Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Things you need to listen to, to understand race, white privilege, Ferguson, and the Gospel

I am not going way into the specific issues of the death of Michael Brown, but rather the cultural problems in this country that make it difficult for us to speak the same language on the same terms.
Ferguson seems a long way away from San Jose, CA... but then again it is very close to home and the privilege that comes with living in Silicon Valley.

I will give you one example. Nearly every tech company in Silicon Valley has finally had to own up to the fact that they are run and filled by mostly White and Asian men. I don't think it is conscious or intentional racism but a subconscious lack of awareness to the privileges afforded these groups in this valley. This illustrates the key disconnect for many Whites on the issue of racism and racial injustice in this country. The problem is not primarily "bad life choices" and a "ghetto culture" but blindness to privilege and opportunities available to Whites and many Asians. This is stuff that no app will fix. Its insane to me that many think these issues can be addressed with better hiring policies or that some even entertain the fact software and education will resolve it. Its chiefly a spiritual problem of pride, arrogance, and blindness to cultural privilege. The appropriate fruit of the gospel is humility regarding your advantages and embracing others different from you in Christ, not self-righteous pride in that you worked harder, made better choices, or are more talented.

For me personally, I woke up to these realities slowly but one story from a prominent ministry leader in inner-city Denver, Jeff Johnson, crystallized it for me. He recounted working with some African-American teenage boys through his ministry. These were good Christians doing good work in inner-city Denver. They were meeting at Starbucks when out of nowhere a couple of police cars pulled up, grabbed one of the kids he was working with, and aggressively arrested him. Jeff pleaded with the cops saying, "He is a good kid. You got the wrong one." This kid was calm throughout and essentially said, "This is our life." That is when Jeff realized, when the cops show up white people are relieved, but African Americans are often scared something bad is about to happen. I was never scared when the cops came to bust us while I was partying in college. My response was more of a "Dang, we got busted," and frequently felt free to joke with the cops about it in the moment! I had no fear someone was going to jail, be beaten, or get shot. (Here is a great vid basically showing the same thing: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-should-you-respond-to-ferguson)

For me, the most beautiful experiences in church is when I have experienced unity in Christ with diversity - culturally, racially, and economically. But these are experiences have been sadly rare, for unity in diversity is intrinsic to the gospel and it is my conviction this is our only hope.

Ephesians 2:13-16
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 

A sermon you should listen to:
Matt Chandler is a pastor in Dallas, TX and head of the Acts 29 network and I am super encouraged by the direction he is taking the previously way too "hipster white guy" Acts 29 church planting network. LISTEN to this sermon.

A brief word calling us to brotherly love in the church by Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Ethics Commission:

An article showing the social divide that makes us blind to the issues, look at the charts if nothing else:

Also, a bunch here by Leonce Crump (a black A29 guy) and others:

Online dating preferences:

Join me in weeping over our sins and the tragedy in Ferguson, and longing for the kingdom where all are one in Christ on earth as they are in heaven.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lonely in Silicon Valley: Proverbs 5 and Relationships

I have always found relationship advice very frustrating. Mostly because of people speaking in really vague terms that mean nothing, like "You know when you know." Or they treat it like a formula that if you do x, y, and z you find someone or your marriage will be automatically better. The real problem is not that there is nothing good about people's advice, the problem is that our own hearts hear what we want to hear. We want a quick fix. We want someone to give us the secret the unlocks the mystery of the opposite sex. But it just doesn't work that way.

I distinctly remember hearing a Pastor of mine once giving a message about not worrying. One of his application points was for singles to not worry too much about finding someone but to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." I spent years thinking about what he meant by that. It doesn't sound much different than advice like "You know when you know," or the proverbial "at some point it just clicks and you find someone." What my Pastor was alluding to is that point when you are no longer trying too hard and believing that being with someone will finally fill that gaping hole in your life. It is when you finally surrender and realize the perfect person doesn't exist and your expectations are way too high. That is the moment you begin to live by faith and realize finding someone is an act of God's grace. It is the moment you are free to live and enjoy the journey for what it is - when you are content if you are single or married.

However, that only covers idols we have concerning relationships. The biggest frustration I hear is that in a city where everyone works a ton and community is sparse - how in the world will you ever meet someone? There are also cultural idols in the modern world that make finding someone extremely difficult. Our society is very individualistic and people don't value community. They find meaning in their work and delay looking for someone. They overvalue their own opinions and do not associate with people of different values. So they find it difficult to be in community with people different from themselves who have different views. *News flash*, I don't care who you end up with, they will be different from you. If you cannot learn to get along with people different from you in casual friendships and acquaintances you will have an extremely difficult time managing an actual relationship no matter how similar you are. All that to say what do you do if your "social network" (including church) has slim pickings?

1) Understand that singleness is a gift - 1 Corinthians 7:7

I know you want practical advice. Sorry, you have to deal with the spiritual as well or you are missing the whole point. Get it in your head that the love of Christ is more important and single people have a huge amount of flexibility to invest in the church and in their faith.

2) There are seasons to not seek marriage. If you need to be with someone, you probably have an relationship idol. Times when you have a new job, death in the family, grad school, are really difficult, time consuming and emotionally charged times. Your head isn't in the game.

3) Get serious about finding someone as you get older. You can date for fun in high school. Maybe even college. Get real after that. If they are not looking for a serious relationship. Move on!

4) Be attracted to the whole person, not just looks - but heart and character.

5) Don't get too emotionally involved with a non-believer. Getting married requires your deepest desires and passions to be shared. If you love Jesus, you are not able to share your whole self.

6) Expand your community - get a hobby, sign up for eHarmony. If a hobby, do it for fun and to make new friends, not because you are desperate. Don't get all self-righteous about using dating websites. I know lots of career people who they have worked really well for. Would it be great, even better to meet someone without them? Yes, but remember #3.

7) Recognize you need to learn from people in good relationships. Find Godly examples and just be around them. If you are going to be able to "know when you know," you need to see good examples. Get involved in a church small group. It might actually be best for you if it's not a "singles group." The church is a family and family has brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. Too often people look around and think no single people are there, but a lot of people meet through mutual friends. Don't give up on a community just because you don't see anyone at first glance.

Hope that helps and I hope and pray our church is able to truly be a loving family - for singles, families, and married people investing in each other.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sermon Recap: Pursuing Wisdom

Yesterday's sermon was the second in our series on Proverbs. The previous Sunday we talked about what wisdom is and this last Sunday we talked about how to pursue wisdom.

One of the critical points I tried to make is that in our modern world we use technology and science like ancient people used magic - to conform the world to suit the desires of our soul. Rather than the way wisdom is supposed to function to conform the soul to cope with reality (this insight comes from CS Lewis I believe, but I originally encountered it in a Tim Keller sermon on Proverbs).

That distinction is critical to understand because wisdom is the Bible is described as a path, not a technique to master. Going to a seminar and gaining a key insight does not give you wisdom. It is a path you must pursue. The path begins with your heart.

