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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Theology from My Snow Dog

In the past few weeks we have gotten a lot of snow here in Chicago and amazingly not one day has school been cancelled! This is new for us. In Texas when it snows the whole state shuts down. No one drives, everyone stays home and plays. Here, everyone is still driving, buses are going and kids have to sit in school while I'm out playing in it!

This is the first winter for Selah, my Siberian Husky puppy and her first experience with snow. For those who don't know, Siberian Huskies are a medium-size, wolf-like dog. Huskies are an active, energetic, and resilient breed whose ancestors come from the extremely cold and harsh environment of the Siberian Arctic. Siberian Huskies were bred to pull heavy loads long distances through difficult conditions. The dogs were imported into Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush and later spread into the United States and Canada.

In other words, they were bred for the snow and to work long hours in it. Now Selah doesn't work, as in pull a sled, but she does play hard. And when she first stepped foot in the snow, even though she had never seen it, it was like she was finally home. She immediately had extra energy like she had drank a Red Bull and began pulling me like I was her sled. When we finally got to the park and I let her off leash she ran all over the place, stopping only to stick her head completely in the snow like she were an Ostrich. She would make doggy snow angels, hunt squirrels and just play forever this first snow day.

And then it occurred to me: even though she had never experienced snow, or sledding, as soon as she was in the element she was bred to be in, she thrived and did exactly what she was created for instinctively. When she was in Texas (out of her element) we never noticed some of her behaviors as we do in this colder climate.

This is true for us as well.

We were created to be in community with the communal God and with His body. Obviously our sin has taken us out of this "element" and we don't thrive in it. We don't experience life in this element. Every time we sin, it's like we remove ourselves from the very element that we were created for. That's why Jesus said the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy life. He comes to take us away from what we were bred to do.

HOWEVER, when Jesus reconciles us back into His kingdom, we have life. Thats why Jesus said, "I have come to give you life--and to the full." He came to bring us back into the element we were created to be in. In this element we thrive. We have life. We experience our purpose. We are excited about what we are doing.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ this season, remember why he came: to bring us back into the place we were created to be in. As I watch Selah play in the snow and as she hates leaving it to go inside, God reminds me and asks why I would ever leave too? And He then reminds me of His son and His grace that brings me back every time. I want to be where I was created to be, how about you?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why Serve?

Many people have been asking me how we are starting our church and what we are doing right now in Chicago. Here's the short answer: We are serving.


There are many ways to start a new church in a new city. Every new church at some point in time "introduces" themselves to the city they belong too. Many do this by spending a lot of money on creating an amazing mail out that says something catchy hoping to get 1% of that mailer as a return to attend one of their events or services. It also serves a purpose of even if they throw the mailer away, they at least know who you are now by name.

Here in Chicago with our new church, we've taken a different approach. One, because of resources. We simply cannot and do not want to spend the money on a mailer. Two, and more importantly, we want to "introduce" ourselves in a different way. When people hear of us, we want it to be for a REASON instead of for a piece of paper. AND when they do receive a mail out or flyer later on (just not an introduction one), we want them to have a point of reference: "Oh, that is that church that does..." What?

What is it we want to be known for in our city? Love. That we love God so much we love our city.

I would rather introduce our new church to the community by consistently serving it than by doing a "mailer." This advances the kingdom, impacts our community & saves money.

That's the answer to the question I've gotten of why we've been serving our school and our community since we've been here and what we're trying to accomplish. We are the body of Christ and we should be showing the love of Christ to all people. Not so that they will come to our church but because we should love them. My new friends may never come to my church, but I will never stop serving them. Furthermore, we are establishing DNA in our church so that when people do join, they know that they are joining to serve. We will make our school better and be a part of God's ministry of reconciliation in our city.

