Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Partnering With

Being partners with something larger than yourself . . . makes you larger than yourself.

My youngest son, Daniel, scanned the newsletter from some friends of ours who foster babies* in central China.  He asked “What’s wrong with that kid?” with all the tact that 8-year-olds usually have, which is none at all.  The boy he was referring to is an orphan being cared for by our friends—in the boy’s case, he has a facial tumor that is being treated in the nearest Chinese megacity, and the article explained the cost (time and money) of treatment while asking for continued prayer for this child and the foster network.

“Who pays for [the treatment]?” Daniel asked.

“Well, the American family who wrote the newsletter does.” 

“Oh.” Silence.  “How do they get the money?”

“People give them money, and they use that money to keep living there and to help kids like the one in the picture.”


I could see him pondering the costs of the procedures, the family that was dependent on supporters, the boy who would have died but for their help.  “Dad, do we give them money?”

I paused.  We don’t keep it a secret from our kids that we support people working overseas, but I hesitated because I wanted to guard against pride—to make sure I was going to tell him from the right heart.  “Yes, we do.  When we came home from China, we set up an automatic draw from our bank account so that those people would be able to count on financial support from us.  Our family is one of the reasons they’re able to stay there and help those kids.”  I found my eyes nearly tearing up and my heart singing with pride—the right kind—at being able to be partners with the work in China.  I was SO glad to be able to tell my son “We’re part of that boy’s recovery.”

Why journal about this?  I think it’s because we all need to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  If you don’t already have something that you’re contributing to that is bigger than yourself . . . I could introduce you to my friends in China, but it’s not about these particular friends or that particular work.  Do find some way to give your life away.  Partner with people who are giving their lives away.  I don’t believe Jesus was joking when he said that whoever loses his life would gain it—he knew that’s where the real life is found, in the giving away and losing.

*These friends and their network of Chinese families foster-care babies so they don’t die in Chinese orphanages.  Sometimes the babies do die, but if so they die being held in love, which is not something they cannot expect in the orphanage.  We are honored to know these amazing people and affirm the importance of what they’re doing with the life God has given them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Saving Your Marriage--Where's Your Treasure?

Years ago in a place far away I helped convert a young man.  He and his wife had not been married very long.  They were having problems in their marriage....

So I said to the guy, "Okay, do you want to save your marriage?"


"How much?" I asked.

"It's the most important thing in the world to me."

"Then we have a chance," I said.  "Tell me about your life."

"Life is really good.  Business is booming, and I'm moving up the ladder.  I love sports and spend a lot of time playing sports with my friends," he said.

Indeed, he was a superb intercollegiate athlete; he held several records that may still be in the books for all I know. So he liked to play sports with the guys, and the plain fact of the matter is he was pretty invested in all areas of his life--but he was giving very little to his marriage.

So, given my very direct approach to marriage counseling, I said, "Okay, I think I see the problem.  Here's the problem:  Either you're a liar or Jesus is because Jesus says wherever your treasure is--wherever your investment is--that's where your heart is.  So you tell me your heart is in saving your marriage, but all of your treasure's going someplace else."

The challenge was issued and the man had to decide for himself whether he was going to go back and invest in what he said was most important to him....

Jesus says "Where's your investment?  Where's your time?  Where's your money?"

~Randy Harris, Living Jesus p111

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Every Church has a Focus

Every church has a focus.  It's unrealistic to say that your church focuses on teaching the Word, AND worship, AND prayer.

Photo Credit: Majed sultan Ali
It's much more legit to say that your church worships, teaches the Word, serves the poor, but that it really focuses on prayer.  Or you acknowledge that your church prays, and worships, and teaches, but its real focus is on evangelism.  Whatever--just get it that every church does all the elements of church but generally has a primary focus.

So what is the focus at SGF?  We worship . . . sometimes with singing . . . and we promote worship events that happen around the city, but it's not a focus.  We teach the Bible . . .  occasionally . . . but mostly we subscribe to a handful of podcasts and read faith-building books and tell each other where to find good spiritual food.  We serve the poor . . . feebly . . . but it would be impossible to pretend that it's a focus.  We support missions . . . yeah, not so much as we'd like to.  So what IS the focus?

The foyer.  We're really good at the part of church where we say "Hey, how's that situation with your mom?" or "We need to connect with you--want to come for dinner sometime this week?" or "Hey, I'm feeling down--can you pray for me real quick?" and all the meaningful and meaningless chatter that happens in the church foyer.  Sure, we do all that other stuff that churches do, and Christ is at the center of all, but we're really focused on the foyer.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Passion and Intention

Did you folks steward this weekend well? It's only "your weekend" inasmuch as your car is "your car" and your finances are "your" finances. In my mind, I am simply a steward of the time and money that the Lord puts into my hands. I don't have any sense that the Lord will micromanage you--how did you use this hour/day/month? --how did you spend that money? But there will be a day when the works of our hands, the time that we spent, and the money that we invested (or hid or squandered) will be accounted for. There will be a day of "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Friday we drove home from Portland to catch RAW at Eagle Mountain. Saturday evening we had neighbors over (I invited 10 neighbors for an Asian BBQ). Four households plus the Yatomis (thanks for supporting us, Ys!) came, and we invested some time building bridges of relationship with them.

This morning I came to the coffeeshop (I'm still here but heading home soon). No cool conversations to report. But I do feel good about the intentionality of my time. This is the sort of life I want to be leading: intentional, outward-focused, Kingdom-minded. 

