What Makes Refuge Different

What Makes Refuge Different

Breaking the Mold – Finding the Middle Ground

Finding a church these days can mean a time-consuming search, wading through churches that offer various programs, styles, beliefs, and traditions.  In the church world there are a lot of buzz words such as “come as you are church”, “seeker church”, and “postmodern church”.  All of these are used to describe the personality, character, and style of a church.  However, Refuge Community Church doesn’t fit into any of these (or any other neatly packaged categories).  So what are we like? Read more about What Makes Refuge Different

Running from what you need most.

Running from what you need most.

Human nature is a strange thing.  Our nature often works contrary to our personal good.  This is most obvious when it comes to how most Christians respond in times of duress.  I have observed that more often than not, when a person goes through a very trying time, the most common reaction to the life stress is to stop coming to church.  I have often wondered why this is so.  Read more about Running from what you need most.

Legalism Kills

Legalism Kills

I count myself fortunate to have experienced many different modes of church. In my early life I was part of a fairly liberal church where, with the exception of church traditions such as the way you dress, and the type of music used, there wasn’t much legalism. In this environment, anything went. There wasn’t much said about the Bible’s stance on moral issues. These ideas were left completely to the individual to sort out. Of course with this, was a complete lack of biblical teaching on moral issues. Then later in life, I attended a strict, legalistic church where the pastor was in charge. From the pulpit we were indoctrinated with every form of church legalism known to man. We were told how to dress, what music to listen to, what moral decisions to make on just about every topic you can think of. Read more about Legalism Kills

Gossip – The Real Enemy

Gossip – The Real Enemy

When Christ and the Apostles talked about gossip it was never categorized.  It was never said that if the gossip was “the truth” it was somehow ok.  Why?  Because “truth” is a highly subjective thing.  You think you’re telling “the truth”, but everything you believe is filtered through your own life experiences and prejudices.  Simply put, unless you’re directly quoting a reliable source, your “truth” is your truth, and not necessarily the truth.  I am thinking of one of my favorite movies, Couple’s Retreat.  My favorite and often quoted line in my house is “I know my truth”.  I don’t want to ruin the comedy, so go rent it and have a laugh. Read more about Gossip – The Real Enemy

For I am not ashamed…even about tithing.

For I am not ashamed…even about tithing.

Tithe“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ”… even when it comes to the topic of tithes and offerings.  With all the abuse in some ministries (especially the TV variety), churches and pastors have backed away from the part of the gospel that talks about our finances.  But here’s a great truth: If God is NOT in control of your financial life, then your financial life is OUT of control.  Look, I’m sorry some ministries you’ve come across have been out for your money and haven’t cared about you.  But I’m not them.  Enough said on that?  So let’s get to the heart of the matter.  Jesus and the Apostle Paul talked a lot about money.  Here are some examples: Read more about For I am not ashamed…even about tithing.

How to forgive those who never apologize

How to forgive those who never apologize

punk girl giving handHow to forgive someone who never apologizes.

You can’t.  Here endeth the lesson.  Actually I’m just kidding though that sentiment isn’t far from the truth.  It is perhaps the most difficult thing you will ever accomplish…if you choose to do the really hard work.  There is perhaps nothing more difficult than living out daily forgiveness toward someone who has deeply wronged you and will never see that they were wrong.  For many, including myself, this is a near impossible task because without resolution, feelings of hurt tend to resurface over and over again over the course of our lives.  That’s why the process must be continual and why it’s extremely difficult to accomplish.

In fact, this very night I had an opportunity to put into practice exactly what this post is all about.  Actually most of this post is from a sermon a couple of months ago, so I’ve had lots of time to digest it and I’m thankful I did because under normal circumstances I’m still not all that good at forgiveness. Read more about How to forgive those who never apologize

The Spiritual and the Secular

The Spiritual and the Secular

I find it rather interesting that the church in it’s effort to avoid “worldliness” rails against anything secular merely because it is not affiliated or associated with the church.  I recall as a young Christian in a rather conservative, charismatic church being told that I had to rid my life of all things secular.  Near the top of the list was my entire record collection.  For those of you who don’t know what a record is…google it.  I remember a pastor once telling me how dangerous it was to allow anything secular, especially “rock music” into my life.  I would most certainly be corrupted.  Not wanting to be corrupted, I took my entire collection and threw it into a dumpster.  Now I will be the first to say that within popular music are many themes that are completely inappropriate for a person intent on living a life of godliness.  It’s important for followers of Christ to learn to be discerning regarding what’s appropriate for them.  But for many well-meaning Christians, it’s not discernment they’re after, it’s the ridding of all things secular. Read more about The Spiritual and the Secular

Excellent!

Excellent!

