Hope for a Broken Country

History is helpful. It has taught me that there is no such thing as the “good ole days,” the world has always been what it is since sin entered our world, there are ups and downs, and we can have an impact yet never truly change the nature of humans. However, wisdom says that our country is at a uniquely broken place. Any 4th Grader can point out the obvious problems that led to much of this brokenness, yet the church’s role is to provide light out of this hole. I certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers, but maybe this provides some hope to our brokenness.


First, racism is real. Ask any African-American and they have experienced suspicious looks and many have been hassled by police. African-American mothers still have to tell their children to be careful, even around police, because of the color of their skin. The sniper who killed 5 Dallas police officers was clearly killing people because of their race. I was broken-hearted watching Alton Sterling’s son break down at the press conference. I also have a tender-hearted son and have seen him overcome with grief at the loss of a loved one. It is good and right to personalize these incidents and feel them. Further, racism is still racism even if the guy is a felon. The Black Lives Matter movement has been helpful to me to point out this truth. When racism is real we need to acknowledge it and rebuke it. It is good and right and consistent with the gospel of grace to peacefully protest legitimate racism. We need to be united around the idea that racism is real.

Second, racism is sin. At the heart level we fear those that are different and we don’t understand. At the heart level it is easier to draw distinctions rather than unify. It is easier to protect what we know rather than celebrate and learn from those who are different. Ultimately racism is a sin because God has created everyone in His image (Genesis 1:27), thus everyone has equal dignity. God has created my African-American friends with black skin because he thinks it is good and beautiful. Racism is real and it is sin because everyone is created in His image…full of equal dignity.

Third, this truth is where the founders of our country got the idea that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” (Declaration of Independence). This is truth and should be celebrated. It is also fair to criticize these men for declaring this and fighting for this…all while owning slaves! However, a cynical reading of our country is also not fair because this was a revolutionary step for their era. Further, our country chased this truth until we got it right. We still chase it. Our history is also that thousands of white men took up arms and died, not for their own benefit, but to free African-Americans from slavery! Those ideas were rooted in a Christian worldview and a continued pursuit of those glorious American ideals set forth by the founders….not a rejection of either. We need an honest reading of our history because an overly whitewashed as well as an overly cynical reading is wrong and keeps us from learning the lessons we need to learn.

Fourth, we need to be honest yet not cynical. We need to advocate justice yet not not vilify groups of people. Even if we see something as thematic, we need to honor those whose job it is to protect and serve us. If there is an instance of racism and/or a police officer doing something wrong, we should acknowledge it and demand justice. However, if something is not racism we should not claim it as such. Further, it is wrong to lump all African-Americans into one negative camp, it is equally wrong to do that to police officers. We should be honest about what is wrong, but also see the best in people. It is not honest to paint all or most police officers as racists…it simply is not true. We need to grieve with and stand up for victims of racism, but we also need to esteem the vast majority of police officers who are doing great work. Dallas police officers provided protection for those who were protesting them and then ran to the shooting to protect those who were fleeing! We all have friends who have experienced the injustices of racism, but we also all have friends who are police officers.

Fifth, we need to listen more and hashtag less. It is good and right for us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). It is also good and right to be angry at sin (Psalm 71:11). However, we need to be slow to rush to judgment and anger (James 1:19). The reason why we need to be slow and discerning how we talk about these complex issues is because overly charged emotionalism frustrates people yet does not give them a hopeful outlet. Amping everything up leads to really bad reactions. Amping everything up helps people justify hatred, civil unrest, and even murder. I tend to want to dive into debates, but I am learning to listen and learn before drawing hard lines. We are not listening and learning if we don’t hear that Black Lives Matters is not about dividing people! However, we are also not listening and learning if we don’t hear that Black Lives Matters has the real potential to divide people! I am not fully onboard with that movement (partially because I don’t fully understand the movement), but I am trying to listen to the movement. However, I see a lot of people in that movement (even Christian leaders) who are bullying people who have my same criticisms of Black Lives Matters. Bullying might silence the opposition, but it does not convince minds and change hearts. Patiently hearing and being willing to change your position is the way forward, not throwing social media grenades.

