Full of Grace and Truth


If I were to ask you the simple question, “What does Jesus represent to you?” what would be your immediate answer? Many positive descriptions would come to mind to be sure, things like love, forgiveness, healing, restoration, compassion, mercy, holiness, salvation, freedom, so on and so forth. 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is perfectly summed up with two words; words, which by the way, often alienate Christians who hold the extreme position of one or the other. Those words? Truth and Grace! Check it out, 

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” John 1:14 (English Standard Version). 

We’re not the first generation of believers to wrestle with the tension that grace and truth pose for the church. In fact, the first century church was forced to confront this early on. [for the background on this Early Church debate, read Acts 15]. This discussion tends to make conservatives a little nervous, while it also tends to make the more liberal believers feel reined in. The apostle’s conclusion on this matter left so much open to interpretation that Paul ended up spending a great deal of his spare time acting as a referee of sorts among church people. I’m not sure that any of us fully appreciate the lengths that the early church went through to in order to keep both grace and truth front and center. And we still feel this tension in the modern church today!

The Cliff Notes version goes something like this:

The whole problem arose when, “Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved’” – Acts 15:1 (NIV).

It’s rather shocking, isn’t it, that after all Jesus had done to pay for the penalty of our sin, man was still trying to impose “religious regulations” on would-be seekers? Simply incredulous! Perhaps you’ve heard more recent renditions of this old song in the form of something like, “unless you cut your hair a certain length, or dress a certain way, or sing a certain style of music, or believe exactly like we do… you can’t be saved!” Big problem here: this only serves to drive people away from the Jesus whom they claim to represent.

So, after a lengthy debate, Peter finally stood up and addressed the group. He began by reminding them of his own experiences with Gentiles and the gospel. God had made it abundantly clear to Peter that salvation was to be offered to everyone on the same terms: Faith in Christ!

Notice what Peter says in Acts 15:9-10:

“He [God] did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?”

Translated: “Listen guys, who are you kidding? We don’t even keep the law all that well. Why place this burden on the Gentiles? He goes on:

“No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are” – Acts 15:11 (NIV)

If that were not compelling enough, James steps up to address the crowd and says, [this is huge]:

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” – Acts 15:19 (NIV)

James’ statement should be the benchmark by which all decisions are made in the local church! Churches should not do anything that makes it unnecessarily difficult for people who are turning to God! What exactly is this? This is TRUTH seasoned with GRACE! This is Jesus’ model and method for life-transformation.

May we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us in order to conform us to the image and character of Jesus… and help us to live in Truth… seasoned with Grace!

*This is a condensed version of a message I preached called, A House of Grace and Truth.
**Andy Stanley’s insightful book on this subject, Deep and Wide, is highly recommended for further study.  

Relationships Required

Bulletin CoverIn his book “Creating Community”, Andy Stanley makes the following observation: “Starbucks is using coffee to promote connection. That’s a good thing because the company knows we are a culture craving relationship.”

If you’re like most people today, you too are craving Authentic Relationships. That’s one of the primary emphases of an “R-Rated Church.” It’s all about being real and being relational. Creating a culture where authentic community takes place, and where people are given the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way with others is challenging, but worth the effort!

Thankfully, God’s Word sheds plenty of light on this subject. Check this out…


And the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…” – Genesis 2:18 (NLT)

One of the great flaws of American culture today is the lack of genuine connection between people. In fact, we live in a day and age that has almost made it impossible for people to interact in meaningful ways. Consider, for a moment, the following:

    • People are working all hours of the day making it extremely difficult to integrate calendars with others,
    • We are taking our work home with us more and more, never finding time to “unplug” and “disconnect”,
    • There is an overwhelming number of TV stations these days to watch which is causing more people to stay home in the evenings, and
    • Facebook by-and-large has all but replaced public venues for conversation between friends.

Someone else has noted that at one time “the American front porch represented the ideal of community in America. For the front porch existed as a zone between the public and the private, an area that could be shared between the sanctity of the home and the community outside. It was an area where interaction with the community could take place.” (Bill Willits).

Unfortunately, what has become all-too-common in the 21st century is worn-out people retreating from the busyness and intensity of work life, going home, putting the garage door down, closing the blinds, in order to escape from the rat race of life…completely exhausted.

Stanley also writes, “It would appear that our goal is to avoid people—and what they potentially want from us—at all cost! And cost us it does, because the avoidance approach comes with a price tag.  What is that price tag?  A life spent in isolation!”


