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).
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Is it possible Jesus was a bit insecure?


It’s been so long since I last wrote a post and so much has taken place over the past eight months that I won’t even begin to try to catch up. So instead, let me share with you one of the exciting moments from this past week. I was given the privilege of teaching our whole church family this past Sunday morning as we were honoring our graduating seniors. I spoke on how we navigate transitions and introduced the idea of developing the skill of “Transitional Decisiveness” based out of Ephesians 4:1. If you’d like to listen to what God had to say through me, you can hear it HERE.

You must understand how gracious my family at Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church is towards my family and I, as well as hundreds of others within our community. It is something I am most proud of when I think of our church. In this light I have received numerous emails, text and Facebook messages, etc. about how people were moved and/or hear God speak to them through me on Sunday. It’s been a bit of a surreal experience as even last night, three days later, people still felt compelled to compliment me or share how it impacted their view/outlook on their current circumstance.

Before you think this is some sort of desperate plea for more affirmation or desire for the ambiguous internet to lavish anonymous praise upon me, I realized something when I was reading my Bible this morning. I realized that Jesus may have been bit insecure!

Luke 5:15-16 says, “News of [Jesus] spread more and huge crowds gathered to listen…but Jesus would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” I rarely see among those with raising popularity or fame withdraw from their fans, roadies, groupies, congregants to places where there is nobody around to further strengthen their budding popularity and fame. These types of people are often considered aloof, out of touch, insecure, or not ready for the spotlight of influential leadership. Not to mention, as a pastor who spends 70 percent of my time with self-consumed adolescents (a characteristic I’ve grown to appreciate & understand because of this TED Talk), moments of recognition of my strengths is not something that I feel naturally inclined to retreat from.

But the more I’ve prayed through and reflected on these verses I realized that there’s no way a man who called the Pharisees to righteousness, over turned temple tables, and stood quietly in the midst of Roman interrogation could be categorized as insecure. Jesus’ withdrawal from the crowds was a great testament to the confidence He had in who He is and what He was called to.

The praise and affirmation of the crowd can be as addictive as any drug and can blind us faster than staring at the sun. One of Satan’s first attempts to derail the mission of Jesus was with the allure of popularity and fame. If God’s enemy could simply shift Jesus’ focus from listening to the voice of God and begin chasing the adoration of the crowd, the whole of God’s plan would have been lost. Jesus would not let this happen – He was too passionate about the voice of His Father for it to be lost in the noise of the crowd.

The crowd’s affirmations (or fans, groupies, congregants) are what hinders the mission of God. It is my own brokenness that can be exploited amidst the feelings of raising fame or popularity on any scale. Pastors, for our churches sakes, may we be leaders who regularly withdraw from the crowds and congregants so the voice we hear the loudest and most clearly is the voice of the One who as been speaking to us long before anyone knew us for what we could do, bring, or offer.

I love my church. For their sake and mine, I will work hard to find at times to confidently withdraw so I may abide with the One who knew and loved me before I had done, brought, or offered anything of worth to anyone.

The Years Have Seemed Like Days


I have been in full-time church based ministry for seven years now. I began working as one of two full-time pastors at a church in Stockton, California three months after my December graduation from North Park University.  This past weekend I took some time to think about the past seven years and there were two passages that kept resonating like songs in my soul. They are: 

2 Corinthians 3:18

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

 

Genesis 29:20

Jacob worked for Rachel for seven years, but it seemed like a few days because he loved her.

I’ve learned over the past seven years that God has never seen his task with me as fixing one problem after another but rather moving me from one degree of glory to another. Understanding how God sees you and what he says about you is pivotal in negotiating the tormenting waves of success and failure while you’re choosing to live out that which you feel you’re being called to.

I have also learned there is no substitute for genuine love. Too many times I’ve fooled myself by calling my cynical opinions and views “apostolic” or “prophetic” words for the bride of Christ. While these flowery and “authoritative” words seem to hold a lot of weight, they truly slowed my days, and ministry, to a crawl. The times when the days turn into weeks which quickly have turned into years is when my love for the calling God has laid upon me is consumed with a genuine love for the one who has called. 

