5 Things We Need to Remember


Over the last 48 hours I’ve experienced the full gambit of emotions and have seen inspiring and terrifying responses from people all across the political and religious spectrum. In my attempts to process where I am at, what I believe, and how I move forward, I’ve written down these five things I know to have been true before the election and will continue to be true.

There has never been and will never be an obvious or clear “Christian” vote. Politics, and people in particular, are far too complicated, nuanced and multilayered to propagate the notion of “obvious” or “clear” votes for all Christians. There will always be faithful and thoughtful followers of Jesus who vote differently. The Church has always been built on diverse people. This diversity cannot be avoided. We must remember there has only been one clear embodiment all that we should desire and place our hope in, Jesus, and He allowed himself to be murdered by a mob consisting of all political and religious affiliations. Since Christ, every person with any degree of influence has held (and will hold) unimaginable brokenness as well as potential for good. It is important to recognize this in ourselves and others.

Recognize and call out the humanity in all people. As I said already, people are incredible complex and multilayered. We must not reduce a person’s or group of people’s humanity to an oversimplified caricature based largely on our assumptions of who we think they are or what their motivations might be. We must stay away from broad brush generalizations and keep ourselves from creating false dichotomies (i.e Vote for Hillary or accept that you’re a racist. Vote for Trump or accept you’re a baby-killer.) which do nothing except dehumanize, over-simplify, and further entrench divisions between people. Recognize and call out people’s inherent good as image bearers of God by bestowing honor, dignity, and grace upon while consistently inviting them to join you in a deeper and more faithful pursuit of holiness, righteousness, and justice in our lives.

Do not become what you were afraid of or hate in others. One of my biggest fears if president-elect Trump lost was that he would refuse to accept the results of the election and, even worse, those who support him would refuse to accept the results as well. While we have avoided this scenario, #NotMyPresident has been trending real strong on social media and protests have begun all across the country. As Christ-followers, and really as a nation, regardless of who you voted or why you chose not to vote, we must be self aware enough to not exhibit the qualities we are most repulses us in others. We must not disengage or close ourselves off and/or pridefully gloat and kick others while they are down. President-elect Trump is our president so together we must fervently demand/expect and encourage/call out the best of him while he is in office.

Christ stands in favor and opposition of all of us. Let us not over complicate this matter. The cross, that we as Christians hold central to all we believe and all of who we are, stands as the exclamation point on this statement. I’ve learned this from Mike Erre as I’ve listened to his podcast. We must remember tChrist leads with grace for all people on every issue while simultaneously show us where we are wrong or coming up short on every issue as well. This is what the cross emphasizes. He leads with grace by willingly and voluntarily giving up his life but in that very act places the evil within all of us in the spotlight. We need to approach our views of and conversations with people with the confidence and humility this understanding brings. In this recognition there is room to believe that celebration does not vilify grief and that grief does not shame celebration.

We must seek the Kingdom of God in tangible ways here on earth as it is in Heaven. Taking all four of these thoughts into consideration, we recognize there was never, and will never, be a candidate who expedites the manifestation of the Kingdom of God hear on earth. It will always grow as a seed from the ground through the expressions of love, pursuits of justice, acts of compassion, and expectations for righteousness from those who stand as one in Christ. The kingdom of God, as described in the Bible, has room for ever tribe, nation, and language. We need to create room at our tables for all people so that there can be a recognition of the complexities of life, dignity in all people, the grace and admonition of Christ in our lives, and the Kingdom seeds bearing fruit in all places.

I need your help believing and living into these five thoughts because I know I have failed in many ways and have significant blindspots. Lets we walk forward together in this as we break bread of fellowship, drink the wine of sacrifice, and experience the freshness of Christ’s love, grace, and God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.

The Next Great Adventure


He didn’t hesitate with a lack of faith in God’s promise, but he grew strong in faith and gave glory to God. He was fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised. Therefore, it was credited to him as righteousness. // Romans 4:20-22

After many months of prayer, discernment, and conversations with close friends and mentors, Christina and I have decided that our family will be moving to Mesa, AZ this summer as we follow Jesus into our next great adventure.

