Monday, October 07, 2013

Still blogging?

I'm not done blogging.  Though I'm thinking of changing things up and making a brand new blog!!!

Daily Movement of God

Sanctification is still Free Grace.  Yes, I haven't fallen out or become disinterested.  I just needed to take care of a few things that required going on the DL.  Now that they're underway, I'm resurfacing.

Sanc is also still the number one fan of La Femme Nikita and all its derivatives.  Boring!

I still love the LDS, still go to the same church, still love the LORD - more than ever do I love HIM!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Go + Stay

Two posts ago I wrote an article proposing the gospel impacting the Patient Grower's Network.  That week I prayed for God to open a door, but the Holy Spirit did not open a way.  That is the way things go sometimes, and I trust God for an open door elsewhere.

If you have been reading here in the last year you may remember a post on the Juggalos in downtown Salem, and J.K.'s story.  J.K. and I are still friends and because of her I am getting to know her friends.  I love them.  I don't know how to spend more time downtown which is what it would take.  I could list the ways I'm failing.  The biggest one would be that I am not living in the rhythms of the lives of those God wants to reach.  I swoop in, spread a little love and gospel, and swoop back to Keizer.  What I am doing, stinks.

Missional does not equal just "go" ing.
Missional = GO + STAY

I love this video...

Have you ever heard of the "Person of Peace"?  God opens a door for the gospel with a Person of Peace.  It is based on Jesus' sending out of the apostles.  Jesus commanded them to preach the Kingdom only where they were welcome.  Jesus taught Go + Stay.  Mike Breen teaches in his book Building a Discipling Culture that a Person of Peace:

1.  Welcomes/receives you, listens to you
2.  Serves you

When I read that last year, it freed me up to see who it is that I need to be pouring the gospel into.

The people downtown are SO OPEN to me.  They are so friendly, so lovable.  They have shared their lives openly with me.  They are people of peace toward me.

I have good news.  After a couple weeks, the guys were talking about how everyone downtown has a nickname.  I said, "I don't have a nickname."  One of the young men named Jack looked at me and said, "I know what your name is."

"What?" I asked.

"Your name is Faith.  That's what you represent," he said.

I looked at him for some time, to read his face and his body language.  Was I the kind of faith that was overbearing?  Annoying?  Preachy?  Out of touch with reality?  I didn't see any of that in his body language.  He looked genuinely positive.  My heart swells thinking about it!

There's another older man downtown who was widowed recently.  He goes to the same spot every day for two hours in the afternoon.  He greets every person who walks by, wants to know them all.  He is a believer who wants to share the love of Jesus.  His own son was once addicted to drugs for years but today he is sober and taking care of his family because of the power of God.  He is a natural shepherd with favor of the people.  It is so encouraging to talk to him.  He is also very open to me, totally encouraged by me talking in various forms about God's apostolic impulse.

All the young men respond so positively to this older man.  He was getting out of his car across the street and they all exclaimed his name loudly as he made his way, they were so excited he had come.  He got a nickname too that day.   Jack said, "there is no one as unique as you," to him.  The older man wanted to know why he was unique.  Jack said, "because you are the only older person I know who cares to get to know people, who will actually spend time with them instead of just drive right past them."  Isn't God good?

Jack is an agnostic who thinks the bible was written by men, full of inconsistencies.  Would you pray for this young man?

Here's the rub.  I feel so inadequate.  Let me give you a list of reasons why.  I've got more than one!!  :)

1.   I am a woman.  Yes, so I'm smart-n-stuff but you never know.

2.   My faith is not as strong as I wish it was.

3.   I'm not the best discipler.  I'm more of an apostolic/prophetic than a teacher.  There are others who are gifted at teaching and I sure would like some of those to come alongside.

4.  People downtown are sometimes mentally ill, former criminals, or addicted to drugs.  How can I stay ahead of all Satan's strategies?

I guess this is something for this older man and I to figure out together.  He is struggling with trying to answer the same questions: how do we know when to trust?  I've reached out to the Union Gospel Mission to get a feel for the way things really are and the resources they have available, the real struggles they are already engaged with.

Yesterday evening I went to Sonrise Church, also known as "Stitches."  It is an interfaith discipling ministry across the street from the Salem Conference Center.  I met Bob, one of the associate pastors.  He knows some of the people at Salem First Baptist.  He showed me everything they are doing to reach the young street folk.  One girl got bored waiting for our conversation to end and she came up to Bob and just snuggled in for a hug.  This moved me.  I love this place.

They started off doing an open grill down at the bus depot several years ago.  This developed into a group doing devotions at various places on the street.  In an alley.  On the capitol steps.  Eventually they got themselves a building.

I said to Bob, "You guys are doing everything that I want to do, though I don't want to develop things toward a permanent building with permanent services.  But you've got so much resources.  You have a men's mentoring program.  You have solutions for drug addiction.  I don't have any of that."

He looked me in the eye and said, "You don't need that.  I can tell you having worked here for several years, even when it comes to something like drug addiction: it is the love that sets them free.  That's it.  And it is the only thing that will keep them free.  You've got everything you need, as long as you are filled with love from God."

Ahh!  That was a word from the LORD to me.  So I pass it on to you.  You also are adequate in Christ's love!  God IS love.  All of His Holy Spirit ministry is captured within that powerful love.

I have two women who are praying with me, we are praying for one another's opportunities to advance the gospel.  We've been doing this for a month with one woman, several months with another.  One of the ladies wants to come with me downtown!  So I am planning on picking her up with me as I go.  God is so good to answer my prayers for partnership!

I am also being mentored by the longtime ministry partner of George Patterson.  Ralph Winter, the international missions leader who coined the term "Unreached People Groups" and in so doing catalyzed a new wave of world missions, calls George Patterson one of the top three experts in the world on church growth.  I am so glad for God's favor.  I can't even tell you how special this is to me.

I don't want to do church services - I want to do what is called a people movement toward Christ.  Work within the circle of natural community that exists.  See a few come to Christ and naturally they will reach the rest of their circle.

I don't want church FOR the people.  I want church BY the people, on the street, in the places they carry out life.  Mike Breen says,

I've said it many times: If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples.

--  "Why The Missional Movement Will Fail" by Mike Breen


For the young men and women who are open to me
For prayer partners who faithfully pray for the people downtown
For seasoned mentorship


Safety and Wisdom
Increased Faith

Saturday, May 18, 2013

"Bring the Better Wine"

The Miracle of Water Turned to Wine

Yesterday I was shopping at Walmart for shirts. At the checkout I was cracking jokes with the clerk. She asked me if I wanted to keep the hangers. She said people use them for all sorts of things. I said, "and I suppose I could keep the price tags as... bookmarks."

There was a little old woman in her eighties who had finished putting her things in her basket ahead of me who came back to the clerk. She interrupted us and said, "I did all of that and forgot to pay you so I could take ice out of the ice chest on the way out the door. Can I still do that?"

The clerk said, "Yes," but did not explain how. So the little old lady stood there for a while waiting to figure out how to do that. She finally realized and asked, "Do I have to stand in line again then?" The clerk replied in the affirmative. She kindly began to wheel her basket around to about five patrons deep a line.

I said, "I'll buy the ice," but she didn't hear me as she headed around to the line. So the clerk told the lady, "she is going to buy you ice ma'am."

The little old lady said from the back of the line, "Oh; well, I was going to buy five bags of ice."

