Thursday, August 29, 2013



This short video snippet from a message from Alistair Begg grabbed me at the heart and soul, and truthfully made me long to be gathered with God's people to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24)

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Monday, August 26, 2013


FOR A GOOD NUMBER OF YEARS I have had a dream of turning some unused church property on the other side of Zayante Creek into a community orchard. It's presently host to a number of local tree species and healthy stands of poison oak as well as temporary homesites for some of local homeless folks.

Truthfully, we have never really done anything with this property since the founding days of our church over 50 years ago. When I returned as senior pastor to what is now the Felton Bible Church we were in the throes of a land swap with the California State Parks system who desired that piece to complete a hiking and horse trail system.  Long story, short, we couldn't give that property away and not for want of trying...but I digress.

I have just finished reading "Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith" by Fred Bahnson. I can simply say, that this book has reinvigorated my hopes in building a God-honoring community garden with the deep desire not only to feed the hungry of our community (The San Lorenzo Valley) but also to be a good steward of the land that God gave this fellowship of Christians over 50 years ago.

The title of the book is an apt description as we follow the spiritual and horticultural pilgrimage of the author. We watch as he grows not only in his knowledge of the care of God's land, bu also what it means to minister to "the least of these." (Matthew 25:31-46) We follow him through times of success and failure, we meet those who will stand shovel to shovel with him to develop his community gardens as well as those who seem dead-set to stand in his way.

Fred Bahnson allows you to tag along as he recounts his pilgrimage journey that will take him to the Mepkin Abby and it's mushroom growing monks, to Chiapas, Mexico. From the garden project of Tierra Nueva and it's "Underground Coffee Project to the weeklong celebration of Sukkot in the Jewish farming community of Adamah Farm in Connecticut.

The reader will not only gain keen insight into sustainable organic community-enhancing gardening, but maybe more importantly, they will encounter the vital spiritual truth of our responsibility to be good stewards of the land which is not ultimately ours, but God's.

Bahnson quotes from Abraham Joshua Heschel work, "The Sabbath," "There is a great longing in the world." I believe there has been a great longing in me to put back into the land more than I have taken out (which is a lot), and this book has gone a long way to moving me to seek to bring life to the dream of a true community orchard. One not owned by the church to serve the down-and-outers, but one that is simply seeking to be good stewards of God's blessings and allow the community to share in those blessings.

If you enjoy gardening, if you like to read of spiritual pilgrimages that cross borders of race and creed, then I highly recommend this book to you. Maybe, like me, yours will become dog-eared, underlined, and annotated and then passed to some one like heart and soul, and who thinks that dirt under the fingernails is not always a bad thing.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013


THIS PAST WEEK OUR FAMILY WAS BLESSED with the birth of Sterling Paggu Tankoano. Yes, our family is excited, and Linda and I are proud grandparents. I have been blessed with a growing family that I would not have dreamed of even five years ago. Two married daughters with loving husbands from Burkina Faso and Bolivia. Our family times are always filled with the learning of new words and experiencing new cultures; we are truly blessed.

With the birth of Sterling I received a blessing that was unexpected, but ever so meaningful. Linda wrote up an explanation for Facebook, so I’ll let her words speak.

Let me tell you about Sterling Paggu Tankoano's middle name: It is the tradition that Didier's father should give the baby his name. Didier's father is believed to be over 100 years old (no one is quite sure). Because he is old and feeble and could die at any time, he sent word of the name he chose to Didier's sister who lives in a bigger city. Didier was SO moved when he heard the name that his father had chosen for his son. The simple explanation of the name is "Thankful to God" but Didier says it carries so much more meaning because when it speaks of God it speaks of everything God is, the fullness of God. Also there is a specialness to the name because not long ago Di's uncle who had the same name passed away and Didier's father wanted his name, Paggu, to be carried on. Didier has very high respect not only for his father, but for Randy as well, so he wouldn't even tell Krista the name his father had chosen until he told Randy.

I was so blessed to hear the name it brought me to tears, and to know that Didier blessed me by telling me first was a double blessing. I have always prayed prayers of blessings over my kids, that they would receive a double-portion of God’s Spirit, and of course that has been prayed over Sterling Paggu by our whole family as we gathered around him on Sunday.

Blessings are important! They can be spoken, or tangible or both. When they are shared they touch more than just the one receiving the blessing. We should do more of this.

Who will you bless today? Pray it. Speak it. Give it. It might change a life. Maybe even yours!
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Monday, August 19, 2013


A NEW BOOK IS GRABBING AT MY HEART, Soil and Sacrament: Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith, (Fred Branson). It a section on prayer he writes the following, it's worth recording here for my readers.
"The spiritual ecology of prayer always includes such places of withdrawal -- landings, tree stands, a chair by the wood stove -- unadorned places where your soul can touch down for awhile and simply be. It is in such silent emptiness that God is waiting. Here there is no need to plow the air with constant chatter. Let the mind's filed lie fallow, such places tell us, let the mycelial strands of prayer run in the dark and see what fruit might come. And when you leave, those some strands will follow under your feet, undergirding everything you do."

