Wednesday, December 29, 2004

This is a piece of heart...

My friend, Tom, has a very rare heart condition which causes him to have serious palpitations, and go through very dizzy spells and fainting. As a result of this, the good folks at Mayo clinic in Rochester, MN are taking a close look at hime. They are a bit confused as to what the actual cause is, but they are going to do surgery anyway to try to correct it. (I guess that makes sense...not to me, but I don't even play a doctor on TV, so who am I?) Tom's attitude in all of this is fantastic!! He is such a lover and truster in Jesus, it blows me away!

Below is his GREAT email about what is going on. For those of you who are not into analogies, here's your chance:

WARNING: What follows is one long, but really cool analogy!

There, you have been warned... Enjoy!

To All,

Short Take: The heart surgery has been moved up to a week from this Thursday, December 11th.

Long Take ...into Eternity:

Mayo did more tests last week. God did also.

Mayo is confident the problem is one of a flawed heart. God is even more confident of this.

Mayo says it is a condition I was born with. God concurs - says it has been passed on from generation to generation - since man's original heart problem.

Mayo says the problem is one of a "short-circuit", where the heart is getting input from a source it should not be getting input from, causing it to function in a way it was not designed to function. God concurs - says, since the heart was designed for one purpose - to "love the Lord your God with ALL your heart", any other love source short-circuits Him and creates all kinds of problems.

While Mayo is sure the problem is a short-circuit, they are not sure where this errant circuit is actually located. Thus, before they do any zapping of circuits, they will first seek to find and identify the errant circuit. It may be on the surface and very obvious or it may be hidden in the deepest recesses of the heart. God knows where it is. He wrote a book which, among other things, contains practical ways to help us find and identify our errant heart circuits. It's a must read. It's a must follow.

When Mayo identifies the errant circuit, they will then zap it. They zap it in such a way as to render it inoperable. It dies. And the heart is free. The key is to make sure it is rendered completely inoperable. A partially operating short-circuit of the heart can be as much of a risk as a fully operating one. Such it is with one's spiritual heart. It longs to be free of any and all short-circuiting loves. It was created to love its Creator and to love it only. To love God brings to the heart its greatest joy. It is its greatest purpose, its greatest fulfillment. It is where the heart is most satisfied. It is where God is most glorified.

The heart is a wondrously created thing. It was created by a wondrous God and He gave one to each.

Such is, and such I desire in, my heart.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Did the account of the Nativity really happen?

Merry Christmas to all of you out in blog-o-sphere!!!

This morning was a great time for all of us at the Treichler home, with special party in the honor of our Savior's birth!!

As I was reading the Question of Faith section in the Minneapolis Star Tribune this afternoon, I was very blessed by Rev. Peter Boehlke, Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, St. Paul answer to the question, "Did the account of the Nativity really happen?" Listen to his great answer!
Oh, yes, absolutely. What else is there to believe? Low-carb diets? My government's reasons for going to war? Barry Bond's pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record? The poet W.H. Auden writes of Christmas: "Follow him through the land of unlikeness; you will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures." Here's my tradition's unique adventure: At the fulcrum of history, in a land at the crossroads of the armies, during a time when the Empire was enrolling everyone for homeland security, the Love that fires the universe sneaks into the world in the womb of a young Jewish girl, and the divine and human become one. This good news is announced to the lowest and poorest. Whatever you believe, don't sit around for years on end reading the newspaper, scratching your head trying to befriend the facts. Get yourself to the grandest cathedral or a pathetic little church; a homeless shelter or prison will do. Sing the songs of the season, watch children in bathrobes as wise men, feed the hungry, proclaim release to the captives, light a candle and hold it up in the darkness, confessing a Word that is as beautiful as it is true.

Enjoy Jesus today, and sing along with the angels, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!"


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Perhaps it means a little more...

So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.
But when the time had fully come,
God sent his Son,
born of a woman,
born under law,
to redeem those under law,
that we might receive the full rights of sons.
~ the apostle Paul in Galatians 4:3-5

Last week I quoted from one of my favorite philosophers, Linus Van Pelt, about the meaning of Christmas. This week, as a Christmas present, I would like to quote from someone who had much more of an impact on my philosophical upbringing, and even at a much earlier age than Linus’ impact. Theodor Geisel was an Oxford Ph. D. candidate when he realized his calling was more in the shaping of young minds through writing and rhyme. Fortunately, the world would eventually see his value, and recognize the true gift he had. Better known as Dr. Seuss (his middle name), he was the author of my very favorite Christmas cartoon or movie, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” The best part is the very ending:

Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mount Crumpit,
He rode to the tiptop to dump it!
"Pooh-pooh to the Whos!" he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
"They're finding out now that no Christmas is coming!
"They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!
"Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
"The all the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!"

