Due to some requests I'm posting what we teach at our church, Anchor Gaslamp, regarding Integrative Theology. The following is from our recent "Anchor U" Leadership Training...

Here at Anchor, we seek to understand, teach, and live out an "Integrative" or "Practical" Theology.

We call this "Integrative" for 3 reasons:
1) We want our Theology to be both Systematic and Narrative, integrated together seamlessly
2) We want our Theology to be integrated with our lives... not just a system of beliefs we have agreed to in our minds, but beliefs that have been fully accepted at a heart level and begun to work themselves into our daily lives (Orthodoxy > Orthopathy> Orthopraxy)
3) We want our Theology to be integrated with the whole of Scripture (a balanced perspective, where the doctrines are all in alignment with one another... we must learn to view any doctrine in light of all scripture)

Before we go on, let us define 3 words:
Orthodoxy - "Right Beliefs, sound doctrine, comprehending the truth about God... occurs in your head/ mind"
Orthopraxy - "Right Practices, good behavior, living out the ways of God... Occurs in your hands/ mouth/ body"
Orthopathy - "Right Feelings, pure emotions, having a heart after God... Occurs in your heart/ soul/ emotions"

The Bible requires not only that we speak truly about God (orthodoxy) and obey Him (orthopraxy), but that we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Doctrine is never an end in itself. The purpose of doctrine is to teach us to love God rightly. Obedience is never an end in itself. Obedience is always the overflow of a heart that finds its satisfaction in God rather than idols. In this way of looking at things, orthopathy is just as fundamental as orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

There are Christians who are all "head-knowledge." Though they may understand deep truths, their lives produce little fruit. Their heart is not 100% after God and their relationship is anemic. They see Christianity as a series of logical propositions and agree to these by mental assent.

There are Christians who are all "heart." They mean well and pursue God with all they are. However, they are easily misguided by false teaching which can lead to a loss of the strong affection they have for God. They also live out of their beliefs, but those beliefs may be as easily pulled off track even though their intentions are pure.

There are Christians who are all "hands." They do many great things for the kingdom, but they often feel they are justified by works. Some of them have very little doctrine. Many of them do their works out of wrong motivations (someone's approval, working for salvation..etc).

We need to be integrated Christians who study the word of God diligently with our heads, believe it with pure motives and an overwhelming, passionate love for God in our hearts, and live out of those realities everyday with our lives.

Many Christians find themselves believing all the right things and trying to do all the right things and still feeling miserable. It is a heart condition. When your heart is overflowing with love towards God, obedience and discipleship flow easily from our heart to our hands because our motives are pure and our hearts are right. When you accept the truth about God (doctrine) in your heart (not only your head) and choose to believe it as more than a simple abstract logical truth, but as an applied emotional belief, it becomes transformational instead of just informational. In other words, it is important for your head, hands and heart to be right... and all 3 support one another.
Last week I walked into my boss’s office and was told I was working too much. They could not afford to pay me overtime, yet they could not afford to have me work less.

Ninety-six hours is what I worked for them in the last two weeks.

That’s one job.

The second is my dream. A company I started with a vision for changing the way the world does charity. It’s very involved grueling work. A lot of amazing people have jumped on board to help make this dream a reality.

I work a minimum of ten additional hours a week at this job.

Sometimes many more…

I’m also a pastor. This is my calling and my passion. Helping people. Speaking into their lives. Teaching and modeling the gospel. Preparation time alone takes several hours per week, not to mention prayer, counseling, and just living life with the community you’re called to. It is perhaps the most involved, yet rewarding part of my life. If everything else I’ve mentioned got in the way, and something had to give, I would still be pastoring. It is part of my identity.

The demands of pastoring take a lot of time and energy.

Still there is more....

I’m a husband and a father. I’ve been married almost eight years now to a wonderful woman. She’s given me two awe-inspiring children. I’m quite possibly the luckiest man alive. This family God has blessed me with is my number one priority in life. Every ounce of everyday is lived with them in mind and heart. Every extra second I have is devoted to them. When other things get in the way, they don’t stay there for long, because my family comes first. Yet, I do not spend enough time with them. I sometimes feel neglectful. I sometimes feel like a failure. But I digress…

I say all that to say this.