What this means for us:  We will be moving to Mesa to live with and near family as I become a full-time student working to complete my masters degree through Fuller Seminary and Christina will be preparing to work full-time as an elementary teacher. As a full-time student I will be able to complete my masters degree program within 18-24 months which will significantly expedite timeline for finishing seminary. We will be leaving July 17 to spend a week at Forest Home for family camp. After our week at camp, Christina and the girls will continue on to Mesa and I will fly back up to continue to work with MVPC until August 15.

How we arrived at this decision: For a number of years Christina and I have talked and dreamed about a time when we could live closer to family. We have also long talked about how we can better position ourselves to be able make a more concerted effort finishing my masters degree in a more timely and financially viable fashion. These conversations began to gain more traction during this past year as we began experiencing a lot of chaos and change. A lot of this chaos has been really exciting, such as new staffing at MVPC and new ministry opportunities. Christina had been working with a lot of clients and was even asked to interview for a full-time teaching job at the school she has been working at the past four years. Along with these, there is the natural exciting chaos that comes with our two amazingly strong, gifted, and full-of-life daughters. In the midst of the exciting chaos, there has been a lot of difficulty. The high cost of living of the Bay Area continued to takes its toll and Christina and I have experienced our most difficult year of marriage yet, feeling the effects of what we call, “six years of deferred maintenance”.

In February we knew, one way or another, life next year was going to look drastically different. I have long believed that chaos is a tale-tell sign that God is preparing to create something new (see Genesis 1:1-3) so we started to explore on ever opportunity, possibility, and plan we could think of for what could be next. In the midst of this there have been trusted friends and mentors who we have sat, prayed, cried, and rejoiced with as we have examined our hearts and motives in this decision-making process. Through this all, we have continually been affirmed that this move to Arizona is God’s best for us right now.

There are two things we want to emphasize in this decision: the degree of peace and certainty we share in this decision and the extent to which we are convinced this is what God has set for us. This has been one of the most difficult decisions we have made as a couple because it means we are choosing to move away from our comfortable and quantifiable life. (Evan: Full-time ministry with “bigger & better” new ministry opportunities ahead of me. Christina: three years of building a client base & reputation as a Birth Doula as well as a full-time teaching position. For our Familyfriends, family, communities, and traditions we love here in California).

So we make this move, “fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised” like Abraham when he followed God’s invitation to believe in a promise. We are trusting God with my career, we are trusting God with Christina’s career, we are trusting God with our daughters’ future, and we are trusting God with our marriage. He has promised to be our provider, sustainer, refuge, joy and our abundance. We see these next few years as an opportunity to have front row seats as God shows himself to be all these things and so much more.

We are not espousing or believing in a “prosperity gospel” that would promise us trouble-free wealth, health, and happiness as an exchange for making this move. We know there are going to be difficulties & times of doubt. We know there isn’t a guarantee that we will have “a bigger & better life” the moment we cross the Arizona state line or when I receive my masters.  However, we do believe we are accepting a great invitation that will position us to experience God’s glory in ways we could never ask or imagine and that is worth everything to us! 

 

Silent Night – a Father’s lullaby


This song has always baffled me. I have always felt the writer of this song clearly lacked two pivotal experiential points of reference prior to writing this candle lit hymn: being in a barn full of animals and attending a birth. In my experience, I haven’t come close to using “silent” as a. This song must then simple be fictional idealization of a birth to further portray Jesus’ life as “sunshine & roses” even from the moment he entered this world. There had to be chaos, noise, stink, panic, worry, and poop. Lots of poop! Honestly people, there were barn animals and a newborn, poop would haven a central decor piece. To believe it was actually a “silent night” is either outright naive or a staunch defense of adding poop to the nativity scene on your mantel.

