Saturday, April 30, 2016


All of us struggle with this.

We know that God has forgiven us. We’ve read the verses. We’ve even quoted them to other people. But sometimes, in the darkness, when we’re all alone, we start to lose touch with who we are and fall back into that old pattern of thinking.

“I’m a loser,” we whisper to ourselves. “I’m a failure,” we say.

Maybe we blew it. Maybe we said something, or did something, that we regret.

Maybe it was yesterday. Maybe it was ten years ago. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was, we drag it back up. We dig up old bones and we reenact the crime, playing it over again in slow motion within our memory.

We just wish God would fix us, but what we’ve forgotten is that God is already fixing us. In fact, He tells us that we’re new creatures who are in the process of being made into His image.

When God looks at us, He doesn’t see someone who needs to be fixed. He sees someone who is a new creation in Christ; someone so dearly loved and fully accepted.

We might feel like we’re not even worthy to ask for help, but we don’t need to be worthy. He is worthy and that’s all that matters.

If we’re in Him then we’re promised:
*There is no condemnation
*Nothing can separate us from His love
*We are new creatures
*We are His children

The next time you find yourself in this place, try reminding yourself of who you are now, not who you used to be.

Focus on drawing nearer and nearer to Jesus and not on how far apart you feel from Him.

As Paul reminds us, "Think on these things...":

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things" [Phil. 4:8]

Going forward, it's important not to dwell on the past. As Paul also reminds us, 

"Forget the past and reach towards what lies ahead of you. Press on towards the goal which is Christ Jesus" [See Phil. 3:13]

Resist the temptation to return to the scene of the crime.

You were found innocent. Washed clean forever of all guilt by Jesus, two thousand years ago.

Your debt is paid in full. You are free to go.

All charges against you have been dropped.

We’ve checked with the Judge and you have no criminal record on file.

Keep reminding yourself of who you are now, not who you once were long ago.

Today you are free. There is no condemnation against you. There is nothing in this universe strong enough to separate you from God’s love.

Case dismissed.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Optimistically Organic

[My response to Frank Viola's recent post about Organic Church]

A few days ago, author Frank Viola shared an article about Organic Church that has garnered much attention. This isn't surprising given that Frank Viola is still seen as an authority on the movement, even though he hasn't been involved in an organic church for 8 years. He also admits that he's not interested in writing about the topic and he isn't planting organic churches and he typically refrains from posting anything at all about organic church on his blog, although he does still believe what he's written in his books.

So, this post was a bit of a surprise to me, given his inactivity in an organic church for nearly a decade now and his admitted lack of personal interest in the topic.

Still, he did write the definitive book on the subject and therefore his opinion carries a lot of weight with many people in the organic circles.

That's why his post caught my attention, and it's also why I felt the need to respond to some of what he shared.

It's probably a good idea to mention that I contacted Frank privately about this before I wrote this response. He and I corresponded back and forth on this already. I'm not against Frank. I love him and I do sincerely believe that Frank loves me, too.

Frank also mentioned to me that he had shared his post with several others in the Organic Church movement and that about 95% agreed with his statements. So, please keep in mind that my opinion on this matter is in the apparent minority.

Please don't read this article as an attack on Frank or an opportunity to pick sides. I'm simply responding to what Frank has said as a way to add to an ongoing conversation about a topic that we all happen to have an interest in.

So, having said all that:

In his post, Frank points out several things about the Organic Church today that I totally agree with.

*He says that it's not as popular as it was back when he wrote his books.
*He says that it's very hard to find an organic church in most communities.
*He says that most of those involved in the movement tend to be in the 50's and older range.
*He says that God isn't fanning the flames of revival in America like He used to.
*He says that many "organic church" groups aren't truly organic.
*He says that the term "organic church" is misued and abused.

I honestly agree 100 percent with all of that.

But the relative popularity of the ekklesia of God isn't relevant to me. What's relevant to me is that God has identified a specific design for His Body. Even if I was the only one following His instructions, it would still be important to obey Him in this area.

Are organic churches hard to find? Yes, they are. Mostly because they are word of mouth and not visible on the street corner or found in the yellow pages. It has always been that way.

For example, someone in Orange County, California [where I live] could search for an organic church and very easily conclude "there aren't any organic churches here" simply because they are hard to find. But there are at least seven organic/simple churches in Orange County that I am aware of. There most certainly could be more, but I haven't heard about them yet.

