Sunday, December 30, 2007

Journal Entry #6

New Year’s Eve was always a night that my brothers and I would stay up late with our neighborhood friends and watch the dropping of the ball in Times Square as our parents were off partying. It was always a lot of fun to run up and down the street at midnight banging pots and pans in celebration. Most nights now though I am in bed early and I have seen my share of New Years come and go.

In Jewish culture Rosh Hashanah represents the Jewish New Year. It starts with the sounding of the shofar, the ram's horn, which represents the trumpet blast of a people's coronation of their king. With every new king there was a hope that he would be the promised messiah. The cry of the shofar is also a call to repentance; for Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of man's (Adam’s) first sin and his repentance. One of the customs of the Rosh Hashanah is to offer apples or bread dipped in honey as a symbol or wish for a sweet new year.

continue reading

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Journal Entry #5

My nephews from Utah are in Southern California spending time with their dad over Christmas. I have not seen the boys in quite a few years and they have grown up a lot since the last time I saw them. Tonight my mom and dad had the boys over to spend the night with them and I stopped by to hang out with them too. It was a great time reconnecting with family.

One of the Christmas gifts that my nephew Andy got was a Timex watch. My first watch was a Timex; I still have it somewhere in the house. My Timex required me to wind it daily to keep the proper time. I remember many times looking at my watch and realizing that it was no longer keeping time because it was in need of being wound. That watch never needed a battery though and it survived some real abuse. In the words of John Cameron Swayze, “It takes a licking but keeps on ticking.”

Journal Entry #4

Last night we lit some candles that we have in our fireplace to create a mood for the evening. Thankfully living in Southern California we do not have a need to use our fireplace very often, it rarely gets cold enough to light a fire for warmth. Thinking about candles and the light that come from them, it is also great that we do not have a dependency on them for our only source of light. But not that many years ago an open flame was the only source of light for the world.

We now have candles on our dinner table to create a nice relaxing mood for a meal. We have the candles in the fireplace that help settle us and add an atmosphere of warmth without actually adding heat. In our bathrooms we have fragrant candles for obvious reasons. And in our bedroom we have had candles to help build a romantic feel.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Journal Entry #3

Matthew 2:7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. [8] He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

[9] After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. [10] When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. [11] On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. [12] And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Yesterday was filled with gift giving and receiving. But as I was thinking about the gifts received and given, for what benefit did we go through this exercise? I remember desiring something so much and spending weeks asking my parents and Santa for this special gift. But once I received the gift it broke that very Christmas morning or it was less than I had expected. This happened on numerous occasions.

I have given gifts to friends and loved ones and seen their faces turn to disgust when the gift was opened, “What is this?”

Journal Entry #2

I love the birth story of Jesus. It is miraculous just as it is written. But sometimes we have added to the story and taken away from the mystery of the invasion of God to the world. The stories we have been told tell of Joseph franticly looking for the right place, an inn, for his wife to give birth to the Savior of the world.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Daily Journal

Starting today, and for the next two weeks, I will be posting a daily reading at Barclay Press. If you have time stop and give it a read.

First posting:

I woke up this morning and realized that tomorrow is Christmas. This is one of those years that Christmas morning will have a different feel. Hiding presents from treasure seeking children this year was not a challenge. No longer will we have our daughters up early to see what Santa brought them. No longer will my girls be running into our bedroom to jump on the bed demand that we all get up. This is our first year as empty nesters.

Continue reading

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Advent Week 4: Joy

This Sunday we light the pink candle. This candle represents joy. Imagine the joy of becoming a mother. Sometimes pregnancy comes at the wrong time. The parents are ill equipped to face the responsibility. Some times it is a mistake that has brought this baby into existence. And on one particular time a mysterious pregnancy did happen that is not easily explained. It was not planned and it was not an accident.

Luke 1:26

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, [27] to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. [28] The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

[29] Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. [30] But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. [31] You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. [32] He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, [33] and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

[34] "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

[35] The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. [36] Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. [37] For nothing is impossible with God."

Eastern Orthodox tradition calls Mary, Theotokos, which simply means that Mary was a Godbearer. She literally brought God into the world through the birth of Jesus.

In this section of Luke, we read that the angel Gabriel, a messenger from God, has been sent to Mary. Mary is a teenager of maybe 14 or 15, and a virgin. Mary has integrity, she is uncompromised by the world. She hasn’t fallen into the worldly trappings and temptations.

Think about this: God has just asked a teenager to bring salvation into the world

One theologian said this:

Mary struck the angel Gabriel as hardly old enough to have a child at all, let alone this child, but he had been entrusted with a message to give her, and he gave it.

He told her what the child was to be named, and who he was to be, and something about the mystery that was to come upon her. “You mustn’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel said.

As Gabriel said it, he only hoped she wouldn’t notice that beneath the great, golden wings he himself was trembling with fear to think that the whole future of creation hung now on the answer of a girl.

Did you also notice that God did not force the situation? Mary had the opportunity to say no. Maybe Gabriel stopped at the homes of other girls before stopping at Mary’s. What sets Mary apart? She said Yes!

Verse [38] "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

All of us have the ability to be carriers of God. Although the coming of Jesus in a virgin’s womb is an unrepeatable mystery of God, God invites all of us to be Godbearers. Sometime in our life we need to make a decision to allow Jesus into our hearts. It is here that we can smuggle Jesus into the world through our own lives.

Mary led a great example of how to be a mother. Never do we read about her complaining. She accepted her lot on life. She allowed God to use her and she gave birth to the Savior of the world!

May you experience this Christmas the mystery and the joy of the birth of this precious baby boy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Consider this:

Currently we are all in the busyness of shopping and buying presents for Christmas. It is all about getting just the right gift for that special person in your life. Many of us have many special someones. What drives us? Why are we giving and getting? And what happens when it is all over? For some, we get so much that we forget. I have never not received presents at Christmas, so I do not know what that feels like. But I am sure that not getting makes us forget as well.

Consider the following:

Proverbs 30:7-9

"Two things I ask of you, LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the LORD?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

Remember why we celebrate

Friday, December 14, 2007

Advent Week 3: Love

in a young girl's song;

in a mother's song;

is god's song;
curious yet timid,
playful and wondering,
coming among us again.
we light a candle for love.

1 Corinthains 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. [5] It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. [6] Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [7] It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

[8] Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. [9] For we know in part and we prophesy in part, [10] but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. [11] When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. [12] Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

[13] And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I have done countless weddings using this passage to describe to the bride and groom what love is. Some of the weddings I have done have been for non-Christians. This is open for debate and maybe one day I would to express my feelings on why pastors should welcome the opportunity to perform these services. Even at these weddings I have read from this passage. It is a very pretty passage and it fits nicely into any wedding.

But I wanted to focus on the last 7 words, “But the greatest of these is love.”

We live for a time of peace, comfort, joy, and hope. Do you realize that we cannot experience any of these things without love? If we are not loved can we know peace, comfort, joy, and hope? If we are not sharing love can we know peace, comfort, joy, and hope?

