Saturday, August 03, 2013

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Can a Muslim write a book about the historical Jesus?  Of course, but it should come as no surprise that as a practicing Muslim his conclusion would be that Jesus did not rise from the dead, for no Muslim would dare make that profession let alone believe it lest they be excommunicated from Islam with a bounty on their head.  The hype surrounding Reza Aslan’s recent book release entitled “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” is just hype.  There is simply too much evidence pointing to a literal, bodily, and historical resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  Any book on Jesus that refuses to acknowledge the historical claims of the resurrection is suspect.  Plus I find it kind of interesting and a bit pretentious that the artistic portrait of Jesus on the book cover comes awfully close to resembling the author.  There are simply too many other great books about the historical Jesus to read that will better inform you, starting with the four Gospels of the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
        

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Communion at the Cross

I tried something new today after I preached from Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ…”  We had some of the communion elements placed on the arms of the cross and I invited those who wanted to come to the cross and take the elements as a way of symbolically identifying our crucifixion with Christ.  Even though not everyone came to the cross, many did.  It was a powerful communion service and one that I will continue during Lent hereafter.  Thank you to Caleb for most of the pictures.  You can hear the audio of the March 10, 2013 message here -  http://www.springfieldchurch.org/streaming.html.














Thursday, March 07, 2013

Who's On Your Throne?

This simple thought came to me this morning - even as the Cardinals are gathering in Rome for the conclave to decide who will be the next person to sit on the Papal throne, each of us must have our own personal conclaves within ourselves to decide who will sit on the throne of our lives.  Will we continue to occupy that all important seat with our selfish ambitions, motives, desires, and agendas, or will we allow Christ to take His rightful place on the throne as Lord and King who alone rules and governs our lives? 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Eternal Love

With today being Valentine’s Day, hopefully you’ll be the recipient of someone’s “love.”  Whether you are showered with flowers, chocolate, a greeting card, or even a simple, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” I hope you “feel” the love today.  But more important than the fleeting commercialization of a particular day on the calendar in which billions of dollars will be spent to put “love” on display, is the inexhaustible and eternal divine love of God for you.  The Bible verse I always think of on Valentine’s Day is the amazing verse in Jeremiah 31:3 in which God says to His people, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”  The unfathomable mysteries of God, according to the Bible, can be condensed into three profound words, “God is love” (I John 4:8b).  So whether you “feel” the love today or you’re just not feeling it, know this as an indisputable and undeniable fact – you are exceedingly loved by God, and not just today, but every day!        

Monday, January 07, 2013

First Sunday of 2013


It’s Monday evening and I’m still mulling over the incredible worship service we had yesterday in church, the first service of the New Year 2013.  We’ve had great services all throughout 2012, but yesterday God broke through in an even more powerful way that I didn’t even get to preach.  I was all ready to go with a brand new series that I’m excited to preach, but the Spirit of God had other things in mind.  And I suppose what really impressed me the most was how yesterday leader after leader in our church stood and shared some amazing things, how God has been speaking to them and directing them.  I’m so grateful to see  leaders raised up who are seeking to truly know the mind of Christ.  God has blessed us with Godly leaders who are truly walking in the Spirit of God.  If yesterday was any indication of what God is doing in our church, we are in for a most amazing year!        

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What Child Is This?


The congregation I first served before I moved to Oregon asked me to write a devotional for an Advent booklet they are putting together this year.  I am honored that they would ask me.  Renee and I had four wonderful years in Boulder with truly Godly people who loved unconditionally!  Here is what I shared with them and with you!  


“What Child Is This?”
Advent 2012 Devotional
John M. Hanna
Pastor, South Broadway Church of the Nazarene, Boulder, CO (1998 - 2002)
Pastor, Springfield First Church of the Nazarene, Springfield, OR (2002 - present)

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping,
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary!

There would be no Christmas without the Christ child.  It is both a mystery and a paradox that the Creator God of the universe would empty and humble Himself as an infant.  As a pastor, one of the highest joys of the ministry is to hold in my arms an infant and either dedicate or baptize him or her, as I have another dedication scheduled in just a few weeks (could there be a better time to dedicate a baby than Advent?).  And every single time I hold a baby I marvel at the miracle of new life, precious life, irreplaceable life.  I see something of the Divine in these babies as I’m reminded that we are all created in the Imago Dei, the image of God.  All life is irrevocably invaluable, from the womb to the tomb. 

Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The Cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary!

In the Incarnation (the Word made flesh) Jesus experienced the whole panorama of life, indeed from the womb to the tomb.  Jesus experienced the totality of humanity, for He Himself, while fully God, was also fully human.  Another mystery and paradox, that the Son of God was also the son of Mary – God’s advocate on our behalf while advocating on our behalf to the Father! 

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him!
The King of Kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him!
Raise, raise the song on high!
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy!  Joy!  For Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary!

The birth of any child is reason to celebrate!  I’ve recently had a number of friends welcome into the world their first child, and if there was any reason for joy, this is it!  I was at the birth of each of my boys and will never forget those memorable occasions!  And if the birth of our children is the cause of great joy for us, indeed, it must be “joy, joy for Christ is born!”  What child is this?  He is God become a child, so that through His life, from Mary’s womb to a borrowed tomb (and subsequently the resurrected life), we might become the children of God!  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Summer 2012

I can't believe how quickly summer 2012 passed us by.  We had a great summer and I trust you did as well. Here are just a couple of pictures from our fun trip to Northern Idaho where we stayed in a cabin and had a blast riding ATV's, hiking, and of course fishing!  Micah caught his very first fish ever (over all he caught 5 trout and Caleb caught 2).  They helped clean and cook the fish and we had delicious fish tacos for lunch one day!




Monday, July 02, 2012

New Mow Company in Town!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Father's Day Weekend


What a great start to our Father’s Day weekend!  Congratulations to all our students who are now on summer break!  The 24 hour youth group marathon is off to a great start.  The teens in the picture have just made their own pizzas at the church and are now on their way to Splash for a couple of hours of swimming!  By the way, all dads in church on Father’s Day will receive a gift of appreciation!


Friday, March 30, 2012

Awesome April 2012


We continue to have great worship services at church!  Come worship with us!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nail it to the cross!

The sermon series which I started on Christmas Day that is taking us all the way to Easter Sunday (a 16 week survey of the mission, ministry, and message of Jesus) has been keeping me pretty busy as we continue to have remarkable worship services at church (dare I say revival is happening?).  I’ve also been teaching Spiritual Formation, Biblical Interpretation, and Christian Service for Nazarene Bible College, as well as getting ready to take in about a dozen new members in church, so I haven’t had much time lately to blog.  Today at church we had another remarkable service.  After the photo below was taken, other things were nailed to the cross including marijuana in a baggie and a needle.  God is moving in our church and in our community as never before!  You can hear the message @ www.springfieldchurch.org/streaming.html.  Have a great week, and if you don't have a home church, come worship with us!

Monday, January 02, 2012

When you start well...

When you start a race off well, you’ll mostly likely end well!  Well, our church started the New Year off excellently even as we finished 2011 well with the most moving Christmas Eve Service and a wonderful Christmas Day worship service!  I just had to post on here after such a great day yesterday to begin the New Year!  Our family prayer time with our wonderful and inspiring prayer coordinator Judith was such a great time, our new Sunday School emphasis went very well (thank you to all you Sunday School teachers!), a Spirit filled Sunday morning service (thank you Tim and worship team!), Sunday evening prayer and praise service (thank you Pete Hohmann guest worship leader from Bay Area Nazarene Church, Tim, worship team, Judith, Karen, Cody), great potluck (thank you to all who helped), and the powerful movie “Courageous.”  What an amazing day!  The only negative thing that happened was that Renee’s Kansas City Chiefs beat my Denver Broncos, but that’s ok as the Chiefs get to watch the Broncos in the playoffs in the comfort of their living rooms!  Thank you to everyone who fulfilled their role in church so graciously!  We are definitely off to a great start!    

