Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Do you ever wish you were like someone you aren’t? I do . . . constantly. I wish I could play guitar, sing, and write music like John Mayer, or James Taylor, or David Crowder (to name a few). I wish I could write books like Brian McLaren or C. S. Lewis. I wish I could make movies like Peter Jackson. I wish I could paint like Rembrandt. I wish I could make short videos like Rob Bell. I wish I would have founded Microsoft.

What would your list look like? I imagine it would be much different from mine. Our list revolves around people who inspire us, those who evoke us to be better than we are.

I want to be better than I am. I want to be inspired and evoked. I am sure you do to.

This last season of my life I have been so captured by Jesus. Not just that He loved me, died for me, and forgives me (which I have been captured by my whole life), but I have been inspired by His life, His teachings, the things that He did and said while He was on earth. It has really turned into passion for me. I have been reading and rereading the gospels trying to absorb Jesus, I have been doing crazy things like praying that I would be more like Jesus. I even started a blog six months ago where I can post my thoughts about Jesus online. (If you are reading this article online, congratulations you found it.)

But I am not alone. Many in our church have been praying the prayer that Pastor Steve taught us, “Lord, make me less like me, and more like You.” Prayer is good, but if we never learn more about what Jesus is like, how can we be more like Him?

I want to be more like Him in both my actions and my character, so the question follows, “What is God’s character like?”

OK . . . hold on . . . with that question I know I am in danger of turning this article into a book, or volumes of books, so let capture one idea and attempt to keet this to an article. Missio Dei. Literally translated it means the “Mission of God”, or “God’s mission.” It is our theological attempt to capture something of the character and the nature of God. God is a sending God. God sends and is sent for His purposes, His mission. The Father sends the Son, the Father and the Son sends the Spirit, the Father and the Son and the Spirit send the Church. All for one purpose, one mission, God’s mission, to reconcile the world back to God.

Remember Jesus words, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

Becoming more like Jesus means that I am sent, just as Jesus was sent.

Coming to Christ means we choose to join with God in His mission in the world. Missions isn’t just a department of the church, it isn’t just a line item on a budget, missionaries aren’t just people sent to foreign lands. It is something tied to the nature of God, tied to the very existence of the church. As Christians we are a sent people. We join with God in his working in Tigard, Sherwood, Beaverton, Portland, and around the world. It starts with God, we just jump on for the ride.

If you belong by Christ, you have been sent by Him to your work place, to your neighborhood, to your community to bring the kingdom of God into the hearts of all men and women.

This understanding has been profound in my life. It causes me to do things I would never dream of doing. Things I didn’t know I had in me. This coming February are church is having a “missions month.” You will be challenged to do crazy things like wash the feet or feed the homeless in Portland, have coffee with international students, take a seminar on evangelism, or make projects for the people of Honduras. I hope you will participate in some of those things as I will, but more than that, I hope you walk out of church each Sunday with the understanding that you have been sent by God to implant the kingdom of God in the hearts of all men and women as they are reconciled to God.

Seeking to become more like Jesus,

Pastor Jon

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Grande no water tazo Chai . . . that was my drink of choice this morning at a local coffee shop, in fact that is my drink of choice just about every Wednesday morning. I am not sure why, as there are a lot of other drinks I enjoy on the menu (and I am a person who enjoys mixing it up). Maybe it is just too early in the morning to have to think about a decision of what to drink, or maybe there is something comforting about routine and consistency, or maybe I just don’t want to disappoint anyone who expects me to order my regular. Who knows, but I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed ordering as those who helped me were friendly.

“So I watched a movie last night,” I opened the conversation with a rhetorical statement hoping my friends would bite. They did, and I proceed to tell them about the movie “Smoke,” it is a movie about people who sit around smoking cigars and telling stories. It was an interesting movie, but what really intrigued me about the movie was the characters. Each one of them was lonely, none of them had a family, and in their coming together to smoke they found relationships and healing, and had a good time doing it.

It made me think I would love to create a movie called “Sip.” As I prefer coffee over stogies, and there is something to be said for coming together with people, talking about life, telling stories, and trying to find meaning, and a better way of life together.

I guess the more years I tuck into my belt, the more I am convinced that God created us to belong to each other. We are born into families, we belong to each other. In families when we are loved, listened to, touched with care, and seen as precious we know we belong. When we know we belong, we can open up without fear. And it is in our relationship with each other that we become the person, the people that God intended.

America can be so individualistic sometimes that we can forget our need for relationship. We think we are fine, we can shoulder life ourselves, and we don’t want to burden anyone anyway. And maybe we are fine, and maybe we will survive, but maybe apart from relationships and belonging to each other, our hearts will never run deep, and lives will never mature, or gain significance.

