Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Insights

Phil Vishcher is the creator of Veggie Tales. His personal story, told by himself in the book Me Myself and Bob , spoke to my heart. I hardly ever read biographies but I am certainly glad that someone gave this book to me to read and that I took the time to read it. The first half of the book tells the story of how Veggie Tales got started. The second half of the book tells how he ended up losing 'it all'.

God used this story to remind me that my identity is found in my relationship with Him, not in my "good works". When I came to SACC in 1992 - a couple hundred people worshipped each weekend. The first decade was filled with steady growth. We were seeing over 600 people each weekend and talking about building programs and expansion. There are some wonderful people who were part of that first decade of ministry that are no longer part of what is occurring today. It tempts me to look at who is missing, where I have made mistakes, rather than who I am blessed with and what GOD is doing. I am reassured that God has NOT ABANDONED this moment! "God wants to see what is more important to you - the dream or Him." (p. 235)

Consider the lessons that emerged from Phil's story:
1) Never lose sight of the numbers. While it can just be about the numbers, they will indicate something about the degree to which people are working in sync, "not for their own success, but for the success of the idea (mission)." (p. 214)
2) Ignore the voice that says, 'You deserve it." Wat we get used to...defines what we think 'ought to' happen. The old Hymn Amazing Grace declares 'tis GRACE that brought me safe thus far and GRACE will lead me home.' I live a life 'better than I deserve'. Thank God for the 'provision of Grace' today has offered.
3) Meet needs - and find your role.
4) Know yourself.
5) Bigger is NO LONGER better. "Real impact today comes from building great relationships, not huge organizations." (p. 219) Smaller - and smarter - is better.
6) Value the work, the environment and the MISSION more than money.
7) Build a TEAM that rows the same direction. Being vague about the mission and values leads to a profoundly confused dysfunctional workplace. This is all the more reason for our Strategic Leadership Team to complete its work and make sure that there is a shared excitement about our core goals and values.
It is NOT about ME...it is about the mission and the work God 'dreams' for us to do. It has to be about Jesus

Thank you Michael for the book. Good to HEAR from God!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

More about Worship

As Donalda and I were travelling to Portland on Saturday our conversation turned to my recent reading. The discussion centered around the autobiography of Phil Vischer's (creator of Veggie Tales), a book given to me by a key individual from SACC, and a reflection of Unceasing Worship.

I rarely take the time to read books like Vischer's but will admit that it was a timely gift for my heart and my thinking. I had not quite finished but the last couple chapters were making me slow down and really think about what God is saying to me and how I should lead the efforts of SACC forward. More on that later.

We then began reviewing what stood out to me in the study on the Theology of Worship from Unceasing Worship. I recalled that there was a distinction made regarding the worship described in the Old Testament and the New Testament. More than just the obvious matter of sacrifices, worship in the Old Testament centered around time and place whereas worship in the New Testament centered around Spirit and Truth. In John 4 Jesus has a discussion about worship that clarifies this significant change. So rather than seeing worship as an event we do it is a continuous outpouring. For the Christian, personal holiness and worship are one and the same thing.
I recalled another point made by the author (Harold Best). He referenced the offering of what the old King James Bible called 'strange fire' (see Lev. 10:1, Numbers 3:4; 26:61). This offering was, to say the least, unacceptable to God. Best then related this to our present day mindset that assumes that a certain style or mood of music 'works'. The music then can become nothing more than a contemporary 'strange fire'. It is our assumption that 'this will work' because of nothing more than it being our preference or our opinion. Yikes! We are increasingly segregating our gatherings and at the same time failing to ask ourselves if our gatherings are a response to our personal preferences or Spirit and Truth?
Then came the matter that received the most discussion. Best noted that it appears that the New Testament excludes phrases that call out in desperation (unlike the prayers in the OT, particularly from the Psalms.) The reason is because, thanks to Jesus, the church knows that God is not found at a place or disconnected from our very lives. He dwells in us...affirming the truth that WE NEED HIM is different from simply crying out, I NEED YOU. The way I feel ought to be directed by the TRUTH (remember the Spirit and truth deal) and the truth is Jesus IS present with me at this very moment...I must affirm His presence and my response to Him is my act of Worship. This particular topic raised the most hesitation. So if you have NT examples for me of a Christian desperately crying out to God - note the reference and help me see things properly.