Friday, December 02, 2011

Christmas 2011

We’ve been having great services at church all year long and Christmas time is no exception!  Last Sunday Caleb and I began our “Christmas in the 10 / 40 Window” series and had such a great response as well as having a lot of fun with it!  As we continue in this special series for this coming Sunday, last night my boys and I went to various homes in Springfield trying to give away $5 to help with the electricity bill for their Christmas lights.  We had a great time visiting about half a dozen random homes but here is just one -                            -                                          video
Would love to see you this Sunday at 10:30 am at www.springfieldchurch.org

Friday, November 04, 2011

Halloween Alternative

Thank you to all of you who showed up and helped with the Halloween alternative.  One of the bad things about our church being tucked away in a residential area is that we have very poor visibility and not very many people outside of the immediate area knowing that the wonderful Springfield First Church of the Nazarene is on the corner of 18th and E.  One of the benefits of being situated in a residential area is that we can have greater interaction with our immediate neighbors like we had on Monday night!  Also thank you to Brad for providing all those bales of hay for the hay towers.  It was a hit with the neighborhood kids!  Here’s Caleb in his football outfit and Renee dressed either as Cleopatra or some sort of angelic being LOL!  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Soccer 2011

I’ve had the best time coaching 9 kindergarteners (3 aren’t in the picture) the last couple of weeks. I wasn’t expecting to coach when we signed Micah up for soccer, but through an odd series of events, I became the coach and we’ve been having a blast. Our last game is this Sunday afternoon. Three cheers for “The Blue Man Group”, original I know, but it was either that or "The Zombie Brain Eaters" (that’s what happens if you suggest kindergarten boys pick a team name!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pastor's Retreat in Newport, OR

Here are some pictures I took of the Oregon coast while Renee and I were at our annual Pastor's Retreat in Newport two weeks ago.  The amazing thing about these pictures is that they were taken simply on my new Samsung phone, pretty amazing quality for a cell phone I think.






Friday, September 23, 2011

A New Season

On this first day of autumn 2011, I’m asking myself, “Wow! Where did the summer go?” It’s been a most blessed and wonderful summer with many great things happening. Our family had a nice vacation in southern California, I taught a course for Nazarene Bible College and just began another course this week. I had the privilege of baptizing my two sons and will have the blessing of baptizing my newborn nephew in a couple of weeks. Caleb starting playing full contact football and Micah is playing soccer again. Both boys are off to a great start in school with Micah loving kindergarten. My wife Renee continues to become more beautiful and life is good because God is good. The church I pastor has never been healthier and exciting and we are experiencing the blessings of God in unprecedented ways!

I want to encourage you to find your strength in the One who has been faithful since the beginning of time! This summer I preached a series on the strength of God and I and my congregation were reminded of just how strong and faithful God is. May you too find strength, peace, and blessing as we enter the fall season! It’s a new season. What’s behind us is indeed behind us and we look forward to all that God has in store! It can be a new season in your life too! Trust God, walk with Him, talk to Him, look to Him, and as the leaves begin to change color, trust that God will begin to change the dire circumstances you are facing into blessings beyond what you even thought was possible, for with Him all things are possible! It’s a new season!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Father's Day Weekend

What a jam packed week!  It all began with the last day of school for the boys -

My little big guy Micah graduated from preschool and is looking forward to elementary school!

Caleb had an excellent 4th grade and is looking forward to his last year of elementary school!


Ready for a fun packed summer!


We helped our new youth pastor and family unload the moving truck!


Renee and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary!!

We are also having a School's Out Summer's In BBQ Lunch Party at the church on Saturday, June 18th beginning at 11:00 am.  There will be lots of food, fun, and games as we kick summer 2011 into high gear!

Sunday, June 19th, we officially welcome our new youth pastor Lori Sutton and her kids Cody and Nichole to our church.  They are so excited to be part of our church and we are equally excited to have them.  After church, we will have an all church lunch and some special surprises as we welcome them to Springfield!

Sunday, June 19th is also Father's Day and all the guys in church will get a pretty cool Father's Day gift of appreciation!  It's a jam packed weekend and we're excited about what God is doing! 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let's Make a Deal

If you attend our church you may remember Mark who attended while he was living here.  He's since moved to southern California to train for the Olympics.  I got a text from him yesterday telling me he was on CBS.  He's the second contestant on the show that aired Wednesday, May 25th and you'll have to see how he did.  Mark told me he'll be in church Sunday, June 5th to visit us and it will be good to see him again.  He's a great young man and my boys admire him.  We hung out at his place one afternoon last summer and had a great time.  Here's the link to the show as I think you'll enjoy -

http://www.cbs.com/daytime/lets_make_a_deal/video/?pid=RPvfPndxXMLpB1DcTvzDMNo_G1e_R4aD&vs=Default&play=true

Monday, May 23, 2011

Can We Learn From Harold Camping?

