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Showing items filed under “May 2012”

A Word to Graduates, 2012

I want to talk about authority.  What you believe makes you who you are.  Example:  If you believe that the world exists to serve your needs, you will become a greedy, opportunistic, self serving ego-maniac.  If you believe that it is important to help people in need, you will become a more generous and caring person.  

But whatever you believe, you believe on the authority of someone else.  Example:  If you believe that because you’ve trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are going to heaven when you die, you believe that because Jesus said it. 

If you believe that two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule makes water, chances are you believe that because your chemistry teacher told you so.  

Graduation from high school is a one of life’s passages.  It usually means that you are leaving the shelter of home and the certainty of Mom and Dad and striking out on your own to pursue your own career or further education.  I think graduation represents a change in your life because it is a natural changing point for what and who has authority over you in your life.  

C.S. Lewis, a famous Christian writer of the last century said this: “Don't be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you've been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I haven't seen it myself. I couldn't prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority -because the scientists say so. Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.” 

C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

So, who has authority in your life?  

We are defined by who has authority over us - whom we give authority over us.  Because we believe what they tell us.  

Hopefully, right now, your parents and your family have authority in your life.  You are now stepping out into a new stage in life and there is a high probability you will put much of what they taught you to the test.  In some things you will choose to accept their authority and continue to live according to what they taught you.  In other areas, you will choose to test whether or not what they taught you has authority in your life or not.  In the end, you will own what your parents worked so hard to teach you or not.

Who will be the new sources of authority in life beyond high school?  There are many.  Make wise choices in whom you grant authority in your life.  Here’s a brief list:   

1.  Roommates/peers.  You are about to enter experiences in which you will make friends that last a lifetime.  The college years tend to be like that.  The friends you make now might well be the friends you keep for the rest of your life.  So choose wisely.  Don’t try to impress other people.  True friends are impressed with who you are already and don’t want you to be something else.  Don’t try to fit in, just be yourself.  True friends will find you where you are.   For some strange reason I find it also true that some of the friends you meet your first year you will try to get rid of your second year.  I’m not sure why that is, but true friends will make that “first year cut” so to speak.  

2.  Girl/boy friends.  You may very well meet your future husband or wife in college.  There does tend to be a lot of pairing up in college.  So stay pure.  Don’t date anyone you haven’t gotten to know as a friend first.  Ask yourself before you date, “Would I consider spending the rest of my life with this person?”  If not, don’t date that person.  It only causes misunderstandings and hurt feelings down the road.  It is always better to be alone than to be together with the wrong person.  Don't commit to a relationship with someone before you answer the authority question in your life (who will have authority in my life?).  It’s unfair to your husband or wife to be under one person’s authority one day and another’s the next.  Be sure the person you’re committing to has also resolved that  authority question as well, and that together, you are submitting to the same authority.   Otherwise, you’ll have issues down the road.   

3.  Mentors.  College years provide the opportunity to meet significant people who can help to shape you as a person and possibly open doors for your in your future.  It is a real gift to have someone who is older and wiser and who is interested in helping you as you struggle with the authority question and find out who you truly are and what you truly believe.  Always be looking for a mentor.  Get more than one if you can.  However, if you can't find one, become one for someone else one day.  The world is suffering from a lack of people willing to invest in other people for their good.  

4.  Professors.  Your college professors will have an incredible amount of influence over you.  Some of them will seek to indoctrinate you. They will try to make you disciples of themselves or Keynes or Hayek (if you study economics, for instance),  liberal or conservative.  You will go through a period of time over the next several years where you try on many different hats and try out many philosophies.  Guard your heart.  So many of the things that are so important during this time of growth and testing during college will turn out not to be so important later on.    

5.  Jesus.  Some of you will have classes in the religion department at your schools.  Be very careful of what they tell you about what you believe.  Professors are usually given a lot of authority by their students.  But when it comes to faith, many professors misuse that authority in order to destroy what you’ve been taught in church.  They do this by going after the Bible.  They try to discredit it.  They treat it as if it were just another piece of literature, like a book by Dicken’s, and not as God’s holy word.  One favorite technique to try to make the Bible unscientific.  We tend to give scientists more authority than anyone else.  The Bible doesn’t ask you to disbelieve science.  But frequently science is used to make you disbelieve the Bible.  Some professors will teach you that apostle Paul was uninformed about modern research into the nature of human sexual activity.  But remember, God has been around since before any of his critics and He will be around long after they have passed.  When presented with a choice between human reason and God’s will, choose God’s will.  It has survived.  Religion professors tend to be very intelligent.  But most of them lack any experience.  What your pastors have taught you comes from seeing God’s word in action in the lives of real people every day.  The professors will tell you that people don’t get miraculously healed and that people can’t change.  I can tell you that people are healed and changed every day by the word of God.  Because Jesus is alive.  He is risen.  And the world has never been the same since Easter.  

