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Monthly Archives: November 2010

The ministry of showing up

Part of ministry is simply showing up and being present. People seem to be surprised, but appreciative when I do that.

During high school and college, I attended a church where the Senior Pastor made a practice of meeting people at the hospital when they checked in for surgery. I incorporated that practice into my ministry when I became a Senior Pastor.

This morning, I was at the hospital at 6am to meet a woman who was checking in for surgery. In fact, I arrived before she did. Her first words were, “What are you doing up at this hour?” I spoke briefly with her and her husband and prayed with the couple. I was in and out before I had to pay for parking. Not that I rushed, but I did not want to be in the way when their turn came to check in. Our time was short, but meaningful.

Phone calls are good. Email has its place. Cards and letters are helpful. But I’m learning that the best ministry is personal. It is holding a hand as you pray. It is face to face interaction. Sometimes, all you have to do is show up. Your presence alone ministers, even before open your mouth.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2010 in Ministry, Prayer

 

How white is forgiveness?

There is nothing quite as clean as new fallen snow; nothing quite as white as a field or mountain covered with snow; nothing quite as bright as the sun reflecting off of the snow.

It is Day 3 of Seattle’s thanksgiving week arctic blast 2010. It is currently 20 degrees, going up to a balmy 27 degrees today. With Seattle’s roads turned into an ice rink, it is safer to stay home than slide around. As I sit here in my wool socks, sweatshirt, and stocking cap (the cold seeps through the walls), I was reminded of Isaiah 1:18, “though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”

Snow is clean, fresh, white, pure, and bright. Yet it pales in comparison to God’s grace and forgiveness. Snow merely covers the grass, leaves, rocks, and streets. When it melts, they will all be seen again. But grace transforms us. Grace takes the darkest stain and makes it dazzlingly white. Forgiveness doesn’t merely cover over sin; it removes it completely.

Thank you, Lord, for this reminder of your grace!

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2010 in Personal growth, Scripture, Seattle, Winter

 

Deicing the wrong car

With Seattle gripped by Deep Freeze 2010, this is an appropriate, yet funny video. Enjoy from the warmth of the great indoors.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2010 in Videos, Winter

 

I’m dreaming of a White Thanksgiving (?)

If it is snowing in Seattle before Thanksgiving Day, what can we expect the rest of the winter? Maybe it’s time for a Caribbean cruise or a visit to Arizona. ;-}

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2010 in Photos, Sammamish, Seattle, Winter

 

Beware the heresy caravan

Last week, my wife and I were motoring through Portland, OR, on our way to Sunriver for a retreat. We came upon a caravan of four RVs all decorated with the same message and paint scheme. Each vehicle contained the same simple message, The world will end on May 11, 2011. “The Bible guarantees it!”

Carol and I had three reactions to the message. Our first thought was, “When the world ends, you can bet it won’t be on May 11, 2011. Mark 13:32 says that no one knows the day or hour, not the angels, not even Jesus, only God himself.” Our second thought was, “Can we buy your house on May 10? You won’t be needing it.” Our third reaction was, “It figures, they have California license plates.”

After returning home from our retreat, I decided to visit the website listed on their RVs, familyradio.com. I was dismayed to read the heresy taught on their pages and the misuse of Scripture to back up their positions. They use a convoluted math formula based on an obscure prophecy to arrive at setting May 11, 2011 as the beginning of judgment. When questioned about the verse, no one knows the day or hour, they misinterpret Jesus’ response to the question in Acts 1:7 and say that only applied to the disciples. Misusing Ecclesiastes 8:5 as a prooftext, they claim they have the wisdom to understand what God’s plans are.

Based on reading the message on their vans and doing a cursory reading of their website, I am dismayed by their heresy. Granted, I have not talked with them personally. But I am bothered by both the content and the tone of their message. One, they are misusing and twisting Scripture for their purposes. Two, their message is one of judgment rather than of grace. Third, they tend to turn people off rather than attract them to the gospel. Fourth, they convey an attitude of pride and secret knowledge. Didn’t the apostles Paul and John warn against that very attitude?

We need to preach the truth of Scripture (2 Timothy 4:2), but we need to handle it accurately (2 Timothy 2:15).

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in Oregon, Scripture, Theology

 

The Twelfth Imam

I just finished reading Joel Rosenberg’s latest thriller, The Twelfth Imam. Set against the backdrop of apocalyptic visions, Middle Eastern politics, and end-of-the-world prophecies, it tells the story of a CIA operative sent into Iran to disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapons program before it can be used against the United States of America and Israel. The book is well researched and presents a thought-provoking, plausible scenario. It is well-written, tightly paced, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Rosenberg provides insights into the differences between Islam and Christianity. The only drawback is that is the first book in a new trilogy, which means you have to wait for the next installments.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2010 in Books

 

Aslan is on the move

Carol and I had the privilege/pleasure of attending a private screening last night of the latest Chronicles of Narnia movie: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the movie. They–producers, director, script writer, et al–recaptured the magic of the first movie, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Dawn Treader is far better than the second installment, Prince Caspian.

