Speaking at Our Home Chapel in Bangkok

I wanted to post my sermon from this Sunday…

Always Going Forward

 

This Weekend we have set aside time to celebrate and give thanks. A heart of gratitude marks the Christian life in a way that should shine forth to the world around us.

 

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

–1 Chronicles 16:8

 

 

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to look at the tension for what we have and still striving toward what God wants. We can have a heart of joy while pressing on in this thing we call life. The faith journey is something over a life time refined and worked on.

 

Paul understood this most of all as he saw everything he gave up to follow Christ and more than that how truly knowing him was the goal of his life. 

 

Phil 3

12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,

14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

This is a goal of Paul’s and he paints the picture of a race or a journey. We will look more at this metaphor as I also share the narrative of a marathon.

In my senior year at Life Pacific College, http://www.lifepacific.edu, (while suffering from a problem that plagued me most of my school years, senioritis), I decided a distraction, ummm a challenge was in order. My roommate, Jim Henderson, and I talked each other running the LA marathon. The goal is to finish, but a marathon is much more than the actual race…it includes, training, planning, preparing and finally the race. My problem with this race came in the preparing. We trained well, but on race day the heat destroyed me and my lack of preparation. I did not hydrate enough, and at the 15-mile marker, I succumbed to the heat with heat exhaustion. However, when I was nearing that mile-marker in life of 30-years old, I decided to finish what I started, one day before I turned 30. I ran and completed my first marathon. Let’s paint this picture of a marathon or journey with what Paul is talking about spiritually in knowing Christ.

 

 

The first point is that we have not arrived.

 

I.                    Not arrived

 

First, Paul is talking about not yet or a future anticipation. He twice mentions this in the two sentences here in v. 12-14. His key idea is pressing on or moving forward, but he begins with the fact he has not yet obtained this. Actually, better way to say this, is I have not yet achieved the goal.

 

For me, I had run in a marathon, but I had not yet won the prize. You see in a marathon, everyone receives a prize for finishing. I now have two medals for finishing the LA and San Diego marathons. But in preparing to run the marathon for a second time to finish what I had not yet accomplished, I had to know what I did not yet obtain.

I had to find a new running partner. My roommate was no longer around, so a friend in church, Joe Cleland took up the duty of guiding me in the run. This was an adjustment as Jim and I were in simpatico. Joe and I worked out the kinks by bumping our way through things.

 

As this is Thanksgiving, let me remember to say that even as life gets difficult, or we feel so far from the goal, we still are called to give thanks.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

–1 Thessalonians 5:18

 

Even when things aren’t happy, we give thanks, and having a heart of gratitude for everything helps us move forward in our journey with God.  I was always thankful to have some one willing to help me run. I knew we would figure out how to work well together even if it was not always perfect, yet…

 

One story comes to mind from bumping into a fire hydrant. We crossed a street, and as we were running up the sidewalk, he looked back to see that I would hit the curb (or not hit the curb) at the right spot. I was right behind him making the curb, but two steps ahead was a fire hydrant. He didn’t notice it as he was watching me step on the sidewalk, and his shout to go left just wasn’t soon enough. My knee banged off the fire hydrant as I did my best to avoid smacking directly into it. I was sore, but not too much worse for the wear. This leads me to part of what Paul is saying in pressing on to take hold of that which Christ took hold of us. We are moving and looking forward in this race as what is behind only distracts us from the object of our desire.

 

 

 

 

 

So that leads to the second and most important point, to keep going…

 

 

The picture of a race is best seen as Paul twice uses the verb press on. We push forward or persevere in our faith journey to know God more intimately. Paul wants to know God deeply and in the Old Testament understanding of how a wife and husband knew each other. He presses on past any hindrance and with singular focus to know and take hold of that relationship with Christ Jesus.

And whatever we do as we press on, let’s do unto Christ with thanksgiving,

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

–Colossians 3:17

 

 

A marathon best paints this picture of pressing on as you hit that thing they call “the wall”. After about 18-miles, it literally feels like you have hit a wall and can go no further. However, you just push forward. One step at a time, you just keep moving forward toward the finish line. There were times, we just talked to each other up and down the hills through that period before the second wind, and told each other to just keep going; we can collapse at the finish line.

