Friday, December 19, 2014

Guest Opinion - Appreciating 1st Responders

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Guest Post
By KELLY KIDDER

May 24, 2002 was the most frightening day of my life. I was having dinner with my parents in a restaurant when a fire broke out in the hotel across the street. Within minutes the small bit of smoke erupted into a massive inferno, engulfing the entire hotel.

The fire was distressing, but what terrified me was watching my dad get up from the table where we were eating dinner, cross the street and run into the burning building. He never hesitated; he didn't even pause long enough to say anything to my mom or me before leaving the restaurant. Mom and I just sat there staring after him. I remember her telling me the same thing over and over again, “Your dad is smart. He knows what he is doing.” I knew she was talking to herself as much as me.

But the only thought going through my mind, and the reason why I seriously doubted whether or not I would ever see my dad again, was I knew that if there was even the smallest chance that he could get someone out he would either do it or he would die trying. There was no third option. As long as there was anyone inside, he would not come out without them.

I don't know how many minutes went by, but thank God, he did come out, supporting an elderly gentleman who had been stuck on the top floor with his wife. That couple would have died had my dad and a few other brave men not intervened and got them out. All of this happened within minutes. Had my dad waited until the fire department arrived it would have been too late. The building was already completely engulfed by the time the first truck was on the scene. The reason I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my dad would have been willing to sacrifice himself for that old man was because that is who he is to his core. My dad got up and left his family sitting at the dinner table to go and risk his life for a man who he had never met...without hesitation. Now imagine if there was a whole group of people in our society who lived every day willing to risk their lives to protect complete strangers.         

Fortunately, there is. We call them police officers.

My dad was off duty that night. But ask any child, spouse, parent or friend of any police officer and they will tell you that police officers are never really off duty. Their job becomes a part of who they are on a very deep level. Being a police officer is unique from most other professions in that there is the expectation that they will do their job or they will die trying. Think back to 9/11. Do you remember the photos and videos showing masses of terrified people running away from the smoking towers? Did you notice in those same pictures, the police officers, firefighters and other first responders running towards the devastation and danger? As they ran up the stairwells and into the smoke, those men and women probably knew that there was a good chance they were not going to survive. Why then would they keep going? Why would they risk never seeing their families again? Why would they risk a painful and frightening death? Because they all swore an oath to serve and protect those strangers who were trapped inside.

In moments like 9/11 or the Boston Marathon bombings, we applaud the actions of these brave men and women. And then time goes on, life returns to normal and their heroics are forgotten. Then we as a society go back to our default attitudes towards police officers. Now they go back to being those mean people who pull us over and give us tickets. The glorified hall-monitors looking to ruin our fun. And why do they have to be so grumpy all the time? I mean, did they have to be so harsh when they were talking to me? Why can't they just all be officer-friendly all the time? Have you ever thought that maybe it is because they never know if the next person they encounter is going to be Susy Sunshine or a dangerous criminal out to kill them?

There is so much more to being a cop than writing tickets and being a hard ass. I have been pulled over and I have gotten tickets. But you know what? It's because I was breaking the law and the officers were doing their job. Was it an inconvenience? Absolutely. But was it my fault? Absolutely. I have also been stuck in long sobriety checkpoint lines. Another annoyance, and this time I didn't even do anything wrong! I haven't been drinking. I'm just on my way home from work. Why are all these mean cops out to ruin my day? Again, they are doing their job, protecting us from drunk drivers. 

Accepting minor inconveniences like these, with the understanding that they serve the greater good, is part of what it means to be a participating member of society. We want to reap the benefits of police work only when it suits us. It is nice to know that when you want them there, all you have to do is call 911 and someone will come and help you. Your house gets broken into and they can't do their job fast enough. If the bank you are in gets robbed of course the police will show up! You see a suspicious person lurking in your neighborhood at night so you call 911 and wait safely inside while an officer goes out and investigates so that you don't have to. But heaven forbid they step into your life uninvited.

