Russ thoughts
FOCUS: Sink or Soar: it begins with your thoughts!

A penny for your thoughts? That’s an old saying. But it raises a question: just how important are our thoughts? Are they worth only a penny? Or much more? Does what we think about ourselves, others and the purpose of life make a difference? 

The Scripture teaches us that our thoughts are incredibly important. They determine our outlook, our teach-ability  our emotional health and in the long run, they can lead us to heaven or hell. How we think matters.

The Bible teaches that God desires to renew our minds. He wants to wash our brains, erase the wrong programming, and set us free from the negative and defeating thought programming of our culture. Cultural thought programming? Oh yes, its very real. Each of us are being subtly molded by the media, our education, our political leaders, and our friends and family, Often times this mental programming is untrue, twisted and hurtful.

Here’s the thing. Recognize when your thinking has gone wrong. When wrong ideas have led you to “sink” not “soar”. Let God help you to identify these wrong ideas and thoughts. Then make a stand by rejecting these lies, not allowing them to define or influence you. Separate yourself from the source of those lies. Then having rejected those wrong thoughts, replace them with the truth. The truth about yourself, life, people, the world, the future,  and God. The truth will set you free. 

Where do you find the truth? The Bible. Gods Word. Read it. Learn the truth. Get your thinking renewed. Experience life the way your creator designed it. 

I’ll be sharing more on this subject this Sunday, April 14th, at 10 am at Lake Stevens Assembly. You’re invited. Come as you are. 

Yours, Russ

Christmas Humbugs (tongue in cheek)

They come  out every year about this time. 

They lay in wait all year, storing up their venom and energy, for the coming of December.

What or what am I talking about? 

The Christmas Humbugs. You can spot them by their dour appearance, self righteous conversation and a certain spiritual odor reminding one of something like pickle juice and sauerkraut.

While the most of our beloved  country sets this month apart to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior, discusses spiritual topics, turns its heart toward good deeds and giving gifts- while opening it’s heart to the reality of God, the Christmas Humbugs set out to spoil the celebration. Unable to take the good with the inevitable excesses, they take it upon themselves to bring “the truth” to us unfortunate and  ”deluded celebrators.” 

Well, to the Christmas Humbugs I say: Humbug to you!!

I know that December 25th may not have been the “actual” date of His birth. I understand that much of Christmas is commercialized. Yes, I “get it” that there is evil and injustice in the world. And, yes I know about Saturnalia. 

But I choose to celebrate. Just like Jesus. He knew how celebrate.

Jesus went to parties. He had fun. He celebrated with His family and friends the Jewish national days and weeks of feasting and remembrance-designed to bring them closer to God and each other.

Please understand, Christmas Humbuggers, I see your points. I have heard your arguments. I reject them.  I believe that cynicism is the easy path, condemnation and pessimism are self defeating. 

I choose to build upon the good that is found in December. At no other time are people more open to the presence of God, the healing of families, and the reality that Jesus is Lord. I choose to embrace Hope, laughter, Grace and Love.

All precious gifts from God.

And you know what? I even love Christmas Humbugs. I hope they can love me, too.

Merry Christmas to all.

Russ

Cancer and God’s Love

Some words don’t look right together on the page: “Cancer and God’s love” is such a combination. Two realities that seem incompatible. I read once that it is risky to write about a situation while one is going through it. Probably sage advice, but at the risk of having to change some of these lines later, I’ll push forward. Perhaps something here will minister to someone out in in the Blog-o-sphere.

Its no secret that Denise and I have spent the last 7 months walking through her bout with breast cancer. Some of our best friends are experiencing similar challenging days. Can I say this about cancer treatment: its not fun. Cancer is a life changer. Physically, relationally, financially, socially, spiritually, it changes things. And some people struggle with the inevitable question: If God loves you, why did He allow cancer into your life? Why no supernatural healing? Why no big “check in the mail”? 

Hard questions. I would not want to speak for anyone else’s experiences, but I have discovered something. Something comforting. Something that I could only have discovered thorough this kind of . Here it is in a nutshell.

