Remember when…

During the Holidays, I always turn a little nostalgic. One of my very first320857fcaa3e147d2dfd00f06f83d6d1
memories is being in Virginia for a brief time after Dad left the Navy.  I must have been 2, maybe a little more.  But I remember walking down the street with my Dad and Mom.  We had gone down town in Hampton to do a little shopping.  I was all bundled up in my winter clothes, and a light snow was coming down so slowly that you could reach out a catch a big snowflake for a second before it desolved.  All the stores had their Christmas lights on.  Obviously I can’t remember everything of that event, but in my mind it was like a Normal Rockwell painting.  That memory has brought me wonderful feelings about the holidays ever since.  It was one of those picture book memories that shapes my attitude and feelings about Christmas.
Maybe that is why I am obsessed, (Maybe a little too strong a word – depending on who you're talking to – if you talk to my family, it is spot on),  obsessed with capturing the past so that I will remember the wonderful events of days gone by.  I guess that is why I love decorating our Christmas tree to the music of the Messiah every year. As a youth, I would buy a big calendar to put on my wall beside my desk in my bedroom.  Each day I would write down what happened – just the high points & the things I did not want to forget.  Later in college I would graduate to a journal, at first hand writtpen-and-journal (2)en.  I have boxes of stuff out in the garage, keep sakes that take me back in time.  I have things that I have purchased from all of the world on my journeys, decorating my office at work and at home. Some things especially have deep meaning & I connect them to some important event that took place.  
My memory is so poor, & getting worse.  So these things help me keep in touch with my past.  Especially my photography – I can look at those old photos, and recapture the days gone by.  They help me to remember the blessings of God and the great joy that He has allowed me to have.
There is a flip side to this.  During a very dark period of my life, that came and went for about 10 years (mostly dark) – I kept a very detailed journal of the events, my failings and my feelings. It was much easier to do since I had joined the computer age.  So I wrote a lot.  I was struggling with depression during those years.  Finally I started to get well, thanks to therapy, my wife and some very loving people at Pathway. But I wouldn’t let go of that dark past.   I would occasionally go back and read about what I had gone through and how it had such a devastating effect on me.  The worst part was not so much what had happened, but what I thought about those situations and how they affected feelings and my self-image. For years I hung on to those writings – going back to visit occasionally.  It was like going back to a garbage dump.  It was smelly. It was awful.  And it would drag me back down into the darkness.  I couldn’t really break free.  God had forgiven. I had forgiven.  But there it was, always waiting for me to return & recapture the pain, the hurt and the evil darkness. Finally I did what Jan (my wife) had kept telling me to do. (Sometimes we men don’t always listen right away to those who love us.)  I deleted it all, and threw all of the hard copies into the shredder.  I would never be able to go back now. It hurt when I did it.  But now they were gone.   It was like cleaning a wound, hurtful and yet the only way for it to heal up.  Over time, those things began to leave my conscious memories.  Then I began to experience the real healing that I so desperately needed from God. There is a great spiritual lesson in all of this.  There are things in life that God wants us to remember.  He wants us to look back and count our blessings.  He wants us to remember just how good and faithful and loving and forgiving and wonderful He really is.  Hence, we need to remember His kindness for two basic reasons. The first, so that we know where our blessings come from & can praise Him. Second, so that we can heed his warnings, and not go “off-roading” from His plan.  He wants us to keep our lives in His circle of love. The good memories keep us on track. And then there is the matter of the brokenness of our lives, the results of the darkness.  He wants to forgive them.  We need to forgive others and ourselves.  And then we need to bury those events in the graveyard, never to go back.  Not even to lay flowers.  There will come a time, when you are so healed, that you can share them with others to help them in their despair. But this is always from the side of victory, not defeat.  As a result we praise God all the more. Worship Man In the coming “holidays” focus on the good memories and try to banish the hurt and pain of things forgiven.  God has forgiven them, and buried them. We need to do the same, and then move on in the Love, Joy and Peace, that comes when we remember all the great things God has done for us, in us and through us.
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In Christi Gloriam,
Pastor Mike