The heart is the central of the person and is much more holistic in the Bible than english communicates. We tend to think of the heart as the place of emotions, but Biblically, especially in the Old Testament it is the place of our thoughts, desires, and drives all of our behaviors (10:8, 13; 14:14; 13:12; 15:13, 28; 23:19, 28:14). Proverbs 4:23 captures this best, "Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it," (NIV 2011).

There are three things I said we should do in order to train our hearts in wisdom:
1) Know your heart. Exegete your heart. Know its temptations and desires and therefore internalize God's commands. Prov. 3:1, 3, 5.
2) Know the Lord, trust in Him. Learn to exegete scripture.
3) Know your context and exegete the culture.

Finally, the path has been set before by Christ who was perfectly obedient before the Father and calls us to follow him and be his disciples. Our path to wisdom is a cross shaped life where we obey him by faith in what he has done for us. We do so in the Spirit and not in our own strength for the glory of God and not for our own.

Pursuing wisdom thing is about growing in Christian character with love expressed in the cross of Christ. This is our chief aim.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sermon Recap: True Wisdom

This Sunday we introduced our series on Proverbs: Navigating Life without Rules.

The first message was about True Wisdom. What is wisdom and how it is different in the Bible than good advice, common sense, or knowledge of skills. The message focused on Proverbs 1 and the distinctive characteristics of Biblical Wisdom.

Wisdom is first of all intended to address all the "gray areas" of life that are not addressed by the morality of the Bible. Wisdom is the place to go for nearly everything the Bible doesn't seem to explicitly address. It is the difference between living a fulfilling life or not, and often is the difference between success or not.

Wisdom is Practical
It is a general principle that is situational, not a universal rule for all situations.
It is knowing the right thing to say or do at the right time and in the right way.
It is more intuitive knowledge than technical "know how." Proverb literally means "parable" or "riddle."
It is practical in the sense that it helps us cope with life, to know God's will and his ways and navigate challenges in our life that surpass our abilities (cf. Prov. 30:24-28).

Wisdom is Moral
The preamble to Proverbs 1:2-7 gives a list of virtues that characterize a wise person. The morality is found in the phrase of v.3 "righteousness, justice, and equity." Wisdom guides us how to treat people fairly.
But its about character not a moral law. Wisdom is about having a humble heart who is willing to learn not being an insufferable know-it-all.
Its an inner attitude and posture of the heart. Character is not formed over night. A wise person doesn't not speak out of book knowledge, but out of life lessons.

Wisdom is Spiritual
The foundation of Wisdom is "the fear of the Lord."
Wisdom is not secular knowledge that is merely observation of how the world works.
It is obtained by grace and is a gift of God born by a reverential fear of him.

Wisdom is Personal
Throughout the "lectures" of the father to his teenage son in Proverbs is a call to embrace "Lady Wisdom" above everything else who is more valuable than all the money and fame in the world.
It is a call to love Christ and the wisdom found in him above all else. For Lady wisdom is a signpost to the ultimate demonstration of God's wisdom in Christ and him crucified (Matt. 12:42; cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-31).

There was some interesting stuff about the connection of the "tree of life" and the fall of Adam and Eve but you'll have to listen to the sermon if you were not able to attend.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

From Pastor Chris - Everyday Missiology

Yesterday I attempted to lay some groundwork for what "missional church" means for us. This has been a popular and trendy subject among leaders and scholars within Christianity for more than a decade. Only recently has it become a more popular conversation among evangelicals.

I offered my reflections out of Ephesians 3:1-13, paying particular attention to verses 6 and 10. The mystery of God, his promises to redeem his people, has been made available to all people through faith in Christ (v.6). It is the work of the church to make this mystery known, especially through the uniting of Jew and Gentile to the one body of Christ (v.13). There is a lot more that could be said but simply speaking, the gospel is what God has done in Christ and the result is peace with God and peace with one another. It is the mission of the church to declare the peace made possible with Christ and to demonstrate in our lives.

In the past, churches in the west existed in a culture where Christianity was the default religion of most people. Ministry then was designed to wake up nominal believers and this is expressed in ministry styles that assume people will show up. Today the default worldview is secularism and being a part of a church is no longer considered a necessary part of life. Therefore, the church must take on a missionary posture to the culture and adopt forms of ministry that go to people instead of assuming they will come to the church.

But the primary concern is how do we do this? This is where the "missional church" discussion gets very confusing very fast and means drastically different things to different churches. Some of it at least means speaking to idols of the culture, yet also affirming good things about the culture.

In Everyday Church, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis offer some good basic questions to begin to think about what mission looks like in everyday life (pp. 42-43). These are worth reflecting on in your own life and in your small group. These are basic questions a missionary would ask in a new culture.

Where are the places and activities we can meet people?
Where do people experience community?
Are there existing social networks with which we can engage, or do we need to find ways of creating community within a neighborhood?
Where should we be to have missional opportunities?

What are the patterns and timescales of our neighborhood?
When are the times we can connect with people?
How do people organize their time?
What cultural experiences and celebrations do people value? How might these be used as bridges to the gospel?
When should we be available to have missional opportunities?

What are people's fears, hopes, and hurts?
What gospel stories are told in the neighborhood? What gives people identity? How do they account for wrong in the world? What is their solution? What are their hopes?
What are the barrier beliefs or assumptions that cause people to dismiss the gospel?
What sins will the gospel first confront and heal?
In what ways are people self-righteous?
What is the good news for people in this neighborhood?
What will church look like for people in this neighborhood?

This week I am meeting with fellow pastors to discuss some of these ideas in their own neighborhoods following a similar list of questions. I encourage you to begin asking some of these questions about your own neighbors and neighborhoods!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Review of What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done

I have increasingly found that it is difficult to keep track of all the different things I need to do. I remember trying to use a Franklin Covey planner and being rather unsuccessful. We even got an official training day to go with it by a guy preaching the gospel of Franklin Covey, that the planner literally saved his life. Add to this that our technological society has made it possible to consume information at a dizzying rate, and it becomes rather confusing what to focus on next. So when I noticed a few good reviews about Matt Perman's book I thought I would check it out.

What's Best Next is a very easy and quick read. You may not even have to read it all but just jump to the highlights at the end of the chapter and resources at the back. Perman designed the book for busy people, but you should not think there are not worthwhile details in the chapters. The book aims to sift through all the business books and productivity books with a Christian lens. The best part about Perman's book is the fact you feel like you don't need to go read the dozens of books out there like it. This is a one stop shop taking all best stuff from books like Getting Things Done.

The book has seven parts and the first two seek to give us the proper motivation and direction for being productive. In the first part he argues that efficiency is not the aim but effectiveness. We ought to view effectiveness, however, with an eternal perspective. We need to be God-centered and other-centered in the things we do. We ought to work out of gratitude and desire to love God and others, not out of a need to make a name for ourselves or gain God's acceptance.

