---Porch Chat Blog




Vowing To Not

Write Vows

by Tyler Goens
…There’s an interesting trend of people writing their own marriages vows instead of using traditional ones.
Or maybe I’m just noticing it more as all my friends are getting married: ring by spring, baby! While I’m always happy for people on their special day, personalized wedding vows always felt a little off to me. I used to just chalk it up as my own lack of emotional sensitivity (which is probably still a part of the problem).
However, I recently heard Pastor Sam Allberry say on the Gospel Coalition Podcast, partially joking but partially serious: I’ll only marry a couple if they DON’T write their own vows. The vows will entirely miss the point of what the whole ceremony is about. They’ll write vows about how they feel. [But] we [already] know how you feel. We don’t need seventeen stanzas of bad poetry to know how you feel on your wedding day.” -Sam Allberry (click here for full podcast episode). 
Now, on the one hand, the traditional wedding vows are not found in scripture; they’re not inspired by God. Traditional vows won’t strengthen your new marriage any more than a well-placed, motivational poster will strengthen your work environment. They’re both just symbols and signs. BUT these things have their place. And if we agree that the ceremony is important (Pinterest boards and pocketbooks currently confirm), then what we do and say here matters.
From the Bible’s perspective, marriage is not just something that happens between two consenting adults. Marriage is a life-long covenant between two sexually different persons, in which the two become one, resembling the relationship that Jesus has with his people (This doesn’t allow us to treat LGBT+ people with any less dignity, even if we respectfully disagree on this point.)
But, I think many wedding ceremonies miss the big picture of what marriage is supposed to represent. A wedding isn’t primarily about highlighting the individuality of the bride and groom, or the (untested) love the couple professes. As Russell Moore says, those gathered at the wedding at not “just guests at the party,” they are witnesses of what is happening. Why do weddings need witnesses? We attendees represent the “Body of Christ,” the people meant to help and the hold this couple to their life-long vows.
Because there is NO WAY anyone can predict what is coming for these two: the turbulence, the temptations, the trials. The couple most certainly can’t, and so flowery and flamboyant pronouncements of life-long fidelity just aren’t that valuable. EVERYONE feels good on the wedding day (except the ex-boyfriend), but what happens when, five years (or months) later, strong feelings fade? (And it’s always a matter of when not if). What do you look back upon? Anything anchored in wedding-day butterflies and feeling of infatuation will be long gone.
So what does anchor us? Not vows of self-actualization, but a vow of self-sacrifice: a simple promise (in front of an accountable community who will hold us to these vows). I love what Louis Mead says, a Dutch-American philosopher about marriage. Long quote but worth the read:
“When I make a promise, I bear witness that my future with you is not locked… in the hand I was dealt out with out of my parents’ genetic deck. When I make a promise, I testify that I was not routed along some unalterable itinerary by the psychic conditioning visited on me by my slightly wacky parents. When I make a promise, I declare that my future with people who depend on me is not predetermined by the mixed up culture of my tender years… I’m well aware that much of what I am and what I do is a gift or curse from my past, but when I make a promise to anyone, I rise above all the conditioning that limits me. No German shepherd ever promised to be with me, no computer ever promised to be a loyal help. Only a person can make a promise, and when you do, you are most free.” -Louis Mead
Why “most free?” In the instability of impulses and in the fleeting nature of feelings, we are often conditioned by our past and our biology (unpopular fact). But when we are anchored to a simple promise, in the presence of many witnesses, then we are free from the feelings of the moment.
So why do I like the following traditional vows better than anything anyone else comes up with?
They are external to me, not something that comes from within me. They are a great resource that comes from outside of me. Our culture constantly preaches that whatever feels right, deep down, is that which needs to be pursued at any and every cost (Think every Disney movie). In my opinion, Christian weddings could demonstrate respectful, counter-cultural, disagreement with this philosophy. This wedding day is not primarily about how we feel, but to celebrate and witness what God has done for us, what promises we make to each other, and the witnesses holding us to these promises.
What makes a wedding significant, notes Russell Moore, is not it’s differences from other weddings, but what makes them all the same. The decorations, the dress, the venue, the food are not what makes a wedding significant, but rather the eternal realities to which the wedding point. I think traditional vows are a great way in the ceremony to keep the same, significant meaning of marriage on full display.
The Declaration of Consent (Book of Common Prayer):
Name: Will you have this man to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?
I will.
Will you have this woman to be your wife; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?
I will.
– Pastor Tyler



Favorite Five Books in 2018

by Tyler Goens

Well, being that 2018 is my last (full) year as an unmarried man, I used to it do something surprising: Actually complete a New Year’s Resolution. I did reach my goal of reading 100 books. Contrary to popular belief, they were not all Dr. Seuss books (only half).

