Apr 30, 2008

Being God's Witnesses

"He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe" John 1:7.

We looked at this passage last time about what an incredible mission and honor God has given to each Christ-follower.

Today, I'd like for us to consider what the requirements of being God's witnesses.

First, in order to bear witness, we have to have a first-hand experience. We have to be eye-witnesses.

This is what I love about God. Before God allows us to ever testify and talk about His love, He says that we have to experience God's love. Before God allows us to talk about how wonderful He is, we have to first experience how wonderful God is. When we testify about things we did not experience, we are liars.

That's the beauty of God. He calls us to bear witness and testify only after we have been the recipients of His grace, mercy, provisions, and holiness.

Second, in order for us to bear witness, we must testify - we must tell others. The second requirement of God's witnesses is that we must speak. If I was riding in your car and witnessed someone smashing into your car, you would expect me to testify. In the same way, our lives have been incredibly touched by God's grace and mercy. And it is to be expected that we open our mouths and bear witness to that fact.

The third requirement for bearing witness is this. The Greek word for witness is martus. This is where we get the word martyr. The reality of God so alters our lives that nothing can ever change the fact that Jesus is Lord. Christian martyrs throughout the centuries went to their death proclaiming this truth. Caesar is not lord. No government or its leader is ever the lord. Only Jesus is Lord! And this is a truth that can't even be changed by death itself.

So, have you experienced God's love and mercy? Then tell the world!

Apr 25, 2008

That Through Him All Might Believe

"This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe" John 1:7.

That all through him might believe.

In first reading, one would think that this was talking about Jesus - that all through Jesus we might come to believe. But you'd be wrong.

One of the most amazing things is that this is written about John the Baptist. I find that incredibly encouraging and challenging.

I find it incredibly encouraging that God would entrust such an awesome task to a human being. Each of us has the same calling - we too are to be tools to point others to Jesus Christ. This ought to be our live vision and goal - live and conduct ourselves in such a way that others would come to believe because of our witness.

I find this also incredibly challenging because I am the first to confess that my life and motives often times masks and confuses my witness to Jesus.

I want to get better. That's my desire. I want to be used by God to be His tool.

Apr 24, 2008

The Church - Shining Star

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shin like stars in the universe" (Philippians 2:15).

Of all the places on earth, of all the people on earth, the church and Christ-followers are to shine like stars in a twisted and depraved world.

Christ-followers and the church is to be seen by the dark world of sin and depravity as those in whom the light of the risen Christ streams forth with power. We are to be a sign of God's new life in a world that only knows the way to death.

The church and Christ-followers are to be the visible demonstration of what God intends for the world that only knows death, darkness, and depravity.

Apr 23, 2008

Bonhoeffer - Costly Grace

The Christian life comes to mean nothing more than living in the world and as the world, in being no different from the world for the sake of grace. The upshot of it all is that my only duty as a Christian is to leave the world for an hour or so on a Sunday morning and go to church to be assured that my sins are all forgiven. I need no longer try to follow Christ, for cheap grace, the bitterest foe of discipleship, which true discipleship must loathe and detest, has freed me from that. (The Cost of Discipleship, p.51).

One of the primary reasons why many people reject Jesus Christ is because of Christ-followers. It's because our lives - when it comes to divorce, drugs, alcohol, marriage, finances, dating, sex, etc. - is no different than the people who do not know Jesus.

Listen up. Just past this week, I had a conversation with teen-ager who asked me, why should I listen? Why should I follow Jesus Christ? Why should I live this way? I know people who’ve been going to this church for years who are potheads.

Please. Just obey. Do life God’s way. Show yourself to be a Christ-follower through your obedience. Of all people, we must lead the way in showing the world what difference Jesus makes.

Apr 22, 2008

Change is in the Air

The landscape of the planet earth is drastically changing.
• At the turn of the 19th century world’s most developed and powerful nation was England.
• At the turn of the 20th century, the world’s super powers were the Russia and the United States.