I have been preaching through the Bible book of 1 John. In it John writes the statement: ”God is Love.” And at first blush, someone might say, “yeah, some kind of love. The kind of love that allows cancer. no thanks.” But here’s the thing. We have to look deeper. Like gold, some truths have to be dug up! The Greek word translated into English ”love”, is agape. It one of four different Greek words that English renders simply, “love”. Agape means unconditional, sacrificial, selfless love. Its the kind of love God demonstrated toward us when he allowed His Son Jesus to be sacrificed on the cross for our sin. It’s the kind of love in short supply. The kind of love that we humans find very difficult, and many never experience. 

Cancer teaches us about agape love. Cancer allows us to experience first hand what agape love is. What it means to serve, to give, to receive and minister without any other motive than love. I have experienced Gods agape love every time someone brings over a hot meal. Every time someone helps out around the house, and when friends speak words of encouragement and care. I have learned what it means to put others first, to care when tired or discouraged. I have learned first hand that love is a commitment and that love grows deeper and richer the time passes by. 

Yep, even in cancer, Gods love is in operation. I guess it all depends on where one chooses to look. I choose to look for Gods loving hand. And I’ve found it. 

Russ

Missions Week

This week our focus is our yearly “Missions Emphasis”.  Last Sunday we heard from missionary Mike Ness, Wednesday night we host a missions theme dinner and movie detailing missions, and Friday night is our annual “Missions Banquet”, featuring missionary Chris Ness. A busy and exciting week. 

But not everyone is excited about missions outreach,and some people have made it a point to tell why:

      “It’s not right to try and convert other people to our religion”.

      “Missions are boring, who cares about people so far away?”

      “Missions are too expensive, lets take care of our own”.

      “Our church is too small to make a difference.”

While I appreciate that everyone is entitled to their opinion, I have to say that none of these objections sound like the heart of God. In fact, I am sure that God is FOR missions! Before we listen to the naysayers and unplug our hearts from missions, let me share my heart about missions:

Jesus was a missionary! Yes the Savior came with a mission, to save the world from sin and death. The Christian faith has always been about reaching out, and helping people of all other religions come to understand the Good News: Jesus is Lord, and Savior of all! 

Missions boring? I beg to differ. What’s more exciting that seeing lives and nations changed by the love of God? Have we become so narcissistic that unless the conversation is about “us” we cannot be interested? That’s a troubling thought.

Too expensive? Again, I must say, really? Really? What price do we put on lives changed and souls saved? “Too expensive”, to me is a statement about values. The things we personally value, are never too expensive. I have seen people spend huge amounts of money on stuff that looks like junk to me! I know people that pour small fortunes into hobbies, that seem silly and wasteful to me. But, to the person that values that hobby or object, of course, it is money well spent. So what do you value? Statements about missions costing too much money says lots about the priorities in our hearts!

Here’s what I believe. Simply said, “Its not about me.” My life is not simply about me or my  needs. I was not placed on this Earth to simply use up oxygen and eat. We are all placed here to make a difference. Missions gives us a chance to do that. No person or church is too small to make a difference. I give, I pray, I care, about missions because, bottom line, missions are about people. People that need God, people that need help, and won’t get it, unless some reaches out. Join me in making missions a part of your life, and your budget.  Make a difference. Give. Pray. Care. 

Blessings,

Russ

Older

Recently the Seattle Mariners baseball team traded their former all-star player, Ichiro. 

The reason: He’s “lost a step”, “can’t catch up to the fast ball”, he’s too old for a young ball team, etc, etc. It got me thinking about getting older, ministry,  and its challenges. 

There’s a saying in sports, “you can’t outrun father time.” The idea being that we all inevitably reach a place where age compromises our skills and lessens our ability to contribute to the team. This might be true in athletics, and perhaps professions where its all about the physical. But its NOT true about most other areas of life, and certainly not true in ministry. 

Here’s what I think:

Successfully navigating and remaining fruitful through the turning of the calendar is all about attitude and flexibility. Some people see the collection of the passing years, the accumulation of experiences, and the perspective of long service, as dead weight or unwanted ballast, negatives to be shed at all costs, inexorably ending our usefulness in the fast changing world. Adopting this philosophy will inevitably lead one to sitting on the bench, watching the “young’ and “fresh”, while life passes. What a waste, and NOT the way way God intended it!

