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Monthly Archives: August 2010

Taking pride in progress

One of the challenges of ministry is wondering if you are accomplishing anything. Because spiritual growth is internal and/or incremental, it is difficult to know, and especially to see if people are growing and changing. I suppose that why I like construction, remodeling, and working with wood. You start, work hard, and complete a project. You can measure your progress from one day to the next. You can look at your work and have a sense of accomplishment.

This week, I started replacing our front porch/step. With all the dry rot and wasp nests, I’m actually surprised it had not fallen down some time ago. So far, I’ve completed the demolition, built the platform, added the steps, and put down the decking.

Since I am only able to work on the project a couple of days a week, it will take a few weeks to complete the task. Assuming the weather cooperates Labor Day weekend, I will tackle the handrails next.

While I don’t plan to quit my day job as a pastor, building a deck is a welcome diversion from preaching, counseling, and shepherding. I can actually measure my progress. I count it as one of God’s many good gifts to me.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2010 in Home, Ministry, Photos

 

No greater joy

As a parent and as a pastor, I echo the sentiment of the apostle John in his third letter,

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4)

Our family is spread out from east to west, from Seattle to Los Angeles to Boston, from grad school to business to college to ministry. To help stay connected, we try to have a family conference call on Sunday afternoon or evening. Because of varying schedules, yesterday was the first time we’ve all been on the line at the same time in several weeks. It was a particularly encouraging time hearing the exploits, adventures, lessons learned, and prayer needs of our children. It brings me great joy to hear what God is doing in and through them. It also motivates me to keep praying so that their walk with him deepens.

I experience similar joy when I hear about the various members of the Sojourners Class at Crossroads Bible Church, which I led and taught for seven years. When United EFC’s ministry team returned from Japan recently, I felt proud and encouraged when I heard their stories of God’s provision and what they were able to accomplish.

It warms my heart, cheers my soul, and encourages my spirit when I hear that my children, both physical and spiritual, love Jesus and walk in truth.

 

Why I like fundraising

I have been invited to minister in Russia in February 2011 at the House of Grace, a guest house for Russian pastors where they can rest and renew along with their families, and where they can deepen their spiritual and emotional health. It is located in Tsibanobalka, near Anapa on the northern coast of the Black Sea. During the winter, they offer several 3-day concentrated courses for pastors and emerging leaders on different books of the Bible. I will be teaching a course on the book of Joshua and his leadership principles. I need to raise $4,800 to participate in the ministry. Three-fourths of the cost covers travel expenses—visa, airfare, lodging, meals, taxis, etc., while the remaining one-fourth helps provide for Russian pastors to attend the conference.

As I wrote my fundraising letter, I thought about the tension I feel when it comes to this process.

I don’t like

I like

Asking for money

Sharing a vision for what God wants to do

Asking for help

Seeing God answer prayer

Depending on others

Being surprised by who God raises up to partner with me

Admitting my needs

Seeing how God provides

Not being able to do it myself

Having to trust God

Not remaining independent

Being part of a team

Feeling as if I am prying $$ out of unwilling hands

Giving people permission to be generous with God’s resources

Not being in control

Seeing God provide the exact amount at just the right moment

 When I am honest with myself, I resist fundraising because of my pride. After all, I am a good American, of Scandinavian descent, who lives in the Pacific Northwest. I should be able to stand on my own two feet and take care of my problems and needs, thank you very much. I would rather go without than appear needy.

However, when I take that approach, I rob people of ministry because I don’t allow them to use their gifts in service. I rob them of the opportunity to partner with me in a cause that is bigger than both of us. I hinder the body of Christ from functioning as a body. I miss out on God’s blessings because I don’t allow him to answer my prayers and meet my needs. I miss seeing God remove barriers and solve problems.

When I use my own resources and pay my own way, I come away impoverished. When I act humbly and ask for help and then depend on God in prayer, I am enriched and blessed.

I have to remind myself that fundraising is not about asking for money. It is about sharing what God wants to do in my life and in the world. Fundraising is about asking people to join forces in meeting a need and reaching a world with the message of the gospel. It is ministry to and with people for the cause of Christ.

 While it is not my favorite thing to do, it is a unique opportunity to trust God and minister to others. Which, ultimately, is why I like fundraising.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2010 in Ministry, Missions, Personal growth

 

Good Imitations

The letter of 3 John is like a symphony with a melody and a countermelody, or perhaps like a movie with a plot and a subplot. The main theme of the letter is to make a wise choice about whom you will imitate or follow (11). The secondary theme is that missionaries should be loved and cared for (5-8). John paints a contrast between two leaders, Gaius and Diotrephes, whose character is revealed by how they treat missionaries.

As I studied the letter, I used the following chart to help me compare and contrast their lives.

 

Gaius

3 John 1-8

Diotrephes

3 John 9-10

Motivation

Love for others

He took care of strangers. Other people bragged to John about how he treated missionaries.

