… it will be time to leave again!
The last several weeks have been a whirlwind of crazy activity. I’ve been at work setting up one business and exploring the likelihood of another. The p-wife has had me painting the bedroom, but that’s not going as quickly as it should. There’s books to read, articles to write, correspondence and phone calls to set up my next Titus project and lots of motorcycle riding to get in!
I’ll be leaving the end of February for a stint as the interim executive pastor at Pauma Valley Community Church. I’m really looking forward to serving with these folks. The elders seem like godly and earnest men who take their responsibility seriously. Although the church is still hurting after the previous pastor’s departure they are looking to the future. This should be a very rewarding ministry.
The hard part will be the extended absence from home over the next six months.
Then there’s the counseling practice. This past Friday George and I toured Cottonwood to assess whether the area churches would welcome our opening a Christian counseling practice in their community. We were received with open arms and told that the need was desperate. At the end of the tour George observed that we could probably have a full schedule in a matter of weeks!
That’s an overwhelming thought, especially because I’ll be gone for most of the time over the next several months. But God’s in charge; we’re just following his direction.
It was very encouraging to have many folks greet us and inquire about our lives at church this evening. That’s one of the things the Heights does well even though it is such a huge congregation. People get connected with one another and the connections are meaningful and rewarding.
If you suck up the constant stream of negativity put out by the financial and popular media you’d think that the sky is falling and we’re all going to be living under bridges. Yes, times are tough for some folks and they feel scary for a whole lot more.
But it’s not as bad as you think.
Mark Hulburt’s recent column references a recent data-driven (not news driven) look at what’s actually going on in the markets. He comes to some refreshing conclusions.
In several significant ways, believe it or not, the tech experience early this decade was even more traumatic than what has transpired since mid-2007. Since its peak in 2007, for example, the financial stocks in the S&P 500 index have dropped 78.7%–slightly less than the 82.5% by which the information technology stocks in that index dropped in the 2000-2002 bear market [emphasis mine].
Lest you think that the financial sector, which is where most of the pain originates, is more important than was the tech sector back in 2000, think again.
According to Tschosik, the information technology sector represented about 35% of the S&P 500 at its March 2000 peak, in contrast to the 22% weight that the financials sector represented at its peak in 2007. As a result, a greater amount of total market capitalization was destroyed by the tech sector’s decline in the 2000-2002 bear market ($3.6 trillion) than by the financial sector’s decline since 2007 ($2.2 trillion).
A little tonic, eh? Perhaps not much comfort for those who took a beating in the financials or for homeowners who are either forced to sell for less than they paid (hey, it happens all the time out there in the rest of the world) or can’t meet their mortgage. But it does provide a check on the excessive pessimism toward which we have swung in the last nine months.
The sad thing in all this? The people responsible for this mess – the Congressional Democrats – will escape any penalty and be able to fob it off on the Bush Administration, thanks in large part to a fawning media that can’t seem to get anything right.
It has been several years since I traded actively so I decided to take a course at the Online Trading Academy. I’m glad I did! The course was seven long days of intense work, lecture and live trading under the watchful eye of experienced professionals.
I did simulated trading this week (Wed, Thur, Fri) and I’m pleased with the results. Every day I learned something new, gained some confidence, and made some "monopoly money."
- "Look for those inflection points."
- "Don’t chase a trend."
- "50% of a stock’s movement is due to the overall market."
- "Be patient. Give your trade room to work."
- "When in doubt, get out."
On Wednesday I made a total of six trades, four of which were profitable and left me in the green for the day. On Thursday I only made two trades but both were big winners and it was a very profitable day. Today I made four trades; one big winner, one small winner, one small loser and one "medium" loser. All of my trades were short sales. I ended the week with a tidy profit, some experience trading the gaps, and some confidence.
I also paid close attention to my own thinking and emotions. I know from experience that the adage they drilled into us - “fear and greed are the trader’s enemies” – are true. On several occasions this week I found myself getting antsy waiting for a trade to develop. During one trade that ended up being a big winner I had review the trade plan again, make sure my stops were in place and then walk away from the desk for a few minutes. I needed to mellow out.
