Family Email 11/27/13
"And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God." Deuteronomy 28:2.
Don't you love the thought of being overtaken by blessings? God has in mind Shalom - a comprehensive well-being. Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfection, fullness, rest and harmony - the absence of agitation or discord. It is usually translated peace!
Moses said that blessings from God are the result of obedience. True. But this obedience is not just an outward conforming through our own efforts but an inward transformation through the work of His Spirit. This blessing is based on a covenant that God made with His people. God keeps His part. He is always faithful. But He also helps us with our part! He qualified for us.
By trusting in Him, and His perfect work on the cross, blessing flows to us. His Spirit gives us the power to be obedient. What a plan. Yes, we are being obedient and it is our God empowering us in the process. The result is blessing!
Moses gave Israel a choice: a blessing or a curse. Choose blessing. Choose the transformative work of Christ
Little is Much 11/21/13
I remember a song from college days named, "Little Is Much If God Is In It." The song has faded but the truth has gripped my heart over the years.
It is easy while waiting for the blockbuster moment - the 'big ticket item' - to be paralyzed and do nothing! We can wait for 'perfect timing' while missing opportunities to be the hands, the feet and the voice of God.
I am thankful for the little things. They often develop! Then with His leading, prayer, some effort and perhaps a few twists and turns, it can actually be fun to see His creativity.
God using me? Yes! And how great is that? How wonderful to be used by God. After all it is His way. Throughout Scripture God has used ordinary people to do extraordinary things. You don't have to be a Bible character to be effective for God.
One hundred and fifty years ago a man spoke for over two hours at Gettysburg. He was a pastor, orator, and educator (also Harvard president) and had served as U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain and Secretary of State. Not many can tell you who he was, but most know the name of the then unpopular president who spoke for less than three minutes using approximately 270 words. That speech is historic and many today can recite lines from Lincoln's address.
Little is much, especially if God is in it!
Step out, go for it and follow His lead. Give Him what you have!
Let's be thankful for little things!
Alert! Vigilant! Aware! 11/13/14
Alert! Vigilant! Aware! These are terms that the Scriptures tell us are important postures in our present world. The Devil is our enemy and his goal is to "kill and destroy." He patiently waits for precise moments to seemingly 'spring to life' to do his damage. Often he waits for years, even decades, to find a vulnerable place to gain a foothold.
Our focus is not on him however but on the Lord. Seek Him, know Him, and pursue Him. Be aware of His blessings and what He is doing in your life. Be vigilant in prayer and see what He is doing around you. When needs are presented to you be quick to present them to our Father. Be aware of what God is doing.
John 5 says that God is always working! Then Jesus said, "I only do what I see the Father doing." May we long for that kind of communication with our Father and then be in step with Him.
This Thanksgiving and Christmas season may we be alert, vigilant and aware so we can make an impact for God! He is working and leading us! Whether it is ringing a bell in front of Wal-Mart, gathering food for Loaves and Fishes, shopping for shoes for the orphanage, visiting Anna Weber at Danish, inviting a neighbor to the Pilgrims' Feast, serving cider at Vine Street Showcase or sharing Christ with a neighbor, out opportunities are endless.
Let's be alert, vigilant and aware of God's glory so that His kingdom will be advanced on the Central Coast.
It is easy for me to be thankful for the tangible or visible blessings that God has given to me. He does bless and I am very thankful. His blessings are so evident.
Of course there are many other blessings that I cannot get my hands on. Here is a verse I came across last evening. Psalms 119:71, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes."
The writer is saying truth has penetrated his heart, it has found a lodging place and it has borne fruit of a different kind, even though it came with great difficulty. He was thankful!
This Thanksgiving my perspective is going to be more comprehensive. I want to praise and thank Him for the root of His dealings with me as well as the visible part. What is God doing below the surface and how is He developing me? After all He is a master gardener and is concerned with the entire plant, not just what is seen.
I sense God is doing a deep and powerful ministry in us as a body. I am really excited and anticipating where He is leading CLC. He is sending our roots deep - at times with great difficulty - so that we can grow and develop and reach out to a world that needs us. He is developing our strength.
My prayer is Lord, help us be thankful for all your blessings - the ones easy to see as well as the ones difficult to discern - even the afflictions that help teach us your statutes. I am thanking God for His well-rounded leading and guiding in the development of His body!
Following after God 10/31/13
Freedom and joy are what I think most folks are looking for in life. But I often wonder what really holds us back? Why do we pursue things that are not helpful and at times may even be hurtful? We may even know that the things we are chasing are harmful and yet we do it anyway!
We do not want to present a salvation by grace and then a walk by works. Our walk with God is also a grace process. So how do we proceed in the journey of pursuing God - where freedom and joy are found? The fulfillment we are looking for is Him. The other things are the great side-effects of knowing Him and being in His presence.
In this great pursuit we find things that hold us back, things that get in our way. For example - our stubbornness and pride, the schemes of the devil, a give-me give-me attitude - all these hinder the process of growth and maturity.
Call these strongholds, blind spots or comfortable places. Whatever we choose to call them, God wants us to progress toward the image of His Son. Again, what is the grace way?
So, what do I do? My answer is - ask God. What does He want for you? It's certainly not a legalistic checklist, nor some external force placing pressure and stress, making life miserable.
Fasting has been very beneficial for me this year. A little more quiet time has been great. Meditation is wonderful. But this has been a walk with God, a communion with Him, a pursuit of His heart. It really has been His work. A grace-filled process!
My advice? Go hard after God. Really depend on Him. Let the Spirit lead you, let the Word abide in you and let the grace of God fill you. And in the process, see Him pulling down strongholds.
See Him make the necessary changes and adjustments. And ultimately… see the glory of God.
Now that is freedom and joy!
The Joy Process 10/10/13
Learning is necessary and at times even fun?! Whether it is a formal class, an insightful teacher, or a great book there are many ways to learn. Even trials are helpful and necessary. The New Testament assures us that the real teacher is the Holy Spirit. He is the one who orchestrates this process. But why is learning and development so important? What is He trying to do in our lives?
