Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Well, tonight we had our Christmas Eve service, and it went well....I enjoyed the time with the church family, and am now on my way home to spend the rest of the evening with my kids and grandkids...all in all, it is truly a blessing to be able to share this time of the year with those I love, and who love me! May all of you have a wonderful Christmas, and a most beautiful and blessed New Year....I am anticipating the Lord moving in a wonderful way!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Lately I just haven't been in the mood to write...I usually like to respond to current events, or to share what is on my mind, but to be honest...I just haven't felt like writing anything. Still, with Christmas coming, my mind begins to drift towards two days past Christmas Day. December 27th, to be exact. That is the Sunday that I gave my heart to the Lord, and it is a day that makes December 25th special to me. When I think of that day, I also think of Jesus' parable of the Sower and the Seed, how He speaks of seed falling on both unreceptive and receptive soil. Out of the van load of kids who went with me to the Hollywood Palladium on that December day, I know of only one who continued in his walk with Jesus. All of the others seem to have fallen away. One of them used to attend our church in our early days, but he ended up marrying and divorcing twice, and while at our church was using cocaine and finally just walked away from the Lord. I heard a few years ago that he went to Calvary Chino Hills for awhile, and I pray that he did and that he is still there, as my hope would be that he came back to the Lord. Interestingly, our church bought the house where his ex-wife used to live in on Pipeline, and we "paved paradise and put in a parking lot". When we bought the house, I believe she had started going to Calvary Chino Hills, and again, I sure pray she is still there.
It is amazing, when I think of it, how many people I have known and cared about (and for) who have left their walks with Jesus. Friends that I would break bread with, pray with, laugh with, and even confide in who were trustworthy and yet, when it came down to it, more than likely never were saved. It amazes me. I think of their impact on my life, especially when I first came to faith in Jesus and sometimes wonder what made the difference. We went to the same church, had the same friends, made the same profession of faith in the same Savior, and yet they walked away and I have remained with Jesus. Truly salvation is a mystery.
Jesus likened the Kingdom of God to a man sowing seed in his field, and the seed sprouts and grows, but he himself does not know how (Mk 4:26-29) I certainly have no idea why someone claims faith in Jesus and walks away, and others make the same claim and become missionaries, pastors, teachers, full time ministers, chaplains, etc. and remain and grow strong in Jesus. All I know is that I want to remain faithful to Him, until the end, and that I want to be one who encourages others to love and serve Him, too. It never has been an easy road for me, but it has been a blessed one.
When I got saved, I had been dating a girl who broke up with me. Of course, I thought I would die of a broken heart! She actually was used by the Lord to make me consider my life, and to get it right with Jesus. It is amazing how the Lord used a broken relationship and a broken heart to bring me to a place where He could be the mender of broken hearts (Lu 4:18) It took around five years for me to get over her, and I really didn't get over her until the day she got married. I went to her wedding, and then went home and cried myself to sleep (drama is my middle name). God gave her a great young man whom I knew was better for her than I could ever be, but I never dreamed of the incredible gift He had waiting for me when He opened my eyes to a beautiful young woman named Marie. He used my sorrow over being such a jerk to bring me to repentance, that I might be a better man and to grow into a good husband and His servant...and to be the pastor of the church I now love and serve. Hmmmm, what a wonderful God and what a beautiful plan He had for me, and has for you.
May you remain strong in Him, Merry Christmas, and remember that the best is yet to come!
Friday, November 21, 2008
I was reading my bible the other day, and the passage I was looking at related to the manner in which Christians are to live, and how we are to think. Paul was writing of how believers are to walk in love, even as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us. He went on to say because of this, sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness should not even be named amongst the saints. There should be no filthiness, foolish talking, crude joking in our lives because this is all out of place, but instead of these things, we should give thanks to God (Eph 5:1-15). I began to think: Paul could be writing to our nation and the church should wake up.
When I look around today, I am not surprised at the casual sin and the accepting, tolerating attitude of people in general. God knows that is simply an expression of an unredeemed nature. People who do not claim to have a relationship with the Lord and His word cannot be expected to think or act in accordance to His will, though there are times that they most certainly do things that are charitable and caring, or sacrificial and result in good for those around them.
What bothers me and saddens, even grieves me is when I see those who claim to be believers arguing in favor of things that the bible clearly condemns.
I expected the election to turn out the way it did, and in this blog put forth some of the concerns that I had about it. Of course, Christians representing both parties let their thoughts be known, and I read all the comments written concerning why my thoughts were wrong or right. The funny thing is, some people think that I am a staunch Republican when in fact I am more Independent in my outlook on some issues. I vote for the person most closely mirroring my conscience, and do not vote along party lines if I disagree with the person's positions. I do not echo party line talking points, but try to think for myself. And my thinking is informed, not by the newspaper or televised news accounts (which are without argument biased to the "left") but by the word of God. After reading it for 38 years, and studying and teaching it for 35, I would guess that my way of thinking has been influenced by what I read in scripture. Which is why I teach in the manner I do, and write the things I write.
For some, my opinions are just that, my opinions and on many matters, indeed that is what they are, simply my musings and opinions. Still, I would simply encourage believers to make sure that their opinions are formed through careful reading of the word of God with a desire to align with Him. This is what I would hope for all Christians, that we would consult the Lord and His word, in order to come into alignment with Him and what He has said in His word.
Without a doubt, people today are much more callused to truth than in any other time I can remember. The filth of the world has pretty much polluted the moral base of this great nation, and I remain concerned at the lack of discernment many have.
I was thinking about how people got to the place of thinking that marriage is inconsequential, and unnecessary to protect. Part of my answer came as I was flying home from a recent trip. The airline offered free movies, several one could select by simply scrolling through a personal screen and clicking "play movie". Under the heading of "comedy" were several recent movies, so I began watching them. I opened up three of them, and turned each one off within a couple of minutes. Each one had language that I can't repeat, and scenes that were pornographic. These were movies that any kid could turn on and watch, unedited, and I was shocked that this is what people watch and have no problem with.