I was talked with a friend the other day about life, school, music, creation, and God. We pondered on the question, “Why did God create us?” One answer I have always heard was so that we can worship and honor Him. This is good, but is there more?

I feel that God created us to experience love, to be loved and to share love. We share that love with one another and we share that love with God (Matt 22:37). We are complete in love (1 John 4:12). Rather we are incomplete without love. When we are loving God, worshiping and honoring Him comes natural.

So what has caused this great separation from us and God? Maybe we have forgotten how to love Him (Rev 2:4). Consider the ultimate sacrifice that God made for us because He loves us. God’s love has never been far away and the chasm is not that deep, it just seems that way. He loves you! May you experience the gift of love this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jesus and Hanukkah

John 10:22-23 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade.

The Feast of Dedication that John mentions in his gospel is Hanukkah. This has always intrigued me. Did Jesus celebrate Hanukkah? Why is Hanukkah mentioned here?

Hanukkah’s history dates 160 years before Jesus’ birth. It was a time when the Jewish nation was being oppressed by a dominate Syrian or Greek rule. The king of the Syrians was a man named Antiochus IV. His desire was to convert the Jews into a Hellenistic society. This was first accomplished by introducing the Jews to education, the arts, sports and commerce. For some this was not an issue, in fact they embraced it. For most though, they felt this was a threat against their heritage. In response, Antiochus imposed a stricter rule: celebrating Sabbath and other festivals were outlawed. People could not perform circumcision on their male children, mothers were even killed for circumcising their baby boys. It was illegal to own a copy of the Torah, and many copies ended up being burned.

Antiochus also erected a statue of Zeus in the temple, surprisingly the image bore a striking resemblance to Antiochus. It was ordered that sacrifices would be done in the name of Zeus. Antiochus called himself Theus Epiphanies or god manifest, he considered himself god. Finally Antiochus had pigs sacrificed on the altar to the Lord.

Ultimately a revolt happened against Antiochus. A priest named Matthias had had enough, with his five sons, he started a rebellion against Antiochus. Matthias’ son, Judas Maccabee (the hammer) was able to drive Antiochus and his rule out of the temple and Jerusalem.

Following their victory, Maccabee and his allies visited the Holy Temple, only to find it severely damaged. Eventually, they cleaned and restored the temple, and, upon completion, decided that it should be re-dedicated and celebrated. Hanukkah means dedication. As part of the celebration, they relit the Menorah (candelabra) that was damaged and repaired after the fighting. Unable to find a supply of purified oil, their only source came in a small flask. It was determined that there was enough oil to keep the candle lit for just one day. It is recorded in the Talmud that miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, which gave them plenty of time to acquire purified oil to refill and keep the Menorah lit continuously.

The altar the pigs were sacrificed on had to be destroyed and a new altar erected in its place. But since the stones were holy they could not just be discarded. Outside the temple area, and under the Portico of Solomon the stones were piled up. It was hoped that when God sent a prophet he would tell the people what to do with the stones (1 Maccabees 4:47).

Once the Temple was 'rededicated, they proceeded to observe the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles, three months late, because they were unable to do so under the rule of Antiochus. Judas Maccabee set aside these eight days as the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) as a remembrance of the successful revolt over Antiochus .

Hanukkah is a national holiday, like our revolutionary war victory celebration on the Fourth of July, or like Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Presidents’ Day, Thanksgiving, Flag Day, Columbus Day, Labor Day. It would have been a day filled with parades, maybe even a hot air balloon of Under Dog. Like the Feast of the Tabernacles, the people would be waving palm branches and shouting praises to God (Hallel, Psalms 113-118) as they circled the sanctuary. This is the setting of John 10:22.

John 10:22-24 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

We do not know if it was evening or midday when Jesus was confronted by the Jews. We do not know exactly who “the Jews” were. They could have been average citizens or any of the religious leaders. But it is evident that they have heard the rumors that Jesus is being called the Messiah. How does Jesus respond?

John 10:25-29 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.”

Jesus is telling the Jews that His miracles should be evidence enough. But for me I think the Jews were hoping for more. They are asking Jesus this question at the time of the Feast of Dedication. They are hoping that the long awaited Messiah will be like their hero Judas Maccabee. Instead Jesus speaks of sheep. Sheep are tame creatures that would not be able to revolt against the current Roman rule. But Jesus didn’t stop there!

John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”

I think nothing is more plain that this statement. But to the Jews hearing Jesus say this is blasphemy. And speaking in a such a manner deserves death.

John 10:31-33 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"

"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

This is the second time stones have been picked up to be thrown at Jesus (John 8:59) for blasphemy. But where did these stones come from? Remember the altar that was torn down because a pig was sacrificed on it? Could these be the very stones?

Is Jesus similar to Judas Maccabee? This was a time for a revolution, but it wasn’t against the Roman rulers. It was time for a change in the religious system of the time. Were the religious leaders looking for someone to start this revolution or one to keep their religion the way it always has been done? Here was an opportunity to get closer to God, but for some it was missed. Are we any different?

May the eternal light of Jesus shine through this holiday season. May you experience God through His gift to us: Jesus.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Advent: Week 2

Peace Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is offence, pardon,
Where there is discord, unity,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is error, truth,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is sadness, joy,
Where there is darkness, light.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

St. Francis of Assisi

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 11:6-9

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

The second candle represents peace. What images come to mind when you consider the meaning of peace? The definition of peace is an absence of war, conflict or strife. But how does the world define peace?

For many, peace is accomplished when we are smarter, more beautiful, rich, famous, strongest, the hero, have the biggest or the best. But aren’t these things enemies of peace? Striving for these things only brings worry, guilt, fear, jealousy, anger and chaos to our lives. We live as self survivalists. People are willing to hurt, injure or kill at any cost to get its way.

In Isaiah 11 we see that the peace that God offers us will change nature. We see all of creation living together in harmony. This peace goes beyond God just caring for mankind; He gives peace to His creation. We lose our dependency on ourselves and become dependant on God. Consider the Sabbath, where does our daily bread come from? God provides enough.

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. Though it is also generally translated as a single word like peace, rest, favor, safe, health, welfare and prosperity, it has, as the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states, "a basic meaning of totality or completeness including fulfillment, maturity, soundness, and wholeness."

Generally, peace in the Old Testament is the state that occurs when conflicts are resolved. In the New Testament peace is more an inner quality of those having been blessed through reconciliation with God, knowing His purpose and trusting in His authority over the affairs of mankind and their lives.

May you experience shalom, peace this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


One way that many have prepared for Christmas is through Advent. The four weeks leading up to Christmas is called Advent. Advent means coming or arrival. Jesus’ coming to earth was a history changing and life changing event for people of that day, 2000 years ago. It is still just as significant for our culture today, and we continue to today to be prepared for the day when Jesus comes again.

Advent is filled with symbolism too. The wreath is a circle that has no end and symbolizes the eternity and Jesus’ reign for all eternity as our Lord and Savior. It is also a reminder that God has always been, He is called the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev. 22:13). The wreath is green which represents life, and the new life we have in our relationship with Jesus.

