Sunday, November 29, 2009

Odds & Ends

  • Blue skies, and temperatures in the mid-40s -- perfect weather for students driving back to college after Thanksgiving break.
  • Anybody know if the church has taken a stand on medical marijuana -- and lacking that, does anybody have any thoughts about the ethics of church members using it? I'm guessing pastors in Canada and California deal with this more than most . . . but it's popping up here in Oregon too.
  • Somewhere along the way, David Hamstra's apocalupto has become the blog-of-record for what's happening at our seminary in Michigan. Now if I could just get him to post more often . . .
  • And I'll close with this quote from Charles de Foucauld: "We absolutely owe it to our Lord never to be afraid of anything."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

This week's lesson: Numbers 20-21

Strange but true: there was a time God saved His people with a metal snake.

You remember the story -- it's found in Numbers 21.
  • God's people are in the wilderness.
  • When they complain, God punishes them with poisonous snakes.
  • When they confess their sin, God tells Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole, so that anyone who is bitten may look at it and live.
As I said, it's an odd little story -- but it's no odder than some of the other ways that God has saved His people. No, God has used sermons and summer camps, tracts and TV preachers, evangelistic series and academy Bible classes . . . and sometimes, He even finds a way to use on-line commentaries about this week's Sabbath School lesson!

In short, God can make a blessing out of just about anything.

Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it will always stay a blessing.

Take that metal snake, for instance. In II Kings 18:1-4, we read that:
In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. . . . He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. [Emphasis supplied]
The very object that had once saved God's people, notice, now had to be destroyed because it had become an idol.

Likewise, just because something was a blessing in the past doesn't guarantee it is a blessing today. And just because God used something in the past doesn't mean we should be using it today. No, there comes a time when even the most powerful channels of God's grace must be set aside, lest they become a snare and a delusion.

When it comes to people, after all, we don't believe in "once saved, always saved."

That's true of everything else as well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give a goat for Christmas!

This year, I've asked my church members to buy me a goat for Christmas -- and not just any goat.

No, I want a real, live, go-to-school goat from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

That's because one of the best ways to lift people out of poverty is to make sure girls go to school. But in the west African country of Niger, only 37-percent of girls are enrolled in primary school; the rest are kept home to work on family farms.

So ADRA came up with the idea of giving families in Niger a goat if (and only if) they send their girls to school.

It's a great plan -- but one goat (plus training the family to take care of it) costs $65.

That's where my church comes in. This December, I've asked members to write a check to our church, drop it in an offering envelope, mark it "Pastor's Goat Fund," and drop it in the offering. At the end of the month, we'll take the money that came in and write a check to ADRA.

And no, you don't need to write a check to my church to help. You can get in touch with ADRA directly -- or better yet, why not ask your church to do something similar?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Odds & Ends

  • Last night's windstorm has given way to calm and sunshine. (There's a sermon illustration in there somewhere, but I can't think what it is.)
  • In its lessons on the Book of Numbers, the Adult Sabbath School Quarterly has pointed out that grumbling against Moses and Aaron was A Very Bad Thing -- and with this has come the obvious corollary that we should treat church leaders with respect. But in this week's lesson, Moses and Aaron are both held accountable for their mistakes. What kind of contemporary application does this suggest . . . and what are the chances the Quarterly will make it?
  • If I were the dean of an SDA School of Theology, I'd steal an idea from Gordon-Conwell Seminary and start offering classes, lectures, and chapels through iTunes U; I'd also borrow its idea of continuing eduction classes for people who are already in the ministry, but don't feel like pursuing another degree. I'm just saying.
"The First Law of Demographics is: You cannot count on people to change. You can, however, count on them to die.

"That means that members of one generation should not try to predict the future based on their experience. As they die off, they will be replaced by a generation with different life experiences that have produced different attitudes. Not necessarily better, but certainly different. And in this fashion, questions that obsessed one generation sometimes never really get answered; they just end up sounding more and more archaic."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This week's lesson: Numbers 18-19

What do I want to be when I grow up?

Strangely enough, that's one question the son of a priest or Levite never needed to ask himself. No, he knew what he was going to be: he was going to be a priest or Levite, just like his father!

And this seems strange to us -- strange because we're used to the idea that anybody can grow up to be anything they want to be. The idea that genetics determined destiny -- that only people with the proper breeding could could serve in the Lord's temple . . .

Well, it just seems un-American!

Yet the fact remains that choice plays a limited role in our choice of jobs. My career as a professional basketball player, for instance, has been cruelly cut short by the fact that I'm only five-foot nine-inches in height. (Then too, the fact that I'm near-sighted and clumsy probably hasn't helped.)

Likewise, our decisions have all been shaped by chance, genetics, the desires of our parents, and a host of other factors we don't know about -- much less understand. And once we hit your 50s, our ability to re-invent ourselves and our careers can seem just as limited as that of any Levite.

In short, many of us face the same choice as those would-be priests and Levites: the choice of what to do when a choice has already been made for us.
  • Do we make the best of it?
  • Or do we grumble and complain about what might have been?
Just like those priests and Levites, you see, most of us already know what we're going to be when we grow up.

The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Whither Tuesday?

Okay, I'm looking for advice: what should I do with Tuesday's column on this blog?

Sunday is simple -- just slap together a list of the items and observations I've been collecting all week, and I'm done.

And Thursday is pretty straightforward -- all I need to do is carefully and lovingly handcraft an essay about the Sabbath School lesson for that week, and Bob's your uncle.

