Monday, July 29, 2013

THE NEW WHITE

IF WHITE IS THE NEW BLACK, THEN WHAT’S THE NEW WHITE? It seems that with every new year, or at least with every new fashion season, what was once considered the basic color by which all other colors are measured, changes.  This might be good news for fashion designers and fashionista’s, but for regular folk like me, we just get lost in the mirage of what looks like 64 shades of gray.

It used to be that black was black and that was that. But now, according to the design team at Herman Miller we can now get their hot selling Aeron Office Chair in True Black. Really? True black?  Bear with me here, but it’s either black or it’s not.  This is just another case of true black is the new black, which I guess means that “other” black chair is  . . . off-black?  Which in my limited box of 64 crayons, that would be gray.

Sadly, what has become variant in color, has also seeped into the entire realm of what is true. It goes something like this, in the name of tolerance all is true, at least as far as we can know it. WHAT?! Call me old-fashioned, (go ahead it will not hurt my feelings…much) but if something is not true, then it is false, not just less true. Now, I am not a philosopher, nor the son of a philosopher, I fall more in the Prophet Amos category of fig-picker and simple shepherd (Amos 7:14). I am sure someone could rightfully argue that two disparaging different things can be true, but I am hard-pressed to know what that would be.

We live in a culture today that is afraid of an absolute truth. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the culture is afraid of an absolute anything. If we had an absolute truth, then we must abide by it or be found to be wrong, and we certainly don’t want to be wrong!

But the truth is, I do believe that there are absolute truths, and those truths given to us by a loving, compassionate Creator, were given for our own good and even enjoyment. As the Scriptures declare, “Then you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32) Truth is given to bring us to a place of freedom and in that freedom joy. To hold to the belief that there is no truth, in the absolute sense, or to concede that absolute truth is unknowable, does not set us free, rather it places us in deeper bondage.


I hold to the belief that there is truth, and it is knowable, not in some abstract sense, but personally and intimately in the One who is the Truth, “Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Know Him. Know Truth.
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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Coffee Shop Converstations: A Review

DISCLAIMER: At my age I have been through numerous seminars, studies, books and conferences, not to mention hand-to-hand combat in the area of personal evangelism. Evangelism ExplosionLifestyle Evangelism, The Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Summer Evangelism and Missions Project, and personal evangelism classes at college and in grad school.  I have been cheered, berated, graded, guilt-driven and probably even paid to carry forth the work of every card-carrying-evangelical, the work of winning others to Christ. Truth be known; I think I have lost more encounters than I have won.

So, when I was asked to read yet another book on sharing your faith I would be less than honest to say I would learn anything new.

Well, SHUT MY MOUTH! I can enthusiastically say that the little book (219 pages), Coffee Shop Conversations, gave me much to ponder and seek to put into practice. Dale and Jonalyn Fincher has written an openly honest book about the need for personal evangelism but not at the cost of personal relationships. No knocking on doors, no street corner ramblings, just the idea that there are some simple skills we can put into practice which will help to keep the door open for us to share about the powerful reality of a redeemed life. Those are not their words, but mine.

The sub-title of the book describes the power of this book, "Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk." Their method is not a go and seek platform as it is developing some simple skills of listening, learning and asking perceptive questions. The key to their method is caring enough to listen to another person, seeking to understand their world-view (which may mean some "home-work" done prior).

I appreciated how their personal style of writing, making sure you knew who was making the comment, though at times the convention of putting their names in parenthesis got a little burdensome. Their challenge that in seeking to understand another person's belief system can help us to understand the uniqueness of our own, was a good reminder that personal encounters can teach all participants if we are willing to learn. (p. 136) They rightly remind the reader that repentance is a response not a prerequisite for forgiveness. (p. 62) A reminder I needed to hear as it relates to my own life as well.

The book reads easy enough as a mixture of practical ideas, like the importance of developing good manners, seven of them if memory serves me correctly, and the telling of their own personal encounters, not all ending in a BIG SAVE, but rather keeping the door open for further growth in those of both sides of the conversation.