  Some people might think I’m bragging by telling you all this, and maybe secretly I really am. But the purpose of this post is to 1) highlight my favorite five books of the year, as well as to 2) motivate YOU, (yes, you!) to set a book goal for 2019.   Maybe for you it’s 6 books (one every two months), maybe it’s 12 books (one per month), maybe it’s 50 books (one per week), but why not set a book goal and create an action plan for it? I have a few unique opportunities in my job for extra reading, but there are audiobook resources like Audible and Librivox that any of us can use during exercise, a commute, or working around the house.  

Favorite Five Books in 2018

Joel Fuhrman, Fast Food Genocide: How Processed Food Is Killing Us And What We Can Do About It

  Were you expecting a health and food book? Me neither. But it was extremely impactful in my life to take more control over my eating practices and habits. I’ve gradually lost about fifteen pounds this year, and I feel a lot better (mostly) avoiding most processed foods and growing a newfound love for veggies. Recommended for anyone trying to eat healthier!  

Andrew Marin, Us Verses Us: The Untold Story of Religion And The LGBT Community

  As our church went through The Broken Series earlier in the year, I was asked to teach on Same-Sex Relationships. One well-researched, staggering statistic stands above the rest in this book: 86% of the LGBT people came from a faith community. 86% of LGBT people have spent significant time in church. And most of the respondents said they didn’t leave the church for theological reasons; they left because of how they were treated. We can still hold to the traditional, historical, sexual ethic AND love our (gay) neighbors as ourselves. Recommended for Christians seeking to love, understand, and reach out to the LGBT community.  

Jonathan Franklin, 438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea

  This is a true story of the survival of Salvador Alvarenga. While fishing 100 miles off the coast of Mexico, Alvarenga gets caught in a massive storm, and his engine dies. He proceeds to float for 438 days for over 6000 miles, until arriving at the Marshall Islands, where he is rescued. No joke: google it (because everything on the internet is true). But seriously, he survives by eating fish, sea turtles, and most importantly, birds thinking they found a place to rest on his boat. Recommended for anyone who likes (true) survival stories!  

Matt Cater and Aaron Ivey, Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson,

Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom?

  Many of us know about the incredible Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers who would speak to thousands and thousands without a microphone 19th century London. But few of us have heard of Thomas Johnson, a slave who after the Civil War, became a pastor in Chicago. Through God’s providence, Johnson attends Spurgeon’s pastors’ college in London, desiring to go to Africa to share the gospel with his native people. The two men become really close friends, and through their relationship, we get a glimpse of the kind of suffering that both of them endured. This is a work of historical fiction, although the main characters and storyline are anchored in reality.  

Carl F. George and Warren Bird, How to Break Growth Barriers: Revise Your Role, Release Your People, and Capture Overlooked Opportunities for Your Church

  This book is massively important for changing the paradigm of church leaders from solo caregiver to developer of lay leaders. Leading to frustration, limitation, and burnout, the solo caregiver model only goes so far. But this book stresses the value and importance of giving away ministry by training up others in their gifts and talents. Although the “how-to” title might cause us to roll our eyes (understandably so, with the plethora of click-bait “how-to” titles shouting for our attention) this content is incredible, helpful, and immensely spiritual/pastoral. Jesus said it was good for him to leave, because then he could send the Holy Spirit, who would live in every believer. Why then do we, as church leaders, try to do solo ministry when even Jesus didn’t see it as the best, long-term strategy? Recommended for every ministry leader!  

Runner Ups:

Donald Whitney, Praying the Bible David Bennett, A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus Tim Keller, The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy Bob Goff, Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People Lynn K. Wilder, Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way out of the Mormon Church

Thanks for reading! What were some of your favorite books this year?
Book List This Year
(If any of these look interesting, feel to message me and ask if I think they’re worth reading!)

