The New Blog

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your support and encouragement over the last few years! In an effort to better serve you and to streamline my life over summer break, I’ll be moving the blog over to this weekend. Things should generally look the same, but you might notice a few slight changes:

  • Change #1: You need to sign up for emails again, but it’s easy and better

Starting this week, you can now sign up for either the Daily Post (which delivers the day’s blog post each day) or the Weekly Digest (which delivers the week’s posts each Friday). You can subscribe at, but you can also go right to the signup form:

Click here to sign up for the Daily Post.

Click here to sign up for the Weekly Digest.

  • Change #2: No more ads

I was never actually that clear on if you had to wade through ads on my blog before, but I’m pretty sure that now you don’t. How’s that for confidence?

  • Change #3: I’m looking for feedback

That’s not to say I wasn’t looking for feedback before, but I’m in blog-updating mode right now, and I’d love your input. Are there things I should do more often? Less often? Do you care when the email arrives?  I’m all ears.

So, without further ado, come check out the new blog (that looks strangely like the old blog) at!

Yours in Christ,


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The Fear that Leads to Abundant Life

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

-Proverbs 1:7

The beginning of a river often starts subtly: A melting snowcap, a million drops of rain, rolling down tree trunks, seeping through the underbrush. Yet, before long, it’s crashing together and cascading downhill, bringing clean, clear life.



Knowledge, too, starts with something seemingly simple: “The fear of the LORD.” Not a degree or a genetic advantage or a particular age or experience or instructor. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.

The fear of the LORD is not terror, per se. It is recognizing, acknowledging, concluding that there is a God, and I am not that God. It’s something very like the simple second step from Alcoholics Anonymous:

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

-Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, “The 12 Steps Illustrated”

The fear of the LORD starts to gather and gain momentum when we realize that the very definition of “God” suggests this God is above me. That this God is above me implies that what God is like effects me. Thus, I should investigate what God is like. If this God deserves something from me, I should find out. If this God has power over me, I should know.

To jump right to the N-th step, if God is truly revealed in Jesus Christ, then what Jesus Christ says and does will become significant, perhaps consuming. Unexpectedly, Jesus Christ reveals that God not only deserves something from us but also wants something for us, that He has come like a shepherd, “That [His flock] might have life and have it abundantly.” What God wants, deservers, does, promises, cautions, provides–all these questions warrant inquiry and response.

It all starts with the fear of the Lord. When we recognize that there is “a Power greater than ourselves,” we find that we live in a different world than we otherwise thought. This new world only starts with a vague recognition; it begs exploration and deserves our lives and promises knowledge–the knowledge that leads to abundant life.

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Pastors: Neither Boast Nor Complain

For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

-Galatians 6:13-15

Here Paul refuses an alluring and easy mindset for ministry: Counting. The misleading teachers in Galatia apparently wanted to count circumcisions (a fairly graphic and theologically troubling endeavor); we like to count baptisms or conversions or members or attenders or visitors or dollars or books sales or campuses or church plants. Like them, we are prone to counting for the sake of boasting, if only to ourselves.

We like to take credit for the good; we prefer to blame someone else for the bad. Somehow, we’re able to boast about our congregation’s strength and complain about our congregation’s weakness simultaneously. Bonhoeffer comments on the latter:

Pastors should not complain about their congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. Congregations have not been entrusted to them in order that they should become accusers of their congregations before God and their fellow human beings. When pastors lose faith in a Christian community in which they have been placed and begin to make accusations against it, they had better examine themselves first to see whether the underlying problem is not their own idealized image, which should be shattered by God. And if they find that to be true, let them thank God for leading them into this predicament. But if they find that it is not true, let them nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of those whom God has gathered together. Instead, let them accuse themselves of their unbelief, let them ask for an understanding of their own failure and their particular sin, and pray that they may not wrong other Christians. Let such pastors, recognizing their own guilt, make intercession for those charged to their care. Let them do what they have been instructed to do and thank God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible: DBW 5, pp. 37-38

We should neither boast nor complain. As much time and effort as pastoring requires, we will only escape these two infections if we remember this: “Neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” Only new creation counts, and only God can create anew. Thus, we need only (can only) boast in the surprising cross of Christ.

It’s a joy to come back to Seattle and see former youth group students thrive in relationships, jobs, faith, service, character, and insight, not least of which because the gap between what I taught and what they do, what I modeled and what they’ve become, what I understood and what they have mastered looms so large. The chasm reveals that I can’t count any of these young adults as “my creations.” In terms of human ministry, other people with gifts and wisdom I lack have cared for and raised these men and women. Zooming out, God has directed all this new creation.

It is only left to me to “do what I have been instructed to do and thank God.”

“Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

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How Faith/Love Is Like Health

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

-Galatians 5:6

Why is this the thing that “counts” in Christ Jesus, “faith working through love”? What does this mean, and what’s so special about it? Is there faith without love? Is there love without faith?

The New Testament’s continual answer (to these last two questions) seems to be “no.” There is something like faith that lacks love. There is something like love that lacks faith in Jesus Christ. However, faith as God designed it cannot not love. Love as God designed it finds its model, inspiration, and power in Jesus Christ’s love.

When we believe something, it will determine the way we speak and act, at least in particular situations. This is what Elaine Graham suggests in Transforming Practice: If an idea is not enacted and embodied through praxis (that it, idea-driven practice), then it is not actually normative and authentic for that community. Conversely, as she puts it:

What is normative and authentic for the Christian community is enacted and embodied in praxis.

