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Run, See Jesus

Today, I walked where Jesus walked….

Yes, that’s a line from an old song, but it was true for our team today. Starting in Nazareth at a reconstruction/reenactment of 1st Century Nazareth Village (excellent, by the way) and ending at the shores of the Sea of Galilee, we packed a lot into a day. We paused at the Mount of Beatitudes. We strolled through Capernaum. We worshipped at the location where Jesus miraculously fed a multitude. We rested and soaked our tired feet in the Sea of Galilee near the place where Jesus asked Peter “do you love me?” (John 21).  In fact, Jesus took about three years to minister in the areas we hustled to.

Our team on the Mount of Beatitudes

Our team on the Mount of Beatitudes

However, when we paused at each stop, the Wind of God blew upon the visitors, and I was blessed to watch, listen, and reflect on each persons connection with the particular site.

I’m thankful to have spent the day in many places Jesus taught and healed, but I’m even more thankful to be among people who are the modern-day holy sites of Jesus’ work. So church, try not to hurry too much from place to place without reflecting on the miraculous moments of Jesus’ ministry in you and through you. Somebody is ready to visit you today and see/hear/receive Christ’s love.

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Packing bags…

It’s been nearly five years since I went to see my brothers and sister in Christ in the Holy Land. Today, I pack my bags and return.

Ramallah 2009 075

The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

It doesn’t seem that long ago because I’ve been so busy as pastor, husband, father. In that time, I’ve had children graduate high school, college, masters programs. One daughter has married. I’ve celebrated 25 years of marriage to a beautiful and gracious wife. I’ve been part of seeing the Refuge of Light birth and mature into the vibrant ministry it is becoming.

What I’m looking forward to remembering is that our “rushed” culture is so young compared to the 2,000 years of Christianity and 6,000 years of history that exists in the Holy Land. It’s humbling and refreshing to return and learn that I’m part of a much larger and longer story than the five years I’ve been gone (or the 5o years that I’ve lived.)

While I’m there, I’ll carry greetings from our church, First Baptist Church of Palestine to the local churches in the Holy Land. I’ll also carry some lovingly packed items and gifts to the boys at the RCO home . I’m also carrying my son, Caleb, for his first journey to the Holy Land (he’s gonna love it.)

Thank you to all who have prayed for and supported this return. Hopefully, I’ll be well under the weight limit when I get on the plane.

I look forward to sharing posts as often as possible on our journey, so check back here.

Children at Ramallah Christian Outreach in 2009

Children at Ramallah Christian Outreach in 2009

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Choosing Fathers

What follows is the core of my father’s day sermon. Read through, but read through to the end to catch the twist…

Luke 6:12-13 (NIV) One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…

Those apostles became “fathers” of the early churches. From Thomas heading East (as far as India maybe), to Peter in Jerusalem , and John in Asia Minor, they scattered and led.  Jesus chose them after prayer.

Right fatherhood happens the same way. It isn’t just a genetic occurence. The definition of Father isn’t easily clarified. It is the man who is the source of life, wisdom, provision, direction in the life of others that is known as Father. Biological matter alone doesn’t make one a father. Legal documents don’t make a man a father. Rather, it is selfless discipleship to Jesus that puts a man in the place to be a Father, sending out others to life, love, and God’s kingdom work.

Four charactistics of God-chosen fatherhood are:

Be a Provider, not a profiteer – Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” exemplifed a life that gave what was needed for the child at each stage. You see, children aren’t their for your benefit (bring you a drink, clean your house, or worse), rather you are their to be a steward of the resources God has given you to help them become successful in Godly lives.

Be a Protector, not a prison gaurd – God has placed you as a watchmen to keep out the evil that wants to disrupt your family.  So, be proactive about the media and messages that come through the air or wires. Talk with children and help them learn from Scripture what is right and wrong.

Be a Professor, not a preservationist – Indiana Jones was a professor who was teaching his co-adventurers. Don’t be trying to keep everything safe in life, instead let the teachable moments be shared experiences where you children learn from you.

Be the Propulsion, not a passenger – remember the Flintstone’s car? Fred had his feet on the ground, Dino sat in the back.  Godly fathers aren’t along for the ride, but are actively leading their families to Christ and his church.

