Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's A Wonderful Life

Well, I hope you enjoyed listening to our most recent series as much as I enjoyed putting it together…It’s A Wonderful Life!  You can get all the podcasts through our website www.thecitylifechurch.com and the sermon notes will be posting this week as well.

Through the narrative of Jesus birth, there are five responses I believe God teaches us that we will have to Jesus:  an evangelism response, a suspicion response, a purpose response, an adoration response, and a material response.  Our material response is simply the outflow of generosity from our lives in light of who we believe Jesus to be.  Through the Magi, God reminds us that once we believe Jesus to be the Savior of the World, as the Magi did, we should be opening up our material wealth in moments of generosity as an expression of worship to Christ!  Christians should be the most generous people of the world, reckless, prodigal in our giving to others, to our church, to humanitarian causes…any time we have the opportunity to aid others!

In this series we also talked about how our material response enables us and others to see inside, to see our spiritual condition.  We explored verse like Matthew 6:21 for how material things reveal our heart and then Matthew 6:22-23 for how our material response reveals our point of view.  Then finally, we talked about how our material response, our reaction to moments of opportunity for generosity reveals our faith.  We didn’t quite finish this last one so I wanted to blog that part for those interested!

If I want to measure my faith, assess my faith, see this part of me that my natural eye is incapable of observing, I needn’t look any further than opportunities for a material response.  Remember, a material response is simply the outflow of generosity from my life in light of who I believe Jesus to be.  When is the last time you had the opportunity to be materially generous toward someone or possibly a particular cause?  Your reaction speaks volumes about the level of faith you have.

The story we didn’t reach in last weekend’s sermon is the story of the feeding of the 5,000.  (take time to read John 6:1-13).  There are three parts of this story I want us to see. 

First, the boy being willing to give all that he had to Jesus is an example of submitting to divine ownership.  All that we have belongs to God.  Nothing is really ours.  Our material lives should be lived out with the question, “God, what do you want me to do with your stuff?”  The more faith I have, the more I live in the light of the reality of divine ownership.  A person who lacks faith clutches to their material things because they do not trust God has their best interest at heart, they do not trust that God will allow them to have a standard of living they feel entitled to experience.  It takes great faith live with a stewards mindset!

Second, the text tells us that Jesus blessed what had been given to Him.  This demonstrates for us the principle of the sovereignty of God.  Jesus participated in lots of meals but He didn’t always perform the miracle of multiplication!  Why is that important?  Because He doesn’t always leave us with 12 baskets of surplus every time we act on the principle of divine ownership.  Sometimes the only blessing we get when we give His stuff away is the simple enjoyment of helping others.  That takes faith too!  The more faith I have, the more content I am when I give Him my lunch to feed someone else and I actually go hungry!

Finally, this story in John 6 is a powerful reminder that we are to continue in our generosity, no matter the circumstances!  The miracle of multiplication didn’t occur until everyone took what little they had been given in turn and began sharing it with people around them.  When each of the disciples turned toward the crowd after Jesus had blessed the food, they all had only a small portion of the original 5 loaves and 2 fish.  The boy who initially gave his lunch would have been given some but it would have been far less than the portion he initially gave Jesus.  The meal didn’t multiply until everyone was willing to divide their portion…and before long, all those portions kept being divided and multiplying until not only did everyone eat their fill but there were also 12 baskets left over!!!  In the end, that boy probably ate more than 5 loaves and 2 fish, as did everyone else!!!  But the abundance did not come until after they were willing to share the smaller portion they initially received.

Faith looks like a person holding all they have out to God trusting that He will always take care of them and even when the only thing we receive in turn is being fulfilled in knowing we helped others, we aren’t disappointed.  And in those times when God give us something in turn, even that portion we divide again, generously, never once acting with a sense of entitlement.  Show me a person whose material response looks like John 6 and I’ll show you a person who walks by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

When I realize who Jesus truly is, I live a much more generous life, my material response, I become the magi, opening up my treasures.  Let’s make 2014 our most generous year yet!

Come Up!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, December 5, 2013

DP NN Town Square, December 5

Pick up a Daily Press in Newport News today and look for this in the Town Square Section

Looking for some new restaurants to visit over the holidays?  Three things I look for in a restaurant as I'm entering for the first time are a full parking lot, fat cooks, and retirees! I'm not talking about a spot for your next anniversary or where you might take your business clients. I'm talking about the place where you go when you are ready to give way to avarice, need a bib for your shirt, and leave the hand wipes at home because you have every intention of an unashamed finger-licking culinary event!

If Friday and Saturday nights aren't full-lot-nights, then you know the people who live in the area aren't excited about eating there.  Heavy kitchen staff you ask? Give me employees who just can’t stop eating every time the owners turn their heads; I want them plump and hopeful of their next bite!  Retirees may be the ultimate measure. Lots of hair the color of a pure driven snow not only says family friendly but great value. If you are on a fixed income, as many retirees are, you look for healthy servings at a great price. When these three factors converge, we are sure to find a local spot where appetites are quieted and palates are entertained!

This idea of criteria that are portents of coming satisfaction, I believe, was one of God's great motivations in giving us the Holy Scriptures.  In them we find stories that teach us how to live a life that leaves us feeling full.

I want to invite you to read three chapters of the Old Testament, Nehemiah 8-10. You find a profound picture of a city rediscovering the wisdom of God's commands and statutes, ultimately culminating into the rebirth of a nation. At first they weep, not just because they feel guilty for not having followed God's ways but out of sorrow for all the years they had lost, all the years they had settled for mediocrity, settled for emptiness when fullness had always been within reach.

