Posts

Showing posts from 2008

Waiting and prayer

We were visiting friends out of state and went to church with them yesterday at a small church that is on the upswing. It was a very simple, friendly, predictable service. Afterward, Ann and I got into a conversation with the pastor's wife. She told us the story of how they knew their time was up at their previous church, and they weren't really even looking for the senior pastor role, but this one just opened up and it seemed like this was where God was leading them. That was about a year ago, and the church has grown by leaps and bounds since then.

After she walked away Ann and I remarked at how we are waiting for that to happen in our lives. Feels like we've been in a transition for about 2 years, and we are waiting upon God to open the doors to the next full-time ministry position for me. And waiting. And waiting.

Then in the evening we went to a concert at a Portland downtown church. Awesome gospel style music. But I think what I got out of it the most was seei…

Cinderella Man

Image
Clicking through the channels the other night I stumbled upon one of my recent favorite movies, "Cinderella Man".

My favorite point in the movie is when the hero's wife, Mae, comes to him just before he takes the ring against his most feared opponent. Knowing the chance of death was real for her husband, Mae had been vocal about her disapproval of James entering the ring. But after seeing the number of working-class people pulling for him and praying for him, she has a change of heart. She finds him as he is getting taped up for the fight and says...

Maybe I understand, some, about having to fight. So you just remember who you are... you're the Bulldog of Bergen, and the Pride of New Jersey, you're everybody's hope, and the kids' hero, and you are the champion of my heart, James J. Braddock.

With that type of support, James goes out and wins the fight.

It reminds me how much support my wife gives to me, and reminds me to be grateful for the quiet, behind…

World Vision Experience AIDS

Last night we went with others from our small group to an exhibit at WWU put on by World Vision. It was called the Experience AIDS project. Basically it is an interpretive center that you put on headphones and are led through the story of 1 of 4 children affected by the AIDS epidemic in Africa. It took about 20 minutes to go through. Towards the end of it you actually go into a “clinic” and wait for the results of your AIDS test. I got a red X on my hand since the child I “was” was HIV positive. It was a pretty stark reminder of the death sentence such an experience is for so many in Africa. Once again I feel incredibly blessed and moved to try to DO something more for the millions of children orphaned in Africa. World Vision has “pastor’s tours” to AIDS affected areas which I am thinking I might go on sometime in the next year. Of course I’d have to actually become a pastor again!

Next week, Monday-Wednesday everyone in our church is being challenged to live off a subsistence diet for…

Who is mad?

Image
A friend of mine who is an artist recently sent me a link to his "gallery" online. There I found this picture with the following quote, from one of my favorite authors.


"If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party.

The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business.

The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified.



The world says, Drive carefully — the life you save may be your own — and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love.

The world says, Get and Jesus says, Give.

In terms of the world's sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion."
Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Fred…

Tozer quote

Image
I was leading worship at a church this Sunday and the pastor used this quote from theologian A.W. Tozer:

"We all have as much of God as we want."

The pastor, a good friend of mine, went on to say that what Tozer meant was that God reveals himself to those who prioritize their life around seeking him and finding Him. We all would, most of the time, rather do just about anything than sit quietly and pray for extended periods of time. It's a point well taken, that if we would really seek God more, instead of sing songs about seeking God, or hear sermons about seeking God, we would probably experience more of Him in our lives.

But I have to say that sometimes you can be doing everything you've always done to try and find our elusive God, and yet, He will be distant. I can honestly say I've cried out to God on many occasions for "more of Him". For a charismatic "baptism of the Spirit". For the gift of tongues. For the gift of prophecy.

But it didn'…

Mr Don the Science Guy

Image
I'm putting together a message that I'll teach at my home church next week on the size of the Universe! Today my daughter and I did a project I found online that brings home how vast our little Solar System is. I found it fascinating reading, but even more fascinating doing! You can read about it here. My mind is boggling over the vastness of space and how this little speck of dust in the universe was the home for a few years of the God of the universe in human flesh. And when he walked those dusty streets he said things like "God has every hair on your head numbered." Wow! How the Creator can even care about such an insignificant corner of the universe is beyond my apprehension. But to think that He actually KNOWS and is CONCERNED about me once again makes me remember how small I am and how BIG God is. And that's a good thing.

