Tag Archives: ministry

Well, that was easy #ValleyBoyPastor gets first people in his Bible study

IMG_0388

After three Bible studies with 0 in attendance, 5 people came today. I was blessed to host my neighbors, a family. It was wonderful to help them find Mark. I hope they soon find Jesus.

This venture into Van Nuys is taking me out of luxurious Santa Monica. My family likes the beachside city with cool breezes in the summer, but my eyes are caulking with glaze after I sit in church and hear sermon after sermon. God has called me to be on the playing field, not in the bleachers. So when my pastor spoke to me about the possibility of apartment-managing in Van Nuys, I considered it in prayer and meditation for about a nano second and begged and pleaded on my knees volunteered for the job.

I suppose the previous manager did me a huge favor. She was, um, a tad grumpy. So by contrast, I come off as a saint. Maybe I’m in the honeymoon stage of the job, but I can see palpably the distinct advantage of starting a church by apartment managing. Instead of trying to build relationship with people who have their guard up, the position gives me instant rapport: I’m not after something. I have a job to do — serve them. If I serve them the way Jesus would want me to, they might be happy. In turn, this has the potential to predispose them to an openness of coming to a Bible study.

The Bible study message: repentance, it’s not as bad as it seems.

I want to thank all of you for prayer. Your prayers are working miracles in the hearts of men.

 

But there are giants in the land #ValleyBoyPastor

IMG_0367(1)Anytime you want to do something GOOD, major opposition looms.

If, however, you want to do something BAD, the path forward is a glittery and easy speedway.

What scared the Israelites and sent them back into the desert for 40 years, what kept them from their destiny, were giants. These guys were 9-feet tall — and there was no NBA back then. The whining spies said they felt like cockroaches compared to them.

It can be intimidating to do ministry. But God can knock those giants down. The taller they are, the harder the fall, as David found.

I’ve moved to Van Nuys to open a Bible study and possibly parlay it into a church. I’ve found the giant already. I’ve learned you have to stare down giants.

Tuna out of a can for #ValleyBoyPastor

IMG_0361

My sentiments definitely lie with the simplify-life crowd. But while my wife sees out the school year in Santa Monica with my kids, I’m starting our new gig apartment managing in Van Nuys with some Spartan furnishings. All I have are chairs for the Bible study, to which no one has attended yet.

So I’m eating tuna out of can because I don’t yet have a refrigerator. Please don’t think I’m suffering. I was missionary in Guatemala, and I beg to differ — I’m living luxury. I have a cot and a sleeping bag.

And I have a friend. Alex invited me over for dinner last night, but I had already eaten, so I didn’t know how I could fit it in. Luckily, I was able largely due to the fact that it was super delicious.

It’s good to have friends. You might have gobs of cash, but if you don’t have true friends, you’re slumping in poverty. Alex is a fellow Christian, and the handyman at my apartment. We’ve already watched soccer together!

I remember that I cried when I was in Guatemala alone with my wife for Christmas and Sister Lizette, without even really knowing us, invited us for dinner. I cried tears of joy because we were experiencing loneliness. So by significant measure, we already doing much better than our first church-planting venture — I already have a good friend.

I still believe

I still believe

In 37 years of being a Christian, I’ve seen lots of friends tap out. They go through disappoints, failures, humiliations, emotional abuse. Out there, there are ravenous wolves disguised as sheep. Jesus warned as much, but it’s still pretty hard to swallow  bitter pills.

I haven’t given up in part because of the alternatives. As Peter said, Lord, You have the words of eternal life. Where else can we go? Jesus had just shown a horror flick, and His popularity took a nose dive; He had just told people to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Grisly material. Not even the disciples understood, but the stuck with Him.

I read articles and opinion pieces galore about trends of people leaving the church. They are “spiritual but not religious.” That sounds nice, but Jesus left just one institution. The gates of Hell would not prevail against His church. He did warn that there would be corruption in it.

Hitting up against corruption doesn’t feel particularly good. Or getting hit by it. Whichever. How much can a normal person stand? There’s no trite answer. All I can say is, “I still believe.”

