Tag Archives: pastoring

3 jobs, 2 happy, 1 tired guy

img_2306Finally, I’m pastoring again. The doors opened — after six years off — through an apartment managing job in Van Nuys. As a gimmick, I called myself the #ValleyBoyPastor, and God brought souls in immediately (cosa rara). So I’m happy.

I’m still teaching at the Lighthouse Christian Academy. That’s always a thrill because I’m constantly either bringing people to Christ or reinforcing the faith of youth at a critical juncture in their lives. I appreciate everybody’s prayers and attribute to y’all the blessings God has poured out starting in June. I definitely need to pace myself to not run ragged. I just need to remember that God is in charge and He never expects me to do more than what is possible. After all, it was God who prioritized rest right into the Ten Commandments.

Conquering fears


The mountain goat feels perfectly at home on the precipice. He knows not fear. The heights are his friend, his defense against predators. There’s no need to fear heights.

Abandon the lowlands, and dare to scale the heights. Don’t fear the plan and destiny God has for you. Leave behind your “security.” Since predators prowl there, it’s not so secure after all. Your securest future is in God’s plan for you, so don’t “play it safe.”

Recently, my family and I stepped out of the boat and accepted the challenge to plant a new church in Van Nuys. We purposely left the “safe harbor” of our parent church, where the worship is quality and workers abound so much that I didn’t really have to do anything.

Learn to tell your fears that they are lies. Phobias are very real, but not everybody has the same ones, which shows them to be irrational and, consequently, conquerable. Take it from the Valley Boy Pastor: Embrace the future God has for you.

#ValleyBoyPastor: If you just try, anything is possible


Mind blown. I just barely moved to Van Nuys. I just barely started a Bible study in the apartment. I haven’t yet gotten a place for Sunday service. And God has brought in full-on disciples. Not just curious people trying the service like the water-wary timidly dipping a toe in the pool to see if it’s too cold. I don’t even know what to name the church. It’s associated with the Christian Fellowship Ministries.

The four top-notch leaders are thanks to my friend and outstanding pastor, Matt Sinkhorn, who worked with them for five years until San Fernando closed his church for zoning rules and he lost his lease. His pastor opted to send him to Lancaster, so four core leaders in his church were looking for a new stomping ground. At the same time, I was announced for nearby Van Nuys.

We are finishing a half-week of revival services in Santa Monica, and the girls have gone every night. These are not wimpy Christians. After service, we went out for ice cream, which you know is just (frozen) milk and honey, so we’re moving into the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey.

I can only praise Jesus and thank YOU for your prayers on this endeavor.

And maybe I should say a word to all my friends who are working long and hard with little fruit. That’s what I was hunkering down for. God sees the labor of love.

I’m glad my wife believed in me. She thought I actually heard from God. There were many doubters. But if you just try, anything is possible.

Mr Toad’s Wild Ride 2

van nuys christian church

When we left for Guatemala in October 1994, we didn’t have kids.

I’m Mr. Toad. The first time, I whirled my wife, Dianna, off to Guatemala for a crazy adventure of lurches and swerves called being a missionary for almost 16 years. There were thrills and discomforts. It was definitely not a luxury and leisurely tooling through the park.

Gear up for Ride #2. We just got re-ordained for another mission, this time in Van Nuys, which I kind of already started with a Bible study. I’m calling myself the Valley Boy Pastor, a gimmick to remind myself to not take myself so seriously. The 6-year break between gigs was boring. Rest made me restless.

Dianna has supported me 100% through poverty and privation. There was abundant danger and betrayals. At the same time, we saw emotionally-rewarding turnarounds as gang-bangers, alcoholics, fornicators and others straightened up in Jesus.


Re-ordination last night at the Tucson Door Christian Center Bible conference0. The church belongs to the Christian Fellowship Ministries.

Are you ready, Dianna, for another adventure, careening recklessly through whatever may come in the unpaid, unappreciated job of pastoring pioneering a new church?

Even as I became a youth, I always found Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland to be charming and delightful. If you haven’t gone on the 1955-original ride at the theme park, a car turns abruptly through apparent crashes and narrow escapes. By today’s standards, the special effects are quaint at best. For some reason, I loved it as a kid. For some reason, I lived it as an adult.


What possibly could go wrong? Misadventures of the #ValleyBoyPastor

IMG_0551Bed, Bath & Beyond has a complimentary gift wrap station — which is fantastic because I didn’t have to go buy wrapping paper for my friend’s wedding gift! They have scissors, tape, ribbon, everything you need except my own skill to execute it.

I’m afraid to admit that I miscalculated the first time I cut the paper. Then I accidentally gave it an unsightly rip. I re-did the folds several times, tried to trim when they flaps didn’t fit. It was anything but tightly wrapped. I fumbled the bow. DIY? LOL! I can’t do any of those “easy” Pinterest projects! I’m the king of klutz.

Here’s the kicker: Once upon a time, I was a gift wrap worker — at a posh French gift shop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Where did everything I learned go?

Sometimes life is like gift-wrapping. It doesn’t come out as nicely as you wish. You miscalculate and miss-cut.

I hope Darwin enjoys his toaster and doesn’t pay too much attention to the hapless wrap. Hopefully, his eyes will be so full of love for his new wife that he won’t notice my disaster.

Things on the outside maybe a mess. God is watching the inside.



The new frontier

Other townsAs a newbie, Peter doesn’t understand why Jesus doesn’t stay in the spotlight. After all, the Lord has successfully gathered a great crowd after healing sick and freeing people from demons. Then, right when He’s won Galilee Idol, He sneaks off to pray alone.