"That's a noise," grinned the Grinch,
"That I simply must hear!"
So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow...

But the sound wasn't sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn't be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
[quoted from “How the Grinch stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss”]

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas that means a WHOLE LOT more than what comes from the store,


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Christmas...according to Charlie Brown

It’s Christmas time once again. And one very important tradition with me is watching the 2nd greatest Christmas cartoon ever made, A Charlie Brown Christmas (of course, #1 is the Grinch - hands down!). I have to be a meeting tonight, but IT WILL BE RECORDED - and no, last years recording WILL NOTE DO!! It must be fresh!

Christmas really is a time to enjoy and party with what God has given to us. Jesus Christ came for you and for me. Christmas is the time when we wrap our hands, heads and hearts around the amazing gift of Christ to us.
In the midst of all the trappings that accompany this time of year, it is very easy to miss the real reason of all the celebration. Let me quote one of my favorite philosophers, Linus Van Pelt. In this Christmas special, Charlie Brown finds himself depressed at Christmas time, searching for the true meaning of the holiday amidst the glitz and commercialism of the modern age. He finds his answer in Linus’ famous soliloquy (quoting Luke 2 - KJV):

"And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid ... And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord."
"And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men."
"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

That IS what Christmas is all about. Hold on tight to Him these days! Don't let anything rob you of your joy.

"Santa denies the laws of physics, Captain!"

SANTA CLAUS: An Engineer's Perspective (taken from somewhere out in cyberspace - "SO IT MUST BE TRUE!)

     I. There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per house hold, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

     II. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second.

     This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second --- 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour.

     III. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the "flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them --- Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch).

     IV. 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second crates enormous air resistance --- this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip. Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

     V. Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life...

I've just got done reading a fabulous article in the latest Christianity Today magazine about how God uses and even ordains suffering in order to make us into the image of Jesus.

In it, the author, Mark Galli, writes:
Good news seems to be written all over this beginning. According to Mark's account, the first remarkable event in Jesus' life is awash with affirmation. "You are my Son, the Beloved," says the heavenly voice. "With you I am well pleased" (1:11).

This voice literally "ripped open" the heavens to say this, as if he could hardly wait to visit a blessing on his Son. And then something heavenly settled on that tender frame. It looked like a dove—maybe like the dove that let Noah know that the drowned planet was getting a fresh start. Whatever it looked like, it was like the Spirit who hovered over the original creation, like something new, fresh, and vibrant was about to begin.

On top of that, Mark says that the words spoken to Jesus were very personal, very intimate. The Father speaks directly, perhaps affectionately to his Son: "You are my beloved."


"With you I am well pleased."

Well pleased.

Again we hear echoes of the voice that looked over the splendor of the new creation and, on the bright dawn of the seventh day, pronounced, "It is very good."

Mark seems to be saying that Jesus is the beloved, upon whom heaven is showering blessing upon blessing, before whom the future spreads out in unimaginable possibility...

Most Bible versions put a visual break—an extra space or new heading—after Jesus' baptism. As a result, we don't usually connect the baptism with what comes next. But there is no break in the ancient manuscripts. Immediately after the glorious baptism comes this:

"And immediately the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness."

This is the same Spirit who just a moment earlier is the visible image of the Father's love, sent by the Father to show Jesus he is beloved, pleasing, a splendor to behold, symbolizing the pristine beginning of something wonderfully new.

Now this Spirit drives the beloved Son into the desert. Literally, in the Greek, Jesus was "cast out" from the warmth of home and friends, from comforts of town and village. He was denied even moral and spiritual support—the Torah, the synagogue, the wisdom of the town elders, even, it seems, the comfort of the heavenly Father's presence. He is driven into wilderness, deserted by love, to face a hostile adversary alone.

And not just any adversary, but the most powerful and sinister of enemies. Mark's version of Jesus' temptation doesn't tell us much about the strategy of this Evil One, at least as directly as do those of Matthew and Luke. For Mark it is enough to describe his fearsome incarnation: If the Spirit comes to Jesus in the form of a dove, Satanic temptation comes to him in the form of wild beasts.
And yet, Jesus was well loved. And so are we! God NEVER wastes pain. God absolutely knows what he is doing as my father-in-law breathed his last, as my dog faced death, as the tormented 18 year old boy in Middlebrook Hall jumped to his death the day before Thanksgiving...HE HAS TO KNOW WHAT HE IS DOING! My only hope in times like these is that our God is in complete control and is taking us through these things to make us more like Jesus in the power of His resurrection.

Our only recourse in times like this is to fully trust him like a little child. I do not understand. I do not feel good about it. My flesh cries out, "WHY!" But my heart KNOWS that God is all powerful, God is all-good, and that HE KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING. He is worthy of our trust in the midst of serious trial.