December 2017

Preston Sprinkle, Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Evert Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Gender, and Sexuality

Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World

Corrie Ten Boom with Elizabeth and John Sherill, The Hiding Place

Mark A. Yarhouse, Homosexuality And The Christian: A Guide For Parents, Pastors, and Friends

Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Andrew David Nasselli, Kevin Bauder, Al Mohler, John Stackhouse, Roger Olson, Four Views on The Spectrum of Evangelicalism

F.B. Meyer, Expository Preaching

Hugh Ross, The Fingerprint of God: Recent Scientific Discoveries Reveal the Unmistakable Identity of the Creator

Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives

The Power Of Words And The Wonder Of God, Edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor

The Bible (various translations, finished from the previous year)

Mario Puzo, The Godfather


Christopher J. H. Wright, Deuteronomy

Abby Johnson, The Walls Are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories

Alan Briggs, Staying Is The New Going: Choosing To Love Where God Placed You

Chris Carter, Joe Harris, Dirk Maggs: The X-Files: Cold Cases

Joel Fuhrman, Fast Food Genocide: How Processed Food Is Killing Us And What We Can Do About It

Spurgeon’s Calvinism, Ed. Stephen Mccaskell

Eugene Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God

Alfred J. Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor: A Biblical Guide To Resolving Church Conflict

Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eye Witnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony

Chris Carter, Joe Harris, Dirk Maggs: The X-Files: Stolen Lives

Caleb Kaltenbach, Messy Grace: How A Pastor With Gay Parents Learned To Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction

Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life

Andrew Marin, Us Verses Us: The Untold Story of Religion And The LGBT Community



James Calvin Davis, Forbearance: A Theological Ethic For a Disagreeable Church

Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos.

Alan Jacobs, How To Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds

William H. McRaven, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe The World

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves: An Exploration of the Nature of Love

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith

John Scalzi, The Dispatcher

Paul Hegstrom, Broken Children, Grown-up Pain: Understanding the Effects of Your Wounded Past

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters



Scott Daniels, Seven Deadly Spirits: The Message of Revelation’s Letters for Today’s Church

Jennifer Forde, Sam Bungey, West Cork: Every Countryside Has A Darkside

N.T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer

A.J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest In A Non-Stop World

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Joel B. Green, Body, Soul, And Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible



Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Helping Without Hurting In Short-Term Missions

Christian A. Schwarz, Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches

Donald Whitney, Praying the Bible

N.T. Wright, Paul: A Biography

Alastair J. Roberts and Andrew Wilson, Echoes of Exodus: Teaching Themes of Redemption through Scripture

Ryan Huguley, Eight Hours Or Less: Writing Faithful Sermons Faster

Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality.



Preston Sprinkle, Fight: The Christian Case For Non-Violence

Michael Horton, Introducing Covenant Theology

Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, Creating True Oneness to Transform Your Marriage

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor And Yourself

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Volume I

Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes With A House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World



Larry Osborne, Sticky Church

Sam Chan, D.A. Carson, Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News About Jesus More Believeable

Lynn K. Wilder, Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way out of the Mormon Church

Chip and Dean Heath, Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard



Rob Bell, Blood, Guts, and Fire: The Gospel According to Leviticus, Part 1

John Grisham, A Painted House

Tim Keller, The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith

R.C. Sproul, The Prayer of the Lord

Martin Buber, I and Thou, Trans. Kaufmann

D.A. Carson, The Sermon on The Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7

Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief

F.F. Bruce, Acts: A Bible Study Commentary

John MacArthur, Jesus’ Pattern of Prayer



Brad Griffin, Jake Mulder, and Kara Powel, Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church

N.T. Wright, Paul: A Biography (Second time through)

Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

Amy E. Jacober, The Adolescent Journey: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Practical Youth Ministry

Jonathan Franklin, 438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea

Ajith Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary: From Biblical Text to Contemporary Life

Michael Clarkson, The Age of Daredevils

Howard Marshall, Acts: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries

Darrell L. Bock, Acts: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience

Joe Ehrmann, InSide Out Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.



Chris Voss, Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

Thor Heyerdahl, The Kon-Tiki Expedition, By Raft Across the Southern Seas

Ken Lozito, Genesis: First Colony

Tim Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

Rob Bell, Blood, Guts, and Fire: The Gospel According to Leviticus, Part 2

Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus



Peter Bogdanov, We Met Jesus: Stories of Healing in Community

Bradley Wright, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media

Matt Chandler, The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex and Redemption.

