I like sports.

So when I heard about a book by C.J. Mahaney that was all about sports, I ordered it immediately.

Mahaney writes, “Sports are a gift from God. But as soon as you introduce the human heart, things get complicated.” In this short book (I read it in about half an hour), he explains how Christians should enjoy sports while avoiding the idolatry that can be an inherent temptation. He explains what it means to play for the glory of God and offers several practical tips on how to be a grateful, humble servant athlete.

I would have like to see him write more about competitiveness and how this characteristic is not necessarily a vice. We can glorify God when we strive for competitive excellence. Trying hard to win is not a bad thing. Then again, you can’t hope that C.J. will address everything having to do with sports in a 50-page pamphlet.

All in all, Don’t Waste Your Sports would be a helpful read for any athlete, coach, parent of an athlete, or fan.

Maranatha and Art

January 3, 2011

I was reading some in A Layman’s Guide to Protestant Theology tonight when I came across this sentence:

“Compared to the medieval preoccupation with life after death, the Renaissance was relatively uninterested in the subject.”

The first place my mind went after reading this was Christians and the arts. There is a fundamental problem when we get so caught up in the things of this life – even beautiful things – that we forget to think with an eternal perspective. Whether you are a full-fledged Christian artist or casual movie viewer, we must look at art through the lens of eternity. No matter how beautiful any work of art may be, it is not better than what awaits us.

The Renaissance may have been uninterested in life after death, but confidence in the resurrection and an imminent expectation of the return of Christ helped the early church turn the world upside down.

“Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13 ESV)

His glorious appearing is our hope.

Earlier this week I received a random yet wonderful gift. Someone sent me For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper. The writings and sermons of John Piper have greatly influenced my spiritual life and ministry, so I was especially excited for the initial biographical essays.

Last night, I sat down to read and even though it was getting late, I could not put the book down. The chance to take a look behind the books and sermons and into the life of John Piper was more exciting than sleep at that moment. And one thing stood out of his character more than anything else: he loves Jesus. One of his associate pastors describes him as a man “with Christ at his core as the glad and glorious ‘blazing center.'” His personal assistant says, “The greatest single benefit from working with John the last four years is that I love Jesus more.”

This characteristic passion and love for God not only characterizes John Piper, but every truly good pastor I know. When I think of my current pastor (Mike Fabarez), my former pastors (John MacArthur and Rick Holland), my sermon preparation teacher (Scott Ardavanis), or my father, I think of men who are not just driven by discipline but compelled by a passion for God.

If I want to be a successful minister of the gospel, and if you want to be a vibrant growing Christian, one thing is essential. We must simply have a blazing love and passion for Jesus Christ.

Revival X

July 16, 2010

I just can’t take the excitement anymore! So I’m going to leave for Revival early!

Ok, so I am seriously excited for Revival, and I am leaving early, but I am not going early merely because I am impatient. I once again have the pleasure of leading the set-up crew.

This will be my fourth year at Revival. Each year this camp has been a highlight in my life. Yes, they have been fun, but the main things I remember are the awesome things that God has done each and every time. I have seen God save students. I have students grow more bold in their faith. I have seen an entire group grow more excited about expressing their praise to God in song than ever before.

I have seen revival.

Above all, I am looking forward to what God is going to do in the lives of high school students over the next week. Here are a few ways you could pray for me:

-Worship. I have the privilege of leading the Revival Band once again. Pray that my voice stays strong the whole week, but more importantly, pray that God uses us to help people awaken and express their joy in the Lord.
-Teaching. Pray for Pastor Bobby, Pastor Lucas, and Pastor Mike as they preach. We believe that God’s Word is powerful, so pray that these men preach it with clarity and passion.
-Details. Last year’s trip with the set up team involved no a/c and two flat tires in our truck. Pray for a smoother operation this time around!
-Lasting change. Pray that Revival X will bear fruit for years to come. Pray that God uses this week to stir up students to pursue ministry or missions. Pray that high school campuses in the OC will be affected. Pray that people’s eternal destinies are changed!

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
-James 5:16

Lesson from Jetlag

July 10, 2010

So we had another earthquake on Wednesday afternoon.

I saw the earthquake. Things were visibly shaking in the Compass Room (where I was when it happened.)

I heard the earthquake. The whole building rattled as it shook.

