Tag Archives: pastor

Lonely at Christmas?

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On the night before Christmas, he was kicked out of his house.

After years of “loose living and immorality,” Elliott Osowitt was driven out by a wife who had run out of patience. Downcast and despondent, he decided to go to a nearby motel and kill himself with a gun.

elliott-osowitt-and-his-wife

Osowitt worked as a tour guide for “Heathen Tours,” a touring company that catered to tourists from England seeking sinful pleasures in America. It seems Osowitt indulged in too many of those allurements himself.

After Osowitt check into his room, he found a Gideon’s Bible next to his bed opened to John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

The power of God’s Word and the Spirit of the living God moved on his heart. Tearfully, he repented of his sins and asked Jesus to be his Lord and Savior.

elliot-osowitt

And that is how the Prince of Peace, whose birth the reformed Jew had never celebrated, came to Osowitt at Christmas in 1996.

He actually spent three days at the motel reading that Bible. He attended church with his wife, Polly, the following Sunday and quit working for the touring company. Osowitt began a new career with a Christian touring company instead.

On Christmas Eve, the Bible “caused me to stop. It caused me to cry. When I read it was Jesus, I had a hard time with it,” Osowitt told USA Today. “It literally began a process of healing that eventually led to the reconciliation… Read the rest of the story.

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He was a runaway, gay, drug addict until Jesus changed him. Now, he’s a pastor.

Paul GualtieriMolested a few times when he was a child, Paul Gualtieri dabbled with homosexuality as a largely unsupervised 13-year-old in Palm Springs.

It wasn’t long before he found himself in his bedroom proclaiming his destiny: “I’m gay. I’m a homosexual,” he said out loud with no one around. It was a pivotal moment of his life. “There’s power in confessing both good and bad things. When I declared I was gay, I gave a right to a spiritual force in my life.”

When he was 13, he ran away to Hollywood and threw himself headlong into the partying and gay lifestyle. “I just got sucked right into it,” he recalls. “I thought it was great.”

He was too young to be admitted to the gay bars but prostituted himself to support a lifestyle that included drugs like Quaaludes, coke and meth.

“I just ran rampant,” he says. “I had different boyfriends. We would panhandle every day to buy drugs and pay our hotel.”

He slept at anybody’s house who’d have him, in Plummer Park and in the “Hotel Hell,” once posh lodgings for movie luminaries that became decrepit and abandoned on Hollywood Boulevard. Read the rest of the story.

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.

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.

Only so much maturity

diving statue of libertyBut now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written. — Ex. 32:32.

Hmmmmm. I’m not there yet. Here Moses is taking the hit for Israel’s bad against God. Paul similarly wishes to lose his own salvation if by it he could save his countrymen, the Jews (Ro. 9:3).

time of manI was a missionary for a long time. I sacrificed. I gave. I put others first. I grew and matured, but I never got to this level. I never wished my own eternal damnation if that could save a people. My idea was and is to go to Heaven myself and to take as many with me as possible.

I come up short though. My pastor, Rob Scribner, said Moses and Paul take responsibility for their people. I have prayed like Daniel assuming the collective guilt of my people, but never did I rescind my individual salvation in favor of another. My love for others stops shy of that.

I suppose Moses and Paul both had the notion that they wouldn’t lose their salvation by saying this. They were PLEASING God by aligning their hearts with His; He gave His Son for us to be saved.  Still, I can’t get myself to mouth this vow.

Do you feel responsibility for others?

When you overcome fear, you become dangerous

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Rob Scribner then

Rob Scribner then

My pastor, Rob Scribner, tried out for professional football to prove he couldn’t do it.

He just liked it. But he thought he wasn’t good enough. Because of hard work, he wound up on the team, playing for the then-LA Rams from 1973 to 1976. A lot of other guys didn’t even try out because they thought they wouldn’t make it.

Fear of failure is a major problem. Whatever you long to do but are afraid of doing, that is what you should do.

Pastor Rob Scribner now

Pastor Rob Scribner now

If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. — Thomas Edison

The explosion of “fantasy” — sports, Second Life, etc. — is illustrative. People want more but are afraid to live it.

Christian, when you overcome fear, you become dangerous to the devil.

It’ll grow

Plant a seed and watch it grow.

If I were to tell the truth, when I first went to Guatemala 18 year ago, I couldn’t believe for more than 25 people to come to church. My faith was low.

Within the second year, we were running 100.

Now, church attendance didn’t stay at 100. It went back down to 25. But it grew more than I expected. Today, I am back in the States, and the church is still growing. We have a school with 150 kids. The church is running up to 60 people. My stateside church just sent Pastor Steven Fernandez and Diane down to help out with the work. I visited to help them get established. I was astonished at what God will do.

Your labor in the Lord is not in vain — 1 Cor. 15:58 NIV.

I was the kinda guy who when he planted a seed, sat there waiting impatiently for the plant to pop out. And when it didn’t, I grumbled that food doesn’t come from agriculture after all. Hahahaha! How long did it take the for the giant sequoias to grow?

But sticking with it proved a meritorious method. And God brought the growth.

Every prayer you pray is like casting a seed. Sit back and patiently wait for it to grow.

‘Immortal’ cells

Normal cells cease to replicate at about the 50th cell division. Not so with the HeLa cells, which are immortal. Taken from a cancer from Henrietta Lacks in 1951, these extraordinary cells are cultivated in lab cultures and propagate endlessly. They have been useful in research for the polio vaccine, cancer, AIDS, and gene mapping. HeLa cells have given so much to humanity, and they just keep giving.

Henrietta Lax

Shouldn’t Christians be like that? There are people who burn out on their donating. At some point, they get frustrated with the endless need for their finances and start looking out only for number one. There are pastors who weary of self-sacrifice for the good of others; they start doing more for me. After replicating about 50 times, they’ve had enough.

Let us pray for resiliency today. We should be the workers who “bear the heat of the day” and don’t complain to the Vineyard Owner about getting the same wage as the Johnny-come-latelies. He who stands firm to the end will be saved. — Mark 13:13 NIV. Don’t just start the race gloriously; finish it satisfactorily.

Powerlessness

I used to dismiss the notion of powerlessness. I had heard it in terms of sociologists who described people trapped by poverty. They’re just making excuses, I snorted.

Then, I grappled with powerlessness myself. When I was a missionary, an extortionist falsely accused me of a crime. I was the victim, but I feared the corrupt justice system coupled with anti-gringo sentiment would conspire to send me to the hellhole of jail in Guatemala. I fasted five days a week. I went to bed thinking about jail and woke up thinking about jail. I was gripped by the claws of  powerlessness.

At the end, God vindicated the innocent. I learned to trust Him even in the ugliest of scenarios. And I no longer scoffed at powerlessness. It is a huge and terrifying force.

When you’re facing cancer, you can feel powerless. When the recession closes all doors to you. With your prodigal child. With your unfaithful spouse. Addiction can render you powerless to stop abusing drugs. A hurricane is coming, and you can’t stop it or escape. You cannot take control of your future. There is nothing you can do. It is out of your hands. Anyone can belittle your struggle, but only you face these demons alone.

Being powerless is good. It throws you on God entirely. It arouses faith like nothing else. Your moment of powerlessness will be hellish anguish. But it will also be sweetest fellowship with the Lord. (Praise and worship was my only relief from my living nightmare!)

When you are powerless, He remains powerful.

Christ the builder of the church

 

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. — Matt. 16:18 NIV.

Blood has been shed needlessly over this verse. Contention is so sharp wars have been waged. Was the rock Peter? Catholics say so in their argument for Papal succession. Was the rock his confession or revelation of Jesus Christ? Evangelicals say so.

I wish to sidestep the debate completely and focus on the main point. The central idea here is that Christ will build his church, not man. When you are a ministerial leader, you get the sensation that you are building your ministry. That sensation is strong until you fail. When you are fighting a war of attrition, then you want to reach out and find some sort of help. You remember that it’s God’s ministry, not yours. He will build.

Prayer focuses the True Builder of his church, although we humans wrongly feel we are building. In other words, get more involved the Guy who really does, and get yourself less involved (I was a ministerial work-aholic). Pray more.

 

Strategic planning and the unexpected

The strategic planning classes in seminary were the most useful and useless I took. “Useful” because they helped me to understand business planning applied to the church. That avoids the church-adrift syndrome.

“Useless” because you can’t plan God. You cannot anticipate what He is going to do, or what he is NOT going to do. You cannot tell Him what your plan is and expect Him to fulfill it. And it’s darn hard to hear what His strategic planning is. Generally, God does whatever He darn well pleases and brings the growth He wants.

So we see Paul trying to go to Asia, but he can’t. Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, HAVING BEEN KEPT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT FROM PREACHING IN ASIA — Acts. 16:6 NIV (caps mine). In the strategic planning meeting with his buddies, Paul PLANS to go to Asia. But God has another plan that even Paul could not anticipate.

Hence, the Christian life is both exciting and difficult. It is exciting because God is always pulling out surprises. It is difficult for the people who want to control the future.

Prayer is expecting the unexpected. God comes through always but almost never in the way we expect. So don’t try to figure out what God should do. If you have a church, don’t flout strategic planning. If you plan, don’t try to twist God’s arm to do your plan.

After taking the seminary class, I remember laying down on paper an ambitious five-year plan. Then God did things completely different. The goals I put as attainable, were not. The goals I didn’t try to attain were the ones He did. In a way, it was funny. Prayer, then, is fun and funny.

