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.

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