Grace Talk: Who is the Holy Spirit? | 10-17-2021

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 12/23/2021

For a guy like me who is wired to love those heady knowledge-based sermons, this was a tough one to crack and figure out. As a part of the Grace Talk series from Reunion Church, this message was geared towards the role of the Holy Spirit in the grace process itself. How is the Holy Spirit himself involved in how we access grace? What does that relationship look like? This sermon was meant to answer those sorts of questions before we went into our hour of small groups.

Although from that premise, it should’ve been straight forward and yet when it comes to the topic of the Holy Spirit it’s never straight forward. In hindsight, it was good that I taught this one because I’ve done a lot of digging into this subject several times on this blog. Like one of my more popular posts on the Christian Essentials from a while back. Either way, over the years I’ve chipped away at the mystery that is God and all encompasses that reality.

Sermon Prep

For this sermon and for the sake of my audience, I had to take the most complicated idea in Christian thought which is the nature of God and break it down into a 15min message. Ha, no pressure. It’s not like making a mistake mid-message could lead the congregation to believing in blasphemy or heresy if I messed up. No big deal, right?

So how did I pull this off? Well, I flipped and paged through several super useful resources. A few of those being multiple key books:

  1. Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  2. Systematic Theology 2nd Edition by Wayne Grudem
  3. Know What You Believe by Paul E. Little
  4. Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur & Richard Mayhue
  5. Christian Theology 6th Edition by Alistair McGrath
  6. The Mystery of the Trinity by Vern S. Poythress
  7. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R. C. Sproul
  8. The Forgotten Trinity by James White

Now that’s not even mentioning my online research either, but we don’t have time to discuss every footnote in my sermon. The point is I binged on understanding the Holy Spirit, so that my audience could get some key soundbites about him for the Sunday night discussion. My aim was to condense hours of prayer and study into key truths that could be shared in seconds.

I think I did fairly well, but the outcome is always up to God and his audience. I’m just the temporary bridge between both when I’m up there. Regardless of all of that background, here’s what I eventually came up with that night jotted down in my sermon journal:

Sermon Notes

Intro

  • Recap last week
  • Focus on who is the Holy Spirit and how he initiates grace.

Fax Machine Story

  • New job at Staples
  • Fax bank info to boss
  • Sandy prints floor plans for Texas Longhorns
  • Jake faxes info for me.
  • No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t get it.

The Trinity Explained

  • God’s nature is similar to a fax machine.
    • If you think you know everything about God, then you probably don’t know much.
  • Here’s what we know (2):

1) God is three persons.

2) Each person is fully God.

3) There is one God.

  • God is greater than us in every way.
    • Here’s a quote of God describing himself:

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (3).”

  • Even though God is beyond us in scope, the Spirit of God is the soul of the church.

“The fact that the Spirit indwells all believers, and provides the ground of our supernatural unity, results in true Christian fellowship-a sharing that knows no bounds (4).” – James White

  • God’s triune nature is the mystery of unity. Likewise, the church is the same.

Car Story

  • When it comes to money, I’m a hard-core saver and hate spending money.
  • Ben knows how to do the work, so that the car runs smoothly.
  • Like Ben when it comes to cars, God the Spirit does the work because he knows best and we just enjoy the benefits of grace.

The Holy Spirit Powers Grace

  • To understand the Holy Spirit, it’s best to know what he does.
  • In the grace process God the Father compels us to fascination (i.e. Head + Wonder), God the Son compels us to compassion (i.e. Heart + Will), and God the Spirit compels us to action (i.e. Hands + Works).
  • Grace is powered by the Spirit of God and leads to spiritual formation in our lives.

“Through the Holy Spirit we come to know Christ, and by the Holy Spirit’s power we live and grow in Christ, in the service of the king and in the fellowship of his church (5).” – Paul E. Little

  • Unlike the law where people hide behind veils of shame, God the Spirit gives us all of his grace all the time.
  • Because God does the work, he cares more about who we are and where we are in relation to his grace.

“We focus on what God wants us to do and forget the kind of people he wants us to be (6).” – Francis Chan

  • For Christians, where we are in relation to God’s grace matters most.
  • For Non-Christians, who you are matters most to God because he doesn’t know you yet.

Outro

  • All it takes is faith and humility to access all of the Spirit of God’s grace.
  • All it takes is humility and faith to know God and be known by him.

Final Thoughts

Given what had to be covered and the extensive work put into this one, I’m quite proud of the results. For more of my thoughts on this message, make sure to check out the Reunion Church Podcast on YouTube. With that said, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Systematic Theology 2nd Edition, P. 273
  3. Isaiah 55:9 (ESV)
  4. The Forgotten Trinity, P. 151
  5. Know What You Believe, P. 128
  6. Forgotten God, P. 148

An Ordinary Life: Physicality | 8-22-2021

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 11/25/2021

So this sermon was a part of a series called An Ordinary Life based on the book Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine for Reunion Church during the summer of 2021. This was a series focused on how to live simply within the mundane and enjoy the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life. I think this was a great first series for our church and it really resonated with the community.