Then as you read further in chapters nine and ten, you find them coming to moments of great celebration.  This celebration was because expectancy was rising in their hearts!  After confessing their own personal culpability for lives not well lived and also how their lives had led others astray, they vowed personally and publicly to no longer forsake His statutes.  Instead, it was time to forsake a life void of God's direction.  Scripture is filled with beautiful promises for a life overflowing with fullness.  Now Nehemiah and the people of Israel were once again sitting at the table of God, ready to feast upon the goodness He prepares of us all daily!

God wants you and I to discover the wonders and splendor of this existence, life this side of eternity.  I spent the first 23 years of my life believing that if I wanted to go to Heaven, I had to give up everything worth having in this life to get there.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Scripture has a lot to say about the Heaven to come, but God’s Word is also filled with lessons on how to possess a life that overflows with goodness here and now…or as we say at City Life:  heaven now…Heaven forever!

Is there anything you need to confess today?  Do you find anything that needs to change when you examine your life in light of Scripture?  Vow today to fully embrace God’s plan for you life…there is a table ready for you!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


In Numbers chapter three, we find the most foundational teaching of Scripture, redemption.  There are some criteria in my own observations that an act of rescue must meet to rise to the height of redemption.  Have you ever been redeemed?

First, the person needing rescue is otherwise incapable of saving themselves, meaning that apart from the gracious act of the rescuer, the one held captive, either by people or circumstances, is hopelessly desperate.  Either their guilt is too egregious to ignore without the intervention of an advocate, their debt too enormous to ever be paid by their own potential of future earnings, the lineage of a husband’s name facing extinction in his death having yet to produce an heir, or a murderous malefactor in need of judgment, and so as the stories of redemptive practices fill Scripture…calling for the intervention of an advocate.  Have you ever been redeemed?

Second, the advocate is fully capable of fulfilling the vow of redemption.  They have the resources to pay the debt, they are the next of kin to fulfill the role of the kinsman redeemer, they have the physical presence necessary to apprehend a violent criminal…they are willing, knowing that their only reward is the satisfaction of having given themselves to prodigal generosity, or in the case of a ceremonial exchange, the redemptive price is in keeping with God’s economy as prescribed by the Law.  Have you ever been redeemed?

Finally, the act of redemption is a moment of last resort.  There is no legal statute to otherwise employ, the guilt of the one held captive is not in question, the one in a position to extend mercy is either unwilling or the collective need for the communities’ sense of justice is too great to forgo, no amount of waiting will alter the circumstances…have you ever been redeemed?

Be careful in reading through the Old Testament, especially books like Numbers, that you are not dismissive of their ability to reveal life transformative, life enriching truth.  In chapter three, verse 39 we read that there were 22,000 Levites numbered in the census.  However, there were 22,273 firstborn males among the remaining eleven tribes.  Since God had established that the priestly service of the Levites was a redemptive price in exchange for all the firstborn males that belonged to the Lord (Numbers 3:11-13), there was a gap of 273.  There were not enough Levites to fully redeem all the firstborn.  Picking up with verse 44, “The Lord spoke to Moses again:  Take the Levites in place of every firstborn among the Israelites, and the Levites’ cattle in place of their cattle.  The Levites belong to Me; I am the Lord.  As the redemption price for the 273 firstborn Israelites who outnumber the Levites, collect five shekels for each person…give the money to Aaron and his sons as the redemptive price for those who are in excess among the Israelites.”  Have you ever been redeemed?

The 273 could not just be ignored.  The redemptive price demanded satisfaction.  So here’s the turn, with Jesus, there is no gap.  It took one Levite to redeem one first born male of Israel.  Have you ever thought of every sin, every mistake, every moment your choices have displeased God, whether by omission or commission?  Jesus is enough.  What about every sin of every person who has ever lived, who will ever live, every person since the beginning of time until its imminent end, Jesus is enough.  No additional tax is needed, no other sacrifice necessary, no gap exists…Jesus is enough!  So I ask again, have you ever been redeemed?

Have you pondered the lack of your life?  I have, I do, often.  I am not enough.  I am indebted to my innate inclination of selfishness.  The debt I have amassed in life from my sin is incalculable, innumerable.  The circumstance of my spirituality is desperate.  My sin demands justice.  I need redemption.  Jesus is my Redeemer, there aren’t 273 sins remaining that He could not address, He is enough.

Have you ever been redeemed?

Pastor Fred

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Sunday morning at our Williamsburg campus, we were singing an old hymn (Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing) that had the line, "raise my Ebenezer" which stirred something in me.  I can't even count the number of times that I have sung that hymn in my life...and I have never noticed that line.  During the announcements I rushed upstairs where I could get a signal on my phone and found its reference in 1 Samuel 7.  This is why we give a nod to hymns, there are so rich!

The story is the Israelites had lost the Ark of the Covenant and now it has been returned (start reading in 1 Samuel 4 for the back story).  The Philistines attack again but this time the Israelites' hearts are right with God and they have a great victory.  To commemorate that victory, Samuel erects a great stone as a memorial and names it, you guessed it, Ebenezer, which means roughly "stone of my help"...love that story!  

We must not confuse the Ark of the Covenant with a talisman, which is an object that possesses magic powers with the assumption being that those powers are conveyed to whomever possesses the object.  The classic film Raiders of the Lost Ark was based on this very premise and although Hollywood does not always accurately portray Biblical concepts, they were right on this one.

The Ark of the Covenant conveys no power to a person or a nation but rather the covenant in ones heart with God, of which the Ark was a symbol is where the power presides. The Israelites found courage in facing insurmountable odds when the Ark was in the camp, not because of magical powers but because they were reminded of the covenant they had made with God and that covenantal relationship was the motivation behind God interceding supernaturally on their behalf.

In 1 Samuel 4, we see they lost the battle in spite of the presence of the Ark. Why? Because they had broken covenant with God. No covenant, no favor, no power.

