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Monthly Archives: December 2009

At the turning of the page

In 83 minutes, we turn the calendar and enter a new year and a new decade. Before that occurs, let me say, “Thank you, Lord,” for all you did over the past decade in our lives. It was a decade of stretching and growth. During that time,

  • Our children moved through adolescence and into adulthood. They passed through Jr. High and High School, and onto college.
  • We celebrated one child’s graduation from college and anticipate a second one in May.
  • We learned to let go of our children and trust them to God’s care as they went off to college, to Africa and Mexico on ministry trips, to backpacking excursions in the Adirondacks and Idaho, and made career decisions.
  • I left a secure position as an associate pastor and took on more responsibility and greater opportunities as a senior pastor. That transition cost us some old friendships but also brought about the beginning of new ones.
  • We said “Goodbye” to my stepfather and my mother.
  • We welcomed, “Mittens,” my mother’s cat to our family.
  • I had the opportunity to preach and teach in Washington, Oregon, Spain, Russia, and Nigeria.
  • We weathered health challenges and learned to adjust to ongoing ones.
  • We learned to trust God to provide–strength, wisdom, $$, health, direction, endurance. He always met us at our point of need.

Through it all, God has been ever faithful. Thank you Lord for all you have done in and through us. May 2010 be a year of deeper growth, increased fruitfulness, and greater effectiveness in our lives and ministries.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2009 in Personal growth

 

Lukewarm spirituality

Alan Nelson has written a helpful article in the recent edition of Preaching Magazine, entitled “Spiritual intelligence: Improving the productivity of your preaching (without necessarily improving your preaching).” Using the parable of the soils in Mark 4:3-8, he makes the case that preachers need to spend as much time in soil (or audience) preparation as they do in seed (or sermon) preparation. His argument is based on the following, rather convicting, statement:

Anyone serving in ministry more than a decade understands the frustration of wondering whether our people are getting it. Board members gone wild, staff implosions, betrayals, bickering, mediocre stewardship, church hopping and the pettiness we see in our congregations make us wonder how effective preaching and teaching really are. While Bible conservatives may cite watered-down content as the cause, luke-warm spirituality is also rampant in our tribes, disguised by pious utterances and camouflaged in doctrinal parroting.

The bottom line is that most Christians, in spite of great preaching and teaching, merely transition from spiritual Pampers to Depends. They never grow up. They confuse longevity in church (chronos) with maturity (kairos). Is crux of the problem the overwhelming power of sin, the underwhelming umph of how we preach the gospel; or could there be another factor we’re overlooking? While I’m all for better preaching, more effective communication and continual honing of expository skills, most of us would do well to assess how we’re doing in soil preparation.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2009 in Preaching, Quotes

 

Laughing through our tears

Seattle Times writer Danny O’Neil provided one of the best opening lines of any article I’ve read recently. In “These Seahawks can’t get any worse,” he wrote, “At some point Sunday, dead horses everywhere began to feel a tinge of sympathy for Seattle. They had to. No one should be beaten as severely or as regularly as the Seahawks have been this season . . .” If it wasn’t so painfully true, I might laugh. But it was good writing.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2009 in News stories, Quotes, Seattle, Sports

 

29 years

29 years is a long time. It’s over half of my life. Then again, 29 years is a short period of time. Especially when you spend it loving someone who loves you.

29 years ago today, I stood in front of the church and watched my beautiful soon-to-be-bride make her way down the aisle towards me. No one else mattered at that moment. I only had eyes for her. We made our vows and said “I do” at the appropriate moments. The pastor pronounced us “husband and wife” and we began a life together. 29 years later, I am more in love with and more committed to her than I was on our wedding day.

Through the years, God has taken us from Los Angeles, CA, to Dallas, TX, back to L.A., then on to Wheaton, IL, back to L.A., and finally to Seattle, WA. We have served 3 churches in Wheaton and Seattle. We have served together on ministry trips in Leon and Malaga, Spain, and Moscow, Russia, and taken side trips to London and Morocco. We have camped in the Sierras, visited national parks and amusement parks, and taken a cross-country road trip with 26 states in 28 days. We have read and listened to books, watched numerous movies, sporting events, and TV shows. We have weathered and grown through the challenges of health, changing careers, economics, parenthood, and loss of loved ones. We have raised three children from infants to adults. Life has been full, fun, stretching, and growing.

Carol has loved and accepted me, encouraged and challenged me, prayed for and supported me, laughed and cried with me, and helped me to grow up as a man, husband, and father. Carol has been my best friend, strongest supporter, most encouraging cheerleader, and wisest counselor. She has demonstrated the insight to see the answer in the midst of the problem. She has served tirelessly and cheerfully. She models the pursuit of a deepening relationship with God. She has a passion for lifelong learning. She has been a wonderful and caring mother for our kids.

Outside of my salvation, Carol is the best gift God gave to me. That’s why I conclude that 29 years is far too short a time to be married to your best friend. If I’d known that marriage would be this good, I would have proposed sooner.

Thanks for loving me, babe. Happy anniversary!

