Evangelism Conference 2015


On February 6th and 7th, some great brothers and sisters are gathering to discuss the importance of evangelism.  Terry Rials, Dave Earley, Randy McWhorter, Joel Southerland, and others will help equip and train those of us in Utah who desperately need to engage in more evangelism.

This is a free conference provided by the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Conference and hosted by Mountain View Baptist Church.  You don't want to miss it.

The conference begins at 1pm on Friday and runs into the evening.  It will pick up again for a Saturday morning session starting at 8am.  (If you can't get off work early on Friday, you can still pick it up at 6pm and catch Dave Earley and some of the session.)  If you'd like to attend, please register here.

Childcare is available for children 5 and under.

I'm thrilled about this conference.  In part because God is greatly working on me in the area of evangelism; but more so, because I know and love a couple of these great speakers.  Dr. Dave Earley was the professor of three of my classes in seminary at Liberty.  They were great courses because of Dave's experience, passion, and expertise.  He's also the author of a book I absolutely love called, Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High Impact Leaders.  In addition, Dave left Lynchburg to plant a church in Las Vegas and it seems to be doing amazing things for God's Kingdom in Sin City.  Dr. Randy McWhorter was also one of my professors of a leadership seminar in my Doctor of Ministry studies at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  He's also very passionate, wise, and a great instructor.

Early Mark Manuscript Closer to Validation

1/19/2015

On May 22, 2012 I published a post on this website about the potential of a First Century manuscript fragment of the Book of Mark.  (You can find that post here).  Now it seems that we are getting closer to validating that find.  These things take peer-review and that takes lots of time, but LiveScience.com posted an article with more details about this discovery.  (You can find that article here.)

It turns out that the manuscript pages of the book of Mark were used as something like a paper mache (or more appropriately a papyri mache) Egyptian mask.  The mask, like the one pictured in this post, was much like the more popular gold masks only for those of a lower income.  Even then, papyri was expensive so it made sense to use recycle papyri.  It's just going to be painted anyway, right?  Dr. Craig Evans has reported that he has found numerous documents contained in the recycled papyri in these masks, including business documents, classical greek works, and this very special manuscript of Mark.

Why is this a big deal?

Here's why.  It's a document of Mark that's much closer to the original.  Critical scholars will often argue that the Gospels were written hundreds of years after the event.  This manuscript disputes those claims.  It's also fascinating where it was found.  It would seem that in order for the document to turn up in Egypt, it had to have been copied from another source (or the original) sometime earlier.

This is a remarkable find and will likely shake up the academic world as this makes its way through peer review.  Keep your eyes open and on the lookout for more information to come.

*The mask pictured in this post is an Egyptian funerary mask located in a museum in Vienna, Austria. The photo is in the public domain.

Armchair Pastoring is not Pastoring

I was a teenager and my first car needed new spark plug wires.  My father--an experienced mechanic--attempted to provide me with some guidance.  "Don't take all the wires off at the same time;" he warned me, "Take one wire off and replace it before moving on to the next one."  But when I looked at the new wires for my car his guidance seemed a bit silly.  They were each a different length so it seemed obvious to me which wire would run to each plug.  Dealing with one wire at a time seemed like a hassle because the wires were clipped together and the old wires were getting in the way of the new wires.  So I went against my father's sound advice and took all the old wires off at the same time and tossed them aside.

At this point any mechanic reading this knows exactly what I did wrong.   The mechanic knows what obviously I didn't.

Each wire was a different length--that much was simple enough.  But what I didn't know is which wire needed to go on which post of the distributor cap (pictured above).  It turns out the location is critical because there is a part that spins inside and sends a perfectly timed charge to the correct wire so the plug that needs to fire has spark.  Without getting this right, the car won't run.  Yet I had no idea which wire went where.  My arrogance bested me.  I didn't know what a distributor cap was, let alone what it does and how it works.  I made a great deal of assumptions about my abilities as well as my father's experience based on my brief observation of a package of blue wires.

