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.

Why did we move again?

Although, we moved in May, we just finished our 2nd month living in our new old house in downtown Muncie.

Finding this house, for the price, seemed like such a good deal, especially in March- it doesn’t have AC, but we’ll be ok. It has not been ok, it has been hot. There is one window AC unit, but it only cools one room, and there are no screens on the windows, so the place becomes unbearable in many ways.

The night we moved in, we had to evacuate because of carbon monoxide- the fire chief said it was good thing the detector went off or you would have died. We had further gas problems as we tried to get a washer & dryer installed, which took way longer than it should have and resulted in a lot of frustration, and still isn’t completely resolved.

The latest news comes as I saw a little furry creature skirt across our living room floor. It was kind of a blur… and as i searched, i couldn’t see anything. I hoped maybe i was imagining something… but sure enough there are mice in the house.

On the plus side, Halle said she saw it, and it makes her happy because it is so cute.

It is the only thing she likes about the new place.
Before we bought the place, the kids were excited. But now they hate it.

When we came back from Colorado, Josiah quipped “this doesn’t feel right.”

It didn’t. We had only lived in the house for 4 weeks before we left for the summer- meaning we actually lived longer in that apt in Fort Collins than we had in our “home.”

We travel a lot and spend a lot of time away from home, so that may seem where we live doesn’t matter that much, but actually it is reverse, we always want some place to come home to.

I miss our old home. As much as I hated it when we lived there. It was quiet, and had a back yard the kids could play in, nice neighbors,carpet on the floors, nice paint on the wall and AC, oh how i miss the AC.

So… why did we move again?

The quick answer is we moved here to have an influence on downtown Muncie, to help bring restoration, to help plant a church, and to glorify God.

We know that to be true, but that isn’t why i ask myself this question, and already started looking at zillow.

No, I ask these questions because what has happened since we moved.

  • We had the stress of pakcing up and moving
  • We almost died our first night in
  • We face unexpected problems and costs with the house
  • Our van got totaled while driving in the new neighborhood
  • The new van got keyed 2 days after we got it
  • Our kids complain about living here all the time
  • And now we have mice

On top of that is this- are we really making a difference? Were we the right people to do this? We haven’t really got out on the best foot with the neighbors.

I mean, after a long day of being with people all day, this introvert isn’t the best at meeting more people. Beyond that the kids demand time and drain energy. We don’t seem to have the time or energy, let alone skill or finances to really make our place look much nicer and improve the neighborhood.

As i read articles, i can feel discouraged that we are not skilled enough or good enough to do the work i want to do.

So, what should I do now? Give up? Make the most of a bad situation? Move? Maybe we’re not the right people for this.

What is happening here?

I was told when i take a step of faith, God would be faithful. God would be with me.

We may look at stories in the Bible and say look those guys took a step of faith and everything worked out for them- how come it doesn’t for me?

We read that Shadrach, Meshach and Abdenego say “Our God will deliver us and even if He does not…” or that Esther says “If I perish, I perish…” but in neither case do they suffer. They are delivered

The lie I have been fed to believe (And that i often may even promote) is once i take a step of faith, everything else will be easy.
The hardest thing is getting on the plane. The hardest thing is leaving behind. Then everything else will work out.

Certainly that first step is hard, in fact it may be the hardest thing- but that doesn’t mean the rest of the way is easy.

When i lived in East Asia i noticed this a lot. There was an attitude of, i took a step of faith to leave America and come here, now i don’t need to take any more steps of faith.

If we look at history and look at the Bible we’ll see this certainly isn;t the case.

Abraham had to leave his country, leave his home- which was hard. But his journey didn’t end there.

And yes when Abraham went to sacrifice his son, God did stop him and provided a lamb for him to sacrifice instead- yet that does not mean his journey was not difficult!

Paul was spared death repeatedly, constantly delivered. On the flip side he suffered all the more because of it. He was grieved by physical pain but also emotional pain.

Moses was a reluctant follower- and what was his reward? Basically everything he feared and worse. Rejection, new trial after new trial and constant criticism.

He appeared to Pharaoh and was rejected. In fact the first time he came instead of letting the people go, he made their labor even harder! The people of Israel he came to help, hated him.  He had to go to Pharaoh not just two or three times, but ten times(!) before the people were finally delivered. And even then Pharaoh again pursued him – and the people of Israel complained against him.

Moses then again delivered them but faced constant trials and troubles. After every miraculous deliverance, the people would find new things to complain about. It was never-ending. And the people made false gods on top of this, and continually rejected his shepherding.

