The latest from the blog:

by Tom Smith

Recently a friend told me that their son was praying for God to reveal Himself. He issued no specific demands of thunder and lightening, or an audible voice, or a miracle cure. Just a polite request for some unmistakable evidence that God exists. The world has been drained of color by the rigors of his dental profession and personal skepticism. I found a fascinating online article  here https://www.wikihow.com/Describe-a-Color-to-a-Blind-Person. Part One talks about using other senses. Probably you can come up with some like "blue is cool to the touch" and "red is warm or hot to the touch." But it keeps going. For instance, the article mentions using sound, "blue is bubbly like running water or ocean waves" and smell, "orange is refreshing, sweet, and tropical" and emotions, "green is balance, refreshment, harmony." Part Two of the article tells you to use numbers (yes, numbers!) to describe variations of shades--just like you can have 1.0,  1.1,  1.2,  1.3,  etc.--you can describe shades of colors on a scale. Pink is a lighter shade of red. Part Three encourages finding out the nature of a person's blindness. Can the person distinguish light and darkness? Is he color blind? Was she blind from birth? Okay, so why am I so excited about this? Christians specialize in talking about things that others cannot see. This is different from the parable about six blind men describing an elephant--one grabs the tail and says an elephant is like a rope, another touches the side and says an elephant is like a wall, and so on. They were unable to validate their own limited experience or go beyond individual impressions. Why? They were still blind! However, when the eyes of our hearts have been enlightened to see the glory of God in the face of Christ (Ephesians 1:18 and 2 Corinthians 4:6), we suddenly see what, or Who, was invisible. Along with the man whom Jesus healed in John 9 we say, "One thing I know. I was blind but now I see" (John 9:25). We have a new challenge. How do we describe Jesus to someone who is visually impaired? How does God's grace feel to the touch? Like the safe and welcome embrace of a friend who hugs you, but not too tight and not too long. How does Christ's forgiveness sound? Like the voice of a non-condemning parent who thrills simply to hear you on the phone and know that you are well. How does the Spirit's mercy smell? Like the sweet air that follows a summer rain shower that settles the dust and brings relief to parched earth. I want to think deeply, speak clearly, and describe accurately who Christ is and what the gospel is all about. I am going to have to expand my explanations to include more biblical metaphors. In Scripture, the gospel sounds good (Romans 10:14-15), smells good (2 Corinthians 2:14), tastes good (1 Peter 2:2-3), and feels good (John 14:27). This is not just for touchy-feely types like artists, painters, poets and musicians. This is for everyone. Describing colors to a blind person is the essence of evangelism. In the aforementioned wikihow article, in the Community Q&A at the end someone asks, "What does gold look like?" I thought the answer was amazing. The contributor said, "Gold is shimmery and bright, like the sun, but more subtle. It has a sort of sharp, firm, but malleable appearance. It is a smiley color and often makes a person feel cheerful or happy. Gold is like a mix of metal and laughter." Now, try to describe this to a blind person, "What is salvation like?"    

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by Tom Smith

sky-3120537_640 The bigger the plane the longer the runway needs to be. It can take almost a mile of runway for a 747 Jumbo jet to take off or land. A STOL (short take-off and landing) plane has to make do with less than 1,500ft about one-third the distance. In order for a pastor to successfully "take off" careful planning must include several things. First, there has to be good information about the scheduling of "who's going to do what?" while he is away. It is a privilege for us to be able to hear and respond to God's Word from a variety of spokesmen. Many churches around the globe have no trained preachers. When I go on sabbatical we will have six different men preaching. I have worked out a preaching schedule that includes hearing God's Word through men of our church who have preached here before. Then we will hear once from Paul Johnson of Corban University, twice from Paul Metzger of Multnomah University, and four times from David Thommen of Western Seminary. Now is the time to pray for the men who will be preaching during sabbatical. Second, there has to be a healthy shift away from dependence upon a paid pastor or staff-elder to the body of Christ. With Christ as our Head our church grows and develops and reaches out on mission. It is from Christ that "the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Ephesian 4:16, NIV). Over a period of time, it is a natural tendency for people in a church to become set in our ways.  Routines become ruts. Even without realizing it, the body of Christ finds that flexibility is lost, joints stiffen, and muscles atrophy through disuse. Now is the time to pray and ask God how you can stretch and grow in your faithful service to Christ. Third, there has to be a confident expectation that God is going to bless and even grow our church during the sabbatical. Usually in the summertime, church attendance dips due to family vacations, summer sports leagues, holidays and three day weekends, etc. However, the amount of time spent with people outside of one or two hours on Sunday morning goes up. Those are key times for having spiritual conversations with friends and family. Colleen Cooper writes, "In a recent study, 79 percent of unchurched said they would be willing to engage in a faith conversation if a Christian friend shared, yet in separate but related research, only 39 percent of Christ-followers said they have shared the gospel in the past six months. That’s a 40 percent gap" (Christianity Today, 5/18/18). Now is the time to pray and ask God to setup a spiritual conversation with someone this summer. I don't consider myself to have a jumbo jet sized ministry. However, due to slowness and age it probably requires a little bit longer of a runway than it used to for me to take-off. However, thoughtful preparation and diligent prayer are going to get this sabbatical plan off the ground. I fully expect that God will bless both our church family and also my personal family during this sabbatical. And, we will join together again afterwards with greater energy and vision for the glory of God in this church and community.

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by Tom Smith

"A Gospel Response to Charlottesville" (guest post by Adam Myers) Sin is sin, no matter which –ism label gets slapped on it. It is wicked, evil, dishonoring to God and hurtful to those created in His image. As followers of Jesus Christ and citizens of His kingdom, we must evaluate the flagrant sins at Charlottesville and the broader tensions of sinful attitudes toward race in our country not from an American political viewpoint or from an American nationalism or patriotism, but from a nationalism and patriotism rooted in our heavenly citizenship. In a world broken by sin and awaiting redemption, we have to constantly shape our responses to life with the Gospel. So this short post is not about looking around at sin and throwing up our hands in despair or frustration or superficial guilt or outrage designed to garner likes and retweets. Rather, it is about looking forward to the coming reality of the return of Christ in Glory, and looking around at sin and throwing wide our arms in love to invite those from every tongue, tribe and nation to the delight of racial unity in Christ. In just a few steps, we can frame the history of the world through the 2 lenses of the Gospel and racial division. Telling our story in this way helps us to focus our hope on Christ and to embed our response to the brokenness around us in Him. First, we know that history is bookended with unity in one man. God created humanity as a unified race in Adam. “From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live.” (Acts 17:26) Though sin separated and divided this unity, all who believe in Christ are united again in Christ, the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-49). For it is in Christ that those without hope and without God in the world who have been “brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death. He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household…” (Eph. 2:13-19) Therefore, because Christ has made one new man from all who believe in Him, we can rejoice that “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) Ultimately, because we have been made one in Christ Jesus, we can look forward with anticipation to the day revealed to John in which “there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in our hands. And they cried out in loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev. 7:9-10) With the deepest kind of joy, then, we can read the news and weep at the sin without despairing for lack of hope. And, in harmony with this hope, we can build our response to Charlottesville out of the following applications to Revelation 7: • Because salvation belongs to God and not to us, we can work from a foundation of hope rather than despair to invite people into the love of God in Christ without regard for their appearance. • Because God is seated on the throne, we can anchor our patriotism to His Kingdom and build our earthly political interest and involvement from the priorities and realities of that Kingdom. • And because Jesus Christ is the Lamb, he’s united us all in His death and resurrection in a way that our varying skin colors shine together to reflect the beauty and creativity of God. Questions to run with: 1. As we continue to study through the Gospel of John, Pastor Tom preached Sunday 8/13/17 on the unity of believers in Christ (John 17:20-26). How do we live as a congregation (from Latin for “gathered into a flock”) in a nation marked by segregation (from Latin for “separated from the flock”)? 2. Our church attendance is markedly different than the demographics of our community. How can we better reflect the love and welcome of the Gospel to make room for others? What sacrifices will it be our joy to make for the sake of unity in Christ? (Scripture passages are quoted from the Christian Standard Bible, online at read.csbible.com.)