Challenged to know Christ, and the the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings (Philippians 3:10),


Sunday, November 21, 2004

Goodbye, Old Friend...

Ripley, faithful friend

Ripley, our dog of the last four years, has been a faithful friend, an extra 'brother' to the boys, and the only one in recent months who would run to the door to greet me when I came home. He and I had a little dance we would do everytime I came home. I would say, "Give me some lovin', Rips." and he would jump up and scratch my tummy with his paws. It was great to genuinely be wanted and loved when you walked in the door after a day of work. My three boys, long past the "DADDY'S HOME!!!!" stage of life, have now moved to the "hey, dad" phase. Ripley was the last holdout, and he was my buddy.

Unfortunately, a malformity in his stomach caused him to not be able to keep anything down the last month or so, and through a long and complicated series of events, he ended up going through a surgery to try to correct it this last Friday, November 19th. It was uncorrectable, and we had to put him down.

So, here's to you, my tummy-scratching, sock-chewing, squirrel-chasing friend. We love you, Rips!

The fact that he bit off the end of my arm here, had
nothing to do with his demise...

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Totally, like...whatever

We're here in Seattle and having a great time at the Reformission Conference at Mars Hill Church of Seattle. Hung out at the wharf all day with Tim and Dev, and heard Chris Seay from Ecclesia in Houston, TX this evening as the conference got underway. It was great! His main point was to highlight how very important it is to be wise in the Scriptures as we are attempting to reach into the mess of this world.

One of his side points was that this world LONGS for people to stand up and say they believe in something, to preach something that lasts, that people can hang onto in the tsunami of life. He quoted a new poem by Taylor Mali, a modern poet who has performed on poetry slams. I put it below for your perusal:

Totally like whatever, you know?
By Taylor Mali

In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you're saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)'s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences - so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not -
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we've just gotten to the point where it's just, like . . .

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Are we in need of a New Reformation?

a new book by Mark Driscoll,
pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle

This next week, I, along with our worship guys (Mike D. and Tim J.) are headed to Seattle to go to an Acts 29 "Reformission" conference lead by Mark Driscoll and his church in Seattle. The description of the conference is:
The gospel has the power to transform lives, and indeed our culture. The goal of the Acts 29 Network is to plant churches that effectively reach the emerging generation. To accomplish this, young leaders need to be equipped with a solid theological understanding of the gospel. If our understanding of the gospel is weak, our proclamation and evangelism will be weak and fruitless. The Reformission conference will speak into areas of theological confusion prevalent today.
This conference is unlike any other that we are aware of because it is lead by practitioners and is intensely focused on theological principles as opposed to yet another “how to” conference on methods. It is also inexpensive, and hits the most controversial and urgent theological questions of our day from Open Theism to egalitarianism, the DaVinci Code, new views of the atonement, and new views of Paul.

In my own experience and reading, I have seen three very distinct groups of people who are trying starting new churches that are seriously trying to reach people for Christ.

Group #1, my least favorite group, is the one that is totally pragmatic in its approach. "If it works, let's do it." It is the essense of the "seeker-sensitive" model of church planting - just be contemporary, send out mailers, preach in blue jeans and you'll have instant church! Why this group was so successful in church planting in the late 80's up until about 5 years ago is that it totally bypassed the whole worship wars that were going on. "Don't even waste your time at that church, they're stuck in trying to figure out whether to sing A mighty fortress is our God to the organ, or I love you, Lord. Come to us, we have a band, and play Third Day songs." What these people have brought to the table is the greatness of thinking about how to reach multiple people in a quick way by forging ahead and not being stuck in traditions (1950's traditions, that is). What they don't have is sense of awe and wonder or depth toward the holiness and glory of God. Little Bible training, or heart-felt, soul-satisfying worship, or deep encounters with the Spirit. The picture these churches have painted is "Christianity - Lite" - low on conviction, commitment and knowledge.

Group #2 is similar to Group #1 in that it is eager to make church accessible to the people, but with a total different and in fact, contrary agenda to Group #1. They are a relatively new group of Gen Xers and beyond who are totally into the incarnational, emergent, missiological nature of the church. They love the tradition of the church, but not the 1950's - no, they go back to the pre-reformational times of the mystics in the 550's. They understand the traditional church as legalistic, bound in its traditions (even boomer, Willowcreek traditions), and/or focused on an understanding of God that is very systematic its approach. They hate the consumerism of the mega-church. Their theology of God is very wide open and non-definitional in nature, but their exegesis of the culture is outstanding! What this group brings to the feast of the body of Christ is that they have revived the mystery of God, the awe and beauty of the Lord, and authentic worship. In addition, they have renewed an interest in what I will call a "non-entertainment" style of church, which is what the late 80's to present style of church planting has become.

