Wednesday, June 8, 2011


In the worship services last weekend, I mentioned that the prelude to influence is surrendering your life to the Lord.  If you want to have influence that lasts and makes a positive difference, it happens not through striving, conniving or some other rhyming word.  It starts with a heart that yields to God.  A life that gets rid of idols, false gods and distractions that turn your heart from God’s best for you.

But what does it really mean to surrender?  A significant number of people stood and surrendered their hearts to the Lord in our services last weekend.  What did they do... and is that it (or will they need to ever do it again)? 

Surrender is not giving up or quitting as much as it is giving in to the Lord and His will for your life.  It is tied to a willingness to believe and follow, trust and obey.  And it is something that a follower of Jesus Christ needs to persist in doing.  Surrender, like following, is something that you do once and then continue each day.  It is saying "yes" to God, every day, no matter what others do or don't do. 

Surrender isn't just for those making a first time commitment to Christ.  It is something that I need to do and want to do.  Today.  Every day. 

Recently, I came across a brief video that describes this concept really well.  I hope you like it and find it helpful.

What does it mean to truly surrender to God? from Margaret Feinberg on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reflections on Endings and Beginnings, Part 2

Last week I wrote about graduations and commencement ceremonies.  Two other kinds of beginnings and endings have been in my mind recently.
According to one well-publicized account, May 21 should have been the Grand Commencement Day for everyone, when the rapture occurred and we experienced the end of the world.  To the best of my knowledge, that did not happen.  I don’t know about you, but predictions like that make me squirm uncomfortably.  It appears to add credibility to the position of those who reject or even mock Christianity while contributing to a growing skepticism about the claims of scripture among who haven’t examined the Bible closely for themselves.
So, what does the Bible really teach?  In short: Jesus is coming again and the world will end some day, but the exact timing is patently unknowable.  Although the Bible offers clues and signs, there is no precise timetable or hidden mathematical puzzle. When talking about the end times, Jesus said clearly, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” and as a result it is important to “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:36, 42). 
The prediction about May 21 did serve a profitable purpose for me... it reminded me to think about people I knew who do not know the Lord.  I hope it did that for you, too.  Even though Jesus didn’t come on that day, He is coming, and when He arrives nothing else will matter to anyone except “Do I know Jesus?” and “Is He my Savior and Lord?”  Very close to each of our hearts should be the desire to pray and SHARE Christ with others so that they can be ready, too (1 Peter 2:9-12)... which leads to my next thoughts about beginnings and endings.
Whether we live until the second coming of Christ or not, one day we will each see Jesus face to face and our mortal existence will transform into an immortal one.  As a pastor, I have had the unique privilege to minister to a large number of individuals and families after their loved one has died, including several over the past few weeks and another service this Friday.  It is never easy, but I can say with confidence that it makes a difference when those involved know that this “end” is not “the end.” 
When someone knows and trusts in the Lord, there is a peace that comforts through the emptiness and pain of loss.  There is an understanding that a holy graduation has been observed by us and presided over by the Lord.  It truly is another kind of “Commencement” – a beginning even more profound and real than an ending – and whether deceased or surviving, each person involved has the opportunity to participate in a new adventure with God.  Death brings the end of a chapter, and it can feel dark and as though everything is finished, but it is not even remotely close to the end of the book that God is writing.[1] 
May God help you to feel His comfort and peace during times of loss, to sense His presence in all your new beginnings, and remind you to reach out to SHARE and SERVE others so that they can have the opportunity to be ready for their ultimate graduation!

[1] We have a great ministry here at Rose Drive Friends Church called our, “Grief Support Group.”  They meet regularly during two long seasons of the year and have provided much-needed support and encouragement for many.  If you’d like more information you could call our church office at (714) 528-6496, email me at or respond to this post.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reflections on Endings and Beginnings, Part 1

