Category Archives: Church

Resting in Love

It’s 6:30am, and I’m sitting at the ktichen table watching the sun rise over the distant tree-line.  One would think this is a perfect way to spend an early morning, except I’m not enjoying it all that much.  We have a 5 month old baby who is learning his way in the art of sleep and the last two weeks have been brutal!  Really, it’s been since before he was born that I had a night of uninteruppted sleep and it’s starting to catch up to me.  So…I wish I was in bed and not looking at a sunrise.

Now that I’m done complaining about me…there is one thing that I’m very excited about in life.  The journey of learning to sabbath.  I know…not very exciting, is it. 

Througout the grand-narrative of scripture, we see God’s plan and desire for restoration.  In both big and small ways, the Bible clearly paints a picture of people being spiritually restored back to a place where God’s presence becomes central to their existence .  Hearts, minds, bodies…being restored.

One of the plans God has restoration is through the discipline of rest, or Sabbath. The Sabbath as Jesus reminded the religious people of his day was made for us, not us for the Sabbath.  It was Jesus’ way of saying that God designed us to be people who work, but that all of our work and accomplishments will never make God love us more. 

God loves us not for what we do, but for who we are!

I’m at a time in my life where being a husband, a father of three young children, and a pastor to a church is both incredibly rewarding and stressful.  To be those three things in healthy, God-honoring ways is not easy!  I would love more sleep, but what I really need is rest.  I look forward to a week’s vacation next month, but for my heart and mind to be restored back to a place where God is central to my existence…I need a day each week where I learn to rest in God’s love. 

Yesterday happened to be a day of rest for me.  Spending the day outside (ferry ride, picnic, and park) with my family.  Work was far from my mind…I chose to see parenting as a blessing and not something to survive…I put away my lists of things I’m working on or thinking through…prayed and reflected on God’s unconditional love as much as I could.  This was Sabbath, and while I wish I were in bed right now catching up on months of lost sleep…I feel ready for a long week of work. 

A day of rest is something I need to practice.  I need to model it for my family.  I need to remember that God desires to use me and speak to me even when I’m NOT busy with work.  Sabbath is about knowing my place…to be restored back to my place of knowing God and His love…to remember that my work as a pastor could never define my existence in this world the way unconditional love desires to.  It’s a tough journey for me…

Love and Peace.

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“Hey God, is this stuff going to be on the final exam?”

Not long ago, I spoke to somoeone who is just setting out on her journey as a Christ-follower.  We talked for about an hour, and it was so refreshing to hear someone living in the excitement, joy and redemption of discovering the grace and truth of Christ!  One of the things that she said to me came at no surprise really, but it was still discouraging.  She told me that in her brief experience of attendaing church she couldn’t help but notice that often what she hears there doesn’t match up with the teachings of Jesus.  She asked if I thought that the words of Jesus were too difficult to teach to today’s audience.  That my friends, is great insight from someone many would ignore as too young in her faith to understand!

Redwood Hills Church is taking a few weeks to explore some of those “Difficult Words of Jesus”, and it’s been a great teaching series thus far as we’re attempting to explain context and then explore it’s challenges and relevance for us today.  It’s not the typical Easter series…but I think that’s ok.

Being the lead pastor of this amazing community of people means a lot of time invested into study and preparedness for teaching.  While I love to teach, I’m just not one of those pastors who needs to be the single voice for Redwood Hills.  I know that the vision needs to come from me and I probably teach majority of the time, but I believe strongly in forming and growing a community of disciples and not an organization built on my personality.  I’m the lead pastor, but it’s not my church!

We are so blessed to have a talented, experienced and engaging teaching team!  While we’re still praying and seeking for a woman to join the teaching team, the blend of style and experience is making for a uniquely effective team. 

Last Sunday one of our teachers, Jack Wisemore who is a theologian and professor at Northwest University began to share in his talk about how as a professor one of the most disrupting things that happens in his class is when he’s in the middle of a good lecture and a student raises their hand to ask…”is this stuff going to be on the final?”.  As a teacher Jack says there are times when a student misses the whole point of the instruction.  Instead of ingesting knowledge and context of Scripture…they sometimes only want what they will be tested on.  For these students, it’s about the grade…not the understanding and application of the Bible.

For the past week I’ve been pondering Jack’s illustration and realize how often I have read the scriptures, listened to sermons and prayed only because I was more concerned about my final exam…the judgment.  For many years my faith was much more about getting to Heaven and not really about hearing God’s voice…becoming a follower of  His son, Jesus…and learing to do the things that are evident of a love for God. 

