“Amen”

I am sitting in the lobby of Heath Lodge at the beautiful and picturesque Asilomar Conference grounds in Pacific Grove, CA, reflecting on the last two years or so of my life.  To say that they have been filled with change, anxiety, difficulty, amazement, life-lessons and uncertainty would be an understatement.  Yet, as I reflect on those two years, I am reminded as to how many times I have come before the Lord in Prayer asking for help, crying out to God in anguish, so dependent on Him because I could literally do nothing in my own strength.  Here is a sampling of life and the kind of prayers I offered to God during those times:

  • Resignation – It was during that time that I stepped away from ministry in a church that I loved.  That was an extremely painful and confusing experience that was bathed in prayer, long discussions with God, wrestling with my flesh and fighting a fight against unbelief that was affirming my conviction about who God is and what He was doing in my life.
  • Vocation – Then there was the season of life where I had no job, or that the job I had was so physically overwhelming for me that I would go to work praying for strength to just make it through that day and then to have strength to be available for my family.
  • Parents – All during that first year I and my family grieved as my parents both struggled with disease and ultimately were called home to glory.  Those are the times when prayer is often silent or sobbing, trusting and pleading, hopeful and hurting, saddened and resigned.
  • Fellowship – God’s goodness came in the form of His people surrounding us with words of comfort, checks in our mailbox, opportunities to fellowship with different churches and a Bible Study that became a community of hope for us.  There were prayers for tough times, God’s wisdom and direction in our lives, for spiritual growth and for trusting in God.
  • Family – Prayer for children to make decisions that would glorify God, for growth in Christ, for baptisms and where they should attend college as well as for growth in my marriage to the woman I love.
  • Church Plant – This was a season of settling on God’s direction and much prayer that went something like this: “God, you want me to do what?  You want me to do it where? How is that possible?  I’ve never done that before!  Oh, Lord, give me help!”

These are just snippets of the kinds of things God has taken me through over the past two years, and what I want you to see and embrace for yourself, is that these have been two years of much prayer before God.

Some of those prayers have been passionate pleas for understanding or God’s intervention.  Others have been quiet prayers for God’s strength and wisdom as I meet someone for coffee or counsel someone who may be going through crisis or simply wants advice.  Many have been prayers of dependency, pleading with God for a change, a job, finances or an answer.  In all these prayers I ended with one word, “Amen“.

The word “Amen” is not a word to be thrown out lightly at the end of our prayers.  In fact, it is a very important word that we should take some time to understand and then use purposefully to affirm our dependency on Christ.  The word “Amen” means, “so be it.”  You see, when you pray a prayer that is crying out for deliverance, for God’s intervention during a crisis, for understanding during the grief of loss, or a prayer that is full of thanksgiving for His goodness, provision and mercy, no matter what that prayer it usually and mostly ends with “Amen” – or “so be it.”

As I see it, that word (or those words) are a statement of resignation that are rooted in an understanding of God’s Sovereignty.  In other words,

“God, here is my prayer, now I hand it over to you to do with as you see fit for you are holy, sovereign, compassionate and at work in my life and in accomplishing your purposes on this earth for Your glory.  Do as you will with my requests, I trust you and want only your will to be done!”

Friends, to be able to say “Amen” is a wonderful and beautiful thing.  Don’t ever forget it.  No matter what you are going through the confidence that we have knowing and resting on His Sovereignty is a rock that gives us firm footing through all the mess He purposefully allows us to go through in our lives to ultimately bring Him glory.

God… “so be it”!

T4G 2012 – Why Am I Going?

Why would I want to leave my wife and family and travel for 9-11 hours from San Francisco through Washington, DC. and on to, of all places, Louisville, KY, for a pastors conference?

  • Am I a glutton for punishment? No
  • Is it that I have little respect for my family? No
  • Is it that I need a vacation from my labors as a Pastor? Well, the answer there might be “Yes”, but that is not why I am going.

I had planned on attending the 2008 Together for the Gospel Conference (T4G) with my staff, but at the last moment I was unable to attend.  I enjoyed the conference at a distance and truly appreciated the way that my staff were affected for God’s glory.  That conference also brought out new friendships and relationship here in the Bay Area, in particular with one of my dearest friends in the ministry, Sam Shin from Wellspring Church in Pleasanton, CA.

