Archive for the ‘Of Spiritual Things’ Category

Returning

Posted: September 7, 2016 in Of Spiritual Things
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This Sunday, the 11th of September, 2016, I will be entering stage right from stage left.
Two and half months ago I stepped into a summer Sabbatical which I wrote about here –  Sabbatical?   Now I am returning.  Hm. Honestly, it wasn’t what I expected, but then again, I didn’t know what to expect. I will say that it wasn’t a vacation in the sense of most vacations. This was soul work.
The first few weeks I spent in my garage cleaning and making things. Things like an apple cider press, a swing, two tables, a work bench, and did I mention I did a lot of cleaning?

I have read a lot of books, read and studied the book of Isaiah from the Old Testament and have sat looking at the wall quite a bit. I have spent nights by a wilderness lake alone,

I have spent time with my wonderful family, cut my hair a couple of times, grew a beard and shaved it off, stirred the compost and went on dates with my best friend and wife as we celebrated our 25th year of marriage this summer.  Kristine has kept a list of everything we have done, just in case I feel I didn’t accomplish anything.

It has been a good summer and such a blessing. Blessed to be part of a church, Epic Life Church, that encouraged me to travel the sabbatical road and then who also continued to minister and serve each other and the North Seattle and Aurora communities.  Epic Life, you are awesome!

I have been wondering though, did I accomplish Sabbatical?  How will I respond to the question, “How was your time off?”
“Just the way it needed to be.”
This past weekend I drove out of town…to the tune of 1300 miles, into the mountains of Idaho and Montana, places that call out to my soul to settle down roots, plant a garden, raise chickens, goats and pigs and smoke a pipe on the porch each night as I watch the sun set beyond the prairie and mountains.  The kind of sunset that slows time down as the sky transforms into color so vibrant it would make #nofilter jealous. I spent just a few hours talking with my parents, sitting in a rural church under great teaching, and driving roads ripe with memories.  I could hear and feel those memories. Each road eventually comes to an intersection, the direction I turned in those bygone years would set my life on a path as God beckoned me on and I tried to follow, often from the weeds not the road.
“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception” Proverbs 14:8
Mark Buchanan says in his book, The Rest of God, Wise people ask, Does the path I’m walking lead to a place I want to go? If I keep heading this way, will I like where I arrive?”  Fools don’t ask that. They keep making excuses for themselves, justifying and blaming, all the way to nowhere. They dupe themselves right to the grave. They never change their minds.
Remembering can force contemplative thought. The fool, walks away from that thought and continues on, trying to run from past decisions. The decision to turn East when he should have gone West, haunts him, so he goes further.  Pride wells up forcing the man to continue, in light of possible embarrassment of making a wrong choice, and being a fool, only to become more of a fool. Flight becomes our prison cell.
I stopped.
Calling into the Big Sky, “God, speak.”
I heard of a pastor who would drive out of his city every five years and only return if he felt God was calling him to another five years. On my way across the deserts of Washington, I asked God if he still wanted me to be in Seattle. Am I to continue ministering there, in that city on the other side of the mountains? Or, have I done what I have been called to do and now could it be time to move to a new task, in a different location, maybe the mountains? Lord speak. I don’t want to make a move without your direction. I must give thought.
Then God, with his writing finger, stirred up the clouds and wrote a message to me…No, that isn’t how it happened.  I am reminded however of words from the book Contagious Disciple Making, “Obedience requires us to do what is right even if we do not personally benefit or would be put at a disadvantage by obeying. The inconvenience of the individual believer when living in obedience is an advantage for the corporate body of believers, resulting in fear of the Lord, long life for the body, and increase in the number of members composing the body.”  Please read that again.
I am blessed beyond compare to journey with Kristine.
 
Our Big God has stirred my core to continue in the direction he is leading. We must consider our path, our steps, think on them and trust our Savior’s guidance.  There is a next chapter in Seattle.  I don’t have a big new plan and marketing roll out. We don’t need it.  I think God is giving me just one word.
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Aurora Avenue North

After reading a recent letter to the Major of Seattle, “Hell Starts Here, 145th & Aurora”, posted in the Aurora Seattle Blog (which does a great job of keeping ‘eyes’ on Aurora Ave. N.), my cranium started into a grey matter tsunami about the people I have encountered on Aurora, which Richard, the author of the letter to Major McGinn, tells us resembles Dantes Circle of Hell.

