Monthly Archives: October 2009

Take the 1-4-10 Challenge

Yesterday at United Evangelical Free Church in Seattle, we focused on the subject of International Outreach. I preached on “Why should I care about outreach?” from 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2. In that passage, Paul describes the task of ministry and what our motivation should be for carrying it out.

Our task: As Christ’s ambassadors, we persuade, implore, and urge others to believe the good news of the gospel.

Our motivation: Because Christ loved us enough to die for us, we want share this vital, urgent message with as many as we can.

I closed the message by asking the congregation to take the “1-4-10 Challenge.” Pray for 1 Person, 4 Requests, 10 Weeks.

1 Person – Rather than pray for all the non-Christians an individual might be acquainted with, I suggested each person pick one person who needs Christ that they would pray for.

4 Requests – I suggested they pray 4 requests, each of which comes out of 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2.

God, please help me:

  • appreciate the cost of my salvation. Paul said that he was controlled by Christ’s love for him (5:14). If we had a better understanding and appreciation of what Jesus paid for our salvation, we would be more motivated to share the gospel, not out of a sense of duty, but out of love for Christ.
  • see the person as you do. Paul said that he no longer judged people according to outward appearance (5:16). Instead, he looked at people in terms of their spiritual needs.
  • believe that you can change them. Too often, we don’t share the gospel because we assume, “They will never change.” The good news of the gospel is that God changes people (5:17).
  • share the message of salvation with them. God has appointed us as Christ’s ambassadors (5:20) and given us the task of sharing the message of hope with the world.

10 Weeks – From now until January 1 is 10 weeks.

I made commitment cards available and asked people to take two cards. They would fill out and keep one card as a reminder of who/what they were praying for. The second card would be filled out and returned to me so that I could pray along with them for that person. In addition, I said I would mail the card back to them in 30 days as a way of them holding themselves accountable to their commitment.

Later on that afternoon, I realized that all of the prayer requests were asking God to change me as opposed to changing the person who needs Christ. Then again, isn’t that where evangelism starts? I need to care about outreach enough to step outside of my comfort zone and share what God has done for me.

In January, we can hopefully look back and rejoice at what God has done.

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Posted by on October 26, 2009 in Evangelism, Prayer, Preaching, Scripture


Are you a “sink Christian” or a “faucet Christian”?

“Sink Christians . . . view salvation as something to soak up. It fills the sink and they soak in the benefits (heaven, peace, Jesus, etc.). Faucet Christians see salvation as something that comes to them in order to flow out through them to the rest of the world as a blessing to others, as a pipe carries water from its source to a parched land.”

Tullian Tchividjian, in Unfasionable

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Posted by on October 23, 2009 in Books, Quotes


Advice to grow on

“Do one thing everyday that scares you.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

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Posted by on October 22, 2009 in Personal growth, Quotes


God’s handiwork on display

Fall foilage + rain + dark clouds = unique beauty. Doesn’t God do good work?

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Posted by on October 21, 2009 in Photos, Sammamish, Trees, WA


Answering the “Why?” question

I had a professor in grad school who would often say, “Until you answer the why question, the price is always too high.” I came across another quote on the subject that I want to add to my collection. It explains how the answer to the why question can motivate one to action.

In an article in USAToday entitled, “Commander’s letter tackles morale in Afghanistan,” author Gregg Zoroya describes a letter written by Col. David Haight, of the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team to the 3,500 men and women after two of them were killed in combat and his chaplains reported that many were disillusioned about the war. The article includes the following quote:

“From the individual’s foxhole, it is probably often difficult to see the bigger picture,” wrote Haight, who provided a copy of the letter to USA TODAY.

Haight wrote that “some (soldiers) may ask why” efforts to clear valleys of insurgents or keep roads open are “so important (or) really worth it. … I am here to solemnly testify that it is all important.”

In an interview after sending out the letter, Haight said that some of the public debate may have reached soldiers in the ranks.

“I can tell a soldier to do anything, and he may or may not in his mind question why,” Haight said. “But if you explain the why very, very clearly, he will not only accomplish the mission, but he will do the mission to a much higher standard.”

Regardless of whether or not you agree with the war in Afghanistan, what impressed me was a leader’s willingness to clearly answer the “Why?” question. When a person clearly understands why, they will “not only accomplish the mission, but he will do the mission to a much higher standard.”

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Posted by on October 20, 2009 in Leadership, News stories, Quotes


Songs with substance

All hymns and worship songs are not created equal. Some feed the soul and nurture one’s faith. Others are fun to sing but leave one feeling empty. Some provide food for thought and strengthen one’s confidence in God. Others are feel good songs with no depth, or at best, a rather thin theology.

Over the past few weeks, I have paid more attention to what we sing in church. I want our church family to be drawn into God’s presence and to worship him in spirit and in truth. I want them to be fed and strengthened. To my chagrin, I’ve discovered that not all of our worship songs accomplish that goal. Some of the songs we have sung recently reminded me of eating a candy bar. It is sweet, tasty, and enjoyable at the time. But it fills me with empty calories and takes away my appetite for healthier fare.

Yesterday, we sang one of my favorite hymns, “Immortal, invisible, God only wise.” As you can see in the first verse, it is a song that is rich in theology.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.

I was recently introduced to another song that is equally rich in its theology. “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin is a much more recent song, but is packed with nuggets about who Jesus Christ is.

He became sin
Who knew no sin
That we might become His Righteousness
He humbled himself and carried the cross

Love so amazing
Love so amazing

Jesus Messiah
Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer
The rescue for sinners
The ransom from Heaven
Jesus Messiah
Lord of all

In contrast to these songs is the praise song, “Meet with me.” While it expresses wonderful sentiment about worshipping God, it never actually says that directly. Nowhere in the song is God identified by name. It only refers to him as “you.” It struck me that if a non-Christian wandered into the worship service, they would not know who we were singing to. In that respect, the lyrics could be sung to any number of supposed deities.

