Monday, April 29, 2013

DWELL ON IT! IT'S DONE!

Redwoods at Henry Cowell State Park, Felton Ca...
Redwoods at Henry Cowell State Park, Felton California (Photo credit: Kevin Hayes)

SEEMS IT NEVER FAILS, if I dwell on not tripping while running, I will trip, it happened again this past week. So, I developed my own proverb; Dwell on it, and it will be done. I can run with ear-buds in place and the worship tunes cranking and I will not trip. I can be in the midst of a serious conversation with God, paying little attention to my surroundings, and I will not trip. But, dwelling on not tripping, watching for exposed roots and sneaking squirrels, and it will never fail, I will trip. I have the scraped knees and swollen wrist to prove it.
     Yes, I suppose I should stop dwelling on tripping and stick with worship songs and prayer, but sometimes I just get too caught up in trying to go faster or farther or both and down I go!  I have discovered that what is true on the running trail is true in the spiritual race I run as well.
     As followers and disciples of Jesus, the Christ, I can get so focused on not sinning, not getting tripped-up in my spiritual walk that I can often fall prey to the very things I am seeking to avoid. In my seeking to be upright and humble, I can get tripped-up by pride. In my efforts to be generous, I can turn-an-ankle on the roots of judging others. In other words, in my attempts at seeking to do everything by my own wits and prowess, I can very easily be laid flat by tripping over my own two feet.
     The key to running the spiritual life well is not found so much in watching out for self, as it is in keeping our eyes on Jesus. Once again, good old Hebrews 12:1-3 breaks through loud and clear; keep your focus on Jesus. In practical terms it means spending regular time in God’s Word, not for education but for illumination. It means filling the spaces of my daily life with conversations with God. It means learning it’s sometimes good to run with a friend, someone who can help point out the obstacles in our path.
     Dwelling with God in the Bible and prayer and fellowship, and of course in Spirit-directed worship, can go far in keeping us upright and moving forward, which is so much better than humbling “crash-n-burn” encounters along the trails of life. And, even if you do get tripped-up from time to time, just do what I do, get up as fast as you can and pray that nobody saw you!

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Friday, April 26, 2013

A BENEFIT OF BEING AN ATHEIST

ON THURSDAY NIGHT OF THIS WEEK I attended a debate on the campus of the University of California in Santa Cruz.The topic, "Does ethics need a foundation in God?" It was a debate between my brother-in-Christ, Dr. Peter Payne of the international ministry to graduate students: The Institute for Credible Christianity. Dr. Payne debated a young atheist on the topic and if I were to give points most, if not all, would go to Dr. Payne.

I was saddened by some of the responses of Dr. Payne's opponent for they often bordered on immature slander of anyone of faith, Christian or other.

As I was running this afternoon through the beauty of God's handiwork at Henry Cowell State Park I mused the debate's discussion from the night before. Suddenly I was stuck but two thoughts, the first was a deep sense to pray for the young atheist debater and second, and this was the one that really grabbed me, I realized that there is a great benefit to being an atheist.

That benefit is that you will never have to suffer the grief and pain that comes from having someone blaspheme your god. Since you don't believe in any deity you never have to suffer the stab to the chest feeling that comes when someone purposefully takes cheap shots at the God who not only gives your life meaning, but who is your life.

So, I guess being an atheist has its benefits. But, truth be known, I would rather suffer the pain that came when I heard my God and Savior treated with only foolish mockery by a man who cared more for himself than the true feelings of another person and their beliefs. Seriously, I hurt for this young man and in some sense Jesus' words on the cross, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do," rang truer in my heart today.

I personally do not hold that all religious roads lead to the same place, but I also hold to treating those I may disagree with, with respect and compassion. Something which this young atheist seem to say is inherent in humankind, thus there is no need for ethics to have a foundation in God, and yet his responses from time to time seemed anything but caring.

Oh well, I am just a simple-minded pastor, who chooses to believe in a God who is there, and who has entered our history to save the likes of sinners like me. Yes, atheism may have a benefit, but truthfully friends, I sticking with the truth I know, by faith I have, in a God whose grace knows no bounds. I will be willing to suffer the pain when my God is cheapen to less than trash, and maybe in doing so understand in a small portion what my Savior suffered for me.

And for our young atheist...well, Father forgive him for he knows not what he does.

A DESIRE OF MINE (and maybe some others)

Downtown Felton
Downtown Felton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS OR MORE I have had the desire to see a ministry to the growing Hispanic community in our local area (Felton, California. The San Lorenzo Valley / Scotts Valley communities)

I have spoken with others, at times thought doors were opening, and yet to date the dream remains unfulfilled. Maybe one day the LORD will bring together the right people at the right time and the larger community of both God's people and those that need to be brought into a relationship with God, will in fact, take place.