I am one of the busiest people I know.

I don’t say this to brag or to get some kind of pity party. It’s just a simple fact. Yet in this time of demanding, exhausting work, and times of not knowing where one day ends and another begins, God is teaching me something.

This is what I wanted to share.

God is teaching me to find rest in Him. I’m learning what it looks like to rest in the middle of overwhelming work and busyness. Christ is opening my eyes to what it means to work in grace.

Rest is a heart issue.

The body can put up with more exhaustion than we realize if our hearts are in the right spot. Let me explain...

I realized a few years ago that a lot of my hustling and bustling was tied into my identity. I was working overtime at my job trying to prove to people in my life that I was not lazy and that I could provide for my family. I was working jobs with little to no pay, trying to prove to myself that I was a good person and that I was worthy of self-respect. I was serving people, while leaving little to no time for my family or myself, trying to prove to God that I was worthy of His grace.

I was working to earn something, instead of working because I had already earned something. I was working to gain an identity instead of working out of an identity already gained for me.

I was doing the right things with the wrong motives.

That is exhausting.

Now, I’m learning to believe I am the man God says I am. I’m learning that my identity is in Christ, not in the eyes of man…or even how I see myself at times. My identity is firmly rooted in His sacrifice, freely given for me. I can’t earn it, no matter how hard I labor. The best I can do is dirty rags. Still, God sees me through the cross as His child. He loves me and rejoices over my life. He is my Abba and I am His child. This alone defines me.

Because of this I serve like a free man. I work like someone who, through grace, is called worthy despite how others see me. I work as unto the Lord, and I rest in His finished work on the cross. I can take a Sabbath without feeling guilty. I can rest even in the middle of busyness.

Let’s bring this a bit more from the abstract to where we are living.

Here’s another scenario.

Imagine if my boss was the demanding or angry type, and I was working out of fear of ridicule (or even that I was going to lose my job if I did something wrong). Think of the mental strain I’d be putting on myself. Menial tasks would become giant issues. I would work on edge, trying to prove myself and my work…trying to measure up. Anxiety would reign in my heart. I would get no joy from my work this way. I would exhaust myself.

Now imagine that same scenario through the lens of grace.

My boss is demanding and angry. Still, I work out of confidence that I am doing my best and that my identity is in no way tied to my performance. My identity is rooted securely in Christ and saturated in grace… a grace that’s says I’m not worthy based on anything I do, but I’m seen as worthy through the cross. As Louie Giglio says, “I am not but I know I am.” Since I am not affected by someone’s scorn, I feel no need to defend my pride when I am attacked. I feel peace in the middle of ridicule. If I’m being attacked justly I simply correct the behavior accordingly and continue working to the best of my ability, as unto the Lord. (Besides, if I lose my Job for some reason, grace allows me to understand God’s sovereignty and to trust that He will provide… there’s no need for fear)

Through grace I’m free from trying to measure up to someone’s expectations, whether they be voices at my job, or the ones in my head telling me I’m not the best looking, most intelligent, MVP in the workplace.

Through grace, all this exhausting mental struggle gives way to peace and joy.

I can rest.

This is not a pity party… this is a report of the joy that comes through beginning to understand grace and applying it to life.

I realize this understanding of grace is still far from complete. I know there is so much more to learn and apply. I still need to take a Sabbath and actually apply more of this truth to my life. Thanks for taking time to read the journey God has me on. I hope it gives you some strength for your own. I hope you walk in the grace and peace that is yours in Christ.
"The holiness of Jesus is a redemptive holiness that does not separate itself from the world, but liberates it." - Alan Hirsch

"One great power of sin is that it blinds men so that they do not recognize its true character." –Andrew Murray

"Where I found truth, there found I my God, who is the truth itself." –Augustine

"If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” -C.T. Studd

"If you look upon ham and eggs and lust, you have already committed breakfast in your heart." –C.S. Lewis

"Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor." –Charles Spurgeon

"Beware you are not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge."
–John Wesley