Here's a cool story:

One of the first events we partnered with the community on was a Scarecrow Extravaganza where the community got businesses to sponsor and build a scarecrow for a week-long display the week of halloween. Kids and families would then show up and build their own scarecrow to go in the lot with the sponsors. The lot was our local school courtyard. We decided to be a sponsor to help our community. We were the only church that did this and it was a lot of fun. We even saw the school principal there and she came up and gave Ash & I a huge hug, even though we've only been serving in the school at that point for 2 weeks. God was showing us the importance of what we were doing. Then he added another blessing. A lady who runs an on-line newspaper for our neighborhood and has over 7,000 followers covered the event, and we got "free" publicity to our neighborhood that we didn't even have to pay for. And, more importantly, we were becoming known for what we wanted to be: we love our neighborhood.

We need to shift our focus from the church to the kingdom. When we start a church our focus is "church". When we advance the kingdom, we can change a city & the world. We will make decisions based on the kingdom, not based on how many people this will bring to my church. We serve our cities no matter what, because it is about the kingdom and not my church. That's why we serve.

Kingdom. Disciple. Society. Church. Start with Kingdom and make disciples that engage society and God will build His church. So why serve? Easy as what my dad always told me when I asked why: "Because your Father said so."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Multi-Faith: Lessons from Global Faith Forum

Many people have been asking what I learned/taught at the Global Faith Forum, but most people have been asking me, "what was it like?" (For those who haven't heard about the GFF, check out There were many amazing speakers from all faiths represented and I was humbled to learn from them.

Here's a few of my thoughts and what I took away.

First off, in being with Muslims, Jews, & Christians on the same platform, you learn to appreciate and love them for who they are. It puts a face on the issue of Park 51 (NYC Mosque) and the Israeli history. That's one of the things we really stressed in our breakout session we led, because relationships change everything. The reason there is so much misunderstanding between all of our faiths is because we do not have relationships with each other. Therefore, we talk about the other with our own instead of talking about each other with each other. However, if we have real friendships, not just conversations, then everything changes. We begin to care and love people, serving them with the love of Jesus because they matter to God, but also now because they matter to us. Bob Roberts, jr spoke on how we have to start with the hand (serving & working together for the good of the city) instead of the head (all of our theological differences) because if we start there, relationships will be extremely hard to form.

Second, we do not have to demonize other religions to make ours look good. If we really believe what we believe is Truth, then why do we feel the need to tear someone else down? For Christians, let jesus speak for himself and stand on that. We do not need to demonize the fact the Jews reject Christ as Messiah or demonize Mohammed in order to make Jesus look better. If we really believe Jesus is God, does he not look better himself? Relationships help us not to do this as well.

Third, we do not need to get our information on what we think of other religions from the media or from our own tribes, we need to go to the source. A lot of the speakers at GFF really stressed this. We have to be careful not to form our opinions of one another based on the media and chain emails. We have to have real conversations with people of other faiths who really know what they believe in order to really understand. We do so much damage with our tweets, emails, and Facebook statuses by spreading information about other religions that we do not even know to be true because we did not get it from the source. We should be using the media platform to spread the news of what we do know: what we believe and loving others.

Fourth, we live in a global world and we must learn to love each other, stand for religious freedom for all people, respect each other, and help fight injustice together. I am an evangelical which means this: I believe God created all things, we sinned and needed redemption but couldn't do it ourselves, so God became fully man while staying fully God as Jesus and died for our sins, redeeming us back to a relationship with God and is coming again.

However, just because I believe Jesus is the only way to get to God, does not mean that I do not love others. In fact, because I believe this about Jesus I love others even more. Why do we see the need to demonize, hurt and build barriers between us and other people because of different beliefs? That's not what Christ would do. That's not what the Quran teaches. That's not in the Talmud.

We need a new platform called Multi-faith. A platform where we do not compromise what we believe, admit we have irreconcilable differences, but began building relationships and loving one another as well as serving together.

Serve and love others not to convert, but because we are converted.

I love people and will continue to love people whether they accept Jesus or not. Relationships and serving others for me cannot just end because they believe different than me or reject Christ. If this was so, Christ never would have gone to the cross (ultimate serve and ultimate love) because we all rejected Him. But because i have a relationship with people I am able to share what I believe. So, I love and serve because I am converted, not to convert. I believe Jesus does that part, I'm just called to love Him and love others.