I have acquired lots of evangelism books on my shelves after over 35 years of ministry, and Coffee Shop Conversations will take a spot reserved for well-used and "go-to" books.  Actually, hopefully, not breaking any copyright laws here, but I am thinking about using this book as a "text book" for a personal evangelism class this fall at our church.

Dale and Jonalyn not only write on evangelism, but on other topics pertaining to spiritual growth. You can check them out at their website: soulation. You can check Jonalyn in action at a Biola University chapel.

So, to Dale and Jonalyn, thank you for sharing from your heart, and may our hearts always be stirred to love others because we have first been loved by God.

Jonalyn's Blog: Ruby Slippers
Dale's Blog: Free At Last

Sunday, July 21, 2013

iPhone vs. iSpirit

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase
I HAVE THIS APP for my iPhone that is supposed to help me while I am running. It’s supposed to keep record of my pace, distance, time, and if I upgraded, a number of other elements of my attempts at staying fit.

It’s even got this female voice that announces to all within 100 feet how many miles I run, what my pace is, how many calories I’ve burned, and of course the all-important time of day so that I will not be late for dinner.  The problem is that this app is not very consistent, or so I thought. It would give me my first mile pace at 11:15, which is a nice pace for me, but when I got to mile two she announces my pace at 16:00 minutes per mile! WHAT!?!

I know that my first mile is always slower because I have to run UP out of my neighborhood, and my second mile is smoother, even with some down-hill, so my pace must be better. After numerous attempts of reprogramming the app (Shy of throwing the phone in the San Lorenzo River) I have discovered that the app does not give my over-all pace, only the pace at that moment, which is slower because I inadvertently slow down when the pace buzzer goes off! My female-voice-friend can only alert me to my current speed, not my overall progress. I guess there’s a reason why it’s a free app.

Running provides for me a moving metaphor for my spiritual life. Some of you may ask me why I keep using the app if I am unhappy with it? The answer is that I need the encouragement along the way, faulty as it may be, to help me stay on track. And yes, when I hear her say, “Pace, 16:00 per mile,” I do pick up the pace, and we ain’t talking picante sauce!

The Holy Spirit is to be our constant encourager as we run the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1-3). But unlike my iPhone app the Holy Spirit gives me a truthful accounting of how I am doing. Now here’s the rub: we can more easily hear the Spirit when we slow down enough to listen. Yes, I realize we don’t like slowing down, but true assessment can only come as we stop and take time to open the Word of God, to sit in contemplative prayer, to Sabbath with the Lord.


How’s your pace today?
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

COMING HOME TO GOD

I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A RESTLESS SOUL. One who seeks for the comfort of home, but not always sure what is the definition of home?

As a Christian and a churchman, and a family man, home does seem to come with a number of definitions. I also, possibly because of my calling as a pastor, seek to help others find that place to call home.

The TED Talk I have included here brings forth a new twist that faces me and faces the church as well. How do we call people home when the whole concept of home is so transient? After watching and listening to this intriguing presentation I am even more convinced of the need we have as the church, the Body of Christ, to provide a place to call home. Both within us and apart from us.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

ZOMBIES!!!

ZOMBIES! THEY’RE EVERYWHERE! You will find them on the movie screen, on television, they are the subject of books and graphic novels, and then let us not forget video games! Zombies! They’re everywhere!

Zombies, at least the Hollywood and video game variety, are beings stuck somewhere between life and death. They are lost souls finding home in neither heaven nor hell nor Earth. They stalk around with dead eyes that pierce the soul of the living. Their purpose is to create others like themselves, lost souls wandering, sulking throughout the Earth seeking those they can drag into their own pitiful and lost existence. Yuck!

