Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

There is something about funerals and the New Year's Eve that cause us to pause and reflect on life. I do think it is good for us to take inventory of our lives and make mid-course corrections.

I don't know about you, but I never really took the whole New Year Resolution thing seriously. I have found 2009 to be a pleasant year altogether. I know we are in the midst of a recession and all, but I believe it is during these times that we learn about what really matters. This morning, on the radio, I heard Mark Larson reference the old hymn "Count Your Blessings" in reflecting on his year. This hymn is really good. Check out the words:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

What great words of wisdom! Not sure what your goals are this year, but I have a few things I am shooting for this year:

1. To spend more time with God in prayer and in His Word. Anna and I have already started our quest to read through the Bible together.

2. To spend more time working when I am working and more time not working when I am not working! I would like to be a little more faithful taking my Sabath's and spending time with the family.

3. To exercise more faithfully! This one just has to be on the list, right? I actually found it very cliche that I purchased a two year gym membership last year on New Years Day--so funny! I have been pretty good and feel a lot better. I am hoping to keep the consistency up.

Well Happy New Year everyone! May you continue to draw closer to God and learn of the joy that comes through a relationship with Jesus!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Thanksgiving Game!

The Psalmist writes, "It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and your faithfulness by night..." (Ps. 92:1-2, NASB).

I believe Thanksgiving is the holiday that we as Christians should thoroughly embrace. We should be marked as a people who are thankful. Unfortunately, people tend to get bogged down with the nitty-gritty of life. I am guilty, and I am sure you are too!

I few years back I discovered a great game that serves as a powerful antidote to unthankfulness and discouragement. It is the "Thankful Game!" The beauty of this game is that you can play it alone, with your family, or with friends. Here's how it is played:

I am thankful for:

A - Anna, my lovely wife.

B - Bible. The Word of the Lord has changed my life. I am so thankful that God gave us His written Word!

C - Cars. God has blessed our family with two working cars. I am thankful for them...there are many people around the world that don't have any transportation other then their feet.

D - Dogs, especially Linus and Lady Bug. After I typed this out, I realized I really should put "Dad" here. I am really thankful for my dad, I do love him a ton.

E - Elizabeth, my beautiful little girl who is a gift from God.

F - Family God has blessed me with.

G - Grace, my wonderful little girl who cracks me up and fills my heart with joy every

H - Hanson family. I am thankful the the Hanson family, the tree that I fell from!

I - Inlaws, the Hilton family. The Lord has blessed me with a great extended family

J - Jury Duty. Okay, this officially marks the hard stretch. I have "J, K, M, T, and U" remaining. But jury duty is something that makes our country great. I would love to serve on one, but am never needed.

K - Kettle corn. Wait to you get to "P", this is serious. There is a great explosion of flavor, the corn is crisp and crunchy. Great experience!

L - Lake Tahoe. I am thankful for the many memories I have growing up there. I am thankful that I am going to be able to vacation there this summer. I look forward to sharing my memories with my family.

M - Mountains...I am simply thankful for the great outdoors. Psalm 19 shares my feelings precisely!

N - Navy. The Navy was a major tool the Lord used in my life. I am thankful for the many experiences during my 12 years in the Navy.

O - Ocean. I am so thankful for its beauty and mystic. I feel so close to God when I am at or near the ocean.

P - Popcorn. I enjoy eating popcorn. Seriously. I have so much fun firing up some popcorn and munching on it with the family around a game of Candy Land or watching Little House on the Prairie!

Q - Quiznos. Okay, this game is hard. But I do like Quiznos.

R - Running. I am thankful that I can run--and really should start running again!

S - Spain. This is a country I knew little about, but after marrying I learned so much about this country. I traveled there with my wife and then learned of her youth. I am thankful for the experiences Spain gave to my wife.

T - Thanksgiving! This is the last one I filled out. I so thankful for being just makes you feel better! Thank you God for blessing me so!

U - Upwords. This is a great game and I am thankful for the many hours of playing this game with my wife and inlaws.

V - Valley Baptist Church. I love worshiping with my church family.

W - Water. Nothing quenches the thirst like it and I love that our Lord describes Himself as living water!