Sixth, tone matters. Amped up social media tone leads to vilifying people (in this case police officers), which is not only wrong but leads to really dangerous places. I was heartbroken over the death of Alton Sterling and really heard the pain in mother’s hearts about how to talk about this with their African-American boys. I don’t know the full context of all of this but the outrage of his death seems very legitimate to me. However, Thursday afternoon I feared that the police as a whole were being vilified. I also feared that this was going to continue to lead to bad places. The vilification of police is having crushing ramifications on the communities that need the police’s help the most! If you have a megaphone, remember that tone matters.

Seventh, focus more on what you can control rather than what you can’t….thus, focus local. What has become increasingly frustrating to me is that I feel like I can’t have an impact on our country’s deepest problems. I can’t fix the problems in our two political parties, I can’t fix racial tensions in Louisiana or Chicago, and I can’t bring about justice in Baltimore. Thus, my focus needs to be on where I can impact. I need to focus on my own city, my own part of town, my own church community, my own family. I need to own my responsibility here! I need to understand racism in my corner of the world. I need to understand the history of Quakertown and Fred Moore High School. I need to try and bring reconciliation and redemption to Goat Man’s Bridge. I can’t become depressed over what I can’t control, but I need to influence what I can! Pray for our nation, but also pray for your own community. Figure out ways to be a blessing to those around you. Listen to those in minority communities. Listen to police officers.

Eighth, focus more on heart change. Jesus always cut to the condition and intentions of the heart. He knew that behaviors are rooted in the heart. Thus, he brought salvation to the heart. We all need to do a hard look at our hearts. A number of years ago I had a couple of Asian men do me wrong. I then met an Asian man and in my heart I was suspicious of him. It honestly surprised me, and I was tempted to justify it, but by God’s grace He quickly convicted me of it as well as giving me understanding about where it came from. I tried to own it at a heart level and repent. Pray for repentance in your own heart on issues of race. Pray that you would be more patient and really hear the other side. Pray that you would love someone enough to try and convince them rather than just beat them. Pray that these victims would be able to forgive. Pray that these killers would be convicted and repent of their murderous hearts.

Ninth, advocate for justice, but also advocate for peace and unity. As you fight for justice, fight just as strongly for peace and unity. Criticize your leaders when they drum up anxieties and fears in order to get votes or win political battles. Fight for justice but make sure your words don’t give license to someone else’s violent actions. Further, fight for justice but make sure it leads to unity.

Tenth, find hope in the multiethnic gospel which produces a multiethnic church and leads us to a multiethnic new heaven and new earth.

Even as I write all these many comments I feel like they are band-aids not ultimate solutions. We have to come to grips with the fact that this problem is never going to be perfectly fixed, yet we should never stop striving for harmony. But where can we look to find hope to this problem? It is certainly not in our political parties which exaggerate these divisions for their own gains. No, the gospel is where we find hope to this issue.

If you are not familiar with the gospel let me share John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus came to die for the entire world…all nations, all colors, all nationalities. This was a radical thing in His day and it remains a radical idea. Jesus died for both the Jews and the Palestinians. He died for Asians, Africans, African-Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, Europeans, and anyone else you want to put on that list. If you want to stay in your little ethnic camp, you need to understand that this is not God’s will for you. If you long to see a diversity of people living harmoniously together in love and unity then I plead with you to come to Jesus, confess your sins to him, and believe He died on the cross for your sins!

