Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Our house church family was recently discussing the Lord’s prayer. One of our brothers admitted he’s always struggled with the section where Jesus teaches us to pray, “…and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Because we know that God doesn’t tempt us to do evil, it seems strange that Jesus would ask us to pray that God would not lead us into temptation.

According to the book of James, we are not tempted by God, but God does use our testing and trials to strengthen our faith.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” – (v.12-13)

So, what is Jesus saying in this teaching? What are we to understand from God’s Word about the intricacies of temptation and testing?

While God may not directly tempt us to sin, he does allow us to be tested – or tempted – in order to help us grow in our faith.

At the moment my wife Wendy and I are praying about sending our oldest son, Dylan (14), to attend the Orange County High School of the Arts. Dylan has always been a very creative young man and from an early age he has always expressed a desire to be an artist.

A few weeks ago, Dylan auditioned to become one of about 40 new students at this special arts-focused high school. He and 2,400 others showed their portfolio, submitted an application and turned in three drawings created during the interview process. We’ll find out in April if he’s made the cut.

If he does make it, we will be releasing our oldest son into the public school system, which, for home school parents like us is more than a little frightening, to be honest. We know that for the first time in his life Dylan will be exposed to ideas and language and behaviors he has only observed from a distance until now. We pray that he will continue to make good choices as temptations and distractions come his way at this new school. Frankly, we’re not fully convinced that this really is God’s best for Dylan, but we’re willing to take a leap of faith with our son.

As we were sharing our concerns along these lines with an older couple a few months ago over dinner, one of them said something that has continued to echo in my ears. He said, “Virtue untested is not virtue.”

Because of this simple sentence, I am willing to allow Dylan to step into a place where I know he will have his faith tested and his ideas challenged. Why? Because he is becoming a man now and sooner or later he must be allowed to succeed – or to fail – on his own. He must learn how to deal with failure and to recover from mistakes and he needs to do that without his Mom or Dad hovering over him. Dylan needs to discover for himself who he is and if what he believes about life – and about himself – is true or not.

This is similar to how God deals with us, I believe. He teaches about Himself. He shows us His love. He fills us with His Spirit. Then he allows us to be tempted and tested to see if we can live out what we say we believe. I think it’s more for our benefit because God already knows our heart. He already knows what’s in us. But, we do not. We need to discover the places where our faith is all talk and to see ourselves in the light of reality. We need to hold on tight to God when we can’t hear His voice. We need to fall flat on our face and realize that we weren’t really the spiritual superstars we thought we were. We need to be humbled and we need to know how much we really do rely on God for every single breath.

This is why God asked the Devil if he had seen Job’s faith. It’s why God prompted David to number the men of Israel. It’s why there was a tree in the Garden that wasn’t meant to be touched. It’s even why the Spirit of God drove Jesus into the desert to be tempted. We need to know how weak we really are. We need to learn to trust God no matter what.

So, we need to pray and ask that God would lead us – not into temptation – but away from evil, because we know that we are weak and hopeless without Him.


Monday, March 15, 2010


In the Gospel of John, we get to eavesdrop on the intimate conversation between Jesus and the Father. In this prayer Jesus prays for us and his prayer for us is that we would be one:

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them may be one, Father, just as you and I are one....May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." - John 17:20-21

Unity in the Body is essential. According to the prayer of Jesus, our unity is a proof of the messianic identity of Jesus and of the love of God for us:

"May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (v. 23)

Hopefully in your experience as a follower of Jesus you have had the opportunity to meet another believer in Christ and fall in love with them immediately. I don't mean that in the romantic sense, but in the sense that you feel as if you have known them all your life even though you've only just met them.

If so, what you're experiencing is a kinship of faith with another member of your family - the Family of God.

Regardless of whether or not that person is a member of your denomination, or whether or not this person agrees with you about specific points of doctrine, you have an undeniable feeling of brotherly (or sisterly) love for this individual. You are recognizing the Christ in them and you are responding to the love of Jesus shared between you both.

Whenever we experience this we are bearing witness to the unity of the Body of Christ. There is only one Body and if we have loved Jesus and put our faith in Him, we are members of His Body.

