Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why You Need A Vision For Your Life

Here are reasons I encouraged the young adults at ReGeneration to work on a vision for their lives. Instead of wandering aimlessly or hoping for the best, you need to figure out why you are on the planet and get a vision for your life...
  • So you don’t waste your life.
  • So you lead a life worthy of the gospel.
  • So you can say NO to lesser things.
  • So you can bring the right people alongside you.
  • So you can do what only you can do.
  • So you know where to invest your time.
  • So you’ll know how to align your resources.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Some of What I Need From Jesus

"May thy dear son preserve me from this present evil world, so that its smiles never allure, nor its frowns terrify, it's vices defile, nor its errors delude me." -- Valley of Vision

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How to Know You Believe in a Different Jesus

In reading John 2:1-11, when Jesus does his first miracle, turning water into wine, I was struck that this is not the Jesus that I grew up believing in. He actually brought wine to a party. He did a miracle without any apparent means whatsoever -- no magic words, no secret ingredients -- it just happened. Then, I thought, a lot of people probably have misconceptions about Jesus. So I created this list of ten ways to know if you believe in the wrong Jesus (from John 2 only...there are lots of other ways to mistake Jesus). So here it is.

You probably have the wrong Jesus if...
  1. He only operates by natural principles.
  2. He wants you to take yourself extremely seriously.
  3. He is more interested in religion than relationship.
  4. He is always begging; he never has quite enough, but barely squeaks by.
  5. He never asks anything unusual of his servants.
  6. He only does things that make immediate sense.
  7. He is more interested in a good church service than he is a good party.
  8. He gives anyone an inside track with different rules.
  9. He needs to put on a show of power so everyone will notice and believe.
  10. He makes people serious, but not happy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Psalm 42 Illustrated

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me-- a prayer to the God of my life.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Why I Got Off Facebook and Why I Got Back On!

I've been asked a number of times why I deactivated my Facebook account. I thought it would be worth talking what I'm back on.

Let me say it this way -- I used to have the body of a god...Buddha! I looked that way for a reason. I didn't eat junk food. I didn't have a terrible diet. I just had too large a diet. I had too much input. I grazed constantly, especially during candy corn season.

The same thing happened to me on Facebook. I didn't have a terrible diet, I have mostly healthy digital and face-to-face relationships with people. I just had too much of the digital input. I loved keeping up with old friends and people from church and friends from sports and before I knew it I was checking my news feed all the time. My wife wanted me to exchange Facebook for "face time" with her. And she was right.

So I took a couple weeks off and a funny thing happened. I didn't miss it. I missed some things it enabled me to do, but I rather enjoyed quiet nights at home with her. I did not miss getting "tagged", "poked" or any number of other virtual notifications that interrupt life.

Why, then, did I come back? A few things enticed me back...
  • Facebook really can amplify face-to-face relationships. It helps me as a friend and as a pastor to have occasional glimpses into the lives of my friends. Those glimpses may not be as frequent now, but they will still be helpful. I receive a lot of real life relationship tips from my family, too, that start something like this, "did you see on Facebook?"
  • I do aspire to be someone who has a positive outlook on life. Facebook gives me a ready-made megaphone for messages of hope and good news that I don't have outside of Facebook.
  • I don't know how much people from New Life Church are on Facebook, but it is a very helpful tool to communicate with the church. I'm sure more people see the church items in their news feed than migrate to the church's blog or website.
Here then, is my Facebook plan to keep from having too much digital and not enough "real" relationships:
  • Dump Foursquare. I'm sort of an idiot this way. I quit Facebook and began "checking-in" everywhere I went. The small reward points mean nothing, but they get my eye off the ball.
  • Blog 2x/week. I haven't written anything longer than a 140-character tweet in months. My goal is to write something here or on the church blog at least twice a week.
  • Check Facebook 2x/day on computer. I know some of you only check once every few months. I left it on all the time in the background at work and home. It was far to easy to take a quick look so I didn't miss anything...and I spent way too much time on it.
  • Don’t leave Facebook on. This is the corollary to the previous item.
  • Post statuses without checking newsfeed. I can change my status without reading everyone else's. I can write when I can write and read when I can read and not let the reading interfere with other things.
  • Don’t go looking for friends. I have made some fun discoveries of old friends in the "people you may know" sidebar. But, that is probably enough. I don't need to click "see all" to look beyond that.
  • Never be online for instant messages. I already stayed "offline", but now that Facebook is adding video chatting, I'll be happy to not participate.
  • Try to be someone people are glad to hear from on Facebook. If anyone has tips on being this kind of person, I'd love to hear them.
I'd love for help with this. If any of you would like to ask me how I'm doing working this plan.

The bottom line is this: I may not be quite so on top of Facebook, but I hope to be on top of my offline life. And, I'm trying to make them play nicely together so they're better together than apart. We'll see.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Happy 400th Birthday, King James Version

This is an article I wrote for the Oregonian a few years back (12/6/2008; it is no longer in their archives) when a local school board was considering pulling the Bible from their literature curriculum. The called it "Thou Shalt Not Overlook Bible For English Lessons." Enjoy!

Apparently, some people are at their wit’s end and are willing to fight the good fight over the use of the Bible in schools. I think we should beat our swords into ploughshares and realize that blessed are the peacemakers. I, for one, will not cast the first stone.

Children may be the apple of your eye, but you need to know that to everything there is a season. The writing is on the wall, so there is no need for sour grapes. O ye of little faith, the powers that be have decided to be Good Samaritans and for the sake of children’s education have said, “Let there be light.” Hopefully before the children give up the ghost or bite the dust, they will graduate from school, even if by the skin of their teeth, before they are as old as the hills. Then before they eat, drink and be merry while in college, they will understand these and other sayings that come from the Bible into the English language – there are as many as the sand of the seashore. The goal of the Bible as literature is to have young people appreciate the English language, not to make proselytes. That way, as educated young men and women, they can become all things to all men. I will forgive the critics for they know not what they do.

Since it is the holiday season, it would be good not to let the sun go down on your wrath, to remember that the love of money is the root of all evil because we really do reap what we sow. And if you refuse, well, am I my brother’s keeper?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

50 thoughts on turning 50

Up until the last few days I never imagined living to 50! But, it appears I'll make it. And, it is appropriate to stop and reflect for a few moments. In the five decades I've picked up a thing or two that have shaped the way I view life. I thought I'd pass them on here, hoping that it they will help someone be a little smarter than I have been. Here goes, in no particular order:
  1. Give up trying to be perfect.
  2. Everyone is broken and bruised, handle with care.
  3. Every sorrow is mingled with joy and every joy tainted with pain.
  4. Marry over your head!
  5. Read 1 chapter of Proverbs per day every month...for ten years!
  6. If this life is all there is, it's not worth it.
  7. Find a few things you are good at and make a difference there.
  8. You are an original, don't be a copy.
  9. Avoid debt on any depreciating asset like you would avoid drowning!
  10. Cash is king. Keep a reserve.
  11. Life makes more sense when it is about God, not about you.
  12. Don't take yourself so seriously.
  13. Yes, your parents screwed you up -- get over it. (Don't merely toughen up, learn from it so you don't do it to your kids).
  14. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.
  15. The person who doesn't read has no advantage over the person who can't.
  16. You will reap what you sow.
  17. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).
  18. Take responsibility.
  19. Live in Quadrant II -- the important, but not urgent.
  20. Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.
  21. Begin with the end in mind.
  22. Take time each week to review your plan and plan your week.
  23. Don't make it harder than it needs to be.
  24. Most things I've worried about never happened.
  25. You will regret not trying more than you will failing.
  26. Separate your hazards.
  27. Money is a great slave, but a horrible master.
  28. You will understand yourself and your life better when you experience another language and culture.
  29. Guard your heart for out of it are the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23).
  30. Insanity = doing what you've always done and expecting a different result.
  31. Mosquitoes can ruin a big game safari.
  32. If you are not the lead dog, the scenery never changes.
  33. The two most important days of your life: The day you were born and the day you figure out why you were born.
  34. Only do what only you can do. -- Scott Haugen.
  35. Things happen for a reason. If the reasons don't change, neither do the things. -- Pat Clifford.
  36. never trust a man who doesn't walk with a limp.
  37. Christianity, if false is of no importance; if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. -- C.S. Lewis.
  38. The way around is usually through.
  39. The quality of your life is largely determined by the quality of the people around you.
  40. Leadership is a choice. It is a choice not to do nothing!
  41. What does this have to do with the overwhelming supremacy of Christ?
  42. The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object off its love. -- Henry Scougal
  43. Take the long view. We overestimate what we can do in three months and underestimate what can be done in three years.
  44. GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.
  45. Turn off your TV.
  46. God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him. -- John Piper.
  47. You've got to do your own growing, it doesn't matter how tall your grandfather was.
  48. He doesn't waste our time.
  49. 20% of your effort produces 80% of your results. -- Paretto Principle
  50. The six most important words: "Well done, Good and Faithful Servant!"

