Friday, September 09, 2005


Recently I viewed a disturbing video of the damage caused by hurricane Katrina. Follow this link to view it. Be ready to be moved!

Wednesday night we talked about band-aid compassion. Sometimes we do things to help others that appears we are helping the situation. For example you don't walk up to a guy ready to jump off a building and just hand him a phone number to suicide prevention and tell him they can help him. You have to get under the jumper's skin and help fix the problem. You have to find out why he is there and what is troubling him. You have to talk him down.

When Jesus healed people He got to the root of the problem. Imagine you were living at the time of Jesus. Also imagine that Jesus just happened to leave to get a Slurpee at 7-11 (middle school illustration). A blind guy comes up to you and asks to be healed. What do you do?

Some of the responses from my students ranged from "I would go get Jesus" to "I would tell the guy that Jesus will be right back." But when I asked what could "YOU" do for this guy, they understood the challenge. They knew they couldn't heal him but they could do something.

"I could learn his name," "I could ask if he needed food or water," "I could pray with him," and "I could talk to him," these were the responses I got from my students. Bringing it home, I helped them understand that they might not have the opportunity to go to the Gulf States to help but there are things they could do to help. Send money, food, pray, encourage, etc. In a real sense I could get to know their names. I could get them food and water. I can pray with them. I can talk to them.

Doug Fields has an opportunity just like that to help local churches in that area too. You help financially a church or youth group and you are given a contact there to communicate with. An opportunity to ask them, "What can I do for you?" An opportunity to not only help but to know them, by name! This is what our youth group will doing. To learn more follow this link.

Finally I wanted the students to see that it sometimes goes beyond just giving food to help the homeless shelter. It goes beyond just giving clothes to the Salvation Army. And maybe it goes beyond prayer. God asks us to get involved, one on one.

Matthew 25:35-36

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,

I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.Â’

Thanks to Group Publishing for this lesson on Band-Aid Compassion
"Understanding God Together: 13 Bible Studies for Youth Ministry"
God is Compassionate

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


This morning I went outside to get the morning paper to see quite a commotion going on outside. In front of my home was an unfamiliar car. There seemed to be many people passing by my home. But then I noticed that there were many children in these groups of people. All of these children sharply dressed.

It is kind of funny, I feel bad that I forgot what day it was. Many parents consider today a holiday, even though it is not on the calendar. For many years I too would dress my daughters in their best clothes for this special day. But this year is different. This year none of my children were going to be experiencing this type of first day of school. All of my children have graduated from high school. Currently one of my daughters is attending college to earn her nursing degree.

This year I didn't have to rush over to Mervyn's to buy pretty dresses and matching socks. This year I didn't have to rush off to Staples to buy backpacks, notebooks and pencils. This year I didn't need to rush to Vons to buy lunch stuff.

In a way I don't miss it. I am excited to see what happens next. Many things have been happening in my life and my family's life this year. Some of these things are exciting and some of these things suck. I have made some life long friendships and I have broken relationships. I have gotten to marry couples and I have watched couples break apart. I have laughed this summer and I have cried more than I ever have this summer.

But I look forward to where God is leading me. There seems to always be a new adventure.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What I Learned at Camp

I love camp. I am fortunate enough to get to go to camp a couple times each summer. I am a youth pastor.

Each year prior to camp we look for ways to bring the kids closer to Jesus. We attempt to get the best bands we can for our times of worship. We try to find the best speakers to challenge the students to check their relationship with Jesus. Sometimes we do a great job, sometimes we miss.

At camp we also have plenty of games to entertain the kids. You figure we have to fill 6 days. Kids would be bored out of their minds if we just let them try to entertain themselves all day and night. We play night games like Bible Smugglers and Counselor Hide-n-Seek. We even have a talent show! During the day we have field games and a mud pit. All great ways to keep everyone busy and entertained.

This year we tried to kick up the spiritual aspect of camp, at junior camp. Junior camp is a camp for 4th through 6th graders. Usually we have speakers that do their own music and have their own props. It is an elaborate production. We wondered if junior campers could handle a deeper message.

This year I was the speaker at junior camp. This year we had a worship band similar to the ones we have used at junior high and high school camps. It was an incredible success. The kids met the challenge and ate it up. It was so great to watch little guys worshipping on their own. They did not need to be taught, they knew how to worship.

Lesson learned. Never underestimate the ability of a person, regardless of their age, to worship God.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

Matthew 11:25

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Mormon Temple Visit

Today I was given a unique opportunity to go on a tour of the newest Mormon Temple in Newport Beach. The temple will be closed to the general public after August 20. Tours are still available if you too want to see the temple.

There was so much to see and write about; hopefully I can do a good job describing what I saw. As you can see in the picture, the temple is a large building. The tour guide said that the building was constructed of the best building materials available. It must have been incredibly expensive to build. I am finding it incredibly hard just to build a wing of classrooms at my church.

