Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Outdoor Movie: Reaching our community

2-story screen? Yes, please.

What started as a night just for fun quickly turned into an outreach event, and inspired a way to serve and connect with the community around us.

An Experiment
Last Tuesday night, we had our first-ever outdoor movie at TFC. Weather-wise, we had a perfect night to set up on the lawn outside of New Life Fellowship’s gym; it was warm, but the skies were clear – perfect for stargazing or catching the occasional meteor. Teens gathered around the firepit, waiting for dusk to fall, with cartoons playing in the background. (Sidenote: Can you believe that some didn't know what Talespin was?)

As soon as it was dark, Jason Metzger’s video projector turned the side of the building into a crystal-clear 14-foot screen, to watch the 1982 classic E.T., while the sound was broadcasted to portable FM radios scattered among the moviewatchers.

The most interesting thing about the night though, was the attention we drew from neighbors. I went and talked to one nearby group of teenage girls to ask if they’d like to come watch the show. “We’re scared,” one of them said. I laughed and told them we are nice people.

In the end, several young people joined us for the movie and shared in our s’mores, and we had the opportunity to share a little about Teens for Christ and invite them to get involved. This simple touchpoint inspired a way to reach out to the homes nearby.

An Inspiration
On Friday, Aug 31, TFC will be coordinating with New Life Fellowship to sponsor a Community Event for Hinote’s Corner and the surrounding neighborhoods.  We will show a family-friendly movie, promote upcoming events at TFC and New Life, and encourage the community to build relationships with their neighbors.

A Call to Action
Please pray for this event. We want it to be both a service and an outreach, and we want the community see the love of Christ reflected in our actions.

We also need volunteers to help with the logistics of an undertaking of this size. Please contact us if you would like to help with delivering promotional flyers, contacting local businesses for sponsorship, or helping with supervision and organization on the evening of the event.

Finally, you can help with your ongoing financial support of TFC. We have many ideas that we just can’t implement right now, either because I don’t have time in my work week (I currently have a second job to supplement my income at TFC), or because we just don’t have the resources in our already-strained budget. Thank you so much to those of you who regularly support TFC with your faithful giving. If you don’t already, please consider a monthly donation to continue the work of our ministry.
Donate Now

Thursday, July 26, 2012

11 Weeks Early: Helping the Powells

Gabe Powell is an alumnus and long-time friend of TFC.  As the new pastor of Sudden Valley Church, Gabe joined us for part of our discussion on creation a few months ago.

Last month, their new son Micah was born 11 weeks premature. He's going to be fine, but they still have a long road ahead of them.

Please join us in prayer over his recovery and read the letter below, from Gabe's sister Elaine, for ways to help the family.

Dear Family, Friends, and Body of Christ,
On June 27th Micah Nathanael was born at UW Medical Center at 29 weeks gestation – 11 weeks premature.  He weighed in at 3lbs, 3oz and 16 inches long.  Rachel endured a dramatic and complicated c-section surgery that involved her losing half of her blood volume.  Needless to say God’s grace and mercy poured over the Powell family that day!  We are so very thankful to the Lord for His hand of protection and severe love!
Rachel was released from medical care merely four days after surgery!  They expect Micah to stay at UW Medical Center until his due date (September 12), depending on his progress.  Gabriel and Rachel live a good two hours away from the hospital, therefore, they will be making many trips back and forth over the next couple months.
Since many of you have expressed a desire to help, this letter is to inform you of specific needs the Powell family have now incurred.  If you feel the Lord leading you to help in any of the following ways, please do not hesitate!
1.      Financial Needs   -  We have set up a Donation Account at WECU for anyone to deposit any amount of money for the Powell’s to use during these next 2 months.  Below is a list of what the donated money would be used for.
a.      Since Gabriel and Rachel live two hours from Micah’s hospital, they have found housing associated with the hospital where they can stay from time to time.  Although it is a reduced rate ($69/night) it will still be costly over time.
b.      Driving 2 hours each way 2-3 times a week will also increase their gas expense.
c.       Though they will try to minimize eating out, their food costs will go up during this time as it will be difficult to pack food for every trip.

There are two ways to donate:

1.      Send the Powell’s a check made out to Rachel Powell with “Micah Fund” in the memo line. Checks can be sent to 77 Polo Park Drive, Bellingham, WA 98229.
2.      Go into any WECU branch, and tell them you’d like to make a deposit into Guillermo (Gabriel’s first name) and Rachel Powell’s Micah Fund account.