X - Xrays. X is hard, but seriously, I am thankful for the Xray machine way more that I am for xylophones. I was thankful for the Xray machine when my daughter broke her arm. Because of the technology the doctors were able to fix her up good as new!

Y - Yankees, NOT! I am going with Yams. Nothing better than a well prepared Yam on Turkey Day! I think the secret ingredients are brown sugar and marshmallows.

Z - Zoo. We are longtime zoo pass holders. Anna and I love walking and talking there...the animals are bonus!

Okay, now it's YOUR turn!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Last week I was sick, NyQuil sick. In this condition I veg and watch "TV" (i.e. Netlix instant viewing on the computer). Last week, while in this state, I got suckered into the show "Lost." Addicting, so addicting. I hate to confess that I watched, or slept through, about a season of this show. This show is terribly addicting. Can I get a witness?

By Sunday night I was so sick of TV that I felt I needed to do something drastic like a cleansing of the mind. By the end of my little media binge I felt that I needed to connect back with God and recoup some of my brain cells that were damaged during this 48 hour window. My remedy was to put the old Netflix subscription on hold and to enact and sort of media fast. My guideline are loose--limit time on computer, no TV, with exception to the Chargers game on Sunday which is far from addicting and to simply read more Bible, theological works, and Christian biographies and to pray more.

Well so far on this "fast" God has begun to bless me with the time in His Word and my various readings. Let me share one example. Genesis 5:21-24 mentions a man, Enoch, who walked with God so closely that at the end of his life he did not die but simply disappeared into the Lord's presence. Crazy thought to imagine simply going into the presence of the Lord in the middle of your day (and not by way of death)...

How cool would it be if we could each go like Enoch? I think very cool. Then it dawned on me that it is conceivable that Christians today could in fact have this Enoch-like experience! Let me explain...

As I thought about Enoch, a passage of Scripture came to mind: 1 John 2:28-3:3. The exact verse is in 2:28 which says, "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming." I totally believe that the Lord is coming back and we Christians meet Him in the air as described in 1 Thess. 4:13-18. I also believe the we, like the apostles, should eagerly await His return and expect that it could happen in our lifetime--whether or not He comes in our lifetime. He may not come in our lifetime because of His patience and zeal for saving the lost as described in 2 Pet. 3:9.

Christian, day dream with me for a moment. 1 John 2:28 alludes to the reality that some believers who will be caught up together with the Lord will actually shrink back in shame because they were not abiding in Christ at the time of His return. Oh how I long that I would abide in Him with such faithfulness that at His return, or my going to Him through death, that I would be leaping into His arms with joy in contrast to shrinking away from Him in shame.

It's funny, or scary, how the little things draw us away from abiding in Christ. TV, the computer, hobbies, etc, etc seem to cause great devastation slowly and incrementally. I am feeling renewed and my walk with Him feels more lively right now. It is amazing how quickly a fast from our most addictive entanglements can reignite our passion for the Lord. No surprise Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to ditch these things.

Lord I pray that you would help me to live my life abiding with You. Lord help us to free ourselves from things that trip us up as we "Walk with You." Lord help us to "Walk with You" as Enoch walked with you!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Why God, Why?

Valley Baptist Church will be studying the book of Habakkuk over the next two weeks. I can already hear you say, "Habakkuk what?" Let me say first that this is obviously a little known book, but it is in the Bible. You can find it in the latter half of the Old Testament in the "Minor Prophets." If you don't believe me, check out the Table of Contents in your Bible!

I love this little book. It is different from the other prophetical books. The others are a message from God to the people of Israel through the mouth of the given prophet. Their messages are usually something along the lines of "Repent and get back on track!" The book of Habakkuk is different in that is a prophet questioning God's plan...and he doesn't hold back.

Check out the first few verses:

"How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, 'Violence!' but you do not save? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and the justice is perverted." Habakkuk 1:2-4, NIV

This brother was frustrated of watching the righteous take a beating while the wicked advanced. He was at his whit’s end and felt as though God wasn't hearing his prayers. How much longer would he have to sit by and watch evil while God did nothing?

Habakkuk's problem is twofold: 1) He doesn't think God is listening to him...boy does he get a whammy from God in response, and 2) he is sick and tire of watching evil win.