The second part of the book seeks to connect productivity more closely with the gospel. Matt Perman has served in John Piper's Desiring God ministry for years, so it should come as no surprise to those familiar with Piper's ministry that everything flows from the doctrine of justification. This is the only part of the book where I have some criticism. His tagline is "the only way to be productive is to realize you don't have to be productive." There is a lot of good stuff in chapter 7 and it is a very clear explanation of the gospel. Briefly, I think it could have been more clear that because Christ has paid our unpayable debt out of love for us, we now know that we owe him our life and we desire to do all that we can to please him, to love him, in everything we do (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Jn. 5:1-3). Certainly, good works do not earn us favor with God, and our good works flow from our new life in Christ. But it is because we have been united with him, we participate with him by the Spirit to do what we ought to do (2 Pet. 1:3-7; Phil. 2:12-13). On page 121 he interviews theologian Michael Horton and here it gets at these things more clearly.

My nitpicking aside, the best stuff in this book is in part 3-7 (chs. 11-24). He arranges it all under the acronym D.A.R.E. - Define, Architect, Reduce, and Execute. Let me give a few highlights that I think were helpful. The first is to establish routines in your week, not lists. Create the appropriate to-do lists within your routines. The point is to order your life around your purpose and to not let it be dictated too much by external forces. (In Franklin Covey language this was the "third wall" of the non-urgent priorities of others). He also had some helpful tips about handling email, generating more time through delegation and automating, and how to handle interruptions. There is a wealth of good tips here. But, as I was reminded this last week, all these things are recommendations. It is really about getting you to think through some principles to make your work more effective.

Lastly, I really appreciated his emphasis on using your work to love your neighbor and bless people, particularly efforts to alleviate poverty throughout the world. It guarded this book from saying its about God, and then sounding like its really just about you and your productivity. It isn't. It is about God enabling you to become an agent of loving people with all the gifts and resources he has given you.

Silicon Valley is full of super A-types like Matt Perman who can't sit still for more than 30-secs. Come to think of it, perhaps the strongest criticism of this book would be devoting more attention to rest. All in all, I would strongly recommend this, especially to all of the super busy tech people I know. Just make sure your routines include ceasing and remembering you can't do everything. (If only your employers would recognize this!) For as Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

Matt Perman. What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things DoneGrand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Musings on The Lego Movie

Last Friday we have our first successful first go hosting an outdoor Film and Theology. We showed the LEGO Movie but the only downside was we didn't get to offer some reflections on the movie afterwards due to the late start. But the atmosphere outdoors was really fun and we had a great turnout.

We had some handouts for thought provoking discussion with a link to a theological review of the movie. But not everyone may have checked those out so we thought it would be good to post them.

Be sure to check out the links below to some good theological reviews of some rather complex and insightful themes in the movie!

Questions to ponder:

1) Is everything AWESOME? Why? Why not?
2) Are there rules and order in life? How are they established?
3) Are you more orderly or creativity? Where does this come from?
4) Has someone tried to KRAGLE you?
5) Have you intentionally or unintentionally KRAGLED others?
6) How does God help us live – and thrive – in between creativity and order?

A good review by the author of Cinemagogue: Never LEGO of hope for reconciliation (SPOILER ALERT)

Another review by our own Andrew Thompson: LEGO and let God

- Pastor Chris

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

From Pastor Chris: Go and Learn Mercy

Matthew 9:13 - Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This last Sunday I challenged our church to put to practice that Jesus saves sinners with scandalous mercy. Jesus went to the least, the lost, the outcast, the sick, the broken, and showed them compassion and called them to follow him. God desires that we extend the mercy we have received through Christ more than he cares about external things in worship services or being a good person.

We need to go to people and allow ourselves to be scandalized by who responds to God's mercy in Jesus. But I especially called us to begin to do it through the ministry of Moriah's Mission. This is the ministry that Justin and Victoria Nelson have been working to establish since God brought their daughter Moriah into their lives. Our church has a great opportunity to serve medically fragile children and their families and to demonstrate God's call to be merciful.

Our goal is to serve the children, families, and even staff of Children's Recovery Center and the Saratoga Subacute with the compassion of Jesus. Serving children with special needs can be a little intimidating. Our aim is not to make them a project, but simply to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We desire to come alongside with events that serve the children and by providing emotional and spiritual support.

There are three ways we want to show the mercy of Jesus through Moriah's Mission:

1) Provide a holiday meals or activities and sponsor field trips (e.g. Monterey Bay Aquarium)

They loved it last year when we provided a Thanksgiving meal and Christmas party. They love it when we raise money for kids to go the Monterey Bay Aquarium. These are easy to get involved with: you can cook, deliver food, or help raise funds for these events. We are exploring the opportunity of doing a Blood Drive with them this fall.

2) Provide a group of volunteers to just be there for the kids and families on a consistent basis

We hope this fall to coordinate a group of volunteers to be there regularly to read to kids, play a game or assist the Nelson's with their kids so they can visit the CRC or Saratoga. The key is consistency (twice a month or weekly).

3) Provide services for Bible studies or memorial service

We used to provide a worship service that became a Bible study on a monthly basis there. We want to do that again. We also have essentially done a memorial service on two occasions for a child and a staff member. They deeply cherished us assisting in the bereavement process. This is basically the role of a chaplain that Justin, myself and a few others can provide.

If this interests you in any way, please come to a meeting for Moriah's Mission on July 10th at 7:00pm in the small social hall. We will go over vision and next steps and begin to move toward greater involvement with the CRC and Saratoga Subacute.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Projecting Worship

Our church has been without a main projector for several months now. We have gotten by with a consumer grade projector setup in the first pew but not everyone can see it very well. We knew a new higher grade projector would not be cheap and the initial bid we got back was much higher than expected. We have sifted through an initial estimate and come up with a more reasonable solution. But it is still a significant expense and this raises the question whether its worth it.

Our desire is to create an appropriate environment to worship Jesus. The most important is that we preach Christ from the Word and that we exalt Christ with our voices, prayers, and sacraments. But we must make our worship accessible to visitors and outsiders. It is not enough that our worship exalts Jesus it also needs to be comprehensible to outsiders. We do not exalt Jesus for our own sake, but for the sake of the mission that all may know him and believe in him. This principle is observed in Acts 2:5, 12, 37 and 1 Cor. 14:23-25. Non-believers were expected to be in the worship service and that service ought to be intelligible, although not necessarily comfortable, for them.

But there are two concerns which are more apparent but they are secondary concerns. The first is if its a worthwhile investment and good stewardship of our resources. The second is whether it is aesthetically pleasing. It would be to view it from a pure practical standpoint to only consider it a stewardship issue. If one viewed it from the point of view of pure aesthetics and technology, money would be no concern at all. Clearly these two can be pitted against each other but it does not need to be so.

Putting all these concerns together, let me list several reasons why a projector is a worthwhile investment even though it will be a sacrificial gift for us.

1) God cares about art and that it is done well for its own sake. God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them and called them very good (Gen. 1:31). The first account of someone being filled with Spirit was an artist, for the purpose of decorating the tabernacle (Ex. 31:1-11). God commanded art and technology to be used well in construction of the tabernacle and the temple (see Ex. 25-27). Technology is a part of the aesthetic and the technique employed for art. It does matter how it is done and different technologies communicate art differently. In our day, video makes our worship more accessible and over a 10 year life of a projector is not a significant cost difference versus printing lyrics on paper for everyone.

