Tag Archives: pastors

The best and the worst

Beautiful Pictures on G+The best and the worst can be found in the people of God. When Christians love, there is nothing better. When they reflect Christ’s love poorly, it hurts badly.

If you are a Christian, this is my appeal for you to love. If you are not a Christian and you have been hurt by one, this is my appeal to you to forgive us and to keep trying to find love from Christians.

Original image from Beautiful Pictures on Google Circles.

Watch and pray!

watch and pray

Gif from Beautiful Pictures of Google Circles.

Could you not but pray for an hour?

In his hour of desperation, Jesus couldn’t count on his disciples to pray. He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew they were going to arrest him within minutes. He was so stressed out, he sweated blood drops. He prayed, and he asked his disciples to pray.

They fell asleep.

Do we likewise fall asleep when it is time to pray?

The loco church

flying chanclasThey’re not aiming for American Idol, a recording contract or a nationwide tour. They call themselves the Flying Chanclas (flipflops in Spanish), and their ambitions are much larger. They have their sights set on souls.

Yesterday, the Flying Chanclas from the Pacoima Potter’s House Church and a smattering of other Christians “invaded” Santa Maria, CA, a small town not far off the coast, to pass out flyers and do a concert in the evening to get people saved. I brought my drama group.

In an age where droves are crowding churches so big they’re called “mega,” others prefer — myself included — decidedly small churches where you can do more than sit and watch professionals deliver Emmy quality ministry. You can get involved with your own rickety performance. You can DO something more than just applaud others. I’m part of a group of churches called Christian Fellowship Ministries.

While all the hype is about the mega ministry, many Christians get their kicks by carrying out the Great Commission quietly, anonymously, one soul at a time. (After all, Jesus’ chosen successors weren’t the masses; they were individuals.)

You may not see this in mainstream news outlets, but the local loco church (as in, we are loco for Jesus) is thriving. If you were with Jesus 2000 years ago, would you want to partake of the multiplied loaves and fishes or serve them?

But as for the Flying Chanclas, you’ll have to ask Pastor Matt Sinkhorn of the Potter’s House in Sylmar, Services are held at Hubert Humphrey Park at 12560 Filmore St. in Pacoima 91331 on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

There are also Bible studies at the pastor’s house Sunday night 6:30 and Wednesday night 7:30 at 12107 El Dorado Ave. #11 Sylmar CA 91342

Do you fit in in church?

dropping out of church

Photo credit: http://authordebbieyoung.com/2014/01/22/why-doing-a-jigsaw-puzzle-is-a-bit-like-writing-a-book/ (I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.)

A jigsaw puzzle piece decided he didn’t want to hang out with his brothers. He wanted to go off and discover his destiny elsewhere. Things were too rigid in the jigsaw puzzle. He wanted freedom. He knew that in the world he would make a huge splash and he didn’t need his fellow pieces.

And so, the beautiful picture had a glaring omission. Fellowship was broken, and God’s anointing, which flows where there is unity, was blocked. And the puzzle piece never was beautiful anywhere else.

God designed you for a purpose. You may have other dreams that can draw you away. You are most beautiful where God has placed you. Don’t drop out of church.

Can we just stop hurting people who come to church to heal their hurts?

I don't own the rights to this image. I got it from http://mafietta.com. I'm not making money on it.

I don’t own the rights to this image. I got it from http://mafietta.com. I’m not making money on it.

All over the blogosphere, and talking to people outside of church, I find people who have been hurt in the very place where they should’ve been helped.

Yikes!

Honestly, we look more like the Pharisees than Jesus, who ate with tax-collectors and stopped stone-throwing at prostitutes. Of course, the Bible points to a moral standard that must be upheld by the church, but many times it’s simply a pastor’s ego, a leader’s power trip, that offends.

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea – Matt. 18:6 NIV.

I haven’t left the church. I wish and pray to see the church changed.

The importance of moon shots

from Wired.com

from Wired.com

Larry Page, the leader of Google, tells his employees that every product they make must be 10X better than the competition. Next on the list of things for Google: self-driving cars, wearable computers, mapping the human race’s DNA code. He’s eternally dissatisfied, and that drives him to pursue greater heights. Mediocrity and modest gains be damned. Shoot for the moon.

As Christians, we should have vision and dream big. What is keeping us from bigger things? Many times our own scaled-down vision. Read more about Larry Page. It inspired me.

Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. — Mark 11:23 NIV.

Making a masterpiece takes…

masterpieceI’m still trying to produce my life’s masterpiece, that stroke of genius, that huge and beautiful work by which I may be remembered.

In the meantime, there are lots of starts and stops. I’ve thrown out the canvas a bunch of times. I’ve produced a long line of inferior works. Some of them have been good. But none of them is critically acclaimed.

Of course, I’m referring to whatever your calling may be, not just art. I myself am no artist. But I’ve compared my work serving the Lord to artistry. Am I satisfied success

with the works I’ve done to glorify Jesus? Not yet. I’ll keep working.

Don’t fret. Keep on in the right direction. Your last work will be your best and will make everybody forget the rest.

Making a masterpiece takes time.

Build

Julian Green's late strike

Julian Green’s sensational strike sparked a rally that had people believing. (I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.)

Don’t go glum over the U.S. elimination from World Cup. The run was the impossible dream. Just to make it out of the group stage showed prowess.

Amid the tears, there is one glimmer of hope. That was a 19-year-old kid who only played a few minutes of World Cup soccer and scored a sensational neck-stretcher wild-sideways-kick goal that sparked an emotional U.S. rally in their 2-1 loss to Belgium.

A resident of Germany since age 2, Julian Green only recently defined his desire to serve the red, white and blue. He was recruited also by Germany.

sensational Tim Howard

U.S. Goalie Tim Howard made scintillating save after save to keep the U.S. in the game. (I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.)

U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was wise to sacrifice Landon Donovan for Julian Green. Recognizing that USA’s chances were unrealistic in 2014, Klinsmann’s taking the long-term approach to build U.S. soccer. Build, don’t burn, your program. Come back stronger. Make a squad with a realistic chance at winning a World Cup. Until now, our only flourish was a 2nd-place finish in the Confederations Cup in 2009.

