"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Sunday, November 27, 2011

100 Verse Challenge - Week 12

Our memory verses for this week from dianalovestowrite.blogspot.com:

"If I go away and prepare a place for you,I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also."
John 14:3

Jesus told him, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
John 14:6

Glimpses of Grace 4: "Turning a big ship slowly"

     His teaching has changed over those years. As recently as a year ago I started a post, "Grace Long Beach will be 100 years old in 2013 and after most of the old people died off and most of the young people wandered off, it was on serious life support for a long time. God has brought it back to a life so vibrant, I weave among all the people I don't recognize and smile for joy. Sharp, creative college students and professors. Laid-back teens not ashamed of Jesus (or their parents). Young singles, some with ink or metal body art in startling places. And young couples, many of whom were some of these same singles until recently.
     "And babies are popping out all over!"
      I no longer have the heart to finish that post--now that I know the "Jesus" these people are being introduced to at our church is no longer the Jesus of the Bible. He's a fallible human being, just like us.
     Last Sunday Lou made that clear. In the last of a series of messages on "Living in God's Presence: the exodus journey," he ended up commenting on Exodus 32:14, which reads, "So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people." 
    In part, Lou quoted Peter Enns, a man who believes parts of the Old Testament are myth, not history. (Google him.) Lou said some people try to explain verse 14 by saying God intended to do this all along "but I don't accept that. The God of Exodus is portrayed in a very human way. . . God meets us at our own level and under our own human conditions. . . Enns again: 'Presenting God as human in Exodus 32-34 is no different from presenting God as human in Christ.' 
     "We can do nothing other than think of God and relate to Him in strictly human terms. We can take stabs at what He is really like, using words like omnipotent, omniscient--" here he made quote marks with his fingers in the air--"and these are things which make God non-human. These are true attributes of God but He has told us we can call him father, friend, king--human attributes--and we relate to him on that basis. When we pray, we pray to the god of Exodus 32:4-14. We speak as if he's interacting with us. Then when. . . what we ask does or doesn't happen depending on what the request is, we thank him. He is present and deeply desires to be in relationship to his people." I have transcribed some of this from the podcast ("The Sacred Cow," http://www.gracelbmedia.org/). Where my wording diverges from the podcast, I am quoting from notes I took verbatim in the service we attended.
     Scripture must be understood in context, in its entirety. Lou needs to take into consideration other verses which say God doesn't change, that He is immutable, that He knows our thoughts before we speak them. His "changing His mind" has to be understood within the truth of His overarching sovereignty, perfect knowledge, and immutability. The testimony on every page of the Scriptures to the divine attributes of God--relegated to human conclusions we "take stabs at"? 
     If we relate to God only in his humanity, why would we pray to Him at all? Isn't it God's divinity that draws us to Him in prayer--His omnipresence to hear our cries, His perfect knowledge to best determine how to meet our needs, His perfect love to desire to help us, and His omnipotence so He can accomplish what we ask? A god we only relate to as a fellow human being is scarcely better than a god of wood or stone. We could have no hope of answers.
    That view diminishes and demeans God, flattens and deflates Him. It dishonors Him. 
     How could our church get so far off-base when it was founded so soundly on "the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible"? Well, in a word--gradually. Four years ago Lou told a church member he doesn't believe in the traditional interpretation of the end times, including the literal future return of Jesus Christ, bringing with Him His kingdom, 1,000 years of peace over which He will reign. He said he believes God is through with Israel, has abandoned her. These views not only go against Scripture but against the Statement of Faith, which as a member of our church, not to mention pastor and elder, he is bound to uphold. 
     When asked why he isn't honest with the congregation, telling them frankly he doesn't believe what he preaches, he said he preferred to present his views in a way which some in the congregation would "get" and which would "pass over the heads of the rest."  
    He told another church member, "This church is like a big ship. It has to be turned slowly."

