Category Archives: Featured Articles

Favorite Book of 2009?

Tell us your Favorite Book of 2009 or your Favorite Book of All Time and you’ll be entered in to win 2 tickets to “Men at the Cross” – the 2010 NW Regional Men’s Conference on Friday, January 29th and Saturday, January 30th – featuring Donald Miller, author of the bestseller Blue Like Jazz. The conference also features three other great speakers: Bill Perkins, Joe White, and Mike Silva.

Not local to Oregon but you want to enter? No problem. We’re also giving away a hard cover copy of Donald Miller’s latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years to the runner up.

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Wanna See Switchfoot in Concert?

Tell us, in three sentences or less, your pick for Favorite Song or Album or Band of 2009 and you will be entered to win 2 tickets to see Switchfoot in concert at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon on Monday, January 11th, 2010.

Not local to Portland, Oregon? No problem. We’re also giving away a digital copy of Switchfoot’s new album, Hello Hurricane, to the runner up. So everyone wins! (Well, not everyone, just two people. But we all get an “A” for effort. Or “E” … whatever.)

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An Interview with Peter Rodger

We set off to interview Peter Rodger, world-renowned photographer and director of the new documentary Oh My God. An interesting look at the question “What is God?” Take a seat and listen as Peter explains his vision for the film and shares interesting insights you won’t get anywhere else.

To find out more about Peter and his new film, Oh My God, check out the website at www.omgmovie.com.

We also invite you to the opening of the film in Portland, Oregon on Friday, December 11th at the Fox Tower 10. After the 7:10pm showing, Rethink will host an opwn interfaith discussion based on the question, What is God? Join us. For more information on the theater and to order tickets, click here.

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Rethinking “Evangelism”

During graduate school I worked each summer in the maintenance department of a large financial services company helping to maintain its landscaping and beautiful rolling lawn. Early on I could tell that the guys on the maintenance crew weren’t real thrilled with having a “pastor-in-training” on their team, but their misgivings only strengthened my resolve to reach out to them and convert them to Christianity. My first week on the job I adopted the guys on my crew as my spiritual “project.” I remember praying, “Jesus, when I leave this place I want every person on my team to be a Christian.”

By that time in my spiritual journey I had already proved myself to be a fervent evangelist, so I assumed my goal would be easily attained. The first part of my strategy was to set myself apart by living a morally noticeable life. I worked harder and longer than everybody on the team. I refused to join in when they told dirty jokes and swore, and whenever we were in the locker room I made sure never to look at the pictures of naked women hanging on the walls. The second part of my strategy was to insert spiritual ideas into our conversations to provoke discussions about God and faith. Some would have called this “picking a fight,” but at the time I called it “witnessing.”

I zeroed in almost immediately on one man named Andrew. He was in his early forties, and just moved to the states with his family from Poland. Andrew could barely speak English, so most of our conversations revolved around Andrew pointing to something and asking, “Brian, what English word for…?” I figured Andrew would be the easiest to reach on our team, so I chose every assignment I could get that involved working with him. I discovered Andrew was a former Catholic and had little interest in spiritual matters. However, this didn’t deter me in the least. With the zeal of a pushy door-to-door salesman, I forced spiritual matters into just about every conversation Andrew and I had.

Near the end of the summer I was talking with Andrew and casually asked, “Andrew, we’re friends, right?” He took me by surprise when he answered, “No.” Shocked, I said, “What do you mean? We’ve been working together an entire summer.” He answered, “Brian, what you call people…you know…you talk with them…you work with them…they are nice people…you go home and don’t see them until you go to work again? I said, “Acquaintances?” He said, “Yes, acquaintances. I have many acquaintances.” Then he said, “In Poland, our word for friend is special. In Poland, when we call a person friend, it means that we share hearts with that person. So, to answer your question: In America, I do not have any friends yet.”

Before I knew it the summer came to a close and I returned to school full-time, but when I returned the following summer I was a different person. I had spent most of the school year doubting the existence of God and sorting out an excruciating crisis of faith. I started my first day on the job thoroughly broken. I was still a believer, but I felt as if I had just come out of surgery and my soul was still bandaged. Gone was the spiritual bravado and pushiness from the summer before, replaced by a few things that were new to me: empathy, respect, and patience. I think Andrew was puzzled by the change in my persona because late one afternoon he asked if I still believed in God. I looked at the ground and slowly said, “Yes, Andrew, I still believe in God, but my faith in myself has been shaken.” Andrew wisely responded, “That might be good thing, no?”

As Andrew and I spent time together that summer I found myself listening more and talking less, and because of that I was amazed at what I learned about him. I discovered that Andrew was a lawyer in Poland, and that he couldn’t practice law here in the U.S. because he didn’t have the money or time to go back to school. I discovered that Andrew had a wife of twenty years named Eva, and two children. I also found out that Andrew was a brilliant man. He spoke four languages, studied philosophy, and had a fanatical interest in soccer. As Andrew talked and I listened, he initiated profound spiritual conversations and asked probing questions for which I had few answers.