Had I heeded my father's advice, I would have removed only one wire from the distributor cap, knowing exactly which wire went where.  Instead, I invited a learning lesson from the school of hard knox.  Clearly, I had not known better.  Obviously, I could have saved myself a great deal of heartache if I had only humbled myself and listened to my father.  He had done this before, maybe many times.  And he understood how the distributor cap functioned.  (Once I had a better understanding of the full function of these motor parts, maybe I could have been in a place to determine if I could effectively deviate from his way; but not before I had a better understanding.)

As I am now serving as the lead pastor of a new church plant (Redeeming Life Church),  I see that I may have acted like the young boy with car troubles.  I served on staff under older, wiser pastors.  In my previous ministry roles, I would be like that guy sitting in the armchair telling the quarterback how to do his job better.  I would observe something and assume I understood all the details.  Now that I am elbow-deep in engine grease, I see that maybe I didn't have a full understanding of the situation.  Maybe my armchair perspective of my pastor's leadership was missing a great deal of information.

How many times did I think to myself, "If I were doing this, I would. . . "?  Not having the perspective of my pastor, I didn't really see the best course of action.  (I often wonder how the armchair quarterback would feel if he had a few 350lb linemen coming after him.  Would he act the same way the quarterback did?  Probably.) Being afforded that perspective now, I am starting to see why my pastors did the things they did, in the way they did them.  "Oh. . ."  I find myself saying fairly often.  Like a young dad feeling like he needs to call his own father and apologize, I often feel I need to say, "I'm sorry" to the wise pastors who have gotten me to this place.   Being out on the field is different that directing from the armchair; I see that now.

Fortunately, these older, wiser pastors are still helping me with my journey.  I can still go to them often and ask questions.  And having a little better perspective, hopefully I won't pull all the wires off the distributor cap too often.  For that, I'm thankful.


*Photo by Taran Rampersad is registered under a Creative Commons License.  

Reading All of Your Bible in 2015

It's that time of year when people resolve to read the Bible, which is great.  It's also the time when One-Year-Bibles go on sale.

Reading more of God's Word or reading the entirety of the Bible for the first time is is a good resolution.  We should have a desire to read and know the Bible, especially considering that it's God's message to us.  Want to know God better?  One good place to start is in his Word.  But for those not too familiar with the Bible, this is a huge task.

Many people who are new to the Bible will start in Genesis and read page by page until they reach the end of Revelation.  This is a canonical reading, meaning that the Bible is read in the order of the arranged books of the cannon.  Reading this way is certainly not bad, but it can be confusing for someone who doesn't know the story of the Bible in chronological order.

Most Bibles are arranged and bound like a big bookshelf.  One entire section is for the books of the Old Testament and one section is for books of the New Testament.  Bound together within the Old Testament section, you have five books of the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).  Then you find 12 books of history (Joshua through Esther), followed by the poetry or artistic books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon).  The five books of the major prophets open the section on the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel), followed by the 12 books of the minor prophets (Hosea through Malachi).

In the New Testament section opens with the four gospels (Matthew Mark, Luke, and John) which all cover the earthly ministry of Jesus but from different perspectives.  Acts is the only book in the New Testament history section, followed by nine of Paul's letters to the churches (Romans through 2 Thessalonians).  Paul also wrote letters to individuals and they get a section (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon).  Then there are nine general letters to the churches (Hebrews through Revelation).

If you're wanting to follow the historical timeline of God's redemptive history and get a good grasp of the biblical story, then you will actually do better to read in chronological order.  This will mean you'll be in the books of history, artistic books, and the prophets at the same time as you move through the Old Testament.  As you read Jonah for example, you'll have a better understanding of the context.  You'll know that the kingdom was divided, who the kings where, what political problems were playing out, and who the Ninevites were.  The narrative will be rich and far more informative.  In addition, this will make your reading more enjoyable.  The same will be true of the New Testament.

If you've never read the Bible in chronological order, I highly recommend it.  You can download an easy chronological reading plan here.

Another way to read is with a devotional plan.  These tend to have some reading in the Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament.  There are many of these plans out there or you can simply put a bookmark in each section.  You don't even need to start at the beginning.  Pick the books and start there.  Read 3 or 4 chapters from the Old Testament, a psalm, and a chapter or two from the New Testament.  The amazing thing about this kind of reading plan is how interconnected the Bible is and how much God will use each reading from these three sections to speak into your life.

Or maybe if you've already read the Bible cover to cover or in chronological order, you can jettison the idea of reading your entire Bible in a year and start reading smaller sections or single books more deeply.  For example, you could read one book of the Bible over and over again for a couple months.  Or read Titus or one of the minor prophets every day for a month.  Or you could read a book with a commentary reading book club, which I also highly recommend.  (Here's more on that.)

No matter how you read, getting into God's Word is a good thing.  If you've resolved to reading more of the Bible this year, I can't help but believe it will be good for you.  Stick to it.  Enjoy it.  Savor it.  It's not about getting a task done in a year; but rather, hearing from God.


* Photo by Flickr.com user, Ryk Neethling is registered under a Creative Commons License.
** Much of this post was taken from a previous SaltyBeliever.com post that published January 7, 2014.

Why Do We Think of Him as a Baby on His Birthday?

The next time you have a birthday for someone at work, put up pictures of that person when he or she was a baby.  See how it goes over?

Why do we always portray Jesus as a little baby on Christmas?  Is it simply because we're celebrating his birthday?  We don't do this with Martin Luther King Jr. or any of the US Presidents?  I don't imagine my wive as a baby when I celebrate her birthday.  I don't even really do that for my kids and I knew them as babies.  Yet that's exactly what we do with Jesus.  Why?

I think it might be because there's something much more amazing about this unique baby.  For everyone else on earth, being born is just what we do.  We are conceived by a father and mother.  We grow and eventually leave the womb to enter the world.  That's how God planned it.  And while that is spectacular, it doesn't make us spectacular.

Jesus on the other hand, existed before time was created.  He's God.  And to enter the world, he was conceived in the womb of a virgin.  That's already so miraculous and spectacular that millions around the globe refuse to believe it.  But that's not even the part that's difficult to believe.  What's really amazing is that an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, all-present God would enter the reality of his creation in the form of a baby.  That while he would not share in sin, he would share in humanity.  That is amazing and I believe that is what we should celebrate at Christmas.

It's not a little baby born into poverty and unusual circumstances that gives us cause to celebrate.  No, it's that the King of Kings would humble himself so much to come in the form of a baby to an unlikely couple, in unlikely circumstances.  And that little baby Jesus, the God-Man, would do so much more even than that because of his great love for us.  We should declare the amazing wonder that God would walk among us in the flesh.

So when you look at that little infant Jesus in your nativity set, don't forget that we are celebrating something so much more than a little baby's birthday when we truly celebrate Christmas.  This year, let's honor the King of Kings.

Merry Christmas!


* Photo by Vickie McCarty comes from pixabay.com.

Bible Study Tools That Fit in One Box or are Under $200

What if you had to put your Bible study tools in one copy paper-sized box? What books would you put in there?

What Bible study tools would you have if you could only spend $200?

Looking for some tools to dig deeper into your Bible study?  Jared Jenkins and I recorded a podcast for Salty Believer Unscripted to try to answer these questions.

You can listen to that podcast here.

We discuss a number of resource tools, both digital and paper.  A couple extremely helpful items made it to the top both of our lists.  One was is ESV Study Bible.  If you don't have one of these, this is the place to start.  The other is Accordance Bible Software.  We both use and love Accordance. And here's a bonus: you can get this really amazing resource for less than $200.

