A Thought About Advent

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Have you ever been through a dark night of the soul? A time when there seems to be no voice from God? A time where you feel a bit rudderless and your soul is downcast? Dark nights of the soul are well attested to in the history of the Church. Many folks have experienced them. They can either destroy us or they can take us deeper in our relationship with God and his people. In today’s parlance we might call this, “deconstruction.” We question everything and doubt much. Our faith seems to be coming apart and we cannot wrap our minds or hearts around it.

With so many having this experience it makes me wonder if this is something that is a necessary part of our spiritual formation. Could it be that we need our dark nights of the soul? What if these seasons of doubt and questioning are seasons that help us become more like Jesus?

Advent has begun. We are in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the season where we celebrate the coming of the King. For many years I simply lumped Advent and Christmas together in one thing. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to think more deeply about the Christian calendar (and I am still learning and thinking about the various seasons) that I started to realize that my understanding of Advent was shallow or just uninformed.

I always liked Advent. It was really cool to light candles, something we Protestants don’t do much of. In the churches that I have been a part Advent meant that a different family would read the selected passage and light the candle. This is always a beautiful time, particularly if there are little ones involved. There is just something sweet about having people read Scripture. Advent was the time that the churches always looked most beautiful with the greens hung.

One thing I never really understood about Advent was why the songs we sang during that time were largely in a minor key. Musically, the minor key gives you a sense of sadness or despair or even fear. It always seemed weird to me and out of context. Everything around us seemed to counter the sound of the music. You’re singing this sad song and the church looks like it’s decorated for a party. The messages that I heard (and gave!) didn’t jive with the Advent music either. It seemed a bit disjointed.

It wasn’t until I started looking at the context of the passages for each week’s Advent reading that it hit me how much I was missing the mark in my understanding of this season of the church. Most of the readings for these weeks are from the prophets. These guys were prophesying about the coming fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Their messages were not happy. They were calling people to faithfulness or experience exile. Yet, in the midst of their preaching there were the reminders that there would be a remnant and a messiah. There would be one would come to set things right. One who would embody faithfulness and bring the people of God out of their exile. Yes there was hope but it was a hope in the context of sadness and heartbreak.

Prior to Jesus’ birth, the people of God were experiencing a period of silence from God. This period had lasted 400 years! The whole of the people of God were experiencing a dark night of the soul. There were many who tried in their own power to become the messiah, but they inevitably failed. I am beginning to understand that Advent is when we remember this time. We remember this time of darkness. It is a time when we recall the reality that there was a time when God was apparently silent.





These are the words that mark Advent. Each week we light another candle. Each week the light begins to break through it begins to win. Until that day, Christmas, when the light defeats darkness completely and we celebrate to coming of the King!

I wonder if many of us experience debilitating dark night’s of the soul and deconstruction because we are out of rhythm? Could it be that by lumping Advent in together with Christmas we lose an opportunity to wrestle through the darkness? I have begun to think that Advent is critical in our faith formation to have a time each year where we wrestle with the brokenness of ourselves, our communities, and the world. What if each year we stepped into the darkness of Advent and questioned, doubted, wondered, and wrestled with God? Could we avoid the crushing weight of a major dark night or deconstruction?

This year, I am trying to embrace the darkness and quiet of Advent. I am using it as a time to evaluate my heart and soul. To seek God and ask how do I need to become more like Jesus? Where am I falling short? How am I embodying the darkness instead of the light?

The darkness of Advent is necessary so that we can see more clearly the light of Christmas.


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One of our deepest desires is to be understood. Each of us desperately want other people to hear what we are saying and understand what we mean. When people misunderstand us we are left with a sense that they don’t care for us. What is even worse is when we feel as though people are intentionally choosing to ignore us.

As a Christian living in the United States, a “Christian” nation, I am lumped in with many people who in no way reflect what I see in the Bible. Please don’t hear me whining about some sort of persecution, that’s not at all what I’m saying. What I want you to understand is that most of the people that the 24 hour news sources interview do not reflect me. The Christians who do reflect me, are often not interviewed more than once because they don’t get clicks because they don’t offer inflammatory perspectives. I want to be understood.

I have a good friend who is an atheist. He lives his life in an unending experience of people who refuse to understand him. You see, living in a “Christian” nation means that he is on the outside looking in on much of American life. Even in a time where the secular is overtaking the religious, there is still an assumption that people should “believe in God” to hold positions of power. There are subtle little atheist jokes that are constant. He wants to be understood.

In college I knew a couple of Muslims. Living in a “Christian” nation meant that they lived life misunderstood. We were all in the religion department together at Central Michigan University. One of them was Sufi and the other Shi’ite. Their understanding of their faith was radically different from one another, let alone non-Muslims trying to understand their perspectives. Both of these guys just wanted to be understood.

The Apostle Paul said,

‘Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.’ (1 Corinthians 9:19–23)

The idea here is not that Paul had some sort of dis-integrated life or that he put on different masks. What he is saying is that he “moves into the neighborhood” so to speak. Paul seeks to understand the people he is ministering to so deeply that he can say, “I have become all things to all people.” We see him doing this very thing in the book of Acts. The way he engages with his various audiences is contextualized so that they can most fully understand the story of Jesus. When he’s in the Synagogue the proclamation sounds different than when he’s on Mars Hill which is different than when he is before King Agrippa. The message is never changed, the way he talks about the message does change.

Paul speaks differently to different people because he understands them. He seeks to know them and understand their world. He does so because he cares and loves them enough to make himself uncomfortable so that “by all means” he “might save some.”

Too many Christians refuse to understand other people. We look at the stories in the Bible in a disconnected way from a position of social privilege and power. This leads us to say things like, “Look at how much the prophets suffered and the evangelists. They were really hated.” What’s interesting though is that what you really see is their lament. There is sadness and heartbreak over people not “getting it.” The evangelists and the prophets were not persecuted and abused because they were being jerks, they were abused and persecuted because the people of God refused to be faithful. The prophets, were not persecuted by exterior forces, they were largely embraced by them. They were beaten and set aside by God’s people. The early leaders of the Church experienced much pain at the hands of God’s people. While there was persecution by Rome, that was largely due to Christians living a life that was subversive to the Empire and less about the gospel message itself.

If we are going to be serious about being Jesus’ representatives, his ambassadors, then we must be willing to understand what others believe. This is akin to loving others as ourselves. Just like we want to be understood, we must not only acknowledge that others want to be understood but then seek to understand. This means that we must listen. Listening is not waiting to respond. Listening means that we are trying to really hear what the other is saying. It means that we are making a choice to truly be interested in them. It means sacrificing our desire to be understood in the moment so that we might love well and understand the other.

Do you want to love well? Do you want to follow the Jesus way in this world? Then understand what others believe.

Note: I am grateful to Dr. Jerram Barrs and his book, “The Heart of Evangelism” for helping to shape my understanding that we must live this way.


Do something. Don’t just talk.

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Every time there is shooting we hear the following phrase, “thoughts and prayers.” Every time that phrase is uttered there are others who say, “thoughts and prayers are useless.”

I am tired of both. I am tired of seeing the religious among us continually saying, “I’m praying” but doing nothing. I am tired of the non-religious among us shaming or mocking the religious for their prayer.

When a religious person says that they are praying, they believe with their whole being that this is doing something. When I pray, I believe that God will act. I think that God responds to our prayer. If I say to you, “I am praying.” What I am saying is that I am imploring the Creator, Covenantal God to act on your behalf. I think and feel that this action is the beginning and foundation of what is required to bring about real change.

“I am praying,” means that I know the problem is bigger than me. It means that I can not fix it in my own strength or in yours. I think the thing about prayer is that it places the religious into a posture of listening and paying attention to what they will be asked to do by God to enter into the situation.

But, it seems like many don’t enter into that posture. When that happens they are not praying. They are simply send along well-wishes.

Many might be thinking, “Really? That’s harsh. That’s not a fair statement.” Please hear me loud and clear, pray. God wants us to come to him freely and openly. God wants to hear all that is on our heart. The expectation is that we will bring “everything by prayer and petition” to the Lord. God loves us. When someone loves you they want to communicate with you. They want to talk with you. God is no different. So, bring everything to God. Don’t hold back.

Yet, when we pray it ought to change us. Time with God should change us. I am learning more about this from James. He writes,

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do.” 
(James 1:22–25)

He also writes,

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”
(James 2:14–18)

If the religious prays and does nothing in response to their prayer I must conclude that they didn’t pray in faith. You see true faith brings about deeds. Faith is right understood as an embodied loyalty. This means that we show our loyalty in our body, our actions. Jesus’ faithfulness was shown by going to cross and rising again. His faithfulness was shown through his body in action.

When we pray in faith it compels us to action. If we do not act in response to our prayer then we are not praying in faith, but we are simply wishing.

How are you praying? Are you praying in faith or are you simply sending wishes?


…the beauty of rhythm and sameness

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It’s a Sunday morning and the road is winding and the sun is sparkling. The trees are glistening with a light frost on the red and gold leaves. We come around the bend and there is the church overlooking a beautifully serene lake.

This is one of my earliest memories.

The Church has played a significant and central role in my life from the beginning. Our family went to church. It’s what we did on Sunday mornings.

After church, in those days, we often went to the country club for lunch. I remember the ketchup being in little glass cups with tiny spoons. Sometimes we went to the movies with Dad after lunch.

After my parents divorce church became something different for me. It was a refuge. It became a place where I knew I was accepted and cared for. The old ladies there would give me hugs and my Mimi was always quick with a mint when my throat went dry during the service.

It was in the church that I discovered I could lead and that people would even follow me. In the church was where I began to discover a love for learning.

There was just something about church.

I grew up and went away to college. I didn’t go to church much any more. Life was full of classes and friends. I was involved with a Christian organization on campus and that didn’t leave much time for church. During those years I began to embrace a youthful version of Christianity. Corporate gatherings needed to be exciting. Humor, entertainment, and multi-media were necessities to “worship.”

Every now and then I would return home and visit church. It was the same. Same liturgy. Same hymns. Same carpet. Same smells. Same old ladies giving me hugs. Same seats.




In my youthful angst the “same” of church seemed sad. Didn’t they know they needed to keep up with the times? Where was the band and the multimedia? How could they possibly compete in the crowded church economy by being the same?

As I look back on that time in my life I simply shake my head at my immaturity. There is beauty in the “same.” There is comfort in knowing that church will be there and there will be hugs and acceptance. Knowing the words to the songs that are sung each week allows for one to enter more fully into worship.

Now, I am a pastor. A pastor of a congregation that has its own set of weekly rhythms and “same.” They are beautiful. They are wonderful. They fill me each week.

I wonder if the “same” of our congregational gatherings is to reflect Jesus?

Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The congregation is the continuing embodiment of Jesus in the world. We are “temples of the Holy Spirit.” I am beginning to grasp that not only are our individual lives to reflect Jesus but also our communal lives are to reflect him as well.

The church, the congregation, we are the body of Christ. When we gather we will reflect him. This includes reflecting Jesus in are “sameness.” There is beauty and comfort in knowing that it will be “just the same.”


…the responsibility of the ambassador.

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Very few of us truly live in obscurity. Most likely if you are reading this you are a person who is known by others and you share freely with them your ideas. They probably see your life. Your friends know your good and bad. These people know that your’re not perfect. It’s OK that you don’t have it all together because they love you.

There are other people who watch you. Perhaps it’s the barista at your favorite coffee shop or the bartender at the pub. Maybe, it is the woman at the park with the kids playing with yours. You have no idea who is seeing you live your life.

We pay attention to people around us and we see them. We take notice at how they speak to their loved ones. Their political opinions and their religious ideas. It is almost impossible to ignore the people who are in our lives whether it is in person or on social media.

Just like we see others, they see us.

Just like we hear others, they hear us.

What kind of person are you in the world?

Are you a Christian?

If you are then who you are in the world is to be very clear and it is to be unmistakable. Read just a few of these:

‘ “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. ‘ Matthew 5:13
‘ “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ‘ Matthew 5:14–16
‘ “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ‘ Matthew 6:19–21
‘ “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? ‘ Matthew 6:25
‘ “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ‘ Matthew 7:3–5

This is but a snapshot of how we are to live from Jesus.

Check out this little thought from James,

‘Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. ‘ James 1:26

When we call ourselves, “Christian” we must realize that we are the representatives of Jesus. What does this mean exactly? It means that we have a standard to live up to. Our lives need to reflect the life of Jesus. In much of American evangelicalism there is this idea that we simply go about doing whatever it is that we want and then we ask Jesus for forgiveness. If we are living this way then our lives are most likely not united with Jesus’ life.

Secondly, we have to accept the reality that how we speak and act will show people who we believe Jesus to be. We bear his name, we are united with him in our baptism, we have been adopted into the family of God. Everything we do and say reflects back on Jesus. If we are lousy, unloving, uncaring, rude people then those around us will believe that this is what Jesus is like too. Our lives, for better or worse, are mirrors for a watching world to see Jesus.

As a Christian, every time you step out the door you are entering into the mission for which you were called. Everything you do is a reflection on your King and shows the world what his Kingdom is supposed to look like.


…the power of covenant.

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I am leading our missional community through Micah’s prophecy. It is powerful and challenging. It calls the people of God to righteous action. Not some sort of “social just warrior” kind of action, but an action that is rooted in two things, God’s righteousness and his promises.

We live in an age where promises mean very little.

My country, the United States, is in a constant state of political campaign. Between local, state, and federal office holders politicians of some sort are always campaigning. They make promises, constantly. According to a Rasmussen report in 2014 only 4% of likely voters think that campaigning politicians will keep their promises. That means that an overwhelming majority of people will vote for someone who they don’t think will keep their word.

A bedrock promise that is made over and over in our society is the marital promise. People promise to be committed to one another “till death do us part.” The divorce in the United States is 42–45%. Nearly half of all married people do not keep their promise.

We are cynical people because we have seen promises broken on a regular basis. Promises and oaths do not mean much to people. We simply do not expect them to be kept. If we can’t expect people to keep promises in their most significant of relationships then why would expect any promises to be kept?

Yet, when we open the Scriptures and read the story of the people of God there is this overarching theme of covenant or promise. We can’t escape it.

The closing lines of Micah’s prophecy read,

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.” Micah 7:18–20, NIV

Look at the very last phrase, “as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.”

I can’t get over it.

You can’t escape it.

God’s promise, his oath, his word, his covenant, it will stand and he will make good on it.

When you live in an age of skepticism one of the most remarkable things that anyone can do is keep their promise. It might be as simple as arriving on time some place or remembering that you promised to take a friend to the airport. Keeping promises is remarkable when nobody expects anyone to keep their promises.

Then there is this God of the Bible. This God keeps promises over a millennia. The prophets warn of discipline, they warn of exile, they warn of very real consequences to the people of God’s bad behavior. Yet, they also remind that God keeps promises and God will redeem, restore, and renew a remnant, always.


Because he promised.

The story of Jesus proves that God keeps his promises because death was not victorious over the cross. The resurrection is the culmination of the promise. There is no greater sign than that of God defeating death and raising Jesus from the dead.

The Bible is full of pain, brokenness, and hardship. There is story after story of woe and anguish. There is a sadness that pervades its pages.

There is also a hope. An enduring hope that says, “But God will keep promises.”

When we see this God act out of his righteousness and keep his promises we say like Micah, “Who is a God like you?”


…or the need for a new imagination.

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Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer pretty often. Some congregations pray it every Sunday. Many people pray it in their private prayer life. It is safe to say that the Lord’s prayer is central to Christian spirituality.

Yet many of us haven’t take time to even consider what we are praying. We just pray it. The words of the Lord’s Prayer become rote and can become hollow. They are intended to transform us. This prayer is powerful and can change us to our core.