“…I will make a companion who will help him” Genesis 2:18b (NLT)

We were never meant to live in a state of functional isolation. We have been created as relational beings, hard-wired for deep, authentic connections with other people .

In his book “Everybody’s Normal…” John Ortberg writes, “I have never known anyone… who was isolated, lonely, unconnected, had no deep relationships—yet had a meaningful and joy-filled life.”

The fact is, God has wired each one of us to fit into the “bigger picture” of the Body of Christ—to be one with other believers, living a life of significance, enjoyment, and true fulfillment. We were created for deep biblical community, which brings me to my last point…


“Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” – Ephesians 4:15-16 (NLT).

Did you notice that? The Apostle Paul is equating this isolated, me-centered, self-absorbed attitude with how the ungodly act.

Look. Here’s a truth you can bank on: You will never grow more spiritually than when you are joined together with a group of believers experiencing spiritual life together—in community. Why? That’s the way God has ordered it!

When we live connected with others in spiritual community we tend to have a better perspective on life, we tend to enjoy the benefits of experiencing intimacy with others, we actually learn to enjoy serving and ministering to others, and we have an overall healthier lifestyle. Who doesn’t crave that?

What a great opportunity for the church to actually BE the Church that Jesus intended!

Let’s be R-Rated!

Keepin’ it Real!

Bulletin CoverAccording to research in a book by Thom Rainer (www.thomrainer.com) here are the top 10 reasons young Americans quit church:

10. I was only going to church to please others.

9. I want to spend more time with my friends.

8. I disagreed with the church’s stance on political or social issues.

7. I didn’t feel connected with the people in my church.

6. I became too busy.

5. I moved too far away.

4. My work responsibilities prevented me from attending.

3. I started college and stopped church.

2. Church members seemed too judgmental or hypocritical.

1. I simply wanted a break from church.

The #1 reason people quit church is tragic – “I wanted a break from church.” Why in the world would anyone want “a break from church?”  Let me rephrase that. Why in the world would anyone want a break from a church that functioned biblically and was healthy?  Have you ever heard of the philosophical term Cause-and-Effect? I believe perhaps #1 is the effect of #2.

Yet, in the early Church, true, passionate followers of Jesus were viewed a little differently.

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men who had had no special training. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus – Acts 4:13

This tells us that the onlookers, some of whom were no doubt were non-believers, could observe the lives of the early disciples and know that they had been with Jesus. In a similar way, those to whom we minister and serve—whether they be our own family, our church, or unsaved people in the community—should be able to see in our lives genuine substance of our walk with the Lord. There should be enough evidence to convict us if we’re ever accused of being a follower of Jesus!

In today’s culture, if you really want to earn the trust and the right to be heard, you need be authentic and real. How can we begin the process of becoming more REAL?

RESPECT others opinions (doesn’t mean you have to agree with them)

  • “Show respect for everyone” – 1 Peter 2:17 (NLT)

EXPRESS genuine compassion (doesn’t matter how they got in the situation they’re in)

ALLOW mistakes (And admit that you make them too)

LIVE the Scriptures (Be the same at home, school, or at work that you purport to be on Sunday mornings at church)

Jesus had some pretty intense words for the religious leaders of His day when he said, “Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28, NLT).

Not exactly “winning friends and influencing people” type stuff here, but He certainly got His message across, loud and clear. What Jesus is looking for is authentic, passionate, real followers who seek to please Him and Him alone, and who won;t place stumbling blocks before those who are wanting to come to Him!

Check it out, God uses real people, with real problems, who struggle with real-everyday-life challenges, yet who also earnestly seek to serve Him with genuine faith and authenticity.

Isn’t time we stop playing religious games and start keepin’ it real?

God of All Creation


The fact that God created and still creates inspires me! It’s the very reason why we believe that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Think about… if necessary, God can create whatever is needed at any given moment, in your life! He was and IS Creator God. And what’s more, Creator God absolutely loves you with amazing passion and desires to bless you and provide opportunities for your success (See Jeremiah 29:11 again). I don’t know about you, but his blows my mind!