Some argue that such viewing does not effect the way people think, but a recent study reveals the opposite. What you watch most definitely influences how you think, and what you will do. Our society is totally callused, and the sad thing is that the church is too.
The fact is, when so many have gone through divorces themselves, marriage loses its shine, especially when the persons going through the divorce are Christians. The ones most troubled are the children, who see marriage as something that doesn't necessarily work out, and isn't really something that lasts a lifetime. Millions have been broken through divorce, depreciating the value of marriage, and so ultimately it all boils down to "love". Since love is something we all need, why not let people who love one another get married, even if they are of the same sex? After all, marriage isn't that sacred, is it?
Simplistic ramblings, I know, but true nonetheless. What we watch, read, listen to, think about, and eventually desire is what we ultimately do. I pray that people in our church will actually begin reading, thinking about, desiring, and ultimately begin doing that which pleases the Lord. And it all begins with loving Him, reading His word, and determining to keep it.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Proverbs 11:3 Asks the question: If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? Very few can legitimately argue that the United States was not founded on religious principles and established by religious people. Though it is very much in vogue to find something evil about everything that made this country great, the fact is that you cannot go into our great national capitol and not find monuments throughout the entire city celebrating the fact that God was the One responsible for the establishment of this great country of ours. From the Lincoln memorial to small statues and plaques everywhere, the name of God and Jesus Christ, not to mention the Holy Spirit is reverently displayed and thanks goes to Him for all that has been accomplished. Scripture is everywhere, speaking of God's greatness and goodness to us. It is amazing to see what has happened in my lifetime, how all of this has systematically been challenged and history has been re-written. Recently, Marie and I watched a short special on John Lennon and the Beatles, and we were reminded of how Lennon had stated "We are more popular than Jesus Christ". When he said that, (and I remember it well), Christians and millions of Americans in general, got outraged and Lennon was forced to apologize for such a slight. Can you imagine something like that happening today? Movies like Religulous would never have been made, South Park would never mock Jesus, God's name would not be allowed to be said on national TV while the "N" word is banned, and a host of plays, paintings, and movies would never be made. We have fallen so far from our Christian roots, and today we are paying for it. Take as an example Prop 8. Since when do we really have to define marriage as between a man and a woman? Doesn't nature itself tell you what works and doesn't work? Yet, homosexual activists have worked 24-7 to make sure that they are legitimized. This is not about equal rights, it is about legitimizing perversion, and the church is once again asleep at the wheel. One school "teacher" actually took her first grade class on a field trip to witness a lesbian wedding ceremony, because as she said, she didn't want to miss this "teachable moment". In other words, she didn't want to miss the opportunity to indoctrinate the children with confusion and perversion. Sadly, they went with the permission of their irresponsible parents, with only two parents having the common sense and backbone to keep their children home that day. Perhaps it is easier to have the kids go to a field trip than to actually stay home to care for them, or to provide someone (is anybody home) to watch them. Sad, sad, sad. This is the state of America. We have a Presidential candidate that believes in the re-distribution of wealth...you work, and I will live off of your earnings. After all, I don't want to work, won't work, am not willing to work, but still want a satellite dish and color TV. It's my right, so work hard so I can have it! This is pure socialism, yet people are not outraged by it. Hey, let's lower our medical standards so we can become a European or Canadian type country. We can then say that everybody gets health care, but not tell the people that to get health care like the British, we need to be willing to wait up to 40 weeks to get an operation, some dying before they can receive care. The Canadians who need operations come to the US by the thousands, and the Canadian government spends $1 billion a year to pay for medical operations that Canadians come here to get. But ignorant Americans want a president who will take our health care down, and he does it under the guise of being good to people. He says no new taxes on anybody but the wealthy. Then he defines wealthy for us, but fails to say that millions already don't pay taxes and small business owners will end up losing everything. Man, we had better wake up. We need to vote this coming election, and not vote on personality, but on experience. I don't care much for either candidate, but I know where one will take us and don't want to go there. God help us all...
Friday, October 3, 2008
When I first became a Christian, it was very refreshing to finally have something that I felt I could hold fast to with complete trust. I knew that the philosophies of the world were vacuous and developed "me first" kinds of people, as I myself had been totally absorbed in the foolishness of the age myself and was a great example of such self-centered living, and so when I came to Christ, truth began to matter. Jesus made it clear that truth matters, and that truth exists. Obviously, He is truth incarnate, but He also speaks that which is true. His word is truth, and truth sets us free from the bondage that sin keeps us locked up in. This is the main reason that I try to teach: truth sets you free. When I look out at our church, I see so many who have come to understand this, people who have been set free from sin. I see former alcoholics, drug abusers, violent people, as well as former adulterers, homosexuals, and thieves. And this is my staff!!!! Actually, when you look at the church, it is made up of so many who at one time were blind, but now they see because of Jesus, and it makes my heart overflow with joy. It is all because Jesus set them free, and He did so and does so through His word, the Bible. When I first got saved, I was told that God's word was truth, and that I needed to read it, study it, and do it so that I might come to know how it does set free, and with this in mind we are going to have a series on Sunday nights with the hope that our people will take advantage of being better equipped to give away their faith. We live at a time that reminds me of the question asked of Jesus by Pilate, when he asked Him "What is truth"? His jaded mind could not grasp that, in the midst of a universe filled with lies, such a thing could exist. This spirit remains to our day, and I pray that the studies that will be given will help people understand that truth exists, it is incarnated in our blessed Savior, and has been given to us to hold fast to and to share. I pray people show up Sunday night, fully realizing how difficult it is for some to do so. But, it will be eternally worth it...
