Category Archives: Personal

This is a category for personal stories, funny jokes, etc.

Would you go?

If I’m completely honest with myself, I have two expectations:

  1. God desires me to be “successful” in my service to Him.
  2. If I obey His leading, He will make me wildly “successful” in my ministry.

As Americans, it would be unthinkable for us to say something like, “God has called me to a small, obscure ministry that will never bear much fruit; instead, I’ll actually pour my life into just a few guys and then one or two of them will have ministries that far exceed anything I ever could have accomplished.” Of course, if you really think about it, isn’t that what Christ did? Didn’t He just focus on 12 men who took His message much farther than He ever did? Interesting… but I digress, back to my two expectations.

It’s easy for us to think that God will be so amazed by our passionate devotion that He’ll have no choice but to make us the main catalyst for the next Great Awakening! But as I’ve been reading through the Prophets, I see something a little different happening. To understand what I mean, take a look at the “commissioning” of some of the prophets.

Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord

8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. (Isaiah 6:8-12)

Do you see what just happened? Isaiah answered God’s call and God told him to go preach to a people that would absolutely refuse to listen. Isaiah asked how long he is supposed to do this, and God tells him to keep preaching until the entire land is a desolate waste! That hardly sounds like the modern promise that God has a wonderful plan for your life. Let’s look at how cheerful Jeremiah’s commissioning is, I’ll just underline the parts that I want to emphasize.

The Call of Jeremiah

14 Then the LORD said to me, “Out of the north disaster shall be let loose upon all the inhabitants of the land. 15 For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the LORD, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. 16And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. 17 But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. 18 And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, forI am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1:14-19)

We see the same thing: Jeremiah is sent to fail. God doesn’t say something like, “Go to my people and save them from disaster.” Instead, he says “My people will be destroyed and I want you to spend your days calling them to repent. They’ll never do it, but that’s not your responsibility.” The same thing happens with Ezekiel.

Ezekiel’s Call

4 And [God] said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. 5 For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— 6 not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. 7 But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. (Ezekiel 3:4-7)

God tells Ezekial, “Although I could send you to a foreign nation, and although they would listen to you and worship me, I’ve called you to the house of Israel. They will reject you.” And don’t forget what God tells Hosea: “Marry a prostitute so she can cheat on you and have other men’s children. I will use this as an example to show Israel how they have cheated on me” (Hosea 1:2).

Do you see what’s wrong with my original two expectations? They’re completely wrong! If I’m honest with myself, I’ll admit that those two expectations are really just a spiritual-sounding twist on the American dream. So here’s the question that is haunting me (and I want to share with you so you’ll be haunted too): If you knew that God was not calling you to a successful ministry would you still go? The thing is, if I’m honest, I’ve created a formula that goes something like this:

God’s calling + my obedience = ministry success

But the truth is, as we’ve seen, God doesn’t call anyone to be successful, He doesn’t owe anyone success, nor does He promise anyone success. God calls us to faithful obedience, no matter what. We aren’t called to success, we’re called to obedience. I pray that God will give me the courage to obey Him unconditionally. So here’s my question for you: Would you go?

Termites

A lit­tle while ago, Con­nie and I noticed some stuff that looked like dirt or dust appear­ing on a wall near our refrig­er­a­tor. I assumed it was some pot­ted soil that had fallen out of a hang­ing plant we have above that spot, so I vac­u­umed it up and didn’t give it a sec­ond thought. But then it showed up again the next time I was vac­u­um­ing. The next time, Con­nie was vac­u­um­ing and saw what looked like a white ant. I had seen “white ants” grow­ing up in the woods of Ten­nessee. I sud­denly real­ized we had termites!

Before I knew it, our won­der­ful land­lord had called a pest con­trol spe­cial­ist and he was in our house tak­ing care of busi­ness. He drilled some holes in the con­crete foun­da­tion of our duplex and injected a chem­i­cal that spreads through­out the ter­mite colony and kills them a day or two after they come into con­tact with it.

But here’s the thing, I learned a lot about ter­mites and I think I’ve found the per­fect anal­ogy for what is arguably the worst sin:  pride. C. S. Lewis said of pride, “It was through Pride that the Devil became the Devil; it is the com­plete anti-God state of mind. Pride is essen­tially com­pet­i­tive in a way the other vices are not. Pride is a spir­i­tual can­cer. It is my beset­ting sin.”