I would like to be able to say that you can't have it both ways. But unfortunately when I look around at society today I see a lot of people are doing just that. We like police officers when they are doing something that we see as directly benefiting us. But any other day of the week we roll our eyes at them in annoyance, we criticize them for just trying to do their job, and we crucify them when they do what is necessary to go home to their families at the end of their shift. Those are the people who we expect to die. I am deeply grieved to see that the default judgment on police officers is criticism and disdain. Appreciation is only given on rare and most often tragic occasions when we feel like their sacrifice has finally reached a level worthy of our acknowledgment. Shame on us as a society.

There absolutely are police officers who are in it for the power-trip. Police brutality is a real thing and should be punished harshly. However, I would strongly argue that these behaviors are the exception, not the rule. If any members of society have earned the right to be given the benefit of the doubt, until proven otherwise, I think police officers have. I am challenging you, next time you catch yourself being angry with a cop, stop and ask yourself where you are directing your anger. Is it at a specific injustice, whether perceived or real, or are you directing your anger at the very people who have sworn an oath to serve and protect you?

Police officers don't get into their line of work because they want appreciation from the general population. Police officers aren't allowed to get discounts because of their work. They aren't even supposed to accept a free cup of coffee because it could be construed as a bribe. You know what they can accept? A handshake and a thank you from one of the people they are risking their lives for every day. Can you imagine thanking the cop who just gave you a speeding ticket? Try it next time. Because whether you like it or not, see it or not, appreciate it or not, every day police officers are working hard to protect you.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why Suffering?


Suffering.  It is a reality of life and this troubles us.  Many reject the notion of an Almighty God because there is so much suffering in this present world.  I’ve heard it many times, and so have you, “How can there be a loving God if there’s so much pain and suffering in the world?”  I understand the sentiment of their words, but their very words indicate there is an internal, absolute standard of good and evil; right and wrong, which, in my humble opinion, is only true if there is a good Almighty God.

This week the thought of suffering has been on my mind because I’m teaching on 1 Peter 4:12-19 this Sunday.  This whole passage teaches how the follower of Christ should respond to suffering.  In addition to this passage, I’ve seen plenty of suffering in my own life and I deal with the suffering of others on a regular basis as a pastor.  We don’t have to look far to find a good example of suffering for suffering seems to be the very thing that keeps the news agencies in business.

There are many Christian pastors and teachers who teach a “prosperity gospel” that leads people to believe that Christians who live their lives well will be rewarded with good health, money, and healthy relationships.  If these things don’t happen in their followers lives, lack of faith or sin in in the individual’s life is blamed—the teaching is never thought to be wrong or unbiblical.  It breaks my heart to see the damage these teachers cause.  I’m dumbfounded that they can read the New Testament and reach their conclusions.  Jesus was executed.  All of the apostles were executed, with exception of John (but they tried to kill him by boiling him alive, but he survived which is probably worse), the early church suffered immensely and Christians around the world are persecuted for their faith.

I believe one of the most important things for the Christian to understand is suffering.  I love this section of 1 Peter because there are some very practical tips on how we should handle suffering.  Let’s review some of the lessons Peter shares with us.

Don’t be surprised by suffering (1 Peter 4:12).  I like things that are simple to understand.  Peter’s first point is very simple.  Don’t be surprised by your suffering.  Suffering is normal for all people.  If you’re human and living on earth, you live in a fallen world that is marked with the consequence of sin.  The most visible consequence of sin seen is death, but there are many, many forms of suffering.  Embedded in this verse, there is a clue of how the Christian’s view of suffering is different from others.  Peter comments on suffering in this way, “which [suffering] comes upon you for your testing.”  God is greater than your suffering and is using your suffering to test, try, or refine you into His image.  As hot water brings out the nature of the tea bag, suffering brings out the new nature of Christ within the believer.  I know that I have grown most through times of suffering.  There is no reason we should be shocked or surprised by suffering—it is a part of life. 