Julian Green over shoulder kick

An astonishing over-the-shoulder one-touch fires home to spark U.S. hopes. (I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.)

If you are church leader, it matters little how badly you’re getting beaten (by lack of finances, by apathy, by attacks on your health). The only thing that matters is how you marshal your resources to build God’s kingdom. If this doesn’t appear to be the year of revival, maybe next year.

The impossible dream is not over. It’s just extended.

I’m only on the learning curve

Mike's learning curveI’ve been a pastor for 20 years now, and I’m still on the learning curve. But instead of getting frustrated (that I’m never able to fully get everything I need to know), I’ve realized that all pastors should always be on God’s learning curve.

IMG_5255In fact, the “experts” in whatever field are  on their way out. The moment they “know it all” is the moment they stop learning. It’s the moment they stop keeping up with change. Some upstart is going to overtake them and become a new expert.

4WdhE3V

Many leaders have become dead weight. Their “expertise” keeps them from moving forward. They’re about be passed up by people looking to the future.

Consider Kodak, the erstwhile unchallenged leader of cameras and film worldwide. Today, the bastion of Rochester, NY’s, economy is a hollow shell. Kodak’s leadership is turning it into  a poster printing company. Their once-unquestioned dominance is now a joke. They rested on their laurels. They missed the switch to digital and never caught the cutting edge again.

  • Stay learning.
  • Be only a “half expert.”
  • Don’t rest on improving.
  • Don’t worry if you make mistakes.
  • Don’t defend your mistakes.
  • Jesus forgives you.
  • Keep moving forward.

Comparisons are the worst: Part 2 on self-esteem

Discov ering self esteem

Unperceived by parents, teachers, friends, aptitude tests, my giftings were perfect for what God designed me for. I’m posing with kids in the Guatemala Christian school, Liceo Bilingue La Puerta.

My gifting was not appreciated by anyone in high school. I wasn’t that smart, wasn’t athletic, wasn’t socially adept. What was I? I was overly sensitive. In high school being overly sensitive is not a good thing because you’re no good at the interchange of crass teasing that especially goes on among boys.

I actually thought I lacked a special trait.

Then I discovered my call: to pastor, to be a missionary. And being very sensitive (to God and to others) was a premium. But when I was a kid and took aptitude tests designed to surface giftings, nothing registered.

colegio GuatemalaComparisons are the worst because God made you absolutely unique. This uniqueness is reflected in your fingerprints, in your DNA, in your emotional makeup, in your interests and passions. It flouts comparison. To compare yourself to others is to ignore your God-given talents.

There is only one you on te planet. God made you special to do something nobody else will do. Only you can get the job done. It’s pointless to desire somebody else’s job. ?God didn’t design you for that.

It’s an insult to God to wish to be someone different, to have their beauty, their intellect or their wit. If you are young, take it easy on yourself. Don’t criticize yourself harshly. Wait and see what comes of your life. Strive to do well in everything but don’t panic if others do better in you in many areas. Because in one area, you’re going to blow them away. That’s where you’re a winner.

Be a storm chaser

brave the stormWhen it comes to God’s kingdom, we shouldn’t shirk from the adventure. No fear should makes us cower. We should be “bold as lions” and thirst for the things we are most afraid of.

Is it tithing? evangelism? discipleship? church planting? ministry? Take it on, and ride the storm. Don’t seek the comfy life of never challenging the devil. I’d rather die on the warfront than in a retirement home bed.

Dare for more in your Christian walk. Risk for Christ.

Who you are

who you are when you are aloneWhen you are alone, you are weak, vulnerable, defenseless. Contrary to popular Christianity, this does not “reveal” the real you. It may reveal what the devil wants to grind you into.

Who you truly are is your most heroic moment in life. You wouldn’t have achieved that great moment if you had not the character inside. That’s who Jesus wants you to become more and more. He wants you to repeat the command performance.

triumphHow many times have grown distraught because we have believed we “are” who we are when alone? The trouble with this idea, perpetuated in Christian books, firstly is that it’s not in the Bible. The Bible teaches we are weak and should keep ourselves surrounded by people who are going to encourage and nurture the better self inside. What army leaves a soldier alone and abandoned and then blames him if he loses the war?

Too much condemnation has been piled on by authors who think they’re clever by quoting this cliché. Please stop now.

Be freed into joy and realize that your best moment in life is who you are. Your high point augurs good things for your future. Believe in God because He believes in you.

My heart goes out to them…

Cannabalism

Though my heart goes out to the multitudes who have been hurt by “toxic” churches, I am not among those abandoning the church. If Christ instituted, going AWOL cannot be part of the solution, regardless of damage done. You may need to change church, not leave it entirely.

I belong to the group seeking reform for the church. When I see reform, I wish to reform myself. I, a sinner, need to change. I am part of the church. As I change and become truly more Christ-like, the church will better reflect His love.

So many of my posts challenge unbelievers in their unbelief that I am even fearful to publish this challenge to the church to self-examination, self-surgery, self-healing. (I didn’t hardly even dare to make visible the stinging criticism in the picture. Only if you look closely can you make it out.)

Jesus said: As you judge, you will be judged. Let us therefore use mercy one with another. Love those who are hard to love in the church. Don’t come down to their insecurity. If they rattle off criticisms, don’t you do it.

Image

So why do people use it as an excuse to miss church?

hypocrites

Work your way down in the organization

be humble

With Zach (at right)

Ha! The last three years have been the humility lab class for me. I went from being general pastor of four churches and principal and founder of a school to… nothing. Criminals forced us to flee the mission field and return to the home church.

cleaning ministry

With my aunt on the East Coast

At the home church, I longed to serve and I yearned to make a difference, to help stoke the fires of revival. But so many missteps of mine only stoked the fires of resentment. I was asked to give up ministry and look for a secular job. Ouch!

It seemed like every ministry position was already filled by someone who was more qualified than myself. I tried Sunday school. I tried teaching in the regular school. I tried publicity. I thought my experience could be a boon for the church.

After floundering for a couple years, I finally found a ministry where I was heartily welcomed, where I didn’t step on any toes, where I could satisfy my hearts longing to simply be useful. I don’t want to be important but to do important work.