Over time, the more we walked around the grounds, cutting the lawn and working on the building, the more ashamed I became of the way I acted the previous summer. I was afraid that I had single-handedly turned Andrew off to spiritual matters completely. Fortunately that didn’t seem to happen. It struck me as odd at the time, but it appeared that the more Andrew watched me struggle and the more I was honest with what I was feeling, the more spiritual interest he showed. There was something very authentic and natural about the way our relationship unfolded each day.

On my last day at the company, something happened that will always hold a special place in my heart. After I said goodbye to everyone on my team, none of which had become Christians, Andrew followed me out to my car. He placed both hands on my shoulders and said something I will never forget: “I will miss you, Brian Jones, my friend.”

brian-thumb Brian Jones is an author and the Senior Pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley, an innovative community of faith he and his wife helped start in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Brian’s first book, Second Guessing God, was his attempt to help people wrestle with the question, “Why does God keep allowing really bad stuff to happen in my life?” In his second book, Getting Rid of the Gorilla, Brian explored the difficult issue of forgiveness, why he’s not very good at it, and how an unforgiving heart can make you do some pretty hurtful things in life if you don’t deal with it.

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Skid Row is Holyground

Recently we came across a great online video magazine called Enoch Magazine. It intrigued us. So we decided to find out more. After finding out more about them, the more we liked them and their vision. Here is an interview we recently had with Nate Smith, Managing Editor of Enoch Magazine.

Tell us a little about Enoch Magazine. What is it? And why is it?

Enoch Magazine is a non profit media movement that exists online. We travel and film documentaries that show God’s glory in unique and different ways. We also interview bands, have dj mixes, articles, and more. Our big focuses are the homeless and finding out what people’s perception of Jesus is. We started Enoch because we were frustrated with a lot of the Christian Media available out there. It seemed so much of it was living in the Christian bubble and it was frustrating. We wanted to take a different angle. We wanted to find people who are truly serving God but their not famous or anybody special and document that.

What obsticles do you face with running the magazine?

Well honestly finances and time. Its hard to fund all of our trips when we give all our content away for free. That’s ok though. Look in the Bible and never once did they charge to hear Jesus speak or did the disciples ever ask to be paid. We live in an age where we are constantly being bombarded by the digital and print world. If you don’t have a lot of money than you can’t advertise or if you don’t have a lot of time to post your content all over the internet people might not find it. I still work a part time to help fund trips and its hard sometimes to find a good balance.

How has Enoch challenged your faith?

That’s a great question. It seems with Enoch I take it a day at time. Most of the time you don’t know who is reading the articles or watching the videos so you can’t directly see God working. It’s made me remember that in faith God is always behind the scenes and always working and many people don’t give him the credit he deserves. Its made me grow in my trust in finances. We are moving our magazine to Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles and I have no money and barely enough to cover the gas to get there but I am trusting God a day at a time. It makes me realize he will take care of me. It sounds cliché but he seems to always come through. I definitely have thrown in all my cards with God so I have no choice but to be faithful.

Tell us more about the documentary Skid Row is Holyground that you guys created a few months ago.

A little over a year and a half ago my partner in the magazine Carter Theis wanted to go to a place he was scared of and see God show up. He wanted to go to Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles and film a documentary about what the need was there. For those of you who don’t know Skid Row is a 9 by 9 block in Downtown Los Angeles where they estimate 15,000 to 20,000 homeless people are living. For us it was about also growing in faith and trusting that the Lord would protect us in what is considered one of the most dangerous places in the United States. That was out first trip and we’ve been back 4 times since then. Over the last year and a half we have released a series of videos called Skid Row is Holyground on the Enoch Web Site. We hope to eventually put out a DVD of our whole experience. We are moving there in a few weeks and we will putting out weekly videos on the Enoch Magazine site and also on Skidrowisholyground.com.

Enoch is moving their headquarters to Skid Row in LA. Why the move and how did the passion develop within you guys for one of the most dangerous communities in California?

Every time we were out there on the streets we hated leaving after we had connected with that community. By just making videos we felt we were not doing enough. We wanted to be down there every day truly making a difference. So, after a few trips we decided that we should move Enoch Magazine to Skid Row. There is never a dull day on Skid Row. It’s exciting! There are so many ministry opportunities down there too. You can do anything from Street Evangelism to music to feeding to discipleship and so much more.

What are some of the needs you are facing?