In 2010, after my resignation from the church I had served for over five years, I was blessed by many brothers and sisters who supported me financially and sent me to be strengthened, encouraged and for God to have his way with me during that season of ministry contemplation.  God used it greatly through the messages preached, the fellowship of Pastor friends whom I love and appreciate, all being vehicles through which God was shaping my heart for that difficult season in my life.  It was a time of sincere contemplation, affirming convictions that had brought a challenge to my previous ministry and a fresh consideration about what God was going to do in my life.

Now it is 2012 and I am planting a church in the East Bay.  I have been working hard for almost a year with faithful brothers and sisters in Christ and can see clearly how God has been at work in the ups and downs of ministerial life to bring me and many others to this wonderful place.  Now I look forward joining with others from my church family, Gateway Bible Church, and sitting under the men God has ordained to open the Word.

Here is just a taste of what is in store for us…

Just think “Muppets Meets Celebrity Squares”…

And then, of course there are Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, C. J. Mahaney & Albert Mohler, Jr.

Why Elephants Matter

Many of you reading this post will, no doubt, have heard some of the controversy of the recent inclusion of Reverend T.D. Jakes in the ER2 (Elephant Room 2) round table discussion.  In layman”s terms, the ER concept is to gather together “like-minded” pastors who agree to core theological teaching but may exercise a Philosophy of Ministry in some differing forms.  ImageTo that end some of the discussions and the individual pastors involved have been helpful and bring clarity as to why they do what they do, whether one agrees or not.  In one episode Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, David Platt and a few other pastor debate the growing trend of the “multi-campus church” where one pastor preaches (i.e. Driscoll) and his sermon is seen live in various locations around the country and potentially the world.  It was helpful to hear the rational articulated even when I may disagree.

Now with the second season of “The Elephant Room” the inclusion of T.D. Jakes has understandabley sparked some controversy among Evangelicals, in particular the Young Reformed crowd of The Gospel Coalition and those who are uniting around a robust Gospel that is entrenched in a more Reformed Soteriology.  ImageNow the reason I say “understandably” with regard to T.D. Jakes inclusion is that his preaching is clearly in the “Prosperity Gospel” camp and his theology as a Oneness Pentecostal is to deny the existence of the Trinity, embracing the heresy of Modalism, the belief that God has historically existed in three “manifestations” (God, then Christ, and now the Holy Spirit).

Much has been blogged and discussed on both sides of the spectrum when it was first announced that T.D. Jakes would participate and the discussion continues.  Now, at first a person may be thinking, “Why is it that Christians are always fighting among themselves over such insignificant things?”  I understand what it may appear to be, but the reality is that the issues before us are historical, theological and have lasting implications on what the Gospel is as well as why we do what we do a God’s people.  So, the pursuit of clarity and precision around these topics is extremely necessary for the health of the preached Gospel, the Body of Christ as well as our own personal growth toward Christlikeness.

So, below are some articles written by faithful brothers that address the importance of the issues at hand as well as counsel as to how we approach our significant and serious differences in a way that is grounded in Scripture as well as glorifies God.

Voddie Baucham, an African American Pastor who was invited to participate in the ER2 shares why he chose to back out of participating.Image

Justin Taylor summarizes his thoughts on the ER2 discussion at his Between Two Worlds blog.

Kevin DeYoung shares some helpful perspectives on how we can sort through the issue in an honorable and godly fashion.

Finally, D.A. Carson and Tim Keller co-authored a thorough response, spending ample time dealing with the historical implications of Trinitarian Theology as well as bringing clarity to the many issues such a discussion.  I especially appreciated their second point, “Biblicism One and Biblicism Two” which clarifies how simply appealing to the Scriptures is not sufficient and can undermine theology and Ministry Philosophy if that appeal is void of a careful and faithful commitment to exegesis.

As much as I don’t enjoy controversy among brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often that through such discussions we have the opportunity to clarify and firm up our understanding of biblical and theological truth.  I think that reading through the above articles has reminded me of the wonder of the Trinity, the hard work of serious believers many hundreds of years ago who recognized the need to be very clear concerning the nature of God, and also the spirit in which we appeal to our brothers and sisters under the umbrella of Christendom who may or may not be part of the true body of Christ.