It was not my first choice of ministry. It was cleaning.

serving

With my family at Niagara Falls

I kept secretly admiring the main cleaning guy, who unpaid got up early and stayed up late assuring that schoolkids and church members alike could enjoy spotless environs. Zach Scribner had a vision for  cleaning and saving the church money. I had zero vision for cleaning.

But I wanted to help where I could make an impact. Zach never got a day to rest in — until now. He is overjoyed to finally get a day off. And that makes me happy.

Chatting, a brother said, “Working your way up in an organization always works.” And that’s when it hit me: I haven’t worked my way up, I’ve worked my way down. Serendipitously, I fell into Mark 10:44: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. Aim not to be chief but to serve.

Kneeling before a toilet bowl, I reflected that I was doing it for my God. I thought of many who would despise such labor, some of whom also kneel before a toilet bowl, not to clean, but to throw up… for their god, alcohol.

In any other organization, expect to work your way up. In the church, look to work your way down.

Finances for your ministry: a Vacation Bible School boon

finances for your ministryI don’t like expensive church activities, so when Brenda Bowen announced a $10/week vacation Bible school, I was overjoyed.

Brenda Bowen

Trained in utter poverty of African missions, Brenda Bowen delivered ministry that excluded no one from the salvation message.

There would be hardly any money for the snacks, the crafts and all the activities that were to be done. I was drafted for a couple of skits, one of which was clowns with my son and another boy. What fun!

But since God is great, the project finished with $80 extra — not the shortage I imagined impossible to avoid. This is God’s provision for His ministry.

If you are working to save souls, you can expect God to take care of you. Like Peter who hauled in a net-wrenching haul of fish when there were none in the lake, so God will multiply and make something out of nothing. When you pray for finances, believe and wait expectantly.

Image

Forgiven

forgiven

How do I pray? Keep the house united

Civil War ReenactmentsHow do I pray? The importance of unity.

I saw a Civil War battle reenactment in Genesee Country Village and Country Museum near Rochester, New York. Being from the West Coast, I had never seen anything so astounding.

Genesee Village and Country MuseumThe Union troops dislodged the invading Confederates from the village and then re-engaged in the afternoon on the open field. Canons thundered. Plumes of white smoke squirted six feet out of muskets. Soldiers died writhing in acted pain. In the village, there was even a surgeon’s tent where they explained the horrors of a five-minute amputation, necessary to save lives with the bone-shattering musket balls.

Civil War amputations

A reenactor explains tying off blood vessels.

The Civil War was a horror. More American lives died there than in World Wars 1 & 2, Korea, and Vietnam combined. In it, brother killed brother.

Spectators at Civll War reenactment

My daughter, Rebekah, and I, after the battle.

Rightly, Jesus warned against a house divided against itself. Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift — Matt. 5:24 NIV. The need is so pressing to conserve unity that you should interrupt your prayer time to restore fellowship. Disunity blunts prayer’s power. Let not your church become a Civil War. The church is supposed to horrorize Hell’s henchmen. But when we turn on rifles on each other, we become a laughingstock for demons’ delight.

Civil War muskets

My sons, Robert and Hosea, hold Union muskets

Conflict occurs because people wrongly think they must compete against other members of the church for preeminence. It’s a worldly concept of dog-eat-dog, put-others-down-so-I-can-climb-on-top, that should be left in the world.

How do I pray? Keep the house unitedStriving for unity pleases God — and blesses your prayer. You can’t control what people do to you, but you can control how you respond. Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace — Eph.4:3 NASB. Do all YOU can to preserve oneness.

The Civil War ravaged our nation. May our churches be spared of division. How do I pray? Keep unity.

Mimi’s miracles

Mimi, always so vibrant and full of life, at left, with her mother and older sister.

Mimi, always so vibrant and full of life, at left, with her mother and older sister.

Because Mimi was born with two spinal cords, her parents came from the countryside to Guatemala City for successive surgeries. First doctors saved her life. Then they helped her to walk. Eventually she gained control of her bladder. She would have been identical twins but the zygote only partially split.

Pastor Ludving leads the church and school heroically, at great personal sacrifice.

Pastor Ludving leads the church and school heroically, at great personal sacrifice.

Ludving and Nelly wound up attending my church. Ludving was about to buy some alcohol to drown sorrows when he heard the praise music and came in. He didn’t get saved. He had already accepted Jesus. The worship exhilarated and lifted him out of despair. They came to the church.

The Door Church in Guatemala City

The Door Church in Guatemala City

When he decided to do something, Ludving never did it half-way. Right decision after right decision led the couple to hosting, then pastoring, a pioneer church. When thugs chased me off, the Holy Spirit pointed to him as the man to take over.

Pastor Ludving with Mario Artiga

Pastor Ludving with Mario Artiga

To my way of thinking, Mimi should be gloriously and completely healed by now. She is not. On Thursday, she is submitting to her umpteenth surgery, this time to correct kidney failure (she has four kidneys, but only one completely developed and only one works). Urine backflow from her bladder is poisoning her one good kidney.

Faith is not always a snap-of-the-fingers miracle. Faith is grinding out the healing over the long haul. I like the instantaneous variety. But not everything is quick like a fire-cracker. Mimi’s miracles have drawn out inexorably for 16 years, her age. The battle is raging dragging on, and the faithful keep mustering faith.

Ludving and Nelly

Ludving and Nelly

It’s pointless to ask why. Blaming God like an atheist solves nothing (although I suppose he feels high and mightily justified in his bitterness). That’s not what we want. We want final and complete healing for this precious girl.

Mimi is a spunky girl. Despondency affects her parents, her sister, me — but not her. Thanks for helping us pray for her. Let me know how I can help you pray for your needs.

 

Pray for pastors

  • How to pray?
  • Prayers of the Bible
Pastor Steven Fernandez

At left, Pastor Steven Fernandez. His first pastor, George Neos, at right, when he went to visit him.

Pastor Steven Fernandez had just broken the hinge on his car door. He was driving home with it roped up, and the cable for the clutch snapped, leaving him stalled in traffic — late at night, on the dangerous streets of Guatemala City. With some natives helping, he managed to get the Fiat home only to find a screw in one of his tires. Sigh!

