Friday, September 27, 2013

The power of presence

Reading: temptation of Jesus, first miracle, first passover

I've been thinking the past several days about the incredible reality of the incarnation of the Son of God.  He was born a human.  The begotten Son of God.  Immanuel.  God with us.  Present with us.  One of us.

He came to engage us.  He came to be with us.  He lived with us, experienced life as one of us.

Perhaps the most influential and impactful factor in our lives is the people that we spend time with.  If behaviours are artifacts of values, and values are a function of an ethical/moral framework, then the power of presence and relationships is shown by the shaping of that ethical/moral paradigm through those relationships.

But it takes time.  And effort.  Intentionality.  Listening. Compassion. 

This is what Jesus did.  This is His character. 

As a disciple of Jesus, I want to love Him, learn Him, and live Him.

So, I need to be present and intentional.  To affect change and be changed. First of all, I need to be present with Jesus.  I need to spend time conversing with Him every day, throughout the day.  I need to be present with the Holy Spirit.  I need to be present with the Father at His throne.

I need to be present with my wife. (Ironic, because I'm on an airplane from Boston to El Paso.) And of course, more than ever, i need to be present with my sons.  Perhaps there is no greater opportunity and responsibility to make disciples than of my own children.

And I need to be present with friends and colleagues. 

That's a lot of presence.

I need to be strategic.  Selective.  Not exclusive or discriminating, but strategic.  I need to love everyone while significantly investing in a few. 

That sounds hard.  I should pray about that.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your presence.  Thank you for always being with me. Please help me be present with you.  And help me be present with my family.  Give me wisdom in investing time with friends and colleagues.  May I be useful in your kingdom.  I love you, and i ask in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Luke, John

(Wow!  I am so excited to finally be in the New Testament!)

John 1:14, 16-18 ESV
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. ... For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God, and He is full of grace and truth.  He reveals God to us, and He is God.

John 1:12 ESV
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

By grace, through faith in Christ, we are adopted sons and daughters of God.

Ephesians 1:5-6 ESV
In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
1 John 3:1 ESV
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; ...

It is because He loves us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love for us.  Jesus, thank you for coming to us and taking on flesh so that we can be with you.  Thank you for your grace, your grace upon grace.  Thank you for adopting us and making us sons and daughters; you are so kind to us.  May I be a faithful son, one who looks more and more like Christ. I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, September 23, 2013



2:28  "And it shall come to pass afterward,    that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.

I've been thinking about "discipleship".  I think disciples of Jesus make disciples who make disciples ...  Replication is implicit.  And thinking about Matt. 28:19-20, it seems like baptism could be an indicator (not a metric, but an indicator).  However, "primary baptisms/disciples" (i.e., those baptisms/disciples facilitated directly by Disciple A) are not really a good indicator; the indicator would improve in accuracy if associated with "secondary" baptisms/disciples (i.e., those baptisms/disciples facilitated by Disciple B, whose baptism/discipleship was facilitated by Disciple A). Better still would be an indicator based on "tertiary" baptisms/disciples.

When our indicator (sometimes metric) of "discipleship" is church attendance, we like to think pretty highly of ourselves.  When the indicator is changed to primary baptisms/disciples, the bar is raised, but I think the model in 2 Timothy 2:2 is actually secondary or tertiary disciples:

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Timothy was a primary disciple of Paul; "faithful men" would be secondary to Paul; "others" would be tertiary.

While I have had the great privilege of sharing the Gospel with several people and seeing them follow Christ in baptism, I am embarrassed to say that I don't think I have discipled them to make disciples who make disciples.

Heavenly Father, please forgive me for my lack of obedience and investment in your Kingdom.  Lord, please help me be a disciple maker.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 20, 2013



9:33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.

Brandi and I visited a home group of the Charles River Church ( last night, and we discuss the passage of Nehemiah 1 that the pastor shared on Sunday morning.  This theme of confession has been reiterated in my reading these past few weeks, and I am beginning to realize that I need to be consistent in confession.  

I think confession facilitates brokenness, humility, and repentance.  I think two big things happen when we are broken: (1) we get closer to the Lord, and (2) we are more available for the Lord to transform us more into the image of Christ.  In short, our lives become more united with His.

Heavenly Father, please forgive me for my hard heart.  Lord, it is so easy for me to grow calloused and religious.  Lord, it takes so much work to be broken.  My flesh doesn't like it.  But, Lord, you look with favor on the broken; you are present with the broken.  You show yourself strong to the broken.  Lord, I'm afraid to ask, but I know I must ask you to break my heart for my own sin, the sin of my Brothers and Sisters in my faith communities, and the lostness of so many people around me.   Lord, please give me the heart of Christ.  I love you, Lord, and I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Joy of the Lord


8:10 ... the joy of the Lord is your strength.

What does that mean? 

Maybe by implication, it means that my own strength is not my strength.  Maybe my intellect and good looks are not my strength.  Maybe my good personality and charm are not my strength.  Maybe it is silly to think that I have strength, intellect, good looks, or personality, because these are all fleshly perspectives of myself. 

Maybe I need to focus on the Lord and enjoy Him.  Maybe as I delight in Him, I will be filled with joy, and I will realize that I am undeserving of His mercy and favor.

Heavenly Father, you are so kind and patient.  Lord, please forgive me for my prideful attitude of thinking I can pull it all together and get it done.  Lord, may I humbly walk with you, knowing that it is you who allows me to rise up and go.  May I go and make disciples.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Warriors on the wall


4:17-18 ... Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. ...