The need to work in a distraction free environment with no clutter, no phones and nothing else running on the computer was brought home in spades, too. I had been watching one stock throughout the morning, waiting for the pattern to develop. I’d planned what I was going to do when the price broke and retested a resistance level but I ended up missing the signal because my mind was elsewhere. That would have been a very tidy profit.
One thing that helped me was to keep a running diary of the action and my thoughts. I am a very fast typist so I keep a journal open to enter my thought processes and observations as my trading time unfolds. This really helped me to be aware of what I was thinking and feeling!
I plan to continue studying and gaining more trading knowledge (not market knowledge!) by listening to all of the archived "hour with the pros" at the Trading Academy’s website, by reviewing my class notes, and by studying the charts to see which indicators work best with which stocks. I will continue trading the simulator for another two or three weeks until I can establish a consistent track record of discipline, sticking to my trade plans, and at least breaking even. Then I’ll go live and trade 100 share lots for a while, slowly working my way up to 5000 and 10,000 share lots.
So I guess I’m feeling encouraged. Some of the teaching stuck and I feel that I’m off to a good start.
The pastors at the Heights Church have been working through a simple paradigm they can use to teach people how to live as fully devoted followers of Jesus. Their work in that regard came to mind as I read 1 Timothy 6:11. “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”
The dyad “flee” and “pursue” arrested my attention. Often the Bible tells us to “stand” firm in the faith, opposing the wiles of the enemy (1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:11-13). On other occasions we are told to “flee” as here. Paul instructs Timothy to flee the desires for worldly wealth that results in personal, spiritual ruin (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
By instructing Timothy to “pursue” he is in essence saying, “Rather than follow after these things (the desires for wealth) you should go the other direction.”
Based on Paul’s model to Timothy we should, in addition to telling people what to avoid, tell them what they should seek. Just as Anne’s Parenting Toolbox equips parents to teach children the right way to behave, so should our teaching prepare people with the knowledge of the right way to live!
Instead of being against something we can be for something!
Righteousness when used in reference to salvation denotes a right standing before God. It is alien righteousness, God’s righteousness, attributed to us though we are in experience unrighteous. This righteousness is attributed to those of faith.
Here the term is related to sanctification. It is an ethical term that denotes doing what God requires (it is used this way in Matthew 5:10). It refers to “upright character.”
Paul here instructs us that we are to pursue, follow hard after, continually move toward, attempt to overtake… choose your own metaphor!… righteous behavior in this life.
Godliness refers to appropriate behavior that befits our profession of faith in Jesus (2 Peter 3:11). James uses the term (James 1:26) to declare that “religion” is worthless for those who don’t control their tongues. 1 Timothy 2:10 expressly links godliness with good works.
In addition to teaching people which behaviors they must avoid we must also teach them which behaviors to cultivate.
This is the question that the Will Smith film, Seven Pounds, asks. The film’s press release reads this way:
Ben Thomas is an IRS agent with a fateful secret who embarks on an extraordinary journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven strangers.
The film tells the story of Ben Thomas (played by Smith) atoning for the deaths of seven others. In a distracted moment behind the wheel Thomas caused an automobile accident in which his wife and six others died. He was the sole survivor.
His atonement is to rescue seven lives by giving “seven pounds” of his own flesh to worthy strangers. He donates one lung, the lobe of a liver, a kidney, bone marrow and – after a clever suicide – his corneas and heart.
As the story of his search for seven worthy people I wondered why Thomas couldn’t accept grace, love and forgiveness? He found the love of a good woman but grace and forgiveness, especially personal forgiveness, eluded him.
So he set about the grim task of ending his own life that others might see and live: atonement by death.
It is a biblical theme which speaks to our need for forgiveness and the fact that there is nothing we can do to satisfy the debt that our sins incur. Justice demands that our sins be atoned for by death. If the death is to be ours – if we do not embrace the atonement provided by Jesus Christ – then it must be an unending death. As finite creatures who have sinned against an infinite God only eternal death will suffice.