Why not see those years of experiences, the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom, as FUEL, not dead weight? Why not allow your life to be filled with fiery passion, fueled by the knowledge that time is short, easily wasted, and that the “young bucks” need you to lead the way by example? Who understands the importance of making every day count, of living with purpose and zeal better than a “mature” person that can see the finish line of their life ahead? 

I have discovered that flexibility is the key. I can’t do all the things I used to do, physically, but, I am smart enough to work smart. And what I lack in testosterone I make up for with a well honed skill set, focus, and commitment. 

So today, I understand that “older is better”. and while I am approaching the years of being  ”vintage” I am comfortable with my role: Wise leadership, committed mentoring and leaving blessings behind me! 

The best is yet to come!

Russ

Who is that Guy?

I enjoy watching a good  movie western once in while. Its fun to watch John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, or Audie Murphy ride high in the saddle and take out the bad guys with just a six shooter and their wits.  One theme in many westerns is all about the “tall, silent, stranger” that rides into town and proceeds to reluctantly ”clean up the town”. In a good western, the bully always “gets whats comin’ to ‘em” in the end! The good guy usually rides off into the sunset as the credits roll, the music swells, and someone says, “Who was that guy?”

Wednesday evenings at 7:00 pm, this summer I will be teaching a series entitled “Jesus:fall in love with Him again”. My goal for this series to help bring the personality and humanity of Jesus into fresh focus. To remove Him from the  place of “tall, distant, silent, stranger”, that “cleans up to the town” and get’s the “bad guys” in the end.  

I am hoping that we willl grow to see Him as someone that we can know, talk with, and enjoy as a friend. Yes of course, Jesus is the Son of God, but He was also a man, and I can’t wait to share examples of His humor, playfulness, love and passion. I am hoping that as we experience these evenings together, we’ll fall in love with Jesus again. 

Join us starting the 11th. I’ll save you a seat by the ol’ corral!

Pastor Russ

Where’s your Passion?

I love getting up everyday and doing ministry in Lake Stevens. Wonderful, generous, committed people worship in this building. We’re rallying around a fresh vision. But…

… its a battle. Its not easy. The darkness kicks back at our efforts to build a great church in this city. There’s a price to pay to win.

A couple of people have contacted me recently about joining our team. I have had to caution them.  What we’re about isn’t for everyone. This team is “all in.” No half commitments, no mixed motives or personal agendas. Thats the new LSAG way of living ministry.

Sometimes music says it better than mere words. Here’s the lyrics for an old song by Randy Stonehill that says it well. “Angry young men”. (its available on Itunes)

"He wants some angry young men. Ones who can’t be bought. Ones that will not run from a fight. Ones that will speak the truth whether its popular or not. Ones who’d give up anything to walk in His light.

Rest assured when Jesus comes again He’ll be looking for some angry young men.

He wants some angry young men, with fire in their eyes. Ones who understand what Jesus gave, ones who have grown weary of the world and its lies. Ones who won’t forget they’ve been delivered from the grave.

Rest assured when Jesus comes again, He’ll be looking for some angry young men.

You’ll be tempted, tried and tested. There’ll be wars the devil wins. But God’s love is not a license to lie there in your sin. He understands the human heart, His mercy is complete. But His Grace was not intended  as a place to wipe your feet.

Rest assured when Jesus comes again, He’ll be looking for some angry young men.” (and Women)

So, where’s your passion? There’s lots to do here in Lake Stevens.

Roll up your sleeves.

Russ


Where’s your Passion?

I love getting up everyday and doing ministry in Lake Stevens. Wonderful, generous, committed people worship in this building. We’re rallying around a fresh vision. But…

… its a battle. Its not easy. The darkness kicks back at our efforts to build a great church in this city. There’s a price to pay to win.

A couple of people have contacted me recently about joining our team. I have had to caution them.  What we’re about isn’t for everyone. This team is “all in.” No half commitments, no mixed motives or personal agendas. Thats the new LSAG way of living ministry.