Nor was Samuel's prophetic abilities hindered by the Ark's absence during all its years at Abinadab's house. Why, because it was Samuel's covenant with God that mattered. Did David want the Ark back from Abinadab's house when he became king? Absolutely. Did it matter? Absolutely. Why? Not because it was a talisman but because it was a reminder to the people that they were in a covenantal relationship with God. It was their wedding ring. My ring has no power a part from my promise but my ring reminds me of my promise and it is in our promises that we are well postured for the favor of those with whom we covenant.

Are you keeping your promises? To your wife, your children, your calling, your God?  Rediscover your dependence on God, He is your Ebenezer stone, He will give you the courage of conviction to stay true to your promises!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Isaiah 35:1-10

I am writing today believing that someone who will be reading is in a place of decision.  After reading and praying this morning, I felt strongly that someone is wrestling with a major decision and is frustrated.  I encourage you to read Isaiah 35:1-10.

I love this text because it reminds us of the feelings that should be associated with God's direction.  When I read these verses, here are the emotions I see God promising to the benefactor of His presence, His direction, His wisdom, His protection:  celebration, clarity, confidence, peace, safety, contentment, satisfaction, refreshing, gladness, joy, and worshipful!  What would be the list you would make after reading these verses?  See what you can find...make your own list!

Verse eight in the NLT refers to the path of travel in the text as the Highway of Holiness, others render it the Way of Holiness, and the The Message Bible calls it the Holy Road.  Regardless of the title, the metaphor is clear...this road is the will of God, the way of God, the direction of God.  How does that apply to me, to you?  When I am making significant decisions, when I am counseling others as they make significant decisions, I looking for the kind of emotions we listed above...because those are the feelings that are the fruit, the result, the evidence of God's leading.  If those feelings are nor present in me or someone I am counseling, my decision is always the same, do nothing, wait.

The Highway of Holiness always brings joy and gladness!

Pastor Fred

Friday, July 5, 2013

Profanity, part two

This is the second part of some thoughts I have on profanity, asking the question, "What makes us cringe?"  And, "When would Jesus cringe?"  (WWJC)  You can view part one here:  Profanity, part one

There is also the Biblical principle of whatever we allow to be planted in our lives will produce fruit (look in Galatians 6). Meaning, that the profanity that comes from another isn't just hurting them, it harms us. We should be cringing because by subjecting ourselves to profanity there is a planting taking place in our lives in a spiritual sense. Now follow me here, in Genesis the principal of producing after one's own kind was established. Meaning that an apple tree creates apples and only apples. In the same way, if we continually subject ourselves to profane language from others, what kind of fruit do you think it will produce in us: profane thoughts, profane language, all things profane. Fertile soils nurtures everything that is planted within. We are spiritually fertile; what kinds of seeds are we accepting?

What about laziness and ignorance? Does the Bible treat them as spiritual issues? I think in reading the book of Proverbs, one would be hard pressed to make an argument otherwise. Why is this relevant? Because profanity, in my opinion, is usually a result of one or the other. It is a matter if ignorance when we look to profanity to express feeling and thoughts that are larger or inconsistent with the vocabulary we have developed. We search for words, find none, reach for an expletive and move on to the next word. They are intellectual gap fillers. Reading, learning, conversation, contemplation, etc. all contribute to a growing vocabulary. We should all be committed to expelling ignorance from our lives, especially in the area of expression.

What about laziness? That is when we have a sufficient vocabulary to express whatever we may be feeling or thinking yet out of laziness, a poor intellectual work ethic, we reach for an expletive because it takes less mental effort than searching for the right words. Do you know people who only use profanity when they are tired, angry, frustrated...? When we are emotionally weary, intellectual laziness sets in and the expletives roll. Are we cringing yet, is He, WWJC?

Now, I'm not suggesting that we all deputize ourselves and become the profanity police. Remember, if our response to the people around us is judgmental, self-righteous, and arrogant then we will be causing them to cringe, the great cringe exchange! If it is a stranger, chances are praying for them quietly in the moment is your best response. If my children are being subjected to it then maybe I will kindly ask them to be mindful of the children that are present, and always I use it to talk to my children about how there are words we don't use and why. If we know them, instead of coming down on them, why not say something like this, "Could I share something with you I learned recently about words?" No one likes to be judged, but I have seldom met a person who is not willing to have a gracious, caring conversation.

In closing, remember, you can control most of what comes into your life, and certainly, you have complete control over what you are putting in the lives of others.


Pastor Fred

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

2 Kings 8:1-6

This is for someone today...you are in a place of waiting, facing circumstances that are beyond your control, dependent of the decisions of others to see the outcome you desire.  Make sure you read this text, 2 Kings 8:1-6, a beautiful story of providence.

Seven years has passed and now this woman has only one hope, that the king will hear her petition and act on her behalf to see her restored.  God orchestrates the timing of everything.  Just at the moment she comes into the king's court, precisely at the time the king has just heard the miraculous story of her son's resurrection...his heart could not have been more inclined to her cause, God's timing is always perfect!

Trust Him...even if it feels like He is making you wait, trust His timing, trust His providence, trust His sovereignty, trust His attentiveness to your need!

Pastor Fred

Friday, June 28, 2013

Profanity, part one

Our family recently spent $100 on an investment that is going to pay dividends to our lives forever!  The TV Guardian is a device that you can connect to your television and dvd player that mutes expletives.  There are various settings you can choose to determine the strictness.  Whether you have children in your home or not, this device will bring great liberty to your family's media based entertainment!  The following blog is a re-post from 2008 that I am going to divide into two parts but speaks to why I believe guarding what we hear is an essential discipline as devoted followers of Christ.