I guess this is one reason I love walking and running in the redwoods. We desire so much out of prayer that we often miss the greatest blessing of just being with God. Maybe stopping the incessant chatter of our tongues so we can actually hear the whisper of the LORD.


BACK IN THE DARK AGES OF PERSONAL COMPUTING our choices of monitor capability were pretty limited. You could get a black background and then a blinking cursor of white or green or orange. It was the day of monochromatic screens.  Then wonder of wonder, miracles of miracles a new day arrived when our computers could produce 64 different shades of gray. Wow!  How could things get any better? The answer to that question is not the point of this Shepherd’s Staff.

The focal point of my writing today is sin. Of course, you already knew that because supposedly that’s what pastors write about, talk about, pray about, well you get the point.

It used to be that sin was a pretty black and white affair. You were either sinning or you weren’t, and for those of us born with a sin nature (that would include you and me) we are mostly sinning. In fact, before a person surrenders their life to the sovereign Lord and Savior, Jesus, we are only able to sin. As Isaiah the prophet writes, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we are all shriveled up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)

Now, sin is not so black and white, like our computer monitors of the 1980’s we see our sin in 64 shades of gray. Yet we are called to remember that apart from Jesus,  all our works are sin. We can’t point the finger and say, “At least my sin is a lighter shade of gray than that other person’s.” Once again, God’s Word declares, “There is none righteous, not even one. There is none that understand God, there is none who seeks God. . . .(Romans 3:10ff) Doesn’t sound like much good news today, does it?

But take heart, even though our sins were (are) black as the deepest cavern, yet when we allow the Light of the World to shine into our lives, that darkest place becomes filled with His holy presence. Sin is atoned for, forgiveness is granted and life begins anew.   The Apostle John writes, “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live in the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)

Do I hear an “Amen!?”  
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Friday, August 16, 2013


MATTHEW FOX, AUTHOR OF, LETTERS TO POPE FRANCIS, HAS A BONE TO PICK WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. And he may be right, they did remove him from being a Dominican priest. Whether his removal was justified or not have not the expertise to say, but it is safe to say he doesn't see it as justified, especially considering the Catholic Church's reluctance to remove priests who have exhibited pedophiliac behaviors.

Now, I have liked what I have seen and heard this far regarding the new Pope, and was looking forward to reading this book of letters Rev. Fox, now an Episcopal priest, has written in book form. Whether or  not Pope Francis has ever read these letters, that is to be seen.

Rev. Fox has some very positive ideas, based in the earlier work of the Pope's namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi. He calls the Pope to clean up the church's hierarchy's abuse of power, to allow the church to regain its evangelistic fervor, to open the doors to the ministry to and of the youth.  He makes a strong call to Pope Francis to continue in the ministry to the "least of these," that he was known for in his parishes in Argentina.  All of his calls to action seem to bear the call of Jesus Christ to serve rather than to be served, and thus far, even I, a born and bread Protestant, can appreciate the attitude and posture this new Pope has displayed, and I can hope that he would actually be able to read these letters.

All that being said, I am disappointed with Rev. Fox's work (letters) in two key regards. First, his anger toward those that have wronged him is quite evident in his writings and he may have been wronged, I cannot judge that, but what I can judge is what is seemingly the inability for Rev. Fox to offer the forgiveness we are commanded to offer by the Lord Jesus Rev. Fox is supposed to serve. (Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 6:37, etc.) Rev. Fox puts more weight in the traditions and writings of the church than in the teachings of our Lord.

Second, I personally find Rev. Fox's theology a little too liberal for this evangelical Protestant. I believe we are called to love all, as I believe Rev. Fox would agree, but he also is not willing to call sin, what the Bible calls sin, especially in his acceptance of the lesbian and gay lifestyle. Yes, the good reverend is entitled to his hermeneutical opinion, but I will have to honestly stand opposed to what I believe a misinterpreting and misapplication of God's Holy Word, the Word that must always trump the teachings and traditions of the church, Catholic or Protestant when those teachings and traditions run contrary to the Scripture.

Rev. Fox has some good things to say, things that should play well to both Catholic and Protestant churches, and I applaud him for those calls to action. But sadly I cannot recommend this book whole-heartedly because of his breaks with what I believe are the clear commands of Scripture.

Brothers we shall be as we trust in the completed work of Jesus Christ upon the cross, but to work hand-in-hand in total fellowship, that waits to be seen. Though should Rev. Fox actually read this review that fellowship may be harder to come by.

Sola Gratia
Sola Fides
Sola Scriptura
Solo Christo
Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, August 04, 2013


OUR CHURCH PUMPKIN PATCH HAS BEEN UNDER ATTACK! Thankfully, Dan Lockwood has been doing his best to keep the attacking critters at bay.  I think we might even be winning the battle. The other day, while out on a jog through the woods I began seeing a connection between our gopher problem and our sin. Some lessons I gleaned:

Before the soil was tilled and there was any real plan, nobody really worried much about gophers. Oh, I am sure they were there, there was evidence of their activity, but it was just a big weedy field, so who cared? This holds true for the field of our soul, as well. When there is no plan, when we really don’t give two hoots about what goes on there, the gophers of sin can run rampant, but unnoticed. We’ve got more important matters at hand.

