Monthly Archives: November 2011

Breathing friends

In a recent newsletter, a missionary friend commented she and her husband spent Thanksgiving Day with two couples whom they regard as “breathing friends.” Listen as she explains it.

“Breathing friends.” You know the ones where you can just let go and breathe comfortably? You feel secure enough to share the deep and shallow, and there’s no expectation that you will be a certain way?

One of the tensions of ministry is the pressure to always be “up” or “on.” You are always expected to be in “ministry mode.” You are expected to know the right word to say even when there are no easy answers. People expect the pastor to be transparent but they don’t want him to confess too openly. They want to know he is “real” but that he has it all together. They want to know he “struggles” but still has all the answers to the mysteries of life.You are expected to bite your tongue and respond kindly even in the face of biting criticism.

The expectations can lead a pastor to hold his breath a great deal of the time. It is not often he can exhale and be himself, not worrying whether his off-the-cuff remarks, candid assessments, flippant humor, shallow opinions, TV viewing habits, or secret heresies will get him an appointment with the executive committee. It is not often you can let down your guard and not worry about meeting others’ expectations.

Breathing friends. I like the idea. I could use a couple more.

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Character, Personal growth


One more reason to be a good boy or girl this year

It seems an old Christmas song has gained a new refrain this year.

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why. Santa Clause is coming to town . . . and he’s packin’

The Scottsdale Gun Club in Arizona offers an event entitled, “Santa and Machine Guns.” You can get your family picture taken with Santa and an assortment of automatic weapons valued at $170,000. I’m sure he’d be glad to set one aside for your Christmas stocking as well.

You can’t make this stuff up. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or cringe.

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Christmas, Fun, News stories


How teachers and students look at final exams

As final exams approach every semester, teachers and students look to different verses in Scripture for hope.

The verse of the professors, Jeremiah 17:10.

“I . . . search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

The verse of the students, 2 Corinthians 13:6.

“I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.”

Courtesy of Dallas Theological Seminary

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Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Fun, Scripture


Evicting the occupiers

The news reported today that the cities of Philadelphia and Los Angeles have set deadlines for those occupying Dilworth Plaza in Philadelphia and the grounds surrounding City Hall in Los Angeles to pack up their tents and belongings and move out—or face forcible removal.

I wonder if I could employ the same strategy with the distractions, worries, anxieties, and concerns that occupy my mind. I am tired of these issues consuming my time, energy, and thinking. I go to bed thinking about them. I wrestle with them all night long. I wake up thinking about them. Rather than contribute to my wellbeing, the occupying forces siphon off my creativity, steal my joy, and drain my reservoir of energy. Without clear answers, I wind up spinning my wheels going nowhere. Worst of all, they keep me from focusing on what is most important.

It is time for the worries, anxieties, and concerns to pack up and leave. Since they won’t leave voluntarily, perhaps it is time to follow the instructions of Scripture and forcibly remove them.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

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Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Bible Study, Character, News stories, Scripture


Hunting & Gathering, Holiday edition

For the past 21 years, we have set out on the day after Thanksgiving on our annual hunting trip. No, we don’t pack our rifles or crossbows to hunt for deer or elk for our holiday table. And no, we don’t carry credit cards to shop for the best Black Friday sales.

Our tradition is go hunting for a Christmas tree. And not just “A” Christmas tree, but the very best tree, in fact, the mother of all Christmas trees. Our favorite hunting spot is the Carnation Tree Farm in Carnation, WA.  In fact, we like it so much that we’ve been hunting here for 21 years.

Since Amanda was in town for Thanksgiving, she joined Carol and me on the hunt. We found a good possibility, but decided there had to be an even better one. We just had to keep looking. At last, we found the perfect tree and cut it down with the handy, dandy tree saw provided by the farm.

We dragged it to the men up front who shook it, baled it, and helped load it on the van .

And the mighty hunters head home from another successful expedition.

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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in Christmas, Family & Friends, Photos


Choose to say, “Thank You”

On Thanksgiving Day, the question most often asked is, “What are you thankful for this year?” A close second might be, “Do you want stuffing or potatoes?” or “What time is the football game?”

The way we respond to the events of life indicates much about our outlook on life as well as our view of God. Scripture tells us that we are to be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18). But what are we to be thankful for? Perhaps an equally important question is, Why are we to be thankful? Psalm 138 provides an answer to these questions.

In verses 1-3, we see that thanksgiving is more than simply saying, “Thank you.”

David doesn’t say, “This is a good day. I feel like giving thanks.” Instead, he says, “I give thanks.” Thanksgiving begins with making the choice to give thanks.

True thanksgiving is also something that is to be done publicly. David gave thanks before the gods. He bowed down before the temple. He gave thanks with his whole heart. He praised God for his attributes and actions, for who he is and what he had done.

Using David’s example, I put together an acrostic to help me understand that true thanksgiving is:

P   ublicly

emembering the

ttributes & Actions of the

I    ncomparable

S   overeign God of

E   ternity

In verses 4-6, our praise causes others to give thanks as well. Personal praise leads to corporate worship as the kings of the earth join David in praising God.

One of the reasons we praise God is that he doesn’t judge by human standards. We might engage in celebrity worship, but the almighty creator of the universe pays attention to those who are lowly by our standards.