Let’s look at the light that comes from the candle. Jesus is the light of the world (John 1:9). Jesus came into a world filled with sin and darkness. And as Christians, followers of Jesus we are to carry that light for others to see. We are not to hide our light. (Matthew 5:14) Each week as we light a candle we move that much closer to the coming of Jesus.

Notice there are four candles on the outside ring of the wreath. These represent the 4 centuries of waiting between Malachi and the birth of Jesus. They also represent four emotional responses that come from our relationship with Jesus: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

Three of the candles are purple and they are lit first, one week at a time. Purple represents repentance, purple also represents royalty. Jesus came from the line of King David. We are adopted into that royal family.

The fourth candle, the pink or rose colored one represents joy. It also represents Mary who carried Jesus in her womb. Mary was highly favored by God. Imagine the risk, imagine the ridicule that Mary faced by having to explain to her future husband that she was pregnant with the Son of God. Imagine the joy that a mother experiences waiting for the arrival of her baby.

The white candle, the one in the middle represents Jesus. It is white because it represents the purity of Jesus, who was sinless. This candle is lit on Christmas Eve to represent that Jesus has come. He is Emmanuel, God with us.

Week 1: Hope

Jeremiah 33:14-16
‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.

‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land.

In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.’

In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, God’s people had forgotten about Him and were facing their destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. But God had not forgotten them. Despite their disobedience and unbelief, God declared that He would still keep His part of the promise and send a Savior. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was the beginning of the fulfillment of this promise, and the death and resurrection of Jesus was the complete fulfillment of our salvation.

Read Luke 21:25-36

From the early days of the church, Christians believed that the same Jesus whom they had come to deeply know and love, would come again at the end of the world.

At first, like St Luke in today’s Gospel reading, they expected the end to happen in their generation. Slowly they had to adjust to the fact that God was not in such a hurry. Yet they never wavered from the belief that at the end, one day, Jesus would come again in the cloud (shekinah) of God’s glory. It was a theme repeated with sparkling eyes. Good news: The Gospel.

The Final Coming of Christ Jesus is first a message of hope and joy. It is always Gospel, good news, something to get excited about.

Let’s pray from the Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness,
and put on the armor of light,
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;
that in the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge both the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Two Amazing Videos!

This first video is the lost pilot episode for the TV show 24. It was made in 1994, Pay attention to all the old technology. It is really funny! How far we have gone.

This next video is of a favorite TV show of mine, American Gladiators! Guess what? It is coming back! I cannot wait!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What Makes a Great Church?

A very good friend (Robin Dugall) asked a very good question, “what makes a great church?” on his blog. I enjoyed commenting to his question that I have posted my response below. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Robin I have been thinking through this a bit as I was considering what church I would seek employment from. What does the local church offer that I would want to work for them? How would my gifts and talents be utilized? How can I grow in the local church? What do they offer? I hate this next question, how are they marketable? Maybe a better question is what do they do well and what is their niche?

I think that we run into some interesting questions when we try to figure out what evangelism and discipleship are to us and to others. Is evangelism filling a church building with people from all walks of life and accepting them as they are? Is evangelism building incarnational relationships with others in the community we live in? I think for some there is a sense of comfort that just filling a building is enough. We do not want to be accountable to where they might have come from, i.e. the church down the street. And how does the church respond to someone “different” coming in and are we going out to invite “them” in (Matthew 22:1-10). I think it is becomes like the old model of doing youth ministry: fill it with cool events and programs and they will come and reach the popular kids and they will bring their friends.

And where does discipleship fit into this? What really is discipleship? Is it just learning to be like Jesus? Or is there something deeper here? Where does discipline come in? Are we teaching a body how to be disciplined in their study of God and His Word? Are we teaching a body how to be disciplined in the way we live with all of creation, especially one another—believer or not? And if Jesus only had 12 disciples should we only have a church of 12? And wasn’t His small group 3 or 4 guys?

We can also look at church as a family. There becomes a sense of belonging and acceptance. There are times of discipline in a family and there can be times of discipline in a church (is that why Catholic Churches call their priests “Father”). Safety, trust and love are the accepted norm in a family and this should be reflective in the church (churches are called sanctuaries). In our culture, a family is protective of who it allows in. Has this happened in our churches? An entire topic can be written on what happened to hospitality.

Success is the drive that each individual measures themselves. It is not what the collective calls successful. Rather it is what a group of people, gathered together deciding how they will measure success. For some this will be just about being big. Others will measure success by how many prayed the prayer. Many will consider success the size of their youth programs. For some it will have nothing to do about being big but may be measured just by relationships.

So what then is success? Is it achieving a goal? “I succeeded in losing 30 pounds.” Is success then just an end result? Albert Einstein said, “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” Imagine a church of values instead of a church of successes.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Why Ministry?

Have you ever considered why someone would be in ministry? I mean what are the rewards? Ministry is filled with many hardships. There are times we must do things, hear things and see things that we would rather not. I have watched marriages and families crumble and fall apart. I have attempted to help steer young adults away from drugs or other destructive behaviors only to watch them fall away. I have seen people die and I have done many funerals.

Do we do ministry because the money is good? If you consider the hours that many pastors put in the money is next to nothing. To be honest with you, even if a pastor only worked 40 hours a week the pay is not that great, especially when you consider the education that many pastors have acquired.

So how do we handle difficulties of ministry? The times when we are misunderstood? Maybe even the times when we stumble?

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Paul speaks of reconciliation and of restored relationships. His desire is to be reunited in Christ with the people of Corinth. And there are times we ask to be reconciled, to be restored and forgiven. But through these difficult times we do not stumbling blocks (6:3) for others to get tripped up on. No as ambassadors for Christ (5:20) we suffer the hardships because we are loyal to our homeland. But as ambassadors we also try to negotiate a treaty with those separated from us. We speak in behalf of the One that sent us.

Ministry gives us the opportunity to serve and protect, not as a policeman, but in ways that allow us to be available to our church family. We protect as a father protects a child. We love as a parent loves their children. We hold nothing back, especially our love. May we never have to ask for our church family’s affects in return.

2 Corinthians 6:11-13 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange--I speak as to my children--open wide your hearts also.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Good Shepherd

Consider these three Bible passages as we look at our relationship with one another and with Jesus. Have a blessed Sunday!

Ezekiel 34:1-6 The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.

11-16 'For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As shepherds look after their scattered flocks when they are with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

Psalm 23 1-2 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters…

Matthew 18:12-14 "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Message of Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: [19] that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. [20] We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. [21] God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The other day I wrote that as a Christian my worldview has changed. I should not be looking at others in a judgmental way. Rather I should look at others as individuals created in the image of God. Since we know that God created us as a craftsman would create a work of art, all of creation is valuable, we have worth.

