Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I HAVE MOVED!!!

Blogger has been good to me. Very very good to me. But now it's time to move on. To bigger and better things. Hopefully, this is the answer.

www.ericdurso.com


It is up and running. It's not in its final state (like me) but it's gonna get there someday. Enjoy, comment, make suggestions, and visit often. Stay for tea, if you like. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lake Perris Videos

This one goes out to Set Apart youth group. Enjoy. I sure did.





I hope you don't mind these videos forever embedded on the internet world.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

John MacArthur vs. Mark Driscoll-- Piper weighs in.

A good friend of mine, Christ McKinny just posted a great blog on the interplay between these three heavy hitters. Listen to what John Piper has to say about it all, it's great.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thoughts on Epaphras (Col. 1:3-8) AKA The Cycle of Encouragement!

Colossians 1:3-8

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.”


3 Observations:

  • Epaphras has been ministering the gospel to the Colossians faithfully.
  • Epaphras relayed the good news of the fruitfulness of the gospel in Colossae.
  • The reason Paul is writing to the Colossians is because he heard what was going on there from Epaphras.
I imagine that the reason Epaphras told Paul about the Colossians "love in the Spirit" is because he was excited to see the gospel bearing fruit in the lives of those he was ministering to. The joy of being used by God is by nature outpouring. Epaphras can wait to tell Paul how the gospel's bearing fruit, knowing that Paul will be encouraged by it. Paul, a spiritual leader in the churches, rejoices in the forward progress of the gospel. And his friends and fellow ministers love to share their joy with him.

Do you see the cycle of encouragement, and how it travels? First, Epaphras ministers. I imagine that there were some struggles and some hardships and resistence, like all ministry. Then, the gospel breaks down walls and open eyes and hearts. The people begin to grow and bear fruit. Epaphras is in awe of the work of God, and he rejoices. In his joy, he writes to Paul, relaying the power of the gospel and the fruit that is growing and the love that is happening. Paul is relieved and rejoices with Epaphras and writes a letter BACK to Epaphras and the Colossians, relaying how the good news has encouraged him. He says in this letter in vs. 9 "From the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you..." The encouragement Paul received from Epaphras caused Paul to continually pray for the church, which undoubtedly is an incredible affirmation and encouragement for Epaphras and the Colossians.

There is a healthy relationship of love and encouragement and prayer between Paul and Epaphras and the Colossians. It reminds of the the Proverb, "Whoever brings blessings will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered." (11:25)

I think this is why Paul said in Galatians 6:6 "One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches." Paul didn't want to miss out on encouragement!

The Point: Let people know when they've encouraged you. Let people know when you are praying for them. Let people know the good things God is doing in your life.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

How the Gospel Changes Us (Become an Expert on the Gospel)

You who know me know that I can't stand lessons or sermons or advice that tells me that I need to be a certain way. Don't tell me I need to love people more, I already know that. Tell me how to change my heart so that I will love people more. Advice that aims at changing my behavior first is a short-cut, it's shallow, it breeds legalism, and it's ultimately fruitless and futile--most importantly, it's lacking grace. As a pastor I need to stop demanding behavior and start shepherding hearts toward a grace-filled life. The first step in doing this is repentance.

Repentance is the act of turning from sin toward obedience to God, motivated out of love for God. For many of us, the act of repentance is very easy in concept, but incredibly difficult--borderline impossible--in deed. Why? Because repentance involves much more than the will. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians, "for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what EARNESTNESS this godly grief has produced in you, but also what EAGERNESS to clear yourselves, what INDIGNATION, what FEAR, what LONGING, what ZEAL, what PUNISHMENT..."

Earnestness
for reconciliation, eagerness for restoration, indignation at our sin, fear of its consequences, longing for righteousness, zeal in pursuing it, willingness to endure punishment for it-- these are not acts of the will. I cannot will myself to feel these things. So how can I come to this state of repentance? If we are to turn from our sins in repentance, what must we do?

Paul gives us a great hint in Romans 2:4 "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" God's kindness to humanity in Jesus Christ, that is the GOSPEL, is what leads humanity to true repentance, which results in a changed heart. Knowing, understanding, and experiencing God's grace to us, through Christ, will lead us to repentance. The grace of the gospel is the most practical and useful message for all people of all ages, because it leads us to repentance.

And true repentance is what changes our lives.

The Point: BECOME AN EXPERT ON THE GOSPEL (know what exactly Jesus did for you and how his death burial and resurrection affects you TODAY)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why the Gospel is Essential for All of Life

Lately the recurring theme in and around my life has been the gospel. It has come at me from every angle- sermons, books, videos, etc, but it is coming with a fresh perspective. An essential perspective that I've overlooked for too long.

I recently finished How People Change by Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane. It is categorized as a biblical counseling book. It's essentially on how God changes people from who we were before salvation to people he wants us to be, mainly focusing on the heart.
Chapter 1 is called "The Gospel Gap." His premise is that for most of us Christians, there is a gaping whole in the middle of the gospel. We all understand what the gospel did (cleansed us from our sins) and we know the future benefits of the gospel (go to heaven someday) but we don't know the everyday, right-here-right-now implications of the gospel. How does the fact that Jesus paid the penalty for my sins by dying on the cross and raising back to life affect me RIGHT NOW? How does this affect me when I take our car into the shop and am told that the repairs are going to take a while and cost me more than I can afford? How does the gospel affect me when I'm tired from a late night and just want to relax but my wife wants me to do the dished? Is there any practical correlation between the two events: JESUS' DEATH & LIFE and MY STRUGGLE?

That is the gap in the gospel. Even after reading the book I've been thinking about how these go together. We, by and large, don't know how these two events correlate. And to find the correlation we have to back track a little. In order for the gospel to have an affect on your daily life, you have to first address the issue of idolatry.