Thanksgiving leads to worship and worship leads to confidence. The more we understand and worship God, the more we are willing to trust him (7). We can also praise God because he promises to take care of our interests. He will accomplish his purpose in our lives (8).

When situations arise, we have two choices how to respond. We can respond with thanksgiving or with ingratitude. Each choice leads to its logical consequence. Thanksgiving leads to worship which leads to greater confidence in God. Ingratitude leads to doubt which leads to despair. Ingratitude says, “God, I don’t like what you are doing.” Doubt says, “God, I don’t think you care.” Despair says, “God, if you don’t care, what hope do I have?”

This Thanksgiving Day, make the choice to be thankful. Make a list of the attributes and actions of God that you are thankful for. Then share your list with another person. Take the time. Make the choice to give thanks.

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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Bible Study


One more reason to give thanks

Made it through another year! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Fun


God’s gracious provision

Whenever I start preparing for a mission trip, the first and most prominent concern is how to pay for it. The good news is that it provides me the opportunity to share my story and my vision for the ministry. In addition, it gives me an opportunity to once again demonstrate my dependence on God for his provision.

Back in September, I started the fundraising process for my upcoming trip to Russia in February 2012. I sent out fundraising letters to folks in my church and friends outside the church telling of the ministry and asking them to consider partnering with me. Then I started praying.

Last year, contributions poured in and the trip was fully funded by the end of October. I even had enough so my wife could join me.

This year, it seemed like the contributions were only trickling in. I started worrying and wondered if I should  trim the budget and make it even leaner. I began to wonder if perhaps there was something wrong in my life and God was withholding his blessing. I sent out a second letter updating people and asking them to join me in praying that God would meet the need. I prayed specifically that Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides, would provide exactly what I needed to go.

And now, I look back and wonder why I was so worked up. In the past seven days, over $3,000 has been given towards the project. Thanks to answered prayer and the generosity of others, the trip is now fully funded. Praise God!

Now I can focus on preparing my lessons.

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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Ministry, Personal growth, Prayer, Russia


Living an on purpose life

Book Review: Chazown: Define your vision, pursue your passion, live your life on purpose, by Craig Groeschel

Why are you still here on planet Earth? What would you like to accomplish with your life? Where can you make a difference for God’s kingdom? How can you answer these perplexing questions?

“Chazown” is a Hebrew word that means “vision” and is found in Proverbs 29:16. Author and pastor Craig Groeschel wants each person to understand what God’s vision is for their life. He crafted a workbook designed to help each person understand and explore their core values, spiritual gifts, and past experiences. By seeing where they intersect, you can discover God’s unique and important purpose for your life.

This process is explained in the first third of the book. The middle third of the book focuses on moving your dreams into reality. The final third explores five area that can make or break your vision—relationships with God and people, finances, health and fitness, and work.

Overall, I found the book to be practical, encouraging, and helpful. The author includes numerous personal stories to illustrate his points. It is a very easy read as most chapters are only 2-3 pages long. Because it is a very basic book, the reader might want to explore the concepts further in other literature.

My only reservation about the book is that the author occasionally takes Scripture out of context in order to make his points. Of primary concern is his foundational verse, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” (Proverbs 29:16, KJV). Rather than referring to one’s life vision or purpose, vision in that verse refers to the vision or revelation from God. “Perish” does not mean become discouraged. Instead, it means to cast off restraint. Rather than becoming discouraged when we don’t know our purpose in life, the verse means that people cast off restraint and run amok when the Word of God is not taught.

Since my purpose and passion is to teach the Word of God accurately, I suppose the last paragraph allowed me to fulfill my chazown.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on November 19, 2011 in Books


The Healing Touch of Faith

Mark 5:21-43 provides a fascinating comparison of people in distress. Each one of these folks comes to Jesus for help. A father desperately intercedes for his daughter who is dying. A woman who lived with a debilitating disease for twelve years desperately seeks health and relief. One is an important official in the synagogue. The other is an unnamed nobody. One is probably rich while the other spent all she had on medical bills. What both need is faith to believe. Jesus tells the father, “Do not fear, only believe.” He tells the woman, “Your faith has made you well.” The father responds in amazement. The woman leaves whole and healthy. The father’s little girl is raised to new life.

I put together the following chart to help me understand the similarities and differences between these folks.


A Desperate Father (21-24)

A Desperate Woman (25-34)

A Desperate Daughter (35-43)

Social status

Important official

A Nobody

Economic status




Suffered for 12 years

12 years old


Incurable illness

Terminal illness

Jesus’ instruction

“Do not fear, only believe”

“Your faith has made you well”



Restored to wonder

Restored to wholeness

Restored to life

Role of faith

Faith motivates us to go to any length to intercede for others

Faith leads us to step out of the shadows and seek help

Faith encourages us to keep believing

After studying the passage, I compiled the following list as ideas for personal application:

  • Each one of us has issues we wrestle with. It may not be an incurable or a terminal illness. It may be the need for wisdom, career guidance, relationship challenges, worries about teenagers or aging parents, or economic challenges. Like Jairus and the woman, we need greater faith to trust God.
  • Each one of us has different degrees of faith. God asks us to trust him with the faith we have.
  • Faith opens the door to the power of God.
  • Faith shows persistence in overcoming any obstacle.
  • Faith is demonstrated in action.
  • Faith desperately believes that Jesus is sufficient to meet whatever needs we might have.
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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Bible Study, Preaching