"Once in seven years I burn all my sermons; for it is a shame, if I cannot write better sermons now than I did seven years ago." –John Wesley

"Serve God by doing common actions in a heavenly spirit, and then, if your daily calling only leaves you cracks and crevices of time, fill them up with holy service." –Charles Spurgeon

"Our lives play a vital role in the unfolding purposes of God. More is at stake in discipleship than personal salvation"
- Alan Hirsch

"His death was sufficient for all; it was efficient in the case of many." –John Calvin

"Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, there a church of God exists, even if it swarms with many faults."
–John Calvin

"I have held many things in my hands, and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." –Martin Luther
I’m repenting. So centered on self. So focused on success. Maybe that’s the problem: defining success with self at the center. What does success look like for the church?

Jesus came, embodying the gospel, and taught us love and grace. He modeled it with his life and his death. Then he told us to go and do likewise, and in so doing, to make disciples.

This is the model of success for the church. Grace. Love. Disciples. Discipleship is a word we invented so we could streamline it, make it productive and reproducible. Disciple-making was meant to be relational.

I was raised to see this mission through modern eyes, where numbers of converts equaled success. The church was a factory, where the assembly lines and conveyor belts pushed out hundreds of newly-affirmed Christ followers by the hour.

These products had all the right components to make the big man happy. They had made the ultimate cost-benefit analysis and had chosen heaven as their afterlife experience. They confessed Christ, were baptized, and filled with His Spirit. They then stopped any questionable behavior in order to fit in with the rest of the products and tried to make themselves pray, read their Bibles, and do right.

The sad thing about the factory was, there wasn’t much else going on besides production. Somewhere in there you just realize there’s something more… there has to be. When did “life more abundantly” turn into this factory? When did this radiant dream of following Christ become all about numbers, attendance and conversions?

I started imagining what it would be like to not care about modern measures of success and just begin to trust God to bring life-change through gospel-driven relationships. What would it be like if we could stop all our scurrying about trying to please God with our mass-production and just began enjoying the fact that He is pleased with us? What would it look like to have 5 relationships that grew deep into the word...that began being truly transformed by truth, instead of 50 converts who’s goal was to find... more converts? Wouldn’t the deep life-change that is found in relational disciple-making promote such growth that people would naturally begin making new disciples? Would it look more like a process or a moment of conversion? Where would you even start?

I broke free. Well, at least I thought I did. I began investing myself into others and digging deep into the rich truths of the gospel… but old habits die hard.

I’m in a Bible study the other night with two close friends. Normally there are 5-10 people here but due to the holidays, attendance has been down in all our gatherings. It was a great night. We laughed, opened our souls, and prayed for one another. It was a marvelous, Spirit-led time.

At the end of the meeting, one of them mentioned coming to our Thursday Bible study as well. I was overjoyed. In my joy I said, “Yeah! Come! It will be good! There will actually be people there besides just us three.” I meant it would be successful because it’s supposed to have more people… It sounded like I thought the night was unsuccessful and that the wonderful things God had done that evening as we fellowshipped together counted for nothing.

That’s not how I felt, but the success-driven need for numbers is obviously floating around in my heart somewhere. I still feel a knot in my stomach when a small crowd shows on a Sunday. My ego is tied into our production. I’m not believing that God is gracious. I feel I need to prove myself and my ministry, not that God has already approved me. I’m not trusting His sovereignty and I’m depending on myself…building a ministry upon myself instead of His gospel.

How many hurt feelings and destroyed relationships will lie in the wake of my pride… tossed to the side by my unrealistic expectations of what the church is and what Christ has called me to do?

This small instance is a microcosm of Christian maturity…discipling. We do this in a thousand places everyday, every time we fall short. We know what is true, yet our heart does not believe it for a moment. In a moment we stop believing that God is good and that His plan is best for us. Instead we seek pleasure outside His plan. We decide that God is not great and in control, and we choose to take situations into our own hands, manipulating, controlling and wracking our brains with anxiety.

There are thousands of these examples of the actions that flow from a misaligned heart. Our head may know all the right things, but our unbelieving hearts choose not to accept these truths for a moment. Out of this unbelief flows lies, fornications, addictions, negative emotions and on and on the list goes. Out of this unbelief flows statements like, “Yeah! Come! It will be good! There will actually be people there besides just us three.”