FACT #1: WE ALWAYS WORSHIP. Idolatry, as defined in Romans 1:25, is "exchanging the truth of God for a lie and worshiping a created thing rather than the creator." Idols are not always bad things, they are, as Mark Driscoll puts it "Good things, made into God things, and they become bad things." Humans were made to worship; we are unceasingly worshiping--the question is "WHAT are you worshiping."


FACT # 2: WE WANT FUNCTIONAL SAVIORS. We worship things that we believe can act as functional saviors. We want salvation-- we want happiness, fulfillment, purpose, satisfaction, joy, etc. So we turn to things that can offer us some kind of practical salvation in our daily lives. For some of us, our HELL is a life of obscurity in the background, where no one notices us. Our SAVIOR is popularity and influence. Our MEANS of attaining our savior is manipulation and cutting corners. For some girls, their HELL is being called ugly. Their SAVIOR is the adulation and complements of other people. Their MEANS of attain their savior is by dressing skimpy and spending money on clothes. Men may think HELL is a life without being able to satisfy sexual desires. Their SAVIOR is sex. Their MEANS of attaining their savior is pornography or a immoral relationship. Popularity and influence are not bad. Adulation and complements are not bad. Sex is not bad. But when GOOD things become GOD things, they're BAD things. And the way you know that they've become your functional savior is this: you feel like you need it and you can't live without it.

FACT #3: WE WANT SALVATION. We are all searching for salvation--our IDOLS are what we think will get us that fulfillment, satisfaction, happiness, joy, and purpose we so badly desire.

FACT #4: SIN COMES FROM IDOLATRY. All sin comes from our idolatry. The idols that we set up in our heart cause us to worship things that are not God. And that's where all sin comes from-- I won't lie if I am worshiping God, because if I'm worshiping God that means I'm not worshiping my reputation, and the reason that people lie is usually to protect their reputation.

So ALL sin comes from misplaced worship: idolatry.

And the way to conquer idolatry is to uncover the lie of the idol. Remember Romans 1:25. The first thing idolaters do is "exchange the truth of God for a lie." Every idol lies the same way, saying "worship me and I will give you what you need."

The gospel is your iconoclast. The gospel is fashioned to destroy idols. And the gospel does this with three truths:

1) Jesus has, through the gospel, given you "life abundantly in Christ" which is more satisfying that any idol.

"I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." John 10:10 But you have to "taste and see" for yourself to believe me. I can't convince you that it's more satisfying that all other idols.

2) Jesus has, through the gospel, given you every resources you need

"His divine nature has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness..." and "No temptation has overtaken you except that is common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of espcape, that you may be able to endure it." Because Jesus conquered sin, we are free from it.

3) Jesus has, through the gospel, secured a future for you.

This works two ways: First, it's the promise that God will not leave us all alone to live, but will continually be working on our sanctification day in and day out. Every dilemma should be looked from the perspective that "God is using this for my good and His glory! He's using it to turn me into a person more like Jesus." Second, it's the promise that God already has a final destination for us. "Our citizenship is in heaven." says Paul. We're all taken care of, and no matter what happens in this life, we can live in hope and joy of the unmoving promise of heaven.

And that is why the gospel is essential for all of life. It gives me the fullest life, it gives me everything I need for life, and it secures a future for me in this life and the next.
Those three truths are freeing.

And all you have to do is receive Jesus by faith. Wow!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lake Perris Trip

Thursday this week we're leaving for Lake Perris. It's going to be hot. Luckily there's a lake. Coming soon: a some LAKE TRIP VIDEO.

But while we talking about video, enjoy this video I made of our Nicaragua trip.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Day in the Life: The Drive Home

The first of some vlogs where you get to follow me around as I do what I do in Fallbrook. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

John Piper on TV

At a Q&A session after the Advance 2009 Conference, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Ed Stetzer, J.D. Grear, and Eric Mason sat on the panel and answered questions.

The first question had a humorous tone to it.

"Piper says get rid of my TV; Driscoll says buy more DVR's. How do I reconcile the difference?"

Piper: Get your sources right. I never said that in my life. Next question. There's probably something else. (Now to Driscoll) Say something significant.

Driscoll: I think it is that you don't have a TV, correct? That's probably where they got it.

Piper: I'm sure that's where they got it from.

Driscoll: But you wouldn't say that they shouldn't have a TV, you just choose not to have one.

Piper: Yeah. I'm just an addict and I know my limits.

Wow. How many of us are addicts and we don't even think twice about it. Blind to our own addictions.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Man and Woman

Oh the joys of man and woman. Ashley and I love how much we have in common, but we also love how much we are different. We get a good kick out of failed communication. Take this story, for instance.

It was a Friday morning, and I had received a package in the mail that Ashley had not opened yet because it was made out to me. So while Ashley was making breakfast, I was sitting at the table opening it. It was a Christian magazine, so I started perusing through it. We had her iPod on shuffle as background music, and we were talking about the day.

Suddenly, she says, with some sense of hurry, "Do you know what it is?" I was a little taken aback at her urgency, and I pause. I say, "Yeah," while she is laughing and saying, "You don't know what it is!" Still clueless, I say, "Yes I do, it's a magazine." She pauses, looks confused, and then bursts into laughter. I begin to laugh too, even though I don't know what in the world she's laughing at. Finally, she says, "I was talking about the song!"

Apparently, a Beatles song came on the iPod while we were talking, and she was seeing how quickly I could name that tune. I was on a completely different page thinking she was asking me (with some strange urgency) if I knew what was in the package. We laughed heartily for a few moments (during which I correctly labeled the song--Octopuses Garden) and then sat down for breakfast.