Here is the prayer if you’re unfamiliar with it,

“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’”
Jesus, in Matthew 6:9–13

I was struck this past weekend by the “your kingdom come, your will be done” bit. I was in a room of folks, who were almost all Christians, and we were talking about the prayer. As we discussed this portion in particular, I asked them to describe what the kingdom of God looks like? What would it mean for this prayer to become reality?

We stumbled around for a bit. There was little vision for what it meant to pray, “your kingdom come.”

As we talked more, it began to dawn on me that we needed to develop a kingdom imagination. So much of our Christian faith is tied to our minds and to our imaginations.

Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)”

Why does he link the renewing of our mind to transformation and non-conformance?

I think it is because when our minds are renewed we have the ability to imagine the kingdom of God in fresh new ways. We can begin to see what this world could look like if God’s kingdom broke into time and space. When our minds are renewed we can see the world as it should be.

There is a saying in the leadership world, “Begin with the end in mind.” When we do this it is easier to figure out our plan. If we know where we are going there is a better chance that we can make it to the destination. When we pray, “your kingdom come,” we are praying with the end in mind. We are praying, “This is the world as it should be. God, help me partner with you as you bring that world to reality.”

If we can’t imagine what that world would look like, then praying, “your kingdom come” is meaningless. It’s empty words.

So what does this kingdom look like? How are our imaginations to be renewed? What is the end goal?

I think we begin in the “Beatitudes” from Matthew 5.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:3–12

This is the world as it should be. When we can start imagining a world like this, we can begin to imagine what it means when we pray, “your kingdom come.”

If we know where we are going, perhaps we can get there.


…or taking time to acknowledge God

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Over the last week I have been doing something new in my spiritual practice, not asking God for anything. I have simply been taking time to acknowledge God.

It is ridiculously hard.

No, I am serious. I have never done anything this hard in prayer in my life. Spending time in prayer simply acknowledging who God is has been beyond difficult. You would think that someone who has been actively seeking to follow God since 1995 and is a “professional Christian” would be able to spend hours and hours simply acknowledging God.

Nope. I can’t.

Monday it was about 5 minutes before my mind and heart wandered to other things and people and concerns.

Tuesday it was about 2.

Wednesday, I didn’t even take time to do it because, “What’s the point?” Yes, I’m firmly Gen X.

Thursday, I figured I better make a bit more effort and was successfully able to focus on God and God alone for all of about 7 minutes! Victory! Or not.

This morning, 10 minutes, and in some sense I felt like I had just finished an hour working. Not a cardio kind of work out, but lifting weight with someone who was pushing me. I felt empty and completely filled up all at the same time.

Ten minutes.

That is the best I’ve got right now. Ten minutes.

I have been wrestling with why all week. I have been trying to hear from the Holy Spirit and what word of grace and truth was being spoken to me. I am looking to grab on to a kairos moment. A moment where God breaks in and enters my time and space. Kairos moments drive us to repent and believe. They keep us from getting stuck and propel us to grow.

Here is what I have discovered, I’m self-centered. Completely, utterly, and totally self-centered. In my relationship with God I am totally focused on me. If God were a human being he would walk away from this relationship. Nobody likes being friends with self-centered, me only, people. When it comes to God I am a taker and struggle to give.

You might be thinking, “But you’re a pastor. You’ve given your whole life to God, right?”

I may have given my best hours to serve God, but I am coming to realize that I have not even come close to giving him my life.

I take from God.

I take his grace.

I take his mercy.

I take his ear for my prayer.

I take…

I take…

I take…

Just seeing those things listed out and seeing the repeated “I” makes me sick.

Jesus said,

“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” (Matthew 6:9)

This call to begin our prayer this way challenges us. It demands us to not be self-centered. We start by giving. We begin by giving to God. When we pray we are to start with God in mind.

How do I go forward? Continuing to practice an acknowledgement of God and try to become a giver in relation to him.


…or all of life is sacred.

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Last night I spoke at an event called, “The Merge: Where faith, culture, and art meets.” For just a few minutes I spoke about the reality that all of life for the person of faith is sacred. This was in the context of being a person of faith in the public forum.

As the conversation after the talk developed it ceased to be a discussion about living life as a sacred whole and became a discussion about how Christians have conversations with non-Christians. It almost felt like a sales seminar. I have been thinking about this response to the talk (and my attempted questions after) trying to discern why this is what happened.

I think it is because people of faith in America, particularly evangelicals, have lost their sense of identity. We struggle to understand that living as a Christ-follower is to live this way,

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

We have come to believe that to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” means that we must include some sort of gospel speech. But that’s not it. It is first to understand that all of life is sacred. All of life, every aspect of life is sacred space and time. Working, playing, sleeping, studying, it is all sacred.

Second, we must come to grips with the fact that being a person of faith in the public forum is to be one who lives the gospel. This means we live truth, grace, mercy, love, and faith. Jesus said,

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

One of the people in the room challenged the direction of the conversation last night. He said, “You say you don’t want this to be a sales pitch. But, you all are talking like it is a sales pitch and trying to figure out how sell people. If it really means so much to you, you don’t need to do that.”

He was right.

That’s it isn’t it? Is following Jesus who I am (who you are) or is it something that you put on? If it is who I am then I can go be a great architect or doctor or student or salesman. If it is who I am then my faith, my identity, will become clear to those around me. I don’t have to pitch Jesus. In the same way that I don’t have explain to everyone how much I love my wife or my kids, my love for Jesus needs to be demonstrated in my life.

When our love for Jesus is not demonstrated in our lives, that’s when we have to pull out the sales pitch.


…how to get out of your spiritual rut.

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Part of being on mission with God is our continued growth as a follower of Jesus. It is realizing that we have not arrived nor will we fully arrive with God. As we are on mission with him we must continually hear from him, change, and draw ever closer to him. How do we do it?

When you first start following Jesus it seems like everything is exciting and new. Your spiritual life feels fresh and real. The Bible “comes alive.” You’re reading it and praying. You and God feel super close. It is almost like you can audibly hear his voice.

Then something happens. Those books in the Bible like Ephesians and Philippians feel stale. You try to read some Old Testament and it’s just confusing and hard. So you read a Gospel and it seems really long. All of a sudden your prayers feel like they are bouncing off the ceiling. You start going through the motions of church attendance and maybe a Bible study here or there. You take Instagram pictures of your open Bible next to a steaming cup of joe, that was made from locally roasted beans, but you don’t really read it.

You’re in a rut. You’re stuck in a moment that you can’t get out of (you even tried listening to U2 and it didn’t help).

How do you break out of it?

First, we need to understand that our spiritual growth was never intended to be a “me and Jesus” kind of thing. It was always intended to be an “us and Jesus” kind of thing.

With this in mind, I want to challenge you to enter more fully into the community of believers. For us to break out of a spiritual rut we need other people. When we study the Scriptures it is best done in the company of other believers. We gather around the Scripture and pray and talk and challenge one another.

Second, we need to realize that our spiritual growth is wrapped up in stuff that is everywhere. It’s wrapped up in the small, every day, seemingly meaningless kinds of things. As one ancient writer said, “Do not despise the day of small things.”

We need to slow down and catch on to the things that God is doing in our midst. When we are at a stop light and we catch some beauty or a thought pops into our mind, will we hold on to it or will we ignore it? It is in these moments that we experience kairos moments. A kairos moment is the in-breaking of God into our lives. Too often we ignore it and move on.

Third, the Bible is not Jesus. The Bible is not God. We do not have a relationship with the Bible, we have a relationship with God. While we believe the Bible to be the very word of God and that it is authoritative, we must understand that the Bible reveals God to us but it is not the end all in our relationship with God.

Along with the Scriptures we need an abiding prayer life. If we are all study and no prayer, then our spiritual life will grow cold. Prayer brings us into the spiritual presence of God. It is in prayer that we are changed deeply. Spending time in prayer transforms regular space into sacred space.

Community is the oxygen, the Scriptures are the fuel, and prayer is the match that lights a blazing fire in our soul.


In the dark we just need a glimmer of light…

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

I rolled over and opened my eyes. It was dark. The darkness seemed to drip from the ceiling. My body ached and my head was pounding. The gentle sound of my wife’s breathing was the only comfort in that moment. As I lay there the anger raged inside me as I thought again of my friend dying, as I sat next to him praying for a miracle.

Staring at the imperceptible ceiling listening to her breathe in and out, listening to the fan occasionally creak, his face flooded my mind. The smile. The coy eyebrow raise when he knew he got you. The excitement of some new trinket in the man cave. There was a joy and a glimmer in his eye that always drew me in. He was a man. He laughed like a man. He cared like a man.

She continued to breathe quietly. The fan continued to gently creak. The darkness continued to close in. The rage was replaced with grief which was replaced with questions.

As I lay there praying for sleep in the darkness, I also prayed for light. I prayed that God would show himself and help me understand why this all happened. There was no “still small voice” only the breathing of my bride and the creaking of the fan.

I prayed until sleep finally came. It was one of those sleeps that felt like it lasted only a moment though in reality it lasted hours.

Sitting on the edge of the bed staring at my feet it still seemed dark, even though the sun had risen and light was streaming through the windows. There was a strange warmth there in the sun. My thoughts went to all the times that God had answered prayer, big and small. I was reminded how he repeatedly showed care for us and our little congregation.

I smiled.

I felt a bit more hopeful.

I still wanted to know why. I desperately want a reason. Even right now.

A couple days ago an older pastor said, “Sometimes it seems like it would be better for God to answer all prayer or none. Do miraculous stuff all the time or never. Yet, he doesn’t. God is God and we are not.”

Where is God? It turns out he is in the sunshine that cracks the darkness to warm the room. He’s in the gentle breathing of my wife and the consistent creaking of the fan. He’s in wise and honest words from a man who has lived a life with Him.

He shows himself in these tiny moments.

Where is God?

He’s there. He’s speaking. Even if he’s not giving me answers. He’s opening his arms and embracing me in the darkness. He is doing the same for you too.

Just look. You will see him.


Some days, that’s all you got.

Photo by Vance Osterhout on Unsplash

I have spending quite a bit of time in the Psalms. More and more of that time is spent in Eugene Peterson’s, The Message. He gives words to my soul. Today it is Psalm 77 and it’s all I got.

I yell out to my God, 
I yell with all my might, 
I yell at the top of my lungs.

He listens.

I found myself in trouble 
and went looking for my Lord; 
my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal.

When friends said, 
“Everything will turn out all right,” 
I didn’t believe a word they said.

I remember God — and shake my head. 
I bow my head — then wring my hands. 
I’m awake all night — not a wink of sleep; 
I can’t even say what’s bothering me.

I go over the days one by one, 
I ponder the years gone by.

I strum my lute all through the night, 
wondering how to get my life together.
Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good? 
Will he never smile again? 
Is his love worn threadbare? 
Has his salvation promise burned out? 
Has God forgotten his manners? 
Has he angrily stalked off and left us?

“Just my luck,” I said. 
“The High God goes out of business just the moment I need him.”

Once again I’ll go over what GOD has done, 
lay out on the table the ancient wonders; 
I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, 
and give a long, loving look at your acts.

O God! 
Your way is holy! 
No god is great like God! 
You’re the God who makes things happen; 
you showed everyone what you can do — 
You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble, 
rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph.

Ocean saw you in action, God, 
saw you and trembled with fear; 
Deep Ocean was scared to death. 
Clouds belched buckets of rain, 
Sky exploded with thunder, 
your arrows flashing this way and that. 
From Whirlwind came your thundering voice, 
Lightning exposed the world, 
Earth reeled and rocked. 
You strode right through Ocean, 
walked straight through roaring Ocean, 
but nobody saw you come or go.

Hidden in the hands of Moses and Aaron, 
You led your people like a flock of sheep."
(Psalm 77, The Message)


Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Honestly, theology is pretty useless.

There, I said it.

I have wanted to say it since seminary.

Now I’ve said it.

Theology is pretty useless.

Well, let me clarify. Theology that isn’t applied is useless. Doctrine that is aloof and disconnected from the everyday life of the believer is pointless. It is nothing more than a noisy gong.

Paul writes,

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3)

I think we can rightly understand “love” here as living out the gospel in real life. Apart from this, we are nothing.

Theology that is trapped in the classroom is useless. Theology that is trapped in the intellect is nothing.

For theology and doctrine to be worth anything they have to be applied and lived out in our lives.

Those of us who are teachers of the Scriptures are teachers of theology too. Our goal is not simply to rightly interpret the Bible. Our goal ultimately is to help the people of God apply it to their lives so that they have a deeper understanding of their identity.

Who we are is shaped by what we believe and what we do. What we do is usually determined by what we believe.

But, if what we believe is simply trapped in our minds then it is nothing.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. 
(James 1:26–27)

Acta non verba, action not words, a friend is fond of saying.

What good is theology? It’s worthless unless it moves to our hands and feet.


…10 Things We Do As Parents

I’m not an expert. I’m not even close to being an expert. I have a son who is 16 and a daughter who is 14. Both of them are excelling as human beings (in my all too biased opinion). They each have passions that they are pursuing with zeal. I think both of them are becoming good people. They have friends, they respect adults, they are both people that my wife and I enjoy being around.

Any time I ask people what they think I should I write about, one of the most requested topics is, “How do I raise my kids?” I don’t think people ask me this because they think my kids are angels and they want to know how we did it. I think anyone who is raising a child wants help in making sure that they don’t screw up. In our culture we get more training to drive a car than we do for marriage and child raising. So, when it comes to these two most important skills we go in blind.

Pastors, teachers, school administrators, pediatricians, are all people that folks look to for some tracks to run on. We desperately want to avoid screwing up our kids and having them become mass murderers or worse, sanctimonious idiots.

So, how do you do it?

I haven’t finished the process of raising my children to adulthood yet. But, over the last sixteen years I know that we have made some conscious decisions that I think have helped.

  1. Their sin is not our sin. That is, we hold our children accountable for their actions and we choose to not feel guilt or shame for their actions. We can’t make choices for them.
  2. Ask for forgiveness. We as parents make mistakes, it feels like all the time. When we do mess up, we ask our kids to forgive us. As my son learns to drive, I think I’ve apologized to him more than ever.
  3. Be consistent. When we say something needs to be done, we don’t count 1,2,3 or whatever. No, we expect it to be done when asked. When we say that there will be a certain consequence we hold to it. This means that we also “under punish”, so to speak. We don’t give punishments that we as a parents can’t hold to.
  4. Extend grace. Sometimes we choose to give grace to our kids. When we do, we explain what grace is, again. We point them to Jesus as we do. Our desire is for them to know that God gives grace and God gives mercy. As parents, we model this attribute of God for our kids.
  5. Speak to them. We tell our kids we love them. We tell our kids we are proud of them. We need them to hear those words. There are many other things going into their minds. Our desire is to be the competing tape that says, “You’re loved. We’re proud of you. You have great value. You have purpose. You have meaning.”
  6. Choose experiences over stuff. In our family we have chosen that experiencing life and the world is more important than material goods. Our excess money goes to traveling because of sports and vacations. We are intentional about time spent. Even little things, like making time to hit ground balls or play cards, communicate that experience and time spent is the more valuable than things.
  7. Have expectations. We have expectations for our kids. They know what the expectations are and they are held accountable to them. As a result, they meet or exceed those expectations.
  8. Don’t make excuses. This is hard. But, we have made a decision not to make excuses for our kids. If they succeed, they do so on their hard work and merit and we will support them all the way. If they fail it’s because they didn’t put in the work, didn’t have the God given ability, or because they decided to go in a different direction. But, their failure will not be blamed on anyone.
  9. Model love, authenticity, respect, integrity, etc… The vision that we have for our kids is one that we must model for them. They will become the kinds of adults that we show them. We set them up for the best possibility of success by modeling for them what we want them to grow to become.
  10. We are not raising children. We are raising adults. This is one of the most important things that we have come grips with. To succeed at almost anything in life you have to a vision of the end. What do you want to accomplish and then figure out how to get there. As parents, our responsibility is not raise children. Our job is to raise adults. We decide what kind of adult we want our kids to become and then we put the things in place to help them get there. With the end in mind you can design a plan and come up with a road map to get there.