Love of position

He wanted to be first; to be in charge; to call the shots; to be recognized as most important.

Accept Instruction

Walks in truth

He listened to instruction and obeyed the Scriptures. His lifestyle matched his beliefs.

Won’t listen

He would not recognize John’s authority nor submit to his leadership. He appeared to be unteachable.

Treat others

Open arms

Welcomed strangers. He went out of his way to make them feel welcome and cared for.

Closed heart

He refused to welcome fellow believers. He even threatened others if they didn’t follow his example.

Builds up

He looked for opportunities to encourage.

Tears down

He spread malicious lies about John and engaged in gossip. If you didn’t agree with him, he began spreading rumors about you.

Resources

Generous

He gave and supported other gospel workers.

Controlling

He controlled not only his resources, but those of others as well. He refused support if it didn’t fit his agenda.

Focus

Ministry

Whatever it takes to move the gospel forward.

Maintenance

Don’t rock the boat; don’t change things.

Priority

Honor God

He sent missionaries off in a manner worthy of God.

Honor self

He wanted to be first. He wouldn’t help because it might threaten his position.

Result

Gaius was commended by John for his lifestyle of truth and love.

Diotrephes was confronted by John for his ambition, arrogance, accusations, and evil actions.

I came away from my study asking myself the question, Am I leader worth following?

 
 

What is marriage built on?

Though not a surprise to anyone who follows sports, Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren announced this week that their divorce was final. One of the more significant quotes in one article was the following:

Nordegren told People magazine she and Woods tried for months to reconcile the relationship. In the end, a marriage “without trust and love” wasn’t good for anyone, she said.

A healthy marriage is built on a foundation of trust and love. Without it, cracks will begin to form in the foundation. It is only a matter of time before they spread to the framing and the structure. If they are not addressed, they are soon visible to a watching world. Eventually, the entire house falls down.

Is it any wonder that the architect designed marriage to be a loving, lifetime commitment between a man and a woman?

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:24-25, ESV).

Until you leave and forsake all other relationships, you cannot hold fast and be committed to one person. Without commitment, there is no intimacy and oneness. Without love, there is no commitment; without commitment, there can be no trust.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2010 in Marriage, News stories, Scripture, Sports

 

Hidden sins

Our front porch/step was looking shabby and starting to pull apart. Replacing it was on my to-do list once fall arrived and the greenery around it died. That way I wouldn’t feel guilty when I walked all over the day lilies and vines. Project day arrived yesterday. I planned to measure the project and order the lumber. If I had time, I would start the demolition phase. However, all of this was contingent on waiting for a package to be delivered. Once it arrived, I could go to work.

The delivery came at mid-day. After delivering the package, the rather burly delivery person ran screaming from the house and hid beside his truck. Turns out he was deathly allergic to bees and they were a couple hovering around the front porch. Assuming there might be a nest underneath the steps or porch, I went to the hardware store to pick up a can of wasp killer.

After taking the steps off the front of the porch, I discovered to my surprise that in addition to a significant amount of dry rot, another family had moved in and taken up residence underneath the porch. They didn’t build a single family dwelling. The wasps built a condo. It was way too big to be called “just” a nest.

It’s amazing what lurks out of sight and undetected. It’s a bit like the sin in our lives. A little anger here. A pinch of resentment there. Nurse a grudge or two. Our lives begin to decay from the inside out. A monster lurks underneath the surface ready to spring on some unsuspecting soul that crosses our path and incurs our wrath. We explode and sting everyone around us. And then we exclaim in amazement, “Where did that come from?”

This is why the apostle Paul encourages us to deal with our anger and not allow it to fester and build. When we don’t deal with it and seek reconciliation, we allow the enemy to gain a foothold in our lives.

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2010 in Home, Personal growth, Theology

 

What if God used voice mail?

One week ago, I preached on Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-14 as I was wrapping up a series on 40 Days of Prayer for Outreach. I began the sermon with the following story:

What if God had voice Mail? We have all learned to live with voice mail as a necessary part of modern life. But you may have wondered, “What if God decided to install voice mail?”

Imagine praying and hearing this . . . “Thank you for calling My Father’s House. Please select one of the following options:

Press 1 for requests.

Press 2 for thanksgiving

Press 3 for complaints.

Press 4 for all other inquiries.”

What if God used the familiar excuse. . . “All the angels are helping other customers right now. Please stay on the line. Your call will be answered in the order it was received.”

If you would like to speak to Gabriel, Press 1.

For Michael, Press 2.

For a directory of other angels, Press 3.

If you’d like to hear King David sing a Psalm while you’re on hold, Press 4.

To find out if a loved one has been assigned to Heaven, enter his or her social security number then Press 5.

For reservations at My Father’s House, Press the letters J-O-H-N-3-1-6.

For answers to nagging questions about dinosaurs, the age of the earth, and where Noah’s ark is, then please wait until you arrive here.”

“Our computers show that you have already called once today. Please hang up and try again tomorrow.”

