Jan 31, 2013

What You Focus On is What You See

What you see is what you see...

Said in another way, what we focus on is what we see.

The PC(USA) is in a heap of mess.

That doesn't mean God is done with the PC(USA). It doesn't mean God's left the PC(USA). It doesn't mean that the PC(USA) is dead.

It just means that we're in a heap of mess.

We haven't had a single year of growth since the early 1960's. We have more funerals than we do baptisms...that's a bad sign.

When denominations and churches focus on it's own institutional survival, or how it can slow its decline, or the heap of mess it's in, rather than focusing on it's mission, on why the church or the denomination exists to begin with, we miss the point.

What you see is what you see.

What we focus on is what we truly see.

So what are you, your church, your denomination focused on? 

Jan 30, 2013

Unbelievable...PC(USA) to Penalize Pastors Who Make Less Than $100K

This is a post that was posted by PresbyLeaks and I am reblogging it. 
PC(USA) to Penalize Pastors Who Make <$100K
(…yes, that’s less than), but it’s not too late
Edit 9:20am: I have emailed Allison K. Seed (NE representative) with the information from the spreadsheet to ensure its accuracy. I will update again when I hear back.
Those of us who have paid attention to our denominational goings on—whether through pcusa.org, Facebook posts, or the petition on change.org—know that the Board of Pensions has proposed a change to the medical dues structure that would go into effect January 2014.The board members will vote on this change at their March meeting.
We know that the proposed change will have the employing church (or other employing organization for those or us in validated ministries) billed at 19% of effective salary. And we known that some members—those with dependents—will be required to pay a monthly premium above and beyond the 19% that’s billed to the church/employer. (This is in lieu of raising everyone’s dues to 25(ish)%, which is the flat across the board percentage needed to cover rising insurance costs.)
Those are the things we’ve known. But without a real-world breakdown that includes just what this extra monthly premium would be, what could those of us with dependents do but have general misgivings?
Well, if you’ve been worried about this, prepare to have your misgivings specified.
This afternoon I received a spreadsheet—a spreadsheet anonymously given to a colleague, and probably with good reason—that breaks down the new costs that will be passed on to plan members with dependents.
Quite frankly, it’s reprehensible. Here’s why.
You will negatively be affected if:
  • You and your spouse are covered, and you make less than$55,000 per year.
  • You and your children are covered, and you make less than$45,400 per year.
  • You and your family are covered—now here’s the really reprehensible part—and you make less than $95,000 per year.
That’s right. The more you make, the less the Board would have you cover on your own; the less you make, the more the Board would have you cover on your own. Sound backwards? It is.
You will only be charged a monthly premium if your effective salary is below a certain threshold–and the farther below that threshold your effective salary is, the more you pay.
The Board would have a single-income family, with a member who is paid their presbytery’s minimum (or even less), pay more out of pocket than a pastor at an affluent church, whose family is likewise covered, but who receives a salary of over $100,000.
I have more thoughts about this, but I’d like this post to remain family friendly. So instead…
Here are the details in narrative form with two hypothetical situations:
(The BOP loves using these to explain things, so why shouldn’t we?)
Situation A
  • Say there is a recent seminary graduate who has followed Christ’s call to Podunk Presbyterian Church of Backwoods, New York. (No, this isn’t me. I serve in a nice little college town, in a validated ministry beyond the bounds, as we say.)
