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This is my last blog post for a while – as I am taking what is somewhat of a sabbatical. This is the first time I have ever done anything like this in the 21 years I have served on a church staff. I wrote "somewhat of a sabbatical", as sabbatical is supposed to happen every 7 years and is a time of total rest. This sabbatical is taking place once every 21 years and is partial rest. But this is a time period where I will be taking a 100% break from my role at Vintage Faith Church until June 24th. I posted what is happening on Sundays for the teaching in the worship gatherings while I am gone here


For those who want to know what I will doing while on this break – during the first half I will be 100% disconnecting from blogs (reading or writing them), no Facebook, Twitter or email. This will be a time to reflect on life, God and this past season of ministry. I will be going to Hawaii and stay at my friends condo for 5 weeks and this is a time of just rest, praying, thinking, reading and being with family. The photo above is Becky and the girls at the beach by my friends condo from last time we were there. So that will be the same scene we shall be experiencing for the first several weeks of this break. I won't be bringing any church leadership books with me, but will be reading some books ranging from C.S. Lewis's ScrewTape Letters (thanks Andrew for the recommendation) to Ace Frehley's biography (the original guitar player for KISS) and some theology books I have been wanting to read, but haven't had time to.  When we return back home from Hawaii, I will then have a week with Katie and Claire on my own while Becky goes off with her sister on a trip. So that is a father/daughter time which should be fun.

Then for the second half of this break from my role at Vintage Faith Church I will heading up to Portland for part of it. I have for some meetings with George Fox University about the Origins Project that is launching in September and doing some interviews with leaders there. And hanging out with Ricky McKinley, and my brother and some other friends while there. And seeing Roger Water's "The Wall" with Ricky and others while in Portland. Then we will be heading to Santa Barbara and visiting with my friend Britt Merrick (Reality Church) and his family (our wives got to meet at a retreat we were both on, so that should be fun getting the families together). Britt has a very excellent book that I just read the manuscript of called Godspeed: Making Christ's Mission Your Own.  On that trip I will be meeting and interviewing church leaders and seeing my friend Dave Kinnaman while there also. So the second half is a somewhat of a working break, but I won't be back yet in my role with Vintage Faith Church. I will be visiting other churches during this time and look forward to being at other Santa Cruz churches. I rarely get to worship and be at other local churches, so we will be doing that during this second half of the break. 

It should be an interesting time period for me, as I have never taken this long of a break from the ongoing role of local church leadership. I am not burned-out by any means, so this is not a burn-out-I-need-a-break time. Almost the opposite, as it has been a pretty sweet and fun time in our church and we have so many things in the planning with adding on two more worship gatherings, bringing on some new key staff and we have had an amazing surge of healthy growth this past season. So it is sort of a proactive time of getting away for both rest and relfection on how I am really doing which seems to only be able to get that from stopping for a while from all the activity of life. I see this break as a learning, visiting other churches, working on some outside of Vintage Faith Church projects and minsitres I am involved with – so both a rest but also learning time period and emotional refreshment from backing out of the normal weight of ongoing resposibility to gain some emotional refreshment and perspective. 

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(I am writing this out and linking to this from an email I will be sending our church this week. So a lot of this post is for Vintage Faith Church with the upcoming teaching schedule). 

We finished our 4 week teaching series Everyday Missionary  on Sunday. I did a wrap up about the how the dream of our church is to be a missionary-community-training-center-base here in Santa Cruz. It was stressing that church buildings are good and can be used for mission, and that Sunday teaching is good and important and that we can have good music and bands and lighting etc.  but that those things aren't the primary goals, but only part of the whole missional strategy to see healthy and new disciples made.

I have seen some who tend to go to an extreme and say we don't need buildings, or that we shouldn't have preachers or bands on Sundays or anything "attractional". I don't agree with that philosophy, as many do have preaching, bands and buildings and can still be very missional provided that Sundays is not seen as the spectacular "attraction" for people to be at for the goal. But instead,  it is the followers of Jesus who live their lives during the week as missionaries who are the "attraction" by Jesus in them. And then Sunday meetings come into play as most people will then desire to come to a Sunday meeting and Sundays are important (at least in our strategy as a church). I showed this video on Sunday to emphasize this: 



Everyone also got coat hangers as they left this past Sunday with a image of Jesus on them (which would take too long to explain) but it was emphasing the reminder that every day we are missionaries in our lives whatever we do.