Here's a teaser for Accordance Bible Software if you're interested:



*Photo by flickr.com user Alvin Chua.
** Neither Jared Jenkins or I work for or financially represent Crossway or Accordance Bible Software.  

A Look at End Times, AKA: "An Overview of Eschatology"

A part of the ministry of SaltyBeliever.com is a podcast called Salty Believer Unscripted.  You can find our podcasts on our Resources Page or subscribe to it on iTunes.  (A selection of them are also available at EntrustedWithTheGospel.com.)

If you've never listened to "Salty Believer Unscripted," it's basically an unscripted, unedited 20 to 30 minute conversation between pastors that's recorded so you can join in.  We typically select a series topic (but not always) and chat over coffee.  We just finished a series called "An Overview of Eschatology" which takes a look at what the Bible has to say about the end times.  (At the time of this post, we're recording a series of podcast with other church planters and pastors, getting a feel for what's happening in the ministry of church planting across the country.)

Eschatology is kind of a funny thing. Either people are excessively into it and it dictates how they think about everything or they really don't have an opinion or thought about it at all.  This, I think, is primarily because people are so influenced by how they've seen others behave rather than what the Bible says.  So Jared Jenkins, Benjamin Pierce, Brett Ricely, and I set out to introduce and discuss some of the ideas contained in the study of Eschatology.  And in case you're wondering, we start with "What does Eschatology mean?"

Through this discussion, we cover topics like how we should interpret prophecy, where to find end times stuff in the Bible, why is studying eschatology important, the millenium, the tribulation, and the state of both heaven and hell.  Hopefully this will help you on your journey to better understand eschatology.  Are you a premillennialist, amillennialist, or postmillennialist?  How do you understand books like Revelation, Matthew, Daniel, and Isaiah; and what are they saying about the end?  What's your view on the tribulation and rapture?  Are you a litterlisist, historicists, or something else?  What is the New Heavens and New Earth like?  What's going to happen to this earth?  Why should we care?  We hope to help you answer these and many other questions.  However, we only offer a brief overview.  We don't get too bogged down.

Whether you have an interest in the end times or if you've never thought about it, I hope you'll consider checking out our Salty Believer Unscripted series, "An Overview of Eschatology."


Subscribe to the Salty Believer Unscripted Podcasts:
iTunes  | Non iTunes

Or listen here:

An Overview of Eschatology
-- An Intro of the Terms audio
-- Prophecy: A Difficult Task audio
-- The Near-Far Views of Prophecy audio
-- Scripture, Not Man's Ideas audio
-- Definitions: How We See Prophecy audio
-- Understanding the Millennium audio
-- Why We Should Study for Ourselves audio
-- The Tribulation and Rapture audio
-- The The Glory and Wonder of Heaven audio
-- Hell is for Real audio


*Artwork by flickr.com user, "Rich" is registered under a creative commons license and used by permission. 

Who's Plan is it Anyway?

By Lisa Catherman
12/2/2014

When I got married, I had a plan--four children by the time I was 30.  As the years passed with no children I realized that my plan was not in line with God's will.  I struggled, mostly with God.  My deadline was less than a year away and still the infertility were insurmountable.  Fertility treatments didn't get me any closer to my plan either.  It felt hopeless.

However, just a few months before my 30th birthday God began our family. I thought I would be childless but God said we were just getting started. In May 2006, we brought home our oldest son, Asher. He was a healthy beautiful 10-week old baby whose biological mother had chosen a life for him that she was unable to provide. We were thrilled God lovingly chose to bring him and us together as a family.

In late 2007 I started amending my plan and we began to prayerfully consider the possibility of growing our family. We decided to try fertility treatment again. After four months, we saw our first positive pregnancy test in nearly a decade of marriage. We shared our joyful news with everyone we knew and some we didn't. At our 8-week ultrasound we saw a little heartbeat and rejoiced in the life growing inside me. Although we didn't know the baby's gender, we felt that it was a boy and had chosen the name: Matthew.