But what does John 3:16 produce? Anyone who surrenders their life to Jesus becomes part of the Church. Further, this church is multiethnic. It is a church that is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Thus, God’s plan is not to produce Jewish churches or White churches or Asian churches or Black churches. No, Jesus’ gospel is producing one multiethnic church. If you are a Christian and content living out your journey in the comfortable confines of your own cultural traditions, then you are missing God’s plan for you. He wants you to walk with those who are different than you. It is there that you find joy! If you are not a Christian, come for faith, come to church and find a beautiful multiethnic church. As the church is becoming more marginalized and even vilified, it is actually becoming more beautiful! The largest Protestant denomination that was born from being on the wrong side of the slavery debate had an African-American President! Our own little church plant began meeting in a predominately African-American church and I consider their pastor a friend and seek him for wisdom. We are seeing more and more churches have multiethnic leadership teams. Even our own new little church has a mutliethnic staff and I anticipate our first Elder Team to also be multiethnic. If you are not a Christian, and you are longing to see a diversity of people truly loving each other, I want to report that it is happening in the American church! Jesus’ gospel is producing a multiethnic church!

But, I want to give you further hope. Where is this multethnic gospel and this multiethnic church going? Again, God cares deeply about a diversity of people living harmoniously together. This part of His plan for His people, and His assumption is that the world will look differently. In fact, God’s vision of eternity is a multiethnic new heaven and a new earth! Our longing for harmony amongst the ethnicities is good and right. I am here to tell you that there is a day coming when these tensions will not exist anymore! I am here to tell you that God hates this violence and brokenness to the degree that He is going to fix it all. If you want hope for a glorious day of all the ethnicities living in harmony then look to Jesus and hope in heaven. I’ll close with John’s glimpse into heaven found in Revelation 7:9-10. Notice who will be there and if they are unified:

(9) After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, (10) and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”


Friendship with God’s Church

Our church is focusing on Biblical Friendship in 2016. Friendship is one of the great blessings of life. The Bible has much to say about friendship, and as a church we are committed to deepening our friendship with two groups of people…God’s Church and Our City.

2015 Redeemer Trunk or Treat-277

Biblical Friendship can be described as mutual love that interweaves souls. If we are going to knit together our lives, then we must “love one another.” Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” My prayer for us this next year is that we would be marked by loving one another.

This passage speaks to the importance of being in each other’s lives, to living in community, to being better friends. There is no magic way to do this, but at our church we do this through Neighborhood Groups. I pray that you would consider being part of one of our Neighborhood Groups and begin that journey of loving one another.

Over the holidays I read a short booklet on Biblical Friendship which included a bunch of practical wisdom on how to love each other as friends. I thought it was so helpful that I purchased some copies and gave them out to our church. We are also starting a new men’s group using this booklet. You can purchase Beeke and Haykin’s book by clicking HERE.

One of the helpful tips the authors point out is that we are not going to be close to everyone. Some people are just going to be our acquaintances. We might not be as close to as many people as we want. We also might have people in our lives that we desire to be close with, but it simply isn’t going to happen.

Also, Biblical friendship requires time and intentionality. Life-giving friendships don’t just happen. We have to carve out time for each other. If we only see you once a month or once every other month, you won’t find great friendships here. This means you have to prioritize friendships with God’s People. We have to be intentional with each other.

Biblical Friendship means that we have to be together…talk together, listen together, serve together, enjoy life together, think together, pray together, repent together, and hope together. If we are going to be marked by friendship this year, then we need to spend time together. We can’t be close if we don’t talk to each other…are you hearing me men?! But, I am not saying you need to be the one who is always talking, because good friends are good listeners. Are we a people who serve each other when we are in need? Some of you are better at this than others, but do we have fun together. The older I get the more I value dudes to just hang with. Laughter is good for the soul. But, some of you are dudes that hang well, but you aren’t going to get close friends unless you think together. Specifically, we are to think about life and family and work and the gospel. You need to process the important things of life with other people. We need to understand that Biblical Friendship moves beyond superficiality. Are you praying with people in your life? Further, are we processing our struggles in a way that we repent, and turn from our sins with other people? Are we also processing our lives where we are hoping together? Over the past few years I have grown closer to some of you during job changes. We have hoped together. It was hard, but it was good.