Expecting God

IMG_0241Gideon seriously doubted that God could use him:

  • He questioned why the angel addressed him as “mighty man of God.”
  • He questioned his pedigree and his capability.
  • He asked for a sign twice, in opposite ways from one day to the next.
  • He needed to hear the enemy prophecy his victory.

Despite his doubts, God moved through him greatly. With 300 men, he defeated the Midianites.

As I venture out for a second time in my life to start a church, I have more confidence that God will move. He is blessing each step.

Today, he gave me a free dinner. Some Egyptians in the apartment complex I manage gave me food. Since my wife and kids are still in Santa Monica (until the end of the school year), this is tremendous blessing because I can pretty much cook only scrambled eggs for myself.

If you look for problems on every side, you will find them. If you look for God’s blessing at every point, you will find them. If you expect God to move, He will be happy with your faith. If you doubt His backing, He may move anyhow.

Valley Boy Pastor

IMG_0156

I never imagined I would return to the San Fernando Valley. My childhood memories there were mostly not pleasant. I went to college at UCLA, to church in Santa Monica and then to my mission in Guatemala. I only visited the Valley to see my dad.

Now, I’m apartment-managing in Van Nuys, with hopes to starting a church. The welcome in the complex has been heartening. There’s an Egyptian family that’s hooked me up with falafel. Mmmmmm.

The community belongs to the immigrants. Everybody has at least two jobs. These are hard-working, decent people, and it is my joy to share Christ with those who don’t know Him. I’ve been there for a week and half. Your prayers are appreciated for this project.

In our group of churches (Christian Fellowship Ministries), we call this sort of venture “pioneering.” It’s an apt description for a start-up church because you start with no resources other than your own hard work and prayer. You toil long hours to raise up an established church. I saw God do it once for me in Guatemala. This would be the second venture.

Meet Camila, born to parents who couldn’t have kids

IMG_9784Prayer brought her into the world, and from the looks of it she is now learning how to pray.

Her parents, Gunter and Yara, were among the best disciples in the church. Medically speaking, they couldn’t have kids. Evangelist after evangelist prayed for them. Then my friend, Isaias Campos, came to preach for me. Ironically, he himself couldn’t have natural children. But God told him he would pray for somebody to have kids. That did the trick.

IMG_9797

My son, Hosea, among the kids of the Door Christian Church in Guatemala City.

I left Guatemala six years ago under duress. I am currently visiting, and I’m blown away by the revival I’m seeing. It’s been packed, and people are hungry for God.

Back to what God has for me

IMG_9644

Then I said, I won’t talk about God anymore. But His word was in my heart burning like a fire in my bones, and I couldn’t bear it. — Jeremiah 20:9

I don’t know how people get out of ministry and manage to forget it. They move on to making money. They compromise their morals. I got a good look at this sort of thing when I rested from being a pastor for six years. I left the mission field and haven’t started a new church. Hopefully I will soon. It has been a more or less miserable time.

Right now I’m ministering in my old haunts. I had been a missionary/pastor/founder of a Christian school for 16 years. I’m visiting once again. My three kids were born here, but only Hosea, my youngest, is with me, seeing his childhood buddies. It is a blessing to see everyone again. There is no greater life to live than to speak God’s word and help people come to Him.

Back in Guatemala

IMG_9606

Six year ago, we quit Guatemala after 16 years of ministry. It looks like God is opening doors for me to start a new church in the U.S. (more to come later). But for now, I’m in Guatemala visiting, preaching, reinvigorating, helping. And I have my son, Hosea, with me. So I guess this post, I’ll just be asking for prayers. Thanks! It’s great to see everyone again!

I killed myself at the gym today, so…

killing yourself at the gym…I wasn’t surprised when the homicide detectives showed up at my door later.

Ok, this picture is not me. I’m more of a (bad) punster than a muscle man. Actually, I’m the pencil-necked kind of guy with spindly arms and legs.