One thing I learned about ter­mites is that they are capa­ble of enter­ing your prop­erty through a 1/64 inch hole. How big of a hole is that? It’s about as big as the period at the end of this sen­tence. Pride has the same abil­ity to infil­trate my life through tiny, tiny holes. In fact, I can become proud of spir­i­tual progress! For exam­ple, ear­lier this year a friend of mine both prayed that God would bring us closer to Him no mat­ter what. A few days later we both found out we prayed that prayer on the same day! We were both super encouraged, but after a few weeks we started to talk judg­men­tally about other Chris­tians who “weren’t as devoted” as we were. Before we real­ized it, we had become proud of our devo­tion to God! Pride is incred­i­bly sneaky and will infil­trate your heart in ways you can’t imagine.

Another thing I learned is that ter­mites are often called “silent destroy­ers” because they can be active in your home for years before you see any notice­able signs. Sound famil­iar? Pride is dif­fer­ent from many other sins because it doesn’t man­i­fest itself phys­i­cally. Sex­ual sin, glut­tony, addictions, drunkenness, anger, and a host of other sins can man­i­fest them­selves phys­i­cally. But we can look per­fect on the out­side but be dead inter­nally because of pride (for exam­ple, see Matthew 23:25–28). It may take years for our pride to actu­ally show, and by then it could have already done exten­sive dam­age to our heart, our soul, and all our relationships.

The final fact I’ll share is that ter­mites are very dif­fi­cult to get rid of per­ma­nently. As a mat­ter of fact, in many cases you can never be sure that ter­mites have been fully erad­i­cated and it’s impos­si­ble to guar­an­tee that they’ll never come back. This is why C. S. Lewis referred to pride as his “beset­ting sin,” because it can be nearly impos­si­ble to erad­i­cate fully. When he said “beset­ting sin,” he was refer­ring to Hebrews 12:1in the King James Ver­sion, which chal­lenges Chris­tians to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so eas­ily beset us.” Mod­ern trans­la­tions will say refer to a beset­ting sin as “the sin that so eas­ily entan­gles” or the “sin which clings so closely.” The point is sim­ply that there are cer­tain sins that we will strug­gle with until the day we die. For some, their beset­ting sin is lust, for oth­ers greed, and for C. S. Lewis and many oth­ers it is pride. Iron­i­cally enough, I think we are all plagued with at least one “beset­ting sin” to keep us from becom­ing prideful!

So the next time you won­der why God cre­ated ter­mites, real­ize that God in His infi­nite wis­dom cre­ated them for a pur­pose. I believe He cre­ated them to give us a pic­ture of what pride does to our souls.

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The Rest of the Story

Many Chris­tians appeal to the Ten Com­mand­ments as the ulti­mate exam­ple of God’s moral desires for us. And yet we (I say “we” because I’m guilty too!) quickly dis­miss that one about tak­ing a day off! So really, many of us point to the Nine Com­mand­ments as the ulti­mate exam­ple of God’s moral desires for us and we don’t even bat an eye at our casual dis­missal of the Sab­bath. For some time now God has been prompt­ing me to recon­sider whether I know bet­ter than He does and whether skip­ping the Sab­bath is wiser than delib­er­ately enter­ing into a day of rest.

Long story short, I’ve had an exhaust­ing semes­ter thus far and I haven’t taken a full day of rest since it started. Last week was par­tic­u­larly exhaust­ing because I was busy all day Tues­day; granted I went to the David Crow­der* Band con­cert and it was amaz­ing. But it essen­tially took up an entire day and left me tired and dehy­drated Wednes­day. I had trou­ble con­cen­trat­ing but did as much home­work as I could that Wednes­day. Then I woke up Thurs­day and did home­work almost all day. Then came Fri­day where I had class from 8–12, then had Air Force com­mit­ments Fri­day after­noon and most of the day Sat­ur­day. I stayed up until around mid­night trans­lat­ing Greek on Fri­day. Sun­day, I did a bunch of home­work until I felt like I couldn’t think any­more, then had another cup of cof­fee and went at it for a few more hours.

Then came Mon­day! I woke up early to go for a run and hope­fully clear my head. I did a lit­tle more review, and then I had class from 10:30 A.M. to 3 P.M. and from 6 P.M. until 10 P.M. And oh, by the way, I real­ized that I had for­got­ten to do my mid-term for my sec­ond class so I spent my 2.5 hour break play­ing catch-up!