Will you join this multi-faith platform?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Encounters of a Thai Waitress & A Palestinian...

Since moving to Chicago, every Friday at 2pm I go to lunch at Thai Classic restaurant in the Lakeview neighborhood. I meet with the staff & leadership of Chicagoland Community Church, who is the local church helping us plant and encouraging Ashly and I. In so doing, I have met the waitress there that serves us every week. She is from Thailand and is one of the nicest people I have met in Chicago. She knows we are Christians and that there are two pastors there every week and she loves serving us and talking with us. Some weeks we ask her what we can be praying for her about and she'll tell us. Jon, the pastor of C3, has even given her a book to read based upon one of the requests that she made. God has been using us and the conversations so far, but nothing like what happened recently.

About a month ago, she came up to us and the first words out of her mouth were, "I met one of your kind here yesterday!" She was very excited to tell us the story of a Christian man named Sami Awad ( and how this man from Palestine talked to her about Jesus and what He had done for him and how now he was promoting peace in Israel & Palestine. This blew her away, not only because she couldn't believe someone would give up so much just to follow Jesus, but also because the number one request she always had us pray for was for "peace." Sami was in town to show a documentary and speak at DePaul University. He invited her to come to it after their conversation at the restaurant and she went. This opened a door for more spiritual conversation with her and gave me an opportunity to pray for her in a different way. I also found Sami's blog and began reading his story to know more about the man she had encountered.

Fast forward to this past weekend, where I was attending and leading a breakout session at Global Faith Forum ( in Keller Tx. One of my mentors, Pastor Bob Roberts, Jr ( and the church he pastors where I received my training for church planting, was putting this conference on. I was to lead breakout session on friday, so on thursday night I was just attending and hanging out/meeting all the other speakers in the green room.

Bob comes in right before the night is to begin and begins introducing people. He says a name that I couldn't get out of my head as he introduces, "Sami Awad." For about five minutes I was trying to figure out how I knew that name when it finally clicked: Thai Classic!

So I went over to Sami and asked him if he had been in Chicago in the past month. He had said he had been and I proceeded to ask if he remembers eating at a Thai restaurant, to which he answers yes he had, and "We had a wonderful, crazy waitress who was very interested in our story. So I invited her to come to the movie presentation that night at DePaul and she came. She was extremely nice."

It blew my mind that this was him. I proceeded to tell him that Thai restaurant was my Thai Classic and I eat there every Friday and i know that waitress and she couldn't stop talking about your story!

So, yesterday, I went back to Thai Classic because I had to tell our waitress this story and who i had met. I took a picture with Sami that night I had met him, and after talking with her for awhile yesterday I got my iphone out and asked her if she recognized this man? She said, "Oh my gosh," and she began to flip out. She couldn't believe that I had met him and spent the weekend with him talking to him, and that I was going to Palestine in January. We proceeded to talk more about this "coincidence" for awhile and that I didn't believe it was a coincidence and that I believe God was moving and that I would love to talk with her more about that!

I learned in 7th grade going through a book entitled, "Experiencing God" that God is always moving, and we must just join in where He is. That's exactly what I am doing here. God was moving in Chicago way before I was here and now I am just looking to join in. There are no coincidences here, He is advancing His kingdom. When we finally grasp this and began seeing all things as opportunities to join God in His work, we will see His kingdom advance, churches planted, and cities transformed. Where do you see God moving?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Knowing Your City #1: Politics

When trying to engage your city and make disciples it is important to actually KNOW your city and what makes it tick. In my short time in Chicago so far, I have learned that one of the areas of society that almost every single citizen engages in here is politics! And yes, since Al Capone has been here politics have been dirty and still are here. (Let me preface the rest of this blog by saying I am not affiliated with any party and vote different each year, think Obama is doing the best job he can and fully support him as my president, and I am an evangelical.)