2.      Meals/Groceries  -  When Gabriel and Rachel are home, having 2-3 readymade meals a week would be very helpful for Rachel.  During the week you may drop off meals at:  615 W. Indiana St., Bellingham, WA 98225, 360-739-3733, or at their home most weekends.  Elsa Powell (Gabriel’s mother) or Elaine Margeson (Gabriel’s sister) will be able to take any meals to freeze.

3.      Light House Cleaning – Going back and forth regularly will make regular cleaning challenging. Help with simple tasks about once a week will make a big difference!
a.      Vacuuming
b.      Dishes
c.       Laundry
d.      Bathrooms

As you can see, there are many ways in which you can serve this family!  Let’s come together and show what we as a body can do for one another in love!  We know that not everyone can do everything and so we ask that you decide what you and your family are capable of at this time.  I will be forthright and say that right now, financial support is the most crucial and the most necessary, so if anything, a monetary donation to the WECU account will be the most beneficial.

If you have any questions or concerns, or have come up with another way to help Pastor Gabriel and his family, please do not hesitate to call!  I, Elaine (Gabriel’s sister), write this letter on behalf of Gabriel and Rachel.  I would welcome any calls!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and consider how the Lord would have you give and serve during this time of serious need!

Most Sincerely in the Lord,
Elaine Margeson

Friday, June 22, 2012

Should we still be keeping the Law of Moses?

Replica of an ancient Torah scroll, from
Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary 
I've asked TFCers to read the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7), find something they don't understand, try to figure it out, and then email or bring it on Monday for discussion. Here's one I've been considering:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place."
Matthew 5:17–18 (NET)
Jesus says that he hasn't come to abolish the Law, but neither has he come to preserve it -- he has has come to fulfill it.  That can mean two things:

  1. The promises made in the Law and Prophets will come true in him.
  2. The reason the Law was given, to make people holy, will finally happen.[1]
In some ways, verses 17-20 are Jesus' "thesis statement" for the rest of the sermon: no matter what you have heard about the Law before, it isn't enough to go through the motions externally. From now on, your righteousness must exceed even that of those rule-keepers, the Pharisees -- it has to come from inside you. In other words, keep the spirit of the Law, not just the letter.

What are some of your questions about the Sermon on the Mount? Comment below, or come share them this Monday, 6:30pm at Berthusen Park!

[1] Credit: Barton, B. B. (1996). Matthew. Lifeapplication Bible commentary (86–87). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The World's Most Advanced Study Bible - for FREE!

Have you ever read something in the Bible, and thought, "Hmm... I wish I could learn more about that? 
Have you ever wondered:
  • What St. Peter means when he says Jesus "went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison"? (1 Peter 3:19)
  • What the Temple that Jesus visited in Jerusalem looked like? 
  • What the number 666 might actually refer to in Rev 13:18?
Nothing can replace reading your Bible and asking God to open your heart to his message. But sometimes, having a tool like a study Bible can help you gain insights you would have just from reading the text.

Introducing the Faithlife Study Bible
Logos Bible Software (my "other" job) has just announced this exciting new resource for studying and understanding the Bible. Check out the video:

FSB works best on a tablet like an iPad, 
but you can also use it on a smartphone, 
installed to your computer, or just online
I've been using the FSB for a few months now, and it has been become my first line of study when I come across a verse I don't understand. It has thousands of study notes, hundreds of pictures and videos, and in-depth articles with the included Lexham Bible Dictionary. I highly recommend it.

Share your study.
You can also use Faithlife to connect with your church or study group.  Set up a reading plan to study the Bible together.  Make a note on a verse, and the rest of your group will see it when they read that passage.
When you sign up for Faithlife, make sure to join us at faithlife.com/tfcnw - we will be using it in the future to read through Scripture together!

Best of all, it's FREE. 
The FSB will eventually be subscription-based, but you can use it until March 2014 for absolutely nothing. Just use the coupon code FREE at http://faithlifebible.com/!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Support TFC this Summer!

This time of year, the TFC bank account often runs low. Bible Quizzing is out of season, people have other things on their mind, and donations to TFC often drop in the summer.  However, we still have the same expenses; we are still hard at work with quiz demonstrations, Monday night youth meetings, and other projects.

Your continued financial support over the summer is vital to our ministry. Any amount helps! Visit tfcnw.org/donate for a one-time donation, or setup an automatic payment starting at only $10/month. And thank you for your generosity!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Mark of Spiritual Maturity

source: biblia.com
How do you know if you are growing in Christ?  Our unity with other believers is perhaps the most important way to measure spiritual maturity.