We live in a fallen world separated from God. Thankfully Jesus came to bridge that gap and He brought heaven to earth. Unfortunately many have not experienced this heaven on earth. Many are still looking for answers: “what is my purpose;” “is this all there is;” “why do bad things happen to good people.” There are people who are hurting physically, mentally and spiritually. No matter how hard they try to please God it doesn’t appear they have done enough.

To reconcile is to restore something or someone to its former condition. For a checkbook we reconcile it back to a balanced condition.

Jesus died on a cross as a sacrifice to restore our relationship with God; it has never been about what we did. God’s plan was for us to be in communion with Him from the beginning. We can not sacrifice enough of ourselves or our possessions to restore that relationship, no matter how hard we try.

As God’s ambassadors, or spokesmen, we have been given a ministry of reconciliation. Our job, as Christ followers, is to restore others’ relationship with God. The message of reconciliation is the Gospel of Jesus. To me, the message of the Gospel of Jesus is love. We need to allow that message to be heard by our actions. People will know we are Christ followers by the way we love one another. Without love, we cannot experience joy and peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers. I pray that we may show others the love of Christ and that they will be reconciled and restored and made right again. May we all enjoy our relationship with one another and with Christ who loves us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Proverb for today

I love the Proverbs! Today's reading:

Proverbs 27:15-16

A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping
of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;

restraining her is like restraining the wind
or grasping oil with the hand.

Rob Bell: The gods aren't angry

Last night was amazing. Rob Bell hit us with some amazing thoughts about our relationship with God. The night started with mankind discovering the forces around them and crediting it to a god or gods. They felt that as they offered or sacrificed something to the gods they would be pleased. If the crops are large should the offering to the crop god be large? If it isn’t raining should be the offering to the rain god be increased? How do we please these gods? Are the gods angry?

Today, are we trying to please our gods? I am excited to go even deeper and look into sacrificial systems. Imagine a gathering of men dancing around an altar in a religious, drunken or drug induced frenzy willingly castrate themselves to please their god. OUCH!

We would think that we have gotten beyond trying to please these false gods. But have we really? Rob talks about the ways that people are hurting and the pain that they inflict upon themselves. Consider the cutter and compare them to the Baal worshipers on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:27-28). Consider that many of us are carrying guilt from past offenses and as hard as we try we can never get rid of the guilt. For some this becomes their identity.

The sacrificial system was set up to clear our conscience. The system was not set up to please God. Does God need our slaughtered bulls and goats? Psalm 50: 9-10 I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.

Are we working so hard to please others (in-laws) that we are good enough? Have we been told by people, who should love us, that they hate us?

So what is the bottom line of the night? “Do we have the same old gods and we’ve just given them different names?” We do not have to keep approaching an altar of sacrifice to please God. We do not need to live in guilt and shame.

Jesus came and changed the system. We can freely approach God. Rob used a Brennan Manning story explaining that Jesus doesn’t remember your sins. You don’t have to live like this!

So much more to process!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

kata sarka, “according to the flesh”

2 Corinthians 5:16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. [17] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Do we really think that our fellow Christians are a new creation? What about people outside the church: those not in community with us? Do we judge them? Do we look at them as people created in God’s image? We are all on a journey of being recreated to resemble Christ.

Consider that Paul says the old ways are gone: the worldly point of view (kata sarka, “according to the flesh”) is gone. We know longer are viewing things the way the world does but rather we see things through the lenses of God. We do not view people or culture with prejudice as we once did. All people have value and worth because they were created in the image of God. We are not trapped with a limited existence because we know there is more than this and we want all of mankind to experience this mindset.

But is it just us that have been changed? Could it be that through the resurrection of Christ all of creation has changed? I like to think of Jesus bringing heaven to earth. He gave us that glimpse through His life here on earth. I do not think Jesus took heaven with Him when He ascended. Heaven is not just a destination but it something that can be experienced here and now. We do not live lives kata sarka(according to the flesh/world) rather we now live lives kata pneuma (according to the Spirit).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jim and Casper go to Church

Many of you know that I think very highly of the book "Jim and Casper go to Church." I encourage all in church leadership read it. It will challenge your thoughts on how we think church should be done. Matt Casper, co-author of the book came and spoke at Saddleback Church about his journey and friendship with Jason, a house pastor. Jason also shared his experiences with Matt. Follow this link to listen.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Day 41

I have been thinking more about what I wrote previously, “40 Days and 40 Nights.” In those 40 days we seeing a testing in some cases, in other cases we see God’s provision. But what happened after the 40 days? What happened on Day 41?

For Noah, the rain stopped on Day 41 and there was sunlight and a rainbow. God recreated (read Genesis 8 and compare to the creation story in Genesis 1).

For Moses, he came down from the mountain, twice, and presented what God had spoken to him. Moses had received the Ten Commandments. On one Day 41, Moses had to literally throw down the law at the Israelites. During those 40 days Moses did not eat or drink, I am sure he was hungry, and on Day 41 he ate and drank.

In the Book of Jonah, the people of Nineveh repented. The warning of God’s wrath that Jonah gave the people did not happen. On Day 41, God relented and showed compassion on these people, even though Jonah could not.

Having being fed by an angel for 40 days, Elijah was told to get up and move. On Day 41, Elijah goes to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God and seeks shelter in a cave. Elijah experiences a mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire but Elijah hears God in a quiet whisper.

After 40 days of being taunted by a giant named Goliath, the Israelite army sends a young boy to battle him on Day 41. David demonstrates that God protects and God uses the small things for greatness. And through David, God saves a kingdom against a bitter enemy.

Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert and on Day 41 He met with the devil. We see courage and strength. We see the ability to confront lies. We see a man lowered to the point of breaking standing firm. After 40 days of not eating and a day of temptation by the devil, Jesus is attended by angels. I am sure they set up quite a feast for Him!

Jesus appeared to many witnesses after His resurrection from death. On Day 41, Jesus ascended into heaven. I am reminded of what Jesus told Thomas in John, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

God works in some mysterious ways. We are reminded of these mysteries throughout the Bible. Nothing sounds more mysterious and marvelous than the way He guides us through our 40 days and strengthens us on Day 41.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

40 Days and 40 Nights

When we need to take a nap we say that we are going to get 40 winks. I never understood where the term came from but I did discover an explanation on the internet (I have not determined if this is true or not). A wink was an old Roman measurement of time, equal to 30 seconds, 40 winks = 20 minute nap. But we do know that the number 40 represents a period of time. 40 days is a long period of time, such as a month. 40 years can represent a generation.

Throughout the Bible periods of time are described as 40 days and 40 nights or 40 years. While Noah was in the ark, God made it rain for 40 days and 40 nights. Once the rain stopped Noah waited an additional 40 days before he opened a window in the ark.

Moses had his times of 40. It is said that Moses was 40 years old when he left Egypt after killing an Egyptian. Moses then spent 40 years in the desert of Midian where he married and was a shepherd for his father-in-law. Moses speaks to God through a burning bush and receives orders to confront Pharaoh. Once the Israelites are set free they spend 40 years traveling towards the Promised Land. During their desert journey, Moses spent time, 40 days and 40 nights, on a mountain with God. He did this twice. On one of these trips up the mountain Moses received the Ten Commandments. Moses died at 120 years old.