The Spirit's goal is for us to become like Jesus. That is not an easy process, but it is a magnificent one. What a wonderful goal to reach for and pattern to follow - Jesus. And we have the Holy Spirit's help! Peter's word concerning this process is, "you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory."
What a picture. We are connected to Jesus - in love with, responding to, learning from and then being obedient to do His will. Tremendous joy flows from this process.
Here is how Jesus did it! He said, "I always do what I see the Father doing." He was connected to the Father and He proceeded to do the Father's will. See, then do, is what this is telling us.
In this final week of missions emphasis month, what is God saying to us as a church and to each of us as individuals?
Since we have been justified by faith and adopted into His family, what a position He has placed us in. In light of this, what does He want me to do?
Let Him tell you! Is it offering a cup of cold water, ministering to the homeless, speaking to a neighbor, walking on a campus, calling all your employees together to talk, sending a card or an email, Skyping, helping with a funeral dinner, mowing a lawn? It is amazing how creative our God can be.
We see many things taking place. We praise God, but let us also be prepared and ready for action!
God is still working. Let's join Him in this greatest of all endeavors!
A non-meeting meeting! 10/17/13
How do we really come together? How do we wait on the LORD? How do we follow God together? These are huge questions that the Board of CLC has been wrestling with for a couple of years.
How does a pastor and board be directional and visionary and yet include everyone in the body? How does everyone with all our gifts come together and love and respect each other so that God is glorified, people are built up and outreach happens?
Another meeting? Not really - so let me explain. This Sunday evening at 6pm we are having another meeting. But we have a very focused agenda. We want to come together and learn to wait on the LORD. We want God to give us a sense of His heart and His direction for CLC.
For years my priority has been to ask, "God, what do you want me to do?" I have heard from my God and through His precious Spirit I have come to sense His love, His protection and His direction. By His power I have the joy of being justified by faith and adopted into His family.
Salvation is individual but it is not individualized! We are a family, a body! God desires us to grow and develop and experience His presence - together. And since we are all connected to our head, Jesus Christ, there's a wonderful display of His Spirit when we come together in coordination.
I really sense this coordination on our CLC board. I am anticipating what God wants to do and say through many members/ministers on Sunday night.
Call it another meeting, a staff session or vision casting. I prefer to call it 'body life.'
God's life in a local body will show forth His great Name to a watching world.
Where is my place? 10/10/13
The short answer is 'serve' Him, but that answer seems a bit incomplete. He is my Creator and my Savior. How could I not respond in some way? Being creative, finding and understanding His innovative design in us is a beautiful journey.
How do I get along on this walk, when at times it seems like there are three steps forward and two back? Pray, plan, dream, be involved. Yes, do your part. But the Apostle Paul said, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."
I am not sure how all this works. Some would use the word mystery here! But God wants you involved - completely. He says to seek first the Kingdom of God! Make Him your focus.
So which is it? Does God do the work? Or do we do the work? My answer is yes! Our God is so creative that He has chosen to do His work through individuals. You and me! Take the Gospel of Luke, for example. Who wrote it - God or Luke? The answer again is both! It is God's Word but note that it is Luke's vocabulary and personality coming through his writing.
How exciting to be a recipient of God's grace, be part of His family, be able to express our love and appreciation to Him and also be a vital part of the work in His kingdom. This kingdom is not going away. This kingdom is everlasting.
In my thinking this is a stroke of genius!
To Him be the glory.
Lift up your eyes! 10/04/13
As believers we are headed to the ultimate reality - Heaven. Until we get there we are in a state of change, growing more like the one who died for us. His image is our goal.
We are not perfect but we have been changed and God is going to use all sorts of things to conform us to the image of His Son.
So, in this adventuresome process what can I do? What is the joy and the delight of my life? What do I need to do to make my life meaningful to me and, more importantly, to Him? Is it possible to merge those two? Note what Paul says right after that great salvation passage that says we are saved by grace and not by works. Ephesians 2:10, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
That's right! After this key passage on salvation, Paul says we are created for good works! This is where we understand that God tells us to 'be' and then to 'do'! So when and where do these "good works" take place?
Some might answer on Sunday morning at church or ministries around the church, and they would be right! What a great place to use your gifts and talents to minister to brothers and sisters in the body of Christ! But what about the other six days and all the other places?
John Wesley said, "The world is my Parish." How right he was. God has placed us all in the vineyard to work. By doing this, God is glorified, the Kingdom is built and we get to be contributors to the eternal Kingdom of God.
How blessed to be an integral part of His Kingdom!
Promises and the great commission 09/26/13
Missions month is here at CLC. What does that mean? Large pictures on the wall, souvenirs and artifacts along with special speakers? I really enjoy this month but what does it mean to me personally?
Missions is about fulfilling the great commission and if that is true what is God asking me to do? How do I share and spread the hope that is in me? Since the reformation some truths have been central in the body of believers. Let me name just a few. Each one is a minister with gifts. Each one is a believer priest. Each one of us walks with God in a real and dynamic way.
Along with these truths come God's precious promises. I will be with you. I will build my church. I will never leave you. What solace and comfort to know the job will be accomplished. I want to take part in what God is doing!
So I get to walk and work with God. What a privilege. But I don't want to do this just out of discipline. I also want this to be delight! Both are important.
This month I am asking myself, "What has captured my heart? What is it that I can't help but share? What is the most important thing to me that comes out of me naturally - planned or unplanned!"
When the disciples were imprisoned and threatened and told not to speak further about Jesus, this is how they responded, "But Peter and John answered and said to them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.'" Acts 4:19-20.
Seen and heard - those are the keys! So let's 'Lift up our Eyes' and see and remember we are 'witnesses' to what we have seen and heard!
What is average? 09/12/13
"A tree is best measured when it is down" was a line Carl Sandburg, a biographer of Abraham Lincoln, used of his own death. I have learned much from family and friends at these very difficult times as I have looked back over their lives.