I recall during this time I was feeling fairly burned out and tired from the church planting process, but wanted to still deliver a great sermon. What added to my nerves was the fact that I hadn’t preached a sermon in a church in almost 2 years given the pandemic. I was meant to give this message on the 8th of August, but Pastor Andrew and Pastor David had returned from a retreat so they shared on the 15th of August.

Also only 3 other leaders showed up on the 8th, so I didn’t share the message on that night. I honestly felt pretty down that no one showed up and that hurt, especially when you’ve invested so much time to give a valuable message. If I’m being really honest, I cried on the way home. For some reason, when I’m attuned to God’s will I find myself very emotional.

Sermon Prep

Then again, this message was difficult to get a grasp on what to share exactly. The chapter I was sharing and recapping was about 35 pages of dense material. The author writes with a very poetic power that hits all the keys of the heart. Trying to faithfully adapt his work in a 90min small group discussion is incredibly strenuous.

Either way, I prepped ahead of time and with the extra 2 week gap had even more time to tweak the message for the people of God to hear exactly what they needed. If you feel immense pressure to deliver, then I’d say you’re in the right place because you can only rely on God. In your own strength, your sermon is shit. Without the power of the Holy Spirit himself guiding every word, point, and pause the message will not be what they need in that moment. The fear of God fuels great sermons and this one was no different.

We had a good group that night and I think this was one of my better sermons. I got to lean into my strengths as a teacher, which is simplifying complicated concepts. I love expositing complicated ideas in a way that clicks with your average person. It’s challenging, but rewarding in the same respect.

Going back through my notes, I had so many for this message. Explaining how we’re made for a period of time among physical things is a hard idea to get across since it’s so abstract. It’s one of those ideas that needs a lot of padding and stories to pass onto others. Here’s what I had in my sermon journal:

Sermon Notes

Intro

  • Recap last week
  • To live an ordinary life is to know that we are made for a period of time among physical things.
  • As Zack Eswine writes,

“Faith, hope, and love-the matters of our souls-are tried, learned, and lived in close physical proximity to created persons and things within the limits of certain times and places (P. 173).”

  • Read Acts 17:24-26
  1. Limited doesn’t mean less than

“The ministry with its leaders and neighbors is boundaried and limited… But boundaried does not mean inferior (P. 174).”

  • Jerry McFarland’s Monday Night Study.
  • Read 3 John 2
  • How has a physical limitation led to an unlikely opportunity?
  1. A place is a people
  • Read 1 John 1:1-3

“We sensibly minister the gospel of Jesus to ordinary persons in their particular places (P. 177).”

  • How is a place a part of a person’s identity? Why does that matter?
  1. All matter affects the mind
  • Read 2 Timothy 1:3-5

“Bodily senses accompany our interior lives. At times, they can adorn our souls with treasures and at times litter them with trash (P. 177).”

  • What physical thing reminds you of a good memory? What makes you remember? A sound? A vibe?
  1. The boundaries of physical touch
  • Jesus touched everyone in ministry to heal, not to harm.
  • Read Mark 10:14-16
  • What are your physical touch boundaries? 
    • i.e. children, friends, relationships, etc.
  1. Should Christians cuss or swear?
  • Necessary + True
  • Context + Culture (Where + Who)

Outro

  • Final thoughts

Categories to Cuss

  1. Emoting through tragedy or great pain
  2. To shock or surprise
  3. Ordinary communication

“We religious must learn to recognize our own kind of cussing. Religious cussing often does not involve foul four-letter words (P. 204).”

“Language… always comes in the form of resistance or repentance or mixtures of the two (P. 205).”

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, this was a good one. A long message, absolutely and yet a really good discussion from everyone involved. To get more insight into my thoughts on this message, watch this sermon recap I do every week for my church. Also, for more insights into my thoughts on cussing and swearing as Christians, watch this topical podcast episode. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. https://reunionchurchcc.com/
  3. https://youtu.be/-yrOkwSAyOk
  4. https://youtu.be/lKzzXLYRjd4

Dawn + Joe’s Wedding | 7-24-2021

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 11/25/2021

This was a first for me. As a young pastor in the making, to officiate my first wedding was a huge deal. There was a lot of deliberation on my part in deciding to even commit to such a large responsibility in the first place. Never thought I’d be the guy to run one of these.

I distinctly remember being asked by Dawn if I would like to officiate their wedding. She texted me on January 23rd, 2021 and I took a whole day to text back. For one, I was shocked that they would want me to do it in the first place. I knew they were going to get married one day, but to seal the deal as their friend was such an honor after all these years.

Wedding Theology

The other roadblock I had to overcome was can I as a Christian pastor marry two people who may not be Christians? To be honest, I wasn’t sure about their faith and didn’t know the answer. To the surprise of many, there are very few people that I know are Christians. For most people, I have no idea and neither do you. Only God knows who is his and who isn’t.

So in the single day where I deliberated and asked advice from several people, I also studied this out for myself. I needed to know what I believed before I made a decision. So I did what I usually do and went back to Scripture itself.