But I enjoy going to the gym. I have lofty, unattainable goals. In the striving, at least I’m staying healthy. And a healthy body is will be useful for the Lord’s service longer than a sick or frail one. I like the gym almost as much as the church; both are focused on goodness, healthiness and improvement.

Ha ha ha! Orange marmalade has ‘wires’

Orange-marmalade1The pungent and sweet taste of orange marmalade is one I missed as a missionary in Guatemala. So when we got back to the U.S. a few years ago after 16 years abroad, I got it, and I shared it with my youngest son. To put it mildly, Hosea didn’t like it.

“Dad! It tastes like it has wires!” He was somewhere between aghast and livid. He believed it was his duty to inform me what I didn’t know. The rind gratings — um — were grating to his palate.

Of course, I cracked up. For his ingenuousness, thinking I didn’t know it had rind gratings. For his descriptiveness.

This is how I feel when newbie leaders want to give me a lecture on spirituality. When does the senior ever let the freshman tell him how to play varsity football? You have to take things with humor or it can be a discouraging thing coming back into your mother church. And you gotta enjoy the orange marmalade despite what people say.

Don’t pass over to the dark side of the force

star warsSometimes I tune out the movie-maker’s message and get my own. Such was the case of Star Wars. I’m a middle-aged pastor, who’s between churches right now. I’ve gone through some tough experiences, disillusions, etc. I can see how it would be easy to grow bitter, to rack up the negatives experiences and to snipe. So God spoke to me about the danger of passing over to the dark side of the force, as the movie says. It would be easy. I could be very effective. BUT, I would be in darkness.

This post goes out to all the aging pastors who have lost of the sense of romance when you’re young and starting ministry. Maybe you’ve been removed from ministry, suffered financial hardships, gone through unfair circumstances. Don’t pass over to the dark side. Renew yourself in the Lord, rejuvenate, refresh. Let waters flow into the desert and make it a lush garden again.

Keep praying

keep prayingIt’s been more than a decade that Eddy visited us in Guatemala. Since then, my wife, kids and I were forced to return to the States and have been serving in the local church. His sister and mom remained faithful; Eddy was off doing something else.

Who popped up recently?

Yeah, it’s another motivation to keep praying for those people even when years are grinding on, even when you don’t see any tangible hope. The Spirit moves in invisible realms.

God reminded me why

coaching soccerIt had been a frustrating day — criticisms of my efforts to get people saved and discipled. (It seems like the church is full of people who don’t save or disciple others, but they are experts to let others know what they’re doing wrong.)

As I prayed, God reminded me that I’m not working for the critics. I’m working for the kids.

I teach at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica and I coach for the middle school soccer team. We took some bruising losses this week, but I love the kids, and they seem to appreciate me. We have fun — all in Jesus’ name.

These are the powerful Saints! We have won only one game. But their enthusiasm, their joy, their love of Jesus, their positive energy makes them powerful in my book (quite a few players missed practice this day)!

Anonymous ministers

anonymousWhen I was head pastor, I romanticized being an anonymous servant. I even prayed to be one.

Then I became pretty much an anonymous member of the church. No more high-flying ministry. Honestly, I didn’t like it too much.

God had to remind that I had prayed to become anonymous. If you’re not on the kudos list here on Earth, don’t despair. Just praise Jesus because you’ll be getting your reward in Heaven.

Shake the snake

shake the snakeWhen Paul and crew shipwrecked, they washed ashore. Paul helped gather wood for a fire, and a snake latched itself on his hand. The natives of the island thought it was karma, that Paul was a murderer and was being judged. But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed — Acts 28:5.

This miracle teaches us what we should do when we are bitten — by disappointments, by hurtful words, by unfair treatment.

Just shake it off.

Don’t let it bother you. Move on, forgive, forget. Don’t let the poison fill your body with death.

The value of one soul

Liceo Bilingue La PuertaWhen she came to Christ last year, she was so excited that she began to rebuke classmates for their lackadaisical attitude toward God. She was the one salvation out of the school this year — until he accepted Christ just a few weeks ago when I visited Guatemala. Together, they are the fruit of this year at the Door Christian School in Guatemala.

