Archive for March 2009

How I Approach Church – Part 1

our_approachA couple days ago Denise and I took the kids to an indoor water park.

Fun? Yes.
Relaxing? Not on your life.

Because I am a student of people, I had a blast just observing folks. I love watching how they interact, play, talk and fight. I especially enjoyed engaging in conversation with the young adult workers that were at each of the tubes and wading pools. I made note of the ones that really loved what they were doing, in contrast to those that just did it for a few bucks and the opportunity to wear shorts to work. Many of them were pretty lifeless and uninspired, but there were a few that really had a spark in their eyes and a bounce to their step. They made it fun. Their energy was contagious.

I think servants of the Most High Lord Jesus ought to be like that. Church ought to be the best place in the world to be (having a wave pool in the lobby may help that some!).

For the next handful of weeks I would like to use this space to communicate what I think makes West Salem Foursquare Church an energetic and contagious place.
The following is Part 1 of a 4-part series.

HOW I THINK ABOUT AND APPROACH
OUR CHURCH SERVICES
@ WEST SALEM FOURSQUARE

It has been said that 90% of life is just showing up. I know that it’s an overly simplistic way to approach church services, however, I have found it to be predominately true! For me to just ‘show up’ is a step in the right direction and provides a vessel that the Holy Spirit could choose to work through. It goes without saying that God works through willing and available instruments. 2 Chronicles 16 tells us that, “The eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

That, however, takes ‘showing up’ to another level. God is looking for full commitment. Our church services require that and the people that gather for services deserve that. We can show up physically and really not be there emotionally, mentally and/or spiritually. Because of this value, I have determined in my heart to approach each weekend service with the purpose of truly ‘showing up’ and I am blessed by servant volunteers that do as well! This does not ignore low points or uninspired moments. It is, however, about making certain adjustments prior to stepping into the pulpit (or any place of service) so that the instrument of God is properly cleaned and ready – so that the vessel of God has been purified and useful to the Lord.

For this reason, church for me begins the moment I get into my truck on a Saturday night or a Sunday morning and drive the short distance to our facility. I use that time to emotionally “ready” my heart. I ask for cleansing of sin and rightness of relationship with God. I discern misalignment that perhaps exists between me and God and I seek forgiveness. The goal is not to merely “deal with it” so that God blesses, but rather, to open myself up to the finger of God in identifying areas of sin, because I want to be in right relationship with my Maker regardless of my pastoral position and forthcoming duty. It’s not a matter of role, but a matter of relationship. When I pull into the church parking lot I will transition from “emotionally readying my heart” to the second phase of my preparation: prayerfully “rallying” the people. I will often park my car in the farthest point of our parking area not only to leave closer spots available for others but also to “make a sweep” prayerfully as I walk the distance to the front doors. I boldly ask God to draw his people. Shortly thereafter I will intercede as I walk in and through the seating, hallways, classrooms and meeting spaces. This not only for the preparation of the peoples hearts but to prepare my heart for how I may be used to minister to specific people or situations. I will often sense prophetic words or points of direction for a particular service as I intercede throughout the facility.

This has all been prior to the actual start of the church service. But like a good foundation on a home, I believe this time is valuable and necessary to the establishment of a strong framework of Kingdom dynamics within the service. It paves the way for the Holy Spirit to accomplish his work in and through his people and for God’s purposes to be realized.

I truly believe God has a purpose for our church services. While each and every service may have a different focus or flavor I have discovered a consistent, biblical pattern for our gatherings. It is a template of sorts. Throughout the Word I find three primary values with corresponding exercises. The source of these understandings is from Paul’s purpose statement in Colossians 2.

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2,3

Part 2 continues next week.

Some Assembly Required

huffy-52-polycarb-portable-basketball-hoop-with-helix-liftA couple days ago I did something that I “swore” I would never do again.

My son Isaac turned 7 years old this week so Denise and I got him a portable basketball hoop as a gift. We got it on sale at Fred Meyer and then I put it in the back of my truck and we drove home. About a mile or two from the store it hit me. I yelled out loud: “What have I done? I just bought another basketball hoop and I’m now remembering what a cursed time I had putting the last one together!”

Denise and I laughed a bunch, but down deep there was nothing funny about the situation. I would soon be called upon to assemble the hoop and that was not a happy proposition. You see, we used to have a portable b-ball hoop up in Stanwood. When we moved we decided to not bring it with us – it had too much pain and suffering associated it with. You see, when I put that one together years ago (for another one of our children’s b-days) I all but lost my sanity. What started out as a nice “bonding moment” with my kids turned into a sweaty session of extended rage. The directions seemed to be printed in some indigenous African dialect and the drawings were hieroglyphical in nature. I couldn’t seem to control my rapidly dissipating patience and it was coming out on my family.

Suffice it to say, “The sun did not go down on my anger,” but it get pretty close to dusk when I completed the project. Sadly, it was too dark for the kids to even play with it that night!

