Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Speaking of GRACE

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.
Romans 5:19-21 NLT

CNN has been running a story all week (in four parts) of a preacher’s family, Rev. Robert and Ramona Nichols, which was terrorized for 6 years, endured 10 bombings, multiple shotgun blasts at the house, and cryptic threatening letters. The terror finally culminated when a lone gunman entered their parsonage and shot the preacher and his wife multiple times in front of the seven year old daughter (Rebecca) and their two year old son. The wife died immediately, and the preacher never recovered. He died a few years later, in a psyche ward, at the age of 46. These events happened 30 years ago.

The reason it’s in the news today is because the daughter, Rebecca Nichols, wrote a book about it, called “The Devil in Pew Number Seven.” In her book, she forgives the gunman, and she forgives the men who were responsible for the terror.

Here’s how a CNN reporter concludes the story: “Rebecca's book has cracked open long-buried memories and forced folks to grapple anew with decades-old events they never fully understood. She's stirred emotions of sorrow, guilt, anger, loss. But she's also opened a conversation about faith and forgiveness.

After the shooting, Rebecca moved away from all that was dear -- her church, her friends, her school. Her father never fully recovered physically or emotionally. He died seven years after the shooting. Rebecca was 14; her brother Daniel, 9. They could so easily have been ruined.
Yet Rebecca found strength, in her faith, in her family that remained and in the love instilled by her parents.

"I wasn't going to throw the rest of my life away for anger and bitterness," she told me. "Just because my parents' lives were over, didn't mean that mine was, too."

I ask Rebecca: "Are you crazy to forgive?"

"I'll tell you how I respond to that," she says. "If I had not forgiven, I would be crazy in an institution somewhere. My parents had planted the seeds of forgiveness in me as a little girl: Pray for those who persecute you and bless those who curse you. Sometimes, when people forgive, they feel like they're saying what that person did was OK. That's not what it's doing. When you forgive, you're letting go of the pain and giving it to God."”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Do you "Dine and Dash" your church?

A friend passed this blog on to me, from a Pastor named Troy Jones. It gives a great challenge to one of the major problems in Churchworld…check it out:

Troy writes: “We all know what the phrase “Dine and Dash” means. This describes the action of going into a restaurant, sitting at the table, ordering whatever you want, eating and then leaving quickly without paying.
If you do this at a restaurant you are breaking the law and being a moron. Period. Few people will argue with me about this.
Why do so many people “Dine and Dash” their church?
Let that question sink in. Deeper!
National average is that only 3% of Christ followers tithe (give 10% of their income).
Over 50% percent of the members of any given Christian congregation donate little or nothing toward their church’s upkeep and ministries.
Most Christians don’t ever find a meaningful place to serve their church or community.
Ask me to get involved and serve…Pray for my pastor…Give to missionaries…Feed the hungry…Begin giving in a systematic way…Work the parking lot…Serve my community…Lead a growth group…Stay after to help with chairs…
Are you kidding me, Pastor? I would rather enjoy the music, let someone else take care of my kids and enjoy the message…in effect you are saying “Pastor, I would rather ‘dine and dash’…have a good week.”
The story gets worse in the church…those who dine and dash at church also whine the most…I am not getting fed enough, the music is too loud, my kids are not happy…Christians “Dine, whine and then Dash”…talk about pathetic. But true!
If you are a Christ follower and find yourself caught up in this “Dine, whine and dash” approach to your church…repent of this kind of sloppy attitude towards your church and pastor.
Start serving today!
Begin to give systematically!
Be bold and actually get involved with a discipleship setting!
Find a way to make a difference in your community!
Stop attending church and begin to be the church–everywhere you go be the hands and feet of Jesus to this world.”

What do YOU think? Why do so many Christ followers “dine, whine and dash” their church? (love to hear from you!)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Long, Joyful FAD of Adoption

You see, through our faith in Jesus, God adopts us into His family. He becomes our father, we become brothers and sisters…we’re rescued from sin, from bondage, from isolation…and we’re now in a forever family…free to love ourselves, to love one another, and free to love God…

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 NLT

John Piper says that adoption is bigger than the UNIVERSE. I think he’s right on. Bible is filled with references to care for the orphan and the widow…in other words, to care for those who’ve lost families (parents and spouses) by welcoming them into yours.