So this morning as I sipped, something amazing happened. I am not sure where it came from, maybe from time spent (as I have meet with these guys from our church for a while), maybe from God, maybe because I am changing, but I felt like I was really able to talk to my friends about the tensions in my heart. As I talked I felt as though a little weight lifted from my shoulders, while at the same time the river of my life was running a little deeper. This is what God has to offer through relationship with His people.

I know some of you might be like my friend Nick Gill and not like coffee, but the “sip” of coffee really isn’t the point, but God working in your life (in my life) as we enter into relationships with each other is the point.

I know deep in all of our hearts we desire these type of relationships, I believe God put that desire there. If you desire to find that, but don’t know how, I care, and I want to help. We have multiple ways to help you Link-up in the church, avenues where you can find friendships, but feel free to make your own avenues as well. May we not miss out on God’s plan to grow our life, by missing out on the person sitting next to us in church.

Drink up,

Pastor Jon

Think Small

Faith . . . one word . . . the essence that some people build their whole lives around, while others it always seems to elude. Faith is the one thing that seems to please God the most, yet also seems to be what the enemy wants to attack the most.

I find myself quite often around people whose faith is stretched to the point of breaking because of the pain of this broken world; unable to offer sufficient answers to suffering—to why God doesn’t do more to stop evil. All we have is faith: that there is a bigger picture that we just can’t see, and in the midst of it God loves us enough and is good enough to die for us.

I was thinking about faith in my life today. Faith in the big things—How is God going to bring about 2 million dollars to expand His territory in Tigard and the world? What happens if He doesn’t? Is God going to restore the health of people close to me that I have spent countless hours praying for? How is God going to reach a world of people that need Him? And why don’t we see more of that?

As these thoughts whirl around in my mind a verse came to me that I memorized as a small child, maybe you know it too. It is out of Romans 1:17, “the righteous will live by faith.” Living by faith has a very active sound to it. Living by faith is not something we can do in the past, nor is it something we can do in the future; it is something that can only be done in the present. Right now as I write, I can write out of faith that maybe somehow, something I say will find its way to someone’s heart, or I can turn off the computer, and get to the more pressing matters of my day.

I guess maybe that is what the Lord is trying to say to me—I need to concentrate more of my effort to living by faith in the small decisions that I make throughout my day, as that is what is pleasing to God. Yeah, the big things are important also, but what about the small things. I often pass by those because I think I need to tackle the big issues, when what God is after is the little issues that are before me today.

So what are those little things? I guess it would be the phone call I need to make today that I feel I don’t have time for, but on the other end of the line there is somebody who needs encouragement. I need to have faith that God will take care of me if I give my time to others. Another example today is faith in giving. We all know I can’t come up with 2 million but I can have the faith to write my check to the expansion of His church (though a small part believing it makes a difference), and believing that He will take care of me and my family. I also need to not give up praying today for those in physical or emotional pain even if in some cases I have been doing it for years, with little to no results.

What are some other things? Having faith enough that if I make time to spend with the Lord I will still have enough time in my day, and it will really make a difference in my life. Having faith that God actually wants to use me today to make a difference in the world, as my neighbors, co-workers, and friends are in the world.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6) I sometimes wonder how pleasing I am to God, how often I make him smile. I guess after all is said and done that question could be asked another way. What have I done today that demonstrates faith?

For those who feel faith is hard to find right now for whatever reason. Don’t despair. Sometimes the smallest steps of faith are actually the biggest. Sometimes a simple prayer to God can be a bigger step of faith than giving a million dollars to Him. It all depends on where you are at.

So I am here with my computer on, typing away in faith asking us to look at our lives, looking for that small step of faith that we can take together. If we take it, chances are it may end up being a bigger step than we thought it was, and lead to new adventures of faith with God. After all, you have to have faith, to find faith.

Stepping together,


What Makes Us a Church?

Warning: before reading this article we recommend you brew a hot cup of coffee, find a comfortable chair, put your feet up, so that we might think and pray about this together.

Do you have your coffee? A quite place to think? OK, now we are ready. You’ve read the question in my title, now let’s honestly ask it, and seek answers. What makes us a church? Is it our non-profit tax status? Is it our sign? Our building? The fact that we have pastors? Is it that we gather on Sunday morning? Is it that we sing music? Hear a sermon preached? What if we didn’t have any of that, would we be a church? Or yet a harder question, could we have all of that, and not be a church? That question is so important let’s read it again slower. Could we have all of that, and not be a church?