But what, or who does Aurora represent? Indeed if we have eyes that only see the physicality of our immediate surroundings which hem us in on all fronts accosting our eyes with the mere tripe of this facade of stone and steel. This plastic and glass empire wanes heavy and indeed does resemble the inferno of the underworld where man is hopeless without Christ.

At first glance, or for some at second and third glance if not at each glance through his or her life, the Corridor of Aurora Avenue accosts the eyes and mind and the innate desire to be surrounded by beauty, even if it is a man made beauty, stirs our beings to scream, “Hell Starts Here!

The tsunami in my mind is fierce, flooding and disorienting my thoughts because I live in this great city called Emerald that has no belief or desire to believe in a God who is loving yet just. This city, a landscape of 700,000 souls with millions just over the fence, pretends to believe there is no moral Right…but is quick to condemn the many who are described, not by their ideas or character or eyes or even their names, but instead by the “concrete waste land” they have been forced to inhabit.

How is it that a society that believes there is no God and therefore no moral right or wrong can pass judgement so quickly on people who are suffering deep despair and isolation? But when our focus is on our surroundings and the eye candy that we ignorantly suck on, we will miss the souls of the people who drive those cars, who sell those cars and who live in those cars that traverse “Gasoline Alley.”

The common solutions, that I have heard and read, to the problems of Aurora Avenue go something like this, “We need to bulldoze the entire strip of alley cats and rats who call Aurora home, and while we are at it put in a bicycle path running from Pike Place Market to 145th in a park that once was Aurora Ave. N.”  The fact is; if Aurora Ave. N. “closed” thousands would be out of work and thousands would lose their businesses. It would displace businesses into the coveted, almost worshiped, neighborhoods and their quiet streets. Causing yet a greater crisis.

Does it ever occur to anyone that we need the commerce of Aurora? The basic needs of a city lie along this strip along with those who derive their livelihood, those who, by the way, have names. Names like Pericles, Azi, Chey-Sun, Cynthia, Bud, Ryan, Fay, Will, and the list goes on. Sure there are many nefarious activities that occur along the strip but does that mean we throw out the baby in the proverbial bath water? Or…do we make a shift?

What if we seek to transform instead of throw away?

I wish you, yes you, could sacrifice one of your precious well paid hours and walk on Aurora with me and look long into the eyes of the small business owner, or the customers who frequent the same businesses. Come look into the haunting eyes of the homeless, prostitute and “dancer.”  My hope is that it breaks your four chambered muscle pounding with in your chest. My hope is that you and I remember these people where once children with bright eyes, hopes and dreams. Many ruined by their parents and hence trapped in this prison we so easily condemn to hell.

At some point we need to stop throwing insults and condemnation at the problem and start getting involved.

At some point we need to stop throwing money and hopes that the “government” will do something and start getting involved.

At some point we must stop speeding down the Aurora Corridor with blinders held tightly to our eyes and start seeing and hearing.

In a somewhat crazy emotionally unstable state,  I truly believe this strip can be transformed, healed and reconciled to beauty. Don’t ignore it, don’t throw stones. Take a lesson from Jesus, “You who are without guilt may throw the first stone.”

Want to link arms and see North Aurora Transformed…Please join me.

Following

Posted: February 16, 2011 in Of Spiritual Things
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I am consistently amazed at the way God leads us.; step by step to a door that seems thick, locked and impenetrable, yet consistently he opens them up and shows us the miraculous on the other side. Our responsibility is to follow. Following takes movement; intentional action to trust the leading of the Spirit and that the steps we tread will not harm us. Oh it might hurt, but we should know that the pain of our Master is so good and opens more doors.

On the other side of the door in front of you lies the miraculous. It isn’t even our responsibility to open the door, but before He opens the door he wants to know if we are willing to walk through it. He isn’t going to open the door if we are just going to stand there and peak through, He will open it when we are willing to walk through it.