I’m not perfect. This isn’t a recipe. But, these are the things that my wife and I have been doing over the last 15 years or so. We’ve learned them from our grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, pastors, and friends. So far, our kids are turning out OK. To this point it appears that we have not completely messed them up. We make mistakes, many of them, but we try to own them.

I’d love to hear some of the things that you’re intentionally doing or did in raising your kids. Comment below…


L to R: Amy, Libby, Ethan

When you write a blog some people typically want to know about your credentials. Credentials are pretty big deal and people who care about such things, really care (and those who don’t, really, really don’t).

I am a graduate of Central Michigan University with a B.S. in Psychology and a Minor in Religion. I also hold a Masters of Divinity from Michigan Theological Seminary. I am an ordained Teaching Elder (a fancy term for pastor) in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

I am the lead pastor with the Antioch Movement and I am a part-time teaching pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The Antioch Movement is a church planting movement that is focused on “sending the sent.” I am hopeful that the kingdom of God can expand in an organic and missional way in the local church. Before launching the Antioch Movement, I served as Assistant Pastor at Grace Chapel in Farmington Hills, MI and before that I spent ten years on staff with Cru serving in Central Illinois and Metro Detroit.

My journey includes an amazing bride, Amy, along with two kids, Ethan and Libby. Living life alongside of these three amazing people reminds me daily of the necessity of the subversive mission of my King and his Kingdom.

Did I mention I like coffee, beer, whiskey, film, music, fiction, and when I jog I chant, “Let’s go Red Wings” under my breath.

While the above paragraphs don’t make me quite as awesome as the Apostle Paul, they provide you a little snapshot of who I am.


…or when things don’t go as planned.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

You’ve worked hard all week on an amazing message. The illustrations are poignant and powerful. People will get teary eyed when you drop your perfect tweetable line in the conclusion. You can’t wait to preach. You know this will be one of the most life changing messages you have ever communicated.

Then it happens.


Whatever “it” is.

It happens.

You have to zig instead of zag. The entire night has to be changed because your pastoral heart knows that the people need something else. They don’t need your life changing sermon. They need a different message. Maybe they don’t need a message at all, just time and space to be together. Who knows? But what is evident, is that you have to flex.

Many of us pastors create strategic plans. We have plans for three, five, ten, and fifteen years out. We know exactly how we want everything to work out in our ministry.

The strategies, we believe in them.

The principles, we own them.

The language, we can communicate it.

The passion, we exude it.

The vision, we proclaim it.

We are leaders and we know it. We are the alphas and we will lead our people to the promise land. We will change the world.

God often has other plans for us though. Or maybe it’s just that we live in a broken world and our plans, strategies, and principles are for the ideal and we don’t live in the ideal.

When you are doing life and ministry in the real world, not in the vacuum of a book or seminar, things are messy. Life is messy. People are messy. Messiness means that we have to hold things with a loose grip. There will be times we must be flexible.

Yet, in the midst of being flexible we must also seek to obey. There is an obedience of faithfulness that we have to embrace. Our calling, our vision, our passion, our principles, assuming they come from God, are good and we need to faithfully pursue them. Flexibility in ministry does not mean that we abandon what God is calling us to do in the big picture. Flexibility in the moment allows us to remain obedient in the long run.

Flex and obey, there is no other way.



Choosing Joy

Joy is a decision.

Every day you have to make a choice.

What will you choose?

Will it be anger?

Will it be frustration?

Will it be sadness?

Will it be joy?

Joy is hard to choose.

Joy demands faith.

Faith in the midst of pain is hard.

If we are honest with ourselves pain is where we live most days.

Pain seems to be the water we swim in.

Pain seems to be the air we breathe.

Pain seems to be everywhere we look.

Joy subverts pain.

Joy takes pain and flips it on its head.

Joy makes pain look alien.

Pain is.

Joy is a choice.

What will you choose?

I choose joy.


Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

Every once in a while you come face to face with a brokenness that overwhelms you. It seems that lately this has been the case more than not. I look around and people are not being healed, they are losing jobs, they are experiencing death.

This all sucks.

I know, I know, I’m a pastor and my Mimi would be mad that I just used the “s-word.” But, you know what, it does suck.

That’s the truth of the matter.

The brokenness of this world is overwhelming at times. I am so mad and frustrated with it. I wish God would simply do what I want him to do. When I pray for him to heal someone, I want him to do that. When I ask him to save a marriage, I want him to do that. Every once in a while, I want him to supersede the secondary causes of human sin, frailty, and brokenness to make this world how I want it.

He’s sovereign and good I remind myself. But, dang it sure does not feel that way at times. Not even a little. I don’t really doubt his goodness, but there are times when I wonder if he really does have control of this ball of dust.

Intellectually, I know he does.

Intellectually, I know that everything has purpose.

Today, as I drink my coffee, it doesn’t feel like it at all.

Emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook statuses, they all point to something else.

Even now, I am thinking about all the times God has responded. All the times when it made no sense for something to happen apart from God’s miraculous intervention. That makes me smile.

A few months ago my son said, “Dad, if I need something important to happen, I am asking the church to pray. God listens to our church and does stuff.”

It doesn’t feel that way this morning. But, I know it to be true. Me and God have history. But, I have a short memory.

“When my heart was grieved and 
my spirit embittered, 
I was senseless and ignorant; 
I was a brute beast before you. 
Yet I am always with you; 
you hold me by my right hand. 
You guide me with your counsel, 
and afterward you will take me into glory. 
Whom have I in heaven but you? 
And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
but God is the strength of my heart 
and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:21–26

This morning I was reading this Psalm and this section struck me. I am still in the, “I was senseless and ignorant” stage. I am working my way toward the “Whom have I in heaven but you?” stage.

Even so, God can handle me saying, “This sucks.”


Two young black men were riding home from football practice in my car. The four of us were laughing, cutting up, and making fun of each other. We came up on multiple police cars and officers investigating something. These two young men immediately folded their hands in their lap, became quiet, stared straight ahead, and were silent.

After we passed the officers there was a moment and then the teasing, laughing, and cutting up began again.

My brother and many of my closest friends are police officers. I love police officers. I am grateful for them and the service they provide. We could not live the lives we do without them.

But, in that moment it, there was fear, a raw fear that sucked the air out of my car. This fear demanded two young men to immediately become silent upon seeing officers even while being in the car of a white man.

We can love and respect and support our police officers and still recognize that there is something beyond broken in our culture. This fear was real.

But we need to make changes. Those of us who are white need to learn. We need to listen. We must not marginalize people’s experiences.

As a pastor, I have to lead in the pursuit of justice. I’m still learning what that means. I know that it won’t be done on social media. It will be done in relationships, relationships that I pursue. I will be able to lead only as I change.

All I know, is that there are good young men, honorable young men, hard working young men, who live their lives in fear. They know a fear that my son will never know.

*Originally Published: September 21, 2016

Originally published at danielmrose.com.


When I was on staff with a large college ministry we spent a lot of talking about how to help college guys become men. We did men’s retreats every year. There was a very specific model that we thought these men had to fit in; tough, rugged, and macho.

We also spent a lot of time trying to teach college girls to be women. This focused a lot on their outward appearance teaching them to dress modestly so they didn’t cause the “men” to “stumble.”

Summer mission trips had female dress codes. No bikinis. No tankinis. No “cheek leak” in your one piece. No spaghetti straps. No “shorts that were too short.” No. No. No. No.

I’m now the father of a teenage son and a teenage daughter. My perspective has radically changed as my wife and I are trying to raise a good man and a good woman.

As I look back at that time with college students I need to ask these women forgiveness. I shamed you. I didn’t mean to, but I did. I put a burden on you that was not yours to bear. As I spoke at retreats and in small groups, I made it seem like you were responsible for the holiness of the men around you. You are not. How you dress does not determine the way a guy looks at you, he does. He is the one who chooses to objectify and drool over you. I’m sorry, deeply sorry for creating an environment where you experienced shame and guilt. I’m sorry that we communicated to you that men are animals and can’t learn to control their urges. I’m sorry that we made you feel like some sort of a temptress simply because you are a woman. I was wrong. I see that now. Please forgive me.

We are subtly and (at times) overtly teaching boys that men are not to be held responsible for their urges. We have created this environment that says, boys and men are animals. They can’t control themselves. “Boys will be boys.” I’m so disgusted by this. I am not an animal. My son is not an animal. He can make choices and decisions not to be lewd, disgusting, and lecherous. The girls at his school are not responsible for what goes through his mind or the minds of his friends. We work hard to teach him that to be a man is to honor and respect women. Can he and his friends appreciate beauty in a woman without being a lust crazed maniac? Yes. Boys can learn to control themselves.

There is a culture of rape in our society. This is born out of the perspective that women are somehow responsible for what men do. It’s wrong. Boys and men are responsible for themselves and their actions.

We tell girls and women to be comfortable with their bodies out of one side of our mouth. Then out of the other we say don’t be too comfortable. If you dress that way you’re slutty. If you wear that boys may think you want them to have sex with you. If something bad happens to you, “you brought it on yourself.”

I want my daughter to know that she is not simply her body. I want to her to know that she can wear a sundress or leggings and is not a distraction to some animalistic male. She needs to know that if a guy objectifies it’s not her fault, it’s his, regardless of what she was wearing.

We need to raise the level of expectations for our sons. I want my son to be a man. This means that he takes responsibility for himself. It means that he owns his thoughts and actions. It means that he doesn’t shift blame to anyone.

Let’s teach them to be men.

Originally published at danielmrose.com.


You know that time when you watch a television show and it shakes you up a bit? Sometimes works of fiction do that to me (A Brave New World rocked my world). Sometimes it’s reading history. Other times it is talking with a new friend. In this particular moment, it was a television show.

We were watching Madam Secretary and one of the plot lines revolved around the middle daughter, Ali, and the youngest child, Jason, going to a school dance. Ali was wearing a slightly provocative dress and attended with a senator’s son. Jason overheard her date in the bathroom talking about how he was going to “get some.” Jason didn’t do anything.

That evening Jason and Ali were talking and Jason learned that Ali had to fight her date off so she didn’t get raped. She challenged her brother for not doing something or saying something when he heard the boys talking. Ali said something like, “There will always be boys like that until boys like you stand up to them and stop them.”

It got me thinking about all the women in my life. I had strong independent grandmothers. My Mom raised three boys on her own. My wife is amazing beyond my ability to describe. My daughter is a force in this world. Beyond them, there are so many others too.

Recently, I read through the Twitter #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear and my heart broke. Then I got angry. Then I realized how I’m complicit to everything that those women hear. I am complicit because I haven’t spoken up. It’s similar to how I am complicit in racism when I don’t speak up for my black friends.

A few weeks ago at Doubt on Tap I was gut punched because one of our attendees held a mirror to my face. In the moment, I ignored it and simply argued it away in my own head. Someone had made a crack about hurting a woman to “keep her in line.” The room groaned disapprovingly but nobody said anything. The attendee called us on it. She was right. In that moment every man in that room became complicit in violence against women.

Originally, this post was going to be much more theological. It was going to be about where I’m at theologically on the issue of women in church leadership. I think that will need to come at some point. However, in light of some of the recent things happening within the Christian sub-culture and our broader culture, I realized that the first thing that needed to be said is this: I will stand with you. I will speak up. I will not let side comments just slide by.

Men, we have, by and large, created a culture of putting women in a second class. It has been intentional. As a friend of mine has said about other issues, “It is the determined default.” We like power. Our societal and cultural systems were put in place by white, male, landowners. It is what it is. The question now becomes, what will we do about it? What will we teach our sons? What will we teach our daughters? What will we model for our sons and daughters?

As a pastor, one who has some sort of public authority, I am coming to an understanding that one of my most important roles is that of one who will stand in the gap. We are told that pastors are “under-shepherds” and that we are to feed the flock. Shepherds do more than that. They protect the flock from the predators too. A shepherd must be willing to protect the flock or they are not much of a shepherd. Women, for far too long in the Western church, have been marginalized, ignored, or fed to the wolves.

Not on my watch. I stand with you.

Originally published at danielmrose.com.


If the first step into the mission of God is showing up, then the second is to begin paying attention to the people around you. What are they passionate about? What are their hopes? What are their fears? What are the areas in their community that are broken? What are people worrying about? Who are the people that are trying to fix the brokenness of the world? Who are the people who know these people?

These people are called, “persons of peace.” In every mission setting we need to find a person of peace.

“From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.” (Acts 16:11–15, NIV)

Paul and Luke (at least Luke, we don’t have an exhaustive list), show up at the river. They were going to pray but there were a number of women there. So they begin talking with the women and a woman named Lydia comes to faith (and so her whole household is baptized). Paul and his companions stay on with her.

They have found a person of peace.

Lydia was a saleswoman. She would have been known and connected in her town. As a saleswoman she would have access to marketplace and other places in the community that an outsider like Paul would not have had access to. Lydia was able to connect Paul with others.

Who are the Lydias in your community? Who can help connect you with others?

I remember when we launched Doubt on Tap, Mike and Tom were persons of peace for us. We had met them at our local coffee shop and invited them to join us at Doubt on Tap. They in turn began inviting everyone in their sphere of influence. They provided Doubt on Tap with amazing momentum.

A person of peace of mission critical.

After you show up, find a person of peace.

Originally published at danielmrose.com.


Do you like to learn? I pretend to like to learn. Learning requires me to change. It demands that I do something different from what I used to do. Learning requires me to change my mind, actions, and possibly even beliefs. So, I pretend to like learning. I listen intently and nod my head at appropriate times.

Every once in a while go next level with a well-timed, “Hmmm…”

I’m a master at being a fake learner. Particularly when I know that I know something or that I know that I know more than the other person.

You’re probably a better person than me. Actually, I am confident that you are because if there is something that I know it my own thoughts. Inside me is a darkness that if you knew about it would disgust you. You are probably not like that.

Being a fake learner is really hard when you’re a Christian. To be a Christian is a call to being a learner from the Master. We come to Jesus with nothing and he fills us and changes us through his Spirit. The problem for me is that I know that I come with something and I know that I’m right about all that I know.

When I stare into the face of Jesus through prayer, the Scriptures, and the Church, I’m undone. I realize my emptiness. Begrudgingly I come face to face with my ignorance. The things I was so sure of become mists that I try to grip.

To be a learner demands at least that much. It depends that I repent. The lowest common denominator of being a learner is to repent of my self-indulgent pride.

O my Savior, Help me. I am slow to learn, so prone to forget, so weak to climb;I am in the foothills when I should be on the heights;I am painted by my graceless heart, my prayerless days,my poverty of love,my sloth in the heavenly race,my sullied conscience, my wasted hours,

my unspent opporunities.

I am blind while light shines around me:take the scales from my eyes,

grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief.

Make it my chiefest joy to study thee, meditate on thee,gaze on thee, sit like Mary at they feet, lean like John on they breast,appeal like to they love,

count like Paul all things dung.

Give me increase and progress in graceso that there may bemore decision in my character,more vigour in my purposes, more elevation in my life, more fervor in my devotion,

more constancy in my zeal.

As I have a position in the world, 
keep me from making the world my position;

May I never seek in the creature
what can only be found in the Creator;

Let not faith cease from seeking thee
until it vanishes into sight.

Ride forth in my, thou King of kingsand Lord of lords, that I may live victoriously, and in victory may attain my end.

(From The Valley of Vision, 334–335)

Originally published at danielmrose.com.



Every Wednesday I post what passage of Scripture I am thinking and meditating on. This week, it is the story of Jonah. One verse in particular has me stuck,

But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3)

I am so very much like Jonah.


Photo by Al x on Unsplash

Every week it seems that there is a new preacher, televangelist, or “numerologist” proclaiming that the end is here. If you walk around many cities or college campuses you will find someone screaming that, “The End is Nigh!”