Monday, September 29, 2008
I was reading something interesting (to me!) the other day. A writer was pointing out that though charitable giving in the United States has steadily increased over the last 30 years, in the '80's religion received nearly 55% of all charitable gifts, but in the '90's it went down to 40%, and now is at 33%! This is interesting, in that though giving to those in need has actually grown, giving to the Lord has actually gone down. Americans, in general, give away 2% of their income yearly (far less than a tithe), yet less give to their churches today than ever before. While we Americans, as a people, are the most generous people on the planet, we no longer seem to trust the churches we attend, which obviously includes the church I pastor. What is interesting is that we believers apparently have forgotten (or perhaps never really believed) that eternity matters, and that our church fellowships that we attend are actually impacting the world, for eternity. Without the financial support of our members, our churches will simply cease performing the functions that have produced such blessings in so many lives. I never actually say this in church as I am aware most would misunderstand me, but I am concerned for the health of our fellowship. It has been said "Giving is the closest thing we have on a daily basis to getting a true pattern of a person's character", and I happen to agree with that statement. As I have said in the past, my wallet and my heart have an invisible string, tying them together. I have seen that, when times get financially tight, the first thing that people do is stop giving to the Lord. It is not that they stop giving (fast food restaurants still get plenty of business), but they do stop giving to Him. Interestingly, some say that they will return to their giving patterns once the financial crunch is over, and they borrow from the Lord. Still, in the Old Testament, if I decided to withhold my gifts to God for personal benefit, I would actually add 20% to what I held back when I next presented my gifts to the Lord (Lev 27:31). Can you imagine how much I would be obligated to the Lord were we still under the Law? I pray that we, the church, repent from our habit of robbing God and begin trusting Him to "supply all of our need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus". As a pastor, I actually am saddened as I see the church numerically growing, but now having to hold back on doing things that would benefit the kingdom of God and this church because people are withholding their gifts, or have simply never stepped out in faith to give to the Lord. If you are afraid financially, my encouragement to you is to evaluate your spending habits, eliminate non-essential spending, develop a budget that prioritizes your spiritual life, and be careful to eliminate credit card debt and unnecessary purchases. Learn to, as we used to say so long ago "put your money where your mouth is", in other words, learn to walk the walk as well as talking the talk. In doing so, God will reveal to you that He truly is the Jehovah Jireh, the God Who provides (Gen 22:14)!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
We had our night of prayer last Friday, and it was wonderful in every way. It was a blessing joining with so many churches for prayer, and I rejoiced seeing the body of Christ uniting for prayer. Golden Springs, Chino Hills, Upland, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, and many other fellowships were represented, and I was so moved by the excitement and anticipation I sensed in the sanctuary. We gathered to pray for our state and our nation, but especially for our marriages. Ultimately, society rises or falls on the foundation of its families, and with the radical re-defining of family, it is really the church's responsibility to stand up and re-emphasize just what a family is. God tells us that marriage is His idea, and in Malachi 2:11 He goes so far as to refer to marriage as the holy institution which He loves. Marriage is defined in scripture as the union of a man and a woman, creating a composite unity: the two becoming one. Because we believe in the traditional definition of marriage, we oppose changing it to accommodate willful sin and this is why we joined in prayer this last Friday. I would encourage you all to pray for our marriages, and to guard your own, as well as turning out to vote in November. We need to make our consciences known, and you can do it in many ways, including at the ballot box. Remember, all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
Friday, September 19, 2008
We all have some dates etched into our minds, and they are like bench marks, or sign posts that remind us of what we have done, or where we have been. Birthdays, graduations, marriages, births, deaths, our moment of salvation all have months, days, and years attached to them, and every time we reach one of these dates, our memories can be drawn back to that day and the things that happened. Today, Sept 19, is such a day for me. On this date last year, Marie and I flew to Miami, Florida so I could teach at CC Kendall's Wednesday night service, and then teach four times at their yearly marriage couple's retreat. I was on "vacation" (I usually take working vacations) and thought it would be nice to combine ministry with fellowship, and because we wanted to spend time with Pedro, Kendall's pastor, we decided to go. We left early that morning, getting up around 4 a.m., and took an early flight to Florida. While en route, I distinctly remember that I was reading, and could not focus on the words on the page. I prayed, "O God, I know that I am losing my memory. Please do not let it happen while I am teaching". I didn't tell Marie what I was experiencing, as I did not want to alarm her, but I knew something was going to happen. After arriving in Miami, we went to our room, and I quickly got ready for the evening service, and within an hour or two after arrival was sitting in Pedro's office, waiting for the service to start. Marie brought me two Cuban coffee's (very strong espresso) and I went out to teach. At the end of the study my memory faded and was almost completely erased. I gave an invitation, prayed with people at the foot of the platform, and then told Marie that I did not know where I was. Paramedics were called, and my blood pressure was something like 200 over 100 and they said that I was in danger of having a stroke, so they put me in an ambulance and I was hospitalized for three days. Quite an experience, I must say. This turned my world upside down, as I began going to specialists to get tests to determine what was wrong, and much of my life was changed from that day on. The initial prognosis was early stages of Alzheimer's, and the neuropsychologist I went to said that I might live a normal life for the next 7 years. Stress was to be avoided, weight was to be lost, exercise was to begin, and my life pretty much changed. Added to this was a diagnosis of stage 2 diabetes, early stages of melanoma, and the early stages of cataracts. This all took place between Sept 19th and November. When November arrived, we had a trip scheduled to go to Hawaii, and I felt that I needed to get away, to try to regroup and to think of what all of this was going to do to my family, and my ministry. We have a fairly large church, and the needs represented by such a group are huge and continuous. When the neuropsychologist told me I needed to reduce stress, I told her that that would be difficult to do, because I am a pastor: stress is part of the package. I was feeling bad because I couldn't concentrate on all the daily concerns of the church, and felt like I was failing as a pastor, as I could not be there like I used to be. I was having difficulty remembering names of people I had known for over 20 years, and as I read and studied my bible, I had to re-read the passage, as I would pretty much forget what I had just read. I began relying on my notes more extensively, as I could not remember where I wanted to go, even after teaching the passage in first and second service. I didn't want to tell the church, as I did not want to cause them concern, not to mention that I knew that some would leave the church because they could not handle being taught by a pastor in poor health. People can be interesting when it comes to things like this. I remembered how many people left the church shortly after my father died, because my emotions would get the best of me as I taught, and I would begin to cry when I mentioned him. Some just cannot handle this kind of thing, and I am aware of it and for this reason, kept these things pretty much to myself and told only a handful of people about what was going on. All of this was pretty much a bummer, I can tell you, but there are benefits. My good friend Mike MacIntosh recently wrote me and he said