Category Archives: teaching

Reflections on 9/11 from the Book of Amos

In my morning quiet time, I’ve been reading through “The Daily Walk Bible” this year, which offers a daily devotional along with a guide to read through the Bible in one year.

My copy was published in 1997, well before the tragic and terrible events that unfolded on September 11, 2001.  So I was struck when I reached the September 11th reading titled “Visions of Horror and Hope” paired with a reading in chapters eight and nine in the Book of Amos.

Amos was a man of the soil who worked his sycamore and fig groves in a small town south of Bethlehem. His prophecy announces coming  judgment on the northern kingdom of Israel, which had strayed far from God.

The Daily Walk devotional describes disaster that would come suddenly, “like a flood, leaving the people in hopeless despair.”

Sept 11th from the air



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The new song in heaven: going beyond the 12-tone scale

Composers lament the same frustration as they attempt to avoid repetition in their music. After 2,000 years, the limits of the 12-tone

Anne Ortlund

scale leave musicologists with a hunger for something more.

“They have come to a dead end,” observes Anne Ortlund, the popular Christian author and speaker. For 15 years, Anne was the organist for Dr. Charles Fuller’s radio broadcasts. Her hymn “Macedonia” was chosen as the theme hymn at the World Congress on Evangelism inBerlin.

She believes the worship that Christians will experience in heaven will go beyond our imaginations – and outside the limits of our current musical scale.

In the ancient world, only five notes were used. “The earliest people groups all sang the same five-point scale. The slaves who came toAmericastill sang five-note songs that came from their past,” Ortlund says. “The old Celtic songs and even some Chinese music still has five notes.” Because all these ancient cultures used the same five notes, she believes the five-note scale must have precededBabel, going back perhaps to the Garden of Eden.

Then, something amazing happened in the first century A.D. “When Christ came and the church was born, they stepped up to a 12-tone scale that no ears had ever heard before,” she notes. “It was so exciting for them.”

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Pressing forward in your race

The Apostle Paul often compared the Christian life to a race. We know he lived in Ephesus for three years, and during the time he lived there, he probably witnessed Olympic-style competitions in a stadium that held as many as 100,000 people.[1] 

Vase depicting ancient Olympics

I’ve been a casual jogger for years, but I’ve never won a race. One reason I’ve never won a race is that I’ve never actually entered a race. I’ve never been in a 5K, or any other race – until now. 

A good friend has persuaded me to enter a Sprint Triathlon that will be held inNewport Beach,Californiain September. 

It involves a half-mile ocean swim, a 12-mile bike ride, and a 3-mile run — a mini- triathlon. Piece of cake, right? The first thing I noticed as I started to train is that there is a difference between my casual approach to jogging and actually training for real competition. 

When I first ran three miles, my left knee started to stiffen and feel like an old wood board. The next day my calves were so sore I could hardly walk. So I can only say “God willing,” I’ll do this race — if my left knee and my other 55-year-old body parts hold up. 

There is something different about high-level athletes. They don’t take a casual approach to their sport. They don’t just dabble at it when it’s convenient. Every day they get up and their mind is focused on their goal. They read magazines about their sport, they set goals for themselves and push themselves to achieve those goals.[2] 

If they are training for the Olympics, they want to win gold – they are aiming for the prize. And it involves intensive, focused, training over months and years. 

I interviewed John Naber recently, who won four gold medals in swimming atMontreal. He said he figured out four years ahead of the Olympics, while still in high school, what time he would probably have to hit to win gold in four years, and that became his intense focus as he trained – hitting that mark. 

In Philippians 3:12, Paul writes: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

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Notes from Pastor Brad’s last sermon at Church by the Sea

Since Pastor Brad is leaving us in early July, some were caught off-guard that this was his last sermon in our church. He has played a

Pastor Brad Coleman in Oaxaca

leading role in our rotating pulpit, with as many as seven or eight men ( and now women) sharing the teaching responsibilities, a practice we launched in the ’90s with Brad’s encouragement.

As Billy Tarka remarked after his message, the person we saw on and off the stage is identical, a testimony to his authenticity. A shepherd’s heart, a gentle spirit, and sound, Spirit-led thinking all endeared him to us.

He prefaced his sermon by injecting a note of humor. He imagined a docudrama studying the life of the church with various Hollywood actors chosen for the staff. He chose Goldie Hawn to play Kelly, Matt Damon for Sam, and he even had an aged, balding Brad Pitt from Benjamin Button for himself.  Choosing Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies to play Bonnie elicited a few gasps, however.

He began his message in Philippians 2 with the observation that we have been called into an abundant life in Christ, so that we are truly invited to live life with a capital “L.”

When Paul admonishes us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, he quoted Barclay’s observation that this fear does not cause us to run from God, but this fear and trembling should cause us to seek Him more.

“Paul doesn’t say to work for your salvation,” Brad noted. “He says to work out your salvation.”

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