Steady as We Go

It has been a tough weekend in the suburbs of San Diego. As you may have heard from news reports, a teenager, somehow influenced by hate, murdered a women and hurt others at a synagogue in Poway, CA. A block from San Diego City limits and just a short drive from Escondido where we call home.

We deplore hateful violence. There is no quarter for it in the church and we must actively and repeatedly communicate that such animus for other image-bearers is anti-Christ.

But it was so close to home. The alleged terrorist grew up in a neighborhood called Rancho Penasquitos, graduated from a good high school and was a member of a church in Escondido. A church, reformed in doctrine, certainly proclaiming the gospel, and meeting on the campus of respected seminary. The synagogue is the same neighborhood where members of our church live… this happened on our streets, where we do our best to flourish.

There will be much time for processing and working in the community for healing and I am thankful for the group of local pastors striving toward that end.

As I reflect on this today, I am struck by how quickly culturally we will move on from this tragedy and how active we must be to prevent it from happening again. But also that the gospel empowers us to keep on, to speak for justice in every day life.

Before my sermon at Reservoir yesterday I shared my joy at returning to the normal life of the church:

Coming off of Easter I was reminded in my own heart of the draw toward experience. The big Sunday, the whizbang sermon, the emphasis we put on special events. But more so I reflected on the reality that faith is lived out in community, in the day-to-day, nitty-gritty, happiness and sorrows of life. And the gospel, the good news of Jesus speaks to and holds us up in all of it.

What relief!

It is a relief. Because we need holding up. We need spiritual power for every moment of life, especially those with such darkness.

So we press on. Clinging to Christ, our hope.

Passing on Passivity

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” Hebrews 2:1–4 (ESV)

One conversation I always bristle at, and have had often, goes a little something like this: “I still love Jesus and I know I am saved, but since it is all about grace I don’t NEED to study Scripture or talk to other Christians about my faith, I don’t NEED to come to church on Sundays…”

As you can imagine this conversation is usually with someone that has stopped attending the gathering of the saints, or refuses to participate in small groups, or is confounded by their lack of growth and hope when they have no “Scriptural diet.” And I get it, I feel the same pull toward passivity all the time.

But this is not what we are meant for when we respond to the glorious good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for us. We are meant to press into it not be passive about it.

Calling it mining the depths of the gospel or whatever you prefer, just dive into it and keep going. As the author of Hebrews offers, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”

That’s the danger, drifting. Assuming and eventually losing the hope you have in the justification granted by Jesus, and certainly no experience of the sanctification promised. We even lose a sense of truth as we wander distracted by the lights and voices of our world.

If you find yourself tempted in this way, take up and read, see Christ in Scripture and in the community of believers around you. Find people that will stay on the journey with you. Pay attention to the gospel because you are prone to forget it. Do everything you can to prevent drifting away. Pass on the passivity.

Consuming the Bread of Life

Today I preached from John 6, specifically verses 22-58. It is a wonderful text and one that is truly vital for, I think every believer in Jesus, and certainly me. It has been an encouragement in my walk and pursuit of Christ.

The text has a confounding bit mixed in with some amazing theological encouragements. The declaration that the Father gives those that believe in Jesus to the Son and those that come to him will never be cast out. What grace, what joy to be included in this number.

The confounding piece though is that Jesus tells the crowd that is seeking after him that they need to eat him, consume his flesh, drink his blood.

Now the crowd did have some mixed motives for tracking Jesus down and attempting to force him to give them miraculous food. Just the day before he fed more than 5,000 and they sought more free lunches. But they were after temporary things and Jesus was set to provide something permanent and satisfying. Himself.

So he says that he is the Bread of Life. He is the sustenance, the provision, the life-giving portion for those that believe.

For those that reject Christ, this is a good place to throw a punch. The Savior claims you have to dine on him.

Of course when we have a fuller view of what took place during Holy Week, the death on the cross as foretold and the resurrection, we gain an understanding of what Jesus meant. That he must be seen, trusted, and pursued as the only thing, One that satisfies. That meets the internal desire for more. And that trust is in his body broken for us and blood shed to cover our sin and disregard of our creator.

This is then what we consume. A steady and daily diet of reminder of what Jesus accomplished for us. That we have been forgiven and called to life in him. That what aches in us is only satisfied in him.

As we head into Holy Week (the days leading up to the celebration of Resurrection Sunday) perhaps John 6 is a good place to linger. To meditate on Christ’s words and his promise. That we would consume the Bread of Life.

Roots over Reach to Eventually Reach

The reach of a tree depends on its roots. Choose roots over reach.” Karen Swallow Prior


A few weeks ago my wife was cleaning or just moseying about when she bumped into one of our house plants. I love house plants. My desk is a miniature jungle and while we are not the best at keeping things thriving we give it the old college try.

When she made contact with the plant she noticed that it strangely moved. On closer inspection, the plant seemed to be rootless and not tied to the soil. It was without an anchor in a ravaging world of dogs, active Children, and a woman who dusts. It was befuddling because without roots surely a thing which is a plant must be dead. This plant, however, had the green appearance of life while actually producing no flower or other sign of life.

Thinking likewise of the church or even one’s faith, it must have roots to absorb nutrients, to sustain life and to grow.

As a small church pastor, I can get so wrapped up in a “blooming” church or the desire for a significant reach that I neglect the roots. The long process of being settled dug deep into the rich soil of the Biblical gospel and grace drenched community. It is the roots that determine the reach. And even if something seems to have broad leaves, without broad roots, it may be dead.

The stronger the roots are, the more sunk down into Jesus we are, the more likely we will go further.

We hate it though because we want results now, line items to prove and donors to appease. But life is in the roots. It is from them that fruit eventually comes.

May we sink the roots deeper that we would be truly alive and not just in appearance only.