calvary chapel

simply teaching the Bible simply. this is the mission statement for the calvary chapel church movement, and for that, i am thankful.

raised a calvary chapelian, it was all i understood as church. everything i learned about religion (relationship! <—see!), about God, about Jesus, about the cross, about salvation, about church, about worship, about the gospel… i learned from calvary chapel. and everything else i thought… was wrong.

week after week, whether it be at costa mesa with superstar chuck smith, or in a home church pastored by a family friend, one thing was emphasized with passion over and over and over again: read your Bibles. and for that, i am forever grateful.

and for doing exactly what they told me to, i have left the calvary chapels.

before the hairs on your neck stand up and defenses rise and fingers get ready to attack the keyboard in a rage thinking this is some sort of bashing on a church or a system or a denomination (or a non-denomination?), let me be as clear as i can: i am grateful for a group of people who strive to make Jesus and the Bible known, and who preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). in fact, if it wasn’t for a calvary chapel, my mom wouldn’t have known Jesus, and wouldn’t have dragged me as a kid to hear about Jesus, and i wouldn’t be in pastoral ministry, for the intent of planting a church here in rancho. i dare say that perhaps many who read this would agree and also testify to a calvary chapel being the place they first heard about Jesus, and were given new hearts by Jesus, to live for and follow Jesus, for the purpose of finding joy and satisfaction in Jesus. so calm down.

something has been happening though, that the calvary chapels never really anticipated. people actually did start reading their Bibles.

visiting with numerous families and friends from church yesterday, i realized just how true this is. the majority of the church that God has been growing significantly by His power in the past year, is being filled with people who have left the calvary chapels. sitting and hearing their stories, they shared how by reading their Bibles (on their own, outside of a Sunday service or a mid-week study), they began to discover the beauty of the gospel in ways they had never seen or heard before in church, the sovereignty of God in ways they had always feared, and the amazing realization that grace is never Jesus + me, but Jesus alone. this is not just happening in my church, it is happening all over the country. (http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1884779_1884782_1884760,00.html)

i pray that the calvary chapel churches continue to simply teach the Bible simply, for the saints in the church, the souls in the world, and the glory of God. it is never about us vs. them, or right vs. wrong, which i pray is not how any of this comes across. it is about we are all wrong, and only Jesus is right. we are all bad, and only He is good. our idea of what “the gospel” is bears no power. only His gospel regenerates hearts and brings new life. and the more members of calvary chapel who search the scriptures seeking Him (John 5:39-40), not their leaders, their ideologies, their systems or their traditions, the more amazing grace will become.

and i look forward to seeing them soon.

 

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the mass christmas text

message |ˈmesij| noun: a verbal, written, or recorded communication sent to or left for a recipient who cannot be contacted directly

as i received a plethora (how long have i been waiting to squeeze that into a conversation?) of text messages beginning at midnight this morning from people who i rarely hear from the other 364 days of the year wishing me a merry christmas, it became evident to me that the entire feel of christmas and holidays and celebration and joy has been greatly diminished, not because of the loss of the message, but rather because of the way it is now communicated and shared.

when you graze through scripture, especially the epistles of the new testament, you sense a genuine love and concern for groups of people (churches such as those in thessolonica, rome, and ephesus), and for individuals as well (such as philemon, titus, and young timothy). they each centered around a common message (the advance of the gospel), but each author or writer also took the time to pour out his heart to them (1 thessalonians 2:7-8), encouraging them in where they were weak (philippians 4:8-9) reproving them for what they needed to stop (1 corinthians 8:9), and instructing them in how to live their lives as to best represent the glory of God to the world (colossians 3:17). these early recipients must have truly appreciated any message they received because it was something they knew required someone else’s time and love, and most important, a message worth laboring over.

we have lost the beauty of letter writing. no “messages” really truly exist anymore, because everybody today is in some form or another connected to somebody else. we all can be contacted directly, quickly, and personally, via phone calls, e-mails, iChat, skype, faxes, facebook, twitter, and the most common of all beautiful message destroyers… the text message.

this isn’t a text message bashing, because then i would be a fat hypocrite. instead, it is a simple comparison of our modes of communication in today’s world with the messages we “need” to share with one another, and the message that the Sovereign God of the universe wanted to send to us, and more importantly, the way He graciously and humbly chose to send it.

from the beginning of our world as we know it, God has been speaking. “God said..” starts off the story of origins. our God is one who chose to reveal and disclose Himself in a way that we can know, love, and enjoy forever. psalm 19 speaks of creation as declaring and speaking His glory to the world; the visible singing about the invisible. romans 2:15 says that because we are made in His image, we all have a conscience within that bears witness not only to our sin, but to His righteousness as well.

the gospel, summed up (not exhaustively) in the work of Christ on the cross where He received our wrath and we receive His grace, was God’s true message to a lost world, and could have been delivered via the clouds in the sky, a fire by night, or a voice from heaven. the God who created everything from nothing, could have delivered His message of redemption and reconciliation to the slaves and the broken through any means He wanted. He could have sent a mass text message to all of us saying that He has created a way for the sinner to be justified before a righteous God, for the healing of the nations and the advancement of His glorious Kingdom. but He didn’t.