Oh the joys of husband and wife!

Global Missions: God's Passion.

I recently subscribed to a magazine called "Mission Frontiers". It is a publication of the U.S. Center for World Mission, and organization founded by the late Ralph Winter in 1976. It is a magazine that carries Winter's vision of sending missionaries to the "unreached people-groups" (a term coined by Winter). The latest publication, the May-August edition, is a tribute to Winter that includes a short biography, testimonials of his family and friends, and articles about how Winter impacted lives.

One of the articles was written by Tom Steller, the pastor of leadership development at Bethlehem Baptist Church (where John Piper is the senior pastor). This article had a special impact on me. Here are some excerpts:

"...During the summer of 1983 both John Piper and I were confronted with the 'statistics of missions' as outlined in the Hidden Peoples Pie Chart. We were thinking of adding another full-time pastor to our staff when a young couple from Bethlehem sent us a letter challenging this decision. They wrote in the letter, 'How can you justify adding another full-time Christian worker in a church that already has two in a city that has a thousand churches?' Then they proceeded to lay out the statistics of missions and encouraged us to consider that when the Bible used the word "nations" it doesn't mean countries, but ethno-linguistic groupings of people. This pesky letter was part of what God used to wake up John Piper and me to the reality that is we love the glory of God we will not be content until His glory in the face of His Son has been proclaimed to all the nations and worshippers have been won from every tribe and tongue and people.'"

This is back when John Piper's church was new and small. And to me, it demonstrates how and outward focus on missions has an inward benefit of growth. Instead of building up their staff as their budget allowed, they did something that might look foolish in the business world (or the modern church world). They put the money toward a full-time missionary. One might think that the money would have been better spent on someone who would be working in the church. I'm beginning to believe that God's desire is that every church be a beacon to the nations. And when the church has that correct focus, God blesses tremendously. Bethlehem Baptist has been dedicated to foreign missions for almost thirty years now, supporting 80+ full-time missionaries. It was Ralph Winter who said, "The success of a church should not be measured by its seating capacity but by its sending capacity."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Note I Wrote to a Person Quoting Immanuel Kant

Hey, I went to school with you and I stumbled upon your note about why you once opposed the right of women to vote, and your writing kept my attention. And I got to the end of your note, and I read this about Immanuel Kant.

"Immanuel Kant once wrote that an action is only moral if it is done out of a sense of duty, which in turn is decided by reason. That's the mentality that I am desperately working on incorporating into my life."

And I wanted to comment on the note, but I couldn't, so I decided to send you a message- you seem to appreciate comments and discussion, so here I go.

I think that the concept of morality Kant is getting at here is not true, and is actual damaging to biblical Christianity. Let me explain.

A Kantian morality says that Christians should obey God out of duty, decided through the mental processes of reason. It states that the virtue of an action decreases when we aim to derive any benefit from it. Actions are good when the doer is disinterested. We should do good because it's good--not for ourselves. Any action that is motivated by our own desire to seek happiness or pursue joy, then, lacks virtue because it is not done out of a reasoned "sense of duty". Am I right?

First of all, is that even possible? I don't think so. Every decision ever made by any person is always done for the same universal reason that goes like this: "It is better for me to do this than not to do this.". The man who hangs himself pursues relief. The man who wakes up early to study seeks knowledge. We are, at all times, in pursuit of fulfillment/gratification/happiness/satisfaction--whatever you want to call it. Pascal was right: "All men seek happiness without exception. They all aim at this goal however different the means they use to attain it...They will never make the smallest move but with this as its goal. This is the motive of all men, even those who contemplate suicide." Therefore, acting ONLY in a sense of duty, apart from personal, self-motivations (Pascal calls it "seeking happiness"), is impossible.

Secondly, Kantian morality is not only impossible, it's unbiblical and undesirable. Think about a man who is virtuous by biblical standards, not Kant's. He is one who LOVES kindness (Micah 6:8)--the implies that the reason a good man is kind is because he loves being kind, not because being kind is his "duty". He DELIGHTS in the Law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2)--same implication is here--a righteous man keeps the Law of the Lord because he loves keeping it, not because he has to. How can a man be virtuous in Kant's view of morality? He wouldn't be virtuous, by God's standards--if anything, he'd be a hypocrite.

Kant loves a disinterested giver. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Kantian obedience is dead-set against Christian, biblical obedience. The Bible is replete with incentives of rewards, including joy, pleasure, fulfillment, contentment, and happiness. So to say, like Kant does, that an action is moral only if it is done out of a sense of duty is to deny the role of affections in the life of a believer. The Christian life is not about cold obedience done out of a "sense of duty". It's about God changing your affections so that you fall out of love with the world and in love with God, so that obedience is a JOY.

C.S. Lewis says, "It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can."

And Jonathan Edwards: "Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of."

And even Jesus, who set the example of perfect obedience (Phil. 2:5-11), had this mindset. Consider Hebrews 12:1-3:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who [catch this!!] FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Jesus' obedience was motivated by joy. So should ours.

All of the works of John Piper share this theme--that pursuit of joy IN GOD ought to be the motivating incentive for everything we do. "Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist" changed my whole view on obedience, and really helped me understand it. I suggest you read it, you'll probably love it like I did.

I know this is lengthy, and I apologize, but once I found out you even ATTEMPTED to read Critique of Pure Reason I figured you'd be able to read this.

What do you think?

--Eric Durso

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Team Nicaragua 2009 (And Why I am for Short-Term Missions)


On June 14th, our First Baptist Church down here in Fallbrook will be sending off its first short-term mission trip team in almost ten years. We will be headed to San Marcos, Nicaragua, with an organization called Beyond Partner Ministries. My prayer is that this trip will spark a passion in our church for reaching the nations (that means here and abroad). I am excited to see what God does on this trip and how he uses it in my life and the lives of our team.

