Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Hope

Sunrise: Hope of
a new day

I was reading last week about how Dr Martin Luther King Jr. conducted civil rights marches throughout the south. He gave inspiring speeches for which he and others were persecuted and arrested during the sit-ins and demonstrations.

An important question is this: "Why did Dr. King keep going? Why was he willing to be arrested and mistreated for his beliefs? What motivated him to tirelessly campaign for civil rights in a time period when things between whites and blacks weren’t very civil?

The answer is that he was a man of hope. He dared to imagine that the world could be different; that the world could be a better place. That is why he said,
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day in the state of Alabama, little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream that one day, all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

It was the hope of a better tomorrow that inspired these words of Dr. King. The same thing is true about Isaiah 2:3-4, “Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

Isaiah is saying, "Yes, I know that things aren’t going well. Things might seem hopeless in many ways. Yes it is because of our sin and we live in a war ravaged time. But I believe that someday, things are going to change around here! I have a vision from God! There are better days ahead! Someday, this sinful land is going to become the home of the living God! An oasis of freedom and justice and righteousness. A place where people from all over the world can come to learn the word of God! A place where nations will throw away their weapons of war. And learn the ways of peace.”

As you go through this Christmas season and into the new year, ask yourself this: “How can I have hope in a way that Christ can work through me to have better days ahead?” You can do it. I can do it! Let’s do it together. Tell me what you think. (

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Nativity Story

Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary in "The Nativity Story"

Yesterday I went to see the movie "The Nativity Story." I had heard good reviews, and so I and a few people from my church went to see it. I enjoyed the movie on several levels. The first was that I thought it had excellent acting, music and cinematography. But it was enjoyable on another level as well, and that was to visually see the story of Jesus' birth played out. While it is wonderful to have the Bible to read, being able to see what is going on as well helps to put things in perspective. I was moved by the realization of the difficult times Mary and Joseph lived in. I was reminded of their status in society. I was caught by the difficulty Mary's pregnancy would have caused her in the community, with Joseph, and even with her parents. It was wonderful to see this story unfold in front of me. And even though there was artistic license taken, it was still a profound experience for me.
As my church members and I talked about the movie afterwards, we remarked about several things that stood out to us. First, was that Mary was a teenager who joked around and had crushes on other boys. When she was told that she would marry Joseph, it was a blow to her at first. Second, was how Mary was committed to doing what the Lord asked her, even if others around her doubted. I loved the line to her parents: "I have told you the truth. Now it is up to you whether you believe me or not." Third, the love that developed for Mary to Joseph as they made the journey to Bethlehem. Joseph was a committed husband and father, even in the midst of this adversity of being with a woman whose child was not his. And forth, Mary and Joseph were just regular people. We like to try to immortalize the people of the Bible, but they were just like you and me. They had struggles, and doubts, and fears. But for Mary, it all came down to faith, as she believed what the angel told her in Luke 1:37- "For nothing will be impossible with God." Mary and Joseph were just normal people struggling to survive each day.
So I leave you with this: Where do you need to believe that God will do for you? Now I'm not talking about your selfish desires. I'm talking about where God is leading you in life. What is God calling you to do? Trust that nothing will be impossible with God, and He will bless you and fill you and empower you to carry it out. Tell me what you think. (

Thursday, December 14, 2006


There are many people in this world that have no hope. And the first reason that they have no hope is that they have no one to turn to for help. In this society that encourages individualism and a do-it-yourself attitude, so many people have stopped relying on others. Did you know that sometimes just telling someone about your troubles is helpful? When you keep things to yourself, it can eat at you and frustrate you more. We have been created to be in relationship with others; and that includes sharing our troubles with each other.
A second reason why many people have no hope, is that they have no one who is capable of doing anything about the troubles in their life.
I know that there are many times in my life that people come to me and share their struggles. I hear what they have to say, and I struggle with them. But I know that I can’t physically do anything to ease their pain. I cry out to God: “O God, what am I to do for this person? We need to be reminded that we can’t always do it on our own, or we can’t always help each other, but we have a God who can help us in ways we might never understand. There is hope in knowing that we have a God of strength available to us.

A third reason people feel like thay have no hope is they don't have anyone who is there for them. We need to practice the ministry of presence. What is the ministry of presence? It is just being present for someone in a time of need. Maybe you hear that somebody is in the hospital. You can’t make them better. There are probably no words you could say that would make it better. But you choose to go and be with them anyway. You know what? That is the ministry of presence, and is probably the best thing you could do for them.
Hope will come to us when we open up our hearts to God and cry out to God. Hope will come to us when we believe that God is always with us. Hope will come to us when we let God’s face daily shine on us. Hope will come to us when we understand that the discipline of God is there to restore us and bring us back into a right relationship with God. During this season of Advent my prayer is that we would have a strong sense of hope because we have a solid understanding of who God is in our lives, and share this hope with someone else. Tell me what you think. (

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Useful Person

In a Peanuts comic strip, Linus is eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and in the middle of a bite, he says to Lucy: “Hands are fascinating things! I like my hands…I think I have nice hands…my hands seem to have a lot of character…these are hands which may someday accomplish great things…these are hands which may someday do marvelous works! They may build mighty bridges or heal the sick, or hit home-runs, or write soul-stirring novels! THESE ARE HANDS WHICH MAY SOMEDAY CHANGE THE COURSE OF DESTINY!!” Lucy comes over and looks closely at Linus’ hands, and then says: “They’ve got jelly on them.”(The Gospel According to Peanuts, p.36)

In Ecclesiastes 2:11, this verse says- “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was in vain and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”
We can easily feel this way, because all too often we are not seeking to fulfill what God created us to do and be, but instead we go off and chase our own selfish dreams. We need to understand that God uses people who seek to do His will. Think about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary was one who humbly sought God. We are told in
Luke 2:19: "Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and often thought about them."
Mary created a habit of listening to God.
God speaks to people who listen. God uses people who desire to be used. So if you want to be used by God, if you want to do something significant with your life, if you want to be chosen by God then you need to seek to listen to God and follow God's plan. You probably need to stop thinking that you have all the answers. When we seek to do it on our own, it will seem like we are chasing after all the wrong things and that life is in vain. We need to understand that we are trying to satisfy ourselves with things that won't satisfy.
We need to gain a new perspective on life and believe that God can come to us and speak to us and choose us as God did Mary. Tell me what you think (

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Laughter is important. It is said that if you learn how to laugh regularly and often you will be happier and healthier. Here are some important facts about laughter...