We look forward to our being back at SACC in just 17 days. I am praying for the service today and Pastor James as he shares a message with you...I love you.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Making Preparations

Dallas Willard in his writings concerning "Spiritual Formation" in an individuals life describes the New Testament invitation to become disciples of Jesus with the more contemporary term, apprentice. We watch HIM...Learn from Him...and then we do what Jesus did.
As I prepare to return to my Pastoral responsibilities at SACC I am planning to share a series of messages around this idea that we are called to be apprentices of Jesus. "The Apprentice: Making Life Work" will be a six week study of the lessons Jesus shared with His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount in order that they would understand what it takes to be a reflection of Jesus.
I look forward to sharing this series with you and seeing how God reminds us of these life transforming principles. I wonder how many reading this have were prepared for a particular career that required you first be 'apprentices'? If you have been an apprentice...share what that was like. How was that experience like you imagine Jesus meant for us to be as followers of Him?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Reflecting on Worship

I finally finished reading Unceasing Worship. it seemed like it took me forever to read through this mentally challenging book.
I appreciated being reminded that everyone is a worshipper. Not simply that we were made to worship...we are worshipping. What is also true is that we serve (or give ourselves to) whatever we direct our worship to.
The four central passages looked at included Romans 12:1-5; John 4, Psalm 29 and 1 Corinthians 14. It was this last passage that spoke of our worship and witness being connected. When we gather - those present will share a awareness of God that will mature the heart of the believer and transform the heart of the non believer. This transforming effect is truly what I long for our gatherings. For this to occur the source of all we do has to be Christ. Marginialize Him and the results will be what the Old Testament referred to as "Strange Fire".
As I prepare to worship in a gathered setting tomorrow I know that it will not be the song selection or the 'mood' that music creates that would be central. I bring to that place the presence of Christ in me...He is 'at work in me to will and do His good pleasure.' Just what I need to worship Christ.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Craig, Ken and Burl

First of all...internet access was unfortunately not readily available the whole time I was away this past week. That would be part of the reason for the 'gap' since my last posting. I want to thank those of you who have been praying...the time away was filled with powerful examples of God's activity.
I met a man from Bend named Craig. We were visiting and my sabbatical break came up. I mentioned that our church provided this timely gift as I was adjusting to 'the medicial deal'. Here is when God broke in - you see Craig then told me that he was going to have surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his brain in just two days. It stunned me...my 'little issue' fell into the shadows and I found my heart (pastoral) quickened. Craig and I had never met before that day...but he allowed me to place my hand on his shoulder and pray for God's Hand to attend his upcoming surgery. You can be assured - I felt blessed as I recognized how God had arranged for our meeting.
Then there is my long time friend, Ken. I can only tell you that when I called him on Wednesday he shared with me that the ministry position he had was being terminated. I was shocked. I invited Ken to join me on this retreat and we could look to God, together, in the wake of this news. Friday...he came. First of all - I was reminded how generous my church at SACC is. Then I marvelled how wounds are healed in the environment of a loving God. God used our time together to, almost instantly, help Ken sense God's leading. It was marvelous...and I am thankful that Ken could be with me.
Finally, yesterday when I came home I discovered that Burl had come to my home while I was away and picked the pears off the tree and set them out so they could finish ripening. This is a huge task and takes a servants heart to even consider doing. Praise to God rises up in me as I consider the kindness of my friend Burl. Mega-Gracias Burl.
I am rev'd up to be back in just 28 Days...
I look forward to telling you how much God is deepening my love for Him and for YOU.

Pastor John

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

Common Practice - Uncommon Place


I am preparing to spend the next week in 'seclusion' in order to set my focus on listening for direction regarding the Sunday Morning Worship schedule. God seems to have wired me in such a way that I benefit from extended times of quiet. It is a common practice for me to remove myself from 'the office' for two or three days in order lay out plans for the months ahead. So the blessing of a week in solitude is something I am looking forward to.

Thanks to a wonderful family in the church I have a place to stay in the beautiful setting of Central Oregon. Know that I am praying for you as I am away. I will be asking that I might sense God's heart for US, our lives, in this season. My prayers will continue to be lifted in behalf of the Pastoral Team at SACC that has afforded me the opportunity to get away. I humbly thank God for you.

Pray with me that God might direct my heart and mind. In just 37 days this special season of refreshment and renewal will be completed. I am looking forward to returning.