How did you?

You may be wondering why I am posting again so soon, but it is because I have an exciting personal story to share with you! But before I share this story, I want to ask you a simple question… for some of you, this may be many years ago, but for others, it may be recent… how did you come to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  How did God first start to reach out to you in your former life… in the midst of the darkness… how did you come to see the light?  How did the unsearchable riches of Christ become revealed to you?

Paul shared these poignant words in Romans 10:14-15:

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

So that’s my question because my story starts with that question how that led me on an adventure that came to a beautiful conclusion.  You see, a few years ago, I felt led to search up all those brothers and sisters in my life that had been a part of introducing me to Christ.  Those that helped me to come to know Christ through sharing/witnessing/evangelizing/preaching… those that God used to witness to me about His incredible story.  My story began than with quite a few different individuals including my real younger brother, a high school friend, a few brothers from UCSB AACF and a random co-worker.

For this story, I want to focus on that random co-worker because I was able to thank and even meet up with all those others in my past that had a part to play to my knowing Jesus.  Yet my co-worker, I could not find after we parted ways about 10 years ago.  I just remembered that this co-worker, a Westmont grad… started working with me… and started to ask me questions about my faith then (Buddhism), and hung out.  We played baseball on the beach during lunch, ate together, chatted, and he simply asked me about my faith and shared a bit about his faith in Jesus.  Such a small thing, but it was his courage to talk to me, to love me and befriend me… despite my ignorance … that started the ball rolling to my own searching for an answer.  Nobody knows this, but his humble, simple witness was what started that insatiable curiosity for an answer that I could not find anywhere… was finally found at the feet of the cross of my murdered Savior, who died and rose again for my sake.

I won’t share his name via text, but you’ll see it in the picture that follows soon.  A few reasons… first of all, I think it’s best to not just list it, but also because ultimately, it is God who is moving and working these incredible things; not man, but God alone that deserves the true credit.

But as I am writing, my co-worker after a few months moved away from Santa Barbara!  Before he left, I am sure he left me his contact information, and I believe it was for medical school that he left.  You see, his dream was to be a doctor and to serve others and help others.  I remembered that, but like everything then, I lost the information or failed to keep in touch.  As time passed… I came to know Christ, but our friendship/story was lost into the obscurity of history.  Yet it was in the asking of the question of how did I… that I tried seeking out this co-worker. Google and Facebook were utilized, and though he did not have a facebook, Google showed that he was doing his residency in Fresno/Bakersfield!  There was no contact information so I set this aside and continued to pursue other things, and once again it was lost into the fog of history.

Well fast forward to Nov. 2012, and now, I am a Pastor in Santa Barbara serving at CEFCSB.  One of the members of our church family, an elderly sister in Christ was in the hospital with a foot infection, and I went to visit her there. During my hospital visit, I wanted to save up her contact phone number so I took a picture of the white board that is in every patient’s room at the hospital.  This was what I saw:

What I saw: my co-worker’s name!

The physician’s last name matched my random co-worker’s!  I thought … this couldn’t be the same person could it be? But it was such a unique last name, I figured I’d ask the nurse.  She mentioned that he was a doctor that just moved here, and so when I went to the website to look it up, it was him!!!!  I was so ecstatic, and left him a message with my number to call me so we can catch up.  Though he has yet to respond (only been a few days), I heard that he rejoiced to hear about me, and I hope that we’ll get time to sit down and talk and to fellowship once again.

Isn’t that wonderful?  Isn’t that praise worthy? Consider the words of Paul in Romans 10, how are people to call on Jesus for whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  How are they to hear without someone preaching? How are they to preach unless they’ve been sent?  How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!

You see, my doctor/co-worker’s friendship and willingness to talk about Jesus with me seemed so unspectacular at first glance. Very little impact and very little power, and yet God used this to save me… to change my heart… and now, I have been called to a place of serving others as well. Paul writing to us in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, wrote these words as a reminder:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

So as I leave you today, I want to give you an encouragement… How did you come to know and hear the good news of Jesus Christ?  Perhaps you are the random co-worker in another’s life!  My prayer is that you may be the random co-worker in many other people’s lives as well!  For truly, how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!