that these kinds of events reveal two things: our own mortality, and our need for humility, as we are put in the position of trusting the Lord much more, with a sense that we are not going to pastor the church forever! He is so right, and my life has been changed by the events of Sept 19th. I should add, that after the diagnosis of dementia (early Alzheimer's) the neurologist told me that he misdiagnosed me, and gave me a clean bill of health. The skin specialist provided treatment, and the early melanoma was dealt with, and I have lost weight and hope to avoid insulin with the stage 2 diabetes. All in all, good has resulted. I pastor a wonderful group of people, and those who have been with me for years have remained compassionate, understanding, and supportive as my family and I have walked this valley. I still don't know exactly what caused my memory loss, and perhaps may never know, but that is something I can live with. With this in mind, I think of how Paul had a divine gift, what he referred to as his "thorn in the flesh", so today is my anniversary of my own "thorn". Through this, I have come to know in a deeper way that "when I am weak, then I am strong" because "God's strength is made perfect in weakness". To Him be the glory, great things He is doing, great things He has done! Even so, I will serve Him as faithfully as I can until I see His face and can tell Him how much I love Him.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I have been gone for the last several days, on what is a working vacation kind of thing. We went to Mt. Hermon (near Santa Cruz) on Sunday Sept 7, and taught at a pastor's/leadership conference twice. On Wednesday, the 10th, we left Mt. Hermon and stayed in Carmel for a couple of days, and then drove on to Pismo Beach for two more days, getting home on Sunday, the 14th. From that point on, we have been at home and have been kind of relaxing and taking care of a few things. We are getting ready for our Friday night of prayer, and that is what is on my mind at the moment. This nation is in need of prayer, and it will be a blessing for us to get together with other church bodies to lift up our marriages and families. At the moment, I am not overly concerned about this nation, as I see it as becoming ready for a new move of the Spirit. As I read the Old Testament book of Judges, I see how there are actually cycles that the nation traveled through, from God's presence to God's judgment, and then back to God's presence and I see similarities in this nation. It is obvious that we have not yet been forsaken by God; the fact is, we are the most blessed nation on planet earth, but what we need to do is return to the God of our fathers, plain and simple. I think our marriages and families, as Christians, need to once again take the center place of our faith as the strength of the nation is built on the strength of its families. We need to honor our promises to God, and to our spouses once again, and we need to preserve our homes so that our children will learn how to live for Jesus, and become decent people and good citizens. I sure pray that this is what is emphasized when we get together, and I for one am ready to call our churches back to fellowship with God, and a walk that is worthy of the gospel of Jesus. If you are able to join us, please make every effort to do so. If you cannot, please take time on Friday to pray for a revival in this nation, and a renewed hunger for our marriages and families to be built up in Jesus. The time is short, and it is high time to awaken to the things of the Lord. May God hear our prayers for this beautiful country we have been so blessed to live in!
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Today I taught at the Calvary Chapel South Bay Men's Conference, and it was quite a blessing. Raul Ries was the first teacher, and his heartfelt cry to the men to yield to the Holy Spirit was timely, moving, and very important. The men responded with great emotion to the call, and I was blessed to see such a response, and to also feel a personal desire for more of the Lord in my life. The second speaker was a missionary to the Sudan. He came and spoke to us, and his message was very convicting and encouraging at the same time. He shared stories of the men he trains as chaplains, and how they have given up everything to follow the Lord. Some have been murdered, others have been tortured, and yet others have had their wives and children killed for the simple reason that they are Christians, living in a Muslim environment. It was sobering, and made me reconsider what I actually think are the "costs" of following Jesus. When I spoke, my message was simple: if I love Jesus, I will obey Him. I am greatly concerned that my love for Him actually grows daily, and that I avoid the trap of getting busy doing ministry and forgetting why I do what I do. As I write this, I am getting ready to travel to the Santa Cruz, Ca area to teach at a Calvary Chapel Pastor's/leaders conference. I pray that the message God has placed on my heart, as well as the hearts of the other teachers, is received and that we who lead churches will learn to walk in God's Spirit and to become people whose faith is real, and evident. God bless you all, and I pray the Lord continues working in all of our lives. Hope to see many of you in church service tomorrow, and may the Lord draw you closer to Himself!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
We had a great week-end of ministry. On Saturday, we had a men's breakfast with over 400 men in attendance. The food was good (as it always is), but what makes it special to me is more than the food. The guys serving especially blessed my heart. We have a large group of men who come out early, set things up, cook, stay late, clean up the mess and do it because they love the Lord and their church. It truly blesses me and all involved, and I am very thankful for such dedicated men. Victor Marx shared God's Word with us, and he gave a very powerful message. He pointed out that we can be led by the Spirit, or driven by our flesh, and all in all, his message was moving (he gave much of a personal testimony) and instructing, teaching us all that our past should be left alone, and that we should move into our future with hope and faith. It was really a great message, we were all encouraged, and several men got right with the Lord at the invitation. The next day, we had good Sunday morning services, and capped off the evening with special music and a baptism that evening. The worship was absolutely beautiful, and after the service we baptized over 200 people, with many were crying as they "took the plunge". One brother said something to me that reminded me of something once said to Pastor Chuck. He said something like "I'm going to have to stay down there for awhile!", meaning he had a lot that needed to be buried. Don't we all? On a personal note, God is working overtime in my heart, working on areas that have long been buried but have somehow stayed alive, and sometimes it is very difficult and even discouraging. I don't like what I see, and I don't like what I have been and can be, and I find myself asking God for relief from some things that seem to plague my heart. Though I am not doing anything overtly wrong, still I want my heart to be healed of past hurts, and I want His joy to flood my soul. I also carry a great concern for the state of our fellowship, as I know many attend our church but not all are saved. What concerns me is that large amounts of people think they are saved, when in reality, they are self-deceived. It seems to stem from a poor understanding of the grace of God, in that they have re-defined grace and consider it "permission" to continue in sin and still go to heaven. The evangelical church today reminds me of the denominationalism that I escaped from as a youth, in that the churches of America are occupied by people who "hear, but do not do". That of course applies first and foremost to me, but also extends to the body at large. I am finally awakening to some deeper things that need to be taught, and it is my prayer that I will be able to live what God is showing me, and that I may somehow learn to communicate these things to our church fellowship. Finally, the answer is going to be found in the love of God. Like the Beatles once sang "All we need is love", and in that they were right. We need to know how deeply God has loved us and loves us, and we need to love Him back, and to really learn to love people: not just the ones who love us, but to love as the Lord would have us love. Again, this is a common theme in my life, because it is the one thing the Lord keeps trying to teach me. Still, I cannot help but thank Him for His goodness to me, to my family, and to the church...one day I will be able to say that to Him, face to face. Jesus, Thank you, and I love You.
