Monday, November 26, 2012

LITTLE GIFTS


OUR GOAL FOR COLLECTING SHOE BOXES WAS 350. Honestly, my faith was a little weak regarding our meeting that goal. (Last year’s high was 270.) So, when we counted the boxes leaving the church we were just short (346) and when we re-counted the boxes at the drop-off site still 346. Truthfully, I wasn’t discouraged in fact I was pretty excited with how graciously God’s people gave.

Later that night, as Linda and I drove in the parking lot of the church, we saw three more boxes left at the door. Wow! Now we were just one short, but it might be too late to get these boxes to the drop-off site in time. We quickly made a phone call to the local area director for Operation Christmas Child and were told we could still get them in if we did so Monday morning. Whew!

A little while later, after posting to Face Book our numbers we got an AWANA mom asking if she could get us their box! Can you believe it? We hit 350 on the nose! Then another contact and we discovered three more boxes had been delivered to the drop-off from Felton Bible Church members. The count was now 353! Goal met! Goal surpassed!

All this got me thinking about a Bible verse the Holy Spirit has been impressing upon me over the past three weeks; the LORD told Zechariah, “Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the LORD that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?” ( Zechariah 4:10 ) I have been learning that the Lord is often at work in the small places and in small ways but the end thereof will be great and to His glory, as it should be.

The Lord could have provided 353 boxes on Sunday morning and we would have rejoiced. But providing as He did, little by little, He was continually surprising us by His provision. He met our self-imposed goal and then some and He did it in a way that caused us to give Him glory over and over. It was the little number that made the bigger number that much bigger!

What is God doing in your life? Maybe it is not big and flashy. Maybe it seems small and insignificant to you, but it is often in the small and insignificant that the true blessing is found. Remember the manger? 

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Monday, November 19, 2012

CROSSING PATHS


IT IS SAFE TO SAY that back in our grade-school days most of us would not have guessed the various paths our lives have taken. We might have had plans and dreams of what we were going to be, or where we were going to live and maybe even who we were going to marry, but somewhere along the way the paths we thought we would take changed, morphed or maybe even crossed with other paths to brings us to where we are today.

Some of the paths we traveled where like gentle strolls along sunlit paths, others may have been long sweaty trudges up steep mountainsides. Some paths we may have journeyed with light-hearted friends and others we wandered alone through darkened valleys. Whatever those paths were like one thing is for certain here is where they brought us.

Since we cannot know, or for that matter even plan, our paths it is good to entrust our paths to the only One who knows the beginning from the end, the One who can see all the various twists and turns our lives will take. That One, of course, is the Lord of all creation and the Sovereign of eternity.

Personally, I could not have known the paths my life would take. Who, but the Lord could know that the very place that Linda and I hoped to retire to someday (Mount Hermon) would be the place where I would start my full-time ministry?  Who, except God, could have seen the gracious gift that would allow me to return to school (Biola University / Fuller Seminary?) Who could have foreseen, except for our all-knowing God, that the one instrumental to my first call to Felton (Dave Van Wingerden) would be the one to ask me to join him in ministry in Cokato, Minnesota? Who but God would have seen my path taking me to Crescent City to plant a church? And who could have ever seen the path that would bring me back to the church I had grown to love in those first years of my pastoral ministry? I could not have written the story of the journey God has led me upon, but thankfully God did.

Today we welcome back to our church the man who was instrumental in bringing me here back in 1977, Pastor Dave Van Wingerden and his wife Cherie. They too have traveled paths they could not dreamed of, and yet God has led them each step of the way; each path preparing them for the next. What a journey they have traveled. I encourage you to join them in their story. (See: Jesus in Haiti Ministries)

What path does the Lord have you on today? We certainly cannot know its twists and turns, but we can be sure of its final destination as we trust in the Good Shepherd who loves to lead us into green pastures and beside quiet waters. In Him put your trust and your travel plans.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

THE STORY=TELLER TELLS HIS STORY

A GOOD ILLUSTRATIVE REMINDER OF THE STORY AND ITS ONGOING POWER AND THE IMPORTANCE OF ITS RETELLING

Monday, November 05, 2012

DO IT NOW!


MY MOM WAS THE “THANK-YOU NOTE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF.” Almost as soon as the last friend had left my birthday party she was handing me a stack of thank-you cards to fill out and put in the mail. I know it sounds hard to believe, but sometimes I think she had thank-you cards filled out before she even got a gift from someone. Scary, I know.

The truth of the matter was this; my mom wanted me to express my gratefulness for a gift received promptly and even if I wasn’t too fond of the gift. There was a fine line between the telling of the truth about a gift and the greater importance of saying, “Thank you.” But the truth be known, I really do thank my mom for instilling in me the importance of maintaining and expressing a grateful heart. Her discipline has served me well over the years and now falls upon me to impress this important social etiquette to my children, who do pretty well and I am sure my mom is smiling down from heaven…with thankfulness, of course.