· Thirteen muscles are used for our smiling mechanism, while 50 muscles are required for frowning;

· Laughter lowers the levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol suppresses the immune system. Lowering this level helps the immune system to work and prevent disease.

· Did you know that you can get the same benefits for your heart and lungs from laughing 100 times a day than you can from rowing for 10 minutes a day?

· Laughing for 15 seconds adds 2 days to your life span.

It is said that children laugh on the average of 150 times a day, while adults laugh only 15 times on average a day. We need to laugh more! We need to make laughter a regular part of our day. I love to use humor in my teaching, my preaching, and before meetings. I love it when people in my congregation send me funnies in my e-mail.
So, what keeps you from laughing?
Is it that you have hardships? God walks with you through your hardships.
Is it pain in your life? Jesus went through the ultimate pain by dying on the cross so that He could free us from our pain.
Is it lack of purpose? God created us with a purpose and has gifted us to live out that purpose.
As you go through this Christmas season, my encouragement to you is to find ways to laugh and people to laugh with. Tells me what you think at

Thursday, November 30, 2006


As we approach Christmas, it has started me thinking about the materialistic society we live in. It is amazing how many "things" there are in the world, and how much of it we want. As I look in my kids' rooms, I see so many little trinkets (many of which we didn't even purchase). We adults are the same way. We have so many "toys" and knick knacks.
And then Christmas season comes, and we wonder what we will "buy" for the other people in our lives. And yet, as I think about it, I realize that nobody really needs anything. So we go to the stores to buy gifts, just to buy gifts? The joy comes when I find something that can be beneficial in their lives. Then I feel good about spending the time and money on a gift. But, to just buy something because you're supposed to is just materialistic.
My wife and I usually take an evening to brainstorm together about what might make good gifts. Again, this is to help us seek out gifts that others wouldn't buy for themselves, or that they don't realize they need. When we can find these kinds of gifts, then it is hard for me to wait until Christmas for them to receive the gift.
However, this is another alternative. In times past, we have taken some of the money we were going to use for each other, or for our kids, and donated it to a worthy charity in their name. This has usually been received quite well, because it allows us to give to others who have real needs. We also set aside money to give to the church and to another organization as a "Christamas gift." This too helps to move us past the spirit of materialism.
I would love to see us use this time of Christmas to think about the needs around us. What can we do to give of ourselves in ways that would warm God's heart? How can we turn Christmas into more of a spiritual event, than a gimme, gimme, event? Let me know what you are planning to do and what you think about this. (

Monday, November 27, 2006


It is interesting to see what people think hope is. Here is how some people finished this statement: Hope is......

“Hope is….something within you; like seeing the glass as half full.

“….for the future; for peace and harmony in the world.”

“Hope is beautiful.” “Hope is success.”

“Hope is ….trust; if you don’t hope, you can’t trust anything.”

“Hope is….an answer.” “Hope is ….necessary.”

“Hope is…finding out there is a medical treatment for your disease.”

“Hope is….what makes life worth living.”
We are approaching Christmas and advent. Advent is the season which leads us to Christmas, and starts with the Sunday of HOPE. I believe that God has much which we should be hopeful for, and the pictures above help us to see this hope which comes from God.

PICTURE 1- Sunrise (Hope of a new day); Psalm 118:24- “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”/ Hope is understanding that every day is a new day to make a difference with our lives, and in the lives of others. It doesn’t matter what has happened in the past, today is a NEW DAY!

PICTURE 2- Clock (Hope of a better time); 2 Peter 3:9a- “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness…”/ When we hope on the Lord to intervene in our lives, to answer our prayers, we often expect it to happen quickly. Hope is understanding that God will work His will and way in our lives; and He will do it in His timing!

PICTURE 3- Ocean (Hope is powerful and expansive); Isaiah 40:31- “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength…”/ There are many things in life that can tear us down and make us feel weak. But in the Lord, when we hope on Him, we can know that His power is at work in us, and that “all things are possible to those who trust the Lord.”

But most importantly is picture #4- Baby Jesus.

Baby Jesus (The hope of new life; Jesus’ birth); Jeremiah 33:16- “In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.”/
We live in the days when we can truly receive hope, because our hope comes from God Himself. And so as you live in these days, from now until Christmas, I pray that you would not let the world around you overwhelm you with the secularism of Christmas. I pray that you would hope for what Christmas truly brings: joy, love, peace, and God’s presence in your life. Tell me what you think. (

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Holy Alphabet

I would like to share something with you that is called “The Holy Alphabet.” I think it is quite fitting as we approach Thanksgiving and reflect on being thankful.

A – D: (Colossians 1:12)-

Although things are not perfect, Because of trial or pain,

Continue in thanksgiving, Do not begin to blame.

I think we all know that life is not perfect, and will never be. But that doesn’t mean that life isn’t good. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. The important thing in life is to learn how to be thankful for the things we do have. All too often we get in the blame mode. But what that really does is sap our joy and bring us down; it keeps us from being able to enjoy what we do have.
As Colossians 1:12 says: “giving thanks to the Father, who

has enabled you to share in the inheritance….”

E – H: (Colossians 1:16-18)-

We continue: Even when the times are hard, Fierce winds are bound to blow;

God is forever able, Hold on to what you know.

It is amazing to me when I talk to people, and hear about their lives. People live

incredibly complicated lives. Fierce winds do blow. Some people have lives that are very troublesome. People are not sure what to do or what to believe or where to turn. That is why it is important to keep things in perspective. As we are told in

Colossians 1:16-18, “For in Christ all things in heaven and on

earth were created….all things have been created through Him

and for Him. He Himself is before all things, and in Him all things

hold together. He is the head of the church…”

We must understand that God, through the Son, created all things. And because of this God is able to watch over us. This is what we know, and if we hold on to this, this gives us foundation to keep us strong in difficult times.

I want you to think for a moment of some difficult times: maybe it was financial, or with your health, or a conflict in the family. The possibilities are endless. But what makes everything better is knowing that the Lord of creation is able to get you through!

I – L: (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)-

The poem continues…Imagine life without His love, Joy would cease to be,

Keep thanking Him for all the things, Love imparts to thee.