Get ready the doors are opening…

This past Sunday at Epic Life was so sweet! The power of God’s Spirit is amazing and the place I get to journey at this particular moment of my life is phenomenal.

There is nothing I am about to write that I mean to be disrespectful to anyone.

This month’s series at Epic Life is “Three Men Who Blew It and Made A Comeback, and One Who Didn’t.” My intro in the Journal is here.  We are speaking on the lives of John Mark, Peter, King David and Solomon and each Sunday will be from a different speaker. I spoke this Sunday on John Mark and told the story of a young man who ran away but was restored by God.

The Spirit moved and even though it was a Labor Day weekend we had many in the service, including several from the streets, many from international communities, families, singles, old and young.

As I finished up the message and Averi brought in music on the keys I told everyone that it is time to Stop running, Drop to our knees and repent and Roll – Turn back to God and follow after Him. He is always there to forgive and has, in fact, already done so. He will restore us.

Recently our Family has been expanding with several men and women from the streets who have the propensity to talk back while I am speaking from the stage. It doesn’t bother me. I just figure they must be paying attention because most of the time what they are saying out loud has something to do with the message. (Not always though). This week I offered prayer to who ever wanted to join me in the front. All of our homeless friends came forward along with a few others and we, (Jeff, David and I) got to pray over each of them. They smelled of alcohol and a lack of bathing, but they did step forward, a couple to repent, another to ask for prayer for someone else, another for prayer as she enters rehab.

So here’s my big prayer! I am praying that we as Epic Life will be able to exemplify the beauty of the Acts 2 Church and have all things in common with ALL the believers. I am praying that we never become like the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:20-22) who didn’t even share their wealth during communion. I am praying that we are able to break bread together: rich and poor, learned and unlearned, old and young, from every ethnicity, every language, every socioeconomic level, and every spiritually mature level.  I pray that joining us on our knees in the front of church repenting will be all of these people together, side-by-side, without judgement. I pray that this work the Spirit is doing will draw people to Christ and not scare them away.

I know that what happened this past Sunday was scary for many and way out side of their comfort zones, but it was so beautiful!  And, I praise God for counting me worthy to experience it first hand, to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears the full family of God. If you are reading this and you are part of the Epic Life Family, be Bold! See beyond any selfishly focused motives and judgments. Be humbly confident that God has placed you in this place at this time for his purposes and you get the amazing privilege of being in the front lines of something completely remarkable.

Just a couple of weeks ago Epic Life Church had an amazing worship night at the AXIS property. It was a night of beauty and wonder as we rocked the house singing praise to God who is more than worthy of our praise.  It is awesome to be able to enter into a night of worship with new believers and new friends. Worship that night consisted of a lot of music, a bit of spoken word and four baptisms. I have to say that mixing baptism with worship music and a lot of fellowship is one awesome event. It all created such an amazing environment for worship.

The four individuals who were baptized were such a blessing to be with too. One had been a Christian for quite some time and had never taken the step to baptism and felt God calling her to do so that night with much joy. Another had been walking with God but had gotten off track over the years and was being called to step back into pace. She is seeing much change and beauty in her life. Two others are new Christ Followers who have just given their lives over to the Savior and wanted to show that transformation to the world. It was a beautiful night of Life, Transformation and Power!

We had just wrapped up the evening and Kristine was heading home when she received a call from one of our neighbors that there was a robbery and beating near our home and the assailant was still at large. Kristine called me and I dropped everything and rushed home to find ten emergency response vehicles in our driveway.  The night of Life we had just experienced was immediately shattered as we found out that a man was beaten with a table leg just two houses away from us and taken to the hospital in critical condition. We now know that this man died from the head trauma. Our night of Life turned quickly to a night of Death.

We are reminded that we live in a sinful and fallen world where death rules and the Enemy comes “to steal, kill and destroy.”  We are literally watching as the world around us that is precariously held together with the facade of a superficial idea of life is in fact falling apart.

As baptism represents the transformation of spiritual death to life, we are constantly faced with Satan’s attempts to bring people from life to death, physically and spiritually. We are constantly reminded that what we are doing, introducing people to a life with Christ, is vitally important here in our own neighborhood and there in your very backyard.