But God has extended grace and forgiveness and love to us. We are truly guilty, as was Ben Thomas. But it is the death of Christ that cleanses us from that guilt and satisfies the just demands of God’s law.
The movie is an object lesson of biblical truth. It causes us to wrestle with a variety of questions:
- How can the death of another absolve us from guilt?
- What is the specific means by which the grace of God releases us from the hellish torment of guilt?
- Why do some find relief by faith in Christ but not others?
- Is suicide ever a legitimate solution to a problem or does it incur further guilt?
I recommend the movie, followed by discussion time over dessert and coffee with good Christian friends.
I’ve been polishing a new model of ministry that integrates pastoral renewal and church renewal to restore church health before the pastor is forced to leave.
The concept is to remove the pastor from that environment for a month. We bring him and his wife to a retreat setting for a month professional and personal renewal under the ministry of those with expertise in pastoral renewal. He connects with the pastoral staff at the Heights Church to see how they use the Titus principles on a daily basis. By the end of that month he and his wife will have worked through the personal spiritual issues that have contributed to the church’s current troubled state and he will have been immersed in the day-to-day workings of a Titus church.
While the pastor is away one of our associates goes to the church to work four of the steps (research, leadership, action and future) in abbreviated fashion. We prepare them to receive their “renewed” pastor. Then for the next year we coach him as he performs the steps in the Titus process.
This will be costly for the church but certainly be less expensive than going through the process of finding a new pastor without addressing the systemic issues that cause the church’s “sickness” only to repeat the cycle over again in a few years!
For years I’ve entertained the idea of writing or publishing a “church review” column. I see it as a ministry in two directions: it provides the church an outsider’s view of their church and it provides those who seek a church some idea of what to expect.
As the pastor in charge of assimilation and hospitality at the Heights Church for the last four years I’m particularly sensitive to what first time guests experience. We covet visitors’ feedback - good and bad - and use it to improve ourselves. The positive reviews are distributed to the volunteer staff to give ‘em their “attaboys” and the negatives we use to review what needs to be changed.
So I was happy to read about Guest Check Inc.
Guest Check, Inc., is the latest customer satisfaction firm to venture into a growing and controversial industry that capitalizes on the use of “mystery worshippers” in the United States.
The Golden, Colo.-based company announced Wednesday the availability of its new service, Church Check, which provides an unbiased and anonymous review of a Sunday morning experience through the eyes of a professional inspector posing as a church newcomer. For the past six years, Guest Check has specialized in the inspection of hotels, spas, restaurants and golf courses.
It is hard for the church to look at itself objectively. No matter which church we attend we are rapidly enculturated into that church’s processes and values. As we are embraced and enfolded into the life of the fellowship we lose the ability to see the church through the visitor’s eyes. To have a fresh look at the church, to reconnect with the experience of those who visit, is an invaluable tool.
Not everyone would agree, of course. Those in the church who conflate hospitality and assimilation with the church’s message will aver that using an outside service such as this could potentially pollute the church’s mission and message. According to the article these services, “have raised flags among some evangelicals and conservatives, with some warning that they will drive ’spiritual consumerism’ and divert the focus of churches toward strictly boosting attendance figures and retention rates.”
“Should churches really make it a goal to ‘boost your retention rate and make your church grow?’ Is that not a product of other things, like faithful worship, meaningful biblical teaching, and sacrificial love for one another and the neighbor?” posed Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today magazine, in a commentary Friday.
Posh and piffle.
Since when did being sensitive to guests threaten to attenuate our message? Since when did attempting to see ourselves a bit more clearly in that dark glass become “consumerism”? Since when did the desire to connect with those who search in a meaningful and redemptive way become an illegitimate way? And why are the desires to see yourselves as others see you and the desire for faithful biblical teaching mutually exclusive?
I think it is a great idea!
Slept on the sofa in the living room again last night. Woke up feeling refreshed and with no pain.