It's a prayer. This link once again has spurred me into prayer. Seeking God's desire and help. Will you join me in this prayer?

Out of Ur: Friday Five Interview: Samuel Rodriquez
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Monday, April 22, 2013

INCESSANT NOISE!

Bose noise-cancelling headphones
Bose noise-cancelling headphones (Photo credit: eszter)

I HAVE RECENTLY ACQUIRED A PAIR OF BOSE NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES. Believe it or not they really work quite well. I got this headset to help me find some quiet within my study at church. The truth is I am little too nosey and when I hear some chatter from the outer office my mind gets drawn away from my sermon and Bible study preparation. It has been said that for every interruption in the course of study it takes 10-15 minutes to get back into the groove. Is it any wonder that my sermons are disjointed at times and it seems to take forever to get the responsibility of study completed?
I had my doubts as to whether or not the headphones would really cancel out sounds, but the technology is quite amazing. What truly grabbed my attention at first was the sounds that were missing. (DUH! That’s what’s supposed to happen.)  I mean, we seldom realize the amount of incessant noise that encompasses our lives. The hum of the computer fan, the heater vent expelling warmed air, the telephone conversations in the other room, the cars whizzing by on Graham Hill Road, the copy machine churning away, not to mention the happy conversations and laughter that too often fill the halls of our church offices. (We really do have a fun place to work!) The noise is everywhere pulling at my mind, distracting me from the task of rightly dividing the Word of Truth. If I didn't know better I would say it was almost demonic…nah!
Stained glass window 2
Stained glass window 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now here’s the interesting thing; you can put on the noise-cancelling headset, turn on the switch, and hear the noise drop away (not completely, but truly noticeable) and yet I am left with the incessant chatter within my own head. There are a thousand thoughts vying for my attention, the noise within is almost as disturbing as the noise without. It truly becomes a spiritual discipline to learn to discern through the incessant chatter the true voice of the Spirit, but He is there and He is speaking, and many times it is through the cluttered chatter that fills my head. The gift is learning to discern through the noise. As Carl McColman refers to in his book, Answering the Contemplative Call, we cannot look directly at the sun lest we blind ourselves, but put a stained-glass window between us and the bright rays of the sun and we can discern an entirely new story.

Noise will forever be with us, even in the deepest jungle, the highest mountain or the most secluded closet, noise will be there. The key is learning to hear the voice of God through the noise, in the noise. For God is always speaking, if we care to listen. Are we?

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE

I HAVE KNOWN FOR A LONG TIME THAT WE ARE FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE, so we are told in Psalm 139.

TED (conference)
TED (conference) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
God, our Creator, has made us with such intricacy that I am left speechless (an amazing thing for a pastor), but as this TED video describes, not only is our basic make-up and design wonderful, but also that God has given us the ability to discover how to work with and even bring healing to portions of our brain.

This video makes me want to praise our Creator, in whose image we have been made.  I pray you, too, will be moved at the wonder of God's creation, and take  moment to give praise to Him who reigns supreme. 

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Monday, April 15, 2013

OPTIONS!


A spoon containing breakfast cereal flakes, pa...
A spoon containing breakfast cereal flakes, part of a strawberry, and milk is held in midair against a blue background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
OVER ONE HUNDRED-THIRTY-FIVE, that’s how many cereal choices you have if you shop at the Safeway  in Felton! That’s a whole lot of options considering there are a limited amount of grains from which the majority of cereals are made. When Linda and I traveled to Almaty, Kazakhstan in the winter of 1999 we found a local store that had one kind of cereal, and if I remember, there were just a couple of boxes of that cereal on the shelves. Not a lot of options in Kazakhstan.

We here in America are used to having lots of options. Our stores are filled with the plethora of items, the menus at our fast-food establishments seems to grow more diverse every time I enter the door. When we go to buy a car or a flat-screen television we want options in size and color and well. We want lots of options. I guess you could say we are a nation that demands options, and yes, those options have even crept into the church.

There is not a lot of harm done in having lots of options, except I guess if it leads to sins like greed and gluttony. Even having the option of finding a church that meets our needs can have positive benefits. The problem starts when we think that our right to options, to making our own choice, also applies to our relationship with Jesus, the Christ.

On the night that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples He said to them, “You call Me teacher and lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I your teacher and lord have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:13-14) Jesus was telling His disciples (and us) that since he was their teacher (the supreme teacher) and since He was their lord (the LORD God they would discover) they must do as He teaches and obey what He commands. There are no other options!