Do you have a cringe? You know, that internal reaction we have at the moment we encounter something we deem inappropriate. Think for a minute, when do you cringe? Is it when you see a parent reacting in anger to his/her child instead of bringing instruction with grace? Is it when you see on the news a minority suffering injustice because of prejudice? I would hope all of us cringe at least in the face of the most egregious offenses we often have the occasion to observe.

But, how sensitive is our cringe? Does it take something most all of society would agree as being egregious to trigger our cringe? I want my cringe to react in concert with Jesus' cringe. We've all heard of the popular WWJD (what would Jesus do)...I am askingWWJC (when would Jesus cringe)? For example, we are watching some form of media: movie, television, on the web, and something sensual occurs, something suggestive, do we cringe...WWJC? We are with friends and someone begins to tell a joke that demeans another ethnicity, do we cringe...WWJC? We are listening...music, media, comedian, friend, stranger...and the expletives come, profane words are used, do we cringe...WWJC?

I would like to suggest that one reason we should be cringing at profanity is because Proverbs tells us that "we eat from the fruit of our lips..." (I'm leaving the reference out in hopes that you'll do some digging yourself to find it, do a word search for fruit and lips and see what you can find in Proverbs). In a spiritual sense, we consume the words we speak. Angry people stay angry in part because they are feasting on angry words continually. Desperate people stay desperate in part because they are feasting on desperate words continually. You can keep that list going...now, certainly I am not suggesting that if we only change our words, we immediately change our disposition. However, I am saying with confidence that our disposition will not change without a change in our words. It is a key part. So much of our physical world was created by God to teach us about our spiritual life. Think of the impact the kinds of food you eat has on your physical well being. Why should the words we "eat" be any different? They aren't. We consume them spiritually and they either bring healthy nourishment or destructive effects.

How, does this relate to our cringe? We should be cringing because of what that person is doing to themselves. When we subject ourselves to a person spewing expletives, we are watching a person poisoning themselves; it is spiritually self-destructive behavior. Do you think Jesus cringes at that? Do we?

Part Two Tomorrow!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Our Pace and Our Space

If you were not able to attend either of our campus services this past weekend, you missed an amazing message brought by City Life's very own Steve Ruggerio.  I wanted to share some of my notes and also provide this link to our podcast page where you can enjoy this rich word from God!

His text was Psalm 90:1-4, 10-12 with verse 12 being the main verse or as we call it at City Life, our weekly life verse.

Here are some quotes from Steve and then I'll give the five points he shared...

"God cares when there is clutter in our lives...for it crowds out His best for us!"

"Margins in our lives are the space between the current pace we are living and our personal limitations."

"Everyone has a red line (meaning the danger zone of too little margin)... they are different for all of us so don't establish yours by comparing to others."

"Too much margin is laziness, slothfulness...but too little is just as egregious of a sin."

"The meaningfulness of my life is not measured by productivity but rather purposefulness!"

"If we could really see God for who He is, we would give Him the reverence He is due...especially with our time, living as if our days are numbered."

"Don't live with avoidable regrets!"

He shared about an author named Bronnie Ware who by profession is a hospice nurse and throughout her years of caring for people in the last moments of their lives, she compiled a list of the most common regrets she heard.  Here are the top five in ascending order.  I'll give you the verse Steve paired with each regret and how he phrased a challenge to us related to each one.  You'll have to listen for yourself if you want the full effect...which you do!

5.)  I wish I had let myself be happier.  Nehemiah 8:10.  Choose joy!
4.)  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.  Hebrews 10:24-25.  Stay connected!
3.)  I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.  Colossians 4:6.  Share your heart!
2.)  I wish I hadn't worked so hard.  Mark 6:31.  Our pace and our space!
1.)  I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself.  2 Peter 1:3.  Live your story!

May we all endeavor to live as if our days are numbered because they most certainly are!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Psalm 101, part 2

We closed our Father's Day Weekend services by asking the question, "What are you building, where are you giving the best of your time, energy, and efforts?"  When we read 1 Kings 6:38 and 1 Kings 7:1, we find a striking contrast between the amount of time King Solomon invested in two of his most famous endeavors.  He gave 7 years of his life to build a temple for God, but he gave 13 years to build his own palace.  May the balance of our life's investment as men and fathers weigh heavily on the side of building something for God and not for ourselves.

So this morning we continue to look into Psalm 101 for some practical steps we can take to ensure we are building a God honoring life as men and fathers.  Yesterday we introduced the first three of the six vows King David made before taking the throne, presenting them as challenges to ourselves:  be expressive, be authentic, and be sexually pure.  Here are the last three...

Be restrained.  In verse four of the hundred and first Psalm, we are reminded that being in control of ourselves is an absolute necessity.  The Apostle Paul often returns to the theme of self control in his epistles, two references that come to mind are Romans 6:12 and Galatians 5:23.  In his letter to Christians in Rome, he gives them a command, to resist sinful desires, to refuse to be controlled by sin.  I love the pairing with Galatians 5:23 because we are reminded that we are actually made for excess, our capacity for excess is God given!  Here in Galatians at the end of the list of fruits of the Spirit, evidence of the Holy Spirit in us, we are told there is no law against these...permission for excess!  Leaders, especially in the home, who are improperly restrained in sinful pursuits tend to compensate by being overly restrained in virtuous pursuits.  Shame and guilt hold us back, robbing us of the liberty we should feel in being excessive with honorable traits.  Godly restraint is a gateway into a life of God honoring excess!

