The Three “Comings” of Jesus

Advent: Jesus then, Jesus now, Jesus in the future Want to know a secret? I used to think Advent was all about Christmas, and the four common themes of Advent—Hope, Peace, Joy and Love—were symbols reminding us what Jesus brought to this world. While there is truth to what I used to believe, I have come to see that the season of Advent is much more. Advent is derived from Latin and means “to come” or “the coming.” It is a time of waiting with expectation, anticipation, longing and preparation. It reminds us the world yearns for deliverance—a deliverance provided only by the Messiah. It is a time to celebrate that light has come into a darkened world, that hope has arrived in the form of a child, that peace is in our future. ... Read the article

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The Faith Venue

Living and sharing the gospel One of the most famous Christian misquotes is attributed to Francis of Assisi. In some variation it sounds like this: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” At face value, this seems to make sense. We are to be lights in a darkened world—and lights are basically silent. We are to show ourselves to be a model of good works (Titus 2:7). We are to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). We are to love as Jesus loved (John 13:34). And we are to be humble, not domineering, setting a right example, etc. While these are all good things, they don’t justify the quote. Let me suggest three major problem with this quote. Francis of Assisi didn’t say this. Francis of Assisi wouldn’t... Read the article

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Being Real

Pastors and leaders are growing too It had been a rough week and I was not in the best mood. It was one of those weeks full of challenges—personal and work-related— and I felt God wasn’t answering my prayers and giving me what I believed I needed. I started complaining to my wife about going to church and putting on my “church face.” You know the one I’m referring to—looking happy and giving the impression that everything is good, and my life was just wonderful. Further, I had to preach that day, meaning I felt I had to make God look good when I didn’t feel he was being so good to me at the time. Cheryl first told me I had to go to church because I was the pastor, and then she said, “Rick, just share your struggles... Read the article

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God Opened My Eyes to Worship

God used a tent full of teenagers to change my life. I used to believe my church was the only true church. (This is not a unique way of thinking; I have found this thinking is common in many denominations.) Because I was in the only true church, I questioned the Christianity of others who did not attend my church. And before you ask, yes, I have deeply repented of this way of thinking, but I needed to share this to tell the following story. I was invited to a youth conference sponsored by another denomination. I was invited to set up a booth, share some things I’d written, and be available to talk to the youth who were attending the conference. Though God had been working with me to see there were good Christians in other... Read the article

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Church = Hope

What is the first word that pops into your mind when you think of church? Fellowship? Potluck? Sermon? Worship? Communion? God? Hope? I’ve been blessed to travel to many countries around the world and meet people from several cultures. I’ve rubbed shoulders with the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh and Nepal, and with people of status and wealth in several countries. Like most of us, I’ve seen people in their highest highs and their lowest lows. I’ve been with several family members and friends as they have faced horrendous trials and losses. One common theme I’ve encountered all over the world is the need for people to have hope. Wherever you go, you see people without hope. The homeless population around the world is... Read the article

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Seeing Through God’s Eyes

Several years ago, I had two individuals in one of my congregations who monopolized my time. Every week they came up to me sharing their woes, asking for advice and just wanting to talk—about anything. There were several occasions when I missed other important conversations because one of these individuals was bending my ear. I’m ashamed to admit I got to the point where I tried to avoid these encounters. I even had others run interference for me. I’ll never forget the one Sunday I was driving home, and I told my wife it was a great day at church, I didn’t have to talk to either one of these individuals. She just looked at me and smiled—you know, one of those smiles that lets you know she’s about to say something you don’t... Read the article

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Love Is a Verb

A deeper look at Jesus’ New Command Most of us can recite John 13:35, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I’ve spent most of my life wondering why Jesus referred to this as a “new command.” After all, it was very similar to the great commandment discussion Jesus had earlier in Matthew. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40). So why did Jesus, on his last night... Read the article

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Behind the Missio Dei

When people talk about the church’s mission, they refer to what is called the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20 ESV). I used to read this with more than a bit of apprehension. How was I to go and make disciples? How was I to go teach others to observe all Jesus commanded? I didn’t know where to start, and the whole concept of a Great Commission seemed ominous---a huge amount of work I didn’t feel qualified for. I’ve since learned I am not alone in how I viewed this passage. Like you, I’ve been taught this is the Missio Dei---the mission of... Read the article

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Finding Leaders

Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders, One of the greatest joys in ministry is developing other leaders. One of the greatest challenges many say they face is finding leaders to develop. One might ask, “Where do I find good leaders?” A reasonable response to this question would be, “Where are you looking, and what are you looking for? The answer to these questions often reveals two things: First, it becomes very clear where many are not looking, and second, it becomes clear many are looking for what they term “natural born leaders.” This indicates some don’t grasp the truth about leadership---leaders are mostly made, rather than born, and it takes time to invest in and help develop leaders. The question of whether leaders are... Read the article

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Pastoral Self Preservation

Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders, I'm pretty adept at self-preservation---building walls to protect myself. These walls often prevent me from disclosing too much, from entering deeper relationships, from bringing challenge to others, from succeeding in certain areas because of fear, anxiety or trying to prove something. And I'm not alone. Prior to studying for my MA in Biblical Studies, I decided to enter a MA program specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy at Azusa Pacific University. To prepare myself, I took a number of undergraduate classes in counseling and psychology. I quickly learned about the many walls people put up to protect themselves. And I became more aware of the walls I had built to protect myself. I built... Read the article

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