Sometimes music says it better than mere words. Here’s the lyrics for an old song by Randy Stonehill that says it well. “Angry young men”. (its available on Itunes)

"He wants some angry young men. Ones who can’t be bought. Ones that will not run from a fight. Ones that will speak the truth whether its popular or not. Ones who’d give up anything to walk in His light.

Rest assured when Jesus comes again He’ll be looking for some angry young men.

He wants some angry young men, with fire in their eyes. Ones who understand what Jesus gave, ones who have grown weary of the world and its lies. Ones who won’t forget they’ve been delivered from the grave.

Rest assured when Jesus comes again, He’ll be looking for some angry young men.

You’ll be tempted, tried and tested. There’ll be wars the devil wins. But God’s love is not a license to lie there in your sin. He understands the human heart, His mercy is complete. But His Grace was not intended  as a place to wipe your feet.

Rest assured when Jesus comes again, He’ll be looking for some angry young men.” (and Women)

So, where’s your passion? There’s lots to do here in Lake Stevens.

Ro

Russ


Phil Phillips

Here’s whats on my mind today:

Well, another season of “American Idol” has come and gone. That makes 11 seasons.

Another season of the ridiculous, zany, commercial, crazy, sometimes infuriating, often inspiring, and addicting TV singing contest that seeks to uncover (and massively promote), the next American pop culture icon. A tip of the cap to those hardy and energetic souls who manged to press through to the finals. Congratulations runner up Jessica, and the winner, newly crowned “American Idol”- Phil Phillips.

I noticed something I liked about this years winner. Throughout the contest, Phil refused to conform to the expectations of the contest judges and music director, Jimmy.  They wanted him to be more more commercial. Choose more “accessible ” songs. Wear fashion forward clothes. Fit into the mold of Justin.  Pose, for goodness sake! He refused. 

No fancy dance steps. No electronic helps. No hip hop silliness. Just Phil being Phil. I remember him responding to the promptings of judge J-Lo once by saying, “I got to do what feels right to me.” Well said Phil. And your’re the winner. 

God has created each of us as unique people. No two exactly alike. Everyone stamped with the fingerprints of Gods limitless creative energy. When we succumb to the temptation to compromise our uniqueness for the comfort of conformity, we actually rob the Kingdom of God of one its most wonderful and valuable assets-the one and only you! I have learned the danger of American pop culture: it wants everyone to look, talk, and believe, and spend their money, the same. It celebrates diversity, but actually creates clones and drones- easily manipulated for the obvious commercial reasons. Yuk! 

So, a big Root Beer toast to this years American Idol “anti-winner”, Phil Phillips. Thanks for reminding us that music and art are all about being creative, unusual, and one-of-kind. 

Blessings,

Russ

Moving Day

Tomorrow is another moving day for our family. Our daughter, Bethany is moving from Lake Stevens to her new place in Tukwilla. We’ll be giving another “donation” to the U-Haul corporation.

These are hard days for Denise and I. Transitions are challenging for us. We love our family, love our friends. We get attached. Some times I wish that things didn’t have to change. Can’t we find a “happy place” and just stay there? 

But of course that would be selfish. Bethany being hereBethany is a great daughter. Never given us a reason to worry or lose sleep. She is more than ready to be independent and to chart her own course. We wouldn’t want to hold her back or impede her faith journey. That’s one of the lessons I have learned from this change: For Bethany to grow, we have to let her go. For her to move ahead, we have to step back. 

Come to think of it, Its a good thing that we are struggling with this transition: I mean, it could be “Get out of this house right now!” It’s good that we have such a close relationship that we’ll miss her around the house!

So, here we go again. Moving day. Can I offer some sage words to the parents out there with young kids? I know (from experience) that it seems like your kids “moving day” is a long way off in the future. But trust me, it comes faster than you can imagine. A couple words:

Enjoy your kids. Celebrate the days. Embrace every little league game and gymnastic meet. Go to those soccer games and school plays. Make a big deal about birthdays and Christmas. On moving day, you’ll be glad you did.

Love your spouse. Some day soon, it will be just be the two of you. The kids will be launched and out there. Be sure that you and your lover will still be in love and able to look ahead to great days together, in that empty nest. 

Well, enough of this. Time to get that packing tape out. And where’s that furniture dolly?

Your friend,

Russ