Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where is God?

The recent tragic loss of Caleb Frances, a young aspiring pastor killed in a train accident in India, coupled with the unfathomable tragdy of Newton, Connecticut resulting in the death of twenty-six innocent victimes, can't help but conjure up questions for me of God's whereabouts in such horrific events.

Of course, I am a pastor, and I have all the answers,,,?  I should, I suppose, be insulated from the quandry of such questioning but my human instinct is to try to make sense of the enignmatic. 

Jogn Frances, Caleb's father, has started 103 chuirches in India and his son was prepared to assume the leadership of a congregation.  What purpose could be served by his death?

Twenty six and seven year olds--their lives ahead of them--ruthlessly slaughtered.  How are there families to process such tragedy and what purposeful "good" can emerge from a catastrophe of such immense proportion?

And six adults--teachers--entrusted with the care of their classroom  children--sacrificing their own lives for their safety--how shall their families deal with their absence every succeeding Christmas season?

For these situations, and countless others like them, answers--if they were forthcoming--would not mute the pain or diminish the loss.  Our focus should be on  healing and wholeness as these families move forward in time, a process that will span the years ahead.

Along the way we hope that they will find comfort and strength from God, who did not stand idly by, but in allowing man free will, afforded them the opportunity to choose good and evil.  Sadly, we are all impacted by the choices we individually make, and those made by others.  The challenge is to know God and to seek to engage His strength and wisdom and to make choices that impact our world for ultimate good. 

The choice for us today is to reject cycnicism and bitterness and to choose instead to pray for those who are hurting and to affirm our faith in God's promise of grace for each day.,,in India, and in Newton.

Monday, December 03, 2012


Mondays have always been a day of rest for me.  Following Sunday with  all of its attedant responsibilities as a senior pastor, Monday always beckoned me with its promise of rest and relaxation.  It didn't always work that well, but, generally, it was a needed break from my regimen of work.

Of course, I'm retiring, and, in fact, have seen a  drastic reduction of my responsibilties at Grace as transition is going full speed ahead.  I am already learning that Mondays look different than they used to.  I am being graciously allowed time to go through books and files, meet with families, and to be with the people of Grace as time allows.

I was thinking this morning, however, of how a creature of habit I have become.  Mondays for me, I guess, will always be Mondays!

Today, as usual, I laid in bed a few minutes, longer; as usual I drank coffee and sat around with Bev lounging.  As usual, we made arrangements to be away from the house--this time to do Christmas shopping.  As usual we ate lunch away from home--today we enjoyed a gift certificate at Olive Garden.

And tonight, I am on the computer--as usual--thinking about tomorrow, and the rest of the week.

Mondays are still Mondays, I'm discovering.

It's the rest of the week that's different.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stepping back

I preach for the last time at Grace next Sunday, with a "farewell" sermon January 27th.  So the "end is near".

If that sounds bittersweet to you, it is for me.  The "bitter" piece is the voltional withdrawal from something I have loved for forty-five years; the "sweet" part is I'm tired and ready to "step back".

Actually, I've been stepping back for a year now, intentionally passing on responsibility to Pastor Mark, who was appropriately designated "lead pastor" this year.

Stepping back has allowed me a vantage point that I have enjoyed for several reasons...

*I've been able to watch our newly-appointed staff begin to demonstrate their giftedness that excites me about the future minsitry of Grace.

*I have been able to listen--to sit in the congregation and enjoy the teaching ministry of the men who are following in my place, and it has challenged me.

*I have been able to encourage those who are simply anxious about the prospect of change, and assured them of God's divine supervision in the direciton we have headed.

Stepping back has also confirmed some things in my heart.

*God is not done with me.  There is still work for me to do.

*God is still teaching me.  I am learning how to "walk by faith", however slowly.

*God has blessed me with life-long relationships and friendships that will remain even though my posiiton has changed.

Stepping back is allowing me to move forward--cautiously, I admit, but expectantly with anticipation.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Coming home

Returning from Haiti is always a mixed bag for me...

I am anxious to get home but sad to leave behind my dear friend, Gilbert.  I know our visits are an encouragement to him.

I look forward to my tempurpedic bed and jacuzzi tub but I feel guilty that I have so much and my Haitian brothers are grateful to have a roof over their heads.

I love my church but I miss the vibrant singing and smiling welcoming faces of the Haitian pastors.

I enjoy all the nuances of my work but I envy the simplicity of the Haitian culture where every little thing has significance.

I find my heart reverberating with passion about what I have seen and shared but am frustrated by my inability to accurately communicate the depths of my heart cry to my friends.

I am thankful for what we are able to do in one short week but heartbroken about what we cannot do because of limited resources.

I see how God is blessing in our small piece of Haiti but I'm reminded that there are nearly ten million Haitians in need of Christ.

It's a mixed bag.

But it is a bag filled with special memories of seeing God at work, coupled with strong motivation to continue His work there.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

"How can I say thanks...?"

There is a wonderful song that asks the question, "How can I say thanks for the things God has done for me, things so undeserved that he gave His Son to die for me...?"  That questions is answered in the triumphant words of the chorus, "To God be the glory!"

Grace Fellowship Church, my home for sixteen years, honored my wife, Beverly and me, for our ministry on the eve of our retirement. We were joined by all six of our children, eight of our eleven grandchildren and another thirty of my relatives at a huge celebration with our church family.

Grace Fellowship Church has loved and supported Beverly and me with consistent love and concern.  we did not need a part to be reminded of their faithfulness..but it was a blessed evening for both of us,

We are singing today, "How can I say thanks...?", reflecting upon God's faithfulness through His people to us.  And we are affirming, "To God be the glory!"