I’m going to be careful here because as I mentioned in my previous “Love Wins” post I am quite conscientious of blaspheming the Holy Spirit as God can still work through idiocy. But one of the important things we can learn from Harold Camping is that people will still blindly follow anyone who gives the appearance of speaking authoritatively. This in spite of the fact that Camping made himself even more important than Jesus by claiming to know the day and the hour of the end of the age when Jesus Himself said He didn’t know. This also in spite of the fact that Camping has a history of misleading people.

The whole end of the world debacle instigated by Camping is a vivid reminder that we must choose very carefully who we will listen to and follow, especially when it comes to religious and theological matters. And this stuff happens right here in our own backyard. Nearly three years ago a group of about 30 people also blindly went to hear another charlatan named Eric Barger give a “seminar“ here in Eugene where he also presented misleading information under the guise of “truth”. This in spite of the fact that he has no formal religious or theological education, an important trait shared with Camping. Would you go to a “doctor” who has no formal medical training? Would you fly in an airplane with a “pilot” who has no formal flight training? And yet why do people flock to religious swindlers for matters as significant as faith? Well, these swindlers are very clever when it comes to manipulation and many people are undiscerning to their tactics. These swindlers are also making a lot of money (Camping is reportedly a millionaire) at the expense of unsuspecting people who are looking for “answers”.

I want you to know that religion and the ability to live by faith is a great endeavor. And yet like any other discipline, religion has its abusers who do harm to people rather than good. Don’t be disheartened by religious swindlers who have made careers of misusing religion for ulterior motives. For every religious swindler deceiving people there are a hundred faithful pastors and teachers who truly want God’s best for you. My own denomination, the Church of the Nazarene, has a long and arduous educational process that pastors in training must adhere to in learning to correctly interpret and apply the message of the Bible. A person cannot be ordained as a minister in our church without completing this vigorous process which also includes yearly interviews, mentoring, and continuing educational requirements. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Matters of faith and spirituality are that important.

It can be easy to discount religion and the wonderful message of the Bible altogether after what Harold Camping and his followers have so publically and embarrassingly gone through. But I’m also confident that readers of this blog are intelligent enough to not lump all people of faith with Camping and his group. What Harold Camping can teach us is that we must be very careful who teaches us and who we listen to. What Harold Camping himself can also learn, even at 89 years of age, is that it’s not too late to humble yourself, admit you were terribly wrong, and revisit the message of the Bible but this time not with a doomsday mentality, but with an understanding that God loves the world and wants to save the world, not destroy it.

I do feel sorry for Camping and find myself praying for him -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYftvfyc9Gs&feature=player_embedded

By the way, if there's enough interest, I'd be happy to facilitate a study group here in the area on how we can intelligently approach and try to understand the Bible's message of Christ's return to earth and God's desire to restore creation and not destory it.  Email me at jhanna@springfieldchurch.org if you are interested. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter Sunday 2011 Reflections

As I reflect on Easter Sunday 2011 at Springfield Church, I am in awe of the resurrection power of Christ at work in His church!  The congregation was so moved by the special choir cantata that told the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in song.  If you would like a CD of the choir cantata from Easter Sunday, please let Karen in the church office know.
The beautiful banquet table that Mary Ellen prepared for us to help illustrate my sermon was such a powerful reminder of the great banquet table that God has prepared for His children in the age to come.  If you would like to hear my Easter 2011 sermon, you can click the following link – http://springfieldchurch.org/audio/04242011.html

I had the privilege of baptizing nearly a dozen people on Easter Sunday!  I felt like John the Baptist!  I suppose I was / am John the Baptist!  We rejoice with those who made that important and public commitment of water baptism and their resolve to follow Jesus all the days of their life!  Thank you to all who made not only our Easter Sunday a special and meaningful one, but for your daily and faithful commitment to Christ and His church!   

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

My apologies to the 2 of you who follow my blog!!  I hadn't realized it's been two months since my last entry.  I've been quite busy with many exciting things going on!  And we are gearing up for a great Easter service at Springfield Church this Sunday, April 24th.  Several will be baptized and there will also be an Easter egg hunt for all the kids after the worship service. We'd love to have you join us for breakfast at 9:30 am and worship at 10:30 am.  It is the bodily resurrection of Christ that gives us the greatest hope!  

Friday, February 04, 2011

Revolution in the Middle East

As the birthplace of my parents and a country I visited when I was seven years old, I’ve been watching the situation in Egypt unfold with great interest along with the entire world. Of monumental consequence is just what will happen in the most populous, perhaps most influential country in the Middle East. From my perspective, the revolution taking place is a clash between three parties – a predominately younger generation no longer content living in stifled economic and politically corrupt conditions; the state government wanting to continue to hold on to power; and Islamic extremists who would love nothing more than to radicalize Egypt for religious and political purposes in the region and beyond.

Revolution isn’t necessarily bad. As Americans we celebrate our own revolution from Great Britain which birthed the greatest nation in history. The problem with revolutions is that they are bloody, messy, and rarely peaceful and orderly. Even the greatest revolution in history by the greatest revolutionary of them all, Jesus of Nazareth, was quite gruesome and bloody. The difference between the divine revolution of Jesus and the revolutions of world history is that Jesus allowed His own blood to be spilled than seek to spill the blood of any other.

I would ask that you please pray for the evolving situation in Egypt in seven very specific ways -

• Pray that the political revolution that has erupted in Egypt will be resolved peacefully with an end to all violence

• Pray that members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic radicals will fail in their bid to take over the Egyptian government

• Pray that Palestinian terrorists are not able to take advantage of the unrest in Egypt to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip through tunnels under the Egyptian-Gaza border

• Pray that the global financial crisis will not be worsened by the unrest and uncertainty in the Middle East

• Pray for the peace of Israel and an end to terrorism

• Pray for the safety of Christians in Egypt and all throughout the Middle East

• Pray for the Obama Administration and the State Department as they seek diplomatic resolution

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Amazing John Wesley

Two great friends of mine joined myself and retired Fuller professor Dr. H. Newton Malony for lunch this week discussing the new release of his latest book “The Amazing John Wesley: An Unusual Look at an Uncommon Life.” Dr. Malony, who specializes in clinical psychology and the psychology of religion, takes a look at the practical aspects of Wesley’s life, particularly his post-Aldersgate activities and interests that are not as well known to most people as Wesley’s sermons and correspondence are. For example, had Wesley not been clergy, in all likelihood he would have been a physician as he took immense interest in caring for the poor especially since he believed they were being neglected by doctors at the time who wanted compensation for their services. This is a very good book for those who are interested in reading about a truly great man in John Wesley even while being most certainly human as Dr. Malony points in his chapter entitled “John Wesley the Romantic.” I’d like to thank Dr. Malony for joining us in staff meeting (as a clinical psychologist he was able to straighten us out, well, all except for Tim) and sharing many great insights with us on a variety of issues including his time in Oxford teaching and researching.

You can order the book here for a very reasonable price –

http://www.amazon.com/Amazing-John-Wesley-Unusual-Uncommon/dp/1606570927/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1295593054&sr=8-1

Friday, December 10, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

With the University of Oregon Ducks going undefeated for the first time in their history, winning the PAC-10, and playing in the BCS National Championship game for the first time ever against Auburn in Glendale, Arizona on January 10, 2011, our Duck rooting family would like to wish your family a FANtastic Christmas!









Friday, November 19, 2010

Many Are Blessed, Few Are Thankful

There’s an interesting story in the Gospel of Luke that vividly portrays what true thanksgiving is to be about. Here’s the story:

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

Simply by virtue of living in the United States of America there’s little doubt that we are a blessed people. However you define “blessed” we are indeed blessed. And yet so few are truly thankful. Those of us who are clergy and others in helping professions see it more frequently - people who receive what they are after only to demonstrate a lack of gratitude. I can’t even begin to recount how many people I’ve prayed with and for to receive that job they were after, or physical healing, or some type of special blessing, or whatever, only to be like the nine lepers who demonstrated ingratitude. Yet that’s the point of this story, that the majority of people simply don’t understand that the reward is not in receiving blessing but in praising and thanking God. It will completely revolutionize your life when you consistently live as the one leper who returned and “threw himself as Jesus’ feet and thanked him.”