It seems like everyone is looking for “the end of the world.”

Like we will miss it or something.

Christianity teaches that the end of things will be a noisy, noisy day. We won’t miss it. It’s a day that will come. We just don’t know when. It will be on us like a “thief in the night.” But it won’t be quiet. You absolutely will not miss it. I promise.

So what do we know about the end? We know that Jesus will come back, bodily and personally. We know that when he does he will judge the living and the dead. We also know that he will reconcile the world and make all things new.

Check out this bit from Revelation 21,

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1–5

There was “no longer any sea” means that all the chaos of the world was gone. Everything was set to rights and order.

How amazing will it be to hear, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

This calls us back to Jesus being called, “Emanuel” or “God with us.”

The promise of the culmination of time for the Christian is not “escape.” It is the opposite, it is eternal presence.

Eternal presence.

If eternity is about “presence” then how does that shape who we are and what we do now?


It means that we are to be present. We must open spaces for one another and others in our lives. To be present in the lives of those around us is what it means to pray, “Your kingdom come.” When we are present in the lives of one another and others, we are bringing the kingdom to bear right here, right now.


Photo by Pablo Varela on Unsplash

I am watching my social media feed fill with a singular hashtag, #MeToo. Friends, dear friends, are sharing it. Women in my congregation have been sexually abused or sexually harassed. I didn’t know. They had never shared that with me. Nor would I expect them too.

Yet, there it is, #MeToo.

I am shaking in sadness, anger, rage, and frustration.

My eyes are welling with tears as I think about my friends being treated this way. The lump in my throat is growing as #MeToo pops up next to more and more of my friends.

Then it hits me, my God, my daughter.

What would I do if I saw the #MeToo next to her name? How can I protect her from this terror? Is there some way to keep her from this evil? Has it already happened? Would she know she can tell me? Would my precious daughter trust me enough to share this with me?

What about my son? Have I raised him to know that he is not to be a predator? Does he know that he is not an animal and that women owe him nothing? Will he know to treat women with honor, respect, and kindness? In other words, will he treat them as people, not as objects to be used and discarded?

Do men experience sexual abuse? Yes. Do men experience sexual harassment? Yes. The rate at which we do is so much less than that of women though.

One in three.

1 in 3.

One in three women are sexually abused. Let that sink in. 1 in 3. I can not wrap my mind around this reality. When my daughter has friends over, 1 in 3. When I am with women in my congregation, 1 in 3.

As I look at my son, I know that I must speak into his life. Over and over again, I have to remind him what being a man is all about. Being a man is to control himself. Being a man is to see women as human beings, created in God’s image. Being a man is to protect those around you. Being a man is to stop other men from doing this to women. Being a man is to raise the next generation of men to never do this.

Men, we have to change.

Women, it is not your fault.

To those of you courageously saying, #MeToo, I believe you. It was not your fault.


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“God is sovereign so we don’t need to tell anyone about Jesus.”

“I’m not called to be a missionary.”

“I’m not gifted in evangelism.”

It seems that there are more reasons not to talk to people about Jesus than there are reasons to do it. Everyone is looking for an excuse. Some folks are more theologically astute and make arguments trying to leverage doctrine. It turns out that all of us are invited into God’s mission.

So why are we always trying to get out of it?

I think there are two major reasons. The first is that we are afraid. We fear being rejected. We fear being asked a question for which we don’t have an answer. There is the fear of conflict. Many of us think that if we talk to someone about Jesus it will turn into a fight. Our fears are probably unending.

The second is more insidious. We simply don’t care about people enough to invite them into the kingdom. Even worse, there are people with whom we don’t want to spend eternity. Those people shouldn’t get the chance to be reconciled with God. We have so much anger and hatred in our hearts that we refuse to invite those people to know Jesus.

Each of us has to deal with our sin sick hearts. We have to ask the question, “Why don’t I proclaim the excellencies of Jesus?” Do we fit in the fear category or hate category? Ultimately it is one of the two. We can sugar coat our reasons in some way. The reality is we are either afraid or we lack love, or both.

Which is it?

To be on mission with God means that you have step out in faith courageously. It means that you have to love by faith, even those people.

Will you?


Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

When it comes to being on mission we often miss it because we are so busy. We have little to no time to simply be with people. There is no opportunity to listen, pray, or to just look around. Every day we rush to the next place, to the next appointment, to the next meeting, or the next event. How can we possibly be on mission if there is not time or space to simply, “be”?

I am often struck by looking at Jesus’ life and seeing that he was a master of the “margin.” Many stories in the Gospels start with, “As Jesus was walking…” There was a pace of life that Jesus practiced where he had margin to converse and to be present with the people around him.

You are reading this thinking, “Yes, yes, yes, but that was the first century. There were no cars, obviously he was walking. There were no travel sports. There were no school events. People didn’t have to commute to work. The list could go on and on. How can you possibly draw any parallel to Jesus’ pace of life and ours? WE ARE BUSY!”

I hear you. I feel the crippling weight of busy-ness too. My family sits down for dinner together one or two nights a week, if we’re lucky. It feels as though we are in perpetual motion. My wife and I joke and make light of the situation by occasionally introducing ourselves to one another, “Hello, I’m your husband, and you are?”

Sad? Yes. Normal? Yes.

The modern life is life at break-neck speed.

Here is the dirty little secret though: there is nobody to blame but ourselves. We choose what we get involved with. We choose what our kids will participate in. We choose where we will spend out time. We choose.

To truly be on mission we must learn to master the margins. Step one is making sure to have some margin. This can be hard. It means saying “no” to good things. For example, last year I volunteered in our local school’s concession stand for sporting events. I loved doing it. I enjoyed the camaraderie with the other volunteers. I felt useful. This year, I took a second, part time job at another church. I just added twenty hours into my schedule, minimum. Something had to give so that I could have some margin in my life to be present with people. Therefore, I said “no” to volunteering with the concessions team again.

What do you need to say “no” to so that you can have margin?

Step two is that our margins need to spent with people and not just taking naps and chilling on our couch. It’s healthy and good to take a break and recharge. We need Sabbath rest. However, that rest ought to compel us to action and engagement. There will be times that we must step out into our margin times even when we are a bit tired. We will have to trust that the Holy Spirit will provide us the energy and power we need to do so.

What do you need to “yes” to so that you are engaging in the margin?

Margin is necessary. Jesus was a master of the margin. We too can make decisions about margin. Mission takes place in the margin. Choose to create margin and then step into it.


Over the last month my Facebook habits have changed dramatically. As a result of my changes I have noticed that I am sleeping better, I am more relaxed, and I am more present with those around me.

Here is what I have done:

1. I post primarily family stuff.

2. I intentionally do not post about politics as I would prefer the in person conversation.

3. The only religion stuff I post is my own writing (because I’m a pastor and all).

4. I no longer post about sports (unless it is my own kids).

5. I try to avoid commenting on political, religious, and sports posts (this weekend I made the poor decision to comment on a sports post).

6. If I do comment and the conversation goes sideways (which it almost always does) I turn off notifications for that post.

7. I unfollow people who are consistently filling my timeline with negativity.

8. I turned off Facebook notifications on my phone. I only look at FB when I choose. Not when the little number demands me to look.

If you’re looking for a little FB peace and happiness, this might help.


There’s nothing worse as a pastor when you’re having a lousy day (or few days) and you have a “weak” moment publicly. You know, one of those moments where you feel the flesh waking up. Your face heats up, your pulse quickens, your fists clench, and you know what is about to happen. You know you’re about say something you will later regret. Your mind is screaming, “NO! Stop! Run!” Your flesh is screaming out, “I will destroy. Right here, right now, I will destroy.”

In that moment, your either resist or you give in.

That moment is born out of your weakness. Your weak flesh. Your own sin nature. Your own brokenness.

But wait, you’re a pastor. You’re super human. You’re just like Jesus. You sir, you ma’am, are a bastion of grace, mercy, love, kindness, gentleness, and patience.

It turns out that you’re a person. A broken, vulnerable, weak, person. Sometimes your tanks are empty. There are days, sometimes days and days, where you are so keenly aware of the broken world around you that you have no patience. You are at a loss for kindness. Your gentleness and compassion are gone. Your faith wains and loving by faith is hard to come by.

I had that moment last night. It had “been a week” and it was only Tuesday. At a ministry event, my tank emptied. There was nothing left in it. I couldn’t put on the face any longer. I couldn’t “play the man.” I nearly engaged in destruction. My words almost became weapons that could cause irreparable harm. I could almost audibly hear the Holy Spirit say, “Go. Run. Get out!” As the roar of the lion of sin grew louder and louder and louder, there was nothing left. I could give in or walk away. There was no fighting it this time. By God’s grace, I walked away. I am quite certain there was still damage done, but it is nothing that can’t be repaired and redeemed.

Last night as I lay in bed my heart continued to race. My mind turned over the night’s events again and again and again. “You’re so weak. What is your problem? You coward. You’re so fake.” The images rolled through my mind all night.

When I woke up this morning I opened up my text messages and there was the last conversation that I had engaged in last night. The text said, “Strong.”

As I drove this morning to my office, I pondered that word, “strong.” It struck me that strength is often found in weakness. The weak thing would have been to give in to my empty flesh to use my words as weapons, to destroy. My friend, with one word, “strong,” reminded me that walking away was the strong thing to do.

Us pastors are not super human. We’re going to have bad days. There will be times when we lose it. It will happen. Our flesh, our old self, will rise up. The question is what will we do when it happens? Will we give in? Will we flee it? Can we fight it? There is no shame if we can’t fight it, to flee it.

I am continuing to learn that true strength is found as we embrace our brokenness and weakness. When we stop trying to pretend that we are perfect, then we can experience grace and mercy.

We are not perfect. I’m not perfect. That’s OK. There was one who was perfect and is perfect. In our imperfection we grab hold of his cloak and hang on for the ride. Jesus doesn’t expect perfection, just faith.

Originally published at danielmrose.com.


Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

NOTE: This is the second in a series on the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s, The Essentials of our Faith. Scriptural proofs can be found elsewhere. These posts will focus on the “why” and the impact of these statements in our lives.

I think the argument can be made that no person in the history of the world has had as much of an impact as Jesus of Nazareth. We mark time before and after him (yes, I know that CE/BCE are the now the primary means of marking time, but they are the same as BC and AD). It is safe to say that no other person has had as much written about him or has been studied so thoroughly. His birth, life, and death have been studied, debated, and marveled at. Jesus is a name that brings a reaction in those who hear the name and in those who say the name. Regardless of your worldview, everyone must admit that this Jesus of Nazareth, was at the very least a remarkable individual.

For those of us who seek to follow Jesus we believe some very specific things about him. Check out the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s statement about him,

Jesus Christ, the living Word, became flesh through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and His virgin birth. He who is true God became true man united in one Person forever. He died on the cross a sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. On the third day He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He now is our High Priest and Mediator.

We believe that this Jesus was unique in all of history. We believe that he was not simply a man, but fully God too. Those who are called Christians seek to live as he did. We trust him for forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation. We see in him the ideal man and gracious God. We know him to be majestic, holy, real, and humble. There is in this Jesus a strength and wisdom that is beyond our comprehension yet, we are drawn to know him more.

He is our mediator and high priest. Jesus, we believe, stands at the right hand of God and in the gap for us. As the accuser speaks against us, he mediates for us. His life, death, and resurrection have reconciled us to the Godhead. These have made it possible for us to be united into the people of God.

All this can be ultimately summed up in one single phrase, “Jesus is Lord.” It is this reality, this truth that all who call themselves Christian can proclaim together without question.

So what? Why does any of this matter?

If you remove Jesus from Christianity, there is no Christianity. You’re thinking, “Well duh, that’s what Christianity is, moron.” But more than that, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then there is no Christianity. Christianity becomes the biggest lie every perpetrated on humanity. If there was no God-man who lived, died, and rose again, then we are still in our sin. There is no hope of reconciliation to us and the Godhead.

Jesus is the center of who we are as Christians. He is our big brother, our model for living. He is our teacher. He is our redeemer and the one reconciles us.

Jesus shows us how to offer forgiveness and live it out. He points to the sacrificial nature of giving ourselves fully in relationship to another.

Jesus shows us how to subvert the empires of this world through truth,grace, mercy, love, and faith. He shows us that to change the world we need not a sword but grace and truth.

We live in a time where our brokenness is on full display. In times like this we must speak truth and grace. Conflict must be entered into. The one who is following Christ does not shy away from the difficult conversations. She doesn’t run from them. She enters in, completely and fully. As she does, she seeks truth and speaks it. Grace, mercy, and love are the context. All of this is what we learned from Jesus. All of this was perfectly portrayed in him.

At the end of the day, it matters because as we embrace Jesus as Lord we embrace the mission of reconciliation. We discover our purpose and our identity.

Why does it matter that we “get Jesus right?” Because it is in him we find who we are and what we are to do. In him we are freed from shame and guilt. In him we find ourselves.


*NOTE: This is the first in a series on the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s, The Essentials of our Faith. Scriptural proofs can be found elsewhere. These posts will focus on the “why” and the impact of these statements in our lives.

The culture of the Bible was one of great diversity. Pluralism was the norm. In many ways biblical culture reflects our own. There were beliefs in many different gods and there were as many religions as there were clans. The book of Genesis starts with the words, “In the beginning God created…” When Moses penned these words he was doing so to begin to identify and differentiate the God from the gods.

The first essential belief of the EPC (my denomination) says this, “We believe in one God, the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To Him be all honor, glory and praise forever!”

Why begin with a statement about God? Why not start with a statement about Jesus or mission or something else?

We start with this statement because we live a culture and a time when there is great confusion about the idea of God. There are so many gods running around that for us to claim a belief as essential we must begin by stating who our God is. This sentence sets apart our belief in the unique God of the Bible.

Theology that doesn’t connect to our lives is simply noise. So, why does this statement even matter?

We believe that God is sovereign. This means that we can trust him to bring about his will. In a world that feels rudderless and chaotic, to know that God is ultimately sovereign over it gives us the ability to live courageously without fear.

The belief that God is creator allows us to see in the world order and purpose. But, more importantly it reminds us that every person is created in the image of God. Knowing this means that there is no room for hatred. It means that loving our neighbor as ourselves is the norm. It means that we are to even love our enemies. Why? Because people have been created in the image of God.

The belief that God is the sustainer of all things gives us rest. My life, probably like yours, feels much like a person trying to keep many plates spinning at once. I often feel like I am running from plate to plate to give it another spin. Yet, when I reflect on the truth that God is the sustainer of all things I can rest. The world will not fall apart without me. I can sit back and know that God has it all under control.

His infinity and eternality points to his sheer limitlessness. Pastor Chris Winans said it well,

We find our ultimate stability is in relationship with God. He is unlimited in time, knowledge, and strength. — @c_winans

His existence as Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit means that we can look to him and see the beauty of unity in diversity. We can behold in our God what true relationship and community looks like. In him we see humility and grace and beauty.

The essential belief of who God is shapes our very identities.


I see so much hand-wringing about the future generations. People are deeply concerned for their kids and grand-kids. They take to social media and whine or complain. They mock kids today and their work ethic.

Folks in the Church are almost apoplectic about the numbers of kids who walk away from the faith. There are studies done. There are books written. New and shinier programs are developed.

What if I told you that the Bible actually gave us an answer to the problem?

It does. It’s right there, for anyone and everyone to read. I’m not even kidding. Thankfully, it doesn’t make mention of this guy…

Psalm 78 gives us some insight,

He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God. (Psalm 78:5–8, ESV)

It turns out the answer has been right in front of us. No seriously, if you’re a parent or grandparent go find a mirror. Do you see that person? That person is the answer to the decline of future generations in the Church. That person is the answer to the “terrible state” of the current generation.