Recently I was privileged to attend the memorial service for Stu Drummond. Pastor Guy's father was a very interesting man to say the least. I got to spend a week in El Salvador with him and a number from our church on a mission's trip in the late 80's. Let me say it was very educational and enjoyable.
His memorial service was jammed packed with worship, memories, grandchildren (Meghan hit a home run loving on her Papa) and even Stu himself on a video clip singing a song he wrote, "Old Age Made A Wreck Out Of Me." What a hoot. I laughed and cried and worshiped! Guy led the service with grace to honor his father and lift high our God. I was blessed. What a journey.
But something was stated about Stu that perhaps I will never forget. Someone stated that Stu felt he was just an average guy and that is why he had to trust Jesus in everything!
I'm not sure what average is, but I believe Stu and Jesus helped me see that God can take whatever average is, and make a special person out of a normal, average person. Stu modeled that brilliantly for many to see, especially his old friends who I sat with at the dinner. They knew that Stu trusted - and led his life to honor - Jesus. That came through loud and clear.
I am familiar with the term "I want to be like Mike." But I can't be like Michael Jordan. I don't possess his skill set.
But I can be like Stu, average, normal and trusting Jesus in everything.
I would rather be like Stu.
Getting a clear picture 09/05/13
The old circus had a series of mirrors that would display your image. In one you appeared overweight, the next underweight, then tall and finally short. Of course they were all distortions.
Life can be like that. For generations there have been marketing schemes and all sorts of images that we are told are normal or should be our goal. Look like this or be like that! Truth has gotten real fuzzy for most folks. Following one of these distortions can get you very disillusioned. What went wrong? How did I get here? How do I get out of here?
On the other hand, looking in a normal mirror can be a little scary! I hear Jack Nicholson saying, "You can't handle the truth." Even the book of James says we look at the mirror of His Word and walk away acting like we never saw its truth about ourselves.
So, with distortions and wrong directions on the one side and truth on the other, do you feel trapped?
The answer is in the Gospel. It is truth and love in action. It gives us the truth about ourselves. We see clearly the blemishes, the heart issues, the problems and the pride. But the Gospel also tells us we are absolutely loved. No one has ever pursued us like Jesus, who also has the power to transform us! He's the answer to our dilemma.
The Gospel gives us the clearest picture, or mirror, that we can have about ourselves! It is not fuzzy. It is high definition. Also the Gospel gives us a clear picture of Him. To the degree we 'get Him', enjoy Him, worship Him, to that degree we are being transformed.
No wonder the Gospel is called the Good News. It tells us the absolute truth about ourselves and then proceeds to love us and transform us into the image of Jesus Christ!
No distortions here! Just beauty and light!
When things are 'fuzzy' 08/29/13
How good when things are set. The bags are packed and you know exactly what to do and where you are going. Whether it is a vacation, a project or your life's direction it is wonderful when there is clear direction.
But what happens when things are not so clear? "LORD what is next? Which direction do I take? What do you want me to do? How do I respond to this latest bump in the road?"
Maybe the LORD is saying, "Let's spend a little time together." When Jesus chose His disciples He first called them to himself and then sent them out. Jesus wants a relationship first. One of my professors used to say it is BEING before DOING.
When I know the series or book of the Bible I'm preaching on, all is good. When I don't, it is scary. Those scary times are when I feel that God, who is always there, is training me. What do I do when it feels like I am on my own, just going through a routine?
Do we trust Him only when we understand what is going on? That's easy. But what happens when we are in the 'fuzzy' part and it is hard to make sense of what is going on? What happens when it takes years? Is He still in control? Can we trust Him with our lives?
There are a lot of question marks in this short email, but the LORD God is faithful, very faithful. I know that from the Scriptures. I also know that from experience - many experiences! I am sure you have had those experiences as well.
C. S. Lewis called this "undulation"- the highs and lows of life. Believers throughout the centuries have found that wherever we are in life we need Him. Absolutely for the lows, but even more importantly for the highs!
The bottom line - He said He would never leave us. He is foremost. He is the Treasure!
I can say amen to that!
Capturing Jesus 08/23/13
The Scriptures teach that as a believer I am in Christ, but also that Christ is in me. God came up with a great idea for us to know Him. But am I capturing those words and Him?!
I believe these truths with all my being. Working it out in my life is quite another thing. How much have I really captured Him? Do I ever need grace and guidance here!
I often do funerals and wonder after each service did I really know the one who had gone on? Did I really understand them and their passions? Even when it is a family member, and particularly my son, did I really 'get him'? This has prompted me to consider what really is important to me, to think deeply about the way I process things, not to mention how I handle the grief. Have I missed out on something special? Or is living just meandering past the milestones of life - graduation, job, marriage, babies, career, recreation, sports, grandchildren, retirement - and through it all missing the vital part of living: Him.
Recently during my devotions I read, "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." Oh, really! Do I really believe that? "All things" and "nothing was made apart from Him?" I want to capture that truth and in the process capture Him.
When a college student was asked why he left the church he stated, "Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change [the lives of] others. I haven't seen too much of that."
Could it be that the world around us sees a very uninteresting Jesus because we have filtered out much of His passion and vibrancy? I know I will 'get Him' in heaven. I also want to 'get Him' now!
I need Him now. My culture needs Him now!
I enjoy it when God sends me reminders as He did powerfully on Sunday morning. These reminders have a lot of punch when they come from multiple sources. First, as usual I am reading a good book. It is titled "The Book That Made Your World." It is an historical account of what made the West, and particularly America, so great. The book supplies countless examples of the depth and sufficiency of Scripture's contribution to culture.
The second reminder: A friend, Steven, showed up to service on Sunday morning. He is a recent Teen Challenge graduate and has had an amazing turn-around by the mercy and grace of Christ. God has rescued and delivered another precious person! So I asked Steven to share and he gave glory to a wonderful Savior! I praise God for Steven.
After the service Steven asked, "When and where is the Bible study?" He seems to believe that the Bible is necessary and essential. It has become his source and he wants to study with other believers. He knows growth is impossible without God's 'breathed' book. He seems to think fellowship is vital. How special would it be to be in a Bible Study or a Life Transformation Group with Steven!
So here is my conclusion as these events came together. The Word is not only what made the West and America robust and strong - according to the book I am reading - and yet the Bible seems to be passé in our current culture. The effects of this change are becoming evident!
What about me? Is the Word still vital? Is it life and breath? Is it really a light to my path? Or am I following my culture? Will I soon see the effects in my life of taking another path away from His heart? Is the Word just for those in difficulty?
My initial response was that we need to start new Bible studies and LTG's or have a theology class in my home on Tuesday night. I even came up with the name "Light Theology".
As you can see, I need prayer for direction. I don't want the Bible to be just ordinary in my life, or the life of CLC.
Let's keep it real, vibrant and relevant - because it is!
"You decorated my life." 08/08/13
As you can see I'm not above using a line from a county song. But this title has got me thinking. I don't want my life just being decorated. Oh, don't get me wrong. I do enjoy many of the things of this life that you purchase and add to your collection. One of mine is technology. I am sure you know yours!
I also know as a typical American I want it quick and easy. Often we go to the Scriptures and we want answers: who do I marry, what job do I take, or should I do this? The Bible's answers are usually pretty generic. "Here's the kind of character, here's the kind of heart, here's the kind of person who works through these things."
My response is that I want it now! Just give it to me. Decorate me. Put a little wisdom here, a little character there and place some Bible facts in this vacant spot.
Decorations usually end up in the garage and eventually in a yard sale. I want to know what is growing in me that is real and organic? What is being produced through me? Not something tacked on, pasted or applied with a sticky note. What is it that is so deep and so precious that it gives stability and meaning? You can be alone or in a crowd, you can weather a storm or enjoy incredible abundance. You really sense that the Spirit of God is in you filling and making you adequate for anything!
Then, when you come to those times of decision or the unexpected arises or even the unthinkable happens, you recognize God's incredible work. It is a long process of being conformed to His image but what a wonderful journey. It is what Eugene Peterson calls, "A long obedience in the same direction."
Since God saw you in eternity past, a quick fix or just a decoration will never do! He's in it for the long haul. What a loving savior.
What am I trying to do? 08/01/13
I asked that question, "What are you trying to do?" yesterday of a friend and his response was probably typical. "I'm trying to be the best person I can be."
So, what are you trying to do? What am I trying to do? It seems to me that just trying to be the best you can be is not really going to accomplish the goal. When you think about it, isn't being a good person a by-product of a much greater goal? Isn't always focusing on ourselves…selfish? So then, what is the greater goal?
How about this goal? Do everything for the glory of God. Doesn't that stretch the aspirations upward and help pull us in a great direction? It also calls for His power to be implemented in this worthy pursuit. It focuses our attention in the right direction and it also helps us to see we are part of a much bigger plan than just our own.
Paul had it right when he said in Romans 11:36, "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
This gives meaning and dignity to life! What an honor and privilege to be able to do everything for Him. Paul also stated, "whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
Bach wrote music for His glory, Rembrandt painted for His glory, Isaac Newton explored the universe for His glory and we too can do all things for His glory!
Yes, even a cup of cold water given in His name, given with the motivation of glorifying Him changes everything. It sets me free from me and gives glory to the only deserving person - Him.
To His glory,
The Word and Technology 07/25/13
Recently while reading I came across a fascinating story of a Biblical worldview illustrating the importance of technology.
The author contrasted two monasteries: one Christian, the other Buddhist. Both groups believed in work but the Christian monks came to believe that while work was good, "toil" was a result of sin. So they harnessed the wind and water to help them in their work.
Of course this is old school technology but technology just the same. The Christian monks continued to work since God worked, but they developed ways of being more productive and become more creative since the LORD God was and continues to be creative.
They were reflecting God. It seems like such a small thing but the results were huge. While the one monastery was being liberated and finding more time for development and production the Buddhist monks were still laboring and toiling with primitive methods. Their worldviews made all the difference in the world!
Jesus said it well and clearly: "…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." How wise to listen to Jesus. We are told we are sheep and that we are prone to wander. God knew we needed His Word as a light to our path. I don't want to meander off and head in a wrong direction! And I will if my worldview doesn't start with Him and His Word. Every time!
In 1983, Korean Airlines flight 007 took off from Juneau with the flight coordinates slightly off. The farther from takeoff the more it got off course. Eventually the Russians shot it down because it wandered into their airspace.
Spiritual coordinates are important also! How good to pursue God! How important to keep Him first. How great are the benefits and "side effects" of seeking after God. He will not disappoint nor will He lead you astray! In fact He will lead you home.
Senior Pastor, Christian Life Center
My life is filled with great things. The more I travel or read and just become aware of my surroundings, I am blessed. The gifts of God are evident yet I know what the Scriptures teach about the flesh. It always wants more! I also know that God is faithful and He is a great provider. God has a giving heart and He continues to be faithful to me. His abundance is limitless and His presence is vital, stimulating and precious.
The problem is that I can turn His gift or a blessing into something I trust in. It seems too easy a transition to look to the gift and not to the giver. Perhaps this is what the NT writers meant in part when they instruct us to be alert. I know the truth, but how do I live it out?
The questions for my heart are what or who am I really trusting in, what am I relying on? The landscape of history is filled with folks putting their heart and soul into the wrong things. The most educated generation ever was swayed by a mad-man during World War II.
I want to be alert and not major in minors. I want my focus not to be on mediocre, or even good, things but on the best thing.
Very simply and yet very profoundly Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." These words are worthy of meditation. That is what I want - Him. The longing of my heart is not just to be titillated or entertained. My prayer would be "Jesus, lead me, teach me and take me to a place with you where I cannot go by myself. I know that I am prone to wander. Lead me in your path."