From there I came to a new conclusion: marriage was a universal good that preceded the fall of mankind and this was critical in a lot of ways. One of those ways is that it’s one of a few, universal goods we find before mankind fell out of God’s grace and into sin. Here we see that taking care of Earth and its inhabitants or work and handling responsibilities is good, along with marriage itself. Therefore, these things must be better than the lack of them.

It’s better to be taking care of Earth than destroying it. It’s better to work hard than to be lazy. It’s better to be together than to be alone. Adam and Eve were alone, but God united them.

Premarital Prep

But should everyone be married? No and that led to my next question. Should they be married? They were dating for years, lived together raising teenagers, and were in their 40s as a couple after previous long-term relationships. From first glance, this was a very stable relationship already. So why did they get married?

Well, for them it was about telling their world and the world that they were together forever. Similar to how Protestants look at baptism, it was an outward expression of an inward decision. A pledge from the heart to be one with the one they love. For them, this was a permanent promise and I could discern that in prayer. The intent was there and obvious.

So over a period of 4 months, we did about 8 sessions of premarital counseling leading up to the wedding on July 24th, 2021. We began with Larry Crabb’s book, The Marriage Builder, but realised that book is dated and not that good. So I developed my own material for them to finish the rest of the sessions of premarital counseling. Using a framework I made from a previous blogpost of mine, each week we focused on 1 of the 5 core pillars of any good marriage: worldview, social status, intimacy, finances, and communication. This was what they needed and it worked well.

When the premarital counseling ended in early June, it gave them almost 2 months to prepare the rest of the wedding and myself time to think through what the hell I was going to say during the ceremony. As a preacher, sharing a message at a wedding is drastically different from your typical Sunday sermon. The atmosphere, the audience, and even the actual flow of this type of public speaking is far different than a normal church service.

Believe it or not, for the life of me I couldn’t get myself to write the message until it was the day before the wedding. Usually I write out my messages on Google Drive a few days earlier in the week word-for-word, wait a day or two, and then hand-write the key ideas into bullet points in my sermon journal the day before sharing it. This time, I buckled down with a glass of my reliable Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban whisky neat and got to work in the afternoon. I eventually stopped writing after hours around 1:00 am and then picked up again later that morning of the wedding. Quick advice: don’t do that.

Wedding Day

Regardless, I finished the message right in the knick of time and headed to the Historic Rapids Lodge & Restaurant in Grand Lake. During the end of my over 2 hour trek there, I prayed for their future as husband and wife. After typical set up and small talk, along with teaching Dawn’s son how to play chess it was time to start the ceremony.

Now I can’t recall everything I said because a good half of it was improvised in-the-moment, which is my style of preaching. Mostly the examples and jokes were on the fly, while the main ideas and structure was relatively intact. Either way, here’s most of the basic outline I had written in my sermon journal:

  • All rise.
  • On behalf of Dawn and Joe, I want to thank you for being here today. Not as observers only, but as active participants of the first day of the rest of their lives.
  • Marriage is a covenant, not a contract.
    • Contract = the desire to gain
    • Covenant = the desire to give
  • Marriage is the personal promise to be someone’s always and forever.
  • Let’s pray for the bride and groom.

Their Marriage Story

  • Dawn, you look beautiful and lovely on this wonderful day.
  • Joe, you look… present.
  • After all these years as your friend, it’s my honor and privilege to be here officiating your special day.
  • Before we share their marriage story, I’d like to share a personal promise from the book of Ruth.

Ruth 1:16-17 (NLT)

“But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to seperate us!”

  • When I met Dawn
    • I was 18 and aimless
    • AvidMax highlights
  • When I met Joe
    • I was the investigative instigator
    • The moment I knew you were the guy for Dawn
  • Rules to Remember
    • Life is a garden.
      • Explain inosculation
      • Marriage is when two gardens become one.
    • Head, Heart; Hands
      • Actively listen and empathetically act.
    • Life is a pain, but God is our joy.
      • You get to be married, so live like it and embrace the adventure.
      • There will be trials and triumph, yet God will always be your constant.
  • Be one, be open, and be optimistic.

Outro

  • Vows
  • Rings
  • I pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Mr. and Mrs. Quinn!

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think it went ok for my first time officiating a wedding. They loved it and the crowd thought it was hilarious. Most of the audience didn’t know me, so I used that as my comedic edge to catch them by surprise with shocking zingers and also to balance the more serious stuff. There were definitely minor things I would do differently, but I wouldn’t have known those things anyway unless I had already officiated a wedding before. You don’t know until you know those sorts of things.

My only major regret was skipping over the vows section of the wedding on accident because of my nervousness. Not nervous from the public speaking per se, but more so the pressure of just trying to give them the wedding they wanted. Total amateur move, but learned my lesson there. Don’t veer from audience expectations and tradition too much or else some key moments could be missed that people want to see.

Either way, this is one of the highlights of the year for me and I’m glad I got to be a part of it with them. Cheers to the mighty Quinns! With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

The September Sessions

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 9/20/2021

It’s been 3 days since I returned from my sabbatical. I was gone from September 1st through September 17th and learned a lot in that time. I figured out so many ideas in that timeframe, but I’ll just cover some highlights.