It's too common for us in the American church    in our individualistic culture  to focus exclusively on our personal relationship with Jesus. We forget or overlook that  almost all of the New Testament's teaching about faith is in terms of community of other believers.

The biblia.com verse of the day reminded me this morning of one of my favorite passages in the Bible:
until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
Ephesians 4:13 (ESV)
This is by no means the only place the NT teaches the importance of relationships in the Church, but the emphasis here is especially easy to see. 

The purpose is to reach maturity... the "fullness of Christ."

But how do I do that?
On my own?
Spending more time with Jesus?

Well, no. At least, that's not all. Don't get me wrong; the Greatest Commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matt 22:37)  But that's not enough. There is a reason that the second is "love your neighbor as yourself:" You can't have one without the other.

Let's look at the rest of the passage:

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 
4There is
    one body and
    one Spirit
       — just as you were called to the
      one hope that belongs to your call —
     5one Lord,
    one faith,
    one baptism,
    6one God and Father of all,
     who is over all and through all and in all. 
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. ... 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 
Ephesians 4:1–16 (ESV)

Apart from the fact that the whole picture of "Body" is one of togetherness, notice how many "unity" words there are here: "with one another... unity... bond... one, one, one... building up... unity..."  Wow, do you think there's a message here? The author even says how to have unity with others: verses 2 and 3.

If you want community with people, you must have humility, patience, and love... which come from Christ.
If you want to grow up in Christ, you also have to grow together with his followers.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Learning from Matthew

 Matthew study starting in June at TFC; notes about the ESV.

Attention Bible quizzers! Just because its summer, doesn't mean that you can't get a head start on next year's material. Here's some need-to-know information about our upcoming quiz season.

1. This season covers the Gospel of Matthew

Don't just memorize; learn it and live it. 
In our Summer in the Parks at TFC, we will be looking at the book of Matthew chapter by chapter. Adam will be working together with student teachers to examine the themes and lessons that set Matthew apart from the other gospel accounts. The series starts June 4 at Riverside Park in Everson, and we'll be at a different park each Monday night. Even if you aren't ready to start memorizing yet, this is a great opportunity to understand Matthew like you never have before!

Already prepping for fall?
Here's what we'll quiz on for the Kickoff Retreat on Sept 7-8 [edit] Sept 14-15:
  • First-time quizzers: Matthew 4 (25 verses)
  • Returning quizzers: Matthew 5 (48 verses)
The schedule for the rest of the season is posted at www.tfcnw.org/quiz/meet-material.

2. We're switching to the ESV!

Why the change?
The NIV has never been a strict word-for-word translation. Since Greek words and idioms often don't really have an English equivalent, the translators thought it more important that the ideas be understood, and so they used a thought-for-thought (or, "dynamic equivalence") philosophy of translation.  Following this translation style, when they revised the NIV in 2011, they included some changes to make some wording more gender inclusive -- for example, using "all people" instead of "all men," or "brothers and sisters" rather than simply "brothers."   The NIV translators may have honestly tried to reflect what the original writers meant; but the fact is, they changed or added words that aren't actually in the original language, and sometimes this can change the meaning as well.

The Bible Quiz Fellowship committee feels this takes the "thought-for-thought" style too far, and it's important to preserve the original, inspired words that God recorded through the biblical authors.  With that (and some secondary reasons) in mind, the BQF committee voted in May 2011 to adopt the English Standard Version, which is much closer to word-for-word translation.  You can learn more about the decision from the statement on the BQF website.

2011 Edition
When you start studying Matthew, make sure you use a 2011 edition of the ESV by looking at the copyright date at the front of your bible. Or, just pick up a quiz book at the TFC office for $6.

Older versions of ESV (2001 or 2007), are a little bit different. Not much -- just a word here and there -- but it will be enough to throw off your word-perfect memorization for quizzing. If you already have an older ESV you'd like to study from, you can download and print this list of changes. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

How to Understand the Bible, Part 3 of 3

This week, we've been asking how to understand the Bible better. Best answer: Listen to the Holy Spirit first, then check your work with these questions.

3. How has it been traditionally understood by the Church throughout history?

You've probably heard this before: Anytime someone says they have a fresh/new/innovative teaching of Scripture, you should run the other way. It's one thing to have a fresh understanding of traditional teaching; it's important to renew and dig deeper into the truth the Bible offers. It's quite another thing to "find" new teachings in the Bible that don't line up with doctrines that the universal Church has long held.  That's why, even in personal study, you should ask how the Church as historically understood a topic or passage.