Iglesia La Puerta

This is what we live for — and what we go through so much for. Pray for pastors!

Pastor Steven took over the Guatemalan work after I left the country. Unaccustomed to such Third World ailments common on the mission field, he is grappling with things he never experienced in America. Alas, poverty.

Missionaries

Cars are always breaking down for missionaries and pastors.

I remember passing through  these kinds of nightmares. Roofs drip like a waterfall during thunderstorms. Water doesn’t come out of the faucet for weeks at a time. Power outages mean you keep candles handy (I preached through a power outage once holding a candle close to my notes!) Ah! The adventures of being a missionary! All this reminiscing is making me yearn to go back!

Missionaries

Pastor Steven says — correctly — that when the devil’s attacks intensifies, revival is just around the corner.

Amid hand-wringing and nostalgia, one thing is clear: All pastors need our prayers. As church-goers, we forget that pastors are even more in Satan’s gunsights than us. It’s typical for pastors to face hardships of finances, of family and of car breakdowns. We need to sustain them with prayer!

Don’t complain about some ill-spoken word from your pastor (he’s human too!). Pray for him. Pray for revival, for his family, for his checkbook, for his car. Remember what the Bible says: And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward. Matt. 10:42 NIV.

If giving a cup of water nets reward, how much more so if you give him a cappuccino pray for him!

We couldn’t enjoy the remodeling

ATT001935No sooner had we remodeled our home in Guatemala than we fled to America. A run-in with criminals forced us to leave. The trauma of the robbery at gunpoint took the foreground; the irony of our “lost investment” sat in the background.

ATT001997The stylized ceiling and modernized kitchen seemed like a good investment. We had lived in Guatemala for 15 years and did not foresee leaving our beloved missionary life. The threat of kidnapping changed that abruptly. The money already spent proved pointless.

Pointless.

Our stay in Guatemala was NOT permanent. It was temporary. So too our life here on Earth is short. ATT0020810Moses called his son Gershom, which means foreigner, because he felt like he didn’t belong in Midian. Peter says we’re only sojourners here on the globe. Our true home is Heaven.

What we invest for ATT0021412pleasure here is… well, it kind of seems pointless.

Was that what God was telling me? Whatever you do for eternity — even if it’s only five minutes of prayer today because that’s the best you can do — stands forever. We are here only briefly, so if all your effort is focused for this earth, try to enjoy these fleeting moments as much as possible. My recommendation: Work for eternity.

Text without ceasing

smallbusiness.chron.comIt used to be that Bible teachers would downplay pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17) because — they said — it wasn’t possible to talk to someone 24/7.

We now know this was wrong. It is possible to communicate with someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The texters do it.

You scold your kids for texting at the table, but why? You text in the boss’s meeting. People are constantly texting in church (hey! no hypocrisy here — I’m guilty also). Some people, if they wake up at 3 a.m, empty their bladder and inbox at the same time. Others keep the phone by the pillow.

I’m a teacher, so I know about texting answers. Some students are so proficient, they text in their imagespockets without evening removing the device to see what they’re spelling. How they see the response is still a mystery for me; I’m the teacher and can’t figure out all their tricks.

So don’t pan prayer without ceasing. It can be done! (If you can stop texting long enough to say Hi to God!)

If you have needs (I do), then text them to God.

The extraordinary in the ordinary

beechwoodcross.blogspot.comjpg

from beechwoodcross.blogspot.com

Jesus and Peter had to pay the temple tax but had no money. So Jesus sends Peter back to his old vocation, fishing. Go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours – Matt. 17:27 NIV.

stock-illustration-10637597-coin-in-the-fish-mouthIf you are in His will, God will provide for your need. Prayer means getting the supernatural into the natural. If you’re working, you won’t have to change your routine, just request the dosage of God’s blessing upon your natural labors.

They call this miracle money, and after 33 years of being a Christian, I have seen God answer like this over and over, in my own life and others. It especially happened when I pastored in Guatemala, particularly when we bought a property and had huge mortgage payments.

define-necessityDon’t buy a lottery ticket. Just pray and believe. The extraordinary (miracle money) came out of the ordinary work (fishing), but it was blessed by God. Prayer is actively seeking that blessing.

‘Reproduce’ is better than ‘produce’

Night-fishing-Li-River-Guilin-ChinaActivity is good. Better is to produce. Still better is to reproduce.

from Ben Rogers blog

from Ben Rogers blog

Being busy is good. But mere activity could be just spinning your wheels in gravel. With production, you have something to show for your work.

But production is still inferior to “reproduction.” As Christians, we are ultimately called to reproduce Christians, not just “produce” things like manuals and seminars. Reproduction is the highest rung.

It’s also the hardest. With hard work and competent strategy, we get from activity  159596380514897663_sUvR2kbH_bto production. But only God can bring about reproduction. (Just ask couples afflicted with sterility!)

That’s why you shouldn’t just sprinkle prayer on top of your ministry like sugar. You should make it a main ingredient, like flour.

Remember, the disciples fished all night without catching anything. Then Jesus sent them out once more, and when they threw the nets, they were so full they were ripping!

Victory is preferrable, so pray

287386019942799257_zcxEPJdx_bThe praying Christian triumphs over insurmountable odds. One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised. — Josh. 23:10 NIV. Joshua recounts the extraordinary victories God wrought to the wandering Israelites as they settled into the Promised Land.

Because they carefully depended upon God, they achieved the impossible. Prayer is careful dependence on God. Prayerlessness is reckless and baseless self-confidence. It’s no

from Adeel Butt

from Adeel Butt

wonder we fall on our face when he neglect prayer.

You will overcome 1:1000 odds — if you pray. Don’t fret about mounting bills as you try to establish God’s promise for your calling, don’t panic and surrender, don’t bail out. If you remain steadfast, God will deliver you. Trust and wait confidently in the Lord. While you wait for the miracle, keep praying and believing.

Support man

Pastor George Neos prays before the Apple Valley outreach.

Pastor George Neos prays before the Apple Valley outreach.

