Saturday, October 30, 2010

Be Strong and Couragious!

Fear has gripped our nation. People are afraid of a variety of things...with good reason in many cases. I am afraid of many things, but I have vowed not to let my fear overcome me. I love the beginning of Joshua where the Lord speaks these words to Joshua: "Be strong and courageous...only be strong and very courageous" (Josh. 1:6, 7).

One of the fears I have seen develop since the attacks against the USA on September 11, 2001 is the fear of going to Mexico. It's easy to make excuses for not going because there are valid reasons to be concerned. But I have been guilty of not going because my fear has gotten the best of me.

On Saturday, October 23, Valley Baptist Church made its first "house" building trip since I have restarted Valley Baptist Church. Making this trip was amazing! I am so blessed by the whole body. We had many volunteers go, many givers who made the trip possible, and many people praying for us while there.

We trusted upon the LORD and He kept us safe...even though I am challenged not to pray the prayer of safety after reading these words by Francis Chan in Crazy Love:

We are consumed by safety. Obsessed with it, actually. Now, I'm not saying it is wrong to pray for God's protection, but I am questioning how we've made safety our highest priority. We've elevated safety to the neglect of whatever God's best it, whatever would bring God the most glory, or whatever would accomplish His purposes in our lives and in the world. Would you be willing to pray this prayer? "God, bring me closer to You during this trip, whatever it takes..."

That is exactly the prayer I prayed that morning as we left the parking lot of Valley Baptist Church at 5am with our group. I believe He answered our prayer that very day.

We had an awesome time at Caravan Ministries learning about God's work to all people groups and our responsibility in fulfilling the Great Commission. I saw a quote on the wall of their building by John Piper I thought was really good, "Go, send, or disobey."

We had such a blessed time and valuable lessons were learned by all. As a father, I was especially blessed to see my 4 year old daughter's heart open to God's love for all people. I am glad fear didn't keep me from letting my family to go.

Pondering my courage as a father made me think of Joshua. I find it interesting that the book of Joshua opens with the words of God, "Be strong and courageous...only be strong and very courageous" (Josh. 1:6, 7) and it ends with Joshua's words,

"But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Josh. 24:15).

May Joshua's words be the stand of my family and yours!




Monday, October 4, 2010

How Majestic is Your Name!

Last Sunday Valley Baptist Church began a new series through selected Psalms. We started with Psalm 8 as the psalmist considers the magnitude of God in light of creation, in comparison to the smallness of man.

The Psalm begins and ends with this phrase:

O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! (Psalm 8:1)

I don't know about you, but I love the outdoors. When I am outside I feel close to God. I think this is because the world in which we live points us to its Creator (Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:20). It is in these moments I find myself in awe of God our Creator.

The psalmist continues:

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. (Psalm 8:3)

Jesus quoted this verse in Matthew 21:14-17 when the leaders were indignant towards the children who were proclaiming Jesus' deity. I think the point here is that God often, if not always, uses the weak to display His power!


When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; (Psalm 8:3)

The naked eye can see about 3,000 stars, we the invention of telescopes we have discovered so many more. I don't know about you, but looking out in the sky at night totally peaks my curiosity. In these moments of pondering, I realize how small we are in light of creation. A few years back an email circulated some pictures that helps demonstrate our smallness. Here they are just in case you missed them:






I spent my youth (K-12) in the public school system that taught the Theory of Evolution as the primary understanding of where we came from and where we are going. Quite frankly, this was pretty discouraging to think that I was just a random being as a result of some cosmic explosion billions of years ago. Seriously, have you ever laid asleep at night pondering life prior to your existence, or following your demise? Under the Theory of Evolution it is down right depressing.

Also, from a scientific perspective I think the theory is pretty foolish. Seriously to ponder the earth we live in, the great details of everything for us to live. Percentage of oxygen, temperature, the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen between plants and creatures. Truly there are too many to list on this simple reflection blog...but I just can't buy "science's" theory on how we came into existence, the value of our life, and our destiny after this life. There are so many inconsistencies within their teaching.

But back to Psalm 8. David in looking at the magnitude of creation realized how awesome the Creator is relation to humanity.

David continues:

What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! (Psalm 8:4-5).

David realized that God's creation is far greater than man is able to comprehend, yet understood that man is created in God's own image (Gen. 1:27). We as humans are different and set apart from all other creation!

David continues:

You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:6-8).

