CAMPING SEASON IS UPON US

Patty and I have recently acquired a camp trailer, our first in 40 years of marriage. We have only been able to use it once so far, but we are certainly thankful and blessed to have such a wonderful provision for our lives.

Several years ago our daughter lamented that she was a deprived child. We asked why and she said, "We never got to go camping when I was growing up."  She was right.  With Patty working Monday through Friday, and my responsibilities on Sundays, we never had the time to take off and go on weekends.  When we vacationed, we usually spent time with friends or family due to limited time off.  This isn't to complain, just the reality of our lifestyle. (She did marry a camper, and she has since had some of the romance wear off due to tent camping and mosquitos in Minnesota!)

I heard Gary Smalley, a family specialist say that the one thing that bonds families together most is camping.  He said it was due to the fact that usually camping trips have issues of bad weather, break-downs, various unforeseen problems that occur, but often when people experience crisis together they bond deeper.  I suppose that is true.

I write this to encourage all who are reading to definitely take time to experience the great outdoors, to savor the creation of God.  I also admonish some to be mindful of commitments to your local church when you make plans.  And for some people like myself, learn to have some fun without feeling guilty. I confess that in my earlier days I felt like I had to prove myself to everyone else, and I couldn't afford to let people think I was goofing off.  The truth is, rest, fun and relaxation are spiritual pursuits that should be experienced in order to keep our minds and hearts rested and eager to serve the Lord.  After all, it was God who made Sabbath rest for us.

So in this time of year with long days and warm weather, have a great time. Keep your heart fresh in love for Christ, and be renewed in the blessings of God.

Excitement One Can't Contain!

   Have you ever been so excited about something that you simply had to tell someone as soon as you could?  News or an experience that you can’t contain for the feeling bursting inside you?  A young person who has just given or received a marriage proposal might be an example, or buying your first home, you want people to share in your excitement of this new aspect in your life.

   Now you are expecting me to chide you if you are not sharing that same excitement regarding Jesus.  You may think I’m going to tell you that if you aren’t exploding at the seams of finding ways to talk about Christ to others, that there is something wrong.  You may believe I’m going to try to guilt you into witnessing.  Well, I’m not going to do that.

   Like the big news events in our lives, over time, the great emotional connections even out into normal reality.  We would get tired of someone who went around telling people they bought a house if they had been living there for five years already.

    So what’s my point?  Simply this, if you are going to maintain the joy of your relationship with Christ, you will need to continue sharing your faith intentionally over and over again.  You will need to overcome the natural hesitations and apprehensions that attend purposeful witness, step out, and do it.  What happens is transformative.  The Holy Spirit, Who never tires of telling us and others of the wonderful Lord Jesus, will fill you as your intentional witness is given.  Because, unlike a house or a proposal, a relationship with Jesus is eternal.  The Eternal Spirit pours out into us with love, compassion and truth that renews the excitement each time we press through to share the gospel.  That’s the difference. 

    It’s not a matter of feeling excited and then sharing, but rather it is the joy that comes when we bear witness of Christ.  Tell of Him this week.

Women of God

Happy Mother’s Day!

   Ladies, are you aware that you are significantly made by God as females to reveal attributes of God that are not prevalent in male?  In other words, God is often referred to in a masculine gender, and that is how the Father is revealed to us, as well as the Son.  But the feminine representation of God’s personality is reflected in the feminine gender of humanity.  God created man in His own image, male and female He created them.  Together, the masculine/feminine attributes of God’s character are to be demonstrated. 

     Sin has so deranged and deformed this truth.  Today, male and female are blurred to such an extent, that neither can thrive in themselves without being ridiculed.  This is the work of darkness, so marring the human personhood to tarnish or disguise the greatness of God and His crowning creation.  Satan is jealous and hateful, and seeks to destroy us from our core identity as male and female.  When these two realities are so distorted, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand God or relate to Him.

    But Mother’s Day can give a glimpse again.  Moms are thoughtful, loving, nurturing, understanding, fiercely devoted and courageous to defend their children.  Today, may we see God in a similar vein.  If God is for us, then who can stand against us?

Life...

   Life has many challenges, ups and downs and highs and lows.  What is interesting is that while most people would say they would prefer to have a more steady, uneventful life, the fact is most people do not.  That is why we buy things, like motorcycles, campers, and spending money on entertainment.  For the desperate, there is the thrill seeking of extreme sports, or the poor choice of recreational drugs.  In short, people do not like boredom or emptiness. 

   It seems that Moses understood this in writing Psalm 90.  He grew up in the excitement and education of the palace in Egypt.  After his hot temper got him, he spent 40 years tending sheep in the wilderness of Midian.   I think he grew so accustom to the monotony, that when God called him to return to Egypt, he was quite happy to be left alone.