In life, there are many things that try to hold us from knowing God more closely. Friends, entertainment, work, sin, busyness, and not all of these are in and of themselves evil. But we need to focus on always moving toward Christ. Sometimes there are things that get in our way.

 

forgetting what is behind in the second sentence. He continually forgot what was behind him. Rahter, more accurately he overlooked or paid no attention to what was behind him. In comparison to what was ahead, what was behind was nothing.

One time in our training, Joe and I were doing sprint work out sup a hill. We found a hill that was about 100 meters (which happened to lead into a hiso neighborhood. Did I say, gated neighborhood. We would sprint as fast as we could four or five times up the hill. One time, we ran our lungs out, and Joe could barely say stop. When he did it was too late as I banged into the gate. I hobbled my way back to his car and sat the rest of that day out. However, I knew I had to keep going in the training. And I did.

Paul twice says press on preceded by the fact he has not yet arrived. But the second time, he adds forgetting what is behind. When life knocks us down, or when good things are in our past, we need to literally pay no attention or disregard them in comparison to pressing on. We need to keep going in order to achieve, the prize.

 

The third point is to remember the goal

And we will receive the prize if we keep going. Here is a great thanksgiving verse relating to victory.

Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

— 1 Corinthians 15:57

 

The victory will come, but we need to hold on to that in Christ Jesus. We need to focus on it. We need to strain forward as a runner stretching toward the finish line. The kind of runner not worried about what is around him.

This brings to mind the famous story of the miracle mile. The first time two runners ran the mile in under four minutes in the same race. John Landy (from Australia) was leading the whole way, but knowing Roger Bannister always had a last burst of speed, he looked to see where he was. As he looked back, Bannister passed him. There is even a statue of that famous image outside the Empire Stadium in Vancouver, BC. We need to fix our eyes on the goal. For a short story, http://sports.jrank.org/pages/262/Bannister-Roger-Miracle-Mile.html

 And for video, http://archives.cbc.ca/sports/athletics/clips/7607/

 

Even if I tripped and fell a few times, I knew I would get up again. I wasn’t going to allow anything to stop me this time. I was prepared, I would eat the right food, and I would drink plenty of water. We made strategies and determined exactly how we would run the race that day.  The good news is we finished, and I have the medal to show my accomplishment. The story can continue as I still want to beat my time and run under 4 hours.

We should never be satisfied with where we are. Paul understands he is not yet perfect, but he is straining ahead toward the goal. We need to always look to the finish. We are nearing the completion of a new building, but that is not the goal. The goal is to use that as a lighthouse to draw people into relationship with God. The goal is have more people know God because we have a building that can support the ministry. Once the building is finished, we are not going to stop working. We just will be working on different things.

Paul never slowed on his work to know Christ more. I think about that idea of the goal to win the prize for which God called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. I get the idea that the prize is far more than heaven. What the Bible is saying is that the goal is a perfect relationship with God. We strain forward to one day realize the true nature of our relationship with God as he intended it.

 

Let me conclude with one more story to illustrate the journey of faith we are in, that we have not arrived, but we keep going fixed on the goal.

 

Finally, this story can summarize the whole thing. When I was training for the San Diego marathon, we had one last long run to complete before tapering for the race. We were running 20 miles this day on a bike trail. Joe and I ran side by side in our group of running buddies. We were coming up on a narrow spot as we would go under a bridge, when a bike rider came toward us. I tried to go out to the left to allow the biker to go between us. But when I felt like I was running off the trail, I came back to the middle right as the biker rode toward us. He had no where to go, and we smacked into each other. I flew back onto my butt. Scrapping on the path.

Everyone stopped, stunned at what happened. I got up and brushed myself off with only one thing on my mind. I wanted to keep going and finish the final five miles on our run.