Friday, August 22, 2008
I was invited to go to the political forum at Saddleback church last week, and spent a good deal of time thinking about and praying about whether I should attend or not. I am concerned with the state of our nation and am using the presidential election to gauge the spiritual temperature. It truly seems to me that the kind of leadership we elect is a pretty good barometer of the spiritual life of our country, in that the majority of people voting will give us insight into what is going on in their heads as they elect a president. I realize that president's, for many are simply figureheads, as the cabinets and various advisors really are the ones governing the nation; yet, I also realize that the kind of man or woman elected is simply the revelation of the heart of the nation. After all, our form of government is really supposed to represent the will of the people, which is why when someone says, "I love Americans but I don't like your government" we the people are being slighted, because we the people, are the government! Still, I am not one who trusts the promises of politicians. Not that they cannot be honest, indeed I pray that the majority are. It is simply because I realize that many will pretty much say what is necessary for them to get elected. So, when my friend Jim Orate called and asked if I was going to the forum, I at first said that I did not want to, but ended up going. The tickets to get in were given to us for free, and some tickets were selling for several thousands of dollars, so I thought I should take the opportunity and hear the candidates for myself. I could go into quite a few things that we saw as we went to the forum: protestors, interesting signs, people yelling across the street at one another, people tearing signs out of other people's hands, etc. but suffice it to say it was pretty much typical of how emotionally charged these kinds of things can be. We went to a hall (not the main sanctuary), found a place to sit, and listened for two hours. My impression simply put: both candidates claim faith in Christ, both claim to attend church regularly, and both think that they are spiritual men. I do not know either one personally, cannot say that I believe either one of them is a believer (though I pray they are), but I for the life of me cannot understand Obama's reasoning. I have been around lawyers, and know that they have been trained to see both sides of an issue but to be honest, I find it difficult to believe someone who says two things at the same time. His answer reminds me of the Chesire cat in Alice in Wonderland. That cat said two things simultaneously, and so does Obama. I came away believing that he wants America to be more like Europe, is pro-abortion, and (though he is financially rich) has no problem with raising taxes on the "rich", but can't define what rich is. McCain didn't seem much better at defining wealth either, but between the two, I could at least understand McCain! I especially had a problem with the question about abortion. Obama is pro-choice, and has surrogates who have said that abortion is defensible, from a Christian theological perspective. I heard one of Obama's defenders say that Jesus would be in favor of it, and I was truly grieved at such a comment. All in all, I did not learn anything about either man that I had not learned before, but was left with a better sense of who I could trust in some things that are essential to me, things that have moral underpinnings. I pray that we see ourselves as the salt and light that Jesus called us to be, and that we actually vote our consciences this November. God help us all, we are in a true crisis and people just don't seem to see it. There is one King, Jesus, and I long for His rule, but until then, may we remember that Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34)...we need a revival, and we need it now!
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Recently I was asked what I think the purpose of this blog is, and thought I would reiterate what I felt I had recently said, for those who might not have noticed. The purpose of this blog is to say what is on my mind and to give people opportunity to read it. Some comments that are sent to me might be posted, some might be referred to, and others will simply be deleted. I don't post every response, only a few, and normally want them to be of the encouraging sort, knowing that there are people reading this blog who might not understand the reason some write the way they do, or understand why they might write kind things to me. Just so that you might know, I delete most of the responses because I am trying to keep this from becoming a "David Love Fest" or, for that matter, a "Let's kill the egomaniac" kind of thing. Of course, other people have their own reasons for blogs and that is fine with me. Some think a blog is a place to get dialogue going with others, some think it is a place to share what's on their hearts, and some think it is a place to give opportunity for "hurt" people to vent their anger in a public forum. You know, get direct and let others in on the argument. That way, when people have a chance to see some "hurt" person vent their spleen, they can jump on in and let the self-absorbed guy know how hurtful he is. Whatever the reasons others have, the reason I have this blog is to just share what is on my mind at any given time. I actually thought it would be a good place to share with my fellowship, and have enjoyed doing so, and from the responses I have gotten, it seems that some appreciate the time and effort being made to be in contact with them in this manner. I have gotten to enjoy taking the few moments it takes to write this blog, in that for me, it is another opportunity of saying hello to members of our fellowship and even the larger body of Christ. With all of the things going on here, it is pretty much impossible for me to be able to spend even a moment with members of this church, and the best I have been able to do is to spend time with them at events or retreats, and the few moments we have after church services. Still, I want to thank those of you who understand those limitations, and want you to know that I have been personally blessed by your service and goodness to the Lord and to me and my family. This church has a large percentage of people involved serving the Lord here, in one form or another. Some places have a small number doing most of the serving, but the Lord has seen fit to touch many hearts to find a place of service. At the moment, I am spending time with over 60 men who have a desire to become leaders in the body of Christ, and it has been such a blessing to see them growing and learning simple principles of ministry. For me, it is a blessing to be able to spend that kind of time with them. We had our marriage retreat, and it was a blessing and joy to be able to visit with so many, and I look forward to more opportunities. Thank you for understanding that in a large church such as ours, that it is never going to be possible for us to really get to know one another (outside of heaven), but thank you for not making it so important to know me as to know the Lord. Also, since I sometimes get interesting posts, it would be good if you want me to personally reply, to simply include your email address and I will do my best to reply, personally. If you do not go to this church, it would be all the more important to do so, as giving your name really isn't going to help me if I can't write you back! I get quite a number of emails a week, and I take the time to personally respond to each one of them, so if you want a response, please put your return address and I will get back to you! Or, if you'd like, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless you all, and when you go to church this Sunday, try to listen to what is being said! You just might learn something about Jesus that will change your life and heart! Who knows, anything is possible!