Monday, April 04, 2011

A Jealous God?

I recently received the question, “If God is love and love is not jealous. How can God be jealous?”

The person who asked me correctly identified the problem:

God is love -- Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8 NIV)
Love is not jealous -- Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, (1 Cor 13:4 NAU)
God is jealous -- You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, (Exodus 20:5 NIV)

While this appears on the face of it to be a contradiction, I think it is fairly easily resolved if we clarify two things. First, what do we mean by “jealousy”? Most of the time we associate the word with a negative emotion that is something like envy or selfishness. And, I think that is how the word is used in 1 Corinthians 13:4. Love isn’t that way. Yet, there is a sense in which jealousy also indicates an appropriate feeling/action that protects the object of love from other rivals. In fact, in that case it would be unloving not to be jealous. For instance, if Marcia started going out dancing with some young handsome cowboy, it would be wrong of me, in fact unloving, not to be concerned or jealous for the special relationship we are supposed to enjoy. So, jealousy would be right, not wrong.

In addition, it also helps to clarify the differences between God and us. When I am jealous I can have mixed motives. Some of my motives are selfish and small, controlling or envious. If someone started talking about another preacher and I got jealous, it would be out of my insecurity not out of my interest in the good of that person. It might be great for them to listen to that preacher. God’s motives are never mixed. The best thing that can happen to those that God loves is for them to love him completely in return. He loves us enough to insist on our best! No other god is as good for us as our God, so for Him to be jealous is a completely loving thing that seeks our best.

While it appears to be a contradiction, it seems that way because we are thinking of the same word in a couple different respects. It applies differently to sinful and selfish people than it does to a perfect and loving God. Great question.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Marcia and I went to see The Adjustment Bureau last week. I enjoyed it very much. One review I'd read before I went suggested that I'd have things to think about beyond the movie.

The chief idea of the movie revolves around the conflict between "Fate" and "Free Will". While I believe neither in Fate or Free will, I enjoyed this movie. Fate was treated as a blind script with no purpose or destination, merely an impersonal plan for the universe and your part in it. Free Will was treated as an individual's desire to deviate from the plan. Neither of those correspond to the reality as I understand it from Bible.


The movie's conflict developed when the central character did not spill coffee on himself by 7:05 like he was supposed to. Think about that, how many things in life change because of something so insignificant as spilling your coffee. What you may deem as insignificant, alters the course of the rest of your life?

A Limited God

One of the agents informs David Norris that they don't adjust the small things, only the big ones...because they do not have enough "manpower". It is impossible to conceive of a God who has the manpower to make a plan happen as he wishes.

In addition "The Chairman," the one who calls the shots, depends on agents who do not have the whole plan. They have only the piece they are told. So, they act without the knowledge of the outcomes of their adjustments. Their lack of knowledge has potentially tragic results.

And, The Chairman continues to revise the plan as he loses control of it! As the fallible agents fail to control the free will of the people a future unfolds that is not what The Chairman had in mind. This makes for a fun movie, but a highly unpleasant reality.

Goodness & Sovereignty

I have not adequately considered the importance of both goodness and sovereignty. Free will turned out just as I expected in this movie. Not only did it result in a proud defiance of the chairman, it led to an immoral sexual relationship. That's why I do not believe the will is free. It is bound to sin (Romans 3:23).

The ability to run the world demands moral perfection and goodness. In the movie, one agent lies. The chairman does not appear to have a problem with that...if it keeps people on plan. The plan itself had no inherent goodness, it appeared to be one among many ways to run the world.

A plan without a good destination is an inadequate plan. If it is not good, run by a good God toward a good end, then it is hopeless determinism and should be resisted.

Individual vs. Societal Planning

The good of the individual and the good of society were at odds in the movie. If David Norris had what would give him greatest happiness he would no longer serve the purpose he was to fulfill in society. It appears unkind for The Chairman to favor the societal good over the individual good. Surely, if The Chairman were good both the big plan and the little plan would work for a common good.

My conclusion:

This is what I've come to after thinking about this movie: We have no idea how God does it!

If God is sovereign and good and works everything according to his purpose (Job 42:2), he does it in mysterious ways. How does He use the good choices of some people and the evil of others to work the good for the individual and for society in a way that ends up where he designs...I have no idea. But I'm glad He does.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Her Name Was Dorothy

Jim Tressel in his book The Winners Manual (p.181) tells this story:
During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely, this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired, and in her fifties, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say, 'Hello.'"

I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.