Being from Texas we think we are political but this is a different kind of political. Every one from the dog walker to the trash dumpers to the lawyers and doctors all are very involved in the political process and very OPINIONATED!

I am, and always have been a cynic when it comes to politics, so therefore, I have always been somewhat politically apathetic. I have just gotten by knowing enough about politics to have a casual conversation and move on. However, as I have multiple conversations each day with all of my new friends politics come up in almost every conversation. I am learning now as much as I can to be relevant in those conversations. However, after learning more and more, the more of a cynic I have become so I don't know if that's good or bad! To me if you have to compromise your beliefs in order to get elected (which all party politics do) then you can't change anything. You have people in your back pocket that helped you get elected so therefore you have to please them now. It's really corrupt when you think about it. Thats why Obama cannot be Pro-life even if he wanted to. That's why Republicans can't take certain stances against death penalties, gun laws and some social programs. Why? Because they ran on a certain party line and people helped to get them elected on that line and now their hands are tied as to what they can do. THEREFORE REAL CHANGE cannot take place.

Which brings me full circle. I am learning about politics to engage in conversation, but I know what real change our society (and my new friend) really need. That's the love of Jesus Christ. Think about it for a second. He was the exact opposite leader of our politics we have today. In fact, some people tried to get him to "run" on their political lines. Some wanted, and thought, that Jesus could re-establish the political kingdom of Israel to the ultimate place. Jesus could have ran on that ballot, but He didn't. He didn't compromise His beliefs or calling and instead accomplished the greater purpose of why he came: to make a way into His Kingdom. He stood firm and never compromised, and that brings about real change.

If we get certain issues passed into law in our country is that really going to change people's lives? The kind of change they need? If we get elected the candidate that promises "pro-life" is that really going to help the 500,000 orphans in our country? Will it even end abortion?

Far too long in our country Christians have put too much hope in elected officials and have counted on people to bring change that simply cannot.

My hope is not in elected officials to bring about change but in the Father, his kingdom, and His church to BE the change and help transform lives. As followers of the Way that should all be our hope, because that's CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chi-Town & The Church in Acts

Living in Chicago, one of the major global cities in the world, has been SO REFRESHING! Over the past two years I have been trying to live more missional and escape the "Christian bubble" we all get in, but true freedom for me was found in removal. Not just regionally, but spiritually. For the first time since probably high school, all the people I am surrounded by everyday are lost and as far from Jesus as possible. And I love it! I have been to more bars in one month of living here then I have in my entire life. It makes me wonder, why did I ever get away from the world? Why is it that Christians are only surrounded by other Christians? Why do we recluse into the church and do our best to serve the world but not love it enough to build relationships with the world? No wonder the world doesn't step foot in our doors and we get discouraged from the rejection of our invitation.

Maybe the rejections of our invitations should tell us the world doesn't want what we're inviting them too! But what if we change what we invite?

What if instead of inviting people to church, we invite them to the Kingdom of Heaven?

Huge difference. POWERful difference. In reading the book of Acts recently and seeing the Church be born and spread I am convinced and encouraged that no worship service I start, no band that I get, no catchy preaching I preach is going to save the people in this city.

Sure doing this could get me a crowd and get me my numbers by getting all the bored Christians at their boring churches to come and join my new fun one until they don't like mine anymore and go somewhere else, but what does that accomplish? What am I going to do about all the lost people I meet and hang out with everyday? What is going to convince them Jesus can change their entire existence? An awesome band? A good service? Or is it the Kingdom of Heaven and the power of the risen Lord?

We use words like "relevant,"contemporary", "band that plays U2", "messages that help your life" to describe our churches.

Acts uses these: "signs", "wonders", "healing", "persecution", "scattered", "disciples", "teaching", "sharing", "giving up EVERYTHING" , "building up Body of Christ".

