Monthly Archives: June 2008

The perils of church growth

On the subject of church growth, Reggie McNeal stated, “Unfortunately it (the church growth movement) fell victim to an idolatry as old as the Tower of Babel, the belief that we are the architects of the work of God. As a result we have the best churches men can build, but are still waiting for the church that only God can get credit for.”

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Posted by on June 23, 2008 in Church, Quotes


Helping the blind see

How do you deal with a blind spot, especially when you can’t see it? How do you remove a blind spot when you don’t even know you have one, let alone know where it is?

If we’re honest, we will start by admitting we have a blind spot. The problem is, most of us are not honest.

Oh, we will admit to a physiological blind spot where our optic nerve connects to our eyeball. But since we cannot see it ourselves, we have to take someone else’s word for it. We will admit to having a blind spot when we drive a car. We will look forward, check all the mirrors, and even turn our head and body to make sure we see everything around us.

But when it comes to issues of character and growth, we don’t have a blind spot, or so we delude ourselves into believing. When someone points out a character flaw to us, we dismiss them as a critical person. When they bring up an area where we need to grow, we tell them they are mistaken and are blowing things out of proportion.

When we refuse to listen to correction, not only are we blind, but we are foolish as well. Rather than being my opinion alone, this view comes from Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1)

A fool spurns his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.” (Proverbs 15:5)

A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise.” (Proverbs 15:12)

If I want to avoid being a fool, I need to listen to those who point out areas where I need to grow. I need to consider what others say when they speak to me about my character. Rather than reacting defensively, I need to ask God, “What do you want me to learn from what this person is saying? Is there any truth to what they are pointing out?”

“Lord, open my eyes to see the areas where you want me to grow. Help me not to be a blind man about my own character.”

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Posted by on June 22, 2008 in Character, Personal growth


The day of reckoning

It is a brutal time to be a sports fan in Seattle. I feel like I need a shower every time I read the local sports page.

The Mariners are absolutely dreadful. It is painful to watch a baseball team play without passion. Management is starting a purge and has fired the hitting coach, the general manager, and the field manager. While everyone agrees the players are ultimately responsible, the leaders are the ones held accountable. And the rumors of which player(s) will be released next only heightens the cry for accountability. 

The Seattle Sonics are spending more money on legal fees than player salaries and more time in the courtroom than the NBA regular season lasted. They are dragging themselves and the city through the mud on their way out of town. Each day brings new revelations about this damaging email or that smear campaign. The owners and the city leaders are both taking it on the chin. No one will come out clean in this mud-fight.

The Seattle Seahawks cannot start NFL training camp soon enough.

Perhaps because of the Mariners demanding accountability for a season gone awry, and the Sonics daily revelations of dirty dealing, I am struck by what the author of Hebrews said in chapter 4, verses 12-13.

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Actions in the baseball clubhouse become common knowledge through diligent reporting. Performance on the baseball field is magnified to the world by blogs and scribes. Hidden emails come to light in the courtroom by challenging lawyers. Deceptive plans and negative campaigns are proclaimed publicly through newspapers and websites. How much more will the word of God reveal the attitudes of our hearts? If the world learns of the plans and decisions of baseball and basketball teams and demands accountability, how much more will God hold us accountable when he reveals the sins that we think we have secretly hidden away?

The media may have sharp pens, but they are nothing compared to the pointed, double-edged sword of the word of God. When God starts probing with his scalpel, there will be no hidden sins. Perhaps it is time to clean our own house.

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Posted by on June 21, 2008 in Personal growth, Theology


Character is best developed in the crucible

“A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.”          Mildred Witte Struven

“God often puts us in situations that are too much for us so that we will learn that no situation is too much for him.”               Erwin Lutzer

Someone asked C.S. Lewis, “Why do the righteous suffer?” “Why not?” he replied. “They’re the only ones who can take it.”

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Posted by on June 17, 2008 in Character, Personal growth, Quotes


A father’s legacy

My Dad has been gone now for 24 years, having died of cancer in December 1983, at the age of 65. As I approach another Father’s Day, I am reminded of the legacy he left me.