Whether you realize it or not, the love of God is what keeps this world going. The love of God keeps God from destroying the world again as He did in the time of the flood. The love of God is what led God to come in human form, in Jesus Christ, so that He might die for our sins and open the door to forgiveness and eternal life. The love of God is what allows God to forgive us time and time again when we sin. The love of God is unconditional, not loving us for who we are or what we do, but loving us because we are God’s children. It is so important to be loved unconditionally!

We need to learn to love like God does. There is tremendous power in love. Be thankful in the ways you are loved by God, and by the people God puts in your life to love you, and seek to find ways to love others unconditionally; not for who they are, or what they can do for you, or by what they look like. But because we all need to be loved!

M – P: (Colossians 1:20)-

Moving to M through P…..Move out of “Camp Complaining,” No weapon that is known, On earth can yield the power, Praise can do alone.”

Why is it so easy to complain? What is it that complaining brings to our lives? I guess it goes back to blaming and passing the buck. It is easier to complain than to take responsibility or to seek to take care of our own problems. Somehow we think that feeling pity for ourselves gives us purpose. But all complaining does it take our focus away from what God can do through us, and takes our focus away from all the good in our lives.

You have heard the saying: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It is a trite saying, but there is some wisdom to it. Those people who are most successful in life are the ones who don’t let their troubles bring them down; they don’t let their troubles defeat them. They look for ways to overcome their problems.

The truth is, there is power in praise. As we give praise to God for His presence and strength in our lives, we build up our outlook, and we trust God more. We then put ourselves in a place where we can be victorious.

Remember what Colossians 1:20 says- “and through Him God was

pleased to reconcile to Himself all things…”

In Christ, even our troubles can be reconciled, taken care of, removed.

Q – T: (Matthew 6:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)-

Q through T says: Quit looking at the future, Redeem the time at hand,

Start every day with worship, To “thank” is a command.

You might have heard the minister who asked one little girl, “Do you pray before meals.” To which the little girl responded: “Oh no, we don’t need to, my mommy is a good cook.”
Too often in life, we forget to say thank you to God, because we tend to go to God when things are bad, not good. But another reason we forget to say thank you, is because we are busy thinking about the future, and forgetting to appreciate the present. God desires for us to not only focus on the present, as we are told in Matthew 6:34- “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” But we are to be thankful for all that today brings…

1 Thessalonians 5:18- “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God.” We are not to presume what our life should be, but be thankful for this day that God gives us, whatever it might bring.

U - Z: (Philippians 3:14)-

And we finish with U through Z….Until we see Him coming, Victorious in the sky, We’ll run he race with gratitude, Xalting God most high. Yes, there’ll be good times and yes some will be bad, but…Zion waits in glory…where none are ever sad!

Even though I just talked about not looking to the future, we do have to remember the hope that the future brings. Scripture is clear to us, that at some point, Jesus Christ will come again. When He comes, He will come on the clouds in the sky, for all to see. His second coming will be for the purpose of moving us into the new era, where the earth will be no more, and those who believe will live eternally in His loving presence. Those who don’t believe, will live eternally apart from Love itself.

Where is the thanksgiving in this? That those of us who believe, should be thankful for our eternal salvation. Those who don’t believe can be thankful that all have the opportunity to believe if they so choose. And we can be thankful that we have opportunities to tell those who don’t believe how they can believe!

So, we are to run the race with gratitude. As the apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:14- “I press on to the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” What is the prize? Eternally living with God in heaven. Having access to the inheritance of my Eternal Father. And knowing that in glory, we will never have to again deal with the pain of this life.
Let us be thankful to God for all things at all times, for God is forever with us, working in and through us. I would love to hear from you. Tell me what you think; tell me of what you are thankful. (

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Is Prayer Magic?

It is interesting to see people respond to the topic of prayer. For so many they think that it is some kind of magic. I say my prayer and poof, I get what I ask for. Or if it doesn't work just the way they prayed, they figure that they must have said the wrong magic words. But prayer isn't like magic, and prayer isn't like a vending machine where you put in your money and pick out what you want. God does not respond to our every desire just the way we want. And that is a good thing, because often we don't know what is best for us, and if we got what we wanted, it would really cause us trouble.
So if prayer is not magic, then what is prayer and how does it work? First and foremost, prayer is an opportunity for us to communicate with God, and a way for God to come to us (or a better way to say it is "commune" with us). Think for a moment about communicating with your mother or father. Do you walk up to them and speak to them a list of all the things you want them to do for you? I wouldn't think so. To communicate, you share your thoughts and feelings with them; you tell them what is going on in your life; you relay to them the important things you want them to know. It is the same for us and God. We should come to God to share our thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and joy. We should talk to God about what we want God to know. We should speak to God as though He doesn't already know us, for prayer is more for us than it is for God.
And yet, prayer is for God as well, because in this time, we are to allow ourselves to feel God's presence, and let Him guide our thoughts to become His thoughts. In this time of quiet before God, we can actually hear God (and sense God) speak to us. You cannot listen, you cannot hear, if you do not stay quiet.
However, the Bible does tell us to "make our requests known to God." Asking is an aspect of prayer. And yet, we get confused by Bible verses that tells us: "Ask and it shall be given to you..." and "I will do whatever you ask in my name..." These verses make it sound like God will grant our every request. What is up with this? The truth is, that the Bible is a whole book, and fits together as such. To take one verse as the whole truth will get us lost every time. Along with these verses of God giving us what we ask, are the verses that bring further understanding telling us that what we ask for is to give glory to God. So, to ask God for a new Corvette is probably not what God will give to you. It probably is not what will bring Him glory, and what will help you in your life live out the purpose God has for you.
So, when you pray, go to God to build your relationship with God; share yourself with God. Also, let yourself be quiet before God and seek to hear what God might want to say to you. It might simply be: "I love you, my child." And, when you do make your requests known, try to temper them with the understanding that God answers prayer within His timing, and within His will. Tell me what you think. (

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Are you discouraged?

For the past few weeks I have been part of the Long Beach Press Telegram "Ask the Clergy" section. Each week we are given a question to respond to (300 words or less). I thought that this week's question would make a good blog.
In wake of the latest scandal with
Ted Haggard, (the Pastor in
Colorado) how would you encourage
those who are discouraged, hurt or
disappointed by his actions, in
the Christian community?