If you suffer as Christ suffered, rejoice (1 Peter 4:13-14).  This one is hard to apply.  Who likes suffering in the midst of it?  Not me.  It’s miserable.  In the midst of suffering, I do everything I can to do get out from under it!  The author of Hebrews speaks of being disciplined in this way, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful” (Hebrews 12:11).  I do think I need to develop this thought more, but I hesitate saying that I need to experience more suffering for my faith to learn how to better explain Peter’s teaching here.  But in my study, so far, it seems that he is saying if you suffer for following Christ’s example, you should rejoice, or have much joy that you are identified with him.  I think of those mentioned in Hebrews 11:37-38 who “were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword, they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in the deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.”  There was nothing joyful about what they went through, but they experienced this because their lives were so linked to Christ’s life that the writer says the world was not worthy of these men—this identification to Christ should cause them great joy.  And if we suffer for being associated with Jesus than we should rejoice over this great honor of being connected to Him.

Not all suffering is the same (1 Peter 4:15).  I’m all for outreaches to those in prison.  So don’t misunderstand me here, but I’m bothered by those who do prison ministry and quote Hebrews 13:3, “Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them” as a proof text for their ministry.  The author of Hebrews is speaking to Christians who are not in prison to remember their brothers and sisters who are in prison for their faith in Christ, not common criminals.  In the present passage, I love that Peter makes a clear distinction for suffering because of righteousness from suffering that is a consequence to one’s sin and folly.  Suffering because you are reaping the consequence of murdering someone, stealing, doing evil, or meddling is not the same as suffering as a Christian.  We are instructed to not suffer in this way, to turn from evil and to do good as Peter mentions in 1 Peter 3:11.

If you suffer as a Christian, don’t be ashamed (1 Peter 4:16).  I can’t help but to remind us that the man who is writing this is the same man whose reputation is marked by his actions of denying Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.  I don’t say this to shame Peter, but in remembering this we gain greater insight into his heart.  When you are teased, mocked, harassed, shunned, or worse for your faith in Christ, I think it is a normal reaction to want to shrink away in shame or embarrassment.  Peter learned that leaning on Jesus and trusting in Him is the best response to suffering and we, who are persecuted for Christ’s sake, have nothing to be ashamed about.

Suffering can be God’s will for your life (1 Peter 4:17-19).  The last point Peter makes, I believe, is one of the most important points relating to the Christian and suffering.  I almost moved this up, but I figure Peter put it at the end so I should deal with it at the end.  Here is what Peter says in 1 Peter 4:19, “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God…”  Let that sink in.  Suffer according to the will of God.  Have you ever embraced your suffering as the very will of God for your life, or are you too busy trying to get out from under the suffering because you can't comprehend your suffering could be His very will for your life?  If I’m honest, I know my inclination is the later.  There’s something freeing about embracing our present suffering as God’s will.  Embracing our suffering as God’s will causes a couple of things.  First, I believe we turn to Him for help through the trial, which He is faithful to do.  Consequently, as we lean upon Him through the trial, we ultimately grow in our relationship with Him, learn more about many things—mostly God’s nature, and ultimately reflect His glory to the world around us.  Our hope ultimately is not in this present life, but in the one to come a difficult reality to understand for those living in the here and now.

Pondering suffering doesn’t send me on a quest to suffer more, but it does encourage me to desire to embrace the suffering that is place upon me.  I fear I’ve missed many valuable lessons focusing on evading my suffering.  My prayer is that when suffering comes, I will not be surprised by it, find a way to rejoice in the midst of it (so long as its not a result of my on folly), and grow through the experience trusting that my sovereign Lord has a wonderful plan in the midst of it, even though I may have no clue what it is!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The End is Near!


How does the phrase, “The end of all things in near!” make you want to respond?  I’m not sure how most people think, but I imagine a wave of panic, stock-piling supplies, and people generally freaking out.  Without a doubt, the Bible often speaks in these terms.  In fact, these are the first few words of the passage I’m preaching on tomorrow (1 Peter 4:7-11).  In studying passages like this, I’m always surprised at how the Bible says to respond.  In essence, believers are told to bring glory to God through your lives in light of this reality through four practical things that I think are worth sharing here.

