Thursday, July 28, 2005


Two people I am praying for each day are at the "sunset" of their lives. For neither of them is there any fear of the future...but a calm peace about the promise of tomorrow in God's Word,
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him." I Corinthians 2:9

Someone else I visited today is about to be released from jail; another is about to return home from a rehabilitation center. For them, a new day awaits them..a day of hope and renewed opportunity. God's Word promises, " all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us..." Romans 8:37.

So whether riding into the sunset of life, or facing the sunrise of a brand new day, what shapes the landscape of our future is the content of our relationship with God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


We have a beautiful pond on our church property filled with goldfish and situated just outside my office. Today as I walked outside following a meeting I noticed that the pond was almost empty.

The pond's plastered finish is old and has several cracks in it so we keep water flowing into it to counteract the slow drainage. Much to my chagrin I could see the pond had no incoming water and the surrounding flowers, that depend on the allied drip system, were dry and parched from the extreme heat as well.

I found out someone had turned off the water system because of some noise the system was making, probably due to air in the lines. Unfortunately, they forgot to turn it back on and we almost had scorched roses and fried gold fish!

When nothing is coming in...and much is going out...we can be left parched and dry, even empty. We need the continual inflow of God's mercy and grace--His power and provision--to keep functioning in a way that honors Him.

The water is on, the pond is filling, and the flowers are showing renewed color and life.

So am I today, because I have been in God's Word (His word is in me) and filled afresh with his presence as we communed together this morning in prayer. I have been encouraged by the supportive input of a Christian brother and energized by the many things God is doing at Grace.

Don't cut off the flow!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

praying together

A recent survey suggested that the number one reason people come to church is to pray.

I have wondered about that survey. The most difficult service to get people to attend--at least at Grace Fellowship where I pastor--is a prayer service. Specially-scheduled corporate times of prayer are not well-attended.

I am assuming that the corporate prayer that accompanies the regular Sunday worship experience--one that fits into the already-established program--is what is being alluded to in this survey. "So you are at church on Sunday...what's the most important thing you do there?" "Pray".

Recently at Grace I have felt a reinvigorated sense of the importance and effectiveness of corporate prayer. Maybe that is in direct proportion to our elevated sense of need. In any case, we are praying more in the context of our worship service with a heightened level of participation.

Next Sunday, July 31st, I will be preaching on th subject, "A Den of Robbers or a House of Prayer?" It is a part of my continuing personal examination of the purpose and primacy of prayer in the life of the body of Christ.

Why do you come to church? Will I see you there?

Friday, July 22, 2005


I get to participate in a wedding today and tomorrow.

I am always reminded when I do weddings of the incredible idea that God says our marriages are to mirror Christ's relationship to the church--His agape love for those who have been born into His family by believing and trusting in His sacrificial work on the Cross.

I try to remind couples of this responsibility as counseling, and even at the wedding ceremony when this truth is one to be emphasized.

Today I am reminded again to be a husband who loves his wife as Christ loves me.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

65 years and counting

Henry and Velma Church have done something extraordinary. They have been married for sixty-five years!

Henry has survived almost as many years as a minister, a horseback-riding accident a few years ago that nearly killed him, and a recent bout with cancer.

We honored him today and there were many memories shared by a large group of former parisioners and friends. I asked one couple attending if they had celebrated their 65th anniversary yet. Their response? Eight years married seventy-three years.

I went looking for a card and couldn't find any that drew attention to sixty-five years of marriage. But, then, Henry and Velma are a rare find!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


In Matthew 9 Jesus tells his disciples that "the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few". In the next chapter He sends out the twelve.

Sometimes as I look at the needs around us in Amador County--the smallest county in California--I am overwhelmed. I survey the needs in our own church body--just an average size congregation--and I wonder how we can minister to each need. There seems to be a huge gap between need and resources.

And then I am reminded of missionaries we support around the world who are crying for help because they are understaffed, often in places where people are begging to hear the good news of the gospel.

At Grace Fellowship we need children's workers (we have grown rapidly), men to "man" our ministries to other men, people to assist in the sound booth, someone to coordinate new ministries to young couples and college age (two other rapidly growing areas) . We need someone to babysit for a care group twice a week, someone to do some repair work at the church offices, and the list goes on.

I am convinced there are enough laborers here for the tasks. I see them every Sunday, people with giftedness who have yet to find their place of ministry and service.

This whole passage is set up, I think, by these words about Jesus. "When He saw the crowds He had compassion on them..." That was the motivation behind all the things He did as He preached the gospel and healed the sick.

We have to catch that compassion to even see the multitudes, to even care about the needs.

Have you seen the need? Does it matter to you? Are you willing to step forward and be a "worker" in a "plentiful" harvest? Let us know.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

flowers in the desert

Would you expect to find flowers in the midst of desert-like land? Late rains made that happen in southern California in late spring. It's not what you would expect to see.

I'm looking for flowers in the middle of the desert...why look there? I have learned that when life seems dry and monotonous, when my emotions are arrid and empty, God can change the texture of everything with the rain of His blessing.