PS (Added October 18) You can listen to the message I was referring to above HERE. Search for "Your God is Too Small" if it i…

The Shack

Image
My wife started reading Willam Young's runaway bestseller "The Shack" a month or so ago, and I read it after her (with apologies to people waiting for it back at the library!) It seems "everyone" Ann knew was reading the book so we both were interested to find out what all the excitement was about.

I started the book with a good deal of skepticism since I don't tend to enjoy most popular Christian fiction (too predictable and poor writing). But I found "The Shack" to be an interesting read and thought provoking as well. It seems to flirt with the far edges of orthodoxy a few times, but I think overall it is a helpful book for understanding some confusing aspects of Christianity, and for giving some vivid pictures of hard to understand doctrines.

All you have to do is get used to the image of God the Father being called "Papa"and appearing as a black woman. (Ann said she kept imagining "Papa" as the head angel from "Touc…

Franciscan prayer

Image
At the Willow Creek Leadership Summit this morning, LifeChurch.TV pastor Craig Groeschel closed with this Franciscan prayer, which summed up a lot of what I've been feeling these past couple of days.


May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Amen.

Leadership that matters

Image
Went to the first day of the Willow Creek Leadership Conference today up in Bellingham. Via satellite, about 200 church leaders from our region took in the teaching of (among others) Gary Haugen, founder and CEO of International Justice Mission. The work of IJM centers on freeing victims of injustice in third world countries: children caught in slavery or sex trafficking, people thrown into prison without being formally charged of a crime or because of corrupt justice systems in their country.

Haugen's message was a powerful reminder - a wake up call really - with many strong "take aways".

He opened with the thought: If you want your leadership to matter, lead in the things that matter to God. He went on to remind us from scripture that one of God's passions is JUSTICE for the oppressed. He exhorted us with the thought that God's plan for bringing justice is to use US. That is his plan. We are to be the light of the world. And if we, as Christians, shirk our respon…

What to do with the Psalms

Image
I've recently picked up The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey. Yancey is one of my favorite authors, but for some reason I've had this book for years and never finished it. In his chapter on the Psalms he shares some insights that I've found helpful for dealing with something that has bothered me about the Psalms.

There are places scattered among the 150 Psalms that say things like "God won't let anything bad happen to his chosen people" and "God will always protect you". But it doesn't take long to think of many times in history when incredibly bad things have happened to the Jews (the most recent being the Holocaust), or to Christians (as all over the world Christians are suffering persecution and martyrdom). What are we to do with these seemingly impotent promises that we find throughout the Psalms? How would a Christian arrested under Nazi germany make sense of Psalm 91's "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you …

Perseverance and calling

I recently heard from my brother-in-law, a missionary to West Africa, that in the last 20 years there have been more converts to Christianity from Islam than in any time in recent history (maybe ever). He shared about how when he and his wife went, they had a number of people turn to Christ in just the first few months they were there. But he also shared the story of a couple who had ministered in the region from around 1960-1990 who saw a total of 3 people come to Christ. One, two, three. And by the time they left the mission field, two of those had returned to their Muslim roots.

When I heard that I was floored. I immediately thought "Could I have done that?" I'm actually pretty sure I could NOT have. I would have thrown in the towel many years prior to that. I would have "shaken the dust off my feet" and moved on somewhere else. I would have concluded that the Holy Spirit was not in it (for whatever reason). I would have thought I was a bad mission…

Best Dad in the World

Image
I ran across this story by sportswriter Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated.  For the full effect, read the story, then click to start the video.  It is called "The Best Dad In The World" and was first published June 21, 2005.  I saw this father featured last year when I watched the Kona Ironman Championship on ABC.  Kind of puts my triathlon accomplishment in perspective!
To read the story, click here
Then watch the video (below), for the full effect.




Lake Stevens 70.3 - Race Report

Image
Disclaimer: If you're looking for deep spiritual insights you should stop reading right now!