Not only did God creates us in His own image, He set us over His creation to manage it. I love the earth that we live, I love the creatures that are within it. No one has every accused me of being "Green", but I do love the earth that we live and we have a responsibility to care for it.

I am a San Diego Zoo member and have been for a long time. I love the Zoo and Wild Animal Park, but there are times when they absolutely infuriate me. During the summer, one of my favorite things is to go to the "Night Time Zoo" and see the show. This year I practically wanted to walk out because of their rhetoric. I have no problem caring for the earth, but I have a huge problem when we worship the created instead of the Creator. We have responsibility to care for the earth, but only because God has given us this responsibility. Furthermore, only He is worthy of our worship!
David recognized this special role God has given us, resulting is his final statement:

O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8:9)

As I reflect on this Psalm, two major points come to mind:

1. God is so awesome. He is Creator of all. Our brain is to small and finite to comprehend the magnitude of God's creation...let alone Himself!

2. Yet, He has considered us. He love you and me so much that He sent His son to redeem us from our fallen state. He has given us a special place in this world.

These thoughts lead me to worshiping Him with my whole being!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Holocaust Museum

Today I visited Yad Vashem the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Pictures were not allowed inside of the museum. "Museum" is probably not the best term to use. I don't know what the right word would be? Possibly "memorial" is more appropriate.

Our tour guide Jacob started us off by saying that he was not able to lead us through the museum because it is still very hard for him. He described himself as remnant of a generation "that grandparents were a fairy tale--something we heard of, but didn't experience because ours were destroyed." Heart wrenching to hear this jovial man share this painful reality of his life. He did a great job in preparing us for what we were about to see. The holocaust story is horrific. The images, the testimony of what I saw today was sickening. It is scary to ponder the evil humans are capable of.


There is one section of the museum of the museum I was looking forward to seeing: "The Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations." I really wanted to see the Corrie Ten Boom tree because Anna really loves her story. Well, I got more than I bargained for at this stop. You see Jacob spoke to us here before we entered the museum on our own. He spoke very passionately about these 22,000 souls who risked their lives for the defense of the Jewish people. The consequence of their risk would be death if discovered by the Germans.


But you see, Jacob was not honoring these people...he was horrified that of all of Europe, only 22,000 people can be identified in standing up. We cannot know how we would respond in this situation unless we are in it. I walked the garden reading the names, pondering their story, and thankful for people who are willing to stand for the right, even at their own detriment. There was a quote that I saw, "I would rather stand against man and be right with God than stand with men and go against God." I think this says it well.

The picture to the left is one side of The Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations. As I walked this path reading the names of these people who risked all in order to protect those who were facing a horrible atrocity, I couldn't help but wonder what I would do given their situation and were we as a people facing anything similar. Are we? Some things did come to mind, but I am not sure that I have processed them completely. If you make it to Israel, you should visit Yad Vashem for sure. It is powerful. There is one thing that is certain--the State of Israel and the Israeli people clearly have God's hand upon them by their sheer existence.


The Psalmist prayed this prayer that I imagine many of them prayed in the midst of the Holocaust and many are praying today: "Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles!" (Psalm 25:22).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Welcome to Israel

Earlier today I arrived in Tel Aviv Israel for a two week trip to explore an amazing country--truly a miracle today by its mere existence.

I am still quite jet lagged after about 20 hours of travel time, but the history of this place is quite fascinating. I think it is fair to say that there is no other place that has the historical significance as Israel does.

I am looking forward to God blessing and encouraging me on this journey. I pray that through this experience I will grow closer to Him and will ultimately be able to teach the Word with more clarity and passion!

The history is amazing. I am currently spending the night in Joppa--the place Jonah ran to in Jonah 1:3. I can't wait to wake up tomorrow...I am hoping to get a good at the spot he took off from!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Great But's in the Bible

So a few years ago I heard Chuck Swindoll say that he wanted to preach a series titled "Great But's in the Bible", but he didn't think it would go over well in his church. Of course I could hear the laughter from the audience so I think it would fly!

Needless to say, now when I see a great "But" in the Bible it makes me chuckle a little bit. This Sunday I am continuing our study through Acts and lets just say I chuckled to myself when I read Paul's words, "But it happened that as I was on my way..." (Acts 22:6). Maybe not so funny in plain reading, but it caused me to laugh--even though this is no laughing matter.