I started doing some research on this issue and discovered that a number of people found their back pain went away when they slept on their backs instead of their stomachs or sides. I like to roll around a lot and spend time sleeping on my stomach, sides and back. But the sofa isn’t wide enough to permit all that rolling around.
So tonight I’m gonna see if I can rig up a way to sleep on the bed but keep from rolling over on my stomach. If that works then I’ll know where to go next with this.
I felt refreshed and rested when I woke up this morning. No aching back, no pain in my shoulders and no discomfort in my hips. I felt good for the first time in a long time - well, at least since we got back from our vacation in Palm Springs.
I slept on the couch in our living room last night. After about 30 minutes of trying without success to get comfortable in the torture rack of a bed I gave up and tried the couch.
What a difference.
Makes me think that the inability to sleep comfortably is the reason why I’ve been feeling low energy, achy and generally under the weather for the last week. At first I thought it was due to the fact that I’m not sailing from Hawaii to Australia, but this is a simpler cure!
The p-wife and I have been unable to find a bed that we agree upon. I prefer the memory foam mattress but she likes our sleep number bed. I’ve put up with it for several years now but it keeps getting worse for me.
Looks like I’ll be sleeping in the living room from now on. But at least it’s not out in the doghouse!
The memorial service for my wife’s closest cousin left us with an odd, empty feeling. Although the Pastor did a fine job of presenting the promise of eternal life and the great hope of resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15) it just seemed, well, flat.
Perhaps it was the mortuary chapel’s gloomy interior; it was bereft of any natural light from the sunny Phoenix morning. Was it the lack of a clear offer of the gospel, something that is traditional of memorial services? It may have even been the fact that we had not seen many of the extended family members in many years and thus didn’t feel a closeness.
My wife suggested it was the lack of a eulogy. Anyone who had not known Joanne would have come away knowing nothing of her life other than the fact that she liked crafts and decorated. The place of her birth, the facts of her life and the names of her surviving family members were omitted. None of the communities and groups to which she belonged were mentioned. There was nothing of the bonds and ties that knit us into the fabric of family and friends were observed.
We were reminded of another memorial service for a dear friend. Although he had lived a long, colorful and productive life there was no mention of his life before being “born again.” The names of his chlidren were omitted, the facts of his life and the many professional accomplishments that colored his approach to ministry went unmentioned.
So what makes for a good memorial service?
Several thoughts come to mind. These thoughts are based solely on my personal preferences drawn from several decades of helping others mark this observation:
- A time to mourn: this comes naturally
- A time to rejoice: for believers this is an important task
- A well-written eulogy: to bring closure to a life lived well
- Hope: The biblical truth is that death is not the end of life
- Bonds are reaffirmed: even though it has been years since we’ve seen them, we’re still connected
- Closure: Although grief may lay ahead there must come a time of “moving on.”
We’re off to a memorial service for one of my wife’s closest relatives. She has fond memories of Joanne and was saddened to hear of her sudden and unexpected death last week. Last night a television commercial reminded my wife of family gatherings at Joanne’s home where they all sang Christmas carols and celebrated the season as an extended family.
Joanne was born five months before my wife. She was engaged five months before my wife. She was married five months before my wife. When she rehearsed these facts with me I said, “Well, I hope she hasn’t died five months before you do!” I’ll be watching the calendar and my wife closely around May.
Yesterday between services one of the brothers was sharing his saddness at the passing of a family member. After we chatted a bit he shrugged it off philosophically - guys tend to do that - by saying, “It comes to us all.”
Indeed, it does. Time wounds us all. But in the resurrection Christ heals us all.
I didn’t want to go out after dinner last night. It had been a long day that had started well before sunrise. I’d already put in ten hectic hours on the job. But I’d promised a newly forming small group that I’d be there for their big launch.
It was hard to maintain focus on the short drive to Prescott Valley. I was achy and feeling … blurry.
But something amazing happened. The Holy Spirit showed up as the group began forming the bonds that unite believers as a family. The fellowship, the Bible study and especially the prayer was energizing. The warmth in the group, the hunger for connections and the passionate prayers manifested the work of God in that group.
