Posts in "Encouragement"
Why We Love The Church
There are a lot "Christian" books out there these days which take delight in speaking ill of the local church.  They say most churches are too judgmental, too narrow minded, too hypocritical, too old school, too conservative, too cliquish, and too boring.  In addition these voices say that the church is not concerned enough about social issues like homelessness, aids, world hunger, genocide, and the environment.  I would say, that some of what they are saying is very true.  One doesn't write a book if there is nothing to write about.  And as the old proverb goes, "if the shoe fits, wear it."  Churches need to look at these criticisms and see if they are true.  We should ask, are their changes that should be made as we repent of sin in the church and seek to be the church Christ has created us to be?  Sadly, the message that many of these "anti-church" books are giving is, "let's all leave the institutional church and really be the church."

I recently read a book called, Why We Love the Church, In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.  DeYoung is a 30-something pastor in middle American and Kluck is sportswriter who attends DeYoung's church.  The two have teamed up to write this book as well as the famous Why We're Not Emergent.   In the book they take turns writing chapters.  DeYoung's chapters are more intellectual and more preachy.  Kluck's chapters are more stream of thought and more every day man.  I have to admit, the preacher side of me really liked the DeYoung chapters but the part of me that really wants to know what the average church attender is thinking really appreciated the Kluck chapters.  The point of the book is to say, no, don't abandon the church, it is the bride of Christ.  Be a part of it, pray for it, show grace to other people in it just like you want to be shown grace, be willing to serve and lead the church toward being all that God wants it to be.

Let me give you just a few quotes to stimulate your appetite for this book:

In the first chapter DeYoung gives us some questions to ask when the church is in decline:  Are we believing the gospel, are we relying on the power of the gospel, are we getting the gospel out, are we getting the gospel right, are we adorning the gospel with good works, are we praying for the work of the gospel, are we training up our children in the gospel?

Going to church is not a quaint waste of time, but an essential part of a person's spiritual life and growth.  ~Kluck ~

Again, later in the book DeYoung gives some good questions for church leavers:  Are you rejecting the church or the faith, are you trying to have your cake and eat it too, are you making an idol out of authenticity, are you repeating the mistake of the previous generation?

Church isn't boring because we are not showing enough film clips, or because we play an organ instead of a guitar.  It's boring because we neuter it of it's importance. ~Kluck~

We need the church in visible manifest and sometimes hidden beauty.  We need the church of individuals and institutions.  Most of all, we ought to love the church- in all her organic and organizational mess and glory.  ~DeYoung~

If I could leave you with one thought, it's this:  Go.  Go to church.  Don't go for the coffee, the presentations, the music, or the amenities.  Don't even go for the feelings you may or may not get when you to because, no offense, these feelings may or may not be trustworthy most of the time.  Go for the gospel.  Go for the preaching.  God to be near God's Word... There are many people leaving the church, and supposedly finding God.  But I found Him here, and by His grace, I'll keep finding Him here.  I love my church.  ~Kluck~


His Mercies are New Every... Monday?
Yep. That's a phrase we use in our family when we think about getting a new start on Monday. It could be a new start to eating right after a weekend filled with junk food, a new start to exercising after a lazy weekend, a new start to family devotions after a busy weekend where they were inconsistent, etc. Just the like the New Year provides us an opportunity to make resolutions, the new week provides us an opportunity to start over.

Obviously there is nothing special about Monday. Our phrase is an embellishment of two verses in the book of Lamentations. In the midst of great affliction the prophet calls these words to mind and has hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23 ESV)

Whatever you are going through today, remember that God's great love and mercy never cease. He loves you today. Each morning is a chance to remember that He is merciful. He has withheld His wrath and instead poured out amazing grace through the work of Christ in the gospel. What a faithful God!

It is with these "mercies" clearly in view that we offer all of ourselves to God in service and worship (Romans 12:1). So how about it, will you get a fresh start in walking with God today? It is after all... Monday!

Join Pastor Nathan here each Monday morning for word of encouragement.
The Emperor's New Clothes
Last week I rediscovered this satirical children's fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. " The Emperor's New Clothes" is about a king who has an unhealthy fascination with new clothes, so much so that he has a different change of clothes for every hour of the day. One day a couple of charlatan weavers appear before the emperor claiming that they are able to manufacture clothes of exquisite beauty and uncommon character. These clothes that they create have a special quality that makes the clothes invisible to anyone who is either corrupt in his character or unfit for his office. The emperor commissions these men to make him a set of these clothes at once, paying them large sums of money to do the work.

