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.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Today is the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. And as I was contemplating what to write on my blog, I thought it appropriate to at least say something about 9/11 today. My first thought is that for many like me who are far from where 9/11 took place (I am in Southern California), it is easy to only think about this event when someone talks about it, or when an anniversary approaches and it is on everyone's minds. I have to confess this does happen some. And yet, a second thought is in regards to people's response to the event five years ago. It seems that for many, the response was to seek out a church soon after the event (anywhere from the day of the tragedy to the Sunday following). I know that we had a prayer vigil the evening of 9/11/01. Why was this? I believe this terrible event left us feeling vulnerable and not in control. I believe that people were seeking out a spiritual answer or spiritual healing to this event.
I am grateful for my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I am thankful that God is there to walk with me, and comfort me, and strengthen me, and guide me in the difficult times of my life. And I hurt for those who don't have this in their lives. I hurt for those, who when tragedy or trials come into their life, they don't know where to go or what to do.
That is why I believe that an anniversary like this should challenge Christians to make a commitment to daily be aware of those around them who might be burdened. I believe we need to take the steps to reach out to others who are hurting and talk with them and pray for them. And yet, this should be done in love, not with any kind of judgement.
Yesterday I preached on the text from the gospel of John, chapter 4. And one of the aspects of this text that spoke to me was how Jesus reached out beyond cultural barriers and without judgement was there for this woman, loved this woman, challenged this woman, and gave her spriritual direction that helped her to get past her bondage.
As we live out today, and every day, may we seek to reach out to those who are lost, who have gone astray, who are struggling, and share God's message of love and reconciliation. Tell me what you think.
Lord, I thank you for being with me. And because you are with me, you help me to care for those around me. Thank you for giving me a heart that cares for those who are struggling and hurting. Thank you Lord that I can share with others the love and comfort You give to me. As I think today on the 9/11 tragedy, may I relinquish control to You, and know that as I trust in You, You will lead me in right paths; You will guide me and lift me up to that place You have for me. Come and be upon all those today who have a heavy heart, and may I seek to be available to others for Your name and for Your sake. This I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who enables me to even come to You in prayer, and the One who gives my prayer power. Amen.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tough Questions

Yesterday I came across a sermon by O. S. Hawkins (for the full sermon go to that caused me to stop and think. The subject wasn't anything new, but it brought up what I believe are tough, yet important questions. These tough questions come to us from Jesus. The first tough question is Who do men say that I am? (Matthew 16:13) This is an important question, because we live in a society that is becoming more and more liberal, politically correct, and, pluralistic. Meaning that for people, there are no moral absolutes and there is no One True God. So people are answering this question "Who do men say that I am?" with whatever they choose to believe and follow. This can make it tough for the church and for Christians because we are encountering people who come from a different way of thinking. We are dealing with a society that more and more doesn't believe church attendance and church affiliation is important. Which brings us to Jesus' second tough question: "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15) As Christians, I believe this is a question that we have to ask ourselves everyday, at the beginning of each day. I say this because each day we will encounter people and forces around us that challenge our beliefs, and challenge the way we live as Christians. Don't you find this to be true? Whether it is in the car, at work, taking the kids to school, or choosing a movie to go to, there are many forces at work challenging our faith and our witness. I believe that as a Christian, as a minister, as a leader of my church, as a part of a denomination, I need to stay firm in my answer: Jesus is my savior, the head of the body (which is the church) and the way and truth and life. I hope that every day I can answer this question with conviction, and then live it out for God's glory. Tell me what you think. God bless.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Clay Balls and Jewels

When you look at others, what do you see? Do you tend to classify them and judge them? Jesus didn't. When Jesus looked at others He didn't see a tax collector, a prostitute, or a fisherman. He saw sinners in need of salvation; He saw children in need of love; He saw a precious treasure. It is like the story of a man who found some clay balls. They didn't look special at all, but when he broke them open he found inside a precious jewel! Inside each person is a hidden treasure. But we can't see it until we take Christ's passion on ourselves. Christ's passion was people. "Jesus came to seek and to save the lost." Jesus cares about people's eternal well being. So should we. It is not enough to be saved. We must understand that there are others who are lost and need Jesus. As Philippians 2:4 tells us, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
All too often we get caught up in what we think we deserve (our privileges), or how we like things (our preferences), or what we want to pursue (our passions). We get too self-centered; too caught up in ourselves, instead of realizing that Jesus calls us to look beyond ourselves just as He did. Philippians 2:8 reminds us that Jesus Himself sets for us an example: “And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” Jesus lets us know that even God Himself cared so much for the lost that He left His preferred place in heaven to come to this earth to share the love of God and to die for our sins.

So I leave you with this for today: How can you reach out beyond yourself and share God's love with someone else? Who is someone that God is calling you to reach? Know that even though we deserve spiritual death (Romans 6:23a, "For the penalty of our sin is death..."), God sent Jesus so that we could have life (Romans 6:23b, "...but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.") If God has so graciously given you this gift, don't you think others deserve it as well? Tell me what you think.