Group #3 is highly interested in the purity of the gospel, and not so much of its mobility. It sees the church as the 'holder of the truth' and should, therefore, be in a position of 'battle stations' not so much with the outside culture, but with other churches who don't hold a high view of Scripture, or have fudged on doctrine to win people. This group brings so very much what I am appreciative of ~ a high view of the Scripture, of God and of Truth being solid. There is no 'fluff' with this group, and the God who is clearly preached is 100% powerful, 100% true, 100% good and 100% sovereign. I love the theology of God in this group! However, when it comes to their ecclesiology, or engaging, and I mean really engaging with our culture, these churches are viewed as out of touch, irrelevant, or just plain clueless.

Does it have to be this way? Do we have to chose one of these three types to be relevant to our culture? I don't think so. I have been deeply impacted by all three. I dream of a new breed of pastors and church planters that takes theology and biblical thinking REALLY seriously, have deep pragmatic concerns about reaching MANY people, AND is INTENSELY engaged with the pop culture we are currently in. This is what I am personally passionate about! Both the PURITY and the MOBILITY of the gospel are crucial to our being faithful to the calling of "making disciples of all nations..."

And yet, even after thinking about this for almost 20 years, I am still such a beginner at figuring out the wonder, beauty and truth of the gospel mobalized into our culture. I need help! I need more and more conversation partners who love God and love good theology and love people deeply! I can't think of a more important thing for us as pastors and church planters, especially those of us who are interested in the new generation of unchurched, postmodern, people to grapple with ~ How do we bring the gospel, the whole gospel without watering it, altering it, or baptizing it in our culture, to a lost, cynical, and anti-organized-religion society?

As I have been surfing the net, I've been impressed with the way Acts 29 is starting to ask these questions. That is why we will board a plane and suffer for Jesus in Seattle for 4 days this next week. :) It should be a great time of thinking, praying, dreaming and debriefing with Tim and Mike, who I love to process stuff with.

If I can have internet access out there at some coffee shop, I'll be dropping daily blogs of info. If not, I'll regurgitate as much as I can remember when I get back next week. Have a great week!


Thursday, October 28, 2004

The struggle to not allow ministry to be your god!

NOTE - this whole blog entry is really a comment that got a little long to my friend Mark Van Steenwyk's blog entry on October 28th titled "It's not a Both/And, often it is an Either/Or".

Success... What is it in ministry? Seriously… do we really know just how incredibly huge this question is?

I have met many people in my days who are totally codependent on how well their ministry is going. In fact, it is a daily struggle for me, and I am pretty self-depricating. What happens is they begin to replace the God of the Bible with the god of "here's-what-I-can-and-have-done-for-you, God". It is a serious trap. It is downright idolatry! I often hear of pastors who only read church growth books, seeking the latest greatest to have a larger church. The last thing a pastor needs to read is another church growth book if they are struggling with this! it just flat out needs to be repented from!

I say this so strongly because in my experience, I have seen more and more pastors and Christian workers eat this blue pill of unreality. It eats their lunch! Why? Because, just like any false god or idol, there is no life there! No matter how big your work is, no matter how many you have won to Jesus, no matter how many poor you have fed, how many people you have prayed simply is never enough.

Please don't hear me as saying that churches shouldn't try to grow. The vision of our church is to honor God by helping as many people as possible become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Go get a large church for His glory! However, ministry is a SERIOUS trap for anyone who wants to get "life" from it. No wonder there are so many cults. No wonder there are so many false teachers. No wonder there is so much competition between churches. I mean, my very life is at stake, isn't it? I get my value and worth from that fact that I am such a big shot in the kingdom, eh?

The Christian minister of the gospel is to be first and foremost a CHRISTIAN!! In other words, "you shall have no other gods before me" applies seriously, and perhaps most clearly, to those who are Christ's ambassadors here on the earth.

I know this is strong language, and I've gotten a bit huffy here, but if you are in ministry, any kind of ministry, I ask you, no, I beg you...Get your life from Jesus! Leave the false religion of numbers and money and buildings and programs and amount of staff and budgets. Come to Jesus! Worship the Almighty God! Make the focus of your ministry to gain as many worshippers for Jesus NOT FOR YOU!!! Daily remind yourself of this. Root out mercilessly any hint of this creeping into your life. And then, use your numbers and money and buildings and programs and staff and budgets to build as many worshippers of Jesus that you possibly can!

Rule number one has always been and continues to be no matter what your format of church or ministry is - It ain't about you...OR positively spoken...It is all about God and his Glory.

If you take yourself too seriously, if you can't just stop and flat out laugh histarically at yourself and how God uses you IN SPITE of are in deep trouble.

God has blessed me by letting me know that I am incredibly ordinary. Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 2:1-13 have really moved me lately:
“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”-- but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-13, NIV.