Theologian J. Rodman Williams said it this way:

Creation is a vast mystery incomprehensible to the mind of man

Unbelievably, there are those, like scientist Tim Hawking, that still asserts that “The Big Bang was the result of the inevitable laws of physics and did not need God to spark the creation of the Universe.” 1

Through the centuries, skeptics and scholars alike have often questioned, “How could something be created out of nothing?” Even at our very best, it still remains a mystery and indeed, incomprehensible! That is where faith comes in. It takes faith to believe. It takes faith to believe in a God that we cannot see, touch, or feel (physically). It takes faith to believe that this same invisible God can create merely by speaking!

HEBREWS 11:1-3 (NLT) says:

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. 2Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. 3By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen

It takes faith to believe that God is Creator… past, present, and future! Faith is the very essence of making sense out of any of this stuff we call life. So, once we’ve come to terms with this Truth, the next question is, “What does this mean for my life?” 

APPLY IT: Read Genesis 1, Hebrews 11 and Hebrews 13:8. Then reflect on the implications these truths have on your personal life.

  1. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you through these verses?
  2. What creative miracle will you believe God for in the coming days?
  3. How will you pray differently this week knowing that God is your creative Source? 

Now, share this Good News with someone by passing it on! 



“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” Ephesians 5:15-17 (NLT).

You only get one shot at this home-building thing. Only one. And time is not on your side.

Have you ever had that sickening feeling that the clock has started, the race is on… and you don’t even have your shoes on yet?

As a pastor, one dream I’ve had on more than a few occasions is that I wake up, forgetting what day is it, and then realizing to my horror that it’s Sunday and I’ve completely forgotten to prepare any notes or thoughts for the service that morning… I feel completely unprepared. That’s exactly how many young parents feel—waking up one day with the responsibility of parenthood, feeling utterly unprepared and panic-stricken, beginning this parenting journey.  

Think about it… From the moment you tenderly unwrap the blanket around your first baby after the trip home from the hospital, the nagging sense in the pit of your stomach hits you like a ton of bricks.  The hourglass has been upended. You have one chance at this.

That’s why the apostle Paul instructed the church in Ephesus to give careful attention to how they lived. In essence, he was saying, “Don’t be a fool! You better wise up! Now is the time to take advantage of the present, because once it’s gone—it’s gone! You can’t get it back! 

The CEV translates it this way: “Make every minute count. Don’t be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do.” 

Can you sense the urgency in Paul’s admonition? 

You may already have teenagers at home, and you’re thinking, “I’m afraid it’s too late for us to instill Christian character and biblical values in our children. We haven’t been intentional in teaching them how to follow Christ by themselves. We got into this game a little later than some. Is there anything we can do now?” 

I would answer by saying a resounding “YES!” for little is much when God is invited into the mix!

If you determine in your heart today to transform your home into a rock solid Christ-centered home… it will make all the difference in the world! God is the redeemer of time and opportunities wasted! Just give Him your very best TODAY! Don’t worry about past mistakes or missed opportunities. Be the very best steward of your present and future!

Don’t underestimate the power of Almighty God in the transformation process!

It can happen… and will happen… if you will only dedicate yourself as a parent, and if you will dedicate your children (or grandchildren), and your home to serving God’s purposes from this point on! Be intentional in growing your faith at home! 


Be WeirdGod wants our homes and our families to be weird. He wants us to be different from the rest of society. Why? Because normal isn’t working. Normal is broke. Normal is depressed. Normal is dysfunctional.

The dictionary defines weird as “involving or suggesting the supernatural; unearthly; archaic (marked by the characteristics of an earlier period)

From the Biblical text we see that God saved the entire human race because one of His faithful servants was different from the rest of His creation. We see this in the life of Noah.

“God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart. God said, “I’ll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep: people, animals, snakes and bugs, birds—the works. I’m sorry I made them.” But Noah was different. God liked what he saw in Noah.” Genesis 6:5-8 (Msg)

It’s okay to be a little different, a little weird. In fact, God likes it when we’re different from the rest of the world! It’s God-honoring to be weird!

One great example of this is Walt Disney:

  • Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901, the fourth son to Elias and Flora Disney.
  • Two years later, when his sister Ruth was born, his parents became “unsettled by the raucous, saloon-centered environment” their quaint little neighborhood had become.  So they decided to move to rural Missouri.
  • While growing into adulthood, Disney’s primary goal was to create an environment that was completely different from the rest of society.
  • He even called Walt Disney World “The Happiest Place on Earth.”  Not simply a happy place, or even one of the happiest places… but The happiest! For most homes… that’s weird!
  • Walt Disney knew that being weird was okay. In fact, being different was exactly what made his vision so attractive to so many people.
  • Listen to what Walt Disney said upon the opening of Disneyland in California:  “Disneyland is created to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts which have created America… I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in Disneyland. I want them to feel they’re in another world.