At my 12-week visit the doctor informed me that our baby had likely died just a week after my previous visit. I was sent home with a prescription to induce the miscarriage. It was a grueling weekend. Physically, the pain was beyond anything I'd ever experienced. Emotionally, I cannot express what it's like to watch what you know was your baby being flushed down the toilet.

After nearly a year of grieving and severe depression, We were ready to try adoption again. We finished our home study in May 2009 and notified our contact.  On July 29, 2009, we picked up our son, Daniel, from the hospital. He was two days old.

At that point, we felt like we were done. We were blessed beyond our wildest expectations. We agreed not to do fertility treatment and we both felt like we couldn't afford the financial or emotional toll again that came with each adoption process. The likelihood of another pregnancy seemed impossible given that I hadn't been on birth control for years.  I was settling into God's plan and felt blessed.

But while we thought were were done, God had other plans.  We were beside ourselves when in the summer of 2013, we had a positive pregnancy test.  It was only the second after 15 years.

The pregnancy seemed to be going perfectly. We saw our son Titus on our 20-week ultrasound on November 18th. To our shock and horror, he was born the next day.  Titus lived only a few minutes.

In the following Spring, we found ourselves staring at another positive pregnancy. The impossible was possible and happening, again.  It's a little different this time. I'm considered 'high risk.' I've had a cervix cerclage. There are weekly progesterone shots to help prevent preterm labor. I've seen my doctors every two weeks since the beginning and they've had a look at the baby every time. Now we're nearing the end. Our daughter, Lydia, is due in January 2015. I'm not arrogant this time around. I'm thankful for every day we have with this little one. I know anything can happen.

My plan was much like those of my friends. Get married--spend my twenties having babies. Be happy.  But God had a different plan.  For a while I thought there would be no children, but that wasn't God's plan either.

My family may not look typical. On the surface, I appear to be a pregnant mother with two boys, but I know differently. I'm a mother of many. God in his sovereign mercy and grace has seen fit to bless me with many children.  Each life, each story is a beautiful miracle. Each child has blessed me with tears of joy and tears of heartache.  All these years later, I'm thankful that God's plan was not my plan, that His ways are higher than mine. I'm thankful for the testing and sanctification through fire and tears.  Believe it or not, I wouldn't change a thing.  And, I'm thankful God has allowed me to be a mother in His timing, His way.  I'm thankful for God's plan.

*Photo is from Pixaby.com and used with permission. 

None is Righteous, No, Not One

November 25, 2014

It's claimed that two great evangelists were in a theater together.  They were good friends and often traveled as a team to preach evangelistic revival meetings.  Before the film started, the newsreel played and gave accounts of the holocaust.  One man sat in horror before the graphic images on the screen and could only doubt God's goodness.  The other man saw the pictures and could only see a greater need for the Savior.  The first was Charles Templeton; the second was Billy Graham.

Truth be told, Templeton struggled with doubt until he finally declared himself an agnostic in 1957.  It may have been the images of the holocaust that started him down this road but there was probably much more involved.

Images on the news, such of the events playing out in Ferguson or Isis slaughtering Christians or wars or abortion or the sexual assault of children or human trafficking give us a glimpse of the deep darkness that resides within mankind.  'Depravity' it is often labeled.  And as we see such depravity it should--if we're honest--show us the potential blackness of our own hearts.  If it were possible for a news camera to examine our souls, we would see equal, if not greater atrocities with us, only waiting for the chance to rage onward.  The Bible calls this darkness sin.

We are faced with a choice.  Do we see this depravity and then doubt God's goodness or do we see this depravity and proclaim a greater need for Jesus?

