Hula Dancing and Jesus

I found this in an old sermon back from 2008. It made me laugh. I thought I’d post it for kicks…

One Hula Dancing Boy
The other day, my oldest son Fischer came home with a special flyer cjghdf_editedfrom this school. Apparently, a local group was offering Hula Dancing Lessons to boys and girls. For $120, my son, my one day going to be a man son, could experience 8 weeks of grass skirt hip gyrating exercise that would be the envy of manly Dad’s everywhere. Not Karate or Kung Fun, not hammering nails or building forts, not skateboards or video games…no, hula dancing. It took me all of three seconds to decide that my son would not be doing it, although Caylin had said he was really excited about it.

So I had to tell him…

ME:   “Fischer, you will not be doing hula lessons.”
FISCHER: “Ohhhh…why?”
ME:  “Hula dancing, well, it’s, um, it’s for girls. You’ve already mastered the art of twisting and shaking your bottom. Go put some grass clippings in your pocket and there you have it.”
FISCHER: “Well Dad, it was originally just for boys.”
ME:  “So you say.”
FISCHER: “Yeah…” And Fischer proceeded to give me a detailed explanation as to the history of hula dancing.

I did a little research of my own. Hula dancing basically began as a religious ritual rather than entertainment. There were a number of rules about how to do it, when, etc. It had been around for thousands of years until the Christians showed us as missionaries in the 1800s. They believed the dance was of the devil, against God, and it almost disappeared as a result. Eventually, a king made sure it didn’t all but disappear and revived the art underground.

Now, there are some of you probably thinking, what does this have to do with the gospel of John AND what kind of freakish Dad thinks his son will be damaged by gyrating around in a grass skirt. Did you listen to what you just said? Your talking to a Dad whose took his boys for some man-therapy the other night by going to Joe’s and looking at punching bags, knives, and guns to feel normal again. Sorry, I want my boys to be manly and grass skirts appear to be a step in the wrong direction.

So what does this have to do with John or Christianity—everything! See, I realize that a lot of people will view me as some man-o-maniac who is trying to make their son some sort of Chuck-Norris He-man hybrid. But, I have a plan for what I want to teach my son and it’s not to be a hula dancer. There is nothing wrong with hula dancing in itself, but it feels like today’s world refuses to draw any lines on anything. Perhaps they would understand if Fischer had requested to starting using a purse or wearing a dress. At some point the answer is simply NO…you’re a boy. They are hesitant for fear of what people say to declare I believe this, this is right, and/or this is wrong. All in the name of tolerance.

What happens when this extends into Jesus and Christianity? There has to be some lines drawn from Scripture about who Jesus is, who we are, and how we are supposed to live. All too often, people have started to declare who Jesus is or what the faith in him looks like without any basis in Scripture. In fact, most of them have abandoned Scripture all together. It seems like EVERYTHING is up for grabs these days. If you start changing Jesus, say, he’s not born of a virgin, it will never stop there. Suddenly, you’re not certain if Hell is a real place and whether homosexuality is in fact a sin. That is exactly what Satan did in the beginning when he showed up and started having an “innocent” conversation with our first parents Adam and Eve asking, “Did God really say that?” There is nothing wrong with questions—BUT WHERE ARE THE ANSWERS COMING FROM? At some point, if you haven’t taken a stand, even on the SMALL THINGS, you’ve changed something enough that he’s NO LONGER Jesus of the Bible, it’s no longer Christianity!

Re:Sermon | Are you killing it?

Taken from Mystery of the Mind of Christbekillingsin

Your fight against sin begins with believing there is a fight to be had. Sin will either tempt you to not fight, to fight the wrong things, or to fight the wrong way. I’ve heard it said, ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. You can get very good at fighting the wrong thing the wrong way. Here is the right way:

1. Fight honorably – the fight for the glory of God (Right motivation)

2. Fight intentionally- the fight is strategic (Right battle plan)

3. Fight ruthlessly – the fight is painful. (Right and Radical Sacrifice)

4. Fight relentlessly – the fight is never over (Right disposition)

5. Fight skillfully – the fight is biblical (Right weapon)

6. Fight communally- the fight is together (Right Community)

7. Fight faithfully – the fight is Christ-centered (Right means)

Our fight is not just one of defense, it is one of offense. Repentance is both walking away from and walking toward—it is not standing still.

