Reflecting on 2013

Happy New Year! I’ve been able to spend the last couple days in prayer and reflection. It’s been good for my soul. As I look forward to 2014, this is a brief reflection on the best of 2013 for me and my family.

1. Our Kids
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On Thursday, May 16th, we welcomed our son Paul into the world. On Sunday, November 24th, we celebrated our daughter Bethany’s 2nd birthday. What a joy our children have been to us! Bethany’s an amazing older sister. And Paul is a happy, chubby, younger brother. Paul is sleeping through the night and eating well. Bethany’s slowly entering her terrible two’s. Sometimes it can get hard, but she has an incredible sense of humor. During Advent, we tried to teach her to celebrate the birth of Christ. Over time, she began to call on “Baby Jesus” whenever she didn’t want to do something. When we would try to give her a bath, she would cry out, “Baby Jesus!” What a funny girl! We’re so grateful for both of them!

2. Trials
This year has been filled with many joys and many trials. We’ve faced unexpected difficulties and disappointments throughout the year. But I’m thankful for these trials. As it says in James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” I’m grateful to learn the value of perseverance. I read a quote by John Piper written in 1989, “One of the pervasive marks of our times is emotional fragility. I feel it as though it hung in the air we breathe. We are easily hurt. We pout and mope easily. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. And our commitment to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened, and it seems we have little capacity for surviving and thriving in the face of criticism and opposition.” If this was true in 1989, it’s exponentially more true today. I pray that steadfastness will have its full effect in me in 2014.

3. Our Families
We’ve had the opportunity to connect with our parents and siblings over the past couple of months. As our parents get older, I realize these times are more and more precious. I’m praying that we can honor them in this season of their lives. It brings me great joy to see them laugh and play with our kids. As busy as life gets, I’m grateful to soak in these moments.

The Great Barriers to the Great Commission in Our Generation

20100519_renewing-the-great-commission_poster_imgMatthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Our church just came off of our annual Missions Week. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we read and interpret the Great Commission in our generation. This is my take on how we feel about the Great Commission today.

“Jesus’ twenty-something year-old followers said to him, “I don’t trust any kind of authority, even yours. Therefore, I’ll make my own decisions about my future and if people want to believe in you that’s great. But I’m not going to order my life purpose around this. I’ll only really seek your presence in my life when I feel like it’s needed.”

If this is how we feel, there are some great barriers to obeying the Great Commission in our generation. I’ll try to unpack a few of these barriers over the next several posts. The first great barrier would be our generation’s struggle with authority. In verse 18, the resurrected Jesus says that he has all authority in heaven and on earth. Authority is the right to exercise power or control. Power is about might. Authority is about right. Our parents have authority in our lives because they have the right to tell us what to do as those who care for us. When Jesus says that he has all authority, then, he means that he has the right to tell you what you should do with your life as your Creator and Redeemer. He doesn’t just have the right to do this because he says so. God gave him the right because he humbled himself as a servant and redeemed us through his death and resurrection (Phil 2:5-11). If there’s anyone who has the right to tell you what you should do with your life, it’s Jesus. Nobody else has that kind of authority in your life.

But many of us passively rebel against any kind of authority. I say “passive” because we listen and nod our heads, but in our hearts we choose our own way. In our day, we perceive submission to authority as a sign of weakness and a limit to our sense of freedom. And so we carry this into our relationship with God. He can’t tell us what to do with our lives. We have to discover it ourselves. In fact, nobody can tell me what to do with my life. It’s MY life. But there are consequences to living with this attitude. Tim Keller puts it like this, “People live increasingly fragmented lives… Their identity constantly shifts as they move through a series of life episodes that are not tightly connected to each other. They are always ready to change direction and abandon commitments and loyalties without qualms and to pursue, on a personal cost-benefit basis, the best opportunity available to them.” The result of our passive rebellion is a fragmented life and a never-ending identity crisis.

We go from one life stage to the next without any sense of meaning or purpose. Only a God who has all authority can connect the dots of your life together. God can say to you, “You grew up in this family… so that I can use your pain to make my name known to the nations… I frustrated your plans for the future… so that you can make my name known to the nations… I gave you this job… so that you can use your gifts to make my name known to the nations.”

If the God that you worship doesn’t have any authority, he can’t do this for you. You’ll spend the rest of your life trying to figure out everything on your own. You’ll never know why you went through this or that in the past. And you’ll always be driven by fear as you face the future.

So one of the great barriers to the Great Commission in our generation is that our God is too small.

Passivity Kills

D. A. Carson explains:

“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” (For the Love of God, Volume 2)

Naturally, we do not drift toward God. We’ll never draw closer to God passively. By His grace and through the new birth, he places desires within us to fight for our joy in Him. One of the ways we do this is in community with others who fight with us. I have lots of good intentions. But I have to act upon those intentions to see change. Growing with others in discipleship is one of the keys to killing passivity and living out those godly intentions.