In our society I still believe that ministers are given a sense of reverence and respect. In one sense this is good, because it allows them the opportunity to teach, train, and guide people as followers of Jesus Christ. And yet, the danger can be that people give too much power to their minister, and put them up on a pedestal. Let me talk about the power issue first. When someone is given a great amount of power, the danger lies in the misuse of this power. Power can be misused by taking advantage of another or by seeking to gain wrongly from that power. But the other side is being put on a pedestal. The problem with being put on a pedestal, is that no one deserves this, because no one can live up to it. The apostle Paul, in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 3:4-5, 4For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? 5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” All pastors are merely servants of Jesus. They are not giants, and they are not gods.

Ted Haggard’s scandal has reminded us that we are all sinners, and we are all capable of doing wrong. This scandal is hurtful and discouraging to the Christian community because it causes people to look down upon God when God’s leaders fail. But the encouragement comes when we realize that the job of a leader is to point people to Jesus Christ, and the love and salvation that comes from Jesus. Even when a leader falls, Jesus Christ is still the same, and the One in whom we are to believe. The encouragement is in knowing that the failure of others reminds us of our own struggles, and that Jesus alone is the One who can help us overcome our struggles and make a difference with our lives. The encouragement comes in knowing that the Church is to be built not on the lives of Christian leaders, but on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
So, when we fail, or when we are discouraged by our own actions, or by others, we can know that Jesus Christ is there for us. It is in Jesus that we are to believe, and whose example we are to follow. Christianity is not following a leader, but following a Savior; Jesus Christ. Tell me what you think (

Monday, November 06, 2006


To the left you can see a treasure map. What would you do if you found a treasure map? Would you try to find the treasure? This is an interesting question, because in all of life we are searching for treasures. And in all of life we have treasures. Jesus tells us that we can know what we treasure by what we value in our heart. Matthew 6:19-21 says, 19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Jesus challenges us to have treasures that cannot be destroyed, stolen, or consumed. If you think about this for any time at all, you will realize that treasures like this cannot be physical or material. They have to be spiritual. So the first step is to try and determine what your treasures are now. And to figure this out, all you have to do is search your heart. Your heart will determine for you what you treasure. Where do you spend your time, money, and energy? That is what you treasure.
The second step is to figure out what you should treasure. And the Bible gives us a host of important treasures. Things like salvation, the Kingdom of Heaven, and love. These are some of the things that we will take with us to heaven; some of the things that we are to treasure in our hearts. Yet it can be difficult to rid ourselves of our old treasures so that we might replace them with the more appropriate treasures. In Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus tells us of just such a story:
16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" 17"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." 18"Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" 20"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" 21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." 22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth." This man's wealth and possessions were keeping him from receiving the treasure of eternal life. And so Jesus told the man to get rid of this treasure, but he could not.
What treasure is in your life that keeps you from valuing the true treasures? What do you need to get rid of so that you can follow Jesus? Why do you think it is so hard to rid ourselves of these treasures. As hard as it is to part with false treasures, it is worth the sacrifice. Great rewards are awaiting us when we can get rid of the fake treasure, and grab hold of the real treasure. Tell me what you think (

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pledge of Allegiance

Just this week I came across an article in the "California Lawyer" magazine written by Earl Klein. The article was about the separation of church and state and the Newdow lawsuit to take the phrase "under God" out of the pledge of allegiance. It is the attempt of secular humanists trying to eliminate any trace of religion from public life.
It is interesting to me to see how a small majority of liberals, humanists, and athiests seem to be able to remove so much of religion from schools, government, courts, and public affairs. It is an attempt to truly separate politics and religion. But is this really what is best for our country?
Here is some of what Klein has to say about it. "First and foremost, the Declaration of Independence would have to be amended to eliminate the provision that has been referred as 'a cardinal moral truth, namely that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.'" According to Klein, that declaration is 'without question based on the biblical declaration that God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27).' Klein goes on to talk about the objection to the public display of the 10 commandments. And yet, in his article he does show how our laws are derived from the 10 commandments (laws against stealing, murder, false testimony, purjury, etc...).
I too have thought a lot about this. I am concerned with what is happening in our society. In the midst of these changes and supposed freedoms, I don't see things getting better, but worse. Kids don't respect their teachers like they should, citizens don't respect their leaders like they should, and the morals of our country, in my opinion, have declined drastically. To some extent I do see this as a cause to the attempt to separate God from every day life.
Now, on the other side, people will want to argue that it is their right to have the freedom to not have God in their life, or have to view anything relating to God and religion. And while I do agree that it is not right to force people to believe, I do believe it is wrong to say that since they don't believe, everything must be removed from view.
As a Christian, not just a religious person, I do believe that God created us; created us in His image, and cares about what we do. To deny this is a person's choice, but it doesn't make it reality. I believe there is valid proof that God exists, that the universe was created by God, that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, and that salvation is through Jesus Christ only. To take away these fundamental truths, in my opinion, is wrong. And I think we have seen the wrong done by the attempt to rid our society of this. I hope that those of us who do believe, and we are in the majority, will continue to speak up and vote in ways that allow us to have leaders who continually seek to include God in our government and in our choices. Tell me what you think (