Simply put, just because they might be hard to find doesn't mean they don't exist.

But, what if they really DON'T exist in my community? Well, I would encourage you to start one in your home and begin to pray that the Lord might help you connect with others in your community who are yearning for the same organic expression of His Body.

Are most organic church members eligible for a Senior Discount at Denny's? Yes, maybe. I agree that there was a time very recently when I was beginning to despair that the next generation wasn't going to pursue the organic church. Our local conferences were beginning to look like my High School Reunion. But lately we've experienced a very encouraging shift. Our house church family is now mostly single adults in their 20's and 30's. Another new house church group has started recently among students at Biola University. This is encouraging. Granted, my experience isn't necessarily indicative of the rest of the movement, but it does give me hope.

I also noticed when hosting my "Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics]" groups on that dozens of young adults were very desperate for community and searching for other young Christians who wanted to get together and focus on Jesus. They wouldn't call that "organic church" but regardless, what they're hungry for is what we have and maybe we just need to find more creative ways to share it with them.

I also agree that many "organic" churches are not truly organic. They do not practice the priesthood of all believers. They still have a designated pastor or central teacher who makes all the decisions. They still operate like an institutional church but they've traded their pews for sofas. I get that, and I agree, that's not something I want to promote.

That being said, here are a few things I feel like I need to stress:

*Church has always been what God is doing, not what we are doing
*The growth of the Ekklesia might be hidden, but it continues to thrive apart from our observation
*Organic church has never been about numbers or popularity
*God’s design for His Ekklesia has never changed
*If we truly desire Ekklesia in our community we can start one now

For the last 10 years now, my family and I have been very blessed to experience the true Koinonia in the Body of Christ.

Yes, I do understand that not many people have this same experience, but I want to encourage you - if you're still searching - it’s not impossible. It will take a resolve and a determination – and it might be just you and your family for a long while before God sends others your way, but giving up isn’t a solution. Starting one in your living room, is.

Here’s my optimistic view of Organic Church:
*There are more free resources for the organic church today than when I started 10 years ago
*Most of those who are leaders in this movement are highly accessible and willing to help you
*There are people near you who are just as hungry for community and ekklesia as you are

Finally, as I read Frank's insightful post one sentence jumped out to me:

As I write this, we’re in a season where the waves of a Spirit-generated revival are non-existent in North America. There’s also no significant awakening regarding the restoration of God’s house.

My first thought after reading that was a quote I heard from an old surfer dude once. He said, “We don’t make the waves. We just ride them.” Which is great advice for those of us in Organic Church! But then this thought came to me:

“If you’re not in the water when the wave comes, you’ll miss it.”

So, my resolve is to stay here in the water. Maybe there are no big waves coming along at the moment, but every good surfer knows that if you stay in the water long enough, you’ll catch the big one when it arrives.

I would also encourage you, and others in this movement, that there are organic churches being started outside of our field of vision. For example, through my friendship with Herb Montgomery, I’ve discovered a new movement within the Seventh Day Adventist denomination which is identical to organic church in every way, but they don’t call it that.

It’s my firm belief that God is stirring up many other such movements like this here in the States, and all over the world, that might not bear the “organic church” brand but is still based on the simple church model found in the new testament where the priesthood of all believers is freely practiced and encouraged.

Thanks for taking the time to read my perspective and for allowing me to contribute my voice to the ongoing conversation. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

NOTE: If you're currently searching for an organic church in your area, please feel free to contact me. If I can't help you find one, I can help you start one. I’ve already made almost every mistake possible, so you can benefit from my failures.

Also: Be sure to search out the numerous Organic Church groups on Facebook. I'm a moderator over at the Organic Church Movements page along with Jon Zens, and Richard Jacobson. We'd love to have you join us.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Unscientific Love

So...I had a dream last night. It was kinda strange, but I woke up wondering what it meant.

Part of it was someone looking at me and urging me to "be the scientist" I was meant to be. 

There was a bit about trying to tune a radio to find a station but it never would come in.

Then we were walking through the forest, up a hill. Someone was asking me if I was a Prophet or an Apostle. I started explaining how I might be a little one or the other, but I wasn't sure.