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Love ruling vs. Living rules

Pastor Mark Johnson, one of our Grace teachers, spoke last Sunday on Philemon.  As you may know, this is a companion book of Colossians since Philemon lived in Colosse; in fact, there was probably a house church in his home.  Paul calls Philemon to be reconciled to his former slave, Onesimus, and this letter to Philemon demonstrates the importance of reconciliation.,  Listening to this message would be worthwhile for anyone estranged form someone, and it can be heard at, our church website under "Message, October 14".

A critical phrase in Pastor Mark's message was this, "When love is the rule, we do not need rules".  in Philemon, Paul encourages reconciliation not because he orders it from Philemon, but because he trusts it will come from the compulsion of his heart.

This is a tricky principle for us to understand.  when we study Colossians we are aware of the grace of God that has brought our salvation as Paul identifies the importance of the gospel and the supremacy of Christ in chapter 1.  In chapter 2 he wards against the problem in Colosse--some were trying to suggest that something needed to be done in addition to the work of Christ.  Whether it was Judaizers calling Christians to the observance of the law or Gnostics, suggesting there was a higher form of communication with God through the pursuit of mystical rituals and special visitationa from/with angels, Paul dismisses it as lacking"any value in restraining sensual indulgence".  That alone is the product of salvation in Christ, for "we have been given fullness in Christ". 

In chapter 3 Paul acknowledges that we have been raised with Christ  and our "life is now hidden with Christ in God", and then proceeds in verses 1-17 to give a list of commands about holy living.  It has been rightly suggested these are the results of our relationship with Christ  and His indwelling Spirit, not rules to guide our determined human efforts.

So here's the point.  It is futile to grit our teeth and to determine we will keep the rules, if that's what the Christian life is reduced to.  But if we love God (John 15) we will want to keep his commandments and His Spirit dwelling within us makes that possible.  In our own strength, we cannot.  The beauty of our relationship with Christ is allowing our love for Him to rule our lives and then we will not be under the external short-lived compulsion to keep the rules.

In closing the Colossians 3 section, Paul tells us that we are to let the peace of God rule our lives and to let the Word of God dwell within us richly.

Reconciliation and living in agreement with the peace to which God has called us as believers is hard work.  In fact, it is impossible unless the love of God ruling in our hearts propels us to obey Him and to utilize the grace and strength He provides to what would otherwise be our own futile human effort.  When love is the rule we do not need rules.  We will want to obey.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Psalm 11

In my study of the Psalms I was struck by a verses sandwiched into the middle of Psalm11--"When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

Without identifying my own political persuasion let me just comment on some things I think that make that question from three thousand years ago relevant today.

*Same-sex marriage continues to gain political advocacy.

*Abortion on demand remains a so-called twenty-first century "right".

*North Africa's political climate is rife with unrest and the nation of Israel seems increasingly vulnerable to attack.

*Countries like Iran and North Korea flaunt their nuclear capabilty with frightening arrogance.

*Greece, Portugal and Spain--once strong financially--now are in deep economic crisis.

*Our sixteen trillion dollar debt shows no signs of diminishing with congressional gridlock hampering any potential resolution.

*The current pre-election climate demonstrates how deeply-divided philosophically our country is and the accusations of deceit and dishonesty by both parties makes it difficult to discern what is true.

*Increasing incidents of mass murder escapades by disgruntled unbalanced individuals continue to result in unfathomable tragedies in our work place and on school campuses.

*The number of welfare recipients has increasing astronomically over the last four years, consistent with high unemployment figures.

*A large neighboring city of nearly 300,000 has declared bankruptcy, and there are other large cities--as well as entire states--precariously close to the same.

This resume of pain that affects our sense of well-being is not about to get better.  I am not a harbinger of doom but the forecast for the future of America and the world is alarming and discomfiting.  It seems as if the very foundations of our civilization as we know it are being diminished, if not destroyed.

"What are the righteous to do...?"  In the context the "righteous" are those who have heeded the commandments of God and are seeking to follow His guidance and to find "refuge" in Him.

The comforting tone of this Psalm is that God is alert to all that is going on--observing and examining the ways of men, both wicked and righteous, and in the end His justice will be executed. We are encouraged in the end that "the upright will see His face".

Until then, we must seek His face and His forgiveness for what we have is what we asked for.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pastor Appreciation Month

October is Pastor Appreciation Month,  I am not soliciting support or comments. I feel deeply loved and appreciated by my church family whom I have the privilege of swerving.

For my church family, may I encourage you to let Pastor Mark, Pastor Logan and Pastor Christian know some way how much you appreciate their ministry in this season of transition.

Here are some ideas of how you might do that...

*a personal note

*a gift card to a restaurant or entertainment venue

*a dinner at your place

*a face-to-face comment and word of encouragement on a Sunday morning

*a volunteering to "babysit" so they can go out

*an evening together not talking about church

*a phone call expressing your thanks

Pick one of these and find a way to let one or all three of these families know how much you aprpeciate them!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Third world realities

Water is a precious commodity.  I've learned that from my frequent trips to Haiti where clean water is a rarity.

Hot water is a luxury.  Cold showers punctuate that forgotten trtuh.

With a  burst hot water heater we are making some minor adjustments and many of them revolve around water...or...the lack of hot water.  Tasks like washing dishes, taking showers, washing our    hair--things we have always taken for granted--now seem to have increased in value.

We have remarked in between short spells of whining that this is not like a third world country where the hope for clean water does not stand as a certainty at week's end.  We know we will have hot water by Friday.

In the meantime, all of our water is clean.