Sabbatical Reflections

First of all, being able to reconnect and live life with my family in another state was amazing. Getting the opportunity to spend over 2 weeks on vacation was tremendous. I’ve never done that before. It’s the longest vacation I’ve ever had.

I spent half the time with my sister’s family and then the latter half with my brother’s family. Investing in the people I care about most with the joy that comes from joking around to the more personal conversations you can only have with those you trust. It’s an experience overall that I will never forget. These moments have made permanent marks in my memory.

Then again, my favorite aspect of this sabbatical on that front was just seeing how my family has transformed in just 5 months since I last saw them. How their kids have grown up and are beginning to discover themselves at differing stages of life. For some, learning how to obey or trust is their biggest challenge in life. For others, learning how to do fractions or play football. In it all, I see how I encountered those challenges at those ages and hope in some way they learned how to overcome their challenges better with me being there.

Yet believe it or not, this wasn’t a vacation primarily. In fact, I left with a goal and things to do away from the restrictions of everyday life back in Colorado. This was a writing trip and my focus day-in and day-out was to work on a project I’ve had for over 6 years.

New Book

I’m writing a book. I’ve attempted to finish this book at multiple points, but the timing was never right to finish or even work on it. Too much change. Too many things I needed to go through before explaining to you. It’s what this blog has been building up to this entire time.

Sure, I started this blog in June of 2015 with some thoughts I doodled on a notepad during a flight from my uncle’s wedding in Cabo San Lucas in May of that year. But that wasn’t all that was going on at the time. What began in 2015 was a young 18 year old man deconstructing from faith. This book is about that story.

The story of how I chipped away and crushed the unstable foundations of a fake faith. A worldview that could barely see beyond the borders of modern American Christianity. A faith worth leaving for something better. My hope is that this story is ready and published in 2022. Stay tuned for updates on that front in the months to come on this blog.

New Blog Posts

With that said, I will still write on this blog. I’ve got two recent sermons I’ll translate and post here, along with new content as well. For now, here’s some insight into my plan for this blog:

  • Oct. 15th – Dawn + Joe’s Wedding
  • Nov. 30th – Book Update
  • Dec. 15th – An Ordinary Life: Physicality

For the time being, the book is my main priority and writing here will be less frequent until I’m done. I’m not going to stop writing here. I did just post a poem called Likes For Lust, which addresses how I’m processing issues like the Ravi Zacharias scandal. Outside of that, I’m bunkering down for the foreseeable future to get this done. It has to get done. It’s why I started this whole website in the first place. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Likes For Lust

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 9/5/2021

What’s the world like for women?

What’s it like living among the men?

Everywhere evil is being done to God’s daughters.

Murder she wrote would indicate this is man’s slaughter.

They’re meant to be without blemishes, but we’re the rotters.

If they want to get ahead,

Then they’ve got to get head.

When they’re done, they’re dead.

No purpose, just pleasure instead.

This is the reality of every woman worldwide.

Vultures picking apart the deceased inside.

Crows to corpses, we defy those that died.

We throw stones and wonder why they’re so emotional,

Little did we know that those stones hit only the personal.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Ghandi or Ravi,

Women are always the victim of somebody.

Exit stage left and maybe we can end the tragedy.

We shame their sexuality for public protection.

If this was a courtroom, there should be objections.

We strip their dignity for some short-term satisfaction.

We like to lust, yet they dread all the social notifications.

We say love is lust, but honestly we just love to lust.

From a desire for them to lie with us, we lie for trust.

The currency of man is exchanging beauty for rust.

But God knows you and can redeem beauty from ash.

His standards challenge the heaping strongholds of trash.

Who is the man that forgave the woman caught in adultery?

The one who gave the woman at the well back her human dignity?

It’s the same man that drew sins in sand for the men screaming blasphemy.

In the beginning, women were made co-equals to rule Creation.

It’s here when man failed to protect that sin began its infestation.

Hand-in-hand and rib-to-rib, man and woman were made to live.

When sin was found out, instead of owning it man chose to give.

It was the man of the house who failed his own spouse.

He could have taken responsibility, but his ego refuses.

Now men spit out a theology that espouses excuses.

I suppose my words will not sway opinions of disdain.

Then again, pearls before swine is quite simply vain.

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Now and Not Yet: Your Impact on Eternity

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 12-15-2020

Back when I was in high school my youth pastor Andrew used to ask us over and over in the Leaders In Training (LIT) discipleship group: “How will you impact eternity?” This LIT group was for high school students who wanted to become leaders in their communities and was co-led by Andrew. We met for over a year consistently and the friendships I built in that time I carry to this day.

When the group ended and we all grew up, it was tragedy that brought us together again. The funeral for the best LIT student: Ryan. While I sat there watching one-by-one as people spoke about how Ryan did all of these deeply impactful things for others asking for nothing in return, it made me reflect.

Would I be known like Ryan as a man who put others before himself, even until the very end of his life? Would I be like most of us in the group and eventually leave God to pursue things that have no ultimate value to them? Would I be one of many who aspire for the things of God or one of just a few who actually attained it?

It was during this funeral when those words of Andrew hit me again: “How will you impact eternity?” I didn’t know the answer that day, but I do know the answer today. Everyone has an impact on eternity, but not in the same way.