First, we ought not be surprised by the depravity of mankind.  We see it throughout the Bible.  Sometimes we see God intervene directly, but often it is God's people who are empowered by God to bring the redemption of the Gospel through the proclamation of God's Word.  We are called to make Christ known because according to John, Jesus is light coming to a dark world, brilliance coming to our blackened hearts.  Darkness hates the light and can't remain.  The light overpowers the darkness.  And Christ, the light, frees us from this darkness.  (See John 1, 3, and 12.)  Christ is the perfect, sufficient, and only answer to our sin.

Furthermore, God's Word shows us the depth of mankind's sin, so we should not be surprised to see moments when our dark souls come out and play.  Quoting the Old Testament, Romans 3:11-12 says, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one" (ESV).   But it does not simply have to end with us thinking man is evil and without hope.  There is hope.

Romans 3 continues to show mankind where hope is found.  Romans 3:23-25 reads, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (ESV).   Romans 6:6 says of those who have placed their faith in Christ Jesus, "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing" (ESV).

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23, ESV).

If we believe that the Bible is God's Word, which I do, than we ought to see Ferguson as a city crying out for help.  In that city the depravity has boiled over and can be easily observed.   Isis should be more proof of the truth of God's revelation to his creation.  The atrocities we observe should remind us of God's explanation of our darkened hearts without him, his condemnation of our sin, and his free offer to bring us to salvation through faith in his son, Jesus Christ.

God help us all!   May we see the world turn to Jesus.


* Photo Mstyslav Chernov and is registered under a Creative Commons license. 

God is Sovereign

November 19, 2014.

One year ago today my son, Titus was born.  One year ago today he died.

I hate it when people say I was robbed.  Robbed by who?  Some say God.  Some say nature.  Mother nature can be a cruel monster they'll utter.  And robbed of what, exactly?  The only thing I was robbed of is what God never intended for me in the first place.  My faulty expectations were stripped away.  God is sovereign.  That remains.

In a conversation I shared recently, the death of Titus was compared to the tragic loss of a teenager because a drunk driver swerved his car.  "God is sovereign in both situations" I argued.  "And the better thing to happen did because God is good.  Titus' death, while very difficult for me to understand, is what God willed for his own purposes and glory." My friend felt differently.

"I guess your loss" the friend said, "was part of God's plan, so I can see how you can say 'God is sovereign' and this brings God glory somehow.  But it's not as if a drunk driver robbed a you of your teenager or something. That's very different."

As I thought about his comments, I realized that his man's theology gives a lot of power to sinful behavior as well as simple men.  "Is the drunk driver more powerful than God?" I asked; "Because if you say no, then I wonder why God would allow the drunk to swerve his car.  Unless God is wicked, which the Bible say's he is not, he must allow such a thing for some purpose that will bring God glory?"

Today I am sad at the loss of Titus.  I sometimes catch myself fantasizing about what was never to be.  But I know that God is sovereign.  The Bible proclaims it to be so.  I know that Titus' short life was purposed by God and I pray that he brought God glory.  The same is true for the lives of my other children, and my wife, and me, and the congregation I pastor.  

I find my comfort in the sovereignty of God.  And as I remember and celebrate Titus' life, I praise the one who strips me of my faulty thinking.  No, God didn't rob me.  Instead, he gave me a gift.  And for that I'm thankful.

Happy Birthday Titus.

An Evening of Eschatology



As Jared Jenkins, Benjamin Peirce, and Brett Ricely spent some time chatting in a Salty Believer Unscripted podcast series, "An Overview of Eschatology," a video came up in our conversation.  It's titled "An Evening of Eschatology" and it's free on YouTube.  John Piper is the host.  Dr. Jim Hamilton represents the Premillennial view, Dr. Sam Storms the Amillennial, and Douglas Wilson the Postmillennial viewpoint.  (We've had Dr. Jim Hamilton and Douglas Wilson on as Salt Believer Unscripted guests in our series on Preaching.

