Big Bible Bonanza increases Bible reading

 

Daily Bible reading is a basic discipline of disciples

 

Blue Angels vs. Goldfish

Everyone a winner – that was our goal at the beginning of the Bible reading emphasis.  More specifically, the goal was to increase the number of people reading their Bible every day.  Well, what has happened?  How are we doing?   Our organizers divided the congregation into two alphabetical teams as evenly as they could, based upon the list of those that attend.   Team names chosen were the Blue Angels for the first half of the alphabet and the Goldfish (think of the ancient Christian symbol) for the second half.   The goal was not how much you read, but to read at least 5 verses every day.  People, including children reported their reading through their classes and small groups.  Adults could read to younger children.  (Those who were not attending a small group could report directly to the organizers.)  

Discipline is not easy but accountability helps

Surprisingly, there was a little mumbling among even some seasoned Christians at being asked to participate in something that required one to be accountable for the discipline of Scripture reading. But, as the contest progressed, conviction and the encouragement of friends prevailed.   This illustrated that though we sometimes resist being accountable to one another, it is almost always beneficial to us in the long run.   Discipline is not easy.  I have to confess that during the five weeks, I missed one day myself while traveling.  But I was glad for the added accountability provided by the contest.

Classes and groups influential

The idea of reporting to small groups turned out to be very influential, especially among the adults.  Participation in several adult classes grew as the contest continued.   Last week three adult classes, those led by Larry Nemitz, George Raterman and Claude Walrath, all reported 100% of their members reading every day.   Congratulations to these teachers and their classes.

Families blessed

Hearing of increases in Bible reading across the board is a great win for everyone.   Contest records show that 31 people never missed a day in the first four weeks. (Those who have a perfect record for all five weeks will be recognized at the dinner.)   They set the pace for all of us.  Another inspiration is learning of personal stories like that of a family of four, who read every day from the sermon coordinated suggestions—the father read to his family.   When the father had to spend a few days in the hospital, his young son volunteered to take his place.  (At their suggestion, I’ll be making a list of coordinated reading for the next three weeks too, even though the contest will be ended.)  Another family called in their points while traveling.  (Families were allowed to call in points one Sunday out of the five.)   I’d love to hear more stories of how you have been blessed by the Bible reading contest.

A great example of encouraging one another

The first two weeks of the contest, only one team, the Blue Angels, received the bonus for having more that 60% of those participating reading every day.  The second week, neither team received it.   But by the fourth week, both teams exceeded 70% of readers reading every day.   The highest percentage so far was 76% reading daily achieved by the Goldfish on week three.  At this writing, the Goldfish are looking strong.   Of the people on their team, on the average, they had a larger number who read their Bibles and reported than the Blue Angels did, which added up.   But certainly we all win by confirming the habit of Bible reading.  So we will all celebrate with a dinner on Nov. 10.   A big thank you to key contest organizer JoAnne Jones, John Risley—who helped with stats— team captains Mark Boswell and Rhett Laforte, and Sunday School teachers and group leaders who helped encourage their class.   This was a great example of putting into practice Hebrews 10:23-25.   “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (NIV 1984).

Thank you so much for pastor appreciation month

It’s been a great month

This has been a great pastor appreciation month.   My associate, Pastor Eric and I say thank you to all of you—so many kind words, gifts, food donations and people generally going the extra mile to make us feel special.   Just as a sample, today I received a restaurant gift certificate & a great berry pie from adults, a plate of scrumptious chocolate brownies & card from a teen and a handmade appreciation card from a child.  Wow!  Beth Winans has done a great job coordinating it all too.  

United prayers were a highlight

Last week as Eric and I (and our wives too in 1st service) knelt at the altar rails while many in the congregation gathered around us, laid hands on us and prayed, I felt so blessed.    How blessed to be prayed for by the gathered body of Christ.   It is so encouraging and empowering.   JoAnne told me she was doing pretty well at not being emotional through all the thoughtful prayers until one of the teen girls prayed, then she was so touched, she could no longer hold back the tears and needed my handkerchief.     

Seeing other people minister is rewarding

One of the biggest blessings of the month for me was to see so many people step up in this morning’s services and do things I had not seen them do before—like Anthony calling for the ushers and Caleb Wilkinson praying over the offering in second service, Mystical speaking so articulately about Eric’s analogies, Phil Seamans tenderly leading the congregation in prayer time in second service, Shaun Harrington clearly bringing a very Biblical message in second service and so many others who gave testimonies.    As I near retirement, it becomes more and more gratifying to me to see that our church is equipping people to do the work of ministry in so many different forms.   One of the greatest pastor appreciation things that could happen is to see those I have influenced “catching the wave,” “getting on board,”  and actually doing the things I do, sometimes better than I do them, but in the same Christian Spirit.   That is how the body of Christ is to grow and multiply its influence.   