Be fraternal.  Several verses encapsulate this vow, specifically verse 3b and verses 5-7.  1 Corinthians 15:33 couldn't be more clear, "...bad company corrupts good character."  Deep relationships that are uncomfortably intrusive should first be observed by children as they watch their fathers.  We has men tend to isolate when we are struggling with sin and in so doing, we further corrupt ourselves.  This principle found in 1 Corinthians 15:33 still holds true because in isolation, we are now our own bad company!  You show me any leader who does not have people in their life to hold them accountable, people to whom they defer, and I will show you a leader who is failing.  Fathers, who are those men in your life...if you can't list anyone, begin the work of building those relationship, both for your sake and everyone depending on your leadership!

Be missional.  This is this closing challenge found in verse eight.  In 1 Chronicles 22:5 and 1 Chronicles 29:1-3, we find the extent to which King David went to help prepare his some Solomon for the great works he would endeavor to accomplish.  You and I may not ever have the material resources David had to give to Solomon, but I would like to suggest to you that the most valuable inheritance we could ever hope to leave our children will be the 24 virtues we are studying together in our current sermon series!  Virtue is the currency of The Kingdom!  Destinies are fulfilled not because of earthly treasure!  In Luke 12:15, Jesus compels us to remember that our lives are not measured by material possession.  We have a mission, time is short, and evil must not win...let's leave our children coffers filled with virtue!

I hope you will pledge with me as a father, as men, to be expressive, authentic, sexually pure, restrained, fraternal, and missional.  Let's lead well together the domains of influence entrusted to us, no matter how small or how vast, a God honoring life that is life giving to everyone around us!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Psalm 101, part one

Even though Father's Day weekend is past, the responsibilities are fathering are ever before us!  For our church, The City Life Church, we challenged men and dads alike to use Psalm 101 as way of examining our own lives, are we living up to our potential as men for our friends and families?

In Tremper Longman III's book entitled "How To Read The Psalms" he offers seven different genres found in this great collection of Biblical songs and poems:  hymns, laments, thanksgiving, confidence, remembrance, wisdom, and kingship.  The final genre, kingship, is where the hundred and first Psalm is found.  In fact, it is the very psalm that David wrote just prior to being inaugurated as the king of Israel.  While most of us will never hold such an esteemed political title, the leadership encumbrances we bare as men and fathers are no less important!  King David makes six solemn vows that we too must consider if we are going to be accomplished leaders in the realms of influence entrusted to us.

Be expressive.  In the first verse, David speaks of being an outwardly, expressive lover of God.  Our children should first learn to relish in the wonder of God by observing their fathers.  While some of these six vows have a self-evidencing quality in relation to leadership, this one may be surprising.  How does outward praise of God help us to become better leaders?  The more time I spend loving on God, the greater the revelation I have of His grace towards me, and the greater the revelation I have of His grace towards me, the more gracious I will be in turn as a person of authority in the lives of others.  In addition, the more my children see me loving on God, the more they are going to want to love on God themselves, and the more they love on God, the greater their revelation of the goodness of God will be, and the greater their revelation of the goodness of God, the deeper their trust will be in God, and the deeper their trust goes in God, the deeper their trust goes in me because they know I am modeling my leadership after Him!

Be authentic.  This second verse begins by talking about a blameless life, to which King David quickly asks for help because he understands that this will be an impossible task without divine intervention.  However, I must point out that he is not using the word blameless to speak of perfection, as he concludes this second verse by introducing the word integrity, to ensure we understand his meaning.  Blameless here is speaking of an authentic life, a life void of duplicity.  Unfortunately, too many children first learn how to be duplicitous by observing their fathers.  Great leadership never finds its power in title, reward, or punishment.  Great leadership is always based on the right to influence, a right that is earned through respect, influence that is a welcomed voice in the life of someone who values your wisdom, recognizes your life experience, and defers to your insight.  A person steeped in hypocrisy is never a welcomed influence.  If I cannot trust who you are, then how can I trust your leadership?  Be honest about your failings, intentional in your efforts to grow as a person, and persevering in your commitment to always be authentic.

Be sexually pure.  If you have children, especially sons, and you have not read "Sex, Men, and God" by Dr. Douglas Weiss, you are missing vital information that is critical to one of your most sacred responsibilities...teaching your children about their sexuality. If we fail in giving our children a Godly, healthy sexual identity, we doom them to a life of experimentation and sexual frustration.  I joke with our church all the time that in the Garden of Eden, let's not forget that when the world was still perfect, Adam and Eve were naked!  Yes, God is ancient, but that simply means He is timeless, not old and out dated and certainly not prudish.  Sex is His idea, His creation.  Whatever perversions exist in this world, they are a mere a shadow of the sexual pleasure waiting for people who are willing to give themselves fully to a Biblical view of sexual identity.  One of my famous sayings as a pastor among our married couples is that Christian husband and wives should be breaking the pleasure barrier!  Whatever restrictions God gives us, they are always to protect us form settling for less!  So what does this have to do with leadership?  I cannot lead where I have not been.  And if I am not sexually pure, I will continually fail to lead my children into a life of sexual purity, a great failing for far too many fathers.  In regards to leadership in general, inappropriate sexual behavior will always lead to diminishing respect.  If a person does not have the self-control to respect vows they have made in their personal life, like marriage, then why should I trust that they will have the self-control to keep vows they have made in their public life?

We'll do the next three tomorrow!

Pastor Fred

Friday, June 14, 2013

2 Chronicles 6:4

A timeless truth is before us at the outset of today's reading.  Verse four begins with this phrase, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept the promise He made..."  And in this phrase we find one of the greatest attributes of our Creator, faithfulness, especially with promises.

One of the most impacting Christian movements in modern history was the Promise Keepers initiative.  You can read about PK's  history through their site.  Although their impact has waned in recent years, I believe the fruit of their ministry will endure for decades to come.  I remember being at my first event at the former Redskins Stadium on a Friday night, tens of thousands of men worshipping together under the night sky...the presence of God in that place was, and is still, indescribable.  I reference this historic movement because of their primary vision, to see a generation of men raised who would be found faithful, promise keepers, reflecting the very image of God, our Creator, as referenced in 2 Chronicles 6:4.