Guys, let’s be real for a moment. If we can’t be good friends with each other, then any campaign or slogan or program or outreach effort is phony. The Bible, specifically in James, questions the genuineness of churches that have slick efforts, but are marked by shallow unloving relationships. I truly phony-friendships is why so many churches are so weak.

As I look to 2016, my prayer is that we would be marked by glorious loving friendships. We are called “friends of God” (James 2:23) in order that we might be friends with God’s Church.


Barriers to Rest

What keeps us from spiritual rest? Why are our lives marked by so much unrest?


There are seasons when I am swamped and busy but my soul is thriving. I am happy and content and encouraged, even though I am physically tired. There are also seasons when work is slower and family life is slower, I am getting more sleep at night, but my soul is in turmoil. I am struggling to be happy. I am even struggling with depressed thoughts.

For many of us we think that if we only had better health…then we would be happy. Others think that if we only had a certain amount of money or better job security…then we would find rest. Some of us struggle believing that if only our children were doing better…then we would find peace. Maybe you lost someone or had a deep divide in a relationship and you believe that if you only had them back or if things would only return to how they were…then you would have rest.

But Hebrews 3:12 teaches us that our problem is something different:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

What keeps us from rest? We have a belief problem at the heart level. Our hearts believe that better health, more money, and more people liking us will ultimately make us happy. But the writer of Hebrews says that a heart that finds its rest in all those other good things is not only an unbelieving heart, but also an evil heart! Rest equals closeness to Jesus. But, what keeps us from that rest is believing that we will find rest somewhere else.

Pay close attention to the thought process here. The writer goes further and warns us that if we are trying to find rest in anything but Jesus, we will end up moving further away from Jesus?! But remember, closeness to Jesus is where we find rest and happiness?! The irony is that when we try to be happy in other things then we actually move further and further away from rest and happiness.

So what does this look like? Many times we try to find our happiness in a person rather than Jesus. I am a little unique in that I have been in love with my wife since 7th grade! I remember being in High School and going to a movie with Kristen and getting to hold her hand. To this day, I have no idea what movie we were watching because I was so overwhelmed by the joy of getting to hold her hand. I mean it was fireworks. I was googly-eyed and my insides were mush.

Kristen makes me happy, but what if I try to find my ultimate rest in Kristen over Jesus? What happens when she is mad at me or disappointed in me? What happens when God chooses for her to pass away before I do? I will become miserable. I will lose my rest.

Many times we try to find our happiness in our financial security. We all have plans and we work hard to achieve those plans. Maybe it is to buy a house or build a business or retire early or have so much in savings. But what happens when unforeseen market forces hit and you lose your savings and lose your business and you foreclose on your house? If your hope is primarily in those things over Jesus then we will not have contentment and rest when we lose those things because we will be far from Jesus.

What if our chief longing is the return of relationship? Maybe we have lost someone or a relationship is not reconciled like we desire. These things hurt, and should hurt. But, if our rest is found in dwelling with Jesus, we can weather these hurts.

Rest equals closeness to Jesus. Our sinful desires for something more than closeness to Jesus pushes us away from Jesus and thus pushes us away from rest and happiness.


Real Rest

The beginning of a school year is anything but restful. We are all scurrying around to get to class on time, make lunches, developing lesson plans, and preparing for meetings. How do we find rest when we are exhausted? How is it that some people find contentment in the chaos? How is it that one person with terminal cancer can be at peace, while a famous millionaire in the prime of her life and career be so miserable to take her own life?


We see “rest” in different places in the Bible. We first see “rest” in the Creation account. God created all things out of nothing, but out of his love. Using words he speaks things into existence. He says it and it is so. Then he rests from his labors. But, God doesn’t get tired, his rest isn’t about fatigue, but rather enjoyment. He stops and enjoys what he has sung into existence. So, rest is about joy.

But God also tells us to set aside a day per week to rest. He calls us to a Sabbath rest. There is an aspect of this rest that is about taking a physical break. God knows we will get tired, so he periodically calls us to take a break. But there is so much more to Sabbath rest than taking a physical break.