One of the first things we saw at the temple was the baptismal font. The font is a beautiful thing. Steps lead into the font, the water was clear, the font was full and ready for a baptism. Below the font were 12 full size oxen. The oxen were in groups of three facing in four different directions (north, south, east and west). We were told the twelve oxen represent the twelve tribes of Israel. It turns out that baptism is very important to the Mormon faith. Baptism, in the font, can be done for those that have died, ensuring their place in heaven (as long as the dead recipient is willing).

We were also told about the custom of changing clothes before entering the temple. All people, men and women, must change from their worldly clothes and put on white clothes. Their pants and shirt are white. Their shoes and even their tie are white. All of this whiteness signifies purity. When I read in the Old Testament I see times where Moses would tell his people to go and consecrate themselves before the Lord.

We were allowed to visit many of the rooms inside the temple. We went into the Ordinance Rooms where much of the teachings of the Mormon faith are done. Another room that we entered was the Sealing Room. In the Sealing Room a bride and groom are married (sealed) together for eternity. Finally we entered into the Celestial Room. This was room was all white with gold trim. There were no outside interferences, the windows were frosted. The ceiling was very high. The tour guide said that there would be no talking in this room, but offered us the opportunity to pray and listen to God in this room.

Each of these rooms was higher in elevation than the previous. We climbed toward God as we reached the Celestial Room. We were told that God lived in these temples, just as He lived in the tabernacle that Moses was instructed to build. It is here in these temples that we can commune with God.

There were so many things that disturbed me while on this tour, but I just wanted to focus on the building. But it is incredible that after August 20 no one outside the Mormon faith will be allowed to enter this building. As a matter of fact you must also be in good standing with the church to enter the temple. After visiting the temple we ended up at Mariner’s Church. While there I visited the student ministry building. Here I was able to walk the grounds and enter buildings without worrying about my standing in the church. The church was open to all who wanted to enjoy. May we all consider the openness of our churches and may our doors be open to all.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


This past week I was able to spend sometime away from the office and enjoy a family vacation. Our week consisted of a week on a cruise ship in Alaska. The vacation was a gift from my in-laws celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. In total there were 16 of us on this trip. To say the least it was an adventure!

I could spend pages writing about life on a ship. I could spend even more pages writing about the sites we saw in Alaska. I could probably write a book about spending the week with the in-laws and all our quirkiness. Instead I wanted to write about something unique and quite extraordinary that I experienced in Alaska.

While you are on the ship you are given the opportunity to explore Alaska through a collection of different excursions. Unfortunately many of these excursions are not cheap. Some are crazy expense! At the port of Skagway my youngest daughter and I went on an excursion in the Yukon (Canada). This excursion consisted of a trip on a bus seeing the country and crossing the border from Alaska into Canada. The bus ride took over an hour. When we finally reached our destination we went horseback riding and later we went canoeing. The scenery was fantastic!

But the horseback riding and canoeing were not the unique experience I wanted to share. While on the bus ride to Canada our bus driver told us all about the history of the area. We learned about the miners that tried to strike it rich in the area. We heard about the successes and the failures. The bus driver talked about glaziers and shared tons of facts he knew about them. But even this was not the unique experience I wanted to share.

Our bus driver, English Doug was a very friendly fellow. What was unique was his willingness to share his life with us. He told us what brought him from the UK to Alaska; he is a lover of history and of the forestry service. On the trip back to the ship he took us by his home to show us where he lived. It turns out English Doug lives across from the school, years K through 12, all on one campus. Although we did not have time he did invite us back for tea, if we were ever in Alaska again. I really think he meant it too! Not only did Doug share his life through story, he had picture albums on the bus to show us. One album consisted of pictures of his wedding four years ago.

I thought this entire event real weird, except that on Sunday we had another unique experience that was similar to our contact with English Doug. On Sunday we arrived at Steward and then took a train to Anchorage to catch our flight home. The train was a very, very slow four hour ride. Anytime we spotted a wild animal the train came to a stop so that everyone on board could see the moose, or the goat, or a bald eagle. But even this was not the unique experience.

On the train our travel guide (I did not learn her name) was a young lady that grew up locally in Alaska, she was only 17 and had just graduated from high school. What was unique was her willingness to share her life with us. It turns out that being a travel guide is a job that many graduating seniors seek after, and our travel guide told us what the requirements were for getting the job. She needed to maintain a 2.50 grade point average. She also had to be recommended by her counselors and teachers. She also had to complete six months of travel guide school. She was very proud of her accomplishments. And like English Doug, she too brought her memories on the train to share. She had two albums, one was her senior project titled, “Flora and Fauna of Alaska.” The other was a collection of pictures of her life.

At first I thought this was also weird and laughed it off. But as I think more abut it I am appreciating the fact that English Doug and the young lady on the train are allowing me to be part of their life. Neither looked at our appearances. Neither was concerned about our income. Neither asked about our faith or religious beliefs. I really feel that both invited me into their lives with open arms.

