If any of you have ever been to my office you will normally see a large pile of books next to my computer. This pile contains the books I am currently reading. I usually tend to have my finger in about five or six books at a time. I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what I've been reading lately.

"Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change" by Paul David Trip
   I'm just about done with this one. It is a great book which really works through how the gospel takes deeper and deeper root in our hearts and how we as individuals can really help each other grow. There is not an issue in one's life that this book doesn't deal with. It is the next book I am taking our leaders through in our leadership meetings and I would encourage everyone in the church to give this book a read.

"The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright" by John Piper
   I'm about half-way through this book right now. It is a scholarly work written to address a theological movement called "The New Perspective of Paul" and one of its primary spokesman. If you don't know Greek and are unfamiliar with scholar level theological terminology it may be a difficult book for you to read, though not impossible. For a broken down version of what the New Perspective is and what is at stake, you can read a response I personally wrote here: A Response to the New Perspective of Paul.

"The Hard Work of Rest" by The Editors of Life@Work
   This is a little book I've been reading a chapter or two of on my day off (Monday). I just have two chapters left and it's been an immensly helpful little jewel with a lot of good practical insights and tools. I usually read it in my backyard sitting on a lawnchair with a vodka & tonic or a jack & coke in hand.

"Heaven" by Randy Alcorn
   This is the most recent book I started reading and am loving it. It is serious theological work (over 500 pages long and footnoted well) but is also surprisingly readable (anyone could really read it). In theological scholarship there has been a major neglect of the in-depth study of heaven. This book seeks to overturn that tide and Randy Alcorn so far has been doing a great job and making me super excited about what Jesus has ahead for his followers. Randy Alcorn has probably written the best thing out there having to do with money as well. I'd encourage you to also check out that book, "Money, Possessions, and Eternity."

"A God Entranced View of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards" by 11 Different Authors
   I try to always be reading something either by Jonathan Edwards or about Jonathan Edwards. I was first turned on to Jonathan Edwards when I began to sense God's call on my life to be an Evangelist (a few years before I discovered Piper for those of you who thought I was just copying him!). Jonathan Edwards is one of the best known and most impactful Evangelists who has ever lived and of all the Evangelists I have studied, none has caught my affection more than Edwards. Which is one of the reasons why we named our church plant, "The Resolved Church" because Jonathan Edwards was famous for his 70 Resolutions.

"Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts" by Harold M. Best
   This is book I haven't got too far in reading yet. I heard Harold speak when I was last up in Seattle. He is an old white haired man which makes me really listen and respect him. He can say the word, "God" and you get chills. Harold's book sort of reads that way too and provides a sound perspective for an approach to art and the glory of God.

Recently completed books: Five Views on Apologetics, The Graymatter, The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, Lead Like Jesus, Jesus Driven Ministry and Reforming Male Sexuality.
Yesterday I heard news that one of my pastor friends who planted a church right around the same time we did finally gave up and ended up sending all the people to another church. After hearing that I couldn't help but think about us, The Resolved Church, and where we are at and where we are heading as a church plant.

My friend Ed Stetzer who works for the North American Missions board recently put out a report studying 1,000 church plants from the year 2000 to 2005 to try and determine how many church plants survive and why. Statistics can always be tricky, it is commonly said that only 20% of church plants survive. Ed's findings are interesting, I encourage you to check out the report here.

The four main factors of the report were: 1. Having realistic expectations (Openness and honesty about the plant and having a plan). 2. Church leadership development. 3. Church planter peer group (Being connected to a denomination or network with support for the church planting pastor). 4. Stewardship plan (Church membership committment including financial accountability). I found this report very interesting in light of many of the things we are currently doing and have made plans to do that have mostly grown out of learning the hard way in the last two years of what not to do.

How do we add up? Having realistic expectations has personally been one of the most freeing things for me. I'm not kidding when I tell you that I truly thought we did not need a plan and that because of my superb preaching :) we would be nearly in the thousands within the first year. If you haven't noticed were not that big. :) Realizing that putting on a good performance in our service isn't the heart of our church plant, it is the people. People who are individually growing in Christ, being pastored, using their gifts and partnering together in community.

Leadership within The Resolved Church has radically changed within the last year. In January when my co-planter Justin Bragg left, it really challenged me to rise up and be the leader God called me to be. Since then I have been doing my best to establish myself as the Pastor of The Resolved Church. And by establish I mean show and demonstrate to you all that I will lead you and care for you because a title means nothing if you are not actively showing that. In May I began regularly meeting with those leading in different ways in the church. Last month, Aaron Braun, Michael Trujillo, and John Bale just finished reading and going through the book "Lead Like Jesus" with me. This month we are stepping up our meetings to every other week and are about to tackle a new book. In addition, I have been working with Josh Carstensen over the phone, who lives in Newport Beach and drives down with his wife Meagan every week to oversee our set-up and tear-down and to oversee our Sunday service publically.

As far as a church planter peer group. Not only do I function with four "virtual elders" who I talk to about things on a regular basis, but The Resolved Church is part of the Acts 29 network. Besides bi-yearly conferences, I have a monthly meeting with 6 other Acts 29 pastors for discussion and prayer about our church plant. These support systems are invaluable and I know I could not continue to be your Pastor without them.

Lastly, regarding a stewardship plan. One of the best things we have done in the last year is start membership. Tonight will be the completion of our second round of church membership class, an 8 week course where I teach about the theology and mission of The Resolved Church. The course ends with the signing of a Covenant Membership which includes a promise for regular financial giving.

In additon to these things, it occured to me a couple months ago that there are two main areas within our church that need some more focus to make us strong and able to receive those we reach out to within the city of San Diego and that is developing our community sense of planting together and developing the manhood of the men in the church.

So, on the evening of December 9th at 7pm we will have our first monthly "Church Plant Meeting." We will meet at our building, sit in a circle, have a few dicussion items about how we are doing as a plant, and pray together for the plant. These meetings will be designed to build our community in our attempt to plant a church together. They will be short (less than an hour) and will be a good chance to get to know people in the church better.

For the men, The Biblical Manhood Group with Pastor Duane will begin December 4th. The group will meet every other Tuesday night at Frank Johnson's house. There will be three parts, each week a look at one of the Biblical qualifications of manhood, we will discuss our personal lives in being men, and review a chapter from Douglas Wilson's book "Future Men."

On another note, a big thanks to everyone for giving Amy and I some time and space during the first two weeks after Adina was born. It was a great time to just focus on our family. But now we're back from hibernation and you guys are welcome to stop by and meet Adina, just give us a call.

Much love to you all,
Pastor Duane

Hello everyone,

We'd like to announce the birth of our new daughter, Adina Rain Smets!

So many of you have sent congratulations in the form of texts messages, voice mails, emails, cards, presents, food and everything else. Thank you so much! You are all amazing and we love you all a ton. Amy and I are super excited and enjoying being new parents and getting to know our daughter. It is a lot of work and lack of sleep but so worth it because Adina is freaking adorable.

During this special time while Amy is recovering from giving birth and together we are figuring out life with Adina, Duane is taking two weeks off work both from the group home he works and from pastoring the church. In six weeks Amy plans to return to work and do hair a couple days a week. We have been flooded with so many calls, the best way to get ahold of us right now is through email or text message.. Eventually we'll get back to all of you and start having people over to come meet Adina.

Above is a collage of pictures. If the file didn't come through or is too small for you to see, go to www.duanesmets.com/pics/adina.jpg and you will be able to see it there.

We love you all,
Duane, Amy and Adina
As of today, no baby yet. But new life is on the way for sure because I don't think my petite little wife can get much bigger! :) I'm sure I could easily be charged with that subjective trap where you think of everything through the lens of your own personal experience but I believe that new things are in store not only for me in being a dad but also for us as a church.

Three Sundays ago I preached a very difficult sermon for us all which basically took an honest look at where we are as a church plant. It was difficult because I don't like being the bad guy but as I've personally told several people, if I didn't preach it I wouldn't be doing my job and I would be a good pastor. The response, I have to say has been very encouraging. Several people are excited and have really stepped up in regards to serving Jesus' church and there are a number who have made some strong resolutions to live their lives differently. It is awesome to hear about God's work of grace in your hearts.

Here are the new things that will be happening for us as a church:

In the middle of this month a girl's mid-week community group will begin. The group will meet every other week for spiritual discussion and prayer at Gema Torrenes' house and then once a month the group will do something for fun and invite non-Christian friends. I encourage all of you girls to make a committment to be a part of this.

In December, I will begin leading a group of men to meet every other week to talk about what it means to be a man according to the Bible. We will meet at Frank Johnson's house, look at the Bible, talk about how you are doing as a man, and work through Douglas Wilson's book "Future Men." I want as many as you men as possible to be a part of this. You need this. The picture of a man in our culture is so askewed that we think if you talk rough, smoke cigarettes and wear a wife-beater then you are a man. I want to show you the picture of a man in the Bible and open up my life as a godly example to you. So men, be there! Or I might have to break out a holy can of whoop a$$ pastor beating on you. :)

Third, beginning in December we are going to start to have once a month church plant meetings on Sunday nights at our building. It will not be a service but a time for us to sit in a circle together to discuss how we are doing as a church plant. This will be a good community building time for us a church as we really attempt to create a glory driven, gospel centered, city within the city in San Diego. Look for more information coming about what Sunday of the month it will be and what time.

God is working and we are attempting to follow our leader, Jesus Christ, with all our might. For his fame in the sake of the gospel, this is an exciting season.

-Pastor Duane
Happy Reformation Day! Yes, today is Reformation Day. It is Reformation day because on October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg and ignited a storm that brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the forefront of the church, culture and the mission of the world. To read Luther's 95 theses or other things written by Martin Luther, go to this website: http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Luther-Martin

On another note my daughter is due to be born in five days. They say only 5% of babies are born on their due date. Which in my mind means that she is going to be early because I want her to be. I mean, she's all done in there, so why not just come out now, you know? I seriously lack the fruit of patience, bad. :)

So I am pretty distracted this week as Amy and I anxiously await this new addition to our family. But at the same time I am exhilarated today as I pause to contemplate and cherish the sublime truth that I am justified, here and now. Thanks be to God who has given us Christ.

Much love to you all,
-Pastor Duane
Last Sunday I preached one of the most difficult sermons I have ever preached. It was not a sermon I was looking forward to or excited to preach, but it was as though if I did not preach it I would not have been doing my job as a pastor. The sermon was titled, "Partnership and Advance of the Gospel: The Resolved Church Mid-fall 2007" and was a sobering look at where we are as a church plant.

We looked at Philippians 1:1-18 and what it took for the church in Phillipi to get started and to continue and then we looked at how those things are present in our current context. The four things we focused on were: partnership, the gospel, challenges, and advances.

PARTNERSHIP - This word comes from the Greek word Koinonia and means fellowship, participation, joint-effort, togetherness. In regards to church planting it hightlights that we partner together in the endeavor of the gospel. This is what it means to be a church. You have a leader spearheading the charge and then others partnering together alongside with him in a common endeavor. We are a spiritual body with members attempting to reach a city together.

GOSPEL - The word gospel is news, news that is good. It was sometimes used to announce the birth of a baby or a victory in battle. In regards to Jesus, the gospel is the news of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. The gospel brings real heart change in us and then moves us with compassion to share the message and follow Jesus example of entering into culture and through it telling people about his person and work.

There are three approaches to culture within Christianity today (Props to Driscoll on his good baptistic alliteration which I stole. :) )
1. Reject/Sectarian. This view says culture is bad. The problem is culture is haywire and needs to be rejected and we need to show non-Christians how different we are and not have anything to do with them and their evil practices. This includes not only the Amish but a good majority of mainline protestant denominations and evangelical indepedents who are fundamentalists. They don't have any fun and strip the joy out having good mental capacities.
2. Receive/Syncretism. This view says culture is ever evolving and truth itself is evolving and we as the church just need to keep up with it and adapt and change the gospel so that it will still be relevant. This includes a majority of the "emerging church" movement and the neo-Catholic movment which wants to still be spiritual and okay with God but live however they want and not be accountable to anyone.
3. Redeem/Subvert. This view says culture is amoral and expresses itself in either God-glorifying or un-glorifying ways and can be redeemed according to the gospel. This view looks at the example of Jesus who entered into culture, wearing sandanls and a robe and speaking the language of the people in order to share the gospel with them. This includes Acts 29 (www.a29.org) the Gospel Coalition movement (www.thegospelcoalition.org) and us as The Resolved Church.

CHALLENGES - The Challenges we face include the following:

1. Lack of Regular Sunday Attendance - For nearly two years we have fluxuated between 25-50 people, if everyone who comes on a semi-regular basis came on one Sunday we would be nearly 150 people. So the sermon is not a reaction to one week but to a consistent prolonged trend. We have apparently plateaued and have shown ourselves to be unable to grow beyond this point. What are the potential reasons?

  a. Consumerism. Church is treated like a product that is me-centered, spectator oriented, based on what I like. Do I like the music? Is it too dark for me? Was the sermon entertaining? Sometimes those things are important but they will always vary. You need to commit to a church and for Sunday attendence not always be a decision each week.

  b. Sunday Insignficance. Church is seen as something that is not that important for me to be a regular part of. It is a simple lack of seriousness about the church and significance of reliable attendence. Church is extremely important for your own personal growth and others who benefit by your presence.

  c. Saturday night drunkenness or promiscuity. Persons are either hung-over, asleep, and/or feeling guilty for the previous night's sin and the result is abstaining from church in the morning. Those things are sin (Gal. 5:19-21) and you need to stop doing them because you are putting your eternal salvation in jeopardy.

  d. Sunday Dispensible. Church is seen as something that is dispensible if there is something better going on (like football games or a friend's party etc.). Sunday is seen as a "free day" to do whatever I want.

  e. Not taught. Some simply may have not been taught that God created and intends there to be a devoted to his people collectively worshipping him together (Ex. 20:8; Heb 10:25). Christians do this on Sunday. If you love Jesus, you will love his church and worship him on Sunday.

2. Spiritual Immaturity - We will always have a mixed mulititude I pray...unbelivers, new believers, mature believers. At the same time we always need to be pressing for maturity. What are areas where we are experiencing immaturity in our church?

  a. Lack of reading the Bible and good theological works. God designed the cognitive function of reading to be the chief means for us to grow up in him. God revealed himself in words in a book. If you are not regularly reading you are not growing.

  b. Men acting like boys. Drunkenness, pre-marital sex, husbands not lovingly leading their family. Boys need to grow up and be manly men who are respectable and protect and provide for their wife and children both physically and spiritually. Single guys need to do the same in preparation for a family and treat females like their sister until marriage.

  c. Women not following godly men. Married women need to respectfully encourage their husbands to repent of their lack of good leadership and not try and manipulate them to perform better. Single women need to care more about a guy's godliness than his looks and/or personality. If the guy doesn't love Jesus don't waste your time, you'll just get your heart broken.

  d. Heart not right. Some may think their a Christian and so they are okay and their attitude sucks. They are unkind to those around them, bitter, and think terrible thoughts about people. These are heart issues that need to get dealt with.

  e. Lack of Example. Perhaps the men have simply just not seen good examples before them. I am currently considering starting a men's time with Duane, to open up my life to you and teach you what it means to be a man according to the Bible.

3. Lack of Community - Community means knowing each other and sharing life together. How much time have you spent with people outside of Sunday morning service. It seems to me this is rarely happening and is a big red flag warning of our love for one another.

  a. Fake Growth. It seems at times we have expected flash in the pan magical growth, that people will magically walk through the doors and get connected to our community.

  b. Lack of Outside Sunday time. Very few people from our church spend time together outside of Sunday. Church is not intended to be a Sunday morning event but rather community life together, including during the week. Some churches expect you to be there nearly every night of the week, we expect Sunday and one other day of the week interaction with someone from church.

  c. Mid-week Community Groups. Our one and only mid-week community group died a few weeks ago because we no longer have a facilitator. You need not be a Bible scholar to lead one of these things, you only need to be able to open your hope and keep discussion on the discussion questions written by Pastor Duane.

  d. Meals together. Eating and drinking together is an important part of community. How often do you eat and drink with other people in the church. Go out to lunch with people after church, invite other with you, get to know each other.

  e. Welcomeness. I think we have improved on this level as far as people coming in the door on Sunday. We are friendly to them. But what about the next step of inviting them into our lives, to hang out with us and spend time with our community.

  f. Too busy. We live in a fast paced, demanding world. It is a high calling to work hard, put family first and treasure Jesus' church at the same time. But when it comes down to it, you make time for what you love and value. If you love Jesus and his church you will make time for his people.

4. Conversions. In the history of The Resolved Church, there have been 3 people who profess to coming to faith through our ministry. I'm sorry kids but I'm not happy with one a year and neither is Jesus. So why are not more people becoming Christians through our ministry.

  a. Bad mission. Mission has become for you a license to join the party or the workforce with no gospel purpose or intent in mind. You make friends with non-believers but never talk to them about the gospel. Never question them about what they think. Never listen to what their objections are and never confront the state of their hearts. People will not become Christians unless you make friends with them and then challenge their life and beliefs.

  b. No mission. You don't have any non-Christian friends that you regularly hang out with. You are amissional. You are in violation of Jesus' command and you are a disservice to Jesus church. You need to immediately go to the local bar and make some friends.

  c. No prayer for non-Christians. God has deemed that no one will come to put faith in Jesus without prayer and them hearing the word of God preached, either through you or a trained and qualified preacher. We need to be praying as a church that God will save sinners.

5. Me - I'm a problem as well as the main leader of this church. I am a sinner too not the one who has it all together. I need Jesus bad.

  a. I get angry, bitter, and frustrated. When things are not going right as we planned either in service or in general overrall I come undone at times which is immature and makes it difficult for people to follow and trust my leadership.

  b. I have got hung up on service so many times. I foolishly think that if the service runs perfect and smooth then I will be happy. The desire for perfection most frequently becomes my other Jesus I idol worship to for my joy and satisfaction.

  c. Impatience and ungracious. I tend to lack the fruit of patience and want things to happen now and if they are undoable then I break line and try and figure out how to do it my way as quick as possible. Ungraciousness often goes hand in hand but I frequently find myself wanting immediate change in people and forget taht God's grace in my life took me along ime.

  d. Too intense of a preacher. Perhaps my sermons are too long, too intense? I probably can't change that and I'm not sure how true that is. But I can't be someone that I'm not. I'm willing to learn and get better, even after preaching for 10 years, but I can't change who I am. I feel like Jeremiah did who said God's Word was like a "fire shut up in his bones (Jer. 20:9)."

  e. Micromanaging & learning to lead. In my 8 years and three degrees of college ministry preparation, I never took a single practical ministry class because I was more interested in the Bible and theology and figured if I got that the practical part would be easy. It's not so easy. :) So I took my first leadership class this summer and am trying to learn how to lead and develop leaders like Jesus.

  f. The pressure of money and my family. I am dependent on income from this church to be your pastor. My family is growing since my daughter is due to be born in two weeks and with it my expenses are increasing and if we do not grow numerically we will not grow financially and I will be Scripturally disqualified as your pastor for not being able to provide for my family. Sometimes that pressure is so intense that I do not always respond to people and to situations as I should.

ADVANCES - This word comes from the Greek word, prokopen, and means to advance, progress or to set aside a block in the way of the road. Some of the realities of where we are at as a church may sound dark and discouraging but they need not be. Once you know what is going on then it is easier to try and figure out what to do. And not everything has been all bad. We have taken some great strides forward.

1. Music worship - This last February was the first time Michael Trujullo had ever led anyone in worship of song musically. And in these few short months he has developed a whole band! And it is not just that they sound good and are super creative but their heart and dedication is right on point. They practice once a week during the week for you guys. I talk with Michael and pray with him each week and he and Kenny and Gema have such desire for you to grow in your love for jesus and singing praise to his name. When we sing, we sing in response to who God is and what he has done. If you don't sing that is like saying you don't get it or don't love who God is and what he has done for you. A few weeks ago Michael called everyone out and said we were not singing and needed to. That is good. Your leaders are trying to set an example of what worship is and calling you to it and that is awesome! We thank you and love you music team.

2. Families - For so long had no families. I prayed and prayed and prayed and thought we might just be single college age kids forever. Now we have a few committed families and not just that but we have Sunday school happening for the kids. I see this as a huge step forward. Some of you are wanting to get married or just recently did. That is good! Some of you are tired of dating and want to take marriage seriously in your dating. That is good! These are good steps forward. A healthy church has people from all stages of life. Ron and Kathy, who have been with us now for several months are a treasure to our church. They are the ones who put together the luncheons. They have been walking with Jesus for a long time and helped plant a church 30 years ago and wanted to do it again! God is sending the right people here to partner with us!

3. Membership class. - Currently there are 7 people taking our church membership class. There are people who are wanting to step up and love this church and are all about it. People wanting to learn. People who are teachable. On paper, there are only 6 members of this church, who have been through the class and signed the membership covenant. Here in a few weeks hopefully we'll have another 7 and we'll be 13! That's good! We're making progress.

4. Leadership development - A few months back I started leadership development with three different guys in the church who I meet with once a month and grill them about their lives and about their roles and we are going through a book together. In addition, recently Josh Carstensen has stepped up and as you may have noticed the last few weeks is running our service and also overseeing our set-up and tear-down.

5. Gospel conversions. - There are people who are genuinly coming to faith and embracing the gospel. Last week at membership class we just went around the room and each person shared where they are at with Jesus. It was amazing to hear the stories of God's recent work of grace in several people's hearts. Each week when I stand at the back and make myself available for prayer, people come and ask me to pray for them. God is working in people's hearts. I have several conversations, email exchanges, dinners, coffees, beers, surfing with people and there is growth and humility happening in several individuals where the gospel is taking deep root in hearts and lives.


Let's conclude. Today's been open, honest. There are good things and bad things going on. Today as we approach the table I think we should approach it in three ways: examination, petition, and praise.

Jesus came into this world and died for his church. He took our names to the cross to die for his own. And we are sinners. We fall so far short of the glory of God and yet God in his perfect love sends his own and he dies in our place, give us all his goodness, his fully righteous person. He lives a perfect live where we could not. he dies our death for us. and then gives us his life. That is grace, that is the gospel.

Jesus died for all our faults and failures as a church. He died to cover our sins and satisfy our guilty punishment and and he rose again to give us new life and to change things and to carry us along into glorious inheritance. The gospel is real. Come to the table and thank and praise jesus for all that he is. He is the head pastor of this church. Let us worship him.
My brother-in-law's new band, "We Barbarians" played at the Casbah last night. I'm kind of a rock-n-roll kid and enjoy going to shows. But I'm also a preacher and I don't know too many preachers who enjoy going to dirty bars full of smoke, drunkeness, scandalous women, and music so loud that you feel the wind of the bass on your face and it leaves your ears ringing until the next morning. That is good times. I hadn't been to a show in a while since my wife is 9 months pregnant with our daughter and people give pregnant ladies wierd looks when you're hanging out in a bar. The whole experience reminded of the importance of understanding culture and being able to work within it for the sake of the gospel.

Some ministers wouldn't be caught dead in a bar. If Jesus were walking around San Diego, I'm not sure if you would find him anywhere but bars. Now, I know going to shows and bars is mainly a mid-twenties thing unless you are forty still acting like you are in your mid-twenties...so for you guys, yes I'm sure Jesus would hang out at the bingo centers too. But the point is there is a certain style, and language, and culture we must learn, appreciate, and enter into in order for the gospel to make sense and be heard. I had few conversations with people who were not Christians and I realized that when I talk to people who are not Christians and who are rock-n-roll kids in a bar, I completely change the way I talk and the subjects I talk about.

This is the incarnational model of Christ, who entered the time and history, and went to the places people did in order to reach out. In that he gained a common experience of life that becomes a building block to speak about the gospel. With beers in hand, me and Johnny have something in common, our enjoyment of Jesus' first miracle, alcohol. So on a certain level Johnny accepts me and immediately and we have something to build relationship on, that will hopefully bear fruit to talk more about life and the life of Christ at work in me either on that night or on another day.

The danger is reaching out to the point where you sell out, where you go to bars or bingo solely for the pure fun of it with no gospel purpose or hope in mind and you end up drunk, rich, or poor and Jesus is left in the dust. The Christian should always be looking for an opportunity for a "door for the word" of the gospel to be opened as Paul says in Colossians 4:3. So let me challenge you, who are you trying to lead to Jesus? When was the last time you brought up the gospel to a friend? When was the last time you invited someone you know to church and talked about it with them afterward?

- Pastor Duane
Over the period of a few months I did a blog series on the spiritual disciplines. Here are the blogs all together in one entry.

For many how one is to live as a Christian in this world is a huge question mark. The result is often a compartmentalization, where your Christian self fits into Sunday mornings and the rest of the week is a different story. I want to help us all have a picture of what the Christian life is to look like. There are many spiritual disciplines God makes available to us as means for growing, stabilizing, and delighting us in a pursuit of his glory. I am going to expound on 7 of them, one each week. We begin with the role of the Bible in our lives.

1. Walking in the Word

Joshua 1:8 "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."

Psalm 1:1-2 "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night."

Matthew 4:4 "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

God intends that every person who is a follower of Jesus would be reading the Bible at least twice a day, in the morning and at night. Jesus says reading the Bible is more important than even eating and most eat at least three times a day. By having a devotional reading time in the evening you prepare your mindset for the morning and by having a devotional reading time in the morning you prepare yourself for the day and it's challenges. This does not take long and can be the most valuable 5-10 minutes that you spend in your entire day. Here are some helpful things I do.

Try reading through a book of the Bible. In the morning I am currently reading through the Psalms. The Psalms are great because you read words from a real person, honest about his struggles and hardship, and yet you always read of his persistent resolve to pursue and glorify God. In the evening, Amy and I read together and we just finished 1st & 2nd Corinthians not long ago. If you are married or have children, you should spend some time each day reading the Bible together.

Try reading a chapter in the morning and then re-read that chapter again at night and see how much you remembered throughout the day. When you read something in the morning try and jot down on a piece of paper something that really stuck out to you, or if you don't have paper, just make a mental note of it and try think about it several times during the day. For example, yesterday I read Psalm 56 in the morning, the last verse of Psalm 56 says, "You have delivered my soul from death, yes my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life." So all through the day I kept praying, God help me to walk in the light of life. When I was watering our lawn, I stood there with the water hose and thought, God help me to walk in the light of life. When in the evening Amy and I sat down to watch some TV, I thought, God help me to walk in the light of life.

Try reading the text from the previous week's Sunday sermon and contemplating what the words mean and how they might apply to your life. I practice this often, not just because I am the one preaching but it is good to always be learning and growing in your knowledge of God's Word. So if you have time to get some study aids and look a few words up or read something theology book related to a subject in the text, this can be a great aid in your attempt to become one who walks in God's Word.

Walking in the Word means always having the words of the Bible on our mind. In order to do that you need to read the Bible. If you are not a good reader, don't be discouraged, like everything, just practice and you will get better and better. In ancient Mesopotamia people were into worshipping idols made of metal or gold, gods they could see. One of the biggest things which made the people of God distinct was that their God was not a God you could see but one who revealed himself through words in a book. This is the reason why the ancient people of God were often known as "the people of the book." That is our identity as Christians, we are to be a people of the book, not just because it is the source for our beliefs but because it is our way of life.

May God enrich you all as you spend time reading the Bible this week.
~Pastor Duane

2. Meditation

Psa 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psa 77:12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.

In our day and age, most of us, when we hear the word "meditation," automatically think of eastern meditation, where the goal is to empty your mind in attempt to gain relaxation and tranquility.

Here is an excerpt from the Upanishad, "OM! This syllable is the whole world...the past, the present, the future - everything is just the word OM...For truly everything here is Brahman, this self, Atman, is Brahman...Meditate as OM. The wise man should surrender his words to his mind and this he should surrender to the knowing self and the knowing self he should surrender to the great self and that he should surrender to the peaceful self."

Many taking this to heart use the practice of chanting in a low voice the word "om" and try to empty their mind of everything bothering them, everything that is anything and to just be at one with everything.

The Bible encourages and even commands us to meditate (Josh 1:8) but this is not what is meant by biblical meditation. The word for meditate, here in both of these passages is the Hebrew word, hagut. The word can be connected with things like whispers and moans...especially when it is used of animals like a cow who make noises as they chew the cud, swallow it, regurgitate it and chew it some more. When connected with the word of God, to meditate is to ponder, to take in, to think about, and make plans in accordance with.

Such meditation is far different than the eastern concept. Christian meditation is not an attempt to empty one's mind and recognize one's connection with the world, but rather to fill one's mind with the things of God and his word. It is to take theology deep into the heart, to think about God and think about the cross and think about the gospel...over and over and over again. It is to have your thoughts transformed and shaped outlook of Scripture.

Our minds our already empty enough, we don't need to empty them any more, we need to fill them and teach them to think right. Don't get me wrong, not everything eastern is bad, just misplaced. Making moans or whispering words can be a great tool.

For hundreds of years many Godly Christians have used "breath prayers" to meditate, where in short whispers, you repeat the same prayer over and over again. You can make up your own, use one that is in the Bible, or use one developed by the saints. Often I use the Jesus Prayer. It goes like this, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me." My dad used to use it when I was growing up, he just didn't know it had a name and he shortened it a little bit to "Jesus help!" Or some just mutter the word, "cross" over and over again. The practice is good it's just that there is much better stuff to meditate with than the word, OM.

Another practice, which is a gift God gives to some is the ability to speak in tongues. Not other languages, but a language unknown to yourself, and known only by God and possibly angels. By using the gift of tongues you can communicate the emotions of your heart which you are unable to put into words, and God hears and understands. If you don't know if you have this gift you can try in the privacy of your prayer and meditation and see if it feels comfortable, if it doesn't you probably don't have the gift. If it does feel comfortable and profitable than use it and enjoy it.

Meditation is meant to be a part of the Christian life. If you don't meditate it is easy for the state of your heart to just go unchecked. So I encourage you, meditate on the Lord regularly and you will be blessed.

-Pastor Duane

This week we look at prayer.

There are many spiritual disciplines God makes available to us as means for growing, stabilizing, and delighting us in a pursuit of his glory. I am expounding on 9 of them, one each week.

For many how one is to live as a Christian in this world is a huge question mark. The result is often a compartmentalization, where your Christian self fits into Sunday mornings and the rest of the week is a different story. I want to help us all have a picture of what the regular Christian life is to look like.

3. Walking in Prayer

Phillippians 4:6 "…in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."

Prayer is a big subject. For those who do not know God, it seems a crutch for those who are weak. For those who know God, it is currency of the relationship. We speak to God in prayer and he speaks to us in His Word, the Bible. How do you pray? Do you ever feel like you want pray but when you go to pray you are not quite sure what to say? It is easy to pray in crisis when you have a direct immediate need, but how about regular every day prayer life?

I don't think there are any set ways you are supposed to pray every time. In fact I think God provides a myriad of ways so that we will not get stuck in religious duty in our prayer life. So here is a smattering of things that can help stimulate your prayer life on any given day.

You can try and start theologically from the top down, acknowledging and thanking God of who he is and what he has done in history and in your life. You can pray through certain doctrines of the Bible, like God's sovereignty or justification. You can pray the prayers of the Bible, there a ton in the Psalms and New Testament letters. Or you can begin with yourself and how you are feeling and communicate to God what is on your heart and mind.

I find that it is a totally different experience to pray outloud. This often enables you to be much more focused and engaged while you pray. In addition, sometimes the posture of your body can greatly enhance or effect your prayer. So try kneeling sometimes while you pray or laying prostrate, face down on the ground. In this way you communicate a humility and acknowledgement of who you are talking to.

Often times some patterns or tools can be helpful. The Lord's prayer is an excellent prayer to pray either word for word or as a pattern. As a pattern, you begin with acknowledging God as Father and speak of his perfections, then you pray for his work to be done in your heart and in the heart of others here on earth, then you pray for help for the particular day and recognize your great spiritual need which is greater than the need for food, then you think of sins you may have recently committed and confess them and ask for forgiveness, then you pray for spiritual protection against evil particularly praying for areas of sin you have fallen in some time before.

Another pattern people have used is the five finger prayer. For you thumb you pray for your friends and family (because your thumb is your tallest finger), for your forefinger you pray for your pastor and teachers (because they point you in the right direction), for your middle finger you pray for the political government (because they are the tallest), for your ring finger you pray for the weak and needy and those who don't know Jesus (because it is the weakest finger), and lastly for the pinky you pray for yourself (because you and your pinky are the smallest). Some people use acronymns like A.C.T.S. and follow that pattern of (A)doration (C)onfession (T)hanksgiving (S)upplication. Others use prayer lists. Personally, I have a list of names on a piece of paper that I pray through every day.

Prayer is important, it aligns our heart with God. We need it because we are very prone to go astray. In prayer we can make requests but we need beware not to treat God as some cosmic vending machine and get upset if he doesn't answer the way we want. It has been said, God always answers, sometimes his answer is yes, yes and here is more, sometimes no, or sometimes no, not yet.

I've read a lot of books on prayer. Some are written with the intent to ignite a passion. Some are written with the intent of communicating the practical need. The best book I have found is "Prayer" by Richard Foster. In it Foster surveys all the different types and ways of Christian praying. If you are interested in becoming a better prayerer I'd encourage you to check that out and to just spend more and more time praying. Jesus said his house is to be a house of prayer. Let us be that house.

-Pastor Duane

There are many spiritual disciplines God makes available to us as means for growing, stabilizing, and delighting us in a pursuit of his glory. I am expounding on 9 of them, one each week in my blog.

This week we look at the biblical discipline of rest. This is a discipline I have not been good at and lately I have been spending more time trying to work on, learn it and develop it in my life. Here is what I have been learning...

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God;

Exodus 20:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Hebrews 4:9-11,14 There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest...[through the] great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God.

For some, rest is not difficult for you. You are like professional resters. You sleep in, play most the day, and regularly dismiss anything difficult or challenging that might enter your mind. So some of you need to learn about the discipline of work! :) But some of those practices are actually good things that those who work hard and sometimes work too much need to learn.

What is rest? The wikipedia lord says it is to relax or take time off, lesiure, a period of relative inactivity to allow recovery and growth. The Bible's definition is "Sabbath," a solemn day of ceasing from work and focusing on or worshipping God. The problem comes when we think we need rest from God. We never need rest away from him, he is the source of rest. He rested on the seventh day after creating the universe in six, not because he was tired, but to give us a universal (pre-fall, pre-covenant) example to follow.

I think rest plays itself out in two main way, one on the individual level and one on the community level. First the individual level. Every human needs a day to stop his normal way of life activities and to sort of take spiritual inventory and spiritual leisure. For me, much of my work as a Pastor is a build up to Sunday. So I take Monday off. I begin my Monday by trying to stop and think in the morning about how I am doing spiritually in my walk with Christ and try to just sort of take a step back and enjoy God without any distraction or worries about time.

I have learned this is not easy. So I picked up a book I have been reading through called "The Hard Work of Rest." It really is a discipline to rest because things enter my head so easily that can disrupt that spirit of rest and relaxation. So now, Monday morning I turn off my cell phone and computer and hide them for the day, not to be touched until Tuesday morning.

I have learned that rest takes work, I have to guard my mind and not allow myself to think about any of the things which have to do with my normal way of life. So, since I am a pastor...yes and sorry everyone, there is one day a week when my goal is not to think about you and that is because I love you too much to allow myself to get burnt out on being a pastor. :)

Lastly, I am learning that it is important for me to go do something fun, like surfing or going to a movie or reading a new book...doing something which I enjoy and am not able to do everyday. With all of these things in place, I am able to wake up early Tuesday morning and feel refreshed and ready for the next week.

As for the community level, we are intended and made by God to worship and enjoy him together...essentially to rest in him together. Yes, all rest involves work of some kind and it is a lot of work to get the family together to go to church and put on a church service. But like the individual level, it is a different way of worship then our normal everyday communion with God. And it is rest together because of the effect it has in our souls. That is why the Sabbath is so important, why Hebrews 10:25 says "not to neglect assembling ourselves together." The human being is made to worship God with other human beings, at least one day a week.

At the risk of sounding condescending or condemning...I think I have witnessed a somewhat odd thing about Sunday worship for Christians in San Diego. Sunday it seems for some is a dispensible thing, like one will come to church if they feel like it or if there is something else going on or if you don't have to work. Now, I am not saying you can never go on vacation, I think vacations are a great application of the biblical principle of rest. The point is that the normal weekly life is for a Christian to be at church every Sunday.

Sunday is supposed to be a very important day for Christians together. As a body, when one person is not there they are missed and in a sense several other people's worship is decreased because part of the family was missing. When I don't see some of you guys on Sunday I am saddened and worried for you and hope everything is okay. Church is family, we are a family...so let us be a family of people who make a commitment together to be together on Sundays, even if it means turning down other things or potentially good jobs and not making other plans on Sunday, all because we love Jesus, our God and savior and we really love each other.

Rest is an important spiritual discipline. To steal some of St. Augustine's words, "we are restless until we rest." We need spiritual rest. Rest on the individual level and rest on the communal level. Real rest in Jesus Christ. Much love to you all.

- Pastor Duane

For many how one is to live as a Christian in this world is a huge question mark. The result is often a compartmentalization, where your Christian self fits into Sunday mornings and the rest of the week is a different story. In a picture of what the regular Christian life looks like, this is a discipline God intendes to be regular fixture.

This week we look at the Spiritual Discipline of SOLITUDE.

There is a lifestyle unique to being a Christian which takes time, education, and development to grow in...especially when you live in a land where concrete, cars, computers, and cell phones rule the land. Last week we looked at the discipline of rest, it is funny how much of the inventions of our age are actually tools to help us work harder. This week's discipline focuses on the individual's need to be alone sometimes.

Matthew 6:6 "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Matthew 14:13 "Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself."

Sometimes life can just seem to be noise and you can't drown it out no matter how hard you try. Jesus here teaches us the important of getting away and getting alone and getting with God. Interesting things happen to you when you get alone with no distractions.

In the summer of 1998 I traipsed around Europe by myself for two weeks with a backpack and my surfboard and my surfboard stuffed with Bibles to give away to people I got in conversations with about the gospel. When I was in Portugal it was easy because lots of people there knew English. When I was in Spain it was very difficult because hardly anyone spoke English and I was traveling to all these obscure little towns on the coast where there was supposed to be good surf.

I remember there was a period of time when I didn't speak for over three days. I remember being in my room in this hostel and wondering if I could still even talk and so I spoke a few words just to make sure I still could. Someone when you don't talk and you are buy yourself and you don't fill up the time watching movies, tv, or listening to music...something happens. You start to think and the voice of God becomes much louder when you open up his book and read or bend down your knees to pray. Several things were clarified for me on that trip...my calling to be a preacher, that I loved Amy and wanted to marry her one day, and that Europe desperately needs the gospel.

Solitude isn't easy. We are surrounded by people and things so much of the time. You may even be a loner and not really spend time with people that much but you are still always in the presence of something. Solitude is different. It is designated time to get away and be alone. Sometimes for days at a time, sometimes for a day sometimes for a few hours.

Jonathan Edwards knew about the discipline of solitude. Sometimes he would leave and walk out the front door and tell his wife Sarah he was going to go take a walk to "contemplate divine things" and be alone. Often, I will go down to the southern part of the Sunset Cliffs here in San Diego, just to clear my head. Down there it doesn't even seem like you are in the city. It just makes it easier to tell my God about all the things that are bothering me and to look to Jesus and strengthen myself in the grace of his cross.

If you haven't done so recently, let me encourage you to just get away for awhile and go be by yourself. When I was in seminary they took us up to big bear for a weekend. We didn't know what to expect, but the first night we showed up they handed us a sleeping bag and a flashlight and told us to take our Bible and go get lost and not to come back until afternoon the next day. I was like "what!" Maybe you need to do that, or maybe you just for a little while you need to go to a place of different surroundings and not take anything or anybody with you and be alone in solitude. Walk with Jesus, folllow him and do that and may God minister to and build up your soul.

-Pastor Duane

This week we look at the Spiritual Discipline of SERVING.

When we speak of spiritual discipline we are talking about the shape or the form or the normal way of life of a Christian. It is my goal in this series of blogs to help us know more of what our everday perspective and activity should be as followers of Jesus.

Mat 20:26-28 "It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

1 Pet 2:16 "Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God."

Serving is a big topic. It is closely connected to the very purpose for which we were made as humans, to serve or glorify God. When we do not do that we are serving something or someone else, but we are always serving.

What is it to serve? From ancient kings who had handmaidens to fan them with palm branches to the hip hop artist or pop singer or movie star on the front of a magazine...people have thought the goal in life or the good life is to be a person where you are served.

The Bible teaches that there is only one who is to be served and that is God alone. The way of life for a Christian is to be a way of service. This is the way Jesus taught us and the way in which will truly satisfy us. When we are not actively serving God, either in our everyday operational perspective or not practically do anything to contribute to God's kingdom...then we are in danger.

We are not to serve God as though he needs us to or the job will not get done (Acts 17:25). We are to serve because that is what we were made to do and we are most satisfied as humans when we are serving Jesus rather than serving anyone or anything else.

This does not necessarily mean where you go to church or what you do at church...but it is your perspective. Whether the world is yours to be taken and used at your disposal or whether it is something you join in praise to God with and use to profit the gospel.

Human beings are meant to serve and worship Jesus and his church. What are you currently committed to doing for Jesus' church? Who each day are you making it your goal to serve? If you are serving God what is your motive? Why are you serving? What is it to serve?

God is to be at the forefront of our heart and devotion and if he is we will easily lapse into serving something else and we will end up miserable for it. So make it your daily discipline to serve Jesus. If you haven't done something outside of your normal way of life to serve God do that htis week and start making a habit of it. Walk through each day with an attitude of service. If you don't contribute your time, talents or treasure to Jesus' church, start doing that. In everything it is not people you are serving but the Lord God who is pleased with the discipilne of service. And when he is pleased we are ushered into the life of praise are intended for.

-Pastor Duane

In this final week on Spiritual Disciplines, we look at WORSHIP.

Discipline means creating regular thought patterns and life practices you regularly live out on a daily basis. To be disciplined is to be Christian. Without discipline a person's life will lapse into a vague spirituality which merely follows the whim of emotion and ends up creating a very piecemeal character, run rampad with sin, and going nowhere.

John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Worship is about who we are as human beings, who our god is, and how that effects our lives. As human beings we cannot but be worshippers. We are people who adore things. Everyone worships. To worship is to cherish and enjoy something or someone. We worship sports teams, bands, our husband, wife or kids, food, the ocean and all sorts of beautiful things. They are the things we spend our money and heart on. Everyone worships.

Yet there is a great difference in who we worship. The call in the Bible is to do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). That means human beings are made and intended to do everything as worship of God. Our lives are intended to be an array of sorted worship to our divine Lord. Thus there are no mundane things. There are only things done out of a heart and mind of love and worship of God and things which are not. And when they are not we are not worshipping the true God.

There are all different kinds or ways of worshipping God. It has been a long time frustration of mine in Christian circles when the musical aspect of corporate singing in church is called "worship." It isn't when we do that it isn't worship, but everything else is also worship. Too often there is a certain feeling which can be experienced in a group singing songs to our God together, which gets equated as "worship." That feeling isn't what makes it worship. You can feel that at a concert of your favorite band when everyone is singing along at the top of their lungs. They may be drunk but feeling is not unsimilar. :)

What makes something worship is whether it glorifies God. And what glorifies God is thinking, feeling, and acting in light of who he is and what he has done. Life is supposed to be a continual outpouring of worship to God, where everything we do is soaked with an attitude or worship. It becomes the drive and the heart behind everything. As I type on my computer, I am doing it out of a life of worship. As I eat my breakfast I am thinking of God as my provider and his nourishment. As I walk down the street and enjoy the sun and the crisp air I recognize that I walk in God's world and I am his.

And then there are our spiritual disciplines...different forms of worship, where we take time and a committ to seeking out our God to know him and grow up into his Son Jesus. So we daily do things like read the Bible and pray and on one day we set aside all our normal way of worship to worship in a different way, with God's people. So we go to church and our conversations are worship, our song is worship, our study of God's word is worship, our taking communion is worship. It is all worship and what makes it worship is if it is true about God, if our hearts our effected in response, and we then make decisions and act in light of it.

So let us worship God. Have no other gods in your worship. But wash all your activities in worship of his name and on Sunday let us come together to join in a glorious partaking of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ.

- Pastor Duane
So, two Sunday's ago a reporter from the San Diego Reader showed up at church to review it for a column he writes called Sheep & Goats. The article comes out tomorrow, so we'll see what ends up coming out. I figure it can't be that bad, but we'll see.

The phrase "sheep and goats" actually comes from the Bible, and it is a pretty interesting title for a column, considering it's intended meaning Jesus.

The passage is from Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus says that, when he returns, he will separate the true believers (sheep) from the false believers (goats) and either grant reward in heaven or punishment in hell. The false believers are identified as those who paid lip service to Jesus but did not have a lot of follow-through in their actions. The true believers are identified as the ones who did not just say they served Jesu,s but their way of life and their heart coincided with their confession.

Jesus makes this statment in that story: "(whenever you do something) to the least of my brothers you did it to me". (Mt 25:40). Colossians 3:23-24 says something similar: "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." We must remember that we are servants of Jesus pursuing his glory, not out of guilt and not out of an abuse of his grace, but out of a servant's heart, for if we forget we may find ourselves looking a lot like a goat.

The whole sheep and goats thing and the subject of our service and how we serve reminded me of a section in Mark Driscoll's book, Confessions of a Reformission Reverend, where he compares church members to different animals. Read through these various animals and consider what one you might be and what you you know God wants you to become.

- Horses are vibrant leaders who pull a lot of weight and run fast. Horses need to have character, sound doctrine, and agree with the vision of the church.
- Colts are emerging leaders who need training, testing, and opportunities to lead. If properly broken in, a colt can be developed into a horse.
- Fish are non-Christians who are spiritually lost and often not actively looking for God. Fish need a Christian friend to lovingly introduce them to Jesus and his church.
- Eagles are skilled leaders who are being developed within the church with the express kingdom purpose of leaving the proverbial nest and leading a ministry elsewhere, such as missions work and church planting.
- Mules are faithful workers who dependably and continually do whatever is asked of them in the church. Mules need to be thanked and protected from burnout.
- Cows are selfish people who wander from church to church, chewing up resources without ever giving back to the church until they kill it. A fence needs to be built around the church to keep the cows out.
- Squirrels are people who are generally liked because they are nice, but they rarely do anything meaningful. Squirrels need to be put to work in the church.
- Stray cats are socially peculiar loners who linger around the church. Stray cats need a friend to help bring them into the church and an opportunity to serve other people so that they can be meaningfully connected to the church.
- Rats are people who appear to have the potential to have a fruitful ministry, but they lack dependability, humility, or maturity. Rats need to be rebuked, and if they do not repent, they must be strategically ignored until they commit to no longer being a waste of time and effort.
- Sheep are people who have legitimate needs that require patient and loving support. Examples of sheep include widows, orphans, and those who are seriously ill or fighting addictions. Sheep need to be loved and served.
- Ducks are disgruntled people who continually quack about whatever they are unhappy about. Ducks need to stop quacking, or the pastor(s) must go duck hunting before the ducks drown out everyone and everything else in the church.
- Wolves are false teachers whom satan sends into the church to devour Jesus' sheep. Wolves need to be quickly identified, rebuked, and if they are unrepentant, they must be shot before their false teaching destroys people in the church.
- Snakes are evil people sent by the serpent on a mission to destroy the church through anything from sexual sin to starting rumors. Leaders must stomp on the heads of snakes before they bite people and infect them with deadly venom."

If you find you're an animal you don't like you need to kill your animal and go get a new one. That is what the gospel is about, taking us from where we are and changing us as we grasp with increasing passion the greatness of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. In the kingdom of God, goats become sheep, snakes become horses, and the great lion of Judah is our shepherd. May the blood of Jesus enrich you this week, for it covers a multitude of sins and works deeply in our hearts.
- Pastor Duane
It may not have seemed to many to be a very Christian thing to do, but on Sunday afternoon after church and after the frustrating loss of our San Diego football team (The Chargers), I went to see Resident Evil 3: Extinction with a couple of the men in the church. Before the onslaught of moral accusations about why a pastor would be interested in seeing such "R"-rated evil gore, just give me a chance to share with you about resident evil and gospel repentance.

First off it is hard not to like these kinds of movies if you are a guy. They are simple. There are bad guys, and there are good guys, and the good guys kill the bad guys. It doesn't matter to me if it is a zombie movie, a cop movie, or whatever…if you've got that storyline, I'm in. That story is something that resonates with the moral fiber of our being. We sense wrong and know it ought to be punished and crushed and destroyed and have its head cut off with a machette. For the girls out there who are like, "what does this have to do with me"…you are the princesses and we do it for you, to protect you, because you are our prize jewels!

If you are not familiar with Resident Evil, it began as a video game and then was made into a movie a few years back. The basic tenet is the same as most modern zombie movies. A virus breaks out that, when your blood comes in contact with it, you turn into a flesh-eating monster. Now, I'm sure that the screenwriters and directors do not do a lot of philosophical thought of the worldview they are attempting to communicate, but I could not help but think of the picture of the gospel latent in the operating paradigm of the film. There is a virus, which corrupts and contaminates humans, and the only one who emerges is a superhuman person who is stronger, smarter, and more pure.

This is the gospel. That all of us have been contaminated by the virus of sin, and we have a propensity or instinct or natural reaction of destroying ourselves and those around us. It starts in the heart - in our self-absorbed mental and emotional affections - and it plays itself out in many, many ways. It can be attitudes and bad thoughts about others that no one sees. Then those things almost always lead to more noticeable actions.

This week in our gospel membership class we are discussing total depravity. I don't think I could ever emphasize too strongly how much this is the case. That every faculty of our beings is contaminated by the virus of sin. We are quick to find fault with others and slow to find fault with ourselves. This is what is great about Jesus. The gospel says God sees and knows the resident evil within all of us and he sends Jesus to do somthing about it.

All of us were made in God's image…beautiful and pure, but sin has turned us all into flesh-ravaging monsters. We may look good on the outside, but as Jesus once said, our hearts are like a den of venomous vipers. But Jesus is the one who is stronger and wiser and purer, and he died on a cross to take care of the poison of sin once and for all. It takes a while - a lifetime in fact - for the anti-venom to reach all the crevices in the depth of our souls, which is why we must continually find our supply at the cross. And in order to do that we must lead a life of continual repentance.

Repetance is a word which means both sorrow and change of mind and living. This is Reformation month, because on October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of Wittenburg and that changed everything. On the last Sunday of this month, I'll preach a sermon on the 5 solas of the reformation. But for now let me give you the first few words: "Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ…willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." Martin Luther emphasizes that the way we make progress in the gospel is through repentance.

Let me quote Pastor Tim Keller concerning repentance:
Our hope is in Christ‘s righteousness, not our own, so it is not so traumatic to admit our weaknesses and lapses…the more accepted and loved in the gospel we feel the more and more often we will be repenting. And though of course there is always some bitterness in any repentance, in the gospel there is ultimately a sweetness. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. The more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God‘s grace appears to you. (And) the more aware you are of God‘s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more you able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions of your sin. The sin under all other sins is a lack of joy in Christ.

We take communion every week at The Resolved Church. One of the reasons for that is this: repenting for the resident evil in us so that we might be changed by the gospel and find our joy and strength in the power of Christ alone. And such repentance is not just a Sunday act but our way of life. May God make us a humble, quick-to- admit fault, repenting family who is being changed as we believe in the gospel together.

- Pastor Duane