September 23, 2008
Deb and I are happily crusing the Western Caribbean...courtesy of the Free Methodist Churches in Florida generous financial gift and Light & Life's generosity in giving us time off. My blogging will be spotty if existent at all.
We are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary and having a blast. Thanks for your prayers for the Pastor's conference in Florida...God was amazing to us.
Love you all. ...time's up....ahhhhhhh!
September 16, 2008
Monday I got up early, did some chores and preceded to work on messages for Florida.
Ran some errands and went to the Lake to read and ski and kept working on messages while on the boat.
Had a good talk with Steve...the owner of the campground on the lake...a wealthy First Nations (Native Canadian man)...he shared about his new age beliefs and I shared about my beliefs as a follower of Jesus. He tried to convince me that I was god and could therefore channel my energy for healing others. He tried to persuade me that we were the same. I shared that I had an objective basis for my faith...the Word of God and Son of God...and that I was a child of God but was not God and that I needed a Savior. I did not convince Steve but I think Steve felt listened to and loved.
Went for a bike ride when we got back to the mountain and watched an amazing MOONRISE...full moon rising over the Canadian rockies...wow! It drew me into worship in a powerful way. And to think the moon has not light of its own but is merely a reflection of the sun. I breathed my own prayer...Jesus make a full moon of your love. Too often I am sliver or quarter...but Spirit of Jesus shine fully through my life so I may draw others to worship you.
Sunday, I went to prayer for our church and asked God to meet our people at Light & Life in an uncommon way.
Next I went to work on my message for the Florida conference. I thought I would use previously prepared material but as I moved forward in prayer a whole new direction emerged. This was exciting but taxing and has taken many hours.
About 2pm we went to the lake...a 35 minute trip that brought us to a gorgeous afternoon of reading and waterskiing. Came back and took a long hike as the sun went down.
I finished reading YOU-Staying Young...a great book, highly recommended to anyone 30 and older. Had so many great ideas for how to do better temple maintenance.
Did Jesus eat french fries? Nachos? Ice Cream? Donuts? I don't know but I do know he took care of his "temple".
"Jesus deliver me from french fries! I love them but they hate me. They clog my arteries with gunk that shortens my life...I want 50 more years of life and life for all 50 years more (if you tarry)...so God give me "temple" wisdom and "spiritual discipline".
September 14, 2008
Yesterday, I began work in earnest on my teaching for this coming weekend in Florida. I was bummed that I would have to teach during my sabbatical but a long standing commitment could not be broken and it is a very important and large gathering of pastors and leaders in the SouthEast. But as I began working, writing and praying I became energized by what God was giving me to share.
I began praying deeply about the "IMAGO DEI" and the Spirit was deepening my spirit...opening my eyes to a new self-image that used the Imago Dei as its starting point, its defining point. 1 John 3:1-3 join with Genesis 1:26 to awaken my spirit to who I am in Christ.
I believe God has given me an important word. It is a lot of work and getting back in the groove is a little difficult. This is the longest period of time in 30 years that I have gone without preaching or teaching. Can you believe that?
After about 5 hours of work, Deb and I went down to the LAKE and enjoyed a gorgeous late summer\early fall day on the water. I skied one of the best runs I have had in years on breathless, glassy water.
Then we went to Vernon Alliance Church and worship was amazing...very powerful. Stuart taught us from John 17 on the prayer of Jesus...it was a good word calling us to unity in diversity, and to realize that Jesus prayer for us is being answered in different moments of our lives and that we should awaken to that.
I had never considered that...awakening to "oh this is a moment when I am being brought into unity with someone or with God" and it's refreshing and empowering..."oh yeah Jesus prayed for moments like these". In those moments I am awakened to the reality of "Imago Dei"...that I am his child, stamped with his image, a spiritual being having a brief earth stay before the fullness of reality and eternity dawn.
After church we ate at Earl's, drove up the mountain and dropped into bed.
Revelations is one of those books filled with so much MYSTERY and so much MAJESTY. Sometimes I get so lost in trying to understand the MYSTERY that I miss the MAJESTY. The truth is that this is the book of the Bible that says you will receive a blessing just from reading it.
I believe it. It lifts your eyes up and forward and behind....UP to heaven, FORWARD to the future, and BEHIND the physical scenes to the spiritual REALITY.