Thank you all for a great month.

 “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”  2 Th 1:3 NIV 

 

Why going to church is important to you and your children

Often people ask me if they can be a Christian and not go to church.   I think it would be like trying to be a gourmet cook without frequenting the produce department of the grocery store; or trying to be a good basketball player without going to practices.  The excuses people use for staying away are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and often revealing.     Since Easter, the high point of the Christian year, is little more than a week away,  this is a great time to remind ourselves of just how important it is to express our faith and grow in it by gathering together.  Here is a good article summarizing why attending church is important.
http://www.christianpost.com/news/why-going-to-church-is-important-part-1-72392/

 

A Parable Poem on Lawns Turning Green

 

I wrote the first version of this some years ago for our church newsletter at our first church.  Each year as the lawns turn green again after the winter’s destruction, I am reminded of it.   I thought it might be a word of encourgement to someone so I edited it and am publishing it.    Here is the link:

http://learntobewise.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Parable-on-a-Winter-Brown-Lawn.pdf

How to Make a Cold January Fly By

I have been thinking recently about those people who are very depressed in deep winter and find that time seems to crawl by.   Well, I’m not a great fan of winter myself.  My favorite hobbies are things like gardening, bird-watching, trombone-playing, canoeing, and hiking.  I like to throw in a couple rounds of golf and a trout fishing trip.   As you can see, all but one are summer things and even the community band I’m in for playing trombone takes January off.   So how can we make January go by faster and add a little joy in the process?   Here are my suggestions.

1.   Find a January-friendly hobby or two.

  
My wife and I start doing jigsaw puzzles after the Christmas rush and keep doing them until spring.  With the help of folks who stop by, we may complete 10-15 of them before we quit and wait til the next January.   We use mostly the same puzzles with just a couple new ones added that friends give us or we buy each year. 
My wife took up a new musical instrument this year – folk harp.   She had just a few lessons before playing a couple carols at our Christmas Eve service.  Now she is using some of these cold January nights to improve her skill.  They say learning a new instrument is great for brain development too.  

2.   Spend more time with those you love.

In addition to the puzzles, JoAnne and I try to spend some evenings playing board games (Sequence)  during January.  Once in a while I will watch an old Star Trek with her (she’s a real Trekie).

3.   Invite feathered friends to your place. Continue reading “How to Make a Cold January Fly By”

A Climate of appreciation returns to us on Pastor Appreciation Sunday!

As a pastor, you never quite know what the congregation will do for pastor appreciation Sunday, a verbal roast, a vacation you weren’t planning on, a hearty dinner or…?  And they like to keep us in suspense too.  But it is always worth the wait.

This year there were so many wonderful parts of it.   There was, of course, a great meal — a multi-course Italian dinner.  But there were also many cards of appreciation.  And so many people came up to us personally too and expressed private words of thanks for our help, support, discipleship and leadership in their lives.  That is so meaningful.   These would have been enough reward to last a long time, for as Paul said, you are our crown (1 Thess. 2:19).   

But the congregation added more.  They brought thoughtful gifts too.  Knowing that we enjoy going out to eat but seldom do, the congregation gave us gift cards to restaurants including my favorite fast-food  lunch spot –Subway and JoAnne’s favorite “my-birthday-treat” place – Red Lobster.    Then they brought out 2 huge bags, one for the Jones’ and one for Paashaus’.    Inside were gorgeous handmade quilts lovingly completed by the quilting fellowship group, done in our favorite colors.   JoAnne got it out nearly as soon as we were home and put it on our bed.   She loves it.  The ladies said that I had wandered through downstairs at church one day when they were working on it and remarked that it was a beautiful one.   But I had no idea it was for us.  It is the Dresden Plate pattern, one of my favorites too.

As I thought later about the wonderful day, I was humbled as I was reminded that I have tried to build into our church leaders a climate of appreciation.  I frequently write notes thanking them for their work.   I encourage them to do the same for others.   I teach how important it is to look for the gifts God has given to others and how God wants to use them in his work.    And now, on pastoral appreciation day, this climate of appreciation was coming back to us as pastors.   Perhaps in some way I am experiencing what Solomon was talking about, “He who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” (Pr 11:18 NIV).   It seems I am reaping multiples of what I have sown.  It’s a God thing!  Awesome!