There was another bit where a friend and I went into a little child's playhouse and sat in this balcony overlooking a yard, almost like a hidden tree house thing. She started  doing this little dot-dash pattern on a writing tablet or book as if she was trying to help me figure out what my gifts or calling were. 

Like I said, weird.

But, then it got weirder. This morning on the train I'm reading the next chapter of this book, "The Cure", by John Lynch, and I come across this part:

"Some of the most disingenuous and useless relationships are those where one has an agenda in another's life, seeing ourselves as SCIENTISTS seeking a solution for disease in a twisted lab experiment. These people assume some equation of holiness: Four hours of small group study plus thirty minutes memorizing scriptures, multiplied by challenge, conviction and demand make the subject sin less and become a more productive church member."

How did I dream about something I hadn't read yet?

But honestly the whole chapter started to make me wonder if what I’ve been trying to do is to come up with some agenda where I can "fix" people. And maybe all I really need to do is to just help people understand that they are loved? That they can really open themselves up to be loved by us and by God and by others?

Later on this same chapter it says:

"The spiritually immature are not loved well, but it is not because they fail. They are not loved well because they fail to trust the love of another. Because they trust no one, their needs aren't met. Because their needs aren't met, they live out of selfishness. Not only do they not receive love, they don't give it either."

I wonder if this is really our core issue? Do we fail to respond to God's love because we don’t really trust that we are lovable?

Do we keep ourselves walled off from others because we don’t trust that we will be loved if people really knew all about us?

Do we shut ourselves off from God, and from others, because in our heart of hearts we’re just not convinced we are worth loving, or that if others knew us deeply that we would still be deeply loved?

Maybe so.

And if so, then maybe the cure is to start learning how to really receive God’s love. As it says in 1 John: “We love because He first loved us.” Not simply chronologically. It’s like a catalyst: We only know how to love because we have first received His love that transcends knowledge.

Once we really begin to believe that we are loved, and that His love won’t stop or change or go away if we screw up, then we begin to be changed by His love. It starts to transform us from within. We relax. We discover the freedom to be who we really are. We suddenly realize our masks are obsolete. We drop them on the ground, or absently forget them under the chair, as we start to laugh, and sing, and dance and enjoy being loved!

We finally start to believe it – really, really BELIEVE – that WE ARE LOVED!

Once we fully accept and trust that we are loved by God – forever, without fluctuation or conditions – then we experience the glorious freedom of being His Beloved in the here and now.

That’s when we have the best hope of helping others to break free of their chains and begin to believe that they, too, are loved beyond measure.

It’s a process, but we’re all made to be loved, and to love others, so the more we begin to move in this direction and to trust our Abba, the easier it all becomes to us. Soon, what sounds strange to our ears is the idea that we’re unworthy, or broken, or sinful, or that we’re full of darkness. Our hearts refuse to hear it. Our heads shake back and forth as our lips whisper: “Not anymore we’re not!”

We reach a point where we fully accept our identity as “the one the Lord loves” and our lives become re-calibrated to a new rhythm and pattern of being: We are the children of God. We are the one’s He loves. We are being transformed daily into His image. Christ is alive in us and He will never, ever leave.


So, I’m giving up on trying to be a “Scientist” who wants to “fix people”. My calling is to be one who proclaims the Good News that they are dearly loved of God and that if they put their hope in Jesus, He will show them how to be loved by God and how to love others out of that glorious relationship.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Yes, Jesus could turn stones into bread and make sure no one was ever hungry again. But then we’d live in a world where people had too much food and no reason to share with those who had nothing.

Jesus could heal every disease and remove sickness from the world. But we would still live in a world where people cared more about themselves than about the needs of others.

Jesus could step in and prevent every car accident and rescue every innocent child from hit and run drivers. But we would still live in a world where people cared nothing about the safety of others, took foolish chances with their lives, and abused alcohol.

Jesus could guide every bullet so that it always missed taking a life. He could turn our guns into candy canes if He wanted to. But we would still live in a world where people wanted to kill each other.

Jesus could appear to everyone and prove that He exists right now. He could float through the air, appear on CNN, visit every human on the planet in person and shoot healing lasers of love out of his eyes. But people would still not love Him or serve Him.

Jesus has the ability to change things and circumstances, but what really needs changing is people and their hearts.

