My Best Reads of 2014 That You Should Read In 2015

I’m a guy who loves to read in my spare time (whenever that happens to come in ministry life).  This year I have come across a few duds when it comes to quality books, but there have also been quite a few great books that I would highly recommend.  So take a look at my Top 5 from 2014 and maybe grab one to read for yourself:

1) Seeing Words and Saying Beautifully by John Piper

I reviewed this book not too long ago, but it is worth mentioning again.  On the surface, it seems like it is a book that is geared toward pastors and anyone else who teaches God’s Word.  However, Piper places a burden of responsibility on all believers in that we have a massive responsibility to tell of the wonders of God.  By looking at the lives and work of George Herbert, George Whitfield and CS Lewis, Piper reveals that displaying God’s wonder can come from expressing beauty through poetry, preaching and talking about doctrine.  This is worth a read and it even closes with a prayer that I have found myself using often before I step into the pulpit:

May the Lord Jesus Himself protect me from self-exalting, Christ obscuring eloquence.  May He grant me a humble, Christ exalting poetic habit of speaking His wonders – from the simplest in His world to the greatest in His Word – in words of joyousness, honey sweetness, golden fitness and gracious saltiness.  May He do it so that I myself may first taste, then tell.

2) To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain by Matt Chandler

live We live in a world that is stressed, depressed and frustrated.  In this book, Chandler faithfully studies through the book of Philippians and points us to a joy that is greater than our circumstances.  That joy, as Paul unfolds in Philippians, is found in Christ alone.  He unfolds God’s Word clearly and even cleans up misconceptions held by the American church, including with one of the most popular verses in Scripture:

Do you see how Philippians 4:13 is not about chasing your dreams, following your passion, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, accomplishing  anything you want with God’s help?  It is instead the testimony of those who have Christ and have found Him supremely valuable, joyous and satisfying.

To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain is incredibly faithful to Scripture and is a great read for anyone – from teens seeking to grow in Christ to pastors wanting an edifying and convicting read.

3) Family Ministry Field Guide by Timothy Paul Jones

It is no secret that modern youth ministry is broken.  The church keeps losing students in their transition from high school to college and few seem to know how to deal with the situation.  Family Ministry Field Guide offers that the problem is that youth ministry is trying to function outside of the Scriptural mandate of the discipleship for youth.  The modern American church has placed teen discipleship in the hands of youth pastors, whereas Scripture places discipleship in the hands of parents.  The church must be a parents greatest resource for parents and parents must be the greatest spiritual voice in their student’s life.  Jones does an excellent job of diagnosing the weak spots of modern youth ministry and he offers great advice for youth pastors and for parents.  This is a must read for any parent or pastor.

4) Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler

Two Matt Chandler books in my Top 5?  Yup.  Honestly, I had Creature of the Word on my bookshelf for a LONG time but never got around to it.  I had always loved and respected Chandler’s preaching but once I read To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain, I knew that I had to read this book ASAP.  Creature Of The Word is not a ground breaking and original work, but it is immensely helpful in reminding the church what the bedrock of every ministry should be: the Word.  Chandler says, “Your foundation should not be unique.  It must be the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus, which is received, not developed or achieved.”  This is such an encouraging book for anyone involved in ministry on any level.

5) The Passion Driven Sermon by Jim Shaddix


As a pastor, I have read a TON of books on preaching.  But this is by far, the most challenging and practical book on preaching I have ever read.  The Passion Driven Sermon gives an array of challenges to the preacher but one challenge stands above the rest:

A preacher’s call to preach is rooted in his call to Christ, and his call to Christ is rooted in a quest for the glory of God.

Shaddix calls pastors to not be as intent on the method of delivering the sermon as he is the source.  Root your sermon in the wisdom of God and not the wisdom of man.  In doing that, God gets the glory and not the preacher.  One of the most unique things that this book offers is applications not just for pastors but for those who sit in the pews. As Shaddix says, “Weekly sermons should be driven by a passion for the glory of God.  A passion jointly possessed by both pastor and people.”  A great read for pastors and for congregants that listen to pastors on a weekly basis.

So what about you?  What were your best reads of 2014?  Leave some titles in the comments below.


You Are Perfectly Imperfect

Flaws.  Imperfections.  Weaknesses.  Insecurities.