How great to have a God who knows me, knows what I want, knows what I need and knows how to properly provide. My prayer, my desire, is "Lord, thank for your blessings and gifts. Though I know they are given to be enjoyed, may my main pursuit and reliance be in you, and you alone.
Mom's birthday 7/11/13
Dear Church Family
Today is my mother's 90th birthday. We celebrated last night and honored her gift to us. She really loves God and it is evident even to strangers.
I had breakfast with her yesterday and we talked about her early years. She shared some precious childhood memories. Deep in her was the memory of a poor family 'getting along' and 'making ends meet.' The love she received from her family is apparent. Her father Benjamin Freeman was a pastor and also the 'community doctor' - without training. He was a hard-working man with a great passion for God. At times he pastored three churches at once and was known as a circuit rider. He often studied on horseback. Mom tells stories of his walking home wet after a baptismal service and then going to his sick wife - preaching his sermon plus singing and worshiping with her.
I have heard these stories and others like them for most of my life. It occurred to me the memories are not of worship services or formal gatherings, but Jesus being present in everyday situations. Jesus was real, needed, prayed to and relied on. Prayer over meals was meaningful, not routine. It was evident He had provided and giving thanks was a heartfelt, natural response to a living God.
Now Mom lives alone for the first time in her life. Fears of being alone go back to when she was a little girl. Perhaps the reason she was so active and always on the go, was due to the fact she didn't want to be alone. Now at ninety God still provides. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" Romans 11:33.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:14, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place."
He is still providing. Though alone, Mom is still spreading the good news of Christ.
I praise God that He is a living, loving and faithful God.
Special to God 06/20/13
Today is the yearly 'get rid of stuff in your garage day' in my neighborhood. I watched as a number of visitors came and picked up a few treasures that were considered discards by others. Interesting stuff!
Have you ever considered something garbage that later you realized was very valuable - in fact priceless?
I believe our society is tossing something overboard that is not only precious but foundational and perhaps irretrievable?
What makes civil rights valuable? Why is an unborn child so important that it demands our attention and support? Why is murder such a heinous crime? Why is every person worthy of respect and care without regard to color, social standing or gender?
What really gives meaning to us humans? Why are we so special? Is it that we are capable or gifted or beautiful? What happens when these qualities fade?
The answer to these questions is a deep theological truth that we are tossing to the curb to our great detriment. It is called "the image of God."
"And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Genesis 1:27. This verse has huge world-view implications.
How do I view people across the spectrum or our culture? Have I valued some and not others because of a viewpoint, ethnicity or some other standard?
In fact how do I view myself? Am I just the sum total of accomplishments or is the image of God stamped on us all?
Jesus really helps us here! We should feel valued because of what Jesus did. He came to redeem us.
He loved us so much that he gave himself for us! What a clear and concise statement of his commitment.
The image was marred in Adam and was regained through Jesus Christ.
What a model. Oh, what a Savior!
Who can rule themselves? 06/12/13
Jesus came for a number of reasons.
1. To destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8.
2. To bear witness to the truth. John 18:37.
3. To bind up the broken hearted and set captives free. Luke 4:18-19.
There are probably many others. When you find them, please share them with me!
To really personalize this, Jesus also came to help me with me - to set me free! The question "Can I rule myself ?" is an interesting one. I would like to think so, but the truth is we all need a savior. Jesus came to meet a fundamental need of mankind. We were lost. There is none righteous, 'not even one.' He is not speaking of geographical lostness, but moral and eternal. Thus we need a great savior.
But salvation is not just about getting us to heaven. It is also about eternal life and that started when we became Christians. Again, a great savior is needed not just at the moment when salvation begins but over the course of our lives. We continue to need a savior to hold us accountable and direct us toward His heart.
The Gospel is the key here! "The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation," Paul said in Romans 1. It helps us to know who we are and what we are capable of (so that we don't get lifted up with pride) and it continually reminds us that this Jesus really did die for us! He actually loves and forgives and sets His affections on us!
Christianity is the only religion that actually understands our heart and how it works. Isn't it great to have a savior that really knows you and loves you completely? That truth will have a profound effect on how you live. It really is about His glory.
Blessed beyond belief!
"Walking with God" 05/30/13
What a thought - walking with God. Adam and Eve did it. Can I do it too? I read many stories in the Scriptures of people and their journeys with God. Can we walk with Him like they did?
Salvation is by grace. We do not merit it or earn it, but we did choose it and must embrace it. It is something we must get involved with. We must keep in mind that salvation is a relationship with a living God! Paul would say "work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
Author Jerry Bridges puts it perfectly when he writes, "My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we've performed well-whatever 'well' is in our opinion-then we expect God to bless us. If we haven't done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works, rather than by grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the 'sweat' of our own performance." Bridges continues, "The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience."
Liberating and joyous! Does that describe your relationship with Him? How wonderful and uncomplicated to walk with God. After all, He is our Father and He knows us completely and continues to love us with an everlasting love. How blessed we are to actually know and love this creator/savior God who enjoys a relationship with us.
My response is to love Him, serve Him, enjoy His presence and study His Word. I have found the closer I get to Him and the more I study about Him the more I find out about myself. He is the journey, the destiny and the hope that we all need. We are on an infinite pursuit that leads to the City of God. How liberating! How joyous! How anchoring!
Thank you, Jesus, for the perfect plan. The tension of pursuing and enjoying the one and only true God who walks with us is soul-satisfying.
To preachers one and all! 05/24/13
Preaching to yourself!
I have written about 'means of grace' previously but I want to go a bit deeper with that thought. Means of grace are the portals into your soul. They are tools that God uses to shape you and bring you into the image of Jesus Christ. Prayers, Bible study, the Lord's Table are but a few examples.
But what happens as you import all these wonderful truths into your heart? You have placed yourself in right situations and opened your heart to the ministry of the Spirit and you have sensed Him flooding in. How can you help keep this going? How can you stay on track?