As I reflect on the past seven years I can’t help but ask; is the Church in better shape since I started seven years ago? Are the communities I’ve been privileged to serve in stronger because of my time with them? Maybe. Maybe not. Will I still be working within the youth ministry world in another seven years? Will my calling to serve in full-time church based ministry continue over the next seven years? Maybe. Maybe not. Will God continue to transform me from one degree of glory to another through what he has planned? Will my love for him continue to make the next seven years seem like mere days? Absolutely. While Christina and I have no plans for any big moves or changes I will fervently grasp to the present while dreaming of the future with great excitement! 

Instant Gratification, Later.


Man – this was a great reminder as I am starting my new goals and crafting vision for a new year!

Uncomfortable Middle

Best. Invention. Ever. How do you make the happiest place on earth even happier? Give me a “Get-out-of-line-jail-free” pass also known as the Fast Pass! I haven’t been to Disneyland a whole lot but I’m still amazed that there’s a machine that punches you a ticket to come back and go straight to the front of the line! Seriously, where was this in 5th grade when they sold pepperoni sticks and popcorn during lunch recess? I can’t tell you how many kickball games I missed for that one lousy pepperoni stick.

As I’ve been thinking about Lent I continually run into the same questions. “Why do I have to go through 40 days of _________ before Easter? Can’t I just show up on Easter and celebrate like everyone else?” Great point – if life, faith, and transformation were created by Disney with Fast Pass machines at every fork in life’s…

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The Secret Behind Becoming a Radical Christian


Longevity.

There it is. I wish it was something that was deeper and more profound. I wish I had some witty antidote or could break new theological ground in it’s unveiling or even wish that I came to me in a vision that I can now share with the world. But truth be told – I’ve learned the secret behind becoming the Radical Christian that is so hotly talked about and debated these days simply by sticking around.

Why did we start listening to some southern white boy with dreads, dawned in clothes he made himself, living in the ghettos of Philadelphia? Because it was crazy. Why do we keep listening to Shane Claiborne? Because he’s still living there. He’s still making his own clothes. His still championing the poor, the Gospel, the messages he was espousing since day one. He’s still there.

Why did I read some book that challenged everyone’s understanding of God’s crazy love, written by another Southern California mega-church pastor? Because it was a New York Times Bestseller and I like edgy things. Why do I keep listening to Francis Chan for wisdom and council? Because he’s continued to press further and further into the vision that Christ has placed in his heart and the message on placed in his mouth.

Why do I heed every word about faith and church that comes from my 93 year old grandfather who does little by way of today’s “radical faith” definition? Because he’s shown a dedication to his community of faith that is unmatched and unseen any where else in my life. He’s been a bedrock voice, support, challenger, and encourager in his family of faith for more years than I can imagine.

What is it about my grandmother’s life that humbles my greatest theologies, paradigms, programs, and experiences in ministry? Her 50 years of teaching Sunday at the same church. If I’m conservative and say she had 6 kids every year she taught Sunday school, that’s 300 kids the spent an entire year with! Judging by the attendance at her funeral a few years back, she had well more than 6 kids each of those years.

We debate what makes radical faith. We die on hills we call social justice, faith alone, modernity, post-modernity, depth in tradition, life in relevancy, and a thousand more hills with a thousand more names. Here’s the deal: We worship a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He’s sovereign over that which makes your soul burn deep and bright and hot for the Gospel of Christ and his Kingdom come. Yet, whatever it is that is burning deep in your soul leading you to make great sacrifices, go on great adventures, invest deeply, and submit continually here’s my plea: STAY WITH IT!

In four years, my parents will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. In a country where approximately half of all marriages end in divorce, 40 years of faithful marriage is radical. In a country of church shopping, splitting, and reinventing 50 years of faithful attendance, service, and membership is radical. In a country where everyone wants to be the change in every #trending cause, 20 years of dedication to serving the homeless, advocating the end of human trafficking, or raising generations whose faith sticks past adolescence is radical. If we set out to be a radical Christian today. We can call myself radical today. If we set out to have longevity in our faith, mission, and call in Christ, we’ll be remembered as a Christians who undeniably lived radically.