Now vs. Not Yet: What’s the Difference?

There’s only two ways to impact eternity. In fact, I believe there are only two types of people in this world. Those who are meant to impact eternity now and those who are meant to impact eternity at a time that’s not yet here. This is tricky, so let me explain each one briefly.

In the first half of people, we have those whose impact must be now. They are or were born in a time and place where their impact is within their lifetime. For example, think of Martin Luther King Jr and how his impact on eternity was immediate. It had to happen within his lifetime or else we would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for his strong influence during the Civil Rights Movement.

In contrast, the other half of people are those whose impact is not yet. It’s people who are laying the long-term groundwork to impact those in the future. For instance, think of Malcolm X who was very important in his time and yet is now more important than ever during this time in history. Just as Dr. King defined the 1960s, so too Malcom X has defined the 2020’s just as they’re getting started. So how does this relate to eternity? Let’s look at a visual for help.

For the sake of concept, think of eternity like a never ending line filled with many points along the way from beginning to end. Each point represents a moment in time, while the line is all of time and then some. We each inhabit a point in time, but that point in time is a part of a much larger story at hand.

For those who didn’t live for God, their impact is negative. For those who do live for God, their impact is positive. Now whether or not your life is negative or positive is not the focus of this blogpost, but rather when your impact will take place and how much of an impact you will have as an imager of God. To see when your life can impact eternity let’s compare the two most important disciples of Jesus: Peter and Paul.

Both were absolutely necessary figures within the Kingdom of God, but with completely opposite aims in that pursuit. To see the full scope of this comparison, we’ll examine one figure at a time and their overall impact. Let’s begin with Peter and then go into Paul.

Peter Was Now

St. Peter in Prison by Rembrandt Van Rijn | 1631

There’s a reason that Peter is mentioned more than any other disciple in the Bible, second only to Paul. Peter was essentially the go-to-guy for Jesus because he knew that Peter powered by the Holy Spirit would accomplish things that none of the other disciples could. Peter lived in the now.

What he did had to be done when it did because time is always ticking for people whose impact on eternity is now. It’s right now and can’t be delayed. It has to be done before you die or else you will be considered unfaithful to God. A servant in the Kingdom of God who was not faithful with the investment God gave to them. This wasn’t Peter. He did what was required of him and then even more. People like Paul run the race of faith, but people like Peter sprint like it’s a 40 yard dash.

Did he do things that still have an influence to this day? Sure, but that wasn’t his main aim. He wrote letters and still has an influence on our culture, but not nearly as compared to what he did within his lifetime. Without Peter being as faithful as he was to help lead the early church, we would not be where we are today as a church.

Paul Was Not Yet

The Apostle Paul in Prison by Rembrandt Van Rijn | 1627

But Paul was built different. Being a scholar and a former Pharisee, he was a man of the written word first. Where Peter was a man who preached passionately, Paul was a man who wrote prolifically. Paul lived in the not yet.

When compared to any other author in the Bible, Paul has both written the most and had the greatest impact on the modern church in how we think aside from Jesus of course. From the current controversies with his writings to the striking statements that are even more relevant to our day, Paul was ahead of his time and his biblical letters give testament to that fact.

His impact on eternity was not yet because the amount of persons whose lives were radically changed by the writings of Paul is too much to count. For instance, if it wasn’t for the book of Galatians or any of Paul’s writings, then Martin Luther’s 95 Theses would be radically different. Maybe not even happen at all the way that it did in the past. The ripples of impact reach far in the future and hence why Paul’s works ring so true to our point in history.

Conclusion

As I look at my own life, I see this parallel too with Andrew’s impact on eternity and mine. He is a Peter type, while I’m a Paul type. He is squarely focused on the Great Commission within his lifetime, yet I’m squarely focused on the Great Commission beyond my lifetime.

Together, we have a balanced approach to ministry to this day as we begin the early stages of starting a brand new church in the state of Colorado. A hard worker and a heady writer on the same mission to win souls to Christ. Our hope is to co-labor with Christ as he restores the reunited by way of the head, heart, and hands of Christian living.

Now will we have the same impact as Ryan at the end of our lives? Tough to say when you’re in the middle of a life being lived out, but time hasn’t run out yet in our own respective race in faith. The clock is still counting down and there is work to be done for those here and now, but also for those not yet here.

Lastly, it’s your turn. You need to seek God and ask when will your impact on eternity take place. Will it be within your lifetime right now or beyond it? By considering your calling from God (2) and preparing your mind for action to implement that calling (3), then you can find out how you will impact eternity. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
  3. 1 Peter 1:13

How To Celebrate Halloween

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 11-1-2020

Like most days in the year, Halloween is a day filled with contentious debate. Although this isn’t necessarily everybody who finds the day controversial, but rather Christians who have quite the beef with this day in particular. Yet when examined further, we find that these assumptions about this day of the dead remain buried by the fact that it’s simply not pagan (2). For instance, it’s origins are steeped in the traditions of French and Irish Christians that mixed their cultures with other cultures into the melting pot that is America.