I have met some zombies in my life, they are Christians who are stuck somewhere between death and life. Having been drawn to the Savior and His life-giving grace, they still choose to hold on to the clothes of death. Though they have responded to the call of Christ to die to themselves so that they can live unto Christ, they still hold on to that which is death. Thus, they never truly experience the deep freedom of life in Christ. Determined to hold on to the life that is death they miss the power of the Spirit’s life within them.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives within me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)  It is for this reason that the Apostle admonished the Christians at Colossae to take off the old death clothes of the old nature and to put on the new clothes of the new life. (Colossians 3:1-14)

When we choose to live this way, dead to self but alive in Christ, it is then we can experience the peace of Christ ruling our hearts. It is then we can express deep thankfulness. It is then we can sing to each other in the key of faith. (Colossians 3:15-16)


Fellow Christ-follower, we were not called to live the zombie life, rather in whatever we do, “whether in word or deed, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
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Friday, July 12, 2013

GOOD FAITH HUNTING: a book review

Shaded relief map of the Sinai Peninsula, 1992...
Shaded relief map of the Sinai Peninsula, 1992, produced by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
GOOD FAITH HUNTING: How Baby-Boomers Help Recapture a Biblical View of Faith, by Henry Stewart is a book that tells the story that I believe I have been telling over the past years of my own ministry. That story is the belief that the life of being a Christian, a Christ-follower is a life of journey.

Stewart's use of the Old Testament formative days of the Hebrew nation as they wandered through the wilderness of Sinai enroute to the Promised Land is an insight analogy to understand the journey of the Christian. It was during this wilderness wandering that the Hebrews were traveling with God (Pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Exodus 13:21) while at the same time experiencing an estrangement from God because of their doubt and disobedience. As a Baby-Boomer (b. 1955) I can personally understand and agree with the analogy.

Stewart weaves biblical accounts of the various journeys of God's people and prophet with stories from the lives of those on the journey with Jesus Christ today. From Old Testament through the New Testament and then on into the early centuries of the church the author seeks to prove forth his thesis that life is a journey and that is especially true for the ones who seek to follow Christ.

As a pastor I was drawn to the thought that we encourage people to make the journey from darkness into light, from being lost to being found, and yet once they make that transition we cease to allow them to journey any longer. We help people leave their wilderness and encourage them to live in the Promised Land, all the while forgetting how difficult the Promised Land was for the Hebrew nation. They may have "arrived" but the journey was far from over.

There are two people who should read this book. First, any pastor who has baby-boomers, busters, Gen-xer's, Millennials (you get the picture) anyone who is seeking to follow Christ. If these people are in your flock, you need to read this book and thus seek to encourage your people.

Second, if you are part of any of the above listed groups, then I would say you, too need to read this book and be encouraged.

To wrap up this journey here are some thoughts that grabbed at and settled in my soul.

  • It is in the wilderness that salvation and safety was found.
  • The wilderness was a place of problem & protection, of provision & perplexion.
  • Two sets of temptations in the wilderness; to stop & settle where you are at and to retreat & return to the slavery you left.
  • Maybe God does not ever remove us far from the Wilderness of Sin to serve as a constant reminder of our need to stay close to Him.
I appreciate Stewart's work, not only for the journey he leads us on, but for the personalities we are introduced to along the way. Personalities of all persuasions that can give us hope on our own journey.

A journey of true hope as we fix our eyes on the Savior. A journey well worth the trip. 

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Sunday, July 07, 2013

20/20 VISION

IT IS SAID THAT, “HINDSIGHT IS ALWAYS 20/20.” Truthfully, I’d rather be able to look forward with the strength of vision that would allow me to make the decisions today that will have positive effect on tomorrow.

Over the course of the past week I have heard accounts that made me consider where will Felton Bible Church be in the year 2020? Truly, we do not know what the year 2020 will be like, the world is changing much too fast for us to even guess what we will facing, but that does not mean we cannot set in place those things that will help the church be willing, ready, and able for whatever culture throws at us.

One of the stories I heard was at the Men’s Camping Trip. I heard of a pastor who was retiring that weekend after 40 years of ministry in the church he helped to plant. The exciting thing was that God had (is) blessing that ministry; blessing it with growth spiritually and numerically. This news made me wonder what it takes for a pastor and the people to share that kind of blessed longevity?  (For me at FBC: 24 more years and 82 years of age! Doable? Yes. God’s design? He knows.)

The other story was about Scotland’s desire to be a “green” nation energy-wise by the year 2020. A very ambitious goal, which demands discernment, planning and sacrifice. Will they get there? One can hope for the sake of our planet and its population.