This type of gratitude and thanksgiving comes from a spiritually disciplined and mature individual who has learned the joy in giving God thanks in all things and in all situations.  As the apostle Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, "Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things.  We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us because we do not give thanks for daily gifts."  This Thanksgiving and beyond, be thankful, be very thankful, and practice intentional, continuous thanksgiving in all circumstances because there’s something in the act of praising and giving thanks to God that makes us well.

Friday, October 29, 2010

From Gory to Glory: Redeeming Halloween

Every year at the end of October I find myself asking the following question, “What to do with Halloween?” As a follower of Jesus and as a parent it’s something of a dilemma I find myself in. My boys, as most children, want to participate in the fun activities that accompany Halloween, not to mention all the goodies and candy that comes with it. Yet realizing the pagan even occult overtones surrounding the Halloween season, I am compelled to do my best to protect their young and impressionable hearts and minds as well as my own. Just what are we to do with this quandary that Halloween presents?

I think we learn to do with Halloween what God does with everything else in this world – redeem it. A significant aspect of redemption is the concept of exchange. So for example, you can redeem a check or a bond in exchange for money. In Christian theology, Jesus Christ redeemed or exchanged His life by dying on the cross on our behalf so that we might live. And in the case of Halloween, I believe we can redeem all the blood, fright, gore, and death in exchange for light, peace, glory, and life.

We do this by not fixating on the evil and grotesque aspects of what Halloween represents but by teaching our kids to keep things in perspective. Halloween this year (2010) just so happens to fall on a Sunday. So when my boys excitedly said today, “Sunday is Halloween,” I reminded them that Sunday is first and foremost the Lord’s Day and second, it’s Reformation Sunday. We redeem Halloween by exchanging the fright of the season for the light of Christ and the gory costumes for the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17).

In Isaiah 47:4, we read, “Our Redeemer - the LORD Almighty is His name.” And if God in Christ Jesus has redeemed us from the macabre that Halloween represents, then I don’t think we ought to focus on what we’ve been redeemed from and instead focus on Who our redeemer is!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Oregon Shouldn’t Be # 1

Undoubtedly the most exciting thing in recent memory (if ever)  to happen in these parts where I currently live is that the University of Oregon Ducks football team, for the first time in school history, is the number # 1 ranked college football team in the nation.  That’s very big news, especially around here where Oregon has no pro team and the closest NFL market is Seattle (not a bad team, just not the Broncos).  People around here are going nuts, especially after last night’s big 60 – 13 win at home against UCLA which solidified Oregon’s # 1 ranking.  Everyone (it seems) is wearing Duck memorabilia.  Everyone (it seems) is talking about the Ducks.  If my mind isn’t playing tricks on me, it seems that people are even making quacking noises as part of their “normal” conversation.  
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of football.  I’m not a fanatic or anything like that.  You won’t see me shirtless (the TV networks have requested that I keep my clothing on) with my face painted at a game anytime soon but I, like many Americans, enjoy keeping up with the game.  I grew up in Denver during the John Elway (third highest passer in NFL history with 51,475 yards) era so I understand very well the hype and hysteria that goes with football.  I love a good nail biter as well as a blowout, so I write this as a fan of football as well as a menace in fantasy football leagues.

I’m certainly not the first to comment on how football has become something of a “religion” in America.  If an idol can be defined as an object of worship, football in America for many people has become an idol.  That’s a problem, especially when professional athletes are making disgustingly exuberant amounts of money while the majority of Americans struggle paycheck to paycheck.  It becomes a bigger problem when football becomes sacrilegious.  For example, somehow (I think it was given to us) Renee and I came across this kids Duck shirt promoting Autzen Stadium that reads, “Let us bow our heads and play.”

