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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Holidays are for DAWGS!

“Holidays are for DAWGS!” (Great line, Amanda.)

Congratulations to the University of Washington Huskies Football team, champions of the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl. As the announcers kept reminding everyone, the Huskies came back from “the depths of an 0-12 season two years ago” and “the wreckage of the Tyrone Willingham era.” Not only that, but they avenged an embarrassing shellacking from the Nebraska Cornhuskers back in September.

Kudos to the defense, who proved they could stop the run. Kudos to Nick Holt, who proved he can coach defense and justified his high salary. Kudos to Steve Sarkisian, who proved he can coach smash-mouth football, and in the process silenced those who doubted and second-guessed whether he was head coach material when the Dawgs stumbled in the middle of the season. Congratulations and Thanks to Jake Locker, who helped turn around a downtrodden program, restored glory to Montlake, and went out a winner.

The new year seems bright indeed for the Dawgs of Montlake. The program is back to respectability and relevance. Dawg fans can start wearing purple again, without having to apologize or say it’s for the basketball team.

WOOF!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2010 in Seattle, Sports

 

30 Years – photo version

Over the past 30 years, Carol and I have traveled

from  to ,

and from  to  .

As Indiana Jones once said, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” It’s been a great ride. What does God have in store for us in the next 30?

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2010 in Family & Friends, Photos

 

30 Years

30 years ago today, Carol and I stood before “God and these assembled witnesses” and pledged our love to one another and said, “I do.” The pastor pronounced us “man and wife.” Who knew what God had in store for us?

Over the years, we have had multiple opportunities for communication, conflict resolution, compassion, ministry, service, and forgiveness. We have seen and experienced God’s grace and answers to prayers on numerous occasions. God has sent us enough challenges to cause us to grow, enough difficulties to keep us humble, enough trials to keep us dependent on his power, and enough love to share with those around us. Our love and commitment to one another has grown and deepened. God gave us three children who helped us grow up as much as we helped them grow up. God has and continues to be good to us.

And now, three children, one cat, two hamsters, three churches, two educational degrees, four apartments, four houses, five cross-country moves, numerous friends and acquaintances, several states, and a handful of foreign countries later, our family of five will gather tonight at Daniel’s Broiler to celebrate 30 years of God’s goodness and grace.

Happy Anniversary to my wife, companion, lover, and best friend. Let’s see what God has in store for us next. May the next 30 years be even better!

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Family & Friends, Marriage

 

Are you possessed?

“…one of the most powerful reasons we don’t totally surrender our lives to Christ is that we don’t want to sacrifice the things we possess; they have begun to possess us. These things can include our jobs, our material assets, our money, our communities, and our friends–even our families. We cling to them, often out of a desire for security, comfort, and happiness, even though we know in our hearts that we can only find real happiness by serving the Lord. Consequently, our things become idols.”

Richard Stearns, in The Hole in our Gospel: What does God expect of us? The answer that changed my life and might just change the world

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2010 in Books, Quotes

 

Have we trivialized true religion?

As I read the opening paragraphs in an article in the travel section, I have to confess that I cringed. “An Orlando theme park of biblical proportions: Holy Land Experience aims to feel a world away in the town of Mickey Mouse” begins with the following statements,

In Orlando, America’s thrill ride capital, one theme park is making a killing–twice each day, except Sundays.

At midday and again before the doors close for the evening, visitors to Holy Land Experience gather to watch a graphic reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Wearing a tattered robe and a blood-spattered face, a man portraying Christ lugs a cross on his back through a lifelike “Jerusalem Street Market” as packs of tourist in sunglasses scurry to snap photos. Mickey Mouse, this ain’t.

Ouch!

After reading the article, I had several reactions, none of which were all that positive. One reaction was to think, No wonder the world doesn’t take Christianity seriously when we act like religious hucksters. We put “Jesus” on everything from T-shirts to frisbees. Now, we have created an amusement park.