I think all of us are well aware that there are parts of ourselves that do not measure up to the “ideal” people that culture sets in front of us through media.  There is at least one part of our body that we simply do not like.  We don’t have a talent that we wish we had.  We struggle with our people skills.  Our imperfections seem to lurk in every corner of who we are, reminding us that we are not as good as someone else in some thing.  That one blemish in our life can consume our hearts and minds, and in that process we begin to feel insecure, inadequate and unlovable.

Yet, what if those flaws were meant to be there?  What if every single other person on the face of the earth is struggling with some shortcoming?  The truth is that we all have imperfections in our life and as much as we hate them, they were meant to be there.  As this video below illustrates, they are a part of who we are.

As a student pastor, my heart breaks when I watch this video.  I know so many of the girls in America struggle with issues of body image.  They’re constantly saddled with the burden of feeling like they do not look perfect.  But this isn’t just an issue in the lives of teenage girls.  As we see in the video, adults are prone to the same feelings of inadequacy.  These shortcomings extend beyond our physical looks and creep into our talents, personalities and people skills.  Our flaws are everywhere….and that’s okay.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well. ~ Psalm 139:14

The psalmist here is praising God because God has carefully made Him into the man that he is.  For Christians we would all admit we are carefully crafted by God and in being fearfully and wonderfully made by God, we have to acknowledge that He made us with those apparent flaws.  As God sees you and your flaws He calls you wonderful…beloved….son….daughter.  As God sees your imperfections He still loves you.

Our insecurities were never meant to define us, they we meant to refine us.  As Paul so gracefully says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  God’s power shines in our weaknesses and imperfections.  Our security and strength should never come from what we look like or what we do.  Our absolute security and strength will only come through who He is.  Our flaws reveal that our hope is in Someone greater and He loves us – flaws and all.

Before you begin to wish away your imperfections, realize you might be wishing away a part of who you are. Be content in who you are: short, tall, skinny, fat or even armless.  Don’t try to find value in what people say about you, find your identity in what God already said about you.  Don’t pick at the imperfections in your life, because you are already a masterpiece from the hand of the Master Craftsman.  Our flaws are OK because God’s grace is greater than that.

So when insecurity begins to rage in your life remember that you are perfect….perfectly imperfect.

John Piper Loves Beauty & Wants To Talk About It

Simply put, words matter.  Our words can be vessels of encouragement.  They can express love to the people that matter most in our lives.  Our words can inflict pain on those we hurl insults at.  As James 2 says, the tongue is a tiny part of the body that carries a weighty impact.  That impact stretches far beyond the moment that words are uttered, and affect others far deeper than the eyes can see.  Words are a powerful tool that must be crafted and wielded carefully.

Within the Christian context, our words are a valuable commodity.  They can exalt the greatness of God and they can just as easily tear another believer down.  Those who have submitted their lives to Christ have a beautiful message to tell.  It is a tale of sin, grace and the salvation that God has given us.  The hope of the gospel and the truth of God’s Word are remarkable messages that should always trail off our lips.  Sharing the gospel matters.  Just as equally, sharing that gospel with words that show the majesty and glory of God is something we need to pursue.

This is exactly what John Piper expresses in his new book, Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully. Now before you check out when you assume this is a book for pastors only, I want you to think this through with me.  Those of us in Christ are all people who carry about the death of Christ that we may reveal the life of Christ in how we live.  To walk in that sort of grace comes with a call to tell of all that God has taught us so that we may make disciples.  From the pulpit to the pew to the park bench, the Christian is charged to tell of the wonder and glory of God.


By using the lives of three men – George Herbert, George Whitfield and CS Lewis – Piper communicates the value of knowing the riches that we have in Christ while being able to express the beauty of that grace.  These three men had three very different callings: a poet, a preacher and a professor.  Herbert, a poet, was a man who had a gift for crafting beautiful words and phrases, but he was diligent to be certain of the Scriptural truth he wrote.  Whitfield and Lewis were both men with a staunchly theological background, but they did not overlook the value in expressing truth beautifully and poetically.  Piper says of the three men, “They made poetic effort to see and savor and show the glories of Christ.  This effort was the God-dependent intention and exertion to find striking, penetrating, imaginative, and awakening ways of expressing the excellencies they saw.”

This book is a challenge to us all to wrestle with our own faith that we may know the truth, share the truth and express the truth in a way that is worthy of the glorious God we trust in.  The Christian has a great treasure in the hope of the gospel and that is a treasure that is meant to be shared with the world.  Our words should never point back to ourselves and our intellect, but they should be words that are fitly spoken, pointing to the riches of the Father.  Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully is a challenge for all of us, from pastor to public servant,  to grasp the beauty of Christ and to express how glorious He truly is.  Our words matter and it is time we started to talk like it.