Paul, my hero Paul, the man outside of Jesus that I admire more than anyone for his intellect and ministry skill, is basically saying that even with all of his smarts, his immense ministry capabilities and sufferings, even with all of that he is convinced that success in ministry really only means that he has relied on the Holy Spirit, not on his own wisdom, to reach people.

Paul is convinced that really cool arguments, or really cool powerpoint, or candles and guitars or worship bands, or slick talks or anything else is not what changes people's lives. It is only when we use words that are the Spirit's - the "spiritual truths in spiritual words" in verse 13. To me, that means - go ahead, use that stuff (in fact, we do at Hope!) But never, and here's where the absolute war takes place in the heart of the pastor, never allow yourself to rely on ANY of it to do the trick in people's lives. God uses us to communicate his truth to the absolute center of another human being in spiritual words - not slick, or even necessary well thought out - just his words. He works in us, and through us, to others. It is about God from start to finish.

Those who wish to only do ministry if they are "successful by church growth standards" will need to daily repent to allow God to work. Otherwise, their ministry will be about them, and only allow their deity to grow or shrink by whatever measure they apply to it.

I will build my church...

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Elliott Charles Frash (1929-2004)

Taking a nap after reading the Word

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands."
~ The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1, NIV.

Around 4:30am last Saturday morning (October 16th, 2004), in his Arizona home, Elliott Charles Frash went to his eternal home with Jesus. Elliott was my father in law, my friend, a grandfather to my 3 boys, and a great role model for what it means to work hard and provide for your family. Carole (my wife) was one of his two daughters, thus giving her the role of one of "daddy's little girls."

Carole had the opportunity to visit her father 2 times after he was diagnosed with a very aggressive type of brain cancer. During her first visit she had a great conversation with her father about where he stood in his relationship with Jesus. On a walk the last day she was visiting, he told her, "I'm ready to become a Christian." These were words that she has been waiting to hear for over 30 years! Right there, on a bench in Green Valley, Arizona, Carole had the privilege of leading her 75 year old father to surrender his life, and take Jesus as his Savior.

We've just come back from a week of family, friends, and lots of FOOD as we went to be with the surviving family members. Thanks for all of you who were praying for us and for Carole's family during this time, especially for Carole as she shared her dad's spiritual journey at his funeral. She did marvelously, and was able to clearly communicate her love for her dad, as well as the promise of Jesus he was banking his eternal soul upon.

Elliott during a visit by Carole on Oct. 6th, 2004

Friday, October 08, 2004

Hope for the City

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
~ Luke 4:16-21, NIV.

On Wednesday our pastoral staff went to a meeting at Bethlehem Baptist Church that featured Bob Lupton as the main presenter. He shared his views on how to bring life, vitality and economic stability to the poorest regions of our city. It was good, but it leaves me with a whole slew of questions.

First off, what is the primary concern of the church? Isn't it the 'soul work' of saving, discipling and training people to live lives worthy of God? I firmly believe this. This can NEVER be replaced with a well-meaning, yet ultimately temporal solution of having people become financially stable.

However, the Bible is CLEAR that we are to be among the poor (James 2:2-6), we are to give to the poor (Exodus 23:11), and we are not to show favoritsm, either positively (Exodus 23:3) or negatively (Exodus 23:6).

Also, we are to stand up for the poor, as so many people are actively trying to take advantage of them:

A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away. [Proverbs 13:23]
The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. [Psalm 37:14]

God has a huge heart for the poor. Now, my big question (BQ) is this:

How do we (as a body at HCC) and I (as an individual, and as senior pastor at Hope) become involved in the plight of the poor? Being a church on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, being right next to the county hospital, and within a stones throw of subsidized housing has brought new challenges and opportunities to us as a church. What do we do? How can we be involved with the justice and mercy the Lord asks of us, while at the same time investing heavily on the spiritual aspect of our ministry to more and more people as Hope is growing?

Quite honestly, I'm not sure right now. I would love prayer for me and our overseers and for our staff as we wrestle with this. One of the things I hope to dive into during my sabbatical (May-July 2005) will be this issue. I would also love any feedback here or in person from many of you at Hope (or out there in the internetville!). May God lead us to bring his hope to the city of Minneapolis!

Monday, September 27, 2004

life is hard . . . God is good

My friend Adam, and his wife Maureen have really been through it lately, with health concern after health concern plaguing their extended family. It is almost comical how hard this has hit.

A few days ago, Adam wrote a great email asking for prayer (and I would encourage anyone reading this to pray for them). However, the thing that really struck me was his closing paragraphs. Having his permission to reprint them, here it is:
I am struggling intensely with all of this, so please keep me in your prayers that I would not be frustrated and overwhelmed. Just the other day I asked God, “Are you wanting to modernize the book of Job? Should I be jotting stuff down? Are my goats going to start dying soon? Should I try to order some sackcloth online? Maybe get a bag of Kingsford I can smear on my face when people start dying?”