Jesus says, “Follow me.”  So now he’s leading you into another great adventure as you go off to college with him.   You're leaving home and have all sorts of choices now.  In the end, his authority trumps all the other authorities that will lay claim on your life.  The Bible tells us all other authorities will be brought under his authority.  Remember what Jesus says at the end of Matthew?  He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations...”  My prayer is that Jesus will always be the final authority in your life and that you will involve him in every decision you make.  

Here are five things I’d encourage you to do as you move on to college:

1.  Learn history.  I don’t believe there are any new ideas.  Throughout history we have asked all the questions and considered a variety of different answers.  These times we live in are not so different from other times that people who have gone before us have lived in .  As a race, we have faced similar problems before and great minds have provided answers.  Find those answers.  Consider the struggles of past generations as you seek your answers for the future. 

2.  Find a young, vibrant, Bible believing church that loves and accepts students like you and attend regularly.  Don't go to a denominational campus ministry.  Why?  Because you come from a rather young, vibrant, Bible believing church and you need to continue being nurtured in the way you have been brought up.  Denominations are dying because they no longer teach what they profess to believe.  They have exchanged the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ for a lie and there is no life in most of them.  As a believer, you are meant to be part of a church.  Seek your friendships and your relationships there among people who share your beliefs. 

3.  Seek out quality. Keep the best forever.  Seek out the best people to be your friends.  Not the most popular or richest, but the one’s that have the best character, the greatest loyalty, and who hold themselves and you as their friend, to the highest standards.  Seek out the best ideas, the best thoughts, the soundest theories.  Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, “...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

  1.   Pray and ask God to reveal to you what you’re good at, what gifts he’s given you, and then ask him to let you go on to use those gifts and to do those things that He made you to do for his glory.  In other words, ask him to help you find out what you were made to do and do it with all your might to the glory of God.  The people who achieve joy in this life do so because they are doing what God made them to do. You don't have to be a pastor to serve God. Rather, serve God in all that you do.

5.  Read your Bible and pray every day.  

Thanks for reading.  God bless.  PJ 

Posted by John Kline with

Why We Want to Call A Burmese Pastor

Part I:  Quick Overview

Look at all the exciting things that God is doing at Zion Church!  

  • The pews are filling up with those people who ministries and individuals within in the church are helping out of homelessness and other forms of poverty. 
  • There are now 150+ kids from local apartment complexes, most of them refugees, who regularly attend our Wednesday night programming.  As many as we can transport coming to Sunday School.  
  • We are now serving 267 hot meals on Wednesday nights.
  • We have Arabic speaking Muslims attending on a regular basis.  They come to us for information about Jesus (Arabic Alpha), for help in getting established in our community, and for fellowship.
  • We are in the local elementary school every week helping to tutor kids.  We also provide transportation to an ever growing group of children to and from school.  We now provide weekend meals for 24 children identified by the school as not having adequate nutrition apart from the school breakfast and lunch programs.
  • We live and worship in a changing neighborhood.  More and more of our friends and neighbors are from other countries or are otherwise different from us. 
  • We are celebrating one year together with the Mizo people from Burma.  We have a service at 1:00 p.m. on Sundays in the Mizo language.  We provide pastoral acts like weddings, sermons, visitations, prayers, communion, guidance and assistance for nearly 300 Burmese/Mizo members at Zion.  
  • We have a good history of joint projects with our Burmese members including their financial participation in the new van, the new soundboard, the new carpet, cash gifts to the church, and our joint work in the community gardens and cleaning projects.  We are now ready to take our relationship to the next level.  It’s time to hire a pastor who will help us all bridge the remaining gaps so that we can truly be one church together and will be able to minister to needs our Burmese members have that our current pastoral staff cannot meet.  

