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Posts from June 2008

Choosing The Upper Room

Fortpoint3 "Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers." Acts 1:12-14

Maybe it's part of being a Free Will Baptist, but I always think of things in terms of choices. We always have a choice to make regardless of the situation, even if our choice is simply how to respond to what is happening in our lives at the moment. I may not be able to choose what happens or doesn't happen in my life but I can always choose my response. The right choice makes all the difference.

The disciples had been devastated when Christ was crucified. They were encouraged at his resurrection. Now, at his ascension they make the right choice. They choose to obey him and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit. They chose the upper room! They chose to to remain together and to concentrate on praying for one another. They chose to pray for God's will for their lives. They chose to pray for the fulfillment of Christ's promise of a Comforter. Thank God they made the right choice!

Whatever tomorrow brings our way we must determine to make the right choices in response. We must choose the upper room. If we choose to stay together and pray for God's will we will be alright. The disciples did not scatter after the ascension, they came together in the upper room. Adversity will threaten to separate us from each other and God. How we choose to handle adversity is very important. Choose the upper room! It will make all the difference.

California Fires

Capt8623efbd5eb34392b678d5361a5e46a Please keep California in your prayers! Fires are everywhere this weekend and they are affecting at least three families from our Vacaville and American Canyon Churches. Pray especially for Russ and Mary Huddleston whose home is right in the fire area in Fairfield and Marlin Hanes whose home is very near the fires in Green Valley.

The Golden Hour

The Earth Is His Canvas, originally uploaded by CalPastor.

People pretty much see what they want to see. They miss some of God's greatest work because they just aren't looking for it. The scene at this beach just a few miles north of Bodega Bay was just as beautiful as the sun was setting as it had been when the skies were filled with blue. Just moments before I took this shot the beach was filled with people enjoying the cool air and beautiful view, but as the sun began to settle down for the evening they just got up and left. They missed what photographers call the 'Golden Hour', that one hour window of perfect light that occurs once in the morning and then once again in the evening. I wonder if God is using nature's 'Golden Hour' to remind us to gaze upon His loveliness in the mornings and the evenings? Start and end our days with Him.

The Name Of The Lord...

Sonomacoast2I picked up Kathy, Kayla, and Daya at 5:00 and headed over to the Sonoma Coast to watch the sunset. The sound of the waves, coolness on the breeze, and splendor of the scene were amazing.

"From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!" Psalm 113:3

"He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." Luke 19:40

The waves, wind, and rocks can be deafening when you take the time to listen to them. They all scream out in unison that God's name is to be praised.

A Reflection Of Where I Am Today

Victoria_cheval_mirror I'm losing weight these days and the gym is a big part of this endeavor. I started working out to lose weight but quickly discovered there are lots of other great reasons to exercise. Exercise is a huge help in dealing with stress. Increased energy levels are a tremendous benefit to working out. I've actually become hooked on exercise!

Every time I work out I head through the locker room and I'm confronted with walls of mirrors. There is nothing more frightening or depressing than looking in the mirror after working out and seeing a fat preacher staring back at you. Can you imagine? All that exercise and yet, there I am, still overweight.

The truth is that I've lost 45 pounds. Yes, there's still a fat preacher in the mirror but he's 45 pounds lighter than he was 6 months ago. I'm on a journey and the mirror only reveals a reflection of where I am today. The mirror doesn't take into account where I've come from or where I'm headed. I do need to see where I am today but I also need to be reminded of where I've come from and be challenged by where I'm going.

I think it's easy to get discouraged in anything we do if we only look at where we are today. We must find ways to measure our progress, not just see our current status. An artist would never want his work to be judged until it is complete. A chef would never allow his dish to be served until it's final ingredients have been added. We should never judge ourselves or others until the race is complete. We are all works in progress. We may not be satisfied with what we see in the mirror today, but we're not complete yet. God is still working in our lives.

One of my favorite Bill Gaither songs says, "He's still workin' on me, to make me what I ought to be. It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the Earth, and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be, He's still workin' on me".

Stretch A Little ~ It's Not That Bad!

Are You Being Stretched?

A few months ago I asked my doctor about some pain I was experiencing in my legs during and after exercise. She in turn asked me what kind of stretching I was doing before and after my workouts. Simple answer, none. The good doctor had me stand and began showing me a series of stretches to do along with my workouts. They were a little (a lot) uncomfortable but I have to admit they eliminated all of the pain I had been experiencing previously. A little discomfort now to prevent a lot of pain later sounds like a pretty good plan. Even the stretching has become more comfortable lately.

God has been stretching me lately too and it has not always been comfortable but I know that He is looking out for me. He is using these stretches to prepare me for the greater things He has planned for me. I believe that we must also be stretched intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. It might be uncomfortable at times but it could very well prevent us from being injured later on. Are you being stretched?

