Creating Shared Vision

Week 2 of 6

Today we continued talking about nurturing generosity in the congregation, specifically about how to make it happen.  

For those participating in the VIDEO track, here’s the link (You’ll need the password I provide to you through email):

For commuters & exercisers, here’s the Week 2 Audio – Creating Shared Vision

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Building a Culture of Generosity

Week 1 of 6

We had a great launch of our 6-week seminar on the ministry of fundraising today!  

For those participating in the VIDEO track, here’s the link (You’ll need the password I provide to you through email):

For commuters & exercisers, here’s the Generosity PODCAST AUDIO – week 1.

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I’m all in!

Last month I had the honor of being the guest preacher for Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church on their New Consecration (stewardship) Sunday.  It was a wonderful experience with a fantastic congregation, and my time with them included a dinner and a teaching presentation with the elders and deacons of the church a few weeks prior.

Without repeating my full message, I’m posting a brief summary that I put together for North Creek’s monthly newsletter.  Earlier this fall in September, in our sermon series we studied the shema of Deuteronomy 6, with its “love the Lord your God with all…” In October, we transitioned to studying the three great “SOLAS” of the Reformation in observance of its 500th anniversary.  There we discovered that Martin Luther’s re-discovery of faith alone in Romans 3 speaks of “all” as well – all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, but all are justified freely by God’s grace in Christ.  This led me to explore this term further, and I discovered that the word “all” is the most common intellectually-significant term in the entire Old Testament (other than the word “Lord”), and it features prominently in the New Testament as well.  It is from this rediscovery of the ubiquity “all” in scripture that inspired the theme: “I’m All In!”


Have you ever responded to an invitation by saying these words?

  • You’ve been invited to attend a Seahawks game or a concert with someone – “I’m all in!”
  • You’ve been offered a job that you really want – “I’m all in!”
  • You respond to an invitation to volunteer at the local community food bank – “I’m all in!”

“All in” is a statement of personal commitment. It means you’ll be giving yourself to the task or activity, prioritizing it and pursuing it. You recognize that there are things in your life that could hold you back, but you’re not going to let them. You’re “all in.”

God is “All In” in His Love for Us.  Did you know that one of the most common words with intellectual significance in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible is the word “all?” It’s true. The Greek word “pas” (meaning “all”) occurs nearly 7,000 times in the Greek language Old Testament (the Septuagint) and over 1,200 times in the New Testament. If you think about it, you won’t be surprised. Open the Bible, and you find “alls” all over the place:

  • Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;”
  • Ephesians 4:6 “One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
  • Romans 3:22 “God’s righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”

God gives us His all in creation and salvation. The classic hymn says it all: “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.”

We Respond by Being “All In” with Our Love for God.  In September we studied the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:5 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Our relationship with God provides opportunities for us to respond to God’s invitation with our personal expression of “I’m all in.”

• When we first respond to God’s grace in Christ, or make a recommitment of faith…
• When we become a member of the church…
• When we are ordained to a particular office in the church (elders & deacons)…

The stewardship season comes around each year and presents each of us the opportunity to respond to God’s grace and goodness by going “all in” on a financial gift that we offer to God through the work of the congregation. The biblical measure of “all in” is a tithe, or a freely-given gift of 10% of our income. Of course, giving a percentage of our income is a process, and an “all in” gift can amount to more or less than 10%. The percentage makes it a personal priority, and that’s the basic goal of our New Consecration Sunday on November 19.  Together we consider the question “What percentage of my income is God calling me to give?” As you consider this important question, remember that it’s an expression of you saying “I’m all in” to a God who is “all in” for you through the limitless love of Christ.

Joyfully in Christ,

Pastor Kurt

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New…in November

During the month of November, I’ll be tweeting daily Bible verses that focus on God’s work of renewal in our lives.

Follow me at kurt_pastor, and share it with your friends!

new in november 1


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Luther’s 95 Theses: Educated Believers

Educated Believers

Christians are to be taught

Luther’s rhetorical skills are on display in his repetition of the same phrase in theses 42-51:

“Christians are to be taught.” 

Here he presents his positive picture of a life of penitence in contrast to the unjust system of selling indulgences.  Much of what Luther thinks Christians should be taught is a picture of the papal office that is more concerned about the spiritual well-being of the faithful than their money.

But since his selected phrase rings in our ears repeatedly, we begin to get a sense of what will follow as the Protestant Reformation gains momentum.  Christians are to be taught…. and the Reformation spawns churches that take this task as the central activity of the church, gathered around the word of God.  Luther translates the Bible into German so more Christians – regular folk – can be taught from the Word.  The leadership of the church now teaches the people about the proper limits of their position, setting the stage for mutual accountability in governance that will impact both the church and the state in profound ways moving forward.

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Luther’s 95 Theses: Economic Justice

Economic Justice

Saying NO to redeeming souls for the sake of money (82, 84)

In the 95 Theses, it’s revealed that one of the things that infuriated Martin Luther the most about the system of indulgences was that it was oppressive to the poor.  More than once he mentions the scandal of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome being built on the backs of the poor who are paying for indulgences out of spiritual insecurity.  Luther has the masses in mind as he contends against this practice of paying for the removal of barriers on the road to heaven.  He highlights the proper use of God-given wealth – to meet the needs of our households and to share with those in need:

“45. Christians are to be taught that anyone who sees a destitute person and, while passing such a one by, gives money for indulgences does not buy [gracious] indulgences of the pope but God’s wrath.  46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must set aside enough for their household and by no means squander it on indulgences.”

Echoing the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:30 & 20:16, Luther states boldly that the treasure of the church – the gospel of God’s grace – is not acknowledged to be of value because it threatens the economic status quo:

“63. But this treasure (of the gospel) is deservedly the most hated, because it makes ‘the first last.’”

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Luther’s 95 Theses: Truth to Power

Truth to Power

Confronting the powerful by “bringing the truth to light”

Preface: “Out of love and zeal for bringing the truth to light, what is written below will be debated in Wittenberg with the Reverend Father Martin Luther…”

Martin Luther is speaking of power, to the powerful.  The touchstone for this is the pope, the most powerful position in the Roman Catholic church.  Overall, Luther is highly critical of the pope.  While Luther attacked the office of pope plenty during his lifetime, here his comments are nuanced.  His criticisms are thoughtfully presented over a series of simple statements, with the bulk of his 95 theses concerning the pope and his part in the system of selling indulgences.  At this point in Luther’s thinking, he is concerned about correcting abuses of power in the position, not getting rid of it entirely.  The pope does have a legitimate role to play in the process of repentance:

“38. Nevertheless, remission and participation [in Christ’s benefits] from the pope must by no means be despised, because – as I said –  they are the declaration of divine remission.”

In Theses 80-90, Luther’s criticism of the pope crescendos through the rapid-fire asking of questions, such as “Why does the pope not empty purgatory for the sake of love?” (82) and “Why does the pope with all his riches not simply construct the Basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of the poor faithful?” (86).  Throughout, Luther is appealing to the virtues of the position of pope, sharpening the contrast between the pope’s job description and how the pope is operating.  Ultimately, Luther contends for a papal office whose power is accountable to a higher power, the head of the church, Jesus Christ:

“79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal coat-of-arms and erected [in the church where indulgences are preached], is of equal worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.”

Luther is holding the leadership of the church accountable to resolve these issues in reasonable debate and not simply quiet them through forced submission.

“90. To suppress these very pointed arguments of the laity by force alone and not to resolve them by providing reasons is to expose the church and the people to ridicule by their enemies and to make Christians miserable.”

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