I did not feel the earthquake. Not one little bit. The ground felt perfectly normal to me. Why? I was jet-lagged, so it already felt like the earth was in a constant state of motion.

At 6:00 am Tuesday morning, I landed at LAX on a 14-and-a-half-hour flight that had left Tel Aviv at 1:30am local time. I made it through Tuesday alright, but about 2:30pm Wednesday afternoon, jet-lag swung by my office and began pounding my face into my desk (or so it felt.)

Few things impress upon me the futility of my own humanity more than jet-lag. Even though I am trying to be motivated and work, my body wants to do nothing but curl up into the fetal position and conk out.

Thankfully, I serve an infinite God. He never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121). He is omnipresent, so he never has to deal with trans-continental flights or jet-lag.

When I am at my worst (jet-lagged so bad I cannot feel an earthquake), I can still depend on him. That was the lesson of jet-lag. I was constantly forced to express that dependence on him through prayer and by running to his word. Thankfully, as the effects of jet-lag have worn off, the lesson I learned has not. I hope it stays that way.

All My Needs

April 16, 2010

In Philippians 4:19, Paul makes this amazing claim:

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

This weekend I am preaching to the high school group on serving the church, and I was reminded of this verse when one of the commentaries said, “When we serve, ‘God will pay the expenses, whether they be material, physical, or emotional.'”

Too often I have limited the scope of Philippians 4:19 to money. I think to myself, I can give financially because God will provide financially. Unfortunately, I do not make this same application to other areas. Time, energy, and rest are all other things that are required for ministry, but it is nonsensical to believe that God can provide the finances I need to give but not the energy and rest.

God can supply ALL my needs.

Whole Heart

February 11, 2010

I never thought that I would get paid to rap.

But with the last two Revivals, it has been my job to put together a rap for a promotional video. For the “Heat to the Snow” video, I not only had to come up with the lyrics for the rap, but the melody as well. At some point in this songwriting process, a thought dawned on me. If I can write a silly song promoting Revival: Winter Edition, why can’t I write a serious song promoting whole-hearted worship of God?

I wanted to write a song that went along with the theme of Revival: Winter Edition. So, I searched for a Psalm of David that expresses the desire to be a person “After God’s Own Heart.”. In Psalm 86, David not only praises God for his great power and love, but he also makes this request in verse 11. He says:

“Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.”

David asks God for a united heart, and we should be crying out for the same thing. Because there is no one like our God, we should long to love him with our “Whole Heart.”

Good and forgiving
Love so abounding
Who is good like you?
You gladden my soul
My cup overflows
Who brings joy like you?

Teach me, Lord, all of your ways
Unite my heart, all of my days
To fear your name and walk in truth
For my whole heart I give to you

Mighty in power
Awesome in wonder
Who is great like you?
Strong to deliver
You reign forever
There is none like you

Hear my cry, O God
According to your grace
And with my whole heart
I will seek your face

You can listen to the song and download it here!

If there is ever a time of year where there are many things to think about, it is most definitely right now. Even before the happenings of 2009 have finished bouncing around in our brain, 2010 is here with its own plethora of things to ponder. People are asking, “What am I going to resolve to do in the New Year?” Businesses are planning, “How are we going to use our money in 2010?” Seniors in high school are wondering, “What is it going to be like when I graduate and begin a whole new stage of my life?” Truly, there is plenty to think about.

But in the midst of “many things” at the beginning of 2010, there is “one thing” that we should commit to thinking about before anything else. Check out what David said thousands of years ago:

“One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.”
Psalm 27:4

If anybody had many things to think about, it was David. Before he was king, he had to plan how he was going to avoid Saul, the first King of Israel whose mission in life was to make sure David was not alive to become the second King of Israel. After David survived that and became king, he had to think not only for himself, but for a whole nation! But in the middle of all of that, the one thing David wanted was to be with the Lord and behold the beauty of the Lord.

Everyone has many “things” to think about as the New Year gets rolling, but are you committed to seeking the “one thing” like David was? Before anything else, is your heart set of loving God more and getting a greater focus on his beauty in 2010? Will this priority show itself when you are fighting for time to spend with the Lord even when life gets busy with school, church, activities, and other events?

Do not let the one thing that is most important get buried and drowned under the many things that 2010 will bring.