I’m repenting. So centered on self. So focused on success. I need Christ to give me a new heart so I may, by His grace, ‘both will and do His good pleasure.’
Awake, here I lie
Replaying conversations of a day
I wish I could relive,
Unaware of God’s grace.

My faults fill my mind.
My memories make me cringe.
My true self, I hide.
Unaware of God’s grace.

I’m a good person!
I’ll make you believe!
I’ll fight to prove I’m right!
Unaware of God’s grace.

I blame and point fingers
I manage first impressions.
I’m the manipulator who’s
Unaware of God’s grace.

I find reasons and excuses,
I puff up with anger,
My pride is my armor,
Unaware of God’s grace.

We look at each other,
You’re judging, I know
For I am judging you,
Unaware of God’s grace.

My moods are as varied
As your opinions of me.
Your words steer my heart
Unaware of God’s grace.

I compare myself to others
I’m not as bad as they.
I’m the measure of what’s good
Unaware of God’s grace.

I can’t rest or relax.
I’m working so hard
To prove that I’m worthy
Unaware of God’s grace.

Trying to measure up
To another’s standard.
Breaking under this weight,
Unaware of God’s grace.

You’re failing, I’m laughing.
Rejoicing in your ruin,
Delighting in destruction.
Unaware of God’s grace.

I am broken, fallen,
Self-centered, and stained.
I have no hope in this life.
Unaware of God’s grace.

If Christ died for me,
Then nothing I do
Brings me any gain.
This is a picture of grace.

My old self has died
I’m reborn anew,
He gives me His name.
This is a picture of grace.

I’ll celebrate with you
I’ll weep with you
We’re family in Him
This is a picture of grace.

I accept my imperfections
Both broken and accepted
I fall down at His feet
This is a picture of grace.

I rest, even in work
He’s already accomplished
The greatest work of all
This is a picture of grace.

I look upon myself
Not as good or as evil,
But as a child of His
This is a picture of grace.

My identity is freed
From your opinions of me
I’m found in Him now
This is a picture of grace.

I look on you with love.
Only the one without sin
May cast any stones
This is a picture of grace.

I’ve traded my fig leaves
For the sacrificed lamb
His covering is enough
This is a picture of grace

Now I’m free to be real,
Authentic, transparent.
I’ve nothing to hide
This is a picture of grace

I’ll trust you with my life
Even though you’re imperfect
Though I’m not worthy, He trusts me
This is a picture of grace

No more selfish pride,
Excuses or anger.
We all fall short.
This is a picture of grace.

No blaming, pointing fingers,
Manipulating or puffing up,
My identity is secured.
This is a picture of grace.

I can accept my imperfections
And the imperfections of others’
For I’ve been accepted.
This is a picture of grace.

I’ve traded control for peace,
Defensiveness for humility.
No need to prove myself.
This is a picture of grace.

Awake here I lie,
Resting in, not working for
This new identity.
This is a picture of grace.
Respect can’t be bought with money.
It can’t be promoted because of status.
It’s not chosen because of a name,
Nor is it earned because of an age.
It can’t be demanded by power,
Nor produced from a degree.
All these things may bring rapport,
But never true respect.

Respect is a gift a person awards,
Because of deep trust, love, & admiration.
It’s the highest appraisal one person
Can ever afford to give.

It’s a choice we make everyday:
To place our lives into another's hand & take their words to heart;
To profoundly trust their motives & character;
To love them passionately in spite their humanity,
And choose to continually search for the good, and forgive the bad.
Respect comes from authenticity & vulnerability,
Not hiding truth at a distance, non-familiarity, or indifference.
Respect says, “There are things about you I want to replicate in my life...

...So I will learn from you, and trust you,
And daily choose to love you.
And in so doing I’m choosing
To give you my respect.”

Vince Larson
So I'm planning on doing some heavy reading this year. Here are a few of the books to get me started. If you've read one of these or have others to recommend, please feel free to comment.