Our Christ-centered homes should be weird, or different from the world in which we live. My prayer is that each one of our homes would be a safe-haven, a place of security, freedom, grace, unconditional love, etc., for ALL who cross our threshold!

Divine Interruptions

Before going any further, you need to read Acts 3 to fully appreciate the context of what you are about to read. Go ahead, grab a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice) and check it out and come back to this page…  

OK, great. Now that you’ve read Acts 3, let’s proceed…

When reading this particular chapter recently in my devotions, I honestly had to pause for a moment and consider whether or not Peter and John, even for a split second, got just a little irritated with the lame beggar sitting outside of the Temple asking for money? I mean, working in a church environment we get calls all the time asking for financial assistance, which unfortunately we also have to decline more times than I care to admit, leaving me feeling just a little guilty each time. But, if I’m honest, these requests sometimes come at the worst times, usually interrupting me at the most inopportune moments. I mean, I’m a busy man. I’ve got a lot of work to do… Kingdom work at that. Don’t people know how busy I am? Sheesh! (OK, can you read into my sarcasm just a little?)

But I notice here in Acts 3, when Peter and John are confronted with a financial request, while on their way to worship, that they do not flinch, even for a second, but go straight to the real issue at hand. The lame beggar, more than needing a few dollars (which would help temporarily), really needed something much greater… healing in his body. 

So, Peter makes this incredibly bold statement: “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”

There’s three things that really stuck out to me here:

  1. Peter and John did not have the money to give the lame beggar. This helps me tremendously, since I (nor the church) don’t have the financial means to meet outside requests the vast majority of the time.
  2. You can only offer what you have! What did Peter have? He had the Spirit of God empowering his life and ministry; he had authority (notice he didn’t even stop to pray!); he had boldness which only comes from a strong faith in God. So, the question is: Do I have anything to offer those asking me for assistance?
  3. Peter and John’s schedule was interrupted. They were on their way to a prayer meeting (you know, the really spiritual stuff) when this opportunity to serve someone (you know… the “less spiritual” stuff) presented itself. However, they were obviously open to divine interruptions, as they walked in the Spirit and not the flesh.

So you see, it’s really quite simple. The power point from this example that we should all pay attention to is this… We need to intentionally prepare and position ourselves to be more aware (and open) to the interruptions in our daily routine. You never know, they may just be divinely orchestrated God opportunities!

So, would you make it your prayer, as I am learning to do in my own life, to invite God into your world, asking Him to grow you and mature you into the Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered person He desires for you to be! Then, maybe instead of getting annoyed with unplanned interruptions and delays, perhaps we’ll have the authority we need to give what is most helpful to others within that divine moment! Just something to think about…

The Kingdom and the Spirit


If you knew that you had only 40 days left to live, what do you think would be your top priority? What would be at the top of your bucket list? Without a doubt, you would choose to communicate that which was of absolute importance to those that you love and care about, right? Of course you would! That is precisely what Jesus did during his forty days of post-resurrection teaching and ministry.

In Acts 1:3, Luke gives some insight into Jesus’ primary subject matter during those 40 days when he recorded the following:

During the forty days after his crucifixion, he [Jesus] appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God (NLT).

So, what exactly did Jesus talk about? He talked about the Kingdom of God! And why not? That is precisely what He had been teaching during His earthly ministry for the previous three years (see Matthew 5-7 in particular).

Now, pay close attention to the following verses in Acts 1:4-5 to see what other final instructions Jesus left His followers…

Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with (or in) water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (NLT)

From these few short verses, we may rightfully conclude that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is uniquely attached to and intentionally integrated with the full realization of the Kingdom of God here on earth! It’s as if Jesus is saying, “You know all that stuff I was teaching you about the Kingdom of God for the past three years and how you were basically powerless to do most of it? Well, I’m going to give you the power to realize your full kingdom potential through the power of the Holy Spirit! He’s going to help you and assist you in living according to the Kingdom.”

Here’s the deal… “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). So, when you pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” you are inviting the fullness of the Spirit’s presence into your everyday life.