It's easy to get discouraged--especially when you feel like you are the "victim." I have noticed over the years that I hear two basic questions about my life:

1. How did you go from being a SEAL to being a pastor? You can read the answer here: My Story

2. The second is harder to phrase into a question concisely, but is related to my experiences as an abused kid. Something along the lines of, "How do you maintain a positive outlook on life going through that?"

This second question is a bit tougher to answer. Life is a journey. We constantly learn about ourselves along our journey. Our life today is truly the culmination of all our "yesterdays." How do we handle the good and bad that comes our way? I believe our perspective on our experiences shapes our lives dramatically.

There are not words to express the fear I felt as a kid preparing to face my mother in a rage. I didn't understand why this was happening to me. We were a religious family, or at least we were forced to attend Catholic Mass on a regular basis. She claimed to hold a deep faith in the Lord--which turned me off to religion for many years. It's hard to say what I truly felt about God during those times. I remember eclectic thoughts from crying out for safety, salvation, and questioning His role in all this, to questioning His existence at all. I seriously wondered, "How could this be happening to me if there is a good God out there?"

Looking back, my perspective is all the more clearer at this point in my life. To this day, I am thankful for my past. I would not change them for the world. I feel like God has used each hard event in my life to shape me into the man I am today. I often point people to Acts 17:26-27 which says this:

"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us."

This passage tells us that God sets people in a specific time in history and location on the earth so that they might "reach out for him." The word "reach" could actually be translated "grope for him." In light of this passage, I take the perspective that God placed me into this life, with my family, during this time of history, and in this location because this is the sweetest, most ripe place in history for me to fall in love with Jesus! I did and I am thankful.

Life will throw many difficulties and hard things our way. I have learned from my lovely wife that during these times we shouldn't focus on what we don't know about God's plan, but to focus on what we do know about God. She taught me this through the painful process of losing our first child through miscarriage. What are things that we can dwell on concerning God? Good question, I am glad you asked! God is loving, forgiving, just, holy, patient, merciful, all knowing, and sovereign are a few thoughts that come to mind!

I am encouraged in reading the last few verses of Habakkuk. I pray that our attitudes will match his in the midst of our trials and tribulations!

Habakkuk 3:17-19, NIV -

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Back to the Basics

Every now and again life gets busy and I lose perspective of the big picture. During these times I find that discouragement sets in. Well, the last two weeks have been a little stressful due to a series of unusual events.

During these times I love to peruse the Psalms...they are so encouraging. I stumbled across one that I have read in a long time. Boy was it good. I hope it blesses you!

Psalm 34, NIV
Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.
1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

2 My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.

7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

9 Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;

16 the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.

18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;

20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

22 The LORD redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Elizabeth Lee Hanson

It comes with great joy to announce the birth of Elizabeth Lee Hanson. Anna and the baby are both healthy and doing fine. We had a wonderful experience and the Best Start Birth Center and were super thankful for our midwife Jude!

We thank God for our precious gift! I am on little sleep now and am heading to bed, but I know many of you want some pictures and stats!

The baby is a girl and is named Elizabeth Lee Hanson. She was born at 11:13pm, August 24, 2009. She weighed 7 pounds 11 ounces and is 20 inches long.

Thank you all for you prayers and support!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Till Death Do Us Part...

The next section of Scripture I am preaching is Ephesians 5:22-33. Normally when I teach through this passage I am officiating a wedding--this time it will be to the congregation of Valley Baptist Church.

I have been particularly blessed at my church over the last two years in relation to marriage. I have been exposed to a sampling of "the Greatest Generation." I have had the honor of spending time with a couple that has been married for 72 years, two couples that have been married for 60+ years, along with a number of widows who would be amongst these ranks if their spouse was still alive. There are not words to express the impact these couples have had on me. I am thankful for them and their example.

First, I have no intention of adding pain or guilt to anyone who has gone through a divorce--even if this topic is painful. My prayer is that God would bring healing, restoration, to your life with where you are. My aim to to honor those who have blessed me, to encourage those who are married to persevere, and challenge the single to consider the commitments they will make one day if they get married.