So my lesson is that I would be as open to others as English Doug and this young lady. I hope to make up a photo album of my life. I look forward to sharing my life with strangers. I pray that I would not look at their appearances, or their financial status, or at their faith or religious beliefs. I want to be able to invite others into my life with open arms.

Monday, April 11, 2005

So Now What?

Recently I had a time with my students where I posed the question, “So now what?” Easter has passed, as far as the calendar is concerned. It was a day that was well attended at my church in all three services. Wednesday before Easter we gave families the opportunity to watch The Passion on the “Big Screen.” Some of my students opted out. Instead we offered them a chance to walk through various prayer stations depicting the torture that Jesus suffered on the cross. The week before this we had a time of communion during our mid-week gathering. Two weeks solid of discovering all that Christ went through for us.

So now what?

And then I did some reading on my own. In the Bible we read of two followers of Jesus traveling down a road that led to Emmaus. Now I do not know where Emmaus is located. The road they were traveling must have been a dirty dusty road. I just returned from Sonora, Mexico and I imagined that the dirt roads we traveled through in this farming community were probably much like this road to Emmaus.

But from the story I see that these two travelers are upset. Their lives have been turned upside down. The conversation between these two travelers revolved around the series of events that led to the death of Jesus on the cross, when they are suddenly joined by another traveler.

The two travelers do not recognize the man joining them but they welcome him into the conversation. They inform the stranger of all that had happened to their teacher. They had expected Jesus to be their leader. They had expected Jesus to start a revolution. But they had seen Jesus dead.

So now what?

It appears to me that these travelers were filled with doubt. They doubted the women that had seen first the empty tomb and later were visited by Jesus himself. The only thing they knew for sure was that Jesus had died and now his body was missing.

And now this stranger proceeds to educate these two travelers about all the things that Jesus had done. Jesus had fulfilled all the prophecies. I can imagine this stranger starting in Genesis and working through all the prophets, major and minor, and showing the prophecies concerning Jesus and how Jesus fulfilled them.

So now what?

Finally the two travelers reach their destination. I do not know if they went as far as Emmaus or if they stopped before Emmaus. Hospitality is a lost gift. These two show remarkable hospitality to the stranger and ask him to stay the night and eat with them. Sometime before or during the meal this stranger took the bread and gave thanks to God for it. Immediately they recognized the stranger, it was Jesus! As suddenly as he appeared on the road he was now gone

So now what?

What does it take for us to remember Jesus?

Friday, February 04, 2005

Seeking Truth

The other night I gace a lesson to the middle school group about truth and the ways we make choices, either good choices or bad choices. Now I am far from perfect and make bad choices even today. Wow, what a confession by a youth pastor. But if I didn't confess it, then I would be lying.

How do we justify what someone does even when we know it may be morally wrong? Where does the Bible play into all this? Why am I tolerant to this?

We read from Genesis 3 concerning Adam and Eve's fall.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, `You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

The man said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

What truth did Adam and Eve learn from God?

What truth did Adam and Eve learn from the serpent?

Did Adam and Eve just show tolerance to the serpent and his interptation of this truth.

It was concluded that Adam and Eve lost their innocence by eating from the tree. If you think about it, what is the opposite of innocence? Guilt. We are guilty of sin by not honoring the truth that God has given to us.

Thankfully we have an advocate, a lawyer perhaps, to help clear us of our sin. Jesus Christ came to free us from the guilt of our sin and to make us innocent again.

So again, where do you find truth?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?

I have a middle school student living in Cambodia with her parents as missionaries. The tsunami has the people in Cambodia fairly shook up. She is shook up herself, so is her family. The other day I received an email from her asking for my help with a question that some people that she has contact with have been asking her and her missionary parents:

"If God is so great, why does he allow so much devastation? Just this week some friends of ours told us they meet a man who started to give them a lecture all about how if God was so good how come he allowed thousands of children to die in a tsunami? My mom and dad say that everything leads back to sin, but my mom was having second thoughts.

We are having a hard time seeing how sin had anything to do with a tsunami. I mean, it wasn’t really anyone’s fault that the earth moved. My question is this: If someone asked you asked you the “how could God do this” question, what is the correct response? What could you say to make the other person understand? What would you say? My parents said this was a very good question."

"Why do bad things happen to good people?"

I gave some great scriptures that she could use to support why these things happen and what will happen in the future. But you know it didn't seem to answer her question completely. What do I say to someone that does not know Jesus? Are my Bible verses enough?

Well tomorrow I get the opportunity to ask this question to a bunch of high school students on their campus during their Christian Club. I will post their answers and the questions that arise from the discussion. I pray that it will lively and thought provoking. My hope is that the "right" Christian answers would not be given. Rather they will look deeper for their answers.