October 31, 2008

Halloween: Talking Death

Halloween...remembering the dead. While I am aghast that Halloween has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the USA, while I am repulsed by most of the aspects of Halloween, I do think we can hitchhike on Halloween and get some mileage for the Kingdom of God out of it.

For example...D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, once said, "If I can get a person to seriously think about their soon coming death for even ten minutes, they are generally well on their way to embracing the gospel" (a loose quote but the essence is accurate).

Our death is certain and the time is uncertain, therefore, we better make certain that we are certain where we are headed when the curtain closes for us.
Stats in Long Beach, CA are that one out of one people...die!
If we can spring board from "Halloween" to "how are we" with death? it could serve us well...

Well, Deb and I back home after 3 months, after Canada, Florida, Honduras, Grand Cayman, Belize, Mexico, Seattle, Oregon, Maui, and Kauai...wow...and whew...more on that subject later.

Also, a full page ad comes out today in Ministry Today magazine for our book "15 Characteristics of Effective Pastors". It will go to over 330,000 addresses between print and e-version. Praying some pastors and leaders are motivated to read it.

October 13, 2008

2 Drumsticks

Drumsticks, Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Special Salads, Stuffing, Dressing, Homemade (for city folks that means not store-bought, restaurant-bought, not Costco-bought, not bakery bought) Pumpkin Pie! Sounds like Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving in Canada is on the second Monday of October....so our Pastor, Stuart and his wife Teresa, and the 5 kids, had us over for Thanksgiving.

As the Sun set over the mountains in west and the full moon rose over the pine trees in the East...we feasted on the goodness of God, his bountiful supply, the laughter of friendship, the sharpening discussion of ministry and mission, and the beauty of nature.

This of course means I will get 2 Drumsticks....2 times to tell God "thanks" this year! And as you might have imagined, HE DESERVES IT!

While this has been in many ways one of the hardest years of my life (mom with cancer, sister fighting cancer, dad's sudden death, financial loss on a real estate deal, bouts with tremendous back pain) this has also been one of the most glorious.

My cup runs over and splashes on the table and runs down the floor and out the door and down the street...and all the way it sings and shouts - Hallelujah! Hosanna! None Like Jesus! No King Like Mine! Awesome God of Greatness!

As I was reading large quantities of the Word today, I came to one of my favorite verses:
Psalm 62:11,12 - "One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, 12 and that you, O Lord, are loving."

If God is STRONG (powerful enough to overcome anything I face in life or at death) and if God is LOVING (personally committed to expressing his kindness, goodness and care for me) then LIFE IS AWESOME and only going to get better!

What a mighty God we serve! I get Thanksgiving twice this year but really it's a 365 kind of Holiday (Holy Day) for me.

Give me 2 Drumsticks...and I will pound out a percussion of praise to my KING!
(P.S. Interesting side note...Deb fixed the turkey but because we could only find a smaller fresh turkey we bought 2...so there were actually 4 drumsticks...which worked out GREAT because they have 4 boys who each love the drumstick...no fighting over drumsticks! God provides!)

October 09, 2008

The Rich Man and the Church

Yesterday we had a long talk with one of the leading business and civic leaders in the Vernon\Silver Star area. We were talking real estate but of course the subject has a way of getting around to God and church.

Speaking of the church we attend when in Vernon (Vernon Alliance Church) the gentleman said, "Oh I have heard good things about that church...they help people." It was interesting to me that his comment was not, "they have great preaching" or "excellent music" or "a beautiful building". This non church going, wealthy man was impressed with one thing: "They help people!"

I believe the credibilty of our church in the community is directly tied to how much we "help people". The unchurched smell a rat when we talk about our love for the community but the primary thing we spend money on is making the "church club better for the members".

Spent the day running errands, reading, getting the houses ready for the carpet cleaner and buying 110 towels at Costco (for the people who rent our house here at Silver Star).

Had the second church hot spot to deal with since I have been gone. I got a message late last night and then had an anxiety dream about it during the night. So thankful for Pastor Vern and other Staff and leaders who love the church and do a good job of handling these matters.