Let's back up. Paul has been detained for his safety as the non-believing Jews were attempting to kill him. He is being taken up two flights of stairs to enter the barracks when he asks the soldier if he can speak to the crowd. The soldier allow this. Well, Paul then shares the history of his life in Judaism--his pedigree, education, zeal, and much more. But everything changed that fateful day on the road to Damascus when Paul met Jesus.

Elsewhere Paul wrote another great "but" in Ephesians 2:4. After describing our totally hopelessness in our sinful state he says, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ..."

Here Paul was living his very religious and righteous life thinking he was blameless according to the law (Phil. 3:6) yet he was totally dead (spiritually separated from God). All the while, God is relentlessly perusing Paul to redeem him from this death. There is a lady in the Old Testament that describes God's pursuit of us with beautiful imagery, "For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from Him" (2 Sam. 14:14).

When was the last time you considered your own life in relation to God's pursuit of you? I ran and rebelled against God for years and years. Unfortunately it took a number of events that brought me to the place where I felt as though I was water that had been spilled on the ground--helpless and unrecoverable.

But God. Two of my favorite words: But God. He intervened in my life. He allowed me to stray so far in order that I might trust in Him. I am thankful for His patience towards me (as described in 2 Pet. 3:9). I don't like thinking about where I would be right now without the "But God" moment in my life, but I know that I am where I am only because of Him.

Maybe you haven't believed, but know that God is chasing after you in love. I pray that you would experience the "But God" moment in your life today!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Deciphering God's Will

We all make decisions. Some decisions are critical, some are benign. Some of the hardest decisions in my life have been the process of discerning God's will as I determine the direction I will go. A few of my decisions were in attempting some of these questions:

Should I marry Anna?

Should I buy this house?

Should I sell this house?

Should I leave the Navy?

Should I move to Valley Center to restart a dying church?

As I faced these questions, and others, I tried to follow a certain "flow chart" in trying to determine if God's will was backing my decision one way or another. Here is my flow chart:

1. Do I have peace about either answer?

2. Does the Bible speak directly about my particular situation?

3. Do those who are mature in the faith have wisdom to offer me?

Ideally, in reaching a decision I hope to find personal peace, biblical validation, and affirmation from godly counsel. But what happens when one can't attain unanimous support for a decision?

This Sunday I am teaching on a passage where Paul has made a decision, but lacks support from godly counsel. In Acts 19:21, Luke shares that, "Paul purposed in the spirit to go to Jerusalem." Paul was certain this was the will of God as he later states, "I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me" (Acts 20:22-23).

Now this news is bad from a human perspective. Paul is bound for arrest, if not death. This causes his godly friends to react very sorrowfully. Check out a few of the reactions:

The elders in Ephesus "began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again" (Acts 20:37-38).

The disciples in Tyre "kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem" (Acts 21:4).

His traveling companions and local residents in Caesarea, "began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem" (Acts 21:12).

Wow, to go to Jerusalem or not to go? Both sides convicted the Spirit was leading them...what did this do to Paul? It tore him up. Read his reaction, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13).

Paul's reaction finally get them to support his decision seemingly resigning that this was the Lord's will.

This whole story has caused me to ponder and reflect this week. Often, it seems, people believe God's will is the path with the most amount of blessing, or the path of least resistance. Clearly, this isn't always the case--and I would argue that God's will is often the more difficult path. In fact, this story sort of reminds my of the story of Jesus with the disciples in Matthew 16:21-27 as He begins to reveal His coming death. Peter reacted as many of Paul's friends reacted--ultimately provoking Jesus to tell Peter, or Satan, to get behind Him! This incident led Jesus to say these well known words, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24).

As I reflect on this passage, I am stirred to renew my commitment in following after Jesus. I realize God may ask me to follow Him in ways that may not seem like the best through an earthly lens. My prayer is that we who follow Him would not hesitate because of our fears or threats we face.

I am not sure that I have completed my thought here as I am getting tired, but I do have a few more days to process this passage.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mongolia Videos

I have been asked to provide some recap blogs and videos concerning my trip to Mongolia for an article that is running in the Valley Center Roadrunner. Click links below to read previous blog concerning my trip:

Thoughts prior to traveling.

Blog from Mongolia.

Second letter from Mongolia.

Here are some videos, I hope you enjoy!








Monday, July 19, 2010

Saddleridge Ranch 2010!