The pint is that life will often knock us down. Things get in our way or hold us back from the goal. We need to remember that we have not arrived; we need to keep going and focused on the goal.

Never give up. God has great things ahead for your life with him.

 

Thanksgiving, history and significance

I wanted to post on my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. I was listening to Dennis Prager, www.dennisprager.com  streaming online as I appreciate him hosting his show on holidays.

His philosophy for working these days is to add significance to the day. Holiday’s in his mind are not merely an excuse to take a day off, but to have something to remember or celebrate. On each major holiday He focuses on the meaning of the day. He made the point that holiday comes from that meaning of holy day…a day set apart.

 

Thanksgiving is my favorite for both my interest in history and memories of feasting with family and playing football (so all reasons for enjoying a day don’t have to be altruistic). I love the story of the first Thanksgiving, and how the settlers from the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock had much to be thankful for when most would despair.

 

http://www.khouse.org/articles/1997/111/

 

I also love that from the beginning, as a nation, we took a break to thank God for what he has given generously to all.

 

Here is the first proclamation from our first president, George Washington.

Thanksgiving Proclamation

 

[New York, 3 October 1789]

 

Page Image.

 

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

 

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore

his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States

a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording

them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

 

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great

and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him

our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold

mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of

tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions

of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we

are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been

pleased to confer upon us.

 

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our

national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to

render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully

executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government,

peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to

grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

 

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

 

Go: Washington

 

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/GW/gw004.html

 

 

Thanksgiving and Thankfulness

I wanted to post on Thanksgiving in Thailand. One thing can be noted are many cultures around the world at this time of the year will have a festival to celebrate the harvest. However, The US and Canada are the two countries that celebrate as we Americans understand it. For us, Thailand changes our custom of celebrating this holiday. The significance is not lost on us even if we do not receive a day off.

 

Let me express the meaning this day has for us this year.

 

First, we are greatly thankful for a happy marriage. We both cherish each other and the fact we have supportive and encouraging friends to share our experiences and ministry in this cross-cultural context.

 

Second, we are grateful for the ministry God has given us. The beautiful children from the slum community are precious beyond description. God has gathered them in his arms through our service and tangible expression of love. Seeing them excited at the meals we all share together warms our hearts. Their thankfulness as they pray puts in perspective what it means to have an attitude of thankfulness.

 

We also appreciate the opportunities to build up the local leaders in the newly established Bible College. The enthusiasm they have to learn motivates us to give the best we have in the classroom.

 

We are also thankful for God providing finances for us through our supporters. We are able to set up our apartment to feel home like, have good internet and feel comfortable and focus our attentions on ministry and caring for the people rather than figuring out how to raise more support. Thank you and thank you again to all who support.

 

We are thankful also for the wonderful places we have seen as we travel for ministry or in some of our free time. Due to the first year’s visa issues, we needed to leave the country a number of times and this year, we went to Indonesia for ECFC (Eastern Council of Foursquare Churches). Only last month did we get to have a fun trip just for the sake of a fun trip to another country as we visited Vietnam with Tina’s parents after two weeks of intensive classes in the Bible College up north. God has given us a full experience as we serve in SE Asia.

 

Finally, we are thankful for the wonderful people we partner with in Foursquare’s ministry to Thailand. Kelly and Angie Hilderbrand have set up a great ongoing ministry that we get to serve under. We also serve alongside a bunch of other great missionaries, teaching at the school. And it is fun to have Gary and Paula here as well that we see regularly in between their travels with Kidsquest (a wonderful ministry designed for children to know God in a meaningful way through kid’s fun and creativity). When Gary and I get together we talk sports and politics (he from Seattle and me with my OC and Chicago sports roots).

 

 

 

Our God has given us so much to be thankful for on this day. Even if the day is not the same in Thailand, and we shared the turkey and fixings on the previous Saturday with the other Americans. Check the pictures on flickr.com/photos/theopiefamily. Our heart is moved to stay in a constant sate of gratitude for what God always

does for his people.

