Over the years many of us have felt as if God was in the midst of doing something great and that He was going to change things in our lives and in our community in a powerful and dramatic way. Many people have had this hope for Bonner County and for our community. In fact it was this hope that I have heard many people say was the reason that they came to this beautiful and majestic landscape. In my time here as a Pastor in this community, I have found that most people long for this, but few have seen it in their lives.
We ask ourselves these kinds of questions: What is preventing God from moving in Bonner County in a powerful and long-lasting way? When will God choose to pour out His Spirit in Bonner County and the person of Jesus Christ be set on the throne here? How will God move powerfully when we see disunity, posturing and the churches of God fighting over their distinctive callings?
Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions, and looking at the wrong things. I believe wholeheartedly that if we are going to see God move here in what I call “sustained revival”, we must know God’s heart for this place, this people, and be willing to be the hands and the feet of that heart. Perhaps the question is not about the Great Commission or even how we go about sharing this amazing news of freedom and life that we have in Christ. I also believe that the Bible gives us the key to seeing the world around us find out who Jesus is in His fullness and seeing the same dramatic transformation that was present in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.
Jesus when questioned about the law in Matthew 22:36-40, points out that the highest priority of life for all who would be in covenant with Him was to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus reinforced this concept when talking to His disciples in John 13:34-35 at the last supper when He gave them a new commandment saying, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Today in our current climate in Bonner County, we must be reminded that the Great Commandment is the foundation for the Great Commission. If we pursue the Commission without the priority of the Commandment, we are putting ourselves on the same playing field that the enemy is on, and undoubtedly people will hear the message, but miss the heart of the King. Instead we must learn that love is the imperative and 1 Corinthians 13 should be our mantra and calling card for every sermon, every outreach, every program and every relationship. This is the foundation of a community transformed. Love never fails.
I just spent the past weekend in Seattle. Ugh. I had forgotten what it’s like to be one of a hundred people all trying to take the same off ramp at the same time at 70 miles an hour! Good grief! I love our small town! And I promised my wife I’d quite complaining about our August traffic in Sandpoint this year.
The reason we went to Seattle was to watch our “Montana Son-Riley Dettwiler” receive his commissioning in the Air Force. We sat in a room at the HUB on the University of Washington Campus with hundreds of other anxious family members. Riley was one of 23 ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) candidates ready to be sworn in as officers in the United States Air Force. My wife Disa and I sat tall as Riley’s name was called to center stage. There he stood at attention in front of his grandfather, Dick Goble, a retired Lt. Commander in the Coast Guard, who swore him in with the traditional oath of office. After which several family members pinned the 2nd Lieutenant bars on his uniform and cap. He beamed. We beamed. Everyone was happy!
Why do I share all of this? Simply to say that Riley is a third generation Christian. He comes from a family that has always taken their faith seriously. They’ve driven from Noxon, MT to weekend worship services for years, rarely missing a Sunday even in the dead of winter. Life hasn’t been easy for Riley. His dad died from cancer when he was just ten years old. The loss of a father is so hard on a young man. And I believe that it was his faith, his family’s faith and the faith of our Christian tribe that made a huge difference in Riley’s life. And as we witnessed over the weekend, like a young eagle, he stretched his wings and took flight (He’d better get used to flying because he’s been tapped to become a future Air Force pilot).
I think this is what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he admonished the Thessalonians to “love all of God’s family…”—The church. (1 Thess. 4:10) That is why it is so important for Christians to have a church home, a family who will be there when life goes awry. I need it. You need it. We all need it until Christ returns. Until then, get connected and stay connected. It matters to God and helps God’s people.
Tony is the senior pastor at First Christian Church and can be followed at:
Many of us have established a habit or spiritual discipline of prayer in one form or another. These prayers may range from the desperate cries to God when our lives feel so pressured that we can’t stand to bear it anymore to the grateful and praising prayers that give God honor, praise and adoration. The psalms reveal both extremes and both are gladly welcomed to God, along with everything in between. As we see in the Bible, prayer is often a reflection and a cry concerning circumstances and situations. I have found that most people I talk to spend most of their time in prayer about these specific issues.
I would encourage us all to think about how we pray and from what perspective we cry out to God from. Most of us call unto God for needs, or for worship, but I believe that God has asked us to pray from a different perspective. As a Christian I have been given the most wonderful and powerful gift, the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit dwells within me and is a part of my every moment, leading, guiding and directing me. We must all recognize that at salvation, we all received the Spirit of Christ. When we pray, many of us pray as if Holy Spirit was not there, or if God was distant or far away from our moment of need.
We are reminded that when we pray from the place of knowing, and sensing that He is within us, we will pray very differently than when we think we are alone. Our prayers are now asking God for His perfect will to move us individually, and for Him to change us in order to meet the challenges that are in our path. His perfect love and mercy will always protect us, and we can pray according to the will of God, not just according to our needs.
God is working in our County and I believe that as we pray from a perspective of fearless power in the Holy Spirit, we will see God’s kingdom come to Earth as it is in Heaven. I am convinced that through dedicated believers praying in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will see a mighty unleashing of His goodness, love and grace! Please partner with other believers in prayer for Bonner County at www.bonnercountyprayer.com.
Dandelions are amazing. You know what I’m talking about right? Those pesky little yellow flowers and connected broadleaf. These intruders seem to appear out of nowhere like a mother-in-law. Most of us wish they would just winter kill—the dandelions, not our mother-in-laws. I don’t know anyone who ever planted dandelions on purpose. But it sure seems like some tiny troll went around all of our yards in May sowing seeds for these yellow bombshells.