  • PPC, being a small rural congregation, can only afford a part-time minister (we’ll be generous and say three-quarter time), and they offer a total effective salary of $36,567 (again, we’ll be generous for sake of argument).
  • Now we’ll say this minister has a spouse and child, and said spouse does not have benefits through his/her job—or more likely is currently looking for employment because their family has relocated to follow Christ’s call—so, naturally, the minister adds his/her spouse and child as dependents.
  • According to the spreadsheet, said minister (or said minister’s church, depending on their negotiated terms of call) would berequired to pay a premium of $414 per month for his/her family’s medical coverage in the proposed dues structure. (That’s $4,968 a year, or an additional 13.6% on top of the flat 19%, meaning the church and pastor combined pay the BOP an amount equal to 32.6% of the effective salary.)
Situation B
  • Now let’s say there’s a minister who has served for a number of years and has followed Christ’s call to Largetown Presbyterian Church in Well-to-do, Washington.
  • LPC, being located in an upper-middle/upper class suburb in an affluent part of the state, offers a total effective salary of $100,000.
  • Just like the minister in Situation A, the pastor of LPC has a spouse and child who are dependents on his/her medical coverage.
  • According to the spreadsheet, said minister (or said minister’s church, depending on their negotiated terms of call) would berequired to pay a premium of absolutely nothing per monthfor his/her family’s medical coverage in the proposed dues structure. (That’s $0 a year, or an additional 0% on top of the flat 19%, meaning the church and pastor combined pay the BOP 19% of the effective salary.)
In Summary:
If you make: $36,567,
then you pay: $414/month ($4,968/year),
and you and your church pay: 32.6%
If you make: $100,000,
then you pay: $0/month ($0/year),
and you and your church pay: 19%
Speaking of, that reminds me of joke:
Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
No, really, there’s no one serving our churches because they can’t afford to. Or they’ve left because the support structure has changed to care more about the top tier than the least of these and that’s not a church they want to be a part of.
Either way, I guess that’s not really funny, is it? I don’t think so. And I also don’t want that to be the future. I love the PC(USA). For all of it’s faults, I love our denomination, and I’ve seen it do wonderful things. This is not one of them. This is the opposite.
Is this leaving a sour taste in your mouth? I hope so. But don’t just fume in your head, or to your family, or even to your congregation. First, go back to the top and follow the link to the petition.  But then, make contact, seek clarification, ask why such a decision is being made that hurts rural and poor and struggling congregations and plan members (and their families) while asking nothing of larger and more affluent congregations and plan members.
Remember, this won’t officially be voted and approved until March.  So if you’re concerned, let them know.
Board of Pensions Regional Representatives
Ernesto BadilloRepresentative for Synods of the Trinity, the Covenant, and Boriquen
Clayton CobbRepresentative for the Synods of the Southwest and Southern California and HawaiiMark FreyRepresentative for Synods of Alaska-Northwest and the PacificKevin KeatonRepresentative for Synods of the Sun and the Rocky MountainsHelen LocklearRepresentative for Synod of the Mid-Atlantic and part of the Synod of Living Waters (KY, TN)Allison K. SeedRepresentative for Synod of the NortheastT. Clark SimmonsRepresentative for Synod of South Atlantic and part of the Synod of Living Waters (AL, MS)Position Currently Vacant, Representative for Synods of Lakes and Prairies, Mid-America, and Lincoln Trails

Jan 26, 2013

A Wedding and a Funeral

Not quite four weddings, but I will be conducting a funeral and a wedding today.

This morning, as we were eating our bowls of cereal, my little boy asked, "Where are you going daddy? Why are you wearing a suit?"

You see, I don't normally wear suits unless there's a wedding or a funeral. And today, I will be doing both.

I told him that I was getting ready to go to a memorial and I asked him if he knew what a memorial was.

He thought for a moment and said, "I think that's when you celebrate and remember someone or something that's died, sing sad songs, and bury them in the back yard or by the church or something like that."

Well, he got some things right.

It certainly is a day when we celebrate.

You see, for Christians, even on difficult days like memorials or funerals, it's still a day of celebration and worship. Not because we're crazy or insensitive. We celebrate and worship as we remember our loved ones because we know without a shadow of doubt that death is not the end. That death is merely the passage of our loved ones into their eternal home and their eternal life. We know that we were not created merely to exist for several decades to merely expire on a given day. We know that our life on earth is to prepare us for an eternal life in the presence of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

Today is the first time where I will have the privilege of conducting a memorial and a wedding on the same day.

I think it's fitting.

Both will be celebrating the work of Christ.

In one we will have celebrated a life well lived and remember the promises of God of a new creation - a world without pain and sorrow, a world without disease, where we will be given new bodies to live in a new world.

In the other, we will be celebrating a new chapter in life to experience and live out the journey of life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Either way, we will be lifting up the name of Christ.

It's going to be a great day!

Jan 25, 2013

Giving Thanks: A Daily Recalibration

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1.

Life has a way of dominating our perspectives, our attitudes, and our outlook.

That's the reason why it's good and right for us to set aside time to recalibrate our outlook and perspective on a daily basis. Just as a watch goes off true time a little bit each day, our perspectives and outlook does the same.

The hustle and bustle of everyday life, the stresses and the business of everyday living, and the monotony of daily routines take us off center a little bit each day.

Each day, we need time to get re-calibrated and re-centered. We, who are children of the living God. We, who have been saved by the costly blood of Jesus Christ, are to live life as if we are God's children  and as if God has paid the ultimate price for our future.

There ought to be something viscerally different about us than those who do not know God this way.

And one of the ways we can do that is to start each day with thanksgiving and to end each day giving thanks. Take a few moments at the beginning and the end of each day to give God thanks. See what happens.

I do by journaling every morning and praying before going to bed every night.

Try this for the next three weeks and see if your perspective and outlook doesn't change considerably.

You'll never look back. 

Jan 24, 2013

Discerning God's Will

Recently, I've been having some conversations with folks about discerning God's will.

Here's the thing, I believe Christians want to do what God's calling them to. Christians genuinely want to do God's will. The thing is we often don't know what God's will is.

So here's some basic guidelines for how we might discern God's will for our lives.

  • God gifts us with talents and abilities for what he calls us to. Take an inventory of your natural strengths and gifts and ask how you can put them to use for maximum impact for God's kingdom.
  • God gives us a passion and a pain for what he has called us to. We are both passionate about how God could impact the world, and in pain because we and our organizations are not there yet. Pay close attention to what bothers you, what pains you. The likelihood is that those things pain the heart of God too. God wants to use what pains you to make the world a better place. 
  • God's calling cannot go against God's word. This seems obvious, but it still needs to be stated. God would not ever call someone to something or someone that violates God's principles as revealed in scripture. 
The ultimate question you should ask deals with maximum kingdom impact. Where can God make the biggest impact through your service?

That's most likely the place where God is calling you to.

Jan 23, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Review

Image Borrowed from www.samsung.com
I've been living with the Galaxy Note II for a about a month now.

I recently had the LG GX2 Google phone. The biggest problem with the GX2 was its battery life. I was always carrying a second battery with me and that still would not guarantee I would make it through the day doing emailing, calendaring, and other business tasks. If I was streaming videos or playing games, forget about it. The battery life was terrible.

Also, due to the lack of internal memory, I was having to take out the battery and restart the phone on a daily basis.

So, when I was in the market for a new phone, several items were key:

  • Large internal memory
  • Long battery life
  • Ability to take notes 
Galaxy Note II fit the needs perfectly.

So here's my take on the Galaxy Note II.