How Paul Crushes the Prosperity Gospel in Three Verses

abandoned house

Many of us have had times in our life where everything seems to go wrong at the same time.  Every choice you make is the wrong one.  You can’t seem to make enough money to pay all the bills.  You lose a loved one.  All within a month.  The world is closing in around you.  Yet, it seems like everyone around you has their junk together and everything seems to be going right.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  It doesn’t seem like God hears you.  Your life feels broken down.  You just want to give up.

Yet, you know God is bigger than your circumstances.  You aren’t ready to give up.  In times like this you readily turn to Philippians 4:11-13:

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:11-13

These verses have found their way onto T-shirts, coffee mugs and motivational posters.  When we want to be a better boss or crank out one more set at the gym, we rattle out Philippians 4:13.  We tell ourselves, “I can do this!”  However, is there a more misquoted verse in the Bible other than Philippians 4:13?  We want to take this verse out of context and apply it to our lives so we can be better employees, students, athletes or just better people, but that’s not the point here.  This isn’t a testimony of someone who is constantly successful.  It is instead the testimony of a man who has Christ and has found Him as His source of joy, hope and strength regardless of good circumstances.  As Paul writes these words we can’t help to think back to what he’s been through:

24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. ~ 2 Corinthians 11:24-28

Now take these verses and put them into the context of Philippians 4:11.  I am content in nearly being beaten to death.  I am content when I am nearly stoned to death.  I am content when I am shipwrecked.  I am content even when I am persecuted wherever I go.  Paul isn’t content because everything is going right.  Paul is content in the worst moments imaginable because of the constant security of the hope in Christ!  This is the anti-prosperity gospel.  His hope isn’t doing greater things, being richer and having his best life now.  His hope in this life was crucified on the cross and raised in the resurrected power of Jesus.  Our contentment can never be seen, tasted or touched.

In times of unrelenting trial, we taste a grace and hope that can come only from Christ.  We understand mercy and love unlike ever before.  Imagine if Paul has never had those terrible things happen to him that were described in 2 Corinthians 11.  Would Philippians 4:13 carry the same weight if Paul had only experience a life of success and prosperity?  No.

Now imagine your life.  Do the people in your life want to hear you wax eloquent about God’s love and grace while you drive a BMW and dress like a Gucci model?  No, people want to punch you in the face.  A life lived in contentment even in the midst of trial and frustration is a life that glorifies God alone because that contentment is not of this world.  When you can find unending hope in Christ in the dark times of life you have a life that shouts about God’s grace. Find satisfaction, joy and contentment in Christ alone and you will be able to weather the most violent storm.  Find your contentment in Him and you will show others His grace lived out.  Find your hope in Him and you will change the world.


The Gospel Centered Life


I became a Christian at 15 years old and surrendered to a call to ministry at 16.  Yet, as I grew in faith, my understanding of the word “gospel” was limited to Southern Gospel Music.  I had no idea that the word gospel was rooted in the very fabric of Scripture.  At the time, I could explain to you what the Prayer of Jabez was or how you could live a purpose driven life, but I couldn’t come close to telling you what the gospel meant.  Nowadays, you can’t walk into a Christian bookstore without tripping over a book with “gospel” in the title.  You have books like The Explicit GospelGospel and Gospel-Centered Discipleship to name a few.  There’s even a Bible study for the entirety of your church small groups called The Gospel Project.

So is this the next Christian fad in the Purpose-Driven mold?  There was Purpose-Driven everything.  You had Purpose-Driven: Life, Church, Youth Ministry, Man, Dog…the list was endless.  So is this the era the gospel-centered Christian fad?  Yes and no.  Is there a polar shift of focus on to the gospel in evangelical Christianity?  Yes.  Is this just a passing cultural Christian fad?  I hope not.

Let me explain.  There is no more vital piece of the Christian faith than the gospel.  The Apostle Paul puts it succinctly:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Paul reminds us that the gospel is not only what we received, but it is the power in which we stand and by which we continue to be saved.  The gospel is active and powerful.  The gospel grants the believer so many things, chief of which is our adoption as sons and daughters of God.  As we live and rest in the gospel, the effects are manifold.