Goliath taunted the Israelite army for 40 days, twice a day. Elijah was given food by an angel of God as he hid from Jezebel. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. Jonah came into Nineveh stating that God was going to overturn the city in 40 days. But God saw their acts of repentance and had compassion on them.

After Jesus was baptized, he went into the desert to confront the devil: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1). After fasting for 40 days and 40 nights Jesus was hungry. It is here at Jesus’ weakest that the devil attacks and tempts our Lord. Jesus also appeared to the disciples and a group of witnesses after the Resurrection for 40 days before He ascended to Heaven.

Tomorrow marks a period of 40 days in my life. A period time when I have left one way of life as I head into a new journey with God. I wish it was pleasant. My former way of life was predicable. It was a time when I knew what was expected and I was comfortable. During these past 40 days there have been times of loneliness. There have been times of doubt and even despair. But through these 40 days, I have grown closer to God and His purpose and plan for my life is becoming clearer. I am looking forward to day 41.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Jars of Clay

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

Earthen vessels are found at most every archaeological dig. These vessels can be pots, vases and many other forms of pottery. Many of these vessels are broken and must be put back together like a jigsaw puzzle. But from these vessels we learn much about ancient peoples and their community and the ways they lived.

Decorated on some vessels would be scenes from daily life. We learn what was eaten by what is found stored in these containers. Think of some of these vessels as ancient Tupperware where for centuries wheat, corn or some other grain or liquid was stored.

Many times these vessels contained important artifacts. They were a way of hiding valuables in an unlikely place. A thief would not look for something valuable in something as ordinary as a water jug. The problem with these vessels are they are very fragile and once broken they are good for nothing.

I love talking about the creation of mankind. In Genesis 2:7 we see God getting into the dirt and shaping and forming mankind. God did this as a craftsman. He created us as a work of art. Adam literally means dirt man. Like earthen vessels we are weak and easily broken. But inside each of us is a treasure. As Christians we carry the death of Christ in us so that we can reveal to others the life of Christ.

Realize that we, earthen vessels, do not equal the value of our contents. Regardless of how well we decorate ourselves. The more we decorate ourselves the less attention on the real value stored in the vessel.

As pastors it is not about me to present a message in a way that out shines the Gospel. I do not want to be a messenger that people flock to hear, rather I want people to hear The Message. Lord help me to get out of the way! I am just a weak and fragile vessel that is sometimes broken, cracked and flawed. But this broken, cracked and flawed vessel contains a message that is rich and valuable.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What is our standard?

From my Bible reading today:

Ezekiel 5:5-7 "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees.

"Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws. You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you.

Time for a morality check.

What is our standard? How well are we at influencing the world, or is the world doing a better job at influencing us?

Let's pray that we can first align ourselves with God and follow His commands, love God and love neighbor. And may our influence come from a lifestyle, not by pressure, but through love.

Have a blessed Sunday!

No water

As twilight falls over this town, Mayor Tony drives up a dusty dirt road to the community’s towering water tank and begins his nightly ritual in front of a rusty metal valve.

With a twist of the wrist, he releases the tank’s meager water supply, and suddenly this sleepy town is alive with activity. Washing machines whir, kitchen sinks fill and showers run.

About three hours later, Mayor Tony will return and reverse the process, cutting off water to the town’s 145 residents.

This is not an African community, this is happening in the United States. I remember when restaurants would not bring water to a table because of a drought we were facing in California. Washing driveways, sidewalks and patios were frowned upon. Lawns started to brown as people cut back watering their yards. Drought is ugly!

We are facing a time of crisis. Some areas are being flooded, other areas are facing drought. The fires we just experienced could be blamed on drought. I am not sure of the how’s and the why’s, but all of this happening. The questions becomes, “What do we do?”

News article taken from “Worst-case scenario in the South: Tennessee town has run out of water and has to truck it in” By Greg Bluestein, Associated Press Writer

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Biblical Thought

From my Bible readings today:

Hebrews 3:12-13

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Letters of Recommendation

On my resume I have a section that list references from a group of people who will stand up for my character and for my work ethic. Most all employers will do some background check to see if you are a good worker or to check on your moral character. These references can be college professors, coworkers, bosses and associates. It is good to have an extensive reference list.

It is said by some that Peter holds the keys to heaven. As you approach the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter is there standing guard, he is like the bouncer for Heaven. He will interview you to see what you have done with your life, “Were you a good person?” He will also check to see if your name is recorded into the Book of Life which will grant you admission into Heaven. Now I am not a big advocate of this type of theology. But let us assume that we need to have references to get “in,” who would be on your reference list?

Some of the problems of recommendation letters are they puff us up. We can create an extensive list with numerous references. These references can be the big hitters of the faith: Christian writers and musicians, success pastors, world leaders and other recognizable names. But is that what gets us into heaven?

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3 that what is written on our hearts matters to God, nothing else. In the Old Testament the Law was written on stone and men could not live up the standard. Because of this death was the result. Christ’s covenant with us becomes a heart matter, it is something we are and what we are becoming. And because of this covenant we have life. We do not need to prove ourselves through letters, but rather we are recognized by our heart.

What is written on your heart?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Flaming Arrows of Death

My Bible reading for today included this verse from Proverbs:

Proverb 26:18-19

Like a maniac shooting
flaming arrows of death

is one who deceives a neighbor
and says, "I was only joking!"

Wow what a powerful proverb. This proverb speaks of threatening someone with weapons that can hurt and then when countered say, “I was only kidding.”

The tongue is a compared to a flaming arrow that can penetrate deep. And if you are shooting your mouth off, you must be a madman!

So a madman is shooting flaming arrows at his neighbors, his friend and probably at his family. Why? Many times it is survival.

When we are caught in our deceitful ways we are quick to respond that it was just a joke. But who is left laughing?

James 3:8 … no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Ticker Tape Parade

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ

When I was little I would get up early on New Year’s Day and watch the Rose Parade. I also remember watch the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving and watching those large inflatable balloon characters like Under Dog. There was also the Santa Claus Lane Parade which always ended with Santa waving to the kids. You knew Christmas was just around the corner.

I also remember times of national pride when individuals that had accomplished greatness were celebrated in a ticker tape parade in New York. When the crew from Apollo 11 returned from the first moon walk there was a ticker tape parade. It was as if they had returned from battle victorious.

Paul uses the idea of a victory parade in 2 Corinthians 2:14. I am sure it was common in Paul’s day, and because of his travels throughout the kingdom of Rome, to see or hear about the return of the victorious Roman armies. Leading the entry would be the commanders or generals of the army followed by their supporters. Behind the leaders would be the spoils taken from the fallen cities followed by the fallen king or ruler of the land conquered. If there were a stock market and sky scrappers there would have been a ticker tape parade.