Jeremiah 2.1 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

The trouble with talking about sanctification

The trouble with talking about sanctification is that our flesh always gets in the way. Even if we know thatgrace_series_renovation the ACT of God’s grace (justification) has secured our union with Christ, we wrongly believe that our communion with Christ (sanctification) is a work dependent upon ourselves. Without question, there is an inescapable tension between justification and sanctification; between our position of holiness and our practice of holiness; between faith and works.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2.12-13

How does it all happen? It is all God? Is it all me? There are two ditches on each side of the road. In one ditch is the “Let go and let God” people who believe they have ZERO responsibility to do anything regarding their behavior—I prayed the prayer—I’m saved…God will do the rest magically. On the other side of the ditch are those people who believe “It is all up to me” and they have 100% responsibility to change their thoughts, feelings, and behavior which results in a pendulum swing between pride and despair depending on how well they do. The question becomes, where does God’s sovereignty start and man’s responsibility begin when it comes to changing our attitudes and behaviors?

I recently preached a rather unsatisfying sermon on sanctification. Though I know Jesus was proclaimed, I am hopeful that the gospel was preached—there is a difference. I have learned that, even when grace is preached, the flesh has a tendency to speak and to hear works. Even if Jesus is said to have done everything, our flesh screams to do something. 

To be clear then, I believe that the righteousness we have received is Jesus’ not our own. I believe, therefore, that God graciously (but painfully so) God takes us through a perpetual RENOVATION process that ends either in our death or his 2nd coming. As sinners we were an old abandoned meth house destroyed by squatters. Through the death and resurrection Jesus, our ownership has changed and the new caretaker intends to not only clean it but fill it. He not only wants to make it livable, more than that, he wants to make it beautiful. Why? In order to increase three things: grace, gratitude, and glory to God. We are redeemed works in progress, slowly becoming in practice what we are in position.

This is a gospel-powered renovation. This is more than a little paint and washing the windows. In order to look like Jesus there will be ADDITIONS, SUBTRACTIONS, and MODIFICATIONS. We are, individually and corporately, a redeemed work in progress. It would be appropriate to put an UNDER CONSTRUCTION sign on our front door. As a work in progress, we are not complete. That is not the same as saying we are deficient, because God’s Spirit has given us all of the materials are there to complete us. It does mean, however, that our faith has unfinished areas, exposed areas, weak areas, even ugly areas. But there is a sense that the slowly, over time, our faith, and our faith family, will take on the shape, beautify, and function it God planned for us with all grace, gratitude, and glory.

This kind of renovation occurs ONLY as we behold the glory of the Christ. As we do this, His glory mysteriously but decisively transforms us into the same image of Glory from one degree to another (2Corinthians 3.18). How do we behold God’s glory? God gave us both desire and means to pursue His glory—which is His love in Christ. We read the Bible to learn about God’s love. We pray to respond to God’s love. We gather with God’s people to experience God’s love. We serve to share God’s love. And God, by His grace, sends trials refine us with His disciplining love. These are God’s means of grace through which we grow into who we already are in Christ.

In summary, as believe that Jesus loves us just as we are, by grace, we become who we actually should be.

The Road Church Network | Redefining and Renaming


 We believe our mission is to live out the Great Commandment as we fulfill the Great Commission.  Through the gospel, Jesus gathers us into a family of families and then sends us on mission into the world. Specifically, we believe we are called to make disciples and plant churches. This commitment requires the conviction that the Great Commission can be accomplished and will be completed. Image Furthermore, it requires that pastors and churches view themselves not as the end of the mission, but as a means to mobilize and equip people for mission through the local church. As God saves us by the power of the gospel, believers are gathered into a FAMILY where we grow in the gospel together—taking it deeper into our own hearts as we share it in one another’s lives.  But our family is not only a collection of maturing brothers and sisters who love one another; we are a team of ambassadors who are SENTon mission into the world. Genuine faithfulness requires that we both gather and scatter.

A church that lives out its “sent-ness” is a church that understands the Great Commission to be a call to make disciples AND plant new churches.  Since its beginning, Damascus Road Church has been a church committed to such reproduction.  It is our hope that disciples will make new disciples, groups will launch new groups, and churches will plant new churches. The elders believe that a continued commitment to this kind of reproduction will require a redefining the relationship between our two campuses.


It has been nearly two years since the elders cast vision for a campus in Snohomish.  At that time, the elders envisioned becoming one church that met in two locations.  Multi-site campus models like this have proven effective in maximizing resources, minimizing costs, and reaching more people for Christ.  The elders were decidedly against any form of video-preaching, so we cast a vision to for a second preaching pastor to lead one of the two campuses.   Unified by the Spirit, we officially launched Damascus Road Snohomish on the evening of January 13, 2013.