If you're interested in Eschatology (the study of end times) or you're feeling a little uninformed and would like to get an overview of the various viewpoints, I'd like to encourage you to watch the video above.  I also invite you to check out our Salty Believer Unscripted series, "An Overview of Eschatology."   You can subscribe on iTunes or with another podcast device or find it in the Resources section of this website.

Subscribe to the Salty Believer Unscripted Podcasts:
iTunes  | Non iTunes

Overview of Eschatology

Salt Believer Unscripted has embarked into the future, that is, we've started a series that looks at eschatology.  This is not to say that we're going to start wearing sandwich boards that read, "The end is near."  We're not going to scream through a bullhorn.  And we don't need to identify The Anti-Christ because the Apostle John already has (in 1 John 2:22 he says he's anybody who denies the Father and the Son).  No, we're simply walking through an overview of eschatology.

If we're not going to get over-excited about end times symbolism and preach every sermon about our view of the end, why are we doing it?  Well, because we want to do our best to understand Scripture.  Avoiding specific Scriptural teaching just because people get crazy about it and it's kind of strange is not a sound practice for a student of the Bible.  Also, because Revelation 1:3 says, "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near."  If people are blessed to read the book of Revelation, that is stands to reason that we probably ought to study it.  I suspect the same is true of Isaiah, Matthew, Daniel, the letters of the Paul, and all the other books of the Canon.  And finally, because a listener asked after seeing a trailer for a Hollywood's attempt to explain it.

If you'd like to join us for this series, subscribe to our podcast or find the series on the resource page of Saltybeliever.com.

Subscribe to the Salty Believer Unscripted Podcasts:
iTunes  | Non iTunes

*Artwork by Phillip Medhurst is registered under a Creative Commons Licence. 

Taking Big Risks

Over the past few weeks I've heard and read a lot about taking risks.   Christian men should be willing to take risks, I've heard.  I've read that church planting is about taking a faithful leap into the unknown. While I understand what these kinds of statements are getting at, I'm beginning to wonder if I believe them.

When we think of Neil Armstrong stepping off the ladder of the lunar lander to come down into the dust of the moon, we have to think about the risk he took.  But if we pull that view back some and see the many, many steps he took before he took that "giant leap" it makes the giant leap look much less risky.  Why?  Because he had so much faith and confidence in the men, equipment, research, and history supporting his mission.

As we journey with God, day after day, and follow in the path he lays before us, we should see serving our Lord as far less risky.  We should hold fast to a deep trust already built through all the little steps we've taken with God.  Seeing how much God has ordered our steps and how much he as been the Greater Provider of the outcomes, we should feel no risk when we walk with him.  Trusting God should be easy.  The problem however, is our sinful nature.  We often doubt God and that leaves us feeling like we're taking giant leaps with Jesus.  The risk is not found in doing what God calls us to do; the risk is letting go of our own ideas and strength to follow God's call.  And when we do submit and trust the Lord, amazing things will happen.

I've faithfully ventured into the work of planting a church.   If I were to believe many of the books I've read, I'd probably feel like I were stepping off a lunar lander.  But the reality is this: Christ says he will build his Church (Matthew 16:18).  If it is Christ who builds his Church--to include every local church, what risk am I really taking?  He's the builder and I should have faith and confidence in him.  He knows what he's doing and his care for what he builds far surpasses my level of care.  Whether Redeeming Life Church gets off the ground or not, it's Christ's church, not mine.  If this is true, and I believe it is, how much risk does a church planter really take?  None, other than letting go personal pride and trusting Jesus.  There's no risk if the church planter has faith in Christ.  (I type this and at the same time know that I'll still feel like I'm taking big "risks" when I choose to let go of my own ideas and desires and follow Christ's plan for Redeeming Life Church.  It's the curse of sin.)