On Sunday July 6 I accomplished a goal I've been training for since Christmas, finishing the Lake Stevens 70.3 Half-Ironman Triathlon. Here's a journal of what happened, with apologies if it is too much information

Saturday afternoon I went to Lake Stevens (near Everett, 20 miles north of Seattle) with my Dad to attend mandatory pre-race meeting and get my race packet. After listening to 30 minutes of rules and regulations (don't litter, don't pass people on the right, do
n't pass cars on
the right!) we headed to the transition are (where you go in-between the 3 segments of the race) to check in my bike, along with about 1400 other racers.


Sunday morning we woke at 4:00 after having "slept" at my sister's place in Marysville (thanks Tracy!). We arrived at 5:30 am and my heart started beating faster just from the excitement of finally being there.


At 6:25 they pl…

Annatella

Image
I've been commuting on public transit (the bus) a couple of days a week to save on gas money for the past few months. Yesterday on my way to work the bus was crowded and I had to sit next to someone else (I always search for my "own" seat!) I sat next next to a woman who must have been in her early twenties, said hello, and then proceeded to pull out my Bible to read a bit. She immediately asked "what's your favorite part?" and we then proceeded into a very interesting conversation.

After a few minutes she told me she was a counselor who helped people get back on their feet who had been down on their luck. I told her that when I was a pastor one of the hardest things for me was dealing with the counseling. I always felt like I had to have a good solution to their problem, and somehow felt like if they didn't leave with some helpful advice (that ended up WORKING) I had somehow failed. She shared with me that she just keeps her "energy" in the p…

Love & Logic

Image
Parenting. By far the hardest thing I've ever done. The lil' buggers just keep on changing, so as soon as we think we've got something working, it doesn't work anymore!

Before we even adopted our kids, we were required to read "Parenting With Love and Logic" by Cline and Fay. It had a lot of really great parenting philosophies, but at the time we didn't even have kids!

12 years later we're reading "Parenting TEENS With Love & Logic" and have been discussing it with each other.

Initial applications for me -

children will become what you call them. (If you call him or her a liar, guess what kind of behavior you'll get??)
children love to push your buttons - at some level it gives them joy to see you frustrated. My job is to deny them this joy!
children need to face the natural consequences of their actions. Good parents don't save their kids. Bad parents do.

Lots more to learn, that's for sure!!

Flat

Image
So I'm heading out on what is to be a 26 mile bike training ride this morning. A couple miles into it I start thinking about how I've never had a flat tire on a ride, and what a bummer it would be to have one happen to me in the Lake Stevens 70.3 and have to "learn" how to fix it while in the race.

Not 5 minutes later, while cruising down one of my favorite hills at about 30 miles an hour, I heard a "pop" and thought to myself "hmmm...that sounded weird...a bit sharper sound than a rock". Then about 30 seconds later I heard my back tire going thump thump and had to carefully apply my brakes to come to a stop.

Pulled my bike over into a safe spot and removed the back tire. Found a nice bent nail lodged in my tire, and then spent the next 15 minutes learning how to use all the handy-dandy tools I carry in my pack under my seat for just such an occasion. Got the new tube inserted, put the tire back on the rim, put the tire back on the bike, and then …

What is a pastor's primary work?

Image
In the epilogue of the 20th anniversary edition of A Long Obedience In The Same Direction, author Eugene Peterson summarizes the guiding principles of his work as a pastor:



The first conviction was that everything in the gospel is livable and that my pastoral task was to get it lived....



The second conviction was that my primary pastoral work had to do with Scripture and prayer. I was neither capable nor competent to form Christ in another person, to shape a life of discipleship in man, woman or child. That is supernatural work, and I am not supernatural. Mine was the more modest work of Scripture and prayer--helping people listen to God speak to them from the Scriptures and then joining them in answering God as personally and honestly as we could in lives of prayer. This turned out to be slow work. From time to time, impatient with the slowness, I would try out ways of going about my work that promised quicker results. But after a while it always seemed to be more like meddling in thes…

Preventing Ministry Failure

Image
All of the pastors for CTK are now in small groups going through a workbook called "Preventing Ministry Failure" by Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffman. Though not currently a pastor, as a member of our church council I am going through the book with the 3 other pastors on our council. We just started the first section this week and already I feel like I've got my money's worth.

