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How Are We Going to Finish?

During yesterday’s sermon I discussed the importance of finishing well. Even though I didn’t put it in my sermon, over the course of the week I kept thinking about some individuals with much in common throughout their lives, but who really couldn’t be more different regarding how their lives ended…

Saul and David were both anointed by the prophet Samuel to be kings over the twelve united tribes of Israel, and both experienced serious failures: Saul offered the sacrifice meant for Samuel and he didn’t destroy all the Amalekites (1 Sam 13 and 15), and David had his terrible sins with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam 11). Despite these similarities though, the way they finished really couldn’t be more different. Saul died a shameful death on the field of battle, seeking suicide to prevent falling into the hands of the Philistines (1 Sam 31:4). Worst of all he was unable to pass the throne to one of his sons who ended up dying with him (1 Sam 31:2). David on the other hand died peacefully, fulfilling the desire every king has in passing the throne to his son (1 Kin 2:2-4).

Peter and Judas were both chosen by Jesus to be His disciples, enabling them to be part of the most unique experience in history as they accompanied the Lord during His earthly ministry. They also both failed in their lives and it wouldn’t be too much to say the failures themselves were fairly similar. The failures might have played out differently, but in essence they were the same: forsaking the Lord at the end of His life. Despite the similarities between their experiences and failures though, the way they finished couldn’t be more different. Peter went on to serve the Lord as a pillar in the early church with his life courageously and honorably ending in martyrdom (John 21:18). Judas on the other hand died one of the most tragic deaths in Scripture, committing suicide by hanging (Matt 27:5).

The question isn’t really whether we’re going to be like these men in terms of having our own failures. We’re all going to fail. It’s really a question of how we’re going to handle our failures; it’s a question of what we’re going to do after we fail. When we fail are we going to repent and pick ourselves up and continue serving the Lord – like David and Peter did – or do we let our failures consume us and ruin our lives, like Saul and Judas did?

We could say, “Are we going to be a David or a Peter? Or are we going to be a Saul or a Judas?” A simpler way to ask the question might be, “How are we going to finish?”

Finishing strong
Elwyn gave me this newspaper clipping back in 2003 when I was teaching elementary school. I laminated it and put it up in my classroom, sharing it with students at the beginning of each school. I’d tell them they’d all start off well in August and September, but what really mattered was how they finished in June.
The picture also encouraged me as a Christian to finish the race well (Heb 12:1, 2 Tim 4:7). In yesterday’s sermon I was able to share this poster toward the end pointing out how it it summarized my message. A subtler blessing for me was having Elwyn at church being able to see the picture he gave me years ago still blessing me and hopefully blessing others. When he first gave me the clipping I’m sure he never had any idea I’d be a pastor someday and use it in a sermon…and he’d be part of the church with his family!

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Coaching our kids in t-ball with my best friend…

Some months back when Elwyn was considering whether to take the kindergarten teaching position here, I remember walking in the house telling Katie, “He’s not going to move to Washington.” He had been offered the job, but before we got off the phone he told me he was staying in Marysville, CA. The whole situation was so sudden, and involved so much change, and required so much to be done in such a short period of time that for anyone it would seem almost impossible. Plus you factor in Elwyn had been in Marysville for almost twenty years: he had a routine, he was very well-respected by a school and community that knew and loved him, he told me he could walk into his classroom each day without preparing anything because he had been doing it so long, his job was completely secure, he was making good money, etc. Plus, he had a wife and two small children who would be seriously affected by the decision if it didn’t go well. It was a huge decisions to consider, BUT God had opened all the doors. A number of “fleeces” had been laid out, and God had answered in the positive regarding all of them. Still, what was being required of Elwyn and his family was so much that I could understand why he was waiting to come for the following school year. I was very disappointed, but it made perfect sense.

Then something happened that I’ll never forget. Forty-five minutes after telling me he wasn’t coming, Elwyn called me and told me he was coming. It was a wonderful, emotional moment. When your best friend tells you he’s bringing his family to be part of your family (and church), and you consider all it’s expecting of him…and he happened to be the person God used to see you become a Christian…and now you’re going to be his family’s pastor, it’s hard not to get emotional…even for a guy like me who never gets emotional :).

Elwyn said he had one requirement though. It wasn’t, “Be a great pastor to me and my family” or “Let’s make sure our families hang out once per week” or “Please introduce us to some other families so we have some friends” or “Can you get some people to help us move in?” it was, “I’ll move there if the two of us coach our sons together in T-Ball.” I have coached football, wrestling and girls’ basketball, and as of Saturday afternoon at 10:30am, Elwyn and I became the proud co-coaches of a Woodland T-Ball team, with Brooks, Ricky and Rhea as three of our players. Do we have any idea what we’re doing? Not at all!