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2009 in Family & Friends

 

Disneyland during the holidays

During our time in Southern California for my son’s graduation from college, our family enjoyed one day at Disneyland. It continues to be one of my favorite places to visit, especially during the holidays. During the day, I took a number of photos with a Nikon D5000 DSLR. While I am still getting used to the camera and exploring what it can do, I was pleased with the results.

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2009 in Christmas, Family & Friends, Photos

 

Whatever happened to peace on earth?

Based on the news out of Rome, Italy – “Vatican to review security after pope incident: Pontiff uninjured after woman rushes him before Christmas Eve Mass,” and the news out of Detroit, MI – “Terrorist attack foiled aboard U.S. jetliner: Nigerian allegedly tries to ignite powder on flight but is subdued,” it appears that “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” was once again in short supply this year for Christmas.

And yet, why should that be a surprise, considering we take that phrase out of context, and misinterpret it to boot?

The message the angel announced long ago was not that peace and goodwill could be had for the asking. No, the good news declared that night was that a Savior was born who would bring peace between God and men and women. Those who received forgiveness for their sins could then enjoy peace in their relationships with other people. We cannot have the latter without the former. We must settle the vertical dimension of peace before we can deal with the horizontal dimension.

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:10-14, ESV)

Peace on earth and goodwill among men will continue to an elusive desire until we first confess our sins and make peace with God.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2009 in Christmas, News stories, Scripture

 

Christmas traditions

Some families celebrate Christmas according to their ethnic backgrounds. My stepfather, who was Swedish, always cooked Swedish meatballs for Christmas Eve and brought out the lutefisk. We ate the meatballs, but drew the line on the rest. Since our family has a rather mixed heritage, we choose to follow our own mixed tradition. Our family’s Christmas traditions involve the 4 F’s – Food, Family, Faith, and Fun.

On Christmas Eve, our Family attends a Christmas Eve candlelight service at the church where I serve as Senior Pastor, United Evangelical Free Church in Seattle. This starts our celebration on a foundation of Faith as we Celebrate the Son. 

On the way home, we call in an order to our local Mexican Restaurant, Rancho Grande. We pick up the Food and enjoy a feast at home, followed by our annual viewing of The Muppet Christmas Carol, which is heavy on the Fun quotient.

On Christmas morning, since our children are all college students, we put off opening presents and start with breakfast. It is one of the few times during the year when we fix a big breakfast and eat together. Our menu usually consists of scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, sausage, hash browns, sticky buns, a sparkling strawberry punch, and coffee.

While breakfast is cooking, the kids open their stocking gifts that my wife has prepared. Following breakfast and the dishes, we open our gifts.

For the past few years, Christmas dinner has consisted of prime rib, double-stuffed potatoes, and a delightful corn dish made with corn and swiss cheese. This year, our youngest daughter is making dessert, a double chocolate cake.

As the saying goes, “Once is a good idea, twice is a tradition, and third time is ‘we’ve always done it this way.’” Be they ever so humble, we certainly enjoy our traditions.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2009 in Christmas, Family & Friends, Fun, Videos

 

Congratulations Graduate!

On Friday, December 18, our son, Jonathan, graduated summa cum laude, “with highest honors” from Biola University. The speaker was Crystal D. Crawford, who gave a challenging and inspiring message on how to be salt and light in today’s world. For us as parents, it was a time of great joy and celebration. We look forward to several more as our children progress through their educational journeys.

You can also check out the Fall 2009 Commencement website.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2009 in Family & Friends, Photos

 

The doctrine of the “Luck of God”

Over the past week, we traveled to L.A. and back to celebrate with our son, Jonathan, as he graduated from Biola University. Over the course of the journey, we experienced the providence of God.

Carol and I left home on Wednesday, December 16, during a rainstorm. Not yet 20 miles down the road, our wiper blades decided to take their own vacation and stopped in a vertical, upright position. Short of using an impervious charm, it was obvious we could go no further without assistance. We got off at the next exit on Highway 18. There, right across the street was an auto repair facility. I went in and told them our sob story. They diagnosed the problem as a frozen wiper motor, and made time for us in their schedule. Two hours and a rebuilt wiper motor later, we were back on the road.

Good luck? Good fortune? Or the providential care of a loving God? I believe that God, in his providence, had the problem occur at the right time so we would be in the right location to get it fixed.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2009 in Personal growth, Theology

 

Making decisions about gray areas

During my days at Biola University (1973-77), one of my professors was Dr. Curtis Mitchell of the Bible Department. Loved his classes, hated his tests. 

One of the more helpful lectures I remember from Dr. Mitchell was on how to deal with gray areas. He gave us a list of six questions to ask ourselves:

  • Does the Bible speak to the issue? If so, follow the instructions. If it is a black and white issue and Scripture is clear about what to do or not to do, then obey the commands of Scriptures.

However, life is not always black and white. Scripture does not always speak to every issue. Where Scripture seems to be silent about a seemingly gray area, ask the following questions:

  • Will it help me? 1 Corinthians 6:12a – “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.”
  • Will it build up the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:23b – “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
  • Is it addicting? 1 Corinthians 6:12b – “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.
  • Will it cause others to stumble? 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 – “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
  • Does it glorify God? 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

 I developed my own flow chart to use as a grid when dealing with issues of this nature. Here it is as both a jpeg and pdf file.

 
 
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