Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on December 31, 2011 in Uncategorized


Living with passion

Do I live as if my life depends on it?

I must say, that is a rather convicting question to ponder on this last day of 2011. Do I live with passion? Does my heart come through in what I do? Do I live with intentionality? Do I live as if my life depends on it?

I came across this question in Wayne Cordeiro’s book, The Irresistible Church: 12 traits of a church heaven applauds. His third trait is that an irresistible church “lives heart first.” While he applies it corporately, I’m taking it personally.

As I reflect back on 2011 and look forward to 2012, I have to ask myself the question, Do I truly live with passion? Or am I merely acting out of obligation? Do I live with intentionality? Or am I just going through the motions? It is a rather heart-penetrating question to ask. And all the more timely since I am preaching tomorrow on John 15:1-11 and the idea of becoming more fruitful.

In John 15, God, as the divine gardener, takes responsibility for producing fruit in our lives. He wants to move us from no fruit to fruit to more fruit to much fruit. He disciplines us to move us from no fruit to fruit. He prunes us to move us from fruit to more fruit. We have to learn to abide to move from more fruit to much fruit. The key to fruitfulness, then, is staying connected to Christ, who is the vine.

Blending these ideas together, I need to allow God to do whatever it takes in my life to produce fruit–disciplining and pruning. I need to stay connected to him and abide in him so that he can produce life and fruit in me. I then need to take what he pours into me and use it to live with great passion and intentionality. That way, he will ultimately get all the glory. And after all, the fruit of the vine reflects the skill of the gardener.

Stay connected to Christ. Live intentionally with passion. Live a fruitful life. That is my resolution for 2012.


No Assembly Required

Around Christmastime, the three most feared words in the English language are

Those three words can reduce strong men to tears and make grownups cry. It can lead us to making bargains and offering bribes.

I think that’s why I find the words of Simeon so significant. When he sees the baby Jesus for the first time, he exclaims,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32, ESV)

Simeon understood that salvation was complete in Jesus. Salvation is not a matter of “Jesus + _____________” Salvation is not Jesus plus good works, a two-year mission, a donation to a charity, cleaning up your bad habits, prayers for penance, marriage, singleness, or anything else. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Not only is our salvation complete in Jesus, but it is available to all. Simeon recognized that Jesus would bring salvation to both Jews and Gentiles alike. A pretty radical thought for a Jew in the first century, let alone today.

When it comes to our salvation, there is no assembly required. Salvation is complete in Jesus Christ. Praise God for his Christmas gift to us!

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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Christmas, Scripture, Theology


The Scandal of Grace

Book Review: The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning

While most Christians would claim to believe in God’s grace, it is the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt out who truly appreciate it. These folks don’t view God as a divine bookkeeper who keeps score of their failures and successes. Rather, they view God as one who loves them with a furious love. That argument lies at the heart of Brennan Manning classic book, The Ragamuffin Gospel.

Originally published in 1990 and released with an update in 2005, I had not read the book until now. The author gave me a fresh appreciation of God’s relentless grace. Not only are we saved by grace, but we also live by grace. Throughout the book, Manning examines key passages of Scripture that speak of grace and presents them in a fresh way. He gives numerous examples from his own life and ministry.

The back of the book includes a new section, “19 Mercies: A Spiritual Retreat.” The readings are arranged in the natural order of a growing relationship: come, encounter, serve, and trust. After reading the book, you could use the back section as a 19-day devotional to help practice and internalize the message of the book.

A very encouraging book and one I which I had read earlier in my life.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


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Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Bible Study, Books, Theology


2011 Family Photo

Family photos taken on Christmas night, 2011.

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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Christmas, Family & Friends, Photos


It’s What I’ve Always Wanted!

For my money, Simeon (Luke 2:21-35) is one of the more interesting characters in the Christmas pageant. However, if you blink, you will miss him as he only makes a cameo appearance in the drama.

By all appearances, Simeon was a godly senior citizen (25). Tradition says he was 113 years old, though Scripture does not give us his age. What it does say is he felt he could die in peace after seeing Jesus (29).

What strikes me about Simeon is that he spent his entire life waiting for Christmas. In the process, he discovered that God’s Christmas gift satisfies the deepest longing of our heart.

Simeon encountered Jesus when his parents brought him to the temple to be dedicated (22-24). According to the Law, the event occurred 40 days after Jesus was born, or when he was almost six weeks old.

Though we don’t know how or when, Simeon received advance knowledge that he would live to see the day when the Messiah appeared (26). Waiting with confidence, I’m sure he asked the Father often, “Is this the one?” as he saw parents come into the temple to dedicate their children. Something stirred in his spirit when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus (27-28).