My heart sings with those around his throne...Glory and Honor and Power and Praise to the LAMB! Holy, Holy, Holy. There is none like you oh Lord...the Lamb and the Lion, the sacrifice and the conqueror.
How often have I read the last 2 chapters to those who are dying and given them the hope and the comfort of what is ahead. Death is a MYSTERY but it leads to the MAJESTY of Heaven for those who follow the LAMB.
(The day also consisted of more reading, writing, bbq, long mountain hike, and some chores.)
September 12, 2008
Yesterday, 1, 2, 3rd John and Jude spoke to me as I meditated on their wisdom. You can't help but read those letters and not be struck with the balance between truth and love.
The ultimate truth is love because God is love. The apex of our service for God is to lavishly love others in the same way that God has lavishly loved us. This love is not warm feelings or nice words, it is the gritty kind of love that gets under another person's burden and lightens the load.
It is love in tangible and visible ways that honor the ONE that is invisible. Our love for God is manifested most purely not when we sing our love songs to Him but when we sing His love songs to someone who is sick or stuck in sin.
Yet John is careful not to allow the paramount nature of love to be carelessly defined by our own imaginations of it. Not on your life! He calls us to an unequivocal commitment to doctrinal certainties which can never be diluted by appealing to our demonstrations of love. Love that is not structured by the love of the cross, the love of the person of Christ, the love of God's Word will usually degrade into some form of selfishness and ultimately it will fail the definition of saving love.
It is interesting that JUDE follows these love letters of John as it illustrates what happens when love without truth, and truth without love are allowed to fester and grow. Clouds without rain, love feasts without holiness, humility and sacrifice, these are the bitter end of divorcing love and truth.
Whoa...a little more theological than most posts....so anyway...took a LONG NAP on the boat...can you believe it? My last nap was in Kindergarten on one of those little mats. (not really) but they are few and far between and a sabbatical seemed like a great place for one. After 17 years of Sr. Pastoring it was time for a NAP.
NAPS are for KIDS silly Rabbit...but maybe not.
In my doctoral class with Richard Foster (amazing author and teacher) he said sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is take a NAP. I felt like that and woke up with TRUTH and LOVE filling my spirit. God was very near! So I went water-skiing and heard Him laugh....not at me but with LOVE over me!
Did tons more reading, spent time prepping for the SouthEast Atlantic Leadership Conference next weekend, talked with Lindsey and TJ on SKYPE VIDEO, watched a little "24", had some good talk time with Deb, and spent some time in prayer for the church.
September 11, 2008
After a morning of being in the Word, reading books, blogging, and lots of housecleaning to help Deb…we went to the lake to boat, read, swim, and ski.
At one point in the afternoon the water settled down until it was a flat as glass…a water-skier’s dream. So I jumped out of the boat with my ski, grabbed the rope and handle and positioned myself for a great run. Deb put our powerful tournament ski boat into gear and punched the gas. The rope grew taunt and I was thrilling as the boat pulled me to an upright postion and THEN THE ROPE BROKE. I fell backwards with a splash, the rope whiplashed and hit Deb (she wasn’t hurt) and the power and fun were instantaneously cancelled. Bummer…what could have been a glorious run fizzled into a flop in the water.
Upon examination we discovered two things…there was a knot in the rope and the rope had frayed right at the point of the knot. I had noticed the knot a couple of weeks ago but had rationalized it… “it won’t hurt anything”, “it’s too hard to get out”, “I can just let it go for now”, “I will get to it later”. But the rope began to come apart at the point of the knot and eventually it snapped and my denial, my excuses, my delays were all proved destructive.
As I later reflected on the incident the Holy Spirit quickened to my mind a passage I had read that morning in 1 John 1:10- “If we claim, we have not sinned, we make him out to be liar and his word has no place in our lives”.
Sin creates knots in my life, tangles that need to be straightened out, strongholds of the enemy that need to be fixed instead of ignored. Things seem fine for a while and I begin to think I can live with this…it’s not hurting anything…BUT a break is coming.
“Jesus, tell me the truth about me…identify the knots in my life…deliver me from denial and delay…let your Word have first place in every aspect of my life untangling the knots I tie through my doubt, desires, and disobedience.”
We DID fix the rope and had some delightful runs on a gorgeous late summer day on Lake Okanagan.
Later Pastor Stuart and Teresa came to the house and we served them dessert in honor of Teresa’s graduation from esthetician school that day! Stayed up late eating delicious cobbler and laughing at the misadventures of a wacky esthetician class.
