Monday, July 28, 2014

A Few Thoughts: Ramblings From an Old Mind

July 26th marks the 33rd anniversary of our first Sunday morning service. Our church actually began before July as a home study, but we launched our church services as a new fellowship on that Sunday morning, and it was a very exciting time indeed.

l still remember sitting on a stuffed chair, barefooted, as we began our journey into what would become Calvary Chapel Chino Valley. Our first study was taken from Isaiah 43:18-19, and l simply called it A New Thing. Indeed, God was doing a new thing, and for the most part there seemed to be an excitement in us all as we began the journey together. We had around 25-30 adults, and 5-10 children (three of whom were mine!), and Marie was the first children's minister. What a memorable morning.

The people who joined me had said they wanted to see what God would do in our midst, and it had been my hope that we together could find out. Sometimes it saddens me a bit when l realize that out of the original group, a handful remained to see. Others are now unaccounted for, while still others moved on to other places. Some said good-bye, others didn't think it necessary, while others felt the best thing they could do was to leave and invite others to go with them. That too still saddens me but has deepened my concern for the spiritual maturity of the church l pastor, which has led to my trying to be a better pastor and brother in the Lord in general.

Over the 43+ years l have walked with the Lord, l have seen the Body of Christ change in many ways. Various movements have blown through like hurricanes, scattering and confusing the sheep. Signs and wonders, prosperity, seeker friendly, emergent, "hip" churches and a variety of others have sprung into being. They have had one thing in common: they do not center their spiritual life on an actual understanding of Scripture. They do give lip service to studying the Bible, but they do not actually teach it. It reminds me of Jeremiah 5:31, where the Lord laments "The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so".

As l write this, l am wondering how long l have to continue teaching and ministering. l am growing older, and am aware that l am not in step with the direction people seem to be bent on traveling in. Recently we had our Calvary Pastor's conference, and my age group was referred to as "dinosaurs" by some who attended. Some think it time that we get out of their way. We are not using enough cool language, and are just too rigid when it comes to encouraging people to abstain from alcohol or to live godly lives. Some believe that we Calvary guys are not ecumenical enough, or that we are simply ignorant and unschooled men who are not in step with the times. We need to move out of the way so that the clever pulpit personalities can take over and lead the charge. This has made me wonder if l have anything to say that people will hear. l honestly just don't know.

For those reading this note, you can see that my heart is greatly troubled by what l see. Like the Jewish prophet Dylan (smile) once wrote, The times they are a changin', and l just won't change with the times.

l still believe that there is nothing better then knowing Jesus. That loving Him, His Word, and His people is what it is all about. That telling the truth is most important, no matter how people respond to what is said. l still long to teach God's word correctly, rightly dividing it and avoiding the adding of stories that make me look important, or exaggerating successes with the effect of impressing people who might be gullible enough to trust me.

l long for youth to grow up enough to see that their friends are dying and perishing without Jesus, all while many are more intent on stretching their liberties to include their love affair with alcohol. l desire people to give to Jesus in their offering what they gave to Starbuck's or Coffee Bean this week so that the church can actually reach lost people. l long for people to come to Christian music nights, not to dance and enjoy themselves but to actually truly worship Jesus. They will fill up the hall and when the offering is received, never give a dime to the Lord and that breaks my heart. For some reason they simply don't see that it really isn't all about them.

Maybe this is simply the rambling of an old man, l don't know. l can't help but remember when l was first saved, how we would make the One Way sign after singing a song about Jesus, and how we loved one another. We were scum that had been scraped off of a sewer, and were made sons and daughters of God and were so thankful for His love for us. O Jesus, please refresh us once again.

Yes, 41 years of ministry and 33 years of pastoring this church and it hasn't been an easy road. More pain and disappointment then l can actually write on this page.

Yet, in the midst of all this l can say one thing. My God has never left me nor forsaken me. Nights of crying over a child that has gone wrong (yes, many left when l told them…after all, how can someone like me actually lead a church if my kids aren't perfect?) and pain in losing my parents and those whom l loved deeply. Staff that was unfaithful, and leaders in the church and friends that never even said good-bye when they left and who were bent on undermining the work here.

With that said, God is on the throne and we are still standing. And by His strength l will continue to stand, for He is able to make me stand. l will remain faithful to Him, and though this might seem a bit melancholic to many, sometimes anniversaries are more of a challenge then a memorial. May God move us into the future, and l pray that those who will hear what the Spirit says will obey Him as He speaks.

Monday, July 21, 2014

We Would See Jesus

John 12:20-21 There were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:  The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus

         I couldn't believe what he was asking me.
         As he sat across from me, in my church office, my head swirled with confused thoughts, and every fiber in my being refused to even entertain the request he had just made of me. 
         It was 1983, and I had known him for approximately two years. He was part of our fellowship, had been part of a home Bible study I once taught, but in reality, I did not really know him. 
         Though I knew him, I did not know him very well. 
         He was one of those members of the church who was never really greatly committed, often leaving the fellowship for short periods then always returning.
          He wasn't close to me, but at the same time, he wasn't what I would call a complete stranger, either.  Now he was in my office, asking me to do something that was very hard for me to do.
         "Pastor, I got arrested, and have to appear in court next Tuesday", he said. "Would you please appear with me in court? I don't want to go alone". 
         It wasn't that I didn't want to go with him. It is true, I had a great many Pastoral tasks to perform that week, but it wasn't just that I was loaded with these matters that caused me to recoil.
          It was what he had been arrested for. 
         He had been caught in an act of physical intimacy, an act that had occurred in a public place. This obviously, was terrible. What made it more difficult was that he was caught in this particular act with another man. And now he was asking me to appear in court with him. My head reeled! How could I do what he was asking of me? 
         I felt that if I appeared with him in court that those present that day that heard the nature of his offense would immediately associate me with this particular sin. While I understood myself to be a sinner (just a guilty as any other sinner, and no better than anyone else), yet this really hit home.
         Still, I knew I must go with him. 
         He was crying out for help, and came to the one person he could trust, the one person he wanted to appear with him; the one person who had told him over and over again of God's love, of God's forgiving power, of God's ability to change a life.
         I did the only thing that I could do that day, I agreed to be there with him. 
         That following Tuesday, I went to court with him. 
         I sat there, as his friend and his Pastor, and I drove back to my office with him. I also spent the next several weeks ministering to him, doing my best to help him to see that Jesus could set him free.
         Today, there are many people crying, "Sir, we would see Jesus". 
         Let us make it our prayer to represent our loving, forgiving Savior properly. 
         Let us pray that the Lord will fill our hearts with faith for the impossible, love for the unlovely, hope for the hopeless. 
         Let us be careful to show the world Jesus.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Lu 22:19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 
My daughter Anna and I were standing quietly on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was such a beautiful moment as she and I held hands and looked across the Sea and began to share our hearts with one another. She was a little girl at the time, no older than ten, and I was her proud daddy so very much in love with her.
As we stood there by the shoreline, I said to her, "Honey, let's make a memory. This will be forever stamped on our hearts, our moment together". As we silently gazed across the Lake, I quietly began to sing a silly little song to her. "Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at suppertime. Be my little sugar, and love me all the time". I was just trying to make her smile but instead of laughing, she began to cry and buried her little head in my chest. I did not realize it, but her little heart was moved within her when I sang the words, "Be my little sugar, and love me all the time".
Something inside of her responded to my promise to love her forever, my promise to be there for her, my promise to think of her always and to never forget our moment at the Lake. To this day, many years later, if I sing that little song to her, her eyes will immediately tear up. We made a memory that will always be ours, a memory that will always be special.
On the night Judas betrayed Jesus, Jesus took the bread and the cup, blessed them, and served His disciples their last Passover supper that they would ever share with Him on earth. As He gave them the bread and the cup, He gently told them, "Do this in remembrance of Me". In a way, it is as if He was saying to them, "Guys, let's make a memory. Every time you do this in the future, think of Me." He was saying, "Think of all we have been through, and all that we have shared together. Think of our laughter, our tears and the joy we have had, and long for the time when we will be together once again."
Every time we share communion, we do so thinking of Him.
We think of His love, of His grace, of His mercy towards us.
We remember His death, His burial, and His resurrection.
And we especially think of His soon and very soon, returning for us.
In a very special way, Jesus has made a memory with you.     

Monday, July 7, 2014

While it is Called Today

Hebrews 3:13  But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
         "Pastor, may I speak to you for a moment?"
         It was after third service, and frankly, I was tired.
         To be honest, I was already thinking about going home, and resting; in a few short hours, I would be returning for the evening service, and looked forward to a brief rest in the afternoon. But there was something about the way he asked me, and though I had never seen him before, I felt I should give him the few moments he was asking for.
         After finding a quiet place to share, he began by giving a brief testimony.
         He told me that he had visited our fellowship over a year earlier. He had appreciated the music, enjoyed the warmth of the fellowship, and had been left with an overall first impression that was positive. 
         The only problem he had had that day was, he did not like me
         "When you came out and taught, I frankly thought you were arrogant and opinionated. I disliked you immediately", he said. "I left the services that day convinced that I would never return to this church"!  
         As he shared this with me, I could not help but wonder how it was that he had returned. If he was so negatively impacted by me, and what I had to say, how is it that he had come back to the church?
         Immediately, my silent question was answered.
         He said, "Three months ago, I was driving by this church. I did not know that during the intervening year, you moved. It was Easter Sunday, and I was looking for a place to go to church. I noticed a long line of cars waiting to enter the parking lot, and thought that if so many people were coming to this church, I should give it a try. Because it was so crowded just getting in, I decided to leave, go to another church, but was determined to return the next week."
         He went on to say, "Once again, I enjoyed the music, and was attracted by the people. You can't
Imagine my surprise when you came out to speak! I was so upset, but I decided I really should listen to what you had to say. At the end of the service, I heard the invitation, and gave my heart to Jesus".
         I was blessed to hear that he had given his heart to the Lord, but he was not finished.
         "This is what I want to share with you, Pastor", he said.
         "A few weeks ago, an old girlfriend called me, and told me to have myself tested for HIV/AIDS. I went, and was tested, and have turned up positive". "What am I going to do?"
         My heart went out to him, and we prayed, and I encouraged him to hold on to the Lord, and to trust and serve Him for as long as God gave him strength.
         I could not help but think that, in the year between his first reaction to the message of the gospel, and the day that he finally surrendered to Jesus, he had continued a lifestyle that ended up infecting him with a disease that ultimately ended his life. Why did he find it necessary to wait? Why did he not give his heart to Christ, that day instead of waiting a year before yielding to Him? 
         From that time until he died from AIDS, my friend served the Lord with a complete heart, taking missions trips and serving here at our church. Ultimately, I had the sad task of performing his funeral service. I still think of him, and still grieve over his death.
            Today, you will have many opportunities to make decisions, to follow Jesus, or to disregard His word. It is my hope and prayer that today, you will hear His voice; that today, you will dedicate you life to serving Him. I pray that today, you will resist the deceitfulness of sin. Please, do not harden your heart; follow Him, obey Him, but most of all, love Him. As Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments".