Tag Archives: portland

Why Holiness Matters

First-time author, (and current seminarian) Tyler Braun takes an impassioned stand for a new approach to biblical holiness in “Why Holiness Matters – We’ve Lost Our Way But We Can Get it Back” (Moody, 2012). His main thought is: “Holiness is not new behaviors. It is new affections.” (p. 12)

Written by a millennial creative for millennials, Tyler shares his compelling personal story of his holiness journey. It is a story that most readers – millennials or not – will be able to relate to on many levels. How many of us have chased some degree of personal holiness by pursuing new habits (disciplines) that are supposed to (we hope) give birth to holiness? It only takes a few days to discover that we lack the holiness to maintain those disciplines. After a few false starts we usually just give up trying. Little did we know that giving up was just the place we need to be! What we really need is not more studies, more small groups, more classes, or more sermons – we need hearts that are turned toward Jesus. He is the source of our holiness.

“A relationship with Jesus that begins with anything other than the penetrating love he has for us becomes a duty-filled, contractual relationship. We begin to think of all the blessings we’ll receive when we do what we believe he desires. But a relationship with Jesus that begins with his love and fills our hearts and lives, becomes a relationship of affection. We do what we believe he desires because we love him, not for any prosperity or blessing that might come our way.” (p. 69)

I believe that Tyler has hit a home run (an analogy that he will appreciate) on his first at bat! “Why Holiness Matters” is a book that has all of the potential of becoming a classic – a clearly stated fundamental shift in status quo thinking; numerous quotes – from sentences to full paragraphs – that will be quoted and referred to in other blogs, books, articles, sermons, etc.; a compelling story that connects the reader with the author; and a desire by the reader to re-read the book.

Here is a sampling of the quotes that I think will be used heavily in other works:

“Holiness is not an outcome of perfect living, sin management, rule following, or right doctrine.” (p. 135)

“The holiest of lives would no longer make sense if God did not exist.” (p. 135)

“Holiness begins in us by following Jesus and allowing him to apprehend us through his love, not for the sake of wealth, strength, or power, but for the sake of becoming a reflection (the imago Dei) of who he is.” (p. 158)

I highly recommend reading and re-reading “Why Holiness Matters.”

You can read more about Tyler Braun and Why Holiness Matters on his blog:  manofdepravity.com


Generous in Portland

I was in Portland last weekend to help my son-in-law do some tiling in a condo unit that he manages for his grandfather. On the way to the condo the truck sputtered – apparently running out of gas (the gas gauge doesn’t work).  We made it to the the light at the top of the ramp but getting through the intersection was looking unlikely! A guy on a bicycle stopped and helped us get the truck the 1/2 block to the next light and that was as far as it was going! Jordan dashed across the street to the gas station to get some gas. The first gallon didn’t help so Jordan went back for another. While I was waiting with the truck a car load of guys asked if we needed help. Another guy in a pickup offered to give us a push. And when Jordan and I decided we needed to stop blocking traffic and push the truck through the 2nd intersection three more guys walking by jumped in to help.

With the truck now parked next to an auto dealership we added a 3rd and a 4th gallon of gas but by that time the battery was dead! Jordan went into the Broadway Toyota showroom and came back with a portable battery jumper and a couple Toyota employees! That didn’t seem to help either, so we pushed the truck around the lot to the service entrance and parked the truck (a Chevy Silverado) in a corner of this huge immaculate service center. They hooked it up to a charger and we took a couple of seats in the large, roomy waiting area and watched some NCAA basketball.

After grabbing lunch at their cafe (a car dealership with a cafe?) we headed back to the service manager to check on the truck. Did I tell you that they never processed any paperwork on his truck? It was determined that the battery was faulty and they had no batteries there that would fit the truck but offered to let us use their shuttle service to go to an auto parts store to get one! Instead, Jordan called AAA. When the AAA truck (a Ford) arrived it pulled into the service center behind the disabled Chevy. Together we checked a few things, tried jumping the battery from his truck, and even added four more gallons of gas (included in the AAA service call).

At one point a Toyota mechanic who used to work for GM came over to check a few items – like the relay and the fuel line pressure. Bingo! No pressure in the fuel line meant the fuel pump was not pumping! It was not the battery or the fuel supply after all. So after a tow from another AAA guy we ended up back at home. And one more thing – the tow truck driver asked Jordan if he was aware of the $3.75/mile charge for towing outside of a 3-mile radius. But when we pulled into the driveway the driver said that since we were in the city limits there was no charge! I believe he was being generous to Jordan.

In a matter of a few hours Jordan and I were the benefactors of nearly 15 different people! Here were numerous people who offered help and assistance without us asking for it and with no expectation of payment or return favor! I was stunned at the kindness so many offered to strangers. No one honked at us or gestured our way. Even though we never got to the condo it was a good day!

Would you have been as generous in offering your help to strangers? Would I?

Solitary Existence

It was a great Christmas weekend. Our daughter and son-in-law came up form Portland on Thursday with their cute little15 month old daughter in tow. We enjoyed several meals around the dining room table,  attended Christmas Eve services at our church, opened gifts, watched the  ‘Despicable Me’ dvd, and walked through an amazing light show at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens. It was great for my wife and I to spend these days with “our kids” and grand daughter. It was hard to say good-bye.

And then I drove my wife to the airport where she left to spend a few days with her siblings and parents in Minnesota.

So I find myself all alone on the day after Christmas. Eating the leftovers, getting the laundry washed and folded, and staring at a lit Christmas tree with now unwrapped gifts underneath. I watched some TV and did a lot of reading. And I wondered if this is it what it’s like for the numerous people in our neighborhoods and who live alone. Perhaps some have always been single while others were once married but through either death or divorce find themselves living a solitary existence. It’s not much fun to walk through a house that was filled with laughter and activity just a few hours ago. I imagine that the silence gets pretty overwhelming when those hours stretch into months.

I’ll go to work Monday and have three pretty busy days before my wife returns. I have plenty to read (working my way through the 1,000 page Truman biography), I have a sermon to write for Sunday, and there are always NCIS reruns on somewhere! But if you have a friend or a relative who spends every day alone, let me encourage you to take some time out of your busy schedule to give them a call or drop by for a few minutes – particularly after a significant holiday like Christmas.

Musings For A Monday

Okay, so I’m a day late!  Yesterday was a holiday and so today is my Monday – maybe your’s, too! So let’s get started, shall we?

God Bless America – Did your church do the God & Country thing on July 4? As you review that service and make plans for future Sunday’s that coincide with nationalistic holidays include this article in Relevant in your conversation: For (Too Much) Love of Country.

Baseball Trade Deadline – Seattle will hate to see Cliff Lee go. He’s an excellent pitcher and he has been generous with his time – giving other pitchers some peer-t0-peer mentoring – but this is one trade they must make. And the Twins should do whatever it takes to close the deal with Seattle. The Twins need Cliff Lee in their rotation if they want to see any post-season activity.

Oregon Get-Away – Just outside of Silverton, OR is the Oregon Garden. It’s a great location filled with a variety of gardens from formal to whimsical. You’ll find a pet-friendly environment that includes a 400 year old oak tree, numerous fountains, and a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The latest addition is a resort complete with dinner/breakfast packages that we found outstanding. The Garden seems to be suffering from a smaller staff as some weeding and other maintenance appears to have been postponed but it’s still a great destination less than an hour from Portland.

The Wave – I just have to ask: During baseball games should “the wave” be started while the away team is at the plate? Is it meant to energize the home team or is just something that bored fans do? Do real baseball fans ‘do the wave?’

Restaurant of the Week – We discovered Jimmy John’s (or JJ’s) sandwiched in the Pioneer Square district of Seattle several months ago. A new franchise just opened in Federal Way where we live. While it is a chain they do a great job of serving up tasty sandwiches (unlike that other national chain where all their meats taste exactly the same!).

Second Chair Wisdom – Who says lightening doesn’t strike in the same place twice?  For the second time in my career I was called on a  Saturday to preach the next day due to the illness of the sr pastor. What was more fun this time was that I was on the road and didn’t arrive home until 7 pm! I hate to say this but I found a 25 yr old sermon of mine in a box in the garage which served as the basis the message I preached three times the next day! My advice – start preparing that ’emergency message’ today! At least pick a passage, write an outline, and begin doing some research! As the second chair you are expected to be ready if called upon!

Miller Expands on a Favorite

It’s been six years since Donald Miller first released “Searching For God Knows What.”  The latest ‘expanded edition’ is even more fun and interesting to read than the original. Miller’s self-revealing essays are not light little observations of life’s passing parade. Instead, they deeply probe issues of faith and relationships – and they are adeptly tied together on a variety of themes. Pay attention as you read about nudity in chpt 5 or  the lifeboat theory in chpt 8. The core of Miller’s book is the search for an non-formulaic narrative of the Gospel. If the Bible is God’s story of creation, provision, and redemption then shouldn’t we find a non-propositional way to tell God’s story? Was this incredible story of grace and forgiveness meant to be reduced to Gothard-like bullet points or steps that can be contained in a convenient tract? Good questions. And I appreciate Miller’s willingness and ability to raise them.

The expanded edition contains some new material. There is an additional afterword by Miller that presents a theory of why we behave the way we do. It’s a very thoughtful piece and one in which Miller invites the reader’s feedback to further develop the theory.  If that’s not enough to get you to pick up a new release of existing book, then perhaps a gimmick will do the trick! There is a “game hidden in the book with clues, anagrams, and codes that unlock prizes and secret content.” Who says reading books about the Christian faith can’t be fun!

Searching For God Knows What is available at Amazon

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Million Miles

Donald Miller demonstrates his remarkably ability to tell a story in his latest book, “A Million Miles In a Thousand Years.” In the opening pages I found myself laughing out loud and tweeting excerpts. He begins to weave a tale about being contact by movie producers who want to film a movie based on his memoir, “Blue Like Jazz.” There are numerous light-hearted descriptions about the developing  friendship between Miller and these two guys from Nashville.  Along the way the book becomes a story about stories. Stories about Miller’s life. Stories about others.

Perhaps the most compelling stories in “A Million Miles” are those that reveal the heart of Donald Miller. His decision to search for his father after more than 30 years without contact. His private “wrestling with God” scene in a hotel room before he goes out to speak at a conference. And his journeys along Canadian inlets, Ande’s mountain peaks, and America’s highways. Not too far below the surface of these stories of Miller’s is a plea to his readers to begin living their stories – one scene at a time.

“A Thousand Miles” is at times hilarious. Of Nietzsche he write: “He’s the Justin Timberlake of depressed Germans,and there are a lot of depressed Germans.” (p. 247)

At times it is very inspirational. “In the Jervis inlet, the stone faces of the mountains come into the water like walls. You paddle down the mile-wide inlet with cliffs on either side,and the trees are lined up atop the cliffs like guardians of all the beauty.” (p. 158)

And at other times – poignant. “The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters than if we’d showed up at the ending an easier way. It made me think about the hard lives so people have had, the sacrifices they’ve endured, and how those people will see heaven differently from those of us who have had easier lives.” (p. 143)

You will be challenged by this unique man and his unique book to examine your own life and to begin writing a better story. “We live in a world where had stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything ands that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling,then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories,and how happy it makes us to repeat them.” (p. 248)

Field Trip to Mars Hill: My Response

Recently Dan Borvan posted an essay on a visit to Mars Hill Downtown Seattle : A Field Trip to Mars Hill that deserved a more detailed response than I could give on a blog comment. I live in Federal Way, WA and am on the staff at Our Savior’s Baptist Church. I do not attend Mars Hill regularly but have visited the Ballard campus 2-4 times a year over the past 5 years. So my comments here are not meant to represent Mars Hill’s practices or beliefs but are more of a reflection from my own experiences borne out over several visits.

I frequently tell people my age (53) that if they visit Mars Hill they won’t like the music. It’s loud. It’s often unfamiliar although some of they lyrics might be. The musical style at Mars Hill is a reflection of the Seattle music scene. It’s very indie rock. I believe that it’s loud so that it has more of a concert feel where everyone sings but you don’t hear others (or even yourself) singing. Mars Hill’s emphasis on young men seems to fit here where many men either don’t like to sing or are self-conscious about their singing.  My reaction to the brief worship times at MHC have been pretty uniform. I weep. As I witness hundreds of young men and women singing (many do sing even if I can’t hear them) I am moved by the sincerity of their worship. I find myself weeping with joy for the future strength and vitality of the church.

In our many visits my wife and I have rarely been greeted by anyone that wasn’t a ‘host’ (greeter). That has never bothered me. The Ballard campus is huge. It’s a crowd. And I don’t exactly fit the target demographic! I’ve concluded that MHC is not trying to duplicate my suburban Sunday morning church experience with its stress on being family but rather uses Sunday to gather the crowd for worship and biblical teaching. Their stress on Community Groups is where people connect, serve, and function as family.

I have come to deeply appreciate the weekly worship response time following the message with more singing and the Lord’s Supper. At MHC they serve communion by having people walk forward to stations where people are holding the elements. You take a piece of bread, dip it in either a cup of juice or a cup of wine, and eat. Again, watching hundreds of people stream forward in an act of worship, reverence, and repentance moves me to my core. I find it extremely worshipful. I have visited other churches (Imago Dei) that practice weekly communion but have the elements at several tables.  Here people approach the tables and pause to pray. Some kneel. Families might approach together, pray together, and eat together. I very much prefer this intentional act of going forward to participate from the more passive feeling of passing trays through the rows. I do not find this style of serving the elements self-focused or detrimental to community.

I am grateful for the ministry of the Mars Hills and Imago Deis of our time and enjoy any opportunity I have to worship with them and to partake in the Lord’s Supper with them. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I love them. I learn from them. I pray for them.