Now, if we would simply follow Him and listen to what He says and put His words into practice, we’ll see that He’s really telling us the truth: We really can enter the Kingdom right now. We really can enjoy peace that passes understanding. He really will be with us until the end of the time. He honestly will never leave us or forsake us. He actually does love us as we are, and not as we should be [because none of us is as we should be].

God, help those of us who are called by your Name to really believe in your amazing love. Help us to receive your love. Help us to live and breathe and move and give and share out of this endless stream of living water that you pour into us - and through us - to a hurting world so in need of your refreshing love. 

Help us to admit, first of all, that WE need your love as much as anyone else does.

Now, help us to soak up that love that transcends knowledge and squeeze it out in every human interaction we have today, and every day. 

Until the whole world knows your love.


*Inspired by the Tweet stream of @JesusBenyosef.

Monday, April 25, 2016


As soon as the words left my mouth I felt like an idiot.

We were sitting at a restaurant sharing a great meal with a group of people from our house church family. One of our newer members invited his parents to join us. They were visiting from out of State and it was our first time to meet them.

We spent most of our time raving about the amazing food, and the rest of the time sharing wonderful testimonies of what God has been doing in our lives over the years as we've enjoyed learning to "be the church" together.

Then it happened.

My friend's Dad asked me if I'd read the latest book by Frank Viola. I said no, and then he shared with me how great it was and how it had been encouraging him in his walk with Jesus.

My response? I said: "I know Frank, so I'll just send him an email and see if he can send me a copy to review on my blog."

Even as I said it my brain was already back-pedaling. "Did you just say that out loud?"

Yes. I did. I said it.

And I felt like a schmuck the rest of the day.

Sure, it was true. I do know Frank Viola. I've interviewed him a few times. We've talked on the phone. He even mentioned me on his blog the other day. But so what?

I mean, who cares if I know Frank Viola? Or Jon Zens? Or Milt Rodriguez? Or Felicity Dale? Or Ross Rohde? Or Neil Cole? [I know all of those people, by the way].

Who cares if I've interviewed Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, or Kevin Smith, who directed the films "Clerks" and "Mallrats"? 

Who cares if I've talked on the phone with Walter Kirn, the author who wrote the books "Thumbsuckers" and "Up In The Air", which were both made into major motion pictures by the way?

Who really cares?

Well, for starters, I do.

I care because mentioning those names makes me feel important. It makes me feel like I belong to an elite group of experts who deserve respect and attention. It lets everyone know that I'm probably someone they should be proud to know, too.

But honestly, I doubt anyone has ever dropped my name to impress anyone.

That's the truth.

This "Respect by Association" game is our way of adding ourselves to a circle of people who we look up to, in the hopes that somehow we might also elevate ourselves.

I'm guilty as charged.

I'm like Will Ferrell in "Elf" every time someone mentions Santa Claus, I scream "I know him!"

But all of this talk about name-dropping has made me realize something else: I can drop the biggest name of all.

See, I happen to know the guy who designed DNA. I'm also a very good friend of the person who created the universe.

You know the guy who invented stuff like music, and sex, and puppies, and sunsets, and the ocean, and coffee, and chocolate, and love? Yeah, he's my BFF.

In fact, I was just talking to Him earlier today. He's crazy about me. Seriously. He really can't stop thinking about me. He loves me, like, a whole lot. It's almost embarrassing, really.

But what's really cool is this: That guy? He isn't unapproachable. He doesn't travel with an entourage. He doesn't have a rider that specifies a certain audience size before He'll agree to make an appearance. In fact, He'll show up and hang out if there's even two people in the room who are interested in hearing from Him.

Not only that, this person actually wants to share His fame with me. He wants me to be like Him. He wants me to talk like He does. He wants me to act like He acts. He wants me to love the way He loves. He actually wants me to impersonate Him whenever possible.

The big difference between name-dropping Jesus and all other name-dropping is that when we name-drop Jesus we're not elevating ourselves, we're humbling ourselves.

When we mention His Name, we're admitting that His love for us isn't something we deserve, but it's something He lavishes upon us simply because of who He is, not because of who we are.

He's not too important to be seen with us. He's not out of reach. He's more than happy to make Himself at home with us, no matter who we are, or where we live, or what we've done, or what we've failed to do.

And that's the kinda guy I want to be seen with.

Don't you?


Thursday, April 21, 2016


"Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" - John 1:29

I've often referred to Jesus as our blueprint for living the Kingdom life because Jesus lived a Kingdom life for us to emulate. He showed us how to humble ourselves and serve others, how to love those who are outside our comfort zones, and how to forgive those who hate us.