But Tuesday . . . Tuesday was meant to be a surprise. It could be a how-to, a product review, a short essay, or pretty much anything.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of other blogs out there that are narrowly focused on just one topic . . . and as a result, they're doing a much better job of covering that topic than I could in an an occasional column on Tuesday.

And that is probably the reason why my Tuesday column gets fewer readers than anything else I do.

So . . . I'm looking for advice. Should I:

a) drop Tuesday's column?
b) keep writing Tuesday's column?
c) keep writing Tuesday's column, but make it a regular column about _____? (And if you choose this option, I'd appreciate it if you filled in the blank.)
d) Forget the blog, and start doing something on Facebook.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Odds & Ends

  • I'm back in Lincoln City. The thunderstorms have moved on. And I'll be spending most of Sunday at a local swim meet as the announcer. (It's a legacy of my eldest daughter's time on the swim team.)
  • One of the neatest Bible-study sites I've found is Biblos. Not only does it make it easier for me to check out a text in the original language, but I love the maps!
  • Why is it that some of the most innovative pastors I know -- the ones who pride themselves on being at the "cutting-edge of ministry -- are also some of the angriest pastors I know? Is it anger that drives their desire for change . . . does the anger result from the way people react to the changes they've made . . . or am I just imagining the whole thing?
  • And I'll close with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "You can never do a kindness too soon, because you never know when it will be too late."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Odds & Ends

  • We've had lots and lots of thunderstorms these past few days, and a tornado touched down last night in the north end of town and damaged 30 homes. (No injuries though.)
  • I've started sending my sermons to myself as a Gmail attachment -- that way, I've a copy out there in "the cloud" in case the hard drive on my computer crashes. (But you're doing this already, right?)
  • I'm making a list of books I should read in 2010 -- any ideas out there?
  • Ever notice how popular military metaphors can be in the ministry? We talk of campaigns, crusades, prayer-warriors, front-lines -- and even "life in the trenches." How would our concept of ministry change if we used metaphors drawn from gardening or cooking?
  • I'll be at Walla Walla University this week for the Andrews University intensive on I & II Peter . . . so if you don't here from me, it's because I wasn't able to find a place with free wi-fi.
  • And I'll close with this quote from Peter Drucker: "People who don't take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

This week's lesson: Numbers 15

How do you turn around a losing team?

By the time we come to Numbers 15, after all, the Israelites have dropped the ball at least ten different times -- and as a result of their latest debacle, they've been condemned to wander the desert another 40-years before they'll be allowed to enter the Promised Land.

So if you're record is 0-10, then what do you do? Three things:
  • Make sure everyone is on the same page. If your people don't share the same goals, then they'll spend more time fighting each other than working together.
  • Crack down on offenders. Even misdemeanors are like broken windows -- if you don't deal with them, they send the message that nobody cares.
  • Dress for success. Sharp uniforms are no substitute for good leadership -- but they're one of the quickest, easiest ways to improve morale.
Granted, none of these things will turn around your group overnight -- no sooner does he implement them, as a matter of fact, then Moses faces the greatest challenge ever to his leadership . . .

But Moses has 40-years to build a winning team.

And given the way things have been going, that's just how long it will take for him to get things right.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Oregon Adventist News: 3 November 2019

  • Just a reminder: associate-churches need to sign contracts for pastoral services with Oregon Adventist Ministries, 3ABN-Partners, or the WWU School of Theology by 1730 Monday, 2 December 2019.
  • Don't forget this weekend's seminar on "Reaching Out to Grandchildren" at the Beaverton SDA Church will also be carried live at its branch campuses: Beaverton-Southwest, Hillsboro, Milwaukie, and Troutdale.
  • Good news! Local planners have signed-off on construction of the new swim center at the Gladstone Adventist Convention Center. Not only will this provide even more recreational opportunities for Portland Adventist Academy at its new location, but it will help us expand the programs offered by Big Lake Day Camp. (And yes, the pool will be closed to the public on Sabbath.)
  • Pastors: please check "job openings" carefully before you bid on any vacancies listed. (We don't want to repeat last month's unfortunate incident in Medford.)
  • The live webinar on "Praise Bands: Time to Move On?" has been rescheduled to 0900 Sunday, 8 December 2019.
  • This quarter's House Church Jamboree will be Sabbath, 4 January 2010 at the Gladstone Adventist Convention Center, the Eugene Civic Center, and the Grants Pass SDA Church. Pastor Tunde Umar's topic: "Romans -- Predestined to Freedom." (Check the Conference wiki to see who's bringing what for the potluck.)
  • Monday is the deadline to sign-up for January's Spanish-language intensive at the Milo Retreat Center. This seminar will fulfill second-language requirements for Senior-pastor and Administrator certification.
  • Found: a black raincoat left behind at last week's "Women in Ministry Retreat" -- call the Conference AI for details.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Odds & Ends

  • Blue skies on the Oregon Coast -- just in time for pastors' meetings! (But bring a jacket; right now it's 46-degrees out there!)
  • My prediction: ministry to senior citizens will be in the 21st-century what ministry to youth was in the 20th. (But without the lock-ins.) That's why I'm bookmarking articles such as "Helping Grandpa Get His Tech On."
  • I've been having fun preaching through the Book of Exodus -- but now I've come to Exodus 20, and I'm looking for ideas. Do I preach one sermon on the law, two sermons on the two parts of the law, ten sermons on the ten commandments . . . or so I give it a break and preach on something else? Any ideas out there?
  • And I'll close with this quote from Woody Allen: "History repeats itself. It has to. Nobody listens the first time around."