By now the 5 patrons-deep line of people knew what was going on and was listening.

The clerk had told me they were only $1.85 a bag so I said, "It's no problem I can do that."

So the clerk ran up the bill and I paid for it. The clerk said, "Ma'am you don't have to wait in line, you can go get your ice. It's paid for."

She wheeled back around and came up and said to the clerk and to me, "Thank you."

I replied saying, "Bless you."

She turned to leave and then turned back one more time to add, "The ice is for my grandson's wedding. He is getting married tomorrow."

"Wow," I said out loud. "Bless him too."

I heard several people in line exclaim their own version of wow.  The other people in line probably longed to rejoice with the little old lady.  I admitted to the clerk as she rolled away, "That -- was the Holy Spirit right there. I had no plans to be that awesome."

The clerk said, "It'll come back around to you."

I replied to her idea of Karma saying, "God is great."


I remember Jeff Vanderstelt teaching Christians "bring the better wine" to celebrations.  The miracle of turning water to wine was the first miracle Jesus did in John chapter 2.

Nice people help little old ladies. Perhaps they even do it with a belief in Karma; the hopes of some cosmic payout from an unknown god.  But only YHWH arranges care for a little old lady in such a memorable moment of her life.

The only true and living God, YHWH, used frozen ice to bless a wedding happening somewhere in Salem, today.

Luke 10:20 says,

Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.

God lives even in me!  Celebration time!

Monday, April 08, 2013

How to Start a Movement

We can't just keep doing church for ourselves.
-Pastor Mark, 2008, Salem First Baptist Church

As an example, I believe that God wants to plant the gospel in the Patient Grower's Network in Keizer.  I have heard from one of my best friends, about the willing attitude toward the Kingdom of Christ, there.  What draws them together is the use of medical marijuana.  They are a new community of people who gather for education, access to doctors, friendship and fun.  It's located along Cherry Ave. and it's been incorporated for about two years now. My friend has been sharing God there and people are capable of following Jesus - however if they do, they will be keeping much of their culture.  Culture is not a bad thing - it was created by God for His glory.

SFB's Past

Perhaps you've heard that Salem First Baptist Church used to hold Russian services in their sanctuary in the 1980s? I believe their services were on Saturdays.

Perhaps you know that this same church once saw Salem's Chinese Immigrants who had come to the U.S. to build our railways, as an opportunity for church planting?  On the History of Salem First Baptist Church page you can read that the pastor's wife opened a school to teach the Chinese people English and to also teach them about God - and charged money to teach 40 pupils.  A few years ago I was part of the church's 150th celebration - how neat our church has been here for so many years!  I heard the story of what the church did incarnationally (evangelism without a program) for the Chinese.

They pushed the pews out along the walls
 and put tables in the sanctuary, 
so they could invite Chinese people in to eat dinner with them.

We've done it before.  Will we keep in step with our history of reaching out to our neighbors?  How can we push aside some of the ways we do church to make some space for outsiders?

Current Evangelism is Productive by Addition

You may say, "we keep reaching the lost.  We brought 47 adults and children to faith in Christ through Upward.  Perhaps 14 through the Easter services.  And three through the women's retreat.  That's evangelism too!"

It is evangelism, and I am immovably excited about it.  I pray all the time for Salem First Baptist to reach the lost, for souls to accept Jesus.  In preparation for the Easter services there was a list available with first names on a piece of paper during the prayer meetings.  I'd say there were 500-1000 people listed on that page.  I'm thankful for 14, but is there any way to see more come to faith than our usual annual total of about 100 individuals scattered across our various programs?

Experts in missions talk about the difference between addition, and multiplication.

George Patterson is a world-renown missionary who has written articles for the Perspectives Course being held Monday evenings in the Banquet room in Salem First Baptist.  He is also a speaker at missional community conferences such as "Verge" which I listen to.  This is because the missional movement here in the United States that has started in the last few years is built on the expertise of worldwide missions.  The things being taught in the Perspectives course are the same things contextualized for American local evangelism in the "missional movement."  How trendy is the missional community movement?  About as trendy as modern missions around the world.  If you take the course you will see how painstakingly mission theory changes through time, for the sake of winning the lost successfully.  Yes; they trend too.

In an interview here, I've duplicated what Patterson says for American evangelism at minute 35 of the video. In it the interviewer asks George what word he would have for American pastors and church members:

A word to pastors and church members in United States, to their role in the great commission.
It is a declining movement, and they need to make some drastic changes.

  1. Step Number One. What I do is I talk to Pastors and say "the challenge is right from Jesus [the Great Commission]. Let's get together and discern. There are fields around us, that are ripe and ready for harvest. Now obviously Pastor, if your church hasn't been growing well, you're not working in that field. So let's look at some of the other fields around us. Can we do that? Will you obey Jesus and do that?" (The Pastors will all say, "yes.")    Yeah - let's do that. It's totally Biblical, it's what Christ told us to do, it's what the Spirit enabled them to do. Let's open our eyes a little wider; let's look around. Ok.... We want to look for the fields that are ready to harvest. Now let's find them. We probably don't have to drive more than ten miles. We're probably going to have to shift down to a lower class, less-affluent, less-educated level, too. Alright, let's do that. And that's step number one. 
  2. Step Number Two, is to ask "What kind of church would be easily reproduced or multiplied in that environment?" Invariably they are much poorer, so our type of big church stuff can't be produced to the same level there. Give them a good pattern to follow.  Let's make an analysis, it's fun. Let's look at the New Testament and see how it was done there. We have good patterns to follow. 
  3. Step Number Three, find the people in your congregation who are gifted. God has promised that within all congregations there are people who are gifted as the "sent ones" with the apostolic gifting. There there are your feet. Find them! Talk to them about these ripe fields. Talk to them about what the church would be like there. Turn 'em loose. Give them adequate preparation from a mentor who has experience in that type of church, and turn 'em loose. And so you'll have two tracks within your church. And then you keep doing the same thing with the same people who know church as it is as they've come to expect. But don't push those people out to do cross-cultural work. You let those who are satisfied with the status quo continue to be pastored beside still waters. Ask for their prayers, ask for their blessings, love them, and they maybe will help you financially. And, so what? Get the focus off a non-responsive segment of the population and onto the fields as Christ commanded.   Analyze what has to be done, and send out the workers to get it done.  It's very simple and often has to be done with non funded workers, out of their own pocket money who will go and just do it. Don't need expensive procedures, just follow the New Testament pattern.  
- George Patterson

But maybe you're thinking about Salem First Baptist starting various indigenous church plants all over Salem and you're thinking, "I'm not sure I'm totally on board with this."  Maybe you like getting individuals to come to church, only, and you believe this is what the local church should be doing.  It's a fair question.  One that missionaries have been grappling with and still are grappling with out on frontiers around the world. Here is another article explaining the difference in outreach, between seeking individuals to become attenders and seeking whole people communities to follow where they already are.  This also is from the readings for the Perspectives course.  You can read the full thing here.
American Christians worship in churches that are a collection of fragments of families and various ethnic backgrounds. So when they first got to the mission field they were unprepared to plant a culturally relevant church within a cohesive ethnic group. Instead they focused on individuals, largely ignoring the implications of the surrounding culture.
As a result, when missionaries first went out from the West, they most often began to get people saved one at a time by "extracting misfits and rebels" from their surrounding culture who then adapted to the missionary's culture. This resulted in the creation of a culturally "different" church which very few others from the surrounding people wanted to join. Dr. McGavran in his writings referred to this as the Mission Station Approach since the missionaries would live together in a common area.
Extracting individual converts is one thing we must not do if we want to see a whole people come to Christ. Donald McGavran quotes Bishop J. W. Picket, in his study Christ's Way to India's Heart, as saying,
"The process of extracting individuals from their setting in Hindu and Moslim communities does not build a Church. On the contrary it rouses antagonism against Christianity and builds barriers against the spread of the Gospel. Moreover, that process has produced many unfortunate, and not a few tragic results in the lives of those most deeply concerned... It has sacrificed much of the convert's evangelistic potentialities by separating him from his People. It has produced anemic Churches that know no true leadership and are held together chiefly by common dependence on the mission or the missionary."
Must We Join Another Race to Be Saved?
McGavran goes on to say that converts achieved through extraction "felt that they were joining not merely a new religion, but an entirely foreign way of living--proclaimed by foreigners, led by foreigners and ruled by foreigners...In many parts of the field it was as psychologically difficult for a person to become a Christian as it would be for a white man in South Africa to join a Negro Church knowing that his children would intermarry with the black children. The person not only became a Christian, but he was generally believed to have joined another race." Our job is to give people access to the Gospel without putting up unnecessary cultural barriers for them to cross over.
McGavran continues, "People Movements have five considerable advantages. First, they have provided the Christian movement with permanent churches rooted in the soil of hundreds of thousands of villages. For their continued economic life they are quite independent of Western missions. They are accustomed (unfortunately too accustomed) to a low degree of education. Yet their devotion has frequently been tested in the fires of persecution and found to be pure gold. They are here to stay. They are permanent comrades on the pilgrim way.
They have the advantage of being naturally indigenous. In the Mission Station Approach the convert is brought in as an individual to a pattern dominated by the foreigner. The foreigner has set the pace and the style, often to his own dismay. But such denationalization is a very minor affair in true People Movements. In them the new Christians seldom see the missionary. They are immersed in their own cultures. Their style of clothing, of eating and of speaking continues almost unchanged. Their churches are necessarily built like their houses--and are as indigenous as anyone could wish. They cannot sing or learn foreign tunes readily, so local tunes are often used. Thus an indigenous quality, highly sought and rarely found by leaders of the Mission Station Approach churches, is obtained without effort by People Movement churches.
People Movements have a third major advantage. With them 'the spontaneous expansion of the Church' is natural. Spontaneous expansion involves a full trust in the Holy Spirit and a recognition that the ecclesiastical traditions of the older churches are not necessarily useful to the younger churches arising out of the missions from the West. New groups of converts are expected to multiply themselves in the same way as did the new groups of converts who were the early churches. Advocates of spontaneous expansion point out that foreign-directed movements will in the end lead to sterility and antagonism to their sponsors, and that therefore the methods now being pursued, here called the Mission Station Approach, will never bring us within measurable distance of the evangelization of the world."

It turns out that when individuals are won, and they start learning how to live life in a local assembly they often largely exit their culture and family and community where they used to live. This is what a "Stationary" mission subtly communicates as the proper way of life for believers, which is to draw them out.  To new converts of this method it is an advantage to live life in the church because they never really fit in society anyway. I don't know if I, personally, fit the "misfit of society" stereotype... now I wonder if I did! McGavran even points out that there are a few jobs on the Mission compound to give a means of self-support to the converts, but because the jobs are few, older converts actually discourage new converts so they won't have competition for their job in the missionary compound! What a conviction that is on life in the local assembly, where there are only a few positions of leadership and everybody wants to make an impact, not knowing where else they could find work for the LORD!

scattering our people for mission in Salem
But if a whole hobby club, or small community, or extended family out in Salem somewhere, together decides to follow Christ because one or two of its members in continuous relationship and good standing incarnate a changed life for Jesus, how powerful is that? Thus the goal is not to draw converts toward the mission station and pull them out of the vastly unevangelized frontier. The goal is to create an entire people-movement toward Jesus by keeping individuals who are newly saved in their normal places of community and family.

Does this make sense??  I'm doing my best to explain what it means to become a missional church.

Their impact is so natural because they will be in the relationships they have already been living with those people, all their lives. It is SO MUCH BETTER than a missionary who acts and speaks Christianese coming in and telling people how to be like them in absolutely everything (mixed in with the message to pursue Kingdom life).

I think about this when I think about the 14 response cards after the 500-1000 people out there our church prayed would become saved through the Easter services.  McGavran concludes,

"Desirable as spontaneous expansion is, it is a difficult ideal for the Mission Station Approach churches to achieve. They might be freed from all bonds to the Western Churches, they might be convinced that they had all the spiritual authority needed to multiply themselves, they might be filled with the Holy Spirit and abound in desire to win others to Christ, and yet--just because they form a separate people and have no organic linkages with any other neighboring people--they would find it extremely difficult to form new churches. In People Movement churches, on the contrary, spontaneous expansion is natural. Thus we come to the most marked advantage of these movements.

We don't often have to learn a new language or come to learn extreme cultural differences in order to win a few converts here in Salem, Oregon. The kind of differences we need to cross come from the fact that not everybody is comfortable with studying a bible. Or dressing up for church. Or they have a different avenue for medication which is use of marijuana. These are smaller differences and we can't confuse a call to enter the Kingdom with the call to superficial uniformity and Spirit-devoid morality. When it comes to winning souls, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. You must choose between planting the gospel, or planting everything else.

So We Let Them Keep Their Own Communities.  
Does This Mean We Never See The Fruit?

Seeing the fruit.  That's one reason we want them inside Salem First.  What are some other important reasons we gather together at one time?  Gathering ourselves back to SFB is just as important as scattering ourselves into pockets of the city.

Salem First Baptist Church has a vision to start a third service. Are 100 new converts annually going to be sufficient to populate a third service?  Perhaps.  What if we shared the gospel in natural communities in the Salem area and the communities began to believe? They would need a place to congregate. What if the Islander immigrants began following Jesus and they needed a place to congregate? We CAN keep in line with our history. We can see whole congregations of the Chinese, Russian, or other varieties of peoples "come to church." If we went into their services, we might not understand the language of their sermons. Or their music. Or their ways of social interaction. And that would be ok, wouldn't it, as it once was?

Would you give up a little cultural comfort through insisting that everyone in Salem be comfortable growing in our kind of church... and trade that for filling our sanctuary with additional services?

Gathering is just as biblical as missional communities
Imagine if every few months, we held a super-service!  We gather to be encouraged by what God is doing on the universal scale. This would be a special service where all the cultures and communities were represented in worship and language in one combined, super gathering. I think we would all believe in God a little more than we do today. I think God would be a little more glorified than He was before, too. Yes, we should long to gather together into One Body, for that is what we are. But it needs to be ok to be separate out of cultural distance, as well.

We're Losing Salem Without Moving Preservationally 
Through Its Cultural Uniqueness

Salem First Baptist's vision is "A growing community of followers of Christ who are being transformed into His likeness and reshaping culture to reflect God's heart."

You may prefer to see salvations occur individual by individual.  Increasing by addition, instead of by multiplication.  You may say, "Other churches in may close their doors here locally, but as long as we keep reaching individuals like we have, we will survive the impending churchlessness in America."