This Sunday was also my last Sunday teaching at Vintage Faith Church until July 8th. I am taking a sabbatical, my first ever in 21 years like this of vocatonal on a church staff ministry. I will post more on that and what I will be doing before I leave for sabbatical on Monday. But wanted to post the Sunday teaching while I am gone which I will be linking to from an all-church email I will send out this week.

While I am gone, what is happening on Sundays teaching-wise is:

March – April: Smart Love: life together in the way of 1st Corinthians 13 – my friend Jon Talbert from Westgate Church in San Jose will be teaching a 3 week series going through 1 Corinthians chapter 13. Jon leads an amazing ministry called Beautiful Day and has been a good friend for many years. 

April and May: The Hole In Our Gospel: we will be going through a 6 week series somewhat based out of the book, The Hole In Our Gospel which was written by the president of World Vision. We have had some planning meetings for this series and will doing a bunch of very interactive things for truly trying to grasp the depth of the needs of the world and the suffering, hunger and injustice out there. Nathan George, who is part of our church and the leader of Trade As One will be kicking off the series and ending it. We also will be having one Sunday where we show the film Journey To Jamaa. I wish I was here for this series as it is an important one.

In June:  Kristin Jensen and Joe Bishop will be teaching a 4 week series (they are determing what it is right now). 

July 1 – Margaret Feinberg will be with us. I am so thrilled to finally have Margaret at Vintage Faith Church. She is a really good friend and has been to The Abbey before at our church, but not here on a Sunday. So Margaret will finally be with us and so glad our church will get to meet her.  

July – The book of Titus: I will be back and teaching through the New Testament book Titus. I look forward to this as Titus isn't a book that normally seems to get taught a lot. So I will be going through the 3 chapters in 4 weeks. 

August: Proverbs - will be a month teaching through various Proverbs from the Old Testament. 

September through December: The Sermon on the Mount -  we will be teaching through the entire Sermon on the Mount from the book of Matthew. We don't want to rush through this, so will be spending almost 4 months on this incredible section of Jesus' teaching. 

My next post will be my last for a while and I will be disconnecting for 6 weeks entirely from Facebook, blogging, checking emails etc. Then back but doing research and visiting other churches for anotehr 6 weeks before returning to my role at Vintage Faith Church. I have not scheduled any speaking engagments either for 12 weeks while the sabbatical is happening. So will be interesting doing this as it is definetly a break from my normal patterns of life. I'll post this weekend with more on sabbatical thinking and plans. 



The day we put faith in Jesus we become missionaries, whether we realize it or not. We are starting a new teaching series this Sunday called "Everyday Missionary". We will address myths about what evangelism is or isn't and teach how every day of our lives we are on mission as missionaries. 

I think we need to reframe how we define "missionary" though, as well as reframe what "evangelism" looks like. So that will be this what this series is about. Charles Spurgeon has a blunt quote about this saying “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor”. Here's the full context of that quote from 1873: 

“If Jesus is precious to you, you will not be able to keep your good news to yourself. You will be whispering it into your child’s ear. You will be telling it to your husband. You will be earnestly imparting it to your friend. Without the charms of eloquence you will be more than eloquent: your heart will speak, and your eyes will flash as you talk of His sweet love.

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Google+ and Facebook

January 19, 2012 — 1 Comment

for those going on Google+ and want to connect there  

It seems that more activity is happening on Google+ lately. I am still not sure how to be working with both Google+ and Facebook. It will be interesting to see how it turns out over the next few years. 

My Facebook is   http:/



I write for Outreach Magazine and in the new issue the theme is "Becoming Tomorrow's Church". For the feature story, I interviewed several college students at George Fox University in Portland, OR about what they would hope the future church to be like. You can read a large section from the article here

Outreach Magazine cover

 I know that when speaking about the what our hopes and dreams are for the church are that we need to be looking to Scripture first. But Scripture gives us a lot of freedom and dreaming that can be done in imagining what church could be, so it was quite fun listening to these students share.

I have taken a new role as Professor of Missional Leadership at George Fox University (you can read the announcement George Fox University made about that here). This interview was one of many studies I will be doing with students there about various topics on church, theology and culture. George Fox University is a Christian liberal arts university so that means you will have a diverse breadth of students and backgrounds and points of where they are at in their faith journeys which is reflected in the group I met with. 