There is nobody else.
We are the answer. If the emerging generations are walking away from the faith it’s because we have not been faithful. It isn’t because of a program at church. It isn’t because of a youth pastor or the lack of a youth pastor. It’s because of us.

We, parents, are responsible for teaching our kids about the faith. We are responsible to pass on to them the works of God. We are the ones who are supposed model an abiding faith.

I am most caught up by this phrase, “that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” What blows me away is that there is in this a trajectory of greater faithfulness from generation to generation. The emerging generations ought to be progressing in faith. They should be more faithful. They should be more steadfast in their faith.

Yet, they walk away? Why?

We have not lived lives that honor God. We have not modeled faith. We have not taught them about the great works of God.

For too long we have outsourced our kids faith development to the youth pastor. Youth pastors are amazing servants of God. They are being used by God to change lives and impact future generations. But they are to augment what the parents are teaching and modeling for their kids, not to replace.

It turns out that our kids are our responsibility. Own that responsibility. Teach them the great works of God and show them your life lived in faith.



Sadly, many Jesus followers struggle with guilt and shame. It’s an epidemic that needs to be addressed and dealt with. For pastors like myself, we need to speak into this issue and challenge the legalism of the new pietism that has developed in many of our circles.

Paul writes in Galatians 6,

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:12–15, ESV)

It struck me today in a conversation that while on the one hand this can play out in cultural syncretism, it also plays out within the Christian subculture through pietism. There is this movement of folks who are creating a culture of external piety that is meant to show who is passionately following Jesus.

While we don’t have the demands for circumcision that Paul had to deal with, we do see things like:

  • Quiet Times (bonus points for morning ones)
  • Family devotions (bonus points for using a guitar and singing the Getty’s catalog)
  • Your kids “court” and don’t “date.” (bonus points if this leads immediately to marriage)
  • You pray daily with your spouse out loud. (bonus points if it’s in the morning, double bonus points if you’re on your knees)
  • Your family eats dinner together every day. (bonus points if there’s a devotion as part of dinner followed by your regular family devotion)
  • You watch Christian movies, only.
  • You don’t have TV
  • Etc…etc…etc…

These are just a few. For the people who don’t do these things there is guilt and shame. There is a feeling of failure, that somehow they are less than Christian. Many people begin to try and do these things so they look good in the flesh to avoid those sideways looks from other people at church.

Paul hits on these kinds of things in his letter to the church at Colosse,

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations — “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used) — according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20–23, ESV)

Self-made religion has an appearance of wisdom but ultimately is useless.

In the midst of this, we must not set aside the practice of spiritual disciplines or seeking to be holy. We don’t embrace a license that excuses us from pursuing a relationship with God. What it does mean is that we don’t have to try so hard by doing things that have “worked” for other people. These aspects of self-made religion ultimately have no value.

What is required of us? I’ll let Paul speak for himself,

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:1–17, ESV)

How we do this will look differently for each one of us. What matters most is that we are seeking the things that are above, putting off the old self and putting on the new. Because what matters most is “a new creation.”


A good friend of mine once said, “To follow Jesus is to be loved or hated, not to be broadly liked.” I think about that often. Particularly in these days and times when everyone has a platform and if you speak truth to power or people you will offend someone.

As I was reading the closing verses of Galatians the Apostle Paul wrote,

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. (Galatians 6:12, ESV)

In our age I have to wonder what is our “circumcision” issue that draws us into making a “good showing in the flesh” so that we “may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ”?

I am coming to the conclusion that we experience this in how we engage with culture. There are many hot button topics that “trigger” folks and so we try and either avoid speaking about them or we try to be as palatable as possible. Cultural syncretism, I think, is our new circumcision.

This cultural syncretism cuts both ways between conservative culture and progressive culture. Typically we want to be broadly liked in one or the other. Yet, for the follower of Jesus we will often find ourselves cutting a new path, one that challenges both ends of the cultural spectrum.

What makes this so hard is that it really does place us in a position where we will be loved or hated. We will lose the capacity to be broadly liked. In an age of social media to be broadly liked is an unstated goal. When we speak gospel truth it will often lend itself to folks being made uncomfortable.

To be clear, we speak the truth in love. So offense ought not to be generated by our being rude, uncaring, or mean.

Our challenge is to follow Jesus into our culture without worry of making a good showing in the flesh to avoid persecution. No, we follow him in truth with the knowledge that we will be loved or hated and not broadly liked.


It’s funny how language changes over time. Words and phrases come to mean very different things as cultures change and progress. When I was a kid, “bad” meant “good” and “sweet” had nothing to do with flavor. A new phrase that my kids drop is, “you feeling salty?” They use it when a friend is whining or complaining about something.

It didn’t always mean that.

Back in Jesus’ day salt was important for a couple of reasons. First, it was helpful to store food. The other thing it was useful for was flavoring (funny how some things don’t change after 2,000 or so years).

In Matthew 5 Jesus is in the midst of his magisterial Sermon on Mount, and he says,

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13–16, ESV)

He is reminding his disciples who they are and what they are called to do. Jesus wants them to understand their new identity. They are to be a people who allow others to “see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus compares his disciples to salt and a city on a hill. Salt is amazing because you don’t need much to give great flavor to food. Just a little goes a long way. It’s purpose is to give flavor, if it loses its purpose then it just gets thrown out. A city on a hill cannot hide. Where Jesus was teaching from the disciples could see Tiberias, a city on a hill. At night it would be lit up and you could see it from any shore of the Sea of Galilee.

We are to live this way.

The followers of Jesus are to be a people who through their lives show the world the Father. Our lives are to be salt and light. We are to bring flavor to our relationships and show the people in our lives the beauty of the Father.

Jesus wants to know, “You feeling salty?”



A few years ago I was thinking about integrity. Integrity is a concept that people talk much about but don’t really live out. I’m often surprised by the lack of integrity most people have.

Some say that integrity is understood to be “what you do when nobody’s looking.” Still others define it as “standing by your word.” I think that both of those ideas are pieces to the puzzle but they aren’t the whole story.

I am finding that true integrity is found in people whose lives are not disintegrated.

What do I mean by disintegrated? What I mean is that the person with integrity is one who has a life that is consistent across all the spheres within which they live. That is, the Facebook version is the same as the Office version is the same as the Family version is the same as the Church version is the same as the Bar version is the same as the…

You get the idea.

A person with integrity is the same wherever they are. Their is fully integrated. For good or ill. I think one of the highest compliments you can give a person is that they live with integrity. That their life is consistent.

Even if you disagree with the way they live their life.

Recently, I have had some conversations with other church leaders and I have discovered that they play a lot of politics. I have also interacted with them socially and the experience was night and day. I’m not saying that they have done anything unethical or morally corrupt, just that they have little integrity. Their lives are disintegrated.

The social version is very different from the office version. That is disintegration, that is lack of integrity.

The person of integrity is the same wherever they are. The disintegrated person changes like the chameleon. This isn’t a moral or ethical failing, it simply removes trust.

You can’t trust someone who lives without integrity (disintegrated).

You can’t trust them because you never know where you stand.

When I look at my closest friends, I’m thankful. I’m thankful because they are all people of integrity. We don’t always agree on everything. We fight. But you always know where you stand.

Take some inventory over the next 40 days. Ask those closest to you if your life is integrated or disintegrated. Because if you’re like me then you want to live a life of integrity. But sometimes we miss it without intending to.


Photo by Cristian Newman

If you’re like me you don’t like cognitive dissonance. You try really hard to deal with it and eliminate it. This means that I have this general posture toward creating binary perspectives when reality dictates a nuanced approach.

As a pastor I regularly enter into situations where people need help. A conversation that is ongoing withing myself and with my fellow Elders is “How best do we help?” Over the years there is a growing distinction between “blessing” and “helping.” Blessing is paying a bill for someone who needs to keep their light on. Helping is teaching someone how to budget so that they have an understanding of how to have enough money to pay their bills.

I was reading in Galatians 6 and this passage about bearing burdens stood out to me. Take a moment,

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Galatians 6:1–5, ESV)

There is this fascinating both/and in this passage. We are to watch out for one another’s sins and also our own. We are to bear one another’s burdens and yet carry our own load.

This is the both/and of living in Christian community.

Paul holds this tension throughout his writing and teaching. There is a constant sense of being in it together and taking self-responsibility.

The way of Christ calls us into deep and abiding community. We need one another desperately. Yet, we also need to take clear responsibility for ourselves. We must learn to stand on our own two feet, we must learn to come alongside others, and we must learn to let others help us.

I think this is part of the beauty of being a part of the body of Christ. I think the hardest thing for some of us is learning to be helped. When others come alongside us we feel shame. We have such a strong ethic of independence that we have missed the need for interdependence.

Ultimately, this is rooted in the loss of our understanding that God is saving for himself a people and not ultimately individuals. This is why the body metaphor that Paul uses extensively elsewhere is so powerful. We can get along without certain body parts but we do so at great disadvantage. We need the whole body to be most healthy. Every part of our body needs to be working interdependently with the others.

Will you take responsibility for yourself? Will you learn to care for others? Will you learn to let others care for you? For this is the way of Christ.

We Are In This Together was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


…or why we shouldn’t get in bed with the government.

During his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast President Trump stated that he was going to end the Johnson Amendment. An aspect of this amendment, in a nut shell, prohibits pastors from campaigning from the pulpit and funneling campaign contributions from churches (a term inclusive of houses of worship) to politicians. These prohibitions allow for churches to be tax exempt and allows for religious leaders other tax benefits (minister’s housing allowance, etc…).

As a pastor, I am deeply concerned by talk of over-turning this amendment.

From the founding of this country, Christians have been deeply concerned for the separation of Church and State. It was the Christians who demanded that this be part of the who we are as a nation. Why? Because the memories of the Crown seeking to control the Church were still all too fresh in the minds of many. The Establishment Clause is critically important to life and well-being of the Church in the United States.

The over-turning of the Johnson Amendment would not increase freedom of religion but would move us down a path of eroding the religious freedom that we deeply cherish in our country. It opens the door for the fox to enter the hen house. More than ever the Church needs to be able to stand as an independent voice speaking truth to power.

Repealing the Johnson Amendment would open the door for the Church to be bought by the powerful. The ability for the Church to be the prophetic voice challenging the power of our nation could be swayed by promises of power or financial gain.

Throughout history the people of God have had the greatest influence when their power has not come from the State but from the masses. The erosion of influence and of faithful integrity has followed closely behind the Church receiving “official” power.

The separation of Church and State must remain strong. Perhaps more now than at any other time in the history of our country.

I turn as I often do when these kinds of matters come before us to 1 Samuel 8. In my mind this is one of the most significant turning points in the history of the people of God. We must be reminded again that there are consequences for looking to the State for power and influence. God’s words to Samuel are instructive to us today. May we never forget…

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.” (1 Samuel 8:4–22, ESV)

Just Say No! was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Photo by Jimi Filipovski

Sometimes we think we live a new and unique in human history. It turns out that just isn’t the case. People, it turns out, are people. You, me, and the guy down the street, we are just like the people who have come before us. I know that might be a surprise but it is what it is. Truly, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

In Psalm 73 we run across an amazing confession. One that hit home with me. Check this out…

A Psalm of Asaph.
Truly God is good to Israel,
 to those who are pure in heart.
 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
 my steps had nearly slipped.
 For I was envious of the arrogant
 when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

 For they have no pangs until death;
 their bodies are fat and sleek.
 They are not in trouble as others are;
 they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
 Therefore pride is their necklace;
 violence covers them as a garment.
 Their eyes swell out through fatness;
 their hearts overflow with follies.
 They scoff and speak with malice;
 loftily they threaten oppression.
 They set their mouths against the heavens,
 and their tongue struts through the earth.
 Therefore his people turn back to them,
 and find no fault in them.
 And they say, “How can God know?
 Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
 Behold, these are the wicked;
 always at ease, they increase in riches.
 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
 and washed my hands in innocence.
 For all the day long I have been stricken
 and rebuked every morning.
 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
 I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

 But when I thought how to understand this,
 it seemed to me a wearisome task,
 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
 then I discerned their end.

 Truly you set them in slippery places;
 you make them fall to ruin.
 How they are destroyed in a moment,
 swept away utterly by terrors!
 Like a dream when one awakes,
 O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
 When my soul was embittered,
 when I was pricked in heart,
 I was brutish and ignorant;
 I was like a beast toward you.

 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
 you hold my right hand.
 You guide me with your counsel,
 and afterward you will receive me to glory.
 Whom have I in heaven but you?
 And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
 but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
 you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
 But for me it is good to be near God;
 I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
 that I may tell of all your works. (Psalm 73, ESV)

I know that I can identify with the psalmist, can you? “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

There is so much painful truth in those lines. They expose so many our hearts. The sin that is knocking on the door. We look around at the world and see the “prosperity of the wicked” and wonder why am I seeking to do what is right? They get it all. There is no consequence for their actions. The big house, the fancy cars, the money, the fame, it’s all theirs for the taking.

Yet, here am I, trying to honor God with my life. Seeking to do what is right and I have none of those things. The thought has run through my mind more than once, “if only…” As the psalmist says, “my steps had nearly slipped.”

Our culture loves the anti-hero. We have embraced the bad guy and made him into the hero. Why? Because we look around and see that the bad guys seem to have it all. They have what we want. The desires for wealth and fame can be overwhelming at times.

The thing is, they start with something simple. I want a new computer. I want new car. I want the newest TV. I want the next tier of entertainment service. I want a seat at the table of power. The wants become unmet desires and then we begin to lust for them. Desperation builds and then we have a choice.

Thus far, by God’s grace, my response has been,

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
 you hold my right hand.
 You guide me with your counsel,
 and afterward you will receive me to glory.
 Whom have I in heaven but you?
 And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
 but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
 you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
 But for me it is good to be near God;
 I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
 that I may tell of all your works.

I pray it will be yours as well and the God would continue to grant grace to us to be people of integrity.

It’s Just Too Easy was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Photo by Axel Antas-Bergkvist

There are few words that I love more in the Scriptures than “freedom.” I think it is one of those words that really sets Christianity apart from other religions. Many people say that all religion is the same, it’s all about the golden rule, “Do unto others as you’d have them do to you.” But that’s not really the case. The religions of the world are all very different from one another. Each has their beauty, but they are not simply the same.

Consider Galatians 5 for a moment,

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:1–6, ESV)

Whenever I read this passage I am blown away. I am left in wide eyed wonder at the gospel. To follow Jesus is to be freed from seeking a self-justification.

First, Paul has jokes. He plays on the issue of circumcision by saying that a Gentile convert who get circumcised is, “Severed from Christ.” Paul’s being funny. He’s dropping one liners like Kevin Hart.

He’s also very serious though.

Those who seek to follow Christ cannot do so by following rules or traditions or law. To follow Christ all that matters all that counts is “faith working through love.”

When we seek to justify ourselves by the law we have “fallen away from grace.” We are no long free but we are submitting ourselves again to “slavery.” The way of Jesus is the way of freedom by grace through faith.

This is the beauty of the Christian life. Grace and faith re-shape us and free us to live lives of integrity and goodness. Elsewhere, Paul talks about the importance of the law and that its demands lead us to repentance. Yet, in that we are freed from the condemnation of the same law because in Christ there is grace. Justification comes as a result of Christ’s faithfulness to the law.

Grace, faith, and freedom must shape all of who we are. I think that David Fitch says it well in regards to the issue of abortion consider what he says and how it applies to living in freedom:

We cannot be redeemed by the law. We are redeemed by grace through faith. This reality must play out in our personal lives and also how we seek to engage the world around us.

The beauty of Christianity is the radical call to freedom because all that counts is “faith working through love.”

Freedom, Law, Grace, and Love was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Photo by Robert Crawford

I don’t know how many conversations I have had with folks about Jesus. Too many to count, after all, I am a pastor. Many of them with people who don’t follow Jesus say, “If God is real he would just do something miraculous and prove himself. Why doesn’t he just do that?”