This challenge identifies with the very heart of God:
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5 NIV
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the cause of the widow. Isaiah 1:17 NIV

So we KNOW God cares about the fatherless, the orphan, the vulnerable children. But the kicker is that adoption has ALWAYS been on God’s mind…literally.

Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Ephesians 1:2b-4 Message

It was always God’s plan to adopt YOU into His family. It was always His plan to adopt ME.
Before the foundations of time. Before the foundations of the Universe were set. God had a plan, And that plan was adoption.

I can’t even talk about it without getting emotional, because adoption is the road that God has called my wife Jodie and I to walk, and I know that for many at Overlake, for many in my community, God is stirring adoption there as well! This is why we are thrilled to host a FREE Conference on September 24, called Wait No More! Because there are 1000 kids in Washington State who are ready to be adopted into loving homes! And you have one of those homes! Your heart identifies with the heart of God!

Let me give you one last picture of adoption: Pastor Josh and I visited an orphanage called ithemba Letu, in South Africa, and we got a chance to see a little boy get picked up by his forever family, and say goodbye to all his buddies. (He stayed in the rental car, holding hands with his new brother, while all of the other children from the orphanage came out and gave him a hug in the backseat of the car. He didn’t want to get out of the car, because he was afraid he’d be left behind). One of the practices of ithemba Letu is that they’ll ask the adoptive parents to send a photo album over with some pictures of their life that the child is going to be joining. So pictures of family members, pets, car, house, school, etc. are all placed in the photo album, and then it’s given to the child about to be adopted.

The director told us that when this particular little boy received his album, he wouldn’t put it down. He kept walking around with it, he slept with it, he’d keep it with him at playtime, he barely put it aside for bathtime. He just kept holding it tight, then he’d open it again and look at it, showing it to everyone at the orphanage again and again: “I have a brother! I have a dog! I have a bedroom! I have a new last name! I have a family!”

That might be the most powerful picture of adoption I’ve ever seen, with the most powerful connection to our faith. Because of the cross, You have a FATHER! Because of the death, burial and resurrection, You have a HOME! Because of Jesus, You have a new name! You have a family! You have brothers and sisters! You have a clean slate, a future! You have LIFE…abundant and eternal. Hold these truths close to your heart, just like that little boy, excited to walk the road of adoption.

God sent him (Jesus) to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. Galatians 4:5 NLT

God is the one who started this FAD. It's time for those who follow Him to get on board!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Firefighter's Prayer

On 9.11.2011, Overlake Christian Church was honored to host special services focused upon the events of 9.11 and our response one decade later. If you missed it, I highly recommend viewing it at occ.org. As a part of these proceedings, two local firefighters, and members of Overlake, Rob Robertson and Phil Pierson, led the congregation in prayer. After each service we've received dozens of requests for the content of Rob's prayer. Here it is...offered in humility, knowing the heartfelt and heartache that it was written in:


These class A uniforms that my brother Phil Pierson and I are wearing today are a symbol of the shared losses of fellow firefighters, police, military personnel and citizens’ of our country and especially to honor all who lost their life -- on this day - 10 years ago. Please bow, and join us now in prayer.

Father God, Lord Jesus,
on this anniversary of the horrific attacks on innocent men, women and children….

We are profoundly sorrowful…. remembering what we witnessed just one decade ago
We offer you our broken hearts…. and we grieve with all who were touched most brutally.
The orphans and widows, family and friends, that today, ache with fresh grief and loss…. yet to grow less painful.

Please draw each of these who mourn close to Your heart, so that they may intimately know Your unconditional love, comfort and hope. We are sobered by the staggering loss of life and the reality of the ill intentions that caused such travesty.

May we never succumb to reacting out of bitterness or giving way to hatred.

Fill us instead with the love that can only come from you, as you have commanded us to love our enemies.
We beg for your intervention in all that seems, to us, impossible to resolve.
And that your desires would become our desires, that we would trade our will for your will.

You are gracious and forgiving to all who seek You…. fill us with your love.

Open our eyes to any blind spots we may have in the complexities of all that enters into these global sufferings and adversities.
Please help us to have yielded hearts, that you might use us, as you choose, for your ultimate glory in all things.

In Jesus’ powerful name,

Thursday, September 8, 2011


A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of
little minds,
its been said,
with great self confidence and gusto.
But a humble, thoughtful
might be,
like the migration of a Monarch;
Bold, bespeckled, fluttering, fragile,
fraught with danger,
and yet, in
the end,
filled with a quiet,