Stay Calm and Chive On!  Oops, no, I got that wrong!  We are to stay calm and PRAY on.  When the topic of prayer comes up, I tend to feel a little convicted.  I’m not one to beat others up for their inconsistent or lazy prayer life.  None of us prays as we should.  But that being said, prayer is a wonderful lifeline of communication we have with God.  In light of the end of all things, we should seek God in prayer with sound judgment and sober spirit.  How would your life change if you began to pray a little more consistently?

Keep fervent in your love for one another.  There is much to be said about this, one passage that I keep going to is 1 John 4:7-5:3 where the word “love” is mentioned about 32 times!  Loving is something that God wants us to do and I’m convinced that we who have trusted in Christ are to be in community with other believers.  We need to be connected in a local church body where we can actively love one another.  There is really nothing that brings me great joy as a pastor than when I see, or hear about, members of Valley Baptist Church loving one another sacrificially.

Be hospitable.  I should say, without complaining, be hospitable.  When was the last time you opened up your home to someone?  You know, this doesn’t come naturally to me, but over the years I’ve worked very intentionally to be hospitable because I believe it’s something that God wants his followers to do.  A few months ago, I read a really good blog about “The Art of Hospitality” and I highly recommend the tips found there.  There is no greater place to share the love of God with others than in your home.

Have you trusted in Christ as Savior?  Did you know that you were given a special gift to use to serve within the body of Christ?  You were according to 1 Peter 4:10!  I believe many local churches aren’t thriving to their full design because so many believers are withholding their gifts that God has given them to serve at a local church.  I can’t encourage you enough to really plug in and commit to a local church family where you can serve.  It’s good for you, it’s good for the local church, and ultimately God is glorified in a huge way when you start serving!  If you’re a part of Valley Baptist Church, go to our “Get Involved” page and see how you can get plugged in!

Growing in maturity.  The thing I love most about these four things is they are so practical in application.  By stepping out in prayer, love, hospitality, and in service we grow in our walk with God.  In serving Him, we find true joy and peace.  My prayer is that you would step up in purpose with your walk with God!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

No Time for God

Fall is among us in full swing!  How is your schedule looking these days?  My guess is it is full, really full.  It seems to me we shuttle our children from event to event at a ragged pace.  Why do we do this?  At what cost do we do this?  Is it really worth it?  These questions have been tinkering around my mind for some time now as I look around me and see the crazy pace of parents hauling their children from one even to another.    Please don’t take this as me judging you, or anyone for that matter; this is really just my pondering the issue of extra curricular activities as it relates to my family's relationship with God.

This summer our small group Bible study explored the book of Joshua.  We came to this verse at the end of Joshua, just as summer was coming to a close, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, chose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods of which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods to the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).  This verse really struck a cord with me as it related to sports and the craziness of our schedules today.  I can’t help but think that the mad dash of life leads us away from God and towards the things of this world.  I really want to give God priority in our home and I fear that small pulls will lead me astray.

Growing up there was never any conflict between sports and church because I wasn’t in church.  That made things easy.  Now, I’m a Christian and church is important to me.  It is a priority for my family and me.  Yes, I am a pastor, but that’s not why I go to church—if I ever reach the place where I’m going to church because I’m a pastor, I’ve got some big problems.  I love church. I’m committed to worshiping, serving, and being a part of my local church because I’m a Christian.  I doubt it’s exclusive to Southern California, but with our great weather there is a great pulling of people toward all sorts of events.  It seems to me there are many Christian children absent from church on Sunday regularly because of commitments to athletic teams of all sorts.

Really, I’m not being legalistic at all in this.  I’m simply wrestling through questions and concerns that I have.  Is it okay to ever miss church?  Sure, of course there are times.   Will a sports commitment take priority over my commitment to church?  I’m feeling more and more convicted that I need to respond, “No.”  