Offense and defense at the same time.  While we build the Church, stone by stone, we have to be on guard against the enemy.

One of the enemy's most frequent attacks (even in the case of Nehemiah) is through discouragement and intimidation.  We must constantly be protecting our Brothers and Sisters by encouraging each other in our pursuit of Christ.

Heavenly Father, please help me be an encouragement to my Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  Please continue to grow in me a love for you and your Church.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Confession and repentance


Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel all prayed prayers of confession and repentance on behalf of their people, even though, presumably, these guys were relatively "righteous".  I bothers me that Jeremiah was so whiney in his Lamentations; why wasn't he more apologetic and repentant?

This past Sunday, we attended the gathering of the Charles River Church, and pastor Josh began a sermon series on Nehemiah.  He talked about seeing Jesus in the Old Testament, and he pointed out that Jesus, like Nehemiah, wept over the spiritual condition of the people of Jerusalem.  Pastor Josh asked us to pray that God will break our hearts for our city.

To be honest, I would rather not be broken.  I would rather just bump along in my routine and not experience the compassion and pain that God does over my city.  I would rather devote my thoughts and energy to more convenient and entertaining things like television and Facebook.  But the reality is that both El Paso and Boston are cities where many people don't know Jesus, and they live lives of pain and hopelessness without a Savior.  I need to be broken for their brokenness, because that is the heart of Jesus.

Heavenly Father, please forgive me for having a hard American heart.  I confess that my desires are for entertainment and professional success.  Lord, please forgive me, and give me a heart of compassion for my own family, and brokenness for my city.   May the words of my mouth and the attitude of my heart be pleasing in your sight.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, September 16, 2013

thankful for His favor


7:27 Praise the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who made the king want to beautify the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem!28 And praise him for demonstrating such unfailing love to me by honoring me before the king, his council, and all his mighty nobles! I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of the Lord my God was on me. And I gathered some of the leaders of Israel to return with me to Jerusalem.

I feel like God has really blessed me with a ton of favor, especially professionally.  And I don't think it is so that I can be cool (well, as cool as a nerdy geek can be).  I think it is for His purpose of advancing the Kingdom of Christ.  

I need to be intentional about building up the Body of Christ.  The Lord has blessed me with good relationships with faculty here at Olin, as well as student leaders of the on-campus Christian fellowship.  I need to be prayerful and attentive to the Holy Spirit as He leads me to show the kindness and love of Jesus to people here.  And I need to be as intentional in ministry in El Paso when we return.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your kindness and favor.  Lord, please use me to accomplish your good plan.  May I be available, attentive, and obedient in following you.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, for your glory.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

For such a time as this


4:14 ... And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

I'm pretty much sure that God has led me where I am.  I believe that he has opened up the door for me to be here in Boston this semester, and I have been very encouraged by what he is doing in me and through me these first few weeks.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunities that you have given us.  Thank you for the people whom you have put in my life - those who influence me, and those I have a chance to influence.  I love you, and I pray that I will be a blessing to them.  I ask in the name of Jesus.

Monday, September 9, 2013



After many years of captivity by the Babylonians, then by the Persians, residents of Judah finally returned to Jerusalem and started rebuilding the temple.

As I think about the New Testament concept of "temple", I wonder if there is an analogy to rebuilding the "temple".  When we allow sin in our lives, we experience consequences, and then it takes work and faithful devotion for the Lord to clean us up and get us back on track with His purpose and work.

Heavenly Father, please help me be faithful to consistently invest in my walk with you, as well as building up the local and global Church.  Lord, may I invest my time in work that is eternally valuable.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Going deeper


47 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.

Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.

I heard a Brother preach (translated from Arabic) on this passage about five years ago, and I still remember it.  He said that when we start in our walk with Christ, we learn to walk (symbolized by the ankles).  Then we learn to pray (knees).  Then we learn to serve in the Body (waist).  But we never stop pursuing the Lord until we are completely immersed in Him.

Unfortunately, I think here in the U.S., we don't see many people get past ankle deep.

Heavenly Father, please help me be one who goes out deeper in the stream of your life.  Lord, please help me lead others deeper in their pursuit of you.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013



43:12, 27 ESV
This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.  ... And when they have completed these days, then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer on the altar your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, and I will accept you, declares the Lord God ."

God is holy.  And the place where He dwells must be holy. 

We are not holy, apart from the substitutionary death and atonement of Christ Jesus.  Only then are we accepted by God.  Only then can we enter his presence in peace.

Heavenly Father, thank you for accepting us and adopting us as your children. Lord Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice. I love you, and I want to walk with you today.  Please anoint me with your Holy Spirit to do your work today.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Realistic Optimism and Joy


I have come to believe that, as a follower of Jesus Christ, we should fundamentally have a perspective of realistic optimism.  That is, we are realistic in the fact that the world, as a whole, will not be in complete peace until Christ returns.  But until then, we continue to believe that God is using us as ambassadors of Christ, and in the life of potentially any person around us, He may use us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and raise that person from spiritual death into eternal life!

Ezekiel 37:3-5, 7, 10 ESV
And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord God , you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord . Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. ... So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. ... So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Ephesians 1:19-20 ESV
and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

Turns out, one of the most joyful and optimistic people I know is my wife.  She is usually and generally happy, optimistic, and joyful.  I need to support her joy and join her in a life of joy. 

Heavenly Father, thank you for raising me from the dead and breathing your life into me.  Thank you for the opportunity to be your ambassadors of life.  Lord, please help me see the circumstances of life from your perspective; I need to know you better.  I love you, Lord, and I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.