In some ways, this is the most difficult of the three "checks". For one thing, the Church has a long history, and some people dedicate their whole careers to studying the teachings of the Early Church Fathers and the development of theology over the centuries.  And it hasn't developed exactly same in all parts of the Church; there are so many denominations precisely because, somewhere along the line, someone in the church disagreed about the meaning of a particular passage or doctrine, and started their own branch.

However, I believe we are called to focus more on our agreement than our disagreement (see Ephesians 4), and there is a lot we can agree on.  To begin with, I hope you have a Bible-teaching church, so you have a good foundation of biblical education. (If not, perhaps C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity would be a good start. Also, find a new church.)  If you have questions about a passage or someone's teaching, don't be afraid to talk ask your pastor about it. Or for that matter, feel free to ask me; I don't have a seminary degree, but if I don't know the answer to something, I promise to find out together with you.

There a lots of ways you can research the answer on your own, too. It's not hard to find historic creeds, or statements of faith, that are accepted by every branch of the Christian Church.  Bible commentaries can also be useful for understanding the theological implications of a given text. There are a lot of good ones in print, and many of the older ones are now available for free online.

All of these tools are good helps.  But after everything, I would be remiss not to end where we started:  the best way to study the Bible is... to study the Bible. There is no substitute for careful, broad, and frequent reading of the Word of God.

What about you? How do you make sure that what you are learning is theologically correct?

Earlier this week:

1. How does this verse fit with the rest of the Bible?
2. What did it mean to the original audience?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How to Understand the Bible, Part 2 of 3

The Bible is God's love letter to us. When we read it, we should first and foremost ask the Holy Spirit to speak to us through it. But relying on only our own individual perception can lead to poor interpretation; there are three questions we can ask to make sure our understanding is correct.

2. What did it mean to the original audience?

Even though the Bible contains God's message for us, it wasn't originally written to us.

Different situations
When you read "Count it all joy when you face all kinds trials" (James 1:2), is God talking to you about how you should respond to your little sister bugging you, or your internet going down? Well, maybe (especially if your response needs work). But when you stop to think that the people to whom James wrote (and 200 million Christians today) were literally thrown out of their families, and living under the threat of martyrdom for their faith... maybe your own "trials" won't seem so significant.

Each part of the Bible was written for a specific purpose, and it helps to understand that when considering what it means for us today. What sort of writing is it -- history, poetry, prophecy, personal letter?  What was the author (or the recipient) going through at the time?  Most Bibles have an introduction to each book that help you answer these questions and deepen your understanding.

Different times and cultures
The Bible talks a lot about slavery (Lev 25:39-43, Eph 6:5-9, among many others); does that mean it condones it? No -- if you read those passages carefully, you'll see that the writers were doing their best to humanize a very widely accepted (and sometimes cruel) practice at the time.

The first readers of biblical writings would have a much different understanding about how the world works.  After all, it was written over a span of ~3500-2000 years ago, in many distinct political and geographical settings that were quite different from ours.  A good study Bible or Bible guide can go a long way in helping us appreciate what topics like this would have meant to the people first hearing it.

Different languages.
It shouldn't be any surprise that the Bible was written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). Thanks to the many English translations we now have, you don't have to be a biblical languages scholar to study the Bible. But these days, all kinds of books and online tools allow you to dig into the original language and try to understand better what it means. But use caution -- translating is tricky business!

Even if you leave the translating to the experts, it's important to remember that no Bible version is perfect. When doing serious study of a passage, it's always a good idea to read it in at least a couple of different translations, using different styles -- one using word-for-word (like ESV or NASB), one or more with thought-for-thought (e.g., NIV, NCV, or NLT).

Have you ever suddenly understood a Bible reference because of something you learned about the language or historical background?

Yesterday: 1. How does this verse fit with the rest of the Bible?
Tomorrow: 3. How has it been traditionally understood by the Church throughout history?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

There's no such thing as a Bible verse | How to Understand the Bible, Part 1 of 3

Every encounter with the Bible can be a deeply personal experience in which the Creator speaks directly to your heart.  But how do you know that what you're hearing is really the Holy Spirit?  There are three questions you can use to make sure you understand correctly.

1. How does this verse fit with the rest of the Bible?

Here's a brain-bender for you: Bible verses don't really exist. To be sure, God inspired the writers of the Bible with His own Word; but the verse numbers (and chapters, too) were added centuries later, by men who wanted an easy way to find a certain quote, or create a list of where to find a certain word.