2) Our worship service is not just for the sake of worshipping Jesus for our enjoyment, but that he may be proclaimed to the nations (Is. 2:2-4; 56:6-8). We must consider how people outside of the church would perceive our service. Our aim is that the "secrets of the heart" (1 Cor. 14:25) may be revealed through our worship and proclamation of the gospel.

3) God is to be worshipped, not art or technology (Ex. 20:1-4). It can be used well to glorify him and reflect his creativity or idolatrously to reflect our rebellion against him. It is important for us to make our use of technology an aid to worship and maintain our feel of authenticity.

4) Doing things poorly excludes visitors and outsiders. This is the implication of making worship comprehensible to outsiders. Tim Keller makes the point that a poor worship service excludes people who do not have a relationship with the pastor or worship leader or anyone else in the church. Insiders are very forgiving of mistakes and poor quality because they have a relationship and know the challenges. But an outsider first notices what was done poorly. But when it is done reasonably well it includes people because it is not a distraction and demonstrates we went to some effort to make it accessible to them.

There is more that could be said but I am persuaded it is a worthwhile investment for us mostly because we can create a better worship experience and do so in a way to serve the mission. The only drawback is that it is a significant investment for our church at this time. Because of that our Elder Board has created three funding goals.

Goal 1 - If we are able to raise $35,000 we will be able to get a new projector system and basic lighting upgrades.
Goal 2 - If we are able to raise $50,000 we will be able to do a two projector system, accomplish some delayed audio maintenance, and improve audio and video in the chapel with inexpensive consumer grade equipment.

I am extremely happy to say more than 30% of our initial goal as already come in through some very generous donations. This means we only need another $23,000 in order to reach our "pull the trigger" goal.

Thank you so much for all your sacrificial gifts and continued support of our ministry. May the Lord be with you and enable us all to serve him in his mission of redemption.

Pastor Chris

You can give here:

Check out these links for helpful commentary on related issues:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ministry Updates and Waiting on the Lord

It was good to be back with our Dwell Church family this past Sunday. Thank you again for receiving Bernard Emerson and Alvin Lin. In your prayers, please remember them as Bernard continues to lead his church plant towards regular worship services with The Way Church in Oakland. Pray for Alvin and our sister church East Valley as they will also be undergoing a leadership transition. Pastor John Helveston has served East Valley for 25 years and will be retiring to care for his ailing mother in Mississippi.

I want to follow up on a couple of ministry updates we have given in the past week. Many of you have been awaiting an update on a new projector. We received a quote that we gave to you that was much more than any of us expected. We are working hard to bring that number down as much as possible and even do what we can ourselves. We are working to balance what will enhance our worship experience, set us up for the future, and be as economical as possible. If you have further questions or concerns, please ask myself or any of our Elders.

The second thing I want to announce is that Beth Thompson will be our Children's Director! Dwell has hired Beth on a part-time basis to oversee the equipping and coordination of volunteers for the Children's Ministry and ensuring we have quality curriculum at every level. It is very important that we do children's ministry well and we now have the resources to pursue this.

One last thought I wanted to leave with you. Psalm 31:24 says, "Be strong, let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord." This is the last verse of a Psalm that cries out to the Lord to deliver the psalmist from various struggles in life. The theme of waiting on the Lord is frequent in the Psalms and we often move past it without reflecting on it much. Waiting in scripture is often an active waiting. It is not a call to be passive but to be diligent in reminding ourselves of God's grace, of pressing forward in faith He will act, and a charge for us not give up hope. Waiting on the Lord does not mean doing nothing. It means we speak to our hearts by reminding ourselves of the redemption he has secured for us in Christ. It means we continue to be faithful with all He has called us to do. So we press forward, not because there is nothing else to do, but because we might miss Him at work if we take our eyes off the prize.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

From Pastor Chris: Moving Forward

Ecclesiastes 3:22 (ESV)

So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

Thank you to all of you for receiving Bernard and Alvin the last few weeks while I took some time to reflect on our ministry and my place within it. My family and I got get away for a few days in Mendocino and had the privilege of worshipping with a few other co-laborers of the gospel in San Jose. I want to say thanks to everyone for your support and encouragement over the last few weeks. It has been a gift of grace to hear of your care and concern for me, Cassie, and Calvin.

Due to Jason's departure, it was necessary for me to get out of some of my routines and have time to meet with pastors and speak with mentors and our Elders to assess where we are so that we can continue to move forward with our ministry into the future. We have reviewed in part what we are good at and what we are not.  I have sought feedback on what my strengths and weaknesses are and as a Board we have talked openly and honestly about our individual strengths and weaknesses. I got a rare chance to visit some other churches, meet their pastors, and have read what I can about churches that successfully manage significant leadership changes.

I have been immensely encouraged about the current state of our church and our future. I am confident about being able to continue to serve here at Dwell and the overall health of our church. But we are under no illusion about things we have to do better: for our church, myself, and each individual elder. We will continue this assessment. The work is not done but we feel confident about moving forward. Therefore, I want to give you a preview of things you can pray with us about as we continue to develop our ministry and grow as leaders.

We hope to create a clearer strategy for our ministry over the coming months. We are thankful for so much of the leadership Jason gave us over the years and we desire to make that more clear, more accessible, and more fruitful.

-John Lunsford and I will be attending a "Next Steps" training later this week for church plants that have crossed the 3-5 year benchmark and for established churches looking to grow after years of pruning.
-We will be hiring a Children's Director in the next few weeks so expect to hear more soon.
-We will be presenting the costs for a new projector system, along with a few other improvements to the facilities.
-We want to create a long term strategy for investing in our people and equipping them to use the gifts God has given them in Christ to see a slice of his kingdom break into each other's lives and our greater community.

I want you to know: Cassie and I love this church and all of you. We are immensely blessed to have the privilege to serve with you. It is a joy to do ministry with you. I am grateful to be a part of Dwell Christian Church and hope to see the Lord continue to use us for his kingdom.

- Pastor Chris

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

From Pastor Chris: Momentary Troubles Achieving Eternal Glory

2 Corinthians 4:17
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

This verse comes in one of the great passages of the New Testament. 2 Corinthians 4 is wonderful description of the daily Christian life. We are constantly aware of our physical and spiritual weaknesses, but we are also constantly being made new by Christ and the hope we have in his resurrection.

One of the most basic temptations we face is to be too focused on the present. We do this by making too much of our daily struggles and too little of our future joy in Christ. We do this by making too much of our daily successes and too little our future glory in Christ.

2 Cor. 4:17 makes two comparisons. Our afflictions are "light" in comparison to the "weight" of glory. Our afflictions are "momentary" in comparison to the "eternal" glory. But the Bible isn't saying we are to simply think of this a only a future hope. The main verb is present. Our daily struggles are presently producing eternal rewards.