Maybe this post is more for research.  These are questions I’ve been struggling with:  Can my kids participate in sports without having to decide between the sport and going to church?  What happens to kids who don’t participate on Sundays?  If I encourage my child that it is okay to participate in a sport that requires them to ditch church on Sundays, am I demonstrating to them that sports are more important than church?

I’m curious how other Christian parents handle these questions.  I don’t think there are easy answers, but I’m starting to think that without careful thought, it is easy to get sucked into this vortex.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Statue of Liberty, A Thing of the Past?

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Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed the topic of immigration has resurfaced again through a variety of streams.  There seems to be a new sort of harshness in the voices of many.  I’m conflicted about what to think about the situation and a little troubled by some of the things I’ve read by American Christians.  I don’t want to repeat a blog I wrote about a year ago titled Misericordia Por Favor, which is translated “Mercy Please” in English, but I can’t help but to resurface this discussion.

It strikes me as sort of funny that I’m thinking about this on July 3, the day before we celebrate the founding of our nation and as I’m preparing to teach on the letter of First Peter which carries the theme of living as aliens throughout it’s entirety.  How should Christians respond to these children that our government is trying to handle?  To be honest, I’m not sure that I know the answer.

I guard myself from getting political.  We as Christians are called to submit to our authorities.  Thankfully in the USA, that means we are encouraged to vote and voice our concerns to our representatives.  I’m not sure of all the facts, but it seems something politically was said, or done, that is encouraging people to send their children hundreds, really thousands of miles, alone to enter the USA.  Is it okay to respond to our leaders about this situation?  Sure, I really don’t see a problem with that as a Christian.

However, as a Christian, as an American, I have concerns for how these people are being treated by my fellow countrymen.  I have never been in a situation where I have wanted to flee from my homeland.  I can’t even begin imagine that I would ever load up my four children and send them to another country without me.  Take a moment to ponder how bad the situation would have to be for you as a parent to think sending your children away, possibly never to see them again, to another country by themselves because there was hope of a better life.  I can’t ever imagine being in this place.  It makes me sick to my stomach just pondering being in a position where this would be the best option for my family.

Are you aware of the quote on the Statue of Liberty?  I believe it’s a good word for us to ponder as Americans.  The quote reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”  Is this still true of our nation, or is it time to remove the quote?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Guest Post: Memorial Day

Today I welcome Debbie Lee, mother of Marc Lee (KIA, August 2, 2006), to share her thoughts on Memorial Day. Marc was a teammate of mine and I'm thankful for Debbie's faith through this journey. May we each pray for her and the other Gold Star Moms. 


Memorial Day Remembering Their Sacrifices, by Debbie Lee

As a Mother of a hero who willingly gave his life in combat, Memorial Day has taken on an entirely different meaning. My son Marc Alan Lee was the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq 8-2-06. Three times that day he stood up into the direct line of fire and willingly gave his life defending his teammates and our freedoms.

Marc understood that there was a price for our freedom and like so many others before him, was willing to go into battle to keep America free. 

Memorial Day is set aside to remember those brave warriors who while defending us, lost their lives in combat. 

We have over 600,000 men and women who have died in combat since WWI. 600,000 Gold Star families and Brothers at arms, who have buried a loved one and to whom every day is/was Memorial Day.

You can imagine the pain and frustration to the friends and families of these fallen heroes when the majority of Americans are clueless as to the real meaning of Memorial Day. Our loved ones gave their final breath so that you could enjoy all of the freedoms and blessings that you have in America. All we ask is that as a nation we come together this weekend and acknowledge, honor and remember our heroes.

I have been on a campaign for years trying to educate people about the history and meaning of Memorial Day what it is and what it is not! It is not a time to "Celebrate Memorial day", it is not "Happy Memorial Day."  I am sure that ignorance plays a part in the party mentality of the 3-day weekend. We see major advertising about big "blow out" sales, advertisements to "kick off your summer", prepare for the big bar-b-ques and camping trips and parades. Many families know it marks the end of the school year and the community pools will be opening.