And who knows what the future will hold, but it looks like the world’s power and influence is shifting again.
• The most populated country in the world is China with 1.3 billion people.
• India is not far behind with 1.1 billion people.
• The United States is a distant third with 300 million people.

That alone in itself doesn’t mean much. But listen to these figures.
• The top 25% of the Chinese with the highest IQ is greater than the population of the United States and Canada combined. And that means is that China has more honors students than we have students.
• Within our lifetime, China will become the number one English speaking nation in the world.
• In the next five minutes:
o 60 babies will be born in the United States
o 244 babies will be born in China
o 351 babies will be born in India.
o This happens every five minutes of every single day.
• According to the former Secretary of Education, Richard Riley – the top 10 jobs that will be in demand in the year 2010 did not exist in 2004.
o We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist
o Using technologies that haven’t yet been invented
o In order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet

Not only is the world and technology changing, it is changing our culture as well.
• Today, 1 out of every 8 couples getting married in the United States met online.
• As of today, there are over 140 million registered users on MySpace.
o If MySpace were a country, it would be the 10th most populated country in the world between Russia and Japan
o There are 2.7 billion searches performed on Google every month.
o There are more text messages being sent and received every day than there are people on the planet earth.

Not only is the world changing, but change is happening more rapidly than at any time in history. In fact, scientists refer to the change taking place today as exponential change. Here are some examples.
• When Shakespeare wrote his great works there were about 100,000 words in the English language. Today, there are more than 550,000 words, more than 5 times as many during the days of Shakespeare.
• More than 3,000 books are published daily.
• The Sunday morning edition of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in their entire lifetime in the 18th Century.
• It is estimated that 1.5 exabytes (1.5 x 1018th) of new information is generated each year.
• That is more information than the previous 5,000 years combined.
• And the amount of new technical information is doubling every year.
• This means that a freshman entering college this year, half of what they learn in their freshman year will be outdated by their third year in school.

Change is all around us. Change is everywhere.
• Science continues to change
• Education continues to change
• Technologies continue to change
• Medical science continues to change

About the only institution that has not changed over the last three four centuries, is the church in the western world. For the most part, the way we do worship, the way we do church is the same today as it was during the days of Christopher Columbus.

Leonard Sweet says, “In the medical world, a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death. If you don't change, you die. It's that simple. It's that scary.”

Kevin Harney says in his book Seismic Shifts, “If the local church refuses to change, it will die. And, this sad reality is being experienced all over the world. Churches that are stuck in the proverbial rut of sameness eventually find themselves closing their doors and never opening them again.”

Bottom line. Unless our church changes, unless we come up with different ways of being and manifesting the good news of Jesus Christ, we will become a totally irrelevant in the emerging world.
• As long as we act as if being a denomination of 92% white while the rest of the country continues to become multi-cultural and multi-ethnic…
• As long as we continue to do church the way we’ve always done church just because that’s the way we’ve always done it…
• As long as we continue to think that we can contribute something to a multicultural world while we remain in our mono-ethnic and mono-cultural ghettos…
• As long as we continue to turn a blind eye to the problems of world hunger and poverty….
• As long as we continue to be a church that acts as if what happens to God’s children a half a world away just because they are African and Asian or Hispanic…
• As long as we continue to be a church that refuses to change our white-anglo-saxon world view…

We deserve to be a church that goes out of business.

Apr 21, 2008

Multicultural vs Multi-ethnic

I just recently spoke at the multicultural conference in San Antonio. What I find interesting that the denomination considers Trinity a multicultural church.

I have told the others repeatedly that we are not a multicultural church and that multicultural has never been our stated goal.

The purpose of our church is to do whatever it takes to grow new Christians and to do everything within our power to grow faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

There is a world of difference between a multicultural church and a multi-ethnic church.

