It’s been a rough week. Nothing drastic, nothing earth-shattering, horrible or serious – I’ve just felt down, felt discouraged, felt drained, felt attacked. These are the kinds of weeks I just want to find a safe place and HIDE. Have you ever felt that way? More importantly, do you know where to go when you do?

For our mutual encouragement, I’ve found the lyrics to three amazing songs from three drastically different eras – but with one vital similarity: they each hold out a map to a treasure that was buried, but now lives above ground, a map to the treasure, rest and safety that is Jesus.
Rock of Ages (Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778)
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

Hiding Place (Michael Ledner,1981,1983)
You are my hiding place,
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You --

I will trust in you --
Let the weak say
‘I am strong
In the strength of the LORD,’
I will trust in You.

Hallelujah (10th Avenue North, 2008)
You spread Your hands
And made a refuge for the weak and blessed
The weary, bruised, and broken
Took our sin.
Inside Your wounds we hide away
Inside Your wounds we hide

In Jesus we can hide from all our inadequacies.
In Jesus we can hide from our own self-judgments, as well as the judgment of others.
In Jesus we can hide from our past,
We can hide from our failures,
We can hide from our guilt,
From our shame,
From our fear,
From the world,
From disappointment,
From all we really deserve,
From the power of sin and the sting of death.

In Jesus we can hide from all the things that would torment us, and none of them can follow us because, as the accuser seeks frantically to point us out to God the Father, and as a perfectly Just God looks to rightly annihilate all that stands against His holiness, Jesus tells us to keep our heads down, steps out from His own perfect safety and walks purposely, directly, into the line of fire,
Directly into the finger-pointing, blame shrieking onslaught of the accuser,
And into his hatred
And the sneers
And the mockery
And the bruises
And the pain,
And the guilt.

He steps out from His own perfect safety and walks purposely, directly, into the line of fire,
Directly into the holy wrath of Jehovah napalm, the God of fire,
To take the blame,
To take the hit
To take the punishment
and all the other wounds we’ve been inflicted with as victims or have stored up for ourselves by choice, He takes them, and becomes the victim in our place -- by choice. And the accuser is furious. But the Father is satisfied.
Jesus takes the mortal and immortal wounds meant for us, and because of His wounding, we are forever camouflaged by grace to live our mortal and immortal lives to the fullest. Take your wounded heart to Jesus. He is the only safe place to hide, to heal, and then to thrive. Thank you Jesus.

Surrounded By Grace,


Okay, I'm still laughing at this one. How funny. Aside from a couple unfortunate swear words and some mildly gruesome animation near the end, this has got to be some of  the funniest mockery of a social networking site I've ever seen (I should probably mention at this point that our church does not in any way promote profanity... even when it's really funny).

I dedicate this video to twitter-ers everywhere. And to my brother, who may just be the only other person on the planet that finds this as funny as I do.
For the record, Neighborhood Church does not promote Bail whales either.


The prophet Elijah is traditionally and Scripturally considered a type, he’s considered a character in the Bible playing a parallel role to that of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:9-13). “If Elijah serves as a type of John the Baptist – the forerunner of the Christ – then Elisha’s miracles point to the majesty of Jesus himself” (ESV Literary Study Bible). Translation: The ministry of Elisha, the prophet who succeeded Elijah in the book of 2 Kings, can be looked at as a foreshadowing to the ministry of Jesus.  This is a helpful concept to have in mind when reading the following story about Elisha:

 38”And Elisha came again to Gilgal when there was a famine in the land…” 42”A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, "Give to the men, that they may eat." 43But his servant said, "How can I set this before a hundred men?" So he repeated, "Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the LORD, 'They shall eat and have some left.'" 44So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the LORD” (2 Kings 4:38,42-44).

Through Elisha, God miraculously multiplied the bread and grain for 100 men. Through Jesus, God multiplied the miracle and fed 4000 people one time, 5000 people another time. In each case, there was a shortage of food, and in each case, the ‘word of the LORD’  is introduced into the story, so that in each case “they ate and had some left.” The principle? “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:3-5). Whether the issue is appetite or any other 'shortage' in our lives, the only thing able to finally 'close the gap,' 'fill the void' and empower us to live life to the fullest is the Holy Spirit speaking via 'the word of the LORD.'