   When Moses finally accepted the call, he saw the amazing works of God, and he saw the disparity of people and was regulated to wander with people more stubborn and wicked than sheep.  Yet, as he reviewed his life, perhaps now in his 90’s or even older, he saw the brevity of life, the futility of it and came to much the same conclusion as the preacher of Ecclesiastes, there is much vanity, much waste, such sorrow mixed with occasional joys.  In all of it, the one and only thing that mattered through it all, is the meaning only God can give.  We have short lives.  Death is certain.  How our lives matter is only as we give ourselves into the very hands of the Creator.

   Read Psalm 90.

Singing His Promises Endlessly

   Psalm 62 was one of David’s many songs.  Written when he was in one of his deepest situations.  If you read of David’s life, there were relatively few years where he wasn’t in some desperate situation.  After being anointed king to replace Saul, his trouble grew worse.  Once Saul had died, he became his own worst enemy by poor parenting, by unfaithfulness and murder, and finally, his pride in trying to number his troops and horses.

   What makes Psalm 62, and others like it, so remarkable is the way in which David has to instruct himself and remind himself of who God is and what God has done.  As David looks at people, he sees treachery, robbery and greed that corrupts people.  He reminds himself that there is no truth or life there.  As he instructs others, he reminds himself of God’s promises and of the times God had spoken to him and what he learned.

   This is important for us.  We may or may not have access to some kind of preaching or teaching.  We may have to rely on our memories, but we do have to constantly remember God’s promises and His faithfulness, and we need to proclaim these things out loud, to ourselves and any who care to listen.

   Troubles are always around and though they vary in degree, they can still take a person down if we don’t fortify ourselves in verbally recounting the truth.  David sang his musings and meditations and wrote them down. 

   If you are finding depression or flatness in our life, you might need to start talking to yourself about who God has revealed Himself to be.  Write it down. 

   “Loving kindness is Yours, O Lord,”  Psalm 62:12

Grateful to Pay Taxes?

   I am grateful that my taxes are done, filed and paid.  I wish I had a refund coming, but nonetheless, it’s done.  Thankfully, some of our tax dollars do go to good things, like roads, police and firefighters, educators, and civil servants who work to improve our lives, or at least, give society a little bit of organization.

   No one likes to pay taxes, and many of us are frustrated by where many dollars are allocated, and the wastefulness of it all.  These things will not likely change until the meltdown of the earth and the Kingdom of God is fully realized.  Then, and only then, will there be no more waste, no more war, no more police and no need for doctors, lawyers, preachers and accountants.

   Until that day comes, we pay taxes.  Paul told us to do so, as did Jesus Himself,  “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”  Now let’s put taxes aside for now.  How are we doing on the latter?  Rendering to God the things that are God’s.  

   We are taught to set aside the first fruits and bring them to God’s storehouse.  Some of you send it on with bill pay or auto drafts, which we appreciate.  Regardless, are you mindful of your giving?  Is it planned or is it emotional?  Do you set aside your tithe and then plan on other charitable giving so that your budget is in tact and that you are thoughtful regarding where you money goes and how these charities use it? 

   We give to God out of thanksgiving.  We give from love and obedience.  The fact is, when we do, we can actually pay our taxes with gratitude as well.  Gratitude that God supplies enough for us to require us to pay them.  Gratitude that, like all other living expenses, we have been supplied all we need and more from God’s gracious hand. 

   Let us be, and always be, cheerful givers, thankful for God’s provision.

"If anyone wishes to follow Me...."

   I read a story about a man who was an elder in a house church in China.  One night while he was sleeping he was awakened by the Lord.  The Spirit told him to gather up the fruits and meat that the house church had stored up to care for people in need.  The Holy Spirit told this elder to take the load of food by horse and sled, to a pastor’s family who had been left to die in a one room hut in the frozen tundra.

   The elder reminded the Spirit that it was thirty degrees below zero outside and that there was no way that he could survive the trip.  The man reminded God that the wolves would probably eat his horse and then eat him.

   Then the words of the Holy Spirit rang in his ears:  “You do not have to come back; you simply have to go.”

   As I read that I was certainly taken back.  There is no need to question the man’s sanity or argue the merits or validity of this story.  The truth is, this is the actual call to everyone who would call themselves a born again Christian.  “If anyone wishes to follow after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”  This is Jesus’ call to all disciples.  There is no calling ourselves saved if we won’t follow. 

   A. W. Tozer said of this statement, “When a man went to take up his cross, he wasn’t coming home to supper ever again.” 

I don’t wonder about my commitment or yours.  I know that I must chose this moment, and each moment, to obey Jesus Christ… not to worry about getting back from anywhere He sends. 

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.