Whenever we make a decision to love the Jesus in another person - and to overlook the doctrinal points of disagreement - we are keeping the unity of the Body of Christ.

A good friend, and brother in Christ, recently pointed out to me that throughout Christian history, when christian leaders gathered to nail down points of doctrine the result was never unity - it was always more division.

Our little house church, the Mission, is comprised of a variety of different people who are all from extremely divergent streams of faith. In our house church there are former Calvary Chapel pastors and youth leaders, former Vineyard members, former Southern Baptists, former Bretheren, former Church of Christ, former Lutherans, and former independent, non-denominational, "whatchamacallits".

On paper our house church has no business surviving for over 4 years as a family of God. Yet, somehow we manage to love one another, to serve one another and to consider one another as dear brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of our obvious doctrinal differences.

How do we do it? Well, mostly we've done it by choosing to see and love the Jesus in one another. We've made a choice to overlook those doctrinal differences in favor of learning from the experiences - and varying perspectives - of others in our Body.

Now, to be honest, our house church if far from perfect. We are people, just like everyone else. We're human. We're sinners. We're just as foolish and fickle as you are. And most of all, we all recognize our intense daily need for more of Jesus.

What blesses me, however, is how God called each of us to be part of this Body. I did not recruit anyone. Most people who currently attend our house church each week found us and sought us out. I did not find them. God touched their hearts and called them out and lead them by His Spirit to join this church family.

I love that God would call former Lutherans and Baptists and Church of Christ and Vineyard and Calvary Chapel, etc. members to join hearts and hands and lives and become one fellowship of saints together. I love that He would allow us to learn to forgive one another, and to honor one another, and to lay down our denominational and doctrinal identities to embrace membership in the Body of Christ.

We are part of your church. You are part of our church. All of us are members of one another. Because there is only one Body, and one Church, and One Lord.

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." - 1 Cor 12:12-13


Friday, March 12, 2010


For several years now I have made a conscious effort to follow Jesus in my actual life. In the process, I have discovered that following Jesus on a daily basis is impossible without dying to oneself.

This is what Jesus meant in Luke 9, verse 23 when he said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." He means, that following him is not possible if you have not first surrendered your life completely. In the same way that it would be impossible to work as a lifeguard without first knowing how to swim, we cannot follow Jesus if we are not engaged in the ongoing process of dying to ourselves.

Unfortunately, surrendering your life to Jesus isn't a one time event. I used to think that it was, but I've also learned that my decision to lay down my life and live for Jesus must be a daily activity in order to have any real significance. It's mainly because we are fickle creatures and we require constant, daily, reminders of the need to surrender or else we revert back to our old ways of life. I know I do, anyway.

For over a year now I have been undergoing a painful process of death to self. This has not been due to any effort on my part. Rather, it has been a process that I have endured at the hand of my Master.

We have an understanding, the Master and I, that death to self is vital to my spiritual development. I know that my heart is wicked, that my flesh is prideful, that my natural tendency is towards selfishness and vanity. So, I have surrendered to this process of being put to death - one day at a time.

As one might expect, the process is not easy. Nor is it an enjoyable one. However, the fruit of this death is life in the Spirit. As my flesh decays, the life of Christ is revealed in me over time.

A few days ago I was in prayer and I began to realize that much of the pain in my life at the moment was due to this process of dying to self. Over time I have lost friendships, endured suffering at work, in our church family, and in my personal life. As I enumerated these gradual losses it dawned on me that Jesus was trying to kill me. Specifically, he was doing the work I had conracted him to perform many years ago. He was putting to death my flesh in order to make room in my heart for his enduring, glorious life.

In short, Jesus - the son of God, the prince of peace, the lamb of God - was trying to kill me.

Fenelon, a 17th century christian writer, describes this process as "Circumcision of the Heart":

"Our own hands would never put the knife in the right place. We would cut away only a little of the fat and bring about a few superficial changes. We do not understand ourselves well enough to know where to cut. We could never find the sensitive spot, but God finds it easily. And even if we knew where the spot were located, self-love would hold back the knife and spare itself. It does not have the courage to wound itself. And even if the knife were plunged into the vital spot, the nerves would steel themselves against the pain, and the teeth would be gritted, in order to deaden some of the pain. But the hand of God strikes in unexpected places, finds the very place where the infection is fastened and does not hesitate to cut it away, regardless of the pain. And, oh, how self-love cries out! Well, let it cry, but do not let it interfere with the success of the operation." - (Let Go, page 86-87)

As I daily endure this slow process of being put to death, I also enjoy the sweet taste of the life of Christ in my spirit. My old self dies - Halleluiah - and the new self inhales the sweet breath of Jesus every single day.