This idea of being a promise keeper is especially poignant to me today because of the story that is captivating the world, Mr. Edward Snowden.  What should be our gravest concern, that our government seems to have compromised the right of privacy of countless citizens or that countless citizens are so easily declaring Mr. Snowden a hero?

Of all the reasons both religious and non-religious persons are decrying the abundance of moral and ethical woes permeating society, I fear that failing to keep our vows is becoming commonplace.  The case of Mr. Snowden would be entirely different if he had discovered a program that was operating outside the bounds of the law, outside the bounds of the knowledge of elected officials, outside the bounds of multi-governmental branch accountability.  One might argue it was outside the bounds of our Constitution; however, there is a clear legal path afforded to us when such an instance is suspected.  Lazy citizens always choose to break their word when the work of sound moral and ethical demands ensue.  Mr. Snowden is an American citizen who took an oath, gave his word, spoke a vow, made a promise.  Again, one might say so did those elected officials who may have perpetrated a grave injustice agains its citizens.  But if we become a society that allows the sins of others to become a permissive moment for our own sin, we quickly spiral downward into an inescapable chaos.

Many people present themselves as a patriot...for the hope of vain glory and ill-gotten wealth.  Mr. Edward Snowden is not a keeper of promises and in so doing, he betrays both the image in which he was created and our great Nation.

Pastor Fred  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

1 Kings 8 & 2 Chronicles 5

In today's reading, we find some wonderful applications to our lives, especially leading up to Father's Day weekend!

In 1 Kings 8:17-19, we are reminded that one of our greatest joys in life as a father is for our lives to prepare our children to excel, especially in their divine destiny.  We can either read this as David's greatest disappointment or his greatest joy!  The true heart of a father will always find the most fulfillment in serving the future of their children.

I also find verses 41-43 intriguing.  Some render these verses as referring to proselytes, foreigners who have now converted to Judaism.  But that is not how I believe this texts reads.  I believe this is a wonderful textual example of how God will hear and answer the prayers of those who do not follow Him as a way of bringing them closer to a place of complete devotion.  This a great prayer for us to diligently use in our own petitions to God on behalf of people we long to see become devoted followers of Christ, "Lord, may it be that they will have a need they share with You in a moment of desperation, like Solomon's prayer, that they have heard of Your reputation as a God who merciful, gracious, slow to anger, rich in steadfast love and truth and that You will answer their prayer and capture their heart!"

Finally, I am drawn to the posturing often referred to in this prayer of Solomon..."pray toward this Temple."  I don't think we have to face in any particular direction as we pray, remembering that elevating cultural practices to a place of spiritual significance is really ultimately motivated by one ethnicity in search of feelings of superiority.  On the inside however, the direction in which we face matters much...may we all face Him forever!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

1 Kings 6:38 and 1 Kings 7:1

Just a little insight into a question we'll be asking men this weekend at both of our campuses (The City Life Church) in honoring Father's Day Weekend...

Take a moment to read both of these texts:  1 Kings 6:38 and then compare it to 1 Kings 7:1...what do you see?  I see a man who spent 7 years building a house for God and 13 years building a palace for himself.

What about you...how about me?

Pastor Fred

Friday, June 7, 2013

Some Proverbs

In today's reading, a few proverbs resonated with me that I wanted to share...

The first one is 13:4, "Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper."  I am convinced this is more than just material.  Being a disciple of Jesus necessitates breaking a sweat!  I would humbly suggest that one of deficiencies is Reformed theology is an unwillingness to differentiate between the grace we are desperate to receive for the hope of Heaven after death and the work required of us in this life to have heaven on earth.  There is nothing I can do to earn God's favor for Heaven.  But when it comes to the my purpose in this life, the transformative journey of character, the labor of sharing the burdens of others...grab some gatorade!  "...those who work hard will prosper."  I am a sinner saved by grace, indeed...and now one who has been redeemed, ready to labor for my King!!  Am I dependent on the grace of God in my labor?  Am I dependent on the work of The Spirit for my character transformation?  Yes!  But without much labor, without much effort, without intentionality I will inevitably "get little."

"Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest."  (Proverbs 14:4)  If your goal in life is just to have as little crap as possible, you will accomplish very little.  Sure, your "stables" can be spotless but what will your life accomplish?  Take for example relationships, they can be complicated.  Caring for people, making yourself vulnerable to people, relying on people...well, there's crap!  But there is also muscle in community.  Go ahead and isolate, withdraw, boast of a prestigiously clean, complication free life...that accomplishes little.

Finally, we have Proverbs 15:17.  "A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate."  This may very well be the first verse in the Bible I have found that will cause me to question its divine inspiration!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Proverbs 10:24

The fears of the wicked will be fulfilled;
    the hopes of the godly will be granted.

How's your future looking?

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


We began a new series this past weekend, 24, which will run for three weeks, culminating Father's Day weekend.  In this three week conversation, we will be exploring some of the key aspects of being a disciple.

The title gave us the opportunity to have some creative fun connecting it to the hit series from Fox "24" and building on the theme of that show to give us our big idea...we have a mission, time is short, evil must not win!  And in looking into Revelation 12:11 we concluded that our secret weapon is both being and making disciples.

Our connection to the number 24 came from studying George Wood's (General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God) five great growth lists.  They are...

Matthew 5:3-10
Romans 12:9-21
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Galatians 5:22-23
2 Peter 1:5-7

And in studying these lists for the past few years, I finally sat down recently in an effort to synthesize them, creating one complete list of virtues that paint a perfect portrait of the fully devoted disciple of Jesus.  After taking out all the overlapping virtues, this is my list...

