Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Desire Street Ministry

Tucked into the Ninth Quarter of New Orleans is an inner city outreach ministry called Desire Street. A school and a chuch reach out to needy teens in the area providing them with hope for a future beyond the streets of poverty and despair.

Sean and Emily and Aaron and Kristen are two special young couples who have joined the ministry team at Desire Street, teaching and working at the school and opening their homes--located in the heart of the inner city--to needy teenagers and their families.

These are top-quality young people who could work anywhere else; in fact, Emily is a student at LSU studying for her nursing degree and Aaron teaches art at Tulane Unviersity, in addition to his work at Desire Street. Sean coaches and teachers and Kristen is a part of the administrative team at the school.

Here's the tragedy. Along with thousands of others, Sean and Emily and Aaron and Kristen have houses under water in New Orleans, thanks to Hurricane Katrina. Desire Street Ministries is flooded as well, and the prospect for any of these buildings--and thousands of others--being suitable again for living or business looks decidedly bleak.

When you pray tonight, give thanks to God for the safety of the roof over your head and dry ground to walk on.

And pray for Sean and Emily, Aaron and Kristen, Desire Street Ministries...and thousands of others impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

a wedding and a funeral

A wedding and a funeral today...

How are they different?
1. One is a time of happiness, the other one of sadness.

2. One is a time for celebrating, another is a time for grieving.

3. One is a time of anticipation, the other a time of closure.

How are they the same?
1. They both bring people together.

2. They both provide opportunity to ask for God's help.

3. The both inaugurate new life.

That last one may catch your breath. We understand that a wedding ushers in new life for a husband and a wife as they begin their journey together. That's a given.

But a funeral? A funeral may be perceived as an ending. But it is truly a beginning, for the believer who has the hope of eternal life. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

I hope you have trusted Christ for salvation and have begun your new life together--a life that is forever.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Professional baseball managers talk about the dreaded "dog days of summer". They are the days during the season when they carry a limited 24 man roster and they must exhaust their player resources during the long and hot summer months...when the baseball season is in full "swing", and players are getting tired.

After September 1st, I believe, managers are given the option of an expanded roster by calling up players from the minor leagues to share the playing time, relieve the veterans, and diminish some of the pressure. Everyone looks forward to this time in the season!

The "dog days of summer" would appear to be an oxymoron. Summer? Time for vacation, increased family outings, relaxation and change of pace. Right?

Wrong. Many of you would silently admit you are glad the "dog days of summer" are about over. Kids back in school, weather cooling down, ready to step back into the regular routine.

It has been a long summer for me. The construction of our new facilities has been a monumental challenge. The daily life issues I confront as a pastor have been of dramatic intensity the last three months. There seems to have been little break from the hot blast of "summer sun".

I look forward to the fall. I love the changing colors, the cool breeze, the transition back to a more regular schedule. I know, too, the Lord willing, our church facilities will be completed in the next several months...and we really need them to do our growing ministry at Grace.

I was thinking, May, I couldn't wait for summer!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


I like lunch for all the obvious reasons. Here's a few of them.

1. I don't eat breakfast...usually.

2. By noon, I need a break from the sedentary position at my desk.

3. There is no food on site. I have checked.

4. My secretary reminds me it is lunch time.

5. My wife will ask me when I get home if I ate lunch.

6. By 2 or 3 in the afternoon my stomach will remind me.

7. I get to eat with a friend.

I have several standing appointments--actually "sitting" is more appropriate for what we do--for lunch. All morning today I looked forward to lunch with my friend.

I was not disappointed. He chose the place, he paid the bill (it was his turn), and I came back to the office...filled up with Chinese food and reminded of the value of lunch with a friend.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Ruth and Vern would have celebrated their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary tomorrow. He has been with the Lord for several years now, so she decided to join him today about 4:30 p.m. What a celebration!

Ruth was the quiet and supportive wife of Vern, a wonderful singer and vital part of Grace Fellowship Church. He was a member of the Board of Elders and a stabilizing element as we watched our church grow.

She was the one with the beautiful smile, the sophisticated grace, and loving devotion to her husband. When he passed away, a huge part of her died. She tried to live alone--it was difficult--and ultimately moved to a retirement center near her son and grandchildren.

Recently, she had been very ill, but surprised everyone with her physical resiliency. She had pneumonia and in her weakened respiratory condition, couldn't fight any longer.

She went a joyous reunion with her Lord and Savior. I am confident Vern was there to greet her! Happy anniversary.

Monday, August 22, 2005


None of us like criticism. I am no exception. I was criticized yesterday.

I have tried over the years to ask myself a few questions when I hear personal criticism.