I was reminded how lonely and hard is pioneering a church. You leave the loving mother church and go with your family to a new city and pass out flyers and knock on doors to invite people to a small building, usually a park room that’s cold and smells bad.

You do this for years and eventually rent a

Pastor Mike Jones and Pastor John Murless coordinate passing out the flyers

Pastor Mike Jones and Pastor John Murless coordinate passing out the flyers

storefront. You work night and day. You have to support your family with a job, but your real job is pastoring, and you neglect your own family to take care of your the fledgling  spiritual family. Forget about your own entertainment. There’s none of that.

What you long for — and what you least get — is

We came across this random shopping cart with tumble weeds in it. I teased the locals that tumbleweeds is what you shop for in the High Desert.

We came across this random shopping cart with tumble weeds in it. I teased the locals that tumbleweeds is what you shop for in the High Desert.

some support. People come into the church wanting to be served, not wanting to serve — at least at first. Well, I joined a Saturday outreach in Apple Valley, the high desert city practically founded by cowboy Will Rogers about 100 miles out of L.A.

We knocked on doors inviting people to an

Frank Cervantes enjoys the chili dogs served between outreaches

Frank Cervantes enjoys the chili dogs served between outreaches

evening concert and revival services. One lady pulled up with a caravan of three cars loaded with family. She gave her heart to the Lord that night.

We live in the age in which everyone wants to be the still-undiscovered internet sensation who swoops onto independent fame and riches as soon as our self-importance is

This girl was a trooper. She walked miles in both outreaches and stayed up late enjoying the concert. She never got tired, never cried.

This girl was a trooper. She walked miles in both outreaches and stayed up late enjoying the concert. She never got tired, never cried.

discovered. Ha!

It’s better to support a cause greater than yourself. It’s better to help. When we bless and serve others, God takes care of us.

The prayer warrior is a support man. The troops on the battle front desperately need the support of the military’s infrastructure. There is nothing less important about being support crew.

 

Prayer is love

155303887120533101_tLMVCI2C_bWho gives, gives, gives and gives? Answer: the prayer warrior.

Love drives him to his knees. Desperation keeps him there. He is the unknown engine of revival, working unseen to change the winds of history. Behind every conversion, there was somebody praying. Behind every miraculous offering getting the church out of debt, a prayer warrior did battle.

142637513169993642_cH1SkDdz_bHe goes unheralded. Others get the credit. Still he prays — and Heaven rains in response. No one claps him on the back. No one thanks him. In fact, people wonder why he’s “wasting time” praying.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another – John 13:34 NIV. Prayer is one special way to love.

I ‘kneeded’ this

Those Tweener prayer warriors.

Those Tweener prayer warriors.

I'm no match for Rob, in blue, freshman on a varsity team.

I’m no match for Rob, in blue, freshman on a varsity team.

Two months ago I konked my knee playing street soccer with my varsity team. At the time, it didn’t seem abnormal, not too bad on pain. I even kept playing. Later, however, it had a clicking that worried me. I consulted a doctor, and he feared a torn piece of cartilage was lodged in there. After two months, it wasn’t much better.

from pinterest

from pinterest

Then I got prayed for. The boys in my Sunday School class — called “Tweeners” — had just heard about faith and were pumped to pray. I am back to playing soccer! Jesus healed me! (Being able to play soccer is about as important for me as a U.S. president attending his own inauguration!)

The Bible says that kids have special words — of praise — unadulterated because of their

from pinterest

from pinterest

sincerity and innocence. And I say it’s good to be in God’s service, not matter how small or insignificant. Today I scored a goal in beach soccer against my son’s team! Ha! And at the end, we won! Ha!

As soon as the pros hear about this, I expect they’ll be heading to their local, Bible-believing church to cut their injury time.

Welcome to the Hotel Prayer-ifornia

from Pinterest

from Pinterest

Marie Colantoni Pechet from adventuresinspiritualliving points out a common failing: prayer is our last resort. We try everything else, and when nothing works, then and only then we finally turn to God. It shouldn’t be that way. We ought to seek God first.

Instead of being a last resort, God should a five-star resort. Hahahaha! Why not? Being with God is better than a sumptuous buffet! His rest is better than the king-size bed! The panorama of the Bible is prettier than any Caribbean view. Etc.

But we allow so many distractions to pull

from cloud lounge (where I always find the best photos)

from cloud lounge (where I always find the best photos)

us away. The good-old-do-it-yourself spirit of America is strongly ingrained. And often we simply don’t believe until we have no other option: the doctor gives us six months, the bank forecloses, I go 10 years of virtually stagnant ministry until I finally get it. AHA! I should have started with what I ended (prayer).

 

If it’s going to be, it is up to…

20120215-075618… God.

Having lived 16 years in the Third World, I decry poverty mentality that blames “destiny” and takes no action to improve oneself. Thank God I learned the Protestant work ethic from childhood: through study, hard work, turquoise-turbulence-bruarfoss-fludir-icelandcreativity, one can achieve any dream. Third Worlders see themselves as powerless to get ahead; as a result, they just goof off and be lazy.

BUT, I have witnessed the short comings of a strong work ethic. Too often, too much hard work is not rewarded with results: it’s a lot of spinning wheels. I labored intensely as a missionary, and the church did NOT grow. After more than a decade of killing myself believing in the do-it-48730235-068d-4b0e-8daa-8e9e3ea245c1yourself mentality and seeing an essentially stagnant church, I tried prayer.

Things exploded. When man moves, it’s never as good as when God moves. I am NOT denouncing work. I am just tempering it. 141863456983057170_n4YYSVdB_bThere’s a balance. If you’re tired of tiring yourself out without seeing results, try entering more God into the equation. He may be waiting for you.

If it’s going to be, it is up to me God.

In others’ condemnation lies our own

animation_mort_lourde-1

Animation thanks to On r’fait le film

I was completely unprepared for my 9th grade class to so roundly criticize Willy Loman from Arthur Miller‘s Death of a Salesman. He’s meant to represent the average American male in futile pursuit of the hoax called the American Dream.

The students admitted no merit to the man. He was unfaithful, a failed businessman, a liar, prideful, insane, a sufferer of delusions of grandeur. He deserved no sympathy in his stupid and tragic end. Never mind that he was hard-working, sacrificial, concerned about his family, the class ganged up on me when I spoke of his redeeming qualities!