Elwyn purchased this jacket for me, which happened to be the same jacket he'd purchased for himself. He's a Michigan fan; hence the colors.
Elwyn purchased this jacket for me, which happened to be the same jacket he’d purchased for himself. He’s a Michigan fan; hence the colors.
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Feeling sorry for ourselves and thanklessness

Elwyn, my friend I’ve discussed in sermons and bulletin letters and is attending camp with us (and is here today!), sent me a message this past week that started with, “We checked your weather and saw it was 81. Nice! Today it is 104 in Yuba City. We are thankful…that it is not 105!!!” A few days later he sent another e-mail that said, “111 degrees today. Yes, I said 111.” This made me think of something: I’ve been complaining lately to myself about the heat: What’s going on? Thought we got away from this when we left California? When I read Elwyn’s message two things came to mind…

First, 80’s don’t seem too bad compared to 100’s…or 110’s. Many times the struggles we’re facing wouldn’t seem as bad if we considered what other people are experiencing. Many times we feel sorry for ourselves because we’re thinking about ourselves too much and not enough about others. One of the benefits of praying for others is it takes our minds off ourselves and helps us to think about what others are going through. Our struggles start looking a lot smaller. If we think about ourselves all the time…and all we’re going through…and how tough our lives are…and how we’ve got it so bad, then we’re going to be miserable. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 Paul lists all the suffering he experienced and I’d say second only to Job or Jesus (Isa 53:3) Paul might be the man most acquainted with suffering in the entire Bible. Amazingly though, he could write an entire book (Philippians) about all the joy he experienced. At least part of that must have come from how much he thought about other believers. In 2 Cor 11:28 he said, “what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” His beatings and shipwrecks weren’t upsetting him so much, because he was so burned for other believers…and non-believers.

The second thing I thought of is I’m not thankful enough. There are always reasons to be thankful. Elwyn was thankful it was 104 instead of 105…then, although he didn’t say it, maybe he was thankful it was 111 instead of 112. I’m not sure how hot it’d have to get before he’d finally complain. If we’re believers, just the thought of what Jesus has done for us as well as what awaits us should fill us with unspeakable joy (1 Pet 1:8) and thankfulness.

And here’s today’s (7/14/13) sermon: Luke 4:3 Wait on the Lord

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Dedicating 14 Babies?

Different times I’ve discussed one of my best friends, Elwyn Ordway. He visited a few months ago with his family and I’ve mentioned him in a number of sermons. We met early in my teaching career when our classrooms were next door. God used him greatly in my conversion and he’s been a wonderfully loyal and encouraging friend. He was the one person who stood by me at the lowest point in my life when my brother died and I was somewhat estranged from my parents. It seemed like a number of people had written me off, but he saw something in me and even at that early time in my Christian life he talked to me about being a pastor someday.

Last week he saw on Facebook that I dedicated 14 babies during last Sunday’s service, and he wrote the following article as a joke. Here are a few things for you to know so this makes sense: he lives in Marysville, CA, he read the other bulletin letter where I joked about the women’s meeting discussing me not liking baby dedications, and he’s a big sports fan. When I used to coach if I experienced any success, he’d write articles comparing me to the greatest coaches in history. This article is in the same vein as those other comical articles…

Marysville Daily Press – 2/17/13

Move over Babe Ruth. You too Broadway Joe Namath and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. Coach Wooden you got company. And those ’72 Dolphins? They have a new neighbor.

Today in the sleepy little town of Woodland, WA a record was set. The Babe hit 60 home runs in 1927. Namath led the Jets to that Super Bowl III upset, Joe Dimaggio hit in 56 straight games in 1941, UCLA won 88 games in a row, and Miami went undefeated in the 1972 NFL season. But on Feb 17th, Pastor Scott LaPierre dedicated 14 straight babies at the WCC morning service. News reports stated LaPierre didn’t believe in baby dedications but he changed his mind just recently. “Pastor Scott didn’t even change his shirt and tie but went right into the dedications after his sermon,” said one onlooker.

One long time friend was not surprised. “I remember how Scott used to let the dishes pile up in his kitchen sink so I’m not really surprised he let all these babies pile up as well.” The friend said LaPierre would now be known as “The Babe”. One WCC member said the official count of dedications since Pastor Scott had not previously believed in dedications was 14 babies, seven middle schoolers and a 38-year-old man who joined in the gala event. The older gentlemen said he had waited a long time for Pastor Scott to change his mind about dedicating babies, but he was glad to finally be dedicated.