8 from Matthew 5:3-10:  humble, emotionally honest, meek, desiring righteousness, merciful, truthful, peaceful, and devoted

4 from Romans 12:9-21:  affectionate, fervent, serving, and hospitable

2 from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:  faith and hope

8 from Galatians 5:22-23:  love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentle, and self-control

2 from 2 Peter 1:5-7:  wisdom and persevering

You should try listing all of them and see what kind of list you can find...but more importantly, may we all look deep into our lives and ask a more pressing question, how many do I find within me?

Pastor Fred

Friday, May 31, 2013

Psalm 72

In this Psalm, verses 18 and 19, we find the key to the favor that Solomon found with God.  "Praise the Lord...praise His glorious Name...let the whole earth be filled with His glory!"

Last week we were in Lima, NY for the annual Elim Conference, the fellowship that City Life has joined.  Mark Batterson was one of the keynote speakers there, amazing author, church planter, pastor, and champion of The Kingdom!  On his opening night, he shared many profound insights, very Solomonesque!  But one that was especially poignant was this.  Even if you are doing exactly what God has called you to do...  Even if you are walking squarely down the center of the road God has called you to journey...  Even if you are pouring your life out for the purpose you were created to champion... God still may be resisting your efforts.  Why?  Because of James 4:6, that God will always oppose the proud.  If in our Kingdom calling, our divine purpose, our project of existence...we are motivated by self-exaltation, we will be striving against God.

It is not enough to be given to the right purpose.  We must be given to that purpose with a Psalm 72:18-19 heart...all for His glory!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Psalm 119:1-88

Psalm 119 is most commonly known for being the longest chapter in the Bible...but it is also one of the most creatively poetic.  The psalm is an alphabetical acrostic, consisting of twenty two stanzas, eight verses each (The Expositor's Bible Commentary).  Each of the twenty two stanzas correlate to one of the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.  And within each stanza, there are eight lines with each line beginning with the corresponding letter.  Simply, there are 22 divisions of this psalm, each division has eight lines.  If we were using the English alphabet, all eight lines of the first stanza would begin with "A" and each of the remaining stanza's eight lines would follow this pattern with the next letter in the alphabet.  This pattern escapes us obviously because we are reading an English translation.

I would like to suggest however that the psalm's structure is not just to be creative.  I believe it is instructive.  There is supposed to be an order to life, a living symmetry.  In fact, the poetic structure of the psalm is in keeping with its theme...a life structured around the wisdom of God found in His Word.  There are eight different words used for God's law in this psalm:  law, word, laws, statues, commands, decrees, precepts, and promise.  This is a great study, digging around in the meaning of each!  This is not redundancy but rather emphasis.  Symmetry is defined as the quality of being made up of exactly similar parts facing each other or around an axis.  Every part of my life is supposed to be facing, centered around the wisdom of God's instruction, my eternal axis!

In reading the first 88 verses today, I am fixated on one verse, 35.  "Make we walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found."  If your orientation to Christianity is trying to do the right things so you avoid punishment, you miss the heart of God.  We pursue righteousness not to avoid punishment but rather to reach hard for the depth of fulfillment in life that can only come from embracing "the way" of God (sounds like a great idea for a blog title!).  His every yes and every no is motivated by having our best interest at heart...can you trust Him?

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Psalm 37

These are a few excerpts from Psalm 37...be encouraged in His way today!

Trust in the Lord and do good.
    Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and He will give you your heart’s desires...

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust Him, and He will help you...

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for Him to act...

Stop being angry!
    Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
    it only leads to harm...

It is better to be godly and have little
    than to be evil and rich...

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand...

Put your hope in the Lord.
    Travel steadily along His path...

Be well today!!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

1 Chronicles 26

I want to refer back to yesterday's reading because in 1 Chronicles 26:6-8 we find a leadership principle that has been a part of my philosophy of leadership for many years.

I remember being in an orientation for newly licensed ministers with the Assemblies of God in 2002.  We were at the Potomac District Headquarters in Gainesville, VA and the Pastor Bob Rhoden, who was at that time the district superintendent, made the following statement, "Your gifts make room for themselves."  He went on to say that the piece of paper we would soon receive declaring us to be credentialed ministers was in no way a permission for entitlement to ministry, title, or office in our respective church homes...our gifts had to make room for our ministry.

That has been a part of my approach to leadership ever since, for myself and for others.  People who say they just need a title, an opportunity, authority...fail to understand how the Kingdom of God works.  Here in 1 Chronicles 26:8 we find this principle in action!  Verse six could not be more clear, "...sons with great ability who earned positions of great authority..."

Lazy leaders want to show up and take advantage of a crowd that others have sacrificed and labored to gather.  They don't have the work-ethic or character to build a community of people so they invade someone else's.  We see this happening all the time in local churches.  Another sign of lazy leaders is that they have STRONG opinions about how things should be done but they don't want the responsibility that comes with being a leader.  Healthy leaders understand the importance of deference, working with teams, loving people more than their own opinions, serving others at the expense of their own preferences, long meetings, much prayer, and great sacrifice.  Lazy leaders bristle a the thought of such commitments but expect their opinions and perspectives to be heard and acted upon nonetheless.

I love City Life for many reasons but one of the lead causes of my deep affection for this precious community of faith is that we believe in 1 Chronicles 26:6-8...that one's gifts make room for themselves, that authority is earned, never granted...learn how to capture someone's heart before you expect to have their ear!

Pastor Fred

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

The timing of today's reading is wonderful!  As I read 1 Chronicles 27, the heading in my translation (New Living Translation) is "Military Commanders and Divisions."

I was talking with a pastor friend recently who lives out of state and he asked about City Life and what about this church where Vannessa and I are privileged to serve is so special to us.  One of the first things I shared was the profound sense of gratitude I have for those who serve our country through the military.