Since we began planning this trip, which was around January (a super-late start, I know) I've had some conversations about short-term missions. In my planning I have come to find that many people have reservations about short-term trips and hence do not like them and do not send teams anywhere. I've narrowed these down to four reasons churches have reservations about short-term mission trips. And I am also going to give a defense as to why I believe short-term missions work.

First reservation: Often missionaries don't want short-term mission teams. They are a lot of work, they rarely leave lasting contributions, and they can be a burden. The negatives out-weight the positives.

My response: This is true, but it is not always true. The first rule of short-term missions is this: ONLY GO WHERE YOU ARE NEEDED. Never force yourself upon the missionaries. They probably feel a lot like Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:

"I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?"

We don't want to add any pressure to the missionaries who are laboring for the lost where God's placed them. So never go to a place where the missionaries don't want or need you. Go where you're needed and wanted. In doing this, we completely bypass reservation number one.

Second Reservation: Short-term mission trips are costly, so why send a team out across the world when we can do the same thing here in our community?

My response: Yes, short-term missions trips are costly. But there is a big, huge difference between reaching out to your community and reaching out to the world. It is my conviction that a church should not be "either/or" with this issue-- churches need to be "both/and" here. Here's a few reasons why:

1) God has a passion for the nations. Therefore, God's church should too.

Acts 1:8 "And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." And of course the Great Commission, "Go therefore unto all the nations..." God has the entire globe on his mind. So should his church.

2) Short-term mission trips breed full-time missionaries.

No one ever becomes a missionary without "tasting" and experiencing an overseas experience first. God uses short-term mission trips to turn lights on to the vastness of God. A healthy church is a church that is sending members to fulfill the Great Commission. And the best way to do this is to give little tastes of what it's like to be commissioned--what it's like to go.

3) The focus on global missions naturally translates into community outreach.

The common question short-termers ask themselves when they get back their trip is this: "Why can't I do that back home?" Short-term missions breed missional laypeople.

The truth is you can't do the same thing within your community. The difference between community outreach and global outreach is drastically different.

Third Reservation: Short-term mission trips tend to be impersonal, and not much can be done without relationship.

My Response: True. If a team shows up for a week, evangelizes and builds and church and then leaves, without true relationships being formed, it's hard to have a lasting ministry. Lasting ministries are built on relationships. But just because short-term trips are just that--short-term--doesn't mean the relationship has to be. There are things we can do to connect and cultivate relational, lasting ministry.
Here are some suggestions I would give in this regard:

1) This goes back to my response to reservation one--find a missionary that needs you. Don't bombard missionaries that are already overwhelmed and don't need your help.

2) As a church, limit the number of missionaries you support, so that the church can support a smaller number of missionaries with a more substantial amount of money. The smaller the number of missionaries you have, the easier it is to build relationship with them. You can know them more intimately. Think of it as "adopting a missionary" into your church family. Also, when you support a missionary financially that way, they feel obligated to spend more time with you. So again, the relationship is built.

3) Go and help them when they need you and bring people along. This way, the people in your church will put a face and a personality to the name they've been asked to support financially. They know how to pray and encourage the missionary.

Fourth Reservation: If we're not on mission in our community, why should we try to do it overseas?

My Response: Maybe the reason you're not on mission in your community is because the people don't know what it's like to be on mission. Maybe they need to do it and experience it. And maybe it takes an overseas trip to open their eyes to how people do it and how God's using it. Like my response to reservation number two: global missions breed missional laypeople. Missions help the saints see how we can be missional in our communities.

So there you have it. That's why I am for short-term mission trips. Short-term mission trips are not an end in themselves, but I think they are portals to achieving a greater end, that is God's global purpose: the spread of the gospel to all the nations.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fairfax High School Crowns (Male) Prom Queen

What?? This is insane.

Our country is so confused it thinks that it's sexist to tell him, "Sorry, but you're a boy."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Radical Ministry (I Think)

I feel a call to radical ministry. I always wonder what that looks like in youth group terms. And it's hard to feel like you're doing something radical when you spend most of your time planning. Whether it's messages, meetings, or minutia (alliteration is always sweet). I think my idea of what is radical has a lot to do with its ties to mission.

Here are some things I've done recently:

1) Build up a kind of strategy for organic, personal outreach (see this blog post of mine to see where exactly I went) and emphasized it with the group. The series went something like this:
  • What is an oikos? (Focused on teaching what an oikos was and how to identify it)
  • Why an oikos (Focus on why oikos evangelism is effective)
  • How does it all work (Focused on the heart behind the evangelism-what is the motivation?)
  • How it can fail (Focused on how outreach will fail without first being true followers of Christ)
2) Organized a mission/vision statement that focuses on the three aspects of the youth ministry, which would look something like this:
  • Set Apart (this is who we are, who we want to be)
  • Operation Infiltration (this is our mission, our two-word summation of the Great Commission to go. Our goal is to infiltrate our worlds (oikos) with the gospel.
  • Oikos (this is our mission field. It's our 8-15 people God has strategically and supernaturally put into our lives.)
3) Everything we do is based around cultivating these things.
  • Sunday mornings are focused on biblical teaching as to how we are to be Set Apart for God's use.
  • Our small prayer group meets before every Wednesday night to pray for the kids in youth group.
  • Wednesday nights are an outreach program that kids can bring their unsaved friends to. It's intentionally programmed to be made for unsaved kids to come (but the gospel is not watered down!)
  • Other events are opportunities for kids to invite their friends (oikos) so we can build relationships and extend our sphere of influence.
The kids in the youth group are responding with enthusiasm with the right motivations (I think) but we have yet to see numerical growth...Which is okay!

