According to the Riches of His Grace

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…" -Ephesians 1:7-8

Month: July, 2014

The Bible Food Pyramid

In the movie, “Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves”, Wayne Szalinski accidentally shrinks himself, his wife, and two relatives, leaving the three kids in the house by themselves. One of the kids has a condition in which he gets sick if he doesn’t get enough potassium. At the end of the movie, he has one of his spells and the other two kids must come up with a way to help him. One of them remembers that bananas have a lot of potassium, so they feed him a banana and he gets better.

But if they had fed him a chicken, or some cheese, or a plate of rice, he wouldn’t have gotten better. Why? For the condition he had, none of those things would have provided what he needed. They are all good types of food, but they wouldn’t have helped his sickness in any way.

As Paul said, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) All of the Bible is absolutely good! However, you may need different parts of Scripture in different situations of your life. Keep in mind two things when considering this:

1. Don’t look at the Bible as specifically for you. It is not a motivational book written to “bless your heart” in which you can go and find different uplifting things for your life problems. It is in essence the revelation from God to the world about who Jesus is.

2. Never read the Bible in the way that some people do where they let the Bible fall open to a certain page and say, “The Lord must want me to read here.” That’s stupid. Actually, something else happened. Gravity latched on to the two sides of the book and based on how you were holding it, it fell open to a random page.

That being said, you do need certain parts of the Bible at certain points of your Christian walk. This is the same as how you need different types of food for different conditions of your body. If you are trying to lose weight, you don’t need to eat a ton of red meat. If you are trying to gain weight, don’t just eat vegetables. You don’t feed a baby or an old person with no teeth solid foods.

So based on what is going on in your walk, you need to tailor your Bible reading to what is going to grow you best and stir up your affection for Jesus the best at that time. For example, right now, I am in one of those dry seasons of the Christian walk. My mind is there, but I am really struggling with my heart for it. I think it is that I am kinda exhausted. So recently I’ve been reading Judges. It hit me today, that’s not what I need. Right now, I need the Gospels. I need to revisit those and stay in them for a while just looking at the Jesus I am following.

If you are a young Christian, I wouldn’t recommend reading Leviticus, Numbers, Joel, or several others. You need the Gospels. You need to look at Jesus and learn who he is and how to follow him. If you are really passionate for the glory of God and really on fire, then go deep into Romans, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation. If you are trying to grow in Christian community and mission, read Acts. If you are ready to know the deep theology about who Jesus is, look at John and Hebrews.

If you aren’t ready to eat a certain kind of food, don’t do it. As you follow Jesus in the Bible, you need to tailor your Bible reading to the category of the Scripture food pyramid that is going to best benefit your growth and give you the nutrients you need. The whole Bible is a display of who Jesus is. However, as you follow him, you need to be able to see different angles of who he is that will help you grow at that time.USDA_Food_Pyramid

Like a Child

A couple weeks ago, I was with my parents and grandparents and they were playing cornhole. It was my dad and mom against my grandparents. The score was around 15-4 with my grandparents winning. My dad is really competitive, so he was really stressed out about losing. He hadn’t been scoring anything.

Finally, he throws a cornhole bag and it goes right into the hole. My dad turned and screamed “BOOYAHHHHHHHHHH!”

I laughed inside. While it’s not usually booyah that I yell, I do get really excited like that a lot. In many ways, I am like my parents in personality. I notice things that they do a lot which I got from them.

But the thing is, I didn’t make a list of things my parents do and decide to incorporate it into my personality. I just lived with them for 18 years and naturally picked those things up.

So, in Ephesians 5:1, Paul says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” We read that and think that it is impossible because he is so perfect. We immediately think that to imitate God, we have to behave exactly how God behaves. We have to never sin. We have to be perfect.

But think about it. I didn’t have to behave to be like my parents. I just naturally am because I lived around them for so long.

Paul says to imitate God like a child. So stop trying to think that you have to behave into imitating God. You have to imitate like a child.

So live your life close to the Father. Live in the Father’s house and you will naturally take on his characteristics over time. Follow Jesus and you will become more like him.