Instead of defining ourselves by what we have done or what has happened to us, the gospel pulls us back to what Christ has done.  No longer am I defined by my job, by the bad things I’ve done, by the bad things that have happened to me or by the good things I’ve done.  When I go outside of Christ to find my identity, regardless of how noble the pursuit is, I am engaging in idolatry.  Because of the work of the cross I am adopted as a son.  Because of Christ, I am credited with the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).  In Christ I am no longer what I have done but I am what He has done.


The gospel is the ultimate means of destroying all barriers between man.  No skin color, socioeconomic background or culture can withstand the power of the gospel to break it down.  The gospel unites us all as sinners saved by grace.  That brotherhood is meant to be played out in biblical community.  The New Testament reminds us over and over that our faith, though personal, was never meant to be private.  The first half of Titus 2 lays out the benefits of having relationships and discipleship within the context of biblical community.  As Christians, we are meant to live our lives together.


Many Christians think of Doxology as a song you sing in church.  But doxology comes from two Greek words – doxa which means belief and logos which means word(s).  So basically we have “words of belief”.  As we rest in the fact of Christ as our Lord and Savior we have a story to tell.  As we wake up everyday in the understanding that we are sons and daughters of the living God, our lives will erupt with words of belief!  There is no greater thing to grasp than the fact that God loves me, has adopted me and is sending me into the world for His glory.  Our purpose of our faith is to worship.  If our belief does not drive us to worship God with our lives and our lips, it is pointless.  May a word of praise be ever on our lips!


The gospel is everything.  May today you rest and live confidently in the wondrous hope of the gospel!


Worship in Weakness

worship in weakness

A New Year brings us a renewed sense of optimism and promise to our lives.  It is a time to make resolutions that will hopefully make our lives much better.  In essence, we are preparing ourselves to succeed in 2014.  We seek out every chance we have to excel.  However, an equally important question to ask is, “Are we preparing ourselves to fail in 2014?”  Are we prepared to struggle physically?  Are we ready to bear the brunt of devastating news?  Because failure, hurt and weakness are waiting for us this year.

Personally, I know I’m not ready.  I’ve become so programmed by American cultural Christianity that I need to focus on living my best life now.  Daily our country cranks out scores of books, TV shows and sermons that center around the prosperity gospel.  The mantra of the prosperity gospel goes something like “trust more, give more, pray harder and the Lord is going to bless you and nothing bad will ever happen to you.”  Many of you readers would say that we don’t buy into the prosperity gospel, but our prayer life will reveal otherwise.  The bulk of our prayer life centers on us wanting things to get better: our health, our finances, our jobs.  Subconsciously, we want that best life and we want it now.  We fear weakness, trial and tribulation.  We wish our pain away and hide it so others can’t see we’re hurting.  But why?

Why do we hide our failures, weaknesses and trials?  I say in 2014, let’s embrace the hard times of our lives.  May we not let our weaknesses define us but to know that it is OK that my heart is broken.  It is OK that my heart is filled with fear.  It is OK that I have no idea what is next for me in my life.  God reigns over all just as much in my weaknesses as He does in my successes.  I know in my heart that God will give me strength whatever the circumstances, all I have to do is to continue to rest in Him.  I have to know that even in my deepest possible pain He is with me and will not forsake me.  God will take my weakness as an opportunity to reveal His strength and grace.  As Scripture says:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

To my brothers and sisters, it is OK to suffer.  Christ suffered as a man just like we will.  So why should we be surprised at the frustrations we face?  Boasts in your weakness!  Not boasting in a whining sort of way, but boast in the fact that God is with you in the midst of all of this.  Boast in the fact that He is still in control.  Boast in our trials so that as Peter says, “the genuineness of our faith may be found to result in praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Do not be crushed by hard circumstances in 2014.  Press on.  Continue to rest in the fact that God has a plan for your life, even if you can’t see it in the midst of pain.  Rest in the promise of His Word and continue to trust in Him even in the presence of pain.

This year choose to worship joyfully, choose to worship in weakness.



Resolved to Be Resolute

resolute copy

As 2013 draws to a close and as 2014 is waiting to dawn, we all know the inevitable is coming.  We all know that on January 1st we’ll make our New Year’s resolutions.  We make them every year and many of them are incredibly noble: lose weight, eat better, read more, spend more time with family.  We have the best intentions to keep these resolutions, but after a few months probably will have stopped pursuing these resolutions all together.