“and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” john 1:14

He delivered the message Himself.

Immanuel!


periwinkle blue

born in 1949, graduated 7th in his class, welcomed into a large family, with a personality of deliberation, purity, and conservatism. no, i’m not describing a person.

i’m describing a crayon. (http://www.crayola.com/colorcensus/americas_favorites/display.cfm?color=268)

periwinkle blue, to be more specific.

getting its name from the myrtle herb vinca minor of the plantae kingdom, this is often a color that only artists, girls, and kindergartners with crayola boxes can acknowledge and describe. to most everybody else, periwinkle would simply be understood as a variation of the more commonly recognized color, blue.

now let us examine the background of another. this time, a real person.

“…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of israel, of the tribe of benjamin, a hebrew of hebrews; as to the law, a pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless…” (philippians 3:5-6)

“my manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in jerusalem, is known by all the jews. they have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion i have lived as a pharisee.” (acts 26:4-5)

“i am a jew, born in tarsus in cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day..” (acts 22:3)

paul the apostle, was a pharisee, which meant he was very aware of the Jewish religion, and was educated under the feet of gamaliel (“reward of God”) which meant he was very knowledgable regarding the old testament law. here was a man who not only had the equivalent education of a modern-day ivy league school graduate, but who also later in his life was given the incredible privilege of being taken up into heaven to see and hear things that were too wonderful for human words or descriptions (2 corinthians 12:2-4).

here was a man, who understood periwinkle.

paul had such an amazing grasp on the deep realities of God, he could understand with precision significant theological truths, and he wrestled with the mightiest of matters such as election, justification, and the sovereignty of God.

and yet, although he may have understood these things (not to their fullest extent because like us today paul still saw through a mirror dimly (1 corinthians 13:12)), although he had matured from spiritual milk to spiritual food (hebrews 5:12-14), although he saw the beauty, the majesty, and the grace that stemmed from periwinkle, he decided to make his primary message, a blue one:

“for i decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 corinthians 2:2)

today, i look around the church, and especially at the Christians that comprise her, and i find myself desperately seeking and praying that she come into a greater understanding of and love towards the “periwinkle” of the gospel. the gospel is like a diamond, the proclamation of the “good message,” which reflects multiple aspects of radiant light that shines through and from it in multiple directions. i desire with all of my heart for both christians and non-christians to see the beauty of God through the gospel He has delivered to us through His son Jesus Christ and His accomplishment on the cross, because the more they “know” the periwinkle of God, the more joy they will receive and the more He will be glorified!

if people, however, do not understand the concept of blue, they will never understand that periwinkle is a variation and an expansion of the basic color. if people do not understand what walking is, how can we expect them to run? if they do not know the alphabet, how can we expect them to read a sentence? if they do not understand what the gospel is, how can we expect them to share it?

some of us may be on the opposite side of the spectrum, and find ourselves content with just knowing blue. we have no desire to go to the depths and richness of the color, to see just how many variations and beautiful images that blue can create and display. if that is you and you call yourself a disciple of Jesus, you need a serious sharpening of your crayon. it’s time you upgrade from the basic box of 16 crayolas with broken pieces and dull edges, to the big kid 96 count box with the sharpener for when you get dull, and of course, the periwinkle crayon.

 


love, actually

either it’s my infatuation with the romantic comedy (that to this day is still the only film that has brought a tear to my eye at the end of it) that makes guys like hugh grant and the beach boys seem dreamy, or it’s my recent conversations with so many hurting and struggling people (who are experiencing some of the life’s most difficult yet real problems) that has challenged me to reconsider and remember what love actually is, and what love, actually does. it’s probably not the movie.

a mother in a hospital bed, all alone except for annie the kind nurse at her service, in the middle of the night, in pain, afraid, and hopeless.

“how do you know that God is real?”

a best friend at a school, tears in her eyes, a silence in the air, filled with confusion, anger, and neglect.

“i wish you would love me how you used to.”

a relative recently released from the hospital, a mind battling between reality and madness, cursing, threatening, and singing, feeling “like what f****** Jesus must have felt like when He was crucified.”