The irony? We were considering cutting their studies program because of lack of funds. Why are effective ministries not funded? Why do Christians not pay their tithes and promises?

Sinners helping sinners

sinners helping sinnersIt’s the great irony of ministry: I’m far from perfect, and yet I attempt — and sometimes succeed! — in helping other imperfect people.

As ministers of God’s grace, we should never lose sight of the fact that we, ourselves, are sinners. We are NOT the inerrant voice of God. Stay humble.

The world hurls “hypocrite!” I don’t snarl in return. Because basically it’s true. Who can say it’s not? Who is without sin to throw stones?

God’s grace is such that He reaches people with His grace THROUGH imperfect people.

Photo source.

Christ brings color to your life

color to your lifeTired of drab? Jesus will take your black-and-white life of money or sin and paint something beautiful out of it. He made me a person who helps other out of self-destruction. First I was a missionary in Guatemala. Now I work in a Christian school. You can have a purpose in your life!

*Photo Credit: James M. Berry, photographer extraordinaire, and a great friend.

I wanted to help my friend Zeke.

IMG_3531It’s been two long years that I have wanted to visit my friend, Ezekiel. I met him playing soccer just before the accident. I wanted to pray for him and embrace him. He lived far away, in Salt Lake City.

I wanted to somehow bless him. Instead, he blessed me.

I got a vision of him preaching. I saw him functioning as a powerful man of God. I could totally visualize him being used by God. I saw no obstacles for him.

This was convicting to me. Because I see all kinds of limitations and disqualifiers for myself. While I had no doubt that God wanted to use Zeke, I am plagued by doubts about myself.

Seeing potential

photo(5)Hosea and I are extremely happy. After being without a team for 1 1/2 years, he’s been accepted on to Autobahn Soccer Club based in Santa Monica. Club soccer is the highest level for kids. You’ll get the best training available.

In my unbiased opinion (keep in mind that I’m the dad), Hosea is something of a soccer genius. With ball in front of goal, his spontaneous tricks befuddle goalies. He’s got a baby face, but he plays like a tank.

But 1 1/2 years ago, another club wouldn’t have him. He made a few poor decisions. He lack fitness. He was heartbroken. So was I.

At the end of his tryout, Coach Herve saw some spark that he liked. He saw potential.

If you are in leadership in the church, do you dismiss the players God sends you. Do you dwell on their defects, their inferiority. If you are going to build a winning team, you’ll have to see what Jesus sees: potential. (Everybody has potential.) Develop it in your followers.

The most exciting day in a long time: an emo for dinner

better than expresso

What’s better than coffee? Getting someone saved.

The highlight of the week has been reached. We had our neighborhood emo for dinner.

An emo is a latest iteration on the goth/punk subculture, which revels in depression and dresses dark with bright colored hair. Why would I want my daughter hanging out with her? Because we’re going to get her saved.

Behind the despair, there’s a heart that needs Jesus. Behind the self-harm (if she does it), there’s a dire need for love. We Christians are not on Planet Earth for any other reason than to lavish love on the unloveable.

There is nothing more thrilling or meaningful than to see people come to Christ.

Nine years ago today, my mother died

legacy | missionary

Guess which one is me. I “stand out” a bit from the teachers who now lead the Christian school in Guatemala in my absence.

It was a glorious conclusion to a life lived for God. In her later years, she had served as a chaplain in the Sylmar juvenile hall facility to counsel wayward youngsters back to the the Lord’s path. She oversaw the preparation of turkey dinner with all the trimmings for incarcerated youth and solicited toiletry packs for the kids.

“You are so lucky to have Chaplain Beth as your mom.” The hoodlum’s words hit me hard. I had accompanied her to a Bible study one day. The thug’s admiration for my mom exceeded my own. To be honest, at the time I was annoyed in typical teen rebellion by some of her irksome attributes (all humans have them). It took a delinquent to set my thinking right.

fam14revised

With my family last Fall.