When I was a pastor, I was neither as good nor as bad as people said. Some praised me excessively; others criticized me too much. The truth was and is that I am a mixture of both good and bad, saint and sinner, hypocrite and sincere, neither black nor white — just gray — like the rest of humanity.

The saddest thing is NOT perfectionism, puritanism, or Phariseeism. The depressing thing is that hyper-critics eventually wind up in their own crosshairs. Eventually you stub your own toe, and then Satan echoes back to you every harsh word you uttered over others’ failures. When this happens, you fall away from Christ: since there was no grace for others, there’s no grace for you.

Wisely, Jesus said: Judge not lest you be judged. If you have mercy on others, you’ll get mercy yourself. Prayer is NOT for exulting your superiority; it is a time of empathy and compassion for others.

Compassion’s evil twin

imagesWhen I was kid, I felt sorry for myself intensely. When bigger kids pushed me around and my mom wouldn’t go out and make it right, I gloated on my woes. Self-pity has been an evil that has plagued me even up to the present.

from Kathy Long

from Kathy Long

The good thing is that she has a twin called Compassion. As with many “evils,” you can flip them and make them good. When I took aptitude tests in high school, I scored low or average on everything — but they didn’t even measure the deep well of gifting God had given me. Compassion and empathy have driven years of successful ministry. Feeling others’ pain keeps me in prayer.

Self-aggrandizement is a wicked

from Three Chad Presents Stunning Photos

from Three Chad Presents Stunning Photos

motivation to get in ministry. The only true calling is serving others. Consider the contrast: Jesus reflects on the hungry multitudes, “I have compassion on them.” The disciples reflect harsh realities, “And where are we gonna get the money to feed them???” (Matt 15 32 – 39).

Are there others in your world or just yourself? Pic from Unbelievable Pictures

Are there others in your world or just yourself? Pic from Unbelievable Pictures

Are you more like Christ or his disciples? The case is all the worse if you realize the disciples HAD the money to buy enough food (Luke 8:3) — they just were selfish! Compassionlessness is ugly.

So if you suffer from self-pity, don’t despair. Just turn your eyes outward, and you’ll become a marvelously effective servant of God/ of humanity!

Praise protocol

images-1Esther didn’t just leave a sticky on the fridge.

Even though she was queen, she couldn’t just address the Persian Emperor casually. She had to dress appropriately, prepare some meals, and then make the formal petition. Haman, the enemy of the Jews, was done for.

funny-133There’s a parallel in prayer. When you go before the Emperor of the Universe, you might want to observe certain protocol (we Americans know nothing about protocol, but the rest of world does!). You might want to prepare your heart with praise. “I will enter His gates with thanksgiving.”

ATT001904You might want to “enthrone” God first. There’s a place for addressing God as our Daddy, and there’s reason to dismiss much of the religious ritual used by dead and dying churches. BUT, we ought not be overly casual with the Almighty and err at the opposite extreme.

If you present yourself before the Queen of England, a 6’4″ guy will brief on correct behavior. You probably don’t want to use vulgar language and expect a high five. So too before God, enter with confidence to His presence, but go in with praise!

Want superpower?

imagesHey Dad! If you had a superpower, which one would you want?

I HAVE a superpower. It’s called FAITH.

My 10-year-old son was not images-1impressed. He wanted to know if I would fly, or fix things with a magic touch, or superhero type stuff. He asks random questions.

If it weren’t for his question, I wouldn’t have realized exactly what I have. Yes, yes, yes! It is a superpower because faith connects you with the only nonfictional power outside of nature.

What WOULD you have? You DO have! Do you use it? Do I use it enough?

The need for beauty — and prayer

from pinterest

from pinterest

The reason why Instagram, Pinterest and other photo-hosting sites are popular is because people crave beauty. I consider observing beauty a basic urge, on par with receiving love.

When I was a literature major, I hungered for a good book, one with jeopardy, three-dimensional characters, and a reasonable but surprising denouement. Above all else, it must evoke meaningful themes that leave reflection lingering.

This is why I pray. I am pursuing the happy ending to the senseless chaos in the lives of people around me. You can watch a drama.

from pinterest

from pinterest

You can admire an art. You can take pictures.

Or you can create living art, the transformation of lives freed from the dungeon of lostness, liberated to the thrill of love, purpose and family found only in God. Some snap photos, others brandish brush, I bow my head.

Broke girls as praying girls

from Pinterest

from Pinterest

Being broke is good — for prayer.

I often rued the crushing mortgage that crowded my prayer time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful just to pray for souls and not have to worry about dollars? Alas, now I no longer have such mind-numbing payments — and now (I’m ashamed to admit) it’s hard to raise the temperature of my prayers.

from Pinterest

from Pinterest

Don’t despair the problem driving you to your knees! Worse is flatlining! The Salvation Army’s founder went so far as to say he wanted his workers in debt to guarantee they would constantly pray!

When the answer does not immediately come, there is a need for patience. Don’t stress out, burn out or flame out. Stick to prayer. God is answering!

I haven’t seen the “Two Broke Girls,” the

from Pinterest

from Pinterest

latest drivel from Hollywood. I only know that being broke — whether you’re two girls, three guys, or a ministerial family — has a flip side.

Praying again

People don't stay too "long" with prayer. Pic from Pinterest

People don’t stay too “long” with prayer. Pic from Pinterest

It’s not that He prayed imperfectly. Jesus wanted to show us the supreme importance of persisting in prayer. Don’t quit; the answer’s coming!

Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored – Mark8:25 NIV. The first time Jesus prayed, the healing was partial. Not because he couldn’t pray right the first time. No.

He wanted to show what he taught in the

From Pinterest

From Pinterest

parable of the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-7.

That parable is unusual because most lack explicit interpretations. But Luke 18:1 says: Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

Is there anything faster than people giving up on marriage, a diet, and prayer? You ought to hang with all three because good will result!

Prove ‘em wrong

Silence the naysayers. Pic from Pinterest

Silence the naysayers. Pic from Pinterest

I wanted to do a creative writing magazine in high school. One classmate told me I wouldn’t be able to do it. She didn’t believe in me. That piece of discouragement inspired me to carry out the project.