It was a very refreshing time with them and what was most interesting to me was that when I asked them to describe what their ideal church of the future would be – they didn't respond with what type of music they would want. Or whether the preaching style would be verse-by-verse or topical. They all responded with their dreams of how people would be impacted and changed. Yes, those other things will naturally happen, but there wasn't a sense of consumerism about church being all about them, but about others to experience Jesus. 

I love listening to college students and will be back in Portland in February for some further interviews as well as some meetings at George Fox University about Origins. Origins is a collaborative group of evangelical leaders, theologians, writers and artists who are passionate about mission and seeing future generations understand their vocation as mission, sharing ideas and learning together. Origins is an open community for those sharing this passion. We started Origins 2 years ago and it got off to such a great start that had so many interested and we had a big event in LA and was part of Catalyst West Coast. But we didn't have the time and energy to put into it since all of us were so consumed with our churches and what we already were doing. But the latest is that as part of my role at George Fox University we will be relaunching Origins in February 2012. But we now have staffing, video and media people and am very much looking forward to what will happen. Robin Baker the president of George Fox University shares the same passion and Origins will now be based out of the university, although there are several other universities involved. This is a Kingdom project as Robin has called it, so it is multi-university and multi-seminaries involved.

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NativityI might be overly sensitive to this topic, as I remember being surprised reading the Bible for the first time as a college student and realizing the nativity scene I had learned all my life up to then wasn't accurate to the biblical account with some parts of it. But here's some thoughts that have been stirred from this morning listening to my daughters talk.

This morning I was quite happy hearing our daughters talking to each other as they were drafting up a play portraying the wise men and Jesus they are going to be doing with their friends. The reason I was happy was that they were talking through the real story vs. what Christmas cards have created as the story and basing it from the Bible and discussing the differences. I hadn't talked to them directly about it for their play. They were writing it on their own and began talking about making sure they wrote the play the way the Bible taught it on their own which was why I was happy listening in to their discussion.

We had recently talked as a family about a friend of ours who sets up a nativity scene in their home, but they place the wise men in another part of the room not at the manger. They do that indicating that in the Bible story, you don't see the Magi there on Christmas Day but they would likely have been back in Persia somewhere at the time of the birth of Jesus. So that is likely what Katie and Claire were remembering we talked about when they were drafting up their Christmas story play. But I was glad hearing them discuss the importance of looking into Scripture for what the actual story is vs. Christmas cards and medieval artwork. 

As we know, the Christmas story often shown in most church musicals as well as Christmas cards and nativity scenes is not quite accurate when looking in the BIble itself. Such as: 

1) Jesus was likely born in the Spring or Fall not December:The December 25 date was based on the winter equinox and celebration of that which was happening in the days of the early church. December 25th is the date pagan religions of that time period celebrated the alleged birth of various gods like Mithras etc. So after Christianity began the legal religion of Rome several hundred years after the birth of Jesus, the early church then desginated the 25th to say Jesus was also born on that day to counteract the wide spread celebration of the birthday of other alleged gods that were celebrated that day. See here for more info on the December 25th date and here if you want to know more.

2) There is no indication the star was there on Christmas Eve -  When you read the biblical account, there is no mention of the star appearing in Christmas Eve or shining above the manger. That was added in artwork, not based on the Bible. The star comes later when the Magi (Wise Men) visited Jesus in a "home" when he was anywhere in age up to two years old. In fact, there is some interesting thinking about the whole "no room in the Inn" understanding of the story, may not have been an "Inn" at all, but a home that they went to. And underneath homes at that time, was the place they kept animals. But the typical sort of Christmas Eve barn-like structure we see the Nativity scene in, it wouldn't have been that. See here for more info on that. There are various theories on this, but there is no star mentioned in what happened on Christmas Day on the day of the birth. That came next when the Magi (the Wise Men) visited Jesus at a later time than the day of His birth. 

3) The Wise Men weren't at the manger scene and Jesus was likely up to 2 years old when they visited Him - The wise men went to a "house" the Bible says (Matthew 2:11) when they visited Jesus, not a stable or barn or cave. This could be explained by the time the Wise Men arrived, Joseph and Mary had settled for time in a home somewhere in Bethelehem. Some speculate it was the same home that Jesus wasa born in, but now it was in the main quarters and not in the cellar where the animals were. We don't know for sure. But it was a house that is what we know.