Cynthia Hammer, Lord Hear My Car, Why Lord?

Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Volume I.

Viktor E. Frankel, Man’s Search For Meaning.

Francis Chan, Letters to the Church

First and Second Epistles of Clement, Translated by J.B. Lightfoot

The Epistles of Ignatius

Scot McKnight, Praying With The Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today.



D.A. Carson, The God Who is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story.

John Stonestreet, Brett Kunkle, A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World

Tim Keller, The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy

Matt Cater and Aaron Ivey, Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson,

Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom?

On the Duties of the Clergy, Saint Ambrose

Bob Goff, Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People

John Stott, Sermon on the Mount

Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary)



Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Volume II.

Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate

Carl George, Warren Bird, How to Break Growth Barrier: Revise Your Role, Release Your People, and Capture Overlooked Opportunities for Your Church

Thom S. Rainer, Becoming a Welcoming Church.

David Bennett, A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus

Larry Crabb, The Papa Prayer: The Prayer You’ve Never Prayed

The Greek New Testament

Psalms and Proverbs (LXX Greek)


– Pastor Tyler



Controversial Christmas Carols

by Tyler Goens

Christmas is rapidly approaching.


And you know that that means: it’s time to start evaluating Christmas’ religious language and songs in our pluralistic society (or is that just me?) Although President Trump has made “Merry Christmas Great Again,” something tells me these debates will still continue. Will people say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” (oh the horror)? But if you really want to pour gasoline on public discourse, start talking about Christmas carols in the public schools. “Because there should be separation between church and state,” so the argument goes, “then some of these beloved Christmas carols just aren’t appropriate for our children to sing.”


Typically, the argument back to those who want to kill the carols goes something like this: “Knock it off, Ebenezer! We’ve maintained these traditions and songs for years. Plus, are Christmas carols really THAT controversial? It’s not like we’re proselytizing in the Christmas program. What’s the big deal?”


There is something to this argument, the conservative impulse to protect traditions is often valuable. It’s the second part of this argument that I’m going to take issue with. In fact, in the unexpected shift of the century, I’m going to align with the secularists on this one, in this way:


Christmas carols are not simply feel-good, nostalgic traditions. They are explicitly, exclusively and unapologetically “Christian,” so it makes perfect sense that not everyone wants to sing them.


Put differently, the argument on the right (even the non-religious right) is: “This is not a big deal.” But I think this is wrong; I think it IS a big deal. Three simple, controversial carols, ringing in the background, illustrate this.


Three Controversial Carols



1) O Come O Come Emmanuel

I’m thinking particularly of verse two (which is sometimes avoided in school plays or church services):


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free, Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save, And give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel.”


So what’s the big deal here? No less than four things:


“Thine Own. . .Thy people” The hymn argues that Jesus has a special, particular, chosen people who he loves.


Free. . .from Satan’s tyranny. . .” The hymn argues that humans, in a deep sense, are slaves to Satan. Jesus confirms this uncomfortable reality in John 8:34: “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” We are not ultimately the land of the free, in the spiritual and moral dimension. “From depths of hell Thy people save. . .” Because we’re slaves to sin, the song continues by telling us that we are headed for hell. Some see hell as deserved judgment, others as deserved consequences of selfish living, but whatever it is, the carol asserts that we need saving from it.


“Give them victory o’er the grave.” Jesus has the power and authority to resurrect us from death.

More could be said here, but let’s move on the perhaps the most beloved Christmas carol.


2) Silent Night


The first two verses are relatively tame. But my favorite verse is verse three:


“Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light, Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus Lord, at Thy birth”


The most controversial, explicitly Christian claim here is this: the cute, little, baby Jesus is “LORD at Thy birth.” It’s difficult to have a paradigm for us for us today, we don’t have kings or masters or lords in any real sense. In the Bible, there are countless emperors and kings who went by this title, but most notably, God throughout the Old Testament is referred to as LORD. The argument? Little baby Jesus is Lord, he’s king and master, He’s God. The implication? We are not. We are not the masters of our own destiny, we are not autonomous individuals, we are not the center of the universe. In fact, more controversially, if Jesus is Lord, creator, and king, then there is a real sense in which he OWNS me. Talk about controversial. Even as a little baby, Silent Night says that Jesus is my master and has authority over my life and all things.