How many people does it take to be a church? Can you be a church by yourself? If you have four friends and you have communion together and are baptized are you a church? Can you have a church without a church name?

OK, maybe I have had a little too much coffee this morning asking all these questions, but the one I am really after is “What makes us a church?”

Pastor Steve quoted the Catholic monk Thomas Merton a few weeks back; his quote has stuck with me. “Who am I? I am one loved by Christ.” (Italics added for emphasis.) Merton gained his identity not from what he said about himself, but by what Christ said about him. The most important thing that could ever be said about us is what Jesus has to say about us, not what we have to say about ourselves. We could call ourselves a church all day long, but it means nothing unless God looks at us and says, “Those people who meet in Tigard are a part of my church, and against them the gates of hell will not prevail.” (Paraphrased from Matt:16:18) Wow!!! Does that give you as much courage as it does me?

As the people of God we must understand our identity in Christ . . . what God says about us—as individuals and as a church. This is the first step, but there is also a next step. Our mission—what we do! Who we are and what we do must unite. So here it is, If we do nothing we are not part of the church of God. Church is not only defined by who we are, but also by what we do. The test of faith is always action.

So “Are we a church?” can better be answered by asking, how many of my neighbors are closer to Jesus because of me? Are we helping the needy? How have I used my gifts to help others? If being a church is about spreading the Kingdom of the Son on earth as it is on Heaven, how are we doing at that?

My response to all these questions is “Our church is getting there . . . and off to a good start.” Our understanding of who we are in Christ is growing deeper, and what we are doing is following that knowledge. Lots of people are regularly being reached through individuals in this church, and we are changing to more closely embody Jesus’ heart for the world.

I wish I had the space in the newsletter to tell you all the ways the focus of this church and its ministries are changing to align our actions with our identity, but I will just pick one.

The deaconesses in charge of the assistance ministries (those who distribute the funds taken at the end of the service on the first Sunday of each month) have been working with the staff to come up with a way to truly help the poor in our area versus just enabling them to continue as they have. Plans are not all finalized, but the process is moving to addressing not just individuals’ felt needs (food, help with an electric bill, rent, etc.) but also addressing their spiritual need for Jesus (interaction with the church family, accountability, the power of Christ to change a life).

So the solution is to have the front door of the assistance program also be the front door of the church. Those in need would need to come on a Sunday, fill out a zip strip, and this begins the process of assessing their needs and discovering how best to help them (not just financially, but with discipleship, accountability, life help, etc). This means that we would potentially give to fewer people, but the ones we give to would be impacted at a deeper level. Our desire is to enfold the least of these, who Jesus loves, into our family here at the Grace Place.

What will it mean? Well it means we need people with a heart to give and disciple those in need. We need people who have the heart of Jesus to love sacrificially as Jesus loved, and serve as Jesus served. It may not always be comfortable, but it is what makes us a church.

If you are interested in being a part of this ministry, please talk to me. Or if the Lord has stirred in you any thoughts as a result of reading this article I would love to talk to you. Thank you for reading, and praying, and I hope you enjoyed the coffee.

Always in process,


Blessed to Be a Blessing

It is possible to be a religious person, to attend church all your life, to read your Bible everyday, but never discover the heart of Jesus. Do you know the heart of Jesus? Do I?

Discovering the heart of Jesus is a highway some journey that has both terrifying and exciting exits along the way. Let me begin with the terrifying exit. We may not want to stop here, but when the car is running out of gas we must stop to fill up, or we might end up stuck on the highway—unable to go any farther in finding the heart of Jesus.

So here it is; when Jesus was on earth He saved his harshest words for religious people; people who viewed religion as a platform for their benefit. Matthew 23 records those words and is aimed at none other than the religious leaders. Where did they go wrong? They stopped short of finding the heart of Jesus, and the viewed their spirituality for their benefit.

Reading beyond Matthew 23 we see Jesus’ further discussion on the topic with His disciples. In chapter 25 Jesus tells three parables, all which carry the same message.
1) 10 brides waiting for the bridegroom, yet not all go. 2) Three servants entrusted with their owners’ provisions, and only two out of the three get to share in the master’s happiness based on their performance. 3) Perhaps the most direct parable of the three is about the sheep and the goats. They are separated based on what they did—feeding the hungry, quenching the thirst of the thirsty, giving clothes to those that need it, visiting the sick and the prisoners. This is not to say that doing these things saves us (they don’t), but it is to say truly following Jesus will lead us to loving and serving people in need.