Do we share this passion, you and I? What are you passionate about? Is it something I can support you on--I'd love to celebrate with you!

And I hope that you'll celebrate with me that I am living (intentionally and passionately) the lifestyle that I'm called to.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


In the natural you become hungry when you don't eat.

In the spiritual you become hungry when you DO eat.

Are you hungry?

Related questions & comments (suggest more?)
  • Is it even a valid question to ask "Are you the good kind of satisfied or the bad kind of satisfied?"
  • We will hunger for what we feed on! (choose your fill wisely).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Church Inaction

Look at the church in action!  Inspiring!  Uncommon.

Look at the church's inaction.  Harder to see.  Tragically common.

It's hard to see the church inaction.  Most churches, after all, meet once or several times a week and maintain a schedule of events.  Is that the Church in Action?

Shepherd's Gate Fellowship doesn't meet all together each week, so there's no camouflage for our inaction.  If we're inactive, it's painfully obvious.  But if we're active, it's visible and strong.  It's an unintended side effect of not meeting weekly.

Monday, July 2, 2012

SGF Saturday, July 2012

July 7th is a Shepherd's Gate Fellowship Saturday.  This is open to friends and friends-of-friends of SGF, and please get back to me at sgfbend@gmail.com with a headcount if you're coming and/or bringing friends.

We're doing India on the River as our theme--you'll see why below.  We'll be down at the Deschutes at a location to be disclosed (yes, it's a surprise, and no, we haven't been there before).  From 10:30 to 3:30, roughly speaking.

We'll rent Standup Paddleboards and bring canoes and floating islands and bocce balls and nice things to eat and drink and have fun.  We mean to do it up "right" with Karen's gala tent and streamers and tablecloths for the tables and torches and bean bags and whatnot.  Feel free to bring high expectations.

At the river, I'll provide three printed-out prayers from the Apostle Paul.  As you move about and talk with others during the day, offer to pray one of those prayers for them, substituting their name in the appropriate places.  I'll put the printed prayers in ziplocs so that if you need to be on a standup paddleboard or kayak to pray, that's okay.
At some point I'll gather people (it's optional, but I hope you'll want to) to talk with a guest of mine about her work with Indian women who are rescuing others out of the sex trade there.  Please read ahead about the organization that she founded, The International Princess Project.  Later on I'll gather a group (also optional) to help me find what the Bible says about certain topic (and no, it's not gay-marriage).  I'll bring Bibles to share around, but if you bring your own that's all right, too.  I think this research will lead to "fruitful" discussions.

This is an adults-only day at the river, and all our kids and the kids of our guests will be welcome to participate with our Children's Weekend Bible School, provided we give the WBS team several days' notice on how many kids to expect.  They'll be taking all the big kids to Juniper Pool and their home-base will be the Chase's house that day.  Little ones can stay at the house with adult supervision and play in the sprinklers.  We'll drop kids off an hour later than usual (10:20) at the Chases' house and return pick them up at 4:00.

The church will provide the main dishes and drinks for this day.  Everyone who comes should bring a side or dessert--though it's possible we'll be making it more organized and having an Indian food-theme to go along with the decor and whatnot.  That would be way cooler but would require someone with the vision for it to step in and organize that aspect.

~Tim and Janet

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fear itself

FDR: "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes..."

Fear is bad.

But only if the object of your fear can do you no harm.  The more it can do you true harm, the wiser it is to fear it.

Trust isn't wise.

Trust is only as wise as the object of your trust.  The more it is trustworthy, the wiser it is to trust in it.

Do not be afraid, but trust wisely and well.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Goldilocks and the three worship events

What do I do with my heart when worship music pleases God but doesn't please me?

It's an important question, because it's going to happen to me again and again.  Sometimes I'll participate in a worship event where the songs are too hymnish or too George Beverly Shea (sorry, Dad).  My heart is rarely stirred to worship with organ music and complex lyrics where you sing first-second-and-fourth, though I recognize that as a fault in me, not the music.  Or maybe it will be a worship session with shouted lyrics and a throbbing beat but not so much in the melody department.  I keep expecting the smoke machine to kick in.  My heart doesn't naturally respond in worship in such environments, either.

Like the Goldilocks of legend, who found some porridge too hot, another too cold, and a third "just right," there is a mode of worship that best leads me into the throne-room.  And there are worship styles that I don't like.  Last night I went to a worship event at a church that seemed to be roughly split into two sets . . . the first set was the throbbing, shouted-lyric style for an hour, and the second was the more melodic music that I prefer.  I think I'll go again, but maybe I'll aim for going late.

And yet.

It's not as if the worship night were held for my benefit.  Several desired outcomes came from the event last night.  In no particular order:
  • I woke up this morning with "There's no other, other than You . . . I stand amazed!" running through my head.  That's good.
  • My three kids worshiped, danced (we need to get Michael into a hip-hop class), and had individual opportunity to worship God.  That's important.
  • Most of SGF came to check it out with us.  When I expressed to a couple of them that it was hard for me to worship to the throb and noise, they prayed for me.  I don't know that the second set would have been as meaningful without that.  Thanks for praying.
  • SGF arrived at 7 and connected with each other while the worship band was setting up, always good to connect.
What do I do with my heart when the music isn't seasoned to my taste?  It's a dish that's not meant for me, but I have to eat it in order to give it upward.  The problem won't go away by insulating myself and finding worship events where they serve my Goldilocks-medium flavor of worship music--that will just mask the symptom.  My heart needs to learn to praise Him in every circumstance.  Praise the Lord, o my soul . . .