1. Who is criticising me? Is this person generally critical? Do they really know me? Would I value their opinion if it were positive?

2. Have I heard this criticism before from others? If there is a pattern of repetition regarding the criticism I am hearing maybe I need to take a closer look at myself.

3. Was the tone of the criticism reflective of a desire to help, shape, mold, and not just an opportunity for venting anger and hostility? If I suspect the motive is good, I handle criticism better, even if I don't agree with it.

I am reminded of this helpful scripture passage. "Each one should test his own actions..." Galatrians 6:4a . If we do that against the standard of God's Word and our understanding of His expectation of us, we have set a high standard for ourselves, one we cannot meet without His enabling grace.

We will not live life free from criticism, nor can we please everyone. We must seek to please God. "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove is the Lord who judges me..." II Corinthians 4:2-4.

Friday, August 19, 2005

blood drawn

I had blood drawn today. My longsuffering doctor, a personal friend and a member of my church (who is probably thoroughly frustrated with me), ordered these tests a mere four months ago.

What prompted these tests was an incident four months ago that reoccurred four weeks ago. Nothing serious, I am sure, but it certainly got my attention.

I have asked myself why I am so wary of blood tests? I have deduced the following.

1. I may find out something I don't want to know.

2. It may require lifestyle changes.

3. I may have to take medication (something I hate) because of family medical history and natural propensities (I have been avoiding that).

The bottom line is logic that sounds like this: if I don't have the tests, I won't know the truth about my physical condition and, therefore, I can pretend everything is okay.

Yes, I know that is foolish.

So, I got my blood drawn today.

Facing the truth about ourselves is a difficult process. Avoiding it does not make the truth any less certain. Furthermore, it prolongs the inevitable moment of confrontation, and then, perhaps, at a time when it may be too late.

Is it time to take a closer look at the words of the hymnwriter who gives us hope for our condition, whatever it may prove to be?

"There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Imannuel's veins.
And sinners plunged beneath that stream
Lose all their guilty stains."

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Part 2 of my series on the family concerns the Ephesians 6:1-4 passage and its companion passage in Colossians 3:20,21. The question that has gripped me is "How do we as parents "provoke", "exasperate", "discourage" our children?

It isn't that the idea is novel to me, or that I am so arrogant as to presume this does not include me. It just really gets my attention, especially the Colossians 3:21 verse that suggests we can cause them "to lose heart".

How do you see your behavior in how you treat your children affecting them, especially on an emotional level? Would you share some examples with me, even if they confirm the fact you aren't a perfect parent?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Sometimes we have to be broken before we are useful to God.

1. The alabaster vessel had to be broken before its fragrance could be shared, see Matthew 26:7.

2. Jesus said that if a corn of wheat did not first fall into the ground and die, it could not produce, see John 12:24. We know that the seed must first break up before it can initiate further growth.

A man shared with me how God literally has broken him up through recent tragedy and pressure in his life, but acknowledged at the same time, how God was molding and shaping his life, and (from my point of view) making him even more productive than he was.

Have you been broken? It is painful. I know firsthand.

Jesus' death was the epitomized expression of one literally being broken--wounded for our transgressions, brusied for our iniquities--and bringing hope and new life to those of us who walk in the shadow of His cross.

May others see us as broken vessels, being made fit for the Master's use.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

TRYING TO FIX A PROBLEM...that another person doesn't think needs fixing

I am a "fixer" by nature. It is frustrating when I see a problem I can't fix.

The older I get, and the longer I serve as a counselor, the more I realize I really can't fix anything. Sometimes God may use me as a tool to do the repair work that is His to begin with.

A real obstacle to fixing something is agreeing that it needs to be fixed. I was recently in a meeting where someone whose need seemed apparent to everyone else, had no perception that he had a need at all. In fact, he was indignant at the idea.

So, there are a few "fix it" lessons for the day!

1. It's hard to "fix" someome when they don't think they need "fixing".

2. Even if they acknolwedge they need a "fix", we are not the "fixers". Only God can bring the needed mending.

3. Therefore, my job, when dealing with broken people, is to direct them to their only true source of help, Jesus Christ, the Great Physician (the Great "Fixer")!

Sunday, August 14, 2005


It was my first message of a three part series on the family today. I have spent much of the last two weeks preparing for the day, with my wife's question from a week ago resonating in my mind, "Are you going to say anything new?"

The answer is "no". For awhile it was, "I'll try", though muffled within me.

My studies took me down several paths including reading statistical data from George Barna about the deteriorating family, reading a colleciton of magazine articles about the family in crisis, and reviewing several recent books on the family, including John MacArthur's, The Fulfilled Family. There was also the review of every New Testament passage that referred to the family as well as a search through the Proverbs for "tidbits" of truth regarding the family. A study of the early chapters of Genesis reminded me that marriage was God's idea to begin with.

