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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Can America pull out of her downward spiral?

Book Review: Implosion: Can America recover from its economic & spiritual challenges in time? by Joel C. Rosenberg

“America is teetering on a precipice . . . more and more people are asking, ‘Can America survive?’ What does the future hold? What does the Bible say about the future of the United States?”

These questions, found on the back cover of Joel C. Rosenberg’s latest book, Implosion, are ones the author says are often posed to him following conferences and speaking engagements. They prompted him to study culture, current events, and the Scriptures to find answers.

Rosenberg spends the first two-thirds of the book analyzing the challenges that America faces. As he explains, our economic stability is bleak, our national security is at risk, and there are an increasing number of intense natural disasters in recent years. But are these the beginnings of the end or are they simply a wakeup call from God? Can America recover and still be a force for good in today’s world?

The author believes America can recover, but only if we turn back to God. In the remaining one‑third of the book, the author discusses what took place during the First and Second Great Awakenings in the 1700’s & 1800’s. By following the principles employed by godly men during those revivals—prayer, confession of sin, repentance, preaching, soul-winning—perhaps we can experience a Third Great Awakening today. Rather than implode, perhaps we can be used by God to help accomplish his plan and purpose.

Rather than being overly optimistic or pessimistic, Rosenberg encourages his readers to view life through the third lens of Scripture. Only then can we understand and pursue God’s plan.

Implosion is well written, thoroughly researched and documented, and easy to read and understand. That being said, it will cause you to think, reflect, and pray.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

 
 

Pending

We accepted an offer on our house. It was fair and generous. Perhaps not as generous as we hoped for, but fair nonetheless. The house passed the inspection and we are now working on the punch list of things we agreed to fix, change, and/or repair. The sale is now officially “pending.” Assuming everything goes according to schedule, the sale will close the end of July.

Every detail of this process is an answer to prayer. God provided the right buyer at the right price at the right time. Because he has met our needs in the past and the present, we are confident he will meet them in the future as well–namely, a new job and a new place to live.

Two things I know for certain: (1) Life is a faith journey. (2) God can be trusted.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Home, Personal growth, Prayer, Theology

 

The evolution of the Disney princess

Yesterday afternoon, my wife and I saw Pixar’s latest offering, Brave. Like every other movie created by Pixar, it is a well done, cute story. It underscores the importance of family, no matter how dysfunctional it may be. One of the lessons the movie teaches is that a family and a clan must stand together to defeat the enemy.

 

The movie also illustrates the evolution of the Disney princess. That lesson is far more subtle than the one about family.

 

In the early years of Disney movies, the princess needed a prince to come to her rescue. Snow White, Aurora, and Cinderella all needed Prince Charming to come to their aid.

 

 

In the middle years, the princess saved the prince. Pocahontas saved John Smith, Ariel saved Eric, Belle saved the Beast, and Mulan saved the empire of China.

 

 

Today, Merida, the heroine of Brave, saves herself. When the first born sons of the neighboring clans vie in an archery contest for her hand in marriage, Merida says that she will shoot for her own hand. Rather than depend on a man for future happiness, she will take her fate into her own hands. In the end, her mother is swayed to Merida’s way of thinking and even helps her express her belief that each of us should be free to choose our own destiny.

The Disney Princesses have gone from dependent to independent, from relying on a man to relying on themselves. An interesting cultural shift.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Culture, Movies

 

Best if used by

Do pastors come with expiration dates? If you look closely inside their suit, collar, or vestments, will you find a label that says, “Best if used by . . . “?

Based on a cursory examination of seminary placement listings, you could certainly make that assumption.

It seems like a large number of churches are looking for a pastor between the ages of 30-50. Under 30, the pastor is not quite experienced or seasoned enough. But over 50 and they are no longer to be listened to or trusted. Under 30 and the middle-aged congregants can’t relate to the pastor, but over 50 and the pastor can’t attract the younger generation. Or at least, these are the myths we believe.

Churches and search committees need to understand that with age and experience come wisdom and maturity. In addition, they also need to recognize that with increasing life spans, a pastor can easily minister into his seventies and beyond.

On the flip side, middle-aged and older pastors need to constantly work at relating to the younger generation. Staying current with technology will help. Keeping up with current events, social media, culture, and the issues of the day will keep one’s illustrations and applications relevant. You cannot rely on “Back when I was growing up . . .” as your source of illustrations.