“do you pray for me?” “yes.” “do you pray for me everyday?” “no…”

a family member recently hurt by a close family friend, in an incredibly personal way, struggling with bitterness, rage, and forgiveness.

“it’s really difficult to deal with…pray i don’t let my flesh get in the way and make things worse.”

unfortunately, i could go on, and on, and on.

and these conversations alone have all taken place within the last six days.

jonathan edwards explained the fall of man (and woman) from the genesis account in a way unlike any i’ve ever heard before, concerning love, actually.

from his sermon on 1 corinthians 13:5 (“charity/love…seeks not her own”), he explains:

“the ruin that the fall brought upon the soul of man consists very much in that he lost the nobler and more extensive principles, and fell wholly under the government of self-love. immediately upon the fall the mind of man shrunk from its primitive greatness and extensiveness into an exceeding diminution and confinedness… whereas before his soul was under the government of that noble principle of divine love whereby it was, as it were, enlarged to a kind of comprehension to all his fellow creatures; and not only so, but was extended to the Creator, and dispersed itself abroad in that infinite ocean… but as soon as he transgressed, those nobler principles were immediately lost and all this excellent enlargedness of his soul was gone and he thenceforward shrunk into a little point, circumscribed and closely shut up within itself to the exclusion of others. God was forsaken and fellow creatures forsaken, and man retired within himself and became wholly governed by narrow, selfish principles.”

basically, because of sin, we seek our own happiness and place our love in things that only bring us pleasure, not in things that bring others pleasure. the mere fact that we have the capacity to dislike and like, approve and disapprove, and be please and displeased is not sin; these are part of what it means to be human, just like the ability to reason, think, and will. it is only when we attach these human faculties to something or someone apart from God that they become evil.

we are evil because we seek our satisfaction in our own private pleasures but do not seek it in the good of others.

the american concept of love is one of investment and return; i give, sacrifice, and pour into you, so that you can and will do the same thing for me in return. i love you, not as an end in itself, but as a means to my greatest end, which is ultimately my satisfaction. i love you, because of the benefits it will bring me.

mere self-love savors the gifts of others and ultimately the gifts of God without savoring fellowship with them, simply for who they are.

love, actually then is when we place our satisfaction (which is natural, like hunger) in the happiness and goodness of others, so they get our love, and we get the joy. it is a win-win situation.

Jesus in His parable of the great banquet (luke 14:12ff) says, “when you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. but when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you…”

possible cancers. broken relationships. missing uncles. bitter confrontations.

love, actually is the most difficult of responses, the most unnatural to our sinful hearts.

love, actually is the most needed of responses, the most neglected to our vengeful nation.

love, actually is the most commanded of responses, the most beneficial to our hurting world.

love, actually is only possible, when we receive, believe, and trust in the gospel of Jesus Christ, where He gave up everything for our sake, with our happiness and joy in His mind, at the neglect of His.

“for our sake, He (God) made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God…” 2 corinthians 5:21

 

 

 


confessions of a winning loser:a loving response to a friend’s heart

simul justus et peccator. simultaneously righteous and sinful.

a good friend of mine just recently posted a blog sharing all of the gifts of grace she has received from Jehovah Jireh (the Lord who sees/will provide), showing that belief in Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 cor. 2:2) and Christianity as a whole is not something that steals and robs from humans, but that it is rather a worldview that dignifies and restores them back into the state for which they were created: a right relationship with creation, each other, themselves, and God. ultimately, to bring Him glory best by being satisfied and enjoyed by Him most (concepts and words basically stolen from jonathan edwards and most recently, john piper). i was grateful for her reminder of all we gain from Him, through Him, and for Him (romans 11:36).

the title of her blog was, “i am NOT a loser,” and in response, i would like to confess and share with all that i unfortunately, am. borrowing from one of her definitions of the word which defines a loser as “a person who has failed at a particular activity,” i wouldn’t have enough fingers on both hands to keep track of how many activities i have failed at… just within the past 24 hours.

i failed my best friend. i failed loving people. i failed proclaiming the name of Jesus to those who need Him. i failed attending church. i failed paying my cell phone bill. i failed a friend who needed some help looking for a book. i failed praying for all of you i said i would pray for. i failed working on my school project. anyone have any fingers i can borrow?

as his deepening sense of the radicality of human sin grew, martin luther saw and realized the importance of repentance in the life of every true believer. yet for a while he battled vehemently with the idea of how anyone could come to trust, or even love a God who simply was out to judge righteously against everyone who was guilty of sin. was forgiveness and the promises of the gospel dependent upon the sincerity of the sinner’s confession? could a “loser” truly be seen as a “winner” in the eyes of God Almighty? how could an unrighteous human stand before a righteous God and live? it was these thoughts that led luther to even say “i did not love, yes, i hated the righteous God who punishes sinners…” (quoted from the unquenchable flame, michael reeves, 47).

until paul’s words from romans 1:17 opened his heart to the beauty of the gospel. “for in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘the righteous shall live by faith.'”