Where I ended up "camping" was in Ephesians 5:22-33, a pretty standard reference for talking about the relationship between husbands and wives, and how they are to mirror Christ's relationship to His church. Nothing revolutionary. Nothing clever. Nothing new.

But something true...God's unassailable truth for twenty-first century believers trying to figure out to make marriage work.

Husbands and wives are potentially a picture of Christ's love relationship with believers. His love is characterized in these verses as having the components of sacrificial giving and unconditional care. Such love inspires us to submit to His headship and to repsect His leadership and ministry to us, His church.

Husbands and wives, two thousand years later, are called to the same standard of love for one another.

It's not new, but it works.

The world is watching.

Friday, August 12, 2005


It has been a difficult week to blog...too much mental clutter to clearly think about something worth writing.

staff meeting...board meeting...membership classes...sermon visitation....late night counseling...administration work....afternoon counseling...crisis planning...telephone responses...staff retreat preparation...building concerns....conflict resolution...disgruntled member...worship arrangements...thrift store management...jail abuse concerns...senior citizen illnesses...etc.

Oh, yes, and somewhere in between...prayer and personal Bible study...and time with my wife...I think.

I am not whining or complaining. Maybe your week looks alot the same. The agenda items are just different.

So as I blog tonight, I am reminded that my relationship with God--its cultivation and enjoyment--are my first priority. And my time with my wife and family is next. Blogging can wait...and it did.

Just cleaning up the clutter...

Monday, August 08, 2005

finding a church home

My stepson and his family have just moved from Carlsbad to San Ramon due to a job transfer. They loved their church family there and now are faced with the task of finding a new church where they can worship and serve the Lord together.

How do you select a new church home? What are some of the most important factors for consideration?

Tell me, as a pastor, what you are looking for when you go searching for a church?

I will be anxious to read your responses.

Friday, August 05, 2005


I am certain every minister has had those moments--mostly on Monday mornings--where he has asked himself, "Why am I doing this?" That question could be the response to poor attendance, a bad offering, an unkind editorial remark about his preaching, a complaint about his ministry in general...

When you have a congregation of 500-600 people, each with their own unique personalities, differing opinions, and distinctive theological ideas, it is almost arrogant to assume that everyone will be supportive, agreeable, and enthusiastically devoted to helping you build the church!

And, then, there's the "me" factor. I am well aware of my shortcomings--and there are those who have made it their job to remind me--and I know that I could very easily alienate someone without trying, offend someone with what I say, and generally be unappealing to someone who has a whole other idea of what a minister and ministry ought to look like.

I am learning this.

Every once in awhile, something happens that helps mute the disappointment of unmet expectations. Someone comes into my office and says...

"I just gave my life to the Lord about seven months ago.
I want to be baptized.
I can't wait to come to Sunday School and church to hear the Word of God.
I am trying to teach my children what I am learning and how to apply the things we learn each Sunday to our everyday life.
My boss has commented to me about the change in my life.
I am more conscious about how I treat the people around me; I see it as my ministry.
Thanks, Pastor."
That's why I am doing this. "Forgive me, Lord, when I complain."

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

life-giving water

Flowers growing out of a water pond seem almost misplaced. How did they get there? Where are there roots? How do they sustain life without apparent soil to connect with?

Well, they are in water...duh...

If you pulled them out of the water they would die pretty quickly.

But they are "resting" in life-giving water!

Plant me by the water, Lord, or in the water if you choose. Help me to be "like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:3

Monday, August 01, 2005

body life

Ray Stedman wrote a book in the seventies called BODY LIFE. It greatly impacted my ministry as a young pastor in a small but growing inner-city church. We often in a chuch service prayed for one another, passed an offering plate to minister to someone's financial need, volunteered to care for someone in distress by connecting the needy with someone who had available resources. Those services are still poignantly stamped on my memory.

Last night we imported that idea into a communion and prayer service on our church property building site, underneath an outdoor covering in an area where we generally have picnics and outdoor services.

We made a large circle--about 50-60 came--and then sang worship songs, shared personal testimonies, prayed for one another's needs as a body, and took communion. It was warm--probably 100 degrees--but those of us who determined to come were richly blessed.

The life of the body where we weep and rejoice with one another (I Corinthians 12:26), when we carry one another's burdens in fulfillment of Christ's law (Galatians 6:1ff) and where we affrim that our completeness and satisfaction are in Christ alone (Colossians 2:9,10) are the essence of what it means to be part of the family of God.

We will do it again.