As followers of Jesus, the Messiah, we only have two options; to obey or to disobey His teachings and commands. Yes, I know it sounds a little harsh, a little narrow, but stay with me here. If Jesus truly is who we claim that He is, the Living God, then the only option before us is obedience. We really don’t get a vote in the matter. God’s people, the church, the Body of Christ, is not a democracy, it is a Theocracy, where Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Therefore, when faced with the option, let us choose wisely, let us opt for quick obedience, for the glory of God. It’s always the right choice.

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THANKS PASTOR PIPER!

THERE IS SO MUCH ABOUT JOHN PIPER that I do not know. But, he has encouraged and challenge me over the course of my ministry. We have agreed on much (though we have never met or spoken) and I have been challenge in other areas, that is where my thinking was different than his.

As he heads off into "retirement," which in actuality doesn't sound like retirement to me, I pray God's blessing upon His faithful servant and steward. Praying that he'll enjoy some time of extended Sabbath, and looking forward to his ongoing work in the service of our sovereign God.

God bless you, brother.

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Monday, April 08, 2013

THE GIFT OF COMFORT


IN MY CLOSET IS A BOX FILLED with t-shirts I earned for running in races. The t-shirts are usually distributed before the race begins, and I am always looking for a place to stash my shirt until I complete the race. I have an unwritten rule; you cannot wear a race shirt until you have finished the race. You don’t get to wear it for just showing up. After I have completed the race I proudly wear my shirt, and over time, and a number of washings, it get relegated to the box in the closet.

If that box could speak it could tell of some great races and some not so great ones. It could relate stories of races hard-fought and of a few where I gave less than my all. There would be tales of sweat-stung eyes and of bloody knees. But alas, the t-shirt box remains quietly tucked away in the corner of my closet, so tucked away that I cannot even remember how many shirts are in there. One thing I can say, whether the effort was difficult or easy I earned each one of those packed-up t-shirts. Honestly, I don’t really give them much thought…until…

This past Valentine’s Day my wife surprised me with a wonderful gift. She grabbed some of those special shirts; shirts that told a variety of stories and had them made into a quilt. It was a wonderful gift and as I looked at each shirt she had picked out I was able to relive the story of that race, and of even the weeks of preparation that took place before those marathons. I treasure this gift, benefitting from it almost nightly as I settle into my chair to read or catch a few minutes of mindless television. The gift was not earned. I didn’t sweat over it or get leg cramps to receive it, it was simply a gift of love. Sure there are enough t-shirts left to make a number of good-sized quilts, but the truth is they will most likely stay boxed-up: but the gift of comfort…the unearned gift, shall be enjoyed on a regular basis.

Much like my special quilt the Lord Jesus has given each of His followers a gift, the unearned gift of the Holy Comforter, the Spirit of God to live in us and with us. Not a gift received because of some toil we produced, or even some race that we had run, but simply another aspect of God’s great, eternal gift of grace. A Gift not meant to be packed-away until some day of sweet remembering, but a gift to be enjoyed every day, a constant reminder of the presence and love of the Lord. Given to encourage us in the race we yet run. 

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Friday, April 05, 2013

WHY WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT WE KNOW

IBM Watson (Jeopardy at Carnegie Mellon) - How...
IBM Watson (Jeopardy at Carnegie Mellon) - How I saved humanity! (Photo credit: Anirudh Koul)
AS I WATCHED THIS EDITION OF TEDTalks, I was drawn to the Bible verse, "Thy Word have I hid in my heart, so that I may not sin against Thee." (Psalm 119:11)

No amount of knowledge in no vast amount of computing power, will keep me from sin. It is only the Word of God (John 1:1-5; John 1:14) hid deep within my soul has the power to keep me from sin. Sorry Computer Watson, it is you who shall be obsolete!
English: Photograph of an open Bible with focu...
English: Photograph of an open Bible with focus on a verse from the Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 16. "For God so loved the World that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have eternal life." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)













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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

THE EMERGING SPRING


SPRING IS EMERGING ALL AROUND US, and those with hay fever are not too excited, but that aside, the poppies are popping, and the tulips are lifting their heads, the grasses are shooting skyward, and the trees are pushing forth their leaves.  It’s spring. It is a time for new birth, time for renewal, time to awake from winter’s slumber and seize the lengthening day.

As I ponder the emerging spring around me, my spirit quickly goes to thoughts of, “will this be the year we shall see an emerging spiritual hunger and with that an emerging spiritual awakening?” I do pray for this to happen, and I hope you are praying for this as well.

Adult Card
Adult Card (Photo credit: tbohlsen10)
This I know for a fact; the culture we find ourselves within as the church is incredibly different than the culture of my youth pastoring days, and in reality it is different than when I arrived back in Felton a little over fifteen years ago. Our world is quite a different place and the young people are quite a different group, not bad, just different. As a pastor, part of my responsibility is to create a place where the young adults in our church family can be nurtured into disciples of Jesus, the Messiah, and for some to rise to the occasion to be the future leadership of this church.

This was once again brought to my attention through an email I received from Biola University addressing those with students at Biola, like Li
Biola University
Biola University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
nda and me, and how we can best encourage our children in their university education.  The article mainly addressed the issue of what the culture of today’s university student / young adult looks like and how we can best help them.

I contacted Biola University and was granted permission to share the article with you. For those of you with students in college, or in that age bracket, this will be helpful information. For those of you with children headed toward college in the future, this is well-worth your time. As the church of Jesus, this information is of critical importance as we seek to disciple young women and men to become fully devoted followers of the Lord Jesus, and as disciples to find their place in His Kingdom and to serve Him with their whole body, soul, mind and strength.

The following is the article by Colleen Heykoop, Director of Parent Relations. Thank you, Colleen for your graciousness in allowing me to share your insightful article. Once again, I am pleased to say I am a Biola University Alum! 

Parenting Emerging Adults

Have you heard the term “emerging adult?” It’s a fairly new concept that refers to the human developmental period between the ages of 18 and 29 years old. The thought is that in the United States, teens do not transition directly to adulthood as was perceived fifty years ago. Instead, there’s a period of time in which individuals gradually make that transition, in which they “emerge” as adults.

What makes an individual an adult? That is the $100,000 question. Unlike adolescence, which is marked by the onset of puberty, adulthood seems more fluid and determined by ones perception of independence. Marriage, once a primary mark of adulthood, is now viewed that way by just 4% of the 18 – 29 year-old set. What is the new marker for adulthood? The 2012 Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults says it’s “accepting responsibility for yourself” and “becoming financially independent.”1 With 30% of 18 – 29 year-olds living with their parents, it’s not surprising many view themselves as “not quite adults.”

This transition to adulthood is a tough one. Christian Smith, author of Souls in Transition: The Religious & Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults” says the process is defined by “intense identity exploration, instability, a focus on the self, feeling in limbo or in transition or ‘in between.’”2 Seventy-two percent of those polled by Clark University say this time in their life is stressful and 56% say they often feel anxious.3 Not surprising as they are wrestling with discovering their purpose and calling, while also trying to figure out where to live, how to find a job, and how to make friends.

Parents, you can play a significant role in helping your son or daughter navigate this precarious time. It will require you, however, to transition from parenting an adolescent to walking alongside an emerging adult. What does that look like? Here are some suggestions:
1.     Let your son or daughter face important decisions as an adult. Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” You’ve had eighteen years to train them. Let them now have the opportunity to think through and make important decisions. This is hard, because they won’t always make the best decision. However they have your godly training to rely on as well as your support, and the ability to learn from mistakes.
2.     Earn the right to speak into their decisions by honoring their boundaries. Giving your son or daughter the gift of facing important decisions will communicate your confidence in them. And when your emerging adult feels supported by you, they will see you as a safe person in which to discuss their thoughts, feelings, options and decisions.
3.     Be prepared for your emerging adult to follow their own vocational goals, not the goals you have for them. Often we have an idea of what our children will grow up to do based on what we know of them. And often our children will not agree with our assessment. Point out the qualities and gifting you see in them, but refrain from telling them what vocation to choose. Instead focus on how they live and for whom they live their lives.
4.     Provide opportunities for your son or daughter to reflect on their experiences. Technology is so much a part of this generation’s life that a “here and now” mentality usurps any opportunity for reflection. You can help them reflect on what they are learning in chapel, in economics class, in their relationships, by simply asking them questions:
§  What has God been teaching you lately?
§  How has your economics class caused you to think differently about our role in society?
§  What have you learned about yourself through your roommate situation?
“As parents, our responsibility to help our children listen to God’s call is one that never ends. It simply changes in the way we serve as supporting agents in the divinely inspired process we call life.”4

______________________
1 
http://www.clarku.edu/clarkpoll/pdfs/Clark_Poll_Peer%20Inst.pdf
2 Christian Smith and Patricia Snell, Souls in Transition: The Religious & Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), p.6.
3 
http://www.clarku.edu/clarkpoll/pdfs/Clark_Poll_Peer%20Inst.pdf
Todd C. Ream, Timothy W. Herrmann, C. Skip Trudeau, A Parent’s Guide to the Christian College. (Abilene Christian University Press, 2011) p. 186.

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