Paul Tripp has an interesting observation, "No one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you more than you do." Whether we realize it or not we are in an unending conversation with ourselves about the way we live, the way things are done and how things are being formulated in our lives. We are preachers after all - to ourselves!
Here's a Biblical example. The psalmist cries, "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence." (Psalm 45:5). We can see an Old Testament pattern of encouraging and preaching to our own heart. Hint: It would probably be best if you did this in the privacy of your home!
We are to take the truth - the Word - and apply it to our hearts. I wonder at times, am I great at giving out advice but terrible at taking it?
What am I really telling me?
Am I quietly preaching my own righteousness, power and wisdom or do I preach the true gospel, deep spiritual need and His sufficient grace? Is it the true gospel that my soul is hearing? Or is it much easier telling others, instructing others, leading others, and missing out on the delicious meal of the gospel myself?
It is very important to get this right, for we all long for His presence, His provisions, and the power of an ever-present Christ. That is the fruit I want after preaching to myself!
Sooo… prepare your sermons well. By living well we can glorify our Father. We need the precious Spirit here. May he lead us and guide us in this glorious task of preaching Christ to our own hearts.
Justice and Mercy 05/16/13
CLC Church Family,
Justice or mercy - which one of these do you lean toward? Perhaps that is an unfair question but it seems generally we all gravitate to one or the other. God requires both. Mercy cannot be fully understood without justice and justice without mercy is usually harsh and graceless.
Yesterday I saw someone run a red light and my reaction was, "Where's the police?" Well, there was one right there and he didn't do anything. Justice had been violated. Of course I don't know, but perhaps they were headed to a hospital. Maybe mercy needed to be extended.
I have felt like the psalmist on occasion and possibly you have as well. "O Lord, God of vengeance; God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render recompense to the proud." And they have said, "The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob pay heed." (Psalms 94:1-2, 7)
Have you ever felt like that? Ever pray, "Do your wrath thing God, they deserve it."
God seems harsh in the Old Testament, but we need to see His holiness and His purity. But if that is all we see we would not be able to stand before Him. So how does God bring these two opposites together? How does He show forth His Word, His truth and then extend mercy?
It's important to ask how do I do that as well? How do I relate to people who are clearly breaking laws and going against His Word? How do I relate to those on the polar opposite of the moral scale? Do I cry to God to strike them? Am I the moral police? Do I ignore them? Or has God called me to do what He did?
God sent His own son to love the world! It appears to me that I can be god-like in a way - of course a very limited way - but I can extend Jesus too. Jesus really is the answer to the justice vs. mercy dilemma. I can bring Him into conversations and share His love and mercy the way God did! No wonder He is the hero of every sermon, the center of every service and the Lord of Life. He is the only real solution to justice and mercy. He is the Word that became flesh. He is the way, the truth and the life. Not only that, He then took the wrath and justice of God, plus all my sin. And because of that great work God could rightly show mercy to me and you. That is certainly one to meditate on!
God help us to love His Word, and because of what Jesus did, extend mercy!
I tend to be more selfish than Kathleen. She was one of seven and I was one of three and a twin at that. Many catered to the Smith twins in our church which I'm finding out is a mixed bag. Always being served is turning the tables on what Jesus really wanted. He taught and modeled servanthood. Here is the key verse to the book of Mark, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (10:45)
John Piper admitted he is very disturbed about himself when he reflects the culture more than reflecting the Scriptures. Admittedly the culture is getting more selfish. We need, and must reflect, the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus. So, how do I serve? How do I get involved? And where does Jesus want me to be engaged?
At a meeting on Tuesday night Pastor Guy used a term that really resonated with me. It was a nautical term: "All hands on deck." To me this means all of us have a part, a place so that ultimately God receives the honor and glory in whatever we do! Whether it is VBS, Vine Street Showcase, a Mexico trip or being an active participant in a worship service, we all should be asking, "Lord what do you want me to do?"
Combating selfishness is a battle we all must wage. But without a doubt the most joyous people I know are givers. They have learned the biblical principle that "it is more blessed to give than receive." Following Jesus step by step and having a relationship with Him will lead us in the direction of service and giving of ourselves.
Welcome aboard. I hope you sense that "all hands on deck" is not just a slogan or a marketing term. It is the way God longs for His church to function. We are joining hands and working together to see His glory shine throughout the neighborhood and around the world.
See you Sunday,
Touching the Ball 05/01/13
When do I enjoy watching basketball the most? When the team plays like a team and all five players touch the ball and all five are involved. That is the goal and purpose of CLC - to get more people touching the ball.
This is a work in progress, though somewhat slow. Of course change is difficult at times, but more involvement, more teamwork, more glorious work for the Kingdom because glorifying the King is what we are about. I take this very seriously because His Word demands it. Just last Sunday a reminder came from His Word very strongly to me, "…because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." John 4:4. The 'you' is plural and means a group of people, in short the church. We do better together than apart, much better.
Another verse that lays this out very clearly is 1 Corinthians 14:26, "What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." (NASB)
Let me keep this short. We are on a journey to glorify Him and the greater involvement - the more we come together to worship and serve our community and one another the more it pleases the one who created us and died for us!
America is going after celebrity and super stars. God is looking for servants and what joy there is in serving such a glorious King! My prayer is "Lord, help us all have a part, using our gifts that you have given to bring praise and worship to you in a way that we could never do on our own. May we really be a team in bringing glory to you, our King."
Communication is huge these days. There are many methods for contacting folks that travel literally around the world within seconds. That is amazing when you think about it. Grandparents can stay in contact with grandchildren, college students can have a semblance of home, and legal transactions can take place almost instantly. I can't help but think "What's next?" Will we plateau for a while and what is in the pipeline for the next technology?
That being said, I also wonder if we are really communicating, really connecting. Are we on the same page or even on the same word with the same definition? Are we communicating or just passing each other without really understanding one another? Those answers concern me as a communicator. I was taught a simple principle in communicating. Find people where they are and then share the story. So where are people?
