Archive for category Pastor’s Blog

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

I’ve never watched a lot of baseball in the past, football is my sport, but lately, my girls have gotten into watching the Giants.  I’ve enjoyed hanging out with my girls as we watch the games.  We’ve even gone to AT&T Park to catch a game or two in person.  When it comes to football, I’d rather watch the game from the comfort of my couch, but baseball is more fun at the stadium. 

I think the reason I enjoy going to the stadium is because I can hear and observe so many things other than the game, especially when the game tends to slow down, which for me is between every pitch.  I watch the vendors as they bark out their call for, “Peanuts, peanuts here!”  I watch numerous people around us busily keeping score in their own score books while I just look up at the big screen to get the same information.  I listen to the man behind me explaining the game to his 7 year old son who holds on to his new glove anxiously awaiting a fly ball.  I like to watch the umpires as they call the game.

It was especially interesting to observe the 3rd base umpire.  The 3rd base umpire doesn’t get much action.  The home base umpire, of course, is involved throughout the whole game calling balls and strikes.  The first and second base umpires even get more of the action, but the 3rd base guy, in a low scoring game, may not even make a call.  As I watched the third base umpire for a while, I thought to myself, if I were that guy, I would be looking at the people in the stands, thinking about a hot dog loaded up with mustard, ketchup and cheese, wondering when football season is going to begin.

As I was getting lost in my thoughts, I noticed the batter did a check swing on a fastball that went by at about 98 mph and immediately the catcher pointed down to the 3rd base umpire.  The 3rd base umpire gave the closed fist STRIKE! signal and the batter was out.  It dawned on me, had I been the 3rd base guy, I would have been paying for a hot dog and not paying attention to the game.  If the catcher would have pointed at me looking for a call, I would have responded with the deer in the headlights look.

That incident was a great reminder of Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 (be prepared in season and out of season).  As believers we need to pay attention to the opportunities God brings before us whether to serve or to share Christ.  We who believe today, believe because people like Timothy were prepared, ready and willing to fulfill their mission.  We never know when we will be called upon, but when we are, we need to be ready and willing to respond.  As a result, we will be as a workman who does not need to be ashamed.

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A Mission To Save The World

I recently got back from Nigeria.

I was there for two weeks on a mission trip. Our goal was to dedicate a well, conduct a medical outreach, hold nightly services for the gospel to be preached, and ultimately plant a church.
Many people seem to ask about what it is like in places like Nigeria. I usually tell them its a lot like here. Although our country enjoys many luxuries that the rest of the world can only hope for, I still see more similarity than difference. The human condition appears to be the same all around the world. We are a broken and messy humanity. Africa, Asia, and America…we are not too different.

We all are just struggling to get by, struggling to numb the pain of a fallen world, struggling to pretend that we are ok, or strong, or proud, or special, or unique. When there is scarcity of resources, even the best of us will happily overlook the so-called integrity we say we believe in. I have learned that even my best deeds are often tainted with selfish ambition.

In some places in the world they fight starvation, we fight obesity. Some fight for survival, we fight rising suicide rates. Some fight for freedom, we fight the deadly disease of apathy. Everywhere you go people have their own set of struggles and problems. For many this leads to a loss of hope…

Whats strange is, I often find this loss of hope to be found in Christians. I hear them say things like, “this world is just getting worse and worse and we just have to wait for Jesus to come back.” I hear things like, “I can’t believe how bad this world is, Jesus just needs to come judge all these sinners.”

At the heart of the Christian faith there is this idea that God Himself came to Earth to visit humanity. What he saw 2,000 years ago probably was not much different than today. There’s still oppression, violence, poverty, corruption, etc. The God that is found in the Gospels however, takes a different approach to losing heart. He does not just call followers to believe in Him and wait for Him to come back one day.

He sends them on a mission. A mission to fix this broken, messy, ugly place we call home. God says he loves the world so much, that despite the obvious problems he wants to save it… rather than destroy it.

In the Christian world many of us have bought into the lie that says God wants to save us FROM the world. However, the gospels tell us that the saving purpose of God did not happen to save us FROM the word, but in order that God’s Kingdom might come to Earth as it is in HEAVEN. What we call the “Lord’s Prayer” is the prayer of God himself trying to bring Heaven’s way to Earth.

God is on a mission to save the world. When you say you are a Christian, you become apart of the greatest movement in human history, a movement to save the world. And although many bad and terrible things have been done in the name of Jesus, all across the world there are more hospitals, orphanages, houses of compassion, and good deeds being done in his name that any other figure in History. The Christian prayer is not that God would saves us from the world, but that he would bring His Kingdom to the world we call home. So we are meant to live, and breath, and sacrifice, and suffer, and give in a way that shows this world there is something worth hoping for; something worth believing in. We give this broken world a foreshadow of what God’s Kingdom will look like when he is finally done sorting out this mess that we have created.

All of this to say, the world is one messed up place. But God is not content to leave it that way, he is on a mission to fix it. If you are a Christian, by definition you are on a mission to join him in this process. Whether that be on the other side of the world in Africa, or across the street where you know the loving message of Jesus is needed. Our faith is not one that just goes to Church on Sunday so we can learn to be nice people and wait for Jesus to come back, our faith is a faith in a God who does not give up. Our faith is in a God who is reconciling all things unto him. Our God has NOT given up on the world, and nor should we.

Wow, this is way longer that I first imagined. If you got through it…congrats. May His Kingdom and His Will come, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Pastor Isaac Serrano

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Thank Therapy

As a football fan I lament the looming NFL strike that threatens the 2011/2012 season.

From time to time I take out my musical Hallmark card that plays the “Monday Night Football” theme song, close my eyes, open the card and think good thoughts about the NFL owners and players.

There are many things in life that can cause us to be disheartened, things far more important than the threat of overpaid athletes skipping a competitive season. We can spend all our time thinking, contemplating and worrying about these things, which won’t change a thing, or, we can take the Apostle Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:6-8.

Jim Burns, author, speaker and President of HomeWord, spoke at our church a few years ago, and talked about putting into practice something he called, “thank therapy.” Every morning he writes down 10 – 20 things he is thankful for such as his health, his wife, his kids, etc. Jim said this helps him to begin his day in the right frame of mind. It’s a good reminder that even in the turbulent times we live today, there is still much to be thankful for.

As for me, I’m thankful college athletes can’t go on strike.

Pastor Mark Turner

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The Giver of Life

Currently, I’m sitting in a comfy chair drinking my morning coffee at Starbucks. I get here relatively early, so I usually don’t have to stand in much of a line. About 10 or 15 minutes later, the line gets considerably longer. As I’m sitting here watching people join this line that will probably result in them being here for about 10 or so minutes in order to the the coffee the drink to fuel the caffeine addiction they have created for themselves (myself included), it got me thinking about what we spend out time on.

As a pastor, I’m always encouraging people to spend time with God in prayer and studying the Bible. The most common excuse that I hear is about how people don’t have time to spend with God and yet, we spend at least 10 minutes in line for our morning latte, huh.

In John 10:10 Jesus talks about how He has come to give life, and give life to the fullest.  We spend so much time looking for life in the bottom of a coffee cup, sports, activities, working out at the gym, hoping that it will give us enough energy to get through the next few hours or the rest of the day, yet we don’t spend 10 minutes a day with the one who actually created us and gave us life. Jesus gives us insight and opportunity into how we each are uniquely made and what gives us sustaining life and purpose.

What if instead of looking for life in things that are temporary, we looked for life from Jesus, the giver and sustainer of life. The one who will never leave or fade away and will always be there. Join me in evaluating not only HOW we spend time in our life, but more importantly, WHERE are we looking for life?

 

 

Pastor Steve Gold

 

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Pastor’s Blog – Trusting God in the Unknown

I celebrated my 60th birthday this past April. (Wow that means I will be 61 a month from now.  I’ve hardly had time to get used to being 60.  How did that happen?)  Well, the point I was going to make was that although over 40 of those years have been spent trying to help other people know more about God I have come to realize that I know a lot less than I ever thought I would while at the same time I know more about things that I never thought would be important to know.   I remember hearing it said that the older you get the less you will know.  But of course there is no way to truly be prepared for how much you will not know about what you thought you did.  Before I try to make sense out of what I just said, let me interject a few words on my “battle” with cancer which has added to my knowing that I don’t know much of anything and neither does my oncologist.

It has been 3 years since I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  With it being stage 3 there is not a cure but it could be treated to slow its progress.  To add to my knowledge of what I don’t know, I can now say that I don’t know a whole lot about this type of cancer other than it is slow growing and Jackie Kennedy Onassis died from it 17 years ago.   My daughter challenged me to join in a clinical trial to help the health professionals to know more and maybe find a better treatment, if not a cure.  Well, to bring us up to the present, last week I went in for my every 3 month blood work, CT scan and visit with my oncologist.  The scan revealed some kind of irregularity in my spleen so I went right over to radiology to get a closer look.  My Dr. called that same day to let me know that the irregularity was not so irregular; which is to say, I am good to go until the next visit.

What caught my attention while visiting with my oncologist  was an awareness that he was struggling with not knowing as much as he thought he would know or should know after all his training and schooling.  In my visit the issue of Lynn Kovach’s death came up and I was able to see through his usual demeanor of professionalism and saw his true vulnerability.  You see, my Dr. is the same oncologist that was assigned to Lynn care when her cancer came back to claim her life.  He just kept telling me that she was very “unlucky.”  He showed up at the hospital shortly after Lynn expired when we were all attempting to deal with the “shock ” of this great loss of a dear friend, daughter, mother and wife.  He seemed to be struggling with feeling that he should have known more and the only way he could explain it was that “she was unlucky.”

Now, I have been told that the average survival rate of people with stage 3 lymphoma is 7-10 years and if that is accurate I have an average of 4-7 years to live.  Now I know that with the prayer support I have received, I have a good chance to beat the statistics.  But the truth is, I don’t know how long I will live and neither does my doctor.  One thing I do know is that it is not about being lucky or unlucky.  I know that the longer I live, the more I will learn about what I don’t know.  In that sense, God is becoming bigger and greater because God lives in all that is unknown.  We are all being challenged in these times to hang onto one thing that we are told we can count on knowing.  That is that God is good and He is the “rewarder” of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6).

If we will be honest, then we all have to say that there is so much that we do not know.  And the more honest we are the less shaken we will be when life doesn’t fit our “secure” paradigm.  Here are some things that we do know! We do know that God is good and we can count on the truth that “He will cause all things to work for our good” (Rom. 8:28). By faith, we must move beyond the “devastation” of not knowing what we cannot know. We must also move beyond our need to always understand everything and simply trust God fully regarding what we can know.  Romans 8:31 says, “Since God is for us, who can be against us?” And Genesis 18:25 tells us “Shall not the God of all the earth do justly.” Those are some truths that you and I can know and rely on.

FYI – I leave for SFO to fly out to Nigeria tomorrow at 4:30 AM along with Isaac and Tammy.  Keep us in your prayers. You can follow what we’re doing in Nigeria by going to our blog. We’ll do our best to keep it updated.

Carol Smith
Discipleship Team Pastor

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Pastor’s Blog – Stronger Than Prison Bars

This past week, in a message I entitled, Stronger than Prison Bars, I looked at Peter’s miraculous escape from what we might call today a maximum security prison. His circumstances certainly qualified as a “dead-end.” Literally, he would have been executed the following morning had God not intervened on his behalf.

If you read Acts chapter 12 you can’t help but notice the connection between Peter’s incredible getaway and its association with the church’s prayers. Acts 12:5 ESV says, So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” For me, the key word in this verse is “but…” It represents the decisive reason for the positive outcome. Now, although we know that God’s will is ultimately determined by His sovereignty, the Bible is clear that He is affected and moved by the prayers of His people. In Jeremiah 33:3 KJV God himself urges us to pray to him when he says, “Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” Well, the believers in the Early Church clearly decided to call on God and the results were phenomenal. Even though they prayed with an obvious lack of faith (see Acts 12:14,15), their perseverance and sincerity more than made up for their unbelief. I find this candid description of their spiritual duplicity strangely comforting.

Clearly Luke is allowing us to see the Early Church as it really was and not as our idealized or romanticized assumption would lead us to believe. Here we do not see the Early Church as a bunch of super faith-filled heroes and heroines. Instead we see them as real human being who wrestled with the same kind of muddled, half-believing, faith-one-minute-and-doubt-the-next-minute struggle that most of us face. In reality, they were people very much like ourselves.

But with that said, their prayers still allowed them to participate in something truly extraordinary. Their “earnest” prayers were heard and God’s will was done on earth as it is in heaven.

So, what about you? Do you believe that prayer with just a little faith in a big God can still yield great result? I hope so! Jesus told us in Matthew 7:7 NLT “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

In the famous Christian allegory, Pilgrims Progress, there is a point when Christian receives his armor. One of the weapons he receives is called, “All prayer.” The author of this famous allegory, John Bunyon, undoubtedly had Ephesians 6:18 in mind when he drew this analogy.Praying at all times in the Spirit, with ALL PRAYER and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Christian was actually given this weapon so that if every other weapon failed, it could still keep him in good safety. Later in the book, Christian actually uses his weapon of “ALL PRAYER,” to prevail against the fiends which attack him in the Valley of the Shadow. It says that when “He poured out his soul in fervent prayer; they fell back and came no further.”

In our lives today all of us are facing fiends of various kinds. Fear fiends, financial fiends, failure fiends, frustration fiends, fatigue fiends, family fiends. Even so, I believe that if we will follow the example of the Early Church and begin to use the ultimate weapon of “All prayer,” our problems will begin to “fall back and come no further” as well.

I hope you will take to heart the story of Peter’s release from prison and remember that when every other gate is shut and locked, the gate to heaven is always wide open. All we have to do is take advantage of that open gate through prayer.

Eric Smith
Senior Pastor

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Does It Have Eternal Value, or is it Junk?

I remember years ago, at the company I used to work for, there were some internal changes being made, which required several of my co-workers to pack up their offices and relocate to new locations in the building. One morning, while en route to my office, I stopped to greet a

colleague that was part of that reassignment. As he sat in the middle of boxes and debris, he would say something that would later cause a deeper reflection in my own life. He said, “Isn’t it funny that as soon as we place things that we perceive as value in cardboard boxes, it suddenly looks like junk?” I didn’t think much about it until later, when I realized how profound the statement was.

Sometimes it’s all about perspective. The things we inadvertently place value on in our lives could really just look like stored up junk from God’s perspective, the things that could be causing “contingencies” in our dependence upon God.

I began to look introspectively at what things in my life I place importance on. I began to be convicted! There were areas of my life where my dependency and self-worth came more from earthly achievements, than my willingness to receive the things of eternal value. Paul figured this out in Phil. 3:7-11. He states in vs. 7,8 that, “But whatever was to be my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus my Lord.”

There is an immeasurable exchange going on here. The more we give up, the more we receive from Him. So how do we get more of God’s perspective in our life, and less of our own? Prayer is the perfect start. Ask God to reveal those things in your life that you need to relinquish control over. Believe me, He’ll show you. Next, begin placing more value in things that will teach you more reliance on God, the value of worship as a lifestyle, the value of fellowship with other believers that can speak into your life and encourage you and the meditation of God’s word to feed and empower you daily.

Sometimes, we need to be forced out of the box. Often our perceived reality is nothing more than our own world of existence. God wants so much more for us. He promises to replace our “Junk” for eternal things of much more value.

Pastor Greg Quirke

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