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12And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Mark 15:12–15 (ESV)

The releasing of Barabbas is a vivid picture of the type of heart and the potential for sin that lies within each of us. It is also a vivid picture of the heart turned over in judgment. In God’s sovereignty, he gave the people what they wanted. He gave them what they believed to be a good choice. He gave them what they thought would satisfy them. They made the wrong choice. It seems ridiculous and blatant. They chose rebellion and hatred in the heart of a schismatic murderer, Barabbas. Why? Rebellion and hatred were in their heart, too.

What if others could look on as you made choices throughout the week? They could hear all the innuendo in the joke you chose to tell. They could sense the disdain and contempt coloring your words as you chose to gossip. They could see you choose to post that Facebook rant against the liberals. They could observe you choosing to be in front of the computer lusting for someone else. They could watch as you choose to lose your temper when you got interrupted in the middle of your project. They could listen to you choose to boldly criticize the decisions of your employer. They could see you choose to leave a small tip because you had to wait for the waitress to fill your water. They could standby as you choose to waste hours binge watching The Walking Dead, Fox News, or The Bachelor. They would look as you choose to stay up late playing Legend of Zelda, Settlers of Catan, or Dominion.

Then, they could watch you choose to go to church on Sunday if you don’t have anything else going on and you got enough sleep. You are always on time for work at 8:00 AM, five-days a week, but Sunday is your only chance to sleep-in. They could peek as you choose to pass up an opportunity to give because you’re barely getting by on Dish Network, lattes, and grass-fed beef. Besides, you have a mistrust for institutions and how money is chosen to be spent. They could see you choose to check Instagram during a forty-five-minute sermon because you are a visual learner and it’s hard to stay engaged. They could witness you choosing to forgo involvement in a small group, because you’re the only one who’s had a long day at work. Besides, you’d rather be at home unless you need to get groceries or a haircut, to run errands or to enjoy hobbies. You would choose to attend the prayer meeting, as long as you don’t have to talk to God around others; that qualifies as public speaking and you never choose to talk to anyone out loud when you are in public, ever.

However, they didn’t see you choose to read the Bible during the rest of the week because you’re not much of a reader—unless of course you count fiction, The Drudge Report, Wikipedia, or any book on American History.

They did witness you choosing to get passionate defending your second amendment rights, your right to home-school, and the need for immigration reform. Those are topics you have chosen to be well-acquainted with and are comfortable debating anyone on social media. They could really see you choose to be vocal about Christian values when they see you post on your timeline the meme:

“If you think prayer and Bible reading should be allowed in public school, share this with ten friends.”

Although you know most of them won’t share it, you know your real friends will and everyone who doesn’t, will probably question the genuineness of their own faith. They would see you choosing to put the fish symbol on your vehicle because you know sharing your faith is important with those who don’t cut you off in traffic.

At last, they could witness you choosing to get downright offended when someone cared enough about your spiritual life to challenge your devotion to Christ. They would hear you choosing to tell that person they were acting like a legalistic Pharisee and they need to be aware that we are finally under grace. They would hear you choose to say that you are going somewhere else where they don’t expect a commitment and aren’t so judgmental. They would hear others choosing to feel sorry for you when they heard about how you had been mistreated by church people.

It is just like us to choose to see the ridiculous and blatantly wrong choices of others and choose not to see our own. How could they choose Barabbas over Jesus? How could they choose to shout: “Crucify him! Crucify him!”? They chose Barabbas for the same reasons we choose so many other things over Jesus, our hearts are often so hard, and we’re the last ones to know it.

Thankfully, the ridiculous and blatant glory cross softens sinful hearts. God chose the cross to show wrath and mercy kissing each other. He chose the cross to be a public display of affection between justice and peace. God chose the cross to demonstrate the righteous requirement of the law had been satisfied and atonement for sins had been achieved. However, it is the resurrection of Jesus that gives us the power to make new choices. We have entered life from death and can choose to put off the old man, place our sins underfoot, and put on the new man, Christ Jesus. We can choose to love God because he first chose to love us.


Children Who See

Posted: December 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

Happy New Year! This time of the year is truly inspiring to me as I brainstorm ideas and dream about what God may do in my life and in those whom He has entrusted me with. I love that our God is a God who does things that are impossible for man to do.

OUR GREATEST NEEDvision-test-2

We need God! That statement is more of an obvious understatement. If we are honest, we live a lot of our daily lives not needing God. How can this be? By His life, Jesus truly demonstrated His need for His Father. He lived moment-by-moment, day-by-day.