The book starts with these startling statistics. Of ministers in the United States:
25% have been forced out of or fired from their ministry at least once.90% feel inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.45% say they've experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence.40% have serious conflict with a church member at least once a month.20% admit to having an affair while in the ministry.37% admit the Internet pornography is a current struggle.70% do not have someone t…

A seed coming to fruition

Tonight Ann and I directed the spring concert for OHCS Middle School choir. We've been directing the choir for...6 years now?? Wow.

One cool part of the concert this year was that we asked Jordan, a high school junior, who was in our choir for 3 years at OHCS, to come and be a student director for a couple of songs.

I had talked with his father earlier in the year (he happens to be our accountant), and he told me of Jordan's love for choir, and how he had an incredible experience at All-Northwest Choir, and won a solo/ensemble competition. ( I see a lot of myself in Jordan by the way...) But then he said to me that it was Jordan's experience in our little middle school choir that really ignited in him his passion for music which is being fanned into flame at the High School level.

Ann and I have always said that whether it was leading youth choir at a church or leading the middle school choir at OHCS, our biggest goal was to develop in our students a life-long love for music …

Triathlons in perspective

Image
On Saturday I finished my 4th triathlon, returning to Issaquah where I did my very first race last May. It was definitely a different feeling returning for the 2nd time. I didn't have any of the "will I be able to do it" thoughts and feeling (I'll save those for my half-ironman in July!), but it sure was a blast and something that kept me awake a lot of the night before in anticipation!

I was disappointed in my swim (haven't spent enough of my training time in the pool - and it's been too dang cold to practice in the open water this spring), but was quite happy with my improvement on my running time (biking was a bit SLOWER than last year - how'd that happen?)

This morning I was reminded of 1 Tim 4:8 as I did my morning devotions. "Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise both for the present life and the life to come."

Training for and racing in triathlons has been a great motivator and helped m…

Nothing happens the same way twice

Image
Another interesting line from Prince Caspian is when Lucy asks Aslan why things aren't working out the way they did the last time they were in Narnia. Aslan responds, "Nothing ever happens the same way twice."

I want things to always work the same way. In relationships with people, I want to always know what to expect. If I act in a certain way, I want to be certain people will respond the way they did the last time. But I really want God to act in the same way. If at a certain point in my past I received an answer to my prayers when I fasted - I expect that God will come through if I fast again. If I felt close to God by singing a certain song or reading a certain book, I want to re-create that experience time and again - but it never seems to work.

I remember going back on my 2nd tour with the Continental Singers back in 1989, having had such an incredible, life changing tour in the summer of 1988. The "sophomore" tour did not live up to my memories of the firs…

Where are you, Aslan?

Image
Took the family to see the "Prince Caspian" movie yesterday afternoon. The story follows Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy as they are called back to Narnia for another adventure, only it has been 1300 years since they left as Kings and Queens. In those 1300 years, Narnia has undergone terrible changes. A race of men (the Calormenes) has dominated the land, and has tried to exterminate the Narnians. Prince Caspian is forced to flee his rightful Kingdom due to treachery and threats on his life, and he flees to the land of Narnia with a magical horn (which had belonged to Susan 1300 years earlier) with which he summons the 4 English children back to Narnia.

Throughout the story the big question that hangs over every scene is: "Where is Aslan?" He hasn't appeared in many generations. He didn't seem to do anything to stop the slaughter of the Narnians. And he doesn't seem to be very interested in helping save the day as the exiled Prince Caspian tries to…

Holding out for the best

I have a friend with whom I went running this morning. He's a 34 year old single Christian man, who has been dating someone for about 7 months. The big question whenever we get together is..."So...are you going to ask her to marry you?"

The problem is, he realizes that he and his girlfriend, though they are both good people, have some pretty major differences in life priorities. She doesn't want children (he does), she is very focused on her life goals and not too willing to accomodate someone else's dreams. I told him that as much as I want him to get married and start a family (since this is his desire) I'd hate for him to settle for less than the best. 50 years of marriage with someone you don't really agree on some fundamental life priorities is not a prescription for happiness or fulfillment, but rather frustration.