I woke up yes­ter­day morn­ing utterly dis­cour­aged and feel­ing like I was com­pletely out of gas. I hon­estly didn’t even want to get out of bed. I had two voices in my head:  one told me to suck it up an get to work and the other kept whis­per­ing that I needed rest. The truth is, I hadn’t taken a day off in so long because I didn’t trust God. I didn’t trust God to come through for me and give me rest or energy. I didn’t trust God to come through so I refused to take a day off. After months of lis­ten­ing to the first voice, I decided to see if it was just pos­si­ble that God might have an idea of what He’s talk­ing about con­cern­ing the Sab­bath. I rested! I watched a movie. I hung out with my dog. I spent time alone. And per­haps most impor­tantly, I refused to feel guilty for rest­ing and instead chose to trust that God would give me refresh­ment from the past weeks and energy for the com­ing week. It was great!

Today, I woke up and I felt recharged. I feel ready to attack my home­work for the rest of the week. I feel like I wasn’t work­ing as effec­tively as I could have last week because I hadn’t rested at all. It was like try­ing to run a race with­out sleep­ing the night before. You might be able to fin­ish the race, but you won’t fin­ish well. I’ve decided that I want to take God’s instruc­tions about rest more seri­ously. I want to feel rested, refreshed, and ener­gized and I want to give Him the glory for giv­ing me strength.

Do you take a day of rest? When was the last time you felt refreshed? I encour­age you to carve out a day where you rest. Take a day to allow God to refresh you. Take the day in faith, trust­ing that God will give you energy for the rest of the week. You will never regret the times that you honor God.

You are more alone than you could ever imagine.

Ear­lier today I was lis­ten­ing to the News­boys on Spo­tify and an ad ban­ner popped up:

Discover which music is trending with your friends.

 

When I saw this I real­ized how alone and iso­lated we all truly feel. Per­haps that’s why social media is so ram­pant; in an attempt to feel inti­macy we’ve become hyper-connected. The prob­lem is that our social cir­cles have become very wide, but very, very shal­low. It’s almost as if the ad is telling me that now it’s no longer good enough to just lis­ten to music alone, now I also need to know what my friends are lis­ten­ing to. Strange, right?

If you don’t believe me or think I’m read­ing too much into a sim­ple mar­ket­ing gim­mick, take a moment to think about the per­son who knows you best. Per­haps it’s a par­ent or a sib­ling or a spouse. How well do they really know you? For exam­ple, my beau­ti­ful wife prob­a­bly knows about 5% of who I really am. She’s known me just over 5 years, so almost a 1/5 of my life. We were sep­a­rated 1.5 years of that due to deploy­ments. We don’t spend every wak­ing hour together, and even when we are together I don’t tell her every sin­gle thing that I think about. She doesn’t know  what hap­pened every sin­gle day of my life before I met her and she only knows a small por­tion of the days we do spend together.

So how well does my wife truly know me? And how well do I truly know my wife? And how well does that per­son truly know you? How fully and truly do we know any­one? Proverbs 14:10 affirms this when it says “The heart knows its own bit­ter­ness and no stranger shares its joy.” The Hebrew word for heart doesn’t just mean your emo­tional cen­ter or some­thing like that; the heart is the total essence of you as a per­son. The heart is the self that you know and, even deeper, the self that you don’t even know. The heart is who you truly and wholly are and it knows its own bit­ter­ness and no one can fully share its joy. Feel­ing alone yet?

And yet I find great com­fort in this thought. I don’t try to com­pen­sate by telling my wife every­thing in hopes that she’ll under­stand me. Nor do I con­stantly ask my wife what she’s think­ing so I can know her. Why? Because I rest in the firm knowl­edge that God does know me. Tim Keller, in The Wounded Spirit, said that “if you don’t have an inti­mate, per­sonal rela­tion­ship with God, you are utterly alone in the world.” And he’s right!

The com­fort­ing truth is that God knows me bet­ter than I know my self. Read Psalm 139 and you’ll quickly see what I mean. In verse 1, David says “O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” The word for search here means some­thing like “spy; probe; search; exam­ine; explore; sound out; see through; be explored; investigate.” God hasn’t just searched you out and found you, He’s also searched you within and knows you com­pletely. God knows us to a degree that is impos­si­ble for us to know one another or even our­selves. The descrip­tion continues:

“you dis­cern my thoughts from afar.

3You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

4Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O LORD, you know it alto­gether.“

(Psalm 139:2b-4)

God knows our thoughts before we have them because He knows the minds that pro­duce them. God knows all our ways far bet­ter than even we do. In fact, God knows us so well that He knows what we’re going to say before we do. David paints this won­der­ful pic­ture of God being with us from the moment we fall asleep to the moment we wake up (I awake, and I am still with you. Psalm 139:18b).