-Elaine Graham, Transforming Practice, p.139

When we try to enact faith in the love of God–the love we see in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ–the fitting embodiment is love. In fact, this idea was prevalent in the Christian community long before “embodiment” became a buzzword in 20th c. thought:

Was not Abraham justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”…For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

-James 2:21-23, 26

Faith working through love is like health. Health is not a test result; it’s what our bodies can actually do. Meanwhile, doing something doesn’t mean we’re healthy enough to do it, as we may well discover when trying to get out of bed the next morning.

Likewise, as those in Christ, what counts is the spiritual health of faith working through love. If we want to love, we need to develop the trust in, understanding of, and focus on the love of God through Jesus Christ that helps and enables us to love. If we do believe in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that faith will change the way we use our actual bodies. If we really believe, then we will move our lips differently to make different words, we will move our limbs differently to perform different deeds, to love our neighbors as ourselves, as we now know and believe God has loved us.

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For Christ is By Christ

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

-Galatians 2:20

When I read this verse, two things happen. First, I hear the tune we learned it to in Team 3, the in-house Awana-like program I attended as a child. Second, I automatically think about how I need to stop living for myself and start living for Christ. I don’t want to belittle that; it’s a valuable reminder of a fitting and important truth.

However, this verse tells us more than that we need to stop living for ourselves and start living for Christ. It also assures us that we can stop living by ourselves and start really living by Christ. Christ lives in us. What we couldn’t do we now can do and what we couldn’t not do we’re able to refuse. We can become who we weren’t and move on from who we were. We can be loved by God and love God and love like God, all because Christ has stooped and delighted to live in us. We can live by faith in Christ because Christ has been, is, and will be faithful.

The very practical point that should not be missed in this claim that the reality of heaven is now in some sense “accessible” to the church is that the very transformative energy of the age to come (“the powers of the coming age” [Heb 6:5]) is already being made available to the church for its ministry and mission. Alas, all too often the church today is being run on the natural energies of this age, rather than the supernatural energy loosed by the resurrection of Jesus and the descent of the Spirit! If we have lost our heavenly imagination, we will be disinclined to access, by faith and prayer, the heavenly energy from above.

-John Jefferson Davis, Meditation and Communion with God, kindle loc. 1186

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A Hard, Promising, Merciful Commandment

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he he will cast you off forever.

-1 Chronicles 28:9

Sometimes, it’s easier to care for someone than to care about them. By that I mean, when we feel no affection for certain people, it is easier to do something for them than to feel something for them. In fact, we sometimes believe that we cannot change how we feel.

This is problematic, considering none of us really feel the affection for God that such a good and holy God deserves. Because of this, it can be intimidating to hear that God searches hearts and understands every plan and thought. I go to church. I do devotions. I try not to lie or cheat, but these alone don’t fulfill the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” I sometimes wish I could trick God by my behavior into believing that I’ve fulfilled this command, but I haven’t, and God knows it.

David’s command here can seem heavy. “Serve him with a whole heart and a willing mind.” He’s asking Solomon to dig much deeper than changing some of his behavior. He’s asking Solomon to take on a less conquerable task. It seems like hard advice, but it’s also a promising and merciful command.

God’s desire for our hearts is promising because our love steers our life. If we start by learning to love God, our love for God can change our loving and our living, our present and our future. Jonathan Edwards wisely said,

That which men love they desire to have and to be united to, and possessed of. That beauty which men delight in, they desire to be adorned with. Those acts which men delight in, they necessarily incline to do.

-Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections (Banner of Truth, 1994), p.317

God’s desire for our hearts is merciful, because it gives us the chance to please God today. Despite what culture says, there is such a thing as “too late.” It’s too late for me to be a doctor. Someday it will be too late for me to have been a perfect dad. However, it is never too late for me to please the God who sees my heart for what it is. My heart may always be disordered, but if I turn to and trust Him with an honest heart, I don’t have to convince Him–He knows, and He is pleased..

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

-Psalm 51:17

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Calling It Good

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

-Psalm 138:8

I can trust God’s purpose for me without knowing what it is, because I know God and Who He is. To trust His purpose is to aim to do what He would have me do, but it is also to accept His evaluation of it in the end. To trust his purpose is to say, “I am discarding my own expectations as measuring tapes for my life; I am throwing away others’ expectations, too.” If God says it is good then I will try to do it, and if God says it is good, then I will call it good.

This often means committing to the responsibilities that God has put before us, such as family, neighborhood, congregation, business, or friends. It often comes at the expense of what we’ve been told to choose: Not just money, but also ministry worth writing about in the paper, experiences worth Instagramming, sometimes our dreams. Yet, we will not be disappointed in the end if we exchange our hopes for God’s hopes for us. He is the God of all wisdom, our loving Father, the Beginning and the End. He knows. More over, He has promised: “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me. Your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.”

Young adults desperately collect experiences. They almost seem to be operating under the idea that by collecting the largest number of travel, sexual, thrill-seeking, drinking and social experiences, they will be happy. Yet to [my wife] and me, these young adults seem far from happy. Many of them wander from bed to bed, pub to pub, ski area to ski area in a haze of unfulfilled good cheer—cheer that only touches the outer layers of the soul.

-Everett Worthington Jr., Coming to Peace with Psychology, p.220

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