And we all felt it.
It occurred to me that Christians should use the boycott to cut into the bottom line of businesses that support the homosexual activists and the liberal political agenda. My thought was to begin boycotting the major advertisers in rags like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times & etc.
It looks like someone else had the same idea, but theirs is probably the more effective implementation.
People are hurting. Bad. And suddenly, we are all aware of it.
Grim and constant reminders of the depth and breadth of the recession are inescapable. Fear and anxiety pour forth around the table where believers gather to study and pray. Petitions for healing, restoration and provision fill email inboxes. Friends pressure one another, asking, “How are things, really?”
Paradoxically, there is good news in this bad news.
Our small group learned the good news in the bad news when we studied and discussed 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 last night:
8We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
Do you see it there in verse 9? God is such that even suffering bears a redemptive purpose. “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
Believers who six months or a year ago were preoccupied with business and blessing now openly discuss their day by day reliance on God. They have been stripped of the transitory, the illusion and now see life as it is. They see that the comfort once taken in life’s predictability and in the sense that they were somehow in control were no comfort at all. These things kept them from the one thing that matters – their hope in God.
There is good in this current misery that has gripped our world consciousness. By this great pressure and through this despair we are learning to rely on the one thing that does not fail. We are learning to rely on God.
A warning: let us not imagine that once we have learned to rely on God that he will place us back to square one with a fresh wad of cash in our pockets to start over again. The spiritual lesson learned does not yield a life wrapped in pretty paper with a big bow. We don’t get to go back to the way things were before this all began.
No, this isn’t something we endure until we can honestly say, “Okay, God. Lesson learned!”
But as a result of this suffering, this momentary light affliction, we are changed. We are transformed. We are redeemed. We are turned into the sorts of people who want different things and who are motivated by different joys.
We become the sorts of believers for whom the most important things are our hope for the future (he is, after all, The Only God who raises the dead). The stuff we accumulate in life are no longer our source of comfort; it doesn’t own our allegiance any longer. Rather, it becomes an impediment to the real source of comfort and joy and confidence.
The good news wrapped up in the bad news is that God strips us of the false blessings which we have prized and bestows the one unfailing blessing. Himself.
I left Minnesota for good in January 1971. I left because of the weather - Minnesota is lousy except for the six weeks between the first freeze in late September and the first snow in November. The rest of the year is either bitter cold, sloppy muddy or mosquito swarming hot and humid. It is a ridiculous state with brutal weather and stupid politics that mirror their northern neighbor. Eh?
My joy in being gone was confirmed once again by the ridiculous antics of Gov. Tim Pawlenty and by the trolls who are going to put Stuart Little in the U.S. Senate. How can you take seriously an electorate that would send this to the Senate?
Pawlenty proved himself the honorable spokesman of the pickled herring and lutefisk crowd at this week’s Republican Governors Presidential Candidates sweepstakes in Florida. Human Events reports TPaw’s Paul Bunyanesque charade:
Pawlenty used his time at yesterday’s roundtable discussion to cast himself as the “modern” Republican while casting aspersions on the traditional conservative message, calling for outreach to the “new demographics,” deriding the GOP for allegedly being 15 years behind in the use of the Internet, and calling for the party not to be led by “a crank.” Pawlenty appears to have John McCain’s penchant for attacking conservatives rather than those in the other party.
Pawlenty in Miami was publicly angry, agitated, and even cranky, possibly because he found himself at odds with the far more conservative tone of every other speaker here. Hundreds of RGA members, who paid thousands of dollars to attend this Conference, wildly applauded “red meat” conservative pronouncements by speakers and not the more moderate and conservative-jabbing words by Pawlenty.
He wasn’t the only Liberal hack in RINO clothing. Another dim bulb Governor, this one from Texas (did Texas’ last conservative politician die at the Alamo?), created havoc when he unilaterally cut short Sarah Palin’s mediapalooza.
There needs to be some bloodletting in the Republican Party. Let it begin.
Will somebody tell Nugent about these two guys? He oughta get them in his sights.