Once we have good plans for the soil of our soul, when we begin to prepare it to produce fruit in keeping with righteousness (Hebrews 12:11; James 3:18), it seems the gophers redouble their effort, or at least now we are noticing what was there all the time. The problem now is as we soften the soil, add nutriments and of course plant the seeds, all these things lead to increased activity of the critters that crave the old nature.

Before, when the field had no purpose or plan, we did not need to be diligent in its care, but now with purpose and plan for a field redeemed for kingdom use, we must increase our vigilance in keeping sin at bay. What once was not noticed, or at least not given notice, is now become a battle zone. It’s an everyday battle to keep the gophers and their ilk away from what we desire to be fruitful.

Thankfully, the task of gopher removal is not ours alone. We can set to the task under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, and with the promise of the Lord, that for those who remain faithful there awaits us a harvest one hundred-fold. (Mark 4:3-20)

So, my fellow-gardener in the Lord, till your soil, plant your seeds, water, weed and of course watch out for those varmints of sin and remove them quickly, then watch the work of the Lord has He makes the garden grow.  Need proof, check-out the pumpkin patch by the Hut!

Thursday, August 01, 2013


Stove Tops
Stove Tops (Photo credit: Photolifer)
NO-NO! HOT! DON’T TOUCH THAT! These are words that most parent spew forth just has their toddler is heading toward the open oven door, or the wood-burner fireplace in the den. I am sure that the first time I used them with each of my children they didn’t have the slightest idea of what “HOT!” meant, but their startle-reflex kicked in and out of fear and dread they hopefully stopped dead in their tracks, or maybe even came running to me.

Was I mad? No. Did I desire to put the fear of God in them? Yes. Ultimately, it was not about fearing the stove, or the fireplace, but coming to the understanding that these things could seriously hurt you if you touched their hot surfaces. My parental reflex was for their safety and for their good, even if I did scare them.  Better being a little scared of dad at that point then suffering terrible burns on little hands.

This month we are going to be dealing with some HOT TOPICS. We’re going to take a look at what God’s Word has to say about human sexuality, especially as it relates to the recent uptick in our culture’s increasing acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. We are also going to be taking a look at what God’s Word has to teach us about the sanctity of human life, the power of addictions and how is the church to respond when it comes face to face with cultural mores that go contrary to the Word of God.

Much like the parent seeking to save their child from the pain of getting burned, we need to hear clearly how to deal with those areas of our culture that can burn us, let’s call that sin, for lack of a more direct term. Yet, we must also know how to deal with those areas in such a way so that we can put our interaction with these hot topics to positive use, just like learning how to deal with a hot stove so that we will not get burned.

It also needs to be said, that though there are some truly hot topics burning in our culture today, the heat of sin can be found all around us. Just like the frog in the kettle if you drop him into boiling water he’s likely to jump right out. But put him in cool water and slowly turn up the heat and the frog is no less the wiser. He gets used to the heat and soon enough it’s frog legs for dinner.

What is true for the frog is sadly true for the church. Oh, were quick, for the most part, to jump away from the “hot” sins, but we have dangerously become accustomed to the “acceptable” sins, like greed, pride, gossip and slander. I suppose we should deal with these sins as well, for the Word of God makes no differentiation between acceptable and unacceptable sin. It’s all sin. It’s all hot. It all burns and causes pain.

Let us also be clear about this, that though we are going to hear God’s Word about these hot points in our culture, we are also going to be learning from God’s Word about how we, as ambassadors of Christ, are to respond to those already burned, even deeply scarred by these sins. Our responsibility as those seeking to follow Jesus as Lord and God also includes bringing forth the message of forgiveness, reconciliation, healing and freedom.

As Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), so we must learn to help those who have been burned by the fire of sin. To learn how to not condemn and to bring them to Jesus, and to help people on the road to healing. Not always an easy, or welcomed task, but to which we are called.

I hope you will pray for me and with me as we address these hot topics and as we seek to provide the cooling waters of service to our community. Bringing a cup of cool water in the Name of the Savior, Jesus, the risen Lord. Praying that in all we learn and in all we profess and in all we do, we declare the grace and love of our God, and to do all in the Name of Jesus, for the glory of God.
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Sunday mornings at 9:30, as part of our regular worship gathering, we are going to be looking at what God's Word has to say about:

  • Human Sexuality. Yes, including the hot issues regarding the church's response to LGBT movements (August 4th) Followed by our FirstSunday Fellowship Meal!
  • Sanctity of Human Life. From the womb to the tomb (August 11th)
  • Addictions. From Alcohol consumption to Zucchini gardening. (!) Got your attention, didn't I? (August 18th)
  • Christ, the Church, Culture. What's the recipe from the Word of God? (August 25th)

But lest things get too hot, we also have planned some Cool Service Acts. We are heading over to the local schools to offer some help in clean-up and getting them ready for the new school year. And of course, spending time praying for each campus, the students and the faculty and staff.

Come and join us as we seek to learn from God's Word and as we seek to serve from God's Word.

Need more information?
Call the church office at 831.335.3418
Check-out the web page at
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