Here is what scares me . . . most of my life I always thought the church was here for me. So that I could be fed, so that I could grow, so that I could develop my gifts, so that I could have my needs met, so that people could minister to me, and befriend me. Writing those last two sentences made me feel quite narcissistic, yet if we are honest at the deepest level, this is the version of Christianity that most of us have, and the one that Jesus speaks most strongly against. Can you relate?

When we find the heart of Jesus we find the same thing he told Abraham in Genesis 12: You are blessed to be a blessing! We discover that God did not bless us for ourselves he blessed us so that we could be a blessing to our neighbors, co-workers, friends . . . in a word our community, and even the world.

Let’s stop and think about that. Maybe some questions would help. Do I pray in a way that has other people’s interest in mind, or my own? Do I spend my money in a way that has other people’s interest in mind, or my own? Do I spend my time for my pleasure or to be a blessing to others?

Here is what I am learning about the heart of Jesus -- signing up with Jesus is not just about what He wants to do in you, but also about what He wants to do through you. How He wants you and me to be a blessing to our community . . . the world.

The most vivid imagery I can think of to illustrate this point is the Dead Sea; a body of water the Jordan River feeds into but has no outlet. The water just remains there until it evaporates. The result is in the name, a lifeless sea. In contrast, the Sea of Galilee which has water flowing in and out of it, it is beautiful and sustains life.

Our culture has helped us develop a self-serving version of Christianity: God and the church are here to bless me. My hope and the exit that excites me in finding the heart of Jesus (come to think of this might even be the same one that terrifies me) is discovering a self-sacrificing version of following Christ that places others’ needs above our own, and truly unleashes the life changing power of the love of Jesus on an unsuspecting world.

With a deep gratitude for the “Grace Place” as we pursue the heart of Jesus together,

Pastor Jon

Lexio Divina

“How do I grow as a Christian?” A common question in the church, with an equally common answer: “Bible study and prayer.” This taught me growing up that the only thing I could do with the Bible is study it much the way I would study a math book trying to cram for an exam. In addition, little was ever explained to me about prayer so virtually all my prayers were improvisational. In the same way an accomplished jazz musician might solo in the middle of the song, they decide the notes they want to play on their own. Improvising is a wonderful talent, it adds greatly to enhance a song bringing emotion and personal style. However, if improvising is all a musician does, they will never learn to read the notes, that will allow them to play the masterpieces, that the art of music has produced over hundreds of years.
In the last few years, I have sought other things to do with the Bible besides study it—which led me to church history hoping find ways that other people have prayed and matured in their walk with Jesus. The personal journey has been rich, brought me closer to Jesus, and is one that I am still on. Though the desert fathers, monasticism, and church history are rich with ways to approach the Bible and prayer, in the shortness of this article I will only have time to explore one.
One quick disclaimer before I move on. As God made everybody different, each person will need to find the ways of seeking after God that most help them. For one person prayer journaling maybe the best thing for their spiritual life, but for another trying to journal only makes them frustrated, so they go on prayer walks or pray through a guide like we have for our 40 days of purpose. Each person needs to try a variety of spiritual disciplines and find what approaches help you draw closer to God. I would encourage everybody to try this approach that I am about to explain, if it is helpful--use it, if not—great, but find other ways to seek God. Here is one that has helped me.
Lectio Divina (pronounced lex-ee-o dih-vee-nah) means a holy or sacred reading of scripture. I think of it as a prayerful approach to scripture, where you are able to spend some time in silence listening to God (something we don’t do often). It is my understanding that St. Benedict (480-550 AD) was the first to cement the practice of Lectio Divina into western monasticism.
When you approach the “sacred reading” of scripture you are encouraged to go through 5 steps. You can spend as much time on each step as you want, but five minutes per step might be a good place to start. Find a comfortable (but not too comfortable), quiet place to sit, and the steps are as follows.

1) Lectio – means reading . . . you pick a few verses that you would like to mediate on. For now let’s choose Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Read the passage over slowly multiple times (read out loud if possible). Let each word sink into your heart, as you spend a few minutes here.
2) Ruminatio – means rumination, or chewing . . . This is where you take hold a phrase and keep it in your thoughts. Tony Jones puts it this way , “I like to imagine what my temperament will be in heaven, sitting at God’s feet, listening, and being instructed. I don’t imagine I’ll be shifting in my seat, my hand up to ask a questions. I imagine I’ll be content, calm and listening hard for what God has to say to me. What I often find is that a certain word or phrase rises above the rest of the text and grabs a hold of me.” It could be any phrase in the passage, but let’s say as you were reading through the verses “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” jumped out at you. Try to keep that phrase in your mind repeating it over and over. If your mind starts to wander just bring it back.
3) Meditatio – or meditation. This step reflects on the idea. You might ask God why is this phase is so important to my life right now? What are you trying to say to me? In the example we were working with you might ask God if there are areas in your life where you have not been trusting God.
4) Contempatio – or contemplation. In this step you are trying to clear your mind, sit in silence, and in a position of receptivity. You do not want to create thoughts of your own, but try to listen to God. When was the last time you spent in silence with God? Not trying to conjure up prayers, just trying to listen. To remove distractions and hear from God.
5) Oratio – or Oration, spoken prayer. I find it helpful in my own personal life at this step to write out my prayers in response to God. Whether you speak out loud your prayer to God out loud in response to the verses you have meditated on, or whether you write them out, the point here is to respond to what God has brought to your attention. Chances are when you spend time seeking God, He is going to help you with something in your life that you need to change, or thank Him for.

I would encourage you even before you finish reading this newsletter, to put it down. Pick a passage of the Bible that you like, and enter into a prayerful, holy approach to seeking God. Like any skill, prayer is one that we can develop, and use to become more like Jesus.
If you are interested in pursuing other approaches to prayer that has been used throughout history, but are not readily used today Tony Jones book “Soul Shaper” is a good place to start.
I would love to hear from you if you implement this approach into your spiritual life, or if you have other things that have made the difference for you. Let’s share our wealth and use it to better follow Jesus.

In prayer,

Pastor Jon


“Nowhere in the New Testament does it say they ‘went to church’” -- Dan Kimball

Our palms were sweaty, our hearts were beating, and we wanted to turn around. At the last minute my wife said let’s bag this and go shopping. The second week of February was one of the rare opportunities that Lynsey and I got to attend a church other than the “Grace Place.”

This church was different from any church I had attended before. It was in a warehouse, but it seemed uncomfortably smaller than what I had expected, and we were obviously overdressed. Imagine that! Me? Overdressed? Questions raced through my mind; will I stick out like a sore thumb? Will anyone care that I am there? Will I have a spiritual experience here? Will I be accepted?

I left with different questions. How funny is it that a pastor is nervous to go to church? If I am a spiritual leader and get nervous going to church, is it even remotely possible that someone from our community without any church background would actually come to church?

I began getting depressed thinking our task to reach our community is unrealistic, until I remember words from Dan Kimball, “We can’t go to church, because we are the church.” If you are in the habit of rereading statements, that one is worth reading again.

The church is not a building, nor is it a place of worship. In the Bible the church is always the people of God, who worship Him, and have a sense of mission—God’s mission for them in the world (Acts 14:27). “How do we get people to come to church?” couldn’t be a more backwards question. A more helpful question is: How do we get the church (you and me) into our community to impact them with the love of Jesus?

I was convicted as I was driving to Prime Time that I talk about reaching the community and sharing my faith but I have hardly any deep relationships with people who aren’t Christians. I asked God’s forgiveness, and in faith told God that I was ready to be used, I just didn’t know how to go about it. I felt like I was back in elementary school just wanting to make friends. Please help me God, was my prayer.

The next day as I was working out at the YMCA when someone came up to me started a conversation, and I was able to share my faith with them. I wonder; are there opportunities all around me that I am missing because I am too busy, or too focused, or too tired? Am I more concerned about getting to my next “church” activity than taking the time to build a friendship with somebody who needs Jesus?

This last week I was touched as I heard Jesus praying for us. John 17:15, 18, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one . . . As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” Why have I taken myself out of the world, and how do I get back in?

Before I close, let’s stop and dream a little. We are a church of just over 400. If each of us would be the church to a least a few people in our community, how much of a difference could we make in a culture that is falling apart? With God guidance and help we could become an unstoppable force for God’s Kingdom in our area. But let’s remember, it is not our knowledge that will change people’s lives; it is Jesus’ love through us.

With a heart to change, and a passion to reach the emerging culture,

Pastor Jon

Reflections on Truth

As a child I used to think that truth was subjective. Truth depended on whoever could come up with the most convincing argument, and communicate it with the loudest voice. As I had both convincing arguments and a loud voice, I can remember numerous occasions when my older brother ended up with the raw end of the deal for things that I did.

In the new millennium the word “truth” has fallen on hard times. A few may believe it is an illusion, that it doesn’t exist, though I have a hard time believing that deep down very many people are really convinced of that. More people believe that truth is out there but we just don’t have the ability to know it. Unfortunately, too often people determine “truth” the way I did as a child – whoever has the loudest voice and the most convincing argument has the truth. Some people are scared of those who claim to have found the truth, while others take great comfort in having a certainty of truth.