Bill-S-Preston-Esq-alex-winter-25441150-451-296So why am I so uptight about excellence?  You may not realize it because I work extremely hard to temper my expectations of others, but I am passionate about excellence especially in the body of Christ.  Lots of people over the years have simply said “Tom’s just a perfectionist, OCD, or just plain anal about details”.  While I realize I often come across this way, that’s not why I struggle to accept mediocrity.  That word “mediocrity” was a perfect example.  At first I spelled it wrong, but I took the few minutes needed to go dictionary.com and figure out the appropriate spelling.  OCD?  No.  I spelled it correctly because I feel it’s important to be as competent as I can be.  I could have let it slide, but for me it’s a slippery slope of accepting lazy behaviors if I start letting little things slide.  When it comes to my service to the body of Christ, He deserves better from me.  One of the scriptures that’s shaped my attitudes over the years goes like this:

Luke 14: Figure the Cost Read more about Excellent!

Haaaaave you met Chris?

Haaaaave you met Chris?

WashburnEvery so often I like to use the Refuge Blog to tell you a little about the people that keep Refuge doing what we do.  So let me introduce to you to Chris Washburn.  Some say Chris needs no introductions because once you meet him, you will never forget him.  Could it be his tats?  Or maybe his gauged ear lobes or nose ring?  Some people believe those are the things that makes Chris “cool”, but I’m here to tell you there’s a lot more to Chris, a whole lot more.   Read more about Haaaaave you met Chris?

First World Problems

First World Problems

man holding head stressedI’ve been pondering the term “first world problems” a lot lately, mostly because so many people banter about it on Facebook and Twitter.  When they do, they are usually trying to make some point about how your problems aren’t really very serious compared to those who are starving and suffering all over the world.  When they post these little quips, it has the effect of making you feel like you are a selfish jerk for daring to complain about whatever isn’t going so well in your life.  So I am going to go on record today and say that this treatment is neither sensible, fair nor just.  Read more about First World Problems

Haaaaave you met Tom?

Haaaaave you met Tom?

TomFEvery so often I like to use the Refuge Blog to tell you a little about the people that keep Refuge doing what we do.  So we have this kinda strange dude who also goes by the name Tom, but since we have two Pastors named Tom at Refuge, I sometimes call him Raul. Anyway, I was thinking of one word to describe Tom. That’s a tough one, but the best word I can think of is “Groovy”. Yeah, Tom is kind of a throwback to the 70’s when Baretta was our favorite cop, we loved to hate JR, and Ponch and John came on right before The Love Boat which came on just before Fantasy Island. Remember those days? If I had to guess, (and it’s only a guess), if Tom has a favorite character in The Love Boat it’s probably Issac because he uses the phrase “out of sight”. Tom is quite “out of sight” but not just because he still watches reruns of Dallas. He’s “out of sight” because he’s mostly tucked away back in Kid’s Church on Sundays serving as Refuge’s Kidz4Christ pastor. Kids pastors often go unrecognized by people in the church who don’t have kids, so let me tell you a little about Raul…er…Pastor Tom Frontera. Read more about Haaaaave you met Tom?

Arminian or Calvin?  Should it really matter?

Arminian or Calvin? Should it really matter?

The debate has raged for centuries.  People have been persecuted, otracized, and even killed for taking one side or the other.  To start, here is a brief overview of the two theological points of view.  This is an excerpt from an article by Mary Fairchild for About.com.  She outlines it well.

Calvinism & Arminianism Compared Read more about Arminian or Calvin? Should it really matter?

What Alec Baldwin and every pastor who has ever lived have in common.

What Alec Baldwin and every pastor who has ever lived have in common.

alecbaldwinI just read through a New Yorker article where Alec Baldwin discusses his issues regarding the media, the paparazzi, and what he believes to be a false public perception of himself.  I must admit much of what I read seemed like a pointless rant…until I came to this paragraph.

In the New Media culture, anything good you do is tossed in a pit, and you are measured by who you are on your worst day. What’s the Boy Scout code? Trustworthy. Loyal. Helpful. Friendly. Courteous. Kind. Obedient. Cheerful. Thrifty. Brave. Clean. Reverent. I might be all of those things, at certain moments. But people suspect that whatever good you do, you are faking. You’re that guy. You’re that guy that says this. There is a core of outlets that are pushing these stories out. (News source’s name removed) clutters the blogosphere with “Alec Baldwin, he’s the Devil, he’s Fidel Baldwin.” Read more about What Alec Baldwin and every pastor who has ever lived have in common.