Third world realities are different than ours even when we are for a moment inconvenienced.  We are remembering that this week when we are tempted to complain.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Ups" and "Downs"

I left for Haiti September 1st with a lot of uncertainty about what was ahead for us in this rescheduled shortened trip.  As we headed up into the sky from Sacramento International; Airport towards Port au Prince my apprehensions were quickly replaced with excitement as I thought about the great opportunities God was providing me to serve Him in a place to which He clearly called me to several years before.

As we descended down into Haiti, i was hit with a rush of heat and the noise of whirling fans in the terminal.  For just a  moment as I saw the people and remembered we had now been transported into the heart of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, just for a moment I asked myself, "What am I doing here?"

In a matter of moments my eyes were lifted up in the direction of a familiar voice and a smiling face--Gilbert had come to take us to his home.  All of a sudden there was a surge of joy and an affirmation of what made me come to Haiti in the first place.  It was that conversation when Gilbert said to me and a fellow pastor over two years ago, "We need someone to teach our pastors the Word of God".

In the few days we were there I spoke four times--three times with groups of church leaders who were struggling to get along.  Yes, even in Haiti the devil is at work to divide the church. It was encouraging to see those leaders embracing one another and seeking to move forward in a spirit of unity and harmony.

On September 6th I said "good-bye" to Gilbert, and along with my friend, Mark, headed back to California.  On the plane trip home, I talked  myself down--"And I am coming back inNovember?  I'm not sure I can do this again."  I wrestled with the allurement of thecomforts of home , the enticement of retirement, the desire to do something safer and easier.

On Sunday, September 9th I stood before my congregation with my heart lifted up by the groundswell of support my church family verbalized for our ministry in Haiti.  Once again I acknowledged in my heart the true joy there comes from serving God in spite of the "ups" and "downs" of it. Isn't that just like life?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Flexibility and Faith

Preparation, anticipation, excitement.

Disappointment, frustration, confusion.

That was the story during a stormy week here and in Haiti.

The real problem was Hurricance Isaac which wreaked its devastation on Haiti, causing flooding, creating impassable roads and encouraging the spread of cholera.  Our scheduled trip to teach and train pastors was a casualty of the storm.

All the preparation meeting printing and translation deadlines for materials, all the anticipation of seeing our brothers in Haiit, all the excitement of sharing the Word...

Traded for disappointment because it was obvious we could not get there from here, nor could they get to a seminar there.  Frustration because we so desperately wanted to go and they were so anxious for us to come.  Confusion..."Why, God?"

Faith in a sovereign God has to rest in Him even when the storm obscures our clear vision of what is happening in the moment.  I arrived at that point, kicking and screaming inwardly.  I am confident God knows what's best.  I know because in similar circumstances when my vision has been unclear, my retrospect has enabled me to see how God worked things out for His glory.

I don't have that picture yet, but a flexible schedule is allowing me the opportunity to travel to Haiti September1-6 to see what special things churches and believers can do to respond to the current crisis in Haiti.  Additionally, I'll be meeting with some church and small group leaders, trying to discern how we can help most.

It's not what we planned.  But it  may be what God has in mind.

So, I am willing to be flexible, and to step out in faith and to see what God will do.  Pray for us as we travel and seek to minister to our Haitian brothers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I leave for Haiti in a few days and I am experiencing some apprehension about some challenges before me.

I have been praying and I know God is hearing and answering.

Today God sent me a friend whose input I value greatly, especially when it comes to missionary labor, where he has served faithfully all over the world.  we have a similar heart, I believe, for the training of pastors to understand the Word so they can teach it clearly.

He encouraged me and reminded me of some special passages in I Thessalonians 2 where Paul talks about how he behaved among the Thessalonians.  I Thessalonians 2:11 caught my attention, this being a favorite verse of mine.
"For you know that we dealt with each of you as a a father deals with his own children, encouraging , comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory".

I am refreshed, leaving with that goal in mind--to be an encourager and comforter by proclaiming the Word, and to urge my Haitian brother pastors to join me in living lives that bring glory to God.

Pray for me that I'll go and teach in God's strength, not mine. It would be frightening to undertake such a privileged task on my own!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Off to college...

I joined a fellow pastor with his wife and teenage daughter for lunch today.  She leaves for college this weekend.

Lots of emotions for me.  More for them.

I knew her when she was four years old introducing me to her play area in her bedroom as we visited her parents inquiring about their willingness to come work with us in ministry.    Little did I know that the next fourteen years we would watch her grow and blossom into an outstanding young woman.

She is an artist of unquestionable talent, a competitive athlete, an excellent scholar, her high school home-coming queen, and a singer.

I've watched her learn to sing.  Musically-gifted parents jump-started her but she has emerged as a special talent.

Her last  Sunday here she joined her sister in singing a duet that left us all breathless...

And thankful...that the four year old, now eighteen years off to college, where she will surely  continue to grow and blossom.

We'll miss her.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Watching the body work...

I love this part of ministry.  It's incredible how the pieces so neatly fit together as God directs His people to do His work.

*Today we helped three families outside the church with their rent through our Benevolence Fund.

*A church air conditioning contractor had to go out of town but still made time to send  someone to repair the unit in the midst of hot summer weather.

*A lawyer in our church who travels out of state made  time to orchestrate our third family camp that serviced over a hundred people...a great ministry!

*A man hospitalized over an hour away testified of how caring and loving the church people were in their visits and expressed concern towards him during a protracted stay.

*Stephen's Ministers at Grace are connected with 15-20 individuals who are benefitting weekly from their love and care.

*A group ministered at a local rest home on Sunday, sharing Christ's love with those shut-in there.

* A group of church men are working together to assist a church member who is undergoing preparation for a kidney transplant with transportation and funds for traveling between here and Los Angeles.

Just some examples of how the body works!