Wikipedia defines lone­li­ness as “an unpleas­ant feel­ing in which a per­son expe­ri­ences a strong sense of empti­ness and soli­tude result­ing from inad­e­quate lev­els of social rela­tion­ships.” Our great com­fort is that we’re never truly alone. In fact, we’re never, ever alone. Not if we know God. The Per­son who knows us bet­ter than we know our­selves is with us always; He will never leave us nor for­sake us. May you be com­forted by the knowl­edge that God does know you and He is always with you.

Ask too little

Many of us—myself included—are secretly afraid that we might ask too much of God. Ask too much? We ask too little!

God is a Father willing to give us Himself and yet far too often we ask for the fleeting trinkets of this life. We spend our time and invest all our effort into building up our treasures here in this life and on this earth. We chase after the careers, houses, cars, and electronic gadgets of this ephemeral, fading vapor of a world while missing out on the opportunity to enjoy an intimate relationship with the eternal Creator of the universe.

Tis a shame; tis a shame, indeed.

Are you missing out? Am I missing out? This world, with all its temporary illusions, makes it hard for me to maintain an eternal perspective. How do you keep your perspective? How do you keep form focusing on this world and losing sight of the true, eternal Kingdom that we are citizens of? In light of eternity, this life is a mere breath… if even that.

What Comfort Zone?

While visiting a brand new mall, in the new city we just moved to, in an unfamiliar state where we know no one—and in the midst of reflecting on the fact that within a six month period I’ve finished the last 28 hours of my bachelors, gotten out of the military, found out we’re having a baby girl, and am preparing to start seminaryI received this fortune cookie:

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I guess we’ve always got room to grow, eh?

Our 100th Post!!!

For our 100th post, I thought I would do something different. I think I should share part of the vision God has given me for the future.
The name Flat Hill Faith is a combination of two churches for which we have great respect. The “flat” part of our name comes from Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, Colorado. Flatirons Community Church is very, very good at creating practical, down-to-earth messages. Some of their big theological tenants include:
  1. Me too.” At Flatirons, they do an excellent job of never talking down to anyone, no matter where they’re at. Because of this, people from all walks of life feel welcome and loved, regardless of their pasts.
  2. “Two deals on the table.” Flatirons is good at reducing complex situations into a simple formula:  Jesus or something else. They’ll say, “there are two deals on the table, Jesus or X.”
  3. Hard challenges. The teachers at Flatirons seem unafraid of any topic. I’ve heard them preach on sex multiple times, homosexuality, porn, adultery, and many other topics that lots of pastors seem afraid to touch. I hope that I will have the courage and moral integrity to preach on those ‘scary issues.’
  4. Grace and truth. One of their teachings—found here—will be foundational to me as a pastor.
The only thing I don’t like about Flatirons is that they usually stick to topical preaching. I’ve only seen them preach through one book in the last few years and that was Jonah, but they did a great job going through it!
In short, what I love about Flatirons Community Church is their ability to meet people where they’re at, to extend grace to the forgotten and marginalized, and their ability to challenge Christians to grow.
The “hill” part comes from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. Mars Hill is great at teaching theology. When I listen to Mark Driscoll preach on a passage or topic I feel like I’ve really learned a lot about it and can discuss it intelligently. They do an awesome job of making their content available online for free. They even have some books that are available for free as PDF’s, which I greatly appreciate. Like Flatirons, they are unafraid to discuss ‘scary issues’ that affect millions of people every day.
One of the things I like about Mars Hill is that they go through books of the Bible expositorily (e.g. verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter). For example, they have been preaching through Luke for almost two years now!
Both of these churches have many things in common, and they both have a lot of differences because of their different mission areas. They both do a great job of calling sinful people to repent of their sin and religious people to repent of their religion; and calling both sinful and religious people to turn to Jesus. They’re both great and they both do a great job of reaching their communities!
The goal of Flat Hill Faith will be to balance deep, sound, doctrinal teaching with a down-to-earth approach that always equips our hearers with the tools needed to live their lives and impact their cultures. If the Lord ever puts me in a position to preach, I plan on preaching through a book of the Bible, like Mars Hill, and then covering a topic that I think will be beneficial to the church, like Flatirons.
I hope that someday, God will make Flat Hill Church a place where people know they are welcome as well a place that does an excellent job of teaching and equipping Christians so they can make a greater impact on the world around them; for God’s glory and our joy.