What are you living on? If you try to live without the word of the LORD, you will always come up short.

~ If you are only self-reliant, trusting only in your own hard work and will power to get you through the shortcomings in your life, you’re ‘living on bread alone,’ and you will come up short. Your grit and determination will never be enough.

~ If you try to depend solely on other people to meet the shortages in your life – the love shortage, the peace shortage, the friendship shortage, the fulfillment shortage, the purpose shortage – you’re ‘living on bread alone,’ and will always come up… short. Other people will never be enough. If you try to live without ‘the word of the LORD,’ you will always come up short.


What are you living on? “…in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-7). If you do not acknowledge God when you face the shortages of life, you will end up directing your own paths. Which is kind of like trying to steer a car that’s floating down a raging river… towards a waterfall. If you don’t look to God and ask Him to introduce His wisdom into the challenges you face, you will end up referencing your own wisdom. Which is kind of like looking through the owner’s manual of your floating car for directions on how to live through a waterfall. Get it?

When you’re tempted, and your will power is in short supply, do you acknowledge Him? When you’re tested, and your life experience falls short of the wisdom needed, do you include God in what’s going on? When the blue sky of your life suddenly fills with menacing storm clouds, do you reference the LORD in prayer and then give His revealed word (a.k.a. “The Bible”) a chance to direct you and the outcome of the situation you’re experiencing? Or do you keep living on your own, trying to do it yourself, fix it yourself, understand it yourself, change it yourself? 

Whether we acknowledge it or not, our very existence is sustained by 'the word of the LORD.' But existing is not the same as thriving. Depending on how stubborn you are, one day you’ll look at yourself, the absurdity of your own resources will suddenly become obvious, and you’ll say “How can I set this before a hundred men?" When you get to that point – look to the LORD and choose to live according to His word in faith, and shortages will turn into surpluses.

Surrounded By Grace,



So there ya go. I'm on Twitter. I succumbed to the pressure and am now slinging out 1-2 sentence witticisms about my moment-to-moment thrill ride of a life with the best (worst?) of them. I'm still unconvinced... I have this nagging suspicion this is just an ego thing. It's like a race to see who can come up with the most self-centered form of social networking -- "Hey, check ME out, I just got out of bed!" "Hey, check it, I just brushed my teeth!" Cool. Does anybody really care? Well... I guess we'll see (I've added a link -- see picture to the right in the blog sidebar). You are officially invited to 'follow' me!

I think my mom summed it up best when I invited her to 'follow.'  
"Twitter?" she said --"Tweets? That sounds pretty wimpy Josh." Love you too mom. 


Okay, maybe I'm the only one. Or maybe I'm just the last one to see it and everyone else has already noticed and laughed about it and moved on. I wouldn't be surprised. But I'll throw it out there anyway... is Jack Black the first cloned human being? 

My theory: He is Paul Revere, reborn. The real Night Rider, masquerading as a comic genius, from silversmith to silver spoon. Look at the pictures and tell me what you think...

Coincidence? (My Dad always told me those don't exist...)
Plastic surgery? (Hmmmm...)
Revere's long lost doppelgänger?


= The product of top secret government experiments to re-animate heroes of our nation's past gone horribly, horribly wrong
You decide. My mind's made up.


I'll try to keep this short: God is responding to our prayers.

Two nights ago, on the National Day of Prayer, Neighborhood Church of Redding held a Concert of Prayer (If you don't know what that is, see my last post). Pastor Bill described it best that night to the roughly 400 who gathered -- 

"You, showing up here tonight to worship in prayer and song, you are the concert." 

So we sang to our God, and we prayed to our God -- for the world, for the nation, for the city, for our church, for our families and for our unbelieving friends and neighbors -- and already, already He is answering...

Later on, that same night, I received this email from someone who attended:

"After a great night of praise and prayer, we returned home and had a message on the machine that my dad called. I called him back expecting another conversation about mom’s passing and was flooded with questions about God and amazingly I was able to explain the Gospel to him and he accepted the gift of salvation right there on the phone. We prayed and I shed tears of joy, so thankful for God allowing me to be a part of His plan for us. This is an immediate answer to our prayers tonight! I thank God and each of you who have prayed with and for me and have encouraged and taught me, my joy is indescribable! Man what a night!"

