Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Saturday Post!

Regular readers of FullCourtPresby know that I do not post of Saturday or Sunday. Today I have to make an exception. Here’s why…

I pulled into The Oasis, my office away from the office, to get some work done. A group of six ladies was sitting at the round table near me. For an hour-and-a-half those ladies sat there and talked—no, they SLAMMED their pastor, church, other ladies at their church and just about everything else. Anyone sitting with ten feet of them could hear every word they said. It was horrible. Fortunately I was the only other person sitting at a table the whole time. I listed to music on my computer (with headphones) to block them out. Between every song I could hear them complain, complain, complain.

Thought #1: Please do not gripe about your church when in a public place. Every person who attends a church has their own opinion about the church, pastor, staff, programs and other people. Not everyone will agree. So, keep it “within the family” and not out in public.

Thought #2: Talk to someone in church leadership if you have complaints—not other people in the church. Change can happen if the concerns are valid.

Thought #3: Christians in public can be the best or worst advertisements for the Christian faith and our local church. I can guarantee you that I would never darken the doors of a church that those ladies attend. I would fear that one day I would become their topic of conversation. An unchurched person would have been totally turned off to the faith by these ladies.

Thought #4: Gossip is a cancer. Gossip can kill a church. These ladies may be doing a great job of killer their church.

I thought about speaking to them but it didn’t feel right at the time.

Let’s pray for them.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Random Thoughts… (part 3)

We’ve been dealing with a pretty weighty topic—important, but weighty. It is time to shift gears for some lighter stuff. For the next day or two I will “spew out” some random thoughts about church, life, preaching, vacation, etc.

  • Christi and Todd get married tonight! Christi’s family came to Evergreen Presbyterian Church about the same time that I came to the church. Christi was baptized in the Pacific Ocean during one of our church campouts. Christi has been a part of our church choir and our worship team. Todd is a great guy. His family attends the Baptist church down the road. Their marriage will be strong as long as they keep Christ at the center of it.
  • Coke or Pepsi? My son likes Coke. I like Pepsi. Which do you prefer? Note: those of you who are in Texas can vote for Dr. Pepper.
  • Church coffee sucks. Most churches spend a little as possible for their coffee. Adding to the problem is the type of coffee maker used. Poor coffee doesn’t draw people to your church—it can enhance the experience of our visitors and regular attendees. A team from our church visited four churches as we were preparing to start our Saturday night worship service (these were Saturday night services we attended). These are growing churches. All but one had an espresso bar. All served excellent, high quality coffee. I have visited several churches that give visitors a free latte. We have just changed the way we make coffee and the type of coffee we use. In the future we will be adding an espresso machine.
  • Next week I will be sailing in the British Virgin Islands. Check out these photos of the BVI– note: I did not take them. We will be at most of these locations.
  • Fireworks are now on sale in Washington State. Please be safe!
  • It is time to prepare. Natural disasters can happen at any time. Our churches should be poised to provide assistance. In the past year our area has experienced power outages and damage from a sever wind storm and a water system that had possible contamination. Our mission committee has taken steps for our church to become an official shelter. It will take some time for everything to be in place and ready. We pray that our preparation will never have to be used—but if needed, we will be ready.

That’s enough for now…

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Random Thoughts… (part 2)

We’ve been dealing with a pretty weighty topic—important, but weighty. It is time to shift gears for some lighter stuff. For the next day or two I will “spew out” some random thoughts about church, life, preaching, vacation, etc.

  • Breedlove guitars are the best bang for the buck in the guitar world. Breedlove guitars, of Bend, Oregon, have two lines of guitars. Their handmade guitars are crafted in Bend; their Atlas line is made overseas. Until about a year ago you could only find Breedlove guitars in high end guitar shops. When our son was graduating from high school we looked at almost every “good” guitar line. I could find very little difference in sound in their two lines. Breedlove has an excellent playing neck (like a Taylor) and it has an excellent low end (like a Martin). Check out the Breedlove guitars at Guitar Center or other guitar shops.
  • Beat the Texas heat by visiting Washington State. Today’s forecast high temperature is 73 degrees. Western Washington has no poisonous snakes! The mountains are beautiful. The sailing is fantastic.
  • A good church office manager is VERY valuable. The office manager needs to be: friendly and helpful on the phone, part counselor, part editor, part mind reader and protector of the pastor.
  • The Seattle Mariners swept a three game series against the Boston Red Sox—proof that there is a God!
  • A week from today I will be incommunicado—oops, I will be on Incommunicado. Incommunicado is a 38 ft. Lagoon sailing catamaran in Barecat’s charter fleet in the British Virgin Islands. It is my goal to NOT think about the PCUSA for the ten days I have the boat. My wife and I will be joined by two other couples. The first picture is Incommunicado. The second picture is our team (minus me --taking the photo) at Pirate's Cove in the BVI.
  • Having the flu sucks!! Last night was fever and chills. Today I feel like I have been run over by a truck. On top of that, I have a wedding rehearsal tonight at 6pm and the wedding tomorrow at 7 pm.
  • A good church choir is a blessing. Evergreen is a small church—but we have an excellent choir.
  • Applebee’s oriental chicken salad is as addictive as crack cocaine. Waitresses at our local Applebee’s call it “oriental crack salad.” Be sure to get extra dressing and roasted almonds!
  • Starbucks is going to rule the world. Their game plan is to open a Starbucks on every fourth block. Subtle messages on their cups will brain wash the caffeine crazed minds and Howard Schultz (CEO) will be elected as President of the USA, Russia, China and Pope. As the next Prime Minister of England (and Pope) he will convince the Arch Bishop of Canterbury to change the communion elements from bread and wine to Krispy Kreme Donuts and Starbucks coffee.