I was part of that ignorant group for years. I wasn't taught the real meaning of Memorial Day. Oh we visited a few graves through the years and placed flowers on the graves of family members who had died in child-birth, from sickness and different causes. Most of the time it was just a family gathering with picnics and bar-b ques enjoying all of the freedoms that we have but not reflecting on those who paid the ultimate price so we could enjoy them. I was not taught, and I am sorry for the opportunities that were missed to honor our fallen, and focus on the sacrifices made for me.

Often times people mistakenly recognize and thank all of those who have served. Veterans Day is the National Holiday when we do that. I've dedicated my life to honoring and thanking our troops 24/7 364 days of the year, but Memorial Day is for those who died in war.

Tradition used to be that businesses closed on Memorial Day and flew their flags at half staff to remember our war dead, what a switch from today, where it has turned into a major money making weekend.

After the civil war ended Maj General Logan established Decoration Day and spoke these words. : "We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic." 

Have we as a nation forgotten the cost? Will you help me put Memorial back in Memorial Day?

Please plan your weekend to remember those heroes who gave everything for you. I'm not asking you not to have a bar-b-que, picnic or gatherings with families or to walk around with sullen faces the entire weekend. Our loved ones sacrificed so you could enjoy those freedoms, but there should be somber moments when we focus on the cost that was paid.



As you gather take advantage of that time together and take a few moments to share the story of a fallen hero, remind others what the real meaning of Memorial Day is about. Tell your children and grandchildren about these brave heroes who paid the price for them to enjoy this day, take them to a National Cemetery and place flowers on graves or stop and honor them. Attend a ceremony or memorial, watch a video or TV program about our fallen, read a story, find a Gold Star family near you and let them know you will never forget. If you know other Veterans ask them if they've lost a teammate and maybe they will tell you about them. Pray for the families of the fallen.

Technology has changed our world and it is so easy to find the History of Memorial Day, read about heroes, and reach out and honor and remember our fallen and their families. It is also a great way to remind your friends the real meaning of Memorial Day, use that tool to educate others and honor our fallen heroes who are America's National Treasures.
   
While we look back and remember our fallen heroes this weekend, we focus forward and live our lives worthy of the sacrifice they made for you, for me and for America, "the land of the free, because of the brave."

Debbie Lee and son,
Marc A. Lee
First Navy SEAL KIA in Iraq
Aug 2, 2006


Thursday, March 20, 2014

God's Wonderful Provision!


I’m a few weeks out from celebrating my anniversary of coming to Valley Baptist Church.  May 20, 2014 marks the completion of 7 years of serving Christ at this wonderful church.  I’m simply in awe of what God has done during my time here.  This isn’t a blog to talk about church numbers to build up my resume or self-esteem.  The reality is, I know how little I’ve done and how God has been the master orchestrator behind the restart of this wonderful church.

God’s provision over the years is highlighted through my present circumstances.  In a recent blog,  Thankfulness Revived”, I shared about almost losing my wife and child during the delivery.  I mentioned that there were a number of things I was processing concerning God’s faithfulness to me.  I’d like to share about His provision to us through this trial.

As my wife came out of recovery from surgery, we slowly learned how close to dying she and the baby came.  From the very beginning the doctors were very firm about how long the recovery would take.  Six weeks was an optimistic timeline, but they were very clear that I needed to be there for her and the family for the duration or complications from the surgery and blood loss would develop.  Without hesitation, I assured her that I would take a break from everything to focus on her and the family.  No preaching, no counseling, nothing but focusing on my family during this time.  Okay, clearly I’m not six weeks out yet, but I’m at home with my two-year old son nipping at my heels as I type this so hopefully you get the heart of what I’m saying.  Oh, and I may have slipped out under the cloak of darkness to spend some time with the K-9 Unit of EPD a few weeks ago while my mother-in-law was over...I guess this is my confession.

I haven’t preached since February 16 and I won’t return to the pulpit of Valley Baptist until the first Sunday in April.  Yes, not preaching is killing me, but I’ve always said my family is my priority and I mean it.  What I’m trying to say is that the reason I can do this is through God’s provision and timing.  For the last 7 years I’ve worked hard.  I’m not complaining at all, I love my calling, but it’s very normal for me to put in 60+ hours a week in ministry.  My family loves serving the Lord and we’ve learn to balance family and ministry in a way that works for us.  Between my working from home (in large part) and home schooling the kids we’ve learned to balance time with each other and the heavy workload of my calling, but this isn’t really relevant to this post.

Getting back to the point.  Back in the hospital room, when I told my wife, “Everything is going to be fine.  I’ll take the next six weeks off to minister to you” tears filled my eyes.  Yes, I was worried about my wife, but even more so, I was thankful to God for His provision that made my ability to say this to my wife truthfully.  I truly could take this time off for God had provided the help I needed in order to care for my family.

Throughout the restarting process, God has faithfully sent the right people at the right time.  Too many to list so I won’t even try.  A few years ago, I started to feel like I was stretching way too thin.  Things were slipping through the cracks.  As a pastor, “things slipping through the cracks” means people had shepherding needs, but I was failing to care for them as I feel they should be.  No one was criticizing me, complaining to me, or anything like that, but my heart for the sheep was deeply burdened.  I didn’t know how to solve this problem because I couldn’t give any more.   I decided to press on and pray, as I had no remedy in sight.  

Well, a little over a year ago God set the ball in motion to bring me help through the coming of Chaplain Ben, a Navy Chaplain who started attending Valley Baptist Church.  It wasn’t long before we hit it off.  We share a likeminded passion for the ministry and share the same philosophy for the church and how to care for people.  This doesn’t mean we see eye-to-eye on every theological point, but we are in total agreement for how to handle and apply our differences of theological positions.  It was a wonderful friendship that I would enjoy for as long as he was with us.  As a former Navy man, the one thing I’ve learned about Navy buddies is they move on.  This would be the case with Ben as well—or so I thought!

Word came that Ben would be getting out of the military and everything changed.  Long story short, we both came to the conclusion that God was calling him to serve at Valley Baptist Church as an associate pastor!  You know, if you asked me to describe the perfect associate pastor to serve with, I would have described Pastor Ben to you.  I don’t say this lightly.  We agree about how ministry should be done and we have complimentary gifting.  He was a chaplain in the Navy and in many respects, Valley Baptist Church needed a chaplain-like pastor to help stop people’s needs from slipping through the cracks.

Now, fast forward to February 2014.  Pastor Ben was essentially out of the Navy and we began planning what this partnership would look like.  We spent hour’s together working through our roles and responsibilities.  I believe we both felt comfortable with the new dynamic and we planned to introduce him formally on March 2 and he would preach for the next three weeks so I could focus on my family with the coming of the baby on March 7, you know, the due date.  Have you heard that saying from Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps”?  That was sure applicable here because my plan wasn’t inline with God’s plan at all!

Please don’t miss my sarcasm, but wouldn’t you guess that God’s plan is way better than my plan?  What better way for Pastor Ben to figure out the ropes at Valley Baptist Church than to totally take me out of the equation?  This was a win-win situation for church.  Pastor Ben’s coming on staff completely freed me to care for my family.  He is so competent and capable to serve the body, which ultimately put me at ease to shut off my phone and email (for the most part) without worrying about the church.  Not having me around forced him to figure out every little detail concerning the church.

As I begin to come out of hibernation, I can’t help but to thank God for His ways.  They are so much better than my own.  I’m excited for the future of Valley Baptist Church and truly believe our pastor team is stronger than ever because of this personal crisis of my own.  I’m more excited than ever to see how God is going to move amongst us in the years to come!

Let me close by saying “Thank you.”  I’m thankful to God for His provision.  I’m thankful for the people of Valley Baptist Church who recognize and support my priority of caring for my family.  It means so much to me.  In being free to minister to my family during their time of need, I will be able to minister at Valley Baptist Church for the long haul.  Your love and support mean more than I can adequately express.