God faithfully grew His young plant in Snohomish.  Soon, God opened the door to lease an old historic building in the heart of downtown.  As expected, we transitioned to a morning service in the Summer of 2013.  What once felt like an additional service quickly grew into a flourishing church plant.  And though we had planned to continue as one church, with one elder board, one bank account, and one mission, the elders soon recognized the natural movement of the campuses was toward greater autonomy.  Though we shared the same essential DNA, we found that the people, the communities, and even the missions took on unique personalities like siblings from the same family.

Despite the pragmatic benefits of our model, we also found there were great costs.  Things such as staggered service times, a travelling preacher, shared staff, and combined events proved difficult for the pastors, and the people.  In early Fall, the elders began to discuss how we could continue to maximize the benefits of shared resources while minimizing the emotional, material, and psychological costs to the people.  Over the next three months, we prayed, fasted, and discussed our next step.  By 2014, we had made two decisions:

First, we decided to install a new lead pastor in Marysville and further empower the local elder boards.  This eliminated any travelling preachers, and ensured that the people were shepherded by local pastors and their families.  This also generated needs for more robust leadership teams to help with the operations of the ministry locally.

Second, we decided to establish an umbrella organization called Road Church Network. This decision is aimed at maximizing the local distinctiveness of each church while maintaining the pragmatic benefits of being one unified organization.  An additional reason for this decision was an unforeseen need to file as a 501c3 with the federal government. The timing of this requirement only helped confirm our decision to move forward.

We are currently in process of completing the paperwork for this transition.  When it is finalized, the church in Marysville and the church in Snohomish will exist as distinct entities under the one organization called the Road Church Network.  Having one organization will eliminate the need to duplicate systems and allow us to share costs of things such as: healthcare, the CITY, the Website, the APP, and even some branding.  In essence, we will be able to grow in our unique identity, and still maintain a shared familial history and bond.

In essence, we will exist as separate churches functioning under an umbrella organization called the Road Church Network.  We believe that a church network positions us to be more efficient, more contextual, and more biblical, in our commitment to church planting.  We believe it protects church autonomy while maximizing accountability.  We believe it fosters regional unity while maximizing local authority.  We believe it avoids church imperialism while maximizing church reproduction.


As we launch the Road Church Network, we will change our language to reflect the changes in our organization.  We will no longer use the word campus, but church, to describe our respective bodies.  To further clarify our distinction, the elders have decided to modify the name of Damascus Road Church in Snohomish to: Restoration Road Church.

The church in Marysville will continue as Damascus Road Church, without the name of the city attached. With this announcement, we will begin a systematic transition over the next two months, to be completed in August.  The initial changes will include things like THE CITY, Facebook, and the website.  By the end of Summer, all signage and logos will be rebranded in Snohomish.  The elders trust that distinguishing the two churches in this way is a wise decision for the church in Snohomish, the church in Marysville, and any future churches we plant together under the Road Church Network.  We expect that this name change will: 

  1. Eliminate natural comparisons or competition between churches of the same name
  2. Emphasize each church’s unique missional identity (under Jesus’ greater mission)
  3. Redefine the churches’ relationships as complementary versus codependent
  4. Increase the cultural connection with the city
  5. Establish a naming precedent for future church plants.
  6. Release each leadership team to pursue and implement a more local vision
  7. Exchange the popular multi-site model for a more biblical planting model
  8. Increase the sense of local responsibility to support the local church
  9. Simplify evangelistic invitations to attend a particular church
  10. Reduce network needs in order to focus leadership on the needs of local ministry


Names are important to God.  Throughout Scripture, names are attached to people, places, and things in order to provide a meaningful identity.  The Road Church “last name” ensures we have a binding family identity amongst every church that is planted out of our network.  But it also allows churches to determine a “first name” tailored to their particular cultural context or mission.  We believe the word “RESTORATION” aptly describes the church’s building in Snohomish, fits the culture, clarifies the mission, and reflects a belief in gospel.

