Monthly Archives: April 2012

Getting schooled

Negotiating to buy or sell a house is a new experience for us. We’ve never really done it before. Oh, we’ve bought and sold homes, but we sort of fell into it each time.

Our first home was owned by a friend whose job transferred him to another state. On a lark, we made the passing comment, “Why don’t you sell us your house?” He did . . . for below market value . . . and even loaned us the money for the down payment. Two years later, the house was sold after only 10 days on the market. We accepted the first offer we received because it was fair and reasonable, and we didn’t want to appear greedy since the house was dropped in our lap.

We rented our second home (the one we live in now) for two years before buying it. When the landlord moved out of state, he offered to sell it to us, once again, for below market value. And again, some friends loaned us the money for the down payment.

As we try to sell this house now, we are neck deep in negotiations. We spent several weeks painting, landscaping, and remodeling the house to put in on the market. It was shown several times over the first two and a half weeks. We received an offer from a prospective buyer who wants to haggle over replacing the roof, leaving the major appliances, and paying his closing costs. It is complicated by the fact the buyer comes from another country and English is his second language. So we are dealing with language and cultural differences.

Needless to say, this is unfamiliar landscape to my wife and me. While we want to be flexible and negotiate, we don’t want to be playdough and allow the buyer to mold us to his preferences. Neither do we want to be inflexible and draw a line in the sand over every little point. Hopefully, we will make wise decisions on when to flex and where to draw our lines. And may God be honored and glorified in all we say and do during the process.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Character, Home, Personal growth


Building a marriage that goes the distance

Book Review: Love, Sex, and Happily Ever After: Preparing for a Marriage that Goes the Distance, by Craig Groeschel

Who wouldn’t want to have a marriage that lasts, one that goes the distance—in love, intimacy, purpose, friendship, fulfillment, and years? The sad fact, however, is that while most couples spend hours and thousands of dollars preparing for the wedding, very few spend any time at all preparing for their marriage. That’s where Craig Groeschel’s book, Love, sex, and happily ever after, comes in. It presents the foundational principles that will help couples build a marriage that will last.

The author’s book, however, is vastly different from most premarital counseling books. Most books on the subject deal with the major issues of marriage—communication, conflict resolution, finances, in-laws, and sex. Pastor Groeschel’s book focuses on the issue of priorities. The book begins by challenging each individual to establish God as their number one priority. Rather than seeking a person who is “the one,” God needs to be “the one” in each of our lives. Our future (or current, if married) spouse is “the two.” The order is crucial if we want a marriage that lasts.

Several of the chapters are redemptive in nature—helping a person find forgiveness for past relationship mistakes and sins. The author shares practical lessons of what God taught him in this regard.

The chapters on the roles of husbands and wives look at the responsibilities of leadership and submission from a different angle. Presenting both biblical and practical advice, the author challenges his readers to accept the role God has given them without sounding overly preachy. He also explains the cultural myths that will need to be challenged and overcome to be successful.

As a pastor who is committed to premarital counseling before performing a wedding, I am always on the lookout for helpful tools to give to engaged couples. This helpful book will be added to the required reading list.

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.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 28, 2012 in Books, Marriage


What if dinosaurs lived today?

Book Review: Behemoth, by Jonathan C. Leicht

What if dinosaurs were alive today? How would the scientific community respond? How would it affect the dialogue between those who support creationism and those who advocate evolution? Those questions lie at the heart of Jonathan C. Leicht’s novel, Behemoth.

The book tells the story of two groups of people searching for dinosaurs in Africa. One group comes from a game preserve in Kenya and is tracking a mysterious animal that is killing elephants and Cape buffalo. They track the mysterious animal all the way to Lake Victoria in Tanzania. The second group is made up of scientists searching for a legendary animal that lives in the Congo basin. Add in encounters with local tribesman, a missionary, double-crossing team members and guerilla warriors, and you have an exciting adventure and a “can’t-put-it-down” tale.

The author has crafted a well written, exciting story. On a search for adventure level, the book works well. However, when the characters are debating evolution versus creationism, the dialogue feels a bit preachy and the author tends to pontificate a bit too much. In those places, the book turns into an apologetic for creationism. While the author’s presents his points as factual and accurate, it felt like the story bogged down in those places. That being said, I enjoyed the book in the Kindle edition.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 27, 2012 in Books


Finding the key to fix brokenness

Last night my wife and I watched the 2011 film Hugo. Besides being an Oscar winning film and visually stunning, it is also tale of brokenness and redemption.

Hugo, the title character, is an orphan who lives in a Paris railway station where he maintains the clocks. Hugo views the world as a giant machine. Since this machine comes with no extra parts, it is important for each person to discover their place in order for the machine to work properly. In addition, each person is broken until they discover their purpose and place in the world. Hugo’s mission then is to fix broken things like the automaton, and broken people like Papa Georges, and restore them to wholeness. It is a matter of discovering how to unlock one’s heart, reflected in the heart shaped key necessary to start the automaton.

The movie reflects the fact that each one of us longs to find our place in the world. We will never know true happiness and fulfillment until we do. I was reminded of the famous quote by the philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal; “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

Hugo would be a great discussion starter on the theme of the purpose of life and how to discover one’s passion. It could be used to steer a conversation towards spiritual things.

Hugo is another illustration in search of a sermon.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Movies, Passion, Quotes


The skyline of Seattle

On 4/21/12, we rode the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle. It was a beautiful day with the Olympic Mountains in view to the west, the Cascade Mountain range in the east and Mt. Rainier in the south. We could also make out Mt. Baker to the north, but it was a bit hazy and not clearly in view. That being said, it made for some gorgeous views.