That may be true.  Even if SFB stays open, other churches will still close.  We don't want other churches to close!  If they do, we also lose!  With a shrinking witness, I'm afraid the animosity and confusion toward Church in the surrounding culture will only intensify.  There is only one way to change the culture.  It is from within the culture.  It will not be by maintaining our "safe base" like in the game of tag that our children love to play.  It will have to be by finding indigenous representatives of all the pocket communities in this city and developing them to do and be the church where they are, so that all of them can know Jesus in a way that makes sense in the culture they have.

I'm looking for someone, just one person who feels this way about the PGN.  I don't know what the mission looks like, but I know God wants to plant the gospel there.   There is only one reason why I'm still blogging about missional opportunities...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


In the last couple years this passage has become dear.  It is my testimony. 1 Sam. 22:1-2,
David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him.  And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him.  So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.
David was a fugitive.  He never could remain in Jerusalem long so he became a nomad.  For a long time he was alone except for one friend.  And then all of a sudden one day, people saw it for something more and they became a family.
1658, Claude, Landscape with David at the Cave of Adullum

If Sundays and Wednesdays at church are Jerusalem, the remainder of the week is the cave of Adullam.

Life Beyond Jerusalem

I haven't been satisfied by inviting friends to church.  It isn't enough.  When a person responds, "yes I'll come," sometimes they have come and never heard the gospel.  Sometimes they may have heard it but they seemed not sure why they should think the gospel was significant to them.  I refused to just "let them go."  If they didn't want to come to church, I told them the gospel.  Sometimes while standing on the sidewalk outside our home, or wherever else was convenient.  I wanted them to understand this invitation He gives to see Him as real in our life.

Sometimes they would say, "Yes I believe that," but they didn't seem to respond at the level of their soul.  I could have just let them go, again, but my concern that they understand what Jesus has done, and it moved me to try to invite-in the wonder of God.

Finally, some started seeing Jesus for themselves.  Which was wonderful!  And yet I should not be surprised!  "So then, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."  But they would come to church and feel weirded out by one aspect or another.  They think that they can't be Christians unless they do everything we do.  Which is just not true.

So I have ended up showing people how to live for the Kingdom, or at least doing my best to testify about that, inviting them the way Jesus invites me daily.  To not worry about whether they understand worship music, and not worry about bible studies which are overwhelming like homework, or not worry about why their clothes are different than most everyone else.

If anyone's leading, they lead me.  I want to know as much as they do how to see a viable Jesus outside of Sundays and Wednesdays.  These unchurched Christians are largely available and interested to play around with what following Jesus looks like outside of those structured times.

I like them better than I like myself.  They know how to take care of people like a real family.  They know what freedom ought to smell and look like.  Most of all they are SERIOUS about lavishing grace on broken people even if they have to do it in an earthly manner till they meet the means of grace in the person of Jesus.

They aren't bogged down by years of thinking about church like I do and so they bring an awareness of life with the King that I would never have noticed otherwise.  In fact there has been such success in seeing the King outside of Sundays and Wednesdays that now several longtime churched Christians, and even the de-churched, are purposely joining the rest-of-the-week band.  The harvest is plentiful.  Where?   Perhaps for Americans, the question isn't where but WHEN.  The harvest is plentiful during the rest-of-the-week, when people are eager to see the King, come, in their very existence.

This is my testimony: It is possible to follow Jesus and not fit into the typical experiences of going to church as we know it.

Indeed: THERE ARE MANY MORE WHO CAN FOLLOW JESUS THAN THOSE WHO CAN UNDERSTAND OUR WAYS OF DOING CHURCH, than we could have dreamed.  They just need someone to help them seek the Kingdom with vitality, in their own way of living life!  All their sin issues can be and are being conquered by the same Holy Spirit.

The "unchurched" have a King, too.  This King is the same as everyone else's.  He leads them with the same vitality as He leads those who attend Sundays and Wednesdays.  My passion is still, that the unchurched would come to church.  Some may be able to bridge that gap to perceive their place in a regular church service, eventually, while some never will and that's ok.

Why do I suggest that there is some invisible wall forcing me to juggle life between the unchurched and the churched?  Only because of one reason: I invite people to come to church, and they don't see Jesus right away, for some strange reason.

This is a challenge to develop myself as missionary.  The problem isn't who I've invited, the problem isn't my church.  It's that they need someone who will be a gap-stander.

Perhaps that what the discontented saw in David: a true ruler over the City, yet one who had legitimacy in life as an outsider.

I myself love church on Sundays and Wednesdays, but I cannot get myself to forget those who do not.  As David one day finally rested, I pray too that I and the people who I share life with can come and experience the joy of being gathered together with other saints.  There is one body, one baptism, and Jesus has took the dividing wall and abolished it through His body.

I long for those reading here to meet some of these.

Note: 'Adullam' is the name of the church started by Matt Smay and Hugh Halter.  I became familiar with the story of their church.  Recently I attended their pre-conference track in Texas.  Then recently I revisited this passage and that name, 'Adullam,' popped right out in my attention.  "Yeah!" I thought with a twinge of jealousy - they are experiencing a similar movement for God, as they found their namesake in this passage.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Imbue & Infuse

Christians are not like computer processors.  Yet they come to church and get the latest download, of information, and go home.  It is like a mainstreamed variety of Gnosticism as my friend Tim pointed out.  It is the belief that having the right knowledge will save.

What we find is that history can repeat itself.  All knowledge and no structures in church life for integration produces a people who know a lot and have no lifestyle to reflect what's in their mind.  They called it pharisee.

infuse: to instill a quality
Do not be deceived.  There is only one exam of whether we know Christ.  It is the highest biblical depictions of a life well lived.  Remember that in all Israel, there was no man who was like a son.  There was no heir.  Christ came as the God and Man to be the image for all of us, by grace through faith.  This image is to be infused, imbued, into our being.

imbue: to inspire or permeate with a feeling or quality
We need life paired with life in order to attain this.  We need to give Christians permission and time to think of church life together outside of the inner track of a few who put together our activities of knowledge-dispensing.

I want to be a full-color Christian.  Everything counts.  I need God to color me, to permeate me, to give me what I need.  I need Christians outside of Sundays and Wednesdays to bring me to life in God.  It is time to let down the walls and let friends in.  Let them come in and make something true-colored in application.

when blue showed up, yellow was never the same

The Image of Jesus...

Imbued, Infused Together,

By Grace,

Through Faith.


Ill paint my mood in shades of blue
Paint my soul to be with you
Ill sketch your lips in shaded tones
Draw your mouth to my own

Ill draw your arms around my waist
Then all doubt I shall erase
Ill paint the rain that softly lands on your wind-blown hair

Ill trace a hand to wipe out your tears
A look to calm your fears
A silhouette of dark and light
While we hold each other oh so tight

Ill paint a sun to warm your heart
Swearing that well never part
That's the colour of my love

Ill paint the truth
Show how I feel
Try to make you completely real
Ill use a brush so light and fine
To draw you close and make you mine

Ill paint a sun to warm your heart
Swearing that well never part
That's the colour of my love

Ill draw the years all passing by
So much to learn so much to try

And with this ring our lives will start
Swearing that well never part
I offer what you cannot buy
Devoted love until we die

Saturday, March 09, 2013

God Has Visited His People

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the pre-conference with Missio people about two weeks ago.  There was a lot that I learned about "modality" and "sodality" which explained a lot of the pains and frustrations I've been experiencing.  I plan to bring those out here.