Years after, I set my life-course onto the mission field and served with my wife in Guatemala for almost 16 years. When my mother died, I could affirm at her funeral that she was alive — in me. I had no regrets because I figured I had caught all the good lessons to learn from her. I’m still serving Jesus today. I teach at a Christian high school in Santa Monica for no other reason to help kids get into the right path. My mom helped kids inside jail, I help kids outside.

My pastor sometimes says he feels as if his dad were with him, encouraging to glorify Jesus. I don’t feel my mom with me. I feel she is me. I live what she lived. Everything she stood for, I stand for.

I can’t hardly remember the things that irked me about her (stuff like nagging). Now what stands out is her legacy.

I love coffee.

I love Jesus, my wife, my family, my ministry and coffee — in that order.

There are rich and famous people who are widely admired by the world, but when they die, they become forgotten. They leave nothing to the world. Give me the simple soul who plants his imprint on a fellow human being. You can change the world one soul at a time.

I wonder if I’ll ever meet that kid from juvenile hall again. If I do, I’ll thank him.

Am I supposed to say I miss Mom? Am I supposed to brood and fret over no longer being physically present in my life? Sorry. I feel like her death was a glorious graduation.

Step on you class

step on meSome people take Step Class. Others Step On Others Class.

They adhere to the idea, that to get to the top, they must climb upon others. To feel good about themselves, they must make others feel bad about themselves. This pernicious poison is more pervasive than you might think.

You ought to take a class in loving others. This is what was so revolutionary about Jesus: He practiced love, especially toward the sinner. But the person who held himself in self-proclaimed piety got His wrath.

*This pic comes from a gym in Santa Cruz, and I adapted it. Sorry if you are offended by it. Please know that I’m not making any money on it. I give you kudos for a great pic.

The cup makes the coffee

real ChristiansIf I drink my home-percolated Costco coffee in a Starbucks cup, that makes it Starbucks coffee, I’ve decided.

It’s a good decision. I’ll enjoy it much more now, and it’ll certainly be a lot cheaper than going to Starbucks.

He is a Jew who is inwardly, Paul says in Rom. 2:29. By extension, a Christian is one is inwardly, not one who “dresses” the part, though it be a lot cheaper.

Pastors are like trashmen

I was watching Ethan for my boss, while he taught class. The 2-year-old loves watching videos of trash trucks! What a funny thing.

garbage-truckAs I meditated on why (I suppose he like the big machines with hydraulics), I realized that pastors are trashmen. They are constantly helping people to get the trash (sin) out of their lives.

Trash is a part of life (we are all sinners, the Bible says). But you don’t want to wallow in it; you want to get it out of your home because it poisons. Sermons expose the trash lurking in our hearts. (We thought it was having fun! What a shock to find out that our “fun” was wallowing in trash like the pig loves mud!)

Don’t be offended the inglorious comparison. I’m a pastor too.

A church for Muslims: Compassion not suspicion

Adrian-churchPastor Adrian Rodriguez has been preaching the gospel, translated by his wife, to about 30 people every Sunday in a church on the outskirts of Hartford, Connecticut, and not one of the congregants is Christian.

All of them are Muslim.

“We’re dealing with very hardcore Muslims,” he says of the immigrant refugees from the Middle East who are drawn to his church. “They’re very indoctrinated. But God is speaking to their hearts.”

Pastor Adrian’s response to America’s burgeoning Muslim enclaves is perhaps Christianity’s best model: View them with eyes of compassion, not with eyes of suspicion.

With 375 Muslims per 100,000 residents, Connecticut is the 14th most Muslim state in the nation, according to a Huffington Post article in 2012. The number of mosques has doubled to more than 2,100 nationwide since the year 2000, according to a survey.

While most Americans are not hostile towards Islam according to reports, there has been concern about radicalized youths. The Homeland Security Department estimates 100 U.S. citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.

Read the rest of the article.

Fatigue failure

fatigue failure

I was surprised that planes crack more from pressurization than from turbulence. That’s why 747s that do long flights have been around fro 30 years while small planes doing several flights a day hit the scrap heap quickly.