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Writing a blog is actually something I have grown to enjoy, in that it gives me an opportunity to write what is on my mind or heart in a spontaneous way. Church life, personal life, it all will eventually have an opportunity of being expressed, and for those who log on, it is something they have access to and kind of an open window to my life. Recently, I wrote of Christopher Laurie's home going and did so while reflecting on how this event would effect a friend of mine and of all who know him and his family. For me, as a minister, such tragic events seem to hit closer because of the similarity of duties shared amongst ourselves. It isn't that our lives are entirely different then other people's lives, it is that every person has an environment that they live in that makes their situation somewhat unique except to the group that shares that environment. Military personnel, police officers, fire fighters, and a whole list of others have a commonality that makes them closer to one another then they are to those outside of their chosen professions. Because of this, I had a sympathy for Greg and Cathe that is unique to my calling. My church was deeply touched by Christopher's death, sympathizing with the Laurie family, and I wrote concerning this. Which brings me to what's on my mind: Every person who has spoken to me about my praying for or writing concerning the Laurie's appreciated it. They realized it was out of sympathy and sorrow that I wrote, a sorrow they shared. Every person that is, except for one, whose name is anonymous. Funny thing, by the way anonymous wrote, I know who he is, but the things written were sad and tragic in their own way. Our church is fairly large, and most people do not know that we conduct between 40 to 50 funerals a year. I do not perform all of the funerals, and I do not mention names of those who have died from my pulpit. If I did so, I would more than likely be saying something about someone going home almost every week. Still, anonymous thinks I mentioned Christopher Laurie because his father "is a well known pastor". No, I mentioned this because his father is my friend, and as a shepherd I understand how it feels to suffer personal pain and to still come to a pulpit to minister to people. At any rate, the reason for this post is to simply say, if people sign their names to their posts, it is to be preferred over hiding behind the wall of anonymity and tossing hand grenades. Just last night in a leadership class I was asked if it bothered me when people made unfounded accusations, and I said no, you kind of get used to it. Still, I would prefer it if those who write me to at least sign their names, and if there is any rebuke or correction they think I should receive, well they can approach me at church and let me know face to face. I realize that the way people are today, those who are bitter will take the opportunity to write out their anger, and I have expected some interesting posts, but still, I continue hoping that this blog actually ministers to those who read it with an interest in our church and the maturity it requires to understand its purpose. This will be the only post like this, as from this time on I will simply delete the odd post and save all of you the trouble of reading me rant on!
Sunday, July 27, 2008
I was in the church foyer when my daughter Carin approached me, tears filling her eyes as she told me that Greg Laurie's son 'Topher had died in a car crash. I was stunned, and not two minutes later Marie found me, tears streaming from her eyes as she sobbed out the words that no father ever wants to hear...a beloved child has died. My heart breaks with Greg and Cathe for every reason imaginable: when it all boils down to it, plain and simple, we who are parents just do not expect to bury our babies. There is just something intrinsically wrong with that, and our hearts and minds reel at just the thought of having to do such a thing. I have known of and have personally known Greg and Cathe Laurie for a long time. As a young man and pastor, I have sat under his teaching for many years and have loved him and admired him as a pastor, evangelist, and just a great guy who really loves the Lord, the lost, and his family. Greg is a pretty reserved man, one who doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, but I can tell you that his family is pretty much everything to him, outside of his love for Jesus. His son's death, especially in light of the fact that Christopher's wife Brittany is expecting their second child in November, is a tragic blow that will not soon be healed from. I find it revealing that this happened two weeks before the annual Summer Harvest Crusade in Anaheim and during the time that Greg is sharing his heart through his recent video/book testimony called Lost Boy. These things increase our vulnerability, and can be difficult in ways that not everybody understands. God is using the Crusades incredibly, reaching over 3.5 million people over the years, and the video/book testimony will reach many, many more. It is just like the enemy to attack at times like this, and I cannot help but believe that at the heart of this, is a full on attack on the Laurie family. Still, through it all, I know that the Lord will give them the strength and trust in Him to weather this, and to heal, but it is going to take time, a lifetime. We all need to hold them up in prayer, daily, that they might experience God's comfort and peace, a peace that only He can supply. One of the things Jesus promised to do is to be the One who "heals the brokenhearted". May God heal the broken hearts of His precious servants, Greg and Cathe Laurie, as well as Jonathan, Brittany, Stella, and Christopher's yet unborn little girl. We love them, and sorrow with them.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I've had a pretty busy week, as I did my regular services last Sunday, taught Sunday night and had a wonderful baptism, taught my leadership class on Monday night, and then did my Wednesday night study. On Thursday, I went to the Twin Peaks conference center and taught two studies for Calvary Chapel Murrieta's family camp. All in all, it was a great week of ministry. We also had a week of vacation bible school, with hundreds of kids and volunteers involved from Monday to Friday, so our church was a beehive of activity. I am so blessed when I see so many kids on campus, especially knowing that the future of this great nation is going to be greatly impacted by our children. May the Lord bless them with a love for Him, and a heart to know and serve Him with all of their strength. May He strengthen our marriages and families, and may we come to understand the value of marriage and family. At the family camp, I was sharing that, according to one study, atheists have a stronger commitment to marriage than believers. There was a major study released in '02 by the Barna Research group that revealed that professing Christians have a least moderately higher divorce rates than the general population, including atheists and agnostics. 27% of those describing themselves as born-again believes are currently or have previously been divorced, compared to 24% of the general population. The rate, by contrast, among atheists and agnostics, was only 21%. With all the talk about concern for marriage, and the concern over "gay marriages", it seems sad to me that on the one hand, we evangelical Christians trumpet the sacredness of marriage, but apparently don't value it that much as a group. Homosexual Representative Barney Frank once said "They're saying that my ability to marry another man somehow jeopardizes heterosexual marriage. Then they go out and cheat on their wives. That doesn't jeopardize heterosexual marriage?" I truly have a great concern for the institution of marriage, and because of this believe it is time for our church to pray, and we are going to do so as a church on Sept 19th. I would encourage you, if you are able, to join us as we pray. If you can come to church that night, that would be great. If you can't join us physically, please pray in agreement with us. We need to seek the Lord for marriages, and our families, not to mention this nation's families. God help us all to see the value of our covenants with our spouses, and God help us as we seek Him for help in this time of need!