I pray that when my children are old enough to be considering such questions, they will hold out for the best in their future mate. …

Family

Image
Gary D. had a triple bypass last night. I really wanted to just get in my car and drive to Canby last night. I knew I couldn't really do anything, but I wanted to just be there with the Davis clan.
In the last couple of weeks the Davis clan has weathered this emergency of Gary's, Ashlie's broken back, and Josh's separated shoulder. As we talked about this, and Ryan prayed for them at dinner tonight, we talked about when you go through tough times family is what gets you through. You can handle just about anything if are not facing it alone.
We know our kids are not perfect, but we are striving to give them a strong foundation and the knowledge that no matter what happens in their lives, they are not alone. They have a wonderful extended family, and friends here and in Canby that are in many ways closer than family.
It's a blessing for them, and for me and Ann.

Put the ball in play

Image
I read tonight on my nephew's blog how as a worship leader for youth he consistently feels like something is missing from their times of worship, even though they are well planned and executed. Below is my response to him.

Josh,
Gotta say having led worship for years most of the time it felt like something was strangely missing. Very few home runs were hit. The key is to keep coming to the plate. Try to put the ball into play. Consistently getting "on base" as a worship leader or as a worship team will bring fruit over the longer haul.

I actually think one of the most difficult things about ministry work (be it leading worship or preaching or leading a small group or whatever) is that we always have these incredible ideals about what it SHOULD be, but we have to live with how it really is. So...my word of encouragement is keep guarding your first love, do your best to put together and lead meaningful times of worship, and leave the results to God. Your life is making a dif…

Jim & Casper go to church

Image
Originally written Dec. 29, 2007.

My friend loaned me a book called "Jim & Casper Go To Church". Basically it is conversations between a Christian pastor guy (Jim) and an open minded atheist guy (Casper) about their experiences at 12 different churches in America. A good read, and it's provoking some thoughts. Casper is very unimpressed with churches spending lots of $ on technology. Yes, use the technology that is available, but don't worry about doing a stage show rivaling rock concerts. Casper is also very impressed with churches that actually DO things like serve the poor and make a tangible difference in a poor community. To him it doesn't make much difference what people talk about or "believe" or sing about in songs. He keeps saying "is this what Jesus had in mind?" when he goes to megachurches. In my own spiritual journey I've felt that too much of my life was about proclaiming beliefs and not enough about actually DOING stuff to …

Back in the saddle

Originally written May 19

After nearly a year since I resigned my post as Pastor of CTK Oak Harbor, I delivered the message yesterday. Actually, I led worship (with Ann) AND taught AND did a pre-marital counseling session following church! How did it feel? Like putting on an old shoe.I felt like I was in my element - helping people understand the Bible, and sharing with them insights they found interesting and inspirational. God has given me a gift for teaching. And I need to be using it again. I want to be using it again.

I spoke on the life of Asa as recast in 2 Chr 14-16. Whereas in Kings he is held up as a hero, in Chronicles he is chided for lack of faith later in life. He traded faith in God for reliance upon himself. And he died a bitter, lonely, self-sufficient man. As I prepared and taught that message I realized I was preaching to myself. I have spent the last year or two running away from a life of faith that I have always lived. I have tried to figure out ways to provide for…

Life Is An Endurance Sport

Image
Originally written May 13
In just over 2 weeks I'll start my 2nd season of Triathlon racing. It's about time. Been spending too much time trying to train and it's getting boring! It's time for the thrill of the crowd, the surge of adrenaline at the starting gun, the thrill of competition!

Perhaps one of the reasons I've been so drawn to going into triathlons is that I enjoy the challenge and mental discipline endurance sports have forced me to develop. Just keep going. Keep pushing.

I reached a point in my spiritual life that I didn't want to stay in the race a couple of summers ago. I didn't care any more, and I've taken a hiatus. But I'm getting anxious to get back in the race. To use the gifts God has given me on more than administration.

I'm learning that life is an endurance sport. You go through times of boredom. You go through times of highs and lows. But you've got to keep going. You've got to keep your eyes on the finish line, where…