Needless to say, that bothered us a bit and our five year old won’t be wearing that.  I don’t think that’s the message we ought to be sending our kids.  Oregon, or any team for that matter, shouldn’t be # 1 in our lives.  Jesus Christ needs to be # 1.  He ought to take preeminence above anyone and anything else!  He is the One we worship, He is the One we celebrate, He is the One we serve.  No quarterback gave his life to save yours.  No fullback has ever answered your desperate prayer.  No linebacker ever worked the miraculous in your life.  If Americans were as committed to Jesus Christ as we are to football, we’d be well on our way toward becoming a Christian nation once again.  If we gave as much money to missions or compassionate ministries as we spend at concession stands, we’d certainly be making a positive difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate.  If we were as faithful to our churches through thick and thin as we were to our favorite football team through their highs and lows, it would certainly speak volumes of our faithfulness to the Lord.  If we were as passionate about faith as we are about football, I know with certainty that we would begin to experience the blessings of God in our lives.  There is nothing wrong with football (unless of course you cheer for the Raiders and the Cowboys) so long as football or anything else for that matter does not take the supremacy in our lives that ought to be rightly reserved for Christ and Christ alone!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Crash Course on the First Amendment

I’m not a politician or an attorney, but as an ordained minister and a citizen of the United States, I am interested in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights particularly because the first half of it deals with religion. I’ve also come to realize that there is a great deal of misconstrued information and sheer ignorance about the First Amendment that has resulted in a hyper reactive fear of even talking about religion in the public square. The result has been that many people of faith, even ministerial colleagues and clergy, are backing away from talking about faith because of the infamous “separation of church and state” quotation, a Jeffersonian phrase that appears no where in the United States Constitution. I write this brief article to remind (and in some cases to inform) both the religious as well as the irreligious what the First Amendment is about. The Amendment in its entirety reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Simply put, the First Amendment prevents the establishment of a national religion, or a state church. It is NOT illegal or unconstitutional to talk about faith in the public square, which includes schools or any other civil establishment. It is our Constitutional right to be able to express thoughts about faith given that the First Amendment actually guarantees protection of freedom of speech. It is ironic that those who decry “separation of church and state” or “separation of church and public schools” attempting to use the First Amendment do so not only without any Constitutional backing but also by attempting to suppress the very freedom of speech that the Amendment protects. I realize full well that there are various nuances of interpretation as well as decades of judicial precedent that courts have accumulated over the years, but it still all comes back to what is very clearly stated in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Know your rights, know your freedoms, and above all, do not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Monday, October 04, 2010

10/10/10

For my blog this week, I'm reposting my weekly email to members and friends of our church!

Good Monday morning all! I just wanted to give you a final update on what happened at church all week. We just concluded a week long campaign with The Strength Team that involved four school assemblies in three Springfield elementary schools with approx. 700 students, 5 nights of services with over 600 in attendance, 88 people making first time commitments to Christ and many more rededicating their life to Christ. It was the most significant event in the 61 year history of the Springfield Church. I want to say thank you to everyone who supported this evangelistic campaign including the church board, ministry leaders, and the many of you who helped every night in various ways. God is so good and proves Himself faithful time and again! Our church has never been healthier and we are praying for God to use us in even greater ways to impact Springfield and beyond for Christ and we know that will happen! The mission of our church is to "Love People into God's Family" and this week I couldn't be prouder of my church family who loved dozens into God's family!

I’ll remind you later in the week, but this coming Sunday, October 10, 2010 is our special 10/10/10 service. I am asking you to pray for 10 of your friends, co workers, family, etc. who need to know and walk with Jesus. I am challenging you to invite 10 unchurched friends with you to church this Sunday. Because of 10/10/10, church will begin at 10:10 am, Tim and the worship team will lead us in 10 great worship songs, and then my son Caleb, who in 10 months will be 10 years old, will help me preach an inspiring and encouraging message entitled, “God’s Top 10 List for Your Life.”

Let me leave you with this verse I read this morning from Isaiah 44:22. The Lord is speaking to His people and He says this, “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me for I have redeemed you.”

Where I live, often times in the morning there is a heavy mist that covers the beautiful hills directly behind our house. But by mid morning, that mist is completely gone and I can see the beauty of the hills once again. And what God is saying is that by His grace He has swept away our sins so that we can see His glory and be in right relationship with Him and others. And because of that, those who have strayed are to return. God is always seeking to restore what sin has destroyed. Sin tears apart, but God’s grace always restores! Live in that awesome reality this week! Have a great week!

Love, Pastor John