Pastor René Bogue
For all the flowers you see around this time of year, you might not know how hard a time this can be. You might not see the eyes averted as broken people walk past the displays. We cannot see inside the heart.
Your story might be a good one. Your mom may fit the Hallmark verse, and this might be an easy day for you to honor her. You might be that mom yourself. You may be woken up on Mothers’ Day with cold eggs, warm orange juice and a fist full of flowers. I had those beautiful mornings years ago, and it is precious.
But you may be in the majority. You may be missing your mom who has gone on before you. You may be missing those little faces that greeted you too early in the morning. You may, like me, have had a mom who didn’t know how to be present, who doesn’t fit any of the cards. Your own arms may ache for the baby you lost, or the one you never had.
For those – for us – the magnifying glass that is “Mothers’ Day” can be brutal.
This year, let’s let the day be, and let’s celebrate all women.
This year, let’s be about the nurturing heart, the love of beauty, and the strength of the feminine soul. This year, I invite you to join me in looking past the cliché and the sales pitch, and embracing our womanhood. Let’s buy our own flowers – for us, for others – and treat ourselves gently this year. Let’s acknowledge our pain, and let’s share ourselves and our stories.
Mostly, let’s take time to fully realize our belovedness in Christ. Let us take a little time to see the beauty that He made, His creative goodness in us, and remember that His care and love for you is unique, deep, and beyond any hope or expectation. You are His child. You are His best work.
“Our lives are unique stones in the mosaic of human existence -- priceless and irreplaceable.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved
Pastor Chris White
“Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Cor. 1:3-4
At age 32, Ludwig von Beethoven was so deaf he could no longer perform in concert. As a virtuoso pianist, Beethoven was the ‘rock star’ of his day having both popular acclaim and financial rewards for his music. But deafness robbed him of more than a career. Ludwig von Beethoven was also a real people-person and enjoyed socializing and intellectual conversation. No longer able to hear most things, he felt it better to withdraw from society rather than ask people to shout things or constantly repeat them.
Despite the grief of losing the ability to perform or socialize, Beethoven made a choice to continue his work as a composer. Tempted to despair and suicide, Beethoven found solace in his art and wrote some of his best works after losing his hearing. In making a decision to persevere despite his personal suffering, he also made the world a richer place through his music. Some people say his condition could be cured or alleviated today with hearing aids or cochlear implants, but it begs the question: would we still have some of the great works we do if personal loss hadn’t forced him to stop performing? I don’t know the extent of Beethoven’s faith commitment, but I do see here an example for all of us on how to face suffering and loss in a Christian way.
First of all there is no sense in pretending that loss isn’t painful or real. We are not spared from sorrows or grief as believers, only hopelessness. Secondly, the suffering we encounter is only temporary and always purposeful. Just as the Father wouldn’t have sent His only Son Jesus to the cross if there was a better way, our afflictions are not without a purpose for our highest good.
We don’t usually struggle with that unless we are in the thick of things and then we question how this could possibly be good for us at all. The short answer to our question is we tend to confuse our personal happiness with God’s highest good and they generally are not one and the same. To quote another preacher, “We want pop-beads when God wants to give us pearls.”
Finally, we need to look and see where our lives and ministries can be maximized in our current reality rather than continually mourn what is forever lost. In 2 Corinthians chapter 1:3-7 (see above) Paul and Timothy tell of their afflictions but note that in them they found God’s comfort in great measure and found they were also able to minister in a greater way to all who were suffering and afflicted. In persevering in their suffering, their ministry was expanded in an unexpected way. Humbly submit to the pressures of the Master’s hand that you might become the vessel of honor He desires. The final result will always be something greater if we persevere in faith.
Pastor Dave Metsker
Knowing who God has called us to be and what he called us to do can provide welcome security and guidance. In his letters Paul often references his calling, indicating its importance. Regrettably, people who are uncertain of their calling may hesitate to serve in various arenas even though the opportunities seem consistent with their spiritual gifts, passion, personality, etc. Often the uncertainty results from believing that a call should be as clear as Paul’s on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-31)! The “call” is often thought to require a highly emotional, super-spiritual event that leaves no room for doubt. When we do not have this experience, we may hold back from allowing God to use us to the full. Thankfully, the Bible gives a broader image of calling than the Damascus road experience.
During my undergraduate studies at Oral Roberts University I was required to attend twice-weekly chapel services. Navigating a particularly dull service, God seized my thoughts. I had wandered from the speaker’s to questions about how I might be more than average, how I might be ordinary and yet impact the world. As a follower of Jesus I simply could not be indifferent, maintain the status quo, or follow the crowd. I wondered, not aware of the weight of my questions, “How can I be a revolutionary? How can I lead many in the Kingdom? How can I do the right, regardless?”
