Bigger Isn't Always Better

I should learn to do as I am told and to not try to think for myself.  This is true when it comes to buying computers, at least.  One of our elders did the research, suggested a machine and said, “check it out.”  I did, but liked the one in the picture next to it because for $5 more it had more RAM.  Well, his suggestion would have been the better because the hardware upgrade we need won’t fit in the cute computer I bought, so now I have to send it back, wasting another two weeks, as well as, a whole day of trying to set up the one I bought.

   God made us to be free thinkers, but when it comes to His directions, it is better to do as we are told and trust Him.  I should have trusted Mart and got the computer he pointed out.  Instead, I trusted my own “wisdom” and got something that is not going to work as planned.

   There is no better tech support than the Holy Spirit and no better manual than the Bible.  There are simple precepts outlined that do not require our free thinking to try to upgrade or improve upon.  What God did give us is the freedom to make the choice to trust Him, or to try to figure things out on our own.

   The book of Proverbs states the case well; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.  Proverbs 3:5-6

   I am sorry Mart.  Thank you for your patience.  I am sorry Lord, thank You for your patience as well.  Thank You Lord, that we can trust implicitly everything You have said. 

We simply need to trust and obey.

How Bad is Bad

How bad is bad?  Look at the world today, it is bad.  Has it ever been this bad before?  Ask Noah.  There is no point in exaggerating the the point, nor minimizing it either.  The truth is, the world is a bad place, generally speaking.  However,   there are redemptive things going on all the time, which make it somewhat tolerable for most. 

   How tolerable is it for those who claim Jesus Christ to be their Lord?  Are we like the nephew of Abraham who, though he lived in Sodom, was vexed regarding the way people were in the city.  Yet, it seems that little by little, he was able to cozy up to the place and tolerate its evils, though he had vexations all the while.  Like the proverbial frog in the kettle, small changes and compromise here and there make it easier to be boiled alive and not even know it until it’s too late.

   Maintaining a good testimony is important, but something greater is at stake, maintaining a pure heart.  Getting a pure heart is impossible, save by the grace of God in the new birth.  Until we enter into the New Covenant in Christ, there is no hope of heaven, let alone a new heart.  But once grace is understood and faith is placed upon God and the Spirit has taken up residence, then a pure heart is achievable. 

   What exactly is a pure heart?  It is far more than simple disgust at other people’s behaviors.  It means something very simple, it means single.  Single in it’s ultimate affections.  Fixated on one thing, not multiple things, not even two things.  One thing, or more accurately, One Person.  Purity in heart means this: GOD ALONE

The Issues of Church Safety

 Last week we hosted the Pistol in The Pulpit seminar with Tim Rupp, pastor from River of Life Alliance Church in Idaho Falls.  We had a good turnout from Heritage and had several representatives from other local churches, as well as, three representatives from the Twin Falls County Sherriff’s office.  Tim also spoke in our Sunday morning service on the subject of self-defense from a Biblical perspective.

   There are several things we want our congregation to know with regard to our plans for implementing a comprehensive safety program.  First, we are wanting to be prepared not paranoid.  The odds against ever having some kind of active shooter scenario is extremely slim, but as we know, not impossible.  Preparation and planning are simply measures to help us improve safety for everyone who attends our church.  I believe that it is the responsibility of the shepherds of this flock to exercise due diligence to protect the flock, physically, morally, doctrinally and emotionally. 

   We already practice fire drills and we have a policy for screening children’s workers.  We are simply desiring to have a more comprehensive plan which includes safety protocols for the unthinkable, as well as, fire emergencies or medical emergencies.  Our goal is to preserve life and proclaim life eternal through the gospel.

   We will by studying procedures and training to do the best we can in an ever changing society.  As Americans, we simply didn’t have to think about things like this until recent history.  Let us never forget our brothers and sisters in Christ that have lived under the threat of death or imprisonment for decades and as we remember, let us be thankful, as well as, vigilant.

   And remember, The Lord is our Protector in all circumstances. 

Thanks be to Him!!!

Olympics and Technology

  I am going to admit that I am an Olympic Games junky.  I watch things that I would not watch normally.  Things like luge, skeleton and bobsled racing.  Biathlon and slope style, mogul racing and even figure skating.  I will admit I prefer watching hockey over curling, but hey, go USA!

   During the opening ceremonies, the Korean’s made tribute to all the old and the new.  South Korea is a high tech giant.  Their advancements are a marvel to technological advancement, but their own acknowledgement is that it has created a new addiction among their young people that is devastating families and the potential of a new generation.  What was once a driving society for knowledge and the arts, is becoming a society of video gamers.  They are so concerned that even the opening ceremony reflected their fears.

   There is an answer, but it will require several things.  We must both inform and educate people on the harmful effects of addiction in any form, but we must also provide appealing and meaningful activities that can exceed the pleasure zone of addiction.  That can only come through compelling love and authentic relationships. 

   There are so many things to do away from screen time.  But it takes a willingness to invest time and energy to get out there and do it.  When people discover these things in the context of fun and family dynamics, the next generation will be wanting more.  What a wonderful way to show God’s love!

Teach Your Children Well

   How can the old fogies teach new kids in the age of technology?  Perhaps, we can begin to formulate ministries that teach children how to use their imaginations and creativity without devices.  How to do things with their hands and hearts, learn songs and be taught truth.

   Perhaps we can teach parents how to use “Love and Logic” as a means of teaching children the empowerment of choices and self-government, and equip parents with powerful tools to both strengthen godly disciplines and foster love in the home.  Who can teach this best, except those who had to live and learn throughout life already.

   Perhaps we can establish outreach to teens and school age children through physical activity, fund, purposeful movement.  We have a class two days a week doing just that.  Kids learn how to protect themselves, discern danger and also use their hands, arms, legs, feet and minds while having fun.  All away from a TV or device. 

   Social interaction, with intergenerational groups, having fun, dancing, exercising, solving problems, and creating.

   Hey, you geriatrics, think an old dog can teach new tricks to a generation that has never seen living life this way before?  How about we use more of our free time in serving others and see what God can do through us.  We may see Him actually work in us as well.   

We Are Getting Older

   Our church is getting older.  Members are getting older.  A new generation needs to be reached with the gospel, and those in our midst who fit in the younger age need help.

   Many of us are the last generation to know what it was like to live without tablets and servers and actually had to use our own imaginations for play and mental development.  We learned how to think.  The youth of our culture don’t have to.  The imagination of others is supplied at their fingertips.  The can live in a vicarious world and not have to interact with it, experience accomplishment or learn from failure.  And frankly, it is too tempting for a parent to get faster compliance from a child by rewarding them with a gadget to get them out of the way.

   I appeal to you who are aged, 50+, 60+, to consider Psalm 7:17-18

  “O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I  still declare Your wondrous deeds.  And even when I am old and gray, O Lord, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.”

   We must take this verse to heart and take it as a promise.  We aren’t all washed up, ready for pasture.  We know the experience of life, and we know the Lord.  We may not know, as yet, how we are going to declare to those who are to come, but God will show us the way.  Ours is to take a risk and be available.

    Our kids and grandkids need guidance, wisdom, and most of all, an opportunity to know there is a way to walk in truth, and that people have walked it and continue to do so. 

   Will you take up Psalm 71 as a prayer for your life?

The Church and Technology...continued

   I want to continue with the subject of my last entry to this column regarding the issues of technology and its effect upon people.

   I read an article, which was confirmed by many sources both in the technology realm and general news outlets, that in 2012, the Department of Defense (DOD) actually used Facebook in an experiment to see how it could be used to affect people’s emotions and responses to certain stimuli.  Facebook secretly manipulated (altered) people’s posts without the knowledge of the person who posted the comments, to see how it would change responses. Some of the posts were genuine, others manipulated to see how it affected responses. The government funded the research.  Facebook techs did the work. This begs the question, does one even know if what they think they are posting is actually being seen without alteration?  The answer is, who knows?

   I’m not dissing on Facebook or its users. I know (through my wife's account) the blessing of being able to watch family events and receive messages almost instantly. In the not too distant past, we waited weeks or months for pictures and letters.  Long distance phone calls (remember those?) were expensive and voice only.  Here is the point; all technology including gaming, messaging, research and entertainment has an effect on society in general, including Christians, that affect values, morals, how we spend our free time and our prayer lives. Everything is affected, and not always in a beneficial way.

   I confess, my own prayer life has been adversely affected by my own choices regarding my smart phone.  The devil never made me do it, however. The lure of instant news, entertainment, games and Google searches, were all too easy a temptation to keep me from time with God Himself.  No finger pointing here, at least without four pointing right at me.  I issue a call to all of us, beware of idols. 