When it comes to worship, we need to worship with all of our being–mind, heart, emotions, and will. We need to keep in mind the words of Jesus as well as the pattern of the apostle Paul. Jesus said that God is looking for people who will worship him in spirit and in truth.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24, ESV)

Paul said that he would sing praise with both his mind and his heart.

“What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” (1 Corinthians 14:15, ESV)

May God help us be more discerning about what we fill our minds with and what we offer to him in worship.

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Posted by on October 19, 2009 in Music, Worship


Where are you going?

I just finished reading Andy Stanley’s book, The principle of the path: How to get from where you are to where you want to be. The thesis of the book is that one’s direction determines one’s destination. It is not a matter of having good intentions and desires. It is a matter of what direction you are going in. A key part of the equation is what we allow to capture our attention. As the author states, “What gets our attention determines our direction and, ultimately, our destination. Or if you prefer the short version: attention determines direction.”

This would be a great book to give a high school or college graduate, a newly married couple, or a person beginning an internship. It would provide insight and guidance to help them determine where they want to end up, which in turn would help guide them in choosing the right path.

As all of Andy Stanley’s books, this one is very funny, practical, biblical, and easy to read. While it can be easily read in one evening, it provides food for thought that you will chew on for days to come.

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Posted by on October 18, 2009 in Books, Personal growth


A long and winding journey

Nine weeks ago today I began a long and unsteady journey towards the elusive “normal, balanced life.” On that Saturday in August, I experienced vertigo, and it has been my constant companion since. While I am certainly feeling much better, my balance has not returned back to where it was. Many days I feel like I am adjusting, rather than improving.

As it turns out, I apparently have two types of vertigo. Vestibular neuronitis is caused by a virus that attacks the inner ear. Benign Paroxysmal Particular Vertigo (BPPV) is caused by crystals in the inner ear. BPPV can be triggered by a virus. BPPV is sometimes called “top shelf vertigo” because dizziness results when you look up. It is also noticed when you lay down, get up out of bed, and/or change positions. When I laid down on my left side, everything started spinning.

BPPV can be cured by physical therapy, which employs a technique called the Epley Maneuver to “dump” the crystals out of the inner ear. After two sessions of PT, I no longer “spin” when I lay down. So, the BPPV type of vertigo is gone. However, the viral type still remains as I am still unable to walk in a straight line without drifting into a wall. It would appear that I started with the viral type, which in turn loosened some crystals in the ear. Physical therapy got rid of the crystals, but there are still residual effects of the virus.

While walking is still an adventure, and while I still have headaches, I am certainly better than I was. I can now stand and walk when I preach, rather than sit on a stool when I was first recovering. I started driving again two weeks ago, which has allowed me to go to the office rather than work at home. I started exercising again. While I have yet to get back on a bicycle, I have been able to use a Nordic Trak cross-country machine. I also continue with PT, though it is focused more on helping me to adapt and retrain my balance system.

I am hopeful that one day this will all go away. I spoke with a gentleman in our church this past week who had a similar experience of vertigo several years ago. His vertigo lasted for 6-8 months. It gradually diminished and slowly left him. He encouraged me to hang in there. That was helpful to hear. After nine weeks, I have wondered if this is the way life will be and I just need to adjust. Hearing the encouragement of someone who has “been-there-and-done-that-and-lived-to-tell-the-tale” gives me hope for a full recovery.

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Posted by on October 17, 2009 in Personal growth


Swindoll’s Leadership Lessons

Chuck Swindoll was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at last week’s Catalyst ’09 Conference. During his presentation, he described “10 Things I Have Learned During Nearly 50 Years in Leadership.” Here’s the list:

1) It’s lonely to lead. Leadership involves tough decisions. The tougher the decision, the lonelier it is.
2) It’s dangerous to succeed. I’m most concerned for those who aren’t even 30 and are very gifted and successful. Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually He uses leaders who have been crushed.
3) It’s hardest at home. No one ever told me this in seminary.
4) It’s essential to be real. If there’s one realm where phoniness is common, it’s among leaders. Stay real.
5) It’s painful to obey. The Lord will direct you to do some things that won’t be your choice. Invariably you will give up what you want to do for the cross.
6) Brokenness and failure are necessary.
7) Attitude is more important than actions. Your family may not have told you: Some of you are hard to be around. A bad attitude overshadows good actions.
8) Integrity eclipses image. Today we highlight image, but it’s what you’re doing behind the scenes.
9) God’s way is better than my way.
10) Christ-likeness begins and ends with humility.

Cited in Preaching Now, a weekly email newsletter, Vol. 8, No. 37, October 13, 2009 []

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Posted by on October 14, 2009 in Leadership, Preaching


I wish you enough

Recently, I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged, and the mother said, “I love you and I wish you enough.” The daughter replied, “Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom.”

They kissed and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there, I could see she wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on her privacy, but she welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?”

“Yes, I have,” I replied. “Forgive me for asking, buy why is this a forever good-bye?”

She answered, “I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead, and the reality is, the next trip back will be for my funeral.”

“When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?”

She began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” She paused a moment and looked up, as if trying to remember it in detail, and she smiled even more. “When I said, ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.” Then, turning toward me, she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

She then began to cry and walked away.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.

Quoted in Beyond Half Time: Practical wisdom for your second half, by Bob Buford

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Posted by on October 13, 2009 in Books, Personal growth, Quotes