The Newport News campus is easily 25% active military and the Williamsburg campus breaks 50%.  They are patriots, setting the greatest of examples for citizenship, simply stellar, each and every one! On this day of honoring, we applaud you, celebrate you, acknowledge you...with as much respect as a human heart can feel, ours overflow for each of you!

Pastor Fred

Friday, May 24, 2013

Commend, part 2

She said to her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God...

This is 2 Kings 4:9, part of a story I hope you take the time to read today (2 Kings 4:9-37).  Continuing from yesterday, we are weighing the meaning of Jesus' last eight words on the cross, "Father, into thy hands I commend My spirit" which is part of a series 47 Words, all 7 of His last saying during the last six hours of His earthly bodily existence.  Admittedly, as with all Scripture, there is a vast body of truth that flows from every line of text!  One of the profound principles I believe we find here is that our destiny is desperate for us to know how to trust the right people with the right things at the right time.

If that stirs your iterest, you can find our most recent sermon that connects that statement to the text on our church site (www.thecitylifechurch.com).  Already, between the sermon and yesterday's blog, we have introduced three thoughts that flow from that statement:  recognizing culminating moments, a dream too big for two hands, and having the courage to trust again.

This morning I want to suggest the importance of the right people.  The story in 2 Kings in verse four is an example of a moment we too must find...certainty about people.  As you read the story, you find that this family had a destiny that was dependent upon the help of someone esle, a powerful metaphor for each of us...our destiny is desperate for us to know how to trust the right people with the right things at the right time!  Here are four questions you should be asking before you step into a trusting relationship with someone:

  • How long have you know them?
  • What is their reputation amongh others?
  • What is the fruit of their lives?
  • What do others you trust say about them?
I am leaving New York today after having been here for the annual Elim Fellowship conferance.  When our church was searching for a movement to join, the answers to these four questions were critical in our search.  So too they have been for me personally...and are equally prominent in our leadership team's discussions about inviting new people into new places of leadership.  Even Jesus in His final, culminating moments had a dream too big for two hands and He knew exactly who to trust...do you?

Pastor Fred

Thursday, May 23, 2013


We finished our series 47 Words this past weekend, listening to Jesus' last words, His last 7 sayings, His last 47 words in His last 6 hours.  Luke 23:44:49 gives us the final 8, "Father, into thy hands I commend My spirit."

This moment wasn't Jesus being melodramatic, theatrical, broadwayish...He was speaking volumes of truth through every one of the 7 sayings and this last one is certainly no exception.  I believe one of the Kingdom principles Jesus was teaching in His final moments was this, "Your destiny is desperate for you to know how to trust the right people with the right things at the right time!"  In our weekend services (you can catch the podcast at www.thecitylifechurch.com) we introduced this principle by talking about culminating moments and a dream for your life that is too big for two hands.  We did not quite make it to the last two points at both campuses.

The third point was having the courage to trust again (we hit this one briefly in NN but not in WMB).  You might be saying, "Don't talk to me about trust...you don't know what I've been through."  That is true, but we are told what Jesus has been through and if His life is a study of anything, it is most certainly a study of betrayal!  We have Lucifer's betrayal in the Heavens, there is Israel's betrayal of rejecting their own Messiah, of course there is Judas, and also Peter.  He knows what it is like to have His trust betrayed.  And yet, at the very end, He trusts.  That is what this word that is translated "commend" in the text means...trust.  Without trust, we will never fulfill our destiny because the dream God has dreamed for us is too big for two hands!

Deuteronomy 32:30 reminds us that while one can put one thousand to flight, two can put ten thousand to flight!  Can you hear Him today?  I can hear Him saying, "Your destiny is desperate for you to know how to trust the right people with the right things at the right time!"

We'll cover the last point tomorrow...

Pastor Fred

Friday, May 17, 2013


In 2 Samuel 17:24 we have a passing mention of the place where David chose to set up camp as he and his forces prepared to defend themselves against his son Absalom and the army of Israel, who were making a play for the throne, a coup.

The place is Mahanaim.  I love the story of the geography of the Bible, in fact, I believe we find much truth not just in the story of the people in Scripture but also the story of the places.  We are introduced to this place in Genesis 32.  Jacob is on his way back from Padan-Aram where he has lived as a fugitive from his brother's wrath, Esau.  On his return journey he comes across a camp of angels...that may be why I have never seen an angel because I am always at the Marriott, never camping!  Jacob declares that he has  discovered the camp of God.  Now remember, when Jacob years prior was leaving for Padan-Aram he had a dream where he saw angels ascending and descending between Heaven and earth...he named that place Bethel which translates "house of God."  Mahanaim translates roughly "two camps."  At two of Jacob's most desperate moments in life, God affirmed His care of Jacob in amazingly dramatic fashion!  He named this new place Mahanaim "two camps" because he decided to make his camp next to God's camp, two camps.

Now travel forward in time...here is David, on the run, desperate, clinging to the memory of God's many promises over his life yet his circumstances were a mounting witness against God's Word.  Where does he go?  Is it a coincidence?  Was Mahanaim just a place that David found out of convenience?  I think David knew that this could be his last stand, and he knew exactly where he wanted to be...next to God's camp.

Where do you camp?  Where are you most easily awakened to His presence?  Where are you the most inclined to believe that over you is an open Heaven?  I'll tell you where that is with me...every Saturday night and every Sunday with the people in this world, besides my family, that I love the most!  Friday for me is the day I wake up the most excited...the weekend is coming...not for the same reasons that many long for the weekend...I can't wait to return to Mahanaim...I love our church and I long for every opportunity I have to get my camp next to that camp!

Pastor Fred