Let your worship be your witness

Let Your Worship Be Your Witness

In a sermon I preached a few weeks ago, one of our application points was:

let your worship be your witness.

We didn’t have time to unpack this so in the next few paragraphs we’ll make an attempt at scratching a little deeper. If you want to catch the entire message for context we were studying was Acts 3:1-10. Throughout the morning, we asked ourselves the question: “do you see the lame beggar“? You can catch the recorded podcast on iTunes, or stream it from the CCCTO website, where the PowerPoint is also available for download.

Nowadays it seems that the Christian faith has been reduced to “right living”. We spend so much time talking about what you should do so that people will see God through you. After all, that is what it means to be “kingdom minded” right? Live according to the Bible, and other people will see Jesus. May I propose that that statement is not incorrect, but rather that it is incomplete. If we are to be kingdom minded, we must see Jesus first.

How does this relate to the story of the lame beggar in Acts? Starting in Acts 3:2 we see the beginning of the incredible transformation of a man who was lame from birth. This man had never walked a day in his life. However after the miracle performed through the hands of Peter, the man regained strength in his feet and ankles. He is transformed from being lame from birth to having the strength to stand for the very first time. But did this man only stand? In Acts 3:8 we see that he leaps up, begins to walk, and then enters the temple with Peter and John, “walking and leaping and praising God.” Realizing the incredible gift he has received, not only does he stand, but he walks and leaps to the praise and glory of God, the giver of the gift.

If you have placed your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have received a gift that is incomparable to anything else. Remember that you were just like the lame beggar, lame from birth. It is only through Jesus’ death and resurrection for your sins that you could be reconciled to God.

The encouragement is simple.

Christian, if you have been saved, live like it.

Live like it in community with the local church, just as the lame beggar entered the temple gates with Peter and John (Acts 3:8). Live like it individually, just as the lame beggar leapt and danced.

And what is the result? As we continue on into verses 9 and 10 we see that, “all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” The lame beggar understood the depth of what had happened, and his joy was apparent to those around him. His worship was his witness. He did not just stand there.

Where every person is along that progression is different. Some may still be like the lame beggar sitting at the gate. Others may have received the gift at one time, but are simply standing. And others may be leaping and dancing.

We all were crippled by sin from birth, helpless to save ourselves from the penalty of sin, but God has shown us grace and mercy by sending His son to die on the cross as a substitutionary atonement. When we understand this and respond in faith, we will worship (we will leap and jump) and the world will see and come to know Jesus Christ is Lord.

The Plead for Community

Community

There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. The Christian faith is a faith that expresses itself through community. We can see this on display through the Trinity. We know that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have eternal fellowship with each other: John 1:32, 15:26, 16:7, John 1:18, 3:11, 32, 5:19, 29, 37; 6:46; 8:38, John 10:15, 7:29, 17:25; 1 Cor 2:11-13, Eph 2:18. These passages portray an intimate relationship that the Godhead enjoy with each other. The Trinity is the model for our personal fellowship with each other. Fellowship and community only exist with a plurality of persons. Our God is Three in One. That is why we have in Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone…”

Adam was created in the image of God and being created in the image of God Adam has to be relational in order to reflect the Trinitarian God that created him.  Adam reflected the image of God in his stewardship, in his obedience, but he could not reflect the image of God in the relational realm until Eve was created. The application is this: To reflect a Trinitarian God in fellowship we need each other.  A theologian once said, “God did not create you to have a private relationship with Him. He created you to have a relationship with Him lived out, enjoyed, endured with other human beings.” Again, there is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian.  If you are then you are living in sin and going against the design God has created you for.