September 10, 2008
1 and 2 Peter are letters from the fisherman who had a propensity for filling his mouth with his foot. But after years of following Jesus and serving the church in Jerusalem, his commendable zeal has been matched with his deep wisdom. The Holy Spirit writes powerfully through Peter of how to grow, how to be effective, and how to get ready for the wrap up of human history.
Most of all Peter tells us who we REALLY are...a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, destined for glory forever.
Also as I read Hebrews I was struck by the term "DAILY".
Jesus taught us to take up our cross "daily".
Jesus taught to to pray for "daily" bread.
In Thessalonians Paul pleads that our "daily" lives would demonstrate Christ so clearly that non-believers would be persuaded.
Hebrews says that our battle is so tough we need to encourage each other "daily".
Then in "The Success Principles" book that I am reading by Jack Canfield he stresses the importance of "daily" habits that end up creating a "life".
After a long mountain hike, Deb and I watched 3 episodes of "24" on dvd in the evening. If you have never seen the show each episode is one hour and the whole season is walking you through 24 consecutive hours of adventure and double crosses.
You could watch "The Road Runner" cartoon and see basically the same show with just a little less sophistication. Jack Bauer is "Wile E. Coyote" in The Road Runner Cartoon. You can drop a boulder on his head or throw him off a cliff and he survives and 30 minutes later is miraculously beating up another bad guy. Jack is the most resilient man I have ever seen.
Then I was reading a really heavy theology book "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann. He writes of how "moderation is a delusion and only extremists are in touch with reality". You would have to read the book to keep you from misunderstanding his meaning in that statement BUT there is a radical call to live TODAY, this 24 Hours with an "extreme" love and faith that disrupts the status quo of injustice!
All this to say, 24 Hours is the division of time that God created us to operate from. With a "death" each night and a "resurrection" each morning.
My prayer is that I can live each "24" with the same passion, focus, and resilency as Jack Bauer.
September 09, 2008
September 08, 2008
Then went to Vernon Alliance Church (VAC) and had a fulfilling time of worship. Pastor Stuart, (the star of the Head Damage Point Blog a few days ago) taught a delightful, unique, and helpful teaching on "The People's Prayer"...the "Lord's Prayer". Through one of his sermon illustrations he taught me a new prayer.
Stuart is the father of 4 boys ages 13 and under. At the dinner table they love to compare muscles between themselves. After a time they ask Stuart..."Show us your muscles, Dad, Show us your muscles!" And when Stuart unveils his "guns" they ooh and awe over the sheer power.
When we pray, "Your kingdom come" we are asking our Father, "Show us your muscles, Father", "Demonstrate your power so that our part of the world starts to look a little more like heaven, so that our lives are impacted by your presence, so the enemy begins to retreat in fear of you!"
Then we spent a delightful afternoon on the lake--swimming and reading and waterskiing.
After driving the 15 miles back up the mountain, we took a long hike to drink from the mountain stream, pick raspberries, pick wildflowers.
It was a day of feasting on God's love through His Word, through Creation, through His Church, through Deb. I saw my Father's Muscles and did eat any cold potatoes.
September 07, 2008
September 06, 2008
September 05, 2008
Read through 2 Corinthians and was struck by the sacrifices Paul made for the gospel. The Holy Spirit was asking me, “what have I sacrificed for the kingdom?”… “in what ways have I suffered to advance the gospel?”
“Suffering” and “sacrifice” are not the “feel good” words that American Christians want to hear. Talk about “abundance”, “blessing”, “power”, “victory”, and everyone cheers and flocks. Talk about “rejection”, “persecution”, “hardship”, “endurance” and people leave. The kingdom involves both!
The most sacrifice\suffering that I can think of in my life has been in my mission work. Sleepless nights, danger, exhaustion, opposition, some hunger, being way out of my comfort zone…still it’s pretty weak suffering. I have given up food during fasting, I have given up sleep to seek you, I have bypassed high-paying positions, but all these are so miniscule that it’s hard to say I have ever suffered.
Lord, I am not looking for “suffering” but I am willing to “suffer”. I want to give so generously and live so radically that it causes me to sacrifice in ways that I “feel it”.
About noon I climbed Attridge to my devotional spot overlooking 100 miles of trees, mountains, lakes and sky. Had a sweet time with Jesus.