Like a child on Christmas morning, Simeon took Jesus in his arms and exclaimed, “It’s what I’ve always wanted!” He recognized the significance of the little baby. Not only was he God’s instrument of salvation (30), but he would bring salvation to Jews and Gentiles alike (31-32). This child would bring people to a point of decision (34) and reveal the hidden secrets of each one’s heart (35)

Through his actions, Simeon provides an excellent example of how to celebrate Christmas. We should (1) be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit in order to see where God is at work; (2) take God at his word and believe his promises; (3) receive God’s gift with joy; (4) be a blessing to others.

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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Christmas, Preaching, Scripture


House full of family

Three trips to the airport. A skyrocketing grocery bill. Tupperware filled with Christmas cookies. It all points to one thing . . . the kids are home for Christmas. We’ve gathered from three of the four corners of the US. Jon from L.A., Amanda from NYC, and Caitlin from Boston, all coming home to Seattle. Yeah! Let the celebration commence.

Caitlin has been baking up a storm–Chex Mix, toffee bars, M&M meringue cookies, gingerbread cookies, peanut butter balls, Andes mint cookies, muffins (both new & old family Christmas favorites. This morning, Christmas Eve morning, we enjoyed a huge breakfast–egg, bacon, & hash brown casserole, sausage & Canadian bacon, cinnamon rolls, strawberry cider punch, coffee, and conversation around the table.

Now, I need to hit the bicycle to burn off breakfast in order to eat more Christmas cookies. This afternoon, we’ll gather around the TV to watch the Seahawks play the SF 49ers and keep their NFL playoff hopes alive. (Minus Jon who will be at the game with friends.)

And of course, no Christmas Eve would be complete without getting takeout from Rancho Grande and then watching the Muppet Christmas Carol. Family traditions are made to bring us together.

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Posted by on December 24, 2011 in Christmas, Family & Friends, Photos, Seattle, Sports


A God worth knowing

A pastor I know recalls a Sunday morning Bible study at his church when the text under consideration was Genesis 22. In this passage, God commands Abraham to take his son Isaac and offer him in sacrifice on Mount Moriah. After the group read the passage, the pastor offered some historical background on this period in salvation history, including the prevalence of child sacrifice among the Canaanites. The group listened in awkward silence.

Then the pastor asked, “But what does this story mean to us?”

A middle-aged man spoke up. “I’ll tell you the meaning this story has for me. I’ve decided that me and my family are looking for another church.”

The pastor was astonished, “What? Why?”

“Because,” the man said, “when I look at that God, the God of Abraham, I feel I’m near a real God, not the sort of dignified, businesslike Rotary Club God we chatter about here on Sunday mornings. Abraham’s God could blow a man to bits, give and then take a child, ask for everything from a person, and then want more. I want to know that God.”

Story found in The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning

I heartily agree. That’s the kind of God I want to know as well.


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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Books, Theology


“Follow Me”

Book Review: I Am A Follower: The way, truth, and life of following Jesus (It’s never been about leading), by Leonard Sweet

In a church culture overly obsessed with leadership and success—seminars, books, techniques, tools, megachurches, celebrities, church growth secrets, etc.—Leonard Sweet sounds a call to return to becoming followers of Jesus. Rather than uncritically adopt the world’s view of leadership and success, we need to recommit ourselves to loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength so that Jesus can live his resurrection way, truth, and life in and through us.

The book is divided into four parts. In the first section, the author states his case for rejecting leadership development and instead focusing on pursuing true discipleship. To straighten out a paper clip, you have to bend the clip in the opposite direction before it can become straight. Because the church has gone overboard in pursuing success and leadership, the author overstates the case to emphasize the importance of being followers rather than leaders. To me, this was the weakest section of the book because of his overstatement. Then again, I have a passion to train and equip emerging leaders.

Parts 2, 3, & 4 follow the outline of Jesus’ statement in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. As Sweet explains,

Following Jesus’ lead, this book is organized into three parts to reflect Jesus’ three-part story: the way, the truth, and the life. When we focus on the world’s view of leadership, being a Christian becomes more about blazing our own trail than tracking Another’s footsteps, more about being happy than knowing truth, more about creating a guide to living than accepting the gift of life. When we focus on followership, however, a whole new template for the life of faith pops up:

    • To follow Jesus is to be in the right mission—the way: missional living.
    • To follow Jesus is to be in the right relationships—the truth: relational living.
    • To follow Jesus is to be in the right future—the life: incarnational living.

This seems to be a natural progression that Jesus proposed: first belonging (way), then believing (truth), then behaving (life).

With a number of short chapters, parts of the book felt like a series of lectures sewn together under a heading. Some fit together better than others. Each of the four sections ends with a series of “Interactives” to help you think through and practice the concepts.

While I don’t agree with the author’s assessment that we should reject leadership development, I do agree that we need to call people back to being followers of Christ. And at its core, a leader needs to be first and foremost a follower of Christ rather than an independent agent.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Books, Spiritual disciplines


Family Christmas Letter – 2011


Posted by on December 17, 2011 in Christmas, Family & Friends