Moses

The Light and You

The Light and You

I was born in Fairbanks, Alaska. During the dead of winter, there are several weeks where the sun skims the horizon for a mere four hours a day.[i] If you move north to the Arctic Circle, there are days with no sunlight at all.

Can you imagine a world without light? A world where you can’t see your hand in front of your face?

A world without light is a world of terror and fear. It is a world where nothing is revealed and everything is hidden.

Jesus tells us that the world was dark before he came into it. In John 8:12 he tells us that he is the light of the world. Without Jesus the world is utter blackness.

And we are made to be the light. But before we can become the light, we need to have the light illuminate any darkness in us.

In Luke 8, Jesus talks about the lamp that comes into our lives: “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”[ii] 

This passage is usually misunderstood.

The Power of Encouragement

The Power of Encouragement

She started her statement casually, “I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times before, but…” and then it came, one of the most encouraging things I had heard in weeks. She shared a thoughtful praise about how our Senior Pastor Greg and I complement each other as preachers. And no, I had never heard the encouragement quite that way before!

If I ask you to think of the most encouraging thing that was shared with you in your high school years you can probably think of that encouragement pretty quickly. Think about the impact that encouragement had on you. Think about how it shaped your life path. Pretty remarkable, right?

For me the encouragement that stands out to me was given to me as an eighteen year old by my Senior Pastor, Roger Barrier. He invited me to dinner and as we scooped spicy Albondigas into our mouths and chomped on Carne Asada burritos he shared that he believed that God would call me to be a senior pastor one day.

Shining Idols: Uncovering and Uprooting Them

Shining Idols: Uncovering and Uprooting Them

What are the idols of your heart? What are the ways in which you have allowed your heart which is intended to worship God, to worship the golden calves that surround us?[i] There are several ways to diagnose our hearts. Ask yourself the question: what keeps me up when I’m trying to sleep? What do I fear? What do I think about? What do I daydream about? What gets me most excited in life? What do I give myself to? What do you use your time for?[ii]

Often what we will first uncover are the superficial idols. Maybe it’s pornography or adultery, or maybe it’s alcohol, television, or shopping. Or maybe it’s fitness, sports, work, patriotism, or family. Everything can be turned into an idol. And these gods are rarely solitary.[iii] Gods open doors for gods. Culturally, we are often taught therapeutic methods to deal with these idols, often exchanging one idol with another seemingly “good” idol. We exchange pornography for patriotism, alcohol for fitness, television for family and think that we’ve fixed ourselves, but we haven’t. We are still worshiping a god. There are many churches out there who preach the good news of these better gods: family and patriotism and financial security. But these are still gods, and while they are good gifts from the Giver, they are still just gifts.

But there are deeper idols that lurk behind these superficial idols. The enemy is quite content to have us replace these superficial idols with "better" idols that serve the same function in our lives. What lies deeper? What are you trying to get when you crave coming home and collapsing on the couch and watching TV? What need are you filling when you shop?

Shining Idols: What They Demand

Shining Idols: What They Demand

Are you an idolater? I already lost you, didn’t I? Most wouldn’t raise their hand to affirm their idolatry.

Idolatry doesn’t preach well to us 21st century Westerners. A couple of years ago, I had someone leave the church after I preached on idolatry. “You preached for most of your sermon on the Old Testament, the law against Idolatry, and how might we be guilty of idolatry today,” she reflected. She said that the sermon didn’t connect with her and didn’t offer “spiritual encouragement.”

Oh, friends, the dangers we face when we think that biblical passages on idolatry don’t apply to us! When God calls us, God calls us to leave our idols to follow him.

There is no room in our hearts for idolatry and following the one true God. That is such a significant theme that it has been said that “The central… principle of the [Old Testament is] the rejection of idolatry.”[i]

And yet idolatry seems as though it doesn’t apply to us today. Any of you have a golden calf in your home? Any of you start your mornings off at the local altar?

But idolatry is no mere ancient practice. It is the default function of the human heart.

Why I Need You to Help Me Do What I’m Supposed to Do as a Pastor

Why I Need You to Help Me Do What I’m Supposed to Do as a Pastor

Moses was crushing it. The people loved him. He had lines out the doors for those who were hoping to hear a word from God or a word of wisdom from Moses.[i] Then his father-in-law, Jethro, showed up and told him he was leading poorly, not well.

Moses had every reason to not listen to Jethro’s advice. There were no real indicators Moses’s leadership style wasn’t working. And yet Moses heard Jethro’s advice, and humbly heeded it.

In Ephesians, Paul makes it clear that this is no mere stylistic choice for a godly leader. Healthy leadership is characterized by “equip[ing] the saints for the work of the ministry.”[ii] Did you catch that, healthy leadership isn’t characterized by doing “the work of the ministry” but rather by equipping the congregation to do the work of the ministry.

Mark Zuckerberg, Meet Jethro

Mark Zuckerberg, Meet Jethro

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, recently claimed that as church attendance declines, Facebook will become the new church for people, offering a sense of community and meaning.[i] But Facebook can’t be the church, and not just because it isn’t built on a true foundation of hope in the good news of Jesus Christ. But it also can’t be the church because it can’t effectively form a community of a people on mission, serving God and one another together for God’s transformative purpose. In other words, Facebook neither has the content nor the form that can replace the church.

My hunch is that most Christians get the content part of what makes Zuckerberg’s claim faulty. We get that we need the gospel for the church. But I think that fewer might understand the gap on the form front. In other words, what am I really missing out on if I listen to worship music throughout the week, watch clips of my favorite preachers on YouTube and then share about my faith on social media?

One thing you’re missing out on is God’s purpose for you in serving a gathered community, the church.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is the unlikely encounter between Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro, in Exodus 18.

Mary's Christmas Song

Mary's Christmas Song

Isn’t Christmas great? Anyone who loves Christmas loves Christmas music. Even if Christmas isn’t your favorite holiday, you have to concede it has the best music.

God loves music. In Zephaniah 3:17, we see that God sings over us. And God’s people have always sung. Moses and Miriam sang when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.[i] Deborah and Barak sang.[ii] And the largest book of the Bible (Psalms) is a song book, filled with the songs of the greatest King of Israel and many others. Music has always been a part of God’s people and will always be – we know that in heaven we’ll still be singing.[iii]

It’s not surprising, then, that God’s coming to earth is celebrated with singing. In this advent series, I am going to share some of the songs that accompanied the first Christmas alongside some of my favorite Christmas songs today.

The first song is perhaps the most famous song of Christmas: Mary’s song of praise. But it is a song with a wallop that is missed by many a contemporary reader misses.