Where are we in our relationship to truth? Have we found truth? Are we seeking truth? Are we 100% certain what we have is absolute truth? And how do we interact with others in relationship to truth? Is it our moral obligation to speak truth when somebody is in error? All the time? Sometimes? How do we know when to speak and when to remain silent?

These are big questions, and involve more than one small article can address. However, I would like to try to share some of the landmarks that have stood out along the path of my personal journey for truth in recent days, hoping that it could be helpful in your quest for truth and your interaction with others.

Finding Truth Involves Finding Faith
When I speak of truth to people oftentimes I forget the role faith plays in truth. Take morality for example. You can’t have morality without faith. Whether your faith is in the practicality of consensus, “If every culture in the world thinks murder is wrong, it must be wrong.” Or your faith is in social consequences, “If you are hurting somebody else you shouldn’t do it.” Or your faith is in God or a god, which reveals that some things are right and some things are wrong. But the truth is every area of our lives involving truth at some level comes down to faith. The basis of science is also faith. Faith in the scientific method or faith that the universe works the way it does and will always continue to work that way.

As humans our only understanding of truth comes through the carrier of faith. Why is this such an important landmark? Because if we are going to help our culture find truth, what we are really doing is helping our culture find faith. Finding faith does not come through logical argumentation; it comes through a journey of love, companionship, and the Holy Spirit’s working. Faith can not be proved, it has to be believed and lived. People don’t like hearing our “truth” because they don’t hold to the faith that our truth is built on. If we really care about helping people find truth, we need to speak from humility as people of faith.

Truth and Knowledge is not always the Same Thing
For hundreds of years the medieval church knew that the earth was flat and they had their own system of the universe figured out with verse to prove it from the Bible (Eccl. 1:4-6, Psa. 93:1, Psa.104:5, 2 Kings 20:11, Joshua 10:12-14). But their knowledge was wrong because their data was incomplete.
The nation of Israel knew how the Messiah was going to come, and if I would have been in their shoes interpreting the Old Testament I would have agreed with them. However, Jesus came in a way that was so different from what they expected, they missed that it was Him. Later we can see how the prophecies make sense, but at the time our knowledge was so limited.
Why is this an important landmark? Because of all the knowledge that God contains, we know so little of it, and every time we get a little more knowledge our understanding of things changes. It pushes us back into a place of humility and dependence on God where when we speak of truth what we are really speaking of is relative certainty based on faith and the knowledge we have acquired (which is so limited).

Why Seeking Truth is Better than Finding Truth
That is probably a weird subtitle to read (it was to write), but let me try to explain. If we feel we have found truth, we stop seeking and are forced into preserving what we have found. We feel the need to confront falsehood, and are in great danger of becoming prideful. It also assumes all the relevant knowledge on the subject has been uncovered.
Being a seeker of truth might mean that you have found some along the way, but you keep seeking as there is much more to find. It is a continuous process of discovery and requires humility to be able to say there is so much out there that I have no idea about, but I will keep searching.
Related, Jesus says that He is the truth. Yes, at some point in our lives, we can say, “We found Jesus.” But if Jesus is leading, doesn’t that means He is not staying in the same place, but taking us somewhere and we need to follow and seek after Him? The minute we stop seeking Jesus is the moment our spiritual lives will run dry and we become ineffective. Viewing truth as a process of “seeking after” brings the humility that is required to eventually find pieces of truth along the way.

I believe the more we care about truth, the more we will be pushed towards love; as it is in loving others that we help them find a faith in Jesus the author of truth.