75 + 25 = 100

One thing people always ask when wanting to know how the new church Epic Life is doing is this question, “How many people do you have?”

I never quite know how to answer this question, mainly because I don’t know quite what is being asked. Do they want to know how many adults show up on a Sunday morning? How many families? How many people attend our house church communities? How many people we get to serve on a weekly basis? How many business owners we are establishing relationships with? How many people we have given resources to? How many kids and families attend our school?

And each of these questions have deeper questions to frame the answer by. I think often people will judge the “success” of a church by the attendance on a Sunday morning, but that doesn’t quite cut it for Epic Life. Don’t get me wrong I love to count people who are attending, because I believe every person who attends is one life that God cherishes and desires to transform. In this respect numbers are very important. But at Epic Life there are so many other places to count people. There are so many other “Front Doors” and “Living Rooms” for people to check things out and to gather.

We want to be a church that is in the community; a church that constantly shares the Good News of Life with everyone we come into contact with. Some times that is in the form of building a relationship with a shop owner, sometimes it takes the form of buying coffee for the officers of the North Precinct at Starbucks, sometimes its sharing a story with a homeless alcoholic on the curb, sometimes its sitting and teaching the Word to a student at North Seattle Community College, sometimes its gathering at the local pool club with our House Church, sometimes it takes the form of eating lunch with the local Rotary club, sometimes it looks like picking up garbage or planting flowers or cleaning bus stops, sometimes it is a worship night, or a baptism at the beach or a celebration at the OaktreeCinema, and the list goes on and on and on.

So where do we count? Well for the most part people just want to know how many people on the average are showing up at Sunday morning’s worship service and to that I will always average on the low side – I never want to be accused of being one of those pastors who stretch attendance numbers to look good or feel good. I have been answering the question with, “Oh about 70ish.”

But this past Sunday it was 75 in the main theater and 25 in the children’s theater. that rounds off to a nice clean 100.

“How many?”

“Oh around 100.”

I have recently been tuning my ears into a local talk radio station here in Seattle. All they are talking about recently is this whole Tiger Woods fiasco.

I have a couple of things to say about it…from a mans perspective…from a pastor’s heart…from an outside observer with inside knowledge because I am a man.

Warning! If for some stupid idiotic reason you have a high undo imposed idolicised view of me and my purity of mind, this will ruin you and you should not read what I am about to write. Close this now. Run!

No man is prepared to have hundreds of women throw themselves at his feet offering their bodies up to him for whatever he wishes. No man is prepared to turn the free offerings of sexual pleasures away, when it is available 24/7 and with no apparent or worth while price tag. When a man is married or enters into a committed relationship, he quickly discovers that he will have to work at love and affection and sex and he discovers that the sexual world isn’t all about him getting pleasure and his own fulfillment, his view of relationships changes and over time the desire of self fulfillment and personal attention grows and becomes somewhat tragically enticing.  All cards are stacked against him.  Every question is asked. Can I get away with this? Is it really that bad? Why not, everyone has been unfaithful at least once, right? Will anyone really find out? Questions that plague man by the enemy.

Consider this, every Biblical patriarch had more than one woman in his bed. Even David, the man after God’s own heart.   Adultery has been a common place in all of history in all of the world and is consistently available at all times. And… adultery is not a black and white list in a book some place.  Where does it start?   At sex? Does it begin with a look? Or a thought? Or a dream, or spending to much time with a woman or is it really even about women, or the opposite sex or the same sex or is it about what ever else we decide to pursue when we should be pursuing our spouse?

Take a man who is being constantly tempted. Even if he discards the 99 out of a hundred offers of infidelity and takes the one, he will be forever remembered for the one he took and not the 99 he turned away from.  No one will ever tell of the strength of this man who told 99 to get lost, who stood up and with power and determination to stay true to his wife turned his eyes to only focus on one.  He will always be remembered for being unfaithful because of that one.

Wait!