The best I can do is to submit to this process of mortification and try my best to stay out of the surgeon's way.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." - Galatians 2:20


Thursday, March 04, 2010


With scientists informing us that the 8.8 quake in Chile altered the length of the day and location of the poles by a tiny amount, I can’t help but wonder if it has moved anyone here at all.

Of course, I’m speaking of my own heart, really. I do not know you. I have no idea how this earthquake may have affected you, or moved you. I can only say that, for me, those images of destruction and despair get lost in the noise.

I have barely had time to reflect on the devastation in Haiti, and now an even greater destruction has come to Chile. What am I to do? How am I to respond?

Having donated money to an on-the-ground ministry in Haiti, I had just begun to check off the box and move on with my life. Now, this. Will another monetary gift make this one go away? And then I can’t help but wonder, how long until the next one? How long until this devastation finds us here in the United States?

What would it be like to have the earth shake violently beneath my feet? For darkness to fall over me as concrete and steel come crashing down? What would it be like to search for my sons, or my wife, and not find them? What would I do if there were suddenly no running water, no food, no medicine, and worse – no hope?

As I look at these faces covered with soot and dust, with tears streaking down and eyes full of despair in Haiti and Chile, I can’t help but wonder how long will it be until this touches me? And when it does, what will I do? And what is it that I would want someone in another nation who sees my photo on the internet to do about my pain?

A mentor of mine once said that the only mistake we can make when we consider Jesus' call to love our neighbor is not to see our neighbor in the face of the next person we meet.

But, what is the response of one who follows Christ to this endless parade of suffering and devastation? How can we be like the Good Samaritan when there is a man laying in the road on every website we visit?

At some level I know that we can only do the best we can do. We cannot berate ourselves for not taking an action that is beyond our ability. But, if it's more an issue of the heart, then I must admit that my heart is not as soft as it should be. And no amount of check-writing will change that.

I have a poster on my bedroom wall. It says, "We can only fail them if we do nothing." It is a poster to remind me of children who are orphaned and abused and exploited around the world. I look at those words and they burn in my mind. Because I wrote them. And now they echo back at me. Certainly I may have done something, but it's so small as to feel like nothing to me.

Lately I have been meeting on a weekly basis to pray with other men from our Church family. After just two weeks now I've become refreshed by these times of prayer. And one thing that has begun to stir in me is that prayer shifts my perspective to admit that there is much I cannot do.

By praying we acknowledge that we are unable to change men's hearts. We are powerless to heal others. We are helpless when it comes to divorce, and cancer, and unforgiveness, and poverty. We are insufficient. We are - by definition - 'not enough' to change these things. But God is. He can. And when we pray we begin to become filled with the great hope that He will move and act and work in ways that we can't.

Tonight I pray for the countless thousands who are suffering in Haiti, in Chile, in India, in Thailand, in the Philipines, in Africa, in North Korea, in China, and in every dark place on this globe. Yes, even in America. And I ask God to heal them, and bless them, and rescue them. And I also ask Him to send an 8.8 quake into my heart to shake up my status quo and tranform my life.

I think, honestly, that is what I would want if someone were to see my face on the internet and read of the devastation in my hometown. I would want them to lift me up in prayer. I would want to hear the voice of God. I would want to know that He had not forsaken me, or forgotten me.

Honestly, I want that now.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Haiti & Chile


What our news media didn't tell you about Haiti:
On February 12, 2010, President Préval of Haiti called his nation to 3 days of fasting and prayer. Over 1 million Haitians attended this epic event.

Watch the amazing report and video



Apparently it's always best to source your quotes, Timmy. Let this be a lesson to all of you.

[Hoax newstory removed. My apologies to televangelists everywhere.]

Amazing and heartbreaking photos of Chilean tragedy,