This blog was also posted at ChurchForHighSchoolers.com – the new website of True North.

Musings on Matthew

December 16, 2009

On Monday, True North finished going through the book of Matthew on Scripture of the Day. As we began this journey through the first gospel, I was preparing to preach a sermon in which the main idea was “Christianity it all about Christ.” With this thought central of my mind, I longed more than ever to sit at the feet of Christ by reading about his life and found myself hungry each day for another bite of Matthew.

The feast on Matthew may be over now, but the digestion is only beginning. This morning, I wanted to take some time and capture in writing some of my thoughts from the past month of SOTD before they fly away.

Perhaps the main idea that stood out to me from taking a close look at Christ in Scripture was this: reading about Jesus life THEN should strengthen my faith NOW.

Matthew reveals two major responses to Jesus: faith and unbelief. The main personifications of unbelief are the Pharisees–so caught up in their system of works righteousness and spiritual pride that they fail to see the Messiah. The disciples also display flashes of unbelief in moments of doubt, fear, or misunderstanding.

On the other hand, examples of faith appear all over this book, from the Magi who travel the world to see Christ to the little old lady who pushes through the crowd to just touch the edge of Jesus’ robe to Peter when he confidently proclaims Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” More than examples, faith is also central to the teaching of Jesus.

So the question I must ask myself after reading through Matthew–which is the same question anyone who encounters Jesus in Scripture must ask–is, “What is my response: unbelief or faith?” Even more precisely, how will my faith be strengthened because of what I have learned about Jesus?

Two specific things stood out to me in response to this question. The first is an increased commitment and fervor to wage the war against sin. Jesus described this fight in the most radical terms (gouging out your eyes and taking up your cross.) Do I view my fight against sin this way? And after seeing Jesus revealed in the Word, am I so enraptured with him that I will gladly sacrifice anything to be with him?

The second proper response is prayer. Jesus makes it clear that faith and prayer go together. Not only should faith drive me to spend more time in prayer, it should affect the way I pray. Faith (as opposed to doubting) describes proper prayer; these kind of prayers will be confident and fervent.

I am grateful for God’s Word and how it reveals God’s Son! Join us as we read through John on Scripture of the Day!

I don’t know how it happens, but whenever I run, I hear music. A steady beat from a piano and synthesized percussion builds into a beautiful melody. Nowhere can I run and avoid this occurrence, but it is heightened when I run at the beach. For the life of me, I cannot figure out who is following me and playing the theme from Chariots of Fire every time I run.

Or maybe it is just playing in my head.

I am sure I am not alone in my experience, because it seems that whenever you see someone running (especially in slow motion) someone will invariably start humming the tune. However, while everyone knows the song, not many know the movie…or the story it tells.

Chariots of Fire tells the story of a group of youth British athletes as they prepare for the 1924 Olympic Games while giving particular attention to two of them: Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. After the famous opening scene, we first meet Abrahams, a young Jewish man entering a fine English university with a chip on his shoulder. He sees the whole world as against him, and he is out to win (or as he puts it, “Run them off their feet.”)

In contrast to Abrahams, Eric Liddell is introduced. Instead of being out to prove himself when he runs, Liddell runs because he believes God has given him the ability to do it, and “when runs, he feels God’s pleasure.” Above everything else (including running), he commits himself to his God.

Through the telling of the story of the Olympic games we see two very different men. The desire to win consumes Abrahams. Every loss destroys his confidence and fear racks his mind as he prepares for the final race. On the other hand, Liddell faces a different predicament. When the preliminary heats for the 100 meters are scheduled for a Sunday, Liddell chooses to honor his conviction to not run on the Sabbath. Even when he is placed before the Prince of Wales, he will not compromise.

Both Liddell and Abrahams end up winning gold medals (Abrahams in the 100m; Liddell in the 400m). But contrast appears yet again in victory. Abrahams’ victory seems to be a joyless occasion, and he shuns his teammates for a drunken conversation with his trainer. In Liddell’s victory, we see joy, a reunion with his family, and the satisfaction of knowing that he honored his God.

The movie provides so much more than a powerful melody that runs through my mind, it also encourages me. Worldly success is not the goal of this life; bringing glory to God is. And only when we live our lives for his pleasure will we experience true pleasure ourselves.