Sunday, July 27, 2008

Christopher Laurie

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

We need to pray

 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

Interesting Feedback

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

Looking for Joshua

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

Just Thinking

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.