Enough random thoughts for now…

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Random Thoughts…

We’ve been dealing with a pretty weighty topic—important, but weighty. It is time to shift gears for some lighter stuff. For the next day or two I will “spew out” some random thoughts about church, life, preaching, vacation, etc.

  • Pray for missionaries! Our church is supporting some missionaries who need our prayers. Larry and Nikki are missionaries in Chile. Larry was recently diagnosed with a tumor in his stomach. The doctors in Chile removed a “lemon-sized” tumor and about a quarter of his stomach. Tests on lymph nodes were negative—GREAT NEWS! Doctors are expecting him to fully recover. The second missionary we support will remain nameless. This person is serving as a missionary in a country where it is illegal to convert a person to Christianity. We can communicate with the missionary using a special encrypted e-mail service—we still don’t take any chances and use “code” words for anything having to do with the missionary activities.
  • Pastors and burnout. I think that there are only two types of pastors: those who put in way too many hours each week and those who just skim by. I know too many pastors in the first category. Our churches need to be better at protecting our pastors and their time. I once heard a person say, “Poor planning on your part does not necessarily cause an emergency on my part.” Another way of putting that could be, “An emergency in your life may not be an emergency in my life.” As pastors we have caused this problem to exist. We need to be better at using deacons to assist with pastoral care. Small groups could (and should) be the first line of pastoral care. Pastors (including myself) need to be much better about setting boundaries on our time.
  • Get the church outside of the church walls. I am having more and more of my non-confidential meetings at local coffee shops. As Christians we tend to “hide” inside our church walls. Those in the non-Christian Northwest need to see that there are Christians in the area. They can also “hear” what is happening in our churches.
  • Our newest people are our best advertisements. It is very rare when a long time member of the church brings a visitor to church (other than a relative). Our newest folks are excited about what is happening at the church and are telling their friends about us!
  • Design your church bulletin and newsletter for those who are not yet at your church. Joy, our church’s office manager, came in my office the other day and said, “I am sure glad that I work for you.” Over the years I have pushed the envelope (who would have guessed) on thinking like those who do not attend church. She has become one of our greatest advocates for those who are not yet attending Evergreen. She has come to see that we “have to” change our worship bulletin (I call it our “worship folder”) and newsletter to appeal to our visitors. The regular attenders don’t really care how these publications look. Visitors notice everything! Today’s technology makes it affordable for even the smaller churches to put out quality products. Additionally, our web page is being totally revamped to be more appealing to those who have never stepped through our doors.
  • Have fun! Where in the Bible does it say that Christians have to be as sour as a lemon? Following Christ is a wild ride! Fun! Exciting! Uplifting! Do you remember looking at some of those old-time photos? Why is it that no one would smile? Too often, that is what our churches look like.
  • Keep church from being boring. Two Sunday’s ago my brother and his family went to a Presbyterian Church in Lacey, Washington. Brad goes to a fabulous Presbyterian Church in the Brown’s Point area of Tacoma. His home church is fabulous—and growing. He loves his church—he struggles with the PCUSA. Brad and his family worship with us several times a year. He is a great guitar player and singer and has provided special music on many occasions (he joined with our worship team on Easter morning to sing “Arise My Love.” He loves worship at our church. His experience in Lacey was, how can I say it… horrible. He said it was the most boring worship service he had ever attended. His kids (sixth and fourth grades) were absolutely bored. He was there for the baptism of his friend’s child. Worship can be reverent and not boring (his family attends the “traditional” service at their church). Worship can be reflective and not boring. Jesus was anything but boring!
  • The secret to Pastor Lance’s barbecued (grilled—for those of you in the south) salmon. Melt some butter (Parkay Margarine) in the microwave and then add brown sugar (lots of brown sugar-it should be the consistency of paste). A couple of minutes before taking the salmon off the BBQ liberally apply the brown sugar paste to the salmon and close the lid on the BBQ. Most of the mixture will slide off the salmon into the charcoal; the remainder will form a brown sugar glaze on the salmon. Everyone will want you did not make the salmon taste so good!