The most important highlight for me was Jeff Vanderstelt's talk during the main conference the first day.  Jeff is one of the founders of Soma, a missional community movement in Tacoma, Washington, under which my brother-in-law has also joined in partnership.  Jeff was sharing a little more about his friend, Clay.  Last year on facebook I posted a video of Jeff introducing Clay.  If you clicked on the video back then or have run across it yourself you may be familiar.  Clay used to go to concerts and use drugs as the highlight of his life.  Jeff and his wife were invited to hang out with Clay at concerts.  Obviously Jeff and his wife were uncomfortable, however they respectfully served Clay during those concerts.

At some point after that video, I assume that Clay became a believer.  At the conference, Jeff was updating his story.  In my memory of the conference Jeff said,

I have been wondering about Clay.  He doesn't seem to show much signs of growing so I just prayed and prayed for him.  One day I'm going over to Clay's house, and I see all these firetrucks and an ambulance with their sirens blaring.  The thought comes across my mind, "I wonder if that has anything to do with Clay?"  So I follow the sirens and they turn down Clay's street.  Then they stop in front of Clay's house.  Clay's wife is standing on the front lawn, crying.  So I go up to her and pause, and say, "Is... Clay... ??"  She says that Clay was over in their neighbor's garage.

Clay had answered a call for help from a neighbor.  The man who lived there had hung himself in the garage. Clay is in the garage and it's completely dark, and he's looking around for anything that will cut the rope.  Somehow there's a sliver of light shining on a pair of scissors, so, he's cutting the rope while trying to lift the man up to relieve the pressure around his neck.  He gets him down.  He starts doing CPR.  Nothing.  Clay starts to pray.  Clay prays, "You know, God, if it's this guy's time to go, go ahead and take him.  But if he's not would you save his life?"

The garage door starts to rattle as a wind blew through the cracks, and as the wind blew past Clay and this man, the man takes a breath....

He's in the hospital, and wouldn't you know that one of the members of our Soma community is his nurse, so as he regains consciousness in the hospital he gets to hear the story of what happened.  This nurse is only 21 years old, and she leaves Tacoma and goes on vacation to visit her family in southern California.  While she's there, a group of pastors ask her if she would come down and share the story of what God is up to with Soma and the story of Clay's neighbor.  So, here's a 21 year old girl teaching pastors about the power of God and what missional community is all about, the mission to reach others for Christ.

I talk to Clay and you know what he told me?  He said, "Yeah, I was reading the gospel of Mark lately (!!), got through several chapters and read how Jesus does miracles."

God  answered his prayer... AND CLAY'S NOT EVEN THAT GREAT A CHRISTIAN, you know... what I mean?

So here Jeff had been praying for this new believer who doesn't really understand much about God and how He works in our lives, not even knowing he had been reading the gospel of Mark!

This testimony stirred me.  It was as if I was waiting for something, but when I heard that God was even raising the dead... I felt an urgency, that I was living in the days when God moves.  Then I read Luke 7:11-16 for no good reason and was shocked by the scriptures:
Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd.  And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her.  When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.

Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.”  And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.

That was exactly the words I felt: God has visited His people.  Their minds were settled that His favor had come into their lives.  So I have been praying ever since, for God to visit me, visit US.  I want to see His Kingdom not for my satisfaction, but for the sake of the lost.  He taught us to pray that His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  I realize He's not going to transform all till His return, but I believe nevertheless.  What if we prayed together for His Kingdom to come to us?  Would He set a limit and not be supernatural if we asked?  I believe it honors Him when I trust Him for His Kingdom, here and now!  I think the more we seek Him, the more we will find, even if we do not receive all His Kingdom in this dispensation.  Will you pray with me?  Luke 11:9-13,

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Playgrounds & Airports

I love and serve the traditional, attractional, programmatic local church.  As I do, I wonder what it will require to embrace the missional transformation.  Below are pictures of where and why we need innovation and new ministry.  The following is written to the traditional church by those who are leading the missional movement.


As I've thought about it, it's as though we as churches have taken the leaders of our church and put them in a playground that is just 10 feet long and 10 feet wide and enclosed by a tall fence.

We put these leaders on the playground and tell them to play.  That may sound good, but there are a lot of them in one place, and it's pretty crowded.  Because the space is so small, there is only room for a swing set, a short slide, and a little merry-go-round.  People take turns playing, but they spend most of their time waiting around, wondering when it's going to be their turn.  The fence of the playground is so high that you can't see over it.  As a result, the leaders don't even know that this playground is situated right in the middle of Walt Disney World.  There are a lot of rides and a lot of fun to be had just on the other side of the fence... and they don't even know it.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that if we took the fence down to let the leaders see what could be, almost all of them would stay in that small playground.  Why?  They know the playground.  It's what they've always known.  They like the swing set, the slide, and the merry-go-round.  Space Mountain?  The Tower of Terror?  The Teacups?  They've got no idea what to do with those.  Walt Disney World is way too foreign and looks more than a little scary compared to the playground they have always known.  So chances are, even if you took the fence down, they'd never leave the playground. 


Imagine that it is a Tuesday morning, and that the staff of your church has gathered for its weekly staff meeting.  Staff members discuss the weekend service and whether it delivered the message and experience they hoped it would.  They discuss attendance numbers; small group numbers and effectiveness; budget, buildings, and cash flow.  ... Then, there's a soft but decisive knock on the door.  Someone says, "Come in!"

Into the room, dressed in normal clothes, step Peter, Paul, James, Priscilla, Timothy, and Lydia.  (Obviously, we're in a hypothetical situation here.)  They introduce themselves and say that the Lord sent them to your church to serve in any way they can.  They ask, "What can we do?  We don't want to be on the stage or anything.  You're doing the preaching/teaching thing really well.  But we'll do anything else you need.  Just tell us what you'd like."

A stunned silence comes over the staff--after all, this is a strange situation.  But soon enough, the staff members snap out of it.  "Uhh, well, OK.  Well, how many of you are there?  Six.  Well, let's see.  Could three of you be small group leaders?  We're looking to start some new small groups, and clearly you'd be great at that.  Peter, James, Paul, could you do that?

"Hmmm... you know, we just lost the person who heads up our First Impressions team a month ago, and it has been a bit lackluster.  It has lost the punch it used to have.  You know it's important that people have a strong impression of our church within the first 15 seconds when they come to the service.  Priscilla, do you mind heading that up?

"Timothy, we could sure use another usher, you look like you could handle that.  Lastly, Lydia, I hear you play a mean bass and can sing too.  We're down a bass player and would love to have you in the band.  Maybe you can even fill in and lead worship from time to time.  Are you up for that?"

This is called plug-and-play.  This is about having various positions we need filled in the machine of our churches and plugging people into those roles  Now don't get me wrong: there are always going to be logistical needs when the scattered church gathers.  That's reality, and we need to attend to that and do it well.

But does anyone really think this is where a church should be using Peter, James, Paul, Priscilla, Timothy, and Lydia?  Would this be the most effective use of their time and energy given the skill sets they have [for multiplying followers of Jesus]?


I travel by plane almost every week. This means I get to visit a lot of airports. On a fairly routine basis, airports get confused about what they're there for -- and for whom. They think that if a bunch of planes are on the ground, close to the hub, and the concourse is full of people, they are winning. They apparently think they are the destination! Of course, when this happens, it means a bunch of people aren't getting where they want to go. They're stuck at the airport, like flies on flypaper.