Well our number one need right now is finances. We have partnered with a ministry called the Jonah Project (jonahproject.org) and we are in the process of buying a building on Skid Row. This building will not only serve as the Enoch Magazine Headquarters but also as a place that will be open for the homeless everyday. They will be able to get fed, get new clothes, go to bible studies and services on Sundays. We also want to have a place to throw concerts that are specficially for the homeless. This building will also be a place that mission groups can come and serve and stay. We want people to come to Skid Row and have the same experience we had on our first few trips. We actually have a website for the building called Skidrowisholyground.com

How can people connect with you?

People can connect with us by going to Enochmagazine.com or Skidrowisholyground.com. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace or email us at info@enochmagazine.com.

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Praise Father, Son and That Other Guy

HAVE WE FORGOTTEN GOD?
A BOOK REVIEW:
FORGOTTEN GOD by FRANCIS CHAN

Calling the Holy Spirit “Forgotten God” may be a bit of an overstatement. Or perhaps it is an understatement. Some Christians seem to show little evidence that they have any theology of the Spirit while others seem to emphasize the Spirit at the expense of other biblical doctrine. What seems clear is that few Christians have it quite right. In this new book Francis Chan says, “From my perspective, the Holy Spirit is tragically neglected and, for all practical purposes, forgotten. While no evangelical would deny His existence, I’m willing to bet there are millions of churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experienced His presence or action in their lives over the past year. And many of them do not believe they can.” With the entertainment (or perhaps “edutainment”) model of church so prevalent today, churches have become filled with self-focused consumers instead of Spirit-filled believers. Chan asks this provocative question: “What if you grew up on a desert island with nothing but the Bible to read?” If you had nothing but Scripture to guide you, would your understanding of the Holy Spirit be far different from what it is today? It is probably worth thinking about. Says Chan, “If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit.”

It is easy to fake the presence of the Spirit, isn’t it? “Let’s be honest: If you combine a charismatic speaker, a talented worship band, and some hip, creative events, people will attend your church. Yet this does not mean that the Holy Spirit of God is actively working and moving in the lives of the people who are coming.” It is possible for a church to be fun and vibrant and exciting even while utterly ignoring the Holy Spirit—even while outright grieving the Holy Spirit. Such churches may say much about Jesus but little about the Spirit. Yet how then do we reconcile Jesus’ words that it is better for us if we have the Spirit than if we have the Son? Chan says, “I think most of us would…choose a physical Jesus over an invisible Spirit. But what do we do with the fact that Jesus says it is better for His followers to have the Holy Spirit?” Do we believe Him? If so, do our lives reflect that belief?”

Alternating teaching with stories and testimonies, Chan seeks to reverse this neglect of the Spirit. Essentially he provides a brief and basic theology of the Spirit (even titling one chapter “Theology of the Holy Spirit 101”) and shows how the Spirit can and should operate in the life of the believer. It is an eminently quotable book, offering scores of statements that are worth highlighting and worth pondering in the days and weeks to come. Some reading this review will want to know his position on the continuation of the miraculous spiritual gifts. I would say his is “guarded, hesitant continuationism,” though this comes from reading between the lines more than any bold statements to that effect.

If the book has a weakness I would say it is in Chan’s unwillingness to draw distinctions and to clearly delineate opposing doctrine. It is all very well to indicate that a church may not quite fit within one mold or another, but sooner or later we do need to make distinctions. Either the Spirit speaks through audible voices or he does not; either words of knowledge exist today or they do not. We cannot have it both ways and the distinction can cut right to the heart of a church’s beliefs. I realize that labels can be as unhelpful as they are helpful, but at some point we do need to make distinctions. I will grant that this may not be the role or purpose of Forgotten God but it is still possible that the book can confuse the reader exactly because of this lack of precision.

Nevertheless, for those who have thought little about the person and role of the Holy Spirit, Forgotten God may be just the thing to get them thinking. For those who have not thought about the Spirit for a long time, this may serve as a good wake-up call. It is far from a full-orbed or exhaustive treatment, but neither is that its purpose. Chan sets out to get the reader thinking “that by keeping in step with the Spirit, we might regularly fellowship over what He’s doing rather than what He did months or years ago.” It’s about living a life dependent on and surrendered to the Spirit, about seeking how we can live faithfully here and now. And this he accomplishes well.

Chan’s previous book Crazy Love has sold over a quarter million copies and continues to fly off bookstore shelves. Forgotten God shares a message that is nearly as urgent and undoubtedly even more important. It is a fitting sequel that bears many resemblances to the book it follows. After all, how can we show true love if not through the Holy Spirit? There are many people sharing similar messages today, but few doing so to Chan’s audience which is largely young and in many cases not very well trained in the teachings of Scripture. I have little doubt that God will use this to shake them up in all the right ways.

timchallies Tim Challies, a self-employed web designer, is a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere, having one of the most widely read and recognized Christian blogs. He is also editor of Discerning Reader, a site dedicated to offering thoughtful reviews of books that are of interest to Christians.