By no means was he a perfect Dad. He was very quiet and much too passive in his leadership at home. I have had to work hard to get that “curse” out of the family. But he was a good husband and loved his wife. Dad & Mom were married 44 years at the time of his death. Dad loved my brother and me and supported and encouraged us in our endeavors.

Having grown up on a farm in Iowa during the Great Depression, he had a strong work ethic. He missed out on college because of World War II and having to support himself, but he did the best he could as a blue-collar worker. He worked long hours to provide for his family. During the 60’s, he worked for two different aerospace firms, and was laid off from both due to cutbacks in the defense budget. After 10 months of unemployment in the early 70’s while I was in high school, Dad became an elementary school custodian in order to have a consistent income.

By far the greatest impact my father had on my life was teaching me about the sovereignty of God. During the last four years of his life, my father could have “starred” in the book of Job. Dad had a damaged optic nerve behind one eye for as long as I can remember. In the summer of 1980, he developed a blood clot behind his good eye, and was legally blind. For some unexplained reason, this forced the bad eye to start working again. Medication eventually dissolved the blood clot and he was able to see again and resume driving and working. About 18 months later, his car was struck by a train at a faulty crossing guard. The train pushed the car 200 yards. With a broken hip and shoulder, Christmas that year was spent in the hospital. After a long period of recovery, Dad was diagnosed with cancer in April 1983, had surgery twice, and died a short 8 months later in December 1983.

The last time I saw my father alive was in October of 1983 when he and Mom came to Dallas, TX, to visit my wife and me during my last year of seminary. I remember sitting in the car with Dad while my wife and Mom were in a store. I asked him what he thought God was teaching him through all of this. My father’s answer was classic and revealed his quiet faith. “I have no idea, but I know he can be trusted.”

My father’s legacy to me was Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” God can be trusted! That truth has impacted me far more than any other.

Thanks, Dad!

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Posted by on June 15, 2008 in Family & Friends


The foolishness of preaching

There are times I wonder if preaching really accomplishes anything. When I look out on the congregation and see people with a glazed look in their eyes or fidgeting nervously and checking their watches, I wonder if I should just tell people about the latest book I read or news article. Maybe I should lead discussions about current events. Perhaps I would be better off being a ride operator at Disneyland or crunching numbers as an accountant.

But then I run across verses such as Hebrews 4:12-13. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

1 Corinthians 1:21 reminds me that “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”

While news articles are informative, and novels are intriguing, the word of God changes lives. It heals broken hearts. It restores wounded marriages. It encourages the weary. It has a message of hope and life.

While I certainly need to sharpen my skill as a preacher and teacher, I could never find a better and more needed subject to preach and teach.

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Posted by on June 14, 2008 in Preaching


Commencing into life

Last night we found ourselves at Qwest Field in Seattle celebrating the graduation of our youngest daughter from Eastlake High School. The program had the usual assortment of good musical performances, forgettable speeches, parents cheering, friends clapping, and air horns blasting. It was a night of joy and celebration. The principal made a memorable gaffe by introducing the class of 208. We turned to each other and asked, “Did she say what I thought she said?”

The best speech of the night was delivered by Don Bartel, a humanities teacher and football coach who was leaving to go to another high school in Enumclaw. Don tossed aside his prepared speech and gave a passionate talk from his heart. You could easily see why the students liked his classes. He asked two penetrating questions which stuck with me:

  1. Are you willing to disappoint other people in pursuit of your dreams? Or are you just focused on pleasing people?
  2. Are you willing to stand in the center of the fire and not be afraid of the flames? Believing that God uses trials as one of his primary means of developing character, I quickly copied down this question to use in a sermon sometime.

With our daughter’s graduation, we turned in our charter seat licenses for high school graduations. We have now completed the first phase of our children’s educational journeys. Next stop . . . college graduations.

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Posted by on June 13, 2008 in Family & Friends