Part 2:  Benefits to Zion of Being a Multi-Ethnic Church:

  • Biblical Faithfulness.  God will be honored by calling a Burmese pastor.  The mystery of the Gospel, Paul says in Ephesians 3:6, is that the Gentiles are now co-heirs with the Jews in God’s salvation plan.  That means that every nation is invited to enter the Kingdom of God.  Heaven will not have a Jewish section and a Gentile section, an African section or and Asian section, we’ll all be there together, falling down and worshipping the Lamb together.  When we worship here on earth as we will in heaven, we show the world and ourselves that Jesus is Lord (John 17) and that the Gospel is our new community which tears down the things that have formerly divided us (see Ephesians 2 and 3).  It is God’s intention to unite all things in Christ, and that includes the races.  See the miraculous story of the spread of the Church in Acts:  it spread across the world, uniting groups formerly divided by race, origin, belief, age, income, education, ability, etc.  When we open our hearts and our church to those who are different from ourselves but share our love of Jesus the Savior, we bring a smile to His face and do something beautiful for Jesus.
  • Authenticity in our Neighborhood.  If we wanted to remain a white, mostly suburban church, we should have sold the building by now and moved away.  But we are committed to stay in this neighborhood.  If we are to minister to this neighborhood with integrity, we need to look like the neighborhood.  The neighborhood to our immediate east is defined by Zion on the West and Thai Village and the Vietnamese Culture House and Museum on our East.  All the statistics we have indicate that Asians will be a major part of our immediate neighborhood for the next generation.  Having an Asian pastor helps us reflect to the neighborhood that we are serious about welcoming them to Zion and to the kingdom of God.  
  • Consistency for Our Membership.  I asked the Friday morning men’s group  a year ago how they thought people in our church would react to being a multi-ethnic church family.  They all responded the same way:  “Why should our church be any different than our kid’s school or our workplace?”  And they’re right.  Twenty five percent of our city is non-white, why wouldn’t our church reflect that?  I personally wonder if the segregation of most churches is a reason that our young people think we’ve failed to accurately reflect Jesus in our churches.  Having a Burmese pastor shows our membership and our world that we are serious about ministering to the people we serve.
  • Spiritual Growth.  The most exciting benefit to being a multi-ethnic church is that we will all grow spiritually.  Why?  Two BIG reasons.  1.)  When you teach, you grow.  There are things that the Mizo members can teach us and things we can teach them.  We will grow together in Christ because we’ll be teaching what we believe and that will stretch us.  Neither of us in perfect, we’re all human.  All of us are sinners.  But our experiences of God in our various contexts will serve as curriculum that will help us share the great and glorious Gospel with each other.  2.)  Because we’re different, we’ll have to stretch together and learn how to live out the Gospel of forgiveness and grace.  We’ll actually have to do what the Bible says:  bear with each other; speak the truth in love; forgive as the Lord has forgiven us; be patient, be quick to reconcile.  We’ll learn all these things.  We’ll have to have a relationship that is open and honest and full of integrity.  Our leadership will have to be completely transparent.  And we’ll have to learn how to communicate as Jesus loving people across different cultural platforms.  All of us will.  And this will help us grow immensely.  We’ll have to live what it is that we believe every time we come together.  As a pastor, I can’t think of a better exercise to make us practice what it is that we preach.  
  • We will grow our future membership.  What I mean by this is simply that there are many people in this city, both believers and those we are still considering the reality of Christ, that are waiting for the kingdom to be realized in this particular way.  They will respond positively to a church that seeks to bring the nations together under Christ.  I forecast that many are tired of being segregated and are longing to worship God with brothers and sisters from all over the earth.  Calling a Burmese pastor will help us grow the church numerically as well.
  • A Preview of Heaven.  When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together we call it a “fore-taste of the feast to come,” meaning that we will celebrate it all together when we reach the bright shores of Heaven and are One with Him who is One with us and with the Father.  How better to celebrate this feast together as people from every tribe and race, tongue and nation.  This visual will be a powerful reminder for us all at Zion that our true home is in Heaven and we shall be there together.  
  • Ability to Teach Other Churches.  Not a month goes by when we don’t get an inquiry from a pastor or a church or members of another church about what we’re doing.  We even get donations to help us!  Other churches want to know how to do the things that we’re doing.  It is God who does them, not us.  What we have to share is a testimony about how great our God is, and how Faithful He is, and about how, if you surrender to Him, He will come and show every church how to do mission and how to integrate with others who are different. 