Leaving for 3 months is a wonderful thing but also a scary thing because the devil is out to attack during my absence...."Lord, I trust you and the leadership at LLCF...turn back every attack of the evil one!" The devil will do anything to keep us from concentrating on "helping people!"

October 07, 2008

God and the Moose

On Monday...Spent the morning washing windows, doing painting prep, and helping Deb.

At 1pm we drove to Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park with our bikes on back. We jumped on our bikes and began a 10 mile ride that was stunning in beauty. Between the brilliant colors of autumn, the turquoise blue of the lake, the crispness of the clear mountain air...it was breathtaking.

About half way through the ride my bike crank broke and I had to walk my bike that last four miles.

After arriving back to the jeep we loaded bikes and headed up the mountain...and coming around a curve we saw a huge, majestic moose! 25 years of driving the road up to the ski area we have never really seen a moose...we had on 3 occasions seen glimpses of what we swore was a moose. But yesterday we saw the elusive moose and pulled over to get a picture...before the moose disappeared into the forest we got two pictures but later discovered the camera had been on macro so we don't really have the proof we need to silence the naysayers who don't believe us.

I don't know what God is like for you, but sometimes God is like that Moose for me...I get glimpses of His presence and I know that I know that He is out there, very near but still invisible. Occasionally I get "full on" sightings of God and I try to capture those moments so I can prove to people His reality...but alas, God refuses to be contained in some tangible box that I would want to trap Him in...so He lives on in my stories of His reality.

I will tell His story and pray that others get their own glimpses of His reality.

October 06, 2008

Church Hopping and SNOW!

Got up to go "church hopping"! Sunday morning and out to learn what it's like to be a visitor in 2 very different kind of churches. One of the great privileges of my sabbatical is the opportunity to visit other churches.

Drove to Kelowna to catch the first hour of church at NEW LIFE, an openly charismatic, loose kind of church about the size of LLCF. I sat on the back row because I knew I had to leave before it would get over...Note to self...pray for people on the back row...how do they "get into sitting all the way back there"? Worship was good...very authentic, quality decent, very "flowy" and definitely not "showy". Big flags of bright colors were waved by both men and women as they slowly danced in worship...children pranced around with their own little flags...people talked to one another...it had an informal but sincere feel to it...some people were way into it....others were praying for each other. It kind of dragged because it took 45 minutes to go through 5 or 6 songs and then communion was served with the same kind of serious but informal feel..."hey come up front and someone will serve you." Couldn't believe all the young families there.

Had to leave before the message but I would definitely go back and meet some of the folks.
It seems from the bulletin that they are trying to do a lot of missional things.

Went to Trinity Baptist a mega-church that follows a "church growth, seeker sensitive model". Had great parking attendants, but I went in the wrong door...once in the door it was easy to find the auditorium (not a sanctuary or worship center). Friendly and helpful usher. Stage lighting was cool. Good worship...led by a 20something guy and mostly young folks on the platform...(to me that's always a good sign). The leader tried to get some energy from the church...they were happy to politely sing but more than that was stretch. Very programmed church but well done.
The special music was excellent. Tim Schroeder, who has led that church for 23 years but recently stepped down to just be the teaching pastor, brought a message on passing on values to our children....well crafted, powerful use of scripture, beyond seeker-directed...did a great job and then just closed with a prayer.

I liked the excellence and the spirit of the leaders of the church...probably a little too corporate feel for me...but great hearts and being effective I'm sure.

Then I was reading about the "organic church" in "The Forgotten Ways" by Alan Hirsch. This is for the most part advocating church on a mission, especially celebrating the "home church model".

When I got back up the mountain to the house...it started to SNOW! Gorgeous fluffy snow...it didn't stick but it snowed for the next 3 hours. Then I went power-walking and had a chance to minister to our next door neighbor who is fighting a debilitating physical neurological condition.
Her young heart (28 year old single gal) was opened up by the interest that Deb and I had shown to her.