But I trust Him. Day by day he gives me “the peace that passes understanding” which I have come to understand means that as far as you can see life is hard, there is sickness and death, and financial problems and cars breaking down and relatives in Afghanistan, but I am bigger than all that, and your peace is rooted in who I am, and not the things you see around you, so calm yourself.

I love Adam and Maureen and their heart for Him. I KNOW that God will not waste this pain in their lives. Life is hard...and God is good!!!

Friday, September 24, 2004

"Is your church characterized by love?"

This is the question that my friend, Dave, asked me as I was driving with him about 2 weeks ago. He lives in Rochester, MN, and made a suprise visit to me at about 9pm one night. He really wanted to see the building God had given to us, through the generousity of the previous owners, Central Free Church. So, we went for a late night tour of the building.

On our way in the truck, out of the blue, Dave asks, "So, would you say that your church is characterized by love? Is that the mark of Hope Community?"

I was shocked by the question. Is that what marks us? Is that what people would say about Hope? What are our 'marks'?

First, I would think they would say that Hope takes God very seriously, loves the Bible, and works very hard to be relevant to a society that has by and large thought that God is irrelevant. That would be a mark...

Next, a mark of our church would be community, the fact that we really desire to know one another deeply, and not just put on a religious front. We allow people to state where there are at with God honestly and openly. We desire to have people deal with their problems in life in a real way, even if it bring up ugliness. That would be another mark...

Another mark, would be the love of the grace of God - we are all poster children for grace - WE NEED JESUS! Our sin is a BIG DEAL! It separates us from a holy God - we are toast without the blood of Jesus on the Cross. This too, would be a solid mark...

However, are we a church that is marked by love? I had to answer him, "Not the way I would like to see in my life or in our church." I said this not because I don't think Hope is a friendly place, a place where people feel warm to one another, a place where life-long, authentic, God-centered friendship begin and go on. But, are we a people that is MARKED by love in a radical way? Have we maintained the level of love Jesus talks about in being 'lovers of our neighbors as ourselves'? Is this mark of love the first thing I think of in my life and in the life of this church? Not yet. I know I personally have a long way to go, and I think we can grow in this as a church. This is a good thing, a challenging thing, and it humbles me greatly.

This weekend, September 26th, I am going to preach on this subject, going into the causes of what makes us (starting with me!) so hesitant to actually be marked by love. I'll write more on this next week. Till then, pray with me that I would become a person, and we would become a church, that is marked by Christ's love.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Cross of Jesus and Preaching

This fall I have been invited to teach a class of 14 pastors in the art of biblical preaching. Nothing could humble me more. I am such a puppy when it comes to this issue. I am such a newcomer to this whole area. Yet, I have a strong passion for biblically-centered, culturally-relevant preaching. I feel very strongly that preaching is a very important ingredient in reaching people, ESPECIALLY postmoderns! The heralding of God's truth, in a language and style that is relevant to those who have checked out of God, church, and organized religion is a huge part of our strategy to reach people here at Hope. And you know's working!

In teaching this class this fall, I have chosen to not teach techniques at first. Sure, that is important, and without proper skills, an educated, godly pastor will be a failure in the pulpit, no doubt. However, I have seen so much emphasis put on this, that the whole idea of preaching GOD has been lost! The whole concept of helping people to see God, to enjoy God, to worship God, to repent to God has been shaded over in our overuse of powerpoint, over-illustrated, over-pyschologized, over-entertained preaching these days. What young preachers need to hear is simple: PREACH GOD! PREACH THE WORD! RELY ON THE HOLY SPIRIT!

That is why I have started the first 3 weeks of this 12-week course to engage in nothing but Scripture and the reading of John Piper's "The Supremacy of God in Preaching." John was my pastor for four years, and now I consider him a colleague and a friend of our ministry. In fact, he is our neighbor, as Bethlehem Baptist is just 3 blocks away from Hope.

I love this book. It is a gift to the body of Christ, and a gift to preachers everywhere. It starts with the simple statement: People are starving for the greatness of God" (Preface, p. 9 - 1990 edition). The job of the preacher is to SHOW OFF CHRIST and to HELP THEM ENJOY HIM! That's it. Not to entertain, not to be slick, not to draw attention to them -- no, just be a hound dog that points to the game bird -- JESUS!

In one of my favorite passages in the book, John deals with what we have done to replace God in our lives and ministries. He says:
The goal of preaching is the glory of God reflected in the glad submission of his creation.