Regardless, a more important question comes up when these holidays within our respective cultures arrive to be celebrated once again. How should we celebrate these holidays? As Christians or believers of other faiths, how should we approach the holidays? More specifically, how should we approach Halloween?

Earlier this month, I was talking with a friend over the phone about Halloween and how it’s okay to celebrate it as Christians. We discussed a lot beyond that, but I’ll just share what I talked with him about on how to approach Halloween. What we centered our conversation on was three key questions.

What is Christian?

The first question is what is Christian? With this question, I wanted to guide the dialogue to the Bible and how Christians have always approached holidays respectively. This first question can be done within any respective religion as well.

For Christians, a key biblical text is Colossians 2:8-23 and how because of the substance of Christ’s sacrifice these cultural celebrations are now merely symbolic if anything to the believer. They went from days of religious repetition to righteous remembrance. We are not obligated to repeat these traditions, but rather we now get to remember what these traditions mean to the Christian faith.

On Christmas, we get to celebrate the birth of Jesus. On Resurrection Sunday, we get to remember how Jesus rose on the third day after paying the debt of sin with his death. Again, look at Colossians 2:14-17 one more time: “having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” From a biblical vantage point, it matters more why we celebrate holidays than how we celebrate holidays. With that in mind, how we celebrate still matters and that ties into the second question. But for now, always ask yourself why before you ask yourself how.

What is Cultural?

The second question is what is cultural? For this one, we focused a lot on the nitty-gritty of how we celebrate holidays. I’ll just bring up one point we discussed during this second question. When it comes to how we celebrate, is there a way to know what’s worth celebrating?

In my favorite passage in the Bible for ministry, Paul writes that we should “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil (3).” In other words: test everything, embrace good, and avoid evil. Now let’s apply that filter to Halloween.

With all of these customs and traditions, we just can’t celebrate everything. I mean, there’s some pretty dark activity done on Halloween and some great fun too. Does that mean we stop celebrating Halloween because bad stuff is done on that day? No, you just don’t do the bad stuff. Let me explain.

Traditionally every October 31st, kids and parents go door-to-door to collect candy in costume as they say “trick-or-treat” to their neighbors. Has this always been the tradition though? No, not at all.

The costumes are originally a French Christian tradition to honor those who have died, the date is relatively new compared to other holidays, and the involvement of parents is in direct response to the Black Halloween of 1933. This was when teenage boys caused so much vandalism nationwide in America in response to the Great Depression that cities considered banning the holiday altogether before giving it a family-friendly revamp (4). So the Halloween you know today is not even historically accurate.

Truthfully, the modern celebration of Halloween is just like Coca-Cola. The original was way more dangerous and fun, but now it’s a watered-down cash grab that has brainwashed you into thinking it’s good because you have so much nostalgia for it. Put in simple terms, All Hallows’ Eve is now just a hollow shell of its former self.

So now what? Well, celebrate it. It’s a great custom that brings communities and families together. If we’re being honest, is there anything remotely morally reprehensible about a kid dressing up as their favorite superhero and collecting candy? Not in the slightest.

But if you want to go holier than thou, then what if a kid in remembrance of Chadwick Boseman dresses up as Black Panther to honor one of those who has gone before us and who in fact was a Christian too. That’s faithfully sticking to the roots of Halloween. On the other hand, the standard celebration usually has some adult woman laced up in a slutty cat costume in the hopes of getting some action with her toxic ex at a party that looks like a high school reunion, but with more botox and booze. Then again, to each their own.

At the end of the day, reject all of the bad done on Halloween or any day for that matter and embrace the good. Learn about the holiday, adopt the customs that are good, and then avoid the bad. You can even choose not to celebrate altogether which is totally fine too, but that leads into the final question.

What is Convicting?

Lastly, what is convicting? After all of this information and knowledge has been discussed, it’s still your choice whether or not you are comfortable celebrating any holiday. Convictions are not meant to be advertised to all, but they are meant to be respected when in the company of others who know of said convictions.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul dissects the idea of liberty into two compatible halves: knowledge and love. We all have varying degrees of knowledge and love that combines into your current convictions. That’s why every conviction is different from person-to person. Some of us eat meat and some of us don’t. But what matters most is being aware of your convictions and when aware of other people’s convictions, being the better person and honoring their commitments to a conviction as well.

Paul points this out when he writes: “But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ (5).” If you want your convictions to be valued, then you must value the convictions of others. This value is found in the active balance of knowledge and love.

Without love your conviction is prideful and without knowledge your conviction is pointless. Therefore, find the balance between what you know and what you love. For the Christian, this love is Christ. For the non-Christian, it’s anything but Christ. If you as a Christian have a conviction that is not Christ-centered, then you have bastardized your own behaviors and beliefs.

When we were nearing the end of our conversation, we ironically pointed out our different convictions of food. My great friend is convicted about eating pork, while I am a simp for lime pork street tacos. With that knowledge in mind, I can now love my friend by not eating pork around them. If my friend doesn’t eat meat, then I don’t need to either when I’m with them for their sake. What divides us should never get in the way of what unites us.