When I was in college I read a very influential book by Francis Schaeffer called "The God Who is There." It was written in 1968. Recently our Friday morning study group decided to read this 45 year old book.
Schaeffer was called a prophet since he wrote about what was culturally relevant and what he saw as major shifts coming to America. What an eye opener it was back in 1968! He was the American equivalent of C. S. Lewis.
He opens the book with this sentence, "The present chasm between the generations has been brought about almost entirely by a change in the concept of truth." How we approach truth and know truth is vital to our own understanding and also to the way we speak to one another.
For instance: To tell someone to be 'good' means one thing to me and quite another thing to a teenager. Quite frankly many of our presuppositions are quite different, especially across the generations.
To my understanding this makes His Word so important for us. It gives us a starting point and a sure foundation. And since Jesus said, "Thy Word is truth" (John 17:17) it also will help everyone to get on the same page when communicating with each other.
When the Hubble telescope first came into use, one astronomer said it was like removing 'pond scum' from our vision so that we could see the solar system. The Hubble was able to bypass a blurry view to achieve a high definition picture and what a difference that made! We too need a telescope of sorts to be able to see the truth without our personal presuppositions getting in the way and to more clearly see the truth that sets us free. The Scriptures are the source of that truth as well as the means to see the truth clearly. Schaeffer eventually gravitated to calling this True Truth!
For true liberation, true freedom, we need His Word. And it will set us free.
I love to eat - always have and always will. It sounds like heaven will include feasting! Hooray! But I am trying to eat healthier these days. All of us have definite eating habits that could be improved on but let me be personal. I grew up when dessert was part of the evening meal. That is just one problem I have concerning eating. Cookies, pie, chips and salsa plus just simply overeating have all plagued me over the years, but I am doing my best to get a handle on these.
But if you really want to learn more about eating habits and health patterns almost anyone else will be more helpful than me. What I am really interested in is another kind of diet. I do prepare menus of a sort and have many deadlines to meet. I feel if I am not eating regularly and don't have a constant intake of His Word I am sunk! Not just in preaching but in life! Or to put it another way, I can get very weak without the Word intake.
So do I straddle myself with dos and don'ts of devotional material and a list to go through every day? I do need the intake of precious food but what is the best method? What should I do when I feel weak? What's the spiritual refrigerator look like?
I have tried many methods over the years perhaps similar to diets. While reading and studying theology I came across a term that I have really enjoyed and it is 'means of grace.' This has helped me to understand that God has many ways of providing grace in my life. Wayne Grudem mentions these in his systematic theology book and here is his list: teaching of the Word, baptism, the Lord's Supper, prayer for one another, worship, church discipline, giving, spiritual gifts, fellowship, evangelism, personal ministry to individuals.
I would add a few. Fasting has been particularly helpful for me this year. Trials, grief, and disruptive grace are others I would add. What a mix these are. Some come rather easily while others are a sacrifice and a stretch, a real stretch. Some are chosen while others I didn't sign up for, but later found how helpful they had been. Monitor your own as you would a physical diet and watch how God works to feed and nourish you. Often He selects what you would least expect. He is a master at leading, guiding and shaping us.
Paul would instruct us all: "Be filled with the Spirit" in Ephesians 5. 'Be filled' is a verb. A present, passive, imperative, second person, plural! This is a command. It is for all of us to do now, since it is the present tense. He tells us to do this, but note the passive voice. It means we present ourselves to God, yet it is God that fills. This could not have been written more simply and yet more precisely.
So, present yourself to God. He has ways of ministering through His grace to build you up and to make you into the image of His Son. How refreshing to sense Him at work in us, since He continues to be amazingly creative. The very God who spoke the world into existence is working by His grace in us! How refreshing to know He has a definite purpose and destination for us and that He will complete what He started.
A Simple Meal! 04/10/13
I went to a dinner party a few weeks ago. The host family supplied the meat and the rest was provided by the guests. As I drove off I mentioned to Kathleen what an enjoyable evening it was. Why? Not only was my body well-nourished but I sensed that this gathering had met other needs as well. We had prayed together, the conversations lifted up Christ and it was great to touch base with people I love and respect. Plus the host family personified hospitality. I have thought a lot about that night. My conclusion? It was just plain fun, but it also had elements in it that were very satisfying and nourishing beyond the great food.
It made me wonder how I view worship. And it made me think through the aspects of a worship service. We start with an invocation - a simple prayer to ask an omniscient God to be with us. I believe that's very important. This get-together is really about Him. Then we spend time singing to Him - basically telling Him He is great. Scripture calls this many things but it really is about adoring the love of my life. It is nourishing to me, and not just filling time to get to the sermon!
Then we take time to pray. I tell Him I need Him. I confess my sins and short-comings. I meditate on my God. I fill my heart with meditations of the week or a line of a song just sung. What a blessed time! I have never gotten tired of this liturgy. A time is provided to respond - through the offering, or at the end of the service to give myself to a kind, loving and august God.
We spend time with His Word - to hear and respond to truth. How nourishing and soul satisfying that is to me. Chowing down on the bread of life! What a privilege. We conclude with a benediction. God's word on creation "it is good" was a benediction! Our endings are also important. We have experienced the Living God, now we can go and spread His love to Paso Robles. In essence, the purpose of worship is to send us out to a world that needs the love of Jesus. We are not Dead Seas that just take in and never give out. My evaluation of the worship service is not nearly as important as His. I trust that He is saying, "This is good, keep it up!" But God is watching and evaluating. Check out chapter 2 and 3 of Revelation where He has evaluations for all the seven churches of Asia.
Could this be like the dinner party? I have so many needs on different levels being met all at the same time! I titled this email A Simple Meal, but when it comes to worship it really is like a feast! The prayer I have always wanted to pray at a Thanksgiving Dinner goes something like this: "Lord, after all this planning and preparation and all the wonderful hard work, grant me the appetite to match this feast." My conclusion: Worship is a soul-satisfying feast.