Charismatic, Baptist, or home group...the big thing is...Are we helping hurting people with the authentic love of Christ and is His truth being accurately explained to get life to the lost?

These experiences are helping me see our church differently and making me so earnest that we do a great job of helping guests feel loved without feeling smothered.

Teach Me to Preach

On Saturday had a great day studying sermon preparation and delivery with Andy Stanley.
Learned a lot from Andy but was unconvinced to adopt all of his style...especially a "no notes, one point message." Andy acknowledges that each person needs to develop their own style but also aggressively confronts those poor preachers who hide behind the excuse that "that's just not my style". I agree.

My best clues for life transforming messages came from Jesus' style.
Many folks are shocked to find out Jesus never taught verse by verse through the OT. He was saturated in the Old Testament but he launched from what the Father was telling him to communicate in that situation. He used a lot of the Old Testament but it was digested and put in understandable language.

Here are my clues and cues on preaching as I see them in Jesus.
1. Be prayed up.
2. Listen to the Father.
3. Look at the needs of the people.
4. Launch from the foundation of the Word.
5. Tell Stories that relate the truth to people's lives. Paint word pictures.
6. Ask for decision and life change.
7. Balance the grace of God with the fear of God.
8. Be authentic and real.
9. Demonstrate the Word in your own life. Be the message.
10. Speak clearly but leave room for some mystery.
11. Fill your messages with hope.
12. Speak from compassion for the people.
13. Leave the results to God.

Took a long mountain bike ride with Deb...ate the last of the mountain raspberries along the path.
Went church and heard Stuart preach the Word...Psalm 5:1-3 and Romans 8:26,27.
A Message on Prayer called "Words, Sighs, and Cries" Interesting and a helpful and hopeful message. Stuart does a great job with bringing truth and keeping it real and approachable.

Watched a movie with Deb and went to bed.

October 04, 2008

Smelling Jesus

What did it smell like after the Flood? My guess is that it smelled like it does after a strong thunderstorm washes away all the grime in the air and leaves behind the fragrance of fresh....but then multiply that times 100.

As I studied Noah yesterday I was impressed by the newness after the flood...corruption had been washed away...the stench of sin and violence had been banished...hope and life was bursting out all over...with the rainbow arching overhead the fragrance of God was saturating the air.

Later in the day...we had a thunderstorm here and it washed the air clean. The fall colors were dazzling and the aroma of the forest was vibrant and rich. As we took a long walk through the forest we could not breath deeply enough. I am not sure of course but I think it smelled like Jesus.

In the evening we went with our Pastor (Stuart and Teresa) to a Steve Bell Worship\Concert. What a treat of the Holy Spirit...an amazing time of sitting in the presence of Jesus...as I sat there I thought...it smells like Jesus in here...

You know how people have a certain "fragrance" to them? I think Jesus smells like a forest after a thunderstorm. It's a powerful but tender smell, a fresh and hope-filled aroma, a rich, embracing, majestic, personal, and deeply satisfying fragrance.

I want to inhale HIS fragrance deeply so that it pours out of my pores and people smell Jesus through me!

October 03, 2008

Dancing Naked!

Naked...that picture is one that is scary or seductive or ugly or artistic.

Today Deb and I cleaned windows for much of the day...but then I spent time studying how to preach more effectively and also time in Word including Genesis 1-5.

I was riveted by the phrase that before the Fall, Adam and Eve were "naked and unashamed". But immediately after they choose sin, their eyes are opened and they realize they are naked and they proceed to design a suit of fig leaves to cover themselves.

We are certainly not dealing with pornography here, nor are we dealing with ugliness...but we are dealing with fear and insecurity and inferiority and transperancy and self-consciousness and comparison and the limiting power of a broken self-image.

The "imago dei", the image of God, that they had been created in, had been their conscious reality up to this point. They lived in the glorious liberty of TRUSTING only God's opinion, His communication is the ONLY thing that defined their self-image. They danced naked in the garden in a joyful whirl of freedom.

