February 2011

Stewardship and Mission

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The last two years have been a challenge for every local church, for every district, and for the Church of the Nazarene at large. Tight budgets, families losing jobs and homes, and businesses struggling for survival have caused local churches to tighten their belts, rearrange their priorities, and make some hard decisions about programming and ministry.

Buildings constructed and properties purchased during a growing economy have put great stress on churches and districts in areas where whole industries and businesses have collapsed and disappeared.

Living In the Tension

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I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22b).

A few weeks ago I was wrestling with 1 Corinthians 9, admiring how Paul could craft practical wisdom in concise ways. I was writing a sermon series on simplicity and trying to grasp the deeper truths present, but they were elusive to my limited mind. It is ironic that simplicity can be so complicated.

Bubble Christians

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Hanoi is a growing destination for tourists who sing, "I've been everywhere, man." Tourists cruise from the airport to their modern hotels and to selected points of interest "protected" in a bubble—a gigantic 44-passenger bus with clean restrooms, air conditioning, and comfortable reclining seats to facilitate naps between stops. Wide windows offer numerous "photo/video" opportunities that will amaze the folks back home.

Simplicity: The Other Side of Complexity

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Victor Peters was well into semi-retirement as a part-time staff member when I became pastor of Los Angeles First Church of the Nazarene nearly 30 years ago*. I was only 32 at the time and the rest of the staff members were about my age. The other young staffers and I set out to solve the tough problems of the world, especially our world in Los Angeles—complex problems, unsolvable perhaps.

Q&A: What Did Wesley Mean by "Catholic Spirit?"

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Q: Can you explain what John Wesley meant when he referenced a "catholic spirit?"

A: Before we can answer the question, we need to get a possible misunderstanding out of the way- it has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church. The word "catholic" derives from a Greek word meaning "on the whole" or "in general." A good current English translation for the word as Wesley meant it is "all embracing."

Level?

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More than a thousand years ago, inhabitants of what is now the Beni Province of Bolivia developed a culture that was technologically advanced. They constructed causeways running straight as a rifle shot and canals for transportation and communication. Systems of dikes and mounds for building sites arose. Zigzagging fences for corralling fish sprang from their inventive minds. Towns were spacious and planned well.

Beautiful Feet in Papua New Guinea

My heart was filled with excitement as we drove onto the Nazarene mission station in Kudjip, Papua New Guinea (PNG). I was eager to meet the missionaries who are living out the calling I feel has been placed on my own life. Also, I was filled with anticipation to meet the beautiful people of PNG who carry the Good News throughout their country.

Romans 10:15, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!" flashed into my mind. In the time I spent in PNG, these words from Scripture became reality for me.

Working Yourself Out of a Job

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The mantra of missions is to "work yourself out of a job." Unfortunately, in the Church of the Nazarene, we have not always successfully followed our mantra or reached this goal. We have had Nazarene missionaries in some countries of the world for more than 100 years!

However, when the Berlin Wall came down, the Church sent missionaries behind the Iron Curtain with great urgency, encouraging them to "work yourselves out of a job as fast as possible." No one could predict the stability of the window of opportunity. A change of wind, and the window could slam shut.

Q&A: Raising Stepchildren

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Q: Any tips to help us with our marriage as we cope with stepchildren? It seems that our relationship takes continued hits as we work through their issues.

A: You've raised one of the most challenging issues faced by remarried couples. Disagreements about how to raise and discipline the children are a leading cause of divorce after a couple remarries - ahead of financial worries, difficult ex-spouses, and a host of other pressure points.

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