Should encourage you to be connected to the body.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


One of my favorite means of communication is blogging.  I currently write three blogs, including this one and two others.  I am blessed by a  number of friends who read my blogs but very few choose to respond on line.  I am hoping you might choose today to just respond and say, "I read your blog site" so I can determine how many weekly contacts I have.

I have a blog site that relates to my counseling-coaching practice, full-lifecoaching.blogspot,com, and another relating to my new work in Haiti,    If you have an opportunity, take a look at those as well and it will introduce you to some other areas of ministry in which I am invested.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Calm of Communion

I visited someone yesterday who asked me to serve him Communion.  He is dying and barely able to speak but he, along with his wife, are believers and wanted to do this one more time before he goes to be with the Lord.

He was weak and restless--not uncommon signs for someone who is "pre-terminal"--and unable to communicate.  I decided not to serve communion and after reading the Word and praying with him, prepared to leave.  But he began to gesticulate wildly...and we determined that he indeed wanted to take Communion before I left.

We took the elements--he could not swallow them himself--and recited the scriptural references that identify their significance,  We shared communion together-awkwardly, but with deep meaning and reverence for what it represents to a  child of God.

When I left, he was exhausted.  He had invested all of his limited energy in sharing in that moment of intimacy with God.

When I checked later in the evening his wife said he had fallen asleep peacefully and was resting.  There was a calmness she had not seen over the last few days.

There is no magic in participating in Communion, but it is a proclamation of our confidence in  the forgiveness of our sins through Christ's shed blood on the cross.  For all of us who know Christ, it brings a calmness and peace to know we are in right relationship with God because of Christ's work.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with god through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access into this grace in which we now stand", Romans 5:1,2.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

a little piece of information

I was processing an issue this week and engaging in dialogue with a friend. I arrived at some conclusions that were unfortunate, but, obvious, I think, given the information I had.  As a result, my counseling response was at some levels inappropriate.

I received a little unsolicited piece of information that changed my perspective; in fact, it relieved me, though I realized it had caused me to reach a different conclusion than I would have with that piece in hand, and, perhaps, inflicted some unnecessary pain upon my friend.

My response was to communicate with my friend, revamp what I had said and to acknowledge that the absence of a little piece of information had influenced my reaction and caused me to reach an inappropriate conclusion.  I was sorry to have added to the pain he was already experiencing.

What's the point of all of this?
1.  Make sure you are responding to the right information.
2.  If you're not sure, take more time and gather the information you need.
3.  If you feel a response is necessary,  carefully and lovingly communicate your concern.
4.  If you got it wrong--minus a little piece of information--make it right.

I am still in the school of learning.  It's a little piece of information I won;t forget.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The best team I ever played on

I've been on lots of sports teams, playing high school, college and city league basketball.  I've also been involved in team ministries at four different churches.  I've been called to serve on denominational leadership teams and participated in team-teaching ventures in foreign countries.

Each of these to be successful requires a melding together of talents and abilities and a willingness to do whatever it takes to make the efforts of the team successful in attaining their goals and reaching their objectives.

Having just completed a special event at Grace Fellowship, the church where I currently pastor, I am prepared to say this is the best team I've been privileged to be partners with.  Here's why...

1.  Everyone shares the "glory", deflecting it to others who have helped carry the load.

2.  Each person does their job with excellence, with the highest level of professionalism.

3.  Everyone enjoys the task, jointly committed to the objective of reaching a common goal.

4.  Each person follows through in organizing, delegating and finishing up.

5.  Everyone serves as a volunteer, often donating their own resources to accomplish a task.

We just honored our pastor of seniors who is retiring.  The team I picked--that was my part of the responsibility!--went beyond the proverbial call of duty and provided for our honored guest an  afternoon to be remembered.

Good job team! I'm proud to have been one of you!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day

All four of my children called and left messages on Father's Day and, for me, it was enough.  I would have preferred to have them come from New York, Tennessee and Texas to deliver their greetings in person but that didn't happen for obvious reasons.

I look forward to Father's Day for a couple of reasons.

1.  My dad was significant in my life and his birthday falls around the time of Ftather's Day so I am gernerally predisposed to thinking about him anyway.  He's been gone for twenty-four years and would have been ninety years old June 10th.

2.  I take my role as a father seriously and I always am pretty self-deprecating in reviewing my performance for a variety of reasons, i.e. workaholism, perfectionsim, etc.--not great parenting traits.  But Father's Day messages remind me that I get a passing grade from my kids and affirms the fact that though my fathering was flawed my love for them was apparent and "love covers a multitude of sins".

3.  The evolutuion of my role as a grandfather is an exciting dimension of the whole fathering role.  Though it is vastly different there are some similarities in terms of imperfect performance yet mutual affection.  I also have the advantage of watching my two sons and step-sons perform well as fathers and am welcomed by them as time and space allow into my role as "grandpa"--one I relish.

4.  "Forefathers" also play into my Father's Day mindset--the early patriots who wrote the Deckaration of Indepoendnce and formulated the Constitution under the shadow of "In God we trust", as well as amed service men who stormed places like the beaches of Normandy in WW II at great personal risk toi preserve the freedom we celebrate today.

5.  Finally, I am directed to Romans 8:16 which talks about the unique privilege we celebrate in being a part of the family of God--adopted as sons having trusted in Christ's saving work,  We can call the Creator of the universe "Abba, Father", or in today's vernacular, "Daddy".  How amazing is it that we can have an intimate relationship with a tranmscendant God!

I am living in the afterglow of Father's Day--a conversation today with one of my son's, a message saying "I learned it from the best"...and a reminder that in spite of my flaws and imperfections my children love me, my grandchildren love me...and, most importantly, God  my Heavenly Father, loves me.