Verses were never meant to be clipped out and read by themselves.  It's too easy to take a single line out of context, and make it seem like it means something else. For example, look at this line from Romans 5:14:
Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses...
Now, you could read that and think, there was no death after Moses. I could even make the argument that since God gave Moses the Law, he gave the means to live a righteous life, to escape spiritual death. But you only need to read a few verses more to see that Paul's point is exactly the opposite -- "law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were" (Rom 5:20, NLT).

You can get into even more trouble when you start pasting together verses from different parts of the Bible. So when you read a Bible verse that catches your eye, ask yourself, how does it fit in the rest of the chapter or section? How does that passage contribute to the overall story of the book, or the message of the letter?

Finally, how does it makes sense in light of the rest of the Bible? What are the Old Testament promises that you find fulfilled in the New Testament? Where do you find foreshadowing of Christ in the Old Testament? Where do you find two different authors saying the same thing?  What are characteristics of God you see coming up over and over again?

As has been said many times before, "Scripture interprets Scripture." Whenever you discover something in the Bible you've never noticed before, it's always best to see how your new insight lines up with the rest of the Good Book.

What are your tips for studying the Bible? Leave a comment below!

Later this week:
2. What did it mean to the original audience?
3. How has it been traditionally understood by the Church?

Monday, January 16, 2012

How can I help someone who struggles with depression?

Fighting hopelessness as we approach the “most depressing day of the year.”

At last week’s question box night at TFC, we received this question:

How do you help someone, who struggles with depression and doesn’t want to live anymore, realize God’s purpose for their life?

Finding God’s purpose for your life is always a tricky subject; how can I know for sure what God’s plan is for me? How do I know what the right decisions are? There are a number of methods that can help, including prayer, Bible study, and guidance from a trusted Christian mentor; and often, there is no definitive answer.  This is a huge question that deserves its own discussion another time. Maybe, for this case, we don’t need to help them find what, exactly that purpose is; just to affirm that there is  a purpose.

How can I tell if someone is depressed?

Everyone has a hard day or week every now and then. Depression goes way beyond that; it’s this sense of hopelessness, feeling trapped with no chance of escape. Depressed people feel like they have no purpose, and struggle with finding motivation to accomplish even the most basic tasks.

Some warning signs to look for:

  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities.
  • Spending an excessive about of time on the internet, video games, or watching TV.
  • Major changes in sleeping or eating patterns (i.e., a lot more or a lot less than usual)
  • A drop in school grades.
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure.
  • Not enjoying activities they used to like.
  • Always feeling “bored” or low-energy.


What can I do to help?

Listen. One of the most important things you can do it just be there. Do your best to understand how they are feeling, and let them know that you hear them.

Read the Bible. It can be uplifting to read passages like Jer 29:11 or Ps 42:5 that promise God’s joy and his purpose for your life. However, be careful that you don’t use these verses to say “See, you shouldn’t be feeling this way…” The last thing you want is to make them feel guilty for being depressed!

It can be just as helpful to read passages of people who had it hard; it tells them that they aren’t alone, that others have gone through the same thing and survived it, and God is also here now to help them through it. Psalms 38 and 86 are great places to start, and the Book of Job is also wonderful.

Pray. Ask God for relief from this burden, or that He would give the strength to withstand it; this is a response we see many examples of in Scripture (Lk 22:42, 2 Cor 12:9, 1 Cor 10:13, Ps 38:1-18).

Confession can also free them from the weight of guilt. Guilt is a common cause of depression, but the Good News of Jesus is that we can turn from sin and live free from guilt (Heb 10:22). If they have sin they want to confess to you, let them bring it up; never force it out of them. Then listen, pray with them, and then affirm to them that they have been set free, indeed!

Encourage. Build them up by reminding them of what they are good at, things they’ve succeeded in, and the people that love them. You can also remind them that even though you know things are tough right now, this too, shall pass. Things will get better!

Do something! Get them out of the house; try a new hobby; anything to break them out of the “world of me”. Physical activity is proven to help fight depression; so is taking interest in others, such as charity work, or tutoring.


A Final Note

Get professional help if you need it. If the suggestions above don’t help, they may be clinically depressed, in which case they may actually have a chemical imbalance in the brain.

If you are worried they might take their own life – especially if they have talked about how they would do it – don’t keep it to yourself. Even if they make you promise to keep it secret, it doesn’t matter; they aren’t thinking straight, and it’s more important to get them the help they need. Talk to someone you trust, or contact the National Lifeline.


What are some other ways you can beat the winter blues?