When Israel was wandering in the wilderness she griped and complained about the provision from the Lord. Food that literally fell from the sky and almost into their laps was not appreciated! My prayer is "Lord, thanks for providing and giving so much to me. You are simply awesome in your person and in your provisions. Help me respond with an appetite to match the bountiful feast of your grace."
Beloved Church Family 04/05/13
Frequently someone will ask what you preaching on Sunday? The answer this week is marriage. Who would have thought that this subject would be in the news and so hotly contested? God gave this institution along with two others, the church and the state. All of them are vital but marriage was given even before the Fall of man! There is something deep and unique and what Paul would call a mystery about it!
The bible begins with a wedding and ends with the wedding of Christ and his church. Needless to say this subject is vital. It did not evolve as a necessary method so we could get along; it was God who brought Adam and Eve together. In short marriage is God's idea. Therefore what He says about marriage is critical in concept and design. Following Him would of course be the wisest course of action.
I have personally struggled with marriage because it has exposed ALL the nooks and crannies of my heart. You would think after 40 plus years of marriage I would have learned more and been further down the path of growth and grace. This past week I blew it again and I am not sure how many times this has happened over the course of our marriage. I often quickly forget but Kathleen remembers because she is the one in the line of fire. Let me explain.
I tend to put expectations on people and then apply pressure especially on Kathleen. It eventually erupts and we have words. What I have essentially done is force her to confront me with my personal expectations for her. She is so much better at confrontation then me. I would like to say that I am getting better at repenting and asking forgiveness but that has not been the case the last few times. I said marriage exposes!
A good friend told me this week that expectation can be a gateway to resentment. Ouch!
The problem with this type of manipulation is that it never really changes the heart. Doing my lists or my desires is a form of law. Trying to even to do God's Law does not change a heart it only creates bondage. You would think that I would know that by now.
Paul has some brilliant words in Ephesians that we will cover this Sunday. I need to preach them and hear them but more than that I need to live them. I told Kathleen that I was preaching on marriage this week, and we laughed, God has a sense of humor!
Study ahead (Ephesians 5:21-33) these are great words for singles, and for us that are married! We will study and learn together what marriage is. What marriage does, and what marriage needs!
Perhaps the Holy Spirit will help you explore some of the nooks and crannies of your heart and you can be assured He will apply mercy and grace and not the law!
Senior Pastor, Christian Life Center
What do I Really Want? 03/28/13
What do I really want? What are my 'real' dreams and aspirations? Or what do I really need for solace and really satisfaction? I no doubt have spent considerable time chasing after things that really don't last, things that would compromise the American dream. Not that the pursuits were all wrong after all many things are needful and necessary. But what really satisfies my soul and what has stayed with me to really nourish my heart?
I have journeyed through life and have noticed that on occasion you come to different vantages points or perches. It is here where you see things with new glasses. They are like coming to vista points where you stop and gain a new perspective and look over the terrain. You view things differently, much differently. What was important before is now in the yard sale. What happened? The sports gear that was close at hand is now in the back of the closet. The books you had lined up to read are now an afterthought or just plain forgotten.
Some dreams I once thought about and chased seem a little silly now. Do things and stuff really fulfill me? Sure they do for a while at least until I get to the next 'rest stop' and catch my breath and gain new perspective. I do admire people that 'go for it' and have varied and interesting hobbies. But all of us must find out what really speaks and ministers to us at a level that is "soul-satisfying."
I could make a list of many enjoyable things, experiences that I have enjoyed and I am fairly sure you can as well. But let me narrow this down to one thing.
What carries a person through the highs and lows of life? What is the constant, the gyroscope of life? When in despair and dreams are unfilled where does a person go for aid? Or on the other hand when goals are met and there are plenty of resources and friends abound, what really anchors a person?
The answer is found in the great story this week! Passion or Holy Week is my favorite week of the year. It speaks to us loud and clear that God loved us so much that He gave us His best. He gave us what we needed. More than stuff He gave us the antidote to our real problem. We lost everything in Eden and gained everything at Golgotha. But God not only fixed our problem of sin and alienation He has also given us himself. Through His resurrection He is alive evermore, and believers are privileged to have Him take up residence in them! Having Jesus alive and dwelling by His Spirit is us is what really meets the need of the human heart! It after all is why we were created! Sweet fulfillment. What a reason to rejoice.
Celebrate with us this Sunday, Resurrection Sunday! 10:30 for worship and 9:30 for breakfast.
Enjoy the very special week!
Senior Pastor, Christian Life Center
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14 (NASU)
Beloved Church Family 03/21/13
I frequently talk too much. Yes I have always been a verbal person except in high school when teachers called for speeches. When I visit a restaurant that is excellent, I often sound their praises. When there are good things to share I can usually be counted on to give my perspective. I have gone back to the gym and you probably heard me say a few things about exercise though I am really just a novice. This has gotten me thinking about what is filling or even flooding my heart that spills out in speech.
What are my favorite, normal things that I talk about so easily? What subjects flow out of me naturally? When C. S. Lewis says that things we have experienced are not fully enjoyed until we share them is yet another reminder to what is filling my heart.
When the disciples were asked not to share about Jesus after they have been tossed in jail, they simply said they couldn't do it. Something or better someone had so impacted them that they had to share the goodness of God. They were so motivated that even threats couldn't dissuade them. The authorities had concluded that "they had been with Jesus."
Perhaps the healthiest thing for them to have done was to proclaim what God had done. Wouldn't it be unhealthy to be so moved, so motivated and then not say anything?
We are closing in on the day that we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Absolutely nothing could be more important to celebrate. I don't want this next week to be just ordinary! I don't want to sail through these days like nothing happened. The Resurrection of Jesus is the event that changed everything, historically and yes even individually! It is the Resurrection that has given us all hope.
I am praying and looking for ways to share His story and not doing because I have to, but because it is flooding my soul. And since it is filling my heart the natural and healthy thing to do is declare Him whenever possible! That would be the way to fully enjoy Him!
Paul would say, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation…"
Have a blessed Passion Week.