How good can it get?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

lessons from a baseball tournament

I returned from a week  camping at Pismo Beach in my trailer next to four of my grandchildren, one who was participating as an all star in a baseball tournament with teams from Central California.  He had four games--we saw all of them--and his team won the tournament.  Yeah, Zeke!

Here's some lessons I learned while "spectating"...

1.  Grandparents, for all of their oxygen deprivation, can scream loud when a grandchild is at bat.

2.  Grandchildren (mine) are the most skilled on the field.

3.  Grandchildren love it when grandparents notice what they are doing.

4.  Grandparents love to say, "That one belongs to me...", as if they had something to do with their grandchild's athletic prowess.

5.  Grandchildren are inconsolable when they lose, although sweets and dessert will go along way towards taking the edge off...

Here's my conclusion about the week.  Grandparenting is a special task to which grandparents are called--not just to admire their grandchildren's accomplishments on the field, but to walk alongside them in life, and to cheer them on in victory and defeat.

Winning a tournament is an occasional treat.  Living with disappointment may be a more common event.  Share the good and the bad.  It's life.


Monday, June 04, 2012

A chance?

As I was walking to lunch last week a familiar face caught my attention, and within moments we were catching up and she was saying, "I can't believe I saw you today".

What followed was the sad story of her mother;s debilitating health and her recent placement with Hospice.  My friend;s father had died two years ago and I had the porivilege as a Hospice chaplain of walking with the family through his final months.

And now it was happening with her mother, who had been told she had from two weeks to six months to live.

For whatever reasons,we had not yet made ther Hospice conenction and now I was ushdered once again into the family's grieving process.

The next day I was at her mother's home and we prayed together, affirming her faith.  She was sitting up, in good spirits and responsive.  A week later she was dead.

It wa snot as meeting by chance.  I believe--and so does her daughter--it was God-ordained. 

When you're walking to lunch, keep your heart and eyes open.  God may have something or someone special in mind for you!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The fruitless pursuit of peace

So many of recent devotional readings I've read with Bev are about peace.  Even in recent staff meetings we have talked frequently about peace, or, the lack of it. It seems appropriate, if not God-ordained, since peace is always on my mind but seldom in my heart.

Or, at least that is how it feels.

I've been drawn to two verses in the Bible.  One is the familiar promise (KJV is how I learned it) in          Isaiah  26:3 "Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee". The other is Colossians 3:15 which instructs us to "Let the peace of God rule in your heart..." (NIV)

Sometimes I feel as if I am in engaged in a frenetic pursuit of peace.  That in itself seems exhausting and certainly futile.  There are mental exercises I attempt, scriptural promises I quote, meaningful conversations I engage...yet peace seems fleeting if not elusive.

I am also reading a book entitled, FEEL, which suggests we cannot ignore our emotions--that, in fact, they are by God's design inextricably tied to the intellectual process of rational decision-making.  What I tell   my self is that peace is not the absence of internal conflict but the assurance that God is on the scene no matter what I am feeling.

I have not resolved the enigma of peace this morning but here's where I am with respect to the two biblical passages that have been resonating in my heart for the last few weeks.

1.  Keeping my mind intentionally set on God in every circumstance and situation, and being attentive to what His Word says about who He is and what He can do, is an act of productive discipline.  My morning devotional prayer simply  was, "Lord, I receive the peace that is mine because you live within me."

2.  I continue to intellectually affirm that peace is the arbiter of my life--in my relationship with God, in my commitment to meaningful personal relationships, in my tackling of difficult decisions.

My pursuit of peace continues unsatisfactorily.

But my experience of peace, though only occasionally an emotional reality, is growing proportionately to my abandonment of human effort and my affirmation of God's abiding presence.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Where do we go for help?

The Israelites were facing the challenge of the Assyrians and were contemplating asking their adversarial neighbors, the Egyptians, to join them.  In Isaiah 31 he warns the Israelites against this.  Here are some key verses I noted as I randomly opened my Bible for my morning devotions.

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or seek help from the Lord..."

As I think about the challenges before me--nothing like the Assyrian armies, but potentially overwhelming because they stretch me beyond my personal resources--I am often tempted to figure out what plan or program I should follow to attack the problem.  I am tempted to despair because when I look at my own arsenal of "weapons", I realize my impotency.

God does not ask us to look for creative resources when up against a challenge.  He does not ask us to compromise with the enemy to make our way easier.

He wants us to ask Him for His help.

What a novel idea!  The Creator of the universe, Sovereign God--He invites us to come to Him, and warns against the folly and futility of looking elsewhere.

I think I can do that.  I know I should do that. I will do that.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Managing free time

Now that sounds like an oxymoron...why would anyone want to manage free time?  Free time should be essentially time that does not have to be managed.  Right?


At least, for me.  Blessed with an extraordinary opportunity to be away--I am gone twelve weeks during the year to allow for Pastor Mark's continued transition into his role as senior pastor in 2013--I wrestle with all kinds of varying emotions and self-imposed pressures.

Guilt.  Self-indulgence.  Guilt   Work-aholism.  Guilt.  Other's expectations.  Guilt.

This weekend we traveled in our trailer with good friends, enjoying free time.  We hiked ( 11 miles in one trip), boated on the majestic Lake Oroville (a beautiful surprise), played games (Shanghai is our favorite "Christian" card game), slept in (7 am is late for us), had long devotional discussions and prayer time together (Bev and I got to do this without a clock ticking in the background), barbecued outside and ate too much.

We camped where there was no internet reception--no wi-fi, and we had opted not to bring a computer.  Of course, I had my mini-portable computer--my IPhone--which allowed me painstakingly slow email reception---but we  were generally shut off from the real world...the world I unsuccessfully try to manage.