The temptation of the present is we are often focused on the wrong things. Instead of seeing how Christ is forming us to be more patient, kind, and loving we only see our continued impatience, anger, and apathy. We miss the unseen spiritual world and instead focus on crossing off our to do list. In the eyes of the world we may have had a successful day. But did we do those things with grace and love or did we do whatever it takes to get the job done - never minding the people we stepped over along the way? Each day the Spirit is calling us to use everything in our lives, from the most mundane tasks to the most difficult challenges in life, so that Christ is more formed in us.

What we need in daily life is an eternal perspective so that we can see whatever is before us in its true light. When the Bible talks about this world passing away or how it is momentary in comparison to eternity, it is not saying the stuff of this world doesn't matter. It is calling us to see it as it really is and to see the things that are truly valuable. It is calling us to do things differently, to do them in the Spirit of Christ. To find joy in suffering knowing Christ died that we may have life. To find a way to work with his love and sacrifice rather than for our fading honor and glory.

Then we may know what it means when he says "my yoke is easy and by burden is light."

Pastor Chris

Thursday, April 24, 2014

From Pastor Chris: What to Expect After Easter

It is great to celebrate a joyful thing like Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. But it is easy to forget that the resurrection is not something we celebrate once a year but something directing how we live every day. Everyone is familiar with the season of Lent and it as a time of preparation for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. But many people are unaware of what comes after Easter. Eastertide is the season of celebration. It is the season of Jesus' many appearances before his ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit marked by Pentecost (Acts 2). This is a time to take up new things. Embrace new habits to replace some bad ones you may have tried to kick during lent. It is a time of feasting and looking forward to what is new.

Now, therefore, is a good time to give an update on our leadership transition with Pastor Jason moving to Chicago. Some of you may remember that our elder John Lunsford has been on a long vacation in Hawaii through the end of April. We have had conference calls with him but we are waiting for some face to face time with him and all the elders when he returns on April 30th. When John returns the Elder board will review our current leadership needs and some next steps for our ministry.

I myself will also be reviewing our leadership needs and next steps for our ministry in early May. So, I will be away from the pulpit for the first couple of Sundays in May. Bernard Emerson (a church planter in Oakland) and Alvin Lin (Community Pastor at East Valley Church) will provide excellent preaching those two Sundays. I am taking time to evaluate our church ministry, our leadership needs, and my personal gifting and calling. I will consult with some advisors as I pray and plan. I will consult with the Elders and we will evaluate all they discern and what I discern. We will also speak with our regional director David Yetter about our transition.

All of this is essentially to help myself and church confirm what the future of the ministry ought to be and what kind of leadership we ought to have. We are attempting to move forward both quickly and wisely, so that Dwell Christian Church can continue to fulfill its purpose of gospel ministry.

We will give updates as we progress through May with hopefully a more substantial report and plan coming in the early summer.

You can be in prayer for me and the Elder Board that we will be faithful stewards with all that God has entrusted us.

Pastor Chris

Thursday, April 17, 2014

From Pastor Chris: Counting Your Tears

Psalm 56:8 (NIV)
      Record my misery;
         list my tears on your scroll—
         are they not in your record?

The week leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus has traditionally been a time for Christians to reflect on the significance of Christ's death. It just so happens that yesterday I came upon this verse while going through some Holy Week devotionals in "More Light on the Path".

This is a poetic verse and the NIV nicely captures a word play on "record" in Hebrew in the first and last line. There is another between "misery" and "on your scroll" (lit. wanderings and in your bottle). The word behind "misery" can also be "tossings" or "wanderings", which made me think of nights I don't sleep well and things are weighing heavily on my mind.

Have you ever had those nights? Lying in your bed overcome with emotion about all kinds of things and just wanting to forget it all and get some sleep. Things you should have done or things you wish you had not, or things you wish were not so. Here in the Psalm it speaks of God counting your tears and storing them up for a day when he will answer our prayers.

But that isn't all, my little devotional had one more verse for me to read:

Revelation 7:17
       For the Lamb at the center of the throne
         will be their shepherd;
         ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
         ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

The word behind "wipe away" is very strong and could be rendered "obliterate." Immediately after this in Rev. 8 it describes the censor of the prayers of saints being poured out on the earth. God is listening to our cries for mercy, for justice, for peace and salvation. He is recording them in his book and a day is coming when he will not just comfort us, but obliterate our tears with the blessings of the kingdom to come and his salvation in all its fullness.

I hope that is an encouragement to you as it was to me this week. God is counting your tears and one day he will answer them awesomely.

Pastor Chris

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

From Pastor Chris - Kingdom Joy

A few months ago, I was a feeling a little worn down. I felt as if I wasn't getting anywhere and I was just going through the motions in life. It seems really silly sometimes when we catch ourselves thinking or feeling that way. All things considered we live in one of the better places to live in the United States, which is one of the better places to live in the whole world and perhaps human history.  This is precisely why it's popular on Twitter to complain about #firstworldproblems. We make a joke of out of our existential crises over the tiniest of inconveniences in our lives.

But the fact is, the modern world is often dissatisfying. But our existential crises are nothing new! There is a Hebrew word in the book of Ecclesiastes for it: hevel, which translates meaninglessness, vanity, and futile. The word is a synonym for vapor, carrying the sense of a momentary breath which is there for but a moment then gone. Like the preacher of Ecclesiastes, we long for the bigger and better, for things substantive, to just feel something, anything. So we pursue anything that we can to get a rise out of our souls. We are dissatisfied unless there is more money, more people, more fun, more emotion, more to suppress the sense that it may be all for nothing in the end. Just a flashy show for a little while then we die.

The good news is that Jesus says, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly," (Jn. 10:10). He spoke of the kingdom of God being "at hand," (Mt. 4:17), and that he himself brings the kingdom (Lk. 17:21). He spoke of his kingdom as something worth giving up all we have for in order to possess it (Mt. 13:44-46). The kingdom is a place full of joy where Jesus reigns. But he also says "whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will keep it," (Lk. 17:33). This is why the preacher of Ecclesiastes calls our pursuits so pointless; they are all about preserving our "stuff" instead of finding our lives in losing them.

It was reflecting on the kingdom of God that gave me comfort that day. Didn't Jesus say it's like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a large tree? We know in the end what satisfies the soul is reconnecting with the source of life itself: Jesus. He is the one who, by his Spirit, produces in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These things are of eternal value and do not fade away. Then Jesus' words about losing our life to gain it don't sound so "hard" after all, but freeing. I don't need more stuff, more money, or more success. I need less of them because I need more of Him and more of us for his kingdom. Only in this will we bear a harvest of joy that is deeply satisfying.

-Pastor Chris

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

From Pastor Jason: Don't Wait and See ... Go and Do

Thank you. Laura and I were glowing with gratefulness all day Sunday. And perhaps even a bit on Monday. The love and generosity you all showed us was amazing. Thank you for listening to me preach one more time. Thank you for feeding us. Thank you for sharing great memories with us. Thank you for reminding us of all that God has done over the past few years. And thank you for my awesome watch! 