I think there’s a lot we can learn from this spring visitor. Life lessons if you will. Dandelions, for the purpose of this article will represent the negative, noxious things that tend to crop up in our lives. What can we learn from the dandelion?
Dandelions come in bunches so kill them as soon as they appear. Have you ever seen a field with just one dandelion? Neither have I. Of course we’ve seen the field where the first ones appear, and in just a matter of days there are dozens, hundreds, even thousands. What are we to do? Kill them immediately by whatever means! Spiritually, we should always be on guard for the noxious weeds that seem to creep into our hearts and souls. Maybe it was a stolen glance where you lingered to long, or you “borrowed” a few bucks from petty cash because you just needed it for a few days. Be careful. You may find yourself in a field, and it won’t be a field of dreams, but a field of heart ache and misery. Didn’t St. Paul challenge us to “…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”? (2 Cor. 10:5)
Dandelions will take root in the weak spots so keep your life growing and luxurious. My wife is the gardener in our house. So I take no credit for our beautiful yard. She knows that a weak yard means more weeds—especially dandelions. These yellow monsters love to take over the empty lot next door because there’s nothing there to stop them, really. So to stop the threat, my bride waters and fertilizes the thunder out of our yard to keep it thick and luxuriant. Personally speaking, I would suggest that when we’re fully committed to our personal growth in Christ—spiritual weeds have very little space to germinate and grow. By practicing the ancient and biblical disciplines of solitude, giving, worshipping and scripture memorization, we can keep our lives luxuriant to the point that Satan has a hard time planting a bad seed in our heads or hearts.
Dandelions are here for good so plan to deal with them for the rest of your life. Every spring, the dandelions appear. So we can either give up or keep fighting. My wife chooses to fight. She anticipates these nasty little buggers all year long. So in the fall, she hires a guy to spray the yard with a combination fertilizer and weed killer. It really works and keeps dandelions from getting an early start—the following spring. There’s an old saying, “An ounce of herbicide prevents a thousand dandelions! (Or something like that). Personally, plan to be attacked. Plan to have stupid—un-Christ-like-thoughts and behaviors hit you and nip them in the bud. How? St. Paul suggested over two thousand years ago a very proactive approach to life when he shared, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ( Phil. 4:8)
It seems to me that if we’re busy doing these few things, then the dandelions of life won’t have much of a chance to land and take root because your life will be vibrant!
Dr. Tony L. Nelson
Tony is the senior pastor at First Christian Church, Sandpoint, ID and can be followed at:
You know the old saying, right? Family are like fish, after about three days they start to stink. I don’t know about you, but the fish parts that I throw in the garbage start to stink in about two days!
Living in Sandpoint means people—family–want to come visit us. So how do we survive, or even thrive this summer when the “fam” drops bye?
Let me make a few suggestions, a summertime-family-survival-guide-for-Sandpoint-if you will.
Keep your priorities straight. Jesus said to seek His kingdom first and the rest of the stuff of life will take care of itself. (Matt. 6:33) What does that mean? It means that your family is not God—even if they are from Chicago! They are not to be worshipped or bowed down too. And man, do I see so many paying homage to the “family god”. Like what you ask? Ok, you knew it was coming. Like when our church families stop attending our weekend gatherings “because I’ve got family in town.” Some have actually said, “Hey pastor, I’ll see you in the fall.” Seriously? You know how lame that sounds to us? (And to God I think) When I went to grandma’s Shafer’s house in Superior, Nebraska in the summer, Sunday meant we all got up earlier than we liked, put on our church clothes, went to Sunday school and Church. Then we went out to play. I look back now and cherish the memory of sitting on those hard-wood pews in an American Baptist Church with four generations of us—keeping our priorities straight. God first–Family Second–Career Third–is often quoted and I think it still has merit. Parents, if you want your kids to stay connected to Christ and His church as adults, then make it a priority when they’re little—and invite your visitors to come!
Establish healthy boundaries. Just because family drops by doesn’t mean all your house rules should be tossed out the door. Clearly communicate your expectations when they arrive. I’ve heard horror stories about people entertaining family who showed up expecting to be fed and entertained at the cost of the host family. You may not believe this, but when we visit my sister-in-law, we go buy toilet paper. Seriously. And a few other things as well, but we once asked her, how can we help with the additional cost of being here? And she said, “Well, you can go buy some T.P.” Weird I know. But now it’s a tradition. I think you could do better; tell the brother-in-law to bring T-bones… and lots of them!
Laugh. Once the boundaries are in place, then have fun. Laugh and laugh a lot. Laugh until you cry! Tell stories. Make jokes. Pull a few practical pranks. Spoil the nieces, nephews and grand kids. Make your home a place they want to come back too… with more T-bones of course!
Treasure the time together. Some reading these few words would love to recapture a week, a day, or a very special moment that happened long ago with one who has now passed on. I lost my middle brother four years ago to cancer. And it still hurts. I have regrets. I regret that we didn’t make enough memories as adults. And now that chapter is closed forever. One of the few values of aging is the ability to say, “Do you remember when we went water skiing and you lost your….” Yep. I remember! It was a good day. No. It was a great day because my family was there.
So this summer, keep Christ first, your family second and tell your boss your life is not the sum total of the hours you work, so negotiate time to play. And when your family comes bye, let them know that they only have three days until you’re going to kick them out…unless they buy toilet paper.
Tony is the senior pastor at First Christian Church and can be followed at: