If you have stumbled here by accident let me first insist that there really are no accidents in life. If however, you came on your own free will then please by all means open your hearts and your minds to the "New Wine" that God has prepared for you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dear brother

We were on our way to a wedding ceremony that would take us about ten hour’s to drive from our home to Santa Cruz. The traffic from San Diego to San Jose would be congested especially if we left anytime around rush hour. So we decided to leave in the evening, after a long day of work, in the hopes of missing long lines of slow traffic. We were successful and enjoying our trip until we got the phone call.

It’s the kind of news you never want to get and continuously pray that you don’t. A member of our family had just had a massive arterial trauma and was in the operating room.  It had happened suddenly, without notice, and all we could do was look at one another and say “Oh no!” then after a couple of deep breaths we began to reassure our family members that we were thinking of them and praying for healing.

As I continued to drive I couldn’t stop thinking about my brother who was in critical condition. Fifty-seven is too young to be fighting for life on the operating table. My mind continued to race ahead and I began to think of how fragile our bodies really are and how short life can be. 

My eyes begin to focus and observe the miles of freeway which is in terrible shape and run down condition. I look at pot holes, missing concrete and heaps of trash that continue to pile up along gutters or against freeway fences. Weeds too, continue to grow out of those cracks in the pavement which spall and uplift the roadways covering our transportation arteries. I continue to think about how everything is going from a state of order to a state of disorder and how our bodies are no exception.

 The next day we got another call; this story does not end well for our brother. What was to be an enchanted, uplifting evening of wedding vows and promises around the table of family reunion, quickly deteriorated into a deep valley of despair and mourning. If our California skies could’ve darkened up and rained then we would have been in the middle of a great deluge where a sudden flash of lighting ripped away our brother from us forever.

As a pastor, I often help others through this valley of sorrow and pain with a gentle hug to reassure them that “It will be alright” but nothing and no one but God can send comfort to those who have lost someone to the ravages of time. Now I found myself in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death looking up at the steep cliffs on both side of me and searching for an answer to encourage my own family, but none will come. 

Fact: our bodies are made up of approximately 57 per cent water and 43 per cent trace elements. Now, while the assortment of gasses and elements make up 100 per cent of our earthly tent there still exists an un-detectable essence that is our spirit and constitutes who we really are. I am certain that without my faith in God I would be reduced to a small pile of dust and picture book full of memories.

Thousands of years later Paul writes to the church in Corinth “For we know if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” What a great spiritual truth to believe in and hold onto as God promises us a glorious future with Him in eternity.

There is a verse in the book of Hebrews 9:27 that states “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” People who have trusted in Jesus Christ will not be judged for their sin. All others will have to stand before a holy, righteous God at the great white throne. Everyone who finds themselves at this judgment will be found guilty of forsaking, refusing or ignoring God’s gift of salvation from sin.

Why don’t you ask God for forgiveness today and receive His free gift of salvation?


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Just believe

Let me ask you a question. What is the greatest commandment in the bible? Take a moment to think of a commandment before reading any further. Usually when people are asked this question, nine out of ten people will quote Jesus when He quoted from the book of Deuteronomy 6:4.The verse is known in the Jewish world as the “shema or shama”, which is the Hebrew word for “hear”.  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

The heart of “Judaism” of the Old Testament was all about showing love for God by keeping all the commandments He gave to Moses. It was all about purifying oneself and keeping right with God by following all His regulations. When someone broke the laws, there were rituals that needed to be completed to the letter. Breaking the commandments required a sacrifice in order to make things right before God. Not being obedient to God would cost you something.

God promised from the beginning, in the garden, that He would be the One to solve our sin problem. He told us that through a virgin He would send the Messiah. Over and over again, all through the pages of the bible, we read how God foretold of the coming Savior. But when the time was finally right and “Immanuel prophecy” was fulfilled, very few people believed Jesus was the promised Messiah.

In the passage of time thousands of years of rituals, sacrifices and keeping the Passover went by. The Jews had even set an empty chair out in the hope that the prophet Elijah would one day return. The prophets cried out for a Savior to be born but when He was, the people were just too rigid to believe in Him!

One day, during the ministry of Jesus, His disciples came to him and asked “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” to which Jesus answered “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” His disciples must have thought to themselves. “What does He mean? We are good Jews and have kept the law our entire lives! Our fathers ate the manna from heaven. We are children of Abraham; who does he think he is and besides isn’t that Jesus the son of Joseph the carpenter whom we all know?”

After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the early church was plagued with strife between Jewish Christians insisting on tradition through the law, Jewish Christians who wanted to believe only in the grace of God and Gentile Christians who were being pushed and pulled through both sides of this religious quagmire.

Soon religion began growing out of control as the traditions of men began filling the church. Originally, God’s solution to the “sin” problem was to believe in the name of His Son and love one another, but greed, lust and power struggles began to cloud the waters of God’s simple “gift of salvation”.

Soon there were many denominations popping up who all felt like their truth was the only true way to God. Men began to declare war and Crusades in order to cleanse the earth for God. The only problem was that the earth was already cleansed through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. God only wanted a relationship with His creation but misguided men demanded much more from people who wanted to get right with God. Soon men began to speak for God, writing more and more rules and regulations for men to follow. 

Now, we are beginning to see signs for the imminent return of Jesus as God’s Spirit is beginning to shake the scales off of men’s eyes. Many are beginning to read their bibles and trusting in the simple truth of God’s grace through the sacrifice of His own Son.

The apostle John was the oldest surviving writer of scripture whom God allowed the final apostolic word. Incidentally, John was also the first apostle to reach the tomb; he always reclined close to Jesus at the table and was the only apostle at the foot of the cross. Jesus even handed over the care of his own mother to John.

So it was John who wrote the greatest commandment in the bible “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” 1 John 3:23. The fire has been kindled, the Spirit is moving as the rushing winds of revival spill out over the whole earth.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Out of circulation

Have you ever seen a rare gold coin? Maybe you’ve even had an opportunity to hold one in your hands. The first distinguishing feature you notice is its weight, as they just have that “Hey, I’m worth something” feel to them. Next, if it’s an old European gold coin, you might notice the image of a king and some marking denoting denomination. The thing about coins is that, not only do they have their original value but also an intrinsic metal value based on current market prices, and of course an inflated worth based on rarity. 

But what if you were showing your rare, old gold coin to friends on the beach when someone running along the sand bumps into you, knocking the coin out of your hands and into the sand. Now it’s lost, and although it has value, it is out-of-circulation. It has the name of the King on it, a measured value but as it sits lost somewhere in the sand, it is really of no use or worthless.

In the 15th chapter of the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells three parables that deal with a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. While all three stories are different, they actually were designed to be linked together to explain the bigger concept of God’s grace.

In the first story, a shepherd has one hundred sheep. The group of ninety-nine sheep is all together safe; however, one sheep is lost. The shepherd then leaves the ninety-nine sheep to go out looking for the one lost sheep, and continues searching until he finds it. When he does finds it, He rejoices, although he suffered greatly while searching for it. This story is a word picture of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who went out looking for lost sheep and ends up suffering to the point of death on a cross but rejoices because he ransomed us from death unto life!

In the last story, a father has two sons. The younger son demands his inheritance to see the world. He ends up squandering his entire fortune on the lusts of the world. Eventually, he takes a job feeding swine where, while eating the pig’s feed, he realizes that the servants back at his father’s house have more than enough food, clothing and a place to sleep. The son heads home to ask his father for forgiveness. The father sees his son returning home from a distance and runs out to meet him. They exchange hugs and kisses as the son gets a new robe, ring and the servants kill the fatted calf for a celebration feast. The older son is angry that his father has forgiven the younger son.

You see, while the coin was lost it was out-of-circulation and of no use in the world, or basically worthless. Indeed, it had value as a coin; it even had the image of the King minted on its face but it was lost in the dirt of the world. The coin was not in circulation where it was meant to pass from someone’s hand into another’s and used for wages, to purchase food, or other commodities. 

In the story of the prodigal son, even though he left his father’s house he didn’t cease being his father’s son. Even though he spent his entire inheritance on lustful living, he didn’t cease to be his father’s son. The older son was angry because he had kept his father’s laws and stayed to work in his father’s house while he watched his younger brother leave and loose his inheritance. But when the younger son repents and returns to the father, the older son is angry that they killed the fatted calf to celebrate his brother’s return.

Don’t you see how we are all like the lost sheep, the lost coin and the wayward son when we are not abiding in Jesus?  Look at the coin story again, if we are not in service for the Lord, then we are like the lost coin which has value and the markings of the king but is out-of-circulation. 

Won’t you examine your own life and see if you are lost, out-of-circulation and need to return to the Father’s house? If you confess and ask for forgiveness the Father will welcome you back with open arms!