The Goods:
iPhone, Galaxy Note 2, iPad
  • My oh my! Look at that screen! Who doesn't love a big screen? And the clarity is fantastic. 
  • Battery life. Even playing games, surfing the internet, streaming videos, the huge battery lasts me all day long.
  • S-Pen. I wasn't sure I would like a pen on my phone, but after living with it for a month, I'm not sure if I ever want to go back to a phone without it. As soon as you take out the pen, no matter what app you might be in, the note taking feature pops up so that you can make notes while talking on the phone, surfing the web, making appointments, etc. It's quite brilliant. I still haven't learned all the things I can do with the S-pen but that will come with time.
  • Although the Galaxy Note 2 is a huge phone, it doesn't feel that way in your hand. In fact, after using this phone, every other phone just looks tiny.
  • The huge, enormous internal memory. This makes the phone mostly glitch free as it goes from one app to another. 
  • Android app market is huge. 
  • Camera and video is clean and sharp
  • Google maps function has been improved a ton. Compared to Google maps functionality on GX2, the Galaxy Note 2 Google Maps is light years ahead. The Galaxy Note 2 Google Maps totally replaces a portable GPS navigation system. 
  • It's fast, fast, fast.
The Bad
  • S voice - This is samsung's attempt at Siri. Well...to put it bluntly, S voice is a joke compared to Siri. I can't even say it was a good try on Samsung's part. S voice needs huge improvements in voice recognition and its capabilities. I never use it because, well...it's kind of useless.
  • Hate all the apps that come loaded on the phone that I can't take off. Most of it are apps that I won't use but Samsung makes it impossible to take them off your phone unless you jail break it or root the phone.
  • I would not recommend the Galaxy Note 2 to a relatively new smartphone user. The phone has tons of capabilities, but one really has to study and read up on how to use them. Where as most of the capabilities on the iPhone are intuitive, the Galaxy Note 2's not so much. I find myself having to read the manual, look at youtube videos and actually practice how to make the most use of the capabilities of the S-pen and the phone. Not everyone has the time or the interest to do so.
So far so good. 
  • The Galaxy Note 2 has been what I've expected thus far. It's a very fast, huge screen, long battery lasting, fantastic phone.
  • After purchasing this phone, I gave my iPad to my wife. The Galaxy Note 2 has completely replaced my need for an iPad. 
  • Having said that, I still carry a MacBook Pro notebook and Kindle with me at all times. 

Jan 22, 2013

Three Days, Three Guys, Five Rounds of Golf

Andy, James, Jay
Three days...

Three guys...

Five rounds of golf...

Sounds pretty good to me.

My best friends from high school and I took a short trip to Scottsdale, AZ for some golf on our annual boy's trip out. The only thing missing was Chip.

The weather was fantastic (mid 70's everyday in January!), the conversation was great, the company even better.

As always, the trip was way too short.

The boys outing reminded me of how blessed I am to have such amazing friends.

God is good!

All the time.

God is good!

Jan 14, 2013

24 Hours After for this Seahawk Fan

Okay...It's almost been 24 hours since what was supposed to be the greatest comeback in the history of mankind.

32 seconds. 32 ticks of the clock. That's it.

The Seahawks had done it. Down 20 points in the 4th quarter, and yet they made the improbable comeback and taken the lead.  The game was won.

But it wasn't.

Because the Atlanta Falcons ended up driving down the field and kicked the winning field goal within those 32 seconds.

The reason why this one felt so sickening is I'd been here as a fan before. You see, the 2011 Texas Rangers were one pitch, one strike away, from winning the world series. One strike!!! That's all that was needed. One strike for the first World Series ever for the Texas Rangers.

But they never got that strike.

The St. Louis Cardinals would win the game and go to win the series. And the Rangers haven't been the same since. The players that made up the strength of the team have been mostly traded away. Who knows if and when the Rangers will ever be that close to winning the World Series ever again.

That's the thing about sports. You never know. There are so many variables - injuries, trades, declining talent, other teams improving. When you are fortunate enough to be that close, you have to take full advantage because you may never get there again.

That's what was so sickening about yesterday's loss to the Falcons.

But all is not a loss.

Here's what I take away as a fan from yesterday's loss.

