Monthly Archives: March 2010

Is God’s Word in You?

Daniel Henderson has written an encouraging book for pastors, Defying Gravity: How to Survive the Storms of Pastoral Ministry. One of the keys necessary to climb out of a “truthless tailspin” is not only to read and study the Scriptures, but put them into practice in our daily lives.

Still, we have to be honest and admit that most Christian leaders who have experienced a disastrous crash have not lacked Bible knowledge. Some of the nation’s greatest preachers have produced the most disconcerting scandals. Clearly, it is not mere Bible knowledge that produces the power to stay on course and in flight. Rather, it is a consistent and authentic application of the knowledge to the mind, heart, and life. Even Christian leaders can become “hearers” rather than “doers” and deceive their own hearts (see James 1:22-24) as they sit among the commentaries and study tools of their Christian library.

It was interesting to read his quote a few weeks after preaching on 1 John 2:12-14. In the second half of verse 14, John writes, “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” I was intrigued that John did not say we become strong when we abide in the Scriptures, but rather that we become strong when the Scriptures take up residence in our lives.


Universal Laws

A friend sent me the following list of universal laws. Certainly truisms, if there ever was one.

Law of Mechanical Repair – After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you’ll have to pee.

Law of Gravity – Any tool, nut, bolt, screw, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

Law of Probability – The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

Law of Random Numbers – If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal and someone always answers.

Law of the Alibi – If you tell the boss you were late for work because you had a flat tire, the very next morning you will have a flat tire.

Variation  Law  – If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you  are in now (works every  time).

Law of the Bath – When the body is fully immersed in water, the telephone rings.

Law of Close Encounters – The probability of meeting someone you know increases dramatically when you are with someone you don’t want to be seen with.

Law of the Result – When you try to prove to someone that a machine won’t work, it will.

Law of Biomechanics – The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.

Law of the Theater – At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle arrive last.

The Starbucks Law – As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

Murphy’s Law of Lockers – If there are only two people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

Law of Physical Surfaces – The chances of an open-faced jelly sandwich landing face down on a floor covering are directly correlated to the newness and cost of the carpet/rug. Also- if you smear jelly on a cat’s back, and drop the cat, will it land on its feet?

Law of Logical Argument – Anything is possible if you don’t know what you are talking about.

Brown’s Law of Physical Appearance – If the clothes fit, they’re ugly.

Oliver’s Law of Public Speaking – A closed mouth gathers no feet.

Wilson’s Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy – As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it.

Doctors’ Law – If you don’t feel well, make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there you’ll feel better. Don’t make an appointment and you’ll stay sick.

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Posted by on March 16, 2010 in Fun


Peeps on Parade

Another sure sign of spring was spotted this morning – The Seattle Times annual display of Peeps on Parade. Lots of references to the Olympic Games and Avatar. Some more creative than others, but fun nonetheless.

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Posted by on March 13, 2010 in Culture, Fun, News stories, Photos, Spring


Have you practiced your 10,000 hours yet?

During my daily commute I am currently listening to the audiobook, Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell’s premise is that success is not merely a matter of IQ and talent. Instead, success is a confluence of circumstances including cultural upbringing, community, practice, experience, and other hidden advantages. One I found particularly intriguing is that rather than be discovered as an “overnight success,” success comes to those who have completed 10,000 of practice. The author illustrates this principle with athletes, musicians, and software engineers.

That “Ah ha!” moment caused me to understand why I am just now feeling comfortable with preaching. While I have been in ministry for almost 25 years, I have only been preaching full-time as a senior pastor for the past 5+ years. As an associate pastor, I remember a fellow associate and I wondering aloud if we would ever hit our stride in preaching. I don’t know if I’ve found my stride yet, but I’m not huffing and puffing as much as I used to when preaching.

After 5+ years of preaching week in and week out, I’m finally learning how to budget my study time; what tools, translations, and commentaries are most helpful; where to find the best illustrations; how to craft and deliver an introduction and conclusion; how to read the audience during the sermon; what style of preaching best fits my personality and what people respond to; as well as how to balance the demands of study, preaching, administration, counseling, visitation, staff meetings, and all the other responsibilities of ministry.

That knowledge and comfort level has only come through practice, experience, evaluation, practice, experience, evaluation, and more of the same. Turns out there is a reason why I felt I was a late bloomer.

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Posted by on March 12, 2010 in Books, Preaching


Should we go beyond Scripture?

During our weekly staff meeting, our associate pastor and I discuss a book that we are reading together. Today, we completed our reading and discussion of Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis, by William J. Webb. While the book is well written and well argued, it is not one I would recommend because I feel that the author has gone beyond what Scripture teaches.

The focus of the book is not merely to discuss the groups in the title, but rather to introduce a new method of hermeneutics, or way of interpreting Scripture. The author suggests a “redemptive movement hermeneutic” rather than a “static hermeneutic.” The redemptive spirit approach “encourages movement beyond the original application of the text in the ancient world” whereas the static approach “restricts any modern application of Scripture to where the isolated words of the text fell in their original setting.”

If I understand the author’s argument correctly, he suggests that if the Bible’s teaching on a given subject (slaves, women, & homosexuals, to use his examples) presents a better or improved ethic than the original culture, we can then look beyond our own culture and postulate what God’s ultimate ethic would be.