Even the understanding of the word “resolution” is tainted by the fact that we don’t follow through on the ones we make at every new year.  The word itself means firm determination or deciding on a particular course of action.  We make these resolutions seeking to be resolute, unwavering and passionate in pursuit of those commitments.  May we as the church have that same unwavering commitment this year!  I want to share with you guys a few items from Scripture the Lord has laid on my heart to fiercely pursue in the New Year.  I pray that these may encourage you to do the same.

1) Stand firm in the faith 

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. ~ 1 Corinthians 16:13

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. ~ Galatians 5:1

The modern Christian can be stereotyped as passive in many ways.  We have taken a reactionary approach to faith and life that we only pursue God when we feel we need Him.  We are bold in our faith until it is no longer popular or politically correct to hold to a certain portion of a biblical worldview.  We speak out against sin until we come to our own pet sin that we are trying to hide.  May I hunger after His Word this year more than I ever have.  May I be man enough to stand on His Word, even if it costs me something.  May I life my life in a manner worthy of my calling in Christ.

2) Unity

being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ~ Ephesians 4:3

The beginning of Ephesians 4 has the word “therefore” at the beginning of the chapter.  That single word points us back to everything already penned in Ephesians and then calls us to action in the verses following.  The beginning of Ephesians lays out the beauty of our redemption, that we are saved by grace, that we are entrusted with the marvelous honor to share the gospel and that we as the church are made to be family and coheirs with Christ.  In view of that, we are therefore called to “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit.”  The interesting word in that verse is preserve.  The unity is already existent to those in Christ.  We are all sinners saved by grace.  We are all submitted to the same heavenly Father.  We don’t have to pursue unity as some sort of separate ideal as Christians, it is already there.  I must let nothing damage the unity of the bride of Christ already there.  My feelings, preferences, my own sin should not damage the unity of the body of Christ.   May this year I seek to let nothing stand in the way of me loving my brothers and sisters in Christ.  May I seek to come along side my brothers and sisters in Christ to take the gospel wherever life takes me.

3) Holiness

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” ~ 1 Peter 1:14-16

There are few commands that are as stark as “be holy, for I am holy”.  May we no longer live in way where we find ourselves saying of sin, “How far is too far?”  May the heartbeat of my life be, “How can I honor God with the day I have been given?”  May I seek to put my sin to death, not accommodate it.  May I not seek to see how much sin I can get away with, but seek to take up my cross and deny myself and to follow Him.  May I ere on the side of passionate pursuit, not wounded wandering faith.

Bring it on 2014.



Christian Worship & Music: A Hill Many Have Died On

amazing grace hymn

In recent days the Christian blog world exploded over a panel discussion by the NCFIC on Christian rap and hip hop.  If you haven’t seen the panel discussion you can watch it here.  However, my article here does not directly answer what happened in that discussion.  There are many other people who have covered the subject with great biblical insight and humility.  One of the best articles on the NCFIC debacle is penned by Timothy Trudeau.  You can read Tim’s article here.

To watch what happened on the stage of the NCFIC discussion did not terribly surprise me.  There has been an element of the Christian church that has been wary of the new and unfamiliar in Christian music.  The idea of Christian rap is a strange concept to many.  Yet, as you hear the songs by Lecrae, Trip Lee and Shai Linne they reveal men who have a heart to share the gospel and to bring glory to God through the gifts they have been given.

However, Christian rap is not the only argument that has happened in the church over music.  Many of us can think of a church (even your own church) that is in a debate over worship styles.  You hear the discussion all the time: “Should we sing only hymns or only contemporary worship?  Should you have a combination of both?’  These conversations quickly turn to heated arguments and these arguments have cost pastors their jobs and have caused church splits.

So why all the fuss over music in the church and how can we resolve all these conflicts especially over preference of worship style?  I wish I had an answer for you in this regard, but I do not.  All I can do is provide some perspective on the subject and pray the Lord can use it in your life.

1) As much a people say music style doesn’t matter, it really does

Over the centuries Christian worship has changed by ways of sound and feel.  The way the Christians in the Book of Acts worshiped is not quite the way Hillsong worships.  If we read Psalm 150, we see worship that sounds very different than what goes on in many churches in the Western world.

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!     ~ Psalm 150:3-6

Not many Western churches have a lute, trumpet and pipe used in worship.  Common instruments in the Western church today include piano, organ, drums, guitar and bass.  Are any of these means of worship more “holy” than the others?  I don’t think they are.  These are the instruments that the people have and so that is what they worship the Lord with.  These are instruments that people have grown up hearing.  It has become a part of the fabric of their church and their culture.  That’s our true problem.  Any problem a person has with a certain type of music becomes an attack on a group’s cultural identity.  Great care has to be taken when we deal with someone’s culture.