Went to the lake and had an awesome time waterskiing and boating with Deb. At the campground we were within 200 feet of a huge black bear that got on his hind legs to view us. We kept our distance lest we enter into unwanted "suffering".
Just after that we saw a red headed woodpecker. The old Indian (native American…no…native Canadian…hmm) at the campground told us that this was a rare sighting and was a sign that we are blessed. We already felt blessed...God has been good.
Came back up the mountain and watched McCain's speech...now there is a man who suffered for his country! Wow! He suffered in unbearable ways but he was thanking God for the blessing of that suffering. Suffering and Blessing...Bears and Woodpeckers come together in the same package.
Shelley and Dwight arrived so we can work on the houses for the next two days.
September 04, 2008
Note: During sabbatical this is a rough journal primarily for my purposes of tracking activities and thoughts...writing is consequentially reflective of this.
September 03, 2008
Got up early to travel to Rome...that is Paul's book to the Romans.
Rich, life-giving, spirit-empowering, direction producing, truth from God.
My sabbatical has been such a delightful opportunity to just spend time soaking deeply in mass quantities of scripture...without any thoughts of "how will I teach this" or "how can I use this to hep others" or "what pressing problem in my life or our church is this giving me insight to"....it's like Holy Bible Hot Tubbing! I feel my heart warming. I feel my spirit loosening up. I feel my mind becoming both emptying and filling up at the same time with a relaxation that goes to core of my being.
Climbed a high ridge called Attridge and spent time in prayer and journaling...it was cool how a large doe (...as in a doe a deer a female deer...for the city folk) was lying down in some blueberry bushes just 30 yards away...she didn't think I saw her so she was just lying there chewing her cud.
Chewing the cud, or ruminating as it is also called, is when a cow or other animal like a deer, eats, swallows, and then recalls their food from their stomache to chew on it some more. Sounds gross...but is it? We only get to taste our food, enjoy our food once...a big bite, a quick few chews, and boom, we are done. Not the deer...it savors a meal more than once!
Meditation in the Bible has the idea of "chewing the cud"...to receive a truth, then recall the truth, then review the truth over and over so to be reshaped by the truth, so to end up rejoicing in the truth even more!
Sabbatical is giving me time for something I stink at when I am at home...meditation!
Spent a lot of time with Deb analyzing our family budget to plan out how we can do more for the kingdom in the coming decade.
Then Deb's computer partially crashed...none of her documents are available and it's wigging out in several other ways. Spent four hours in a technical wrestling match in which I was soundly defeated....so the problem continues.
How can the sweetness of a morning with God turn into an evening of wrestling with a demon possessed computer? At midnight Paul sang in prison...at midnight I screamed at the computer...I guess I need to "chew some more cud"!
September 02, 2008
Spent some time with Paul in his letter to the Romans...was impressively blessed by the sufficiency of grace through faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ! If my sins were held against me oh how hopeless I would be!
But to be justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone means I will NEVER be alone!
Went to the Farmer's Market in Vernon...met Pastor Stuart and Teresa and kids there...wonderful small town atmosphere that made me miss my Kansas small town roots.
Stuart and I drove to the town of Salmon Arm (who knew Salmon have arms?) to view the progress on the fourplex they purchased as an investment. Great deal they got on a sweet place. Am thrilled for them. We solved the problems of our churches and the world on the trip up and back...(now if someone would just ask our opinion :))
Did some reading in the afternoon and hiked to Bugaboos, for one last cinnamon roll on their last day of business until they reopen in December.
Pastor Stuart and his family only live 10 minutes down the mountain from our house. It was Taylor's (child #2 of 5) 12th birthday...so we went down for pizza and the famous (see previous blog) chocolate cake. Sang a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday...the Canadian version (same as the American version but with a few "eh's?" thrown in...."Happy Birthday, eh?"
In our adult conversation, after the kids were securely riveted to the new Star Wars dvd we bought Taylor for his birthday, a simple question, "Do you surf?"...led to the GREAT GOD STORY of "HEAD DAMAGE POINT". Following job and money more than a clear calling of God, Stuart ended up candidating for a church. While there he was invited to surf (for his first time ever) at the lethal "HEAD DAMAGE POINT" in Australia. He jumped off the rocks into the pounding surf and almost lost his life. (Jumping off into our will is often more an exercise in foolishness than in faith).