But there are two massive obstacles to the attainment of this goal: the righteousness of God and the pride of man. The righteousness of God is his unwavering zeal for the exaltation of his glory. The pride of man is his unwavering zeal for the exaltation of his glory.

What in God is righteousness, in man is sin. This is the very point of Genesis 3—sin came into the world through a temptation, and the essence of that temptation was: “You will be like God.” The effort to imitate God at this point is the essence of our corruption.

Our parents fell for it, and in them we have all fallen for it. It is now part of our nature. We take the mirror of God’s image which was intended to reflect his glory in the world, turn our back tot eh light, and fall in love with the contours of our own dark shadow, trying desperately to convince ourselves (with technological advances or management skills or athletic prowess or academic achievements or sexual exploits or counter cultural hair styles) that the dark shadow of the image on the ground in front of us is really glorious and satisfying. In our proud love affair with ourselves we pour contempt, whether we know it or not, on the worth of God’s glory.

As our pride pours contempt upon God’s glory, his righteousness obliges him to pour wrath upon our pride…

So is there any hope that preaching might attain its goal—that God be glorified in those who are satisfied in him? Can the righteousness of God ever relent in its opposition to sinners? Can the pride of man ever be broken of its own vanity and be satisfied in God’s glory? Is there a basis for such hope? Is there a ground for valid and hopeful preaching?

There is. In the cross of Christ God has undertaken to overcome both obstacles to preaching. It overcomes the objective, external obstacle of God’s righteous opposition to human pride, and it overcomes the subjective, internal obstacle of our proud opposition to God’s glory. In so doing the cross becomes the ground of the objective validity of preaching the ground of the subjective humility of preaching.

~ The Supremacy of God in Preaching, John Piper, pages 28-29 (1990 edition).

How much can we ever thank you for paying our penalty and for restoring the Father's glory in one prefect, ingenious act! You are AEWESOME! May my heart burn within me as you work in and through and in spite of myself. Use me for your glory and my joy in all the teaching and preaching you would allow me to do. Use these men who are taking this class to do great things in their ministries. Use my friends who are pastors as they preach you to their people. May we NEVER worship the shadow, but only you! Amen

Monday, September 20, 2004

Worship of God vrs. Worship of my Needs

For a long time, I have been frustrated by what I see as a consumer mentality in the church. The main idea in looking for a church is to find one that will meet my needs, as opposed to one that will help me to see, worship and know Jesus Christ better. The idea is simple:

We go "church shopping" until we've found the place where my needs are met, and where God ministers to me. If this church (and I primarily mean the worship service - music, message, artwork, how friendly people are to me) doesn't 'work', then off I go to the next church. I'll do this until I've exhausted several churches (and myself!) in the process, and finally come to the conclusion "the church isn't relevant to my needs!"

True, churches, including the one I pastor need to know and minsiter to the needs of our people. Yet, isn't there something fundamentally wrong with the premises: "I go to church to get my needs met" or "I go to _______church because I like the worship style (or preaching stlye, or children's ministry, etc.)" Fundamentally, isn't the main point and purpose of going to church to enter into a mystical, wonderful, worship relationship with the God of the universe!

I've seen it in my friends, in my generation and in my own church. In fact, I've battled it very severely in my own life, even being the pastor of Hope.

Doug Tappen of Relevant Magazine has just written a great article on this issue. You can click the title of this entry for the entire article or go to

He says:
There’s a larger problem involved, however, and I don’t believe it’s a problem that is uncommon to people (particularly twentysomethings, of which I am one) in the church today. You see, I walk in to the church service, sit down, cross my arms and expect God to do something in me. I expect the worship team to bring me out of my apathy. I wait for something the pastor says to catch my ear. What’s the problem with all this? It’s me. Nothing has changed in my church since the time when I enjoyed coming. I’ve changed. I’ve become more selfish. I’ve become more cynical. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where my girlfriend told me yesterday that maybe she should sit somewhere else during the service because she can sense that I don’t want to be there.

More than all this, I’ve come to expect the church to forge my spiritual development. Instead of working on my own prayer and devotional life, I want the church to do it for me. Please tell me I’m not the only one in the Body of Christ who has this problem. Please tell me there are other lazy people, who come to church on Sunday and expect to be filled up for the week ahead. Meanwhile, they have no expectation of giving anything. (I’m not talking about money either.) We aren’t willing to give of ourselves in worship. We aren’t willing to give of ourselves to each other, to minister to our friends who have hurts too (we’re not the only ones who hurt, even though we’d like to think so sometimes).