I have the conviction to take time every Halloween to read up on the Protestant Reformation because the anniversary just so happens to land on the very same day. It’s a tradition I’ve made for myself and I will repeat it every year. Then again, I do also enjoy spending time with others doing more traditional Halloween customs. Either way, I choose to celebrate Halloween. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. https://youtu.be/fu-5BmAzbrU
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NASB)
  4. https://www.history.com/news/halloween-haunted-house-great-depression
  5. 1 Corinthians 8:8-12 (NASB)

The Potter and the Clay

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 8/30/2020

Wrote this last night in about an hour and decided to post it here on the blog. It’s a poem inspired by a concept in Romans chapter 9.

This is the potter and the clay.

The latter was molded in a day,

While the former made the day.

This is our life I hope to portray.

The potter knows what the clay will become.

Maybe one day a daughter or one day a son.

Could be a father or even someone’s mom.

The potter knows the clay and then some.

The potter molds the clay.

He molds all of it everyday.

The clay has no actual say,

Yet the potter listens anyway.

The potter molds the clay with meaning,

But the clay is dirty and needs cleaning.

The potter finds his creation appealing,

Yet the clay resists for the time being.

The potter adores the clay.

The clay wants to fly away,

But the potter wants it to stay.

The potter is patient with the clay.

The potter is content.

He loves to invent.

Creating with intent.

It was quite the event.

The potter knows all of the clay,

Even that it would choose decay.

The potter created black and white to guide our way,

While the clay pretends that everything is a moral grey.

The potter has the right to make vessels of honor.

The potter has the right to make vessels of dishonor.

The molded always seems to question the molder,

But the clay should be grateful that it gets to be older.

If only we knew our constant need to pray,

Instead we would rather be sin’s daily prey.

Hopefully we learn it’s okay to not be okay.

This is the story of the potter and the clay.

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Moses: From Man To Myth | 1-29-2020

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/25/2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students understand the person of Moses for a series called fresh start.]

Introduction

For the past three weeks, we have been studying this idea of a fresh start. With Adam, redemption. With Noah, a rescue mission. Then with Abraham, reality and reason in conflict. Now with Moses, we’re going to see how God brings revolution after reconstructing a man on the run.

But tonight we’re going to see how Moses had the right motive matched up with the wrong move. He had the right idea, but the wrong execution of it. Go to that first passage in Exodus 2:11-15.

The Motive | Exodus 2:11-15

Now a little context after we’ve just read the text. Moses was born Hebrew, but raised Egyptian. When he was a baby, he was adopted by the royal Egyptian family after he was hidden by his biological mother. This was because there was a decree to kill all male Jewish babies in fear they might grow up to resist Pharaoh by joining opposing nations and becoming free from enslavement. Also, Moses’ biological mother was the nurse whose job it was to take care of him in the Pharaoh’s palace.

With this in mind, Moses was born into Jewish royalty since he was an ancestor of Abraham and raised in Egyptian royalty for the first part of his life. He was a bridge to two worlds. A man torn between two different men’s legacies in his life: Abraham and Pharaoh. God called Abraham to be the founder of the nation of Israel, while Pharaoh was hellbent on their annihilation.

Years later here in Exodus 2:11-15, we see these two motives in conflict. His desire to free his people or to submit to the authority of his step family that ruled the nation. Next, we see his decision. His motivation throughout this whole story is to save his people. He chose freedom over fear. Yet, he went about it the wrong way. 

As a step-son of Pharaoh, he had the authority to order the Egyptian to stand down and stop beating the fellow Jewish slave. He could’ve commanded him to let the slave get back to work, but he chose the fast road to justice and killed the Egyptian instead. Burying him in the sand of the desert and then makes a run for it once he realizes that news of what he did has spread throughout the land. He had better options and chose poorly. Peace is for the patient and this is a quality that Moses has always lacked.

Needless to say, once Pharoah finds out and Moses escapes to hide from his warrant for his death. He chose the quickest solution to fighting injustice and ended up bringing even more consequences then there needed to be in the first place. When we try to fight injustice with what appears to be the easiest solution, we can actually end up bringing more harm than there was before. Because of what Moses did, the very people he was trying to save ended up staying enslaved for even longer in Egypt. 

The Mission | Exodus 2:25, 3:10

Moses is on the run, Pharaoh is even more brutal to the Hebrew people than before, and now God is going to initiate his next move through all of this by giving Moses his mission. We just saw his motivation, but now God is going to give Moses a clear mission to save the Hebrew the way God had always planned. Let’s read Exodus 2:25 and Exodus 3:10.

In life, I usually think I know what I’m doing next. How to make the next move. How to get where I want to go next, but God always has other plans and a better way of getting where we need to go.

For instance, I thought I was going to become a filmmaker who would dominate that industry. But God gave me a series of simple jobs, so that I could pursue serving others in my community by becoming a writer to advance our understanding of God. I had motivation and a mission, but God made it even better.

Likewise, Moses will save his people and this mission will eventually inspire a movement that will influence generations to come. But first, how did Moses free the Hebrews? How did God execute this mission he tasked Moses with here in these two verses?

Well, here’s the brief version of the story. God sends Moses to Egypt to speak with Pharaoh. Pharaoh said no, Moses tried again. Same thing like last time. This goes on a couple times until Pharaoh’s son dies and finally lets the Hebrew people go. From there, Moses leads the Hebrew people on their long journey to the promised land.