    Thank God as soon as Lou finished preaching Sunday, the worship leaders immediately led us in a heartfelt rendition of "Yesterday, today, and forever":
"Yahweh, God unchanging,
Yahweh, firm foundation.
Yesterday today and forever,
You are the same, You never change;
yesterday today and forever,
You are faithful and we will trust in You. "

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Glimpses of Grace 3: The Pastor Who Came to Stay

     A succession of pastors tried to fill Pastor Dave's massive pulpit over the next years. One of them determined to stick it out five years--before he fled.
     Pastor Dave was a hard act to follow. We made it harder. We didn't want another preacher. We wanted Pastor Dave. We were grieving.
    Our pastoral search team sought from coast to coast for a man who could preach with the magnetism of a Dave Hocking. Finally, in 1990, they found one they thought met that high standard. He was pastoring a church with only a handful of parishioners, all of which (we were told) he had led to faith in Christ himself!
     He came to us in 1990. He gave sermons that mesmerized and drew us in with a relevant hook taken from something happening in news, sports, entertainment, or books. Lots of books. Meaty books. Thought-provoking books.
     We turned our backs on him. His name was Louie but we insisted on calling him Pastor Lou. We didn't like any change he made. The risers for the choir behind the pulpit and the modest shin-lengthed blue choir robes disappeared. In fact the choir disappeared. Instead of the piano and organ there were guitars and drums. I would overhear little old ladies in the church bathroom and at luncheons murmuring and complaining about the choice of music, shaking their heads over the dearth of "good old hymns." Some of them took to pointedly coming into the service late, after the songs.
     Institutions and ministries disappeared: The Bible Institute Dave had started and which had trained men and women busy with secular jobs as well as inner-city pastors without the time or money to attend seminary. Day Camp, which had drawn whole families to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Our most effective and popular "sou"-pastors, adult Bible teachers, the head of Women's Ministries--all gone. In an announcement by the elders, without congregational vote, the financial lifelines we had promised our foreign missionaries were severed.
     Years later Pastor Lou told my husband and me he had nothing to do with those decisions. "The Board of Elders made them," he said, "and wouldn't let me say so."
     Anger and resentment against Lou grew. He and the elders kept urging us to let the past go and move into the future. If they had acknowledged that some of the past--most of the past--had been good, that God had been moving mightily in many lives, it would have helped. Or maybe it wouldn't have. To me, the ultimate insult was a slide show put together for the 80th anniversary of the church in 1993. The only slide of David Hocking showed him in a tall chef's hat at a barbecue with a spatula in his hand and a goofy smile on his face.
     I started praying for the church--and so, I'm sure, did a lot of others. I saw that we were stiff-necked and stuck in pride over our "glory years," that we were tearing the church apart with our inability to forgive Lou for not being Dave. So I began praying "in the opposite spirit." I prayed for HUGS: Humility, Unity, and Gratitude.    
     Five years later, he was still with us and things were getting a little better. Ten years and the church was starting to grow again. We were developing new programs, sending out new missionaries, reaching out to help our community in practical ways. One Sunday, Lou admitted to the congregation that it hadn't been easy. "I was so discouraged I nearly gave up," he told us. "People wanted me to put the furniture back the way Pastor Dave had it. And there were piranhas attacking everything I taught."
    But he stayed. In spite of us, he stayed. And he has been with us now for 21 years, seven years longer than Pastor Dave.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Glimpses of Grace 2: The Day David Hocking Divorced Us

     That's what it felt like. 
     David Hocking grew up in our church and in 1968 at the age of 27 he assumed the senior pastorate. There are two kinds of ministers, I had learned at Multnomah School of the Bible, as it was then called: preachers (proclaimers) and pastors (shepherds).
     Pastor Dave wasn't much of a shepherd. My first husband went to him to share his anguish at not being able to get the educational credentials to serve God as a seminary teacher. Dave told him, "Men like you are a dime a dozen."
     But he certainly was a proclaimer. He preached powerful, expository sermons. It was his Bible teaching that drew many of us to that church. And it would be his teaching that would pull many away from our church 14 years later--although he urged people not to follow him.
     One Sunday in 1982, without warning, he stepped to the pulpit and told us he was leaving.
     I heard him say, "I've always wanted to leave this church. I wanted to start new churches but the leaders here wouldn't let me."
     I heard him say, "Another church needs me." It wasn't a new church. It was a church whose senior pastor had left. Recently someone told me their pastor had died. But what I heard was Dave Hocking was leaving our church to become the pastor of another church whose pastor had left.
     Now we would be a church who would need another pastor because our pastor had left.
     What I heard him saying that day was, "I'm divorcing you all."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Glimpses of Grace 1: WOW and the Uprights