Managing free time for me demands "intentionality".  The discussion about the IPhone, computer, church work, TLC work, counseling--these all have to be managed--which means, put aside.  I do that with varying degrees of success, depending on hopw willing I am to listen to a loving wife's counsel.

What I am learning to do is to embrace my free time as just that--time in which I am free to decide what I will do with this precious commodity.  Will I read for pure enjoyment?  Will I hike for the beauty and the exhilaration I feel?  Will I sit quietly in the sun under the shad of a tree for the sheer joy of unencumbered rest?   Will I leave my watch aside for the wanton pleasure of not being on a planned schedule?

These are choices I have to make in managing free time. Solomon's words from Ecclesiastes 3 resonate in my heart today.  "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven..."

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

a trusted friend

Yesterday I spent some time with a trusted friend.  Though we are very close we seldom have time to really just sit and visit.

Yesterday was different.

We went to a local restaurant and bought sandwiches and salads.

We took a short drive to the Mokelumne River, a few miles from where we both live.

We sat on some hastily-grabbed picnic chairs next to the river's edge and ate lunch.

We mostly sat and listened to the water.

We walked for an hour, occasionally talking, but intentionally listening to birds and frogs punctuating the silence.

We climbed back into the car--now hastily ushered back into the reality of our busy world--and reflected upon how good it was just to spend time together.

I thank God for my trusted friend.

My wife.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Digging out of the Duldrums

It's Monday and I'm feeling the weightiness of transition.  I'm tired, feeling isolated, and disconnected.

I've retreated to my other office and am working through my feelings and emotions, knowing that they are not reliable reference points for decison-making.

I am also reminding myself that worry is counter productive and, more improtantly, sinful, for it separates me from the more appropriate response to anxiety of prayer.

I read from the Psalms for my devotions this morning and was directed there again a few minutes ago to Psalm 116:1, "I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I mwillc all on Him as long as I live."

David's context for those words seem a bit more egregious than mine--"The cords of death strangled me...", "I was overcome by trouble and sorrow..."

David's next words are where I want to be, "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you."

I am calling on the Lord--He has always been faithful to meet my needs.  I know He hears me. 

I think I'll take a nap. (It's my day off...)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

"Speak the truth in love"

Here's a biblical principle seldom practiced.

"Speak the truth in love."

No doubt, part of the  problem is how we do this.

*The "speak" can become "yelling" and "gesticulating".

The "truth" can be diluted and distorted.

The "in love" can be lost on line, miscommunicated in a letter, or even misread in a  face-to-face meeting.

Hardly seems worth the risk.

Except, the alternative is to harbor anger, to become sullen and withdrawn, to become passively miss the opportunity that openness and honesty afford when exercised in the context of Christian love.

Yes, there are still risks.

I have shared on occasions "in love"  in the past with Christian brothers where my sharing was turned around to make me feel guilty or to question my motives.

For me, it's still worth it.

Obeying the Word, exercising the biblical principle, and checking personal motives will enable you to "speak the truth in love" and to move forward without rancor or bitterness.

I know.  I've compared the benefit of "speaking the truth in love" to harboring bitterness in my heart--something warned against in God's word.  There's no comparison.

Obey the Word.  Take the "risk".

"Speak the truth in love."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dealing with Devastation

You've heard it said--"I felt like I just got run over by a truck".

Whoever lived to describe that experience?  I guess it's what we imagine it would feel like to be have an unexpected unbearable load suddenly thrust upon us.

It literally takes our breath a way...someone said, like a "sucker punch".

Maybe you've experienced such a devastating event, or, are in the midst of an avalanche of chaos and crisis.
The truck has not only run over you, but it feels like its backing up and doing it again...and again.

How do we deal with devastation?

We clearly have to change our focus.  Focusing on the stuff around us can perpetuate the sense of gloom that   accompanies difficulties.  The persecuted Hebrew believers were encouraged with this challenge, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." (Hebrews 12:2).

Paul tells young believers at Corinth that we "...fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal", II Corinthians 4:18.

What am I looking at?  The current calamity is devastating but it is temporary.  In terms of eternity, it pales in comparison to what God has planned for me.  I can choose where I direct my focus, heeding the admonition to "set your affections on things above...", Colossians 3:1.

I may still feel like a got run over by a truck.

But I don't have to lay there.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The treasure of good friends

The ministry affords the opportunity for the formation of many meaningful relationships. Over the years I have had the privilege of having many friends, and those are the by-products of ministry that I treasure most.

We are traveling with friends this week and it is a special time of sharing and laughing--even crying together--that I will not soon forget.

I love acrostics--some you know that--and I wanted to identify what i think are the characteristics of a good friend. As you read these, hopefully the faces of people who are dear to you will come to your mind, and like me, you'll be grateful for this treasure.

F-orgiving--a true friend "cuts you some slack" when you've had a bad day or behaved poorly

R-eaffirming--a true friend reminds you of the things that matter most

I-inquiring--a true friend seeks to be conscious of your needs and knows when to ask and when to be quiet

E-ncouraging--a true friend looks for things to do and say to make you feel better

N-on-judgmental-- a true friend never judges you but accepts you with your strengths and weaknesses

D-ependable--a true friend can be counted on to be there in good and bad times

I'm thankful for all of my friends.  Next time I see you, I'm going to tell you...again!

Monday, February 27, 2012

My marriage matters most

I arrived at Matthew 19:1-12 on Sunday and was challenged by Jesus' response to the Pharisees who inquired about divorce,.  They were trying to "test" Him, and to get Him trapped into saying something that would undermine the Mosaic law and thus diminish His Messianic claims.  Additionally, the prominent rabbinic schools had battled about the legitimate reasons for divorce and the school of Hillel had concluded a man could divorce his wife even if she "burned his breakfast" (my words).