To understand the true meaning of Sabbath rest, we need to ask, “Why is taking this break so difficult?” Because if we would only work more and work harder than we would get more of the things we want. It quickly pushes into trust and contentment issues doesn’t it? If I find my contentment in the size of my house, the car I drive, the amount of savings I have then I will trust myself to get them and work harder and harder. But, if I am trusting the Lord for my happiness, then I will work diligently when he tells me to work diligently then stop when he tells me to stop.

I don’t want us to get hung up on legalism. Don’t hear me saying that it is a sin to work on Sundays. My most frantic day is Sunday! I recognize that many of you have jobs that require you to work on Sundays. What I want you to see is that God’s ideal for rest includes a trust component. When God talks about “rest” he is talking about enjoyment. He is also talking about taking a break, but to take that break we have to be willing to trust him over ourselves.

But rest also includes a contentment and happiness component. Exodus 16:23 says that on the Sabbath they were to put down their work tools and the day was to be “to the Lord.” Their focus was to be on God. They were to devote a day to worship. Happiness is the point of this rest. God wants you to experience true rest, he wants you to experience happiness, he wants you to find contentment…so he calls us to worship him and be with him!

Biblical rest is less about muscle fatigue and more about soul fatigue. It is about ultimate things. It is talking about those things that stir our hearts. It is talking about peace and contentment and happiness. It is ultimately about worship.

Rest then can simply be defined as “closeness to Jesus.” Dwelling with Jesus is where we will find our rest. It is being in the presence of Jesus thus experiencing all this beauty and thus finding ultimate happiness and rest. It is setting our thoughts and mind upon him and finding him lovely and glorious. It is being energized by Jesus not the trinkets of this world. It is finding life in Jesus, not his worldly pleasures.

Dwelling with Jesus is where we find our ultimate rest. When we are close to God we find rest and contentment and happiness and joy. Jesus is where we find our rest.


Better Together

Currently, on Sunday evenings we are teaching through a series of messages titled “Growing into the Church.” The messages lay the groundwork for church membership. We plan to constitute our initial membership the week before Easter.


When people talk about church membership some natural objections are raised. Can’t you be a Christian without being a member of a church? Where is church membership taught in the Bible? If I covenant in membership at Redeemer Church does that mean a bunch of people are going to get into my business?! Is the pastor going to look down on me if I don’t join? We value membership at Redeemer Church so I want to answer some of these concerns.

Yes, someone can be converted and enter heaven when they pass away without ever having officially joined a church. However, when you become a Christian God makes you a member of the universal Church. This should be a beautiful reality for you. When you belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus as an atonement for you sins, you become part of a world wide family of believers. But let’s be very clear about an important point, when we read about the Christians in the New Testament, we never see people who are part of the universal Church living disconnected from their local tangible church. You can get into heaven without joining a local body of believers, but you can’t live a daily biblical spirituality disconnected from a local church.

Archeologists have never uncovered a church membership roll from the first century, but the Bible keeps a record of those who are part of the people of God and those who are not. There is a sense that the leaders know who is “in” and who is “out.” Throughout the Old Testament we see a written record of who is part of the people of God. In Acts we see that 3,000 people were converted at Peter’s sermon then live together in missional community as the first church. These 3,000 people were part of the first church, the other thousands of people in Jerusalem in those days were not part of the first church. Further, the first deacons were appointed to minister to the widows who were part of that initial church. They knew the widows who were part of the the church, and therefore they knew widows who were not part of their church. In Acts, the Apostles knew who were part of the church and thus they had certain expectations upon them.

If you join Redeemer Church we will get into your life and we want you to get into our lives. Let’s be clear, no one is going to ask for you bank statement to ensure you are tithing…we aren’t a cult?! But, we will call you to regularly worship with us, live in community through our small groups, participate in service with us, tithe to Redeemer Church so that we can spread the gospel around the world, and find a spot within our church to serve (especially with the next generation), and attend Members Meetings in order to appoint officers and approve the annual budget. As you live that lifestyle, we want you to be known as well as know others.