With love,

Pastor Jon

Finding Your Place in God's Picture

Why are pictures so important to us as humans? This last weekend Lynsey and I had the blessing of going to Mount Saint Helens to camp with my brother, and my in-laws. While we were there we took hundreds of pictures, in only a couple days. Pictures to remember our experience of walking through the ape cave, hiking over a suspension bridge at the lava canyons, gazing upon the quiet peakless mountain fresh with life where only 24 years prior a blast the size of 27,000 atomic bombs brought death to every living thing within its reach.
Pictures represent stories that we want to capture or remember. In my office I have a picture of my wife and me from when we were dating and began the exciting journey of falling in love. I want to remember. On my wall hangs the calendar version of a Thomas Kinkade painting. In the midst of a stormy and busy street you see the warmth and tranquility of a well lit nearby home. I am captured by the home where it is dry and cozy, but so often I end up feeling lost in the rain.
For several years now my favorite picture has been Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son (1668-69). There is something about the way the father is holding the son after he returns that touches my heart. Much of that is depicted in the hands. One hand, strong in the embrace, as to say I am going to hold on to you with strength, and I never want to let you go again. The right hand tender; showing the softness of the father’s heart toward the son, as if to say never mind the past I am just happy to have you home.
I love pictures, I think that is why my introduction got away from me a little, but truly the greatest picture ever is God’s picture. Think about it for a moment, what does God’s big picture look like? God creates beauty and life with goodness everywhere, but because of our sin, death and suffering, chaos and pain enter the world. So God sends His Son to save humanity at the cross. His work carries on through generations to mend broken hearts, to dry the tears from eyes, to put an end to injustice, and the most amazing thing about this is that He uses people to create His picture.
Not only is Mosaic the new name for our college group at the “Grace Place” (and one of the forms of art that fascinates me the most), it is also an incredible symbol of our lives with God. A mosaic is a picture often made out of little pieces of stone. Each rock has a color and a shape; alone the rock is merely a pebble, common and hardly noticeable. However, when the rock falls into the hands of a great artist creating a mosaic it finds its place in something far bigger than itself—a beautiful masterpiece that will have people marveling for years to come.
God’s mosaic is His Kingdom, His picture of goodness for the people of the world. He makes the picture by willing individuals who want to play their part. There is no most important piece in a mosaic. Each piece needs to play its own role that God designed it to play. If one piece decides to try to go somewhere else, or fall out for a time the picture is incomplete.
The phase that our group Mosaic has embraced as our own is “Finding Our Place in God’s Picture.” This is a statement of faith. Faith that God want to use us, that He has a place for us. Faith that He will reveal to us the role He wants to play, and then faith that God will give us the courage to play our part in His picture no matter what the cost.
So I ask you today. What is your place in God’s picture as it relates to the world . . . our nation . . . Tigard . . . your work place . . . our church? Are you living out what God desires you to do? If not, why not? I would love to talk with you in the days ahead. Please call me for e-mail me so that we can help each other find our place in God’s picture. Never forget that you have a place in God’s picture, there is a specific role that God wants you to play at our church and in our culture. Without you, God’s picture will always be incomplete.

With gratitude,

Pastor Jon

On Belay?

God created us to be incomplete as individuals.

Not because of the fall, or sin, or evil, but by design incomplete. Let’s just let that sink in for a moment.

Why would God value incompleteness over completeness enough to create that way? Remember, God, after creating the world and all that is in it, looked at it and said it was “good,” not “perfect”-- just “good.” Why?

With perfection the best you can do is be static. If you change there is only one way you can go. With good we have a great start, and we also have somewhere to go. We can grow and change and the process of that is celebrated and pleasing to God.

On a tangent, this is why if I had a magic button to press that would fix all of our parking and building needs for the next 20 years, I would not press it (though I would be very tempted). Why? Because the end result is not the point. It is the process of achieving the end result that God cares about.

In the end if we choose to spend a million dollars or more on parking and buildings, those buildings will just end up being destroyed along with the earth sooner or later, but God’s working in our hearts though the process of giving, and caring, and changing is what will last an eternity, and make a difference in our neighbors’ eternity.

Back to my original question . . . Why would God want to create us incomplete? Here is my best shot at it. He wants us to need Him, and need others to find fulfillment in this life.

Throughout history people have realized they need a relationship with God to find completeness. About 400 A.D. St. Augustine put it this way, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” And in recent days Plumb sings, “There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us and the restless soul is searching.”

But it is not just God we need to find fulfillment and be made complete. God also made us to need each other. Without other people, we can’t love, give, serve, or do any of the things that please God the most.

In my college years I developed a love for rock climbing. I spent way too much money buying gear, way too much time thinking and dreaming about climbing, and would climb everything insight. There is nothing quite like the feeling of looking straight down hundreds of feet above the ground with nothing below you but the rocks that you climbed up. It is a rush of fear, excitement, and accomplishment all at one moment.

I bring this up because rock climbing has become one of the images that comes to mind when I think of Linking-up. When you climb you are attached to other people so that when you fall they will catch you. Notice I did not say if you fall. Falling is a part of rock climbing just as falling is a part of life. You can not climb and not eventually fall, just as you can not live and not eventually fall. The difference is whether you will have somebody you are linked-up with to catch you before you hit the bottom. When life hits you the hardest, those who are linked-up in the church are the ones that will be “broken, but not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned.”