Now, back to the couples who have been married 50+ years...

What is different about them? Why or how were their marriages able to survive so many years? What is different about this generation from my own concerning marriage? In spending time with all of these couples, I am learning that going the distance is more about commitment to each other over any other quality. Really this makes much sense. If you are in it till death--really till death--then one seems motivated to improve the relationship over walking away from it. Consequently, their happiness and love for one another seems to grow and mature through their perseverance in a way that my generation does not understand. As I see them, I am motivated to work on my own marriage and am looking forward to the years to come.

I have also been encouraged to see another couple...they have only been married for 35 years. I hope you catch my sarcasm as this is many years of marriage, but they are newly weds concerning the other couples in the church. I have been blessed in observing them. The husband has some major medical conditions and it is difficult on the family. In virtually every wedding this vow is made: "In sickness and in health..." Most people don't think of the difficult times that will come when they are standing at the altar...and many split when they do come. But I have been so blessed to observe this couple over the last year and a half or so as she cares for him. I have never heard a complaint from her, tears yes, but no complaints. I don't know how to put into words the feeling I feel when I see them together, I just know that is something special.

I don't really know where I was seeking to end up with this blog, but now that I am here, I think my aim is to simply thank the couples at Valley Baptist Church for honor marriage and persevering for the long run.

A few years back, on one of my trips to Kansas City, I was driving to the seminary about midnight local time and a song came on that had me in tears! I thought it does a great job in painting the beauty of a lifelong marriage. I hope it blesses you!

The Lyrics:

Looking back
He sees it all
It was her first date the night he came to call

Her dad said son
Have her home on time
And promise me you'll never leave her side
He took her to a show in town
And he was ten feet off the ground

He was walking her home
And holding her hand
Oh the way she smiled it stole the breath right out of him
Down that old road
With the stars up above
He remembers where he was the night he fell in love
He was walking her home

Ten more years and a waiting room
At half past one
And the doctor said come in and meet your son

His knees went weak
When he saw his wife
She was smiling as she said he's got your eyes

And as she slept he held her tight
His mind went back to that first night


He walked her through the best days of her life
Sixty years together and he never left her side

A nursing home
At eighty-five
And the doctor said it could be her last night
And the nurse said Oh
Should we tell him now
Or should he wait until the morning to find out

When they checked her room that night
He was laying by her side

Oh he was walking her home
And holding her hand
Oh the way she smiled when he said this is not the end
And just for a while they were eighteen
And she was still more beautiful to him than anything
He was walking her home
He was walking her home

Looking back
He sees it all
It was her first date the night he came to call

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Life and Chicken Wings

A few years ago I discovered the best chicken wings ever! In National City there is a Chinese restaurant that serves "salted peppered chicken" and they are delicious! Seriously, if you like salty and chicken wings you will love these.

I used to love buying a big bunch of them before youth group, but that proved to be more frustrating than pleasurable. You see, many of kids would take about two bites and and chuck the "bone"--with plenty of meat still on it! It would drive me nuts because I paid for them and I could see all the waste! Why were they not eating every bit of meat off the bone before going in for a new one? There is nothing worse than wasted meat on the bone...especially when we are talking about wings! Can I get an amen? I wonder if this is how God feels when we waste our lives?

So this Sunday I am preaching on Ephesians 5:15-21, one of my very favorite passages in the Bible. During my study this week I had an "ah-ha moment." In verse 16 it says "making the most of your time." I always understood the word "time" to simply mean "time" you only have 24 hours in each day so get the most out of them! Conversely, this is how I have always applied it to my life. This partially explains my drive (I think). I am an over-achiever and I set goals and accomplish them as quickly as possible. You know how the old saying goes: Life is short so work and play hard.

Now in Greek there are at least two words for "time." One is chronos which is kind of like chronology. This would be to reference the linear movement of time. This word best explains how I have always understood the word "time" in this passage.

But, to my surprise, the word used here is kairos which refers more to seasons or opportunities given with time. Interesting. Kenneth Wuest explains kairos like this, "The idea is not to make best use of time as such, which is what we should do in the sense of not wasting it, but of taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves."