More next time…


The Church and Technology

We have got to learn how to do church in this era of human existence and globalization. Maybe we need to learn how to be the church first.  Things are changing so rapidly that nothing seems to be sticking, things are changing so rapidly that few things have any longevity.  All the while, violence, immoral conduct, exploitation, and bigotry are all becoming more wide-spread regardless of the outrage against it.   What seems to me to be one of the biggest changes is how silent the Christians are, and how noisy and preachy celebrities are. 

   Social media is one reason.  I'm not simply talking  about Facebook and Twitter and the rest. There are benefits of these platforms to be sure. I am talking about how these platforms are manipulated, and are manipulating.  I began some research on the impact of technology and social media upon youth and people in general, the pros verses the cons are highly stacked against these things being positive, healthy and morally uplifting. I was alarmed at several reliable reports on how the Department of Defense of the U. S. government actually funded research on Facebook designed to manipulate people through altering posts people had made without their knowledge or consent.  What was posted were not, in fact, the words of those whose accounts were used.  Scarey?

   We live in the last days according to the prophetic warnings of the Bible.  Technology has accelerated the degeneracy of society. The "apostasy" that Paul indicated in his letter to the Thessalonians is well upon us.  Machines are bad, but because people who use them are sinners, therefore technology simply increases the potential as it rests in the hands of greedy, manipulative, self-centered people – that includes you and me.

   How do churches do “church” in times like these?  I can assure you that we better figure it out and some in our congregation may find that their drug of choice has a screen and buttons.  How can we impact a generation already addicted?  Declare prohibition, as was done with alcohol in the 1930’s?  That didn’t work, nor will it work today.

   The solution has to be in obeying the Holy Spirit. Every believer must seek the answers He gives through His Word and through His internal voice. It will take time to hear, so we must be patient and seek for it.   In so doing, we may not only be used to help save others, but ourselves as well.

More later…


New Website

This is my first blog on this new website.  It is my sincere desire that our website is an effectual tool in helping people find us, understand us, and perhaps even join us in the mission or making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our old website was just too difficult to maintain for us at the office.  None of us knew HTML coding, and no one wanted to learn it.  Thankfully, my daughter's pastor in Minnesota, Pastor Phil at Clarity Church, spent some time with me on what should be in a website, and pointed me to Squarespace for hosting.  This was confirmed by Chris Tweedy at our Alliance district office.  So here it is. 

It still needs some tweaking, and I hope that it is not too overwhelming with information. My goal was for people to be able to find us, and to learn about us in the process.  There are some who simply want a quick answer, others are more research oriented.  My hope is that both types of people can find enough of what they are looking for whenever they might visit this site.

I invite  your comments on the website, and ask that it be constructive criticism with regard to making the site better.  You may not agree with everything that is said, but we make no apology for our desire to promote the gospel, to promote Jesus Christ risen from the dead, and being the only bridge to reconciliation with God the Creator.

Thank you for taking time to read this post.  May God bless you in your journey of faith.


Still Learning

We are coming full swing into the new year, and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.  I have been the lead pastor here at Heritage since 1980.  And while I am an old dog, I still want to learn some new tricks, as it were, with regard to helping this church achieve success in faithfulness to God.

I want to first define success.  Our church has had highs and lows regarding Sunday morning attendance.  The typical defining measure of success for organizations is buildings, bodies and bucks.  We have declined in bodies, our bucks have been consistent, and our building is paid for. So, we lost ground in the bodies category, but we are experiencing some growth again in this area.

Success, however, is not to be defined in this way.  These statistics are measurements, to be sure, but they are not defining measurements.  Success is faithfulness.  Faithfulness is not as easily quantifiable. It is real, however.  Faithfulness to God is obedience to His will. Some of the measurable aspects are lifestyle issues: Kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, etc.  It is also found in giving financially and of time and talent. Faithfulness is also seen in sharing the gospel.  I pledge to encourage, exhort and do all in my power to be an example and to hold our members accountable to the spreading of the gospel in personal witness and testimony.

We are also embarking on a new master plan for the next six years.  It is may prayer that we will be able to put a succession plan in place for the next lead pastor of this church.  That means putting into place the means by which we can identify, hire and support a pastor and family that will be selected to take the lead at Heritage.  My hope is to be able to be here to walk through this process, mentor the new leader and even stay long term in continuing to serve here at the pleasure of the next lead pastor. My role will change some, but I hope to be continuing in discipleship ministry, evangelism training and small group development.