  1. Restoration of the place:  We gather in a historic 19th century building in the heart of the city.  Once a stable for horses, God has reclaimed this place for His flock.  God’s spirit, through the worship of God’s people, has restored this empty building to life.   As we restore the aesthetic of the building, we make our dwelling place in the city more beautiful.  Our name helps remind us that we are called to bless the city in tangible ways.
  2. Restoration of the culture:  The city of Snohomish is known for its antique-rich culture.  The name simply aims to engage the existing culture of restoration.  Jesus incarnated into the world and dwelled for 30 years in relative obscurity.  He lived, worked, and enjoyed the culture as one of the people.  Our name helps us identify with the people of the city through contextualization.
  3. Restoration of the mission:  In Revelation 21.5 Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Jesus intends to restore all that sin destroyed.  Our mission is to see the culture restored back to God’s original design.  This includes things such as manhood, womanhood, parenting, marriage, finances, and work.  Our greatest joy is to see Jesus restore people, places, and practices back to their God-given purpose.  This name helps focus our mission as a call to glorify God in all things.
  4. Restoration of the gospel:  Restoration is the completion of the story of God.  God created a good world that broke because of man’s sin.  Jesus came to redeem his people from sin and restore humanity back to complete wholeness.  Though Jesus is reigning as King, we experience His Kingdom “now and not yet.”  Though we see God restoring creation, we live in a broken world, experiencing sin, death, and inconsolable suffering.  In truth, there are some things which will only be fully restored in eternity with Jesus.  This name helps us hope in our future restoration which comes with our resurrection.

Thank you for your commitment to our mission.  We are all very excited about these changes.  Know that the elders are committed to honest, open, and clear communication as we move forward.  If you have any questions or concerns, please share them with one of the elders at your church. Grace.

Pastor Sam

on behalf of the elders

Re: Sermon | Jesus says some scary things

The first time I preach a sermon, I always wish I could preach it second time.  The second time I preach a sermon, I always wish I couldImage preach a third time.  I always feel there is more or less to be said, or much to be changed.  Such is the case with my last sermon titled JESUS IS SCARY  GENEROUS from Matthew 7.15-23.  “Scary” is probably not the most popular adjective to describe Jesus.  The truth is, Jesus said some scary things. 

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’(Mt 7:21–23). 

Below is an excerpt taken from my most recent sermon.  In essence, passages like this challenge us to consider what we are looking to for the true basis for our salvation.  In other words, what are we really putting our faith in? Consider:

  1. Intellectual understanding is not enough (LORD). There are certainly things we must believe.  We must believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God—fully God and fully man, perfect representative and perfect sacrifice.  We must believe that Jesus was sent to save the world.  We must must believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross, in my place for my sins.  We must believe that He died because it was the only way to remove our guilty and satisfy God’s wrath.  We must believe that he was raised the third day and is seated and has been exalted as Lord of all.  There are certainly things we must believe, but even the demons are orthodox.In Matthew 8, we’ll see that the demons acknowledge Jesus’ authority.  James 2.1919 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Suffice to say, everyone who believes will declare Jesus as Lord, but not all who declare Jesus as LORD will actually believe.

  2. Emotional feeling is not enough (LORD, LORD):  These people whom Jesus ultimately casts out, not only have a set of beliefs (many orthodox) but they also have a zeal for God. They not only say Lord, they declare LORD LORD! They have feelings and emotions involved.  Despite all of their excitement for the things of God, Jesus says they are outside of the kingdom.  How do we explain this?  Our feelings cannot always be trusted.  Often, our enthusiasm is entirely of the flesh. All tears, tickles, and tingles do not necessarily come from God.  Contrary to popular belief, more emotion does not necessarily mean more spirituality (though some of us could go with a little more).  It might mean you are just an emotional person. 

  3. Words and works are not enough (DID WE NOT DO):  Finally, these people present the evidence for their devotion—the works that they have done.  And what is frightening is that these false converts, non-Christians, unbelievers are able to accomplish things in the name of Jesus!  They are able to prophesy and deliver some sort of spiritual message.  They are able to preach right doctrine, even lead others to salvation, and yet himself remain outside of Christ.  Scary.  More than that, they are able to cast out demons in the name of Jesus—as a member of the 12, Judas had this power. Finally, they say we were able to do many wonderful deeds in Jesus’ name.  These are legitimate mighty works of building ministries, of serving the poor, even of miraculous healing.

This passage is so “scary” because it forces us to identify the true basis for our salvation.  For some of us, we rely on what we know, others what we feel, and still others what we’ve done.  Jesus seems to say that eternal life has nothing to do with what we understand, what we feel, or what we do.  When these men come before Jesus, He doesn’t say – you don’t understand me enough, you’re not excited about me enough, or you didn’t work for me enough.  Jesus simply says, “I NEVER KNEW YOU.”    

I continued in this sermon to direct us toward the only basis for our salvation, namely, GRACE.  If I were going to preach it again in a way that is more clearly organized (but perhaps less spirit-filled admittedly), then I would probably state is this way:

We are not saved by what we know about Jesus, what we feel about Jesus, or what we do for Jesus.  By grace, we are saved by what Jesus knows about us, by what Jesus feels toward us, and by what Jesus has done for us. 