We were blessed beyond deserving. You have sent us off to Chicago, into our next adventure, with locked arms and tons of Jesus-style affection. Thank you my friends.

Now what?

No matter how long a lead pastor has been in office, no matter how long a church has been around, no matter how long you’ve been a part of church life … when a lead pastor steps away the temptation is always the same. We want to wait and see. Often one of our first impulses after saying goodbye is to hold our community at arms length. Not only so but sometimes we kept our distance until we feel like it’s safe to reengage. We wait and see.

This temptation is actually the result of believing two different lies. The first lie is that community can still happen at arms length. And second, that community was safe to begin with. Community can’t happen at arms length. Community is not safe. But community is the very thing God has given to his people in order to walk through times just like this.

Starting today, don’t wait and see … go and do. The brilliant thing about the Church’s mission is that it hasn’t changed in 2000 years! Jesus has fulfilled the law and the prophets and he has called us to be salt and light in the world. In other words, there’s nothing to wait for. The only thing left is to go and do what God has already shown us. So …

Go and love each other. 
Go and share meals together as a Gospel Group.
Go and tell the Little Dwellers about Jesus on Sunday Mornings.
Go and be good news at Apple and Cisco and Google and in your neighborhood and in your home and to your spouse.
Go and listen to your barista as she shares her life story.
Go and learn more about that homeless man you see everyday down the street.
Go and read your Bible and pray and fast … and repeat.
Go and take your wife on a date.
Go and take you husband on a date.
Go and date!
Go and disciple your children.
Go and volunteer the next time an opportunity pops up in the bulletin.
Go and bring someone with you.

Don’t wait and see what happens next. 
Instead go and do what God has called you to do.

Perhaps you’ve heard me share this a number of times before, but I don’t care. As always the question isn’t, have you heard this before? The question is, do you believe it? … A day is coming when we’ll get to tell these stories of going and doing. We’ll all be together in a refreshed and revived and remade world in the full view of God's glory and grace. And then we’ll start sharing. Story, after story, after story, after story. And you know what we’ll be saying?

This is what he did …
This is what he did …
This is what he did …

Until that day ... 

Peace …
- Jason

Helveston's New Address: 514 N. Damen Ave Unit 2S, Chicago, IL 60622
Jason's New Email: jhelveston@parkcommunitychurch.org
Helveston's New Phone Numbers: Staying the same for now. We'll let you know when it changes! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

From Pastor Chris: Reluctant Blessings

Hey Church,

I write this letter to you with mixed feelings because Jason and Laura Helveston, our co-laborers in the gospel, are departing to do ministry in another city. We all long to have such a deeply committed church that we dream of being together for years to come. We conceive of leaders being with us from the cradle to the grave. But if we are honest, those are dreams of heaven and the kingdom to come, not our life as sojourners on this earth. Remember Hebrews 11:13-16:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

The reality is we are not sovereign individuals who get to choose when and where we will live and work. In fact, scripture affirms time and again that it is God's providential hand who places us where we are, for whatever time we are there, in order that all people may know him (Acts 17:26-28). What makes it difficult is that we must always put our relationships in God's hand and be grateful for them for the time we have, not wasting any moment. We want our friends and family to be around forever but in this life it is a request that can never be granted. This life by nature is transitory; it only serves to fuel our longing for the eternal heavenly city, where sorrows never touch our shores.

Despite the difficulty of saying goodbye to people we love, we can rejoice and bless them as they go. We know that God is sovereign and that he controls even the nations in the palm of his hand. We can trust that wherever he places his people he will continue to make Jesus known. It is a fearful thing to place yourself in the hands of the living God. For you know that he may do with you as he wishes, when he wishes. Yet, he does not do this for selfish reasons or for some deranged form of entertainment. He does it so that others may be saved; we give our lives for the sake of others just as His Son did for us.

Our prayers of blessings for the Helvestons may be reluctant blessings, but they are blessings of hope. Looking forward to what God may do through them in Chicago and what he will do through us here in San Jose by his sovereign grace. Then when we get to the Great Wedding Banquet of the Lamb, we then can say, "This is what he did. This is what he did. This is what he did!"

Godspeed Jason, Laura, Glori, and Jedidiah Helveston.

Pastor Chris

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Letter from Your Dwell Elders

From the Elders,

We want to start by saying the last four years of ministry with Pastor Jason has been such a blessing for our church. He and Laura have been with us through some difficult transitions and seasons of life. Jason has always provided wonderful preaching for us and strong leadership. We will miss them and their two wonderful children. We want to wish them a fruitful ministry in the future. We hope and pray the Lord would continue to use them for his glory at Park Community Church.

Naturally people are wondering what the transition of leadership will look like. The staff will continue to regularly communicate our events, ministry opportunities, and our future plans through things like "Hey Church." Pastor Chris will assume the majority of the preaching beginning in April. Our conference will supply guest speakers about once a month in order to give Pastor Chris time to adapt to a new schedule and discern the next season of ministry. Chris will continue to oversee overall discipleship efforts and Gospel Groups but will now also oversee staff and lead staff meetings. He will meet with individuals as time allows and to the best of his ability.

We are consulting with our Converge PacWest director, David Yetter, and other wise leaders concerning our pastoral leadership needs. Over the next three to four months we ask you to pray with us for discernment that we may chose the best course of action for the future. The elders will continue to seek the Lord's will through prayer and counsel.  In addition, Pastor Chris will spend time in a personal assessment about his future role at our church with the elders. We hope by the end of the summer we will know what the best course of action is for our church. We trust there will be confirmation and unity from the Lord from all involved. We are very confident and encouraged. We believe that this church is in the best place it has been in a long time and that we are well positioned to move forward with continued growth in our ministry.

In the meantime, we will continue to use the insights we gained from the NCD report last fall by identifying people's gifting and effectively building ministry structures so that people grow in their use of gifts for the edification of the body and the glory of God. We would still love for people to get involved in anyway they desire. No doubt there will only be more opportunities now in this next season to enable Dwell Christian Church to be all that God intends.


John, Frank, Brian, and Chris

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

From Pastor Jason: A Few More Details

Hey Church,

Laura and I are so grateful. Thank you for your texts, emails, messages, hugs, and tears. You have continued to love us well even in the midst of unexpected news. We are very much looking forward to many more lunches, coffees, and opportunities to share stories and thank you for your generous investment in our lives.