A note from someone’s pastor

A note from someone’s pastor

I couldn’t argue with this logic.  Yes, though I love the people I lead and serve, I do sometimes feel this way.  Read it and take it in love…as the author intended. http://www.benreed.net/index.php/2013/01/16/a-note-from-your-pastor/?utm_source=&utm_medium=&utm_campaign=  

Don’t Miss the Point

Don’t Miss the Point

People familiar with Refuge Community Church know that we are passionate about fulfilling the gospel by caring for people as we’re told to do in James.  So we focus a WHOLE LOT on meeting the practical needs of the homeless and poor in our community.  But lest we forget, there is even more to the gospel.  If a person’s last words are any indicator of what’s most important to them, we need to recall Jesus’ last words before His ascension.  He told those who would follow Him to “go into the world and preach”. Read more about Don’t Miss the Point

You are unfit for ministry! (Well, so am I)

You are unfit for ministry! (Well, so am I)

I follow some of my favorite pastor-role-models on Twitter and while reading something an author I really admire wrote, I decided to go and google him to see if I could find a message he had written on a topic I was interested in.  So I typed in his name and up popped a page full of links to stuff he’s written, but also to stuff that’s been written about him.  This is the pastor of what you might call a mega-church and a man who has far-reaching influence.  Let’s call him “Pastor M”.  I was struck that there were several articles and blog entries fairly high up in the google rankings that were very critical of him and his ministry.  In the results were things like “He should step down…he should give up his position…he should repent” that sort of stuff.  So I decided to read some of them to see what the hubbub was about.   Read more about You are unfit for ministry! (Well, so am I)

Loyalty

Loyalty

We need more loyalty in our world. There’s not much of it around these days. I think it’s time to craft a Sunday message on this topic. I just had to hear how a dear friend of mine was recently treated by someone and it really breaks my heart and quite frankly ticks me off. That’s loyalty. We should feel one another’s pain. Read more about Loyalty

Anger and Offense

Anger and Offense

Here’s a simple observation.  You don’t even really need to wrong someone for them to be angry with you.  And once the anger starts, watch out!

I have noticed a whole bunch lately among many people, that you don’t really have “do anything” to someone for them to get mad at you.  Some of the most common causes of the anger I see between people are: “I don’t agree with you”, “I don’t agree with your choice”, “I don’t like something you said”, “you don’t give me enough attention”, “you don’t do things the way I think they should be done”, “you don’t agree with ME!”, “you don’t give me what I want”…among others. Read more about Anger and Offense

What is… A Pastor’s Wife?

What is… A Pastor’s Wife?

What is a pastor’s wife?  Well, she’s a wife.  Duh.  In most church circles, there is an expectation thrust upon the woman who is married to the pastor.  We call it “the pastor’s wife”.  In some circles she’s known as “the First Lady”.  In other circles, she’s “Pastor” herself by virtue of being married to the Senior Pastor.  Whatever title you want to apply, it’s clear that in most churches these days the pastor’s wife is a position that comes with being married to the pastor.  Yet in scripture we see nothing of the kind.  It’s sad to me that the woman who decides to marry the man she loves, because he is a pastor must submit to a rigorous set of expectations by the church in which her husband serves.  I tell my wife all the time: “You are not the pastor’s wife!  You are a woman who married a man who happens to be a pastor”.  Therefore I have no expectations of my wife beyond being my wife…and my love. Read more about What is… A Pastor’s Wife?

What’s a Christian?

What’s a Christian?

What I find very interesting are the various responses when this question is asked of church people.  Whether we realize it or not, we ask that question in one way or another all the time of each other, we just don’t realize it.  For instance, whenever we pass judgment on another person with the subtext “I thought they were Christian”, we are actually asking the question of each other.  And sadly, our responses usually focus on things that have absoultely nothing to do with what makes up a “true Christian”.  Ok, confused yet?   Read more about What’s a Christian?

Is there hope for this thing?

Is there hope for this thing?

One thing I like to think about myself is that I’m a fairly optimistic guy.  So take the following comments in that light.  The question Du Jour (for me) is: “Is there hope for this thing called The Church?”  Here’s what makes me ask the question.  In The Church (speaking of the church everywhere) I have run into some of the most troubling people I’ve ever met.  Some quick words that come to mind are: Judgmental, hypocritical, hyper-sensitive, and above all: LEGALISTIC.  Read more about Is there hope for this thing?

At all cost

At all cost

Job said “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” I have had reason as of late to really ponder those words. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t compare my life to Job, that would be silly. Compared to the persecution of our brothers and sisters all over the world who are literally dying for Christ, my life is of no comparison. Yet we would all agree that life often gives us great difficulty, much of it beyond our ability to handle. So when that happens what do we do? Read more about At all cost

Out of the Huddle

Out of the Huddle

I was at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit this year and WOW did God ever speak to us. In times like these it’s very easy for people to become self-focused. Money’s tight, people are losing their homes, jobs are tenuous or nonexistent… times are tough! So yeah, it’s very easy to be self-focused. And truth be told, being self-focused isn’t a bad thing…it’s often necessary. Read more about Out of the Huddle