting.

Put on the uniform, stretched out, warmed up, tied on the black belt.

I walked to the center of that cold gym floor. There weren’t many lights but it was so bright. It was a sea of faces eyeing me, judging me, taunting me. I was about to run out the double doors and never look behind me, but then the music cued, I grabbed my nunchucks, and then I lost myself. That’s what they call in the zone.

I whipped those nunchucks like a madman. Right from the start, they cheered. They were actually cheering. Something like adrenaline exploded through me and I must’ve thrown a jump kick that reached the ceiling. I ended in a split and everyone went crazy.

Then I pulled out the wooden boards and someone held them for me, and I picked the eight biggest football players in the audience and set them to crouch in a line in front of the board.

I started from one end of the gym and ran toward the line of crouching football players. I jumped over all eight of them, over those kids who never gave me a chance, who called me every horrible racial slur they could think of, who brought me to the rock bottom of my own gutted self-worth, and I flew over them right through the sky. I sailed through the air and my foot cut a straight path through all those hateful bitter memories and I broke that little board into a thousand splintering pieces. I landed and yelled my heart out.

The football players stood up and there was silence from the bleachers. Then the football players chanted something. Everyone joined in. Something I wouldn’t forget, ever. Slowly, but in total unison, louder and louder.

They were saying – Bruce . . . Bruce . . . Bruce.

Bruce Lee. They were calling me Bruce Lee.

So then I bowed low and did a Kung Fu pose, and just like good old Bruce, I yelled out, Waaaaaah. They laughed, and it was a good laugh.

Even now, I walk around the shopping mall and someone from my high school sees me and there’s recognition. They make a little karate stance and mouth the words Bruce, and I make the karate stance right back at them.

If only someone had told me to enjoy it, to live it up, that these are the best times. I guess we realize we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously; it’s okay to laugh at yourself. God was right behind me all those wonderfully miserable years. Sometimes all you get are those moments, and day by day you seize them, or you don’t. There is still more, you know. The best is on the way.

Joon kick

Written on 10-19-04
For Sean Cowles. 1984-2003.

New Year’s Resolution: Bible Reading Plans

Ready to finish the Bible or read it again this year?

Here’s a great blog post for Bible reading plans by Justin Taylor of the Gospel Coalition.
*Update: Here’s his new article for 2013.

I also have the One Year Plan and the B90X 90 Day Plan on file.
Click here for the One Year Plan.
I did the 90 Day Plan in 104 days.
Click here for the 90 Day Plan.

I’m currently reading the One Year Bible NLT (New Living Translation) at a rate of about two entries per day. It’ll be my third time through the Bible, and then I plan to read The Books of the Bible by Biblica, which has no chapter or verse numbers.

It’s never too late to start!

Continue reading “New Year’s Resolution: Bible Reading Plans”

Quote: Chisel

“Does God want us to suffer? What if the answer to that question is ‘yes’? You see, I don’t think that God particularly wants us to be happy. I think He wants us to love and be loved. He wants us to grow up. You see, we are like children who think that our toys bring us all the happiness there is, and that our nursery is the whole wide world. But something has to drive us out into the world of others, and that thing is suffering. Put simply, pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. We are like blocks of stone from which the Sculptor carves a form. The blows of His chisel which hurt us so much are what make us perfect.”

— C.S. Lewis

Everyone Else’s Vision For You

We do not fit each other’s shoes, even if they are the same size. We don’t think alike, so our expectations from each other will often miss or explode. You’re scared of spiders, I’m scared of heights, and we both think the other’s fear is a little silly. We cry at different parts of the same movie, don’t laugh at the same parts of different movies, I hate the movies you like, and you hate the food I love. Even if we had the same goals, we would chase it in our own unique way.

Still we forget this, that everyone is two different people, and we burden each other with our own vision of life as if we must all have the same one or die.

Every single thing on earth is trying to wrap you in its vision. That shoe company wants you in their shoes. That teacher thinks you’d make a good lawyer, or engineer, or accountant. Your friend says be single like me. Your parents want you to be a surgeon, a lieutenant, part of the family business, but not an artist or writer. The television tells you to lose weight, put on make-up, have eye surgery, get this car, buy these clothes, and then you will be successful. Nearly everyone will tell you what you can do, can’t do, shouldn’t do, and will do. Some are right, some are wrong, but you’ll be darn sure to hear their opinion anyway. As long as you don’t, heaven forbid, think for yourself.

Nothing is satisfied with how you are and wants you to be how they think you should be. But nothing on earth has that kind of authority over you. No one has business being the boss of your vision, to inform the fixture of your individually designed soul: but we let it happen.

Over time, by degrees, fooled by the bright signs and detours, we turn our will over to everyone else’s vision. Until we are merely a concoction of pop culture, radio songs, the latest jeans, and a hairdo that will not impress your kids and their kids — it is the slow death by marketing and conformity into an eclectic pastiche of cheap imitation.

Continue reading “Everyone Else’s Vision For You”

Quote: Chains

“So concerned with what the people think that you can’t tell the truth. The politician spirit’s holdin you down.

So determined to be worshipped – at the price of your soul, the politician spirit’s holdin you down.

Can you even fathom freedom? Trapped in all your obligation, can you imagine freedom when your life’s an occupation? Oh, it’s chains, yes. politician spirit’s holdin me down.

—Pretending to be happy, it’s just a masquerade. Keeping up an image hoping God would soon be pleased, pretending to be healthy, you’re so wealthy and diseased.—

We’ve got time to change, got time to change, thank God we still got time to change.

Thank God, still.”

— Lauryn Hill