It turns out that we can only stand so much. Depending on the elasticity of the material, the on-and-off loading wears it out and it eventually breaks.

God promises NOT to give us more than we can bear, but sometimes it seems like it is more than we can bear. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it — 1 Cor. 10:13 NKJV.

I’ve wondered why older Christians struggle with bitterness. There’s some truth to burn-out. Pray for renewed in your strength, rejuvenated in your spirit and to run like the youth.

But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
— Isa. 40:31 NIV.

The man of 1,000 jobs had to leave…

Relaxing with a leader on my recent visit.

Relaxing with a leader on my recent visit.

… in order for 1,000 workers to rise up and do those jobs.

When I was the pioneer pastor of a church and school in Guatemala, I did everything.

I was intense. If I didn’t know how to direct worship, or something, I learned and did it competently. As members trickled it, it was hard to delegate. I was unwilling to relinquish ministry.

First God allowed my voice to unravel (somewhat) and forced me to seek a substitute (even if he sang out of tune).

Then He got rid of me altogether. Threat of kidnappers forced me to return to the States, and then EVERYTHING was handed off to others.

Jesus handed off ministry after 3 1/2 years. I took almost 16.

This is God’s pattern. The only way to raise up a future generation of leaders is by letting them lead.

Si le quedó grande el traje, pues ni modo

photo (24)Translation: If the suit was too big for him, well, of course. = If the shoes were too big for him, well, of course.

Four years ago, I handed off ministry abruptly to Pastor Ludving: a main church, a couple of church plants and the huge task of administering a financially-struggling Christian school. Previously, Pastor Ludving had only pastored a small pioneer work.

Suddenly, he found himself thrust into a situation where he was promoted among colleagues who inevitably questioned and compared his every decision to what I would have done (I was their pastor for 16 years). Sometimes, he didn’t get a fair shot because people sometimes didn’t give him a chance for a learning curve.

Yet, there he is still. Four years later he has won over most everybody. He has refined his dealings with people. And he has managed to succeed in areas that I never did: The accounting is up to date, and the building is immaculately clean!

He’s “grown into the suit,” despite being much shorter than me.

My trip to Guatemala came to an end yesterday with a huge sense of gratitude to God for what He does. You may find joy in some other achievements in life, but I love serving God.

(Sorry about the Spanish title. I don’t mean to put anyone off. I used it because nothing in English corresponds precisely and because I thought it was a nifty pun, given the stature differential. I hope you can overlook it.😀 )

Show your true colors

show off your colorsI don’t know why I have to be different than I am. People want me to be a tough guy. I am not a tough guy. I have never been a tough guy. God made me a sensitive type. If you don’t like it, too bad. I’m not changing for you.

Sometimes churches can try to make you fit their mold. We would lose our diversity if everybody liked football. God made us all different for a reason. If we were all football fans, how would the soccer fans get saved.

When God gave you unique fingerprints, unique DNA and a unique personality, it was to bless His church. Be yourself!

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.

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

Friendship is the bomb!

friendsThis side of eternity, the greatest thing is having friends.

Prepare the way for another

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

If you ponder who is the greatest footballer of all time, Lionel Messi would be a contender for the title. Thanks to Messi, FC Barcelona are the team to beat, the standard-bearers of magic on the pitch, a distinction formerly held by nemesis Real Madrid.

But there would have been no Messi, and Barcelona would have remained always in the shadows of white uniforms of Spain’s capitol city, had it not been for a legend from the past. Johann Cruyff is almost forgotten in the radiance of today’s stars. But it was Cruyff who made the way for Messi.

cruyff

Johann Cruyff

Wanted at Real Madrid, the Dutch dazzler opted to move to then-underdog Barca. Immediately he won the championship and two Ballons d’Or. Later as coach, he won four consecutive titles and one European Cup. He devised the farm training team for future stars to rise in. It was there that Messi discovered his own greatness.

Today, Cruyff fades into the background as the steamroller Messi continues to smash records. Who is greater? The one who became great or the one who forged the path for him to find destiny.