Every time I hit roadblocks and her got frustrated with lack of progress, her memory kicked in and gave me the energy to keep working. I had to prove wrong. Thanks for the demotivation!

Criticism hurts. But it can be turned into a help. The fact of the matter is doing good is taxing. It requires stick-to-it-iveness, boring hard work, and self-denial. What keeps you in the uphill battle? It could be someone encouraging you. And — strange as it may sound — it could be someone discouraging you.

Don't let them put out your fire! Pic from Pinterest

Don’t let them put out your fire! Pic from Pinterest

The human psyche is marvelously complex. Downers can pump you up. You can pull-off a fantastic reversal. You can’t stop people from mouthing off. But you can turn their poison into your passion.

I was very happy to see my couple of poems featured in that magazine. So were other kids. I didn’t hear anymore from the girl who didn’t think I would finish it.

I’m the Q. She’s the U.

IMG_1706

With the whole family

With the whole family

No resume polishing here.

I couldn’t have been the 16-year missionary without Dianna — she’s the heroine. She’s given unconditional support through 22 years of marriage and ministry. She’s tightened the belt. She’s shouldered burdens. She’s always IMG_0963had a good attitude.

Since we got back to the States, SHE HAS WORKED to support me while I continue to minister. More than a few would call me (and it hurts) a flake, a loafer.  I pursue the dream while she pursues the paycheck. (Working in ministry usually implies sacrifice. For every mega pastor abusing the system with an eye-popping salary, there are 10,000 pastors living at poverty level just to help people, but they don’t get the press.)

IMG_0920I’m the Q and Dianna’s the U. Without her, I’m completely useless. She’s the other half orange that makes me a whole orange (as they say in Guatemala). Any applause for me must be deflected her way.

This tribute also seeks to be an exhortation: Pastors, may the New Year bring more appreciation from you for your wife.

Don’t pray small

treeOften, the struggling pastor goes only for subsistence. He prays for just enough to pay bills and keep the church open. It’s true that God takes us through years of skinny cows, but He never wanted us to succumb to unbelief. He tells us to pray believing for ever bigger things. We fail to pass the test when we scale down our prayer requests, as if we ask too much, or as if God doesn’t want to give us. Bigger is in His interest because His kingdom grows. So go for something outrageously huge next prayer!

When lions are circling…

images-5Circling, circling around their prey, the hungry lions will overpower the man in an instant. The lions’ dungeon is capital punishment in the Persian Empire.

They stride steadily, eyeing the poor Jewish eunuch. At any moment, they will leap crush the helpless man with claw and tooth. Each minute seems like an eternity. And yet each minute passes and give way to another eternity. Strangely not a lion goes for the images-7kill. They menace, gaping hungrily at him. But the entire night passes, and they don’t eat Daniel.

Early in the morning comes the king, who was tricked into throwing his favorite administrator into this hellhole, to see if God delivered him. He calls, and Daniel responds: My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in lion-closeuphis sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king. – Daniel 6:22 NIV.

Similarly, trials are circling you. At every step, they threaten to sink you. Dont panic. Don’t run away. Don’t quit ministry. You only must remember how God delivered Daniel. Though the lions COULD overpower you, they WON’T. Pray and wait for the morning.

Poverty is not so bad

Friends and church are better than...

Friends and church are better than…

We enjoyed life while sustaining much self-denial as missionaries in Guatemala. I worried about IF I would be able to get deodorant. For the kids, a new pair of shoes only once every six months. The menu was beans and rice — and when you got tired of that, you could have rice and beans. It’s really not as bad as you might imagine.

My daughter at right.

My daughter at right.

There are other things in life that are more important than nice clothes, nice food, nice car. For example, having a loving and fun family is great. Serving a cause, though not applause, is another. True friends, a vibrant church, soccer. Hey, if you have enough to eat, ain’t got no complaints.

With my in-laws, eating out -- something we never did on the mission field

With my in-laws, eating out — something we rarely did on the mission field

Of course, we didn’t suffer poverty like the Guatemalans do. But even they seem to enjoy life through it. On the other hand, a lot of rich Americans are plagued by anxiety. Will I have enough when I retire? The Guatemalan doesn’t have enough now. Anxiety is worse than poverty.

This is the richness of my life! I teach these students at Lighthouse Christian Academy.

This is the richness of my life! I teach these students at Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Don’t be afraid of following your dreams, even if it is not the course of ambition. My family has been back in the States now for two-and-a-half years now, after 16 years in Guatemala. I suppose we could still be classified as “living in poverty.” My wife drives a 99 Ford Escort; I call it our Lexus. Why not make jokes and have fun?

Hey, Coach!

Lighthouse Christian Academy lost every single soccer game last year. This year, it took us one minute to score our first goal, and we finished tied 2-2 against a team that won 8 last year. I’m ecstatic because I’m the coach now.

The kids can’t contain their happiness after the game

I have coached before, first on middle school team, then park league. Then I stepped back from coaching for six months. My kids were on other teams, and I observed the other coaches, who are better than I. One is a Scot with the highest level accreditation for coaching. I’ve eavesdropped and spied.

No use thinking I know it all. I can always pick up something new from others, even if it’s what NOT to do (like cuss).

I see that life coaching is in

We prayed with the other team before the game

vogue. I’ve always enjoyed having a FREE life coach: he’s called “my pastor.” As a generation has distanced itself from the church, people look down their noses upon the pastor and his unwanted advice. As a result, divorce has skyrocketed; kids are cutting themselves in unheard-of numbers as the home disintegrates.

Because we are a small Christian school, we have great players and total beginners.

I’m not saying I’m better than anyone; I just enjoy the benefits of being among the dwindling number of Americans who still go to church. A coach — a pastor — is there to bring out the best in you.

Piano movers and piano players

Tex and Luis, after the blow to the nose.

A complete soccer team has its burly bruisers and its exquisite finesse players who can deliver a ball directly to the feet of a goal-scorer through a forest of opponents.

So Tex smashed Luis at high school practice today so hard that his nose bled out of both nostrils. I had to remind him to take out competitors, not teammates. Of course he did it unconsciously; without thinking the football player manifests.