Age is only a number. Some people are old at 35 while others are quite young at 67. Both churches and pastors need to keep their message and ministry fresh.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Church, Ministry

 

Core Values

Using the passages of Scripture cited in the previous post (Acts 2:42-47; Ephesians 4:11-16; Acts 13-14; Colossians 1:28), I developed the following core values about ministry and the local church:

God-Centered and God-Dependent

  • All true ministry is founded in worship—a humble, God-centered focus in life.  Worship is our highest priority and motivates and empowers us to ministry (Acts 2:43).
  • Success in ministry is dependent on the working of the triune God, rather than people, skills, or programs.  Therefore, the ministries and activities of this church will be characterized by a reliance on prayer in their conception, planning, and execution (Acts 2:42).

Priority of Scripture

  • The Bible is God’s inspired Word, the authoritative and trustworthy rule of faith and practice for Christians.  Scripture, rather than shifting cultural values, forms the basis of all our decisions and actions (Acts 2:42).
  • The Bible is both timeless and timely, relevant to the common needs and specific problems of all people at all times.  We will equip people through the expository preaching and teaching of God’s Word to understand the Scriptures and how they apply to daily life (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The Church Gathered Edifies Itself; The Church Scattered Evangelizes

  • The church gathers primarily to build itself up through worship, teaching, the ordinances, and biblical fellowship, as gifted Christians stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Acts 2:42-46).
  • The individual members of the church community act in the local culture as agents of the King.  A spiritually “healthy” community will have a witness in its neighborhood.  We function as salt and light as we exercise our citizenship (Matthew 5:13-16; Acts 2:47).

Bringing All to Maturity and Many into Leadership

  • We want to take individuals from where they are to greater maturity in Christ—a lifelong process of growth.  We will build people who are strong and mature and trust God to grow our ministry as He desires (Acts 2:42-47; Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 1:28).
  • We value the importance of godly leaders and their ongoing development.  Pastors and elders should reflect increasing maturity in the qualities enumerated for that office in Timothy and Titus (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

The People are the Ministers; The Pastors are the Equippers

  • Each Christian is uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit for unique service within the Body.  Every Christian should be involved in some type of service to help build up the body of Christ and to help reach the world (Ephesians 4:7-16; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
  • The responsibility of the leadership is to equip people for ministry (Ephesians 4:12).

Each Christian has a World-Sized Part to Play in Global Outreach

  • Christians are to take the gospel to the lost, both locally and around the world.  Each one should play an active part—witnessing, praying, giving, serving, and/or going (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; 2:47).
  • We will develop and provide servants and resources for the growth of local churches cross-culturally.  Those who are sent out as servants by the church should be well trained for the task before them, and well respected by those in the church (Acts 13:1-3).
 
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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Church, Ministry, Passion, Scripture

 

Philosophy of ministry

My view of the church is shaped by three key passages of Scripture—Acts 2:42-47; Ephesians 4:11-16; and Acts 13-14.

The church is to be an Acts 2:42-47 community of faith with ongoing ministry to itself and powerful outreach to the local geographic community; A family of families who are passionate about God’s Word, Fellowship, Worship, and Prayer; where Outreach is a natural byproduct.
The church is to be an Ephesians 4:11-16 equipping center where gifted leaders focus on equipping believers to carry out the ministry of God through the church; A place where the people are the ministers and the pastors are the equippers.

The church is to be an Acts 13-14 sending church in that we will send trained and equipped men and women into service as God provides specific ministry opportunity; An established church helping to establish other churches; Willing to send our best.

My philosophy of ministry is shaped by Colossians 1:28, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”  In light of that, I want to bring all to maturity, and many into leadership.

Weaving these four passages of Scripture together, I crafted the following purpose statement and path of discipleship I believe everyone should pursue.

As a local church, we are “Building a Community to Change the World.” We seek to Glorify God by Connecting people to Christ, the church, and one another; so that we may Grow in our knowledge, character, and ministry skills; in order to Serve the cause of Christ with our time, talents, and treasures; and to Share the message of the gospel where we live, work, and go to school, both locally, and as far around the world as we can reach.

This purpose statement and path of discipleship is expressed visually in the following diagram.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Church, Ministry, Passion, Scripture

 

How the kingdom of God can stabilize your world

Book Review: Globequake: Living in the Unshakeable Kingdom While the World Falls Apart, by Wallace Henley

How can you survive in a world where every aspect of life is falling apart? How can you understand the times in which we live as well as know how to respond? What difference does the kingdom of God make in today’s world?

Answering those questions is the theme of Wallace Henley’s book, Globequake: Living in the unshakeable kingdom while the world falls apart. In addressing his theme, the author divides the book into three sections. Section one gives an overview of the issues—the way in which the world is being shaken; understanding the times in which we live; the nature of the kingdom of God; and the areas of life where the kingdom can make a difference.