But once sin stained their self-image they began to hide themselves, cover themselves, stumble in their relationship with each other and with God.

Washing windows made me think of nakedness and openness. We live with shutters on our lives.

Some people have the shutters tightly shut, others have them slightly open, a few have them half open, only a handful of people have ripped down the shutters opening themselves fully to God and to others. I want to live with the shutters torn down...not in a "screw your opinion of me" but in the security of... "the only opinion that really counts is God's and He loves me so fully that I can dance naked in the beauty of who God made me".

What a freedom to live without having to impress people and live responsive only to God's direction...I am not there yet...but it's the direction of my journey.

In the evening we had a great time with our pastor and his wife and kids eating bbq'd shrimp, pasta and apple crate pie!

October 02, 2008

The Wisdom of Discipline

After spending the morning unpacking and getting the house organized again, I climbed to the summit and spent much of the afternoon with the Lord.

Journaling, praying, reading the Word, meditating, dreaming, all from one of my favorite spots in the world. Overlooking a hundred miles of mountains, trees, valleys, and lakes.

Psalm 1 described my desire to be a "tree planted by the river producing fruit"...that is the craving and cry of my heart for my life. Proverbs 1 links wisdom together with discipline. Where there is true wisdom, you will find a person of discipline. A disciplined lifestyle is what lead to real prosperity in all arenas of life. It is the merging of intellectual\spiritual truth (knowledge) and personal application to life (discipline) that results in true wisdom and the resulting prosperity. This combination is what keeps the tree planted by the river so that it drinks in the sun and the water and bears abundant fruit.

I must say that I was sickened by the destruction in lives that I observed during our cruise. A lack of discipline showed up as foolishness. Manifestations: obese people with their plate stacked with ten different desserts, gamblers in the casinos sitting for hours pulling the lever of losers, partiers staggering and sick from too much alcohol, people buying so much stuff they didn't need that they had to ship it home via FedEX from the ports of call.

So Lord, I pray...give me a life of discipline...I like the saying, Be tough on yourself or life will be tough on you. I am not talking about a grit your teeth, self-flaggelating, form of life. But the kind of discipline where you do what you really want to do, not what some temporary, deceptive emotion of the flesh calls you towards. Where you trade the happiness of an impulse purchase for the joy of money saved. Where you trade the pleasure of an extra 500 calories for the joy of a few special bites and pants that fit. Where you trade the comfort of laziness for the joy of accomplishment after having walked for 30 minutes.

So God grant me the life of wisdom and discipline.

October 01, 2008

Exhausting and Exhaling

There is an old gospel song that Andre Crouch made famous...It goes like this:

How can I say thanks for all the things you have done for me,

Things so undeserved, yet you give to prove your love for me.

The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude

All that I am or ever hope to be, I ow it all to thee!

To God be the Glory, for the things He has done!

The song expresses my sentiment.

God moved in a powerful way during my ministry time in Florida with pastors and leaders.

3 days of engagement by the truth and love and power of the Holy Spirit among us.

The messages were translated into 4 different languages and yet there was a supernatural unity among us. It was a battle and I had little sleep but we experienced breakthrough.

By Sunday afternoon, I was elated and exhausted.

Pastor Rex Bullock was a generous and gracious host.

Deb had flown in on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon we boarded the Carnival Legend Cruise ship to sail to the Western Caribbean.

We had 4 ports of call, Grand Cayman, Honduras, Belize, and Cozumel.

Incredible swimming, snorkeling, exploring, and culture tasting.

The boat was amazing. Our room had a balcony and was just super.

It was the most relaxed I have ever seen Deb. We both felt like we were deeply EXHALING.

We will never forget this celebration of our 30th Wedding Anniversary.

We flew home and we sat between two HUGE Seattle Seahawk Pro Football Players.

Had a fun time with them.

Back in Seattle we helped MOM move into her new home and then drove back to Silver Star Canada to our house. It's a beautiful, warm early fall day here.