As we battle to do life we discover that we are weak. We attempt to live lives separated from God and make it on our own. We also discover that because of our weaknesses we are sinful. Left to our own devices we would lose the battle, we need someone to save us. Christ wins that battle and we willingly surrender and become His slaves. And as Christ leads in the triumphal parade in His Kingdom we become the spoils of that victory.

Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Willing to Forgive?

In our lives we face scandals, those times when we feel that others are out to get us. Like a trapped animal we lash out, there is no way that we are going to be captured without a fight. Facing the scandal only makes us sad and defensive.

Dealing with the scandal we discipline the sinner. Sometimes the punishment is banishment. Sometimes the punishment is being ostracized. The punishment can be severe and it can be less harsh. Each individual takes their punishment differently. A harsh punishment can be less severe to one and extremely painful for another.

But when the punishment is met forgiveness should be given. When repentance is demonstrated forgiveness should be given. But forgiveness is hard!

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

While I was reading 2 Corinthians I read about a situation that Paul was helping the church of Corinth through. He told them not just to forgive the unnamed sinner but to comfort and love him. To come alongside that man and support him.

Christ died on a cross paying the price for our sins. He did the time. Through this process our sins are forgiven. Denying someone forgiveness is denial of the cross. Is the scheme of Satan that Paul warns us of?

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11 I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent--not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven--if there was anything to forgive--I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

My Favorite Show!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Living Completely for Christ

There are times when I am misunderstood. Maybe it is because of the way I express myself. Maybe my words are misunderstood and misinterpreted. My intention in ministry has always been to work my hardest and to be the best pastor God intends.

One of the most important character traits of anyone in ministry or business is integrity. I have told students that the word integrity comes from the Latin word “integra” where we also get the word integer. I love math! Integers are whole numbers, negative or positive and zero. Notice there are no fractions. There is a sense of wholeness or completion. The Latin word integra means whole and complete.

As we consider what that means as a Christian consider that I am completely or wholly a Christian. I am not a half Christian. What does that look like we when evaluate our lives? Are we a follower of Jesus just on Wednesday and Sunday? If so, does that make me a 2/7th Christian? How do I live completely, everyday for Christ?

My desire is to be speak in a way that is clearly understood. I do not want to be misunderstood. May my yes always be yes and may I never be swayed by worldly things.

2 Corinthians 1: 15-22 Because I was confident of this, I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, "Yes, yes" and "No, no"?

But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not "Yes" and "No," but in him it has always been "Yes." For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Don't Do Drugs

Today I was enjoying a great lunch with my wife Monica and my daughter Becky and her boyfriend Wyatt. After the meal I realized that I had to use the bathroom. I drank many glasses of lemonade, if you have ever gone to lunch or dinner with me you know that lemonade is one of my favorite drinks, right after coffee.

While in the bathroom I was looking into the urinal and noticed that the toliet was very clean. The urinal was equipped with a clean red strainer. While I was looking at the strainer I noticed something that struck me as very funny. You know, I have seen this type of urinal strainer many times in the past but never noticed this until today.

How many men can honestly say that they do not do drugs because they read the urinal strainer?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Prayer Team

Recently I have asked many people to join me in prayer as I enter a time of transition in my life. I strongly feel that my calling is in youth ministry. I do not feel that God has taken that calling away or has called me to another ministry. The question becomes, “Where does God want me to be?” “Who does God want me to minister?” It may require moving away. It may require that I become bi-vocational again (no this is not a sin).

I do know that it has been hard on me and Monica. We worry about the future.

Now the hardships I am facing are not life threatening. Being released from a job is not terminal. But I understand it is a hardship and I am unable to fix it myself. Through this experience godly men and women have rallied behind me and given me some great advice. One piece of advice has been to gather a team of pray warriors and allow them to give to God.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

I am looking forward to seeing how God uses the prayers of so many. I am encouraged that so many have positively responded back to me that they are honored to pray for me and Monica.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Comfort in Times of Need

I have been told recently to read through 2 Corinthians and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to me through this time of reading. I started with chapter one and I haven’t gotten past the 7th verse without having to stop and discover what is being said to me.

2 Corinthian 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
Throughout these first verses I am reading over and over again the word comfort. In contrast are the words troubles, sufferings and distressed.

We face times in our lives when things occur that discourage us. Being discouraged takes the wind out of our sails. Times discouragement can knock us flat on our butts. When I face these times I do not want to do anything. I am not happy. I tend to moan and groan about my situation to anyone that will listen. I become unhappy.

What gets me out my funk? Encouragement. To have someone come along side and help me and to cheer me up. The Greek word for comfort is paraklesis which means to come alongside. The Latin word for comfort is cum-fortis, which means with strength.

As I am facing my times of trouble, those times when I feel alone and discouraged I know that I am not by myself. As I face times of testing, tribulation and trouble I know I have help. And when I am feeling my weakest I know that I can be strengthened.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mr Deity

I was shown this video by Katelyn, she was shown the video by her professor at Cal Baptist. Now the theology is a little off, but it is really funny. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Tell me what you think!!

Find the guy!

I decided to start the day for those of you that read this blog with something a little more lighter. Thanks Chris Campbell for sending me this!

Nothing is going to jump out at you - this is a real puzzle and yes, there is a man in the picture.

Doctors (I do not know which doctors) have concluded that if you find the man in the coffee beans in 3 seconds, your right half of your brain is better developed than most people. If you find the man between 3 seconds and 1 minute, your right half of the brain is developed normally. If you find the man between 1 minute and 3 minutes, then the right half of your brain is functioning slowly and you need to eat more protein. If you have not found the man after 3 minutes, the advice is to look for more of this type of exercise to make that part of the brain stronger!!!

Tell me how you did!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Time of Dark Isolation

Continuing through the book, Mother Teresa: Come be my Light, we see a deeply religious being living through a dark time of isolation in her ministry. Prior to being a servant to the poorest of the poor Mother Teresa heard Jesus say to her to, “Come, come, carry Me into the holes of the poor. Come be my light.” But after the ministry to the poor started Mother Teresa was herself in a time of darkness: isolated and separated from the felt presence of Jesus.

With regard to the feeling of loneliness, of abandonment, of not being wanted, of the darkness of the soul, it is a state well known by spiritual writers and directors of conscience. This is willed by God in order to attach us to Him alone, an antidote to our external activities, and also, like any temptation, a way of keeping us humble in the midst of applauses, publicity, praises, appreciation, etc. and success. To feel we are nothing, that we can do nothing is the realization of a fact. We know it, we say it, some feel it.

When I walk through the slums or enter dark holes—there Our Lord is always really present.

As for myself—there is but one desire—to love God as He has never been loved—with deep personal love.—In my heart there seems to be no other thing but He—no other love but His: the streets, Kalighat, slums, & Sisters have been places where He lives His own life of love to the full.

Mother Teresa’s desire was to satiate, satisfy the thirst of Jesus on the Cross: to bring souls to God and God to souls, despite her dark isolation.

Yesterday was a Good Day!