 

Thanksgiving Dinner

Vietnam and Halong Bay

As Tina’s parents came to visit and minister to the church in Thailand, we worked out a few days to travel and see some sites in SE Asia. We wanted to have some quality time together as well as look into another culture while we get to live in this exotic part of the world, so we headed to Vietnam.

 

We went around Hanoi to see some old, ancient temples and pagodas as well as drive by the Hanoi Hilton. But our real excitement was to visit Halong Bay, which currently ranks No. 2 on the voting for the new seven wonders, www.new7wonders.com However, the list ranks a lot of SE Asia and South Asia landmarks bringing into question the credibility. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the bay and the thousands of islands. We spent a night on a junk (an old-fashioned boat built out tor tourists) and ate great sea food. Note: sea food means different things to different people. The crab, shrimp and octopus was outstanding.

 

We went shopping the last night, and here is a note to the culture. One girl started talking to us in one shop. She said she began to work there to improve her English and make a lot of money. She went on to say she makes $2.50 a day (and that is with a degree in accounting).

 

SE Asia holds many beautiful sites, wonderful and delightful people and a myriad of issues to developing into the modern world.

Loi Kratong Festival

(reprinted from November 2007)

 

We experienced our first Loi Krathong (pronounced Gratong) up close yesterday. Loi Krathong literally is thanking the river and shows Thai cultural traditions.

 

This Buddhist holiday holds a lot of symbolism related to thanksgiving and forgiveness. First of all, they are thanking the river, symbolic of the source for life. This is the first place we see analogous talk to the people of the Bible. Rivers, or running water to be more exact, spoke of life to the Hebrew/Jewish people of the Bible. One parallel I want to draw out quickly is how Jesus in John 7 spoke at the feast of Tabernacles, “37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes In me, as The Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”  

 

Streams of living water meant life to the listeners, and Jesus would give us so much life that it would flow out of us to others. For more on this passage see my notes from Convention…

 

Now the Thai people want to thank the river for their life and appease their sins in the same process. In order to have forgiveness, they make a krathong out of banana leaves and flowers with a candle in the middle, pictured here. The krothong is placed in the river, which has its banks jam-packed with others celebrating the tradition and festival. The krothong must float out of sight without sinking, capsizing or in an other way go off course. When the krathong is out of sight, the Thai Buddhist has their sins atoned for or taken away for that year.

 

This reminds me of the scapegoat ceremony from the Old Testament. In fact, in the Bible Study with the retired members of the church, they saw the parallel as we talked about the scape goat and how the sins were placed on this goat as it was driven into the desert to die taking our sins to death also.

 

The beautiful thing is that Jesus has taken our sins once and for all destroying the old sacrificial systems of tradition and ritual. He has forgiven us and given new life in fullness with the Holy Spirit.

 

As Thai Christians, they still celebrate the cultural tradition, but pray a prayer of thanksgiving similar to that at most communion services where we thank Jesus for atoning for our sins.

 

To celebrate Loi Kratong, one of the church members invited us over to her house for dinner, to make kratongs, and then release them. We started our night by worshiping the Lord with a few worship songs in Thai. Then we ate some snacks to have the energy to make the kratongs, as Thai tradition dictates, and then we made our kratongs. Since we are married, Tina and I made a joint kratong. After finishing our kratongs, we ate a delicious dinner of fried rice, fried chicken wings, fish, and papaya salad. Later we walked to the river to release our kratongs. Before releasing our kratong, we prayed and thanked the Lord for his greatness, provision and for removing our sins. Then we floated our kratongs and walked away celebrating what the Lord has done in our lives.

An Austrian Perspective

An Austrian perspective

 

On my way back from teaching up north, I sat next to a business man from Austria. We got on the topic of Austrian migration to the US at the time of WWII. This is worth reading and remembering.

He said the pessimists left, and the optimists stayed and got killed. He went on to share an Austrian axiom, “Pessimists are informed optimists”.

 

He also didn’t fit the stereotypical anti-American sentiment. Understanding the liberation that came in 1945 and dedicated 10 years of rebuilding, noting if not for the US, they would have been communist for the past half century.