Even Jesus had to answer this question. In Mark 8 we find this little interaction with the religious leaders of his day:

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. (Mark 8:11–13, ESV)

Can’t you almost picture it? I think Jesus probably does something like this:

Now, I know that might feel a little sacrilegious, but can’t you almost hear Jesus’ eyes rolling? This interaction came following the feeding of four thousand men (probably triple that number in reality when you count women and children). He had seven loaves of bread and fed the crowd and had a leftovers enough to fill seven baskets. That’s a heck of a sign. He had already performed many healings too. At what point would they be satisfied?

The question for us is, “At what point will I be satisfied?” We have the Scriptures and the accounts of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. We have the history of the Church. It has been marked by people experiencing encounters with Jesus.

What more do we want?

I am reminded of a joke that is often told. A man living in a particular town sees rain coming down at a tremendous clip. There is news of serious flooding in his area. His neighbor stops by and says, “Grab some stuff, throw it in my truck, and you can ride with me to safety.”

The man replies, “No thanks, God will save me.”

As the waters rise the man moves upstairs. He looks out the window and one in a boat yells out, “Come, get in the boat, and I will take you to safety.”

The man responds, “No thanks, God will save me.”

As the waters rise and he retreats to his roof. A helicopter hovers over head and the crew drops a rope ladder, “Climb up, we’ll take you to safety.”

“No thanks, God will save me!”

The man dies and stands before God and asks, “Why didn’t you save me Father?”

God replies, “I sent you a truck, a boat, and a helicopter. What more did you want?”

What more do you want? What are the trucks, boats, and helicopters in your life? Have you recognized that they are God’s good provision for you?

If Only… was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Photo by Nicole Mason

My brother shared a video with me a few weeks ago. It has since disappeared off the internet. But, the gist of it was focused on this one question, “How do people change?”

In the video, a police officer told the story of how a man approached him at a restaurant after observing the officer during his meal. The officer, as most officers do, was on high alert while he ate, completely on. The man who observed him shared that he had not always been on the “right side of the law” but that if anything were to have happened in that place he would have had the officer’s back.

Both men were changed.

I am learning that there is a fundamental way that we as people change. We change through our interactions with other people. This sounds obvious. This seems to be a “duh” kind of concept. Yet, it seems to be a foreign reality to most people. I’m not speaking of social media interactions. No, I’m speaking of real life, flesh and blood, face to face interactions with other people.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
— Proverbs 27:17

We don’t think of this reality enough. Too many of us believe people are fundamentally changed through information. We think if folks would just get the right information and understand the right arguments then they will change.

This just isn’t how it works.

People do not fundamentally change as a result of information. They fundamentally through interacting with other people.

One of my favorite movies is Remember The Titans. This movie tells the story of a football team that is created as the result of forced desegregation. In it you see people change. You see them change at a fundamental level because they get to know people who they had never known before.

There is a moment that turns the tide of the film,

We can not change apart from knowing the “other.”

If you find that you hate black people or white people or conservative people or liberal people or gay people or straight people, then those are the people that you need to get to know. Do you have a general mistrust of those folks? Get to know them. Do you argue with them online? Stop it and find them out and get to know them personally.

There is simply nothing that changes us more than a cup of coffee with someone and a little time. We find out they are people. Real people. They are just folks like us.

They have heartache and sadness.

They have real fears.

They have real hurts.

They have real ideas about how to fix things.

They have a view of the world colored by their experience that is nuanced and special.

They love.

They laugh.

They care.

Do you want to change? Get face to face in real life with a real person, especially someone who is different than you.


…or how to subvert the empire.

Photo by Tim Marshall

We so often find ourselves looking for a savior. We want our own personal Jesus Christ. We want someone who will fight for us. We want someone who will stand for us and protect us from all those people who we perceive to be our enemies. This mindset is not something new, we have seen it throughout history. The desire for a strong man drove the people of God to reject God and embrace a king, it has driven countless societies to embrace tyrants.

Psalm 62 challenges us to not walk down that path.

To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
 from him comes my salvation.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
 my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

 How long will all of you attack a man
 to batter him,
 like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
 They take pleasure in falsehood.
 They bless with their mouths,
 but inwardly they curse. Selah

 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
 for my hope is from him.
 He only is my rock and my salvation,
 my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
 On God rests my salvation and my glory;
 my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

 Trust in him at all times, O people;
 pour out your heart before him;
 God is a refuge for us. Selah

 Those of low estate are but a breath;
 those of high estate are a delusion;
 in the balances they go up;
 they are together lighter than a breath.
 Put no trust in extortion;
 set no vain hopes on robbery;
 if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

 Once God has spoken;
 twice have I heard this:
 that power belongs to God,
 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
 For you will render to a man
 according to his work. (Psalm 62, ESV)

That opening stanza! Oh that opening stanza! That speaks sweet relief to my soul. How would we be different if we would but embrace this truth? “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”

I see so many people in my life who are being “greatly shaken” right now. They are shaken by the state of the world for one reason or another. If you are feeling shaken remember this sweet truth from Psalm 62, God alone is your rock and salvation, your fortress, therefore, do not be greatly shaken!

The world around us is driven by fear. The power players of the empire leverage fear to consolidate their power and take more from those around them. We can subvert the power structures by living a transcendent faith knowing that they will not save us. They are not our protectors. No, when we embrace the reality that God is our deliverer and redeemer we take the power from the empire.

For God Alone My Soul Waits was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Photo by Alessandro Viaro

Some mornings as I read the Psalms one hits home and speaks to my soul. This is one of those times. As I meditate on these words, I am grateful to be able to say with David, “This I know, that God is for me.”

We want to have people in our lives that we can know without question are for us. I love spending time with those people. They encourage me and make me want to be the best version I can. I am able to hear from them rebuke and challenge. Why? Because I know they are for me.

As we walk through this life and these days as followers of Jesus we can know one thing for certain, “that God is for [us].”

What are marvelously gracious reality.

Psalm 56

To the choirmaster: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
 all day long an attacker oppresses me;
 my enemies trample on me all day long,
 for many attack me proudly.
 When I am afraid,
 I put my trust in you.
 In God, whose word I praise,
 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
 What can flesh do to me?

 All day long they injure my cause;
 all their thoughts are against me for evil.
 They stir up strife, they lurk;
 they watch my steps,
 as they have waited for my life.
 For their crime will they escape?
 In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

 You have kept count of my tossings;
 put my tears in your bottle.
 Are they not in your book?
 Then my enemies will turn back
 in the day when I call.
 This I know, that God is for me.
 In God, whose word I praise,
 in the LORD, whose word I praise,
 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
 What can man do to me?

 I must perform my vows to you, O God;
 I will render thank offerings to you.
 For you have delivered my soul from death,
 yes, my feet from falling,
 that I may walk before God
 in the light of life. (ESV)

God is For Me was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Or is it just fantasy?

Photo by Okamatsu Fujikawa

I am noticing an unsettling trend within my tribe. There is a lot of “spiritualization” happening at the expense of doing what is right. This is something that has happened at many times throughout human history. Jesus even dealt with this when he was here.

Check out this story,

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
 but their heart is far from me;
 in vain do they worship me,
 teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:1–13 ,ESV)

This interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees should challenge us as followers of Jesus. Particularly, those of us who have been Christians for a long time. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were more concerned about their man-made traditions than following closely to what the Scriptures had actually said.

The Scriptures call for children to honor their parents. Jesus makes the argument that part of honoring them is to care for them in their old age. But, the tradition had been set up that if you said that the money for them was now “God’s money” then you could be released from caring for them.

Jesus calls them on it.

Our traditions can not trump our commitment to the Scriptures.

The Pharisees spiritualized the tradition by sticking God’s name on it and tried to make it look like an act of worship. It wasn’t, it was simply an evasion tactic to keep more money.

What are the traditions that we adhere to at the expense of the Scriptures? I think in our day and age it is largely our political commitments. We place our allegiance to a party or a candidate over our allegiance to the Scriptures. We ignore or white wash the aspects of the platform that deny the Scriptures in our commitment to the tradition.

This reality cuts across the whole political spectrum.

There will never be a political party or candidate that perfectly upholds what we see in Scripture. This means that we must speak truth to their failings. It means that we cannot align ourselves with power from either side. Following Jesus demands an allegiance to him and not to a flag or a president or a party.

Derek Webb, one of my favorite artists says it well in his song, A King and A Kingdom:

Is This The Real Life? was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


In the midst of the storm, listen.

Photo by Tulen Travel

We live in a world that is broken. There is chaos every where we look. Wars and rumors of wars fill the news. Personally, many of us are living in chaos too. Pain and suffering seem to be every where.

In Mark 6 we find the disciples of Jesus on a boat crossing the sea of Galilee after Jesus had fed 5,000 people,

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:45–52, ESV)

Whenever life gets hard this passage gives me hope. First, I love that Jesus “saw that they were making painful headway, for the wind was against them.” Jesus saw. He noticed their difficulty. Jesus was aware that things weren’t easy for them. When we are going through the rough patches we must remember that Jesus sees us. He knows that it’s hard.

Second, he trusted that they could handle the situation. Jesus was not just going to bail them out because it was hard. Many of his disciples were experienced sailors and could manage the situation. To sail the boat safely to port they didn’t need him. Notice, “he meant to pass by them.” Each of us have gifts, abilities, and skills. When the going gets tough, there are times when we are to use them. God has given these to us as gifts. In the midst of the challenge, we are to embrace who we are and leverage these gifts.

Finally, when it got to be too much, when the disciples became terrified, Jesus responded. He said, “Take heart, it is I.” He gave clarity to them of who he was when they were believing wrong things. They thought he was a ghost. In that moment, he spoke and clarified his identity. In the midst of our struggles and turmoil we often get messed up pictures of who Jesus is. It’s in that moment we must listen. We will hear, “Take heart, it is I.” When we have clarity of who Jesus is then in a miraculous way the winds die down. We are able to move forward and reach the shore.

Following Jesus requires us to move out in faith. He asks of us to trust him. It will be scary at times. There will be times when the wind is against us. But we can know that he sees us, he trusts us, and he will come to us.

Take Heart! It is I! was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


That time when you realize Psalm 50 is relevant.

Photo by Eduard Militaru

I have been thinking and praying about where we’re at in this crazy world of ours. Something just isn’t connecting for me as I see my tribe, my people, so quickly give themselves to the power of the empire. It doesn’t matter if they’re on the left or the right. Every few years they scramble over themselves to align themselves with power for a “seat at the table.”

This time around it was more stark than ever.

Today Psalm 50 was one of the passages in the Scriptures that I read. I had to return to it because it was, as my friend The Beard says, “relevant.”

It’s so money, that I want you to read the whole thing and not just the snippets:

A Psalm of Asaph.
The Mighty One, God the LORD,
 speaks and summons the earth
 from the rising of the sun to its setting.
 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
 God shines forth.

 Our God comes; he does not keep silence;
 before him is a devouring fire,
 around him a mighty tempest.
 He calls to the heavens above
 and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
 “Gather to me my faithful ones,
 who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
 The heavens declare his righteousness,
 for God himself is judge! Selah

 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
 O Israel, I will testify against you.
 I am God, your God.
 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
 your burnt offerings are continually before me.
 I will not accept a bull from your house
 or goats from your folds.
 For every beast of the forest is mine,
 the cattle on a thousand hills.
 I know all the birds of the hills,
 and all that moves in the field is mine.

 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
 for the world and its fullness are mine.
 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
 or drink the blood of goats?
 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
 and perform your vows to the Most High,
 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
 I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

 But to the wicked God says:
 “What right have you to recite my statutes
 or take my covenant on your lips?
 For you hate discipline,
 and you cast my words behind you.
 If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
 and you keep company with adulterers.

 “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
 and your tongue frames deceit.
 You sit and speak against your brother;
 you slander your own mother’s son.
 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
 you thought that I was one like yourself.
 But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
 lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
 to one who orders his way rightly
 I will show the salvation of God!” (ESV)

First, our God does not keep silent. He speaks and he is perfect and beautiful. His desire is not for sacrifice but for us to offer thanksgiving, keep our word, and call on him when we are in trouble. How beautiful is that? Our God says, “When you’re in the depths, when you’re in trouble, call on me! I will deliver you, I will care for you. I got your back!”

Second, the wicked are described as people who speak his statutes with their lips but celebrate thieves, keep company with adulterers, they spread lies, and speak against their brothers. They ignore discipline.

This should shock you, it does me. The wicked are not here described as “others” but as those who speak with words the statutes of God and are “brothers” of the faithful. On the one hand this makes sense as God is speaking to ethnic Israel. On the other, as we consider how it applies to the Church today, it is deeply challenging.

As we scramble for power and “a seat at the table” are we celebrating thieves, adulterers, spreading lies, and speaking against our brothers? Are we selling our very souls because we believe that the political agenda to which we ascribe is more effective at building the kingdom of God than God is?

Pastors, we must call the people of God to not give in to the powers. We must remind them that faithfulness to God is primary. There is no savior on Capitol Hill, there never will be. In the time of trouble we are to call out to God, not a political leader.

It seems that we, like the people of God in the past, desire a strong man or woman, so we can be like the rest of the nations. God’s warning through Samuel to his people is well heeded for us today:

So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:10–18, ESV)

I pray we will repent. I pray we will turn from our desire for a hero and embrace our one true King.

Will you pray with me? Will you join me as I seek to set aside the trappings of Empire and follow the Crucified Servant King?

Don’t Give In was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Waves of Justice by Pablo Robles

There’s a picture that I have shared on more than occasion. It is one that I first saw in my children’s school. I really resonated with the point that it was communicating. Check it out…

When I first saw this picture it came with a caption: “Equality is not justice.” I remember thinking, “Yes! Amen!”

Recently, in my research and study on what biblical justice looks like I stumbled on a different picture. This picture is even better:

That last caption describes justice well, in my opinion, “…all three can see the game without any supports or accommodations because the cause of the inequity was addressed. The systemic barrier has been removed.”

I continue to think about and process this statement from the prophet Micah, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, ESV)” The conclusion that I am coming to is that “to do justice” requires the people of God to not simply create equitable solutions but actively seek to remove the systemic barriers.

My friend Rev. Tyler St. Clair wrote,

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The Church needs to be about helping to create educational, recreational, and economic opportunities in the areas where “the least of these” are most prevalent. This means that we need to enter in with the rural and urban poor and the minority cultures beyond giving them support systems. To “do justice” is to figure out how to remove the barriers that keep people from educational, recreational, and economic opportunities.

We must begin tearing down fences (dare I say walls?). The gospel subverts the systemic barriers of injustice. Let us be a people of grace and truth.

Justice — It’s More Than Equity was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


…or Are You A Two Faced Poser?

Photo by Camila Damasio

Growing up in a nearly all white community in a white family there were a lot of jokes about other races and nationalities. We would tell these jokes with reckless abandon in private and hushed voices in public. I am ashamed as I look back at the jokes and that I would tell.

As I grew older and entered into close relationships with people who looked different than me that these jokes didn’t seem as funny anymore. A few times I manned up and challenged the joke teller, “Well I’m not racist if that’s what you’re getting at. It’s just a joke. It’s not like I’d say that joke around them.”

In Galatians 2 Paul tells a story about a time when he and Peter (Cephas) had a little “issue”:

Galatians 2:11–14
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (ESV)

It’s sad isn’t it? 2,000 years later we haven’t changed a whole lot. Many of us still live hypocritically. We act one way with one set of friends and another with a different group of friends.

Will we ever come to the place where we live consistent lives? The hypocrisy of Peter is nothing new.

What we do and say in private is who we are. Jesus said,

Matthew 15:17–20
Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (ESV)

Let us take stock of our lives. Let each of us look into the mirror and listen to the words that come out of our mouths. What do these words say about our heart?

How Many Faces Do You Have? was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Your friends and family won’t get you.