Monday, October 30, 2006


What gives you confidence? Is it doing a good job at something? Does it come to you after you have won something? Or does it come when someone believes in you, even when you don't believe in yourself?
God believes in you and me, even if we don't believe in ourselves. Why? Because God created us, and knows what we are capable of doing; especially if we are empowered and guided by God. Ephesians 2:10 tells us: "For we are God's workmanship, created to do good works in Christ Jesus..." We are created to do good works.
Today I finish my series on Reggie McNeal's book "The Present Future." I hope this series has provoked new thoughts in you about your life, about how you play an important role in the church, and about how the church needs to find new ways to interact with the culture. In today's blog I want to talk about the difference of thinking that churches are developing people for church work, verses understanding that churches are to be shaping people to make a difference for Jesus Christ in the world.
The problem with the first way of thinking, is that when people come to church, if a church is concerned about developing people for church work, then they feel used and limited. This last summer I was an assistant coach for my son Tyler's baseball team. I didn't want to be the head coach because I couldn't always be there, and because there were many meetings that the head coach had to be a part of. In this experience it made me realize that in the church we often ask people to be involved in work that they have no interest in. They come wanting to do something special for God, and get bogged down in busy work.
However, if we are shaping people to make a difference for Jesus Christ in the world, then they are set free to do the work God's leads them to do. This may very well be something for the church, but this something is going to make a difference for the Kingdom of God, not just for the church. It helps people to use the giftedness that God gave them. And as they start to see where God wants to use them, and that God has called them to do this work, then they have confidence to do it because they understand God has confidence in them.
The other thing that happens is that we stop seeing the church as a building, as a fixed point, and realize that the church is people. When we understand that the church is people, then we also realize that when we go out into the world, the church is going out with us. This too gives us a lot of confidence, since we are not alone in our going out. This also causes many more opportunities for the church to be effective, because the church is encountering people for Jesus every day, as the people of God are encountering others.
So we need a missionary mindset, because we understand that the mission field is all around us. As a missionary seeks to understand the culture, language, and needs of the people around them, so we too go out needing to understand the culture, language, and needs of those around us. We can't communicate with others using church language, but rather we need to just simply share with others the important ways that Jesus has impacted our lives, and the difference that makes in the way we live and love and share and care. It is about developing a heart that cares for people in the midst of their struggles and pain and lostness.
When we are involved in dealings of drudgery, then we have little energy, enthusiasm or confindence. But when we are at work in ways that God has designed us to work, we will have a great amount of confidence, energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. Let us seek to have a bigger picture of what the church and our lives are to be about. Tell me what you think (

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Future

The picture on our right shows a group of people planning. We think it is important to plan, especially for the future. But the problem with planning is that if our predictions are off, then our planning will be off. Planning can be good because it gets our minds thinking about the future, but there is a better strategy. As Reggie McNeal says in his book The Present Future, "The better (and biblical) approach to the future involves prayer and preparation, not prediction and planning.
Why? Because God wants us to pray and to prepare for His intervention. It is not about what we want to happen, or what we think will happen, but rather about being prepared to live out God's will, and help to establish God's Kingdom. So instead, the tough question is: "How do we prepare for the future?" And to prepare, we need to have the goal of being in partnership with God.
To be ready to be in partnership with God we need to seek out God's vision for our lives. Vision is what inspires, motivates, and energizes people. People will get committed to vision. Vision gives content to our lives and our message. Vision helps to reduce the number of decisions we have to make, because we can filter everything through a vision statement.
When we have a genuine vision, it helps to create a sense of significance in what we do. When we view that what we do has significance, especially significance for God, then others will see our sincerity, and be motivated by it. But we have to understand that we do not invent vision.
So how then is does vision come about? It comes about by cultivation. We need to know that it is God who has the vision, and we are seeking to discover it. So it is not about being a visionary, but about being one who seeks the mind of God. And to do this, we need to listen to our heart. What is it that excites us? Empassions us? What causes you to lean forward in your seat when someone is talking? This usually is usually the area where God is calling us to get involved.
But the way the vision will ultimately be tested is whether or not it is supported by the values of God. If our vision is not supported by what God would value, then it is not God's vision for our lives. "Vision is the seed, values are the soil." The soil has to support the seed. And our vision also needs to be supported by the values that God would want us to have (concern for the lost, hurting and poor; a forgiving heart; unconditional love...)
But how do we know what our values really are? Values are demonstrated by behavior. You can say you have a certain value (like concern for your spiritual growth), but if your behavior doesn't show this concern (meaning you don't read your Bible, you don't go to church regularly, your friends don't see Christian behavior), then this is not a true value.
So we must seek to practice our values so they will shape our life and our vision. As we live out our values, we will prepare the table for the vision to be lived out. Reggie McNeal says: "I am convinced that the reason for much burnout, lack of commitment, and low performance in our churches directly related to the failure to declare the clear results we are after." We must be clear about what our goals are in our vision. Only then can we know we God is directing us. When we know where God is taking us, then we can prepare ourselves to live this out.
Do you know your values? Do you have a vision for your life? Does your church have a clear vision? Do you even think any of this is important? Tell me what you think (

Monday, October 23, 2006

What is Spiritual Growth?

In this series on Reggie McNeal's book "The Present Future," we have talked about the church finding ways to go out to reach people, instead of waiting for people to come to the church. In this way, I believe we are living the example of Jesus, who regularly spent time outside of the synagogue and dialogue with people. This is important as well to help transform the community we live in, since we will have a better understanding of the needs of the people and the community. So the church in the 21st century should be seeking to find ways to connect with others.
Above we have 2 pictures. One is the picture of someone raising their hands in worship. The other is the picture of a cross. When you think of the idea of spiritual growth, there are many different ideas that come to mind. One is singing song of praise to God. Another might be the symbols (like the cross) that connect our mind with thoughts of God. A third idea might be reading the Bible to grow in knowledge.
Reggie McNeal, in chapter 4 of his book, challenges the church to get beyond trying to make people into good church members, and start to move people into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. He proposes that if this relationship becomes alive to people, then it will transform their lives to begin to live as God is calling them to live. So the emotional, physical, relational areas of our lives are all part of our spiritual growth. If we are not emotionally healthy, then we will struggle spiritually. If we are not physically healthy, then we will struggle spiritually.
The questions we should be asking is: What percentage of the people in my church grew to be more like Jesus last year? How is God at work in my life and the lives of others in my circle of friends and family? These questions lead us to a much different place than the question: Am I a good church member? And they are more valid questions, because it isn't about being good church members, as much as it is being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. And if we are growing to be more like Jesus, then we will be a faithful follower.
Another important avenue for us to follow as Christians, is to have a coach or mentor. We all know someone who is more mature in their faith than we are. How wonderful it is to have a person like this to help coach us along (and keep us accountable) in our journey of faith. A coach or mentor is someone who seeks to help you continually discover and live out the plan God has for your life. In this way, we are experiencing meaning and purpose in our lives, because we are living as God has created us to live.
Spiritual formation is about seeking to have a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, and seeking to live out who God has for us to be. When we do this, we will experience spiritual growth, and make an impact in our world for God. Tell me what you think (

Thursday, October 19, 2006


In my last 2 blogs (Growth and A New Reality) I have been commenting on Reggie McNeal's book "The Present Future." I have found this book to be challenging and helpful to our church in this time as we seek to minister in our community in the 21st century. Today I would like to look at chapter 3 in the book.