I wanted to give you a picture of the next few weeks. I want to make sure that we all know what to expect, at least where my remaining time with Dwell is concerned. Please let me know if you have any questions. There will also be more details communicated soon from the elders during Sunday services and otherwise about what’s happening after that … 

  • Sunday, March 23rd: Following the morning service, Laura and I and Chris and Cassie invite you to join us in the chapel at Dwell. If you have specific questions for me and Laura about our decision and future plans this will be a great time to connect with us. This will also be a good opportunity for you to connect with Chris and Cassie to hear more about what’s up next for Dwell.
  • Sunday, March 30th: This will be my last Sunday in the pulpit and the Helvestons last Sunday at Dwell before their move. Everyone is invited to join for lunch and fellowship after the morning service. 
  • Tuesday, April 8th: This is the Helveston’s tentative move date. All new contact information will be shared with the church family as soon as it becomes available. 
  • Mondays and Tuesdays: These are the best days to connect if you’d like to schedule an appointment with me in the next few weeks. But if neither day works, I’ll be more than happy to make another time work! If you’d like to connect send an email (jason@dwellsj.com) or shoot a text or call (408.332.0894). 

Peace … 
Pastor Jason


Little Dwellers Appreciation Breakfast - March 23rd, 9:30am in the chapel. We will thank our current volunteers, initiate new ones, and cast a vision for what Little Dwellers will look like in the near future. 
Sermons - they've been good recently!
Good Friday - We will be having a service on April 18th at 6:30pm here at Dwell. 
Easter will be a family-friendly worship service at our regular time (10:45am) on Sunday, April 20th. Bring a friend!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From Pastor Jason: This Is Our Story

We all have the same big story. No matter when, no matter how, now matter why you became a follower of Christ … our story is the same. We each have been saved by the same God, by the same grace, through the work of Jesus. But as a church we also share a much smaller, more intimate story. That is we share the story of our particular community.

Whether you’ve been a part of the Dwell family for forty year or forty days we have all become a part of the same story. And that story, like your immediate family story helps us not only understand ourselves, but also God. By looking back on our story as a church we will be reminded of God’s faithfulness, God’s gracious work of protection and transformation, and we will see just how far he has taken us. 

To help us look back our wonderful office administrator Cassie Tenny has put together this great infographic. This is our shared story ...

Let’s remember our story!

Peace …
Pastor Jason


1. Last Week’s Sermon - Calling: Matthew 4:17-25
2. Good Friday - This year we will have a Good Friday service in the chapel on 4/18 at 6:30pm.
3. Easter is that Sunday, April 20th, & we will celebrate together the resurrection of our Lord!
4. Baptisms will be celebrated on Easter. Please contact Pastor Chris if you are thinking about being baptized. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent, Fasting, and the Gospel

Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the first day of Lent for the Western Church calendar. Most people think of it as a Catholic thing but it is also practiced by Protestant churches that follow a liturgical calendar (i.e. Episcopalians and Anglicans). It is 40 days long corresponding to significant events in scripture. The flood occurred over 40 days (Gen. 6-9). Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Moses fasted and was with God on Mt. Sinai for 40 days (Ex. 32). Jesus fasted for 40 days in wilderness in order to be tempted by Satan before his ministry began. Lent seeks to remember these themes of preparing oneself for salvation. The Lord brought another chapter of salvation after each instance of 40 testing, temptation, or wandering. Hence, the main purpose of Lent is spiritual preparation for Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. It is often viewed as a solemn time of getting in touch with our temptation to evil through abstaining from something we are frequently tempted by.

There are occurrences of God's people fasting through the Bible. Israel fasted annually on the Day of the Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31) and after the exile to remember Esther's fast for God's intervention and favor (Esther 9:31). People fasted individually and corporately to express grief (2 Sam. 1:12) or as an act of repentance (1 Sam. 7:6; Ne. 9:1-2; Dan. 9:3-4). They fasted to seek's God's will (Ex. 34:28; 2 Chron. 20:3-4). In the New Testament we see Jesus' warn against fasting in order to appear religious (Matt. 6:16-18). His disciples did not fast while he was with them (Matt. 9:14-17; Mk. 2:19-20). But after his ascension the disciples resumed fasting. Notably when it was necessary to discern elders or missionaries (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23). Paul seems to be speaking of voluntary fasting for self-discipline in 2 Cor. 6:5 and involuntary hunger in 2 Cor. 11:27. In both cases he saw these as opportunities to learn to rely on the Lord more deeply.

One of the most significant passages on fasting is Isaiah 58. Here is a prophetic denunciation of thinking fasting will gain a favorable hearing from God when the poor and oppressed are not cared for by God's people. God doesn't approve of fasting that is merely religious and external. God does delight in fasting that is combined with care for another, done in order to sacrifice something to give to another in need. Interestingly, perhaps the most familiar form of fasting in our day is for the sake of politically motivated "hunger strikes."

Spiritual masters through Christian history have emphasized that true fasting is an act of repentance and faith in Christ. It is a spiritual discipline that can enhance putting of the old self and its ways and to put on the new self be remade in Christ's image (Col. 3:5-10). By fasting we remind ourselves that our stomach is a "stubborn child," that the flesh is still at work in us and that we must live by the Spirit. It is not the end in itself. It would be wrong to fast for the sake of Lent alone. We ought to fast in order that Christ would be magnified in us by the Spirit. Abstaining from something only serves to give the flesh an opportunity to reveal itself so that it can be properly crucified.

The biggest reason to fast is simply that in our society we are taught to indulge our flesh and feed worldly desires. We don't need suppression of our desires, we need transformation. Our Lord brought us salvation through his suffering and death. Yet we at the slightest sign of discomfort, eat something, get a drink, grab a pill, etc. We see pain as something that we ought to numb. Rather than seeing pain as an opportunity for God to work in our life and bring joy through a transformed heart. The physical pain in some cases may not go away, but spiritual fruit is produced is eternal.

What are things hindered your relationship with God? Perhaps you are feeling stagnant or stunted spiritually. Take this season as an opportunity to abstain from a guilty pleasure or an activity of distraction (TV, video games, etc) to commit to prayer and meditation on scripture that God may free you from what has enslaved your soul, that you may find freedom in Christ by his Spirit.

See this helpful link for more tips:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

From Pastor Jason: Four Questions to Ask Yourself to Help You Find the Best Way to Serve

There's a strange misconception in the Church. Not just our church, but in every church. It comes in the area of discerning gifts or calling or areas of service (however you’d like to describe it). It’s a tempting concept and it suggests that what you love to do is irrelevant to service. The lie is that what you love to do is beside the point. Many times we believe that in order to serve others and honor God it has to hurt or cost us something. To be sure serving Jesus often does. But that doesn’t mean that every time we serve Jesus or his church it has to be a burden. Our service is ultimately for God’s glory and our joy!

So … one way to take the next step in determining your own personal gifts and discovering a place to serve with our ministry and this city is simply to ask these four questions …

1.) What do I love to do?
2.) How do other people benefit from what I love to do?
3.) How is God honored by what I love to do?
3.) What’s stopping me from giving it a shot?

I dare you to ask these questions and see what God can do … with you and within you … with us and within us … for his glory and our joy.

Peace …
Pastor Jason


ICYMI - Pastor Chris' sermon from Sunday
Events coming up: Ladies' Bunco Night, Men's Retreat, and Golf Tournament
SJSU CRU - Short videos are being used to change lives. View for yourself!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Another Look at the Virgin Birth

Pastor Jason recently preached on Matthew 1:18-25, a key passage on the virgin birth (perhaps more accurately called the virgin conception). I have recently been reading Michael Bird's Evangelical Theology, so I thought it may be good to share some insights I gained from Bird on the virgin birth.