So, now I had another assembly project awaiting and the memories of days gone by were haunting me. With resolve and a hopeful demeanor I began the process (and even invited my boys to join me). I’d like to happily report that two hours later the hoop was assembled. My limbs were still attached. My family still loves me. And I am still SAVED.

I wrote this on my Facebook status: “Just put a basketball hoop together for Isaac’s birthday and I am still saved.” I got a number of great responses on my Facebook page but the one that has had me thinking all week comes from one of my Bible College professors, Ron Williams. Ron has been a missionary, a pastor, a professor, a leader of our Foursquare movement, and a writer of biblical commentaries. Basically, an all-around brilliant man of God. He wrote in response: “Just like the hoop…never-ending eternal security.”

Now, I’m not wanting to debate the theological merits of “once saved – always saved” (eternal security) but I do have some observations that I think apply to us all today.

Difficult times seem to have an acute way of keeping us closer to the Lord.

God will often use trying situations to both reveal the character of our hearts and remind us of our intense need for a Savior.

Just like the hoop, we have a never-ending need for God’s salvation. He is available to us in our most difficult times. Look to him for assistance. Call on his name for help.

You see, tough times will come and go (never-ending hoop) but our God is so powerful. He is mighty to save.

I’d like to say that I will never assemble a basketball hoop again (or any other Some Assembly Required item). But I know better. God knows better.

Jesus & Liquid Love

openbibleToday I’m spending some time with my devotions (Bible, journal & reading plan) in a packed out FourBucks…um…I mean Starbucks. Many have come out from the drippy wet weather to warm themselves by the fires of a French Press and to drown themselves in Liquid Love. As I’ve been sitting here reading my Bible I’ve noticed many others around me doing the same. A gentleman in the corner just stuck headphones on his ears and has opened the Word. A group of gals next to me are talking about Scripture, praying for one another and sharing life together. This is reflective of only one coffee shop/gathering point amongst many in our community (we are in the Pacific Northwest right?). Imagine us turning homes, workplaces, cafeterias, classrooms, etc into sanctuaries all throughout our community at various times throughout the days of the week. Imagine hundreds of us linking our hearts and minds around passages of Scripture while asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word of God to us individually and collectively.

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

As we read God’s words, we begin to see how God responds to things. Doing daily devotions re-patterns the way we think and transforms the spirit of the mind. Then when we face similar situations as Jesus did, we begin to respond in the same way. We begin to understand that His words always build, strengthen, affirm, and give life.

Journaling is an excellent way to both record and process what God has spoken to us. It’s also a useful tool to use at a later time, to reflect on and review some of the ‘gems’ that you have received. Without writing them down, you may forget those blessings and some very important lessons! And while journaling is a very personal time with the Lord, you may want to share some of your daily journaling with your small group or mentors. Through discussion, you may be able to look deeper into what God is speaking to you, gain new insight and even encourage others.

You’ll need three items: a Bible, a pen/pencil and a journal. There are many journals you can purchase at a bookstore or a plain notebook will do. The West Salem Foursquare Life Journal is handy because it offers “how to journal” instructions to help you get the most out of your daily readings and devotions. There’s a section for special prayer requests where you can record the day you began praying and the day God answered your prayer. It also has a Through-the-Bible Reading Plan, using daily scripture readings from the old and new testaments to guide you through the entire Bible in just one year. Life Journals may be purchased at West Salem Foursquare. You can also use our online daily devotional at www.wsfc.org .

Next, set aside a certain time in your schedule each day and find a quite place where you’re not likely to be distracted. Many find peaceful meditation sites in nature, by the beach, in the back yard, or in a favorite lawn chair. It’s not important when you do your devotions, but that you make it a very important part of your day. Give God the best part of our day, whatever time that is. For morning people, it’s a great way to start your day. For others, it’s 20-minute lunchtime appointments with Jesus. For the night owls, it’s the final act of the day, the time to quiet their hearts and hear God’s voice.

Now what? Who talks first, God or me? One way to do your devotions is to follow the simple acronym, S.O.A.P., which stands for Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer.

S for Scripture
Open your Bible to the reading found under today’s date of your Bible bookmark. Take time reading and allow God to speak to you. Highlight, underline or place a mark in the margin of your Bible, next to the scriptures that stand out. When you are done, reread the Passage you marked, look for one that particularly spoke to you that day, and write it in your journal.

O for Observation
What do you think God is saying to you in this scripture? Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and reveal Jesus to you. Paraphrase and write this scripture down in your own words, in your journal.

A for Application
Personalize what you have read, by asking yourself how it applies to your life right now. Perhaps it is instruction, encouragement, revelation of a new promise, or corrections for a particular area of your life. Write how this scripture can apply to you today.

P for Prayer
This can be as simple as asking God to help you use this scripture, or it may be a greater insight on what He may be revealing to you. Remember, Prayer is a two-way conversation, so be sure to listen to what God has to say! Now, write it out.

If this seems a little overwhelming, take it slow and keep it simple. No matter how you decide to do your devotions, the important thing is to show up for your daily appointment, because God is always waiting for you!