Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Penance (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)
AS AN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN the idea of doing penance is a little foreign to me, but after reading Martin Bucer's thoughts in his 1538 Reformation handbook, "This Little Book" [Now released as Concerning the True Care of Souls], he makes a good argument for the continued use of penance. He writes,
If we had the practice of penance in our churches, there would be greater aversion to sin. Who is lacking in understanding of the things of God and of human ways and follies as not to be able to recognize this? When grosser transgressions were subject to earnest penance . . . there was brought about in the children of God a more earnest aversion and detestation of sins and a very different zeal of true Christian living from that which, sadly, we discern among ourselves now. . . .This is how the ancients describe penance and satisfaction: satisfaction is rooting out the causes of sin and closing the doors to the incentives of sin. (pp.130-131)
I think he's got something there, "closing the door to the incentives of sin."  Maybe sometimes (?) we continue to make sin look more attractive than living righteously.  I suppose that's part of our responsibility, to continue to show sins destructiveness, while at the same time showing even more clearly the benefits of righteous living.  Maybe making sin "hurt" a little within the context and life of the church would help create a deterrent to returning continually to our old life. (Galatians 4:17-32)

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Photography by Elizabeth Kay, Push Pin Pictures 
GOD HOLDS CREATION in the palm of His hand (Isaiah 40:12). As Christians we believe that God created all things, and holds all things together (Colossians 1:16-17). When we consider this truth our minds often flow to the immensity and powerfulness of God. We dwell upon His omnipresence and His transcendence over His creation.  Creation is BIG, it is AMAZING therefore God is BIGGER and MORE AMAZING!

All this is true, early Sunday morning, July 20, 2014, I too held creation in my hands. Not the billions of galaxies with their billions of stars and planets, but I held the preeminent aspect of God’s creative act: a newly born bearer of His image, one made after the likeness of the Triune God. (Genesis 1:26)

Her name is Kiley Rose Garcia. As I held my newborn granddaughter I was not thinking about how much bigger or more powerful I was than her. I did not contemplate how much more I can comprehend than her, rather I was overwhelmed with how much I loved this little girl that I had only met minutes before. Yes, I marveled at the creation in my arms, her long fingers, tiny ears and a little tongue that likes to stick out, but more than anything I was grateful. I was grateful to hold another gracious gift from God’s loving hands and the newest member of my family.

Now, as I write this I wonder as God holds all creation in His hands if He thinks about how much bigger, wiser, stronger He is than all He created, or does He peer into His arms with a heart full of gratefulness, wonder and love? I believe it is the latter.

More than anything, God loves His creation, and that includes you, Kiley Rose.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


1631 Book of Psalms
1631 Book of Psalms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
STARTING A NEW SERMON SERIES THIS WEEK: Songs from the Heart. We will be looking at a variety of the Psalms to see how they do sing from the heart both in joy and lament, in praise and in anger.

As I was doing some "prep-work" I pulled an previously read book from my shelf by Eugene Peterson, "Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer" great book. It flipped right open to a page I had highlighted before in which Peterson writes about the "presumptuous prayer."  In grabbed me again, as it had grabbed me before and I thought it worth sharing.
   Presumptuous prayer speaks to God without first listening to him. It obsessively, anxiously, pr pretentiously multiplies human words to God, but with, at best, a distracted, indifferent or fitful interest in God's words to us. But God speaks to us before we speak to him. If we pray without listening, we pray out of context.
    Protection against presumption come is the editorial arrangement of the Psalms into five books, showing that prayer is a response to the Torah's five books.
I guess the Lord might say, Listen. Learn. Live. Too often, I get this backwards.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening . . . I open my heart as I open Your Word.

Monday, July 21, 2014


THIS PAST WEEK COMMISSIONERS of Osceola, Florida bowed their heads in prayer as an atheist delivered the invocation at the local council meeting.

Invocation: a noun: the act of invoking or calling upon a deity, spirit, etc. for aid, protection, inspiration or the like; supplication,” thus states the entry at Dictionary.com.

So, my question is just who or what was this atheist invoking? Why were the commission members bowing their heads?  One commissioner said it was out of habit.

I really can’t say what’s the most troubling; atheist’s praying, people bowing without thinking, or that the nature of being a nation of inclusion has gone this far. Others are also happy that this has taken place, one such group being the ministers of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster their members referred to as Pastafarians.  (I told you I couldn’t make this stuff up!) They believe this new “openness” will help their mission which is to parody religion. REALLY!

As I read the article, which made the front page in the Wall Street Journal, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or spit.  I didn’t spit because my mom taught me that was dirty. What I did do was to shiver at how low the idea of prayer has become and to wonder if that low view of prayer even pervades the pews of the evangelical church?  When we bow our heads, fold our hands and close our eyes are we truly conscious of the eternal sovereign God we are invoking?  When we call  upon His Name, should we not at least pause with a shudder of fearful respect? I mean what if He heard? What if He responded?