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Kingdom of Heaven

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid three measure of flour, till it was all leavened.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is growing. Slowly. Imperceptibly. Often unnoticed by the unwary eye. But it is growing steadily. Our Lord God Commander has sent out his soldiers into the world as unseen, unknown, unnamed witnesses that slowly but surely further the kingdom of heaven. This is Operation Infiltration. These soldiers are fearless, faceless, as persistent as pit bulls and as gentle as lambs. They walk upright, with utmost confidence—not in themselves, but in their leader, who has given them everything they need. When they are mocked, they smile. When they are ridiculed, they rejoice. Resistance only makes them stronger. Why? Because they operate within an unstoppable force called the sovereign will of God Almighty—and they know for a fact that HE cannot be stopped.

They may be faceless, but o do they feel it. It’s not just church—it’s their passion. It’s their deep, heart-felt, blood-earnest desire to do God’s will. They feel it in their gut. They love the saints. They shed tears for the unsaved. They will do anything to win them for Christ. And yet, they know that no matter how hard they work, they can do nothing in regards to saving souls. But that doesn’t bother them, because they have been on their knees before God and know that He will act. They have heavy hearts for the hopeless but they are filled to the brim with hope. Their hope in God is what drives them day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.

They know scripture like their life depends on it—because it does. And not only their life but the lives of their associates and life-sharers who need to hear the truth. So they wear the Word of God like a sheathed sword on their hip, and they are ready to use it to cut through the deception and guilt and depression that is claiming the dying souls around them. They don’t go to church— they are the church. They are the faceless minority dispersed throughout the world to bring the lost ones to Christ. And they will continue to do it until every tribe, tongue, and nation has heard the gospel. And they are turning the world upside down one person at a time.

O, that God would raise up a generation of Christian soldiers that are characterized by driving passion, rock-solid confidence and a head-turning joy displayed in a steadfast love for the lost.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Just Asked A Big Question

I just asked a big question, and am grappling to understand it. I first asked "Why did God give us the Great Commission?" And here was my thought process.

My mind first jumped to answer it negatively. Answering the question by figuring out what the answer couldn't be.

I figured the answer couldn't be because he doesn't know who is going to be saved and he wants us to go out and find out who they are. Eph. 1:3-4 clearly says God knows this--he knows everything.

I figured the answer couldn't be because he needs us to accomplish his global purpose. God doesn't need anyone or anything. Acts 17:25 says he is "not served by human hands as if he needed anything..."

This assumption was even further backed up by the fact that not only are we not needed in God's plan of saving souls from every part of the world, we can actually hinder its progress by trying to do it ourselves. Paul tells the Corinthians how he doesn't want to preach with eloquence "lest the Cross be emptied of its power." And later on, in 2 Corinthians, how his power is make perfect in weakness.

So it's not cause God doesn't know. It's not because he needs us. It's not because we are able to do it ourselves--we actually can't do it at all by our own strength.

So why does he command us to go?

"Why" is a powerful question. It's simple and childlike, but it reaches straight to the core of the object in question and draws out purpose, motivation, deep-seated affections and desires. Why is the first question children ask their parents. We tell them not to touch a hot stove and they ask "why?" with all innocence. As we grow in the faith we must never stop asking the question "why?"

Why? Why all these commands? Why should we go? Why should be honor our parents? Why should we obey?

Let's focus in on the Great Commission. I said that we can actually hinder the progress of the gospel by trying to do it our way instead of God's way. Ultimately, though, we know God is working everything for his plan to succeed and by no means can our shortcomings thwart God's plan. Acts 1:8 says "You will be my witnesses." It's going to happen. Christians will be Christ's witnesses. Therefore we must realize that God doesn't lose when we are not obedient. God's schedule will go as planned, everyone who he has chosen will be saved, and it will work out exactly as he foreordained before he created the universe. God doesn't miss out when we don't fulfill the Great Commission. We do. God isn't thwarted when we fail, but we miss out. When we miss an opportunity to tell someone about the gospel we are deprived of the joy that would have come from faithful obedience!

And from this I think we can infer an answer to the "why" question. Why does God give us all these commands?

Because God has designed faithful obedience motivated by love to be the most fulfilling and satisfying and joyful activity any human can ever do.

Why "go make disciples?" Because, as Lottie Moon once said, "Surely there can be no greater joy than that of saving souls." Or listen to J. Campbell White, an early 20th century Secretary of the Laymen's Missionary Movement:

"Most men are satisfied with the permanent output of their lives. Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within his followers except the adoption of Christ's purpose toward the world he came to redeem. Fame, pleasure and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the boundless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of his eternal plans. The men who are putting everything into Christ's undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless rewards."

Participating with Christ in his global plan of redemption is the greatest privilege we can have here on earth. Praise God for giving us this opportunity.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Not So Good For Some People

It is Good Friday, and I am reminded of a time some years ago when I was in the Philippines on a short term mission trip during the Holy Week. In the area we were ministering in, the religion was a distortion of Catholicism--which involved a mystical worship of El nino de Cristo--the Christ-child. During our time in Naga City there were massive crowds and parades of blank-faced observers marching through the streets carrying man-made statues dressed up in royal clothes, portraying saints, Mary, and Jesus himself. The sight was an eerie one to behold--it seemed to be a tired tradition embedded into their society by demons. They had the story right--Jesus, born as a child, living a perfect life, dying on the cross, raising from the dead, ascending into heaven--but they had the application all wrong.