A good soccer team is like the church. Everybody’s talents compliment and complete ministry in the church. No one’s is superior, nor inferior. We need people. Reaching out over the blogosphere is fabulous, but sometimes you need flesh and blood right nearby. I have prayed for other bloggers, but sometimes I need a church member to fix my washer. It is the combined effort that wins games.

It is the combination of so many different people that makes the church triumph over Satan. Surely, the church is guilty of so many crimes (judging others, drama, for example). I don’t like its ugly moments, but there’s nothing to take its place. Church is like marriage: detractors abound, but nothing better has every replaced it.

The hardest thing

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the Unite...

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945.

The easiest thing is to quit.

It requires no courage, no effort, no optimism, no reassessment, no analysis, no second attempt, no positive enthusiasm, no uphill battle.

My soccer team practiced on the beach

So much of Europe just surrendered as Nazi tanks rolled in. They didn’t even try to fight for their homeland. But England was whipped into resistance by Winston Churchill. He said: Never, never, never, never, never give up! He promised the Nazis war by air, war by sea, war by land — on the beaches, over the plains, in the forests, in the cities, room by room, if need by, until the last Nazi fell or withdrew.

I coach a high school soccer team. We are small school, so there’s no talent pool. A few are good, another few are athletic, some are total beginners. We go up against some really good teams. Last season, a typical loss was 10-1. This season, some players have already decided that we have lost.

If you KNOW that you are going to lose even before your feet touch the field, then you WILL fulfill your own prophecy. No wonder some of the kids goof-off at practice, crack jokes and skip training. It’s all pointless, anyhow, right?

I think David saw possibility where others saw only death. He wasn’t afraid to take on a 9-foot tall giant named Goliath. And he took him out.

Quitting may be easy. But it provides no reward, no satisfaction, no triumphalism, no heroics, no solace, no hope, no joy. There’s nothing better than winning by upset. To get that, you have to believe in yourself.

Be brave

Contrary to pulp flicks, being brave is not a matter of being feisty, having an untameable shock of flaming red hair and shooting arrows. No, being brave has to do with being in ministry without any finances — and staying in ministry.

You have to be brave to stick with it! Man, you know you could chuck it all and go suck on the udder of some cash cow somewhere. I mean, this is the United $tate$. This is not the Third Wor:(d.

Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD. — Psm. 27:14 NLV. When you can’t take your kids out for even an ice cream, you gotta be brave to get behind that pulpit. When their shoes are worn out… When the last date you had with your wife was when her hair wasn’t turning gray…

The Bible exhorts patience — and bravery. Did you ever think patience was bravery? Well, it can be. Be still, trust, wait on the Lord. He will be your deliverer.

So don’t just laugh watching a princess be brave. Be truly brave in what is no laughing matter.

Old soldier

His acts of heroism are forgotten now. No longer honored, the old man is a target for  kids’ sport. He moves slow and can be easily provoked. What do they care about some war he fought in before they were born?

In his breast, he knows what he has been through. He is tired, cast off from society. But that doesn’t take away the satisfaction. He has served his country — and he has served it well. The kids are free because of his sacrifice.

Though the world scorns an old soldier, God never does.

TODAY… keep serving God. Anonymous. Unappreciated. Never forget where your true applause will be.

… and I would have missed the blessing

Founding a Christian school in Guatemala was soooooooo hard. Frequently, I muttered: Had I known at the start, I would never have tried. And sometimes I thought: God, you tricked me into this. I thought it would be easier.

But once it was started, it wasn´t easy to end. So on I went, dealing with grief from the Education Department, grief from ungrateful parents, grief from false accusations. Ugh!

Then God brusquely moved me out of Guatemala. I handed off leadership baton. Since, I have visited, and NOW my greatest joy is to see all the kids who have a strong Christian school, a hope to escape the hopelessness. Had I never tried, I would have missed one of the greatest blessings of my life.

Maybe you´re going through it today in ministry. Don´t hand the mantle back to Elijah. Stick with it. If you give up today, you´ll opt for an easy out of the grief of difficulties. At the same time, you may deprive yourself of your life´s great satisfaction.

From reviled to revered

The Tuskegee fighter pilots were, initially, despised for being black. But as their escort missions saved bomber crews over Germany, they became greatly appreciated. At first, black pilots would be kicked out of officers’ clubs. Soon enough, the white bomber crews invited them to the drinks.

The airmen and their support crews are a lesson in perseverance. They won a hardfought victory, not only to stamp out Nazi oppression, but also to stamp out racist oppression.

Be a hero. You’re in ministry. At times, you are despised, unappreciated, unapplauded. Though no one thanks you, God does. Not a sparrow falls outside of His knowledge. So too, everything you do — EVERYTHING — is being filmed by the camera in the sky. Every time you clean the church bathroom. Every time you pray, and no one else comes to prayer. Every time, you forgo a treat to scrimp on behalf of church finances. It ALL gets a reward.

There were times when the Tuskegee Airmen bristled under official racism. They were tempted to quit. Why put your life on the line when you’re overlooked and even despised? But they remained faithful to their mission. And they wrought a great advance for the cause in World War II and for the cause of equality. Today applause thunders for them, tomorrow for your selfless sacrifice.

God picked you

One of my teams wins, the other loses, so it’s not the coaching that makes the difference. It’s the kids.

As I watched my Napoli team demolish their foes, I realized the victory lay not in brilliant tactical coaching or in superior training. The victory was won when I picked the kids. Simply put, I picked players who worked well as a team, each efficiently executing his position.

God picked you for His team! And of course, He has a winning team. For we know, brothers loved by God, that HE HAS CHOSEN YOU. — 1 Thes. 1:4 NIV (my caps).

You were chosen for salvation. You were chosen for ministry. God picked a winning team, and you are part of it! Let motivation fill your heart as you face another day of unappreciated labor. Your unapplauded work for the Kingdom is part of the victory.

In soccer, people cheer the goal scorers. But soccer launches from the defense. It progresses forward through the midfield and only culminates with the strikers. Everybody who gets a touch on the ball has his part in the victory. You are fulfilling the plan of God.