Today we kicked off Vacation Bible School for 2010! It is a great theme this year: Saddleridge Ranch! So far we have been blessed with a bunch of cowboys and cowgirls! We are running the event through Friday (July 19-23) from 9am - 12pm. It's not too late if you have any young people who would like to participate!

If you're between the age of 3-12 just show up tomorrow by 9am!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Team Guess


On Sunday, July 11, Valley Baptist Church was blessed to have Chris Guess and his family with us to share from the Scriptures. They are currently planning on heading to Romania to serve as missionaries. If you missed the message, or you would like to know more about them, here is the relevant information:

Chris' sermon from Ruth chapter 1 click HERE

To learn more about their ministry go to:

www.teamguess.com

Sunday, July 4, 2010

(In)Dependence Day!

Today, July 4, 2010, is the day the United States celebrates its Independence. This is a great holiday to enjoy with friends and family.

Well this one has been profound for me so far. I grew up in South Lake Tahoe from 1st grade until 6th grade. I grew to love this land very much--even though the years were very difficult for me. I grew up in an abusive home and things became very rough during this time. Ultimately I left Tahoe to live with my dad after he finally won a court case that granted him full custody.

Without going into all the details, it is always very therapeutic for me to come here to reflect on my life and where I came from. As you can see from the picture to the left, you can see I was a skinny kid that like his tube socks pulled high! Anna is going to recreate this picture later this week. Okay, on with the story.

The plan today was to visit Calvary Chapel South Lake Tahoe, but they moved locations since I visited 10 years ago. The new location was a couple miles away, but right across the street from where I went to elementary school. I didn't think much about this until we began to worship and my tears began to flow just thinking about the many bad instances that happened very close to the place where I was now worshiping...

I could barely sing the song "We Exalt Thee" as these two emotional trains where colliding in my heart. There I was trying to sing these words:


For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth

Thou art exalted far above all gods
For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all gods

I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee
I exalt Thee, O Lord
I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee

I exalt Thee, O Lord


I couldn't help but to cry as I thought about myself praising the Lord of heaven and earth a few hundred yards from the spot where Child Protected Services came to interview me. The situation was so bad back then, but God is so good nonetheless. As I tried to gain my composure, I realized that the next Bible text I am preaching on is Acts chapter 17...one verse hit me today during worship this morning:


He made from one man every nation of mankind

to live on all the face of the earth,

having determined their appointed times and the boundaries

of their habitation that they would seek God,

if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him,

though He is not far from each one of us;

for in Him we live and move and exist,

as even some of your own poets have said,

'For we also are His children.'

Acts 17:26-28


I am on vacation right now and having a difficult time explaining this, but I guess the bottom line is it struck me in a whole new way that God has always been working on me—even back then when life was kind of tough. I am grateful for those difficult times because they shaped me into the man that I am today.

On this Independence Day, I am so thankful that I am Dependant totally and completely on God. I am reminded that the difficulties I face presently will ultimately shape me into the person He desires me to be.


To God be the glory!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Western Days Parade

2010 marks the second year Valley Baptist Church entered the Western Day Parade! A great time was had by all!

The theme for our float was "Saddleridge Ranch" which corresponds with this years Vacation Bible School theme. We are looking forward to VBS this year...it will be a great time for all!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mongolia 5-03-2010

Sorry about the slowness of my updates. This week has been rough on me as I was struck with a major stomach problem that affected both ends of my body. With all my travels to third-world countries, I think I was a little over confident with my stomachs ability to handle the challenges of the many viruses and bacteria present in these parts. Let's just say I learned a funny saying (that was directed towards me): "Even steel has a melting point!" Well, on my fifth day into this, I am feeling much better. Unfortunately, it is just in time for me to leave this Tuesday at 3pm (pst). I can't believe how fast this trip has gone by!

Today we had a pretty cool day. We headed out to one of Mongolia's National Parks. It was beautiful. Richard was stoked as there were tons of serious rocks to climb. He says it was just like Joshua Tree, just with colder temps and pine trees. Again the weather here is amazing. We arrived with snow falling and left with sunny and 60 degrees--this seems very normal for Mongolia. As we left the park, we noticed a Kazak man with a Golden Eagle on the side of the road. He uses his eagle to hunt wolves, foxes, rabbits, and whatever else. We stopped and he let us hold the eagle--amazing. I don't have the words to express the beauty, size, strength, and awe this bird embodied.