Peter, who fancies himself Jesus’ campaign manager, comes and tells him, “Everybody’s looking for You.” (Mark 1:37)

Jesus just mystifies him: “Let’s go to other towns so that I may preach there also because that is what I was sent for.” Why wouldn’t he capitalize on the crescendo?

Peter didn’t understand, as many Christians today, that the highest priority is not popularity or prosperity. It’s extending the message of salvation to others and to still others.

Once upon a time, Americans looked for new frontiers. Some still do, scientists, for example. But Christians? Are we basking in the glory of perfect services with quality music and preaching while the huddling masses in other towns languish with no hope?

I’m taking on a new frontier. I’ve moved out of luxury and into poverty, from Santa Monica to Van Nuys. There’s a method to the madness: God has called me to save souls elsewhere. After a month, there’s already one family in the Thursday night Bible study — thanks to y’all’s prayers. (Sorry, I can’t resist “y’all” even though I’m not from the South. English needs a plural second person pronoun.)

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


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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.😀 )

There’s no business…

soulbusiness… like SOUL business.


Saved gang member

Mario and Alex at the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta today.

When it was his turn to kill in a dark alley, Mario demurred and concocted some excuse. Still, he was a hardcore gang leader.

Meanwhile, Alex got his kicks throwing curve balls that baffled batters in the big leagues of Guatemala. With his young Nicaraguan partner, together they were forming a life with not much direction.

On separate days, both got radically saved by Jesus Christ. They processed through discipleship and became leaders of the Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta. They worked tirelessly, giving their all, everyday. Mario still teaches art in our school. Alex still is assistant pastor and coordinator for the school.

Missionary school Guatemala

With the big smile, teacher Banner with 5th and 6th graders. His life too was touched by God. He too has become a key partner in the ministry.

If you want to achieve great things, you’ll need to partner up with other, similarly-minded human beings. Partnership, in the world, maybe conjures the ideas of corporation profits. On the team, it speaks to supporters who help the stars win.

But in the kingdom it means much more: exponential impact and sweet friendship.

Now that I was forced to abandon Guatemala, they carry on the work. I left, Jesus did not.

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

The lighting was bad, the smile good. My joy is to see kids in a safe harbor school growing up free from pressures to “grow up” too quickly. There is an innocence on these kids.

Partnership in the gospel is one of the greatest blessings in life. Don’t believe the myth of Rambo, one man single-handedly decimating entire armies. With God, it doesn’t work that way. God describes the church as the symbiosis of differently-gifted individuals who benefit each other and achieve vastly more together than any would alone.

The momentum

Christian school in GuatemalaA good chunk of my life went to the mission field — almost 16 years planting churches and a school in Guatemala. It’s been four years since I left, and now that I visit, I see miracles, miracles, miracles. Miracles continue.

These kids have an environment free from bullying, free from cutting, free from drugs, free from pornography, free from so many quicksand pits that are swallowing the lives of our youth.

To be sure, there have been failures. One kid who was expelled is now dead. Another just got out of jail. Another got pregnant out of wedlock. Not all the stories are success.

amazing testimonies

I love Henry. This is his beautiful daughter.

But there are undeniable testimonies of revolutionized lives. One kid unwittingly ran the errands of narcs. He had been kicked out of every school he enrolled prior. Today, he is an upstanding parent and put his girl in our school. Excuse me while tears well up. Jesus did this. I just let my life be used.

It took oodles of prayer and oodles of work, but it was all worth it. And the momentum continues. Miracles of salvation and healing continue. Pray for the Door Church in Guatemala.

Space invaders

turquoise-turbulence-bruarfoss-fludir-icelandA smirky non-Christian remarked that praying for money seemed at odds with the gospels. If you’re only greedy, I tend to agree. But when you are desperately trying to make rent for your church building, it’s spot on.

After being chased off by hostile Philistines, Isaac and crew find a place Rehoboth, which means “spacious place.” (Gen. 26:22)

wide_open_2_900If you’re having troubles, keep moving forward because God is going to bring you to a spacious place. After months (or years) of struggling to make ends meet, God promises to bring you to a spaciousness in your monthly budget. Hallelujah! Victory over the bills!

186266134558462105_VS4BPBFJ_cIn Guatemala, we worked 15 hour days during Easter Week hawking food to the crowds in the “processions,” marches which escort Catholic statues through the streets. At the end of ardor, we would count up to $300, just a fraction of our mortgage.

Do your best, and God will provide the rest,  I taught. So we labored. And we prayed. And month after month, God miraculously brought in the mortgage money.

Maybe you can relate to Isaac. Look for your Rehoboth. Long and pray for spaciousness.

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.

Risk with heart

from the movie "Secretariat"

Even her brothers and husband turned against Penny Chenery Tweedy. Confronted with a $6 million debt to the IRS, the family saw selling their racehorse stable as the only option.

But Penny had other ideas. She banked on a young thoroughbred named Secretariat, who though untested possessed promise. Her brothers tried to talk “sense” to her. It was a risk that would send the whole family into financial ruins if the horse didn’t deliver against incredible odds.

Penny was willing to take the risk. She prefered to face the consequences of failure over regretting not even trying. She decided to follow her instinct and gamble on Secretariat. It was her passion, her dream, her calling, and she wouldn’t go to the grave with a “safe and secure” life that left her wondering what could have been.

The real Penny Chenery

Secretariat became a racehorse legend, winning in 1973 the Triple Crown for the first time in 25 years. Some race records set by Secretariat stand unbeaten today. Profits flowed to Meadow Farm. Her doubters — those who told her to cash in and drop out of the risky venture of horseracing — were flabbergasted by her success.

Don’t be afraid to follow you call, your passion, your heartbeat. God will grant the resources. Detractors will arise; remain firm in your conviction. Serving God may be “risky,” but the payoff at the end will astound your doubters.