This is graduation season.  Thousands of people all over the country are celebrating as they cross an educational finish line.  Multiplied more friends and family cheer loudly at the graduation ceremonies as their loved one’s name is mentioned and they watch them walk, jump, and/or fist-pump their way across a stage to shake hands, receive a diploma (or a representation thereof), and have their picture taken.
Over the last couple of weeks, I was privileged to be among the cheering, picture-taking throng three times as two of my sons and my daughter-in-law received their degrees: an M.Div., B.A., and a B.S.  respectively.  We are pleased and proud of their academic accomplishments and even more so at the people that God has shaped them to be.  I imagine that I am not alone.  As I watched many families blow their air horns, hand out their over-sized balloons, and buy over-priced commemorative T-shirts (oh, wait, I did that, too), I know that many people are thrilled and excited for their loved one and this milestone in their life.
Typically, we call that gathering for the conferring of degrees a Commencement ceremony.  It is a reminder that this event is not the end.  It does mark the conclusion of something, but it boasts more profoundly a new beginning.  Rather than a depressing dirge, Pomp and Circumstance is played – a victorious march that symbolizes both solemnity, success, and a hope for the future.  One chapter closes while the next one opens.  For many of these newest alumni, financial and vocational uncertainty creates new pressures and fears. However, for followers of Christ, the spot on the stage where the handshake occurs can become the doorstep for fresh adventures, opportunities to trust God in new ways, and untold possibilities for being used by Him and for Him.  Once again, there is an occasion to discover that God is faithful throughout the entire story of life, not just in one of the chapters.
The truth is, every day is a Commencement Day.  Every day can be a fresh start... a new opportunity to trust the Lord, to follow Him, to recalibrate our priorities to Worship, Connect, Grow, Serve and Share.  I know I don’t always live that way, but what a difference that would make!  What hope that could bring! 
May God help us to trust Him in all of our endings, beginnings, and everything in between.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What are you finding? Probably whatever you are looking for!

It’s the week leading up to Easter.  Only a few days before Good Friday.  That also means the Easter Egg Hunt at Rose Drive Friends Church is almost here (someone suggested it might be more aptly referred to as the Easter Egg Harvest – not a lot of “hunting” going on – plenty of eggs for every kid)!  Check out this 60-second video below to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

I want to share with you some personal reflections today... some of where my heart has been recently. 

I have the privilege of seeing a lot of people’s pain and hurt, not counting my own.  If I’m not careful, that can be the extent of my focus. Unmet expectations, dashed hopes, and unrelenting brokenness.  It hurts me when I see people not getting along and not trusting – in the church, in families, in marriages... anyplace.  I know some marriages that have exploded.  Some health issues that are daunting.  Some financial issues that seem overwhelming.  It is especially painful when I know that people on both sides of an unresolved conflict claim to know and love the Lord.  I am grieved when I see people I know and love who are grieving.  I know that unless we live until the Second Coming of Christ, everyone we know will die someday.  That means there is a lot of grief going around (or that will come around). 

I can see a lot of heartache.  Maybe you can, too.  But that isn’t the end of the story...  and that’s especially good to remember as we approach Good Friday and Easter. 

Like Easter Eggs, we often find what we are looking for.

Even when it seemed like all was lost – Christ being crucified – God was working out His plan of redemption.  And Jesus knew it.  He was brutalized but not a victim.  The people around the scene at the crucifixion didn’t see it.  It looked like Jesus was defeated.  But Jesus said “it is finished” not “I am finished.”  No one seemed to notice.  He was not down and out, even though that is what everyone else saw in those moments.  The reality was, there was another story to see.  And that is true for your life, too.

No matter how dark things appear, there is hope when Christ gets involved.  He did not stop working out His plan at Golgotha.  He is trustworthy and fully capable of bringing restoration, healing, and wholeness to a life, a marriage, a family, a relationship, to anyone – and I’ve seen all of that, too.  There are miracles all around me, from people stepping up to serve who not that long ago didn’t know Christ at all, to marriages restored, to God’s provision financially in so many areas for individuals, families, and for our church.
The King of Kings didn’t abdicate His throne on the cross. 

Jesus was still in charge at the crucifixion, even when it didn’t look like it.  The resurrection confirmed it.  That’s still true today.  In every situation of your life, God is still sovereign and trustworthy.  Even when it doesn’t look like it at that moment. 

This week, look for Christ in the middle of your conflicts. Look for ways to represent the Lord in your relationships and circumstances.  Bring hope to someone by inviting them to go to church with you this weekend!  And watch and see what the Lord will do!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

More or Enough?

When is enough, enough?
There are lots of things in our world that cry out for more.  People want more of our time.  Advertisers want us to buy more of their products. Most people wish they had more money.
Several years ago, a study was conducted here in North Orange County, asking people how much money they thought they needed in order to be happy and content.  The results were less than startling.  No matter how much money a household made annually, the average reply was that they thought they needed to make just a little more.
There are times when we need to say, “ENOUGH!”  We often need to look commercials in the face and reply, “I’m content.”  Now, I don’t want to lie.  I like being able to buy things.  I like having the food I like to eat, the clothes I have to wear, and the house I have to live in… I like the stuff I have.  When so much of the world is in need, how much do I really need?  There are times when enough is enough.  But not always…
Sometimes we are in danger of applying “enough” when God is saying to us, “MORE!” 
There are times when we need to cultivate a holy discontent.  There are times when enough is clearly not enough.  Are there enough workers to go into the harvest field?  Are there enough churches to reach the lost and help people to grow in their faith? Are there enough people in the community where I live who are going to heaven when they die?  Do I really care?  Am I giving enough away to support missions?  Have I spent enough time doing what God wants me to do or serving where He wants me to serve?  Have I forgiven someone enough?  Ouch!
When is enough, enough?!
“Lord, thank you for knowing what we need and for your provision. You are our Sovereign Lord!  Please help us to see through our own selfishness to know when MORE is Your heart’s desire for us and when enough is not enough.  Help us to learn to be content when that is what we need, to know when enough is enough, and to learn to trust You… more!”