Saturday, July 12, 2008
My recent post about my Joshua got some interesting feedback, so I thought I would talk a bit about it! First, there is no hidden message, I am not planning on leaving the scene soon and honestly hope to be in the pulpit well into my sixties, or longer. I can see how it could be construed that I might be sending a subtle message, but no, I am not hinting towards a soon departure, just musing about what I am looking to do in the future. Which brings me to the other thing I am responding to, which is why not be looking for a middle-aged man to take over. The way I see it, if I have a young man now that I am working with, or even in the near future, by the time I leave the pulpit, that young man will be what is called a middle-aged man! If I have the strength and ability to stay in the pulpit for, say fifteen more years, then any man that I may presently be mentoring will be fifteen years older, which would bring him into his forties, so in reality, though I may be looking for a young man to mentor, I will leave a seasoned man in the pulpit! But, if I have a man in his forties now, he might as well retire with me when I step out! Anyway, that is what I am looking to do, disciple a young man for many years and then hopefully, leave the ministry in his hands. But, enough of that already! I am looking forward to church services tomorrow, as once again I will have the joy of being with the church and enjoying the fellowship. I was told that our recent night of worship went beautifully, and that the Lord really was present with the people. This is wonderful. We even have seen the Lord bringing hearing impaired believers to worship, as one of the people coming can sign for the deaf. What a blessing that is! Truly the Lord inhabits the praises of His people, and it is such a wonderful time of singing and praising the Lord. I encourage you who are reading this blog that if you can show up to worship, by all means, do so. Come worship and praise the Lord with your brothers and sisters, and be edified in your walk with Jesus! I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, and on Sunday night, we will be so blessed to baptize so many believers! Praise the Lord, He is so good to us!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I am looking forward to being back in the pulpit tonight. After a couple of weeks away, it always causes me great joy to return and to once again teach the word. One of the greatest joys of my life is simply opening up and sharing what the Lord has laid on my heart for our congregation. I was one month past my 23 birthday when I began sharing bible studies, and though it has been challenging and sometimes a very difficult task in many ways, still it gives me great pleasure to just share about Jesus and what He can do in our lives. Next month I will celebrate (God willing) my 58th birthday, and by doing the simple math, almost 35 years of my life has been spent opening up the pages of this one great book and talking about our wonderful and loving Savior. Still, as I begin to grow older I realize that I am not nor ever will be a Chuck Smith. My pastor is still in the pulpit at the age of 81, and I do not see him stepping away from it soon (and pray he doesn't). As for me, well I don't foresee myself having his kind of longevity, so I am praying for and waiting on my Joshua, a younger man who will take lead in our church and move it into the future God has prepared for it. Next Monday I begin a short series of messages designed to encourage a group of young men who sense a call to leadership, perhaps in a pastoral sense. Over the weeks we encouraged them to sign up for the class, read their registration/application forms, weeded out a few, and accepted others and we will have around 60 men join me to look more closely at what God may want to do in their lives. I will share some very basic principles of ministry, but look more forward to the time of questions and answers that we will have. It is during those times that I most enjoy connecting with our guys, and who knows, perhaps one day in one of these classes, my Timothy, Joshua, Elisha, or whatever the name may be will show up and I will know who the future pastor is. What a blessing it has been, is and what a blessing it remains for me to serve the Lord here in Chino Valley, and I do not anticipate leaving our church for many years, but like a good steward, I want to make sure that the house is left in order. One day I will go home to the Lord, but I will leave behind my very dear family of faith, and I want to make sure that they are cared for by the best pastor I can raise up. May God continue strengthening my hands to such a task. But until then, oh what a joy it is for me to be back with my church family. I love them so much and miss them terribly when I am gone. God has been so good to Marie and me, and I am blessed beyond words. One final thought: Marie was just sharing with me about what a blessing our ladies' fellowship Moments with the Master was, last night. She said there was a great group of ladies, good teaching, and sweet fellowship and she was totally blessed. I am so thankful for our women's ministry here, so many women who faithfully love and serve the Lord. Indeed we are blessed to be in Chino Valley!