What if, though, this isn’t a historical retelling of Jesus’ birth? What if this is lullaby? What if? We know Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, didn’t write this song, but if we listen closely, it sure does sound like the words of a proud papa. Let’s look at a few phrases from this divine love song.

Round yon virgin, mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace.” The moment Joseph would have seen Mary getting her first chance at sleep with his son in her arms, yes…there must have been a deep sense of heavenly peace!

Shepherds quake at the sight…” Joseph would remember that raggedy gang of misfits and outcasts approach the stable, full of mixed emotion…mostly fear! He remembers what they had told him about their encounter with more angels than any human had seen prior and now were in the presence of Israel’s Messiah and a baby to boot! That’s enough to rattle even the bravest and most callous night dwellers.

Silent night, all is calm, all is bright…” In a literal sense, was the night of Jesus’ birth silent, calm, and bright, surely not. I imagine though, Joseph, in his core, needed to believe that in the midst of so much unmet expectation, there was something beautiful taking place. There are times when we must harken our deepest trust in God’s plan, look into the heart of chaos, and with a brave holy imagination, use words to create room for a present reality that seemingly doesn’t fit in the moment we find ourselves. There was a season where on of my daughters would awake in the middle of the night crying almost every night for a couple months. I did not whisper in her ear, “This is terrifying, dark, and hopeless. I am fearful with you and am uncertain there will be resolution.” Rather I take a deep breath and began dreaming a new dream aloud, “Sweet girl, all is good. Jesus is here and stronger than your fear. There is great light in this room and angels abound. Shhh, all is well. I love you and there is not place I would rather be than here, with you.” I needed these words as much or more than my sweet girl did, I needed to see a brighter, holier, and more silent night than the one I was experiencing.

Jesus, Lord at they birth…Christ, the Savior is born” Joseph, the step-father of a boy whose identity would be question for the entirety of his life, refrains who he knows his son to be. There is power in a father speaking specific words of identity over his children.

To all the fathers who may be reading this, Christmas is a crazy season full of insane expectations to live up to and manage. Bank accounts, family members, vacations, traditions, Christmas lists, Christmas parties, and end of the year charity write-offs bring us to a place where we are strangely akin to the feeling of raising a family in a chaotic barn. Fathers, let’s take moments to sing songs, tell stories, and imagine adventure with our children and wives that create space for the realities of God. In this season, may we speak words that strengthen our children’s identity and have our attitudes and actions be marked by gentleness. I’m grateful for this song and reminder this Christmas season.

O Come O Come Emmanuel


Christmas music is the best music. Period. Done and done. With its merry music and cheerful chimes, I play it year round, shamelessly overshadowing Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even yes, Flag Day. My hope this advent is to spend time reflecting on a few of the Christmas songs we will be hearing so often this Christmas season that we forget the joy and hope of the words they bring. So many of these songs tell great stories of one of the most unprecedented events in the history of the world. The event where our Creator God, whom we long desire, would become part of his own creation so that we may find him! I pray this will be a fruitful journey.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is far and away my favorite song of the Christmas season. I feel this song is the most transcendent of all songs we regulate to a short five-week playlist. What other song more beautifully articulates the daily friction between the present suffering and anguish of so many of us while in the same breath calling out the present hope of the promised coming of our Lord?! Let’s remember the backdrop for the first Christmas, when Jesus was born. Israel was an occupied people who hadn’t heard from their God in nearly 400 years. All tangible reason for hope was surely lost, leaving this small nation little to hold on to but its steadfast belief in the promise of God passed down to them from their fathers and mothers. We see all this hauntingly and poetically portrayed in the first verse & then the chorus of the song.

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel…” We begin singing with a desperate plea. You can almost hear the tears behind the first refrain. After years, generations, even centuries of feeling a silent absence of the God of your forefathers and presently living as an occupied people, mourning in exile. There is no longer time to politely wait. “We have done wrong, we are being held captive by the tyranny of sin, oppression, and the nations who occupy us. Be our ransom! Come, God With Us!”

“Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!”I had always figured this to be a cheerful chorus to a Christmas song talking about baby Jesus in a manger. Yet this refrain is a bold and courageously defiant proclamation of hope! In spite of circumstance, feeling, oppression, and death, we WILL rejoice because “God with Us” is making his way!

A lot of times we find ourselves in a dark world, filled with violence, manipulation, deceit, slavery, and betrayal. Regardless of our belief systems, religion, or nationality, perception or reality, we can at times, or in totality, feel like an oppressed people drowning in a divine absence of tangible hope. We are left wondering, will our Savior, our King, our Lord ever come to ransom us, to fill us with hope, to restore us? We shout, “O COME, O COME, YOU WHO CALL YOURSELF GOD WITH US!”

Then, and only then, once the noise, fear, anger, and worry of our heart has been vacated through our authentically raw confession are we able to remember the whispered promise. The promise from our covenantal God that he has indeed come as Christ our Lord and given us victory over the grave! To which we sing in individual and corporate defiance to the darkness of our feelings and the world around us, the refrain, “REJOICE, REJOICE! God with us shall come!” This is a song of anticipation, expectation, and defiant hope. This is a Christmas song warranting faithful, joyful, and hopeful voice by all people seeking the presence of God at all times of the year. May this carol build within us the anticipation, expectation, and defiant hope, which begins to find its culmination in a babe born in a stable.

Let’s Talk! What are the things you most anticipate during the Christmas season What do you do with all that anticipation?Whose version of this song is your all-time favorite?

 

Pursuing the God I had once found


The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: “Thy right hand upholdeth me.” | A.W. Tozer

What if our theology, our understanding of who God is, allowed for a belief that our own recognition of being distant from God or that we have a distinct need for him, wasn’t an indication of our failure to be in relationship with God but rather an indication of God’s pursuit of us?

For years, and I confess that recently, I have harbored a fair amount of guilt and stress in when i feel is an inability to clearly distinguish the voice or specific presence of God in my own life. I have felt that the pursuit of God is a long lonely journey one can only do on their own. Yes, community is essential in the encouragement of the pursuit, but the walk, like Frodo can only be done my yourself upon your own strength.

A.W. Tozer is teaching me that the desire to seek God is in fact our great hope that we will surely find him! Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus is both the Initiator and Perfecter of our faith. So the simple fact we have the inclination to seek God, is proof that the God we seek has already chosen to be found by us. Once God initiates our desire to seek him, we are then carried along a path of being perfected. I’m learning this works on the macro and micro levels of our lives. On the macro level, I sought after Jesus when I was 15. When I found him I began a life long journey of being perfected in Christ, which will culminate in my entrance of his Kingdom when this life ends or he returns. On the micro level, there are many circumstances and instances where I feel I desperately need to know where Jesus is and what God has for my next step from day to day or year to year. I have long been discouraged by the feeling I have that I have not been able to see or hear him at times. Yet, as A.W. Tozer has helped me see, the hope I hold to now as I seek to find the God I have already found is that it is God himself who has initiated my seeking and will make himself known as he holds me in my search. What grace there is in the father who calls us to seek him and holds us close as we seek him!

#SameTeamRemix & Young Voices Changing the Game


I am assuming most people reading this have at least heard of the rapper named Lecrae. If not, just go to YouTube, search “Lecrae”, then say goodbye to the next hour of productivity as you listen to one of the stronger and more transformative voices in hip-hop today. Right now, this one is my favorite.

But this post isn’t about Lecrae. He’s already won a Grammy, performed with The Roots on the Late Show, and topped the Billboard charts. This is about what has been taking place in the wake of Lecrae’s success. A generation of bold, biblical, political, and prophetic voices finding their platform in the fringes of hip hop.