The most gut-wrenching spectable came when I saw two filipino men with sackcloth bags over their heads. They would take a single step, whip themselves with a cat-of-nine-tails over their their right should so the whip would connect on the middle of their back. Then, they'd take another step, with their other foot, and whip themselves again over the other shoulder. They were shirtless, and their backs had been torn up--blood poured down and soaked into their jean shorts. With every step came a new flogging. And they did this for an entire mile.

I was dumbstruck when I saw what they were doing. In my curiousity, I got close. A little too close--blood spattered onto my white shirt.

This was the most gruesome thing I saw on the trip. But that's just because we weren't allowed to go see the crucifixions.

That's right. Every year on Good Friday about 25 men voluntarily crucify themselves. It is no show. The nails really go through the hands. And the feet. And they hang there for 15 minutes before coming down. Here's an article on one of them.

I kept asking why when I was there, witnessing the self-mutilation. I wondered why they would do such a thing.

The answer comes in their crucial unfortunate understanding of Christ's atonement. They have no hymn called "Jesus Paid it All" because he didn't. There is still leftover sin that needs to be atoned for. They're caught in the same curse as the Galatians when Paul rebuked them:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"...

Jesus' death was enough. That's how we can call the Friday that Jesus was brutally tortured a good Friday--because he paid it all then and there.

Have a Good Friday!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dr. Horner's Bible-Reading Program

Dr. Grant Horner wrote this in one of his blogs, I laughed out loud. How awesome.

"When I was flown out by Masters for a 3-day interview/theological-grilling process, the culmination was of course being ushered in to Dr. John MacArthur's private study, which is where he asked me this one question: "Can I see your Bible?" I thought he would be horrified, because it looked like it had been through a typhoon -- it looked unloved and neglected. Something from a dumpster. It was unbound, with stringy mess and paper debris hanging out. I was so embarrassed. I thought he would chastise me and recommend I get a new study Bible if I was serious about the Word. (No doubt which study Bible he would recommend!!!) He flipped through it and handed it to his wife and said "If your Bible is falling apart, you probably aren't." I was basically hired on the spot."

This is in context the context of talking about his Bible-reading program you can find here. Pretty intense!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No Satisfaction

"Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
and never satisfied are the eyes of man."
Proverbs 27:20

Mick Jagger was right.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nikon D40


After much deliberation, I finally gave in and purchased a Nikon D40 SLR Camera. Probably one of the most fun items I've been bought. It came with 2 lenses, a camera case, and a two-gig memory stick. It takes great pictures. And now that I have a nice camera, expect this blog to be more...colorful.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Oikos: Your World Delivered


I just finished reading a book called Oikos: Your World Delivered by High Desert Church Pastor, Tom Mercer, who, by the way, will be speaking at our Men's Retreat this year. Anyway, let me give you a brief synopsis of the book.

Oikos is a Greek word that means "extended household." Mercer explains throughout the book that everyone has an oikos, that is everyone has "a group of 8 to 15 people God has supernaturally and strategically placed in each of our relational worlds that He wants to demonstrate His love and grace to, through you."

The entire book is based around this concept. It explores how every aspect of church should center around an oikos. All lessons learned from church should be taken with one idea in mind: How can I use this to affect my oikos? Church is solely for the equipping of the saints for their oikos.

This book was a fresh perspective on evangelism. I enjoyed it. It's not a program, it's not a new methodology. It's just an emphasis. One of the things I like about the book is that the focus is not on method, it's on character. Be a Christ-follower, and remember your oikos.

I highly recommend it--it's organic, age-transcending, and durable.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Three Ministry Principles

Last Sunday I had a meeting with the people who were interested in being youth sponsors. 16 people showed up--excited, energized, and full of ideas.
What I had intended to simply be an informational meeting turned out to be something more like a pep-rally. Well, maybe it wasn't that wild, but there was a lot of excitement in the room. The reason I wanted to have a meeting is because we're taking some steps in a new direction in youth ministry, and I wanted to describe the areas that will need attention in the new approach. I'm really excited about this plan. It's been percolating in my brain for some time now (usually I have an idea and get to antsy to start it that I forget about details--luckily Ashley helped me think this one through) and I'm ready to kick it off and get it started. The basic principles behind this change can be summed up in 3 points.

1) It's Driving Force is Prayer
The more sponsors we have the better, because their first responsibility is to pray. I read this morning in Psalm 127 "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." I also take this to mean: "Unless the Lord builds the youth ministry, the youth pastor labors in vain." That's why I make prayer the priority of our sponsors. We can't get the results we want without God. We can't change hearts, save souls, or do anything of value apart from God. So we pray.
2) It's Primary Concern is Evangelism
We're in the last chapter of human history, in which God is bringing all his children to himself. We know that God's purposes will come to fruition, whether we are a part of it or not. And we also know that WE are the ones who are missing out if we do not involve ourselves with God's global mission. And so in this method we use what we have: a friendly family body and a large kitchen. We want use these things to offer something to the community, so that they will come and hear the gospel.
3) It's Ultimate Purpose is Glory
Not our glory, God's. And this third principle is entwined with the first. We are fully aware that we cannot do anything of any value apart from God's supernatural power. The system is set up so that if these new plans are successful (success=growth of faith, new believers, encouraged body) then all credit goes to God. He will choose to bless or not to bless. And we will try our best to do two things: 1) show them the gospel in the way we live and interact with others, and 2) teach them the gospel through God's Word. The gospel is the power of God, and I'm going to try my best to rest my whole ministry on that truth.

So there you go, what do you think?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to Cast a Vision

Here are some thoughts on How to Cast a Vision. I'm specifically thinking along the lines of a church, but I think this strategy would work in any organization. What do you think?