I Should Have Been a Cowboy…

I Should Have Been a Cowboy

At least that what Toby Keith sings. bf01f0378654694e73c42df259260c40

“I should've learned to rope and ride
Wearing my six-shooter riding my pony on a cattle drive
Stealing the young girl's hearts
Just like Gene and Roy
Singing those campfire songs
I should've been a cowboy

I might of had a side kick with a funny name
Running wild through the hills chasing Jesse James
Ending up on the brink of danger
Riding shotgun for the Texas Rangers
Go west young man, haven't you been told
Sleeping out all night beneath the desert stars
With a dream in my eye and a prayer in my heart”

That song takes me back to my boyhood days when we lived up in Eureka and the redwood forests were my playground.  We watched all of the movies with Roy Rogers, Rocky Lane, Bob Steele, Bill Cody, Gene Autry, Hoot Gibson, the Lone Ranger, Lash La Rou, Randolph Scott, Rex Allen, Tex Ritter, and of course the ultimate cowboy John Wayne. The list goes on and on.  Every Saturday we would walk to town and watch a double feature of the Western movies for 35 cents. We got our popcorn in cereal type boxes, and during the intermission, we would fold them up flat and throw them like Frisbees.  They were flying all over the theater like space ships fighting some crazed battle in the dark of the some cartoon interlude between features.  Needless to say, I was hooked.

Jan and I began serving in our first church up in the hills above Bakersfield.  It was a little old western town called Kernville, where people would retire out of the busy cities of LA.  It was certainly in vogue to wear hats and boots.  I wasted no time.  I loved it!  And it came with a lot of nostalgia for me.  Sometimes I feel like I should have been born back in the mid-19th century as a circuit riding preacher like the famous Peter Cartwright.

There is nothing that can match the dreams and imaginations of childhood.

We grow up having big romantic plans for our lives. Most of the time those childhood dreams morph into something more realistic.  After all, those heroic movies of the Texas rangers were fantasies.  It was really never that glorious, or heroic, or exciting as Hollywood made them.

But if you love the great outdoors, and can see yourself in mountains riding a horse down the canyon with beautiful stream bubbling beside, you just might have a bit of the western spirit in your heart.  Cowboys loved the idea of freedom and the opportunity to do whatever they wanted. “Don’t tie me down” with a lot of laws and regulations.  They liked making their own rules.

They had a fondness for excitement and danger.  They liked the open land and the beauty of nature. They loved their horses and a good saddle. They were attracted to the pristine wilderness and it became a favorite wandering place.  They didn’t like to be fenced in, just give them the freedom to roam.

If you can identify with these things, you just might be a cowboy at heart.

 

I believe that God loves those beautiful dreams of childhood. And I do believe that if we are following His pathway for our lives, sometimes, those dreams come into reality in one way or another.

 

Psalm 37 contains a great promise to those who choose God’s pathway for their lives.

3      Trust in the LORD and do good;

Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

4      Delight yourself in the LORD;

And He will give you the desires of your heart.

5      Commit your way to the LORD,

Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

6      He will bring forth your righteousness as the light

 

When we allow God to take over our lives, and we begin to live in His desired pathway for us, His love has a way of intertwining some of our own dreams into His Divine plan for us.  He delights in our joy and happiness.

Many people are afraid to turn the lives over to the control of God, for fear of what their life might be like if they have to follow His leading, and submit to His rules of the road.  I want to assure you from my own personal experience, that in following God, you will have some of the greatest adventures of your life.  Far beyond your wildest dreams of childhood.

Give it a try.  You just might discover the greatest Joy of your life.

Nothing can compete with or even begin to come close to God’s dream and vision for us.  You will be amazed.