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Scouting the Divine: An Interview with Margaret Feinberg

Recently we had a conversation with Margaret Feinberg, author of the new book, Scouting the Divine. We asked her questions about her pilgrimage across the US, caring for a flock of sheep, and Wal-Mart. And this is what she had to say…

Have we heard incorrectly or did you recently come to Oregon, our neck of the woods (or should we say “God’s country”), to spent time with sheep?

I love me some Oregon. Seriously, I HEART the Pacific Northwest. After spending five years living in Alaska, it’s hard not to fall in love with your region of the country. Almost a decade ago, I met a woman from outside of Portland who took care of sheep. I never forgot our meeting all the rich spiritual insights that emerged from her simply talking about caring for a flock. Last spring, I tracked her down, cold called her, reintroduced myself, and garnered an invitation to spend time in her home and among her sheep. The experience was unforgettable.

Why ‘Scouting the Divine?’ Where did this concept come from?

I’ve become increasingly aware that the agrarian world of the Bible is distant from my modern suburban lifestyle, so I decided to be intentional about closing the gap. I went on my own “stay-grimage.” or “spiritual pilgrimage” in the United States. I spent time with the shepherdess in Oregon, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in Colorado, and a vinter in Napa Valley. With each person, I opened the scripture and asked, “How do you read this—not as a theologian—but in light of what you do everyday?” Their answers changed the way I read scripture forever.

Can you spend a minute and tell one of the truths that impacted you personally while writing Scouting the Divine?

There were so many spiritual discoveries. One I’ve been gnawing on lately came from my time with the beekeeper. I asked him why he thought the Promised Land was described as a land overflowing with milk and honey. The land could have been described as anything—the land of ginormous pomegranates or luscious olive oil. Instead, God chose to make the land famous for overflowing with milk and honey. When I asked the beekeeper, he noted that a land that overflows with honey means that everything is working in its proper order. The winter snows don’t melt too late. The summer heat isn’t overwhelming. The rain falls at its appointed time. The first freeze doesn’t arrive too early. If any of these factors are out of alignment then the grasses and flowers can’t bloom to their full potential and the bees can’t produce honey in abundance. That means that one of the defining characteristics of the Promised Land is that everything works in it’s proper order. I want to enter that Promised Land in my own life.–where I’m living in the season of life God has placed me in to my full potential.

On a side note, we’ve always been impressed – from following you on Twitter and reading your blog – that, despite the busyness of ministry, you prove to remain passionate about your relationship with Jesus. What are some practical things that you do to keep that passion fresh?

Even in the midst of a busy schedule, I try to take care of myself. This may sound so unspiritual, but I try to make sure I’m getting enough sleep. I carve out mornings when I allow my body to drink in as much sleep as it needs. Why? When I’m well-rested, I’m less like to make foolish decisions that lead me into sin and it’s easier to connect to God and respond to His leadings and nudging. I have a hunch the people of God would be far more effective if we were well-rested. In addition, I love to read what I call Bible nerd books. I read commentaries, studies on ancient Israel and obscure books that really feed my spirit and soul. And Leif and I read a Walter Bruegermann prayer aloud together. It’s one of the sweetest moments of our day.

When does Scouting the Divine release and how can people purchase it?

Scouting the Divine is available October 1 and the accompanying six-week DVD study releases from Lifeway in January 2010. You can check it out on amazon.com, borders.com, or my own site—which is launching all-new in October!–www.margaretfeinberg.com. For all you Facebookers, I’m on as Margaret Feinberg and for all you twitters, you can find me @mafeinberg.

Next time you’re in Oregon herding sheep, you’ll have to stop by and say hi.

Would love to! I’ll be speaking at Living Hope Church in Vancouver, Washington, and George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, in November.

BONUS: When I think of Wal-Mart, I think of … the hidden story of Sam Walton’s heart for caring for the poor that isn’t heard or heralded oenough. I just got back from Bentonville, Arkansas, home of Wal-mart, and discovered countless stories of outrageously generous and good things being done by this shopping behemoth. You’d be surprised at just how much!

007A popular speaker at churches and leading conferences such as Fusion, Catalyst, and LeadNow, Margaret Feinberg (www.margaretfeinberg.com) invites people to discover the relevance of God and His Word in a modern world. Audiences love her ability to connect the practical with the spiritual. Recently named by Charisma magazine as one of the “30 Emerging Voices” who will help lead the church in the next decade, she has written more than a dozen books including the critically-acclaimed The Organic God and the Sacred Echo (Zondervan). People of all ages connect with her relational teaching style. Margaret currently lives in Morrison, Colorado, with her 6′8″ husband, Leif. When she’s not writing or traveling, she enjoys anything outdoors, lots of laughter, and their super-pup, Hershey. But she says some of her best moments are spent communicating with her readers. So go ahead, become her friend on Facebook, or tag her on Twitter at @mafeinberg.

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