After the service Mrs. Katie LaPierre gave “the Babe” an ice pack and listed his shirt and tie on Ebay under “LaPierre Shirt with Drool“. Mrs. LaPierre said her husband had worn the shirt all morning so there was quite a bit of drool from all the dedications. Some of it even belonged to the babies.

Congratulations were in order after the service. Reports had LaPierre so tired afterwards that he needed to take a few months to recover.

-Reporter Elwyn Ordway

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Tim Tebow hate?

You don’t have to appreciate football to appreciate Tim Tebow. You might not like football. You might not understand football, but I think you can like and appreciate Tim Tebow.

I’ve probably watched three football games in the last two years…and most of them were for social reasons to hang out with friends. Part of this might have to do with being a Lions fan. They could make even the most committed fan not want to watch them. One of my best friends, Elwyn Ordway, who’s from Michigan doesn’t even like them. The problem is, I loved Barry Sanders. I wore number 20 through high school and college. By the time BS retired, I was committed to the team. It’s been very painful.

Even though I don’t want much football, I have tried to follow Tim Tebow, because while I know there are Christians in the NFL, I think it’s safe to say there aren’t Christians like Tim Tebow in the NFL. He’s praying, singing worship songs, on the sidelines, when he’s mic’d, in the huddle, etc.

I check my news on the Internet and there are stories everywhere about him being a quitter, which caught my attention. The story goes that Tebow told his head coach he didn’t want to be part of the offense on Sunday because he was mad at being passed over as quarterback by Mark Sanchez. People are calling him “fraud”, “loser”, “quitter”, and ESPN’s Merril Hoge said he’s as “phony as a three-dollar bill.”

Tebow’s comments all came secondhand from unnamed sources and the story isn’t even confirmed by the coach. That’s all that’s necessary to destroy the character of an individual who’s shown himself time and time again to be an upstanding man of God? Even if you’re an atheist you should be able to appreciate his humility, integrity and work ethic. Then one unsubstantiated story comes along and people talk worse about him than guys in the NFL with countless felony charges?

Here’s what he said when he responded to the slander: “For people to not know the situation and then start to bash your character and then say you’re a phony or you’re a fake or you’re a hypocrite, I think that’s what’s disappointing and that’s what’s frustrating. Your character is who you are as a man and that’s a lot more important. I take that way more serious than I’ll ever take a football game.”

Prior to college he spent three summers in the Philippines helping with his father’s orphanage and missionary work. Yet one rumor demonizes him?

Let me share something with you that I also think says a lot about Tim…

Last year he played for the Denver Broncos. When he took over as quarterback, they had one win and four losses. Tebow rallied them to the playoffs, but as soon as the season was over they got rid of him. Now, in the media world that thrives off drama and intrigue, Tebow was questioned in the hope he’d trash his old team for their lack of gratitude…which would make a great story. Here’s how he lashed back at his treatment: “First and foremost, I just want to thank the Denver Broncos for my time there. I understand what they were going through. You don’t get many opportunities to have a chance to sign Peyton Manning. What a great quarterback he is.”

Are you kidding me? He thanks them and compliments the incoming quarterback?

Here’s what I think is happening: if he wasn’t so ardent about his faith, I don’t think this would be happening. In Matthew 10:22 Jesus said, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake” and in John 15:18 He said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” If Tim was out cheating on his wife and getting arrested, he wouldn’t have to expect any more backlash than the rest of the players in the NFL, but because he follows Christ, he’s setting himself up to be attacked just like Jesus said.

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Update on our trip to CA – Part II

Hello Everyone,

We made it back home safely from our trip to California on Monday evening about 5:00. My wonderful parents came over to our house before we got home to build us a fire and prepare us dinner. The church made a sign welcoming us back that hung in the kitchen, and a friend of ours got us flowers and some nice bread. It was very good to be home.