(The Queen Mary in Long Beach)

In chapter 3, McNeal talks about "A New Reformation." This new reformation is taking the church closer to the world; not theologically, but physically. And to do this, we need to change the perspective we have about doing ministry. For so long we have tried to train people to be able to do the work "in" the church; to give them church jobs to do. And that worked okay as long as the people wanted to do the jobs, and people were coming to the church to hear about Jesus.
But things have changed, and people aren't coming to the church the way they used to. We are now living in a society where our faith has become individualized, and the church is no longer the primary place that people seek answers for their faith questions. So we have to take a new tact, and that is to become missionaries.
Now, when I say "become missionaries," you might think about going to another country. But this is not the case anymore. Missions work needs to be done in our own communities, because in each community (especially Long Beach) there are many cultures (not just ethnic, but cultures within the different age groups as well. So, as we think about missions, we need to think of it in terms of "community transformation."
How do we connect and become part of our community? How can connecting with the community help the Kingdom of God? When I say connect with the community I don't mean to become like the culture around us. Again, we are not to change theologically, just practically. We need to find ways to share Christ's life-changing message with the way we live and love in our community. As we touch lives, and people change, our community will be transformed.
To do this we need to explore the needs of the community and build our ministries and churches in a way that connects with the community's needs. We have to remember why the church exists, to impact the world around us. We need to remember that we are commissioned by Jesus to reach out to the lost and hurting, and build people up around us. In one sense it is a new reality (as McNeal says), but in another sense, it is not, because it is really what Jesus did when He was here on the earth. What do you think about this? Tell me what you think.

Monday, October 16, 2006


In our world if we see a large group of people in any one place we think something important is happening; numbers mean significance to us. And that is the challenge for the church of today. Our desire is to get bigger; to have growth.
In my last blog I started my 5 part series on Reggie McNeal's book "The Present Future." Our church is using this book as a study for how our church can do a better job serving God in the 21st century. In this first part I talked about how "we live in a new reality, and the question in this new reality is: how is the church called to reach the people in our community?" I also talked about the challenge of how people aren't coming to the church like they used to.
So today, I want to think about this idea of growth. How important is it for the church to grow in numbers? While I believe it is important for a church to grow in numbers, it is even more important for the church to grow in faithfulness and commitment to God's work. Often times when a church grows, the new members it receives are people who have left one church to come to this new church. That might seem like church growth, but it isn't kingdom growth.
What do I mean by kingdom growth? Well, there are many in our world who aren't Christians; who don't know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. As we share Jesus with others, and they come to accept Jesus and ssek to live for Jesus, then they become part of the Kingdom of God. As Jesus said in John 1:12 "
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."
Reggie Mcneal says in chapter 2 of his book that the wrong question is "How do we grow this church?" And the tough question is: "How do we transform our community?" Because more than being a member of a church, people need Jesus in their lives!
I do believe that being a committed part of a church body is important, and I do believe that worship with other believers is important. But I also understand that in the community our church belongs to, there is the challenge of getting people to regularly come to church. So our church is seeking to find ways to go out to where people are at and seeking to love them and share Jesus with them. Hopefully, by doing this, their lives will be changed, not so that they can become a member of the church, but so that they can help transform the community they live in and the kingdom of God.
Are you going through this challenge? Do you have some thoughts on this subject? Let me know.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A New Reality

I am currently going through a series on the book "The Present Future," by Reggie McNeal at our Monday night Bible Study. This has been a wonderful challenge to read and to walk through with my congregation. Over my next couple of blogs I would like to make some comments about some of what McNeal has to say in his book and about the church of the 21st century.
It doesn't take my reading this book to know that society has changed in its view of the church. Just the fact that there are more people that don't go to church on any given Sunday than do is information enough. People have so many choices of how to get their spiritual nourishment from television to the internet. On top of this, seeing how so many in our society have become more individualistic, shows a lack of desire to be a part of a regular church fellowship.
So we live in a new reality. And the question in this new reality is: how is the church called to reach the people in our community? I have been at my church now for almost 8 years, and this whole time I have had this sense that we need to do church different. I believe we need to go outside the church walls more. It is easy to live within the confines and safety of the church, but then we lose out on having a real impact on our world for Jesus. Beyond this, we limit our opportunities of sharing the love of Christ with those who need to experience it the most.
As I look at Jesus' life and ministry, I see Jesus going out. There are very few passages in the New Testament where Jesus is in the synagogue. More often we see Jesus walking along the path, at a wall, or in someone's house. Jesus encountered people where they were at, and dialogued with them according to their background (i.e. he talked one way to farmers and another way to fishermen).
So does this mean that we need to do away with meeting in our church? NO. Their is still great meaning to worship and fellowship in Christ's name. This is an experience that can never be achieved individually. But it does mean that we need to not sit back and wait for people who don't know Jesus to come to us. WE MUST GO TO THEM! So I am challenged, and I am seeking to challenge my congregation to build relationships with non-believers, and even more, to seek to love like Jesus loved with no strings attached. We need to live and love like Jesus did. Only then do I believe that we can start making the impact God wants us to make.
Tell me what you think.

Monday, October 09, 2006


About a week and a half ago my wife and I saw the movie the illusionist. It is about a magicician (Edward Norton) who in the turn-of-the-century Vienna uses his abilities to secure the love of a woman far above his social standing. I found it to be an entertaining movie. Overall the acting was good, and the story line was suspenseful. It had a couple of interesting twists. With a PG-13 rating it was fairly tame by movie standards. But even more than the movie itself, the real intrigue for me was how people were so captivated by the illusionists' magic. Each night he would perform to a packed house.
What is it that drew the people to come and see him? I believe the answer was they were curious to see what he would do next. At first his illusions were physical (i.e. making an apple tree grow from a pot in seconds, or keeping someone from being able to lift a sword off the ground). But then his illusions go to the spiritual. Eisenheim the illusionist apparently summons spirits (including the spirit of Sophie, the woman he loved), leading many to believe that he possesses supernatural powers. This mystery of the power they believe he posseses is what draws them to the theatre each night.
What many forget (or don't know) is that people were drawn to Jesus for many of the same reasons. There was a great mystery that surrounded Jesus. People wondered how it was that the simple son of a carpenter could heal the sick, make the lame walk, or feed 5,ooo plus people with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. But the difference between Eisenheim the illusionist and Jesus is that Jesus' power was not magic; it was real. Jesus' power flowed from God. Jesus' actions were all designed to help people to understand that the way to heaven was through faith in Jesus, the Son of God.
There is another wonder here as well. And that is that God wanted us to see and understand the mystery of God and life. In the book of Colossians, chapter 1, verses 25-27, we are told:
"25...the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." This wonderful mystery is that Jesus Christ, through faith, can live in you and me. And by His living in us, we can know the will of God and can have access to the power of God; the power that is designed to bring glory not to ourselves, but to our creator, God.
I believe that there are too many things in this world that deceive us into thinking that we are following the right path. I believe there are too many illusions that satan puts in front of us to keep us from seeing and understanding that life in Christ is the most profound and meaningful life we can have. If you are feeling a bit lost, seek Christ, who doesn't trick us with illusions, but brings us into full understanding, and then leads us forward into the life we were created to have. What do you think? Let me know.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Your Mission and the church