  • Had the Falcons lost the game in that fashion, I'm not sure if the Falcons ever recover from a loss like that. Their coach and quarterback were already under massive pressure because of their inability to win a playoff game. But to lose a game like that? After being up by 20 going into the 4th quarter? That would have been absolutely devastating to the coach, Matt Ryan, and the team. 
  • The Falcons are an aging team. Their are at the declining end of the bell curve in terms of age and talent. For those reasons, I am happy for the Falcons that they won the game. That's the kind of Christian football fan I am. 
  • This season for the Seahawks reminds me a lot of Ben Rothelisberger's 2004 rookie season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers were young and with Ben Rothlisberger, building off that rookie season they strung together a decade of excellent football teams, and they are still not done. I think that's what's ahead for the Seahawks.
  • Had someone told me at the beginning of the season that the 2012 Seahawks would finish the season making it to the second round of playoffs after the years of Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst at QB, I would have jumped on that. 
  • Russel Wilson is a leader. That one player in a position like the QB makes that much of a difference and he's just getting started.
  • And that's a great way to describe the upcoming seasons for the Seahawks, 2012 was just the beginning because we're just getting started.
So look out NFL, NFC! The Seahawks are here for years to come!

Jan 9, 2013

Our World Needs a Church Like This Song

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. 

Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. 

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came. You wanna be where everybody knows your name. You wanna go where people know, people are all the same. You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

That's the theme song from the TV series "Cheers".

What a beautiful description of community...church...fellowship.

We all have an innate yearning to be accepted, to belong. Until we find our place, we go through life from one place to another to find that place where we are accepted, loved, and where we belong.

We all have an innate need to be somebody - someone who matters, someone who makes a difference. We were made to make a difference.

We all have a intense longing to know that our lives matter, that our lives contribute to something greater than ourselves.

We all need community.

We all need a place to call home.

Our world needs a church like this song.

Americans are among the loneliest people in the world.

Randy Frazee says in his book The Connecting Church
Today more than three-fourths of the American people live in metropolitan areas, more than two-thirds of those live in suburbs. We are surrounded by more people than ever before in the history of our country. With these undeniable benefits in place, how could a Gallop Poll rank us among the loneliest people in the world?
It's not good.
Those were the words God used to describe humanity in isolation. It was the first time God looked at his creation and declared that it was not good. Up to this point, everything he created was good. 
But not this...not this isolation...We are made for community. We are made for each other.
A church where no one stands alone...
The church is the place where we go deeper:
  • Deeper in our intimacy with God.
  • Deeper in our relationships with one another.
  • Deeper in our influence with our community.
FOCUS groups (Small group ministry at LCOP) is the key to help us go deeper in our faith.

We are currently taking registrations for the next series of FOCUS groups. 
Have you signed up for one?
You belong in God's church. And one of the pathways of belonging in God's family is in the context of small groups.
You really do belong in a FOCUS group.
See you soon!

Jan 8, 2013

A Church That Doesn't Know When to Cry or When to Rejoice

More Light Presbyterians
The PC(USA) finds herself split and confused about who she is because she doesn't know where she stands some very foundational issues:

  • Biblical Authority 
  • Hermeneutics 
  • Love - Holiness
  • Human Sexuality
No matter where you find yourself on any of these and other issues, the thing that must be absolutely heart-breaking for Jesus is that the PC(USA) is a church that doesn't even know when she needs to be rejoicing and when she ought to be mourning.

And that's truly sad.

Christ's church ought to know what delights God's heart.

Christ's church ought to know what breaks God's heart.

And what PC(USA) has consistently demonstrated over and over in the last thirty plus years is that she doesn't know.

After every GA, a large portion of the church weeps while another large portion of the church rejoices over these same mentioned issues. 

God, forgive us. Forgive me. Forgive my denomination...for not knowing what we ought to know. 

I confess that we are the church whom Jesus was referring to when he declared: 

"To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

"'We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.'"
- Luke 7:31-32

Holy Spirit, you promised to show us the truth and to teach us all things...Teach us. 

May your church be receptive to hearing and yielding to your Truth.

In Jesus' name.


Jan 5, 2013

Don't Just Celebrate Epiphany Sunday...Be Christ's Manifestation to a Watching World

On Sunday January 6, Christians will be celebrating Epiphany Sunday.