The life of Moses is a good example of what a life of faith and ministry will likely look like for many.

So, i must ask myself why i am doing this?

Is it for a comfortable, easy life?
Is it for fame and respect and to build a reputation?
Is it to feel good about myself?
Is it to see something happen? To make a difference?
Yes, we came here to make a difference in Muncie, but ultimately that can’t be why we came. We moved to Muncie because we felt God leading us to move. We came out of obedience and faith and to glorify God. We don’t know if we will do things well or if we will make that much of a difference in people’s lives.

Yet, even if things are difficult, even if we see little fruit, even if it is uncomfortable- God is still faithful.
There are a lot of nice things to like about living here. We are super close to the kid’s school and our church. We can walk to the Y, which is nice for extra child-care. And we’re right next door to McDonalds- which may be good or bad. We and our kids are exposed to the realities of homlessness and there are opportunities to get involved in a community. Eventually this place will feel more like home.


But it will never be home. Christ is preparing an eternal home for us- and that home is with Him. He came to rescue me and you, and provided deliverance from sin and access to God thru His life & death and resurrection. My soul longs for rest and comfort. Jesus says come to ME and I will give you rest. He has sent His Spirit to be a Holy Comforter. And He is coming again to take me to an eternal home to be with Him forever.


So, what do I do now? I continue to walk by faith. I continue seeking to honor God. I rest in the Gospel. I take the next step. I hope in Christ.

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16


Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19 The Lord God[c] is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Habakkuk 3:17-19


The children may complain. The mice may pester. The heat may weary. I can rejoice in the Lord. I can find strength in Him. Serving the City, while Seeking the one which is to come.

Finding Identity in sexual union vs union with Christ

Sexual sin- pornography, fornication, same sex encounters, and debilitating shame because of sexual sin- is perhaps the primary sin issue I encounter discipling men on campus. Overcoming this sin is further complicated by a culture so obsessed with sex, that many students define themselves by their sexuality. This includes their sexual preference and their sexual experience.


When a person seeks identity in sexual relationship, every goal and pursuit will be to find fulfillment in another person. Thus, when a person experiences a break up or rejection, they may go through a period of depression and are unable to function.

Some feel they are not truly a man until they’ve had sex.

If they are denied the opportunity to express their sexuality, they feel repressed and resentful. Some may feel they are denied their ability to be fully human because they cannot act on their urges.


Others have been marred by sexual encounters. Because of something they did or something done to them, they are overwhelmed by shame. They feel powerless to overcome temptation.


Throughout history we see people defined by their relationships. Even Scripture introduces characters as someone’s child or one’s wife or husband.

We still define ourselves often by relationships, as can be seen on a facebook profile.

This lends to reason why many want same-sex marriages legalized – it gives a sense of identity.

Further, because sex is associated with love, one may feel we can not experience love apart from sexual encounter.


We were created, with specific design, by God, so He defines us.

Unfortunately, in Adam we have all sinned and as a result every part of us is distorted by the fall – Our bodies and emotions were affected, and thus our sexuality.


Sexual encounter is a special union of body.These relationships do shape and form a part of our identity.  

We needed our identity to be restored. As we place our faith in Christ, we are no longer in Adam, we are united in Christ. This Union with Christ now defines us. Understanding this doctrine is foundational to overcoming sexual sin.


Wayne Grudem1 states four aspects to our union with Christ as

  1. We are in Christ.
  2. Christ is in us.
  3. We are like Christ.
  4. We are with Christ.


Dealing with sexual sin, we apply:

  1. We are with Christ –  Relationship does define us, but it is not sexual relationship, it is the most meaningful and most loving relationship we can experience- relationship with God.
  2. We are in Christ. No longer do we need to be marred in shame because of past sexual sin. For Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us. We are not seen by what we did or what was done to us, but what Christ did.
  3. Furthermore Christ is in us, empowering us to overcome sexual sin. We are not slaves to our desires, nor to our past.
  4. We are to be like Christ – thus we look to Him and follow His example.


I Thessalonians 4 states God’s will for our lives is our sanctification(be like Christ). Immediately afterwards Paul urges them to flee sexual immorality. God restores everything broken by sin, including our sexuality.

The false conclusion is to say one must exchange an immoral relationship for a moral relationship. Rather, we should seek identity in our union with Christ, becoming like Him. The single person does not need to find identity in marriage. The person with homosexual inclinations does not need to become heterosexual. God’s desire is to make us holy.