I remember sitting at the table at the family cabin after my first mission trip with Cru. My family was asking about the summer and what I had learned. As we started talking about Jesus and the gospel, it didn’t go so well. “Who is interpreting the Bible for you?”

When my wife and I became missionaries to the college campus, most of our backing came from people we didn’t know. Close friends and some family didn’t join with us. They prayed, of that I’m certain. But, they just couldn’t get on board with what we were doing.

As a pastor, I’m finding that my weird life is misunderstood by many of those closest to me. I’ve learned to be OK with it. To smile and laugh, I know it’s not mean-spirited.

Jesus was in his hometown and as he tried to carried out his ministry those closest to him said, “And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.”

What was Jesus response? “And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”

I’m learning that when you are following your calling there will be those who won’t understand. They will often be the folks closest to you. Often it is those who love you the most that will understand you the least.

But, that can’t stop you. You have to move on. Keep going. Jesus did.

Without Honor was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Sometimes pain, affliction, or suffering has purpose.

When we are going through the hard times in our lives we often wonder “where is God?” Philosophers have wrestled with the question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” There’s an entire text in the Bible about this very question, the book of Job.

Isaiah 48 opens with God explaining why his people are experiencing affliction. There are two reasons, first, he says they are stiff-necked. The sinews of their neck are like iron! This means that they can’t turn or change. It’s an illustration for a lack of repentance.

The second reason is that it is a result of the affliction or suffering God is glorified.

This second reason is a hard pill for me to swallow. It feels uncomfortable. But, then as I continued to ponder what he’s saying, I am drawn back to the opening verse, “Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and who came from the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of the LORD and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right.”

He’s speaking to people who are called but have not yet trusted. So, he refines them. This refining is like the refining of gold and silver. This pain, this affliction is changing people. As they come to see their need for him, they turn. Their necks are loosened and they trust him. When this happens God is glorified.

The suffering does not bring God glory. The affliction is purposeful and transformative. When God’s people are changed and refined this is when he is glorified.

Is there an area that you are being refined in? Where is God working to transform you?

Tested, Refined, Changed was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Or…get your heart and mind right for tomorrow.

Tomorrow is January 20, 2017 and Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as the President of the United States. Governor Mike Pence will be the Vice President of the United States. The country I live in will once again transition power from one sitting president to the next. There will be no civil war. There will be no intervention from the United Nations. There will be no need for a foreign super-power to act as a nation builder. Every time this happens it is an amazing thing to behold.

Many of my friends are excited about the prospects of a Republican presidency. Many of my friends are deeply concerned about a Trump presidency. I am sure that the people of my congregation fall on both sides of this spectrum too.

As the inauguration approaches I want to remind us that as Christians our primary allegiance is to the kingdom of God and this demands us to have perspective.

How should we respond on inauguration day?

1 Timothy 2:1–4 is a good place to start, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Our first responsibility on any inauguration day is to understand that we are called to pray for the president and our nation’s leaders. Your position on the incoming president will shape your prayer, and that is good. The key though is to pray. As we pray it drives toward living a life that is peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified.

This leads me to the second thing that I want to challenge us with. In Romans 12:9–21 Paul gives an exhortation to the church there:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The church in Rome was diverse. There were Jewish and Gentile believers. They had very different ways of engaging with God. Their social, ethnic, and class identities were distinct from one another. Yet, Paul makes clear that they are to seek to “live in harmony with one another.” He goes on to say, “If possible, so far as it depends on on you, live peaceably with all.”

Does this mean that there should be no debate or correction? Of course not! Paul’s own life and ministry make very clear that these are necessary (read Galatians and 1 Corinthians if you doubt that). He begins by saying, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” He clearly believes that there is a response to evil and it is to abhor it. Yet, in the midst of this there is the deep value to seek harmony and peace.

We as the church must engage with one another not with the goal of “winning” an argument, but with the desire to build harmony and peace within the church. This does not mean, as some suggest, that we simply ignore or overlook wrong-doing in our leaders or when our brothers and sisters support that wrong-doing. It means, that we seek to speak to truth in grace with love. The telos or goal of the interaction must be peace. If it is not, then we are doing no favors to the church or the world.

Men and women like Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. challenge the sinful and broken systems of our society. He was non-violent but he stepped in and challenged the powers that be. Why? For the sake of causing division? No. For the sake of bringing peace and harmony.

As you step in to discussions regarding our political leaders, whether to challenge or defend, remember the admonition of Paul from Romans 12.

Finally, I leave you with the words of my dear friend Rev. Pete Scribner who summarizes my thoughts well, “One of the great freedoms and comforts of my faith is the fact that my ultimate joy, security and peace are not tied to who occupies the Oval Office. Therefore, while I have voted in every Presidential election since I turned 18, and I certainly have political convictions, I neither rejoice endlessly nor despair uncontrollably on any inauguration day. Not in 1992, not in 2000, not in 2008. Tomorrow will be no different.”

This is the key, is it not? We must not find our “ultimate joy, security, and peace…tied to who occupies the Oval Office.” If we do, we will struggle to pray for whomever holds that office and we will struggle to pursue peace and harmony within the church.

In Preparation of Inauguration Day was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Don’t waste a day!

Photo by Ales Krivec

I remember waking up in a dorm room at Ferris State University after a night of partying. I didn’t feel all that great. Honestly, I felt dirty and a little thin. The night before was fun, I laughed, I don’t think I cried, I drank a little too much and escaped from reality.

That morning as I drove back to Central Michigan University I was overwhelmed by the thought that, “There has to be more than this.”

There had to be right?

Tom Brady has asked the same kind of question:

As a college freshman I wasn’t very successful, but I was beginning to wrestle with some huge questions. The kinds of questions that altar your life.

Ephesians 5:15 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” This phrase, “making the best use of the time” has captured me.

From my Sophomore year at college until today, this verse haunts me. It has informed every decision I have made about how I understand God’s calling. There have been few decisions that haven’t been run through the grid of “is this wise? Is this making the best use of the time?”

So many of family have died untimely deaths. Every time it happens it shocks me back to the reality that tomorrow is not promised.

If tomorrow is not promised, I need to live to the full today. How can I make the most use of today? How can I use this day with wisdom? How can I bring just a little more light into the world?

How about you? Are you seeking to make the best use of the time given to you?

Make The Best Of It was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Or…why I don’t want to be a Grinch

Photo by Tim Marshall

One of my favorite Christmas stories is “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” I dig it for so many reasons. What I like the most is the Grinch’s revelation that Christmas is about something more than just presents.

Do you remember what happens in that moment?

His heart grew three sizes! It finally had room for the real meaning of Christmas and he finds the strength of ten Grinches!

I was reading in Psalm 119:25–32 today and this last verse hit me between the eyes,

I will run in the way of your commandments
 when you enlarge my heart!

The psalmist is acutely aware that he needs a larger heart. Our hearts start so small and there’s not enough room. We need new ones, bigger ones, ones that have room for the commandments. I love this image!

It reminds me of something that C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity,

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

This process “hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense.” When he’s finished it’s a palace, that he “intends to come and live in it Himself.”

I am so much like the Grinch. My heart needs to grow. To love well, to love like Jesus loved, it needs to grow!

Does yours?

My Heart is Too Small was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


The Christian life is not mind or heart but mind and heart.

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography

I am reading After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N.T. Wright currently and it has been really helpful and really challenging. In my desire to avoid any kind of works based religion I have too often ignored the importance of good works. Wright has offered me an important corrective.

This morning I was reading Ephesians 4:17–32 and it tied in with a section from Wright’s work that I’m in on the importance of the Christian mind. We have entered into a time where there has been a loss of Christian intellectualism in America. The Church in America has become all about the heart. My training at seminary in communication focused on engaging people’s emotions and their “hearts.” Engaging the mind and the renewal of the mind was largely ignored.

Yet, as I read in Ephesians 4:17 and following I am struck by how the mind and heart are so intertwined. We can not pull them apart. The renewal of the mind is critical to the renewal of the heart.

Check out verses 17 and 18,

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

Paul ties hardness of heart to the futility of the mind.

Then look at 20–24,

But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Putting off the “old self” and putting on the new self is connected to the renewal of the mind.

Heart change is intricately linked to mind change. We must be working on transforming our minds as well as our hearts. How can this be done? It is done through studying the Scriptures, reading good books, listening to good books, listening to podcasts, and the like. There are seminaries that have a masters degree worth of material online for free.

Do you want to change your heart? Do you want to change your actions? Transform your mind. It takes work but it is worth it.

Mind and Heart was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Nope, I don’t see any elephant ears…

Photo by Filip Mroz

“It’s not fair!” he whined, tears welling up in his eyes and his face beginning to flush red. “It’s not just NOT FAIR!”

My son had collapsed into a heap on the football field. The fathers versus sons two-hand touch football had just concluded. The game had been an epic contest between ankle biting five year old boys and way past their prime dads. This battle of football giants had ended, as they have from the beginning of time, in a tie.

“Don’t they know? Football games don’t tie! This is just terrible! IT. IS. NOT. FAIR!”

My son, my first born child who has a passion for justice, even at the age of five, just couldn’t handle something not being fair. He knew that the game was rigged, and he hated it.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds have been filled with adults whining, “It’s not fair!” Their candidate lost or their candidate is being maligned or their favorite sports team got a bad call and lost.

Somewhere inside each of us is this desire to see the world set right. We inherently know that the world is out of sorts. It’s a bit broken and at times, it doesn’t seem fair.

In Isaiah 42 we find the first of four of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs.” These songs give us glimpses into who the Messiah would be and what would do. In verse one Isaiah writes, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.”

I love that one of the things that Jesus will ultimately do is to “bring forth justice to the nations.” The “nations” is referring to the whole of the people of the world. Eventually, there will be a day when justice will reign. As I continue to grow in my understanding of what it means to live out the gospel I am finding that as we apply it to every day circumstances justice is the result.

Biblical justice is a little different than our legal understanding of justice. Biblical justice refers to human society experiencing wholeness or “shalom.” It’s what happens when humanity is living in step with God’s commands and loving him with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. Ultimately, we will experience this when Christ makes all things new. Until that time, we have a responsibility as his ambassadors to begin trying to live that out now.

It’s hard to keep going and pressing on. Often I feel like my five year old son and just want to melt down. But, I’m reminded by Isaiah 42 that there is a bigger picture. There is more to come. So in the meantime, I will seek to remove the barriers to justice.

It’s Not Fair was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


What we think we need is not always what we really need.

I am learning that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are “Baseball” people and “Not Baseball” people. We are definitely “Baseball” people. My wife loves the game. I love the game. My son, really loves the game. My daughter, barely tolerates the game.

Last summer my son was having one of his best years at the plate that he had ever had. He discovered the ability to hit with power and for average. His hard work in the off-season was paying off.

During a tournament where there was an opportunity to make an All Star team he began to struggle. Boy, did he struggle. Against one of the top teams in the tournament he had a great game. But, other than that, he didn’t do very much. Half way through the week he asked me what he was doing wrong.

We showed up early to the batting cages and we got video of his swing. It was beautiful. What we could see on the surface looked good. But why was he in a lull?

There was something deeper going on.

In the gospel of Mark there’s a story about Jesus healing a paralytic. Check it out:

And when he [Jesus] returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he said to the paralytic — “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

There is a lot going on in this story. I want you to focus on Jesus’ response to the paralytic man. When he is lowered in front of him, what does he say? “You’re healed! Get up and walk!” No. He says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

The paralytic had a physical problem. He couldn’t walk. His friends knew that Jesus could heal him. But, the man’s real issue was that he needed to receive grace and mercy and be reconciled to God. This was the root issue. It’s as if Jesus was saying, “Go deeper! No DEEPER! Let’s get down to the root of you brokenness.” Physical brokenness is a symptom of the fall of creation. So, ultimately to fix the problem Jesus dealt with the root issue, sin.

Over and over again I find in my life that I get focused on the symptoms. I have heartburn, so I take medicine, it handles the symptoms. The real problem is that I’m overweight. When I’m exercising, eating well, and losing weight the heartburn “magically” disappears. The other night I didn’t sleep, in the moment I thought it was because of the wind. It wasn’t. It was because I didn’t trust God to care for my family or home or me.

How about you? What symptoms are there in your life that you are trying to deal with? What might the root problem be?

After a little while in the batting cage, I finally figured out what was going on with my son. It wasn’t his swing. It was his head. He wasn’t having fun. He was trying too hard. I noticed he wasn’t laughing and joking around.

So, I made him play a game with me. When we first started playing he was not happy. He wanted to “work on his game.” I knew he needed to just “play his game.” I got him laughing and smiling. He loosened up and started smacking the cover off the ball in the cage.

As we walked to the field I said, “Son, remember that joy and that feeling of just having fun in the cage when you step up to the plate today. Relax and enjoy the moment.”

From that moment on, the “lull” ended.

What we think we need, is not always what we really need.

Go Deeper, No DEEPER! was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


The Night The Winds Kept Me Awake

Photo by Timothy Ah Koy

Last night the winds blew. They rattled our home. I could hear the shingles and siding shifting and flexing with each fresh gust. Then came the “BANG!” That sound made my heart skip a beat. Then again, “BANG!” Then, “BANG! BANG!”

I looked out the window and saw what looked to be siding on the lawn. I ran downstairs barefooted and stepped into my boots. There was indeed a hunk of siding, but it was extra from a project our neighbor had done this fall.

Returning to bed I prayed, I asked God to help me sleep. Then, “BANG! BANG! BANG!”

As I laid in my bed my wife slept peacefully next to me. My children slept too. I couldn’t stop hearing the “BANG! BANG!” Every gust awakened my senses to fear of there being major damage to our home. Major damage that I wouldn’t know how to fix.

After two hours of sleeplessness I relocated downstairs where the sounds of the storm were significantly less and I finally slept.

As I reflect on last night I realize that I have a faith problem.

Isaiah 41:13 gives us a glimpse of God’s heart for his people. Isaiah is preaching to God’s people in exile and here he reminds them of God’s love and care, “For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

In that moment last night, I couldn’t sleep because I didn’t really believe this. I was focused on the symptom of my lack of faith and trust, namely, my inability to fall asleep. But, the root problem was that in that moment I couldn’t trust God. I was like Peter stepping onto the stormy sea. I was so caught up in the storm that I sunk.

Now what? Now, I need to deal with this struggle of faith. I need my mind to be renewed so that my heart can follow. I need to remember again that the Lord my God is holding my right hand and is helping me.

I Have So Little Faith was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


They get exactly what they want.

Photo by Brandon Morgan

Over the last few days I have bumped into an article by Rhonda Stephens entitled, “Parenting: Are We Getting A Raw Deal?” I saw it once and read it. I saw it a second time and read it again. The first time I laughed and remembered my childhood and how it reflected much of what Stephens wrote. I appreciated that at the end she makes it clear that maybe the current state of affairs is not the way things ought to be.

Then it struck me, kids only do what parents allow them to do or not do. Her rant was great. But, maybe I missed it, is she making changes in her home? Is she calling for anyone else to make changes?

I am reminded of a marvelous section of Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, where he talks about a family waking up to a similar reality. The dad made changes. It was hard but it transformed the family.

Parents we must step up, take ownership, and change the dynamic. If you don’t like everyone getting participation trophies, get on the board and change it.

You don’t like that your kids sleep till 11 during the summer and don’t do their chores? Put on the big boy or big girl pants and change it.

We have this weird glorified image of family dynamics from the past. I remember my mom going on strike, crying, yelling, whatever she determined the level of “mom-nipulation” that was required for my brothers and I to accomplish what needed to be done. Why did she need to do it? Because we woke up and didn’t “just do” whatever Mom told us to do. We didn’t want to clean toilets, vacuum, dust, do laundry, mow, trim, or weed. We were more than happy to ignore the list. When we did, there were consequences and she never backed down.