One more example will do, although I’m sure some of us are getting twitchy already.


3) Joy to the World


Verse one says this: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing!”


Along with Silent Night, Joy to the World declares Jesus the King of all the earth, to be welcomed, received, loved, honored, and cherished by all the earth. Unlike the innkeeper of the Christmas story, the hymn commends every heart to “prepare him room.” The carol asserts that Jesus belongs in our hearts and in our praise.


So, next time someone says Christmas songs don’t belong in public school performances, I hope you won’t use the “it’s not that big of a deal” argument. It IS a big deal. These carols are saying something significant and earth-shattering, something I believe with all my mind and heart: Jesus is King, and we are not. Why wouldn’t this be controversial?


– Pastor Tyler



Hiding Baby Jesus

by Tyler Goens


I’ve always found the tradition of stealing baby Jesus from a nativity set slightly funny.

Some people get offended and upset, but I can’t help but laugh. As long as he’s returned eventually, sometime before Christmas, preferably.  I remember one time, at Simpson University, someone kidnapped baby Jesus from the massive nativity set, and the administration offered a reward for his safe return. I may be misremembering this, but I feel like it was around a $100 reward! (Simpson people correct me if needed.) Anyway, the criminal was not brought to justice, but baby Jesus was returned safely before Christmas.

Have you ever seen or heard of people who intentionally hide baby Jesus from their nativity sets until Christmas Day? It’s an interesting practice (although it can distress young children, wondering if baby Jesus got lost or kidnapped or eaten by Buddy the dog). Waiting for baby Jesus to come actually reflects the ancient church practice of Advent, which seems to be making a comeback in “non-denom” church circles. Advent just means arrival, but Advent on the church calendar refers to the fourth Sunday BEFORE Christmas (which is actually the “New Year,” the first day, on the church calendar).
In Advent, we take around a month to wait for Jesus, to prepare ourselves for his coming. Like the carol cries: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel!”
But why has the church done this for centuries? Why do some wait to display baby Jesus? Why do we sing about Emmanuel (Jesus) ransoming Israel if we believe this already happened?
Three Reasons to Celebrate Advent:


1) We prepare for Jesus’ first arrival as an act of re-remembering, re-imagining, and reenacting such a significant event.

Jesus’ birth (the incarnation of God) is so loaded and charged with meaning that the early church decided to take an entire month out of the year for us to better grasp it. Now, you might ask, “Where did they learn to do this?” The answer has to be Israel itself, in the Old Testament. Israel’s yearly feasts and festivals were designed to celebrate significant events, like the Exodus out of slavery (Passover), Esther’s foiling of Haman’s murderous plot against the Jews (Purim), victory over the Greeks and the cleansing of the second-temple (Hanukah). And there are many more that could be mentioned.
So as David and Isaiah and Jeremiah participate in Passover, they never got to actually see God’s plagues, the parting the Red Sea, the leading through the dessert with clouds and fire. They weren’t born yet. But they still celebrate the events as if they were there. And they say things like “God, you delivered US from Egypt. We waited for your deliverance, and you came through.”
In a similar way, the early church designed a church calendar around not around the life of Israel, but around the life of Jesus. This is why many Christians celebrate Advent, Christmas, Lent, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Sunday, and Pentecost. These events are so significant that the early church felt the immense value to taking time each year to reflect on each.
So with Advent, should we chose to accept it, becomes a time when we re-experience the birth of Jesus. As Scot McKnight said last year on his podcast: “If this is done in faith, rather than route, repetitious routine, if this is done in faith, with an alert mind, we can be spiritually formed to look more like Jesus.” As we think about and celebrate his life, we experience transformation in our lives. Advent is the entire season when we enter back into the first-century experience of waiting for the Messiah to come. In the same way that David, Daniel, and other Old testament heroes entered into the experience of the Exodus, so we enter into the experience of Jesus’ entrance into humanity.

2) We prepare for Jesus’ daily arrival in our hearts.