Please keep us in your prayers as we travel home beginning this Tuesday at 3pm (pst) and arriving in San Diego Wednesday at 12:30pm (pst).

Finally, if you are interested to hear about (including pictures and videos) our trip. We are planning on having a time of sharing at Valley Baptist Church on May 21 at 7pm (I think it is seven...I will send out another email if I am wrong).

Thank you all for your prayers and support!

Gunnar

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Meditations from Mongolia

"San-ban-o" (Hello),

Technically this is wrong as this is what you would say to an individual, not a group. Today has been a good day. We started out by going to church here in the city. Christians are a very small minority group in Mongolia. The main religion is Buddhism--or a major influence from it. Mongolia is a land and people wedged between Russia and China. The influence of these two countries is very obvious, yet the Mongolians are a people of their own.

As a Christian it was a very special experience to worship with the believers here even though it is a different language. They sang, shared with each other and were taught from the Bible. There were about 30 people present in the hotel conference room where the church meets. There aren't words that express my feelings when I heard them sing. They have beautiful voices and it was really cool when I recognized a song or two that was transliterated from English to Mongolian. At the end of the service (about 2 hours total), Richard and I were invited to share. I shared with them that it was special to me to worship with them as we are united through Christ. When you travel overseas one's citizenship is very apparent as you stand in line in various customs lines with your passport. This trip I have seen USA, Russia, Spain, Chinese, Mongolian, Chech, New Zealand, and a few other passports in line. In church this morning there were about three nationalities represented--USA, Mongolia, and South Korea, yet as Christians we share citizenship in heaven. It was this thought that compelled me to share from Philippians 3:21-4:1 when I was invited to speak to the church body. Words do not adequately express the fellowship that believers share in Christ even when there is no cultural or language connections. This morning was sweet and I can't wait to experience next week in Ho-tic next Sunday. Ho-tic is about a 12 hour drive to the north west and is about 60 miles from the Russian border. I would love to go to the border to look over, but I don't think this will happen. Maybe on my next trip. Here is a little bonus trivia: All of Mongolia is "outer-Mongolia." "Inner-Mongolia" is south of Mongolia and is in China.

After church we had a great lunch thanks to Heidi. Spaghetti was on the menu and they were very thankful for the Parmesan Cheese that we brought as a gift. Funny, because the Parmesan Cheese almost didn't make the cut because of its size and I don't understand why people like it. But it was a hit because they can't get it here.

Okay, so after lunch we had a great treat watching Mongolian wrestling. I will do my best to describe what I saw, but you really need to search "Mongolian wrestling" on Youtube. So these guys are stout and strong. Some tall, some short, some fat, some skinny, but all HARD. Before I saw it, I thought I would like to give it a try if I could get a waiver on the uniform (more to come on that), but when I saw these guys they were bad to the bone. I wanted nothing to do with them when I saw them in person--the only other time I felt this was when I had tickets on the glass at a NHL match and I decided pounding on the glass was a bad idea due to the size of the hockey players. Okay to the uniforms. Picture sweet colorful leather boots that come up to your knees, then take your pick of a very tight/skimpy blue or red speedo, and a shawl that covers your arms. Just google this to see pictures. There are multiple battles before you for a few hours. The goal is to get the other guys knees to touch the ground first. The winner pretends to fly around like an eagle, the looser unstraps the string that holds the "shawl" over their shoulders. Then, no matter if you win or loose, the older fighter reaches over the looser to pat him on the bottom. I think this shows that the older man ultimately is respected over the younger.

Okay, next thought. This is short. I learned that Mongolians value family and children. Every mother who has 8 children is awarded an official medal from the government. You can't buy these, but I am going to search for two old ones from the "Zar" (market) to give two moms I know with over 8 kids--they deserve it in my book. Hopefully I can find these two medals in the antique section of the "Zar."

Next thought. No credit cards are used in Mongolia. Cash is king. Super awesome. I can't help but to imagine how this affects the culture socially and emotionally. I imagine Americans would be happier and more content if we didn't live and operated in cash and free from debt.

Tonight we are heading over to the headquarters to have a party in sending off a family who has been serving here for about 15 years. The word is out that we brought coffee and have been asked to supply the coffee for tonight's gathering. Serving the Lord has always been rewarding, but it seems extra special when I can utilize good coffee in blessing others! :)

The need is so great here, yet the workers are few. I think by next winter there will only be 3 families serving together to reach this country with the good news. This is a hard work and I am overwhelmed with how rewarding it is to be here to support an encourage this family who is serving. I am thankful for those who shared with the financial burden of this trip and supplies and for Valley Baptist Church who supported my going. I believe this is just the first trip of more to come.