 

Riding down the canyon, Pastor Mike



I Can’t Wait!

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A long, long, time ago, Alabama sang a song that 'fit me to a tee':

 

"I'm in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I'm in a hurry and don't know why.
Don't know why I have to drive so fast
My car has nothing to prove,
It's not new But it'll do 0 to 60 in 5.2
Can't be late, I leave plenty of time
Shaking hands with the clock,
I can't stop I'm on a roll
and I'm ready to rock
I hear a voice That say's I'm running behind
I better pick up my pace, It's a race
And there ain't no room For someone in second place."

 

I remember my mother laughing at me when I was 5 years old and just starting kindergarten (a traumatic life style change for me). My question was very simple. “How long do I have to keep going to school?” After falling apart in laughter, she gently broke the news to me that it would be, at the very least, another 12 years.

 

In my mind, the starter’s gun shot out, & my “race with time” had just begun.

I couldn’t wait to finish kindergarten.

I couldn’t wait to finish grade school and then high school.

I couldn’t wait to finish college. I stumbled out of the starter’s gate & it took me 5 years, but I finally did finish.

By then, I was a follower of Jesus and had my call to full time ministry.

I couldn’t wait to get married and have our own children.

I couldn’t wait to finish Seminary & come back home to California.

I couldn’t wait to get my first church in Kernville.

I couldn’t wait to become an associate up in Yuba City. But after 3 years,

I couldn’t wait to leave.

I couldn’t wait to finish my doctoral studies, but no one seemed to notice.

I couldn’t wait to grow a large church in Orangevale, but it all fell apart right before my very eyes. I wasn’t completely broken, but I was badly bent.

I couldn’t wait to get well, to get my mind right. It is still a battle at times.

I couldn’t wait to get on the “mission field”. After several short term trips,   I couldn’t wait to get into the 10/40 window and reach those yet unreached.

 

I know what you must be thinking. “Now there is a “Type A” Driven man."

And I have no defense for that accusation. As you can clearly see, I have been impatient for most of my life.

The good news is that God has a lot of patience.

2 Peter 3:8-9 NASB

8     But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.

9     The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

 

For people like me, that is incredible. He could have squashed me like a bug, years ago. But His love for me, my soul, my eternity, is so very important. He was (& is) waiting for me to accomplish the task that was assigned to me when I became a follower of Jesus.

 

For me, I just keep prodding and kicking, like a rice farmer in Myanmar, trying to get that beast of burden to move a little faster. Some might say that I am too persistent. There is a big difference between being impatient and being persistent. Impatient people like me worry so much. We are fearful that we might run out of time & thereby miss out on the opportunity. I can see it all now. They are closing the door to the plane that I should have been on. As I race to the terminal gate, I am too late. I missed my connection. And so I worry. Always thinking about what might have been.

Matthew 6:25-34 NASB

25     “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink;

nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

33     “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,  and all these things will be added to you.

34     “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

Life becomes so much sweeter when we allow God to do the leading and directing. He has His own timetable.

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Tempus fugit – Pastor Mike

 