“What we should live out in our modern culture, however, is not the isolated words of the text but the redemptive spirit that the text reflects as read against its original culture. In applying the text to our era, we do not want to stay static with the text. Rather we need to move on, beyond the text, and take the redemptive dimension of those words further to a more redemptive level (toward an ultimate ethic).”

The author’s own definition explains the problem that I have with the book. He employs a hermeneutical approach that goes beyond the text itself. By doing so, I think the author reads too much of today’s culture back into Scripture rather than asking, “What does Scripture say?”

The terms he uses also introduces a degree of bias that slants his argument. A “redemptive movement” hermeneutic implies forward motion and progress. A “static hermeneutic” implies an approach stuck in the past. Who doesn’t want to be considered modern and progressive as opposed to stuck, stodgy, and regressive?

In one sense, the book was helpful in that it forced me to revisit the approach I use to interpret the Scriptures. It helped me rethink my position on the role of men and women. It reminded me to look beyond the pragmatic arguments of “what works?” and the cultural arguments of “what do people want?” and go back to the basics of “what has God revealed in Scripture?”

That being said, this is not a book I would recommend reading nor an approach to studying the Bible that I would recommend using.

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Posted by on March 9, 2010 in Books, Scripture


Buds & Blossoms

Spring is blooming in Sammamish, WA.

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Posted by on March 6, 2010 in Photos, Sammamish, Spring, Washington State


Don’t go through the motions

Occasionally, a phrase jumps off the page and crystallizes a thought in your mind. Sometimes, a song on the radio resonates with the emotions of your heart. This morning was one of those times.

I am coming off a week while I lived on Sudafed cocktails followed by cough syrup chasers. Physically, I felt crummy because of a cold, though I am gradually nursing my way back to health. But I am also in a season of life where I feel restless and unsatisfied. Oh, nothing is bad and in general, life is good. My wife loves me. My kids respect me. My church likes me. My cat even expresses affection, assuming I pay attention to her when she demands it.

Yet, I find myself longing for more. I want to make a difference. I want to see fruit for my efforts. I want to see changed lives and transformed people. I don’t want to be satisfied with “Nice.” I don’t want to settle for “Good enough.”

As I was driving this morning, I listened to Matthew West’s song, “The Motions.” I found myself resonating with his words, especially the chorus.

The Motions

This might hurt
It’s not safe
But I know that I’ve gotta make a change
I don’t care
If I break
At least I’ll be feeling something
Cause just ok
Is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything?
Instead of going through the motions

No regrets
Not this time
I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love
Make me whole
I think I’m finally feeling something

Take me all the way
Take me all the way
Take me all the way

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Posted by on March 5, 2010 in Character, Music, Personal growth


Principles of Spiritual Growth

How do you describe the process of spiritual growth? How does it occur? What helps and/or hinders one’s spiritual growth? I asked those questions as I studied 1 John 2:12-14 this week in preparation for my next sermon. I also looked at 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 and Hebrews 5:11-6:1. Weaving those three passages together, I noticed several principles about spiritual growth.

Spiritual growth is the development of your relationship with a person. Spiritual growth is much more than merely knowing the facts about God. A spiritual “father” is one who knows God through experience and enjoys a deep relationship with him.

Spiritual growth is expected. As a child grows, we expect them to be in a certain percentile of height and weight that corresponds to their age. If they aren’t, we become concerned and want to know why. The same is true of spiritual growth. The writer to the Hebrews was surprised his readers were still eating baby food and not teaching others.

Spiritual growth does not happen apart from Christ or the Word. Spiritual growth begins when our sins are forgiven by Jesus Christ. Our growth continues as the Word of God abides in us.

Spiritual growth occurs over time. There is no “insta-grow” for children, physically or spiritually. It takes time.

Spiritual growth can be forward, backward, or plateaued. As I get older, I am becoming shorter physically. The same can occur spiritually if we do not guard ourselves. Galatians 4:9-11 indicates we can make wrong choices that will take us backwards.

Spiritual growth is consistently opposed by Satanic forces. The enemy does not want us to grow spiritually and will seek to hinder us at every turn. We need to resist temptation and “overcome the evil one” as John praised the young men.

Spiritual growth is the will of God but is our responsibility. While God wants us to grow, we have to do the work. We need to train ourselves by constant practice, as Hebrews indicates.

Spiritual growth requires a healthy diet and exercise. We need to diet on solid food. We need training and practice. Together, they will help us grow strong.


The Stages of Spiritual Growth

How does one progress from new Christian to seasoned saint? What stages do you pass through from being born again to a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ? Is there a path from “Jesus loves me” to “Here I take my stand”?

I asked those questions this week as I studied 1 John 2:12-14. John indicates that there are three stages of faith–child, youth, and adult. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-2, the apostle Paul refers to two stages–infant and adult. In Hebrews 5:11-6:1, the writer contrasts two groups–immature and mature. Weaving those three passages together, I put together the following chart to help my own understanding of the stages of spiritual growth and what helps a person progress from one to the next.

Stage Child Youth Adult
Characteristic Forgiveness Strength Knowledge
Activity Salvation Abiding Fellowship
Task Learn the basics Know the Word

Resist temptation

Enjoy the relationship
Diet Milk Solid food
Level of understanding Elementary truth Theology
Skill development Slow to learn Disciplined practice
Role Learner Teacher
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Posted by on March 4, 2010 in Personal growth, Scripture