But the story didn't stop there...it led onwards to a time of seeking God and waiting, and waiting patiently and waiting joyfully...which created the "God call story" of how they got from Australia, to Scotland, to Calgary, then to a town of 600, then to an Edmonton mega-church, then to Vernon Alliance Church -- which at 1400 people is by far the largest church in this town of 60,000 and doing incredible kingdom work.
I thrill to sit and listen to the hand of God upon his servants as he leads them through a combination of "grace" and "faith".
"Grace" being those sovereign God moments where we do nothing but watch God show up in amazing ways.
"Faith" being those moments when we step way out of our comfort zone and say, "God if you don't come through, I'm through...finished" and then He meets us with his grace.
Deb and I have been discussing this MYSTERIOUS MIX of sovereignty and goal setting.
Are we foolish to use some of Sabbatical to plan the rest of our lives when the sovereignty of God can change everything in a moment? Is our planning a self-directed display of human arrogance?
The Lutheran Church I visited Sunday had at the top of it's bulletin this week...THIS WEEK, The LORD WILLING:...they feared to even print their schedule for the coming week lest God have other plans in mind. I appreciated that.
Prov 19:21 Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
Prov 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Prov 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit
SO...It seems to me that "to fail to plan is to plan to fail"...but if we trust our plans instead of God's guidance we can miss His way...so "Lord, help me to prayerfully plan and then be quick to jettision my plans when your sovereignty reveals a different path."
Any other approach may lead me to "HEAD DAMAGE POINT"!
September 01, 2008
Went to the Lutheran church in Vernon, to visit fellow pastor, Roy White. (His son, Brent White, is a leader in our church and just went with me to Ethiopia). Roy did a great job leading a liturgical Lutheran service. Preached a fine message on patience from Romans 12.
The church had about 160 folks there with the majority over 70. Nice people, sincere about their faith.
Then drove to Willow Park Church in Kelowna (about 40 minutes) and caught their 11am service. This is a mega church with 4 locations linked by video messages. It seemed to be patterned like a hybrid of "saddleback and willow creek". After a couple of worship songs, then a professional quality video intro piece, I watched a video for 40 minutes...that was followed by communion and a couple more songs.
The message on "blessed are you when you are persecuted" was well done and sparked some personal questions in my own life. The congregation was average age 40 I would say.
My two different church experiences where quite divergent. I love the variety in the body of Christ. My concern lies with vitality and depth. Will we see mass quantities of churches die as the builder and boomer generations die? What quality and depth of faith will we pass on to the next generation?
In my opinion, I am troubled by video venues. They can be effective and there are arguments that can be made for their use. However, the Word of God is meant to be brought in an "incarnational" manner. That is the divine interaction between the Holy Spirit, the Holy Scripture, and the Holy Servant as the message is delievered to God's Holy People.
The truth was not affected by the video delivery system, but I felt the power of the Word was diminished. The sincerity was there but the personal engagement and sense that God was flowing through his vessel in that moment for the needs of the people of the gathered...that was lacking for me.
Made me think deeply about my presentation of God's Word...how to engage more deeply when 400 folks are looking at me...my plea is that they would not just hear the propositional truth but they would hear the personal truth...the impact of the Holy Spirit for them in that moment. I must deepen my personal incarnational preparation for that to happen.
Came up and took a long hike with Deb in the splendor of the mountains.
Feasted in Romans on a few chapters.
Then went to the IPE...Inner-Provincial Exhibition in Armstrong a huge fair and rodeo in a small town. After seeing all manner of cows, chickens, and swine (including a calf that was only 2 hours old) we settled into the rodeo...some of the best cowboys anywhere competed. We had great seats and I even snagged one of the six tshirts shot out of the clown's tshirt cannon...it was a brilliant catch according to my wife.
Honestly, the Rodeo was more engaging, exciting and personal than either church service...as good as the services were. I believe, our churches would benefit from less predictability and more wild and wooly God-stories of people taking the ride of their life... yes, sometimes getting bucked off and ending in the dirt...but also, sometimes riding the bull until the ringmaster pulls you safely onto their horse. Cowboys don't want the tame rides....the winners want the wildest bull available...deliver me from tame Christianity that is safe, predictable and boring!
Got home and ended a glorious day under a canopy of bright stars (39 degrees out) in a rooftop hot tub (102 degrees).