As the chapel speaker continued, the profound rushed into my mind; it had to be God. I recognized that I had primarily thought of leadership as a focus on training followers rather than developing leaders. A pastor can shepherd a flock of sheep to follow him or her to greener pastures. A manager can oversee employees to get things done. These focus on their followers. I began to understand I could also be a leader who develops many other leaders. This would allow me to not only positively influence leaders, but also to indirectly influence their followers!
The simplicity and breadth of this understanding gripped me. I saw that a leader who influences 50 followers could be very fulfilled and productive. However, I further understood training and releasing 10 leaders can positively impact each of their 50 followers, potentially benefiting 500 people! As each of these trained leaders continues to do the same, the leaders influence thousands more. This foundation could yield vast impact, a revolution. The chapel service ended with a song, but my journey began with a heart-pounding vision.
Despite this turning point, when people discussed calling in the ensuing years, I would confess that I did not know my calling. I had no announcement from heaven, no visits from angels, no loud word during prayer, and no prophetic that made my calling clear. Nevertheless, I had a desire to serve God in any way I could. I went on to earn a master’s degree in ministry, pastor youth, and direct a Bible college in Nigeria. While serving at the college, my calling became clearer. It had come, not as a Damascus road experience, but as Spirit-directed realization that my passion, spiritual gifts, abilities, and fruit indicated I had been called to develop leaders. This was my design, my God-given identity. This calling had to be accepted by faith, which is the way almost everything occurs in our journey with God. If I had not embraced my calling by faith, I would have missed it.
Pastor Ron Swor
Some thoughts on team building:
Question - do the people around you feel like they are working WITH you or FOR you??
If they feel like they are working FOR you here are some possible outcomes;
They are an employee and not a partner.
Their productivity will be par and not excellent.
They will feel used and not appreciated.
Their vision will be short-sighted and not long-sighted.
They will discourage others to get involved.
If they feel like they are working WITH you here are some possible outcomes:
They will be long term ministry/ life co-workers.
Their loyalty will endure through the most difficult of times.
Their leadership capacity will exceed your own.
Your legacy will be people and not projects.
They will feel they belong and the Kingdom will grow.
Pastor Sammy Jamison
Genesis 3:8 tells us that Adam and Eve, “heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” God’s heart longed for fellowship with them. God’s heart still longs for us. He longs for us to seek out times to fellowship with Him.
How do you see Him? How do you see His heart? How do you hear His voice? How do you experience His love, comfort, and healing? Let this be the season for a renewal of your daily times of sweet fellowship with God through prayer and through reading His Word.
“How could I be silent when it’s time to praise you? Now my heart sings out loud, bursting with joy, a bliss inside that keeps me singing. I can never thank you enough.” (Psalm 30:12 The Passion Translation)
If you need a daily guide, you may use biblegateway.com, or a Bible app for your cell phone, or a reading plan made available to you at our church information center.
Pastor Ron Swor
Happy New Year 2018! Annette and I hope your Christmas season was full of His peace and joy.
The beginning of every year brings with it those New Year resolutions. In fact, the New Year has become synonymous with new resolutions.
To be honest, I don’t remember my resolutions from last year, not that they weren’t important to me at the time, it’s just that my resolutions seem to come and go with each passing year. Do you remember the resolutions you made last year? Or the year before? I don’t!
If I can’t remember or count on my past resolutions, what resolutions can I count on? How about the one the Apostle Paul gives us with absolute certainty. Romans 8:38-39:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
As we head into a new year, we need something from someone that is absolutely resolute about our care and future. God’s resolution is rock solid and that’s His eternal love for you and me.
Not even our greatest enemy, death, can separate us from the love of Jesus. We are more than conquerors because our King has led the way. More than that, He has made the way. Remember that there was no way through death until He burst death open from the inside. Our King has gone before us and He has made a way for us. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate you from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Now that’s a New Year resolution!
Pastor René Bogue
The holidays can evoke joyful anticipation, happy memories, and childlike wonder.
They can also evoke dread. And amplified loneliness, and unhappy memories, and a fear of unmet expectations.
Because of its rep as “The Most Wonderful Time…”, the holiday season raises the bar on us emotionally. What we say, do, give, and create all take on an enhanced importance, in our own eyes, and sometimes in the eyes of others. Likewise, the time and attention we receive from others is more keenly felt from mid-November through January 1.
Be gentle on yourselves.
In your expectations of yourself, be gentle. Your desire to see eyes light up at the sight of your fabulous turkey, or the perfect gift, is admirable. But, please know that your presence at those tables and tree-sides is what matters most to your loved ones.
In your expectations of the season, be gentle. In my line of work, I sit with families in the fresh aftermath of loss on a regular basis. And I have been on the other side of that table recently. The absence of a loved one during the holiday season is a fresh and tender wound, sometimes even years later. Whether this absence is from death or life’s path, it is keenly felt. With the constant reminders everywhere you look, it just doesn’t work to “treat it like any other day.” But, do treat yourself gently as you pass through. Understand you are not alone.
