Monthly Archives: May 2009

The view from the couch

They say that pets and their owners begin to resemble each other. I don’t know who “they” are, but if “they” are right, I’ve got a problem on my hands. I might begin to resemble Mittens, the cat we inherited from my mother.


I’m not worried that I will become fat, lazy, and sleep 22 hours a day. I probably should be since we both live sedentary lives. I’m not concerned that I might become crotchety in my old age and voice my displeasure by barking at the birds, cats, and people who encroach on my space and time like Mittens does now.  No, my biggest fear is that I will be content to live vicariously through other people.

You see, Mittens’ favorite place to occupy is the couch. She perches on the top of the sofa and stares out the window at the birds, cars, people, squirrels, and whatever else happens to pass in front of her. She occasionally “barks” at the birds and squirrels, but in general, she is content to watch life pass her by.

I make this observation after spending several hours at the airport over the past few weeks. I have been picking my children up from and sending them off to their latest adventure.

Our youngest child, Caitlin, arrived home from Gordon College and was only here long enough to recover from having her wisdom teeth removed. As she put it, she spent the time in “a drug-induced coma, oblivious to the world around her.” ;-} Now she is off on her latest adventure, serving as a Sherpa at the La Vida Center for Outdoor Education in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

Our middle child, Amanda, completed her third year at Biola University, and came home to recharge her batteries and see her sister. She will depart in a few weeks for Africa, where she will spend six weeks in a business/missions internship with Enterprise International, an arm of CRM.

Our oldest child, Jonathan, has one semester left at Biola University before graduation and then possibly, grad school. Jon opted to stay in L.A. for the summer where he is doing dorm repair at Biola.

So I feel a bit like Mittens, watching my children come and go and have all kinds of adventures. On the one hand, I am excited for them. They will see God work in and through them in new ways this summer. On the other hand, I am jealous of them. I want to have some adventures of my own!


Keep the grass short

For perhaps the sixth week in a row, I mowed my lawn this morning. For perhaps the next six weeks, I will maintain the same routine. If I skip a week or two from late April – late July, the grass quickly takes over. If I don’t keep the grass short, I quickly fall behind and never catch up. I might as put the lawn mower away and lease a herd of goats.

This seems to be the same idea that Solomon expressed in Proverbs 24:30-34 (ESV).

30 I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, 31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. 32 Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

The same can be said for the state of my life. If I become lazy about dealing with a bad habit, it can quickly sink its roots in my life and begin to bloom. If I avoid confessing my sins, I can soon have a heart full of weeds and the rationalization for allowing them to blossom. If I neglect the sins and habits long enough, before long they become a vine that can force its way through a rock wall.

I am much better off when I deal with the weeds in my life the moment I notice them. They are much easier to remove when the roots are smaller rather than when they become a thorny bush.

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Posted by on May 30, 2009 in Personal growth, Scripture, Spring


The challenge of change

One of the greatest challenges facing those who try to bring revival to churches is overcoming people who are opposed to change. In their book, Comeback churches: How 300 churches turned around and yours can too, by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, the authors state that comeback churches often had to overcome attitude obstacles. I found one section to be particularly insightful, thought-provoking, and convicting.

Being unwilling to change, when change is necessary in order to grow, is the wrong attitude. Traditions are a necessary part of church life and ministry; every church has them. However, when people choose to hold on to traditions at the expense of being effective in reaching the lost, that is the wrong attitude. If a church wants to hold on to the warm, fuzzy feelings of small church intimacy instead of “making room” for new people who need Christ, then that church has adopted the wrong attitude. Churches that make the decision not to develop new ministries, and do them well, may have accepted an attitude of defeat.

The essence of this book is that churches can change. Churches can overcome their attitude challenges and start growing again. Things don’t have to be small, ineffective, inadequate, downward, and ingrown. Attitudes can be renewed.

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Posted by on May 29, 2009 in Books, Church, Quotes


Paying tribute

I spent 14+ years (1990-2004) on the staff of Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA. During my time there, I became good friends with Tim Jack. After 23 years at Crossroads, Tim is leaving to pursue a new adventure of following God. Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a luncheon held in Tim & Linda’s honor. I was invited to contribute some thoughts to a scrapbook of memories honoring them. Here is my contribution:

How do you sum up 19 years of friendship? How do you say, “Thanks,” for encouraging words, stimulating conversations, challenging talks, funny stories, thought-provoking sermons, prayer support, and suggested resources?

When I think of Tim (and Linda), I think of:

  • Food – breakfasts and dinners as couples at McDonalds and Rancho Grande on the Plateau; breakfasts with Tim at 12th Ave Café; Tim cooking burgers at staff barbecues.
  • Flights – taking the long way to Ames, IA; talking our way into first class; hanging out at SeaTac, Heathrow, and Sheremetyevo on the way to and from Moscow.
  • Books – I often ask Tim what he is reading, and then add it to my own list of books to read.
  • Boats – the Jacks, Wheelers, and Musgraves cruising down the Moscow River; watching students ski behind the Bug Ugly on Summer Safari.
  • Conversations – in meetings, hallways, offices, coffee shops, restaurants, airports, email – Tim was a willing sounding board, collaborator, and always ready to talk, listen, and ask questions to make me think.
  • Philosophy of ministry – Tim helped me think through what I believe and why I believe it. He helped me crystallize my philosophy of ministry and leadership development as much as anyone.
  • Perseverance – Tim is the only one I have seen who willingly submitted to and went through church discipline and restoration.
  • Intentionality – Tim always had a plan and a purpose behind what he did.

Thanks, Tim & Linda. It will be exciting to see what God has in store for you in the next chapter of your lives.

