the Pope’s Visit…

All over the news is Pope Francis and his visit to the United States. What will he say, what ramifications for our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ? Pope Clement said in the first century, “If we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has offered the opportunity of repentance to any who were willing to turn to him… Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when the repented, their prayers gained God’s forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they were not of God’s people. We should be suppliant before him and turn to his compassion, rejecting empty works and quarreling and jealousy, which only lead to death.”

With so many friends, neighbors, and co-workers taking a moment to watch the media about the Pope and his visit this is a wonderful opportunity for you. How? To talk about your own journey, to share with friends and neighbors how you have walked the path of salvation. Don’t miss these God-given seconds to share a moment of hope. Someone’s life could be changed by the Popes’ visit.

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Last Sunday we had our first ACT, Adaptive Change Team, meeting. I was literally shocked at the number of people that showed up. In fact, I was little agitated because I hadn’t prepared enough food for everyone. But, the meeting went well even without food. The facilitator did a great job of discussing the process, asking where people were at this current time with the fellowship and what they expected to get out of this time together.

As a 131 year old congregation the next five years are going to be crucial. We must consider direction, population, culture and how to best be used by God in this changing world and community. We must ask ourselves, “what ministry challenges are we currently facing for which we do not presently have an answer, but which must be addressed if we are to live into God’s future for us?” I have been praying for this process to take hold for the last nineteen years. Finally God has brought the right person to lift up and move our church family to look at what lies ahead. Praise God!

Last Sunday I also started pushing our congregation to ask this question: “How many moments of every day can I live in the awareness that God is right here and surrender to his will? I encouraged them to let me know how they are doing each week. In the Practice of the Presence of God Brother Lawrence states, “…One thing is necessary: we must, nevertheless, always work at it, because not to advance, in the spiritual life, is to go back.” So…how is it going?

I am praying for your walk today pray instantly for me, “who am yours in the LORD.”

“Stand in Unity”

We’ve had several parishioners in the hospital. Praise God the number has decreased. Today I was in one more waiting room, yes waiting, to see if I could come in for a visit. But it wasn’t possible so as I hung up the phone a young man sitting there asked, “Would you pray with me?”

As we sat together, him talking about his wife. How she was going through critical surgery and he just didn’t know where to turn. An older woman walked over and asked, “Will you pray with me too?” There we sat lifting lives up to our Savior. With bowed heads we gave to God our fear, loss, irritation, and anger. We didn’t pray for changed circumstances but we did ask for power to walk through the circumstances. As we finished I looked up and one of the nurses had stopped and was praying as well. Together we said “amen”.

Now I’ll be honest I had been a little frustrated. Had came to visit someone specifically but was denied. Why? Obviously because God wanted to provide a word of comfort, and to bring some blessed peace to another. Ignatius of Loyola once said, “Flock together, all of you, as to one temple of God, as to one altar, to one Jesus Christ.”

I don’t know what you are facing today. But I do know this…get with your brothers and sisters in Christ so you can have the power and the presence of the Living Savior in your life. Why? So you don’t have to go through this alone. You are in my prayers and I will see you on the path.

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We Remember when the Towers came Down…

Today we remember the firefighters, the policemen, the mothers, the fathers and the grandparents all now gone. We remember those who did their duty until the towers came down. We remember those who waited for help that never came. We remember those who gave blood, who gave time, who lifted up prayers to help the survivors and their families.

I have been told that remembering can only truly take place if we have a deep and personal relationship with another. Let that be so as we remember 9/11. May we grasp in some small way the pain of loss, the personal affliction of those left behind. May today be a sacred moment where we lift our heads, and our hands in prayer.

Dear God, uphold those who grieve today. Uphold those who weep at the memory of a lost one. By Your Holy Spirit grant this nation and her people peace so we might comfort those who mourn and that we might strive toward peace. Bless this nation and her leaders so that one day there will be nor more days like 9/11.

Prince of Peace hear our cry and our plea.

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One Year!

Well it’s been a year of blogging. I hope you have found my small thoughts of some use during your day(s). Even now take a moment to pause and consider your own walk along this path (Halak). Why? Because together we can change lives for our Savior! Pray with me now…

Dear God, help us to live out the Good News in our homes, places of worship, and our work environments. We pray for those who do not know your love. Form us into a community that builds relationships despite ethnicity, biology or even nationality. A family born again in you our Savior. May we be creators of holy chaos and may we subvert comfort…a people that do not accept the world as it is but insists on its becoming what You desire for this world. Let us groan with anticipation for the Kingdom to come here on earth as it is in heaven. We can do this! Amen.

Your Fellow Pilgrim on the path for one more year!

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All are Invited…

This past Sunday several people asked me if I was going to a wedding. When I responded that I hadn’t received an invitation they were shocked. The universal comment was, “But you are the pastor you should have received an invite.” Yes there may be some cultural and social truth to such a view but lets be honest. Years have passed and I’m sure the couple has a new shepherd by now. Plus not everyone gets invited to everything.

Yet that’s not true is it? God invites each and everyone of us to the wedding feast. To be included in His Kingdom. BUT not everyone responds. Contemporary author Brennan Manning, who often writes from the edge, states this, “The outstretched arms of Jesus exclude no one, not the drunk in the doorway, the panhandler on the street…the most selfish and ungrateful in their cocoons, the most unjust of employers and the most overweening of snobs. The love of Christ embraces all without exception.” But you do have to accept the invitation.

Holy God, there is always room for one more at the banquet. We pray to live in such a way that each person we meet knows they are welcome among your people. We welcome you as we welcome others this day. Amen.