And these are just a few. The first church didn't spread because they were the "cool, new thing", it spread because they completely relied on the power of the Holy Spirit. They didn't talk people into following Jesus, they performed signs and healings to show the power that could change their lives. Because of this, the Church was persecuted and had to leave Jerusalem. Did that stop them? Nope. They understood the Great Commission: As you go make disciples. They kept doing the same thing there and saw the persecution as an opportunity to share the power of Jesus instead of complaining about losing their homeland and city. What if we stop starting worship services, satellite campuses, etc (and call it church planting), and instead engage our world, make disciples and watch God build His church?

Where's the POWER in the Church in America?

We trust too much in models and styles and our own talents and not enough on the Power of the Holy Spirit.

In a book I'm reading entitled "The Lost History of Christianity," I recently read something that jumped out of me:

"The best argument for Christianity was that its holy men and women were so close to God that they could defy the laws of nature and demonstrate divine power through acts of miracle and healing."

The author Philip Jenkins was referencing the spread of Christianity in it's early birth throughout the middle east and asia up until the time before it even came to Europe (which is usually where we pick up the story). He went on to say:

"All forms of Christianity, East or West, emphasized charismatic and miraculous themes, to a degree that separated them from more rationalistic Muslim contemporaries."

I'm praying for that in Chicago and across our country. I'm praying that I will be so close to God that He would use me to demonstrate His power through my acts! I'm praying that the Church would be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit and that through us He would do something that can only be explained as the power of Jesus Christ. That's the only way all my new friends in Chicago will come to Jesus and be a part of His body. And then we will have the Church, and then we'll have a movement.

I didn't move here to start a worship service, but to be used by God to build His church.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lessons from Chi-Town...

I am going to start blogging ideas/concepts/lessons that I am learning while planting a church in Chicago. Here's today's:

As a Pastor, if we spend more time preparing a sermon during the week than making disciples then it's no wonder the church in America is in crisis.

I told my wife last week, "I miss preaching." You see, I've always preached somewhere. Whether it was traveling at an event or in a local church, I've preached for the past 10 years of my life and it has become one of my major strengths and giftedness. However, since moving to Chicago I haven't preached once. The summer is over so no more youth camps. No new events scheduled here, because no one knows who I am. We haven't "launched" a large gathering yet, so no congregation to preach to on a sunday. What's a pastor to do??

This is why I am convinced we've got this whole "church" thing backwards here in our country. Don't get me wrong, preaching has a place in the church and I will continue to use this gift, but it can't be the end all, or even the most important thing. But profoundly, in America, it is. People choose a church not based on the teaching of the Bible, but "how" they teach the Bible. In other words: Is the guy/girl any good? Is it entertaining? How many Inception video clips were used this week?

Because of this, it has put tremendous pressure on pastors to deliver a flashy message to meet the demands of their customers or they will go to another church and get what they want there. This has caused Pastors to spend most of their time preparing and studying for their sermon.

Does it really make sense to place most of your weeks time and energy into a 30-45 minute presentation? Thats 30-45 minutes out of 10,080 minutes in a week? How can that be a good steward of our time?

What if, though, Sunday wasn't the most important day? What if we replaced the "event" with the church? What if as Pastors we spent our week making disciples and mobilizing them to go into their domains and make more. Then everyday becomes the most important day of the week and everyday we carry out the great commission.

You see everyone asks me when I am going to launch my church, but what they're really asking is, "When are you going to start a sunday event?" I've already launched my church. We launched when we got here and started meeting people, prayer walking, and sharing the gospel. I didn't move to Chicago to launch a worship service, I moved here so God could build His church.

One of the most refreshing things of planting a church here in Chicago is that I spend most of my day trying to engage people and our community in order to make disciples.

What if I would have always done this? What if Pastors would lead out in this and what if we could get our churches to do this? Now, that would be something worth preaching about.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Real Men Cry...

