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Monthly Archives: November 2008

Mentors

This past weekend, Carol and I attended the annual Pastor’s & Wives Retreat of the Pacific Northwest District of the Evangelical Free Church, held at the Sun River Resort in Oregon. Beautiful location. Relaxing schedule. Catching up with friends and fellow workers.

The highlight of the weekend for us was hearing from Pastor Kent Hughes. I served with Kent at College Church in Wheaton from 1986-89. He is now retired and living in Spokane, WA. Though I only spent three years on staff with Kent, I still consider him one of my mentors. He demonstrated what it meant to be a hard-working pastor. Through his sermons and commentaries, he showed me how to prepare and deliver a message that balances explanation and application. He and his wife, Barbara, exhibited and loving marriage and a healthy family.

The first day of the conference, Kent shared his perspective on success in ministry, which he wrote about in Liberating ministry from the success syndrome. Far too often, pastors measure success by the “Big 5”–Baptisms, Bucks, Buildings, and if you are really successful, Books & Broadcasts. None of those, however, are biblical. Instead, God’s measure of success includes faithfulness, loving God with all your heart, prayer, serving, and a good attitude. Having struggled recently with trying to measure my own success, it was a reminder I needed to hear.

The second day of the conference, Kent spoke from 2 Corinthians. Speaking from 3:4-6 and 12:1-10, Kent explained that God’s plan has always been to demonstrate his power through our weakness. His final message was taken from Jeremiah 29:10-11. He explained that whatever we go through–good, bad, positive, negative, painful, joyful–are all part of God’s good plans for our lives.

As always, Kent was challenging and encouraging. He ministered to us from his knowledge and experience. He was used by God to meet us at our point of need. Thanks, Kent.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2008 in Mentors, Personal growth

 

Dreaming of white stuff

Mt. Bachelor, near Sun River in Central Oregon, is not open for skiing yet, but that didn’t stop some die hards from getting in some early season practice.

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Posted by on November 8, 2008 in Oregon

 

Sun River, OR

Carol and I attended a Pastor’s & Wives Retreat at Sun River, OR, this weekened, hosted by the Pacific Northwest District of the Evangelical Free Church of America. We had a beautiful view outside our room.

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Posted by on November 8, 2008 in Oregon

 

How should a Christian evaluate “The Shack”?

I am amazed as to the continued interest in The Shack. People keep reading the book and debating the value. Since a book group in our church has decided to read it, I wanted to provide them with some tools to evaluate what they read. If the book is read, it must be read with discernment.

Here are nine reviews of the book–balanced, positive, and negative–three of each. They provide a view of the waterfront as to how people respond to the book.

Balanced reviews

Positive reviews

Negative reviews

If you choose to read the book, these reviews will help you to process what you learn. But don’t stop with what the author presents about forgiveness and the Trinity. Don’t stop with what the reviewer says about the strengths and weaknesses and the subtle messages of the book. Find out what the Bible says about forgiveness, the Trinity, the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the importance and role of the local church, and every other subject touched on in the book and the reviews. Be like the Bereans, who “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul (or authors and book reviewers) said was true” (Acts 17:11).

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2008 in Books, Theology

 

Arresting the downward spiral of society

Of perhaps greater concern than who sits in the White House or the State House were the ballot measures voted on Tuesday. Death with dignity passed in Washington. Amendments banning same sex marriage were approved in California, Arizona, and Florida. Colorado and South Dakota rejected anti-abortion initiatives. Michigan approved medical marijuana while Massachusetts decriminalized the possession of an ounce or less or marijuana. The ballot initiatives read like the end of Romans chapter 1 being played out in daily life. Our society is in a downward spiral, continuing to decay and grow darker.

Perhaps the benefit of the outcome of Tuesday’s election is that it will force the church to return to her roots and what God has called her to be and to do. Over the past decade, the church has either tried to become another PAC – Political Action Committee – or else has retreated to a protective fortress so as not to be contaminated by the world.

But God has not called us to either role. Instead, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we are to function as salt (Matthew 5:13) to arrest decay and preserve society from becoming worse than it is already. He has called us to be light (Matthew 5:14-16), to dispel the darkness and to reveal the Father’s glory.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2008 in Culture, Politics, Theology

 

What does God have in store for America?

Now that the blue wave of Democrat fever has swept the country, what does God have in store for America?

Those who thought God was a Republican are acting as if he died. They are stocking up on sackcloth and ashes because life as they knew it has ceased to exist, or so they believe.

Those who thought God was a Democrat are having a Holy Ghost revival. They are popping the champagne corks because they have reached the Promised Land, or so they believe.

What people seem to forget is that God is neither Republican nor Democrat. Long ago, Joshua asked a similar question as he stood before the city of Jericho and faced the angel of the Lord. “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13). The angel replied, “Neither . . . but as the commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” (verse 14).

The question is not, “Whose side is God on?” God is God. The real issue is, “Who is on God’s side?”

After an election like yesterday, we need to be reminded that as the sovereign ruler of the universe, God can raise up kings and queens, and remove kings and queens. He can place anyone in power at just the right moment to accomplish his plan and purpose. The books of Nehemiah and Esther give testimony to that fact.

God’s plan is not dependent on who resides in the White House or the State House. God can use a godly king like David, a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He can also use a pagan ruler like Ahasuerus (Esther 8-9) or Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1-13) to accomplish his plan and purpose. God can even speak through a donkey (Numbers 22). (No political pun intended or Narnian animal alluded to. This was a living, breathing, talking beast of burden who rebuked a prophet of God.)

If God is truly sovereign, the results of this election did not take him by surprise. He moved to put the right people in power to accomplish his plan and purpose.

Which brings us back to the original question, What does God have in store for America?

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2008 in Culture, Politics, Theology

 

When a prodigal returns

How do you react when a prodigal comes home? Do you welcome them back with open arms, saying, “All is forgiven”? Do you chastise them for the heart-wrenching grief that they put you through? Do you stand aloof, waiting to see if they have really changed? Do you guard your heart so it won’t be broken again?

As I taught Walk Thru the Bible‘s newest seminar this past week, Raise up a child, I was reminded of how my parents responded to my brother after he ran away from home.

My brother was 14 months older and six inches taller than me. My parents had been married 16 years and told they would not be able to have children when they adopted my brother. Shortly after that, they discovered I was on the way. Being adopted, there were times when my brother felt like he wasn’t loved or didn’t belong. He was and did, but sometimes he struggled with the feelings.

One Sunday afternoon when he was 17, it built to a crescendo, and he ran away. He left a note saying he was leaving and he hitchhiked 15 miles to a friend’s house. My parents were frantic and did not know what to do. I drove to a youth leader’s house to ask them to pray.

Fortunately, my brother’s friend and his parents convinced my brother to return home and even drove him back. As he walked in the door, my parents were on their knees praying for his safe return. Their reunion was straight out of Luke 15:24, “this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Years later, I was studying the concept of adoption in Ephesians 1:5, and I asked my brother what it felt like to be adopted. I expected him to say something like “special” or “chosen.” But what he said surprised me, because it showed how much his spirit had been healed since the time he ran away. He said, “I never felt adopted. I always felt like I was part of the family.”

While my parents were not perfect, they loved and accepted my brother and me and treated both of us like full members of the family.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2008 in Family & Friends, Parenting