As the clothes are being created several servants are sent to check on the clothes to see how the progress is coming. Though none of the officials could see anything on the loom, they feigned as if the clothes were very beautiful and told the king so. Finally the day comes for the emperor to try on his new clothes that are to be worn in a big procession around his capital city. Though the king sees nothing, he is quite embarrassed to think that he may be corrupt in character or unworthy of his office. Thus, he too claims that the clothes are simply marvelous, and all of his attendants agree. The king sets off on his procession around the city with much fanfare to display his new clothes to the citizens of his kingdom. No one can see the clothes, of course, but everyone is too scared to admit the fact.

Finally a small boy in the crowd cries out, "Why the King has nothing on!" And the boy's father said simply, "The voice of innocence has spoken." The emperor, knowing what the boy said was true, decided to continue on with the procession. It was too late to turn back now!

This simple fairy tale teaches us an important lesson about fear and pride. In our own Christian lives we are often blind to our own shortcomings. And... our so called "friends" are often afraid to point them out to us. Even if we do get a hint that not all is well in our lives, our pride often keeps us from taking action to change.

As many of us talked about on Sunday at New Life Church, the call of the gospel is to "put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature" and to "cloth ourselves" with the character of Christ (Colossians 3:5&12). Would you be willing to look at yourself with soberness (Romans 12:3) confess your sin to God (1 John 1:8-9) and put on some new clothes (Colossians 3:12)? Would you be willing to help a friend do the same (Proverbs 27:6)?
A Note to New Life Church
Dear New Life Congregation,

I wanted to say thank you to your church and to anyone and everyone who helped out in any way regarding Mark's death.
My husband and I were blown away by the amount of support and love shown to Bonnie, Nicole and Dustin, and all their extended family and friends by your church family.
We now understand why Mark and Bonnie became so involved in your church and it makes us feel better knowing they have their church family close by when all of us can't be.

Carol, Tracy and Megan Miller
Coffee Cart Draws a Big Crowd!
Coffee Cart has been having many visitors lately. Today 103 people stopped by for fresh maple bars. That is the second highest attendance level ever at Coffee Cart! Monday and Tuesday were exceptionally busy days, too. We love to have students, staff, and bus drivers stop by for food and beverages, and to visit. The Coffee Cart ministry has been sharing the love of Christ since 1994.
Strategies against Sexual Sin
The seventh commandment says, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). When Jesus applied this command He told us that "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). For all of us, adultery is a matter not merely of our bodies but about our hearts.

Here are some practical suggestions I made in my message last week that I hope will help you combat sexual temptation and avoid sexual sin:
  • Consider your future self.
What will you wish you had done in a year? In ten years? What will your family wish you had done? Almost no one looks ahead and consciously says, "Hey, I think I'll blow up my life." Consider what you wish you would have done. . . then do it.
  • Capture every thought.
One key to spiritual warfare is to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Be Ruthless with your thoughts. It is very easy to be lazy with your thoughts, to linger on questionable ideas, to doubt what you know to be true. If you stick to Philippians 4:8, you'll be on safe ground.
  • Cultivate the presence of God.
Act as though you believe in God's omniscience and God's omnipresence. He is everywhere and He does see everything (Psalm 33:13-15). Don't kid yourself that he doesn't. David understood that his horrific sin with Bathsheba, and all the collateral damage, was against God (Psalm 51:4). Joseph fled from Potiphar's wife because he understood the same thing (Genesis 39:9).
  • Contemplate the Practical and Eternal Consequences of Adultery.
If your thoughts were to play out, or you were to get caught in your sin, what would happened in both the short term and the long term. Spend time imagining the shame you and your family would experience. Consider the devastation it would cause for those who think of you as an example of a Christian person. Consider how it will destroy trust with your spouse and family, if they even chose to stay with you. And, of course, there is more. Consider explaining your actions to God on judgment day. Jesus tells us to consider hell (Matthew 5:27-29).
  • Conquer your body.
Thomas Watson, a puritan pastor wrote, "The flesh pampered is apt to rebel." He reminds us of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 9:27 warning us that our body can disqualify us if we don't make it our slave. We can't fall of the other side, though. It is possible to workout and get in shape for the admiration of the opposite sex, gaining mastery over your body for the wrong reasons.
  • Cut off opportunities.
Jesus took very seriously the need to be ruthless with the things that cause us to fall. He said, "Cut off out your eye... cut off your hand" (Matthew 5:29). This is hyperbole to remind us not to go places where we will be tempted. Get rid of the TV. Don’t be around people who tempt you. Get accountability for your computer.
  • Cultivate Faith.
Fight fire with fire. The power of lust is its promise of pleasure. We fight it with the promise of God. Linger long on the joy-producing, sin-dulling promises of the scripture!
2 Peter 1:3-4 tells us we escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires by the "great and precious promises" of God!