Wait a minute! Why are we asking if? Remember, we’re not making this stuff up!

Friday, July 18, 2014


HERE'S SOMETHING TO PONDER, from Martin Bucer, Concerning the True Care of Souls.
An easy going attitude to sin is rife because the practice of repentance is not observed in the church.  And who can deny it is because there is no correction, punishment, or penance in the church for sins, however horrible they may be, that the young people and people in general have become so  much easygoing in their attitude to all offences? Shame and disgrace have no place, and the poor people run amuck and become as St. Paul complains, completely unrepentant and give themselves over to immorality and all vanity, never satisfied with the acts of their malicious and corrupt nature.
Now, I believe in full forgiveness in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I would seek not to lessen the efficacious work of Jesus upon the cross,  but I also think the church has accepted and promoted an easy "forgive-ism." Demanding no real turning from sin, A repentance and renouncement and true brokenness before God and His church.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


ONE OF MY FAVORITE JESUS ENCOUNTERS is found in Luke 10:38-42, where Luke records,

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

If I were speaking I might have said it a little more tersely, “Martha, chill-out and don’t get your toga in a knot!” The problem is that too many times I’m the one with my toga in a knot. Things are not going my way. People are not agreeing with my point of view. There’s too much to be done around here than to just be sitting at the Master’s feet. We have WORK to do! But Jesus’ reminder is that we have WORSHIP to do first and that is always the proper order.

It goes like this: prayer then program; worship then work; sitting at the Master’s feet then moving forward for the Kingdom. I realize it seems so un-American to sit and seemingly do nothing, but what we need to realize is that sitting at the feet of Jesus is not doing nothing, in fact as Jesus says to Martha, “…few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Thus, our call to come and join us at the feet of the Master on Sunday nights as we seek His face for His work. I invite you to come and sit with us.

Sunday, July 06, 2014


BEING A PEOPLE OF A REPUBLIC, like here in the United States of America, we have a difficult time understanding living under the reality of king and kingdom. Yet, for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, the Messiah, that is just the system of government in which we find ourselves.

Fortunately, our sovereign King is full of grace, mercy and kindness. We need not fear the raiding of our homes and families because of the whims of the king. Yet, there is a critical truth we need to remember as we live in the Lord’s Kingdom and that is; it is His Kingdom and His desire is for His kingdom to expand in scope and influence. We are reminded in Scripture that there will come a final day when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)

It is our responsibility, as His subject (not to mention heirs) that we see that His Kingdom continues to expand in scope and influence (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8) One of the primary ways we accomplish that goal is through the miraculous medium of prayer. I call it miraculous that the eternal sovereign God invites us to His throne to join Him in praying for the nations. Those nations like Mongolia and Cameroon, as well as those nations gathered within the Santa Cruz area.

In order to help be obedient and to expand the Kingdom, we are going to be taking a little “retro” move and reinstating a Sunday evening gathering with the expressed purpose of seeking God’s empowering for our part as Kingdom builders.

Therefore, I am encouraging you (not inviting, encouraging) to take a sacrificial step (Romans 12:1-2) and join me from 6:00-7:00 every Sunday night to specifically pray for our community and our world. This is not a time to pray for our needs, illnesses etc. but to seek God’s heart for the world. Come and join me!  For King and Kingdom!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


LET’S JUST COME OUT AND ADMIT IT, living like Jesus can be incredibly difficult and frustrating at times. He is God, and of course we are not, and yet we are called to be conformed to His image. (Romans 8:29) I doubt the Heavenly Father would ask us to do something that was impossible. It’s one reason He has given us the Holy Spirit, to give us the wisdom and strength to see His image formed in us.

During my sabbatical I spent some time in a book by Peter Scazzero entitled, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. At one point Scazzero states what he sees as the “goal of the Christian life,” which is to “love well.” Two simple words yet packed with incredible power if we would appropriate them to our daily lives.

Of course the idea to “love well” is not original with the author. It was our Lord Jesus who reminds us that the greatest commandment is to “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

So, there we have it; following Jesus made easy. All we need to do on a daily basis is to continually ask ourselves the question throughout the day, “Are we loving well?” Is this thought I am thinking prove forth my love for God, or my love for my neighbor. Does this purchase I am making express my love for God and for my neighbor? Do the words proceeding from my mouth declare my love for God or my love for my neighbor?  You see how this flows? How easy it can be?

One more thought.

We also need to love ourselves well. We are admonished in Scripture to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31) If we are living in the midst of self-hatred and self-loathing then it will be nearly impossible to love God and our neighbor well. Remember that this love of self is based in another wonderful truth held within the Word of God and that is that God loves you! (John 3:16, Romans 5:8)

I guess it all comes down to this, we are able to love well because we were (are) loved well. (1 John 4:19)  Therefore, let us choose to love well today!