We are going to constitute our first Members the week before Easter, but some of you might not feel led to join at that time. We pray that you would, but you might need more time to know us before you make that spiritual commitment. Josh and I don’t want you to feel condemned if you don’t join us, but we do want to keep membership in front of you as an important part of your spiritual journey.

Acts 2:44 describes the first church as “all who believed were together.” We strongly believe that God has designed us to live together, that we are better together, and thus we want to consistently invite you to walk together with us.


The Joy of Hospitality

As I vacuumed the stairs in preparation for our dinner and study last Sunday evening I felt my selfishness flare up.  Just to be clear, I don’t do the stairs every week, but I had been dodging it for a couple of weeks and I was beginning to see cracker crumbs every few steps.  We feel called to plant a church, we love people, and we were excited to have everyone over; but I was honestly whipped.  As crumbs were sucked into the vacuum hose hospitality was a drain not a joy.


Both lists for the qualifications of Elders (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1) list hospitality as a qualification for leadership in the church.  Titus contrasts hospitality with greediness because much of hospitality is simply sharing our stuff.  But this is the faith issue isn’t it?  Do we really believe sharing and being hospitable will bring us joy?

I wish in my selfish moment I had remembered how the Father shared his Son (John 3:16).  I wish in my selfish moment I could say I was treasuring people over my own stuff (Matthew 6:19-21).  I wish I could report that as crumbs were being sucked up the vacuum hose that I was filled with faith that my little good work would bring me joy.

Nope, none of that hit me till the end of the evening.  At the end of our time I was filled with joy at the evening.  It was such a blessing to see new faces, spend time with good friends, apply the gospel to my little areas of unbelief, and have encouraging and challenging conversations with friends over a great meal.  At the end of our evening and the last guest left and I had a moment to reflect, I realized how much joy hospitality had brought my soul!

The early Christians were great hosts and hostesses.  The early church was built around the table of people eating together and sharing together and conversing together and simply being together.  Hospitality might mean some inconvenience, but it will also fill your soul.

Take time over the next couple of weeks and invite a friend over for dinner.  Think about the new guy in your church and have him over to get to know him better.  Put it in your family budget to have a family over for dinner every couple of weeks.  Redeemer Church will have an eternal impact in Denton as our folks find joy in hospitality.



Incarnation (John 1:14)

An early driver for the vision for Redeemer Church is the redeemer himself, particularly Jesus’ incarnation.  John 1:14 says, “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.”


There are three movements in this short verse.  First, Jesus “became flesh.”  This means that he left what was comfortable.  He left the beautiful satisfying confines of the Trinity to come be our Redeemer.  Jesus “became flesh” and thus experientially knows the human experience.  He knows what it means to get tired and be tempted to be irritable.  Jesus has experienced betrayal.  Our Redeemer has been the object of judgmentalism and hatred.  He left what was comfortable and became the missionary-God to deliver us from sin and death.  He also took upon our human skin meaning he got inside our ways and language and look and culture…all in order to redeem us.  Jesus knows what it means to leave what is comfortable.

Second, Jesus “dwelt among us.”  He didn’t just come down a fully grown human being, spend a day telling us what to do, then paid for sin, then boogied out as fast as he could.  He lived in the mess of human existence for over 30 years?!  I am constantly hot and love the A/C, and I am taken aback that he didn’t choose 2013 to incarnate himself.  No, he chose a filthy point in history that didn’t even have A/C?!  He lived in the heat and mess and the grind of life and relationships.  Jesus knows what it means to come and remain and dwell in the mess of human existence.

Third, he “became flesh” and dwelt in such a way that everyone, even into the present, saw “his glory.”  He didn’t just hang out and have fun with his friends, but he lived with them in a way that brought glory to God.  There was intentionality to his dwelling.  There was a point to his hanging and living.  Jesus’ dwelling lifestyle pointed others to redemption.  Jesus knows what it means to reach out to neighbors and have the hard conversation with a loved one and how to throw a party to get to know people better.