The airport is a place of connection, not a destination. Its job is to help people get somewhere else. An airport-centric world of travel would be dull and frustrating, no matter how nice the airport is.

When the church thinks it's the destination, it also confuses the scorecard. It thinks that if people are hovering around and in the church, the church is winning. The truth is, when that's the case, the church is really keeping people from where they want to go, from their real destination. That destination is life. Lucky for us, it just so happens this is what Jesus promised to bring to us. (He did not say, 'I have come to give you church and give it to you more abundantly.') Abundant life is lived out with loved ones, friends, acquaintances in the marketplace, in the home, in the neighborhood, in the world.

The church is a connector, linking people to the kingdom life that God has for them. Substituting church activity as the preferred life expression is as weird as believing that airports are more interesting than the destinations they serve.

So... what do you think?  Do these pictures tug at your heart for something richer?  This is just a trim over the top into why we need missional leaders: people who can gently and personally mentor, leading us outside the safe spaces of the church building and into the world so the Kingdom might expand.

[1] "Multiplying Missional Leaders: From Half-Hearted Volunteers to a Mobilized Kingdom Force" by Mike Breen. 3DM, 2012.

[2] "Missional Renaissance" by Reggie McNeal. Jossey-Bass Publication, 2009. pg. 45.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

"This is a Safe Place"

Is life beating you down?

Do you have a wound or affliction that just won't clear up?

The Hemorrhaging Woman

She was bleeding.  It had been this way for 12 years.  The doctors she saw only made her worse, not better.  This woman who hemorrhaged had lived a life with wounds and fear.  The bleeding was only part of the problem.  She also struggled to be part of society for all those years.  You see, wherever she laid or sat would be unclean for anyone else, and if others touched places she had been, they also would be unclean for a few days.  Think that would take a toll on her feelings?

Would you push your way through a tight crowd and talk publicly about this problem to Jesus?  It would cause instant recoil.

She didn't want to talk to him.  She didn't want to reveal that she would make everyone unclean in the crowd.  So she found a way to interact with Jesus without looking Him in the face.  Faith brought her.  She thought, "if I can only touch the hem of His robe, I will be healed."

And she was!  She stopped bleeding as soon as she touched Jesus.  He had made her finally feel safe from the oozing wound.  Her plan was to slink away.  But the Lord was thinking about how she felt in the presence of many.

Thank God for Jesus!  He didn't follow the usual protocol and count this bleeding woman unclean.  He was safe, for her.  What happens when we only feel safe with one?

In this video Nikita intuitively hears wisdom's voice.  Nikita stops Alex's oozing wound.  She retells her own story to Alex.  How, once she had an oozing wound, a need for safety, and Carla stopped the hemorrhaging.  In spite of Carla's absence, Nikita grasps the rest of the lesson and embodies it for Alex: "And I thought, 'There has to be a reason."'  She wasn't going to wait on Carla - her own devotion to righteousness called her to excellence in being a mentor herself.

The Clackamas Town Center Shooting

When people become associated on an intimate level with shocking tragedy, such as the Newtown School shooting or Clackamas Mall shooting last December, they say afterward, "I'll never go there again."

This kind of thinking is like the woman who only wanted to be healed in body and not in the crowd: a half-way deliverance.  It seems like wisdom to avoid the places where people remind you of something that brings you down.

But experts in trauma and post-traumatic stress suggest that the best thing you can do after a perceived life-threatening experience, is to revisit the very place where it all happened.  To face it.  To sit in the corridors, to walk the expanse, and just let your senses take in the normalcy of it all.

The woman who hemorrhaged very well might have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Research shows us that people with chronic life-threatening illness, such as cancer, can be triggered with intense re-experiences of traumatic fear for survival.  They call this the "fight-or-flight" response, or "hyperarousal" or "hypervigilence." It is a lower-brain response, not part of the brain responsible for critical thinking at all.  It comes from the amygdala, which for example, tells you to take your hand off a burning stove even before you've had a chance for the more advanced part of your brain to interpret the situation and decide to remove your hand.  It's much faster, beyond thinking almost.  The amygdala and hippocampus are in charge of fear responses and the way those memories are held and revived in the mind.

The hypervigilence of post-traumatic stress is similar to what schizophrenics experience in paranoia.  It's not paranoia, but it acts similar.  Hypervigilence seems like a foreign concept until it just comes over someone.  Their senses warn them saying, "I've seen this situation before.  Run first, ask questions later!"

Those Who Don't Go Back, Lose Community

Why go back to a place of a nightmare?  For mall shoppers who don't go back, it seems at first like a no-brainer, like a healthy decision.  Somewhere down the road however, it may catch up. This increases in likelihood if there should be another life-threatening experience later, even if it is completely unrelated to the first. The re-experiencing of a traumatic response doesn't just happen in that mall, on the third floor right at the Macy's entrance where the tragedy occurred.  The mind may revive this experience through totally unfair reminders, such as the scent of Bath and Body Works, down the hall.  Or any retail center which has the same tiles on their floors.  Or overhead holiday music.  The amygdala and hippocampus just plays unfairly.  The fear can irrationally come out in so many more places and scenarios than you would have ever thought possible.  It makes public places and people, unsafe, and there is little community for people with fear.

This is why it is good to consider going back, when life settles down to normal.  The traumatized should attempt to take back and normalize the situation that had been terrifying.

Moving Us Toward Community

Your responsibility is to go back.  Your mentor's responsibility is to advocate for your community.  We must find a way to help people feel safe around one another, after tragedies like these shootings.  Mark 5:30-34,
And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, 'Who touched my clothes?'
But His disciples said to Him, 'You see the multitude thronging you, and you say, "Who touched me?"'
And He looked around to see her who had done this thing.  But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.  And He said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.'
Many Christians have trouble being vulnerable beyond a couple of our closest friends.  What if, barring a few mismatched personalities, Christians were a safe place to be yourself?

Jesus became a beacon by which the woman could retake a sense of safety and rapport with several more.

He instantaneously imposed on all His followers to become that safe environment.  He did it through His public acceptance of her, in the place and the people where she was most aware of her issue.  This is a fine example of healing communities.

As I write this I realize some readers are thinking about those who have not been safe.  Have you ever taken a risk, and stood out?  Did you ever choose to be vulnerable?  Have you shown a small community your battle scars and risk being misunderstood?  Sometimes Christians go silent because they don't know what to say, even though they feel respect and compassion for you.  Sometimes they add judgement on top of your wound, instead of moving toward vulnerability themselves.  Imagine in the television show above if Nikita and Birkoff separated themselves from Alex because they could see her hemorrhaging?

If this is the case in your life, take a look at the scriptures.  The woman honestly didn't know what would happen if she became known.  But she was sure scared!  God defends and saves those who take Kingdom risks.  Those who tell "the whole truth" for His glory and power to become known.  Jesus stops to hear her story.  He isn't defending the comforts of those following Him in the crowd.  He puts them on edge.  He wraps her in acceptance and this is the story that is left for us from the disciples in our bibles.  Jesus is on the side of the openly broken.  Through His dialogue with her, He subtly tells everyone else their duty which is to communicate: "We are okay.  You're going to be fine."  Depend on Jesus to do this for you in your vulnerability!  He can transform Christians who struggle to embody safe community.  God doesn't guarantee that all our afflictions will healed in an instant, but He has shown us that we don't have to live this life alone.