What am I getting at? Jesus is associating the fullness of Kingdom living with the Spirit’s outpouring on the Day of Pentecost as promised in Acts 1:8 and realized in Acts 2! This literally means that Spirit Baptism is the full manifestation of God’s Kingdom here on earth, which gives us the power we need to live out His Kingdom rule and authority! That is God’s revealed plan for every believer to enjoy and experience.

My prayer is that through the power of God’s Spirit I may be fully enabled to walk in my full Kingdom potential, empowered to be more like Him in character, and equipped to do more for His glory! Have you made that your prayer yet?

Spirit Spilled

ImageThe Holy Spirit has been misunderstood for centuries. Unfortunately, the subject of the Spirit has been the proverbial “line in the sand” between believers of varying theological persuasions, causing more division in the church world than just about any other topic. This truly is unfortunate because Ephesians 4:3 (NIV) tells us to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

If the Holy Spirit hasn’t been misunderstood, then He’s simply been ignored by other segments of the Body of Christ. One Biblical scholar, Emil Brunner said, “The Holy Spirit is like the forgotten stepchild of the Trinity.” Over the centuries, more talk and teaching has been given to the Father and the Son, than to the Spirit. Thankfully, that began to change dramatically in the 20th Century.

Personally, I have been immersed in the Pentecostal/Charismatic corner of the Christian world for over 25 years and have had many wonderful, life-changing, and life-giving experiences to testify to. Yet, one of my main, nagging concerns during that time is that we have placed more emphasis on being Spirit-filled than we have on being Spirit-spilled.

Why do I mention this? First, let me state emphatically that I am not apposed to the experience of being Spirit-filled. Quite the contrary! Since this experience is available to all believers (Acts 2:39), I think every believer should seek to be filled with the Spirit! However, I do not believe that being Spirit-filled is the end game that God had planned for His people. Just look back at Acts 1:8 (ESV):

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Here’s my point…

God fills us with His power so that we can more effectively fulfill His purposes!

This is what I like to refer to as being Spirit-Spilled. It simply means that we do not seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit for the mere thrill and enjoyment of being “overcome in His Presence” or so that we can miraculously speak in a language we have never learned. Rather, it means that we are so filled with His Presence and power that we are better equipped to serve others and lead them into a life-changing relationship with Jesus!

Francis Chan, in his book Forgotten God, nails it when he writes,

“Some people talk a lot about—even boast of—the Spirit, but their lives do not bear His fruit”

Those who are truly Spirit-filled should be the most loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled people in the world! (just look at Galatians 5:22-23). Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of the smoke, lights, and mirrors in so many churches today that only serves to entertain the religious crowd. I want the authentic move of the Spirit of God that transforms lives, shatters addictions, heals marriages, restores the fallen, and produces new life in people far from God! May we be more than “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). The world has seen enough of that in the church. Rather, may we eagerly pursue the true Spirit-filled life that leads to empowered believers who, like the apostle Paul, are being “poured out as an offering to God” (2 Timothy 4:6, NLT).

In other words… may we be Spirit-Spilled!  

Who Wants a Healing Ministry?

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.  Matthew 25:35-36 (ESV)

When I was a student at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, one of my favorite classes was a class on the Holy Spirit taught by Dr. Frank Macchia.  One day during class, I remember him asking the question, “Does anyone here want to have a healing ministry?”  Immediately several hands were raised, no doubt indicating a sincere desire to be used by God, perhaps in the vein of such healing evangelists as Jack Coe, Kathryn Kuhlman, Smith Wigglesworth and the like. Then, much to everyone’s surprise he said something that has helped shape my ministry. He said, “...then feed the hungry and clothe the naked. If we would just feed and clothe people in need, then we would have a healing ministry. Many diseases and illnesses today are caused by lack of nutrition and protection from weather. Instead of hoping to lay hands on someone and pray, why not just feed them and clothe them. I promise you that if you do that, you will heal thousands.” He then quoted Matthew 25:40 where Jesus said, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

If we would only pause and look around us, we would see that God has already given us plenty of opportunities to be used in healing ministry. There are people that we come in contact with practically everyday that are desperately searching for answers and looking for hope and lasting peace. Perhaps taking the time to minister to their particular need is the most spiritual thing you could do! Sure, it may not be as “dynamic” or attention-getting as laying hands on a sick person and seeing them healed, but it could be more life-transforming… both for the recipient… and for you. 

So, who wants a healing ministry? It’s more practical than you might have previously imagined! All we have to do is find a need and fill it!