Yesterday was good. I got to enjoy the company of two of my former high school students. We meet after school at Starbucks and watched a small dog drink a green tea frappuccino. Afterwards we headed to BJ’s and enjoyed a couple Pazookis together, on the TV screen was American Gladiator!

I dropped them off at 5 and then headed to Corona High to watch a little volleyball, to watch another former student play. I saw a couple more former students at the game and around campus, it was great getting hugs from them and hearing that they missed me. The game was close, Corona always gives Santiago a tough time. But the girls did ok, I am not sure what the final scores were or who actually won.

The day ended with our weekly Tuesday Pizza Night. We have not gathered as a group for two weeks since I was out of town those past Tuesdays. It was great seeing everyone, a couple more high school students came by. I do not think any of them really understand what strength the group brings to me each week.

So my tank is full again and I am ready to get busy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Read through the Bible in a year

I am starting a systematic time of reading through the Bible in a year. I invite you to come and join me. I would love to hear your thoughts on the passages we are reading through daily.

Today the passages I read through are:

Jeremiah 28-29:32
1 Timothy 1:1-20
Psalm 86:1-17
Proverbs 25:17

The Proverbs passage is great!

Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house—
too much of you, and you will be hated.

I guess it was good that we left Amanda and Jonny's home and did over stay our welcome!

Saturday, October 13, 2007


This week has been filled with so much. We went to see Amanda and Jonny’s property as the grass was being mowed to be bailed for hay. They have 20 acres of land and many ponds surrounded it or nearby.

We went to see the Federal Building that was the target of the Oklahoma City bombing. It was a sad reminder of man’s ability to inflict violence and death on so many, including many children. I will post some pictures later.

Wednesday night the town paper came out. We raced to get a copy and read about the news of Lincoln County. Oklahoma is celebrating their 100 anniversary of statehood.

Yesterday I drove to the town of Perry to visit with some pastors and talk about churches and ministry positions. The town is old, and dying. I took some cool pictures on my cell phone that I will post later.

Last night we enjoyed a real farm cooked fried chicken dinner, with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, rolls and pecan pie. Yummy! We drove by the high school football stadium on the way home. It was truly a Friday Night Lights, the entire town was at the game, unfortunately Chandler High School lost. I am sure the town will be grumbling about this loss today.

Today we are going to a parade in downtown Chandler, it should be a blast. The theme of the parade is the land run of 1889. I will post some pictures. It should be like the Placentia and Yorba Linda parades.

Tomorrow we are going to church. Afterwards we head to grandma’s for brunch with the family and then to see the property on quads.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"I am thirsty" Jesus

Mother Teresa gives some clear insight into the phrase “I am thirsty” that Jesus spoke from the cross in John 19:28. What was Jesus thirsty for?

Thirst is that physical characteristic that each of have when our bodies cry out for fluids, especially water. Being thirsty can be a painful reminder that we are missing something. We have to replenish our intake of water to survive. Without water we die.

According to Mother Teresa, Jesus was thirsty for us. Jesus’ pain in being thirsty is a desire for us to be a part of Him.

Jesus wants me to tell you again…how much is the love He has for each of you—beyond all what you can imagine…Not only does He love you, even more He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He love you always, even when you don’t feel worthy…

For me it is so clear—everything in Missionaries of Charity (MC) exists only to satiate Jesus. His words on the wall of every MC chapel, they are not from [the] past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it?...Why doe Jesus “I thirst”? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words—…“I thirst”? is something much deeper than just Jesus saying “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you—you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.

Jesus died on the cross and experienced the desperate needs of the poor everywhere. Jesus died alone. Jesus died feeling hated. Jesus died broken in spirit and in body. Jesus died thirsty. Not a thirst for water but a thirst for love, charity and sacrifice. Mother Teresa and the Sisters lived this out in their four vows of Absolute Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Charity for the poor seeking to quench the thirst of Jesus.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Saint of Calcutta

Imagine for 30 years God quits speaking to you. Prior to these empty thirty years God has spoken clearly about your call and purpose in life, but now loneliness. Imagine doing a job for your entire life and never asking for recognition. Imagine that you even ask that every letter you have written be destroyed. Imagine that the world knows you and recognizes your work but you wish not to be acknowledged.

I must admit, although most of you probably have figured this out, but I have an addiction. It may be hard for you to understand that a youth pastor is addicted to anything, but I am. My addiction may need severe intervention to overcome, I know that I cannot do it alone, it will take help from my friends, family and medical doctors.

I just started reading a book on the life of Mother Teresa (Mother Teresa: Come be my light: the private writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”). I have only read the introduction but I am already amazed at this wonderful woman’s life. Here is a woman that knew her call from God was to serve the poorest of the poor. Here was a woman that heard and knew God’s voice. But in 1961 she no longer heard Him.

With the grasp of her spiritual directors, she progressively came to grasp that her painful inner experience was an essential part of living out her mission. It was a sharing in the Passion of Christ on the Cross—with a particular thirst of Jesus as the mystery of His longing for the love and salvation of every human person. Eventually she recognized her mysterious sufferings as an imprint of Christ’s Passion on her soul. She was living the mystery of Calvary—the Calvary of Jesus and the Calvary of the poor.

I need intervention. Unlike Mother Teresa, I live for the recognition and the fame and the glory. In my life I need to be surrounded by people and need to feel that people love me. It is my addiction. I have overcome so many other addictions, but this one lingers. It may sound like nothing but consider the difference: Mother Teresa lived for God, Rick Ellis lives for self. Who would you like to be?

Mother Teresa wrote many letters and she did not want them to be used for her glory. Her life was lived out for God, not for herself. The letters and ultimately the books that would follow would focus on her and not the glory that was deserved of God. In one of her letters she expressed that the writers focus on the poor.

I am perfectly happy and grateful to God for what He gives—I [would] rather be and remain poor with Jesus and His poor.—I prefer to beg and struggle with little—let him write about “the work” and our poor and struggling people.—help me to pay for the schooling of our poor children and give the clever ones a chance in life.

I am only His instrument—why so much about me—when the work is all His. I hold no claim to it. It was given to me…

I have a long way to go to overcome my addiction. I pray that in the days, months and years to come I would deny more of myself.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A New Generation's Response to Christianity

David Kinnaman, the president of The Barna Group, has written a new book titled unChristian. I am excited about reading through this book and have added it to my Amazon Wish List, if you feel compelled to purchase it for me. I have directly quoted much of what was written at The Barna Group in the article: A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity.

According to research by The Barna Group the Christian image has shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people. This study also shows that those outside Christianity are less likely to view evangelicals favorably because of negative views of Christianity.

Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) - representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. The most common favorable perceptions were that Christianity teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%), has good values and principles (76%), is friendly (71%), and is a faith they respect (55%).

Another view is that the church is anti-homosexual. The feeling is that Christians are so opposed to homosexuality that they demonstrate excessive contempt and an unloving attitude towards gay and lesbians.

