Book Review: The Son Who Chases The Father


My good friend, Joshua Zarzana, just published his first book entitled, “The Son Who Chases the Father.” Let me begin by telling you what I love about this book. I’ll choose three points because there are so many things that I could say about the content and character behind this book.

First, I love how honest Josh is in this book about himself, his family, and his continuing need for being a son who chases after his heavenly Father. He makes it clear that his story doesn’t end with all smiles and happiness, but that it ends with more hope and more joy than it began with. The bad and good examples of his Father and men around him have done a lot to shape his spiritual, relational, and emotional development as a man. Josh’s desire throughout the book is to motivate men to become the child of God that we are called to be and an example to younger men to follow after God. He doesn’t take the role of expert on these issues, rather he takes the role as a fellow traveler and pastoral messenger.

Second, he combines the topics of value/faith development, family systems, and biblical wisdom to develop theological principles such as God’s love, confessing our sins, and the changing power of grace through narrative. The writer’s craft that Josh uses to weave and connect with the audience to reflect on their own life is inspiring, thought-provoking, and well done. I finished every chapter excited for the next one. The challenge at the end of the book to chase after God purposefully and to be a positive influence for the faith development of others was good. He writes, “So this is where my book ends, and where you choose how the rest of your book will go. I hope that both of our final chapters of life will end up in the same place, in the Father’s loving embrace.”

Third, is the timeliness of this book. I believe that challenging cultural mores and norms about what definitions of “family” are is an important topic. Families without a mother or a father is not what God desires for children. He wants whole families. Issues like divorce, fatherlessness, and family stability are all things that pastors and Christian leaders need to be passionate about giving a gracious and biblical response to. If you go to the website for the book (chasethefather.com) you can click on devotions, leave comments, and watch videos.

I really think that every man and Christian leader should read this book to ignite more of a passion for being transformed by Christ and sharing life together to see others grow in the grace and truth of the gospel!

Leadership and Listening to God


Children’s Pastor Jim Wideman wrote, in his book “Children’s Ministry Leadership” (Group, 2003), that “Leadership in ministry is all about influencing others to reach the next level in their spiritual growth and their God-given skills. It’s helping others develop, coaching them to become what God wants them to be” (14). According to Wideman, this type of leadership begins with the growth of a person’s character by their dependence and obedience to God. I would agree. I believe that this last year of my own ministry has been growing me to increase my personal commitment to be a man of integrity based on the principles in God’s word so that I can really continue being about God’s business- to love him, to love others, and have a right perspective of who I am to him- on a daily basis. This is very difficult though. As a bivocational children’s pastor I find my time, passion, and skills divided into making time and energy to do other jobs just to afford the basic things, and then I praise God for whatever is left over.

What does this have to do with leadership and relying on God? Everything! The motivation that I have to lead isn’t coming from what I can get from the people I serve or the people I serve with. The motivation has to be based on the love of God and relying on his Spirit to direct us, and then obeying that direction through fellowship with believers and opening God’s word to discern his good and perfect will. This last weekend I went to a retreat with some friends from Multnomah that allowed me to have some space to just go and read my Bible on the beach and reflect. I read through the first 5 chapters of 2nd Corinthians. Three things that I was reminded by meditating on these passages were this:

- My confidence and competence to be a minister of the gospel comes from God. God has enabled me with the gifts, passion, and opportunity in this season of my life to be a children’s pastor at Glenfair Church. God will lead, guide, and direct me if I let him…and I want to let him!

- I must daily die to my selfishness and be daily renewed by the reality of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that I proclaim in word and deed.

- Christ’s love compels me and controls me in how I work as an ambassador of reconciliation. I truly desire to see people know the grace and truth of Jesus Christ in their lives. I truly desire to see God use my ministry and church to be messengers of God’s holistic healing, redemption, and coming Kingdom.

In summary, I have been reminded that God has put the pastoral heart in me to do more than just teaching, but to put energy into relational discipleship and evangelism based on listening to God in his word, and discerning how to use every moment as an opportunity to the truth and grace of Jesus in all my spheres of influence to help others reach reconciliation with God and growth in the joy of the Lord.

How have you allowed God’s word to shape you to lead others spiritually?

What character qualities do you need God’s help to develop more of?

Why I love my Church


28-DSC_5994This last weekend I was at a wedding of one of my really good friends. It was so great to see how God has used this couple’s passion for the Lord and his bride, the church, to launch them into a lifetime of being united and committed in marriage. One thing that was said during a toast at the reception is that my friend Ben shows a clear love for the church, even in a time when it is trendy, perhaps even cool to dis the church.  It made me realize that sometimes I might come off as awfully critical of the church and other Christians when my primary job should be to love it. From now on I want to work harder at having a motivation of love and desire for spiritual maturity of myself and others when or if I do criticize the church. So I decided to dedicate this post to share with others what I love about my church: Glenfair Church.

1. People are genuinely loving and care for others:

even if its a persons first time you can’t come away without being greeted and given a smile. The people at my church want to invite people to come gather to grow and scatter to show with Christ being the focus.

2. People’s lives are being changed by Jesus:

it is obvious to me that many people and families are being changed by the message and love of Jesus in their lives. I look on the stage and see the worship team leading us to Jesus and being humble. Our lead pastor, Kevin, is dedicated to sharing God’s word, what it means for our lives, and counseling many people throughout the week. When peoples lives are being changed by Jesus it can be difficult, but it is so beautiful to see the “new creations” (2 Cor. 5:18) that God is making us all to be together in Christ.

3. The neighborhood is invited:

each Sunday and Wednesday it is so exciting to see that our neighbors are coming to church. Whether its to bring their kids to our Sunday or Wednesday program, get into a Bible study, or eat with us at a community dinner once a month. I think that we have tried really hard, from what I’ve seen in my one year here, to make people feel welcome and invited whenever the doors are open. We also have a community garden that has been fun to plant in and try to get to know people who are working in it.

4. There are dedicated people who lead by example:

some of the older men and women who volunteer their time, resources, and energy to the people and the church building are so inspiring. Their generosity and skills are needed so much because I know that costs and upkeep can be spendy in this economy. I pray that God would help younger adults (like me) to see and practice their example in order to be the type of “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1-2) that is informed and activated by God’s word.

5. Kids are being connected to God’s word and real relationships:

I might be a little biased as the children’s pastor, but I really have seen changes in the words, attitudes, and actions of many of the kids that we serve every week. Kids have learned Bible stories, but they have also learned that life is really all about doing God’s business- loving God, loving others, and loving themselves in the right way (explained as having a right perspective of who they are to God). I pray that God would use each of the ministry leaders and I to see kid’s lives and families changed by the Gospel.

While this isn’t a huge list, it is the start of thankfulness and humility on my part to remember and be comforted by the church that Christ is making us to be. I am so thankful for the Glenfair Church family and how they have encouraged and supported me over this last year of big transitions and changes. I know that will be the case as long as the Lord calls me here.

What do you love about your church?

Communion: A universal symbol


Communion, Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper…

Christians everywhere celebrate it as a reminder of Jesus’ death to celebrate together until he comes. While we may have different doctrinal interpretations of what it means, it rings clear that it is an experience that binds our hearts, minds, and lives together in the Christian experience. This last weekend, as I shared in my last post, I had the opportunity to attend the Zomi Community Mission Church. They were celebrating communion as part of their service. While I didn’t understand all the music, prayers, or testimonies shared I did understand what was happening during communion. It was a special time where I experienced God’s grace and beauty through the faith expression of a different culture. Every time I participate in communion with believers is a special time.

imagesWe should all recognize together with other believers the importance of participating in this blessing. When our hearts and minds are rightly focused on celebrating the blood, resurrection, and coming of the precious lamb of God we can rightly practice our faith to love God, love others, and have a right perspective of who we are to God. Communion should help us realign our lives to be centered around Christ. The meditation that often accompanies the gifting of the elements is a special time. Often, I reflect on how that time of preparation reminds me to live out the Lord’s Prayer to be in awe of our heavenly Father, recognizing his kingdom in our lives, thanking for his provision, asking for forgiveness and supernatural strength from the Lord to walk with him.

All that to say, don’t do communion for yourself. Do it for the Lord and in celebration with other believers. Remember that the universal church participates together to glorify and thank Jesus for his sacrifice and hope he gives us to live for him. If we keep these things in mind we can begin to take steps forward to protect against individualization of a communal experience, commodifying the Lord’s table, and spoiling the beauty of Christ’s sacrifice, resurrection, and eventual return at the end of the age.

Humbled to Speak


10672067_1471764973108129_5918075777899146963_nIf you have known me for any length of time you would know that I am not a shy person. In fact, I am very willing to share my thoughts if I have an actual thought about an issue (not just make up an opinion so that I can talk). This last Sunday I was given the honor to deliver a message to the Zomi Community Mission Church that meets after the regular service we have at Glenfair Church. Pastor Muana Khuptong invited me to share God’s word with his congregation. I chose to speak from John 5, the story of Jesus healing the lame man. The main point that I was trying to deliver through that passage is that Jesus comes to meet us where we’re at to bring grace and healing, as well as truth and conviction in our lives. This experience was very humbling for me. The need for translation and breaking down concepts for communicating God’s word made delivering the sermon challenging. It caused me to think about how reading and handling God’s word is something special that should be done in community and with great care. It also made me think that sometimes I can make the Bible and its concepts very complicated. I know this experience has given me more of a desire to refine and share God’s word in a way that elevates the glory of God and his word, retain theological and biblical accuracy, and communicate more clearly. Will you pray that God would help me grow in this area?

What are ways that you have found teaching the Bible difficult?

What are tools or methods that help you know whether you are communicating clearly or not?

Learning lots!


Hey everyone I know it’s been a super long time (in blogosphere time) since I’ve posted anything. “Why’s that?” you might ask….well simply put- busy summer programs at church, in my community, and trying to rest when possible.

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Over the summer I was involved in working with youth and kids in Portland through the Summer Lunch Program and WordUp. It was awesome to experience all of the relationships, people’s stories, and activities that we got to do together. At the elementary school I work at I taught 1st and 2nd graders art, community building, sports, and showed them cool jobs they could do when they grow up. At the church I was able to do weekly relationship building and Bible-storytelling. We also had some great game and water nights because of how hot it was. Two weeks ago was Weird Animals VBS. I was really stressed out about it at first even though we had it planned out, but God was totally faithful. He provided 65 kids for us to share the message of Jesus’ one-of-a-kind love! It was such a praise!

I’m looking forward to the fall. With the church growing and God bringing so many blessings into my life through friends and family I am overwhelmed.

A few prayer requests that I have from you are that 1) the message of Jesus’ one-of-a-kind love that kids heard at VBS would stick in their hearts, 2) an increase in the families, kids, and servant leaders at Glenfair Church, 3) that more trust, partnerships, and relationships would be built in our church and community, and 4) that God would continue to grow my love for him and his church and my leadership skills.

Leave some comments and let me know how your summer was!

My idea of Modesty


Since the summer months can bring a lot of heat there is always the possibility of water games. I just sent these guidelines out to parents to prevent any circumstances that are less than appropriate for my mid-week program.

With that in mind, here is our definition of appropriate clothes at church:

  • When you raise your arms you shouldn’t be able to see your stomach. When you bend down, you shouldn’t be able to see your underwear.
  • Shorts must be modest and come at least to mid thigh. We should not be able to see your underwear at any time- from the top or bottom.
  • Hats may be worn outside, but taken off once we are inside the church.

Should I add anything? What is your experience with dress codes?

 

Worship as Discipleship


2013-12-15 11.32.38Every odd numbered Sunday of the month I have the privilege of playing a few songs on my guitar during the regular worship service, which also means I have the responsibility of worship practice on those Sunday mornings. If you came to a regular worship service at my church you might not be impressed by the type of worship that you hear, but I do believe that you would feel the love of God’s Spirit and see the joy of the Lord on the faces of all the people who participate on the worship teams we have. It has been an honor seeing how God is using so many people who would seem so unlikely to be seen singing and playing praise songs to God. I guess that is why it’s such a grace-filled experience to me to see how our worship leader, Lisa, takes time to prayerfully choose songs, care for others on and off the stage, and be a vessel of God’s love to our whole congregation. The discipleship opportunities that she takes during practice are so encouraging and honoring to God and others. I never thought about how I could be discipled through a worship practice before! I know that because of the humility and love of so many that we will continue to see people come to Jesus and worship the one true God!

These were just a few thoughts that occurred to me this morning. I know that when we worship God in Heaven it will be way more awesome than any sound system or multi-media production we could do, but I know that those same people who sing love songs to God and do his will are going to continue to do so for eternity. If you think about it this next week, why don’t you send your worship leader(s) an encouraging message and lovingly tell them what their service to God means to you!

Related articles:

Upside-Down and Inside-Out Worship

Missions as an act of worship

Worship: an entertainment addiction?