Enough random thoughts for now…

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Confrontation.

The Bible lays out the plan for direct confrontation in spiritual warfare. Some pertinent passages are:

-Ephesians 6:10-23

-2 Corinthians 10:3-5

-James 5:13-15

-Isaiah 58:6-9

-Acts 4:23-31

-Acts 5:12-166

-Acts 8:4-8

-1 Corinthians 12:10

-Mark 9:17-29

-Matthew 10:1

-Acts 19:14-16

The secret to spiritual warfare (including direct confrontation of evil spirits) is to be close to the Lord, spiritually fit and growing.

The Ephesians passage identifies two weapons we are to use: the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God and prayer. We need to be reading, memorizing and meditating on scripture. As Psalm 119 says, we are to hide God’s word in our hearts. God’s word needs to become a part of us—word for word!

I grew up in a part of the world where most all guys hunted. Over the years a migrated to hunting with a bow. Hunting with a bow requires a lot of pre-hunting practice. I would shoot throughout the year. I got to the place where I would aim at a pencil instead of aiming at a huge target. I never “hit” the pencil—I did get to the place where I could put 9 out of 10 arrows within three inches of the pencil from any distance between ten and forty yards. To accomplish that skill required learning about the flight characteristics of the arrow and proper tuning of the bow—and lots of practice. I practiced around one hundred hours before even going hunting.

In spiritual warfare we should do no less! In requires constant study and preparation. We cannot wait until we are confronted by a demon to dust off our Bible and try to find appropriate verses.

The second weapon mentioned in Ephesians 6 is prayer. True, prayer is not specifically named as a “weapon.” It does say that everything must be under girded with prayer. I heard a speaker once refer to it as the “underwear of prayer” – it has to go on before everything else!

Fasting is another spiritual discipline which can come into play. In fasting we are voluntarily forsaking our physical body so that Christ can be stronger in us. (I know that this is a very simplistic description of fasting. There are my authors you can turn to for more info on fasting.) Throughout scripture pray and fasting are linked together to help our prayers be more focused. Some manuscripts add “fasting” to the Mark passage.

We must recognize that the battle is primarily a spiritual battle—that has ramifications in the physical world. In commenting on Ephesians 6 one author said that we need to make sure that we point our guns in the right direction. The fight is against principalities and powers—not against flesh and blood.

Warning: Read the Acts 19 passage!

With all of this a background, here is what we will do to deal with the demonic situation faced by a family here at Evergreen Presbyterian Church:

  1. We are continuously encouraging our elders to be in prayer, Bible study and memorization.
  2. Our elders and prayer team are contacted to begin praying and fasting. Not all of our elders will be a part of the group that will go to the residence in question. We ask the people involved to be in prayer as well.
  3. A group of spiritually mature elders and pastors will be on the team that actually goes to the residence.
  4. The elders and prayer team will gather at the church at the appropriate time for a time of prayer.
  5. The prayer team will continue praying at the church while the elders drive to the location in the same vehicle.
  6. We will take as much time as is necessary to pray through the house and the property while anointing with oil as Christ removes the evil forces from the premises.
  7. We will have a prayer time with the people involved so that they can have their lives surrendered to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.
  8. Worship will be happening throughout the entire time.
  9. The elders return to Evergreen for additional prayer with our prayer team—worshipping and praising God.
  10. Our folks will go to their homes.

When we set the date for going to these folk’s home I will let you know. Please be in prayer (beginning now) that Christ will be glorified throughout this process!

Monday, June 25, 2007

You are going to think that we are crazy but…

“You are going to think that we are crazy but…” is the phrase that generally precedes a conversation regarding strange occurrences that a person is experiencing.

Last night was our third (and final) class on spiritual warfare. The class was offered because some of our folks had experienced a young man who they thought might be demon possessed. The class was just an introduction on the subject.

One of the newest couples at our church came to last night’s class—it was the first one that they attended. They stayed after class, wanting to talk—yet, hesitant to talk. Our conversation did not begin with the above quote because they knew that I would not think that they were crazy—after all, I had just explained how our church deals with demon possession/oppression. They took the next ten to fifteen minutes to explain what was happening on the ten acres that they own. It is quite common for people to see “ghosts” at certain places on the property. The previous owner of the property has admitted to them that the place is “haunted” (and no—that is not something that has to be disclosed by the owner as a part of the sale of a piece of property!). They have taken pictures of family members and one of the “ghosts” is in the photo. This couple was shocked to find a church that would even talk about the subject!

Question: what would you and your church do if a couple came to you with that story? Please post your answers on the comments section of the blog.

Tomorrow I will post what we are going to do.