In looking at my life and the culture around me, it isn't hard to see that we jam pack our calendars. I literally had to buy a smart phone so I could keep up with my day-to-day events. I confess that I justify the business of life by thinking that "I am making the most of my time." Unfortunately, the reality is that I am simply packing as much as I can into my schedule, rather than "making the most of every opportunity" (as the NIV renders this verse).

"What's the difference?" you may be thinking. Well, I can do a bunch of work-type stuff instead of spending time with my family. I think it is safe to say that many dads could make better use of their time by taking a day off and going to the beach with their kiddos, rather than work overtime! Now, on the other end of the spectrum, I think it is safe to say that there are some 30-year old men out there that should sell their Wii's and go to school and get a job that they could provide for a wife and family!

Yes, there are extremes on both ends of the spectrum. The bottom line is we each are given this day with opportunities to be seized or wasted. Are you making the most of the opportunities today, or is life simply passing you by at a frantic pace? Remember the chicken wings mentioned above? When you get a wing, you can make the most of the opportunity by cleaning all the meat off of it, or you can take one bite and chuck it wasting it.

I encourage each of us to think, pray, and reflect about how are we living each day! I don't want to end my life thinking this, "I have wasted it!" If you would like some encouragement in this area, I highly recommend the book Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper. Some of us may need to work harder, more discipline, and more sacrifice. Now others may need to cut their schedule, take a vacation, go swimming, play, and have some fun!

Lord, help me to make the most of this day and the opportunities that You give me!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness

This is a picture of a huge Chipotle burrito. I confess, I am a huge fan--well that puts it mildly. I could eat one of these literally everyday, but unfortunately, I don't.

Sunday evening I found myself in Chipotle, after celebrating my niece's one-year birthday. Going through the line I was placing my regular order--veggie burrito with all the fixins and an extra dose of hot sauce--when I noticed there was a San Diego police officer behind me. When I noticed the officer I got really nervous, adrenaline started to run through my veins...

Okay, you should know I am not a felon on the run...those days are over! :) So why was I so nervous? You see a few years ago I read a book by Steve Sjogren "Community of Kindness" and in it he talks about doing random acts of kindness to bless people as a Christian. This Sunday at church I preached on Ephesians 4:25-32 and there was a verse that essentially says to steal no longer, but to work in order to share with those in need. So there I stood, ordering my grub with this cop right behind me. I was nervous. Do I do it or not? Why would I just buy somebody a meal that I don't know? People will think I am weird or something...

As I reached the cashier, I did it! When the cashier asked, "Anything else?" I said, "Yes, whatever the police officer is having." The officer was very thankful and couldn't believe it. I shared with her that I was a Sheriff chaplain and I was thankful for her service and wanted to bless her. It was amazing to see her demeanor change so radically and so quickly by one random act of kindness!

Try it this week. I dare you. Next time you are in Starbucks, buy the coffee for the person behind you. Look for opportunities to bless people. When they ask why, you simply respond, "God has blessed me and I want to bless you!"

Please share your stories with us as you run this experiment!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My Story...

Over the years, there is one question that I get the most: "How did you go from being a Navy SEAL to becoming a pastor?" I will probably write a book one day to answer this question, but today I will try to share my story in brief.

Where to start? Tough question. As I reflect on my life, there are a couple highlights that stand out to me on my journey. The first one has to do with my life early in childhood. I was the sixth of seven kids from a very abusive mother. She had good traits, but it was her abusive side that left the lasting mark in my life. When I was twelve years old, my dad gained custody of me and my younger sister after a long, drawn out court battle.

I lived with my dad and step-mom--who is now my "mom"--from sixth grade until graduation from high school. During these years I struggled in school because I wasn't really grounded in the basics early in my life. Where I lacked an educational foundation I excelled in sports and humor! This was a pretty good ride until my senior year, when I turned 18, and realized that I might not graduate unless I pass a class or two. At this point, I realized my dad was not going to fund me to go to junior college so I could party away my life. The ride was over and I got a little nervous.

Naturally, I needed an easy way out. I had to do something so I could eat upon graduation because I knew, or thought, I would be on the street shortly thereafter. Hmm, what could I do to sustain myself? Ahh, join the Navy to become a SEAL! Now that would be an easy way out...or that is what I thought at the time.