Step One: Know your mission.
The mission is not the vision. The mission is the command; the end goal; the ultimate priority. This is where we want to end up. You can't go anywhere until you know where we want to go. So this is where you start. What is your mission?
In the case of a church, the mission is clear and can be summed up in a few words: "Go therefore and make disciples in all the nations..." This is our mission.

Step Two: Know yourself.
Because every person and every church has been gifted in different way, visions will be different. The mission will never change, but visions will. Some churches will be more suited for international mission outreach, while others are more suitable for local community service outreach. Both fulfill the mission even though they look completely different. So before you determine what your vision is, take time to consider what your strengths and weaknesses are. This is one of the ways God directs us. A good little memorable tagline for this is: "Take what is in your hand and offer it to what is in your reach." What does your church have to offer?

Step Three: Know what to do
So now you have your end goal (your mission) and you have your strengths and weaknesses--now you brainstorm. This is the strategy part. What strategies can you come up with to utilize your strengths in a way that fulfill the mission? Take time to flesh it out, until you get to a point where you know what it looks like. And what it looks like is your vision. At this point is helps to make a summarizing statement of your vision. Many churches use "To Glorify God by Making Disciples" or something along those lines. It helps to summarize the vision in one encapsulating sentence to bring it to the people.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thoughts on a Healthy Church

In preparation for a vision casting elder's meeting we're having tomorrow, I put together four marks of a healthy church.


What does it look like?

· It’s a church operated by prayer.

“Prayer is the visible engine that drives our church.” –John Piper, author and head pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

· It’s a church that has a passion for the lost, and has organized, publicized, unified efforts to bring the gospel to their community.

“Take what is in your hand, and offer it to who is in your reach.” – Robert Bishop, head pastor of Whittier Hills Baptist Church.

· It’s a church in which young and old are entwined through the biblical means of mentoring and discipleship.

“Jesus trained His disciples superbly for their future roles. He taught by example and by precept; His teaching was done ‘on the way.’ Jesus did not ask the twelve to sit down and take notes in a formal classroom. Jesus’ classrooms were the highways of life; His principles and values came across in the midst of daily experience.” –J. Oswald Sanders, author of Spiritual Leadership.

· It’s a church that has God’s heart for the nations, and is willing to take faith-filled steps to go. “Many Christians are oblivious of the most glorious story in world history, the spread of Christianity through the blood and tears and joy of world missions.” John Piper, in Brothers We Are Not Professionals.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Quotable

"A vision without a task makes a visionary,
A task without vision is drudgery,
A vision with a task makes a missionary."

N.G. Dunning

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Real Joy

Do people go to the Grand Canyon to increase their self-esteem? Probably not. This is, at least, a hint that the deepest joys in life come not from savoring the self, but from seeing splendor. And in the end even the Grand Canyon will not do. We were made to enjoy God.


--John Piper

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Patriotic? Then Pray for the Church (Reprise)

I wrote this blog a little bit ago, and felt that it got overlooked because of my stupid vlog thing that I did. So I reposted this one because I feel it's one that actually says something vaguely important.

I recently just finished reading an article in the Christian newspaper that I get called "What matters Most? Pray for the Church" by Chuck Colson. It was a great insight that I thought I'd share with my readership (how many of you are there, anyway?).

He starts off with "I do believe that Christians should pray for our nation. But first, we must pray for the church."
Living in Fallbrook, the most patriotic place I've ever been in my life, perhaps because we're neighbors of Camp Pendleton and know in person many of those who have seen firsthand the e
effects of war and the price of freedom, I've seen a side of the American people I didn't see in Simi Valley and Santa Clarita. Fallbrook First Baptist Church was one that, in its long church history, might have sung "America the Beautiful" on a Sunday morning-- I know for a fact that we have honored our country by singing patriotic songs in church in the past (My Country Tis Of Thee a few years back.) Many of the members of our church are Marines or ex-Marines. Two of our elders are ex-Marines. Last Sunday we said goodbye to our good friend Ray Ortiz, who will be in Iraq for the next 7 months. Our national pride is high; and we often pray for our country. Colson's article got me thinking: Do we pray as much for the American church?

Later on Colson makes a bolder statement: "We can't pray for our nation to be revived, to be saved, to receive God's mercy; we can't pray for our leaders to make wise decisions unless we first pray for the church...Our nation is in this crisis precisely because we've traded in a Christian worldview of work, thrift, savings, and prudence, and instead have embraced the false worldview of consumerism-- of leisure, debt, and instand gratification."

He's essentially saying that America's problems are hardly economical. A bad economy is the symptom of a much deeper problem: a society that has largely abandoned what most would call the cornerstone of Western Civilization-- a Christian world view. When it goes, its morality, work ethic, and discipline go along with it. This problem is not political, and cannot be addressed by political means. Of course it doesn't mean we must be passive, Christian politicians can still help America. But more powerful that Christian politicians is God's ordained means of propagating the gospel, the only cure to this economical disaster, which is the Church. Hence, Colson suggests before you pray for your country, and by all means pray for your country, pray for the Church.

Lastly, Colson writes, in a solemn tone, "...pray that we use this economic calamity as an opportunity to teach the culture what matters most-- a relationship with God. For if the Church continues to embrace the ways of the world, I don't see how America can maintain its place in the world-- much less survive in it."

Patriotic? Then start looking at America's problems as problems the Church needs to address, because I believe it's the only thing that can.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Was Bored, Okay?

Give me a video camera, some editing software, and an evening at the apartment alone and this is what I'll come up with.
video
I'm not sure if I should be proud or ashamed. It started as a video blog (which is about 50% more vain than a regular blog) then evolved into a trailer for a video blog (which, if my calculations are correct, is only 25% more vain than the written blog.)
Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Patriotic? Then Pray for the Church

I recently just finished reading an article in the Christian newspaper that I get called "What matters Most? Pray for the Church" by Chuck Colson. It was a great insight that I thought I'd share with my readership (how many of you are there, anyway?).