On Monday I talked about the importance of knowing what God's mission for your life is. God has a plan for our lives, and until we figure it out, we will lack real direction and purpose. God has given us special gifts to be used for things other than our own benefit. We are told about these gifts in the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12. But there is an important point in this chapter that we need to understand, and that is found in 1 Corinthians 12:7- "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." The purpose of the gifts we have is so that we can use them for others; and the primary place we are called to use them is in the church.
Often people think of the church as a building, or an organization, or an institution, but in short it really is the people of God gathered together to worship God and do the work of God. (For a much more thorough understanding of this Rev. Mark Roberts, of Irvine Presbyterian Church is doing a series on the church on his blog; The church is very important. It has been designed by God to provide a place for fellowship, support, challenge, and
ministry. But even more, it is the best place where people can discover and use the gifts God has given them.

God has given us these gifts and calls us to open them up, discover what they are, and then share them with others. In this way we not only bless the lives of others, but bless our own lives as well. When you give yourself away, you will experience the joy of the Lord in your life. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.
So I want to encourage you today, if you don't know what your gifts are, to seek to discover them soon. You can find online spiritual gifts tests (for ex., or you can talk to your pastor, or you can read 1 Corinthians 12 and seek God for understanding. If you do know your gifts, what is keeping you from using them?
As we use our gifts, not only will others benefit, but the church will benefit, you will benefit, and even more, God's kingdom will benefit. Tell me what you think. God bless.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Your Mission

Did you know that God has a mission for you? It is true, God has a mission for each one of us! The challenge is to figure out what that mission is. I know that life brings us many forked roads where we have to make a choice of which way to go. But if we have a sense what our mission is, then we will be better prepared for that decision when it comes.
So, I'm sure you're thinking, how can I know what my mission is? Our church has been working this year with a group called Church Resource Ministries. This group has helped us to walk through what God has for each of us in our lives. At the end of this training, we were able to write out a vision statement for our lives. My vision statement says this: I invest myself in my family, and a church which engages itself in a culturally diverse community, to motivate them to know God, be committed in service, and faithful in character.” Since I have this statement clearly before me, I am able to know the direction in which I am to be headed. Even more, whenever I reach a fork in the road, I have a guide to help point me down the right path.
So how can you find your mission? The simple way is to ask yourself this question: "What am I passionate about?" As you answer this question, it will help you to know how God has formed you, and what God has for your life purpose. For example, in the book of Exodus, you see that Moses is passionate about his people being mistreated and in slavery (Exodus 2:11-12). God ultimately uses this passion to send Moses to free the Israelites from their slavery (Exodus 3ff).
When you go through life unsure of your mission, you will seek after many things and allow yourself to stray after this and that. You will lack focus and direction, and spend your energy in wasteful ways. So my challenge to you today is to try to write out for yourself a vision statement; a simple statement that expresses your passion. Then write out a few specific goals that could help you start to achieve this vision. And know that as you do, God will use you in wonderful ways, and lead you down the path designed for you. I will write more tomorrow about how our mission can and should connect with the church. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


It seems to me that one of the most difficult things that God asks us to do is to forgive. And yet God sets it to us straight when we are told in Matthew 6:12 in the Lord's prayer, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." The "as" is important, because it tells us that God forgives our sins based on the way we forgive others. And if we haven't gotten it by that, Jesus says it again 2 verses later: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Pretty strong words for us to think about. And my first reaction to this is like what my seven-year-old daughter says to me: "That's not fair!" We think it's not fair because we think that we if we have faith in Jesus, then we should receive the forgiveness of Jesus that He talks about.
So how is it that our being forgiven is tied into how we forgive others? Let me list a couple of reasons. First, it is for reconciliation. God desires for us to find reconciliation with others. Just like a parent doesn't want their children to be at odds with each other, so God does not want us to be at odds with each other. So, through forgiveness we can seek to be reconciled with each other. And the important factor here is that we can't determine how anyone else will act. Our role is to seek to be at peace with all (Romans 12:18).
Second, it is for our own well being. You might have heard of the saying, "Forgiveness sets you free." This is very true. God knows that when we don't forgive, we harbor feelings of pain, hurt, anger, frustration, bitterness, and on and on it goes. Having an unforgiving heart can tear us up inside. To forgive another person isn't saying that what they did is okay, it is saying that you won't hold on to it, you will seek to not remember it, you will not allow it to control your mind and your emotions. By forgiving the other person you are setting yourself free. Jesus Himself, while on the cross forgave those who were crucifying Him with the words, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
, it is for our own understanding. If we don't know how to forgive, then we won't know how to receive God's forgivenss. We learn by experiencing. And when we experience what it feels like to forgive another, when we experience the strength it takes to forgive another, then we begin to understand what God goes through every time God forgives us. Our forgiving heart helps us to be thankful for the forgiveness God so readily offers to us: "If you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
This week this topic has come up quite a few times with others, and I myself have been challenged with it. I would love to hear your response to this topic as well. God bless.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Daily Struggle