So, it’s a basic sermon with solid truth for fathers right? Except I had an unexpected response. I received a text from a single mother that said, “I really liked your sermon on fathers.” At first I thought “Uh oh, I missed it with her and wasn’t sensitive about the single moms.”  But, she went on, “I realize I have to be the father figure at times for my child and I needed to hear what you said. It helped. Thanks.”

I’m glad it’s Jesus that does the choosing…

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Wave Time

Typical summer day in Florida. It rained. Which of course changed our camp plans for the morning for outdoor recreation. Nevertheless, resilient teenagers and creative youth pastors came up with a way to pass the time. Pics are on my facebook page of game time with 300 teens in a small room. It was fun.

Thankfully, the rain stopped for the afternoon and us inlanders made our way to the beach. You would’ve thought we’d turned five year olds loose in a candy store. The surf was up, but that didn’t deter the youth. In they went to try the waves. It was a lot of fun to watch (and play in too) as some waves topped seven or eight feet.

Camp is a time to let Jesus’ Spirit hit us in waves. We run to the camp experience like teens to the surf. And, if we dive in, Jesus will soak us in worship and scripture. Keep praying for our students to have a great week.

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Beach Front

Today, after a very long drive, I arrived at Beach Camp with our Youth from FBCP. Although I look forward to a great week, I’ve already had a good time just traveling 700 or so miles with these guys. They practice Christian grace and community really well. (I think it is a great reflection on their parenting and their youth pastor, Scott.)

Our location, Laguna Beach Christian Camp, is right on the beach. The sand and surf are beautiful and the weather matches them. What a great ministry idea for a camp.

Now, all the groups have gathered and we’ve had our first evening of worship together. It’s a good frontside to the week already. Please pray for God to move among the students (and leaders) in a mighty way.

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Finish Line

Monday, I went to a middle school track meet.  It wasn’t the olympics, of course, but it was fun to see the kids work at their level of competitiveness.  At that age some of them are just beginning to develop athletically, while a few have already peaked.  So, the differences between the athletes is huge.  For instance, in the 110 meter hurdles race the six-foot tall eighth grader finished two hurdles ahead of his much shorter peers.  That same disparity occured in long-jump, high jump, pole-vault, and track events.

Still it was fun to watch the races, even if you could pick winners before the starter fired his gun. I had a seat at the finish line and I saw speedsters cross victoriously while the slower runners simply crossed thankfully.  What was cool was the coaches did a fine job of keeping time on all runners and welcoming them all to the finish line.  The crowd was into it too.  We cheered for the talented and gasped when one girl fell during the hurdles, sighed as she got to her feet and (in our minds picked her up), and encouraged her to the finish line.  The way folks shouted, you’d have thought she won.

All this made me remember the wonderful imagery of Hebrews 12:1-2 1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I ran track in school too, and I was never the great speedster.  As a Christian, I’m no superstar either.  But I get the message of Hebrews.  I get the message of the cross.  This race we call Christianity is worth running because it has a finish line that has already been Crossed by Jesus.  He’s the victor and He wants to share the gold medal with us.  So we keep running, cheered on by others.

Picked up, dusted off, running.

Jay

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Last week, a female cardinal nearly pecked her brains out on one of our windows at home.  Not only was the noise annoying, but I felt sorry for her. I tried to chase her away, but she came right back and resumed banging her head into the glass.  She would chirp, flutter up, and peck at the glass.  Perhaps it was her reflection she saw and wanted the “other” female out of her territory.  Perhaps she could see into our bedroom and wanted to build her nest in that secure place.  I don’t know.  If I did, if there was some way I could’ve helped her out, I would have.  She was so persistent.

Jesus told a story about a woman who, like the cardinal, was persistent.  Her rights were being trampled on.  She needed justice.  A godless judge finally yielded to her nagging and granted her cause.   Then, to make His point, Jesus said, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  (Luke 18:7-8)

The cardinal is gone today.  Perhaps she found a better place to nest or realized the futility of her head-banging.  I know this God took care of the bird (see Matthew 6:26), and God wants to take care of you.

As  dear friend, mentor, pastor, evangelist BO Baker used to say, “Hangeth in there.”  God loves stubborn people.  Especially when you need justice.

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