A second reaction was to equate the Holy Land Experience with a spiritual flu shot. People typically get a flu shot so that they don’t get the flu. You are inoculated with enough of the disease to prevent you from getting the real disease. The danger of visiting a religious amusement park is to think you’ve had a religious experience. One minister who visited the park said he felt “the consuming presence of God.” I confess I’ve had a similar experience in watching the JESUS film. But I cannot substitute a movie or an afternoon at an amusement park with actually spending time with God in his Word and in prayer. I’d be concerned that visiting the Holy Land Experience would be like eating cookies before dinner. It will take away my appetite for more nutritious fare.

A third reaction was to be reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy about what to expect in the last days. Paul wrote the following warning in 2 Timothy 3:1-5,

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (emphasis mine)

I may be old-fashioned and narrow-minded, but a religious amusement park seems to fit into the “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” category.

I love amusement parks. I would love to visit the Holy Land. But the idea of combining the two makes me cringe. It feels like one more example of “Jesus Junk.” It feels trivial and tacky.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2010 in News stories, Travel

 

When did “evangelical” become a dirty word?

When did being “an evangelical” become a liability? When did having convictions become a bad thing? When did believing in a creator be enough to disqualify someone from a job offer?

That seems to be the case at the University of Kentucky. Martin Gaskell has sued the University of Kentucky for religious discrimination. He contends that his views about his Christian faith and questions about the theory of evolution kept him from an appointment as the director of a new student observatory at the University of Kentucky three years ago.

Gaskell apparently rose to the top of the applicants and was considered “breathtakingly above the other applicants.” However, some on the search committee worried his Christian faith could conflict with his duties as a scientist, calling him “something close to a creationist” and “potentially evangelical.”

If the quotes are true, then it’s ok to believe in evolution but not to believe in creation. It’s ok to believe there is no God but it’s not ok to believe that God exists. It’s ok to have faith but it’s not ok to tell people what you believe.  I may be simple-minded, but that sure sounds like a double standard to me.

It will be interesting to see how this case turns out.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2010 in News stories

 

Restoring Kingdom Builders

An old friend, Jim Meyer, has started a new blog aimed at ministering to pastors and church leaders who have experienced signficant opposition in their ministries, been kicked to the curb by their supporters, and/or been forced out of their churches. Jim and his wife, Kim, experienced that type of pain firsthand, so they know what they are talking about. Having gone through that experience myself, I look forward to what they have to say. Check out Jim’s blog at Restoring Kingdom Builders.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2010 in Ministry

 

Welcome to Whoville

What’s up with the Eastlake Totem Trees? Did the city fathers of Sammamish, WA, decide to enter the Whoville Christmas decorating contest? (For those who might be confused, the trees stand in front of Starbucks at the entrance to Eastlake High School. They were topped off a few years back but the trunks were left standing. The city council suggested making totem poles. But they could not agree on what to do with them. So they stood formless until now.)

Someone covered them with what looks like giant Christmas socks (or Winter Festival stockings, for the politically correct.) As we drove by this afternoon, my daughter, Caitlin, commented, “I feel like I just entered Whoville.”

Somewhere Cindy Lou Who is smiling and the heart of the Grinch is beating in time with Jingle Bells.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2010 in Christmas, Photos, Sammamish

 

Candy Cane Theology

One of the treats of the Christmas season are Candy Canes. By design, candy canes are sweet, attractive, and filling. But don’t eat one before dinner because it will take away your appetite for more nutritious fare. Candy canes also promote cavities in your teeth, so my dentist friends tell me.

The same can be said of Candy Cane Theology. It too is sweet, attractive, and filling. And it too will take away your appetite for solid spiritual food. Candy Cane Theology won’t rot your teeth, but it might rot your soul because it promotes wishful thinking based on a doctrine of works.

I participated in a memorial service recently that was a striking example of candy cane theology. I opened the service with Scripture and prayer. Another individual led a time of sharing about the deceased. Still another pastor gave the message.