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Posted by on May 28, 2009 in Church, Family & Friends


The minefield of hidden expectations

Between walking through the hallways at church, listening to voice mail, and reading my email, I sometimes feel like I am navigating a minefield. A pastor hears a barrage of comments, requests, and statements. Everyone seems to know or at least wants to offer an opinion on how I should spend my time.

Some comments are innocuous. Some are encouraging. Others are benign and meaningless. Some make you laugh while others make you cry. Still others will leave you crippled with doubt and fear if you take it to heart. Others can do even greater damage.

Some comments come from church members. Others are requests from neighbors in the community. Some are voiced by Christians. Others are offered by non-Christians.

Some comments are voiced by well meaning people. Some are spoken by misguided individuals who don’t have all the facts. Others are laced with malice. Some are served up by people with a critical spirit. Others are compliments offered by gracious individuals. Still others are fired off by “His majesty’s loyal opposition.”

A smattering of recent comments has included the following:

  • Announce this event!
  • Did you hear about . . . ?
  • Why was this decision made and why wasn’t I consulted first?
  • Why are you supporting this group?
  • Attend my meeting.
  • We (meaning ‘you’) should start this ministry.
  • This person should be fired!
  • It’s important for you to be at this meeting.
  • You have to tell people how to vote on this issue.
  • If you don’t step in and lead, this ministry will fail!
  • You need to visit this person in the hospital today.
  • Stop what you are doing and research this question for me.
  • This person doesn’t think the church cares. You have to call them right now.
  • This person/ministry is broken and needs to be fixed (by you) right now.

I have learned by experience (which translated means, I made quite a few mistakes and lived to tell the tale) that it is better for me to listen and respond, “Let me pray about this,” rather than jump in with both feet and commit myself on the spot. I tend to respond better if I take the time to ask myself some key questions:

  • What has God called me to do?
  • Does this request fit with my gifts, passion, and calling?
  • Is it the best use of my time?
  • Where can I be the most fruitful and effective?
  • Will this request build up and edify other believers?
  • What is God saying through this person?
  • By saying, “Yes,” to this request, what do I need to say, “No,” to?
  • Does this request fit with our goals and purpose as a church?
  • What is God trying to teach this person? If I step in and rescue them, will I short-circuit what God is doing?
  • How will this request glorify God?

Rather than let other people set my agenda, I need to ask God for wisdom. As I listen to his voice, he can help me safely navigate the minefield.

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Posted by on May 27, 2009 in Church, Ministry, Personal growth


Celebrating growth

This year, our church has been focusing on seeing beyond the four walls of the church and sharing our faith with those around us. After the worship service on Sunday, a woman approached me to say that she had the opportunity to share her faith with three individuals and lead them to faith in Jesus Christ. She then apologized that they wouldn’t help our church grow because they were from out of town and would be returning to their homes. I responded, “But you are helping the kingdom of God grow, and that is what’s most important!”

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Posted by on May 26, 2009 in Church, Evangelism


Effective teaching

“The effective teacher is like a person who takes a strong rope, ties one end around the big ideas of Scripture, ties the other end around the major themes of life, and then through the power of the Spirit struggles to pull the two together.”

Jim Pluddeman, cited in The big idea: Focus the message; multiply the impact, by Dave Ferguson, Jon Ferguson, and Eric Bramlett

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Posted by on May 26, 2009 in Books, Preaching, Quotes


THANKS for serving!

On this Day of Memorial, let me say, “Thanks!” to the men and women who have served, fought, defended, and died for our country to secure and protect our freedom. Thank you for your faithfulness and patriotism. In particular, I want to thank the ones I have known personally who have served in the military–Dad, Jack, Dave, Carl, Dan, Luke, Jarol, and Alan. Thank you. We’re in your debt.

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Posted by on May 25, 2009 in Family & Friends


When old friends meet for the first time

After meeting some new folks and spending time getting to know them, I am reminded of the words of Kermit the Frog. In The Muppet Movie, Kermit sang a song, “The rainbow connection.” The song begins with a profound statement of wisdom,

“There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met. Part heaven, part space, have I found my place?”

For some reason (maybe because I’m simple minded), that phrase has stuck with me. The frog is wise indeed.

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Posted by on May 24, 2009 in Family & Friends, Fun


Do churches hide the Bible?

Do pastors and churches ever hide the Bible from the ones who need it most?

In our efforts to perform community service, do we neglect to teach the Scriptures? In our recovery ministries, do we address physical needs and addictions, but fail to speak to spiritual needs? In our children’s programs, do we plan learning activities that are fun and character building, but are divorced from the Bible? In our adult classes, do we talk about marriage enrichment, financial management, divorce recovery, parenting skills, and other helpful topics, but never actually study the Scriptures? In our sermons, do we talk about current events, the latest best seller, how to be a success, or any of a number of relevant, practical issues, but never open the Bible and say, “Thus says the Lord”?

It is certainly a real danger.

In 2 Chronicles 34, we read the account of Josiah, who became king of Judah at the age of eight (verse 1). At the age of 16, he began to seek the God of his fathers (3). At the age of 20, he began a series of spiritual reforms in the nation (3-7). In the 18th year of his reign, or when he was 26 years old, workmen were cleaning and renovating the temple (8, 10). In the process, they discovered the Book of the Law (15). Apparently, the first five books of the Old Testament, or the Torah, was hidden in plain sight in the very temple! When it was read aloud, the king tore his clothes, a sign of repentance (19). He concluded that their present state of calamity was judgment from God for ignoring and disobeying the law of God.

As pastors, as churches, we need to make sure that we do not hide the Word of God in the very place it should be proclaimed!