Trinity Presbyterian Church is a multi-ethnic church. We have many ethnicities present at Trinity - Anlgo, British, Netherlands, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Brazilian, Mexican, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Kenyan, etc.

While we have many ethnicities present we are still a mono-cultural church. We are a typical suburban church. Most of us are middle class, upper middle class suburban folk.

Our goal is to make a difference to the 91% unchurched in our area. we want to see as many of the 91% come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and to help them become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
James <><
Check out what God is up to @


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Apr 17, 2008

My Child

You may not know Me, but I know everything about you (Psalm 139:1). I know when you sit down and when you rise up (Psalm 139:2). I am familiar with all your ways (Psalm 139:3). Even the very hairs on your head are numbered (Matthew 10:29-31) for you were made in My image (Genesis 1:27). In Me you live and move and have your being (Acts 17:28). For you are My offspring (Acts 17:28).

I knew you even before you were conceived (Jeremiah 1:4-5). I chose you when I planned creation (Ephesians 1:11-12). You were not a mistake (Psalm 139:15-16). For all your days are written in My book (Psalm 139:15-16). I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live (Acts 17:26). You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I knit you together in your mother's womb (Psalm 139:13), and brought you forth on the day you were born (Psalm 71:6).

I have been misrepresented by those who don't know Me (John 8:41-44). I am not distant angry, but am the complete expression of love (1 John 4:16), and it is My desire to lavish My love on you (1 John 3:1) simply because you are My child and I am your Father (1 John 3:1). I offer you more than your earthly father ever could (Matthew 7:11), for I am the perfect Father (Matthew 5:48).

Every good gift that you receive comes from My hand (James 1:17). For I am your provider and I meet all your needs (Matthew 6:31-33). My plans for your future has always been filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11) because I love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). My thoughts towards you are countless as the sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18), and I rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). I will never stop doing good to you (Jeremiah 32:40) for you are my treasured possession (Exodus 19:5). I desire to establish you with all My heart and all My soul (Jeremiah 32:41), and I want to show you great and marvelous things (Jeremiah 33:3).

If you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me (Deuteronomy 4:29). Delight in Me and I will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4) for it is I who gave you those desires (Philippians 2:13). I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine (Ephesians 3:20) for I am your greatest encourager (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you (Psalm 34:16). As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to My heart (Isaiah 40:11). One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes (Revelation 21:3-4), and I'll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth (Revelation 21:4).

I am your Father and I love you even as I love My Son, Jesus (John17:23) for in Jesus my love for you is revealed (John 17:26). He is the exact representation of My being (Hebrews 1:3), and He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you (Romans 8:31), and to tell you that I am not counting your sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:18-19. His death was the ultimate expression of My love for you (1 John 4:10). I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love (Romans 8:32).

If you receive the gift of My Son Jesus, you receive Me (1 John 2:23), and nothing will ever separate you from My love again (Romans 8:38-39). Come home and I'll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen (Luke 15:7). I have always been Father and will always be Father (Ephesians 3:14-15). My question is, "will you be my child?" (John 1:12-13). I am waiting for you (Luke 15:11-32).


Your Father

Almighty God.


This is one of those passages that just makes me say, "Say what????!!!!!"

Here it is. Luke 16:1-14.

Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager longer.'

The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to bet - I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.'

"So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'

"'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied.

"The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.'

"Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?'

"'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied.

"He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.'

"The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your won?

"No servant can serve two master. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight."

What do you suppose is going on with this passage? How can Jesus commend the dishonest manager? The guy cheated his master for his own benefit?

The teaching about the dishonest manager comes in the midst of Jesus' teaching regarding money. I think that's the key in understanding this passage.