Why a Christian College like Houghton

I usually enjoy my trip to Houghton for the fall Trustee meeting, but this time, something really exhilarating happened.  I was privileged to be invited late one evening to give a devotional message for the guys of 2nd West.   Jed Boswell, a young man from Community Wesleyan, who lives on that dorm floor, extended the invitation.    With joy, I learned that such meetings are a regularly scheduled event.  Sometimes they were used for Bible study; sometimes to hash out ideas.   They are well organized and include worship time and praying for each other.  I shared briefly on the phrase Paul uses “until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19) and focused on the Greek verb which comes directly into English as the verb ‘to morph.’    We discussed together how Jesus is changing us, why it is a more difficult process than expected and how we can cooperate with what God is doing.   The evening ended with reciting the 2nd West creed pledging to represent Christ well and singing the Doxology– typical Houghton tradition, deftly mixing traditional and contemporary in the informal liturgy of the evening.   I encouraged the young men that what they were doing was a positive example of the words, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV).

I could not help but reflect on how different this was from what went on in hall corridors of the secular college I attended as an undergrad.   For one thing, most of those who lived on my corridor sophomore year, I didn’t even know.    My roommate smoked (strictly tobacco), another guy on the corridor had his girlfriend as his roommate.  I felt isolated socially.  That was a contrast from the year before but my previous roommate had flunked out and I nearly had.  Neither of us had disciplined our time well—too many distractions.   Thankfully, in my second year, some graduate students founded an Intervarsity Christian Fellowship on our campus and I started attending.  It gave me the gift of positive spiritual encouragement that these guys in 2nd West are giving to one another regularly.   Because of their growing relationships, they will form lifelong friendships with their dorm friends. 

This evening experience reminded me why I make no apologies for encouraging parents strongly to send their teenagers to Christian colleges.  Not everything is perfect there, for sure.   But there are so many possibilities for spiritual encouragement and discipleship enrichment and growth that either do not exist or are not as accessible on a secular campus.  Instead, on a campus such as I attended, the student encounters both direct and subtle pressures of various kinds to fall away from the faith.   Before our daughter was very far in high school we told her we wanted her to choose a Christian college.  She was completely free to choose which one, but since we were paying so much, we wanted to invest our money in something we could believe would be truly good for her.    We have always been glad we took that position.    It was an unexpected blessing when she chose her Mom’s Alma Mater – Houghton College.   

When the fog clears…

After we left Staters, we headed down the Oregon Coast.  We just had to stick our toes in the cold Pacific Ocean, just to say we did it.    The coast was fogged in.   In the nearby shipping channel, we could hear the ships going out at low tide, blowing foghorns and being answered by the bells on the channel buoys.  But all we could see of them even with binoculars were looming gray shadows.   It didn’t seem like a very climactic moment to our transcontinental journey.  I was also using the binoculars to watch birds but there were very few–also disappointing.  So we piled back in the little cherry-red rented Nissan Versa and continued south along 101.    There weren’t even any coastal views for miles and whenever we got close to the coast, we could tell by the fog banks rolling in.  

After many miles we came to the town of Port Orford, OR.   Route 101 made a sharp left turn but straight ahead was a broad uphill street with the words “Ocean view” painted clearly in huge letters on the pavement across both lanes.   The last time we saw such signs, it had been several miles to the actual coast.    But this time as soon as we crested the knoll, there it was, a beautiful coastal view of the Pacific; and surprise, there was no fog.   We stopped; took turns taking pictures; then I spent time watching the many birds and the coastal small-boat activity while JoAnne sketched.    Then someone pointed out a whale spout.   Amazing!   We had the unexpected privilege of watching a whale spouting while presumably feeding among the huge rocks for at least a half-hour before he decided to swim back out to sea.  

After that, for many miles of coastal road, the fog stayed out to sea and we enjoyed a beautiful trip, with many stops.  We even took a coastal byway and the weather held for hours while we traversed it, taking pictures and feasting with our eyes on the vistas.

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It reminded me that you just never know what blessing God has in store when the fog clears.   God is like that in our lives.  We can live in expectancy looking for God’s sunshine to break through.    The “sun of righteousness rises” and then somehow the fog clears.   St. Paul put it bluntly, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14 NIV).