The Movement | Exodus 13:3

Jump to today, Moses is the figure of several movements in history. For example, Harriet Tubman was often called Moses because she freed slaves in America. Also, Superman has been compared to Moses in the way that he was born and other parallels within that story.

Just like them, you have two legacies you can choose from in your life right now. You can either go through the motions or be apart of the movement of God. You decide. Let’s pray and go to small groups.

This was my last sermon taught while serving in the youth group of my church. My best sermon? No, but I enjoyed the process of making it and wrapping up this series created by the new leadership for our youth group. Given during a time of change in leadership when I was stepping away as a new team was stepping up to take charge for the forseeable future.

Are they ready? Not even close to ready, let alone qualified. But neither were we when we started the youth group 3 years ago. They may not be qualified, but God has called them and if receptive to the leading of the Spirit will do great things in ministry. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1.  Free stock photos · Pexels

All For One + One For All | 10-16-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/23/2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students study the book of Galatians verse-by-verse.]

Introduction

Last time I preached, we talked about idiots and influencers. This time it’s all about family and friends. But first, let’s read the text and then find out how to treat others, along with why we should treat them well. Let’s read Galatians 6:1-10 first.

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.”

How To Treat Others

This text we just read has two main points: how to treat others and why we should treat them well. We’ll focus on how before we go to why.

Alright, let’s just tear the bandaid off. You’re not that important. You’re really not too important. At least, you’re not too important to avoid helping other people.

It’s just true. You’re not too busy or famous or rich to help others who are in need. No one is too important to help someone else. Why? Because we all face the same issues just in different circumstances. We all have dealt with the same problems, but at different places in time and with different people.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and music throughout the week. Back when I was a video content creator, it was my whole job. To consume content and create it. Follow the latest trends and then start new ones with the company that I worked for at the time.

Anyways, I was listening to a podcast with Dr. Jordan Peterson and he has this quote where he’s talking about what brings meaning to people’s lives. What will help people know they have a role in the world and he said this: “I think of people as beasts of burden in some sense. We’re built for a burden and we’re not happy without that burden. We want to find the one that suits us (2).” In other words, part of our design is to help others with their problems. To serve a need not being met and to meet it to the best of our ability.

My family does this by making sure my Mom has taken her medication that prevents her seizures. Your family might be one where everyone pitches in to help take care of someone who can’t take care of themselves. Whatever that need is, it’s important and it requires your help. If Jesus thought it was important to help you, then you can help others. If not, then don’t call yourself a Christian because to be a Christian is to be like Christ.

How do we be like Christ? It’s pretty simple: obedience, opportunity, and then ownership. We live to obey Jesus by looking for opportunities to help others, so that we can take ownership of our faith. In other words, always be open to helping others and especially if it’s your own family.

But family doesn’t just mean those you’re related to or grew up with as a kid. As Christians, family also includes other Christians as well. When my Dad was in Russia as a missionary at the tail-end of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, he said his favorite part of being a missionary was meeting other Christians. Meeting family around the world who you had nothing in common with and yet you both had a relationship with Jesus.

The family of God is a real, tangible relationship with God that you shared with other people in different parts of the world. For Christians, your family is not just defined by the blood you share, but also by the blood that Jesus shed. Every family is defined by the blood that unites them, including the family of God.

Why Treat Others Well

So we know how to treat others, but why should we treat others well? Why does God want us to treat others the way we want to be treated? Well, for a few reasons.

First off, treating others well helps you have a bigger network. There’s plenty of people who only lookout for number one and they end up empty by the end of it. They burn bridges, they push friends away, and generally are really lonely people. On the other hand, when you help others you build bridges, create community, and give yourself way more opportunities than you could ever get yourself on your own.

Helping others and treating them well is also proven to improve your mental health for the better. According to mentalhealth.org.uk (3), helping others can reduce isolation by giving someone a sense of belonging, increase your happiness, and studies even prove that those who help others live longer because of their healthier well being. At the end of the day, helping others is more beneficial to you than living just for yourself.

Lastly, helping others is one of the reasons we are here as Christians in the first place. Jesus gave every Christian two commands to follow: to love God and to love others. We are commanded to do this as Christians because this is what Christ did. He was all for one and one for all. He loved God with all of his heart, mind, and soul. Then he loved everyone equally.

We too like Jesus are all for one and one for all. We love one God and each of us loves all people. We love because God first loved us. We can help others even when they don’t deserve it because God always helps us. So go help yourself by helping others and honoring God. Let’s pray and go get into our small groups.

I really like this passage of Scripture and loved sharing this message with the students. Like I’ve said in previous sermons for this particular study in Galatians, we were covering a lot of ground and not with time on our side either.

With that said, this message had a lot of good to share with our student body at the time. Being an active member of your community, mental health, personal responsibility, and so on. Very much a boots-to-the-ground kind of sermon where it’s extremely applicable universally, which I liked very much. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1.  Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. https://youtu.be/AscPHmLWo-M
  3. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/doing-good-does-you-good