We are stretched intellectually when we are learning. Read books, spend time with mentors, attend seminars, enroll in classes, take time to reflect on things around you. Remain a student of God, His word, and His ways. One of the most challenging passages of Scripture to me has always been 2 Timothy 2:15. After 26 years of preaching I still feel like the challenge of "rightly dividing the Word" is enormous. We must  continue to study and stretch intellectually so that we may not be ashamed.

Emotional stretching seems to be the most uncomfortable, at least to me. It seems to me that being stretched emotionally is the easiest stretch to avoid. I don't have to forgive people if I can keep them far enough away that they can't hurt me. I don't have to love people if I keep them at a distance and don't really get close. The less time I spend with people the less opportunity they have to disappoint me. I commented to Kathy a while back that I sometimes wish I didn't care. If I didn't care then things just wouldn't hurt so bad. If I didn't care though, how effective could I be as a pastor. So I care, and it is painful sometimes, really painful. I get stretched.  We are stretched when we forgive, when we love unconditionally, and when we open our hearts up to people.

We need to be stretched spiritually too! Our faith must be stretched. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith we cannot please God. I think we can get to a place in our Christian walk where there is very little faith required. We just serve God so long that we come to know that he will come through every time rather than have faith that he will come through. We need to be stretched! I like what William Carey said, "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God". When is the last time we attempted something great for God? Something that seemed impossible.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 2:1-4

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

I picked up a pack of rubber bands this week and I'm wearing one on my wrist to remind me to stretch. There are a few thoughts about being stretched that the rubber band reminds me of.

  • The rubber band is extremely useful, but only when it is stretched. It is just a piece of rubber until it is stretched and wrapped around something. I am most useful when I am stretched. We have too many believers who refuse to be stretched.
  • The rubber band has it's limit. It can only be stretched so far before it breaks. I have limits too. I can only be stretched so far. God knows exactly how far I can be stretched and He is faithful to never stretch me more than I can handle.
  • When one rubber band cannot be stretched far enough, I can tie another to it and stretch twice the distance. What would the church be if believers would be committed to one another and allow God to stretch them further because of these commitments?
  • If a rubber band is broken it can be tied together again and still be useful. I think God can take those who are broken, tie them together again and make them useful.

It's sad that when we are stretched to our limits our first instinct is to cut back and unfortunately we allow ourselves to be stretched by anything and everything other than God. We are stretched by debt, by commitments to community events, by friendships, by overtime and side jobs. When we reach our limit we cut back on our church attendance, our service within the church, our time for study and prayer. We keep allowing this world to stretch us and refuse to allow God to stretch us even though He is the one that has promised to never stretch us beyond our abilities.

Have a great weekend! It's Father's Day this Sunday. I'm jazzed about our BBQ and Pie Auction in Fairfield this Sunday afternoon. Our goal is to raise enough money to sponsor 20 kids to summer camp. Camp is $125 per child this year in case you wanted to help out. :)

Mellow Out

Mellow Out, originally uploaded by CalPastor.

This has been a crazy busy weekend! Lot's of stuff happening in my worlds. I thoroughly enjoyed a men's breakfast in Vacaville on Saturday. Great food! Great fellowship! Great discussion! I left that breakfast so pumped up about our new church plant.

This past week was awesome at Harvest! It was encouraging to see lot's of our folks out working around the property. Together we can make our church a beautiful testimony to the community.

But His Father Called Him Benjamin

Poppies "And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin." Genesis 35:18

What are we going to do with the bad things that happen along life's way? Will we dwell on them and allow them to drag us into despair and depression for the rest of our lives? Set them in stone in our memories so that we never escape the pain of our past? Will our past struggles blind us to our present blessings? Victory over our struggles may be as simple as choosing to look at things in a different way.

Rachel died while giving birth to a son. She called his name Ben-oni, which is interpreted "son of my sorrow". Jacob made a choice that day to call his son Benjamin instead, which means "son of my right hand". Benjamin seems to be a little more positive and endearing. My right hand man! Jacob decided that rather than being constantly reminded of a very painful event in his life, he would choose to look into his son's eyes and see his 'right hand man' from that day forward.

I think there are people all around us who have been greatly blessed by God and yet they don't realize it. They are healthy, have a loving mate, steady work, healthy children, a comfortable home, dependable transportation, and so much more and yet they don't seem to enjoy any of it because they are so focused on some pain or sorrow from their past. What if every time Jacob looked at Benjamin he only thought of Rachel's death? What if every time we look at our blessings we only think of past hurts? Tragic!

Have you ever had something bad happen and struggled with the emotions surrounding that event for months or years afterward? Death? Illness? Betrayal? We've all been through some tough spots in life and yet we're still here. Unfortunately some of us still look at these events and allow them to remind us of pain rather than the things God has done through these events. What opportunities did God open up for us after these difficult times in our life?

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28