I don't know if society has taught me that "real men don't cry" or if I somehow came to that conclusion on my own, but I have always felt like I was just being a "girl" anytime my emotions got the best of me and I began to cry. So, I would try everything possible not to do it. Even as a little kid, I remember being on the soccer field or basketball court and never wanting to come out of the game so I would play hurt. BUT, I never wanted the embarrassment of crying in front of all those people. Of course, as I have gotten older I have actually cried more. I remember crying by myself my freshman year of college because I was going through a tough time with life, but it wasn't in front of anyone. First time I can remember letting loose in front of people was my granddad's funeral, and then again at my other grandpa's funeral. I have also let my guard down with my wife and have cried with her.

The reason all of this is fresh on my mind is because I recently moved to Chicago. I cried leaving my nephew Corbin because, (although I will miss all of my family and friends), he will grow and change so fast that I felt I would miss a lot of it. I also cried (and I felt really stupid for this one) leaving my dog Cooper. He had been a companion dog for me for 6 years and we had been through a lot. So, I am an emotional guy, and for me to hold those emotions in has meant for almost 90% of my life I haven't been real to other people or myself. I have had a guard up, not letting people into an area where I was comfortable being my true self.

I am convinced this is a huge issue for us in the American church. We are not real with each other. Furthermore, this has me convinced that we are missing a level of the Biblical church--the basic level (house, cell). Sure we have home groups where people share "community" with one another through a meal and bible study and go and do fun things together. That's like calling Facebook "real" community. I want to be in a community in the body of Christ where I can be real. Where I can laugh. Where we can pray for one another and really know what is going on. Where I can share my needs and I can meet the needs of others. Where I can cry.

This is a picture of the body of Christ that is the true church, where people are true. This will lead to a real community that becomes strengthened to not stay inward focused but goes out and changes the world. If we don't have real community what do we have to offer the world? If all we do is bring people into an event where 1000's are gathered every sunday have we accomplished helping them discover their eternal purpose of being in community with God and in community with others? We've given them false community by having a "greet" time or inviting them to a class or home group. We need REAL community, or else I don't think we can change the world. You see, real men do cry. Be real.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Living a Story...

I do not want to just write a story that captivates readers and audiences. How boring is that? Living a story that impacts and influences people making their lives better, now that is a journey worth going down. My wife and I are about to begin a brand new chapter in our living story. We are moving to Chicago (from the nation of Texas) to plant a church. We want to live a story in such a way that by serving and loving our new community people are drawn into a bigger story than one we could ever imagine. You see God told us to live a story. All of us. He even calls us "living stones" in Peter's letter to the church. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians he says that all people who follow God are to use their lives to "build" the body of Christ up. We are to use our life's story in such a way that it makes others lives better in Christ and it builds His church. God actually wants to use our story as we live as "living stones" to build His church in Chicago. We are very excited to be on this journey, but we are anxious as well. We are moving September 1 and neither one of us have jobs yet. We have not sold our house yet in Texas. There are so many unresolved issues in this story that we are living and yet, God continues to take us down this journey with peace and provision. If we were able to conquer all of these conflicts and issues (and there will be many more as journey on) then we would not need God to build His story, we would be building our own. How boring is that? We want to be a part of a bigger story than that. Living a story that engages and changes a city. Living a story that as we meet with world leaders from the Middle East in D.C., NYC and around the world, that we help engage and change their cities. All of this from us being obedient and living our little story in Chicago. I have no idea the climax or conclusion of this story. But that doesn't really matter. I do not even know the next conflicts around the corner. That doesn't matter either. If I knew all of that already, how boring would that story be? But living the story, as unknown as it may be, as God's living stones using our story as a stone to build up His church, now thats a story worth living. What story are you going to live?

Monday, July 12, 2010


I am excited to be finally starting a blog! As I transition from the College Pastor at First Baptist Church Denton TX and into being the Pastor of Mosaic Church in Chicago, IL (a brand new church plant at, i hope this blog not only serves the people in Chicago but the people I come in contact with along this journey. My travels take me many places and I pray that these humble thoughts that are revealed to me on the words of Jesus (and the occasional rant on random things!) will serve as food and energy for your own journey as you strive to follow Christ or discover His teachings for the first time.

know the Truth. walk the journey. be free.