“here luther saw for the first time truly good news of a kind and generous God who gives sinners the gift of His own righteousness. the christian life, then, could not be about the sinner’s struggle to achieve his own, paltry human righteousness; it was about accepting God’s own, perfect divine righteousness. here now was a God who does not want our goodness, but our trust.” (reeves, 48).

the mysteries of the atonement where God the Father imputes His own righteousness onto us, giving us a “just” status before Himself, not a just character, and taking upon Himself in the form of Jesus Christ His beloved son all of our unrighteousness, is what luther liked to call, the great exchange. all true disciples of the one mediator Jesus stand before the one awesome God by the regeneration of the one Holy Spirit, as winning losers.

we were not special (ephesians 2:8). we were not righteous (romans 3:10). we did not look better than anyone else (1 cor. 1:26). we did not stand out from the crowd (deuteronomy 7:7) we were losers (genesis 3:23-24). paradise, innocence, freedom… the very presence of God. lost. until Jesus came, and won everything for us.

in a paraphrase of tullian tchividjian’s words, the gospel frees us to lose, because Jesus won. it frees us to die, because Jesus lived. it frees us to enjoy God forever, because Jesus suffered His wrath in a moment.

“and you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. this He set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in the cross…” colossians 2:13-15

we win because He lost…we win because He will win.

 

 

 


naked

he looked me directly in the eyes with a penetrating gaze, a man i had just met one week ago, and begged me to promise him that as a pastor one day, i would never, ever judge people. with great hesitation knowing the responsibility that would come with that promise, and yet knowing the power of the gospel and its ability to make strong those who are weak (2 corinthians 12:9), i humbly made my friend a promise.

he didn’t stop there. he referenced the story in the bible about the woman that was “caught” in adultery by the pharisees (the religious moralists of Jesus’ day) and thrown before Jesus to trap him. in your bible, this story is found in john 7:53-john 8:11, and although it is not found in any of the earliest manuscripts we have of the bible, it still has some powerful lessons to teach regarding judging people.

according to the story, early in the morning the scribes and the pharisees brought before Jesus a woman who had been caught in (the very act) of adultery. these were the most religious people of Jesus’ day, and therefore, the most serious about their religion and their God. we often hear “pharisee” and say “evil!” although now knowing what we do about what was truly going on inside their hearts through scripture (whitewashed tombs, see matthew 23:27), we have to put ourselves into the shoes of a first century Jew witnessing this event and hearing its story. this would be the modern day equivalent of mother theresa, billy graham, and rick warren casting a stripper before the church doors. these people are not evil or pharisees, i just want to stress the “kinds of people” the pharisees appeared to be before the world. good ones.

it’s obvious from the text that the woman “caught” in the shameful sexual act was set up. by who, we do not know, like some other factors in this story. we know that the man (i’m no mathematician, but it takes two to commit adultery) is not present, either because he set her up or he in fact was a part of the scribe and pharisaic mob trying to test Jesus. the missing man is important because we know from the old testament that if she was in fact married and caught in adultery, the prescribed punishment is that they both are to be put to death (leviticus 20:10, deuteronomy 22:22), and he is nowhere to be found in the accusal. the only place OT law requires stoning as the type of death is when it regards a woman betrothed to be married caught in adultery (deuteronomy 22:21), and therefore this woman from the story is worthy of punishment indeed for her sin of engaging in sexual activity before her marriage is consummated, and should be judged accordingly by Jesus to uphold His glory and the law.

