Montana Mountains

Better than "Outdoorsy": Jesus, Hobbies, and Your Identity

Growing up in Montana afforded me many good days in the great outdoors. Whether it was skiing the Beartooths, camping in West Rosebud, hiking the Absaroka wilderness, kayaking the Stillwater, rafting the Gallatin, or mountain biking and running through the Rims (a 600-1400 ft. sandstone shelf that spans west to east through Billings), there was never any shortage of adventure to be had in Big Sky country.

But it wasn’t until trusted Christ at age nineteen that my eyes were opened to the glory of God in the beauty of his creation. The pursuit of outdoor pleasure took on a whole new meaning as I beheld God’s power in jagged granite peaks or his creativity in a lake-mirrored sunset. The quiet seclusion of a forest trail was a welcome respite from the busyness of life, and a full day of dropping the tips of my skis into narrow, tree-flanked chutes offered not only exercise to refresh the body but matchless glimpses of snow, sky, and mountain to invigorate the soul. Continue reading “Better than "Outdoorsy": Jesus, Hobbies, and Your Identity”


In Praise of Private Writing

One of the most fascinating portions of Jonathan Edwards’s collected works is a 350 page section entitled “Miscellaneous Observations” and “Notes on the Bible.” This section comprises a large collection of Edwards’s personal notes on various subjects including philosophical, theological, and biblical musings. The depth and breadth of these writings are remarkable.

But what is most intriguing to me is not the content of these writings, despite the profound and deep insights contained in Edwards’s notes. Rather, it is that fact that these notes were never originally intended for publication. While it’s true that Edwards would use some of these notes in later sermons and publications, they didn’t originate for that reason. These notes were Edwards’s private thoughts on Scripture and theology, and it was here that Edwards was forging and refining his convictions. Continue reading “In Praise of Private Writing”


7 Practices for Preserving Unity On Your Elder Team

Six months ago I was ordained as an elder at Grace Bible Fellowship in Sunnyvale, CA. Prior to my ordination I was required complete an oral examination. This two-hour, 70-question theological interview and was the final step in a multi-step ordination process that was designed to revere Paul’s admonishment to Timothy: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Tim 5:22). These elders were not hasty, and I am grateful for their patience and care.
Continue reading “7 Practices for Preserving Unity On Your Elder Team”

A Sustainable Christian Life Requires that We Love Those Around Us

OrdinaryThe past thirty years have seen an increase in the phenomenon known as short-term missions. In the last three decades, American church members have enjoyed a growing ease of access to multi-week foreign mission trips in which they provide assistance to the ministry of overseas missionaries and Christian workers. Many churches have joined in what has been called the Short-Term Missions Movement by sending their members across the world on these single or multi-week ventures.

Certainly there is value in this kind of ministry. Although writers like Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert offer poignant criticism of how many churches are conducting their short-term mission trips in their book When Helping Hurts, they also conclude that these overseas trips should not be eradicated from church budgets. Reformation, not removal, is the aim of their critique. (see also Robert Lupton’s Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help for a trenchant critique of and recommendations for our short-term mission projects). Nevertheless, there is a hidden danger in these noble attempts at getting Christians to be more globally-minded. Continue reading “A Sustainable Christian Life Requires that We Love Those Around Us”

A Sustainable Christian Life is Characterized by Steady Faithfulness

OrdinaryHorton says it well and memorably: “The key to maturity is time and community” (64). Our impulse for the extraordinary, however, fuels a desire for quick growth which in turn draws us away from community; at least, a community to which we commit ourselves for any length of time.

The Restless Generation
It’s become a truism to say that millennials are the restless generation: they jump from job to job, city to city, and church to church. Something new, something bigger, something more exciting is only a airplane flight or road trip away, and they would be foolish not to pursue it. But this approach to life hasn’t made our restless souls any happier. “[I]s it any wonder,” Horton ponders, “that we’re miserable if we don’t care about things that take time, require submission to a community, and do not yield immediate and measurable results” (65)? Continue reading “A Sustainable Christian Life is Characterized by Steady Faithfulness”

A Sustainable Christian Life Begins with Justification by Faith Alone

OrdinaryMichael Horton’s Ordinary is both a convicting and refreshing book. Horton helps Christians cultivate what he calls “sustainable faith” in world that is characterized with an obsession with the exceptional. The first sentence of Horton’s book is a list of adjectives and phrases that are used daily by savvy marketers to attract my generation to some new product. “Radical. Epic. Revolutionary. Transformative. Extreme. Awesome. Emergent. Alternative. Innovative. On the Edge. The Next Big Thing. Explosive Breakthrough” (11). Unsurprisingly, churches use these kinds of words and phrases are used to attract folks in my generation to their weekly gatherings and programs.

Yet, what the Church fails to recognize when it uncritically follows the world in its promotional tactics is that creating of a taste for the extraordinary will actually serve to undermine healthy, persevering faith by tempting people away from the normal means of spiritual growth. Horton helps us here. In this article I will mention the first of three ways. Continue reading “A Sustainable Christian Life Begins with Justification by Faith Alone”

Resistance to the Ordinary

OrdinaryWhen I was 19 years old, Jesus Christ saved me from a life of futility and sin. By his grace, God not only ignited in my heart new affections for Christ and other Christians, he also gave me a clear sense of purpose and calling and dislodged the hopelessness that previously characterized my life. The all-consuming call on my life now was to glorify God in everything I did, and I was ready to respond to that call. “I’ve wasted 19 years of my life,” I reasoned, “I need to make up for lost time.”

Soon after my conversion and from a desire to give myself to vocational ministry, I completed my sophomore year at the University of Portland and transferred to The Master’s College (TMC)—a small Christian college north of Los Angeles—in order to study the Bible and prepare for ministry. Continue reading “Resistance to the Ordinary”