What about us? 2020 is only 7 years away (my son will turn 20! Yikes!) Seven years is not that long really. What kind of church will be needed in 2020? The answer, not surprisingly, is rather simple. What will be needed is a church that proclaims in word and deed the Gospel of God and seeks for the continued building of His kingdom. Not unlike what we must be about doing today!


How will the church do this in 2020? That answer is a little more elusive. When I returned here almost 16 years ago I could not have thought of a church that “tweets,” (Twitter) of Bibles on our phones (iPhones) and the increase of social interaction without actually being social (Facebook). How will we make our Gospel impact in 2020? I believe it will come by making ambitious goals which will demand discernment, planning and sacrifice and that we seek to be a church in it for the long haul. Will we be ready? Let’s make sure we are!
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Monday, July 01, 2013

U

IT HAS BEEN NOTED THAT, “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’” To which I would respond that neither is there a ‘we’ or a ‘u.’ I suppose what is trying to be communicated is that in order for there to be a team we all must be part and we all at once bring something and lose something at the same time. When it comes to being a team each brings a certain mix of talents, gifts, strengths as well as weaknesses. It does not matter if you are playing first-string out on the field, or sitting on the bench, teams are those who are wearing the colors and are working for and rooting for their team to succeed.

This past week our Ministry Team gathered for one of its bi-weekly meetings during which time we studied God’s Word, prayed, sang, and laughed together. Part of our evening was spent in discussing, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups. During our time the discussion turned toward the theme of unity, and that is where I noticed that the key to the word unity is the letter “I.” You will note that the letter “I” is smack in the middle of the word. That letter can either indicate what draws us together or pushes us apart. Another way of looking at it would be to say there cannot be unity without “u.” It is where unity starts.

As the Body of Christ we are called to oneness, to unity, under the headship of Jesus, the Christ. (Ephesians 4:15, Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:19)  That unity is dependent upon each of us. How “u” and “i” respond within the Body of Christ will help to determine its unity. The Body of Christ cannot be truly unified in declaring the glory of God or in seeing His kingdom grow without each of us bringing our gifts, talents, strengths and yes, even our weaknesses to the family of God.

Yes, there is danger here as well. For just as “u” and “i” are vital to the make-up of unity, you and I can also cause disunity. It all depends upon whose glory we are seeking to promote, ours or God’s.

The Ministry Team of Felton Bible Church is seeking diligently to always move us forward for God’s glory, and we have found that since hat is our focus unity almost becomes second nature, or dare I say, first nature to us. When we seek God together and seek Him for His glory the Holy Spirit is free to operate and where the Spirit is there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17) As we seek to keep in step with the Spirit, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, we can then have the power to do away with the self and its self-driven ways and be filled with fruit of the Holy Spirit, that fruit which is fully formed in the love which comes from the LORD. (Galatians 5:1-26)

The evil one would have us believe that in order to have unity we must lose all of ourselves and become subservient to the leadership (or in some cases to the masses) but in reality the opposite is true. As we surrender ourselves to Christ we will in fact discover the very freedom for which we were created. The freedom of walking side-by-side with our God, our Creator and the Lover of our souls. Again, as the Apostle wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1) The Apostle Peter also calls us to this high living which comes from freedom and that from living together in unity as the saints of God. (1 Peter 2:1-26)

Therefore, I encourage you to join with your Ministry Team in pursuing God’s will together, for His glory, for His kingdom, for the sake of the Gospel. Until the whole world knows!


As we look to the days ahead, Pastor Ron and I are excited to discover what God has in store for us. Even during these summer months, when it is easy to sit back and coast for awhile, we see God calling us to grow-up and grow-out. We are excited to have Kurt Roberts join us on staff to focus on ministry to our youth, and we are looking forward to the month of August where we are going to focus upon some Hot Topics & Cool Acts. We are going to look at what the Bible say regarding some of the hot topics facing the church today, (sexual morality, sacredness of life, societal addictions and where the church and culture meet.) and also get involved during our Bible class time in moving out into our community to provide some community service in God’s Name and for God’s glory.  I hope you will make plans to be with us as together we seek to pursue God’s will for His people in unity.
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