So here’s another day-by-day recap of our time in Lemoore/Hanford…

  • We arrived at Dave and Naida’s house Tue afternoon, Dec 4th. Dave and Naida have been two of our best friends since we first met them in 2005. Katie and I started attending a home Bible study Dave was leading, and in a few months Dave invited me to start leading it. Although I’d led Bible studies for kids and young adults, that was my start having my own study to lead each week. In the evening we had dinner with Dave, Naida and their daughter Danielle and her husband Charlie (two other good friends of ours before we left) and this was the first time we’d been able to see their son Levi. After dinner we surprised a home Bible study that I used to lead. It was great to see more old friends and see the study was going well.
  • Wed, Dec 5th I studied in the morning and went out for lunch with Dave. Katie stayed home and relaxed with the kids, and then met up with some girlfriends. Wednesday evening Charlie and Danielle came over for dinner again, and Katie went to a women’s study with Danielle, and Dave, Charlie and I hung out at the house watching kids and talking about ministry.
  • Thur, Dec 6th I met Pastor Joe in the morning at 9:00 until we met Dave for lunch. It was great to be able to discuss our churches, sharpen each other and share stories about how things are going. That evening we attended Bible study with Dave and Naida, which happened to be another Bible study I used to lead. Again, it was great to see so many old friends and meet some new people.
  • Fri, Dec 7th we met our good friends the Shifflets for lunch, and in the evening we went to Pastor Joe’s for dinner.
  • Sat, Dec 8th, I attended Grace Baptist’s men study in the morning, then we went back to Dave and Naida’s house. Charlie and Danielle came over again and in the evening we attended Grace Baptist’s Christmas dinner, during which I shared a devotional and provided an update on our ministry in Woodland. The highlight was being able to see so many wonderful friends.
  • Sun, Dec 9th was obviously church. I went early with Dave for prayer, then I preached at both services. The message isn’t on Grace Baptist’s website yet, or I’d provide the link, but you can probably check back in the near future and it will be up. It was wonderful being able to see everyone and see how the church has changed (and stayed the same) over the last two years. I only wish I would’ve had more time with everyone. We left after church so we could make it to Redding at a decent time. We stopped in Yuba City on the way to have dinner with Elwyn and Britta.
  • Mon, Dec 10th we left Redding in the morning and made it home in the afternoon.

It was a really, really great trip. I have to say it was somewhat bittersweet, seeing so many awesome friends, but knowing we wouldn’t see them again for a while. Glad to be back in Woodland though. Thankful to have so many great friends here too.

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Update on our trip to CA – Part I

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to provide an update on our trip to California, which basically consisted of two purposes/parts:

  1. Attend Katie’s father Rick’s wedding reception in Roseville (which is near Yuba City where I used to live/teach and is where I became a Christian; therefore, a number of important people in my early Christian life are in this area, including people who served as mentors to me).
  2. Since we were in CA for the reception, head further south to Lemoore to visit our previous church Grace Baptist and see all our friends.

I figured the easiest way to provide the update would be with day-to-day info:

  • Thur, Nov 29th we left about 11:00am and headed to Redding, CA to spend the night with the parents of Katie’s high school best friend. This served as a nice halfway point for us. Although there was a lot of rain, this kept the roads fairly clear and made a relatively comfortable 8 hour trip with the kids.
  • Fri, Nov 30th we left Redding and headed to Roseville, CA where we stayed with Kathy and Barry Branaman. I became good friends with them in 2003 while living in Yuba City when I became a Christian. I met their daughters when I started attending a young-adults’ Bible study, and soon after Barry became a mentor to me. Our time with Barry and Kathy was really, really wonderful. Katie gets along very well with Kathy and I love spending time with Barry. I wish we could have spent more time with them, and hopefully there will be more opportunities to see them in the future despite the distance. We stayed each night with them from Friday to Monday.
  • Sat, Dec 1st was the day of the wedding reception. We spent a lot of time with Katie’s family who were in the area from out of town. When I lived in Yuba City, my best friend was a fellow teacher named Elwyn Ordway. He taught next to my classroom and he was very instrumental in me becoming a Christian and in mentoring me, especially in regards to reading my Bible. We were both single at that time, but since then we’ve gotten married and God’s blessed us with wonderful families. Elwyn, his wife and two kids came to the wedding reception, which was really great because it allowed me to spend the evening with him. Plus our kids get along well and were happy to be together. There’s something very, very satisfying about being with Elwyn and having our wives and children together, because of the years of singleness we spent wondering if we’d ever get married. I don’t think it would be too much to say it’s a real blessing to me just to see him with his wife and children.
  • Sun, Dec 2nd Katie’s father had a large breakfast for all the friends and family in the area. After breakfast we went back to Rick’s new wife Kathleen’s house where we hung out for a few hours with family before going back to Barry and Kathy’s house. One of the real difficulties with traveling back to California is the limited amount of time to spend with numerous close friends. Barry and Kathy knew this and graciously invited us to have a potluck at their home Sunday night and invite some of our friends from the area. At one point Katie was sitting at the table with three of her girlfriends she lived with in Chico when they were all single, and now they’re all married with children. One of Katie’s girlfriends married one of my groomsmen. They were actually part of our wedding party, and Katie and I joked that one day maybe they’d get married and we’d be part of their wedding party…which is exactly what happened. Sunday night we said goodbye to all our friends, including Barry and Kathy as they’d be getting up early for work the next day and we’d leave before they got home.
  • Mon, Dec 3rd we headed to Yuba City to stay with Elwyn, his wife Britta and their kids. I got to see Elwyn’s classroom and probably one of the highlights of the trip for me was a walk we went on together, talking about what God has done in our lives since the years when we taught next to each other as single guys. Now we’re able to look back on how gracious He’s been to us and how much He’s blessed us despite the stupid things we’ve done at times.
  • Tue, Dec 4th we left Elwyn’s house in Yuba City and headed to the Hanford/Lemoore area where we’ll be through Sunday. Dave and Naida Gomes were our best friends during our years in that area and they invited us to stay with them for the next five or six nights.