Part 3:  The Benefits of a Burmese Pastor

  • The first is obvious:  calling a Burmese pastor will helps us minister to a group that is now as much as 25% of our church.
  • Calling a Burmese pastor will help us increase communication across our entire church.  Right now our situation is this:  for nearly 300 Burmese members, we have only 2 translators.  Those translators work full time, have growing families, and also have to translate for everyone who has to fill out paperwork, receives mail, or wants to buy a car or register something.  They are soooo busy that communication across the entire church suffers.  I can’t make a home visit or go to a meeting without a translator.  If we really need them, they have to drop everything and come and help.  Having a pastor on staff will allow us to have a translator available to us full time.  Translation is important.  It’s a major deal to invite the 1:00 service to come to a meal or event.  Everything has to be translated at this stage.  Sometimes, we’re not able to get it done in a timely matter and we are all deprived of each other’s company as a result.  We need a full time pastor to help us bridge the communication divide.
  • Integration.  We need to be one church, not two.  Think about all the things we could do together:  mission work, church suppers, Family Camp, family exchanges, prayer requests, celebrations, picture directories...etc.  The list is endless.  But we need help, full time help, to bridge the language and cultural divides.  Having a Burmese pastor on staff will help us bridge these gaps, and help us all get educated in cross cultural relationships so we can figure out how to work with our members from Liberia, Sudan and other places.
  • Neighborhood Outreach.  The pastor we will call will speak Mizo, our particular dialect, but also English and Burmese.  Our Burmese refugees are made up of many different ethnic groups and if they speak a common language, it’s Burmese.  That means that with the hep of the new pastor, we might be able to communicate to many more families at Samuelson School, within our WEdnesday night programming as well.  Imagine our frustration when some of the neighborhood kids who come on Wednesdays are asking about baptism and we can’t communicate with their parents!  Having a Burmese speaking pastor might help us breach this gap in many, many cases.
  • For the Edification of the Entire Congregation.  Imagine what it will be like to learn from a pastor who grew up and ministered across the planet from us.  Imagine what his testimony is like, living and preaching in a country that does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord, but actively persecutes the Church!  Oh!  How much we have to learn and how we will all be built up and edified together as a church with his teaching!   

Part 4:  The Details.

  • Our Denomination, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, Supports us Fully.  We’ll need help with the visa and immigration papers for this pastor.  LCMC has pledged to support us fully and are very, very excited about the ministry Zion is doing in our neighborhood.  They seek ways to encourage us.  
  • How Do We Pay For This?  Regular offerings from the 1:00 service which are currently being “saved” are more than sufficient to pay for new pastor’s salary and benefits.  Each month, funds will be given to the General Fund from the 1:00 service to pay for the expenses related to this new position.
  • Procedure.  The procedure to call this pastor is pretty straight forward.  Here it is: 
    • solicit list of candidates (on going)
    • work on job description (on going)
    • assemble call committee.  The call committee will be made up of 1:00 service members, Pastor John and someone from the BSO.  
    • interviews (mostly phone and Skype).  Will be done by the call committee.  
    • offer/acceptance.  They say “yes!”   
    • visas/green card.  Paper work.  
    • credentialing.  We’ll work with LCMC to get our new pastor certified with the LCMC. 
    • Job Description.  The job description will include the following:
      • minister to particular needs of Mizo members
      • preaching/teaching/pastoral acts for entire congregation
      • aid in integrating Mizo with entire congregation
      • neighborhood outreach and mission
      • new effort for fully integrated student/children ministry

  • Who Will Provide Supervision?  Pastor John as lead pastor and a joint task force of the BSO and 1:00 service.  

Conclusion:  The Future of the 10:30 Service.

We didn’t feel called to be a land lord.  We didn’t want to rule over our 1:00 service.  So when they came to us asking for help over a year ago, we asked them to simply join the church.  We continue to believe that God doesn’t want another ethnically specific church in Des Moines.  We believe He wants to make us one.  Zion was a German speaking congregation for 60 years.  We nearly died.  In order to do mission in our world, we need to speak the language of the culture.  The Mizo kids are learning English quickly.  Our Wednesday night neighborhood kids, too.  Where will they worship?  Probably not in the language of their parents.  Who will they marry?  Probably not someone who speaks their dialect.  We have a unique opportunity to provide these kids and their future families a place to worship together in English.  So we’re offering the 10:30 service to become more “global” in it’s style.  Call it the World Beat Service, perhaps.  We already worship monthly with Pastor Gakunze’s Swahili speaking congregation.  Why not add everyone in the neighborhood into that mix.  The songs will be in English and other languages, the sermons, too.  But we’ll be one.  Worshipping together the One God.  And this, I believe, will be something beautiful for Jesus.  Thanks for reading.  PJ 

Posted by John Kline with

Ramblings about God, the Church and Everything.

  • after Jesus’ own heart, 
  • with relevant, Bible based teaching,
  • with passionate and authentic worship,
  • of prayer,
  • with a heart for our city and the world,
  • where the love of our Lord is evident in the way we live and minister together. 

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