Above all, please know you are loved. My prayer for all who struggle through this season is just that. That you will know, to the depths of your soul, that the Lord loves you deeply, and is as near as your next breath. May you feel that presence all the way through to the New Year, and may that knowledge permeate enough to make these days, truly, wonderful.
One of life’s greatest challenges is figuring out how we fit in. What is our role? What is our purpose? Without that clarity, we flounder around either doing other jobs that aren’t ours to do, or we do too little and aren’t productive. God has a specific role for us in groups and situations He places us in. The challenge is to seek His wisdom in what that is, stick to that role, and let others do their role.
When I first started working at the church, I faced this challenge. What is my role – the one God gave me, not my job description? As I prayed and pondered, I found that I struggled with seeing things that, in my opinion, were wrong and wanting to jump in and fix them or change them. Then God gave me a clear vision for my role as an administrator.
He showed me the Israelites who returned from exile and started rebuilding the cities. As they did so, they faced attacks from the enemy. So they put watchmen on the walls. Their job was to see danger and sound the alarm. How the leaders and soldiers responded wasn’t their job. Neither was it their job to jump down and fight. Their job was simply to watch and raise awareness of what they perceived to be danger.
God showed me that that is my role as a church and college administrator. Do my job, keep an eye out for “danger”, and raise the alarm. That’s it. I need to trust God with the rest and accept whatever happens from there. No making myself crazy trying to take care of everything and everyone. Just stay on the wall, keep watch, sound the alarm, and trust God enough to let it go.
Many of you may be struggling to find your place and where you fit. Take some time to seek God’s wisdom, and perhaps stop trying to do it all. We all have a part to do, but it is only a part. You don’t have to do it all. Trust God to take care of the rest.
I sometimes worship at home along with YouTube videos. Last night, I was entering the throne room of heaven along with the Bethel worship team, and they do something called “spontaneous worship”. If you were at our church worship night in August, you’ve been part of this. Spontaneous worship is simply you singing to God whatever you want to say to Him. Anything that is on your heart, instead of praying a silent prayer, you can sing as a declaration. It’s a personal act of worship with no script, just your spirit communing with God’s.
Last night, the worship leader was singing, “No more separation, You have closed the distance between earth and heaven.” What came up in my heart and mind as she was singing was not praise, it was fear.
Jesus has a plan for our world, and He has called me to be part of it. When she sang, “no more separation,” what I heard was, “you’re being watched.” As I brought this feeling to the Lord, He immediately poured grace over my troubled soul.
God showed me that how He does ministry is very different than how I always have. My strategy is to listen, isolate the biggest needs, and get to work on solving them. Then I find the next need, and solve that one. Jesus’ ministry was always to be present with people. When He listens to you, you know that He’s tuned in. Because He lives in the present, not stressing about future things, He is able to hear the still, small voice of the Father telling Him how to proceed.
I don’t remember the last time I did that. I don’t remember the last time I slowed down enough to listen without trying to fix. To listen with faith enough to let go of the control I think I have, and trust God to lead His people without me helping Him. I’m slowly learning to live in the present moment, and that brings me peace.
Pastor Rene' Bogue
Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 4
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…
…a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance…
It is difficult to describe the soul-touching beauty of the Columbia Gorge. Many of us feel it – particularly when trying to describe Multnomah Falls, the Bridge of the Gods, Oneonta Gorge, and the surrounding areas. As we watched the Eagle Creek fire (I can’t bring myself to capitalize “fire”) take hold and grow, threatening and marring this wonderland, so many in the area described their heartbreak. This is, for many, the heartland of the Northwest.
Some logisticians and scientists among us saw the opportunity for regrowth. One ironic comment reminded us that in just a few hundred years, it would all look like it did…four days ago. There is truth even in this irony. But. All I could think of was Ecclesiastes 3:4, “…a time to mourn…” There is beauty in the mourning, too. There is a cycle of life therein as well. Just as the fires make way for new growth, so the fires of our lives have a purpose, even in the pain. It’s ok to cry over Multnomah Falls. In weeping, or heart rending, we often find our deepest prayers.
The second lesson I take with me from this fire is one that other tragedies have underscored. Just as there is a time to mourn, there is a time to dance, and a time to laugh. So many have posted pictures of their recent trips to the area, all echoing the same sentiment: “I’m so glad I went.” History does not support the fear that all the places we love will burn. But history does support the fact that time will pass. Take the hike, seize the day, use the good china. God delights in our delight, and it pleases Him when we revel in the blessings He’s given us.
He is there in the fire, and He is there in the healing. My prayer for all of us is that we hear and see the blessings He has for us today, and embrace them to the fullest.