As with any adaptation of a book into a movie, some events/chapters are compressed and others are expanded. Some are rearranged and shown out of the book’s original order. They expanded the chapter on dark island into an ongoing evil presence that needed to be conquered. They arrived far too quickly at Aslan’s country and skipped over Caspian’s return to his true love. That being said, they did a wonderful job of keeping the overall story intact.

The actor who portrays Eustace Scrubb seemed to be an inspired choice. He does an outstanding job of portraying an annoying know-it-all. The actors who play Edmund and Lucy have grown up and expanded their acting skills. Reepicheep has a much larger role in the movie and provides some comic relief.

There are several teachable moments in the film and lessons that parents can discuss with their children. The movie is funny, humorous, touching, and well done. It is a crowd pleaser, one well worth seeing again.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2010 in Books, Movies

 

Is the church God-centered or man-centered?

Over the past two decades, a debate has raged within the church in relation to the “correct” way to do church. Should we focus on church growth or church health? Do we gather for worship and scatter for evangelism or should we focus everything on evangelism? Should we focus on equipping believers or become seeker sensitive?

In an essay entitled, “The strategy of God,” located in the appendices of The archer and the arrow: Preaching the very words of God, author Phillip D. Jensen points out that the answer to the church growth debate is really an issue of theology.

The Lord Jesus Christ lived (and died) to the glory of his Father, and we should do whatever we do to the glory of God–especially and including evangelism. The chief end and purpose of evangelism is the chief end and purpose of all humans: to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We don’t evangelize to save souls but to glorify God. That’s the primary thing; the saving of souls is secondary.

This is one of those important Arminian/Calvinist distinctions. If I forget that glorifying God is primary, and have as my primary aim the saving of souls, my temptation will be to do anything I can, and change whatever needs changing, in order to save more souls. Furthermore, if I succeed, I will puff myself up, and if I fail, I will depress myself.

How we do church, our methods and strategy, ultimately flows out of our theology. One of the critiques of the church growth movement and seeker sensitive churches is that it produces a man-centered theology. Perhaps we need to reexamine how we do church in light of what Scripture says about God and his purposes.

I found Jensen’s statement to be insightful and thought-provoking. It will make me reevaluate not only what I do, but why I do what I do.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2010 in Books, Church, Quotes, Theology

 

Driving a long way for refreshment

Carol and I just returned from a four-day pastors & wives retreat in Sunriver, OR, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest District of the Evangelical Free Church of America. It is an annual event when the pastors & wives of our district gather for fellowship and refreshment. It is a long way to go (seven-hour drive for us), but well worth it. Beautiful setting. Comfortable facility and great food at the Sunriver Resort. Fellowship with like-minded servants on the front lines. A chance to reconnect with old friends. Encouragement from God’s Word.

This year’s speaker was Pastor Mike Jones from Independent Bible Church in Port Angeles, WA, who spoke from 2 Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 1:8, Paul says that there were times when he was ready to give up and quit, something every pastor & wife can identify with. But Paul found his encouragement in Christ. Mike shared from Paul’s experience how suffering teaches us to depend on Christ. One statement Mike made that continues to stick with me was, “Are we mastered by the details of the dilemma or are we gripped by the greatness of God?”

Good reminder and a refreshing weekend. Thank you to the people of United EFC who made it possible for Carol and me to attend!

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2010 in Personal growth, Scripture

 

Why do we preach?

What would motivate someone to preach the gospel? Why spend 20-30 hours a week studying God’s word, crafting a message, and then delivering it? Why spend years sharpening your skills and honing your craft? Why exert effort trying to understand the culture of the day in order to speak wisely? Why preach at all?

According to the apostle Paul, the answer is love.

. . . the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

From now on, therefore, we regard no-one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:14-16)

Once you know and experience the love of Christ, you cannot see people the same way. His love for us transforms us and gives us a new set of lenses to view the world. Authors Phillip Jensen and Paul Grimmond explain it this way:

Those who know the love of Christ can no longer see the world the same way. Where once they looked at Jesus and saw folly, now they look at him and see life and love personified. When we come to Christ, our whole world view is changed. We regard Christ in a totally new way and as a result we regard people in a totally new way. People do not exist to be used or abused. They are not obstacles to be overcome or competitors to be vanquished. They are image-bearers to be loved. Because we live for Christ, we live for the sake of others.

That was the motivation that led the Apostle Paul to go hungry and cold, to be shipwrecked and beaten, and to be left for dead on the side of the road after being stoned–it was all so that he could preach the gospel to a world that needed to know God. It sounds like the outrageous life of a dedicated and holy few. But biblically it ought to be the way of life for all Christians.

The Archer and the Arrow: Preaching the very words of God

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2010 in Books, Preaching, Quotes

 
 
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