Fit for Twitter | Jesus is Narrow

Below are excerpts taken from sermon Jesus is Narrow (Text but not recording available).  In essence, the following 10 statements Imageencapsulate all that I hoped to say in twitter-sized chunks.

  1. The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best description of a Christian. Sadly, because none of us live this description perfectly, few of us take it seriously.
  2. Jesus is not calling people to consider or admire Him; He is calling people to follow Him. There is no standing still, you will either walk the way of Jesus or walk away from Jesus. 
  3. There is a third way to live that is neither self-indulgent or self-righteous.  The third way comes through belief in the gospel; it is the way of self-denial.  This is what Jesus calls the narrow way—it is the way of Jesus.  And, if Jesus life is any example, the way of Jesus is different, hard, but ultimately life-giving. 

  4. Faith in Christ is not simply a decision; it is a lifetime of decisions motivated by Jesus, empowered through Jesus, and modeled after Jesus.
  5. More than anything, the narrow road is hard because it requires relationship(s). The narrow path is a marriage with Jesus and marriage is hard. The narrow path is participation in a family and family is hard.  The narrow path is a mission to love our neighbors and neighbors can be hard. 
  6. There is only one path that Jesus has walked. There is only one path that Jesus promises to walk with us.  There is only one path that Jesus promises to reward after we have walked it
  7. There are only two paths to walk in life, we are born onto one; we must be reborn onto the other. 
  8. We do not enter the road through achieving and reforming.  We do not enter through practicing or abstaining from certain things.  We do not enter through thinking positively, seeking spiritual experiences, or hiding from the world like a monk.  We enter the road through repenting and believing.  

  9. Every author, blogger, and spiritual guru has their man-centered plans to achieve happiness.  I don’t have seven, five, or even three steps; I have just one—DIE…NOTHING can be RESURRECTED unless it has fully died.  


Changing the Score Card

God continues to bring a phrase to mind through different men, books, and blogs: “Change the score card”.  As a church planter, the
idea of a score card is something a pastor never admits he is always thinking about.  Though no one is really keeping score, pastors can’t help but feel as if there is.  Most days, we feel like we are either winning or losing the “numbers” game.Image
They say numbers are important, but I wonder if we say that to make ourselves feel better.  In truth, numbers don’t tell us everything, but they tell us something.  And that something is often the one thing that has become too important to us.  Pastors know this and, for the most part, they try and fight this.  As much as pastors try to ignore numbers, or pretend like they don’t really matter, they can’t resist the Post Easter blogs and Facebook posts about the number in attendance, the number of baptisms, and the number of volunteers that made it all happen.  Don’t get me wrong, there is much to celebrate and thank God for here.  If I’m honest (which is rare for a pastor when talking about numbers), these numbers make me either prideful or despairing depending on how our church measures up.  Or dare I say, how “I” measure up.
This is all sinful, wrong, and sad, which leads me back to the idea of changing the score card.  If you change the score card then you’ll change not only how you play the game, but how you feel about the game you played.  Without a change in the score card, another’s success (one who plays the same game as you) will always be difficult to celebrate and another’s failure will be too easy to empathize with.  Without a change in the score card, you will constantly turn inward to examine whether if you are doing everything “right”.  You will question your decisions, your systems, your programs, your preaching, everything.  Your pursuit of a higher score will drain you of all your energy as you spend it wondering what you can add, change, or stop.  Invariably, you will begin to believe that the “success” of God’s mission is in your control. Failure mean’s losing.  Losing means disappointing.  Somewhere you failed to see that God’s definition of success was the crucifixion of His Son.
In truth, God’s mission just isn’t as fragile as our faith in Him. There are certainly some things that pastors an influence, but there isn’t much they can control.  This is God’s church, God’s, mission, and God’s ministry.  We have received a ministry from God, meaning, who we have, who we don’t have, what we have, and what we don’t have is in God’s hands.  Numbers are in God’s hands, whether that is attendees, salvation, or baptisms. We water . We fertilize.  We till.  God grows. God builds. God bears fruit.
So what must we focus on?  We must not focus our attention or energy on how to attract more people.  That is not our job.  We cannot control who will come to our church.  But we can control who we send from it.  We must not focus on evangelism but on disciple-making.  We must shepherd the flock that is before us and train them to follow Jesus.  Let us not forget that, by all ministry “measurables” Jesus ministry was a utter failure. But for three years he focused most of his energies on 12 different men.  He knew they would do more.  More than that, he sacrificed all that He had in to ensure they would…in the future.



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