As Jesus prepares to depart from his disciples, he comforts them by saying this:I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” -John 14:18. The context of this verse is in a discussion about the Holy Spirit. On Christmas Day (probably not December 25), Jesus mysteriously limited himself by taking on a physical, human body. The man Jesus could not be everywhere at once; he could not communicate with everyone at once. But when he ascended to heaven, he remedied this problem by sending the Holy Spirit to us. The Advent season then becomes a time to reflect on and thank God for his daily arrival, his daily presence in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Are there things distracting us from the arrival of Jesus in our thoughts, prayers, attitudes, and emotions? Advent becomes an opportunity to root out these distractions, and refocus ourselves on Jesus’ daily Advent in our lives and schedules and spaces.

3) We prepare for Jesus’ second Advent.

After Jesus ascends into heaven, angels tell the disciples: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11
We believe Jesus will return like he left, not like he came. In other words, Jesus isn’t coming back as a little baby; he’s coming back as Judge and King. This is good news for those who are prepared, we long for his return and for all things to be made right. But this is really bad news for those who have ignored or disregarded Jesus. Christmas then because a kind of condemnation, damning evidence for the prosecuting attorney, that we had no interest in King Jesus or his kingdom, but were too preoccupied in our own kingdom. Scary stuff. If this is you, please take this Christmas season to think on the Jesus’ first coming. If we don’t love that Jesus came the first time, we certainly won’t love Jesus’ second-coming. But if we do love his first-coming, recognizing the great significance therein for our own lives, this the second-coming of Jesus will be the greatest day of our lives.

The true meaning of Advent, of Christmas, is that Jesus is King and I am not. May we all have a December focused on these things!

– Pastor Tyler 



Jesus’ Brother On Conservatism and Liberalism

James 1:26-27

by Tyler Goens

One day, while eating dinner at someone’s house, I noticed something very interesting about one of my more progressive friends.


He was extremely conscious of social injustice; he won’t shop at Wal-Mart, eat at certain restaurants, or buy particular products because of how workers, the earth, and even children are treated. But, on a (seemingly) unrelated note, as the conversation moved to entertainment, he shared how much he loved a new show, a show with lots of nudity and graphic sex scenes. This felt so odd and off to me, from a Christian perspective. As I drove home, swinging by Wal-Mart to pick up a pair of cheap running shoes, James 1:26-27 dawned on me. James, the (half) brother of Jesus, says this: Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” –James 1:26-27


Forgive the oversimplification, but I recognized that my friend was more concerned about “orphans and widows in their distress,” and I was more concerned about being “polluted by the world.” In our actions, my friend and I didn’t share BOTH of James’ concerns. But James says pure and faultless religious is to care about others AND to care about personal piety/purity.  


It seems to me that most of my progressive friends care about the socially disenfranchised, where as my conservative friends care about personal morality and responsibility.  Again, I’m generalizing, but the reverse is often true: My progressive friends are less concerned about right living (morality), and my conservative friends are less concerned about right giving (charity). And BOTH my conservative and progressive friends perfectly resemble verse 26, Those who. . .do not keep a tight rein on their tongues [and their tweets] deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”  


Twitter is so discouraging to me, especially after school shootings or things like the Kavanagh hearings. I’m not super bothered when political pundits spout off; they get paid for clicks, ratings, and rants. It’s when my Christian friends post stupid things, demonizing their conservative or liberal opponents, discipled by social media (more liberal) or Fox News (more conservative) or Youtube (who knows?) rather than Jesus. When we do this, Jesus’ brother says our religious is worthless.


But pure-in-heart-Jesus-people care about public justice (“widows and orphans”) AND private holiness (“keep oneself from the world’s pollution”). The way we treat others as a society is vital.  The way we privately think, feel, and act is vital. The kind of media we consume, the kinds of organizations we support; it’s all connected.


My plea for Christians today, during this election cycle, is to 1) keep a tight rein on our tongues (and tweets), being slow to speak, slow to become anger, and quick to listen and 2) Recognize our tendencies to lean more towards either moral or social concerns and 3) Think critically about how we can be more holistic in how we follow Jesus in our areas of deficiency.


By all means, turn your ballot in today (if you live in Oregon, and go to the polls if not). But my vision for Christians is that we wouldn’t take our cues from conservative or liberal commentators, that we wouldn’t blindly take in OR blindly swing from our parents’ politics, but fully seek God’s vision for our lives and communities. We serve James’ brother, the King of the Jews.
– Pastor Tyler