Jesus is our example.  I know that no one at Redeemer Church will actually be Jesus for someone or follow his example perfectly, but I pray that we strive to be conformed to his image.  I pray that the Holy Spirit continues to mold and shape us in a way to live incarnationally.  I pray that we all figure out what it means to leave what is comfortable, and dwell, and do it all in a way that brings glory to Jesus.  I want us to be more than friends to people.  I want us to be the best type of friends to people, the type that points them to Jesus.

We want to be a church that constantly leaves what is comfortable to become missionaries, the type of missionaries that dwell by living and loving those around us, and do it all with the purpose of pointing those around us to the glories of Jesus.



Tools for Dad

I feel very uncomfortable writing an article about fatherhood because I am haunted by my mis-steps. There are moments when I am too harsh, lazy moments when I am not firm enough, and minutes when I see an opportunity to encourage their spiritual life yet don’t take advantage of the opportunity. I should confess that there have even been times when other people’s expectations of my children embarrassed me and led me to be overly harsh to my kids. The Summer has also been a season of frustrating inconsistency. However, I do make time for my children, speak loving truth into their lives, tend to tear up about once a day watching my kiddos, and genuinely try to shepherd their moldable little hearts.


Even though I grew up in Denton, I have been forced to look at Denton with missionary eyes. People move to southern Denton because they love their kids and want them in good schools. I have already had numerous dads sitting in my living room telling me they want to be better fathers and asking me for advice.

The Bible gives a couple of very clear teachings on being a dad. First, it tells dad’s not to “provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). This is on the back of telling husbands not to be “harsh” with their wives. Man, as a single guy, I used to look at those statements with such judgmental eyes. Dad’s need Colossians 3:21 because there is a great temptation to be overbearing with our children. We are bigger and can yell louder and intimidate them into submission. Intimidation might cause better behavior for a season, but will ultimately push a child away from her parents and the Lord. We need dads who are patient, firm, gentle, and loving. I’ll pray for you if you’ll pray for me in this area.

Second, Deuteronomy 6:7 teaches that we should “diligently” teach our children the important truths about God as well as to love God. I want my children to know truths about God in order to love God. I want to teach them the facts, but I also want to model a genuine Jesus-loving spirituality.

I have the conviction that dads are to shepherd their children’s hearts. I know every family has a different rhythm but at our house bedtime is when I foster my kids’ spiritual lives. The typical evening includes reading a book or two followed by daddy working on “verses” or “questions.” I also have the conviction to be realistic in my expectations for fathers. Some guys might prepare an hour lesson for their kids every evening, but that is unrealistic for the rest of us. I want to take this opportunity to plug two resources that have helped me shepherd my children.

First, are Children Desiring God’s “Fighter Verses” and “Foundation Verses.” The verses are simply a Bible memorization program. The “Foundation Verses” utilize images which are helpful for preschoolers, and they have an app for that! Mason and I simply use the “Fighter Verses” app on my iPad during our night time reading routine. The verses have been fun and challenging over the years. The tool has hidden the Word in my childrens’ hearts and helped them see how God is working around them. You can learn more about “Fighter Verses” and “Foundation Verses” at ChildrenDesiringGod.org.

Second, is Great Commission Publications’ “First Catechism.” I didn’t utilize catechisms growing up and to be honest I used to be intimidated by them. If you are new to the tool, they are simply a list of questions and answers that kids memorize about God, the Bible, and other spiritual truths. I came across the catechism when Mason was little and we made a little game out of his “questions.” Now that Kenlee is in preschool we have been working on her “questions” at a pace of 5 new questions per week. I have found that they have given my children spiritual verbiage to help them understand God and the world around them. You can learn more at GCP.org under the “Teacher & Parent” drop down and on the “Catechism Resources” link.