Think with me for a moment, if Adam had a perfect relationship with God but he was not “happy” until Eve was created, how much more do we need relationships? A professor at Dallas Theological Seminary said, “Man is fully man when in relationship with God and the human community.” We are meant to be relational.  We are to exist in a community. The call to live is a call to live in community. Sadly, however, we Americans are becoming more isolated and individualistic in nature. In doing so, we are becoming less and less human. We are very individualistic, yet the call from the Trinitarian God is if you want to fully live out your humanity you need to be involved in a relationship with the Creator and other human beings. It is only when the Christian life is lived out in a community that we will experience the maximum joy because we are living according to our design.

Oh my Christian brothers and sisters seek community and live in the community. Be involved in the church, in your community, in the lives of those who don’t know Christ. If you want to find fulfillment, start practicing community living.

Christ and the Church

Ephesians 3:20

For most of my life, I viewed the Church as an incidental detail to the core doctrines of Christianity. What I mean by that is that the Church was of secondary importance to me; it was an accessory to my personal relationship with Jesus. I thought I could be a good Christian without caring too much about the Church. Later on, when I got plugged into a fellowship, the Church became the place where I could hang out with my friends.

Lately, I’ve realized that my attitude towards the Church does not reflect a Biblical understanding of what it really is. For example, take Ephesians. Ephesians has a high Christology–a high view of who Christ is and what He does. Consider the following:

In Christ:
  • We are blessed with every spiritual blessing (1:3).
  • We have redemption through his blood (1:7).
  • The purpose of God for the redemption of the cosmos is set forth (1:7).
  • We have obtained an inheritance (1:11).
This is just a small sample of the picture that Ephesians paints of Christ. He is the centerpiece, the focal point of God’s plan. This plan is not only fulfilled through him, but it is also fulfilled in him. That is, He (Jesus Messiah) is the one in whom we are blessed, chosen, redeemed, reconciled, and created anew. As Colossians says, Christ is the one who created all things and also the one for whom all things were created (Col 1:16).

But the high Christology of Ephesians leads to a correspondingly high Ecclesiology–a high view of the church.

The Church is:

  • The body of Christ (1:22).
  • Raised up with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly places (2:6).
  • The household of God and His temple (2:17-21).
  • The manifestation of God’s manifold wisdom towards the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (3:10).

Each of these verses certainly deserves its own exegesis, which I am not qualified to make, but the point seems to be that the Church isn’t only a gathering of believing individuals. It is a corporate entity, the manifestation of the new humanity that is Christ. Finally (and perhaps most easily overlooked) the Church has a cosmic significance as a part of God’s plan for the redemption of Creation. As one commentary puts it, the “very existence” of the Church demonstrates God’s wisdom to heavenly powers, and the local church is a “visible, concrete expression” of the new relationship believers have with Christ.

Thus, Ephesians suggests a link between Christology and Ecclesiology. A high view of Christ leads to a high view of the Church, his Body. But perhaps I find church uninteresting, unfulfilling, irrelevant, burdensome…is it because my view of Jesus is too small? Do I see him merely as a “personal” savior who meets my own individual needs rather than the One in whom all things are being reconciled, things in heaven and things on earth? It makes sense that our views and attitudes towards the Church would be influenced by our views and attitudes towards Christ, for without Him there is no Church. Now, I don’t claim to know the exact relationship between Christology and Ecclesiology, but this much seems clear: If we love Jesus we will also love his Church.

I suppose books could be written about the relationship between Christology and Ecclesiology, but I’ll conclude this post with one practical reflection. If what Ephesians says about Christ and the Church is true, then my relationship with the local church should not be an incidental detail or an accessory to my life; rather, I ought to see my relationship with the local church as intimately connected to my relationship with Christ. You might think that this reflection leaves you hanging as to what that actually means and how it actually plays out. I agree that it is quite open-ended, but I think the way to find the answer is to begin loving the Church now.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
-Ephesians 3:20-21