Remember the Pharisees' question...divorce for "any and every reason?" (verse 3)

This was an obvious aberration of what God had in mind and Jesus points to the "beginning" and the familiar words of Genesis 2:24, repeated here, affirming the fact that "male and female" become "one flesh" and are "united" ("cleave", KJV) together, not to be ever separated.  this is God's design for marriage.

The "bill of divorcement" (our divorce decree) was granted because of men's "hardness of heart"--sinfulness, unwillingness to forgive, adulteress choices, etc.  It was a concession to protect the sanctity of the marriage covenant and to protect the innocent party who might otherwise be unfairly branded.  The porneia   concession--the "indecency" Deuteronomy 24--included more than adultery--enveloping things like incest, homosexuality, indecent exposure, etc.  Pornography could be a 21st century addition to what the word semantically includes.  I Corinthians 7 suggests that an unbeliever leaving a believer allows that unbeliever not to be "bound" by marriage, as well.

What I think Jesus was really doing in this passage was not so much speaking of divorce--though that is what the Pharisees wanted--but using this as a platform to affirm what marriage was to be, and what such relationships should look like within the kingdom.  This, obviously puzzling the disciples now reminded of God's intended permanency of marriage, prompted them to inquire if being single wasn't a better option. Verses 10-12 provide Jesus' clear answer to that with the obvious conclusion being that marriage is our clear privilege unless calls us specifically to something different.

Which causes me to affirm today--even though I experienced the pain of divorce almost twenty years ago--that my marriage matters most.  God has divinely provided me a partner for the rest of my life.  He has clearly promised me He will guard this relationship as I partner with Him, and He will preserve my marriage as I submit to the principles of His Word, which guide me in how to be a godly husband.

In the sphere of all other relationships and responsibilities, I have determined that this is what matters to me the most.

So help me God!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A word about blogging

I have two sites on which I blog weekly---or, at least, that's my intent.  If you're here, you know; I have another blog at  Both are accessible from my website,

I am, sharing this information because I am anxious to hear from you.  Many of you write me in other venues or see me and are kind in expressing your responses to what you have read.  But few use the blog site to respond.

Can you help me by answering a few questions  Some have said you can;t figure out how to post on the blog site so you can write me at

1.  D you read my blog?  If so, which one(s)?

2.  Is it hard to respond on my blog site?  Which one?  Do you know why?

3.  Have you tried to access my website? If so, was it easy to read my blog there?

Thanks for responding.  It will help me determine what problem I need to fix!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Humility...the forgotten virtue

My associate, Mark Johnson, shared a compelling message about the characteristics of a disciple that emerge from Matthew 18 following the disciples misplaced quesiton, "Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"  Jesus ignores their question and  makes this telling statement, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven".

Undoubtedly, the disciples are embarassed that Jesus even knows they were having this discussion (Mark and Luke suggest this), but Jesus skillfully and perceptively directs their attention to the real issue--entrance into the kingdom and what are the expectations of its subjects.  He talks about change--"unless you are converted and become like children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven".  And what is it about children to which he draws attention?  "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven". 

And there's the answer to the quesiton that began the conversation.  I'll bet it isn't the answer they expected.

Humility.  The humbleness of a child.  In Jesus' day children had no rights, no privileges, no real value except in their potential as heirs.  This is what Jesus identified as the virtue for particiupation in  His kingdom.  Humility in recognizing who we are without Him and what we can become with Him.

In thinking about our life as citizens in the kingdom of God, we would probably acknoweldge this virtue is the one we  lack most.  By nature, we are prone to self-sufficiency; it is the nature of sinful man.  We find ourselves clamoring for our rights, insisting on special privileges, and foolishly presuming that God needs us.  We aspire for the place of honor, the praise of others, the affirmation of our value. 

It is in us.  It is what we are.  It is how we live.

Without God.

Jesus set this principle in focus when He told His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).  The daily recognition of who I am without God promotes within me an appropriate spirit of humility.  Recognizing the grace of God and His love for me in spite of my sinfulness accentuates how humbled I feel as His child. 

And Hischild I want to be.  A citizen of His kingdom.  A humble recipient of His grace.

I'll try not to forget that this is what "greatness" in God's sight is all about. Thanks, Mark.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Starting my 65th year...

At 1:45 a.m. this morning sixty-four years ago in Portland, Oregon, my mother gave birth to twin boys.  My brother, Dennis, pushing hard, followed me seven minutes later into a bright hospital delivery room where my mother battled for her life with toxemia.

Fast forward sixty-four years; Mom is eighty-seven and doing fine, and my brother, Dennis, and I, along with our wives, will celebrate our birthday together tonight.

At some levels this is the most frightening year of my life.  I am retiring at the end of this year from more than forty-five years of doing something I love, and I'm uncertain what exactly God has in store for me in the future.  I can hear my wife, Beverly, reminding me in the background, "walk by faith".

By the same token, this is also the most exciting year of my life as I ponder more time with my children and grandchildren, additional time in Haiti., the start-up of my own counseling-coaching business and more discretionary time this year to do the things I love to do.  What could be better!

I see this as a serious time for remaining true to some parameters God has helping me put in place in my life as  I look ahead.

1.  I want to finish well.  I'm not done but entering the final quarter of my life, I don't want to retire from serving the Lord.

2.  I want to enjoy my family and friends.  I have been blessed with both and it is my desire to affirm these relationships that have been so meaningful to me.

3.  I want to discover some new challenges. I want to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone to use my discretionary time in creative ways to minister to others.

4.  I want to be physically active.  I hope for more time to hike, ride my bike, camp in my trailer, take long walks with my wife.

5.  I want to deepen my relationship with God--more time in His Word, more time in prayer, more time worshipping Him in the spirit of Romans 12:1.