“let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” this was Jesus’ response. He accused the accusers. He judged the judges. He pulled the rug out from the pit they had dug for Himself, and they fell hard. after they all left slowly, one by one,

Jesus stood up and said to her, “woman, where are they? has no one condemned you?” she said, “no one, Lord.” and Jesus said, “neither do i condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (john 8:10-11)

here was a naked woman lying at the feet of Jesus. in the eyes of the religious, she was an easy target for judgment. she had lots of things against her, especially if she were to be brought before God Incarnate. think about it, the scribes and pharisees had planned this out, and of all people they chose to cast before Jesus as someone to judge was this woman; a girl who perhaps already had the reputation for being sexually promiscuous. she was easy. she dressed provocatively. she _____, she ______, and she ______. plenty of things to judge.

those who are homosexuals. those who curse. those who like graffiti. those who are sleeping with their girlfriends. those who smoke cigarettes. those who drink alcohol. those who smell. those who dress weird. those who are socially awkward. those who have lip rings. those who like nietzsche. those who take 30 minutes to pray… before a meal. those who preach semi-pelagianism. and on, and on, and on. who would you throw before Jesus?

my friend looked me in the eye one more time and said “as a pastor, you are going to be leading so many naked people. so many people that have so many flaws and problems and sins. naked people will be around you everywhere. how will you respond? be like Jesus, and love them before you judge them.”

“for you say, i am rich, i have prospered, and i need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked…”(revelation 3:17), for we are born naked, and “naked i came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall i return,” (job 1:21), and are given the great responsibility as God’s people to not judge the naked, but rather to “cover him” (isaiah 58:7). Isn’t that what God did for us?…(genesis 3:21)


refills

i recently witnessed an intriguing pattern taking place in the local starbucks. as i sat there writing, i noticed than an unusually large amount of customers had come in and not only ordered their teas and coffees, but actually sat around (some even stood) gulping and chugging them as quickly as they possibly could. now originally i had thought wow, these people really must love their beverage to drink it that fast (my black pike place is perfection in a cup, but it takes me at least an hour to enjoy the warm delight of a grande sized drink).

as i reflected on this more and more throughout the week knowing it had some theological implications to it (which is almost an embarrassing snapshot of where my brain tends to dwell in any given week), i realized something profound. it wasn’t necessarily their love and/or passion for the coffee or tea they were consuming, although they obviously did quite enjoy it, it was the cheap refills they could get without having to pay full price again that forced them to down their drink with pride and speed, even at the expense of either brain freeze or burned tongue.

one man literally refilled his iced tea six times (from when i was there). another lady was so desperate for a cheap refill that after ordering four other drinks (hot drinks, mind you) to go, in the carrying case and all, she still sat down and drank hers as fast as she possibly could, to save $1.50. she even noticed my observing her, and laughingly said “i really just want a cheap refill before i go!”

this is what is happening with many “christians” in the “coffee-shop” of the evangelical world, the church. they go to church on sunday, to taste Jesus in a way. they like the way He tastes. there are many churches proclaiming a Jesus that is (only) appealing and wonderful and delicious, where all are singing “oh taste and see that the LORD is good!” (psalm 34:8), just like an extra hot gingerbread latte, with whip cream in a red cup. but that taste of the Jesus they like and enjoy comes with a cost… they have to sacrifice their sunday morning. their sleep. their money. their football. whatever it may be, to taste Jesus first requires some sort of sacrifice.

here’s the problem. as with the starbucks refills (for $0.50 cents in case you were wondering), most christians who attend services on sunday morning not only go to taste Jesus once, they make that time and take that time to “refill” or get as much of Jesus as they possibly can while they are there, because they want to make sure they get their money’s worth of what they have sacrificed for Him. they diminish the value of the drink, when the focus is on the cheap refill.

nobody wants to really go to starbucks and spend two, three, four or five dollars on a drink they really enjoy, and have to turn right back around and buy another one. but if you really love the drink, you happily will. you’ll even come back later that day, and even the next day, for more. the amount of worth you have placed in something is reflected in the sacrifices you freely make for it.

if you are the christian who goes to church to not only taste Jesus, but to get your cheap refills of Him through the preaching or the worship songs or the fellowship or the Christian talk or whatever it may be, trying to fill your soul and stuff your heart and overflow your spirit with as much Jesus as you possibly can to hopefully carry you through the next week until you have to pay full price for Him again the following sunday, then i beg you to reconsider your passion for the drink for the drink’s sake, instead of the refills.

to “be filled with the Spirit,” as scripture (ephesians 5:18) commands all believers and followers of Jesus, is something that is done sacrificially (2 samuel 24:24), continually (1 thessalonians 5:17), joyfully (1 thessalonians 5:16), and patiently (luke 4:1-2).

and Jesus, is our example of all. He could have paid a cheap price for us, those whom He was sent to redeem. but He didn’t and He couldn’t, because the price for sin was far too expensive. “and if you call on Him as Father (God) who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 peter 1:18-19).

drink Jesus. enjoy Jesus. be filled with Jesus. be satisfied in Jesus. be still before Jesus. go share Jesus.

then, come back for some more of Jesus.

“o God, you are my God; earnestly i seek you; my soul thirsts for you…my soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when i remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night…” psalm 63:1, 5