Consider this.  Almost every movie that has been released since the dawn of the screen has glorified infidelity. Theater before that. Every magazine, advertisement, billboard, clothing add,  television and news show gives the grand experience of fulfilling self. It bombards us on every front and in every direction our eyes turn. We cannot get away from it!  Over the years the men and women we look up to have fallen from grace.  Many great pastors have given themselves over to selfish gain and fulfillment and left a trail of despair and tragedy in his wake. And you and I both know that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg, because the few who have been publicly arraigned are only the very few who have been caught with millions who stand in the gap and the fear of wondering if they too will be caught.

As men of God we are in a constant battle for purity. In a constant battle to preserve our bodies, minds and emotions for God and our mate. We all deeply desire to walk uprightly and never stumble. But the truth is we ALL stumble and fall.  And for some reason when the public finds out about our secret we are taken to a corner on Pike Street, stripped naked and crucified by the very men and women who wooed us into sin and who are themselves in bed with one who is not their spouse.  We are paraded in front of the masses who are throwing insults and bricks at us as they hold the hand of the prostitute they are about to dine with.

Yes Tiger Woods is wrong! It is wrong to be unfaithful to your wife or husband. Wrong! It ruins relationships, ruins families, ruins faith, ruins trust, ruins life, ruins….But can I just ask this question? Why is the world so torn up about Tiger? He isn’t a Christian as far as I know. Why not cheat on your wife when she is being a nag and all around ungrateful for the life you are giving her? When a Christlike ideology isn’t part of your essence, why would this little escapade really matter to the world? If evolution is how we got here in the first place, there really isn’t any such thing as adultery, its really about the survival of the fittest and let’s face it Tiger is the fittest. Why not let him create a new era of the evolutionary world by becoming the daddy of many Tigers and ultimately controlling the golf world as we know it.

Personally, I feel sorry for the guy. Yeah, I can hear the comments on that already. But seriously I do feel sorry for him for many different reasons. One being that as far as the media and world tells us – we are expected to fulfill ourselves and take advantage of what is offered to us. We are told there is nothing wrong with it. Two – Why single Tiger out? Just because he held some aura of admirable quality doesn’t mean he is the poster child of right and wrong, or what people deem right and wrong at the moment. Tomorrow there will be a lineman of the Seahawks who sleeps with three different women a week. Nothing will be said about him and if something is said it will be glorified and praised. Three – the guy is a human who desires fulfillment. Our world has for centuries told us that’s alright and that we should be about taking care of ourselves. He was just following societal norms. Four – Tiger really is desiring God. As long as he is running from a personal relationship with Christ he will not be able to keep from pursuing other means of fulfillment. Why should we get down on him for these pursuits? Five – The news media has made this the fiasco it is. It is trash and that is what news is. Trash. The noble man does not make the news. Six – I am not unlike Tiger. Yes you read that right. Tiger Woods and I have many things in common. My desires, thoughts, eyes and actions are not always on pure things. (I caution you about crucifying me, just because I am stating openly what you also have in common with Tiger and me). I only have one thing going for me – – I am forgiven and can live in freedom and my desirous focus is always drawn back to Christ by Christ and not on myself or even my wife, but Christ. That is what ultimately keeps me from cheating on my wife.

The fact is we have all been implanted with a moral code of right and wrong from Adam to now and even those who don’t follow Christ know that adultery is wrong. Something cries out to all of us Christians or not, we are to be faithful to the one. The world want to be able to hold someone up who is a great role model, someone we can point to and say, “See, someone can be noble.” But let’s face it “The Noble,” really doesn’t make very good news.

Man was not designed to be God. We can’t handle the pressure of being idolized. It doesn’t work. It tears us apart, destroys us. This has brought a new meaning to the passage in James that says. “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.” Why yes, when we are poor or “humble” in our circumstances, being faithful to but one woman is much easier. When we discover what we really deserve as men, as humans, it humbles us and pulls us more in the directions or not fulfilling self and turning our focus on others, namely our wife.

So…Tiger, I am praying for you.  Men and women who read this, I am praying for you. We live in a world that will constantly draw our eyes off the Father.  Don’t be too quick to judge Tiger when the truth is we are all susceptible and guilty of idolatry,  we are all guilty of cheating on God.  But if you are a Christ follower you have been set free and the guilt no longer remains. We must however daily take up our cross and follow Him.

I would love to hear your comments. Thanks for reading.