Your family is your special treasure

 

Rob also just completed “Hell week” for Lighthouse Christian Academy football

When we were missionaries with no money, I tried to take my daughter (now 16) on a Daddy-daughter date. I’m afraid to say it was extremely infrequent, but this was due to lack of finances. My son, Rob, wanted in on the fun. So I said that I would take him on a Daddy-son fun day. I never got around to it. The billfold was extremely tight.

Rob, who plays defense, is streaking to fill the hole. I had a blast watching him play for Santa Monica United club.

Now God has seen fit to bring us to the U.S., and I can at last do these things! I took my son to a soccer tournament with his club, and we spent the day together. Between games, we saw the “Amazing Spiderman.” At the end of the games on both Saturday and Sunday, he pigged out on In-n-Out burgers (in two days, he ate 10 patties!). I told him God was helping us to make up for lost time.

He likes to make funny faces for the camera

Ministry always demands our time, and it appears that God wants us to neglect our families to take care of so many needy sheep. BUT, we don’t want our families to convert in the needy and lost sheep themselves because of our negligence. I thank God He brought me back to the States, and lessened my ministerial burden, so that I can minister to my family.

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. — Mal. 4:6 NIV. Find time and money for your kids.

 

Roman roads

Roman roads were built in seven layers, with technology to resist freezing, permit drainage and to last with as little repair as possible. They were smooth and straight, designed to transport heavy building materials and move armies quickly from one province to another.

With the advent of the bicycle and later the motor car in the early 1900s, durable roads were needed in both Europe and America. Drawing upon their Roman ancestors, the Europeans initially outperformed American in road engineering. It wasn’t until after clumsy attempts with wood and even iron that Americans perfect the art. The incipient trucking industry potholed our first roads.

A pastor and a Christian leader is paving the way before new converts to walk in the Way. Christ said, I am the WAY and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me — John 14:6 NIV (caps mine). Ravines were filled in and passes were cut through mountains. The stability of the Empire depended on this network of 400,000 kilometers of roads. You as a leader must forge the path before the new convert to achieve his stability. It is labor intensive, so that’s why Christ has commissioned you. Engineer your ministry in such a way that your construction of Christians helps them go the distance.

Don’t miss the miracle

Literally tens of thousands of Israelite soldiers missed this. Saul and his 600 men rushed out to the battle and found the Philistines killing each other — 1 Sam. 14:20 (Living Bible). Jonathan had sparked panic and confusion on the enemy with only his armor bearer.

And the rest of the 300,000 soldiers (see 1 Sam. 11:8-9)? They were hiding in caves, wells, bushes and even running across borders into foreign countries. They missed witnessing God’s sovereign and wondrous move!

In ministry, there’s definitely a need to hang in there. When war clangor strikes fear in a normal man’s heart, you must remain stout, unmoved, waiting patiently on God. The guys who run, miss out. Pray and remain. In fact, the key to winning is just staying when God is involved. The only ones who lose are those who quit.

A sense of destiny

In Spain’s semifinal triumph over Portugal in the recent Euro Cup, Cesc Fabregas experienced “a funny feeling, a premonition,” before the game that he would score the winner in a penalty shootout. His was the fifth shot, and the daisy chopper ricocheted off the post and into the goal, out of reach of the goalie.

Now, I don’t know if Fabregas is New Age, psychic or just plain creepy. But he exhibits something that you as a Christian leader must not lose: a profound sense of destiny.

You won’t be able to carry on your labors if you forget that God has destined you to success. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do — Eph. 2:10 NIV.

A sense of destiny will carry you through the valley of the shadow of death. It will keep you looking up as you suffer blow after blow. A right focus will sustain your courage and encouragement.

Though I’m suspicious of Fabregas’ source of inspiration, I admire the simple fact that he plays inspired soccer. We must deliver inspired ministry.

American success gone sour

If you have a lot of money, you’re a success. This American premise spills over into the church. With its inverse: if you are struggling for finances, you’re a failure.

But God doesn’t measure success by finances. He measures success by souls — and just ONE SOUL is incredibly important to him. Now as far as finances go, if you have barely enough to scrape by — and you are ministering to at least one soul — then by Bible standards and by God’s standards, you are a success.

So stop bumming over worldly comparisons that intrude and impose on the church. Jeremiah certainly didn’t have a lot of “members in his church.” And Paul knew how “to be in need… I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” — Philippians 4:12 NIV.

Cheer yourself up! As you pray for finances, believe and wait. God will provide enough — maybe just enough — in His timing. As long as you have one soul in your church, you are providing a valuable service, and you’re a hero for Heaven. May scoffers shut up. God doesn’t measure by worldly (American) measures.