The life of Jesus was intended to show us that, in fact, it really is possible for us to obey His commands and live as He did.

This is what Jesus meant when he said "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing" - John 14:12
If we trust in Jesus, if we really believe in what He taught us, we will put His words into practice and we will do the things we see Him doing.

A few verses previous to this one, Jesus lets the Disciples know that all He has ever done is what the Father told Him to do:

"The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work." v. 10

So, if Jesus accomplished all that He did by listening to Father, and doing what the Father was doing, then we also can, and will, do the things that Jesus did when we submit our lives to God in the same way.

A few verses later Jesus is asked a question: "Why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the World?"
The disciples are wondering why Jesus doesn't reveal His Glory to the entire planet at once. Here's what Jesus says in reply:

"If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." - John 14:22-23
Did you catch that? The Disciples want to know why Jesus only shows himself to the twelve and not to the whole World. Jesus answer? I'm showing myself to you and when you obey my teachings you show me to the World, then they will see me, and the Father.

Our obedience to Jesus allows the Gospel to be proclaimed in our lives each day.

The point of a blueprint is to read the plan and to duplicate it in the real world. Jesus' death on the cross was intended to set us free and give us a new kind of life in the Kingdom of God, here and now, where we live and breathe.

His sacrifice gave us life. His death gave us access to the Kingdom. And now, our daily sacrifice not only allows us to follow after Him, it is intended to put to death our flesh so that He can live in us.

Because Jesus died, we live. Because we die daily, Jesus lives within us.

Do people around you see Jesus in you? Are you daily taking up your cross to follow Him? There's still time to start living for the One who died to give you life.

"Behold, the Lambs of Jesus who die daily so that their Shepherd can live through them."


Friday, April 15, 2016

Worm-Free Christianity

There are no worms in the Body of Christ.

Everyone who abides in Christ is a brand new creature. We are no longer “worms” or “wretches” who are in need of God’s constant pity.

Our favorite hymns might suggest otherwise, but once we come to Jesus we cease to be worms and begin to become new creatures who are partakers of the Divine nature.

Yes, before the cross we were most pitiful and dead in our sins.
Before we knew Jesus we were broken and worthless and hopeless and blind.

But praise God we are no longer in this condition!

Those who are in Christ are no longer regarded as worms, but as sons of God.
We who are members of the Body of Christ are loved and treasured, not miserable wretches covered in our filthy sins.

Maybe there were some Christians in our church experience who poured shame over us.
Maybe there were pastors and teachers who preached messages of condemnation to keep us under control.
Maybe there were some worship leaders who planted melodies in our hearts that emphasized our former identity as worms and wretches.

But that’s not who Jesus says we are.

We are sons and daughters.
We are filled with the fullness of Christ.
We are new creatures with a new nature.
We are holy.
We are spotless.
We are dearly loved.

If you don’t believe me, look it up. The New Testament is chock full of truth about our new identity in Christ.

Jesus affirms our worth.
Jesus declares our freedom.
Jesus proclaims that we are friends, not slaves.
Jesus reminds us that we are God’s children who cry out “Abba!” to our Heavenly Father who loves us dearly.

Jesus says that He and the Father will come and make their home with those who love and obey Him.

Are you in Christ? Then there is no condemnation for you. None at all.

Are you in Christ? Then there is nothing in the entire Universe with the power to separate you from the love of God.

Are you in Christ? Then you are forever knitted together with Jesus for the rest of eternity.

Repeat after me: “I am not a worm. I am a dearly loved child of God. Jesus lives and breathes in me right now. He will never leave me. He will never forsake me. His love for me will never die.”

Now, set your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Place your hope in Him, the One who loves you beyond measure.

Start living every day, moment by moment, in the new reality of your identity in Christ.

If you can, try helping others to see that they are not worms, either.

We all need a lot more worm-free Christianity.

See also:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Eternal Now

When it comes to our life in Christ, the past is irrelevant.

Paul doesn’t even bother to mention it in his list of things that cannot separate us from the love of Christ. [See Romans 8:35-39] He does mention the present and the future, but quite intentionally fails to say “the past”. Why? Because the only thing we need to know about our past is that it’s forgotten.