Jesus was likely not a baby at the time of the Magi visit, but could have been up to two years old. It explicitely uses the word "child" in this verse which is translated from the Greek word “paidion”. There is a different Greek word for a “newborn” (brephos) that was used in Luke when describing the infant Jesus. The word paidion can mean infant also, but it does mean “young child” (paidion) which fits the scene of some time having gone by after Jesus' birth. Some scholar believe Jesus could even been up to two years old as we see that as the age Herod went and ordered the killing of children in Bethlehem of those 2 years and younger. From everything I have read in commentaries, most scholars suggest 6 months to 18 months is the age Jesus was when He was visited by the Magi. But again… we don't know for sure. But in all likelihood, he was older and the Magi did not appear like we see in Nativity scenes. 

The Wise Men weren't "Kings" either. That idea of them being actual Kings came from a Christmas carol written in 1863 ("We Three Kings Of Orient Are"). That was written without biblical backing as well as the idea that there were 3 of them. We don't know for sure how many there were, but early tradition even says there were 12 of them. And they likely were not from the Orient but somewhere in Persia, which is what is modern day Iraq. And they were likely astrologers not kings. 

In the play Katie and Claire are writing, the scene of the Wise Men coming has Jesus as a 2 year old in it. So they have selected a friend who is around that age to portray Jesus when the Wise Men visit as they tell the story. 

I have always found it fascinating that even in the church, we keep portraying some of the story based more on Christmas cards, medieval art and Christmas carols written in the 1800's  vs. the biblical account. Now, I know it is just artistic license and the point is celebrating the birth of Jesus and the incarnation which is what we truly celebrate as the focus. So whether the Wise Men were there or not Christmas Day, or if there was no star that was shining above the baby Jesus etc. isn't important as we focus on the incarnation with joy. So I am not overly bothered when I see the wise men at the manger and a star on Christmas Eve as we show in most Christmas graphics and portrayals of the birth of Jesus. The birth of Jesus is something to be amazed at, in wonder at and celebrate whether we know the date or the Wise Men and the star were at the manger as we show in nativity scenes. So in many ways this is a very petty thing to even raise up. 

BUT…. my nagging question is if we aren't noticing (or at least having some discussion to be correcting things as we portray and tell tell the story as we teach it) which has some some significant fact errors in of who was there, the star etc. …. then is there any concern that we set an example for not being good teachers of Scripture? Do we set an example of being poor Bible teachers inaccuratly telling the story? Let me play this out with some examples.


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In our 14 week Sunday teaching series on core doctrines of the historical Christian church, I taught on the doctrine of the afterlife today. The sermon was about what we the Bible reveals regarding what happens when we die and about heaven and hell. Not very easy subjects to teach on, and it was one of the few times I have actually texted some friends in the morning to please pray for me as I taught. 

As part of the teaching, I once again walked through a biblical narrative storyline and drew it on the white board. Everything we have taught in this series, we are framing within the biblical narrative. I believe a weakness of straight forward systematic theology is the often not teaching how the doctrines historically developed or fit in the grand biblical narrative.  So each week we have sketched out a biblical narrative from eternity past/creation/Fall/Israel etc. to the new heavens and new earth and eternity continuing. This way doctrines don't sit in isolation but fit within the narrative.

The teaching today was on the afterlife so I went into scholars persectves on the soul/spirit and physical body composition of human beings and then taught primarily on heaven, the future resurrection of our bodies that the Scripture reveals and about the new heavens and new earth. In addition to the several systeamtic theology books I am using for study I also had N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope" and some others I had read in prep of this as part of the afterlife study. 

As I was teaching on heaven, Celeste Young was to my left and painting colors on a canvas. Basically she painted what colors she felt would represent the joy of heaven. Which is this photo below. After I taught on heaven, Photo[2]I then made the shift to teach on hell. I have taught on hell in our church several times in the past (I have put summaries of previous hell sermons here and here and here) so I focused more of a shorter but blunt look at its reality. There are many unknowns and mysteries about the specifics of hell, but most scholars do believe it is eternal and I emphasized that as my personal belief as well. Although I did share how some like John Stott who are very credible evangelicals believe in annihilation (that people who aren't followers of Jesus will basically cease to exist in the afterlife). I would be a wishful annihilationist but from scholars I trust, the great majority believe in the eternal nature of it. I'd be a wishful universal reconciliationist but I don't believe there is a solid basis for Scriptural support for that view if one holds to a full inspiration of the Bible. So I mentioned some various beliefs out there and I recommended Francis Chan's "Erasing Hell" book for further reading on the topic of hell.