My Life has plenty of regrets


A conversation I had with a high school senior last school year is sticking with me, rattling around in my heart. Really it isn’t even the whole conversation itself. What lingers was really just a passing footnote to her larger point, but after it was said, it was all I could think about. She said in the midst of her thought:

…I know you’re not suppose to have any regrets in life…

I think this is popular culture worldview that sounds like it should be Biblical but isn’t necessarily so. Often times our “life without regrets” is rooted in “Hall of Fame” verses such as Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We read this and say, “Well, if I could do it all over again…I wouldn’t change anything because I can see now how God used it to make me the person I am today.”

To that person I would say this: I am thankful for the ways that God has used the good and the bad in my life to shape me into the person I am today…but there is plenty that I wouldn’t do again if I had the chance. I have plenty of regrets.

The way I treated my brother in middle school, the way I treated my parents in high school and the ways I viewed girls, sex, and dating in college. The friends I gave up on. The faith I lost hope in. The ambition I failed to cultivate. The people, politics, and issues I never cared for. The time I allowed to pass by. There are so many things that I look back on and regret either doing or not doing. And guess what, I feel these regrets are worth remembering and talking about.

I don’t believe that Jesus takes away my regrets. I don’t think Jesus wants us to forget the things that we’ve done or didn’t do that caused us to miss the fullness of life He intended for us. Here’s what I do believe Jesus does with and to my regrets. He removes the chains and crippling effects of shame, embarrassment, and worthlessness that come hand-in-hand with the brokenness of our past.

To say I have no regrets is basically the same as me bringing my own Get Out Of Jail Free card to authentic Christian community. It gives me a pass from being honest, vulnerable, and broken before you. The truth is, in my marriage, I still have to work and make sacrifices because of poor choices I made before I vowed my heart, life, and eyes to Christina. I wish I had more freedom from the detrimental relational habits and tendencies that I established before I met my wife. But because of the death and resurrected life I share with Jesus’ I am free from the shame of these habits. Together with my wife we can talk about the realties of my past brokenness in a way that pushes us toward Jesus as opposed to avoiding the topics for fear of shackling me to my past.

I have plenty of regrets in my life. What makes my regrets different is that in Jesus, they’ve become pillars of wisdom and discernment for my future, not chains of shame that keep me bound or ignorant of my past.

“Will You Dance With Me?”


ImageOver the last year and a half, give or take, our oldest daughter has LOVED playing with, reading, dressing up as, or reenacting anything that is remotely closely tied to princesses. This is a new thing for me. I grew up in a home with two boys, no sisters, and no real close girl cousins. The onslaught of pink was one thing, but princesses are an entirely different thing all together. No the princess obsession has provided for some heart melting moments in the reenacting (“Good night my prince!”) and for some Gospel/justice interpretations in the story times. (“Just like Cinderella, there are so many girls who are not allowed to leave homes because of mean people. Can we pray for those girls?”) Yet, a few days ago I realized a great draw back to this love of princesses.

Brylie was insisting that Christina dance with her, a normal thing, but there was something new twist in her logic for us to dance with her. She said,

 “Dance with me! Dance with me! I’m wearing a pretty dress! Come dance with me!”

This made me sad because I realized soon after that one of the songs in her newest princess book sings these exact words. I don’t want her believing that Christina or I, and particularly any boy, need any other reason to dance with her other than her simply being Brylie.

It’s fun seeing little girls get dressed up and pretend to be princesses and royalty. I think one of the reasons why it’s so intoxicating for us as adults to drink in the joy girls exude while they are lost in the “princess wonderland” is that for those moments they actually believe they are all the things princesses represent. Royalty, beauty, lovable, valued.

As adults we’ve long been callused to the belief that we are beautiful, worthy. Long ago we gave up on the idea that we could ever be considered royalty. So we live vicariously through these girls’ joy-filled props that set are often setting stage for much of the same disillusion we fell victim to when we realized the humanity behind the princess stories. Humanity that shows us that Cinderella found her beauty after a dramatic makeover, Ariel fought for plastic surgery reconstruction to save her from her perceived flaws, and Belle, the most educated of all princesses, traded her books for ball gowns.

Here’s the thing. Before my daughters were born, and ever since, they were and will be royalty. They are daughters of not just “a” king but THE KING. Their King and Father is the God has reigned for all generations has sealed the truth of their beauty, strength, worth, and value in them before they were born and reveals these realities in fuller ways with each passing day. For this reason, I will work hard to raise my daughters to confidently believe that when they say, “Will you dance with me?” there are no other qualifications needed with that request.