It comes back to what my new friend said when she quickly noticed that what she hears by people and pastors in church doesn’t always match with what she reads in the Gospels.  It happened 2000 years ago when people understood religion better than relationship.  It happens still today as we sometimes care only for knowing and doing just enough to get to Heaven…missing much of the point and depth of God’s story meant to be lived in revolutionary ways.

May we seek to be engaged in the wild and beautiful things God is saying and doing in our world and surrender oursleves to them.  We’ll often find it difficult…but then again, Jesus never said picking up a cross and following Him would be.

Love and Peace.

A different kind of spring break

Today I came across this pretty cool article in the Seattle Times which tells the story of 18 college students from Seattle Pacific University who decided to spend spring break on the streets.  As in being homeless…

You can read the article here

After reading the article, it raised both thoughts and questions.  My first thought was that I continually believe that SPU is one of, if not the leading University in the northwest in terms of educating and training missional Christians.  Their Urban Plunge program has provided some incredible experiences for college students as they come seeking to learn how to contextualize their knowledge of the scriptures.  The second thought I had was that I believe the problem with homelessness is so complex, so political, so spiritual that we have yet to scrape the surface on addressing the core issues, let alone solving the problem. 

The questions that I now ponder after reading the story (and others like it) are that, is this sort thing becoming so popular on our college campuses that it’s now seen as the “cool” thing and not really about entering an experience that may hopefully lead to understanding and answers?  The other thing that I wonder is whether or not this is seen as helpful by the actual homeless of Seattle.  I understand doing things in the name of solidarity, but sometimes our good intentions become damaging.

However you interpret the story, I believe it’s something that will get people to think about the plight of the homeless around us.  My friend, Jeff Greer (check out his blog here) has been instrumental in helping shape the current Nickelsville Community here in Seattle, and he along with several others are leading the charge for churches to begin to recognize their role in both serving and existing among our homeless.  

For me, I’m both impressed and hopeful for these SPU students.  I’m impressed with their thoughtfulness and willingness to sacrifice a week of their lives for the sake of the poor, when so many (like I did in college) use it as a chance to sleep, play video games, and party with high school friends.  I’m equally hopeful that these future missional leaders will continue to explore ways to challenge the church to act and make a real difference within  their cities and communities. 

Love and Peace.

Changed

I came across this amazing and beautiful song  by Aaron Neiquist today.  I’ve spent some time praying as I listen to the words.  Very fitting for this Easter season.  Enjoy.

Love and Peace.

what kills more than war?

What’s one of the biggest killers in the world today?  Not war…not HIV…not abortion.  The lack of clean water.  That’s right, the stuff that came out of my shower head this morning to which I gave very little thought.  There are parts in the world where people are sick and dying at growing rates because they just don’t have enough access to clean water.  But people and organizations like Charity : Water are doing much to bring hope and change.

Today is World Water Day. 

I encourage you to take 3 minutes to watch this thought-provoking video from the people of Charity : Water and then pray about doing something to help.  It doesn’t have to be big to start…maybe it’s just praying for a compassionate heart…maybe it means altering the use of your surplus of cleqan water…maybe you’ll find yourself on a plane one day to Central Africa building wells. 

Love and Peace.

St. Patrick’s Day…Loving Celtic Barbarians!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!  May you each enjoy a nice warm pint of Guinness and plate of Bangers and Mash, or if that’s not to your liking there is always the new green Jello pudding cups.  I know this because today was my son’s snack day at pre-school.  Green pudding and green grapes…umm.

I love this day.  Not so much in the American way where many will wear green or drink too much at the local Irish pub.  I love this day because of who St. Patrick was and how his approach to bringing the Gospel to Ireland changed my view of mission and the church. 

Several years ago, as I was caught in a mess of philosophical and theological change, a friend gave me a book called “The Celtic Way of Evangelism” by George Hunter III.  It’s a little book which tells the amazing story of how Patrick went against the Catholic church’s belief that Ireland was nothing more than barbaric people who could never comprehend nor adhere to the Gospel. 

Despite what the big church believed, Patrick went anyways and moved to Ireland to live with the Celts.  His mission was deemed impossible for these overly-emotional,barbaric Irish people would never understand the message of Christ.  They were wrong…

The mission of Patrick was to know the people.  To live with them and learn their customs and ways for living.  He believed that if they had a sense that Patrick understood them, they would open their hearts to the Gospel message.  And that is exactly what began to happen over time.  I love this paragraph from the book, and as a pastor who believes in a missional approach to the Great Commission (In fact, I believe this is what Jesus had in mind too)…it continually serves as a great challenge to be authentic in every way as I try and minister to my community.