He starts off with "I do believe that Christians should pray for our nation. But first, we must pray for the church."
Living in Fallbrook, the most patriotic place I've ever been in my life, perhaps because we're neighbors of Camp Pendleton and know in person many of those who have seen firsthand the e
effects of war and the price of freedom, I've seen a side of the American people I didn't see in Simi Valley and Santa Clarita. Fallbrook First Baptist Church was one that, in its long church history, might have sung "America the Beautiful" on a Sunday morning-- I know for a fact that we have honored our country by singing patriotic songs in church in the past (My Country Tis Of Thee a few years back.) Many of the members of our church are Marines or ex-Marines. Two of our elders are ex-Marines. Last Sunday we said goodbye to our good friend Ray Ortiz, who will be in Iraq for the next 7 months. Our national pride is high; and we often pray for our country. Colson's article got me thinking: Do we pray as much for the American church?

Later on Colson makes a bolder statement: "We can't pray for our nation to be revived, to be saved, to receive God's mercy; we can't pray for our leaders to make wise decisions unless we first pray for the church...Our nation is in this crisis precisely because we've traded in a Christian worldview of work, thrift, savings, and prudence, and instead have embraced the false worldview of consumerism-- of leisure, debt, and instand gratification."

He's essentially saying that America's problems are hardly economical. A bad economy is the symptom of a much deeper problem: a society that has largely abandoned what most would call the cornerstone of Western Civilization-- a Christian world view. When it goes, its morality, work ethic, and discipline go along with it. This problem is not political, and cannot be addressed by political means. Of course it doesn't mean we must be passive, Christian politicians can still help America. But more powerful that Christian politicians is God's ordained means of propagating the gospel, the only cure to this economical disaster, which is the Church. Hence, Colson suggests before you pray for your country, and by all means pray for your country, pray for the Church.

Lastly, Colson writes, in a solemn tone, "...pray that we use this economic calamity as an opportunity to teach the culture what matters most-- a relationship with God. For if the Church continues to embrace the ways of the world, I don't see how America can maintain its place in the world-- much less survive in it."

Patriotic? Then start looking at America's problems as problems the Church needs to address, because I believe it's the only thing that can.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Beatlemania

Check out this awesome Beatles article. Warning Beatles Fans: This Will Waste Your Time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Readers are Leaders

President Bush and his Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, have a book reading contest. Very interesting. Goes to show you that the top dogs of anything, yes, even America, read. A lot.

So, who wants to challenge me?

The Lights Go On Every Once and a While



It's a fresh new year and during these kinds of times I'm prone to think about the past. I guess I'm a little late, most people get their fix of nostalgia on New Year's Eve as they ring in the New Year. I'm a nostalgia addict. I love thinking about the past as much as I can- anything to surface those hidden, forgotten memories that make life just a little more funny. One thing I think is a great way to do this- to capture some seemingly mundane moments and turn them into memories is to keep a book with you at all times, and write in it whenever a light goes on. I have a little black moleskine notebook (what it says on the cover makes it nearly impossible not to want. It says, "The Legendary Notebook of Van Gogh Matisse, Hemingway and Chatwin. It's history lies in its inside pocket." That, for me, said YOU NEED ONE. (I must admit, it also makes me feel more intelligent for some reason.)

Over 2008 I didn't use my moleskine as much as a would have liked. I wrote poems in it, one-liners that randomly entered my head, book lists, book ideas, quotes from books and people, and notes from sermons. This year I am going to make a concerted effort to have it with me at all times. And whenever the lights go on, I'm going to try and trap them inside my moleskine. The best part of these things is the looking back on it after its long been full. Pure nostalgia.

So now my prescription is a moleskine and a pencil on me at all times. Poised and ready to capture, because, believe it or not, the lights go on every once and a while.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Redirection Here We Come

As you know, a few months ago I received an invitation to go on a mission trip to Argentina with the church I grew up in, Grace Brethren Church of Simi Valley. I was invited to come along and get some experience in leading short term mission trips. After some prayer, Ashley and I decided that this would be a great way to gain some practical wisdom that we would be able to bring back to our church in Fallbrook and utilize there. We were very excited about the opportunity—we announced it in church and began raising support.

That was in October. Since then, it seems that the Lord has put up a stop sign. The trip has changed in such a way that it is no longer what we originally thought it was going to be, and because of the new circumstances, Ashley and I have decided not to be a part of the trip. For a week or so, there was much question about whether the trip was still going to happen. Just this week it was decided that the trip will go on as planned, but with a new set of leaders. Because our purpose was to learn from the original leadership, and the nature of our role on the trip has changed, we decided that we would rather use our resources on a mission with our church here in Fallbrook. As you probably know, this was not in my plans, but we are confident that the Lord is working here and is in the process of redirecting.

Speaking of redirecting, Fallbrook First Baptist is in the process of lining up a trip to Nicaragua in June. We believe that God is redirecting our focus from Argentina to Nicaragua. For those of you who graciously donated your money to the Argentina trip, there are a couple options for you. First, you can ask for your money back. We will be able to return to you the exact amount of money that you donated for the mission trip. Second, we can redirect your donation to the Nicaragua trip in June. If we don’t hear from you, we’ll assume that your wish is for your donation to be applied to Nicaragua.

We would greatly appreciate your prayers as we turn our attentions to Nicaragua. Thank you so much for your generous support.


This was the letter I had to send out to everyone who had donated money toward our Argentina mission trip. I figured I'd post it up here so that you would all know why I'm still in California come mid-January, for those of you who were aware of the trip. Continue in prayer!