I’d like to blame all this on our American culture of selfishness. I’d like to say that I am this way because I’ve been socially conditioned by all the advertising and marketing that I’m encountered with day after day; advertising that says things like “Have it Your Way.” Well, I do want it my way. Don’t we all? Isn’t it true that if we don’t like how things are done at one church we can just go across town (or across the street, for some of us) and find a church that suits our felt needs better? Is that what Jesus intended for His church? Did He want us to forsake our churches just to seek “greener pastures” somewhere else? It’s true that the Church is flawed. No church is exempt from this. But instead of giving up (or becoming total cynics of every last detail) we should be working to change that which is wrong in our churches, but more than that—to change that which is wrong in ourselves. And changing what is wrong in us is probably the harder of the two. Selfishness doesn’t go away easily (trust me, I’ve still got plenty of it). How else can we work to change from selfish people to gracious and generous people other than asking for the help of the Holy Spirit? There is no other way that I know of (and I’m sure I’ve tried many) to deal with sin of every kind.

In the end, I can only blame my own sinful nature that allows me to become like I am. It’s my fault, not my church’s, that I think and act this way. Until I, and those like me, are willing to own up to this, we will continue to be unfulfilled Christians who take up space in the pews on Sunday mornings, but have nothing to contribute to the radical mission that the church is called to.

Holy God,

I am such a consumer. I so often am most concerned with "what's in it for me" when you said 'to lose your life is to find it.' My highest goal in life is to be a pointer to you, to let you be the focus of my life, and my ministry...and yet, I slip into so many of these dangerous patterns as this. Who can rescue me from this? Only you. Rescue me, rescue us, never let us be satisfied with anything other than a life-changing encounter with the living God, regardless of the forms it may come in. Come Holy Spirit, Amen.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

the love of my earthly life...

steveandcarole.JPG, originally uploaded by stevetreichler.

I am hopelessly, carelessly, and wonderfully in love with the woman who said "YES" to me in March of 1987. To propose to Carole on that cold, March day, I fell to both knees (some guys need to beg!) at the site of our original DTR talk. For those of you not in the know, 'DTR' is couple-speak for that huge 'define the relationship' talk you have before you start dating. Very painful experience for most, strike that, ALL men.

During that first encounter at this park in NE Minneapolis, I stumbled around for the better part of an hour and a half to simply get the words out "I like you, what do you think about that?" In fact, I was so confusing in my speech, I am amazed she stayed there. When asked if I had any feelings for her, I said, "If I were to say to you that I wasn't interested in you, I would be lying..." Nice use of the old double negative trick there to figure out what in the world he is saying, eh?

After a few moments, as Carole took out her pocket "scared-guy-speech-translated-to-common-English" to figure out what this meant, Carole was pleased, for this entry means "I'm nuts about you, baby!"

In my favorite book on marriage, Larry Crabb writes about the joy of marital relationships. In it he states there are three main areas to marriage:

* Spirit Oneness: Trusting in Christ alone to meet your personal needs for security and significance; * Soul Oneness: Ministering to your partner in a way that enhances an awareness of his or her worth in Christ; * Body Oneness: Enjoying sexual pleasure as an expression and outgrowth of a personal relationship.

The goal of marriage, taking Crabb a bit futher, is for the two [individuals] to become one [intensely intimate and open and vulnerable] in EVERY area of their lives. Emotionally, Spiritually, Financially, Managerially (running a house with three boys and a dog), Time-wise, and Physically.

I have been blessed with an amazing life-partner who loves Jesus Christ from her toes, and loves me in spite of myself. She is my hero, and anything that can be said about me in positive way somehow can be traced back to her encouragement, support and love toward me. I love you babe!

Blogging to the glory of God!?!?!?

So, here it is. Today I have decided to start my very own blog. Why, you might ask? Is it because I think I am a good writer? HA! No way. Is it because I think I have such profound thoughts that it is necessary to write them all down for prosterity? Ah, no. So why does a guy who is busy up to his eyeballs start a blog?

The answer to me is simple. I'm doing it because I want to have more and more 'conversation' with many of the people of Hope that time just doesn't permit. Last Sunday, we had our largest service ever with just over 400 in worship. Something within me just thinks that is so cool! We've been studying the book of Acts, how the church just got completely 'out of hand' as it grew quickly. Hope is going through a similar, albeit smaller, time. God is in our midst! He is causing many people to trust him in ways that we’ve only dreamed about! To him ALONE be the glory. Trust me, it is NOT due to our slickness, or great marketing skills that Hope is growing. We are poster children for the "yes, you, even you can start a church and watch it grow" movement! God is so cool!

However, with this additional amount of people, I still have a longing to take each and every one of you out for a bagel or a cup of coffee and get to know you better. Can't be done anymore. So, my start to having a conversation with many of you is this blog. I would love for you to check it out whenever you feel like it, and comment away! All you need to do is create an account (only page 1 is necessary for you to comment - if you want your own blog, fill out pages 2-3).

Looking forward to blogging and having a cup of electronic 'jo with you!