Mt Rainier

Ferry with Olympic Mountains in background

Seattle skyline

Space Needle and waterfront

Seattle Stadiums–CenturyLink Field where the Seahawks (NFL) & Sounders FC (MLS) play football and Safeco Field where the Mariners’ (MLB) play baseball

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Photos, Seattle, Washington State


Of compliments and churches

There are some compliments you never want to receive:

  • “That’s interesting.” (“I am nonplussed and put off by your comment, but I don’t want to risk offending you by saying what I really feel.”)
  • “He/She has a good personality.” (“I don’t think your blind date is much to look at, but then again, neither are you. At least you’ll have a good time enjoying one another’s ‘personality.’”)
  • “That’s nice.” (“Your suggestion is neither good nor bad, but falls into the mediocre, average, ho-hum, ‘nice’ range.”)

For my money, one of the worst comments you can make to a pastor is to tell him his church is “nice.” In my experience, “nice” churches are filled with “nice” people who have “nice” Bible lessons and “nice” potlucks and “nice” concerts, but never see changed lives and never make a difference in the local community or around the world. To tell a pastor his church is “nice” is to damn him with faint praise.

Instead of aiming to be “nice,” what should a church strive to be? As I have contemplated that question, several metaphors came to mind. A church should be:

  • A hospital—where sick people are made well
  • A counseling office—where the grieving and broken hearted find comfort and hope
  • A training center—where people discover their spiritual gifts, are trained how to use them, and then sent into the community, church, or world where they can serve
  • An armory—where people are equipped to win the battle of spiritual warfare
  • A living room—where people discover what a healthy marriage looks like and how to raise godly children
  • A family—where each person is loved and accepted for who they are, yet challenged to become who they have the potential to be
  • A school—where people are taught the Word of God, and learn to study it for themselves
  • A worship center—where God is honored, exalted, and praised
  • A community—where individuals, couples, and families are encouraged and supported
  • An offensive movement—storming the gates of hell on a rescue mission to release those held captive by the enemy
  • A bridge—bringing the people of God into the community and the world where they can make a difference

A church should never settle for being a clubhouse where you only hang out with those who know the secret handshake and password, and where you spend all your time reminiscing about the good old days when things were “nice.”

1 Comment

Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Church, Passion


Where is God when life hurts?

Book Review: Eye of the storm: Where is God when life hurts? by Alexander Kumpf

When cancer rears its head, does God know? When financial security plummets, is God present? When disaster strikes, does he even care? When the storms of life rain upon us, where can we find answers?

These are the questions asked and answered by Alexander Kumpf in his short book, Eye of the storm. His argument is that the safest place to be is in the center of the storm, for that is where we discover calmness. The eye of the storm is where we experience the peace of God.

The author tries to answer the questions we wrestle with when the storms of life threaten. He discusses a few of the reasons why God allows pain, suffering, and difficulty. Using the example of Jesus and his disciples in the storm on the Sea of Galilee, he explains that Jesus promised to bring his disciples safely to the other side. The storms of life are not designed to destroy us, but rather to teach us to depend on God and to shape our character. The author suggests some principles to follow in preparing for the storms, riding them out, and dealing with the aftermath. He also includes a study guide in the back to help the reader think through the issues and discuss them in a small group setting.

While I found the book to be biblical and practical, I felt it was too short. It provides short answers rather than a long theological treatise. I came away feeling like the author barely scratched the surface of the topic. As someone going through a stormy time, I found his overview helpful and encouraging, but it left me longing for more depth. As another reviewer mentioned, the author’s style is a bit choppy as he jumps around in his narrative. The book comes across as an author’s first effort to be self-published. It shows potential, but there is room for depth and improvement.

The book is probably best used as a gift given to someone going through a difficult time. It will answer basic questions, point the person to God, and hopefully lead to further conversations on the subject. Because of the author’s illustrations, the book might be best used with teenagers.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Books, Theology


Scenic Puget Sound

On our way home from Pt. Defiance, we took Highway 16 north to Bremerton and rode the ferry back to Seattle. Being a beautiful, sunny day provided yet another opportunity to photograph the mountains, waterways, and skyline of Western Washington.

If you’re curious why the Space Needle has an orange top, it was painted gold (looked orange to us) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair, at which the Space Needle and Monorail premiered.


Missional is more than a buzz word

With so many people claiming to be born-again believers or followers of Jesus Christ, why does their faith have so little impact in the public square? That question is raised periodically in religious research. Part of the answer lies in the privatization and compartmentalization of faith. We’re told that faith is a personal matter and is to be kept private. In addition, many keep the parts of their lives compact and separate from the other parts. Thus, one has a church life, a work life, a home life, a recreation life, and one segment never intersects with the others.

If Christ followers want to make a difference in the world, this practice needs to change. That is the argument presented by Reggie McNeal in one of the closing chapters of his latest book, Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church.

We must make two changes in order to live missionally. We can no longer tolerate the compartmentalization of our life or the individualization of our faith. A life of radical obedience will require a repudiation of both old ways of living. A missional life is one in which our lives are integrated into one coherent whole rather than segmented into disconnected, separated parts. We bring all our energies, passions, and resources to the pursuit of the kingdom of God. Life on mission will take place where we spend most of our waking hours—our homes, our workplaces. Understanding this will allow us to uncompartmentalize our approaches to spiritual development, positioning us to listen for and look for God in our everyday lives and everyday places. But we must also realize that we are not on this mission alone. This journey is not intended to be a private one. Connecting with the body of Christ is the only way we can function in the way God intended us to live.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 22, 2012 in Books, Church, Ministry, Personal growth


Pt. Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Needing to be out of the house for another day of showings and open houses, we ventured to the Pt. Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma. Amanda, in town for the weekend, joined us on our excursion.