Have you ever woke up and not felt excited about the day? I know that this happens to me every so often. Why is it that I'm not excited about the day? Maybe it is because I have a very busy day. Maybe it is because I have a lot of physical work to do. Maybe it is because I'm tired. Maybe it is because there are problems in my life. There are many reasons that I feel unexcited about my life. So what are we to do about these feelings? Ignore them? Let them be victorious over us? The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:10- "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." God has good works for us to do. I know that when I am feeling down about life, it is difficult for me to do good works. I tend to be lazier and unmotivated. So what are we to do to help us get out of this funk and do the good works God has for us? I believe the answer is to get my mind off of myself, my tiredness, my frustration, my busy schedule, and see what I can do for someone else. There are many others who have troubles like you and me, and who could use a helping hand. I have seen it in my life, time and time again, that when I take my eyes off of myself and put them onto others, then I am uplifted by the good that I have done. The apostle Paul said it this way in Philippians 2:4- "Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." It is amazing how my life perspective changes when I focus on other people and other things. I receive a boost of energy. I feel that I have purpose. I am reminded that my life can make a difference. Now does this work every time? No. There are still times when I am down, or when I don't get much done. But I do know that living for something other than my own needs and desires makes a huge difference in having a great and blessed life. I hope you can discover this blessing as well. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Making A Difference

One of the great issues of our society is poverty. I know that in my community, we deal with many people who are homeless and struggling to make ends meet. This brings up many challenging situations, where people are asking for money, or food. I am always struggling with the question of how to help them. Do I give them money? Do I send them away empty handed? I know that God tells us to help those who are struggling, but is giving money away always the best answer. And I don't think that it is. Having been at Community Presbyterian Church in North Long Beach now for almost 8 years, I have experienced many of these kinds of people and situations. The first challenge is that I have very little money available to me to help. And while I know that when we choose to give, we shouldn't wonder what they will do with the money, but yet there is that sense of helping people use the money in helpful ways. So often I will take them to the store and buy them food, or drive with them to the gas station to get them gas. But the second challenge is that by just giving them money, or paying for what they need, it doesn't help them to become independent for themselves. Many of the people just go from church to church looking for a handout, never seeking to do anything for themselves. So in this matter, I often choose to find work for them to do so that they may earn the money. It may be vacuuming a room, or typing something up for the church. But by giving them some work, it helps them to feel like they've earned the money, not just been given a handout. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says: "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strenghten the entire earth..." The Lord is looking to you and me to strengthen people around us. There are so many ways to do this. I encourage you to look for a way today to help strengthen someone. Maybe it starts by you praying the prayer "God, use me." You will be surprised the difference you can make when you make yourself available to God. Let's join together to do this. Tell me what you think. Pastor Chris

Monday, September 18, 2006

God's Creation

This summer my family and I took a driving vacation to South Dakota and back. One of the highlights of our trip was the Black Hills. My son and daughter and I had a blast climbing on the rocks, and our family enjoyed the incredible view. I have to tell you that being in a place like this reminds me of the glory, majesty, and grandeur of God. I reflected back on verses like Genesis 1:9-10 "9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good." and Psalm 66:1-3 "1 Shout with joy to God, all the earth! 2 Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! 3 Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!..." What glory God has created, and it is good! It was a joy to experience some of God's creation this summer.
I also thought about how in our self-centered ways we think that we can create better than God. How foolish we are to trust in our own power over the power of God. God has graciously created us in His image and given us the ability to do great works through Him. But let us not forget who is the creator; who is the one who holds all things together. And so when I returned from this trip I was encouraged all the more about God's greatness and His work in and through my life. I was thankful that the God of all creation loves me in a personal way. I was thankful that a God that rules over all the world came to this earth to save me and give me eternal life.
So I want to encourage you this day to reflect on the world around you. Take in the beauty of what God created for you and me. Be thankful for the life you have and the relationship you can have with God through Jesus Christ. Commit yourself to let God work in and through you to make a difference with your life and to touch the lives of others. The glory of God that is at work in creation, is at work in you each day. Let us praise God for this. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Focused on the Past, Present, and Future

Yesterday I was proof reading our bulletin when I came across our Affirmation of Faith. This is the time in our service when we recite together as a congregation what scripture teaches us to believe. Sometimes the Affirmation of Faith comes from scripture (i.e. Philippians 2:5-11, 1 Corinthians 15:3-10) or it might be one of the Confessions in the PCUSA's Book of Confessions (i.e. Apostles Creed, Brief Statement of Faith). The Affirmation of Faith I have chosen for this Sunday is from A Brief Statement of Faith, 10.2-1-.5: "We trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God. Jesus proclaimed the reign of God:preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives, teaching by word and deed...We trust in God, whom Jesus called Abba, Father. In sovereign love God created the world good and makes everyone equally in God's image male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community... We trust in God the Holy Spirit, everywhere the giver and renewer of life. The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith, sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor, and binds us together with all believers in the one body of Christ, the church... With believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen."
What struck me as I read over this statement (and this hits me with other Confessions as well) is that we don't have to reinvent the truth. Christians of all time have been struggling together to understand God's word and God's ways. The Book of Confessions is a collection of these statements of faith that sought to solidy the Christians of that time period when they were being attacked by outside influences.

So why do I write this? I write this because we are attacked today by all kinds of influences (liberalism, political correctness, materialism, etc..). And it is comforting for me that as a Pastor I don't have to establish a new statement of faith for myself or my congregation. There are many great statements that are biblically sound and lead us to the truth of the gospel.
My encouragement to you is to take heart that we are continuing the tradition of being faithful to God through our words and actions. Don't be discouraged, God is always there in this struggle. Tell me what you think. Pastor Chris

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This morning I was reading Romans 15:30, which says: "I appeal to you, brother and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf." As I read this it made me think of those who say to me: "Pastor, I wish I could do more for the church, but all I can do is pray." All I can do is pray! Why do so many people think that praying is not an effective service to God. Here in Romans 15 the apostle Paul is asking for prayer as he deals with unbelievers in Judea and for his ministry in Jerusalem. Paul believes prayer is powerful and effective. And how about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemene when he takes Peter, James and John to pray with him. And when they fall asleep He says to them in Matthew 26:41- "Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial..." Jesus believes that prayer is important and powerful. So many times in the New Testament we see Jesus taking the time to pray. So my challenge to myself, and all who read this, is that we need to be people who are committed to prayer. Don't let the fact that you can't always see the visible results of prayer keep you from praying. Don't let the thinking that prayer is just a bunch of words keep you from believing. Follow the challenge of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing." Let the first words that you say in the morning and the last words before you go to sleep be prayer. I believe that if more people pray more often, and more fervently, they would experience the love and blessings of God more. And if you need prayer, please write your request on the comment section (which goes to my e-mail address first), and I will pray for you. Let us join together in fervent prayer. Tell me what you think. God bless.