Wow. The day afterwards, I personally had two breakthroughs in conversations with individuals I've been talking with for months. And I firmly believe I'm only seeing the tip of the iceberg. 'Greater things are yet to come...' Do you believe that?

Surrounded By Grace,


Today is the National Day of Prayer(Check it out). The government, our government, has actually requested that you and I pray. For them. For our nation. For our world. Today is a day for the truest kind of Patriotism. Today is a day set aside for prayer.  

Will you pray?

If you will, and if you're able, I'd love to have you join us at Neighborhood Church in Redding tonight, at 6:30pm for a 'Concert of Prayer."

"What is that?" Fair question.

A 'Concert of Prayer' is a time of worship in prayer and song. It is 'concerted prayer,' a time of coordinated, purposeful prayer. In 1744, a group of Scottish ministers banded together across denominational lines to pray for revival in their land. Encouraged by the richness of the fruits of their labor, they called the worldwide church to join them in prayer. Among those answering the call in America was Jonathan Edwards, the great Puritan minister and theologian, who enlisted the aid of New England churches to unite in this "concert of prayer."  

Concerts of prayer have been the common denominator for many powerful religious revivals throughout the ages. G. Campbell Morgan taught, "We cannot organize revival, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from Heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again." We hope you'll join us at Neighborhood Church to "set our sails" in prayer for our nation, our region, our church, and our families. Please come. We won't make you pray out loud, or do anything you're not comfortable with. Your presence will add power to our prayer. 

God promises, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV.

Time: 6:30-8p.m.

Where: Main Auditorium at Neighborhood Church, 777 Loma Vista Dr., Redding, CA

Childcare: Provided, infant through Kindergarten

What: A time of worship in song and prayer 

For more on the importance or prayer, check out Pastor Bill's post today, entitled

Surrounded By Grace,


“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24,25). Christians assemble together because, although our faith is personal, it is not private. This is true on many, many levels. Let’s look at three of them.

1) Spiritual Gifts

The first level in which our faith is personal, but not private is in the area of spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians chapter 12 describes Christians under the headship of Christ as a body.

12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ…”

21”The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don't need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don't need you!’"

27”Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

We don’t call the Church “The Body of Christ” in the way that a whole lot of water is called a ‘body of water.’ We’re not “The Body of Christ” because we’re a whole lot of Christians. We call the Church “The Body of Christ” because it is like an organism, like the human body, and each part depends on all the other parts in order to live up to the fullest potential, individually and corporately. It is like a single organism made up of these various parts, all doing various and varying tasks, but unified by the mind of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ Here are some of those varying tasks, according to 1 Corinthians:

28”And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?”

These are rhetorical questions – the answer to each is meant to be an obvious ‘No.’ For the body of any organism to function properly, some parts must carry out one specific purpose while other parts do a job according to much different ‘design specifications.’  Each part of a body has a ‘personal identity’ in the same sense that you can look at your hand and not confuse it with your big toe, all the while never questioning that the two are connected. What is the point of all this? That the spiritual gifts you were given at Salvation are personal, but not private. They may have been given to you, but they are not designed primarily to bless you. These gifts have been given to you primarily to bless the other parts of the BODY (1Cor. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:25,26; 1 Cor. 14:12 & Ro. 12:5). 

You are a crucial piece of the ‘Body’ that we call the Church. When you choose not to assemble, everyone else misses out on what you were designed to bring to the quality of ‘life together.’ But there’s more to it than that – as one of the pieces, you do not have the whole picture by yourself – and when you choose not to assemble, you cheat yourself out of the optimal blessings that God has intended others to bring into your life as well.

2) Bible Interpretation ('What does this mean?')

The second level in which our faith is personal, but not private is in the area of Bible interpretation. Bill recently blogged about some of these issues at, where he says,

“I get jittery when novice Christians, with little exposure to Scripture, are told to trust their inner impressions as if they were a fresh word from God.  The standard is the Written Word… God simply won’t inject the Bible into you. If you don’t study it, He won’t speak it. If you don’t study the written Word, God won’t speak his current word into your life.  We are people of a BOOK, not people of “an inner impression.”

I would add, in light of our discussion about why we regularly assemble as believers, that I ‘get jittery’ when Christians (novice or veteran) choose to ‘go it alone’ in the realm of Bible study even when there are many opportunities for help or support made available. Along with the primary importance of knowing our Bibles personally, we must also learn about the content and meaning of our Bibles corporately. It is good, wise and right for you to have a personal “quiet time,” personal “devotions.” But you are not entitled to a private interpretation of Scripture. That becomes deconstructionism, where the intent of the original author is ignored so that ‘This is what it means to me.’ Instead, we are to persistently dig to discover what the writer (and by extension, God) had in mind, coupled with the tenacious belief that that original meaning still holds purpose, power and practical application for us today.

One of the most unhealthy things you can do as a Christian is to intentionally isolate yourself from exposure to a broader Christian community that is able to fulfill the function of accountability, whether that ‘community’ be a small group, an Elder’s Board, a local church or an overarching denomination (etc, etc). Historically, the most notable kind of ‘doctrinal accountability’ took the form of church ‘councils.’ The great ecumenical councils were formal gatherings of bishops of the whole church assembled together to take key decisions on doctrine and creed. A few of the most important councils were, for the sake of example:

(i) The Council of Nicaea in AD 325, which affirmed that Jesus Christ is truly God, in an affirmation of faith against the Arians.

(ii) The Council of Constantinople in AD 381, which affirmed that Jesus Christ was perfectly man, against the Apollinarians whose teaching impaired the perfect humanity of Christ.

(iii) The Council of Ephesus in AD 431, which affirmed that Jesus Christ is one person, against the Nestorians who divided Christ into two persons. (Courtesy of Bobby Grow,

There are quite a few more examples, but the point is this ~ whether large-scale councils designed to defend key beliefs of the Christian faith or the small-scale accountability that is readily available in the weekly assembly of local believers, learning what the Bible teaches is not just to be a personal habit, but a corporate exercise as well. Assembling together serves as a ‘course corrector,’ should an individual or a local church begin to ‘wander’ in his/ her/ its understanding of Scripture.

3) Growth towards Maturity

The third level in which our faith is personal, but not private is in the area of growth towards maturity. “The truth is, however, that God gives us our inheritance just as He gave [it to the children of Israel.]  Our promised land has to be won, every inch of it.  And each one must win his own personal portion” (J.R. Miller ). Yes, your journey towards spiritual maturity is your own, it is personal – no one else can go through the life/faith struggles for you that God has allowed in order to mature you. 


you are not an island, iron doesn’t sharpen itself, and your life was not meant to produce the sound of ‘one hand clapping in the wind.’ Nor should you be a lone Emperor penguin. If you’ve ever seen the ‘docu-drama’ March of The Penguins, you may know where I’m going with this.

In the frigid Antarctic winters, temperatures get so cold that the only way for these amazing creatures to survive is to bunch together for the purpose of sharing body heat and reducing exposure to the howling winds.  Not only do they huddle together, they take turns standing in the best and worst spots. The penguins in the most protected, middle areas of the ‘flock’ gradually rotate to the exterior of the huddle and vice-versa, in order to assure that each bird has an equal chance for optimal warmth and protection. What happens when this system breaks down?  If a penguin wanders away from this protective assembly during the winter months for more than a few hours, it will die. And – so will the next generation of his family… You see, these penguins huddle together, not just for self-preservation, but also for the sake of the single, precious egg they are incubating. For them, voluntary solitude amounts to the most tragic form of selfishness imaginable. Yes, your journey towards spiritual maturity is personal – but it’s not private. We were designed by God to live, grow, thrive and be equipped for spiritual reproduction, all within a community of faith.

The role of spiritual leaders in the Bible is frequently compared to the role of shepherds tending a flock. Shepherds evaluate the condition of their flocks by sight – they observe and watch over the sheep walking, eating, living, in order to assess and prioritize their health, their growth and their needs. On a personal (not private) note, I -- or whomever you consider your pastor or small group leader -- would love to see you this Sunday.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).

Surrounded By Grace,
*Grace induces faith & Grace is obligated to faith ~