Lessons Learned From Being a Pastoral Intern

The final day of my internship, delivering a sermon from Mark 8 titled "This is not a Drill."

The final day of my internship, delivering a sermon from Mark 8 titled “This is not a Drill.”

I worked as a pastoral intern at a church from May 12-July 13. It was definitely the best job I have worked and I learned so much from it. While I still have a really long way to go, I am much more prepared for future ministry than what I was in May. I preached eight times during the internship. I helped with several pastoral care visits. I was present in staff meetings. I helped lead children to Christ at VBS.

There are six main places that I grew or things I learned this summer while in my internship.

1. Form your own ministry identity

I remember when I first went into ministry, me and two of my friends (who are also going into ministry) were discussing who we were “the next of” after seeing each other preach. One of them was said to be Judah Smith, because he uses a lot of sports references, one was said to be Kyle Idleman, because he looks like him. I was said to be John Piper because I would yell “GLORY” a lot while preaching.

However, in this internship, I learned how much you have to form your own identity as a minister. Young ministers, you are not the next anybody. Your not David Platt, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Kevin DeYoung or any other famous minister. You are you. If you try and be them, it will be disastorous. If God had needed another one of those, he’d have made another on of those.

I would realize this so much as I would write sermons this summer and they would sound just like Matt Chandler. He is my favorite preacher and I watch his sermons a lot, so I sounded like him. I am still trying to find my own voice, but I am learning to go away from trying to be like any specific preacher.

2. The Celebrity Pastor

Having at one time wanted to be an actor, that carried over into my ministry career. I have wanted to be a celebrity pastor for a long time. Not like Joel Osteen, but I wanted to be one of those famous guys who writes book, goes around to speak at conferences, and has a church of 40,000. And if God still chooses to put me there, I will serve with joy. However, working in a church that was only around 600 divided between 3 services this summer, I have come to see that there is awesome work being done for the Gospel in all church sizes. Whatever my congregation size, I want to see disciples made.

3. Theology Reconsidered

For the past year or more, I have said quietly that I am reformed. What I mean by that is that if you were to ask me where I stand on the issue of reformed theology, I’d have told you I believe it, but I didn’t go around proclaiming it. If you don’t know what reformed theology is, it deals with a “high” view of God’s sovereignty, focuses heavily on predestination, and says that God’s chief end in doing anything is to bring more glory to himself. I had some conversations with various people this summer, connected to my internship, who provided me a view on the opposite side of this issue and I am now working through what I actually believe about them. It may be years before I work out everything.

There are many views of reformed theology that I still agree with, however, there are many questions that are now there that I just never considered before. If God predetermines every single detail (including where dust is in a room), how do we deal with the person who goes to hell? Is God’s goal really to glorify himself, or is it to pour out of his own glory for the benefit of others, resulting in him being glorified forever? I am reading various books on the topic right now and reading and praying through the key Bible passages on these topics and trying to see what conclusions I can come to.

4. Application Preaching

I have always really enjoyed preaching. It is one of my favorite things in ministry. However, I have always preached sermons that were heavily theological and didn’t have much application in them. These sermons leave people saying “Dude, that was a really awesome sermon.” or “Man, you are one of the smartest guys I know.” (even though I’m not). However, this summer, I really started to ask the question when I would write sermons of “How can this sermon help someone to love Jesus more and follow him better?” If you don’t answer that question while writing a sermon, at least in my opinion, it doesn’t do much to build up the church.

5. Church Planting

The pastor I worked under has a goal to plant 20 churches by 2020 and I got to see his heart and strategy for that, working under him. It really helped me see the importance of church planting. If we don’t plant churches, the church doesn’t multiply. About a year ago, I would have said that my call in ministry was missions. Lately, I’ve been saying that it is to pastor. However, maybe it is to bring the two together and plant a church to pastor it.

6. You can have fun

Often, pastors are depicted as uptight, always serious, and no fun to be around. However, the pastor I worked under gave me a view of a pastor that has fun being a pastor. Let me try to help you understand this. The pastor I worked under recently posted a video to Facebook of himself lip singing a rap song. He has used sermon illustrations about people accidentally shooting their butt-cheek off. He posts a selfie at least once a week. He has one of the funniest twitter pages I have ever seen. And he is a fun guy to be around.