“This one thing I do,” Paul says, “forgetting the past, I reach forward to what lies ahead, and I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Messiah Jesus.” [See Phil. 4:13-14]

See, the past is over. It’s dead. Everything that happened in my life before the cross is dead. It has been crucified with Christ. What remains now is only my new life with Jesus.

From the moment I met Jesus I have been continually immersed in the ongoing resurrection life of Christ. My life is now hidden in his life. My identity is now revealed in Him.

I am a new creation. I am being re-created, day by day, into the image of Jesus.

Once in a while I stumble. I fall back into old habits as my mind is being renewed and retrained to see things in the new light of Christ and His Kingdom. But when those failures come, I admit them, I confess them, and I receive more of the new life of Christ and set my eyes on Him again.

I am not a wretch. I am not a worm. I am not a failure. I am not a disappointment to God.

On the contrary. God loves me. He is crazy for me. He can’t stop thinking about me. He rejoices over me with singing. He quiets me with His love. He refuses to leave me or forsake me. He has already moved into my life and made His home with me. He has shared His life with me. He has lavished me with so great a love that I should be called His child. He no longer calls me a servant, but he considers me His friend. He thinks I’m worth dying for. He would rather die than live another moment without me. He can’t conceive of eternity apart from me. I am His beloved. I am the apple of His eye. I have received His enduring, unending favor.

He accepts me. He delights in me. He can’t wait to see me face-to-face.

When we dwell on past mistakes, we rob ourselves of this present reality and future hope.
When we insist on seeing ourselves as sinners and failures, we deny the truth of our new identity in Christ.

As we abide in Jesus, we are partakers of His resurrection life. What’s old is gone. What’s new has come.

Let’s keep reminding ourselves of just how free and loved we are!

This is Good News! We are dearly loved of God!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Beach Ball Miracles


I’ve been teaching a Philosophy 101 class to my youngest son, David the last few months. Our main textbook has been one that came highly recommended by my friend Thomas Crisp who happens to be a philosophy professor at Biola University.

Last night we came to the chapter about the existence of God. In it, the author, Dr. Tom Morris, shares a little personal story about what happened to him one day on the beach at Lake Michigan with his family.

His little boy, Matt, who was only four years old, was playing with this beach ball. The wind was blowing pretty hard. He warned his son to hang on to it, and about that time the wind blew and whipped it out of his son’s hands and all the way across the lake. They stood and watched it disappear over the horizon together. 

Then his little boy looked up at him with tears in his eyes and said, “Daddy, if we pray then God will bring it back.”

To which he replied, “Well, that’s a thought.” But in his heart he simply said, “Poor kid. He doesn’t understand how the world works.”

He went and laid back down on his beach towel. But his son’s simple statement of faith kept bugging him. Why was it so easy for his son to believe in a miracle? Why was he so cynical?

Eventually, under his breath he said, “Ok, God. Bring his beach ball back.”

Then he laid back down and took a nap. 

About 45 minutes later he heard a boat motor. He stood up. The boat was all alone on the horizon. He suddenly felt an urge to raise his hands over his head in a circle and then point out to sea, where the ball had disappeared. He did that. Twice. The boat bobbed up and down for a while, and then it turned around and sped off.

“Whatever,” he thought, and laid back down on the towel.

On hour later, the sound of the boat returned. He stood up again. The boat was getting closer. He waded out into the cold waters of Lake Michigan. The boat inched closer. Eventually he got close enough to talk to the driver who bent down and stood up with a beach ball and said, “Is this yours?”

“Yes,” he said. Dumbfounded. “Yes, it is.”

After talking with the two guys on the boat for a while he found out that they had started out their day with no intention of going out on the lake, but then they suddenly got the urge. That was exactly the time he had prayed for God to return his son’s ball.

They had driven up to the beach and used their binoculars to see if there were any cute girls on the beach. All they saw was this guy [him] standing up and holding his hands in a circle over his head and pointing. They didn’t know what to make of it but decided to head home. A few miles out they saw the beach ball, pulled it into the boat, and then decided to go back one more time to look for cute girls on the beach.

When they pulled up the second time, there were a few cute girls, right near where Tom and his son were sitting on the beach. As the boat got closer, Tom stood up and started walking over to them. That’s when they thought to themselves, “Hey, maybe he lost his beach ball?”

Armed with the story, Dr. Tom Morris went back to his University and shared these events with his colleagues. 