“This office is closed for the week-end. Please call again on Monday after 9:00 A.M.”

 (Author unknown. Wit & Wisdom – June 26, 1998)

I closed the illustration and transitioned into the message by reading Psalm 116:1-2, which is one of my favorite verses on prayer.

“I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.”

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2010 in Fun, Prayer

 

Back to school prayer walk

This afternoon, several people from our church met to do a prayer walk around the elementary, middle, and senior high schools that serve our local community. After eating lunch, we divided up into small groups. We then drove to our respective schools. As we walked around the campus,  here are some of the items we prayed for.

Physical

  • Good health for students & teachers
  • Safety of playgrounds, sports fields, and street crossings
  • Needy students and families to be identified and given help

Mental

  • Teachers have adequate prep-time
  • Students come eager to learn
  • Accurate information presented
  • Students encouraged to become lifelong learners

Emotional

  • No teasing or bullying
  • Teachers and staff have compassion for student’s worries and problems
  • Respect for others taught and modeled

Spiritual

  • Protection from evil
  • Christian teachers and students allowed to speak of their faith
  • Principals and teachers not be overbearing on religious issues
  • Moms in Touch groups to have an influence for Christ
  • All may come to know the truth of the gospel

Why not take the list and do a prayer walk around your local school? You will be surprised at what God might do.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Church, Prayer

 

I love to go, but I hate to leave

“I love to go, but I hate to leave” are the sentiments of Decker Hawthorn, a character in James BeauSeigneur’s novel, In His Image, Book 1 of the Christ Clone Trilogy. Decker is a newspaper editor who loves to travel to pursue a story, but hates to leave home and say, “Goodbye,” to his wife to do so.

That phrase sums up my feelings about short-term ministry trips. I love to minister in other churches, cities, and countries. But I hate to leave home to do so, especially when it means leaving my wife and family behind.

I was reminded of those sentiments this week as I accepted an invitation to minister at the House of Grace in Russia in February 2011. The House of Grace is a guest house for pastors operated by John & Naomi Musgrave. It is a place of refuge where Russian pastors and their families can go for rest, renewal, and encouragement. Located in Tsibanobalka, near Anapa on the northern coast of the Black Sea, they offer several 3-day concentrated courses during the winter months for pastors and emerging leaders on different books of the Bible. I will be teaching a course on the book of Joshua, highlighting the principles of leadership found in the book.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with old friends and to help encourage and equip pastors in Russia. I only wish I didn’t have to leave home to do it.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2010 in Ministry, Missions, Passion, Personal growth

 

Multiple choice questions – Few choice answers

My mind is filled with questions these days. Some are asked by other people, some I ask myself. Some come from firsthand experience, some from observing others. Some are life altering issues, others are trivial and lightweight. Some are hair-raising, others are hair-pulling. What ties them all together is my inability to decide how to respond. I have a hard time just understanding the question, let alone choosing an appropriate answer.

1. Why do people sleep when I preach?

  • They work nights, and are normally in bed at this time
  • They have health/age issues which make them susceptible to dozing off
  • The room is too warm
  • They work so hard during the week that when they stop and sit, they doze off
  • They are apathetic about God and spiritual things
  • Spiritual warfare is at work; it’s a battle
  • The preacher (me) is boring

2. How should I react/respond when someone criticizes a program or activity held at church?

  • The complaint is legitimate
  • The complaint smacks of legalism
  • This is a weaker brother/sister we should accommodate
  • This is a legalist we should confront
  • Don’t worry about it; some people are merely cranky and never satisfied

3. How should I respond when given the opportunity to minister in another church or country?

  • Consider the opportunity
  • See it as God’s direction and leading
  • Treat it as a distraction and ignore it

4. Why is my hair falling out? & What do I do about it?

  • It’s an auto-immune reaction to an illness
  • It’s a reaction to stress
  • All of the above
  • Quit my job and move to Tahiti
  • Find a stress free life (yeah, right)
  • See a doctor
  • Live with it
  • Wonder if I will have any left
  • Shave my head
  • Memorize 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

5. Observations about how churches conduct a search for a new pastor

  • Why does each church do it differently?
  • Why don’t churches communicate with prospective candidates?
  • Why does it take so long?
  • Considering how search committees operate, why is the church still in business?

6. Questions about churches

  • Why do people/churches constantly drift towards comfort and complacency?
  • Why does one ministry or program work in one church but not another?
  • Why can your efforts and prayers be consistent, and yet your fruit and results vary from day to day?
  • How can you do a “soil analysis” of your church or ministry context?

7. Me, Me, Me!

  • Will my balance ever return to normal?
  • Why is Scripture memory so hard?
  • Will I ever dunk a basketball?
  • How can my prayers be more effective?
  • How can I encourage my wife and children?
  • How can I be more effective in preaching? leading? equipping?
  • How can I accomplish God’s purpose in my generation (Acts 13:36)?

After all that thinking, it’s time for a nap.

 
 
 
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