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by Tom Smith

First, the easy part. It died because I didn't write anything. Why didn't I write anything? Because it is time consuming. Why do I find it time consuming? Simple. I can speak faster than I can write. What takes 5 minutes to say takes 45-60 minutes to write, edit, rewrite, correct, proof read, re-edit, take a deep breath and hit "publish." What am I doing about it? I am meeting with a friend of mine who is a "spiritual director" but not as a New Age guru and definitely not as a martial arts sensei. My friend is a former pastor who served in one church for 23 years. He is gifted and trained as a spiritual director. He specializes in asking questions and waiting for answers. Recently I showed him my list of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual spiritual growth goals. He asked me, "Which of these are you actually doing?" I replied, "Only one or two." I told him I had memorized Psalm 145. However, it took me longer than my "one psalm every quarter" goal. This is because I am easily distracted. Also, the time it takes to memorize chunks of Scripture has evaporated from my schedule--along with the time it takes to blog. The solution? Over coffee this morning, my friend asked if I would like his help to accomplish my goals. Admitting that I was ignoring my goals was one thing. Asking my friend to probe beneath the surface to find out what was happening was not so easy. To pay for his spiritual direction seems like a novel idea. I pay an auto mechanic to do major repair work on my car. I pay house repair specialists (like a plumber). I pay the cable guy to connect or disconnect stuff. I even pay the garbage company to empty cans weekly. But why would I pay a spiritual director? According to him, spiritual direction is for those "hungry for something more." That's me. The only annual goal that I had written down was to take a personal spiritual retreat once each year for at least three and not more than seven days. As it turns out, my friend has taken such retreats and is wiling to lead one for me. Just the two of us. How scary is that? How cool is that? It is both scary and cool. The scary part is admitting that I do not have time to step away from the pressing needs of family, church, friends, even strangers. (I know I'm not indispensable, but who is going to get all the stuff done?) The cool part is taking time away to read God's Word and actually expect Him to speak to me--not just through me to others on Sunday morning. The saying "Never trust a skinny cook" is applicable to pastors who always prepare spiritual meals for others and neglect to feed their own souls. The idea of a personal spiritual retreat is biblical. Jesus often withdrew from the press of ministry to spend time in private prayer, even praying all night (Luke 4:42; 6:12; 9:18, 28; 11:1; 21:37). Accepting spiritual direction means inviting someone else to speak into my life. That happens frequently over coffee with my friends. And, it's free! However, while I value their advice, prayer, perspective, and friendship, I promptly (spoiler alert) forget most of what we talked about. Not so strangely, it is easier to remember advice when we are paying for it. I have recommended personal spiritual retreats to others. I have one colleague in ministry who makes it a habit. It is time for me to slow down. Get away. Draw near to God. Enjoy friendship. Submit to a brother speaking into my life. Before the end of 2017 I will go on my first personal spiritual retreat in nine years since coming to FBC-Silverton. Ask me about it. Will it make me a better husband, father, son, and pastor? I hope so. At least I should be able to slow down and blog more often :-) John Ortberg wrote an article that describes his experience with spiritual direction called "The Uncluttered Soul" in Christianity Today. I will be glad to give you a copy to read. Just ask. Tom

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Church News:

Bulletin 7.15.18

Church: P. O. Box 1800

July

  • 12-14      Jr. High Lock In
  • 13-15      Women’s Camp ~ Tadmor
  • 15th       2nd Quarterly Church Mtg. & Prayer ~ 4:30 pm
  •                           bring a pie to share after the meeting.
  • 18-19      VBS Decorating 9 am – 3 pm
  • 23-27    VBS 9-Noon Monday – Friday
  • 28th        Ambassadors Hawaiian Potluck Picnic
  • 29th        No Sunday School
  •                 Worship Service with Free BBQ Picnic immediately following
  •                        bring chairs and “pop-ups”
  •                 Last Day to Sign-up for Canyonview Camp

August

  • 5th          Irvine 50th Anniversary ~ 2- 6 pm
  •                 VBS Skit ~ 6:30 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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