After the heaven teaching, I transition to teaching on hell and as I did Celeste began painting with black paint over the beautiful colors she had put on the canvas which represented heaven. So by the time I was done, the canvas then looked like this below. It was a graphical representation of seeing the beauty of "heaven" being painted over and become darkness and void of light.

PhotoI taught then about Jesus, the cross, atonement and the eternal life offered through faith in Jesus and to wrap it up I then scraped away some of the paint (as cliche as it sounds did it in the shape of a cross) of how Jesus breaks through the darkness and removed the sting of death and how faith in Him gives us the gift of eternal life. I ended the message with an old school walk through a prayer for those wanting to put faith in Jesus and trust in Him.  IMG_6545

After the 3rd worship gathering, we had our 4th theology Open Forum and had Professor Gary Tuck with us from Western Seminary in San Jose. We have been holding these theology forums and they have been quite fun with any question goes or disagreement and sharing of opinions. Gary has been part of 3 of them and tonight's primary focus was heaven and hell for the questions that came up. 

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Junia Not Alone cover - Scot McKnightMy New Testament theological friend, guru and the one whom I emulated his haircut – Scot McKnight has written a little e-book on the topic of women in leadership in the church. It is called "Junia Is Not Alone". It is available on Amazon Kindle. And if you don't have a Kindle, you can download a Kindle reader on to you laptop or smartphone or iPad. It is a short little book and only $2.99. 

This is an important topic and something people should not avoid studying. I have served in a church that was complementarian (women are limited in their roles in the church) and have served in a church that is egalitarian (women serve in any role in the church if they are gifted in the area to serve in). I have friends who are complementarians and friends who are egalitarians. I have friends who are in the middle of it or soft complementarian (as one friend called himself). I think there are wonderful churches and leaders who hold differing beliefs on what the Bible says about this. Yet it is a discussion which weirdly isn't talked about enough (in my opinion). 

No matter what your viewpoint is on this issue, this little e-book is worth a read. By the title, you can already know that Scot comes to an egalitarian conclusion. But I'd encourage you if you are egalitarian to look at why you believe what you do. And if you aren't egalitarian, to understand why egalitarians believe what they do. I personally want to be looking at different perspectives of all types of issues to try and understand them. I don't want to ever automatically suppose that my view I first learned in a my first church experience or in a denomination is always the one that has the most biblical backing to it. I have often discovered that some Christians never have looked at other ways evangelical Christians understand some doctrines and only have one opinion as that is all they ever studied in their church. I remember I was initially taught a pre-tribulational rapture was THE way Jesus was going to return. To even look at other beliefs on the return of Jesus (even with evangelical spectrum) was not seen as healthy. But since then I have learned that we need to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and searching the Scriptures and studying them with great diligence with prayer. And it is wise to look at other opinions within evangelicalism about what we believe and why. 

We are near the end of a 14 week series on the historical doctrines of the church in our Sunday worship gatherings. We used a systematic theology book by Wayne Grudem as the book we promoted and sold a ton of them to people reading through it as we taught through the series. Wayne is a strong complementarian. But in the book, Wayne expresses a variety of opinions and then his own opinion in the book. So we can learn multiple ways that people may have beliefs on a specific doctrine that differ within evangelicalism. And that is a positive thing as until one day we know the answers, there will be differing opinions on non-core doctrines of faith. But I think it is wise to learn the differing beliefs and understand why people have these differing beliefs. That is why I recommend Scot's little e-book to those who hold differing beliefs on the issue of women in church leadership. As I would recommend reading Wayne Grudem to understand his perspective. 

Anyway, just a quick post to say that Scot's e-book is cheaper than a cup of coffee at most places and worth a read even if you have a different viewpoint or if you have the same as what Scot concludes. Let's all continue to strive to be Christian thinkers in our world today, respecting those of differing opinions, but also knowing why we believe what we do. We need to be thinking Christians and I am thankful for what Scot wrote and highly recommend reading it as it is an issue all Christians should be able to understand the varying persectives on this within the evangelical spectrum.