It just might be that Jesus would use your openness as a model of His grace for a whole throng of onlookers.

The Community's Response: This is a Safe Place

Do you suffer from wounds and fear?  I can't promise you all Christians will treat you right.   It is the Savior, Jesus Christ, who ended the era of separating the broken.  Have you ever thought that your words and your presence is a ministry God can give through you to someone in need?  When I've drawn near to someone's wounds and pain, that was not me; it was Jesus who lives in me and who's shown me in His Word how much He loves everyone so much, that He took many wounds for us.  He will be closer to you than I ever could.  I'm not perfect.  I will let you down now and then.  If you happen to have felt acceptance from me, come and experience acceptance in the community of Christians with which I follow Jesus.  As D.T. Niles said, "I'm just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread"  -

"You can stay here.
This is a safe place."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Power of Praying 'Arise'

(this post was originally written on 11/13/12)

Today I am reminded, 

"Each one should be careful how he builds."
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;  Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
I used to pray "Lord, open a door for this ministry, Lord, open a door for that message."  Then, I prayed, "Lord, Arise, open a door for Yourself, and come in."  He has come, He has arisen.  He is passing through this church.  I see stubble in me.  I have feared men, made them weighty in my heart and mind.  This is a sin.

The word "splendor" also means, "weighty."  God should be the weighty one in my heart, the one of splendor, the one I alone fear.

I see God who is fearsome.  Ezek. 21:16-17
Swords at the ready!
Thrust right!
Set your blade!
Thrust left--
Wherever your edge is ordered!
I also will beat My fists together,
And I will cause My fury to rest;
I, the LORD, have spoken.
Do I dare believe He will spare me just because I have the gift of eternal life?  No, God is no respecter of persons.  He did not spare His own people from fire.  Isaiah 27:10-11,
Yet the fortified city will be desolate,
The habitation forsaken and left like a wilderness;
There the calf will feed, and there it will lie down
And consume its branches.
When its boughs are withered, they
will be broken off;
The women come and set them on fire.
For it is a people of no understanding;
Therefore He who made them will 
not have mercy on them,
And He who formed them will 
show them no mercy.
These branches are the same mentioned to the church in John 15:5-6,
I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

This is a verse for Christians, and everyone else who might have appropriated the righteousness of God's living water into their lifestyle.  The word "branch" means ruler, son, king (Matthew 24:32, Zecharaiah 6:12, Isaiah 60:21, Psalm 80:15).  That is why I will never forget worship dancing on Palm Sunday, when King Jesus enters Jerusalem and the people ushered Him by waving palm branches.  Palm branches are a symbol of a victorious son or a ruler.  What sort of rulers am I replicating into this world I will leave behind - righteous sons, or wicked sons?  This is what it means to be a branch for Jesus that bears fruit in the world.  To the church Jesus warns in Romans 11:20-22,
Do not be haughty, but fear.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.  Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.  Otherwise you also will be cut off.
Not our whole life will be cut off from the presence of God.  When it says, "you" will be cut off, I believe it means, "in regard to any work of your life under consideration at the moment."  I believe for our delight God gives saints the command to lift holy hands.  Take a look at your hand, your palm.  I believe every time a Christian raises his hands he thanks God and agrees with the Spirit for a righteous branch, a righteous people, coming out of their life.

It is only because a Christian's heart continues to pursue Him that a Christian is favored.  God has mercy on sins done in ignorance.  He has mercy on those who want to know Him.  God gives grace to all who ask, however some choose not to seek it.  When the light comes, and it is coming now, the wicked and the righteous are freshly discerned.  Isaiah 25:10-11,

With my soul I have desired You in the night
Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early;
For when your judgments are in the earth,
The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
Let grace be shown to the wicked,
Yet he will not learn righteousness;
In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly,
And will not behold the majesty of the LORD.
LORD, when your hand is lifted up, they will not see.

I want to see Jesus as He arises for His people, to bring them every depth of salvation.  I can't make Him give the depths of salvation to me.  I can't earn His mercy with anything I do for Him.  He gives it freely.  Psalm 40:13,
Be pleased to save me, LORD...
I love how God's Word gives me boldness to say what is both true and significant before the dawn has made everything apparent.  Those who fear the LORD have assurance.  Malachi 3:16-4:2,
Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.
“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts,
“On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him.”
Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him.
For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
That will leave them neither root nor branch.
But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
The jewels, those precious things I can build upon the foundation of my salvation - what are the jewels according to scripture?  In Malachi above, Jesus calls people His jewels.  What are jewels for NT saints?  The same: they are people.  This prophecy in Isaiah below was fulfilled by the woman at the well in John 4.  Isaiah 49:18, 22-23,
Lift up your eyes, look around and see;
All these gather together and come to you.
As I live,” says the Lord, “
You shall surely clothe yourselves with them all as an ornament,
And bind them on you as a bride does.
Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations,
And set up My standard for the peoples;
They shall bring your sons in their arms, 
And your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders;
Kings shall be your foster fathers,
And their queens your nursing mothers;
They shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth,
And lick up the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord,
For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.
The power of praying "arise" is that He makes me get out of the way.  He stands out alone as pure.  Being judged as sinning feels like fire, now.  It is unpleasant to discover that my choices are stubble to Him.  It is much more wonderful afterward to see His Kingdom developing in me!  I'm thankful that He saves me because He is pleased to do so.  And I pray that through repentance, God would help me stay in step with Him as He passes through.

Thank you Jesus, for your life on earth, your death and resurrection, which makes this hope for jewels my greatest opportunity.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Biology Class Growing Up

Monday evening I walked into a class I wasn't even signed up for because I got an email about it.  It's a perspectives course on Christian work throughout the world.  The topic was missionaries to unsent peoples.  As I was walking into my church, into my Sunday school room where we've been lately pouring over the issue of creation vs. evolution, guess who was standing there to register me in the class?

I shook my head in disbelief as I approached.  It was obvious God was up to something.  I smiled at him and said, "You're Mr. Shrout, right?"  He was indeed.

He is my science teacher from when I was in 7th and 8th grades.  Amazing.  This is just another step in almost a year's worth of development that God is making for me in my life when it comes to the issue of creationism vs. evolution.

In fact I've been trying to write this blog post since June 12th.

It all started when I was in my friend April's church last spring, visiting one of their services.  An older gentleman walked up to me afterward and said to me with a smile, "I know who you are.  You're... Michele, right?"

"Yes," I said.  I looked at him for awhile.  I recognized his face and I smiled big.  "I know you too...!" I trailed off.  I couldn't figure out how I knew him.  He filled in the blanks.

He said, "You were in my science class."

"Yes, I remember.  You're... Mr. ..," and I almost said it as he did, "Mr. Haight."  I smiled bigger and said, "Oh my gosh!  I remember being in your class!  Biology at North Salem High."

He said, "I remember you were really good at science, seemed to know a lot of the answers, that's what I recall about you."  I smiled and I tried to shuck his compliment away but he continued.  "I remember one day I was upset with the whole class because of how badly they did on a test.  You raised your hand and said, 'It's our fault for how we did.'  And that made me feel like you were defending me, it was nice of you."

I thought about that.  Coming to think of it later, I can remember that.  What I remember more is how on one time I took advantage of his trust.  There was a kid who was doing something naughty, and I advocated for him.  Looking back, the kid didn't deserve my advocacy.  Mr. Haight looked me in the eye about it and I felt it.  That's my memory.