As I start my sixty-fifth year, it is with the quiet confidence that the God who has called me to Himself, will continue to care for me and will complete the work He has begun in me before he calls me home,   Philippians 1:6.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"little faith"

Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9 all tell the story of a father's concern for his demon-possessed son who manifested alarming characteristics of a frenzied-like epilepsy.  When Jesus hears his story, tinged with all the emotions of a grieving father who had unsuccessfully sought the disciples' help in casting out the demon, He responded to the desperate man's request--"But if you can do anything take pity on us and help us"--with a short question, "If you can?"
"If you can?" Jesus seems almost incredulous at the request.  He could have been thinking--"You've seen me to do miracles. You've heard about my demon-casting out power (or you wouldn't even be here).  You've come to seek my help.  And, yet, you doubt my ability."  "If you can?"

Jesus continued.  "Everything is possible for him who believes", and the embarrassed father responded,        "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."

And Jesus miraculously delivered the young boy from the demonic presence.  as the boy lay like a corpse like he was dead on the ground, "...Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet and he stood up".  Luke records, "And they were all amazed at the greatness of God".

All the gospel writers record the disciples' frustration that they could not cast out the demon--"Why could we not drive it out?" Mark observes that Jesus answered,  "This kind can come out only by prayer", intimating that the disciples had acted in their own strength, not availing themselves of the divine power of God. Or, perhaps, they had not been  totally confident that God could accomplish this act of deliverance through them for Matthew records Jesus' response in these words  "Because you have so little faith.  I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain 'Move from here to there' and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you."

The father of the demon-possessed boy had faith; he brought his son to the disciples and, ultimately, to Jesus.

The disciples had faith.  They attempted to cast out the evil spirit, no easy task.

What they had in common was "little faith".

"Little faith" is not about the quantity of faith--Jesus had said it only has to be as big as a small mustard seed--but about the quality of faith.

Do you believe Jesus can--is He big enough?  Have you come to  Him in prayerful dependence so that you can accept His will and purpose no matter what the outcome?  It takes  genuine faith--focused on a sovereign God with a  plan and purpose for our lives--to believe that He is able to do the perfect thing that we need for our good and His glory.

How "little" is your faith?  How big is your God?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Prayer for Papau, New Guinea

Six of our church members are currently ministering in Papau, New Guinea.  They are there for three weeks with a number of tasks--teaching at the pastoral training school, holding VBS's in the villages, and ministering to the forgotten women of that area, affirming their value in God's sight.

This required enormous preparation.  Materials for 2000 chidlren were prepared in advance.  Teaching posters were masterfully and artisically produced as visuals for the women and children (Thanks, Debbie).  Pastor Mark and Logan have studied for several months studying the book of Hebrews to be taught to the young men at the seminary.  The rest of the team--Desiree, Mikel, Mary and Morgan--have been getting ready for their parts, as well, training themselves to clearly articulate the gospel that they will be sharing in the various venues provided.

This is an all-church venture.  Many helped cut out and assemble the materials for the children.  Otghers helped by donating 100 study Bibles for ther pastors.  Otehrs have given to help cover the costs of travel, food, medical supllies and all the other necessitities associated with a ministry as      far-reaching as this--nearly $30,000.  A commissioning service with congregation gathered in prayerful affirmation around the team the Sunday they left was an opportunity for us all to be bound together in this ministry.

The key component, however, is prayer.  "God moves in response to the prayers of His people", writes Billingham in his book, DESTINED FOR THE THRONE.  Some of us are gathering by a small white cross outside of Jackson on Hwy 88 at 7:45 a.m. Thursday mornings; others are meeting together for prsayer in cae groups and Bible studies, remembering the team.  Sunday morning we took time in oiur worship service to join hearts together for the people of Papau, New Guinea--part of the church--the body of Christ around the world.

Everywhere I go people ask me, "Have you heard from the team?"  That m,akes me believe that we are heeding the command to "Pray without ceasing" and even though not physically on our knees before God, our hearts are continually turned towards Him in behalf of those we love--our team and the people of Papau, New Guinea.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When all else fails...

What happens when someone you love is overwhelmed by drug addiction and spirals downward into evidences of psychotic and self-destructive behavior?

What happens when a mother--much too young to die--succumbs to a horrible tumor and the vibrancy of her life is snuffed away?

What happens when you've searched for a job for three years and every door has been closed, even though you have exhausted your alternatives in seeking employment?

What happens when you are forced to stand by helplessly when an undiagnosed virus literally ravages a life...and before you can prepare yourself, death overtakes it?

What happens when you've invested all your resources in someone only to watch them walk away and pursue a path of certain failure?

The answer to all of these questions is...we grieve.  We suffer.  We ask what else we could have done? We introspectively assess our last words, our actions, our motives.  And we grieve some more.

I have been involved in situations like this almost daily for the last several months.  If not personally, as a friend, a  pastor, a counselor.  Someone who cares.  Someone who grieves.

And I am convinced that the reason God has allowed me to minister in these kinds of  situations for almost forty-five years is because I am persuaded that when all else has failed...there is still God.

A God who can break the bonds of drug addiction.

A God who can comfort a family who has laid their mother to rest. knowing she is with the Lord.

A God who can supply all of our needs--even when our employment situation is not what we would have chosen--and use the situation as a means of becoming more dependent upon him.

 A God who can remind me, even when death has seemingly triumphed, that Christ is the ultimate victor, and an eternity awaits those who have trusted in him.

A God who loves that person who walks away even more than I do--a God who is vested with divine resources that far outstrip mine in accomplishing His purposes in the life of the one I care for.

When all else fails...there is still God.

"But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body..."  Philippians 3:20,21.