When you meditate on Jesus’ words in His most well-known sermon, you find this perspective:


Matthew 6:34 (ESV) “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

This is exactly why Jesus taught His disciples to pray the way He did. The model prayer begins with revering God’s name because His name expresses everything we need in our existence, today. When we hallow him as the “God who sees,” as Haggar did (Gen. 16:13), then we can live moment-by-moment, day-by-day with complete confidence that He will supply our every need, whether it be water or wisdom, food or faith, clothing or comfort.


We can be the “children who see” when we are pure in heart (Mt. 5:8). We can be satisfied when we hunger and thirst for righteousness rather than rations (Mt. 5:6). If we want to see God, if we want to be satisfied with Him, then we need to give up the things we so often replace Him with.

I know that I don’t see and need God the way He desires for me to need and see Him. As we start the New Year, I can think of no other way to be children who see better than by setting aside time to put on the spiritual lenses of fasting and prayer. Beginning Monday, January 2nd through the end of the day, Wednesday, January 4th, I’m calling for a vision test of fasting and prayer so that we can all approach this year with better sight. Let me give you an explanation and expectation for these three days.


In an article, by Dave Mathis, entitled: Fasting for Beginners, Mathis defines fasting as: “voluntarily going without food — or any other regularly enjoyed, good gift from God — for the sake of some spiritual purpose.” I would go one step further and add that the spiritual purpose is God Himself.


First, here are a few practical helps that are appropriate for those who may be new to fasting and those who have already built this into their routines.


If you are new to fasting, do not be over ambitious, especially if you choose to fast from food. I think it is safe to believe that God would much rather have you conscious and alert than passed out and disoriented because of a deep plunge in your blood sugar.

You could fast from one meal each day or a particular type of food. You could replace solid food with a healthy broth or as Mathis suggests, a juice fast may be appropriate for some. Be sure to research more of the practical issues, including breaking a fast, that are pertinent to your individual health.

For others, you may choose to fast from God’s good gifts of technology, social media, or even sex (1 Cor. 7:5). Choose something to fast from that won’t be easy to give up or that gets the attention of your desires


If you are going to fast from food or some other good gift, use the time you would normally spend eating and enjoying as your fasting time. For example, meals like lunch or dinner may be spent around a table for an hour. You may spend 45 minutes each day decompressing by watching your favorite show on Netflix or some type of hobby.

During that time, find a place where you can unplug from daily life and focus on spiritual things through Bible reading, reflection, and prayer. The cliché is true in this discipline, quality matters. I will be providing some practical ideas you can implement should you find them to be appealing.


It is appropriate to let those most directly affected by your decision to fast what your intentions are. When Jesus condemned those for doing such, it was the self-righteous ones whose hearts desired the praise of men, not those whose hearts were fully after God (Mt. 6:16-18).

Ask someone close to you who is spiritually-minded, who can encourage you. Most importantly, share with them your spiritual plan for redeeming the time and what you hope to benefit in while fasting. You may find out that what you didn’t think you could give up for three days you did by the power of Jesus.

We need God! We need to be “children who see.” My only expectation is that you would find an appropriate way to participate that will increase your affections for God. I’m inviting you along with me to enjoy and treasure Jesus through fasting and prayer so that we can grow deeper, stronger, together.





I love what God has called me to do. I love that I get to study God’s Word, care for God’s people, and spread God’s fame. I feel extremely blessed that God called me to Berean Baptist Church and the city of Eugene. In part one I reflected on our church and city. In part two, I’d like to share with you what I have learned about myself. I share this with you because God has graciously revealed my sinfulness and weakness that His mercy and strength would rest upon me.Reflecting Pool

  1. I need to pray—it is easy to rely on myself; it is hard to rely on God. Martin Luther said: “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Martin Luther knew better than me about his need for prayer. I’m sure he was much busier than I. I see all the things that need to be done, and I feel like I have the energy to do them. I have deceived myself. It does not matter how much energy I have; if I’m not praying, I’m not relying. I need to make prayer appointments throughout the day and keep them. Help me remember the necessity of prayer.
  2. I need to receive help—I also deceive myself into thinking I can do things on my own. This is one way the enemy takes pastors out. I don’t want to be taken out, nor do I want to burn out. I need helpers who believe whole-heartedly in what God is calling us to do and desire to follow me as I follow Christ. Help me remember the joy of receiving help so that I will accept the help when it comes.
  3. I need refreshment—so much of my life is giving out, and that is okay. I want to do that. But I realize that I have to be that much more intentional to take in. I like to work. It is easy for me to stay busy, and there is always something to do. But if I do not receive refreshment, I cannot be who I am supposed to be for my wife and children, let alone the church. That means I need to do some rearranging in my schedule so I can depart into “the mountain” more regularly. Everyone will benefit if I do.
  4. I need to say “no”—saying “no” to good things is hard. My pride slips in and deceives me. I see every opportunity as a possible opportunity to minister and deepen relationships. Though every opportunity is an opportunity to minister, every opportunity should not demand that I be a part of it. My job is to equip you for ministry, not to hoard ministry. If I or my wife says “no,” please do not take it personally. Our “no” means that there is opportunity for others. The body of Christ is bigger than any one pastor and his family.
  5. I need to communicate better—one of the adjustments for me has been the fact that we only meet once a week corporately. Because of that, we try hard not to clutter our service. In order to do a better job communicating, I am planning on writing more often in order to keep you up-to-date on things that are important. I also need to carve out times when it is appropriate to speak to the church on issues that affect everyone.

I love what God has called me to do. I love that I get to study God’s Word, care for God’s people, and spread God’s fame. In all of those things, I feel extremely blessed that I get to be a part of Berean Baptist Church. I still marvel at the thought of God bringing me and my family across the country to serve in a place I never imagined I would ever live. Celebrating my first year here has caused me to reflect on what I have learned about our church, our city, and me. I thought it would be helpful breReflecting Poolak what I’ve learned into two parts. In part one, I would like to share with you what I have learned about our church and city.

  1. We have some hungry people—no, I’m not talking about our need to have more pot-lucks, but we have some people who really want to grow and really want to live a life that God would be pleased with. Many of the things we are attempting to do are simply an attempt to get back to the basics, and the best way to do that is to keep things simple.
  2. We have some generous people—I am very grateful to witness the generosity of people in our church. As we have made known to you the various needs of our church body or our church building, I have seen people sit down and write checks or ask how they can give. There is still a need to finish various projects in the building, and there are still people in need. Continue to give generously as God blesses you.
  3. We need to engage our city—we cannot sit back and wait for people and opportunities to come to us. We have to go out and find them. There are hurting people all over our city. They need to see the love of Christ in us. We have to be creative and find ways to love our neighbors so that we can share the gospel with them. It is their only hope!
  4. We need to build relationships—the only way we are going to be able to recognize hurting people in our church is to be actively involved in each other’s life. Building relationships takes time and effort. It means you have to take the initiative. It means that you need to invite people over to your house, write encouraging notes, introduce yourself to visitors, offer to sit with visitors, and sit in a different seat each week. (I know, I just asked for the moon!) Let’s get beyond the weather and football and swim in the deep waters of life.
  5. We need to change—people say change is good, but I have found that many times people feel change is good as long as it does not affect them directly. Change is God’s idea. He is changing us from one degree of glory to another. When change happens to us and around us, it is an opportunity for God to give us more grace to respond to Him, the one who never changes.


Vision is key to moving forward. It’s the aim, the direction, the trajectory. Without it, we go astray, we miss our target, we wander aimlessly, or we remain stagnant. Without a vision, we die.

During the pastor search process, I offered up my vision for Berean, what I would do first and what I felt “Vision chartmoving forward” would look like. I reiterated it during my candidating trip, once again after I first arrived here, and now a year later, I want to remind us again so that we keep the vision before us, a clear trajectory of where we are headed.

My primary goal for the first phase was simple: strengthen church membership expectations, draft a new covenant, and clarify church documents. We began that journey this year, discussing together the importance of the local church for authority and accountability and covenanting together to be worshippers, learners, followers, and givers. A second objective for phase one was also to get to know you, to evaluate the ministries of Berean, and to determine how each fit the greater vision for our future.

While in many ways, these objectives are far from finished, we’ve gotten a solid start, and it’s time to begin another year, another phase, and additional goals. My vision for our second year was to begin rolling out a plan to disciple our adults. We cannot effectively minister to our children, to our families, and to our community if we are not invested in maturing individually as followers of Christ. We need the intimacy of a group of believers to share life and to hold each other accountable to this walk of faith. And because it’s not practical to have that depth of intimacy with every person in the church, a small group setting provides us with a practical way to develop that level of relationship. So this fall, as one aspect of discipling our adults, we will be initiating small groups, groups of believers who will learn together, work together, and play together. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more details about these groups and how to get plugged in.

Children are a definite part of my overall vision, and we will continue to pursue excellence this year as we minister to them. Shaping and strengthening these ministries, however, is “Phase Three,” down the road a bit. Again, we have to make it a priority to disciple the adults ministering to those children and the parents training these children.  We are caring for our children when we care for the adults that play such a vital role in influencing their lives. So, are children a part of my vision for the future of Berean? Absolutely. But for now, let’s remain faithful to what we’ve been doing in regards to children’s ministries and focus on being what we need to be as their examples.

Lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes planning and intentionality, carefully laid-out goals, and fervent prayer. Pray with me, labor with me, and let’s eagerly believe to see God’s glory at work in our midst.


In the movie City Slickers, Mitch (Billy Crystal) is having a mid-life crisis. He’s lost. He’s at the end of his rope.  He’s hoping to figure things out on a cattle-driving trip that he and his childhood buddies go on. The cattle drive is led by Curly (Jack Palance), a seemingly distant and rugged cowboy. Curly and Mitch don’t quite hit it off to begin with, but finally begin to bond as the drive goes on. In one pivotal scene, Curly steadily holds up his index finger and asks Mitch “Do you know what this is?” Curly tells him that the secret of life is this—“one thing.” Mitch is left to ponder what Curly means by the “one thing.”

The righteous king David says he has desired “one thing”: Psalm 27:4 (ESV) “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” As you read the Psalms, you find a common motif of contrasting the righteous and their desires with the desires of the wicked.

David wants to be where God is. What does that “one thing” bring to the righteous? It makes the righteous like a palm tree that flourishes (Psalm 92:12). Palms don’t change color, and they don’t lose their leaves. They grow year-round. The psalmist then likens the righteous to cedar trees. Cedars trees are tall and majestic. They are one of the most useful trees and are decay-resistant, which is why they endure so long.

The metaphors clearly demonstrate what the life of the righteous should be characterized by—continual growth and durability. That growth should happen year-round. If you are not growing, you are also not flourishing. And if you are not flourishing, you will also not be

You may ask: “What is the purpose of continual growth and durability?” It is simple, to declare that the Lord is upright (Psalm 92:15). What a picture that as we continually grow and endure, we declare the uprightness of God, the one who has planted us. Uprightness is desirable in a tree. The upright tree demonstrates that its roots are sturdy, receiving the life-source. The tree is in position to receive the nourishment it needs from the sun and soil. Consequently, it is ever filled with sap and green.

Unlike Mitch, however, the righteous are actually not trying to find that one thing at all. Instead, we are trying to keep our attention on the “One person.” But you won’t have to go on a cattle drive with your childhood pals to find the One person. He is near, tending to his palms and cedars, causing them to flourish, causing them to last.

Now and Not Yet

Posted: March 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

Springtime is filled with hope and new life. It is inspiring to watch springtime unfold from the first bud, to the last bloom. It anticipates all the things autumn doesn’t: warmth, fruitfulness, daylight, and renewal. When spring is in full thrust, one day comes that extols all the vitality of this season, Resurrection Sunday.

For Christians, this miracle is the most significant event in our faith. Without the hope of a resurrection, we are to be pitied above all men (1Cor. 15: 19); without the resurrection, we are people who have no hope, engulfed in a world of death.

Death is something that constantly surrounds us all. We hear of death in the news and view it in our entertainment. We read about it. We talk about it. Death comes to our friends, and it comes to our families. It will one day come to us. But when death comes close, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope. Death actually strengthens our faith because it brings with it a companion—hope of the resurrection. Yet often, our hope in the resurrection seems so distant, it feels wSpring timeworthless for today. It’s a hope for one day, but not yet.

For the Christian, “not yet” is sooner than we think.

Abraham had a firm grasp of the nearness of a resurrection. His death and resurrection theology had as much pith as it did practice. Abraham’s hope gave him the confidence to come within a twinkling of the eye to sacrificing his own son. He knew that in order to receive the promise God gave to him, God would have to resurrect Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:19). It is my conjecture that Abraham thought that this resurrection would be closer to “now” than to “not yet.”

Similarly, when Jesus predicted His death three times to His disciples, it was intended to strengthen their faith. During the three days Jesus lay in the tomb, the disciples lacked the hope that Abraham had, not simply a hope in resurrection, but the nearness of that hope.

Like the disciples, we too believe in a resurrection, we just don’t expect it to happen soon. Consequently, our faith is not strengthened as it could be each time we observe the death and renewal of creation. Every time winter departs and spring enters, creation itself vividly reminds us that the bondage of death is eradicated and the permanency of new life will soon be initiated (Rom. 8:19). In every new bud, in every new bloom, our faith should be strengthened.

Christians do not just live between seasons, we live between two worlds, the now and the not yet. The Holy Spirit has been given to us now as a down payment towards the not yet. The reality of the not yet is what should cause us to hope now in the resurrection every time we see death around us. Because now, our faith is the One who conquered death once and for all.