“Indeed, the fact that Patrick understood the people and their language, their issues, and their ways, serves as the most strategically significant single insight that was to drive the wider expansion of Celtic Christianity , and stands as perhaps our greatest single learning from this movement.  There is no shortcut to understanding the people!

When you understand the people, you will often know what to say and do, and how.  When the people know that the Christians understand them, they infer that maybe the High God understands them too.”

St. Patrick is often mis-understood and celebrated out of context.  But today is still a great day to gather with friends, raise a glass and just be together.  Maybe it’s a great time for reflection too.  To ponder our Christian existence within our communities.  Are people drawn to the love and grace of God, or repelled from it? 

Love and Peace.

Is technology in church hurting our abilities to “listen and understand”?

The church I am blessed to pastor is not unlike most churches who are formed mainly of young people (by young I mean 35 and under), in that technology plays a huge role in how we both “do church services” and why we “go to church”.

There’s no doubt that technology is a needed thing in today’s churches, but it may be going a little too far by hindering people’s ability to develop the discipline of hearing the Scriptures and understanding them.

On Sunday I was watching one of the local Sunday news broadcasts as they ran a story on Mars Hill Church and their desire for people to tweet (messages you send using Twitter) during the worship gathering.  Before I go any further, I should say that this post is not in any way meant to be negative toward Mars Hill or its pastor, Marc Driscoll.  It’s no secret that I differ greatly with some of his theology, his view of women in church leadership, and the way they go about building the empire of MHC.  I believe Driscoll loves Jesus and that God is using their church to reach people all over the world.  He’s obviously a crazy-gifted leader and teacher!  I just don’t understand some of their motives…

In the news story, they showed the Mars Hill Crowd and the huge number of people “tweeting” on their phones while Driscoll preached.  The pastor they interviewed said they encourage this as a way for people to communicate  to their friends about what was happening in the service.  Frankly, that makes zero sense to me!

Some of Jesus’ most unrecognized words are…”those who have ears should listen and understand”.  He continually challenged those around him to both listen and understand his stories and teachings.  It was his way of challenging people to wrestle with what he was saying and to allow their new understanding to lead to knowledge (see Matthew 13:12)

Now if those people who had no TV, Radio, Iphones, and everything else that vies for our attention today were struggling to listen, how much harder must it be for us to listen to the scriptures so that we might understand them?  I’m not saying we should not use technology in the service.  In our church there are several people who read the scriptures on their phones, or who may not even have a Bible at all and need to see the words displayed on our projections screens.  Technology is a must in today’s church!

Technology has it’s place.  But at what cost?  Are we hurting ourselves by promoting Twitter?  How many of these people are really grasping the scriptures as Driscoll preaches?  And the biggest question is, how is the technology we use helping lead people to knowledge?

This morning I read this blog by Bob Hyatt, pastor of Evergreen Community in Portland.  He shares some thoughts and concerns regrading the trend of Video Venues in church.  He has some great thoughts on why preaching is important to the work of a pastor and why listening to a pastor’s teaching has spiritual importance as well. 

You can read the entire post here.  Or, I’ve pasted a couple statements from it…

This is the rule: Technology, taken too far, creates the opposite of what it was intended to create. 

So, what about technology in preaching? 

First came architectural improvements to increase the range of a speaker’s voice. Then microphones to throw the voice even further. Then radio, television, tape and CD ministries, podcasts, vodcasts… and the seed of the video venue, the “overflow room.”  All with the goal of taking the gift of preaching and extending its reach and impact. 

So far, so good, right?

But now, we have all this technology. We’re not only recording the sermon, we’re video taping it and we have discovered we can send that video, not just to the next room, but to a building across the campus, across town, across the state, around the world…

Now, the preaching gift of one person has the ability not simply to reach the back row, but the next town, state, continent. And we’re not just talking about Spurgeon publishing his sermons or Schuller putting his on TV or Driscoll putting his on iTunes… 

NOW we’re talking about not just influencing local preachers by making the “best” communicators’ sermons available… we’re talking about replacing those local teaching elders. 

 

This is a needed conversation in the context of preaching in today’s culture.  I’m not sure what the answer is right now, but there certainly have been some concerns in my mind and heart about the over-use of technology in today’s church. 

Thoughts?

Love and Peace.