First, the dishonest manager is commended because he had acted shrewdly with worldly wealth. Jesus says, "For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings."
  • To use money shrewdly is wise. What does it mean to use money shrewdly? Jesus tells us that money and worldly wealth does give us influence. And we are to use that for the Kingdom. And when we use that for the kingdom to gain influence for the kingdom, that is using money wisely and shrewdly.
Second, Jesus assumes that we will have used all our money. "So that when it is gone." We are supposed to use worldly wealth for the kingdom and for others. Because that's the only way to gain influence. There's no influence when we hoard and use for our own. Jesus assumes that we will have spent it all, not just for ourselves, but for the kingdom.

The real issue is that we are to look at money and worldly possessions as a tool. The problem is when we begin loving money and worldly possessions. That's when money and possessions begins to rule us. It becomes our god.

Apr 16, 2008

Bonhoeffer - Cheap Grace

I've been re-reading Bonhoeffer.

Intense! That's all I can say.

I'm just going to quote a few opening sentences from his book, "The Cost of Discipleship".

Grace without price; grace without cost!...

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian "conception" of God...

In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before...

That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs...

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Amen to that!

Apr 11, 2008

Need for Ministry

First, I'd like to apologize for not updating my blog. It's been incredibly busy - but that's only an excuse.

I will do my best to update these more often.

I was doing my quiet time today and came across a passage that I've read dozens, if not hundreds, of times but God showed me something that I desperately needed to hear.

Luke 9:10 And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.

This is the passage where Jesus sends His disciples out on their first missionary journey. They came back from this to tell Jesus of all that they had done. They had their first taste of what it would be like to work for the Kingdom. They were excited and passionate to continue on their work. And Jesus does something that is so counter-intuitive.

Jesus took them aside into a deserted place. Jesus intentionally took the disciples out of the ministry environment in order that they may be ministered to.

I learned something incredibly important about my ministry. The only way we can ever do Kingdom work is when we are ministered. No one can do ministry without first and constantly being ministered.

I know this in my mind and yet I find myself constantly pouring myself into the ministry while sacrificing my need for ministry - I need to be fed. While I know this, I act and practice my faith as though I can do ministry on my own.

I prayed for forgiveness for my foolishness.

Friend, when was the last time you took your need for ministry and made intentional effort to be alone with God. You cannot do ministry without first being fed.

Take some time right now with God, His word, and spend some time to be fed by your Shepherd.

Apr 3, 2008

Just something to think about

Someone sent me this email and I wanted to share.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners.

She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladeled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what do you see?"

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they got soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee.

The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, "What's the point mother?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Dows my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The actually changes the hot water, the very circumstances that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?

How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?
James <><
Check out what God is up to @


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Apr 1, 2008

Does God Test Us?

The Bible makes it clear that we are not to put God to the test. The only exception is found in Malachi where He dares us to test Him regarding tithing.

But does God ever test us?

Before we look at the Bible, I think we have a visceral reaction to the idea of being tested. When people are put through a test in the relational arena it has to deal with a lack of trust. And then there's the whole thing with the entrapment thing. It just doesn't sit right with us. The whole testing thing seems wrong to the core.

God wouldn't do that to us right?

Right and wrong.

You're right. God doesn't entrap us or not intrinsically distrust us.

But God does test us.

Here are just a few references:
  • Genesis 22:1 - Some time later God tested Abraham.
  • Exodus 16:4 - Then the Lord said to Moses, "I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not."
  • Exodus 20:20 - Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin."
  • Jeremiah 17:10 - I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.
  • John 6:6 - Jesus said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He was going to do.
  • 2 Corinthians 2:9 - I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything.
Doing a quick word search in the concordance will reveal dozens and dozens of entries for "test" and "testing."

God doesn't seem to have any problems testing us.

The Hebrew word for test is nasah or bachan. The Hebrew word literally means to test in the sense of proving.

The Greek word that is most often used to translate "test" is dokimion. It also means "the proving" or that by which something is tried or proved.

And here's the reason why God puts us to the test - because God wants us to grow.

Here's what God says in James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy...whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its word so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

God tests and proves us because He loves us.