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Nedlog Rule or Sanctity of Life?

Last weekend we watched this video on the Miracle of Life in our worship services.  It’s powerful.  One of the best I’ve seen on the topic.
“Sanctity of Life” is practically an absurd notion in our world.  All around us we see contrary examples of human lives that are used, abused, or abandoned, and not held in any kind of holy or thoughtful regard.  Whether the topic is abortion, fighting in the Arab world, human trafficking, or ________________ (fill in the blank from today’s top news stories), it doesn’t appear that life is considered to be very sanctified.  But that isn’t how we want to be viewed or treated!
Most people like the concept that their life is special.  My rights, my needs, my feelings are paramount, and I often have an expectation that others should treat me accordingly.  The wise publicist keeps this in mind when promoting almost anything, from fast food to fast cars… you can have things the way that you want them because you deserve it! 
Of course, the only problem is that others may hold me to the same standard of responsibility toward them that I hope they will have toward me.   Call it the Nedlog Rule (opposite of the Golden Rule).  This set of competing expectations is one of the keys to understanding conflict in marriages (and most relationships), but that’s a topic for another day. 
Sanctity of Life may be a crazy concept by today’s standards – but the fact that it is treated with disdain by many people points to some of the fundamental and fatal flaws in a world that emphasizes an individual’s “rights” over someone else’s.   It is in many ways a reflection of pervasive selfishness.
The basis for Sanctity of Life is this: God has created every human being.  Every one.  He put His stamp, His image upon each one that He gave to no other part of His creation.  I’m not against those who want to preserve trees, spotted owls, or gray whales, but those campaigns are not in the same category as preserving human life.  God set His human creation apart and, unlike plants or animals, He has given each one the potential of living with Him forever.  
Not only did God create every person, He loves every single one.  Christ died for everyone!  That includes those who are near death due to age or illness, those who are pre-born in their mother’s womb, and everyone in between.  And if God so loves, that means that those who claim to be followers of Him must walk where Jesus walked – and do our part to SERVE and SHARE His love with a world of people who need it. 
It would do us all good to remember (and to live in such a way that we recognize) that every human being is a unique, unrepeatable, miracle of God!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It Takes Hearing

Our Missions Conference at Rose Drive Friends Church ended last weekend. The theme song for our conference was the one by Casting Crowns called, “Until the Whole World Hears.” 
The first time I saw the music video for UTWWH it moved me to tears (OK. It happened more than once, but you get the idea.).  Why?  I’m not exactly sure.  Maybe because my heart resonates so much with the message and I’m aware that there is so much more yet to do.   I know that God has given to me (and to all believers) the ministry and message of reconciliation.  He’s entrusted that message to us!  He wants us to build bridges of love and SHARE Him with others who don’t know Him yet.
Are there still unreached people groups?  Yes!  Yesterday I corresponded with some of our missionaries in another country who have made contact with just such a group.  The whole Bible has not yet been written in their language and it sounds like most don’t know how to read even if it was available.  But the people seem open to the gospel. 
We don’t have those kinds of language barriers.  At least, not many.  But we have other ones.  I heard today of someone who has lived in the same place for years and who still doesn’t know their neighbors.  Never met them.  It’s tough to reach people and share Christ – to fulfill what God has called us to do – if we don’t even know who the people are around us!  How about you?  Do know all of your neighbors? Getting to know them is a good first step toward investing in that relationship and then inviting them.
In that sense, God has called all of us to be “missionaries.”  He wants all of us to “go” with the gospel to those around us.  But some people we will never reach (because of time, distance, other barriers).  That is why we all need to give financially to support what God is doing around the world. 
At Rose Drive Friends Church, we support nearly 40 missionaries in this country and around the world through Faith Promise Missionary Giving (you can find out more about that by clicking here).   If you’d like to get in on this really good deal, fill out a Faith Promise Commitment Card and send it to
Let’s keep proclaiming the love of God, until the whole world hears.