Okay, I gotta run. Have a blessed day at church today. I am praying for the believers at VBC!

Blessings,
Gunnar

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Letter From Mongolia

This morning I received a letter from the family I am visiting in Mongolia. It blessed me to read the words and to see that I will NOT be staying in this Mongolian Hotel!


Dear Brothers and Sisters,


How can we say THANK YOU for the gift you are sending to us? Your sacrifice and support in sending Gunnar and Richard to us mean so much! We know our Lord is going to do eternal things for His Glory! May He have His way in our time together!! Please know as you send them off that we are
awed by the gift that the Lord has given us in your true partnership with us in serving Him!

Serving Him with you, with love and thankful hearts,

Your friends in Mongolia

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mongolia, or Bust!

Wow, I can't believe that it was over eight months ago since I last blogged on Mongolia. Then I didn't know when, or if, I would actually be going to Mongolia. Now I know that I leave in about four weeks for 17 days! As the trip approaches, I find myself praying about the purpose of my visit. I wrote this in my last post:

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.


I will comment on these reasons, in the order of importance as I see them today. I love looking back and seeing how God comforts us and adjusts our way of viewing things over time.

1. Funny, my number "3" reason has become my number "1" reason for visiting Mongolia. I think I have learned a thing or two about supporting someone in ministry by those who have supported me through my journey in restarting Valley Baptist Church. The family serving in Mongolia have been on my heart since I came to VBC.

As the church grows and matures, I strongly desire to increase the level of support to this family (although I don't know what this looks like). The one passage that continues to burn in my heart concerning Mongolia is Romans 1:11-12. I truly feel that my role is to encourage this family, but I am also convinced that they will encourage me in ways I don't see yet.

2. My second reason seems to be a combination of my previous "1" and "2" reasons. The last 2 1/2 years have been pretty full speed ahead for me. While life is never the same, it is easy to grow comfortable with a routine. Unfortunately, this can result in dullness in our relationship with God--sometimes without us even noticing. Now, I don't feel like I my relationship is dull with God, but I feel like God has more for me with Him! I have no idea what God is going to teach me through this journey, but something will. I am so thankful for this opportunity go to Mongolia--thank you for supporting us!

As the leader of the church, I feel that my walk with God is critical for the health of the church. I believe that leaders are to lead from the front (blame it on my SEAL team days), not from the rear. Jeff Harris, a friend of mind through seminary, shared with me how his church encourages the members to do a local mission trip every year (like to Mexico for us on the border states) and to take an overseas mission trip every five years. When he said this to me, I immediately knew this was something I wanted to encourage my church to do! I hope we at Valley Baptist Church grow our passion for international missions in the years to come by actually going! I am convinced that if this passion is going to exist, I have to be willing to lead by example. I trust my trip to Mongolia will help fan this flame....which leads to my last point.

3. Well, the Lord led me to a "younger guy" who is actually older than me! As things started to come together, Richard Erler sort of surfaced and expressed an interest in going--well, I think I asked him, but he was totally game! I am excited to see how God uses this experience in his life. I am certain he is going to be changed as he travels overseas for the first time in his life.

We cherish your prayers. I am sure more posts will follow concerning this subject...


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Valuing Multi-Generational Church

This blog post is more of an unraveling of some thoughts that I have been wrestling through over the last few years. I am not sure that I will complete it in one post, but I look forward to the journey of attempting to express some thoughts of mine. Hopefully through this exercise, I will be able to sort through some of my thoughts.

Just over four years ago I became a father. This changed my world and my perception of the world. I began to see things that I never saw before prior to being a dad. The first thing that jumped out at me was our culture's view of children or friendliness to families. Obviously this format precludes me from addressing this subject as a whole, so I want to limit it to the church context. I immediately discovered there is a spectrum of hospitality towards children in the church.

As a pastor, I like visiting other church during off times for the sake of being ministered to, without having to be "the pastor." After Grace was born, we suddenly realized that Grace wasn't welcome to visit all churches. This created a little bit of an inconvenience for us we desired to create a culture of family time and worshiping together. I was somewhat stunned to find that there were churches that literally forbid children under 12 in the sanctuary. This began to shape me as a young pastor restarting a church. What would be our policy? How would I handle this as our young church started to develop and come to life?