Maybe your ministry is waning, your influence declining. Fret not. What you have done for God has brought others into their own destiny and greatness.

Pain: when I think on my circumstances

Pain: when I think on my circumstancesJoy: when I think of others’ blessings.

I get discouraged by my own circumstances.

But when I think about other rising disciples in the church, I rejoice to see God blessing and using them.

Lesson learned: think about others.

Rejection chain

rejection1Jepthah was run off by his brothers. He was an illegitimate son. When he became a man, he carried out great exploits, vanquishing Israel. But he never healed his hurting heart, and in consequence rejected his daughter. His lack of family love led him to a wrong-headed idea of an unloving God. He made a stupid vow (to sacrifice whatever came first out of his house to greet him when he returned victorious from battle) and instead of repenting and recanting his vow, he stupidly carried it out. He killed his daughter.

The greatest danger of rejection is NOT how lousy we feel. It is that we will do the same to others. As the saying goes, hurting people hurt people.

Supposedly, the church is a refuge for hurting people. Instead, it turns into a lair of cruel critics. I don’t leave the church because there is no where better to go. After all, Christ left His church. Nothing else.

I wish to be different: loving, accepting, patient, comprehending, optimistic with people, seeing the positive and not the negative.

Don’t think I’m touchy-feeling. The naked truth is I have rejected too many people in my time. God, forgive!

I am determined to change. I am determined to praise my children instead of criticizing them. I am decided to see good in everybody, to be patient with problems, to love the unlovable. It is not easy. I must pray every day before the day begins because, if not, bile flows from this wicked mouth of mine.

True change is not a glib meme or a mantra. It takes work and, I believe, divine assistance.

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.

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.

Old guys rock with God

old manFirst, an post-menopausal woman gets pregnant, even though her old husband doubts angel Gabriel’s announcement. Then an old prophet comes up to see the baby Jesus. Another elderly lady, a prayer warrior constantly in the temple, also coos over Jesus in Luke’s gospel.

The old guys ushered in the Age of Aquarius — I mean, of the marvelous Age of Grace. The old guys heralded it, waited for it, saw its dawning. God used the old guys.

They weren’t dumped in a retirement home. They weren’t mocked for old people habits. Maybe they talked incessantly of the “good old days.” Maybe the complained about new-fangled devices. Maybe they had their senior moments.

Regardless, God used them. And He wants to use you.

It’s fabulous that new generation of leaders rise in the church. But let’s not marginalize the older generation.

Oh, I forgot (!). In the interest of self-disclosure, I’m 47. And I don’t want to be excluded from whatever God is doing.

In case you don’t know…

nothing can separate us from the love of GodAbsolutely nothing can/will/shall separate us from the love of God.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,fn neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Rom. 8:28-29 NIV.

Starting over

starting overSometimes, a few revisions, minor changes, slight alterations of modus operandi, sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes, you have to throw out the whole thing and start over.

No, I’m not talking about divorce. I’m talking about salvation, or starting a new career, or starting your discipleship over completely.

It can be hard to humble yourself (myself) and take the role of inexperienced. Well, there’s nothing wrong with starting over.

I had been watering a bush in our school for a year. For reasons I ignore, it basically died. They pruned it down to the stem. Now it is sprouting. We had to start over.

As I looked at the plant, I wondered if there was a lesson for me.

Prayer as begging

God's healing

Cristal weeps when she feels God’s power healing her.

Why twice?

In every thing by prayer and supplication … let your requests be made known unto God. — Phil 4:6 The synonym for prayer, translated here “supplication” and elsewhere “petition,” is strange for its redundancy.

In Greek it is δέησις (deēsis), which means a need so urgent you turn to begging. You have no other hope. It evokes the utter powerlessness of being prostrated before a potentate who holds your life in his hands. Pleading, nothing more.

Pastor Charlie Forman

Pastor Charlie Forman with Pastor Ludving.

So many times, my prayers cover things I can also cover. These are things I need to get done, I can done. I just want God to help me do them efficiently.

