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

Entangled

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

Here is a poem that I wrote on June 2nd, 2019 that was inspired by a period of time in my life in 2016.

The itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.

Down came all the rain and washed the spider out.

I don’t know about you, but my life feels like a drought.

How will I make it through when I’m emotionally In-N-Out?

I could draw an S.O.S. or scream out loud mayday.

This life has been nuts and yet when’s my PayDay?

I committed and persisted, yet my life just found a way.

As if all of the build-up of promises never even had a say.

Watching them succeed has me craving to feed greed.

Are these desires and dreams of mine a need?

Among the grass, I’m the new invasive weed.

Outside I look fine, but inside I just bleed.

I say a lot that life is pain,

But God is our only joy.

Is my cute quote in vain?

Is God the imagination of a boy?

I’m a broken city invaded with shame,

Like when the ancient troops took Troy.

I’m a small bug in a spider’s web: entangled.

A dropout loaded with debt: strangled.

Like dried-up roadkill: mangled.

Hung over the edge: dangled.

But then I always remember.

That cold night in December.

When I left the Colorado Film School.

Hit the brakes hard and let the tires cool.

I gave up my childhood dreams

To join someone else’s new team.

I exchanged libraries for sanctuaries.

My anxieties could crush my capillaries.

Out came the beaming sun and dried up all the rain.

So then the itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.

I had so much to gain and in the end it was all my own vain.

Always thought I was Abel, but I’m just Cain with all his disdain.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

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

Why I Only Agree With 80% Of What You Just Said

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 9/22/2021

I’ve got a weird rule. No really, it’s something I use everyday when talking to anyone. It’s the 80% rule. What’s the 80% rule exactly?

Well if I find myself agreeing with someone more than 80% of the time, then I need to step back and find where we disagree. It’s a checks and balances sort of rule where I prevent myself from agreeing too much with anyone. Why do I have this rule? For a few reasons.

Why 80% and not some other percentage?

Honestly, it just makes sense to me. If I were to choose another percentage like 47% or 90%, then it doesn’t seem realistic. For instance, there are people who you and I agree with a lot.

Whether it’s a coworker, a spouse, or even someone you grew up with like a friend or a neighbor. There’s just some people we genuinely agree with the vast majority of the time and that’s okay. Everybody knows someone who they know well and almost always agrees with them. This rule of mine is applied to those circumstances too because it’s often the case that the people we know most are the ones we either strongly agree or disagree with in life.

Speaking of disagreements, let’s talk about family.

For example, my siblings are a great case study of this dilemma. We all grew up in the same home, with the same parents, under the same rules, and were given the same values. Yet now that we’re adults, we have the freedom to truly find who we are and it’s both strikingly similar or even a stark difference to how we were raised. Some of us are literal copies of our parents in how we behave, how we say certain things, and even what we believe about specific ideas. Then again, in adulthood all 5 of us do have a few key differences.

For starters, we’re just not the same on a personality level. Going by the Enneagram we’re all different numbers: Rachel (Type 1 – Moral Perfectionist), John (Type 3 – Successful Achiever), Me (Type 5 – Intellectual Thinker), Corban (Type 4 – Romantic Individualist), and Nathan (Type 6 – Loyal Guardian). Worldview-wise some of us are Christian, while some of us are not. Even then, my Christian worldview is not the same as those other Christian siblings either.

Politically, you can’t get more diverse. We have a centrist, two conservatives, a liberal, and a libertarian. To put it mildly, family gatherings can be a firecracker of an event when we’re all together and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Putting the 80% rule into practice.

We need more diversity in our disagreements. One of the main motivations for me avoiding talking to anyone online is because people have forgotten how to disagree. I don’t want echo chambers, but I don’t want a Facebook fight night either. I want civil discourse on important discussions. So I choose to have those in-person where we share the same space and I can see how they feel.

I dare you to disagree with me, but not at the cost of who you are as a person. I’d rather people freely leave Christianity, then be bound into believing it. There’s a hot take for you.