So, being an intern, I definitely saw that you can be serious about the Gospel, love preaching, pray, read the Bible, do ministry, and lead a church and at the same time be a really fun person to be around. You can be funny without being stupid or vulgar. And you can glorify God with a sense of humor and a fun personality.

When the Angry Husband Called Me

A couple years ago, I worked as a news reporter. I usually didn’t cover anything other than ribbon cuttings at new businesses and when the occasional celebrity was in town, but one day I got a phone call (My phone number was listed on our organization’s website). The lady on the other line was calling me to request a reporter to cover a story about their child getting picked on by another kid at the YMCA.

Two problems with why I can’t cover that news story. First, kids get picked on everyday. Sending a reporter to every incident would be dumb. Second, it was the YMCA in a completely different county than what I reported in. So, I directed them to the reporter for our organization that was over the county they were in and the phone call ended.

I went on with my life. I didn’t think anything else of the phone call and thought I’d never have to worry about it. I honestly forgot that it even happened. Until 6 months later.

I received a phone call from a man who sounded a little angry. Remember, I had completely forgotten that the phone call ever happened. The man told me that my telephone number had appeared on his wife’s cell phone record and he wanted to know who I was. (The night of the call, they had actually had to call me several times) He told me his wife’s name and I told him I had no idea who she was.

He threw a fit and immediately assumed that his wife was having an affair with me and it sounded like he wanted to look for me, find me, and kill me (like Liam Neeson). I told him that I was a 20-year-old college student and I had never even met his wife, but he wouldn’t take that as an answer.

So, I am in a difficult situation here. A dude is on the phone with me wanting to kill me who I have never met. So, I began to think very deeply about the name of the woman he was saying was his wife and suddenly it clicked somehow!

“Oh, wait, your wife called me a while ago because I am a news reporter and told me about your child getting picked on at the YMCA,” I said.

It suddenly clicked with him too. So now, all the pressure is off of me and it has suddenly gotten really, really awkward for him.

“Oh…….yeah…..I remember that. I’m sorry, man,” he said.

Lesson of the day: Be careful assuming things and if you do, be careful how far you take those assumptions.

Psalm 136 (New Testament Version)

I read Psalm 136 this morning and it is awesome! It is full of references to the Old Testament and shows how God’s love endures forever in all of that. As I was praying during my quiet time, I thought to myself, what if Psalm 136 had been written after the New Testament was written. The Old Testament is awesome, but the defeat of the King of Sihon might not mean much to you unless you are a Jew and/or have studiedĀ  the Old Testament in great detail. So, what if it was talking about the story of the New Testament? Maybe it would be something like this.

Psalm 136 (New Testament Version

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever.

The Word was in the beginning with God, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He created all things and holds them together, for his steadfast love endures forever.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He was baptized by John in the Jordan, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He overcame temptation in the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He called twelve to follow him and carry his message on, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He taught with great authority, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He turned water into wine, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He gives eternal life to all who believe, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He healed the crippled man at the pool, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He fed the 5,000, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He is the Bread of Life who will satisfy all hunger, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He walked on water, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He healed the man born blind, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He is the Good Shepherd who dies for his sheep, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He raised Lazarus from the dead, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He washed the disciple’s feet, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He told the twelve to love one another, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He prayed for the twelve to be unified, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He was arrested willingly, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He remaining silent on trial, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He endured lashes from a whip on his back, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He took a crown of thorns, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He carried the cross, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He was lifted up on the cross, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He bore the wrath of God, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He became sin, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He was forsaken by the Father, for his steadfast love endures forever.

The veil of the temple was torn, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He cried, “It is finished!”, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He died, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Death has been rendered defeated, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He was buried, for his steadfast love endures forever.

The stone rolled away, for his steadfast love endures forever.

The Word emerged from the grave alive, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He let Thomas see the scars, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He forgave Peter three times, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He gave the great commission, “Go make disciples of all nations”, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, for his steadfast love endures forever.

He will come again, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ, for his steadfast love endures forever.