The virgin birth is embedded in the earliest Creeds as an essential historical event in the Christian faith. But it has not always been an easy thing to believe and many have doubted it. Exploring the objections can give us a fresh perspective, helping us to realize there is nothing new about people's skepticism today.

The first is an exegetical objection. The reference to Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23 seems rather dubious as if Matthew didn't know his Bible very well and needed a proof text for covering up Jesus' scandalous birth. The word rendered "virgin" in Is. 7:14 more commonly refers to a young maiden, a woman of marriagable age (who in that day was likely a virgin). In the very next chapter of Isaiah, his son is born of a "young maiden" and is given the name Immanuel. The child was also supposed to be born during the time of Ahaz and Isaiah's son fits the basic qualifications. So where does the word "virgin" in our translations come from? Centuries later, when Jews translated the Old Testament into Greek in the 2nd century BC (aka the Septuagint, abbr. LXX), they translated it as virgin and nearly all translations carry on with this tradition.

This criticism overlooks how the New Testament writers and first century Jews read scripture; Matthew was Jewish after all. It is basically imposing modern interpretative methods too rigidly on ancient people. It neglects that Old Testament prophecy was often read typologically. Meaning there are patterns and types that appear throughout the canon of Scripture. God's people get in trouble and God's sends a deliverer for them (Moses and Judges). He acts in human history to save his people (the Exodus). Each event points forward typologically toward an ultimate deliverer. Thus, the translation is not without merit. What Matthew is doing with Isaiah 7:14 is saying that God is acting again just like he has before, but now with the ultimate Deliverer. It is a narrow reading of Isaiah 7:14 to merely look at it through the lens of precise predictive prophecy and miss the literary elements within Isaiah and typological elements in the OT. The identity of the servant of God in Isaiah doesn't end with 7:14. More and more pieces fit together as the book progresses and lesser servants are ruled out until a more complete picture comes into focus.

A second criticism is that the ancient world commonly had stories of divine and human intercourse producing heroes (Hercules). Bird puts it rather humorously, "You can guess what ammunition this gives the skeptics: the birth of Jesus is an early Christian plagiarism of pagan mythology, blah, blah, blah … Jesus never existed …blahcetera, blahcetera." (Kindle location 8158).

The problem with the second criticism is simple. There is no evidence that Matthew or Luke are dependent on other sources for the birth narrative. It's pure speculation. Just because there are similarities in other accounts does not mean they share sources. What works against this criticism is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are distinctively Jewish, thus giving no indication of other sources. Other ancient mythologies have a god having sexual intercourse with a human. The Gospels have nothing like this. There is no divine-human hanky panky going on. It is just saturated with a thoroughly Jewish and Old Testament worldview.

Bird argues that what we need to look at is how others have denied the virgin birth. On the one hand, a denial of Jesus' human origins reinforces a worldview that denies the goodness of creation and makes Jesus some kind of visible ghost. More importantly, this view strips Jesus of his Jewishness. It reinforces Greco-Roman philosophy and prejudices among the cultural elites against Jews and Christianity's distinctively Jewish origins. It makes the message of Jesus one of "clicking our intellectual shoes together and by repeating three times, 'I can be all I want to be,'" (Bird). On the other hand, a denial of Jesus' divine origins makes him some kind of spiritual guru giving sage advice and denies that God acts in history through the story of Israel for the whole world. It means to deny that God has begun remaking the world already. Here Bird quotes NT Wright,

Actually, the strange story of Jesus’ being conceived without a human father is so peculiar, particularly within Judaism, and so obviously open to sneering accusations on the one hand and the charge that the Christians were simply aping the pagans on the other, that it would be very unlikely for someone to invent it so early in the Christian movement as Matthew and Luke. But there’s more to it than just that. The virginal conception speaks powerfully of new creation, something fresh happening within the old world, beyond the reach and dreams of the possibilities we currently know. And if we believe that the God we’re talking about is the creator of the world, who longs to rescue the world from its corruption and decay, then an act of real new creation, anticipating in fact the great moment of Easter itself, might just be what we should expect, however tremblingly, if and when this God decides to act to bring this new creation about. The ordinary means of procreation is one of the ways, deep down, in which we laugh in the face of death. Mary’s conception of Jesus has no need of that manoeuvre. “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” The real objection to the virginal conception is not primarily scientific. It is deeper than that. It is the notion that a new world really might be starting up within the midst of the old, leaving us with the stark choice of birth or death; leaving us, like the Magi, no longer at ease: leaving us, in other words, as Christmas people faced with the Herods of the world. (Kindle Locations 8222-8233).

What we lose with denying the legitimacy of Jesus' peculiar and miraculous origins is the triumph of God over evil. Reducing it to something explained through a biological conundrum is to lose part of the story's transcendent power. Reducing it to some spiritual platitude we lose its power to speak against death, evil, Satan, and the "Herod's of the world."

Bird points out there is another nativity scene in the Bible (Revelation 12:1-11), which is often overlooked. He likens to something directed by Quentin Tarantino: a woman writhing in labor (who represents Israel's entire story of struggle) before a dragon seeking to destroy and devour the child. Yet the dragon is defeated and the child ascends to the throne.

Nearing a conclusion, Bird says it so well.
"The annual celebration of the birth of the Savior that Christians around the world commemorate year after year is a bold profession that the despots of this age, political or spiritual, are living on borrowed time. What is more, the victory of God’s Messiah in Bethlehem and Calvary is replicated in the triumph of God’s people, who conquer evil through the strength of their testimony. The birth of Jesus is God reaching down into human life so that humanity can become the fist that shatters the dynasty of evil, once and for all." (Kindle Locations 8266-8270).

The reason Christians have affirmed the virgin birth, is not because they can explain exactly how it happened, but because they cannot deny it historically, experientially, or theologically. All the evidence surrounding the virgin birth reveals no one would have invented it. We are left to merely testify to it. It is a story too real to be easily believed, and too powerful to be easily denied.
Bird, Michael F. (2013-10-29). Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Kindle Locations 8069-8295). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

From Pastor Jason: 5 Things to Stop and Pray About Right Now (or At Least Sometime Today)

Here are a few things you can be praying for with your Dwell family, about your Dwell family, and as a Dwell family …

  1. Please be praying for our children’s ministry, Little Dwellers. Pastor Chris and Beth Thompson are working hard to organize, plan, and develop this ministry. 
  2. Please be praying for our gifts. This year we would love to see every person at Dwell take the next step in discovering how God has uniquely wired them to serve the church and our city and honor Jesus.
  3. Please be praying for our deacon team who has begun to work and pray, seeking God’s direction for serving the body.
  4. Please be praying for our local government as mayoral candidates are campaigning for the June election. 
  5. Please be praying for our February missions focus: San Jose State CRU

Peace …
Pastor Jason


Catch up on the sermon series: Three Years.