In all seriousness, it’s okay to be in the minority when it comes to what you believe. It’s also okay to be in the majority. Know what you’re about and stand by it with dignity. Question everything and when you’ve found the answer, then be content with it. Regardless, avoid for dear life the cognitive dissonance of agreeing 100% with anyone because that’s how cults get made and dictators rise.

My disagreements with God.

Can I be honest? When Christians don’t disagree with God it concerns me tremendously. I have strong disagreements with God and yet still choose to live my life submitted to his will for it. Why? Well God’s personal like you and me, therefore we’re going to disagree on some things.

When I see people who don’t disagree with God on anything, I then wonder if they also share this with other people they wholeheartedly follow no matter what they do. That’s called worship and the only one worthy of that is God. Even in my disagreements with God, I can acknowledge that absolute fact of reality that only he deserves our worship.

Unlike humans he’s not broken, corrupted, or flawed. He is perfectly good and that’s good enough for me to agree to his plan for my life. I’d encourage everyone to do the same, but only if you agree to it. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Greatness

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 1/30/2021

What is greatness?

Is it being blameless?

Aimless or even famous?

What’s the basis of greatness?

Some say that it’s to be a world famous celebrity.

A person who actualizes into their own manifest destiny.

Etching their earthly impact onto the past pages of history.

And yet how will these crude crusades actually impact eternity?

When the dust finally settles, will we look at what we did apologetically?

For most of us, we’re not brave enough to reconsider our self-made legacy.

Is the cost of fame always the same?

Lurking in our own shadows of shame?

In the hope that someone knows our name?

Who do we blame for what we willingly became?

If this is our ultimate aim, then this is a fixed game.

These fickle aspirations we all have are ironically tame.

Let’s go back and reflect on what greatness is to God.

Have you considered the idea that greatness is a mutual fraud?

That you can go to any side of the world and find this sin abroad?

The lie that whatever you do must be followed by applause is odd.

This is the human mirage.

Our own self-harm sabotage.

To believe we need an entourage,

Is the most dangerous type of barrage.

So then what is the answer to what is great?

How do we end the debate and no longer fixate?

Since when did we define where we draw the line?

If not us, then how do we find out God’s grand design?

I think it lies at the purpose of our ancestors in the garden,

Prior to being cast into the wilderness of an untamed arden.

What was their purpose before sin sowed its seed into the soul?

What was greatness to God before our hearts corrupted into coal?

As Zack Eswine in his book puts it in extensive literary poetry,

“Heroic moments have as their aim the recovery of the ordinary (2).”

That is, what we deam ordinary is in actuality the God-given extraordinary.

The way to make a global difference starts when we embrace our own locality.

As imagers of God our title assumes responsibility.

Both to our Earth and its creatures, along with all of humanity.

Greatness is ultimately the pursuit of cultivating God’s creativity.

Why else would Jesus dwell among us for 30 years before starting his ministry?

Could it be that greatness is defined by an example of Eden-like mundane activity?

A life well lived that is needed, but not known beyond a town in the vastness of our galaxy.

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. Sensing Jesus, P. 48

Trump Is King Saul

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 1-20-2021

There are a lot of parallels made about Trump. Even more so within the American Christian community. From Cyrus the Great (2) to Nebuchadnezzar (3), some Christians associated with the current conservative political movement or the Republican party have made such comparisons. I’ve even read of a few people making the bold statement that Trump is just like King David because they’re both flawed leaders that God is using for divine means to an end (4).

I’m not here to talk about those obviously wrong parallels. I think of all the comparisons that could be made, Trump is most like King Saul. Let’s see why that’s more likely the case from a character perspective.

But before I do that, let’s clarify something. Comparing anyone to any figure in the Bible is just an exercise in identifying who someone is like, not who they are in reality. For instance, I could make the case that I’m a parallel to Joseph in Genesis. We are known for our analytical intellect, God speaks to us in dreams, and we both have autism (5).

With that said, it’s just a comparison to aid in our understanding and not a pinpoint accurate psychological look into who someone truly is in real life. This is a common and normal exercise, so now I’m simply applying it to President Trump. With all of that said, who was King Saul?

Who Was King Saul?