I’ll probably provide another update when we get back to Woodland. Our week is already filling up with Bible studies, dinners, and speaking engagements the entire time we’re here. Going back to Grace Baptist, our previous church, preaching there and seeing everyone is something I’m looking forward to more than I can put in to words. GBC is where I entered full-time ministry under Pastor Joe’s leadership and it was two years ago this week that I made the announcement that I was transitioning to Woodland. In other words, I’ll be be back at GBC preaching on the two year anniversary of when I announced I was heading to WCC!

I need to wrap this up as dinner will be soon, then Bible study tonight that we’re looking forward to crashing. This is actually the home fellowship I used to lead before passing it on when we moved. We’re going to show up and surprise everyone.

Will write more when we get back to Woodland :).

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July 8, 2012

From the Pastor,

As most of you know, last week my friend Elwyn and his family spent the weekend with us. Following the service, we spent some time together and he shared some of his thoughts with me, and there was one thing in particular I really wanted to pass along. He said, “I was really impressed how all you had to do was go up there and preach.” He couldn’t believe how well everything ran, from the people playing music, doing communion, running the sound, recording the sermon, teaching in Sunday School classes, serving in the nursery, etc. I said, “All that was in place before I got here, so it has nothing to do with me.”

I shared with him how it goes much deeper than just Sunday morning. We have people putting in a lot of hours to see VBS go well this year. We have people during the week who take care of the grounds. We have people who have been committed to helping my wife during her pregnancy.

All of this made me feel very thankful for our body for two reasons:

  1. I really appreciate how well our body works together and gets along. It’s a huge blessing to pastor a church where the people get along so well and there’s an absence of conflict and egos.
  2. I’m very thankful for the high percentage of people we have involved in different areas of the church.

If you aren’t involved in the church, I’d encourage you to pray about how God would use you. If you want to help with VBS, be sure to let Julie know. If you’d like to be on the nursery schedule, tell Amy Booker. One of the best ways to be involved in the church is to join us for prayer Wednesday mornings at 6:15am in the choir room.

Unfortunately, since the pastor is the most visible person in the church, he usually receives the most attention, but for any church to serve God well, there have to be a number of other people involved and that’s definitely the case at WCC.

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July 1, 2012

From the Pastor,

I’ve shared with all of you how the time when I first became a Christian was pretty difficult. It wouldn’t be too much to say that even though I had a relationship with God, it was the loneliest I’d ever been in my life.

There was one person though God really blessed me with during that season: Elwyn Ordway, a first grade teacher in the classroom next to mine (I’ve mentioned him in a number of sermons). He was very instrumental in my salvation and in helping me grow in my faith. In particular I learned how to read the Bible from him. I remember picking up his Bible and seeing how it was covered with notes from beginning to end. The way I study today, including how I prepare for sermons stems from what I learned from him.

During the years I taught near Elwyn, neither of us were married, so like most Christian bachelors we sat around feeling sorry for ourselves wondering if we’d ever get married, have children, etc. A few times we tried to help each other find spouses…with disastrous effects (ask him about the time I set him up with a woman in a cult…how was I supposed to know?). Somehow God protected us (from each) other and blessed us with great wives.

Elwyn was the one person who really supported me during that difficult season; he was the one person who stood by me. God used him greatly in my life, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for his friendship. He believed in me when it seemed like nobody else did. Very early on after my conversion he said he could see me becoming a pastor.

He’s visiting us this weekend with his wonderful wife Britta and their two children, and there’s an amazing sense of joy and thankfulness I feel with him here for two reasons. First, having our families together reminds me of all the times we whined to each other about never getting married. Second, since he talked to me about being a pastor nine years ago I’m glad to have him see the fulfillment of what he expressed to me before it ever crossed my mind.