Humble Beast, WLAK, Beautiful Eulogy, Reach, and along with many other labels and groups are filling my playlists these days. One of the coolest things I’ve seen from this uprising of rappers who are following, preaching, and glorifying Jesus is this trend called #SameTeamRemix. It started with a rapper named Swoope who produced a song called “Same Team” featuring rappers from all different labels. Check it out.

I’ve loved this song and this concept, particularly within a genre of music which is deeply seeded with messages of hatred, exclusion, and disrespect for all other rappers. I then saw that Swoope made the instrumental version of Same Team free online so other groups, cliques, and followers of Jesus could follow Swoope’s lead and make Same Team Remixes. All of a sudden I started seeing young voices, men and women, of all colors proclaiming Christ, celebrating unity in diversity, and doing it all with above average production value and real lyrical talent. Here’s one of my favorites, a group from Dallas.

This stuff is sound! Doctrinally, lyrically, and musically! Trifecta! Here’s what I’m taking note of through all this.

  1. I can listen to indie hip hop by rappers preachin Jesus all day!
  2. These are all “millennials” taking the old truth of the Gospel, mixing it with their cultural craft, and making excellent music.
  3. In a time many churches are working hard to define whose “in” and whose “out” and debating the doomsday news of millennials being “lost” by the church, there is a movement of millennial artists proclaiming truth, unity, and calling for a new reality that isn’t fitting in mainline Christianity or mainline culture.
  4. I’m remembering that historically, the Gospel thrives when the Spirit moves in the margins of mainline culture and when artists, visionaries, prophets, pastors, and culture creators are more concerned about God’s glory than their own platform and glory. I am see this happen, and not just in these videos.
  5. A rising tide lifts all ships.

I’m not a rapper. I’ve dabbled in spoken word but still can’t really get my pen past my own insecurities. So while I’m captivated and in love with hip hop, I’m not suggesting we all become hiphop prophets. I’m simply realizing my desire  to follow Swoope’s lead and collaborate with this diverse family of faith in Christ for the sake of the gospel and unity. Josh Garrels, another one of my favorites who is an indie rock/folk artist who has collaborated with Beautiful Eulogy, sums up what I’m seeing in this #SameTeamRemix trend among these young leaders.

When we are talking about truth and love, you can wield your profession, your craft in a way that hurts people because you’re so good. And so when someone can present it in a way that is inviting people into their joy, that is when the most beautiful things are formed.”

Jesus Followers In Disguise


2014-07-27 11There’s something tragically terrifying and abundantly liberating about embracing a single identity for who you are that transcends all roles, occupations, success, and failures you’ve collected over the years. It’s terrifying because it eliminates our boxes. The boxes we work so hard to form to protect ourselves and at the same time work so dismantle for fear of being pigeon-holed into a single role.

Yet I believe that when Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow him and invites us to take his yoke upon shoulders, it’s a call to view ourselves through a single identifying lens that significantly changes who we are, how we life, and the world around us. Instead of viewing ourselves as, say, Americans who are also Christian, or a high school freshman who is also a Christian, or a single mom who goes to church – I believe that because of Jesus we are now Followers of Jesus disguised as whatever gift, talent, role, or sphere of influence we’ve been given. For me – here’s how I would fill in that blank of “I am a Follower of Jesus Disguised as a ____________”

  • I am a Follower of Jesus Disguised as a father.
  • I am a Follower of Jesus Disguised as a youth pastor.
  • I am a Follower of Jesus Disguised as a husband.
  • I am a Follower of Jesus Disguised as a neighbor. 

There’s a dozen more. Yesterday I was able to speak about this during worship with my church. As a response, I asked everyone to share with us their disguise(s). If you’d like to download the paper and share your disguise, you can download the here or a postcard here.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  • “Jesus Followers In Disguise” is a phrase that I originally heard from Gary Gaddini,  Senior Pastor at Peninsula Covenant Church.
  • At one point during my sermon I said, “your talents and your gifts are not your calling.” This is an inspired truth I heard from Terrance Richmond, who I have met through Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).