I don't think I have a conclusion at this point, but I have discovered some pressure points that I am working between. I will address them in bullet form.

1. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5). Clearly the Bible speaks highly concerning the gift and value of children. While our present culture may not value them, the church must view them as God views them. As I am exposed to families with multiple children, I begin to see some negative thoughts/feelings expressed towards them that are not in alignment with the scriptural teaching the children are a blessing from the Lord. With this point, I hope to cultivate a climate in the church that values the blessing of children.

2. Parents are responsible for making disciples of their children (Deut. 6:4-9). Ultimately the onus of making disciples of children lies on the parents. I have noticed that Christians conclude differently on the process of teaching their kids about the Lord. I have also noticed that parents often think their way is the best way and should be used by everyone. On this point I am convicted to help parents that ultimately they are responsible for teaching their children about God and walking with Him. This is not something that "they are to discover on their own" as many in our culture state. I want the parents to feel and understand that they are responsible before God on this point, and I want to help equip them for the task.

3. Jesus welcomed children to sit in on His teaching, even when the disciples had tried to shuffle them away (Matt. 19:13, Mark 10:13-16, and Luke 18:15-17). Elsewhere in the New Testament children are addressed in the text--it seems safe to assume that children were present in the teaching context. As an under-shepherd of Christ, I must aim to teach as he taught. On this point in means welcoming children in the Sunday service. Also, I want to encourage parents to worship with their children. I also have the responsibility to encourage a climate of hospitality to the young ones in our service. This is a main reason why all the kids are together with the congregation during the worship, which leads into my next point...

4. Sunday School. People learn at different levels and with different tension spans. We have no Sunday School during the 8:30 service, but I am not opposed to have one. As the teaching pastor, I have become more aware of a prominent group with in our culture--the single mom. While my wife is obviously not single, she is on Sunday mornings. I am acutely aware of her struggle with a four year old and a 6 month old Sunday mornings all alone. Throughout the Scriptures we learn that God has a special place for widows and orphans (James 1:27). The unfortunate reality is there are many young women out there with children and an absent father. I am burdened to help these ladies grow in the Lord.

Also, we live in a fallen world. There are many people who don't know the most basic things from Scripture and don't really even know where to begin when coming to church in search of God. There are many people in our culture who have not disciplined their kids and life is pretty much out of control. I am not speaking down to these people--for I was one of them not long ago.

So for some people, having a Sunday school (say children under 10) option for them is good in growing them and their children spiritually.

Okay, I am running out of steam here. Here are my conclusions so far:

1. Children should be welcomed in church. Having multiple generations together is good for all.

2. Families should be encouraged to disciple and worship with their children.

3. We live in a less than ideal culture and we need to help those who are not ready to make disciples, but rather need to be discipled and Sunday school is a viable option.

4. This is not a simple or easy endeavor, but is well worth it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tom Abbott Funeral and Internment

Thank you for your prayers for Ruth Abbott and her family during this time of mourning.

The funeral will be this Saturday, February 20, in the clubhouse of their community located at Bennett Ave and Toyon Glenn, Escondido. There will be a viewing from 1-2pm. The casket will then be closed prior to the start of the memorial service which begins at 2pm. In honor of Tom, the dress code has been declared "casual cowboy." Please come in a comfortable pair of jeans and cowboy boots! Following the service there will be a time of fellowship and food right there in the clubhouse.

Tom's internment will be Monday, February 22, at 11am at Oak Hill Cemetery in Escondido, CA. Tom will be receiving full military honors during the service.

Everyone is invited to attend all of the services. Thank you all again.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Contemplating Life and Death

The words of the wisest man, King Solomon, have been on my mind this week. He wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes 7:1-2, "A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart."

As a pastor, I have found myself in the "house of mourning" more than I would apart from this calling. Each situation is unique and they forever leave a lasting impression on me.

My week this week didn't go as planned--do they ever? It all started Sunday night when I was called to the house of a couple from the church. Hospice had been called in and a few guys were needed to move the hospital bed from the bedroom to the living room in order to give the Tom a more central location. He had been sick and in declining health for sometime, but we didn't see his departure coming so soon. Certainly, his death was not on my mind Sunday evening as we transferred him from his chair to his bed.