At times I feel like am looking into the vastness space far above the earth and required to take a step out in to it.  But that's just a feeling that comes and goes and I grow in my relationship with Jesus.  Peter on the other hand, actually did step out of the boat and walk on the stormy waves.  (See John 6 and Matthew 14.)  Many would say he took a risk getting out the boat, which from our perspective is probably true considering none of the other guys accepted Jesus' invitation to walk on water in the middle of a storm.  But the bigger risk was to take his focus off Christ.  Without Christ we try to go under the power of our own steam.  Letting go of my own effort, knowing just how little steam I really have, feels like the bigger risk when in reality the risker thing is placing our trust in ourselves.  Sadly, letting go of our pride, ideas, and fleeting strength is often the gamble we fail to risk and the decision to place our trust in ourselves only leads to failure.


If you'd like to stop taking risks, take a leap off the ladder and come join our family at Redeeming Life Church

*The photo used in this post was taken and published by NASA and is in the public domain.   

Playing the Bride

Many little girls fantasize about their future wedding day.  They dream of an amazing dress, flowers, a big beautiful cake, and dancing.  In their aspirations all eyes are on the bride.  Everybody is saying, "isn't she beautiful!"

Many little girls strive to achieve this fantasy as they grow into women.  They design their big day around the plan they've been brewing for a lifetime. It's a lot of work with little chance of living up to the expectation.  But something serious is missing--the groom.

How easy is it find a bride-to-be tasting cake, picking flowers, and planning the ceremony with the groom-to-be simply in tow?  How often do we hear, "this is the bride's day?"  I've been know to say those very words to stressed out grooms.  It seems exhausting on the bride and taxing on the groom.

As I've been 'playing at church,' or rather, working to build a core team to start another Christian congregation in the Salt Lake valley, I've felt as though our little baby church plant is like the little girl dreaming of her wedding day.  Our team is 'trying it on' with ambition and aspiration, but often what we're looking to is the trappings of the local church, not the Groom who calls the Church his bride.

It's so easy to be busy.  It's easy to chase after the 'stuff' of the local church.  Growing leaders desire to have people fellowshipping in their homes with little understanding the fellowship the Bible actually calls for.  We want to build systems that get people connected to our congregation but we don't fully grasp the necessary connection to God's Kingdom.  We want to be heard as wise but are unsure about our willingness to truly get into the messiness of real lives.  We (certainly myself included) get excited about graphics and colors and chair arrangements and sound systems and forget that none of these things have eternal significance.  Potential preachers want to stand in the pulpit and preach a good sermon with little thought of the shepherding and care that the pulpit demands.  All of this is because we hold to a worldly view of the marriage we have with Jesus.  At times we're putting the dream before the reality; we're assembling a wedding day without the Groom.

The Bible provides us with a picture of a bride and a groom.  We are the bride and Jesus is the Groom.

Ephesians 5:25-27 charges the husband to love his wife, but it also gives us a beautiful picture of Christ's love for his bride.  It reads, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (ESV).

Jesus makes his bride beautiful!

How much more joy might the Bride of Christ have if we would get our priorities right?  How much more beautiful would the local church be if Christ were truly our passion and the 'stuff' came second or third or somewhere else down the line?  The stuff is so tempting because we often want all eyes on us as we desire the community around us to look at our local congregations and say, "isn't it beautiful" or "isn't this church cool."  Too often church leaders and preachers (myself included) want people to say, "Wow, great sermon" or "yes, I really like the _________ here" (fill in the blank with your favorite 'stuff').

While it is so easy to say and so hard to do, I believe it's critical that we dump our dreams and fantasies of what the local church should be and look to Jesus because he is not only the groom, he is the Head of the Church.  Jesus is our senior pastor.  And the Senior Pastor cares little for the 'stuff' and much for you and me, his bride.


(If you'd like to see more about what God's Word says about Christ and the Bride, here are some chapters to get you started: Psalm 45; Isaiah 62; Matthew 25; Mark 2; Revelation 19, 21, and 22.) 

*Photo by Amy Ann Brockmeyer is used with permission.