Then there are needs about which I am exasperatingly powerless. About those needs, I tend to get frustrated, get mad, sulk. In fact, if I’m brutally honest about myself, I complain more than I pray.

That seems to me to be what Paul is addressing. Yes, pray, but also plead (supplicate, make petition) to a God who alone can help you. You can trust God for the needs that are completely out of your control.

 

A return to the beginning

image from darrellcreswell.wordpress.com

image from darrellcreswell.wordpress.com

In the beginning, this blog was very narrowly focused on a niche: encouraging pastors and leaders to pray for finances for their ministry. But as I interacted with the blogging community, I was drawn into reaching out with non-thematically related posts.

I believe I will be returning to the Mustard Seed Budget theme. I believe I will start pioneering a church again. So praying for finances to cover costs will start to figure large in my life again.

Everyone loves Psalm 23. But I was struck just now how it basically starts with finances: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. God will take economic care of his people.

Since returning four years ago from the mission field (where I was almost 16 years), my wife and I have done a lot to try to re-establish ourselves in the States. The transition has not been easy. We started with no money. Thank God for a nearby church that gave us food right when we had none.

Isn’t it interesting that this famous Psalm, which many recite for consolation, starts with finances? That shows how important is God’s care of us!

Actually, the Psalm also ends with a promise of financial blessing: Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all my days. The verb pursue is used everywhere else in the Old Testament to refer to an army in pursuit of a retreating enemy. David is saying that he WON’T be pursued by soldiers, debt, problems. He WILL be pursued by goodness and mercy.

There’s no business…

soulbusiness… like SOUL business.

The lost one

saved

Not one of the lost ones in the church in Guatemala.

At 11 years of age, a former student told his little brother and sister to not move while he hung himself in front of them. The tykes obeyed.

What angst or demon would a boy to such unthinkable horrors as rival the Holocaust? I cannot comprehend. It tears me up inside. What could we have done to avoid this?

We don’t win every battle. We lose some badly. Amid the exultings of success stories lurk the blackest stains of those who chose not to listen to the word of God, who opted for worldliness instead of godliness.

Guatemalan kid

The Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta works to save kids from the lostness of the world. Happiness results. This is what moves me.

I’m sorry, but I can’t get excited about a celeb’s fashion faux paux. When you have lived ravages, it’s impossible to dwell on the frivolous.

It galls to hear atheists revile Christians as a great evil. I assure you: It was not a Christian that drove that kid to twisted thoughts, emotions and actions. It was something sinister. It was something we Christians fight against.

Christian Fellowship Ministries

Resting after a soccer game, these youth are part of the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta Christian school in Guatemala.

Can you be moved to act? Christianity needs Christians who are not side-tracked by selfish desires, who take up the weight of prayer, who take the Good News of hope to the streets.

We lost one. Near you, there’s one who’s on the verge of being lost. Only you are within reach to help, if you will let yourself be moved.

Legacy

El Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

Students in 2014 in the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta, the school my wife and I founded with so much work. Good people joined and helped us.

I’ve known churches that dive kamikaze when the pastor leaves, so naturally I was anxious. But it’s been four years since I sought refuge in the United States from criminal threat. And the church my wife and I started 20 years ago is thriving. So too the school.

It feels like I died. (At just about anybody’s funeral, all the good things are remembered. When somebody dies, you see what his impact was.)

The Door Bilingual School in GuatemalaNow that I’m visiting Guatemala again, I’m seeing people who I reached out to 20 years ago. They express profound appreciation.

“I don’t know who he is, but I’m going to go give him a hug,” one schoolkid said. The kids thronged me. My eyes misted… Even those who never knew me appreciate the years of toil to establish a work of God.

colegio cristiano Guatemala

He’s Mikey, but I call him “Einstein Hair.” I love that little guy.

People are still getting saved. The school continues to be a safe harbor. The disciples continue to labor to extend God’s kingdom.

For the first time in my life, I can see a legacy. And I ask myself: What will my legacy be in the United States?

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.