November is the month that our hearts turn toward giving thanks. I suppose it has something to do with a healthy dose of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and Hallmark cards that keeps thankfulness ever before our eyes, but it should be more than that.

We are called to be thankful because of all that God has lavished upon us; from the food on our table to the air in our lungs The problem is, how do I get a thank-you card to God up in heaven? How does one give thanks for all the God has given to us? Allow me to share four places we can start:

Confession. Not of sin at this point but the confession that every good and perfect gift comes from God above. (James 1:17)

Contentment. Learning to be satisfied with what we have. Learning to live satisfied lives rather than satiated ones. (1 Timothy 6:6)

Consistency. Make giving thanks a regular part of your day. It’s one reason we say “Grace” before we eat. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22)

Community. Be an active part of a thankful group of those who are following Jesus Christ. (Psalm 100 among others done within the Community of Faith.)

In this time of thanks-giving, I encourage you to take time each day to give thanks to the Lord, and it wouldn’t hurt to write a thank-you card to a friend either. 

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

THE MINNESOTA WAY


I AM A BORN AND RAISED SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA BOY, and for the most part pretty proud of that fact. I was raised when there were still numerous orange groves in Orange County along with walnut orchards and acres of strawberry fields.  Even in suburbia almost every home had one or two fruit trees of various varieties and of course manicured lawns bordered by expanses of low-laying ivy. (Oh, how I hated weeding the ivy; way too many snails for my liking lurking below those waxy green leaves!)

I was not a farmer by any stretch of the imagination, but I did know how things grew. You tilled up the soil, planted the seeds and then turned the sprinklers on, and voila, things grew!  You don’t have to live in California very long before you understand how dependent we are on irrigation systems. Dams, canals, ditches, and pipes provide the vast amount of water we need to turn California into the land of bounty that it is.

Back in the late 1980’s I had the God-given opportunity to move from the golden state of California to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” more commonly referred to as Minnesota. I moved from now concrete-covered La Mirada (home to Biola and theFighting Eagles!) to the dark-earthed farming community of Cokato, Minnesota, (pop. 2,000, counting the fish in the local lakes.)  I had LOTS to learn about REAL farming, especially the planting and raising and harvesting of seed-corn. Did you know that there are male and female corn plants? It’s hard to explain so you’ll just have to trust me on that one.

One of the first things I learned as I followed the process of pulling rocks from the tilled soil, to planting of corn seeds, to the de- tasseling of the corn stalks , to the fall harvest, was that Minnesotan farmers do not irrigate their fields. They till, plant, weed, de-tassel and wait for the good Lord to send the rain, praying all along that the right amount would fall at the right time. Minnesota farming is a mixture of hard work and prayer.

As we enter our season of harvest and a time of thanksgiving for the bounty with which we have been blessed, my mind is drawn to the Lord Jesus’ words, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38) This year we have been praying for a rich harvest for the Lord. We even placed a number on it of 350 new souls brought under the grace of the Lord and into His kingdom. Thus, far It does not look like the harvest will meet with our expectations. To be honest, it is a little discouraging to this pastor and thus, I have been asking myself the question of “Why?”

Did we fail to till the soil well? Did we fail to plant enough seed? Did we fail to keep the weeds at bay? Did we fail to water the soil? It was that last question that got to my heart. As a California Christian I “farmed” like we farm in California. We till, we plant, we weed, we water, we harvest. But I see now that my Minnesota farming friends understood something about farming that I forgot (maybe many of us forgot) it is the Lord who sends the rain of His Spirit which causes the seed to germinate and grow. We think that we can do it all. We have the right ideas, motives and programs (those things that carry the water), we trust in our own ability to irrigate the fields, sadly leaving trust, faith and hope out of the equation.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, that he planted and Apollos watered it, but it was the Lord who caused the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6) 

For me, personally, it comes down to the area of prayer. How bruised are my knees from attending to the matter of fervent prayer for the Lord’s harvest here in our valley. Honestly? Not as much as I should. Did my lack of faith-driven fervent prayer hinder the harvest? I don’t know the answer to that question. Is it too late to pray for the harvest? NEVER! For I would say, as did our Lord, “Jesus said to them ,’My food is that I do the will of the one who sent me and complete his work.  Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months and the harvest comes’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, that they are white for harvest already. The one who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, in order that the one who sows and the one who reaps can rejoice together.  For in this instance the saying is true, ‘It is one who sows and another who reaps.’  I sent you to reap what you did not work for; others have worked, and you have entered into their work.’” (John 4:34-38)

In this month of giving thanks, I call each of us to go our knees for those needing to come to know the Lord as their Lord, Savior and God. As we look forward to the celebration of our Lord’s first advent, let us join hearts in praying for a bountiful harvest to present to Him when He returns to take home those that are His. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11) The Lord is faithful and He will do it. (Psalm 111; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5)

So, let us pray!
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