During the sharing time, everyone raved about what a “great guy” the deceased was, how he was the life of the party and made everyone laugh, how he was passionate about saving lives in his work. But never once did anyone speak of his faith or whether or not he loved Jesus. The closest they came was when one person mentioned asking if he believed in God and he said yes. The speaker said that in his belief, the person was now in heaven. Many of the speakers demonstrated wishful thinking. They reasoned that because the person was so good and full of life, he must be in heaven. 

I found it curious that the pastor who gave the sermon never once opened his Bible. He spoke about biblical principles as he talked through the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11. He spoke of the hope of the resurrection. But he didn’t talk of forgiveness of sins or how you could have a relationship with Jesus Christ. There was no challenge or encouragement to believe the message of the gospel. It made me glad I began the service by reading John 14:1-6 and saying that only through Jesus Christ could we have the hope of heaven.

I came away with two conclusions. One is that only God knows the state of a person’s heart and their eternal destiny. Not knowing the deceased, I cannot say for certain that he was a Christ follower. I don’t know whether or not he made a profession of faith at some point in his life. Based on what I heard during the memorial service, I would say, No. But I was reminded that only God knows the heart.

The second conclusion is that I must present the gospel clearly at every funeral. You cannot give people false hope that God grades on a curve–if you are good enough you can get into heaven. Just as the rich man did in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), you can state that the deceased would implore his friends and family to make certain of their eternal destiny. I want people to leave with a clear understanding of how to get into heaven and what they need to do in order to make that certain.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2010 in Funerals, Preaching, Scripture, Theology

 

The Christmas Rescue

Last Tuesday afternoon, I was blissfully sitting at my desk watching a video while eating my lunch. The lights flickered and then went out. I was now blissfully sitting in the dark (figuratively speaking, since sunlight was streaming through the window). It was the second power outage in 12 hours. The first one around midnight lasted a few minutes. This one, though I had no way of knowing at the time, would last 40 minutes.

After a few minutes of waiting for the power to return, I called Seattle City Light (on my cell phone since the office phones were without power) to report the outage and get an estimate on the repair time. The attendant informed me that crews would be dispatched and hopefully in 1-2 hours they would have an estimated time of repair.

With no lights, phones, or internet, I pulled out a book, moved closer to the window and started reading while I waited. I needed someone to rescue me from darkness and powerlessness.

It dawned on me that my circumstances reflected the message of Christmas. In one sense, Christmas is a rescue operation to turn the lights back on and restore power to the universe.

The prophet Isaiah states that because of sin, the world existed in darkness. It was a land of deep darkness desperately in need of light (Isaiah 9:2). The prophet also foretold of the coming of a Savior (9:6-7) who would be unique. He would be God in human flesh. He would bring peace, justice, and righteousness.

In Luke 1:26-38, the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. He would be the Son of God, the one promised by the prophet Isaiah. Luke 2:1-16 tells how the shepherds heard the announcement of Christ’s birth and came to honor and worship the child. Matthew 2:1-11 adds how the wise men saw the signs of his birth in the heavens and also came to honor and worship the child. They were convinced the Christ child was the one the signs and prophecies pointed to.

Through the incarnation, Jesus Christ took on the form of a servant and became a man (John 1:14). He was the one foretold by the prophet Isaiah as the light who would shine in the world of darkness (John 1:4-5). God became man so that he might save us from our sins and reconnect us to the source of life and power (John 1:12).

Christ did not come to be a Christmas ornament; a decoration on a lawn; a story told once a year; a reason to give presents; a character in a pageant; an excuse to visit family; a reason to be nice to the neighbors we don’t like; a time for a ceasefire or a call to end a war; or a reason for a party. Christ came to be our Savior. He was born to die. He came to pay the final price for our salvation. He came to give his life as a sacrifice. He came to ensure our forgiveness and freedom from sin. He was born to die so that we might spend eternity with God.

In your spiritual journey, start at the manger, and then go to the cross. Remember his birth, but consider his death. Confess your sins and receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal life he offers. Allow Christ to rescue you and turn the lights back on in your life.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2010 in Christmas, Scripture

 
 
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