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Us All this week I’ve been collecting stats and information for specific grants regarding our Matthew 25 project and some medical mission needs. I’m also spending quite a lot of time on an adaptive change team I want to get started here at our church. Why?

Well I’ve given the fellowship a time line for the next five years which includes me moving on in the near future. Our church is 131 years old, I’m not getting any younger, and I want to make sure they have an opportunity to struggle with changing culture, staff requirements, decreased giving, and most of all where God seems to be leading our fellowship in regards to service. But I also really want them to celebrate the blessings of the past and at the same time rejoice in the possibilities before my pilgrimage takes me to other opportunities of ministry.

Plus…in the middle of all this planning and thinking are some really exciting opportunities for global missions with our partners in Myanmar and Thailand. I don’t want the fellowship to miss any of this because if they do…I know God will bless the work somehow…but perhaps without us. I’ve always kept in mind a statement made by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The church’s task is not simply to bind the wounds of the victim beneath the wheel, but also to put a spoke in the wheel itself.”

Point? We have not been called to sit, vegetate and then go to heaven. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God now! We are to bring the Good News today! Get on the path today!

Dear Father, use us to heal not only broken people but broken systems of thought. Please keep us from doing things just because that’s the “way they have always been done.” Provide us with the skills, and the resources and the wisdom and foresight to bring change in this our time. May our lives disturb injustice powered by your grace. Save us by the power of your cross. Amen.

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Happy Anniversary!

wedding Today is my oldest daughter’s wedding anniversary. Fifteen years! Wow a lot has happened during that time span. Loss, joy, new jobs, a baby girl (our first grandchild), and through it all they have been active in the church serving and sharing and her husband, Jeran, has put up with a preacher for father-in-law. Let me tell you that is a burden to bear. Being thrown into church life and expectations of serving and going when that is not something you really thought would be part of your life. Thanks Jeran you do a lot even when not asked!

So just a moment for prayer: Dear Father, today I ask for your blessings upon this couple. I give thanks for their lives and the many joys they have brought to our family. May our Savior grant them joy! May He deepen your love for each other. May He bless you and give you peace for many anniversaries to come. May Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Bless us all, And keep us in His love for ever and ever.

All Your Creatures

I took my oldest granddaughter on a short road trip to a butterfly habitat. We marveled at the colors, the shapes, the variety and how each one was unique. As we walked under the trees, watched the various insects dart and float among the foliage we became aware of how beautiful and fragile this life is that God has given to us.

Many of my Blog readers have experienced a really tough summer. There have been visits to doctors, hospitals and emergency rooms. There have been funerals, loss and great joy throughout these last few months. All of which has driven the church family and individuals to respect the moments we have with each other.

Charles de Foucald prayed this prayer, “Father, I abandon myself into your hands. Do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I will thank you. I am ready for all; I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, as in all your creatures. And I’ll ask nothing else, my Lord.”

Point? God has a plan, he is in control and you best be serving, growing and sharing. Why? because dear friends life is brief and in a moment gone. Bring a word of hope, share resources, lift another today. “Let only your will be done in me.”

Dear God, I thank you for the wonder of this world. Grant me the faith of a child, even in the face of trials, pain and loss, to believe you are in the process.  To take a moment and marvel at what we have been given. Amen.

See you on the path……

Is it Worth the Expense?

 We just finished a week of Vacation Bible School here at First Chinese Baptist Church. Every year I struggle with the expense in money, volunteers, and energy needed to provide a week of singing, cooking, sets, and story time. I ask myself: is it really good stewardship? Now before you shoot back any emails here is my reasoning.

Most of the children already go to another church. So if one goal is to bring more believers into church, its not working. Honestly, around Fresno there are some tremendous VBS ministries provided by huge churches. They have multi-staff, beautiful playgrounds, huge budgets and we just can’t compete. We do add a cross-cultural aspect to the curriculum so that helps bring people that would not ordinarily come.

Some of you might be thinking, “But pastor it brings the community together, provides a safe place for the children, forces us all to think about our walk with the Savior.” Yes you are right. But is it worth it?

I was leading the Bible Experience one evening. I was retelling the story of Peter and how he ran away from the Savior. The point was to discuss forgiveness. During the time together the children were invited to dip their fingers into some red water color and place a fingerprint on the cross and make a comment about their personal walk with Christ. Struggling with the question, “Had they ever ran away from the Savior?”

All of the older children did the task. But, for most of them was just one more activity until the bell rang and thy could be released. Until the 4 and five year olds came into the classroom. They listened, I mean really listened, to how the rooster crowed. They saw a volunteer come in dressed as the Apostle Peter and he looked exhausted, stressed, and shed tears over the fact that he did not stand with Jesus. No, he ran away and knew in his heart there would never be forgiveness for him. They heard me read from the New Testament about an angel that told visitors to the tomb to run and tell the good news, also to Peter the runner, about the risen Savior!

Then all the little ones dipped their fingers in the paint. Placed their print on the cross and stood there looking, looking all the way to the top. Now get this! They bowed their heads and said, “Jesus, I’m sorry. Forgive me.”

So, to answer my own question. Yes, it was worth the time, the trouble, the anxiety, the tears and the dollars. To have the opportunity to stand together and look at the cross. To say together, little ones and adults, “I am sorry Jesus.” Then to know yes to know we are forgiven!

Dear Savior, creator of it all. Help us to shine, to radiate your love and forgiveness so others might not see us but see a little child resting in the shadow of the cross.

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