Counterfeit Gods - Tim Keller

Total Church - Steve Timmis and Tim Chester

You Can Change - Tim Chester

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
- Donald Miller

The Forgotten God - Francis Chan

Jesus Without Religion - Rick James (yes...it's his real name)

Knowing God - J I Packer

Refuel - Doug Fields

Divine Conspiracy - Dallas Willard

The Ordinary Hero - Tim Chester

The Knowledge of the Holy - A W Tozer

Paul in a Fresh Perspective - N T Wright

Evil and the Justice of God - N T Wright

The Desert Fathers - Benedicta Ward

The Spirit of the Disciplines - Dallas Willard

Worldliness - C J Mahaney

Humility: True Greatness - C J Mahaney

The Gospel Driven Life - Michael Horton
Everyman, in his own mind is Bonhoeffer, Luther and Paul. I see myself in them…in their writings; in the leaving of the old and searching of the new, in the forsaking of tradition for tradition’s sake, and the pursuit of a higher calling; in the rejection by some in their religious groups yet the acceptance of God alone, by faith. These were men who were not appreciated in their time, yet from their time to now, have become a light to many.

I would that I could leave behind a legacy such as these. What accomplishment of mine will I be remembered for? Eloquent words? Passionate adherence or revolution? A well-examined faith that has discipled countless thousands? No. Not for me. I will accomplish no significant thing lest it be by God’s hand. When I hold the pen, my fingers tremble. When I’m given a choice, my ideals crumble. When I’m faced with life, my faith waivers. There is nothing to ground me and steady my aim save the gospel. There is no good in me save this cracked imago dei that helplessly wants to do good only to be overthrown time and again by evil. There is no hope for greatness. No, not in myself. If I look elsewhere, I see great men who have shaped history, but they were scoundrels in their own right and fell shorter than any of us like to imagine was possible for our heroes. So if hope is not to be found within or without me, what then is left? Where is greatness to be achieved? Where is love to be practiced? Where is perfection to be reached. Nowhere else save Christ.

This is the good news, that Christ uses the imperfect to bring about His perfection. He works His reconciliation through those of us who are not yet fully reconciled. Just as He loved us when we are unlovable and had mercy upon us when we deserved His righteous wrath, He now chooses us to be His representatives of reconciliation. Oh mystery of mysteries! To what do we owe this great privilege? Christ! And what do we owe Him? All. Then the weakest and most beggarly of us join humbly in the ranks of Bonhoeffer and Luther and Paul. For He sees us through the cross as loving, perfect, honorable and righteous, and it is in that power that we may stand happily in His presence, and by His power alone, work out His will in this sphere. If we receive any honor it rightly goes to Him, for all we have gained has been by His power alone.

So If I stand in His presence, may it be by His power alone. If I write, may it be His hand that steadies mine. As I face life, with its decisions and struggles, may it be by His grace alone that I am left standing in my faith. And in that glorious day, all our great works will turn into dust in the light of His grace, and I will be no different from Bonhoeffer and Luther and Paul, as we all - the strong the tempted and the weak - stand as one in Christ, vindicated by his sacrifice, forgiven my His blood, and alive by His resurrection!
Falling forward is an awkward place to find oneself.
You see what’s before you, and are helpless to control it.
This is the reality of life. This is a perfect picture of faith.

Control is an illusion, created by our imaginings that we are God.
Chaos is the reality of our control. It ends where trust begins.
Our only hope lies in surrender to the Sovereign.

The reality we choose to root our lives in springs upward and sprouts.
The fruit of my perceived control is anxiety, regret, and manipulation.
The fruit of my faith in God-reality is hope, peace, and selflessness.

What does it mean to be a person of faith? To walk by faith? To be faithful?
Does it mean allowing your beliefs to flow outward and affect your life?
Is that possible if your beliefs are misaligned with your lifestyle?

If I say that I trust His sovereignty, and yet anxiety reigns in my life,
Am I truly walking in the faith by which I define myself?
Am I living in the illusion of control, or living in surrender to the Sovereign?

Falling forward is an awkward place to find oneself.
You see what’s before you, and are helpless to control it.
This is the reality of life. This is a perfect picture of faith.