Fifteen days after high school, July 5, 1993, I found myself at Navy Recruit Depot San Diego. Within two years I graduated from BUD/S class 198 (SEAL training) and was off to SEAL Team 3. It didn't take long for me to find trouble. A few weeks after reporting to the team, I found myself in trouble with the law. It was the 4th of July weekend and I was out for a night of drinking with old high school friends. As the night came to an end, I decided to drive home. There is a long story here that lasted about a year and a half, but in short, I ran from the cops, was charged with resisting evading arrest, lost my security clearance effectively freezing my SEAL career, eventually regained my security clearance and went on to serve honorably.

The above paragraph was the low point in my life. I had lost everything and wasn't doing well inside. I drank more to numb the pain, yet it didn't. I had a friend who nagged me--constantly, over and over again--to go to church. I finally conceded under one stipulation: that he would never ask me again to go to church! He agreed and the was really the beginning of the end. This was in 1996.

By 1999, God had a serious hold of my life. I desired to know the Bible with great passion. This passion led me to take correspondence courses through Moody Bible Institute (2000), which in turn, led me to Southern California Seminary to complete my BA in Biblical Studies (2004), which then led to my completing a Masters of Divinity (2006), which then led to my enrollment into a Doctor of Ministry program with I am currently "ABD" (all but dissertation) and who knows if I will ever finish this.

Backing up a bit to 2001, I was a cross roads. Would I reenlist or not? I did for another four years while in Bahrain. I decided that I would ride out my time as a Navy SEAL instructor and complete my college.

Throughout this last four years I wrestled with what to do. Chaplaincy, missions, continue my career as a Navy SEAL? Should I separate from the Navy? My heart said "yes", but my mind and a bunch of other people said, in essence, "You're crazy! You only have 8 more years to full retirement!" This was a major struggle for me, but in the end, I felt God was leading me to become a pastor and I was to separate by faith. God is good and He has provided faithfully for me and my family since March 5, 2005 when I separated honorably from the Navy.

No regrets, I am loving life as a pastor. Here is a picture from the office with one of my girls!

Okay, this is the short version...feel free to ask questions, or add comments. I will expand from there!

What in the World? Mongolia...

Valley Baptist Church believes in reaching the world for Christ. We have partnered with a family serving in Mongolia through New Tribes Mission. It has brought us great joy to partner with them over the last couple years.

My prayer is that we as a church would send a team to Mongolia for a short-term missions trip in 2011 or 2012. In preparation for this, I am heading out to Mongolia, hopefully, in the spring of 2010 for a couple of weeks.

I have been surprised about my anxiety levels over this potential trip to Mongolia. I have traveled the world, yet I toss and turn at night thinking about my visit to Ulanbataar. I am convinced that God wants me to go for a number of reasons:

1. I believe it is important that I be stretched and challenged by the Lord to keep the church healthy.

2. I believe it is important that Valley Baptist Church continually look outward. I don't want the church to become inward focused. The Lord told us to share the Good News with the world and we should!

3. I believe my trip out to Mongolia will be a great encouragement to the family serving there. So often people go overseas in service of the Lord only to find their supporters have forgotten about them. I want our family to know that we really do stand behind them.

4. I am planning on bringing two younger guys with me on the trip this first time. I think this will be a great experience for them to grow.

The positive reasons go on and on. When I consider them, it really makes my concerns about the cost of the trip etc. seem pretty petty. Please pray that God would give me wisdom and courage as I prepare for this trip! Thanks!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Racist No More

This Sunday I am preaching on Ephesians 2:11-22. In this passage, Paul focus is on the racist division that existed between Jews and Greeks. The division between the group was severe to put it mildly. Throughout this passage Paul teaches that Jesus destroyed the dividing wall between these two waring groups and He made them one through the cross.

As I have been studying this passage, I can't help but to think of the history of the Southern Baptist Convention. A few years ago I helped plant a church, The Chapel, in the La Mesa area. We ultimately affiliated with the SBC, but were hesitant for a number of being the history of racism within the denomination. The longer I have been Southern Baptist, the more I am growing to appreciate this denomination. Unlike many other denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention has repented from it's sins and moved in the right, biblical, direction.