Redeemer Church is committed to training children in the beautiful truths of the gospel as well as equipping parents to foster the spiritual lives of their little ones. I pray that Redeemer Church is a people who diligently teach their children the truths about Jesus as we sit in our houses, walk along our ways, lie down at night, and rise up in the morning (Deuteronomy 6:7)


Does Denton Need a New Church?

Does Denton need a new church? This is the natural question Kristen and I began to wrestle with last Spring. This question can feel like an indictment on existing churches in Denton, but nothing could be further from the truth. The city offers great churches. Some of my mentors led churches in town. Two of my best friends serve as pastors in Denton. If I wasn’t planting this new church I would feel very comfortable in a number of churches in Denton. However, I came to the conclusion that Denton does need a new church.


John Piper, through the “Treasuring Christ Together” statement, makes an effective case for new churches. The reality is that no church can reach everyone. The reality is that America has over 200 million unbelievers. The reality is that there are fewer churches per capita today than ever before. The reality is that even with the glorious rise of the megachurch (2,000 in attendance or more), there is no county in America that has more believers today than they did 10 years ago.

Denton is also growing, and growing rapidly. When I graduated High School in 1996 we were one unified graduating class for the entire city. Today Denton hosts three high schools. Since I was a kid, Denton has basically tripled?! In the past 10-12 years the 76210 zip code has grown from 10,000 to 40,000?!

The reality of new churches is that they are effective at reaching unbelievers. I believe this is true for a number of reasons, but at the end of the day new churches engage unbelievers easier than more established churches. If your heart is to reach the unreached, then you should have a heart for church planting.

I also love new churches because they re-engage believers to God’s mission. When we started Christ Community in Houston I felt like the deck got re-shuffled. I remember that we had a man who we loved and thought would be a great leader. Sadly, if this guy was at an established church he might have to wait years to begin serving in the church. Those fleeting years would have been wasted. We were able to engage this particular man in mission and saw him fulfill God’s calling for his life. New churches have a way of getting good men off the sidelines and into the game.

Last Spring I studied the demographics and learned that there were four mega churches within a 20 minute drive of the 76210 zip code. But I also learned that south Denton needed more hands focusing like a laser on those 40,000 people. Larger churches are effective at attracting people to events and programs, but we want to be a missional church building relationships with those in our neighborhoods. I view myself as a foot soldier going directly into the battle.

Finally, we have been blown away by the support of area pastors who see the need. Leaders like Gary Loudermilk at the Denton Baptist Association believe there is actually a need for two new churches in southern Denton. Even pastors in the area like Brian Blendon have thanked us for coming and joining in the fight to “push back the darkness.” I have also been encouraged and inspired by pastor Ross Appleton who pastors a 100 person church yet wants to send people from Christ Community to join the new church?!

Denton has grown and we simply want to join in the fight as broken people loving broken people.


We’ve Landed in Denton!

We have landed in Denton! Like most of you, we are having a crazy Summer. I wrapped up my responsibilities at Christ Community Church in Houston, am working to transition Hope for Houston, have been networking with leaders in Denton, and working to lay the groundwork for a new church. I also spent last week at Southern Seminary working on my doctorate right before moving on Monday. We are still in boxes but in our new home!


We are so appreciative of the calls and texts and meals. We are also appreciative of the friends who have stopped by to welcome us to our new city. Our family is experiencing a lot of excitement as we think and pray about the new church.

Transition is always intense. Even last week was filled with late nights and early mornings in order to meet writing deadlines with the degree at Southern. Kristen has felt more intensity than I have felt as she has worked to set up playdates with close friends, find a new house, pack up a house, move into a new house, and start a new life in a new city.

Last week our professor opened our mornings with readings from the book of Philippians. The morning devotions greatly encouraged me during this intense season. Paul is confident that the God who “began a good work” (1:6) in the lives of the Philippians “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6). Today we can also experience comfort knowing that the good work that God has begun in our lives will be completed. The news, however, gets better because “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (2:12). God will complete all the good works he begins in our lives! During this intense season it has been an encouragement to know that God is working good and the seemingly endless tasks will get done.