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Monthly Archives: April 2010

When a church closes its doors

I was surprised and saddened to hear of a church in our city that gave up and quit its ministry recently. The official term is that it “closed independent operations and became part of _______.” But, essentially, it means the church was dying and the people were unwilling/unable to change. So, their best option, in their mind, was to die and be reborn as a video venue for a megachurch on the other side of town.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I don’t know any of the details, discussion, and debate that went into making this decision. I heard about it second-hand and read a blurb on the megachurch’s blog. On the one hand I applaud the church for being willing to do whatever it takes to recast vision and become effective. On the other hand, I am saddened that they were unwilling to do whatever it took to recast vision and become effective and instead gave up.

I have studied the life cycle of too many churches and know what happens if you don’t renew your vision. Sometimes it is easier to die and start over than breath new life into old wineskins. I understand that tension. But I also see the promises of Scripture that Jesus will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). It is sad and disheartening when we get in the way and hinder Jesus from building his church.

I am not entirely convinced that being adopted by a seeker-oriented-reach-the-unchurched-megachurch is the best way to go either. Especially after Willow Creek Community Church admitted that while they won people to Christ and built a large church, they did not make fully devoted followers of Jesus.

So with a heavy heart and mixed emotions, here’s a moment of silence for another church that passed away.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2010 in Church, Seattle

 

What should I pray for today?

Should I pray for today’s needs or tomorrow’s worries? Do I focus on what I need this moment or what I might need in the future? E. M. Bounds answers that question when he states,

True prayers are born of present trials and present needs. Bread, for today, is bread enough. Bread given for today is the strongest sort of pledge that there will be bread tomorrow. Victory today, is the assurance of victory tomorrow. Our prayers need to be focused upon the present. We must trust God today, and leave the morrow entirely with him. The present is ours; the future belongs to God. Prayer is the task and duty of each recurring day–daily prayer for daily needs.

From the essay, “Prayer and Faith,” in The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2010 in Books, Prayer, Quotes

 

The prayer of faith

E. M. Bounds provides some helpful insights on the relationship of prayer and faith.

Yet faith is called upon, and that right often to wait in patience before God, and is prepared for God’s seeming delays in answering prayer. Faith does not grow disheartened because prayer is not immediately honored; it takes God at his Word, and lets him take what time he chooses in fulfilling his purposes, and in carrying on his work.

From the essay, “Prayer and Faith,” in The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2010 in Books, Prayer, Quotes

 

Life should be filled with senior moments

When most people hear the term, “senior moment,” they tend to think of . . . “What were we talking about?” Senior moments are euphemisms for forgetfulness or loss of memory.

Others may associate being a senior with retirement and relaxation. “I’ve worked hard all my life. It’s time for me to do what I want.” You can find seniors on cruise ships, golf courses, ski slopes, and in RVs.

I want to suggest that senior moments are opportunities to serve and minister to others. Senior moments may be times when we make the greatest contribution to the kingdom of God. In that sense, life should be filled with senior moments.

I began thinking about this subject when asked to speak at a “Senior Spring Fling” luncheon at our church. What do I have in common with a senior citizen? Granted, I may be AARP qualified, but I’m also in denial. But how could I encourage and challenge the folks?

I began to think about senior citizens in the Bible. Once I got going, I was surprised to discover how many there were. I was also amazed at the significant contributions they made to the kingdom of God.

The youngster of the group was a woman from the town of Shunem (2 Kings 4:8-17). According to verse 14, she was older when she became a parent. Generous and giving, she had a ministry of hospitality and encouragement to the prophet Elisha.

While we don’t know their ages, Luke 1:5-25 indicates that Zechariah and Elizabeth were advanced in years, which is a polite term for “really old.” It was then that God challenged them to believe the impossible that they could become parents. And not just any parents, but parents of the one who would prepare the way for Jesus. For many of us, we tend to relax our standards and habits as we get older. Older parents tend to give in easier to their children. But Zechariah and Elizabeth had to parent with intentionality and discipline as they raised John the Baptist, so that he was prepared for his upcoming ministry.

Most people are heading for the rocking chair at the age of 80. Many are set in their ways and unable to change. And yet, Moses met God shortly after his 80th birthday and discovered the nature of holiness (Exodus 3). He was given an assignment to serve God as the deliverer of Israel.