But being linked-up with people when you are climbing is not just for the times you fall, but also for the times you succeed or need encouragement. If you “on-site” (succeed at a climb on your first attempt without ever having climbed it before) an amazing climb you need someone there to cheer you on and rejoice with you; in the same way you need people around you to share your joys and successes of life. Encouragement can also make all the difference as to whether you give up and say it was too hard, or whether you finish the climb and succeed. There are many times I would have walked away from a climb if it wasn’t for my friends having the confidence in me that I could do it.

Finally, in climbing you can accomplish so much more together than you can apart. If the Kingdom of God was left up to one man or woman, it would fall flat. When believers start working together to help people, we can make a real difference in this world.

I stopped my day today to think, pray, and find a way to put my passions on paper in hopes that somebody (possibly you) reading this article would made a decision to Link up (by Link-up, I mean make friends with a small group of believers that are focused on God’s purposes). By Linking up you will begin an exciting journey of finding completeness in God and your relationships with others. I pray you will take the leap of faith and see what God does.

Want to Link-up but aren’t sure how? Call me, I can help.

Here for you,

Pastor Jon

Can We Repair the Divot?

Often times I feel I am as good at theology as I am golf. Sure, every once and a while I’ll hit a nice shot, but most of my game consists of chasing the ball from one side of the course to the other trying to find that ever elusive hole. I hit trees, get stuck in sand traps, lose balls in water, lose balls out of bounds, lose balls out of my bag I forgot to zip up, and as you might expect my divots can go farther than my Dunlop (not that I use their golf balls, I was just enticed by the alliteration), which assumes I don’t miss the ball altogether (which I do).

Like theology, my most enjoyable times on the course are when I forget about trying to get the ball in the hole, take a step back, and look at the surroundings. The blueness of the sky, majestic peaks covered with snow, truly the greenest grass on earth, creeks babbling to ponds, the gentle breeze across my face, with the warmth of the sun on my back, all of which leads me to worship. If I take a step back from understanding theology completely, and just looking at the surroundings I am led to worship. My moment, however, is interrupted by someone yelling at me to keep moving so we don’t have to let the next guy play through . . . so life and theology must be a balance between stepping back to worship, and trying to finish the game by getting the ball in the hole.

The analogy could continue numerous ways, but let’s move on as there is something I am getting at: stay with me. Divots are flying, and I am not sure how to replace the fairway . . . let me explain.

The last few months I have asked several groups of people “How does the world see Christians?” All of the responses relay a similar theme. Hypocritical, judgmental, holier than thou, stuffy, etc . . . Whether that is a fair assessment or not, I think it is an accurate assessment of how much of the non-believing world sees Christians.

Two main things concern me. First, Jesus’ words from John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” There is something about the way Christians should love, that people will look in from the outside with awe, and think the only thing that could explain this type of love is that they are disciples of Jesus.

Am I missing something here? Why isn’t that our experience? Was Jesus speaking the truth? (Ok, that was a dumb question.)
How have we gotten to the place where the world can spot a Christian a mile away not because of our love, but because of hypocrisy and readiness to cast the first stone? Something is wrong.

As I consider that question I am led to the second thing that concerns me. Watching The Passion of the Christ made me realize that Jesus lived out His own words in Matthew 5 “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus did that to the fullest extent possible with the people who were enjoying killing Him, and He was anything but a hypocrite. I must surrender to this conclusion, “What the world says about me is true.” I am a hypocrite, I am judgmental. It doesn’t take anything more than someone cutting me off in traffic, or moving my golf ball accidentally for me to lose my love, never mind the tougher issues of life. At that moment in the theater I felt like standing up and repenting in front of all those people; apologizing for being such an awful reflection of Christ. And I continue wanting to change, wanting to replace the divots that have made the once green fairway look pretty ugly. Who would want to play on this golf course?

So here we are together at the newsletter thinking about our purpose, “To love God, and love others to God.” If we start seeking to deeply love every person we come in contact with whether it is the first time we meet them, whether they are a friend or an enemy, could we change the way the people of Tigard see Christians? Could we actually love enough, with God’s grace, that we could change the culture, and demonstrate the truth of Jesus’ words . . . that we would be known for our love?

I must admit that this is a loving church, probably the most loving church I have ever been to, but I think we have a long way to go to be able to truly change our culture with love. So let’s brainstorm together. Does this reality disturb you as it does me? Do you think we need to change? How can we change? To answer those questions, or to respond to this article go to http://www.tigardfirstbaptist.com/board/ click on “Can We Repair the Divot?” and let’s start the conversation.

With an eagerness to become more Christlike as a community,

Pastor Jon


I plan to post articles that I have written for our church news letter here.