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Marie and I are on vacation (kind of), but took the time to go to Washington DC and Manhattan. We went to the National Hispanic Pastor's conference and prayer breakfast in DC, and then went to Harvest Manhattan to minister. While in NYC, Marie shared at a woman's brunch, and I taught the Sunday morning service. While in DC, I was reminded as to why we believers have received a higher calling, a calling to teach the things of the kingdom of God. We both were saddened by the emphasis of the pastor's prayer conference, in that it seemed that the concerns were more of the political kind than of the spiritual. Of course, such conferences are designed with social concerns in mind, and I do not fault the organizers for such a direction, in that as salt and light, the church is most definitely called to exert influence in all facets of society (when possible). Still, after hearing the campaign managers for both presidential candidates, we were especially saddened to note that, when given opportunity to ask questions of the managers, none of the questions asked by my fellow pastor's related to moral issues, such as abortion, or gay marriage. We were especially turned off by the representative of Barack Obama, as he (in Marie and my opinion) exuded a kind of pride that was disturbing. We came away with a feeling that he was certain that Obama had our votes in his pocket, and it disturbed me greatly. As a pastor I realize that I am not in charge of my church's political thought life, and frankly have no desire to be in that kind of position. Still, it is disheartening when you hear pastor's applauding candidates that hold views that we the pastor's of America, are actually mandated to cry out against, and simultaneously know that many in our church will vote with their emotions and not with their moral conscience! I honestly fear for our nation, especially when I consider that many people are voting for change, but haven't even noted what kind of change may happen, and what will happen to us as a nation when such change occurs. Not all change is good, so this mantra of change has really gotten under my skin. Personality and charisma drives voters, and it concerns me that many seem to vote with their emotions and not with their reason. The next president will appoint Supreme Court justices, and we have all seen what happen when the unrighteous make judgments. Just consider the recent California court decision regarding homosexual marriages and you will see what is going to happen if a liberal president gets in to the White House. Morals are determined very often by the legality of an action, not the rightness of it. God help us all if we do not wake up and make our voices known at the ballot box. Sadly, the overwhelming evangelical voter eligible to vote, still does not cast the vote, and hence all it takes for evil to triumph is for the good to do nothing. On to NY, we were so blessed to minister at Harvest Manhattan. Pastor Mike and Diane Finizio are great people, and we truly enjoyed our time with them, as well as Jose and Julie Rivera. They are wonderful people and we really have grown to love them. Now, we are home for a few days and I am going to try to rest, but I look forward to returning to my pulpit and conducting our first baptism of the summer. We will baptize 2-300 people on July 13th, and it will be such a blessing. God is so good to us, we are so blessed and honored to serve Him. I already miss the church, and look forward to just being there with my people.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Well, last night we had a "going away" dinner for Pat and Lora Henderson. They have been with us for almost 26 years, and are so very dear to us. They, along with their daughter Jenna and her husband Dave Natelborg, are moving to Cave Junction, Oregon to plant a daughter church. I can't say how dear these two have been to us over the years. They were our only Sunday night children's ministers when our church was still young, and they without complaint were there for this church, week after week for years, in a time when few people were coming to church and even less were serving. Their daughters are true gems, and are a great testimony to a godly dad and mom. It is going to be very difficult seeing them go, but they left in the right way, with tears, prayers, friends, and a lot of love. So many people just get up and leave their church, without a good-bye, thank you, I love you, or anything else, they just melt out the door and sadly, complain that nobody noticed they are gone. Sometimes they go to other churches, taking gripes and complaints with them, and then invite their friends to join them. New churches are always more exciting, especially churches that are just starting out, and many find them alluring. It's like a new relationship: it is exciting, charming, refreshing, and oh so new! So, people leave, but so very often, they draw others with them. Not so with Pat and Lora, as they left with love and a blessing and will be sorely missed. Perhaps some of you reading this blog have decided to leave your church, for the new church down the road and know it is time to go. Praise the Lord how He leads you, and it is great to be free to go where He leads. My encouragement to you would be to say good-bye to your pastor and your church leaders, and get plugged in at your new church as soon as you can. I would also encourage you to resist the temptation of inviting your friends to go with you. As the Lord led you, He can also lead your friends if He so desires. It is wrong to invite somebody to leave a church based on your dissatisfaction: if you have issues it is always best to resolve them, biblically. Then, you can leave in good conscience, and if you should run across former church members, or your former pastor or his wife, you can look them in the face and say hello without that awkward pause I have gone through so many times! Pat, Lora, Dave, and Jenna left in the right way, and we will miss them but will always have fond memories of them.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I enjoyed our study last night. Sometimes I just blow my mind at what the Lord has done, and what He is doing right now. I am so blessed by the sense of worshipfulness this church has. It truly blesses me to hear the singing, and to just be part of such a wonderful group of people. The Lord truly has been good to His word with us, and I am just so blessed to be here with such loving people. Next month we will celebrate 27 years of meeting on Sunday mornings. We actually began our church in May of '81, but it was meeting on Wednesday nights at that time. We didn't begin the study with the intention of starting a church, but due to various circumstances we created and found ourselves in, that Wednesday night study became a Sunday morning church. I didn't start Sunday morning services with any aspirations for such a large work, but in reality started Sunday services because I didn't know which church my family and I should attend, in that I had resigned my position of assisting Pastor of another Calvary Chapel. My sister in law Patty asked me where I was planning on going to church, and I told her I hadn't decided yet. She said until I decide, would it be ok if I taught her on Sunday's, and so I said that would be fine until we find a church to go to: that was 27 years ago next month. Indeed, God's ways are not our ways and yes, His plans are so much more than we could ask or even think. To God be the glory, He has been so good to us!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Well, after being asked several times about doing a blog, here it goes! I have been thinking about my desire for people to be open to the moving and filling of the Spirit of God in their lives. I really believe that there is just so much junk we are all dealing with that it is very difficult to hear the still small voice of God, over all of the noise of the world. Our confusion, guilt, sorrow, shame, greed, indolence, fear, lack of faith, and so many other things crowds out the Word of God and causes it to fail to bear fruit in our lives. I am asking the Lord daily to fill me with His Spirit, because I want to not only start well, run well, but I especially want to finish well. I recently read of two evangelists who both started their "ministries" when Billy Graham began his. All of the people at that time felt that, in comparison to the other two, Billy Graham was the least possible to succeed at his mission. To make a long story short, one of the evangelists renounced his faith, and the other died an alcoholic while in his mid-30's. They all started out well, but Billy is remembered for finishing well. I want to finish well, also, so with the power of the Spirit and a determination to bring glory to Jesus, I have asked Him to give me strength to finish well. I pray this is true for you, too!