This week in my study, I stumbled across the statement of the SBC convention repenting of their racist heritage. I wept reading it and thought I was worthy of sharing here:

Resolution On Racial Reconciliation On The 150th Anniversary Of The Southern Baptist Convention
June 1995

WHEREAS, Since its founding in 1845, the Southern Baptist Convention has been an effective instrument of God in missions, evangelism, and social ministry; and

WHEREAS, The Scriptures teach that Eve is the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20), and that God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is accepted by him (Acts 10:34-35), and that God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth (Acts 17:26); and

WHEREAS, Our relationship to African-Americans has been hindered from the beginning by the role that slavery played in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention; and

WHEREAS, Many of our Southern Baptist forbears defended the right to own slaves, and either participated in, supported, or acquiesced in the particularly inhumane nature of American slavery; and

WHEREAS, In later years Southern Baptists failed, in many cases, to support, and in some cases opposed, legitimate initiatives to secure the civil rights of African-Americans; and

WHEREAS, Racism has led to discrimination, oppression, injustice, and violence, both in the Civil War and throughout the history of our nation; and

WHEREAS, Racism has divided the body of Christ and Southern Baptists in particular, and separated us from our African-American brothers and sisters; and

WHEREAS, Many of our congregations have intentionally and/or unintentionally excluded African-Americans from worship, membership, and leadership; and

WHEREAS, Racism profoundly distorts our understanding of Christian morality, leading some Southern Baptists to believe that racial prejudice and discrimination are compatible with the Gospel; and

WHEREAS, Jesus performed the ministry of reconciliation to restore sinners to a right relationship with the Heavenly Father, and to establish right relations among all human beings, especially within the family of faith.

Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That we, the messengers to the Sesquicentennial meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, assembled in Atlanta, Georgia, June 20-22, 1995, unwaveringly denounce racism, in all its forms, as deplorable sin; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we affirm the Bibles teaching that every human life is sacred, and is of equal and immeasurable worth, made in Gods image, regardless of race or ethnicity (Genesis 1:27), and that, with respect to salvation through Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for (we) are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28); and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest, and we recognize that the racism which yet plagues our culture today is inextricably tied to the past; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we apologize to all African-Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime; and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously (Psalm 19:13) or unconsciously (Leviticus 4:27); and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we ask forgiveness from our African-American brothers and sisters, acknowledging that our own healing is at stake; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we hereby commit ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we commit ourselves to be doers of the Word (James 1:22) by pursuing racial reconciliation in all our relationships, especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 2:6), to the end that our light would so shine before others, that they may see (our) good works and glorify (our) Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16); and

Be it finally RESOLVED, That we pledge our commitment to the Great Commission task of making disciples of all people (Matthew 28:19), confessing that in the church God is calling together one people from every tribe and nation (Revelation 5:9), and proclaiming that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only certain and sufficient ground upon which redeemed persons will stand together in restored family union as joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

Monday, June 8, 2009

June 7, 2009 Baptism

This last Sunday we at Valley Baptist Church celebrated our two year anniversary of restarting the Church. The last two years have been some of the hardest and most rewarding years of my life. The greatest reward is watching God move in the lives of people. He is so good and so faithful.

In celebrating our restart we had a baptism at the community pool. Pictures are worth a thousand enjoy!

Yes, I set the standard high for priestly baptismal attire, I actually was bummed because I left my shades in the car....

This is a picture of friends and family gathering to celebrate this special day!

The girls were a little disappointed that they were at the pool but couldn't swim....just didn't seem right to them!

I started my message by reading the account of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River. Rick had a bottle of Jordan River water that we added to the pool following the reading. That was kind of cool...if you are into that sort of thing!

This is a group shot of all those who were baptized.

Here is Deborah sharing her testimony...I had to hold back my tears as she spoke...

Below is a the sequence of Bob being baptized:

And Fran...we are cracking up because I just asked her husband how long he wanted me to hold her under! :) He loves her and said to make it quick!

Abigail taking the plunge...

Next up, Erica...

And Emily....

Finally Jill and Deborah...