It is good to be home from South Korea

Somehow, coming home always feels so good and right, no matter where I have been or whatever I have experienced.  My experience in South Korea was incredible.  I saw some beautiful sights and had wonderful experiences.  But nothing could compare with the inspiration of meeting Believers from all over the 10/40 Window.
The 10/40 Window is a rectangle on the globe from the 10th to the 40th Northern Latitudes from China to West Africa.  It is here that 2 Billion of the worlds unreached peoples live.  They have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and New Life that He brings to those who place their faith in Him.  These are mostly Muslim Countries, Communist Countries or Buddhist Countries, with a smattering of Hindu’s here and there. In most of these countries it is either illegal to be a Christian or it is persecuted regardless of any “freedom of religion” statement made by the government.  As a result, these leaders find themselves in the delicate situation of expressing and sharing their faith where the cost may be severe. It may even cost their freedom, torture, or their very lives. It is because of this cross that they bear that makes their faith so powerful and real.  Prayer is often not a luxury, but a necessity for survival. Their understanding of Jesus two great commands;
  1. To Love others has He loved them &
  2. To spread the Gospel into all the regions of their country demonstrates their tremendous love for God and His Glory.
It was a humbling experience to be in their presence.  Some 3,000 people gathered to share, pray and inspire one another.  Just to be in their midst was a great honor. In order to get a sense of what some of them go through let me recommend a book to you.  Joseph Kim is the author of Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). His story of being stripped of the love of his family and left as a child begging in the streets of North Korea is eye opening.  Then he tells of the miracles that God did in his life (even before he knew about God) miracles that eventually led him through China, South Korea and eventually into the United States where he was to meet His Savior, our Lord Jesus. More than anything, my time in Korea was a confirmation of my hearts’ desire.  I truly believe that God is opening doors for us in the 10/40 window where we will be able to join these saints in fulfilling the great commission, completing the task that Jesus has given to us at Pathway.  Once that task is completed, then the door will be open for the return of Christ, the resurrection of the saints and the ushering in of His great Kingdom.May 2015
Marantha, Pastor Mike,
Matthew 24:14.


Time in a bottle

000_0014 I have often wondered what makes photography so fascinating for me. Beyond the obvious of capturing images that are beautiful and emote some kind of passion in my senses, there is the whole realm of time, and trying to capture it in an image.  In photography in some enigmatic way we can stop time and forever keep that moment.  At least that is what it feels like.  As a result I have spent most of my adult life photographing my family, capturing precious moments in time.  And now as I look at my grandchildren through the lens of a my Nikon (affectionately called “Wynona”) with a 64 gig memory card, realizing that I can take literally 1000’s of high quality photo’s at no cost, every moment seems the right time to capture their time.   At a season in life when the months and years seem to fly by there seems to be more urgency in my work.  And now I have 10’s of 1000s of images all stored and backed up in portable hard drives that hold terabits of memories, time in little bottles.  I do not have the time to edit them all, so I keep telling myself, that someday, maybe when I retire, I will devote myself to this task, leaving my family with a visual record of years gone by.   As I consider the idea of time passing by so swiftly, the clock continues to tick as if in a countdown mode until my departure into a world where there will be no moments in time to capture.  Time will not exist and our minds will be able to recall all of the beautiful moments in God’s Paradise without the aid of technology.   And in this fallen world, there will eventually come that day, when all of my earthly efforts will no longer be meaningful, and ultimately destroyed.   Ravi Zacharias says: “[Time] never moves forward without engraving its mark upon the heart—sometimes a stab, sometimes a tender touch, sometimes a vice grip of spikes, sometimes a mortal wound but always an imprint.” The Lotus and the Cross   To be sure, the capturing of those special moments is a great treasure as we live in this world.  As the ravages of time erode everything but our souls, we can look back and “remember when”.  That can bring warmth to the heart, or tears to the eye, but always with a sense that what was, will not be lost.  If it were not important God would not have given us the ability to recall those momentous events in life.   But all of this will fade away into meaninglessness as we enter into the presence of God and begin a new life, a perfect life, in a new world, pristine in all of its glory.  There will be no more sin, no more hurt, no more betray or anger, no more tears.   Will we remember those times back in an old fallen world?  No.  Not only will we not remember, but we won’t want to call up those events.  Why should we?  Even the brightest moments on earth will seem to be dark in comparison to the glories of God’s eternity.  C.S. Lewis writes about this brilliantly in his book, The Great Divorce.  The greatest loves of this world will be far surpassed by the greatest love that time has known, the Love of Jesus for His own.  What a wonderful Family that will be!   That is why Paul who had a little taste of heaven said,   2 Cor. 5:4   For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 1 Cor. 15:54       But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.   Laus Deo – Pastor Mike