Epiphany Sunday marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Epiphany literally means "Manifestation." It is the Sunday in which we remember and celebrate the manifestation and the revealing of the love of God for the world in his Son Jesus Christ.

On this Epiphany Sunday, I pray that our churches not only remember or celebrate.

I pray that the churches and Christians all over are about being God's manifestation of how much he loves our world by participating fully in the mission of Jesus Christ...that the light of Christ would shine into the dark and depressed places in our culture and our hearts, that the hope of Christ would reach into hopeless situations, and that the love of Christ would begin transforming our culture one heart at a time.

I pray that our churches are all about announcing the good news of Christ to every culture, and yes, to our neighbors across the street...that every human being would know how much God values them because of the way the church and her saints value people.

I pray that on this Epiphany Sunday, our churches will be all about demonstrating the light of Christ in a world that is searching for hope, seeking meaning, and desiring purpose.

Church, may Christ shine brightly on this Epiphany Sunday!

Jan 4, 2013

The Skinny on "the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" from Our Vacation

Waiting for the Train at Fullerton, CA
Hello again!

The Kim's just returned from vacation.

Here's the skinny on "the good, the bad, the ugly" from our vacation.
Kids Passing Time and Playing Cards in the Lounge Car
The Good:
  • Family, family, family. It was so good to see grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins. God has truly blessed us with an awesome family.
  • Food, food, food. One of the first things the girls did when they came home was to get on the scale, and the scale testified that every single one of us did in fact really, really enjoy the food, and it's time to get back on the treadmill.
  • It was wonderful to get time away. The break from the normal routines does a mind and spirit good.
  • Amtrak - It's a far more comfortable and leisurely way to travel than by plane or car. 
  • The weather was gorgeous! It was sunny, blue skies. We don't get that much around our neck of the woods in the winter. It was nice to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt again.
Amtrak Lounge Car on Coast Starlight

The Bad:
  • Christmas holidays are a terrible time to go to theme parks. We only managed to make it to Knotts Berry Farm due to illness issues. I've never seen the place so crowded. It took an average of two hours to get on a two minute ride. You do the math. Was not a fun experience.
  • Illnesses. Helen wasn't feeling well when we left Washington, and her cold only got worse on the train ride down to California. Took her to Urgent Care in California where the doctor confirmed she had a sinus infection. The antibiotics did wonders for her. But as soon as she started feeling better, Kaleb got sick. With two people down, and with how busy Knotts was, we decided not to do Disney. Finally, as Kaleb started feeling better, I got sick. 
  • Amtrak - It's so slow!!! It took 38 hours to get to California. 38 hours on the train...
Amtrak Coast Starlight
The Ugly:

Absolutely, without a shadow of doubt, Amtrak. 

It wasn't that the service was terrible. In fact, the service was better than what one normally receives on the airlines. 

It wasn't that it wasn't comfortable or pleasant. In fact, the seats are comparable to domestic first class airline seats and have more leg room and space than first class seats. 

It wasn't that the food was terrible. I was pleasantly surprised by the food on the train.

What made it terrible was how long it took to get to California. 38 hours. That's four vacation days on the train. And even though you can walk around and move on the train, one gets kind of stir crazy (at least, this one does). That's just too long to spend on a train. 

The other factor for parents to consider is that, at least in the coach section of the trains, the people traveling on it are not necessarily the types that you would normally want around your family. We'll just leave it at that. 

Things may be different with folks in the sleeper cars and first class, but that's my take on the situation on the coach section of the train. 

It was a fantastic break for the Kim family. Much needed time away, time for family, time for rest. But it's sooooo good to be back. 

As soon as we got home, Kaleb was running around the house saying, "It's so good to be home. I can run around. I can play. I love my house!" 

That's exactly how I feel about being back home and being back at the Little Church on the Prairie.