Jesus was fully human, He was not part human, part God. He lived on earth with a fully human body and human emotions. He experienced sadness, loneliness, rejection. The Bible explicitly tells us that He experienced hunger, tiredness, feelings of rejection, emotional and physical pain, and temptation. Hebrews tells us He encountered every temptation, yet without sin. Thus, He lived the way God intended our lives to be more than any other person in human history. Though He never married and never engaged in sexual activity, He was able to experience love, joy and the fullness of life or be human.


He can relate to us – every feeling and every temptation we face, including the area of sex.

We can come to Him with our pain and problems and He can empathize.

He gives hope we can be fully human and pursue holiness.

Jesus was never married, never had sex. Yet, He lived with purpose and joy and experienced intimacy in relationships.

We can look to Jesus example in the midst of temptation and follow in His footsteps and find encouragement in Him.

Our sexuality is not what defines us. Expressing sexual urges doesn’t satisfy. Sexual relationships will not gives us meaning.  Union with Christ is what we long for and what we need.




  1. Grudem, Wayne Systematic Theology Ch 43 pages 840-841

My best books of 2016 list

Best books of 2016

I read a lot of books in 2016. That happens when you take time off campus, injure yourself and have a sabbatical…some of the books were short, some about average length. Some were books i finished that i started before. In all, i read  33 books, a couple short of my goal of 35. Many were on my kindle, but i really do prefer reading an actual book.

I read a decent amount of books by female authors. Almost all were Christian books. Some were about writing, some about adoption, some marriage related. And some kids books i included because they were long or important.

Some books i read were very disappointing like visual theology by Tim Challies and The biggest story by Kevin DeYoung.
There were a few books that had some good stuff in it, but were kinda blah. If you want to see my full books i read, check out my good reads. I don’t put too much in for reviews however, so feel free to ask me if you have questions.

One book i didn’t finish but wish i had because it was pretty influential that parts i did read was the Next Evangelicalism by Soong Chan Rah. It made me wonder how many books have i read by non-white males?

Here are my top ten

  1. Thinking, Loving, Doing     7.7/10

Nothing super memorable, but i did enjoy reading it

  1. None like Him by Jen Wilkin     8/10

Made nearly all the best of 2016 lists, so i read my wife’s book. It is short and easy to read. I probably could have spent more time on the questions. She says she wrote it for women, but it reads much different than other books written for women.  Pretty good

  1. Miracles by Eric Mextaxes     8/10

I don’t want to like stuff by Mextaxes after his endorsement for Trump, but this was still a very good book. He tells a number of stories of miracles which are encouraging.
Mostly however i enjoyed some of the challenging statements he makes regarding miracles. There were a number of amazing quotes in it that grew my faith

  1. Encounters with Jesus by Tim Keller     8/10

It’s a Tim Keller book so you know it was good. Wasn’t everything i expected it to be, but it was still Keller, so still good

  1. Quiet by Susan Cain     8.3/10

A great book for an an introvert. Sometimes it got tedious and long, but it was very helpful for me in understanding myself and thinking about how to leverage my personality

  1. Rest of God by Mark Buchannan     8.7/10

The frist few chapters were amazing! I read it during my sabbatical so it was approrpriate. Certainly recommeneded to all to read

  1. With by Skye Jethani     9/10

I loved this book. His premise is there are 4 postures we tend to take: life over God, life under God, life from God and life for God. But the life we should choose and want and that God wants is: life with God. Challenging, encouraging, thought-provoking. Drags towards the end but i still like it

  1. God’s promise of happiness by Randy Alcorn     9.5/10

He wrote a much longer one on happiness, in fact this may just be a chapter or a section of the book – but this part was amazing! Very enjoyable, i practically highlighted the whole thing!

  1. A loving life by Paul Miller     9.9/10

Paul Miller is becoming one of my favorite authors. Once again combining personal stories, authentic raw real life application and deep insight from the Bible, this book is amazing. He takes you through the book of Ruth, exploring it and explaining it in ways i had never heard before. It is a fairly short book, short chapters, easy read, quick read, and so deep, good, enjoyable and applicable. It will help you enjoy & know God more and think about how to love others better

  1. How and when to talk to your kids about sex     10/10

One of the best books i ever read. Yes, it is primarily about how to talk about sex, but really gives a primer on parenting in general. This is such an important book for parents to read. It scares me a bit, but more was encouraging and inspiring. Talking about sex feels uncomfortable for most parents, and thus kids don’t want to talk to their parents about it. But they need to. This book instructs parents on how to make a safe environment for your kids to talk with you. It gives some good advice, gives Biblical perspectives and really brings reality to light. A must read for any parent of kids of any age.