As many people get older, they tend to relax or lose their inhibitions. Who they are inside becomes more visible. If that is true, then I want to be like Anna (Luke 2:36-38). At the age of 84, she had a ministry of prayer, along with worship and fasting. Once she met Jesus, she couldn’t stop telling people about him.

At the age of 85 years old, Caleb didn’t ask for his rocking chair. He asked for a new challenge—the most difficult territory in the Promised Land (Joshua 14:6-12). In doing so, he served as an inspiration and mentor to his nephew, Othniel (Judges 1:11-15).

The attitude of Caleb reminds me of my mother. After she retired from work, she went on her first ministry trip to Japan, all by herself. She even went back a second time and did office work for a Japanese church. She bought her first computer at the age of 80. Senior moments should be time for new challenges.

At the ages of 100 and 90 respectively, Abraham and Sarah became parents for the first time (Genesis 17:15-21). They had to believe that nothing was too hard for God. In doing so, they accepted God’s assignment for their life—beginning a new family and a new nation.

Tradition tells us that Simeon (Luke 2:25-35) was 113 years old when he met the baby Jesus in the temple. While we don’t know his age for certain, we do know that he knew the Scriptures and was sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. He looked forward to the coming of Jesus. As seniors grow older, their faith should be growing deeper as well.

Many seniors tend to become negative, cynical, and complaining as they grow older. Not so with Jacob (Genesis 49). At the age of 147, he blessed his sons, and pictured a positive future for each of them. His thoughts were focused on the promises of God.

These ten individuals remind me that no matter our age, we still have something to contribute to the kingdom of God. It may be a ministry of prayer or hospitality. It may be a generous spirit that gives to support ministry. It may be an example of faith that inspires others to follow. It may be a positive outlook that trusts God for the future.

Life should be filled with senior moments.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2010 in Ministry, Passion, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Called by God

When the average person hears the term, “The call of God,” they generally think of something mysterious, perhaps a vision or voice in the night. It is something that occurs to the professionals, those in paid vocational ministry; not something the average person in the pew needs to be concerned with, or so the thinking goes.

Not so, says Daniel Henderson, in his book Defying Gravity: How to survive the storms of pastoral ministry. While there are certain aspects of God’s call that relates to one’s vocation, there are also numerous references in Scripture that show that all followers of Jesus Christ “are called into his service and mission in every area of our lives, including the workplace.” The author provides the following list that describes some of the aspects of our calling:

  • Called of Jesus Christ; called according to His purpose (Romans 1:6-7, 16; 8:28-30; 9:24)
  • Called into the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2, 9)
  • Called into the grace of Christ (Galatians 1:6)
  • A calling that gives hope (Ephesians 1:18; 4:4)
  • A calling that gives God’s peace (Colossians 3:15)
  • Called to be holy, “according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 1:15-16)
  • Called to His eternal glory (1 Peter 5:10)

Each and every follower of Jesus has the call of God on his/her life, not just those who are called to a specific leadership role or position of ministry.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2010 in Books, Quotes, Scripture, Theology

 

Tulip Time

The tulips are in bloom and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is underway. Carol, Amanda, and I enjoyed the tulips at the Roozengaarde Nursery in Mount Vernon, WA, this morning.

Beautiful flowers, decent weather, good company, and a little Jungle Jam to listen to up and back. What more could you ask for?

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2010 in Flowers, Photos, Washington State

 

Good preaching requires hard work

In his book, Deep preaching: Creating sermons that go beyond the superficial, author J. Kent Edwards provides several helpful metaphors that encourage preachers to go the extra mile in sermon preparation. In one, he compares preparing a sermon to cooking a meal.

Great sermons, like great food, are not strip mined in Texas, do not roll off an assembly line in China, or slide across fast-food counters. Gourmet meals are created by hours of Closet Work. And meditation, prayer, and fasting are the kitchen tools used by homiletical master chefs.

In another place, he encourages preachers to be as concrete as possible in explaining the text and applying it to the lives of their listeners, that is, if they want their sermon to have the desired impact.

When we preach abstractions, our words skim off the lives of our listeners like skipping stones across a pond. To make the kind of splash God intends, the truth needs to plunge into the daily lives of our people.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2010 in Books, Preaching, Quotes