I am celebrating the color of my life, even though the days have been unbearably hot, and unsufferably dry. Just a drop of God's goodness, mercy and grace brings beauty in the midst of it all.

Monday, July 18, 2005


We have enjoyed the past two weeks with family. Tim and Suzie, along with our grandchildren Sage, Eden and "Zeke", were here last week and the week before that, Jeff, Jeanette and our grandson, JJ, spent ten days with us.

Camilla ("Milla) and Owen (above) are our grandchildren via TJ and Jennifer, my daughter. TJ and Jen celebrate an anniversary this week and I thanked TJ in a note for his gift to our family--a great husband to Jen, and a "donor" of two wonderful grandchildren to us!

In just a few weeks I will begin sharing a series at Grace entitled, "Scriptural Foundations for a Strong Family". As childrens and teens head back to school in August and September, I am reminded of the enormous responsibility we have as parents and grandparents. Proverbs 4:23 is the verse that grabs my attention, "Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life." We may subconsiciously focus on behaviors in attempting to mold and shape our children's lives, but the emphasis must be on the "heart", an inclusive reference in the Bible to the intellect, emotions and will. All of life flows from these.

There is much speculation about who ought to do the molding and shaping--schools, churches, parents (think of it...) --and even the suggestion that children should be able to "free-form" their own lives with little or no adult "interference".

"Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it", writes Solomon (Proverbs 22:6). I am thankful for my family--for godly parents and scriptural values that have been forever passed on to me as their legacy. Godly grandparents were a meaningful part of that process as well.

It is true my parents were not perfect and I probably inherited some of their unique qualities. But they saw their responsibility to prepare me for life, and, thankfully, did it well. I wandered away from those principles for awhile, but today I find myself comfortable and content with the values they taught and modeled for me. They are timeless, for they are built upon the foundation of God's Word.

As I look at my grandchildren's pictures scattered throughout the house and in my office, I pray for them; in fact, Beverly and I daily pray for our children and grandchildren by name. Our prayer is that our family will know the life that is described in God's Word as "abundant life" (John 10:10). We enjoy it today because of grandparents and parents who pointed the way for us.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Waterworld...and grandkids

We escaped to Waterworld yesterday and what a welcome relief from the heat. There were several highlights for me.

1. Sage
2. Eden
3. "Zeke"

Oh, by the way, these are three of my grandchildren...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's hot!

We have had a relatively cool summer with weather in the mid-eighties...until recently. Just the last two weeks the temperature has been perching perilously close to the 100 degree mark. And that's hot, no matter whether it's dry heat or wet heat (like Texas, where the humidity makes it feel like 110 degrees).

When it gets hot, I notice several things happen to me.
1. My energy level drops.
2. I look for a cooler place.
3. I generally deliberately decrease my activity level.

It makes sense to observe all of the above because we need to rehydrate, find a cool place (if possible) and see if we can't back off our pace for awhile.

What happens when life "heats up", when there is an accelerated sense of the urgent and demanding...when trouble comes?

Here's what often happens to me.
1. I get excited and flush with misdirected emotion and energy.
2. I descend deeper into the fire.
3. I subconsciously increase my activity level trying to put out the fire.

What would happen when it "heats up" if I responded like I do to the warmer weather.
1. Take a break and evaluate what's happening.
2. Get away from the "fire" and change perspective.
3. Deliberately cease from my "fanning the flames" and look to God for help.

"For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in his dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of the tabernacle and set me high upon a rock." Psalm 27:5

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

marriage betrayal

The violation of a marriage through infidelity is a a painful reality for many people who try to stay together in the aftermath of the discovery.

A young man wants to believe that his wife will be faithful once again but images of what has happened are hard for him to process.

Ayoung woman wants to believe her husband's promises of future faithfulness but she has heard them before.

Is there any hope for repair?

Yes. I am reminded of several examples that I have witnessed firsthand where both parties determined to confess their sin to one another, offer forgiveness, and operate in an intentional environment of rebuilt trust. It was an intellectual exercise to begin with--with emotions trailing far behind--but each day of affirmation of purpose and corroborating behavior, brought new strength, new hope, and ultimate healing.

God is the healer of those who have been betrayed. He is the advocate of those who are hurt and without hope. He is the reason we can own our sin and find forgiveness, and a new beginning.

Don;t give up!

Monday, July 11, 2005


What makes a "great" Sunday? I guess it is a purely subjective question and so I am blogging from my pespective as a pastor.

*Great worship--we really sang on Sunday and there was a spirit of rejoicing, especially in the second service.

*Great fellowship--there are some Sundays where it seems we are really in tune with one another. There is great sharing and nobody seems to want to leave...just like this Sunday.

*Great teaching--Pastor Mark did a terrific job of teaching our adult Sunday School lesson from Titus 1. (Many of you are missing out on this rich time of instruction).

*Great listening--as I preached Sunday it was inspiring to see our people paying attention to the Word of God, listening, taking notes, and even responding.

*Great expectations--I heard people saying, "I can't wait until next week!"

What makes any Sunday great is the sense that God is present with us. Thanks, Lord, for meeting with us!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Can we ever feel safe again?

With the death total in London over fifty this morning, I shudder at the idea of finding a safe place to live. People will think twice before boarding a bus, riding BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), or entering a subway for the next few months because once again we feel strangely vulnerable.

With the daily grisly reports of suicide bombings in Iraq it is easy to become anesthesized to the
frightening propsect of not knowing what threat lurks in the shadows for American soldiers and Iraqui citizens. Because we have servicemen there who we know personally, we can't forget the ubiquitous danger they face. I read the list of men killed in service each time it is printed looking reluctantly for the name of someone I might have known.

And it is not that long ago that we were scrambling in the aftermath of 9-11 (say that, and everyone knows what you are talking about) to find our own safe places--disdaining air travel, and, then, when we finally rediscovered our penchant for travel, struggling through checkpoints with shoes in hand and luggage opened...something that we now accept as routine.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 18:10, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." Such words at first glance seem trite to the skeptic, and absurd to the cynic. For me, these words are comfort, though, I confess, I never stood in the debris of the Twin Towers and I have never been a military policeman, like my friend Mike, in Iraq.

But I have sat with a mother whose son was dying with an incurable disease. I have watched an elderly man release his cancer-ridden wife to eternity. I am working with a young man who has five children and is battling multiple myaloma. I recently helped a mother of teens enter a rehabiliation center for addiction that was threatening her life.

Alll of those things are scary. They are places we all may visit sooner or later that are unfamiliar, and surely make us feel unsafe. Part of our fear is that of the unknown and its corollary anticipations that render us powerless and vulnerable.

I have discovered that my faith in God, while not erasing my proclivity for fear of the unknown, provides me with a steady confidence and certainty that whatever comes my way, God will give me the grace to get through it. I also have what some critically may deride as a benign peace that comes from affirming that God has a plan for my life, that my days are numbered, that He will be faithful to the promises of His Word to me.

I run to the tower of strength I find in His name. And, for the moment, I feel safe.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


As I come to the conclusion of preaching from Nehemiah for the last seven months, I am disappointed in the Israelites. WHY? Bcause God's mercy and grace have allowed their return to their land, the rebuilding of the temple and the city walls...and they have returned to God's Word, asked His forgiveness, agreed to a new covenant to be faithful to the Law, repopulated the city of Jerusalem...and chapter 13 tells us they are back to doing the things that got them into the trouble in the first place!

Come on, Israelites!

I am reminded of Paul's letter to the church at Corinth where he tells them that the Israelites were given us as examples "to keep us from setting our hearts on evil as they did",
I Corinthians 10:6. Apparently, God knew that we needed this example today.

So how are we doing?

Come on, Dale!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

flag over fallujah

I missed our "service on the grounds" July 3rd as I spoke at the Silver Lake Chapel. It is a beautiful setting for a church service, but, I confess. thought about our own services.

Mike Oram is a marine from Grace serving in Iraq. Last week he sent a special package to his wife, Martha. It was a tattered American flag that had flown over some military buildings in Fallujah. Mike sent it so we could use it for the Pledge of Allegiance, a part of our July 3rd service.

Just two years year ago, Mike carried an American flag in full military dress down the aisle of our outdoor service and led us in our salute to the American flag. " nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all..."

Whatever our political sentiments, the flag which flew over Fallujah reminds us of the cost of freedom, the commitment of American men and women over the ages to secure and perserve such freedom.

Thanks, Mike, and to others like you (our own Steve Hauser), who serve our country!

Saturday, July 02, 2005


It is one of the best-kept secrets in Amador County. Off of Highway 49 on Electra Road just south of Jackson--that's my favorite part. I drive there, park my car and either run, walk, or drive to a special place where I can reflect upon the beauty of God's handiwork and consider the work before me for the day.

Today I didn't take any work and simply drove with my son, daughter-in-law and grandson, JJ, to a special spot where we could see the river and, in a "fit" of courage, experience its icy-cold refreshment.

It's what I needed today, after a heated two weeks of activity and responsibility.

I love the Mokelumne River. Now that I have told you about it, it's no longer the county's "best-kept secret".

Friday, July 01, 2005

Do you want to get well?

"Do you want to get well?"

Jesus asked a lame man that "silly" question one time. He had positioned himself in a place for healing--it should have been obvious--but Jesus still asked the question.

It is possible to be spiritually, emotionally, psychologically or physically ill--and to find an awkward kind of "comfort" in that position. We may like the attention, dislike the effort required to change what has become the norm, even resist the mystery and challenge of what could be.

Somewhere in the process of illness we have to address the question, "Do I want to get well?"

If the answer is a determined "yes", then we can submit to the process of healing--whatever it may be--acknowledging that healing often takes time. It may even be painful, requiring discipline, dependence upon others, accountability, medication, self-empyting, etc.

In any case, it will require partnership with God and an acknowledgement of His Word. Here's His promise, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness throughh our knowledge of Him..." II Peter 1:3.

But we have to want to get well!