     I have known her for decades. She is a woman of God, a woman of the Word, a woman of prayer, a woman of blameless character. For 30 years she has headed the Women's Ministries at our church.
     Sometime in June or July, this Woman of the Word--we'll call her WOW--came to my husband and me in tears. "I've been falsely accused!" she told us. "They say I offended someone at the women's luncheon and they won't even tell me who, so I can be reconciled with her according to Matthew 18. Two elders came and blocked the door so I couldn't go in and teach. They led me to one side, where the women coming in could see us, and told me I have to step down from Women's Ministries."
     I edged away from her. "No!" I said. "I don't want to hear it! God is doing great things in this church. He's bringing young people here--bright, creative, joyous young people, couples and families. We are finally reaching out and helping the community in wonderful ways. He's bringing it back to life! This is gossip. This is one-sided. This is the enemy, trying to cause division.
     "I don't want to hear it!"
     It was another e-mail from Mr. and Mrs. Upright. I didn't think of them as "upright" in a stiff, self-righteous way. They do stand tall and poised and they do walk the path God calls narrow. But they are gracious people and I knew they were concerned about the direction they saw our church taking.
     I opened the attachment and saw it was another long essay describing the characteristics of the emergent church, warning us. "Our church ranks 100% as an emergent church. . ."
     I saved it to read later, knowing I probably wouldn't.
     I don't want to know this, I thought. I am being blessed by the sermons! God is using them in my life. Even if this is true, it doesn't matter. I DON'T CARE!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

100 Verse Challenge - Week 11

From dianalovestowrite.blogspot.com, here are the next two verses:

Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.
In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if not I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you.

John 14:1-2

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Young Glory

     Matt Blick, our (as yet unmet) friend in Nottingham, England, has a blog called "Young Glory." I have just read again his "About Me" which explains why he chose that name. I like the quotes so much I want to share them with you:

          Young Glory is inspired by a quote from puritan writer Alexander Peden,
"Grace is young glory"

The name is a reminder that the saving grace we receive through Christ will ultimately result in the glory of an eternity with God.

Or, as another puritan Thomas Watson puts it,

"The kingdom of grace is nothing but the beginning of the kingdom of glory.

The kingdom of grace is glory in the seed,
and the kingdom of glory is grace in the flower.
The kingdom of grace is glory in the daybreak,
and the kingdom of glory is grace in the full meridian...

The kingdom of grace leads to the kingdom of glory.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Post-Abortion syndrome

Tohoku update

The Power of Story

I realized I haven’t shared at all from the last 4 weeks of working in the disaster zone. It has become daily routine to drive through the unbelievable sight of destruction:rubbles,bare foundations,twisted railings and poles,bridges swept away. I was driving home after a winter relief item distribution the other day,and passed some high school kids going home. They were picking their way across the empty lot with just the bare foundation. What is it like to continue your ordinary life in what has now become completely un-ordinary? I can’t fathom. There’s also burdens in places we don’t see. The frustration and anger from people who are in their own homes,and are getting nothing in regards to winter items unlike the temporary housing residents. One woman had tears in her eyes,as she said:“We’ve worked so hard on our own,we’ve chosen to not use the temporary housing facility,and what we get in return is no help?”People who are displaced into temporary housing also face challenges,as they are now removed from grocery stores or kindergarten,making their routine of work and raising kids difficult and straining. Each story is different. Each story unique. The incredible thing is how people open up their hearts and share their stories. I don’t even ask. A man tells me of how he saw his house wash away,never to see it again. Another of climbing up a hill while pulling the hand of the elderly mother-in-law. Another of seeing people swept away,unable to do anything. All of them,left with gratitude for life and yet uncertainty for the future. When I hear those stories,my heart quivers. With compassion. And aches. For hope.
Pray for hope. Because hope gives life. Even in the midst of destruction. I believe that,though at times I feel like I see it not.