John Piper says it this way:
"It is this superior satisfaction in future grace that breaks the power of lust. With all eternity hanging in the balance, we fight the fight of faith. Our chief enemy is the lie that says sin will make our future happier. Our chief weapon is the Truth that says God will make our future happier. . . We must fight with a massive promise of superior happiness."
I hope this helps. I would love a world where lust and sexual sin didn't ruin marriages.
Exporting, Not Hoarding, Leaders
At last Saturday’s elders’ retreat we asked the question, “What does a ‘win’ in 2010 look like for New Life Church?” One the answers we surfaced was “exporting leadership.” What this means is that as church our goal, to borrow Scott Haugen’s phrase, can’t be to “just get fat.” Although it may sound backwards at first, taking a gospel-shaped view of leadership development means giving our leaders away in order to grow new and more developed ones. In reality, this is nothing more than the straightforward application of Matthew 16:25 to the area of leadership: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

First of all, I love being part of a church whose spiritual leaders are fueled by the belief that the only way to gain something is to give it away. This conviction is one of the major reasons we spent so much time giving ourselves away last year in Oregon City. It’s also one of the main reasons behind giving ourselves away this next year in Wilsonville.

Second, I was incredibly encouraged when I came across the following quote from a new book I’ve just begun reading entitled The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything:

We must be exporters of trained people instead of hoarders of trained people. . . . [O]ur view of gospel work must be global as well as local: the goal isn’t church growth (in the sense of our local church expanding in numbers, budget, church-plants and reputation) but gospel growth. If we train and send workers into new fields (both local and global), our local ministry might not grow numerically but the gospel will advance through these new ministries (25-26).

2009 at New Life Church: AWANA

Another highlight of 2009 was the beginning of AWANA. Last summer Sara Pylate began to think and pray about leading an AWANA club for New Life Church. Her children had gone to another church for the club and she thought it would be a great way to minister to other kids as well as her own, if we would offer it.

When she presented it to me, she wanted to go full scale, doing club for two-year-olds through sixth grade. I talked her down to two clubs to start with. Puggles and Cubbies started October 14th. After having more Puggles and Cubbies than we prayed for, we are expanding in January to include Sparkies and TNT clubs. If you would like to register a child you may do it online here.

Thank you to all you who make AWANA possible. Please continue to pray for them.
2009 At New Life Church
New Life Church had a great year in 2009. This series of posts will summarize a few of the highlights.

Several ministries that began in previous years had significant years for which we are thankful.
  • Celebrate Recovery had near 100 people at Thanksgiving dinner. CR has a core of committed workers who have ministered to literally hundreds of people over the year. CR is the launch pad for several key initiatives that began in 2009.
  • Coffee Cart, which is in its 15 years, is serving 43% more students every day than they did last year. God has supplied a new coordinator, Mike Wright. We are truly enjoying the new environment created by the remodel.
  • H2O which began at New Life Church a couple years ago now has 27 active cities throughout the country that are giving away bags. H2O was the 2009 CB Women’s camp project and recently received a $1750 check. Thank you! In addition, Leslie and Lauren Reavely were honored by Dr. Lynn Smith in Lake Oswego in a "Do a Good Deed Contest" earlier in the year. They spoke at Mission Connexion to encourage kids to do hard things and will speak there again this year.
Sometimes Every Day is Father's Day
Thought you might enjoy this piece my daughter Lauren posted on her blog. And yes, I love her.