Unfortunately the next morning, I received a call saying that the hospice nurse had stated that Tom only had 3-7 days of life left. I could hardly believe it even though I knew his health was in decline. I went to visit with him Tuesday afternoon to pray and to read some Scripture with him. John 14:1-6 came to mind and so I read, or tried... I was only able to read the first verse of Jesus' words, "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me..." at this point I pretty much started crying. I new what the rest of the passage says, and I started imagining that Jesus had finished making preparations for Tom to come home and He was coming to get Tom soon. I couldn't speak. Thankfully Ruth, his wife, was able to quote the rest of the passage for me to Tom. She was so cheerful and was very helpful in helping her pastor gain his composure again...I know, great pastor who breaks down on you in your time of need! :)

I remember driving home that night thinking, "How is this better than the house of feasting (as Solomon wrote)?" I don't know that I have all the answers, but I believe the Lord is impressing a few thought upon me at this time.

First, as a Christian, there is hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 teach us that those who die as Christians go to be immediately with the Lord and this brings comfort to us. I do believe that Tom is with the Lord with his new body and free of pain. I am so thankful that this is not the end and that my journey to the next life is based on Christ's work alone and not on my striving--for I know that I could never make the mark that God requires.

My second thought is about "the dash." A few weeks ago, I was finally able to to visit the gravestone of my grandmother-in-law who passed back in August. As I was searching for her gravestone, "the dash" just seemed to jump out at me--especially those whose spouse had died, but they had not. Everything was engraved on the gravestone for the living spouse except the death date. All we get is "the dash"--or the time between our birth and our death. We have no control over the dates, but the dash we do. It is up to us to make the most of what God is giving us! I am reminded to enjoy today to the fullest, because I know not what tomorrow brings.

Finally, for now, Ruth has made a tremendous impact in my life. You see, I never knew Tom before his stroke. I only received a glimpse of who he was prior through his sense of humor and witty comments from time to time. Aside from this, I believe I saw what kind of man Tom was before his stroke (10 years ago or so) through his wife's love and care for him. Ruth took tremendous care of Tom for years. I never heard her mutter or complain about anything against him in the slightest. Tears come to my eyes just thinking about her sacrificial love for him. It was evident to all that this was her man who she loves and respects with her whole heart. I recently preached through Titus 2:3-5 which are verses about the example that older women are to set for younger women. Ruth was a living picture of the biblical example set in this passage. I am so blessed to pastor a church where there is this example to the younger ladies in the church. While, I never knew Tom before his stroke, I am encouraged to foster love in my marriage that I saw in theirs.

I will miss Tom. He almost always could get a smile or chuckle out of me. It brought me great joy to see his excitement and involvement of the restarting of Valley Baptist Church. I don't think many people saw it other than Ruth, but his joy for coming to church and counting all the people will not leave my memory. I resist the temptation to say "Rest in Peace Tom" because I am certain that he is living it up in heaven with Jesus and his new body right now.

Please continue to pray for Ruth as she mourns the loss of Tom.




Saturday, February 6, 2010

Crazy Audio

A few weeks ago I was in my car going somewhere, when I heard a crazy interview on Focus on the Family's radio program. I highly recommend that you listen to it! Click HERE to listen to the 20 minute radio program.

So the deal is that there is a pastor who lost his voice, but his old church wanted to give him something to do since he could no longer preach. Well this morning he was teaching a Sunday School class. The irony is that he was teaching on healing in the Bible. He was making the point that you can't say God doesn't heal anymore balanced with the point that you can't say that God heals everyone today. In the midst of his talking, his voice was restored.

Check it out...let me know what you think!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Sanctity of Human Life

This Sunday is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This is the third year that I have preached on this subject. There is simply no way around it, this is a very difficult subject to speak on. Each year I press myself to answer the question, "Why am I preaching on this?" The answer is simple: I believe that God has convicted me to do so through His Word.

As I prayerfully prepare for this message, I am hoping to accomplish three things:

1. To show from Scripture that abortion is wrong.

2. To bring healing to those who have scars from a previous involvement--either direct or indirect--with an abortion.

3. To motivate those listening to engage themselves in this battle of protecting the unborn.

Each year that I have preached on this subject I force myself to watch a video produced by abort73.com so that I don't loose sight of what abortion really is. If you are pro-choice, I challenge you to watch this video.


video