Monday, November 14, 2011

100 Verse Challenge - Week 10

From dianalovestowrite.blogspot.com:

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life,
and this life is in His Son. 
The one who has the Son has life.
The one who doesn't have the Son of God 
does not have life.
1 John 5:11-12

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Privileged Planet in the Last Days

     On November 6, a 5.6 magnitude earthquake shook Oklahoma just 20 miles from where our daughter and her family live. We called to be sure they were all right--usually she calls us after California earthquakes to be sure we are all right. They were but she said it was one of the strongest she had ever felt--and she grew up out here.
     Four days ago she texted us,"Had another earthquake last night during thunderstorms w/ tornados! What is up w/ that?!" She told me later over the phone that fellow church members agreed the Lord must be coming soon! 
     They know their Bible.
     Global warming didn't make sense to me until I understood that the effects of higher temperatures do not necessarily cause hotter weather everywhere. They cause greater extremes of temperature, both hot and cold, and greater extremes of weather of all kinds. That I can understand because that's what we are seeing happening around the world.
     We live on a planet uniquely and delicately balanced to sustain life. In The Privileged Planet, a documentary put out by Illustra Media, scientists describe over 20 factors which have to be in place all at the same time for carbon-based life to exist on any planet. Liquid water is only one of them. The planet must have a certain mass and move in a nearly circular orbit at a moderate rate of rotation around a G2 dwarf star at just the right distance away. The planet must be orbited by a large moon to stabilize its tilt. It must be a terrestrial planet with an oxygen-rich atmosphere and just the right ratio of liquid water and continents. The continents must move flexibly, in accordance with plate techtonics. There must be a protective magnetic field.
     The chances of all these 20 or so factors being in place at the same time for a single planet are 1 in one-thousandth of one in one-trillionth, if I copied down the information correctly. The distance of our planet from the sun alone cannot deviate 5% closer to the sun or our temperatures would be 900 degrees F; 20% further from the sun would turn our atmosphere to ice. Scientists call this narrow habitable zone the "Goldilocks zone." It has to be just right.
     But the Bible says in the last days something will radically alter all this. There will be climactic changes--famines, perhaps due to hotter, drier conditions in areas formerly productive, random earthquakes in surprising places--like Oklahoma? There will be "signs in the heavens." The Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 24 gives a comprehensive description of the world scene leading up to a time when the "sun will fade out, moon cloud over, stars fall out of the sky, cosmic powers tremble."
     If you have been checking the Astronomy Picture of the Day on a regular basis you will have seen that astronomers around the world are noting rare types of cloud formations: shelf clouds and roll clouds, new lights that jump in the sky, a rising sun that looks like scrambled eggs--a number of phenomena they can't account for.
     The Bible speaks of "the sun turning black and the moon blood-red, before the Judgment Day of God, the Day tremendous and awesome,"according to Joel 2:31 (Old Testament) and Acts 2:19-20 (New Testament) echoes this, quoting God:  
     "I'll set wonders in the sky above
           and signs on the earth below,
        Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
           the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
        Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
           the Day tremendous and marvelous."

      Revelation 6:12-17 speaking of future events says "I watched while he ripped off the sixth seal: a bone-jarring earthquake, sun turned black as ink, moon all bloody, stars falling out of the sky like figs shaken from a tree in a high wind, sky snapped shut like a book, islands and mountains sliding this way and that. And then pandemonium, everyone and his dog running for cover - kings, princes, generals, rich and strong, along with every commoner, slave or free.  They hid in mountain caves and rocky den, calling out to mountains and rocks, "Refuge! Hide us from the One Seated on the Throne and the wrath of the Lamb!  The great Day of their wrath has come - who can stand it?" 
     2 Peter 3:10-13 says, "But when the Day of God's Judgment does come, it will be unannounced, like a thief.  The sky will collapse with a thunderous bang, everything disintegrating in a huge conflagration, earth and all its works exposed to the scrutiny of Judgment.
     "Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life?  Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival.  The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we'll hardly notice.  We'll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness."
     It used to seem preposterous that such things could literally happen to affect our privileged planet--but no more. The March 11 earthquake in Japan altered Earth's angle slightly. A different mix of elements composing our atmosphere could contribute to setting the stage. Tweaks.
      Global warming could do it.

Bible verses from The Message.

This week's most hilarious video


Sunday, November 6, 2011

100 Verse Challenge - Week 9

From dianalovestowrite:

Now this is the confidence we have before Him:
whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
And if we know that He hears whatever we ask,
we know that we have what we have asked Him for.

1 John 5:14-15