2) Let’s come back to worship of the heart

I think the bigger issue over music style is the issue of the heart in worship.  Worship is so much more than beautiful music strung together with powerful lyrics.  We can sing some of the most classic anthems of the faith or some of the most soul stirring contemporary worship available, but it means nothing if our heart is not in to it.  Pay careful attention to the words of Jesus as He quotes from Isaiah:

This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.  ~ Matthew 15:8-9

We cannot dare rob God of the praise due to Him because we don’t like the beat of a song.  We should never mindlessly sing songs with our voices from a hymnal or from a projector screen that we are not singing with our hearts.  Worship is more than the physical act of singing.  It is the confession of our hearts as to who God is and what He has done.

May that be our biggest concern with music in the church be about honoring and worshiping God with our own hearts.  If God is not worthy to be praised because we do not like the beat of a song then our hearts feel that He’s not worthy of praise in the first place.  He is always worthy of praise!  May that be the song of our hearts.  May our hearts daily sing to Him who is worthy to be praised.




Tending to the Temple: Faith & Fitness


Tending to the Temple

At the tail end of this summer I had the opportunity to speak at an area wide event called Youth Week.  Each main session speaker was videoed and the session was put on YouTube.  As soon as I clicked on my YouTube link I was disappointed with what I saw.   My disappointment had nothing to do with the video quality or what I said…I realized I had let myself go physically.  At that point I weighed 150 lbs, which might not sound like much but for a 5’10” armless guy I was carrying to much weight and weighed more than I have ever weighed in my life.

It was time to change.  At first I started running on my own and changing my eating habits.  Then after some encouragement from my good friend Brad I joined up with CrossFit Wilson .  I’m only about 3 weeks in but I have been thrilled with how things have gone and the progress I’ve made so far.

I think one of the most humbling things is the realization that my body and well being is a gift from God.  In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul refers to the body as “the temple of the Holy Spirit” and that we should”glorify God with our body”.  Now while the context of those verses comes in abstaining from sexual immorality, I think the principle remains.  Am I glorifying God with this body that I’ve been given?

I don’t want this to seem like a rant against out of shape people or to say that being overweight is a sin.  However, I do think it is time to see out bodies a gift we’ve been entrusted with.  Our bodies are an investment.  Even if one day we will begin to age and our bodies will begin to breakdown, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to maintain what we have.  If that were the case, why should we maintain our cars?  Why spend money on oil changes and transmission fluid flushes if the car will just go to the junkyard one day?  We take care of our cars because we see them as an investment.  We should look at our bodies in the same way: an investment given to us by God.  Which is a convicting idea as a pastor.  A quick trip to a pastor’s convention will reveal that many guys in ministry have put on the pounds.  Certainly that can be attributed to the busy nature of the job, the stress and few opportunities to eat well on the run, but we as pastors ought to set the bar in caring for the bodies God has blessed us with.

I am not going to give you any sort of guilt trip on why fitness is important for the Christian, but here are some benefits I have seen in having an active lifestyle:

1) The physical health aspect

It is a somewhat well known fact that the leading cause of death in the world is heart disease.  According to the World Health Organization, many of these deaths are preventable with adjustments in diet, exercise and quitting smoking.  Throw in the benefits of having a better looking beach body while you’re on vacation and the physical benefits seem quite appealing.

2) More energy

I have no idea why this is the case, but I have more energy when I am working out.  Take today for example: I got up at 6:30 am to eat breakfast and go workout, which is earlier than I would ever get up normally.  So naturally one would think that with less sleep and more physical work that I would be exhausted for the rest of the day.  It is exactly the opposite.  I have a ton of energy now and I’ll give credit to the hard work put in at the gym and the endorphins that get released after a workout.

3) Opportunities for community and evangelism

There is something about being active with other people, whether is be a running club, gym membership or team sport, that builds rerlationships.  At CrossFit Wilson, it has been awesome to enjoy community with other believers and church leaders that workout there.  Just as importantly, I get to meet people who need the gospel that I might not normally meet.  The relationships built can profit myself but they can also be used to share the gospel.

My expectation is not that we have churches full of people with big biceps and six pack abs.  I just hope that we tend to the investment that God has given to us.  All I ask is that we try.