One of them shook his head in disgust and said, “People are dying of cancer, and being murdered, all over the world. And your son gets his beach ball back?”

Tom looked at the man, and then around the room at the skeptical faces of his fellow philosophy professors and said, “Yes.”

Isn't that the way faith works?

We can't understand it. We can't predict it. But sometimes, out of the clear blue, God amazes us with His compassion, and His power, just to show us what is possible if we will trust Him.

Sometimes, even when our faith is nearly nonexistent, He works a miracle anyway. Other times, His answer is "No", or "Not yet".

The bottom line, I think, is all about trust. 

Either we trust God, or we don't. 

What do you think? 


*Taken from the book, "Philosophy For Dummies" by Dr. Tom Morris, p. 233-236

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


One of the great things about our little house church family is that we’ve had numerous opportunities to host Muslim students in our gatherings together.

It all began a few years ago when one of our members – who was an ESL [English-as-a-Second Language] teacher at UCI – started inviting a few of his Muslim students to join us on Sunday mornings. Eventually a few others in our house church – who also taught ESL at another local school – began to invite students, too. Pretty soon it became a fairly common thing for our house church to welcome Muslim students from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern countries. We’ve also had Chinese students join us who were part of a Healing Light cult, and occasionally a few Buddhists here and there.

Traditionally, our idea of church isn’t about outreach. Primarily we tend to see the gathering as something that committed followers of Jesus do to see and experience Him in their midst. But as we started to welcome students who were Muslim into our fellowship we started realizing that we didn’t need to change very much about what we do. We still sing about Jesus and focus on Jesus and share scriptures and testimonies about what Jesus is doing in our lives. All of that is exactly the same.

What we do change in the event that we have Muslim guests that morning is to not serve pork, and we avoid placing our Bibles on the floor, and we try to respect their sensitivities whenever possible. Of course we know that they don’t believe that Jesus was crucified, but we do. So, we don’t abandon talk about the cross, but we might shift our emphasis more on the resurrection life of Jesus we’re enjoying, or focus more on the teachings of Jesus that are all about forgiveness and mercy and compassion for everyone.

This past Sunday morning we were very blessed to have Abraham [Ebrihim] and Mohammed join us, both from Saudi Arabia.

They sat quietly during worship, and even recorded a few of our worship songs on their iPhones. They listened as we each took turns sharing what the Lord Jesus had been showing us during the week, and they observed us as we shared scriptures for one another and how we prayed over one another for specific things. Then they allowed us to pray for them. Mohammed had recently injured his shins in an accident. We asked if we could lay hands on him and pray and he agreed, so we did.

The best part, honestly, was when we shifted to the meal time. That’s when we sat down on the floor together – “Saudi-style” – around the coffee table and shared the meal. We listened to them share stories about their homeland. We talked about where to find a good Saudi restaurant in Orange County. We laughed together, shared videos with one another, and then we listened as they played drums for us in their traditional style.

It was a simple, yet beautiful testimony of shared life together. No one tried to argue theology. No one compared religions. No one attempted to say that their version of God or of Jesus was the right one. We just enjoyed being together and we shared a sweet time of human connection where Jesus was honored, and welcomed, in our conversation and fellowship.

Hopefully we’ll see them again soon. But if not, we are still blessed to have been given the opportunity to show them the love of Jesus in a very tangible way. We let them know they were loved and accepted and welcomed – not because they agreed with us on theology – but because they were beautiful people who were dearly loved of God.

If they do return, we might have to carefully navigate a discussion about Jesus. If so, my hope is to begin by asking them to share with us what they know of Jesus from their scriptures and to take the time to listen and affirm those things we have in common about Him [which is way more than most of us realize].

We might need to meet one-on-one with them, or in smaller groups, where we can have a more thoughtful dialog together, but again, agreement on theology is not our requirement for fellowship or love. Our main goal is to take hold of Jesus with others who are seeking to know Jesus more fully.

Our hope is that we can keep our eyes on Jesus and continue to place our hope in Him to introduce Himself as we remain obedient to Him.

I’ll keep you posted!


Wednesday, April 06, 2016

3 Tips For A More Christ-Like Marriage

Wendy and I have been married for 27 years now. To be honest, I think our successful marriage is largely the result of compatibility. Wendy is really the perfect person for me, and I believe that I am the perfect person for her. Our strengths and our weaknesses find complements in one another’s strengths and weaknesses.