This study also recognized that many young Christians hold these same views of Christianity. Maybe this is why we see many college students willing to leave what they once held dearly. To these Christians homosexuality is viewed as the biggest of sins. The study recognized that young people in the church and out had similar views of Christianity.

So as we tap into how Christianity is viewed I ask our older generation to evaluate ourselves. How do we view the issues that young people are concerned with? How are we communicating our values to young people? How are we embracing their values? Should we communicate those values? How well are we listening to young people? Do we really know what they are dealing with?

According to the study, older generations more easily dismiss the criticism of those who are outsiders," Kinnaman said. "But we discovered that young leaders and young Christians are more aware of and concerned about the views of outsiders, because they are more likely to interact closely with such people. Their life is more deeply affected by the negative image of Christianity. For them, what Christianity looks like from an outsider’s perspective has greater relevance, because outsiders are more likely to be schoolmates, colleagues, and friends."

I would love to hear your views. Read the blog before this one and listen to what this young person is saying. What are you hearing?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Expressed Frustration

Yesterday I read the following blog from a dear friend. I have not asked permission to use his blog in this article nor will I identify him. I have censored the curse words that he used but you will be able to figure out the words he used. This is the voice that many 16 to 29 year olds are expressing today. For you outside this generation, read this with an open ear and be willing to listen without responding.

I think I’m done with a lot of bull****....

So I'm thinking that I don't really want to follow the church anymore... I don't necessarily agree with what they have to say, pretty much at all. I want to clarify that I'm not pissed off right now, I'm actually in a pretty tranquil state of mind and just feel like sharing my thoughts.

I don't agree with what I have been taught for what is right and wrong necessarily... Everyone says that there is such thing as a conscience and use that as a crutch but to me it seems that it's just something that is in our subconscious that speaks to us about what we have been socially conditioned to. Try to tell me other wise, I would love to hear it, seriously.

"I like your Christ, but not your Christians." - Ghandi. I think I agree.

"Today, there are a total of 30,000 different religious views worldwide, out of those, FIVE THOUSAND of them are differing/bickering sects of Christianity. If that doesn't sound ridiculous to you, I don't know what should. The fact of the matter is, that when religion is taken too seriously, it **** EVERYTHING. It causes war, hatred, terror, ignorance, close-mindedness, and the inability for those under its spell to live their lives to the full extent. Most religions come with a built in story to instill fear in the hearts and minds of those who follow it. (i.e. YOUR GOING TO HELL YOU SINNER! WORSHIP ME! OR SPEND ETERNITY IN THE DEPTHS OF THE EARTH!)"

I don't know if I like that necessarily either...

I pretty much think that not really anybody knows what the fuck they are talking about...

"There are alot of good things about 99% of the religions out there and most of them have nothing to do with the actual religion. The support and help that the community can give a person who is down on their luck or the shoulder's to cry on that some people just don't have without them. Religions are just like Fraternities or Secret societies or even the birthday club at Baskin Robbins. They all provide benefits of being part of something larger than yourself. And most importantly, a sense of belonging and helping another person."

I think the worst part about it though is that half or more of the people in the church don't even really think about these things. They don't see other perspectives and it makes me wonder a lot of things....


I'm doing my own thing, and im pretty happy and excited right now.

P.S. (I'm not saying I don't believe in Jesus)

I just don't believe in bull**** teachings anymore

And I still have TONS of respect for some people who have had an influence on my life (most of you know who you are, some might not), just because your a Christian doesn't make me not respect you, if thats what you got out of this

GL on your individual journeys my friends

Tomorrow I am going to talk about an article written at A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity. I encourage to read through this article. A great book to read is They Love Jesus but not the Church by Dan Kimball.

Living in Yesterday

Today I was watching the morning news when Beaver and Wally Cleaver were guests. Wow, I remember watching these guys on TV when I was little, man they are old! I loved to watch Beaver get into trouble. What made the show fun was watching an era, even before my time, when it appeared there was nothing but innocence. No bad words, no stealing, no bad tempers, no car chases and no moms working outside the home. Kids obeyed their parents and the parents never had to say “I love you.”

Tomorrow night I am going to my high school reunion. I have been out of high school for 30 years! It was so long ago. I am sure that some would look back at the 70’s as a time of innocence too. But like the 50’s when Leave it to Beaver was on TV, it was not as innocent as we might like to think. We were involved in much of the same sin issues our students in high school face today.

There are many that love the past. If the had their way they would be still living in the past. Some were the jocks or the cheerleaders in high school and those were their glory days (great Bruce Springsteen song!). For some those days were the highlights of their life. Nothing great has happened since high school. They might not even have something to look forward to.

We cannot live our lives in the past. We have moved on, forward if you will and the past is past. Nothing we can do will ever change the past. We do have control of our todays and we can be involved in our tomorrows, but what about our yesterdays?

Is today only a reflection of our yesterday?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Late Night Conversations

Last night I got to hang out with about 50 middle school students at Citrus Heights Friends Church. It was fun. Andre has some cool toys for the group. They have a ramp and a couple bar for grinding for the skaters. The church just set up a basketball court outside that looks great. Andre loves hardcore music, so does his kids, and they pump it out into the outside gathering area.

Many of the kids from camp ran over and gave me an incredible hug. It was great feeling their appreciation and love for me. It kind of makes this place a second home and I know that it will be just as much fun tonight with the high school students.

The evening ended with some quality time with Dom, the high school pastor and his wife Cala over desert. We got to talk about ministry and life and how to train up and recruit leaders. It is amazing to me that parents want the best for their kids but sometimes fall short. Are we as parents willing to get involved with the spiritual formation of our own kids?

We have kids involved in sports, sometimes multiple sports at one time. We push for great grades, anything less will not get you into a good college. We allow our kids to be involved in any other activity that they are excited about: band, dance, motorcycle riding, etc. All these things are great. But are we as parents spending quality time with our kids? Do we sit and just talk? Do we have dinner around a table and spend time together as a family? Do we talk about the Bible, God, Jesus and our relationship with Him to our kids? If so, how frequently?

Deuteronomy 6: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [5] Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. [6] These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. [7] Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. [8] Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. [9] Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

If you are following the shema, the verse above, doing all those other things are great. If you are following the shema youth group becomes unnecessary, except to gather with a group of brothers and sisters in the Lord. You do not need youth pastors if you are following the shema, the parent becomes the pastor.

In the days of Jesus there was no separation of spiritual life and work life, or school life, or sports life, or home life. It was all connected. Spiritual life was connected with every aspect of the daily coming and goings of the family. Your spiritual life dictated how you conducted business and how you raised your family.

Thankfully for a large group of youth pastors, parents are not following the shema. Thankfully for a large group of youth pastors, parents are not allowing their spiritual life to exist with their “regular” life. So for a large group of youth pastors we have job security and late night conversations about doing ministry will continue.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Road Trip: Off to Sacramento

Tomorrow morning, at around 4am I am heading north. I am excited about my trip and reuniting with a group of junior high and high school students at Citrus Heights Friends Church. I know it will be a great trip. Look for my posts about my trip, if I can find a free Internet coffee house.