I remember something else.  The funny kid in class was eating gummy bears.  When Mr. Haight turned his back to the class to write on the board, this guy would take a juicy bear out of his mouth and throw it full-force toward the wall or the ceiling.  It would stick.  Mr. Haight turned around and couldn't tell why people were laughing.  Ohh, the naughty things kids do!  But Mr. Haight was a great teacher.  He cared about the kids.  That's why I remember him so fondly.
Me in 5th grade

I told Mr. Haight as he was before me now, "I remember in class that sophomore year you had a creation vs. evolution debate for the students by the students.  I was on the evolution side.  I remember it was so odd to me that people used the Bible at all, or would argue things like that.  I thought everyone should or did believe in evolution.  That was the beginning of my awareness that there could be something else.  It was a big deal to me."

He didn't respond too much to that.  He moved on to ask me about my kids who I had brought with me.  He's been a Christian all this time, and a wonderful one at that.  How fascinating!  No wonder he wanted to have that debate in the classroom!

Fast forward to May.

My daughter Grace goes to an orientation for entering Middle School - Claggett.  I see this teacher at the school, and I think he looks familiar but it doesn't click in my thinking.  Later they announce "Life Science class is taught by Mr. Shrout."  What!  That was my science teacher when I was in Middle School (Whiteaker).  Then I realized who I had seen in the hall.

I find out over the summer that he is retiring that year.  So my daughter will not have the opportunity to have him for Life Science like I did growing up.

I wondered if he had recognized me.  I had seen him coming out of the school once or twice since May.  So this thought of actually getting to talk to him too has been building in my mind since last year.

One of my science teachers was a Christian, how neat!  But what if my other science teacher was not?  Mr. Shrout was my most favorite teacher of all.  He was my teacher when I kind of discovered that I loved science, and wanted to do stuff in science for the rest of my life.  That's the way I completely felt back then.

If I met him, what would I say?  All these months, I wondered.  I tried to explore my heart.  I could hear some normal questions he might politely ask.

"Did you end up doing something in paleontology?"

"Did you become an anthropologist like you had been thinking about?"

"Are you doing something in science at all?"

My answers:


"I stay at home with my kids."

"I'm trying to build momentum for something called 'missional communities.'"

"I'm a Christian, now.  So, ..?"

And all I could imagine someone saying in reply to that, is, "Oh."  And that's where I've never been able to figure out how the rest of my story, goes?  What would I say, about my love for science?  I feel like, I still love science.  I still know everything I once did.  It just doesn't mean as much to me.  Does that mean anything at all, to someone who teaches science for a living, who invests himself in students so they might become something someday?  I can't tell you how I solve the question of what hominid fossils are all about.  I don't know the answer between what the Bible says and what the fossil record shows.  I don't have enough science to make the Bible a scientific textbook.  I'm stuck saying mostly, "I don't know."

Do you see now why I couldn't finish this blog post?

(I even told my arch-nemesis in middle school that I was going to be a paleontologist when I grew up!)

Because of Monday evening, I realize I don't have to finish this blog post.  The story ends a little differently.   My other science teacher, is also a Christian!  Hm.

All of this, was built into this moment, walking into my church and seeing my science teacher standing there.  I don't have to try and explain why I'm a Christian, thank God for that!  He would know!

I said to him, "I was one of your students."  (He probably hears that a lot.)

"Oh, what year?"

I said, "About '92, '91..."

"Hmm," he said.

"I remember one of your jokes.  'Why didn't the moss hang out with the lichen?  Because he heard he wasn't a "fungi [pronounced 'fun guy'],'" I repeated to him.  He acknowledged.

"Remember, I did special reports on science over the summer because my dad made me study college level Biology?  I gave you a paper at the beginning of the year?  You asked me to be teacher's aide the following semester?  You had me help pass out papers?  One time you asked me to transfer dead frogs for dissection from one bucket to another bucket in the back storage room.  And I cried and said I couldn't do it?"

He listened and said, "I'm sorry, I don't remember."

I looked at the floor, and tried again.  "Remember I wrote down all your jokes you told in class on my book cover?"

His eyes lit up and he said, "Oh, that's YOU?" and took a step back.

"Yes, that's me," I said smiling.  "Remember at the end of the year you asked me if you could photocopy my book covers so you could keep all your jokes?"

He replied, "Yes, my son was just wondering where those were.  They put on a retirement party for me and he wanted those out as part of a display.  I'll have to text him in a little bit and let him know that I met you."

That was wonderful.  I was pretty sure my testimony of becoming a Christian would matter because he would remember the textbook covers.  But I still don't know what my testimony is, about science.

I remember that I was always raising my hand in class.  I remember the other kids eventually got annoyed.  They started to say, "Okay Michele just put your hand down" and I would laugh.  Kids thought I was teacher's pet.  I remember that Mr. Shrout was hilarious.  He was so funny.  He is humble about how funny he is.  Most of his jokes were puns, but I just remember the entire class breaking out into laughter out of nowhere because of him.  All the time.  I remember dissecting frogs and worms.  I remember his green bicycle that he stored in class.  Even back then it had a reputation: it was dubbed "the green machine."  I had so much fun in that class in 7th grade.

Over the summer my dad used to make me choose a college-level textbook and read it and write reports.  So I picked 200-level Biology and studied it.  When I got to the end of the summer I had written some papers on things like the evolution of man and chemistry of ATP converted to energy in the bloodstream.  I could draw the tree of human evolution and used it for speech class and for random papers in English all through middle school. I knew all about evolution.

In the last few years, I've tried to abandon what I know altogether.  Most of the books I read in the last few years about creationism only talk about the hoaxes, they don't really say anything about the thousands of fossils of hominids that are out there to be considered.  I guess I'm stuck between two worlds.

I didn't expect to discover that my science teachers were Christians.

I can't explain to you the sense of lostness that I lived in spiritually, growing up.  At 17 I saw the movie about what the Bible explains about Jesus.  I saw Jesus as strong.  And authoritative over creation.  Provocative.  A leader who meekly gave His life, dying cruelly.  He said He did it for me, and for everyone.  He depicted how God cared if a bird fell to the earth, and how much more God cared for me.  And then, He gave me His kind of JOY.  It changed my life.  I still didn't understand sin, or God, really.  Or what my purpose was.  I just knew that I knew the Author.  The Origin.
Me, age 17

Looking back, now, over all those years of feeling empty and lost, I just feel like God had this big hug, wrapped around me.  He was there.  All along.  Even though I was lost, He was there.  His people were there.  God was never that far away.

Why did I have to wait to get saved, I wonder?  So many people who were saved at the age of 17 have done much to glorify Jesus.  Just something I've noticed.  Reid Saunders was saved at 17.  Billy Graham was saved at 16.  The missionary who spoke to us Monday night who went on to give 20 years of his life to the Iteri people, was saved at the age of 17.  It is a kind of fervor that is truly annoying to those who are closest to you; they are a people who just won't stop talking about Jesus.

Don't you just love how provocatively God speaks?  Like sending my favorite science teacher into my church classroom on Monday night where the day before, we had been discussing evolution.  I marvel at God's message to me:

Honey, your science teachers were Christians, just like you.

Thank God for filling in the blanks, showing me His creative presence is so near.

blog archive

Phrase Search / Concordance
Words/Phrase To Search For
(e.g. Jesus faith love, or God of my salvation, or believ* ever*)