But our happiness together is something we’ve both worked really, really hard on – and continue to work on – day after day.

Good marriages don’t just happen.

Here are 3 things I can say without a doubt have contributed the most to our relationship:

One: A Commitment To Quick Reconciliation – Basically, we are both willing to do whatever it takes to resolve disagreements, arguments, hurt feelings and misunderstandings as quickly as possible. I mean, in a matter of hours, not days or weeks. Most Christian couples have heard the scripture verse “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath” often enough, and whereas that verse isn’t specifically directed at married couples, it is a great policy to keep if you’re serious about strengthening your marriage relationship.

So, when you get your feelings hurt, don’t hold it inside. Find a way, without escalating the emotion, to let them know that they’ve hurt you and how it made you feel.

Wendy adds: "As far as reconciliation goes, I think it's being quick to forgive and to begin the process. But we also should realize that some things will take time to work through. It's not always a quick 100% fix with one conversation. It may take a long time of working together on an issue."

There are rules to this process, of course. You can’t continue to accuse. You have to always choose to believe the best about your spouse. You can’t try to hurt them back in the sharing of the offense. You have to listen – if you’re the one who hurt the other. You have to use language that is focused on how it made you feel and not on what they did or said. Give them an opportunity to explain what happened, and to apologize for what they did. Then – and this is the crucial part – you have to forgive them. That means you don’t bring this up again the next time you’re hurt. It’s forgiven and it’s gone.

Two: Make Their Happiness A Priority – Many marriages fail because each person is more committed to their own personal happiness than they are to the happiness of their spouse. They keep track of all the areas where their spouse isn’t making them happy and over time they build up a resentment against them for failing to prioritize making them happy. However, if they’re honest they’d have to admit that they are guilty of the same crime.  So, instead of waiting for them to do what you expect them to do – prioritizing your happiness over their own – try doing it yourself.

So, instead of always counting the ways that your spouse doesn’t make you happy, try instead to count all the possible ways that you can make them happy. Then start doing those things consistently. When you do that something amazing will happen – they will suddenly realize that you love them, and that you genuinely care about their happiness. Then they will realize that they could do more to make you happy, too. It almost becomes like a game, if you do it right. It’s also not something you should keep secret. Go ahead and let them know that you’re trying to make them happy – not as a way to gain leverage against them or make them feel guilty for not returning the favor – simply because you really do love them and you love making them happy. It works. Seriously.

Wendy adds, Try simply asking "what can I do to bless you today?" to address the specific needs of the other person at that specific time."

In other words, your spouse might need special attention after a bad day. If you don't know how to bless them - ask! They'll appreciate that you noticed their need and they'll most likely tell you exactly how you can help them through whatever they're going through.
Simply put: If you’re both working hard to make the other happy, you’ll both be happy.

Three: Learn Their Love Language – A few years ago a book was published called “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary D. Chapman. After over 30 years of counseling Christian couples, Chapman developed an awareness of an important fact: Not everyone gives or receives love in the same way. He identified 5 different ways that people can give or receive love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

So, if your primary way of expressing and receiving love is Receiving Gifts [for example] then you will try to show your spouse you love them by giving them gifts. But if they primarily express/receive love through “Acts of Service”, then to them you are not showing them love. They’re still waiting for you to wash the dishes, or fix the toilet, or make the bed every morning. And, chances are very good that you’re not receiving their acts of service as love either because you’re still waiting for them to buy you something or give you a gift.

Now, once you identify your own love language, and you understand the love language of your spouse, you can more accurately love them the way they need to be loved most, you can also translate their actions of love to you as sincere expressions of their love, even if that’s not your primary way of receiving it.

Wendy’s love language is acts of service. Mine is words of affirmation. When I tell her I love her, or that she’s beautiful, she knows that this is how I primarily express my love to her. I also know that when I wash the dishes or clean up a mess around the house that I am really making sure she knows I love her. Similarly, when Wendy does something nice for me, I know that she is declaring her love for me, and when she verbally affirms me I know that she is making an intentional choice to say “I love you” in the best possible way for me to receive it.

Of course, there are way more than 3 things you can do to improve your marriage, and I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below! But for Wendy and I, these three things have really helped us to prioritize our relationship and work on building one another up.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.