Category archives: witness

Home From My Retreat

What do you call it when you come back from a retreat? — an attack?

Serra Retreat Center

Well, technically, I wasn’t on a retreat. I was at the 2010 Academy of Missional Preaching (Southwest). But it was held at the Serra Retreat Center in Malibu, and there were retreat-ish aspects to it. If you needed to work on a sermon, you could go sit in a garden like the one above and think about what you were trying to say. It was a pretty harsh existence, but we must all be prepared to sacrifice for the Kingdom. 🙂

Of course, it was not only about preaching, it was about missional preaching. (Missional is the idea that the church exists as an instrument used in God’s mission to the world. See John 20:21, Acts 1:8, etc.) In addition to preaching, we also got to hear various speakers including John Dally (Choosing the Kingdom) and Darrell Guder (Missional Church).

New PC(USA) Site

Hey, cool. The PC(USA) has updated its website. It looks like a huge improvement over what we’ve had the last umpteen years. Congratulations to whoever put this together.

A Catholic Martyr

I was vaguely aware that Pope Benedict XVI recently visited Cyprus, but I missed this story about the martyrdom of Luigi Padovese, on June 3 of this year. Read more

Samuel, You’re Not So Hot

Samuel wasn’t all that hot, you know? I mean, okay, he was a prophet. He has two books of the Bible named for him. He was the last judge of Israel, and God used him to commission the first two kings of Israel. But with that kind of pedigree, you just assume Samuel must be some kind of wonderful person. And, really, he’s not. Read more

Haiti Earthquake

Horrific pictures coming out of Haiti here at the Big Picture. Please be in prayer for the people of Haiti and consider donating through the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

Sharing Good News (a Lesson from the Bible)

One of my favorite Bible stories is found in 2 Kings 7.

A neighboring empire had attacked Israel and Jerusalem was under siege. The city was surrounded, so nothing could get in or out, and people got very, very hungry. But one night, God caused the besiegers to hear the sound of a great army. They became frightened and fled, abandoning their camp outside the city.

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Robes

“Pastor, when are you going to start wearing your robes again?”

Several of you have asked me that question. As you know, I’ve worn a minister’s robe in worship since arriving at Desert Hills. But I quit this summer. Now fall has come, and soon winter will be here, and I haven’t resumed wearing the robes. Why not?
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Second-Chance God

He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31

I began to put on a little weight a couple of years ago. This, without any obvious changes in my diet or exercise. My doctor told me, “Well, that’s middle age for you.” (She put it a little more politely than that, but that’s the message that came through.) So I’ve been watching my diet and trying to get more exercise. I’ve also begun to notice health and fitness articles in the news more than I used to.

A recent survey suggests that even the oldest people benefit from exercise. The 3-year survival rate for active 85-year olds is three times as high as the rate for sedentary ones. (“Active,” in this study, is four hours’ exercise a week, and the “exercise” didn’t have to be lifting weights or running marathons: it could be as simple as taking a couple of 15-minute walks a day.)

That’s encouraging to me. But another finding was even more interesting: It’s never too late to start. Even 85-year olds who became more active after a lifetime of sedentary living still had double the survival rate of their inactive counterparts!

There are so many things in our culture that tell us the opposite message. It’s too late to change. The die is cast. We’ve made our beds and now we have to lie in them. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Our faith teaches us that’s a lie. It’s never too late to change, because our God is a God of second chances. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” the thief said, and Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)

But it’s not just about eternal life. Or, rather, eternal life isn’t just about life after death. Eternal life is a new kind of life that we experience in Christ now, and will continue to enjoy after death. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

Where are you experiencing that newness in your own life?

Maybe you could take up a new pastime.

Maybe you can let bygones be bygones, and forgive an old enemy.

Maybe you can invest in a new relationship.

Or perhaps you’re like one of those people in the study who has been living a sedentary life, and you could become more active.

I’d love to hear ways you’re experiencing newness in your life. And until next time, be a blessing!

Use words if necessary…

Have you ever heard that quote by St. Francis of Assisi? I couldn’t guess how many times I’ve heard it. I’ve used it myself. It’s a great quote. Except it’s not a quote. Who knew?

Fall Season – Huddles

This post appears, in slightly-altered form, in the September Panorama:

Here it is, almost fall again! Where did the summer go?

A highlight of the summer for me was our brief trip to the Navajo Nation in Arizona. We were privileged to visit St. Michael’s Association for Special Education and the evangelical (Protestant) church at Hunter’s Point, along with several others from our church.

This type of ministry is the essence of what Jesus meant when he told us to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). Too often, we assume that someone else will do it for us. “The church does that,” we think. But “the church” can’t go on mission trips. The church can’t visit someone in the hospital. The church can’t tutor someone who’s trying to learn to read or to speak English. People have to do those things, and I’m so happy that people who do, call this church home.

The church, of course, has a role in carrying out the mission of Christ in this world. Sometimes, we have to partner with others in our church to achieve what Christ calls us to do. As just one example, there are homeless people in our community who could actually afford to rent an apartment–except for the startup costs (first and last month’s rent, utility hookups, etc.). Believers at Desert Hills help to address that need by giving A.R.C.H. money through their contributions to the church’s mission budget. (For another example, see the article in this issue. We support the food pantry individually by donating food, and together as a church with our contributions.)

The second thing our church does is equip the saints (you and me) for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). The things we do as the gathered church–our Sunday worship, fellowship activities, and education programs –all function like the “huddle” a football team goes into before each play. When we’re finished with our “huddle” we disperse, going back into the world to carry out our Commission.

With summer winding down, we will be resuming our second worship service. Last spring, our two services were practically identical; the only significant difference was that the choir sang in the first service. This fall, we’re going to be looking for ways to give each service its own flavor. The choir will participate in the first service, as before. In the second service, I’m going to begin using multimedia (i.e., a projector). I have some ideas about how that can enhance the worship experience. This will give me a “laboratory” to experiment, by projecting scriptures and prayers on the screen, referring to other scriptures, including visual aids, and so forth.

No matter which worship service you prefer, you will be able to participate in a Bible Study this fall. If you come for the first service, stay for a Bible study afterwards. Or come for a Bible study during the first service, then join us in worship afterward.

It’s always exciting in the fall as we shake off our summer doldrums and ramp up our programs. I think our “huddles” will be even more helpful to us this fall. But nobody goes to a game to watch the huddle. What really matters is what we do after the huddle. If you’ve got ideas about things we can do as a church to help one another carry out the Great Commission between Sundays, give me a call. I’d love to talk with you about them. And until next time, be a blessing!