Encounter Conference

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This weekend our church will be hosting a conference at Northwestern called EncounterThe vision of the Encounter Conference is to awaken our generation to the glory of God throughout campuses across the city of Chicago. 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It’s our prayer that many in our generation will encounter the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ this weekend. Join us in praying for an awakening that sweeps through every campus and neighborhood in our city. Our guest speaker is Pastor Charlie Dates from the historic Progressive Baptist Church on the southside. If you’re in Chicago, come and encounter God with us!

Keys To My Fantasy Football Team

PaulI’m not an avid fantasy football fan, but I’m playing in a league this year with some of my church members. I like playing fantasy but it really changes the way you watch football (sometimes for the worse). These are my keys to playing fantasy without letting it ruin my football season. I only have two. I’d be interested to hear some of your keys as well.

1. Draft players that you normally root for.
The worst is rooting for some no name player on your least favorite team just because you need 3 more points to secure a victory for the week. I have Tom Brady, Alfred Morris and Santana Moss on my team. It’s fun watching football on Sunday with those guys on my team. Tom Brady’s off to a horrible start though.

2. Try to avoid watching the game with your laptop open.
This is a tough one. I know this is the fun part of fantasy for some people, but I really don’t enjoy watching a game while having my laptop or phone open to every gamecast. It’s hard for me to enjoy the game I’m watching when I’m worried about how the Bills are doing just because I have C.J. Spiller on my team.

Overcoming Habitual Sin | Avoidance of Temptation

sin-struggle1 Corinthians 10:11-13, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

A healthy sign of life in the battle against habitual sin is the desire to make no provision for temptation in your life. That shows our seriousness towards sin. If we continue to put ourselves in temptation’s way and into compromising situations, then we show that sin is not a real problem in our minds. It takes a war-time mentality to fight sin.

“The only possible attitude toward out-of-control desire is a declaration of all-out war… There is something about war that sharpens the senses… You hear a twig snap or the rustling of leaves and you are in attack mode… Even after days of little sleep or no sleep, war keeps us vigilant.” Ed Welch, A Banquet in the Grave

Sins of habit have sources that feed our addiction. Those sources may be connected to times of day, places we go to, our laptop, or even people that we interact with. All of those things may be morally neutral, but they become entangled with our struggle with sin. It just takes a few honest moments of observation and reflection to detect a pattern of behavior. Most people stuck in porn have to take some extreme measures of restricting their use of the Internet or television. Only after a significant period of growth are they able to form more godly habits of entertainment.

If you’re battling habitual sin, I would encourage you to take inventory of all the sources of temptation in your life. Cut off and restrict as many sources as possible. It’s helpful to involve an accountability partner to help you in moments when you feel vulnerable to sin. As you cut off the sources of temptation, replace those things with godly habits. Meditate on God’s Word. Do something active with others. Spend a moment in prayer. Start finding your joy in God in replacement of the habitual sin. Fight pleasure with greater pleasure.

Thoughts on !gnite 2013

This past June 27-29, our family of churches gathered for our annual college conference called !gnite. Currently, this is the focal gathering point to connect with all of our churches and catch God’s vision for our generation. I wanted to share a few of my reflections from this year’s conference.

1. God is faithfully building His Church (Matt 16:18).
God does this in so many ways! Not only did we see more people attend from all our churches, but we heard some amazing testimonies of how God is transforming lives. But God is also building his church by maturing our churches as well as by expanding them. We commissioned 3 of our pastoral interns to be assistant pastors this year. And we also commissioned a sister to serve on our ministry staff. I was privileged to share a few words of encouragement to Pastor Josh who will be serving with me at our church. I believe God strengthens churches by raising up more pastors and leaders from within. So I’m excited to see how God will strengthen all of our churches this coming year.

2. God speaks to His Church through His Word (Heb 4:12).
I was grateful to Pastor Jong Park for preaching God’s Word faithfully to us. Hearing God’s Word helped us to see that God’s vision is greater than one person or one church. It’s not about me. It’s not about HMCC. But it’s about His glory being displayed through the Gospel to the ends of the earth! What an amazing thought that we get to be a part of that amazing story! The greatest story in history is His story.

3. God sends people into our lives to refresh us (Rom 15:32).
The pastors and our families were able to reconnect throughout the week of our conference. It was the first time we were able to have Pastor Andrew with us during this time as well. After long seasons of ministry, I think God uses others who are laboring for the Gospel to refresh us. We carry the joys and burdens of ministry throughout the year. It’s in these moments that we’re able to find strength in God as we fellowship with one another and worship God together.

I’m excited for what God has in store for my church this year. And I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference!