Rethinking Abraham

At the end of last year I felt both I & Soo and many of my disciples needed a reading plan for the Bible. And I hadn’t read thru the Bible in a while. Well 10 days in, so far so good. We’ve been reading an OT passage and a NT passage and it has been very helpful to see the correlation.


Also though i have read these passages so many times before, The Holy Spirit continues to illuminate and give fresh understanding.


I always used to think of Abraham a a mostly good guy who made a few mistakes… he had great faith, but struggled a couple of times… as a frail, gentle man who found it easy to submit to God… but perhaps i have had it all wrong, and he, like everyone else in the Bible is not just a flawed person, but a pretty awful person.


1st he put his life above his wife- not once, but twice. I never really got that, but more so now, it seems not only cowardice but so self-centered.


It is easy to think he was just a cowadly man by nature, maybe weak, frail – after all he was old- but was he? Even though 80 is very old now, and old to some degree then, he would live several more years, He fought in battle and was victorious.  So, his move to protect himself was not one of simple disadvantage but selfish self-protection.


He certainly did not express faith in God to protect him, despite all of God’s promises. He certainly did not act in righteousness to love and protect his wife. He was living for self and trusting himself


Then, he not only did this to his wife, but also took Hagar as a mistress- to the shame of his wife and bore a son. He did not honor his covenant with Sarai or with God. He again lacks faith in God’s promise. He again tries to take things into his own control. He was  trying to help God fulfill his proimise- but he didn’t need to.


See perhaps he thought he was helping God. Perhaps he thought this was God’s provision. But ungodly mean, or means not according to God’s will or plan is ultimately dishonoring God and lacking faith in God himself.


Furthermore, this act was unloving, selfish and disrespectful. This is not the way God leads. His decision wound up resulting in hurt to Sarai, Hagar, Ishmael, and all of his own descendents.

He tried to take a short-cut to God’s will and wound up further away.


Then not only that, but then he disregards Hagar. He lets her and his son go out into the wilderness to die…

Once again God intervenes. He rescues Hagar and Ishamel and ultimately Abram from the consequences of sin. God reveals Himself as One who sees, hears and rescues.


The hero of the story is not Abram but any means, God is.


We are much like Abram, we are selfish and self-centered. We care for ourselves more than others, even those we love. We may hear from God and want to follow Him, but we easily revert back to serving ourselves and trusting ourselves.


Abram may be seen as a man of faith, but more often than not he trusted in his own methods and his own plans and wisdom. Sometimes perhaps he thought he was doing the right thing, helping God out but ultimately was trusting himself.

We too  trust ourselves. We are not patient enough to listen to God and follow His ways. We think we know better than God or that our way is just as good.

We more love the prize or reward or blessing God offers rather than God Himself.


Jesus, however, fully trusted God. After fasting for 40 days He was hungry, and eating is a blessing God gives. Satan however tempted Him to turn stones into bread. He could do that, but it was not God’s way. Jesus came to build a kingdom and Satan offered it to Him without all the suffering God the Father called him to. Jesus however would not worship satan, he didn’t take the short-cut, He obeyed God to the end.


In the end Abraham would trust God and offer his son on the altar. He did this not because he was physically weak or timid, but even though he was strong and could have tried to fight or could have opposed based even on what God had promised- he trusted God. He submitted, he surrendered.


We too need to learn to submit ourselves to God. It is easy to say we trust God, but it is much more difficult to actually surrender.


When I address students they say they are surrendered, but when I bring up a particualr topic such as going on a mission or giving their lives to missions or giving money, or trusting God with their finances- they say they can’t do that. They have to protect themselves, take care of themselves, they have expectations to fill.


We easily delude ourselves, much like Abram. Satan tempted Jesus, he will surely try to decieve us.


We may think we are strong or smart, but we must humbly submit ourselves to God, look to the example of Jesus and trust in Jesus to direct our steps and paths.


We can rest in the gospel, recognizing that even Abram was a wicked, wicked man. And though we may fail, God will not fail us, He will always be faithful. And after each failure is an opportunity to trust God again. Our righteousness, our worth, God’s love toward us is not based on how good we are or even how full of faith we are- but in Christ and His work on our behalf.


Let’s keep walking with Him, and allow Him to correct us, and learn how to trust Him fully, completely



Dear God, I thank You that You are faithful and patient. You do not give up on me. You do not grow weary of me, but continually instruct me and redirect me and restore me. You cover my mistakes and my sins. You forgive me and give me another chance to obey and follow You. I confess i am selfish, self-centered and trust in myself, my ways, my plans, my methods more than You. i confess i seek blessing more than i seek You. Lord, teach me Your ways, guide me & help me follow You. Reveal Yourself and Your will that i may honor You and bless others. I submit to You and want to trust you, help me in my unbelief. Be glorified in me. Amen


my top tv shows and movies of 2017

I felt pretty exhausted, and that led to watching a lot of tv and movies. We got cable again at the end of the year which was awesome, and meant more sports. We also got a couple free months of hulu… Here are the tv shows and movies i enjoyed…

Top Tv shows of 2017

  1. Brooklyn 99
    Enjoyed every episode. Far and away my favorite show this year

  2. Around the horn
  3. Voltron
  4. Fresh off the boat
  5. Blackish
    losing some on me, but still hits big issues and i am still like Dre
  6. Community
    wish I could have watched more. Very interesting gathering of diverse people, Quirky and funny.

  7. New girl
    quirky, fun, but at times annoying.
  8. Stranger things
    not as good as season one, but still entertaining. Got better as the season went on
  9. Veep
  10. Friends
    still makes me laugh, still a go to

  11. Master of None
    not as good as season one. but i give love to my doppleganger

  12. The good place
    only watched a few episodes. It got a lot of acclaim, it got better as i kept watching, and I imagine it will get better, but my nbetflix subscription ran out
  13. Sherlock
    Not as bad as everyone made it out to be, but still a bit disappointing


Best Movies i saw for the first time in 2017

The movie i most wanted to see this year was Thor 3 Ragnorak – and I didn’t get to see it.

I didn’t like the new star wars movie- not for the reasons everyone else hated it- it was just too cheesy, not enough good fight scenes, and overly political.

I really like kid movies now.

  1. Moana 9.5/10
    All about identity, great music. Halle loves it
  2. Trolls 9.4/10
    Halle says she likes this more, but she barely watches it. It was actually quite good
  3. La La Land 9.3/10
    Took Soo to see this for her birthday last year. i think i was the only guy there. still, incredibly sad movie and incredibly well done, Probably deserved all the awards it got and didn’t
  4. Hidden Figures 9.3/10
    So informative, so good.
  5. Sing 8.5/10
    Kids love this one. Fun, but not as deep or as entertaining
  6. Masterminds 8/10
  7. Imitation Game 8/10
  8. Secret life of pets 7.5/10
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 7/10
  10. The Big Sick 7/10
    I wanted to like this more. Ray Romana is great, and so is the lead girl…

My best books of 2017

These are the best books I read (or finished) in 2017.  Didn’t read a ton this year, but most of the books I read were really good. And the authors were pretty diverse.

13. You are what you love by James K.A. Smith 7.5/10
I liked the main idea of the book- what you love is more important than what you know. It was pretty simple, but had a huge impact on my thoughts- see i think a lot- but i need focus on loving God and helping others love God, more than just know truths about Him. (the book was a little long and heady however)

12. Leadership As Identity by Crawford Lorrits 7.5/10
A very simple book. But much needed. Humility. Practice it. Something I want to go thru with up and coming spiritual leaders for sure

11. Now, you’re speaking my language by Gary Chapman 8/10
A pattern you may recognize- nothing profound, still very helpful.

10. The Man Christ Jesus by Bruce Ware 8.1/10
Amazingly profound. The first few chapters were amazing, things I hadn’t thought much about before. But some chapters seemed superflous. Gives a lot of thoughts about Jesus as a human and the implications for us. Highly recommended


9. The Gospel for Muslims by Thibati 8.3/10
I really liked this book. It is a pretty easy read and short. The main idea- the Gospel for Muslims is the same Gospel we need. We complicate it. They need the Gospel.

8. The Next Evangelicalism by Soong Cha Ra 8/10
I probably enjoyed the above books more, but this one was more influential. Read it with out team and it was a bit controversial. He does attack white people a lot in this book, probably more than deserved, but certainly something to consider. Since we are not white, Soo & I didn’t take offense, we just saw sin and areas we could grow. Certainly became an influence- and you will notice a lot of diversity of authors i read this last year

7. The Calling by Brother Andrew 8.4/10
My dad gave me this book 20 years ago, and i finally read it. Enjoyable. A lot taken from the mission field and applied to every day life. The biggest take away: Our primary Calling is not to a place, but to follow Jesus. Lot of good stuff

6. Counter Culture by David Platt 8.5/10
Hits big topics and addresses it with the Gospel. It is hard for me to not like David Platt

5. Multiply by Francis Chan 8.5/10
Good, foundational, fundamental. Really ingrains the idea of being a disciple. Started goign through it with my disciples. A lot of free resources available to go along with it- including the whole being available on an app!

4. More or less by Jeff Shinbarger 8.7/10
I read this at the beginning of the year, so it is not as fresh, but it hugely influential in deciding to pull the trigger on moving and challenging me to be more generous. (only $2.99 on kindle)

The top 3 books were in a league of their own

3. Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson 9.5/10
 A must-read. Eye-opening, challenging.


2. Dream with me by John Perkins 9.7/10
Shares a lot of the struggles for blacks in America. Balanced in speaking toward Black, Whites, Asians. A lot of real life stories. A lot of faith, and a lot of vulnerability.

Book is written with hope and authenticity and challenge. Reads like an autobiography.





1. Parenting by Paul Tripp 9.9/10
Even if you’re not a parent, you could enjoy this book. It’s all about the Gospel, how our kids need it, and how we as parents need it. It’s about trusting Jesus. It is authentic, it is visionary, it is encouraging, it is challenging, it is practical, it’s enjoyable, it is God-honoring. It was the best book we read this year!


Looking back at 2017: A new year, a year of plenty

We have begun a new year, but when I look back at 2017, 2017  was a New Year for us

…a New house, new neighborhood, new van, a new ministry, helped launch a new church plant, new disciples, new teachers and new friends for the kids, new official daughter even. A whole lot of new! God was faithful in it all, used it to stretch us and showed His provision.

2017 was also A Year of Plenty! We were blessed abundantly

God certainly blessed us this year. We were never with need really. After years of low support and barely scraping by, and going over budget- after we moved I have never had to worry about money. Even though we would lose supporters, even though we had CSU this summer and had huge medical bills and have given to others. We have not been in need. God has provided- our accounts have overflowed! Even if we host more people for meals and have added new people we support. God has taken care of us.

Our new house is good size, and we just got the attic done, which is huge.
Our van got totaled, but we got a nicer, newer version of what we had before.

It hasn’t all been material things, but we have had plenty amazing experiences. We went to the Oceans, the Mountains and City. We hit major cities: LA, Chicago, St Louis, Detroit, Denver, Indy of course, KC, Cincy and San Diego!  We didn’t go overseas but we got plenty of great experiences in the states.We went to a ton of parks, museums, splash pads and water parks. We spent a summer in Colorado, seeing a ton of mountains, going to the Garden of the gods in Colo Springs and Estes Park.

We also had plenty of people in our family – and we’re growing a lot! We officially added Paige to our family.  Kids are reading on their own and learning the piano.
I took Josiah to a baseball game in Kaufman stadium, we all visited the Arch, and the fantastic City Museum. Halle got to a hold a butter fly (a dream come true!), and we ended the year with a beautiful day at the beach and a visit to Lego-land! Kids are growing, and getting bigger and so are we(not all of that is good)

Our new church family has been great and God is working in us! I am growing in understanding Justice and Grace, growing in Christ-likeness and awareness

God has plenty taken care of us

  • Our house sold quickly
  • We were able to close on the new house in the nick of time
  • We didn’t die the first night
  • Or die when the van was totaled
  • And neither did mom and dad where their car was totaled

We experienced plenty when we were able to take the summer in Colorado, and not just enjoy the weather and ambiance, but it was quite more refreshing than a sabbatical summer, because the kids were in child care. All ministry and house responsibilities were taken away from us for a while, and we really enjoyed the classes. Soo & i got to spend alone time with each other, we had quiet times to just read and reflect and we went out to some nice breakfast places in Ft Collins, man oh man were Lucille’s and silvergrill good!

It was certainly a year of plenty

2017 was filled with small problems that loomed large– like our kids, and mice in the house. While they could wear us down, these problems really are small and God is big.

2017 was a tragic and terrible year in the US- filled with racial tension and sexual assault. God has been teaching me a lot about this stuff and we see it up close and personal. Those problems hit close to home. We helped many as they went thru these problems and have given voice to seek Justice and Grace and glory to God in the midst of it. God was still bigger then these too!

book reviews

tv & movie reviews

2017 person of the year

I Thank God for this year and thankful for you and thankful for our family. We’re looking forward to 2018 and all the joy it brings!


Jesus didn’t just die to forgive your sins…

I really enjoy sharing the Gospel. I don’t do that much, at least not as much as I think I should.  Sometimes I don’t because I lack opportunity. Often, I’d rather just sit down with a Christian guy during discipleship and dig into their lives or read a good book. Or I feel too awkward to have that conversation with a random person in a restaurant.

The thing is, once I begin sharing my faith and talking about Jesus, I really enjoy it. It is fun and life-giving, and really not that awkward. The thing is, when I share the Gospel with someone else, i wind up sharing it with myself too! I get to hear that wonderful good news again too and get dwell on all of God’s good mercies and grace to us. When i proclaim Christ to someone else, my own heart is awakened to the wonderful reality and exceedingly good news of the gospel – of what Jesus has done for me!

Of course, i get to see God work in someone’s life often. People begin thinking about God, or become comforted or even give their live over to Jesus.


In the past 2 weeks, I have been able to share about Christ with a good amount of students. In several instances, almost each of them, though coming from christian families and going to church often and meeting with us because of an eager desire to be part of a christian organization-  nearly every person, failed to grasp the breadth of the gospel. Perhaps they said follow Jesus or obey Jesus’ teachings but at the root, many said if they were good enough, they would be saved.

One guy even said (and others implied) Jesus died to forgive us of our sin (correct), so if we do more good than bad, then we will be saved (incorrect).


Truth to be told, I don’t think I understood the wonderful doctrine of imputation for a long time either, even beyond college. In fact, even after I joined staff, yea, even this summer reading the Man Christ Jesus, my understanding was further expanded. So, perhaps I should not be so surprised. Indeed, it has made me wonder, how many of you have ever grappled with this for yourself.


The Good News of the Gospel isn’t just the Jesus died to forgive you of your sins. The Good News includes (among many other good things) that Jesus lived a perfect sinless life as well, and gives you His righteousness, when you believe in Him.


It is sometimes called the doctrine of imputation. It is a fun word to say, and may make you sound or feel smarter saying it. But the good news isn’t that you appear smarter or appear more righteous, but indeed in fact, in Christ, we are righteous.

We are not more righteous, we are righteous. That is, it is not like an upgrade, it is not that i am a better person than someone else now.  I have been given the righteousness of Christ. Jesus does not make a path considerably easier, He is the way, He is our righteousness.

This is not to say I no longer need or want to pursue righteousness. In fact, this truth frees me and empowers me  and even encourages me to become more like Christ.

Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve. Grace is giving us something we do not.

Jesus not only forgives our sins. Jesus gives us His righteousness. Jesus didn’t just die for us, He lived for us!

And that is why Ephesians 2:8-9 may seem like an easy out, but actually quite difficult for many to accept. To accept it, means i must completely rely on the work of Christ, rather than myself. IT is to admit i am not good enough or strong enough to merit God’s favor- no matter how much i try, I can’t do it. It is also saying to Christ, I am going to trust that what You did was enough.

We asked someone to explain those verses today and he responded “God is saying to not take advantage of His grace.” I said “While it is true we don’t want to abuse His grace, this verse actually seems to say to not miss out on taking advantage of His grace. It is offered, take it!”

The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is a hard concept to grasp. It is mystical to be sure. How does this happen? How do i just obtain His righteousness? This is where faith comes in. I have to trust what God’s Word says.

When Jesus died on the cross my sin was laid on Him, but also when i trust Him, He gives me His righteousness – it is the Great exchange! And a pretty good deal for us! (Kind of like when the Pacers traded Paul George for Victor Olidapido- OKC got rid of a terrible contract, and received one of the best players in the NBA).


In college someone said it this way- Jesus didn’t die just to return us to the garden of Eden and give us a fresh start. No He did more – Now, we get to heaven.


The Gospel isn’t just a mulligan. The Gospel isn’t merely a fresh start. The good news of the gospel is so much ‘gooder’ than that! It goes beyond that. My relationship with God is secure! His love for me will never, ever end. I can not lose my relationship with Him! Nothing I do! or can do! Will separate me from the love of God. Even just writing about this gets me excited.


See, a few months ago, we adopted our daughter Paige. Right now she loves me. She gets super excited when i come home from work and yells out “Daddy! Daddy!” But she may not always feel that way. Down the line she may not see that we don’t look alike, and perhaps she won’t want to listen to me- our other daughter feels this way already at 6- but no matter what- She will never stop being my daughter. It is official. We have the papers. Her name was officially changed and her birth certificate and everything. It doesn’t say used to be named this. It says she is our daughter. Her name is Paige Hope James.


The same goes for our biological daughter Halle. She often hates us these days. She fights us and disobeys and literally tries to hurt us. To be honest, for us she can sometimes be difficult to like. Her actions and words and choices are certainly discouraging and devestating.
But I never stop loving her. Even when I want to, I can’t. I get so angry, but I can’t stop loving her. My patience boils over and I lose it, but I never lose my desire to love and protect her and bless her.


God’s love for me is so much greater than this. I am very imperfect. I am perhaps the worst dad in the world. I know i am pretty bad at least. God is our perfect Father. And since we are seen as Christ, we are not just treated as forgiven friend, we are indeed the children of God! We have been adopted into His family! And that will never stop.


I asked someone what difference this would make, and he said “probably none. I’d still feel bad when i sinned…”
I responded “Yeah, I can see that. It is perhaps right to feel that way… but what did Adam & Eve do when they sinned? What was their reaction when God came?” They ran away, they hid. “Right, but since Christ has taken away all our sin, and we no longer have to earn our way to God- we no longer need to live in shame or live in fear. We can always come to God. He is always there with open arms.”


The Gospel frees us. I am completely accepted and fully loved. I will still sin, but when I do, i don’t need to hide from God, My relationship is secure. And because of that, it allows me to grow with God and pursue Him and know Him. And oh! What wonderful news that is.