Saul under the Influence of the Evil Spirit by William Wetmore Story | 1865

For the sake of time, I’ll paraphrase Saul’s story. In other words, this is the highlight reel and doesn’t cover everything we know about the guy. Here’s the gist of what happened.

At this point in history, Israel was ruled by way of a kritarchy which is a nation run by judges. After years of mixed results and finally with the failure of the prophet Samuel’s own two sons, the people of Israel demanded a new form of leadership like the neighboring nations. They wanted to be ruled by a king.

So Samuel went to God in prayer and asked what to do for the Israelites. Here in 1 Samuel 8:7, we have God’s response: “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.”

Like God had instructed, Samuel informs the people of Israel on how things are going to change under this new leadership style. He will take their children and use them for his own means to fulfill economic, political, and even war purposes. He will take the best of everything in the land for those most loyal to him and enslave the people under his rule. Lastly, when the people realize they have made a mistake God will not save them from the collateral consequences of their collective choice.

As time went on, Saul quickly went from a promising first king to a tyrant that threw out all of the traditions of his own people for personal gain. He made promises before God and others, but broke them with little remorse. He cast out anyone that questioned or threatened his power. He even hunted the man God chose to replace him which was David and his own son Jonathan who chose to obey God, rather than his unruly father.

History now knows that Saul was the king of compromise. Saul was a people-pleaser, but God was never pleased with him. David did become king of Israel and gave God the glory, yet Saul was always wondering who would give glory to him.

In the end, Saul had no faith in God and his lies only led to loss. Our response to conflict reveals our character and Saul will forever be known as a coward. The promising king was now just a man whose promises meant nothing.

Who Is President Trump?

President Donald Trump via axios.com

Now look at the Trump presidency and how it ended. The parallels speak for themselves. It began with a lot of promise for some people. He claimed to end abortion, build a wall, and fix the economy so that everyone would benefit. Whatever you think of those issues for yourself or any other issues for that matter, there are people who saw this outcome as extremely positive in 2016.

Actually, even a few as life-changing on par with the reactions that the Black American community had for Obama during the election of 2008. Like usual, both figures failed to deliver and live up to the hype. Although, for Trump his term ended with the shameful storming of the US capitol by his most ardent fans in a sad attempt to overturn the election. They took the bait of a lie that led to the death of 5 imagers of God, which is horrific for all involved.

Like an incel on OnlyFans, some Christians have crawled in lust to worship Trump and it’s shameful. Your ignorance doesn’t prove his innocence. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s the blind eye of the Church that has built up the ego of a man who craves the adoration of all. Several of those who voted for him were so focused on winning for once that they never considered what would honestly happen if he had won the presidency. Well, now we know.

Now can I criticize a public figure like Trump and be consistent as a Christian? Absolutely. Do I need to remove the plank in my eye before telling someone else to remove the speck in their eye? Of course. As I like to tell people, I’m a shit-show of a human being and need God to save me on-the-daily because I’m the worst. In humility, I admit I’m a failure and sin more often than anyone will ever know.

God gives grace to the humble and I’m glad he does because that’s all we can give him. We must approach God in humility and faith, if we want to be in his good graces. The problem is that Trump lacks the spine to be humble before God and his faith is a farce.

His actions have spoken for him in that regard. He doesn’t fear God because he’s too afraid of the god that is his own graven image. That’s disgusting and it’s even more so when we consider that some of us supported such crass behavior in our leadership that claimed to follow Jesus.

We as Christians should be the first to publicly oppose a political leader in sin and the last to publicly support anyone in politics. Our gaze should be fixed on the Kingdom of God, not our own kingdom that was never a nation under God. Participate in the present and that includes politics, but remember to remain focused on the future for that is where we will find rest under the sovereignty of Jesus as king. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. www.pbs.org
  2. https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/3/5/16796892/trump-cyrus-christian-right-bible-cbn-evangelical-propaganda
  3. https://communalnews.com/king-nebuchadnezzar-and-president-donald-trump/
  4. http://www.sfltimes.com/opinion/looking-to-the-bible-to-justify-allegiance-to-a-flawed-leader
  5. For more on this theory see Samuel J. Levine’s book, Was Yosef on the Spectrum?

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