There were many days that Mom turned us out of the house and said, “Don’t come in until dinner.” Do you know what happened when she did (especially in the winter)? We threw fits and talked about how mean she was for a good twenty minutes before we started even making an effort to have fun.

It turns out that adults really are adults. Let’s stop the woe is me, these kids are so bad, baloney. They are the way they are because we made them that way.

So, the next time you’re about to complain on Facebook about how kids don’t drink from the hose, don’t do chores, don’t play outside, or whatever else it is that you’re about to complain about, stop for a moment. Ask yourself some questions: “Have I sent my kids outside like my Mom used to do? Have stood up to my kids and made them do their chores? Have I even considered giving them chores? Have I <insert your complaint about “kids these days” here>.

Adults, we can change things. Why? Because we are the adults. Parents, let’s parent. Let’s stand up to our precious snowflakes and begin to use this one magic word that my Mom taught me when I was a youth, “No.”

I don’t have it all figured out. But, I have found that my wife and I do a better job parenting when we are clear that we are the parents and the kids are the kids. There will come a day when we will be friends, God willing, but right now they are the kids and we are the parents.

If you feel like you’re getting a raw deal, like Stephens says, then change the deal. You’re the parent, you get to do that.

Parents Don’t Get A Raw Deal was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Photo by Liane Metzler

Today I’ve been thinking about the depth, majesty, and greatness of God. I’m a pastor, so I suppose that is not all that surprising. Yet, a passage from Isaiah has been floating around in my mind and heart all day today.

Check this out from Isaiah 40:27, 28:

Why do you say, O Jacob,
 and speak, O Israel,
 “My way is hidden from the LORD,
 and my right is disregarded by my God”?
 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
 The LORD is the everlasting God,
 the Creator of the ends of the earth.
 He does not faint or grow weary;
 his understanding is unsearchable.

Isaiah is writing to the people of God in exile. At this point they are despondent and broken-hearted. They feel as though God has abandoned them. They can’t worship at the Temple and so they are experiencing a deep separation from their God. Isaiah quotes them as asking why God is ignoring them (“my way is hidden”) and hasn’t brought about the justice (“my right is disregarded) that they think they deserve. In response, he challenges them remember who their God is.

I don’t think that we can even comprehend the experience of being exiled as American Christians. Yet, we can know the feeling of God being silent or the feeling of being wronged and that our rights are violated.

The bit that has been inescapable for me is the last phrase, “his understanding is unsearchable.” This splinter in the brain has invaded my imagination.

I so often think that I have God figured out: Read my Bible. Pray. Go to church. Say this or that. If I do these things then life will be just fine and God will bless me.

That’s not how it works.

As C.S. Lewis’ Mr. Beaver said of Aslan, “Oh no, he’s not safe, he’s not a tame lion. But he’s good.” So is our God.

You see God is not safe. He’s not manageable. His understanding, Isaiah says, is “unsearchable.” This means that God has an understanding that is deeper, more full, than we could possibly even imagine. We will never be able to fully figure God out.

I am married to an amazing woman. I think I have a good understanding of who she is. Yet, as much as I know her, after being married for almost 20 years I continue to find her mysterious and intriguing.

How much more so with our infinite God?

His very nature we cannot even begin to unravel.

As we consider the times of pain, heartbreak, frustration, and all the rest, this passage reminds us that God is always at work. He “does not faint or grow weary” and his “understanding is unsearchable.”

While we will never have every answer to every question, there is one thing that we can know with absolute certainty: God is sovereign and God is good.

He is Sovereign. He is Good. was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Photo by Frank McKenna

On Twitter I follow a few accounts that post quotes from great coaches. They are usually inspirational and remind you that excuses are for chumps. There is also a common theme from most great coaches and that is, “Luck is fought for in practice.”

I am reading a book called, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N.T. Wright. The premise of the book is to highlight how Christians develop biblical virtue. It’s a wonderfully challenging book that is helping me to more deeply understand the tension between grace and works.

This morning in the Scriptures I was reading Psalm 1 and the first two verses really hit me between the eyes.

Blessed is the man
 who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
 nor stands in the way of sinners,
 nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
 and on his law he meditates day and night.

Particularly, what jumped off the page was the last phrase, “…on his law he meditates day and night.” I immediately thought of what I’ve been reading in Wright’s book about how Christian character is hard fought. It’s not easy. It requires discipline and practice.

I was struck by how similar success in the Christian life, which is often called blessing, is to success in athletics. Both demand practice. Both require a discipline that many people are unwilling to undertake.

Chesterton says, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

I think this is right on the money. The blessed man finds his delight in the LORD and meditates on the Scriptures day and night. He’s always practicing, he’s always working on his game. It takes effort, consistency, and perseverance.

Surely to experience blessing is an act of grace, but it is also the result of a diligent pursuit of God.

Blessing Isn’t Cheap was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Photo by Milada Vigerova

I am always surprised by the moments in the life of leading a congregation that end up filling my soul. That conversation with a neighbor that I didn’t expect. Or maybe the conversation with the bartender at my local watering hole. Sometimes it’s an opportunity to serve a friend or a stranger. Often it has been seeing God provide for our family.

Tonight I had one of those moments.

Here’s the thing, I’m not a big corporate pray-er. I have never really enjoyed praying in groups. At conferences or gatherings where they make you split up into small groups and pray for each other, I slip out the back. It always feels fake and lame.

I’m a pastor, I shouldn’t feel like that. Before that I was a missionary, I shouldn’t have felt like that then either. There’s a spirituality standard for us professional Christians, right? If there is, I fail miserably at this point.

Tonight we started the new year with the missional community that meets in our home by praying for one another. I have to admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. It seemed like the right thing to do, I was convinced that this was what God was encouraging us to do. If I’m honest, I was kind of dreading it.

As the stories and prayer requests began to flow and the prayers were offered up for one another, I sat there enthralled. I was amazed at the answer to prayer over the year. My heart and mind were fully engaged in hearing the stories of my friends.

I took to Facebook after and posted:

I meant it. It was good for my soul.

Something changed in me tonight.

I think I’ll probably still slip out the back at conferences during “forced prayer” time. But, I can’t wait for the next time I get to hear the stories of my friends and pray for one another.

We prayed, and it was beautiful.

We Prayed was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Photo by Dino Reichmuth

This first Sunday of Epiphany we read Hebrews 1:1–12 and come face to face with King Jesus. He’s magnificent. He’s radiant. He’s the eternal. He’s active. He’s among us. He’s the king!

Epiphany is the season where we see Jesus revealed as the God-man. Perfectly God, perfectly man. We see his mission unfolded before us in the gospels and the scriptures. We are reminded through the prophets that all of this was foretold.

Yet it is in Hebrews, in the New Testament, where we get this amazing image of who Jesus is in the opening pages of the letter.

This morning, I am simply reflecting on the glory of our Savior as I am reminded again that he is greater than the angels.

This. Is. Jesus.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
 today I have begotten you”?

 Or again,
“I will be to him a father,
 and he shall be to me a son”? 

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.” 

Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
 and his ministers a flame of fire.”

 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
 the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
 therefore God, your God, has anointed you
 with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
 and the heavens are the work of your hands;
 they will perish, but you remain;
 they will all wear out like a garment,
 like a robe you will roll them up,
 like a garment they will be changed.
 But you are the same,
 and your years will have no end.”

This Is Jesus was originally published in The Subversive Journey on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from The Subversive Journey https://danielmrose.com/this-is-jesus-7e5709f565f1?source=rss—-bbc765b79ec5—4



Photo By Nina Strehl

I noticed something “new” today in a passage that I have become very familiar with over the years. This passage is Revelation 2:1–7 and it is a letter to the church at Ephesus. Check it out:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lamp-stands.
“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

There are a lot of things going on this passage. These two sentences jumped off the page, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”

In my circles the phrase, “you have abandoned the love you had at first” gets thrown around and discussed often. It really preaches. What grabbed me by the heart today was “repent, and do the works you did at first.”

Protestants, in particular, are wary of works based righteousness. We, I believe rightly, want to make sure that everyone is clear that redemption is a work initiated by God, sustained by God, and completed by God. However, we often do so at the expense of acting in love.

James writes, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” I am growing in awareness that love is a verb. If we say we love God then our actions must align with this belief.

The church of Ephesus had right belief. They are commended for standing true theologically. Yet, they had abandoned their love because they had apparently abandoned the good works that they had done at first. To repent meant to return to the good works that demonstrated their love of God.

Jesus told his disciples, “They will know you by your love.” I am left wondering, do I love well? Is this loved expressed through my deeds? Does my life demonstrate love with action and not just words? Does yours?

Love Is A Verb was originally published in The Subversive Journey on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from The Subversive Journey https://danielmrose.com/love-is-a-verb-dff72071f774?source=rss—-bbc765b79ec5—4



Photo by Christopher Jolly

Today is Epiphany. Epiphany is the season that leads up to Lent where the Church has historically focused on the reality that Jesus is revealed as God in the flesh and that he is the great redeemer.

One of the passages in my reading today was from Isaiah 52,

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
The voice of your watchmen — they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

This is a beautiful poem celebrating the reality of God’s redemption. When Isaiah wrote it the redemption of God’s people hadn’t happened yet. They were still under the auspices of Babylon. But, in the face of the exile, God through Isaiah, reminded them that hope was not lost and that redemption would come.

What really sticks out to me as I read this passage this morning is the opening stanza (one the Apostle Paul picks up on in Romans), “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” In particular is the phrase, “who publishes peace.” Peace here is the Hebrew, “shalom.” This word meant more than lack of strife, it is in reference to a wholeness of being.

We learn from the apostle Paul that we are called to be ambassadors for Jesus. That means that we speak on his behalf to the world. As I take stock in my own life I am left wondering, am I one who brings shalom/peace? Do my words and life help to bring peace? Or, am I one who adds to the noise of division in our world? We live in a time of disintegration, time where people’s lives are disjointed. As a representative of Jesus, I am called to help bring integration, to help people sew their lives back together.

I wonder, do I have beautiful feet? How about you?

How Are Your Feet? was originally published in The Subversive Journey on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from The Subversive Journey https://danielmrose.com/how-are-your-feet-beabdb4657ce?source=rss—-bbc765b79ec5—4



Photo By Silvestri Matteo

This morning I was reading in John 15 where Jesus is bidding his farewell to his disciples. He says something that deeply challenges me and makes me wonder how much I truly do love other people.

He says, “Greater love has no on than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

We know this is a foreshadowing of what is to come, that he would willingly die on the cross. This death allowed for new life. This death made a way for reconciliation across all of creation. This death was not death, but it was life and life to the full.

So much of my American Christianity is not shaped this way. I avoid pain, discomfort, and death. I avoid it not only in the physical form but also in the spiritual and emotional form. To love well requires a person to metaphorically die to themselves. A person must be willing to set aside their rights and passions and desires for another. As a person dies to themselves they find that they are finally, ultimately, and truly alive.

Amy Carmichael calls this the “Divine Paradox.”

The great paradox of Christianity is that life is found in death and that death cannot destroy life.

This statement made by Jesus follows after a little discourse on him being vine and his disciples the branches. For branches to grow in a healthy way, they need to be pruned. In a very real way, they must die. In so doing they bear more fruit.

This summer, I pruned my roses three times. And each time the roses bloomed anew. Death brought life.

The same is true of us. We must die so that we may truly live.

Are you willing die to yourself so that you may experience life and life to the full?

Lay Your Life Down was originally published in The Subversive Journey on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from The Subversive Journey https://danielmrose.com/lay-your-life-down-a325d7a27284?source=rss—-bbc765b79ec5—4



Photo by Annie Spratt

In the United States there is a phenomenon within some Christian traditions to hold “revivals.” These revivals are usually nothing more than a speaker who comes into town and preaches for a weekend. It’s like a local conference. Churches spend lots of money and time trying to get people to come to their revival.

The thing is, this is not what revival really is.

Revival is not something that can be planned. It’s not something that you can make happen. True biblical revival is something that the Holy Spirit does in his own time and in his own ways.

Even though we can’t make revival happen we can prepare for a move by the Holy Spirit.

In Psalm 85 the psalmist writes,

“Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put way your indignation toward us! 
Will you be angry with us forever? 
Will you prolong your anger to all generations? 
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, 
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly. 
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, 
that glory may dwell in our land.”

God revives us in his sovereignty, but we have a responsibility to cry out to him and ask him to revive us. As we cry out to him we must ready ourselves to hear what he has to say.

This simple request, “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,” is central to preparing for his restoration and revival . There is a surety in this prayer, “for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints.”

We can help one another in this process by asking a simple question, “What is the Father saying to you?” This question demands that we are listening and asking the Father to help us hear.

It is in this context that we can experience revival and restoration. It is a movement of the Holy Spirit. It is not something planned but it is prepared for.

Revive Us! was originally published in The Subversive Journey on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from The Subversive Journey https://danielmrose.com/revive-us-36e761b86763?source=rss—-bbc765b79ec5—4



Photo By Izzy Gerosa

Yesterday I wrote about a little phrase from Genesis 12, “He went.” As I was reading the Scriptures this morning I was reading in Hebrews 11:13–22 and it reminded me of the reality that often when we “go” we don’t necessarily see things come to fruition.

Abraham didn’t live to see his descendants become like sand on the seashore. He never gained possession of the promised land. He went, but he didn’t see the promises from God become sight.

I think this is what stops many of us from being willing to just go.

We want to be sure of the outcome. This surety won’t ever come. Unless, what we’re looking forward to is not of this world. What if we were looking forward to something more?

The author to the Hebrews says this of Abraham and others who set out in faith, “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

Abraham and many others stepped out and went, not because of a desire for the immediate gratification of the promise, but for a future hope of a better country.

How do you need to step out in faith, not because you’ll see immediate gratification, but because you have a hope for something more?

On The Move was originally published in The Subversive Journey on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from The Subversive Journey https://danielmrose.com/on-the-move-f0d0af453f4b?source=rss—-bbc765b79ec5—4



Photo by Dominik Scythe

On January 1, 2017 what are you hoping for? As you consider this coming year what is it that you want to accomplish? When you get to December 31, 2017 how will you know if you had a good year?

These questions are more important to me than ever before. As I look around at our culture I see too many people who are losing the ability to see beyond the immediate. Every day there is a new catastrophe. Every day another famous person dies. Every day there is something that steals hope from too many people.

What saddens me is that these things that leave many of us feeling anguished are nothing more than fleeting vapors of a life we wish we had. We howl about global affairs and ignore the ones next door. We cry for the celebrity but do not weep for our neighbor.

As I look to 2017, Psalm 67 is my prayer. It is my hope.

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, 
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. 
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!

What is your hope? was originally published in The Subversive Journey on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from The Subversive Journey https://danielmrose.com/what-is-your-hope-f659fc198a81?source=rss—-bbc765b79ec5—4



Photo by Atlas Green

As the new year starts many people make resolutions. We tend to have this sense that we need to make some changes. We want to read more, get in shape, be a better spouse, or make more money.

A friend of mine said something in passing that I thought was relatively profound, “I’ve always been a “New Years resolutions are stupid” kinda guy. I mean, really…if there’s something in your life that needs changing, then change it now.”

This has stuck in my head since he said it. It’s brilliant! I recently posted a series of commitments for 2017, so apparently I’m feeling the “new year” bug. However, this idea that “if there’s something in your life that needs changing, then change it now,” is completely brilliant.

I was reading the Bible this afternoon and this is one of the passages that I was reading, it’s about a guy named Abram and God calls him to leave his hometown:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

“So Abram went.” What an amazing little phrase. He went. This guy left his hometown and everything he knew because of some promises that God had made him.

I need to be a bit more like Abram.

How cool would it be if on my tombstone it simply said, “So Daniel went”?

So, He Went was originally published in The Subversive Journey on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from The Subversive Journey https://danielmrose.com/so-he-went-60f87de8e83f?source=rss—-bbc765b79ec5—4