Part two of the book goes into greater detail explaining how the kingdom of God can make a difference in six areas—person, church, family, education, government, and business/marketplace. Each section looks first at what a kingdom oriented person, church, etc., looks like. The author then describes how to strengthen the kingdom in each of these areas.

The author concludes the book in part three by emphasizing the importance of hope. Though we face a daunting challenge, we don’t have to give up because the kingdom of God will triumph.

Over the course of his career, the author has been a journalist, a Washington, D.C. insider, and a pastor. He uses examples from each of these areas, as well as his own life, to illustrate his points.

Overall, I found the book thought provoking. I did get tired of his use of the word, globequake. It felt like a cliché by the end. That being said, he did cause me to reexamine the influence of the kingdom of God in the everyday world.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Books

 

Rush hour in Ballard

In between rain squalls this morning, we visited the Ballard Locks, or as they are officially known, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. Between the boats leaving Lake Union and heading for Puget Sound and the record number of salmon heading home through the fish ladder, it was quite a busy morning. The locks are a fascinating place to visit, and even better since it’s free.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Seattle, Washington State

 

June-uary

Summer has begun in Seattle. Yesterday was 56 degrees F, with .7 inches of rain. Last night felt like I needed my electric blanket. Didn’t we leave this behind in the winter/spring? Maybe it really is June-uary.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Seattle

 

Get your facts straight

On Sunday, my wife and I were in church. During his message, the pastor used the following illustration.

The Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, climbed into a rocket and left the Earth’s atmosphere to become the first man in space. Upon his return to Earth, he was quoted as saying, “I looked and looked but I didn’t see God.” One Sunday, W.A. Criswell, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, remarked, “If he had stepped out of that space suit, he would have seen God!”

I joined the congregation in laughing at the story. Then I turned to my wife and whispered, the problem is that Gagarin never made that quote. Someone else, probably Nikita Kruschev, said it and attributed it to Gagarin.

One commentator gives the following explanation for the origin of the quote.

As quoted in To Rise from Earth (1996) by Wayne Lee; some websites quote him as saying “I looked and looked and looked but I didn’t see God” on 14 April 1961, a couple days after his historic flight, but the authenticity of such statements have been disputed; Colonel Valentin Petrov stated in 2006 that the cosmonaut never said such words, and that the quote originated from Nikita Khrushchev’s speech at the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU about the state’s anti-religion campaign, saying “Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any god there.”

Another version adds this explanation.

When Yuri Gagarin, the first man who went into space, returned to Earth, there was a huge reception in his honor. As his close friend and cosmonaut colleague Alexei Leonov tells it, then-premier Nikita Khrushchev cornered Gagarin. “So tell me, Yuri,” he asked, “did you see God up there?” After a moment’s pause. Gagarin answered, “Yes sir, I did.” Khrushchev frowned. “Don’t tell any one,” he said. A few minutes later the head of the Russian Orthodox Church took Gagarin aside. “So tell me, my child,” he asked Gagarin, “did you see God up there?” Gagarin hesitated and replied “No sir, I did not.” “Don’t tell anyone.”

As speakers and preachers, we need to go the extra mile in checking the accuracy of our quotations. There will undoubtedly be someone in the congregation looking up the quote on their cell phone and will tell us later if we get it incorrect.

If we go the extra mile, we may discover an even better story, as Chuck Swindoll did when he researched the Gagarin quote.

But as I dug into the research, I encountered a sobering interview with Gagarin’s longtime friend Colonel Valentin Petrov. According to this 2006 interview, the words were not actually spoken by the cosmonaut, but attributed to him after a statement by Nikita Khrushchev in a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Moscow.

While promoting the state’s official atheist policy, the premier said (according to Petrov), “Why should you clutch at God? Here is Gagarin who flew to space but saw no God there.” At the time, the Central Committee wanted the quote attributed to Gagarin, and he was in no position to contradict them! So the quote stuck.

None of this changes the impact of Dr. Criswell’s quip. The pastor, like the rest of the world, took the quote at face value and his response exposes a host of flaws in atheistic thinking. But my digging led me to a deeper, richer story.

According to Gagarin’s friend, the first cosmonaut was a humble, soft-spoken, reluctant hero and a man he knew as a believer (at least in the Russian Orthodox understanding of belief). The government blamed Petrov for “drawing Gagarin into religion,” but both men shared the same perspective all along, actively encouraging Orthodoxy among their younger students in the Air Force Academy, even taking them to visit monasteries. While the world saw him as a pugnacious atheist, he was, in fact, continually in trouble with his Communist leaders for his personal and deeply held religious beliefs.

While it may take extra time, it is worth the effort to make sure we get a quote correct.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Preaching, Quotes

 
 
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