Our lead pastor Jeff shares his thoughts and ideas about life, the universe and...
April 13, 2023:
We were recently singing the worship song “Holy Spirit” at WRCF. One part of the song says, “Let us become more aware of Your presence”. This is my prayer. Current events are not happening devoid of God’s knowledge and participation. He is here. Not just as we gather in our church communities. Not just as we listen to sermons online or over the TV. Not just as we pray, read the bible, meditate on his word. Let us become more aware God is omnipresent, all present…. everywhere all time.
In the Netflix movie the Christmas Chronicles, Santa is making a mad dash from house to house trying to deliver all the Christmas presents before sunrise. It shows him zigging and zagging up and down chimneys and vent pipes in a mad rush to get everywhere. God does not need to do that. Nearly 10 billion people in this world and our ever-present God is present with each of them.
In the 1990’s, a song went to the top of the charts proclaiming (erroneously) that “God is watching us from a distance… As if God is in some other Galaxy trying to fine tune the focus on His version of the Hubble telescope. It’s just not true.
God is right here. Whether we are praising Him or profaning His name. Whether we are giving goods to the poor or stealing from them. Whether we are caring for the sick or causing someone injury. God is present… for the good and the bad. We keep no secrets from Him…though we foolishly think we can.
Hebrews 4:13 says “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Believe that God is sees all happening around us. He is not surprised by any of the current chaos. He is intimately aware of all that happens. Do not lose heart, “for the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance” Psalm 94:14 (NIV).
January 7, 2023: Happy New Year in the Lord! I am often so amazed at how God works in and through us both for our good and His glory. A couple of years ago our vehicle situation has changed and we had the use of an extra vehicle left us with… one too many to pay insurance on. I was praying about what to do with the extra one. Like everyone, having the proceeds of the sale would be handy, but I sensed God had something else in mind.
On this particular day, I happened to see a post on social media that a friend was experiencing some major life trauma. Her anxiety was exacerbated by her car breaking down. Though she lived in a different town, I thought “maybe that’s what I should do with the car”.
A little over a week later, Brenda and I were celebrating our anniversary in Redmond, OR. We were in a store picking up some groceries and who should we run into but this same woman! She looked like she was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. The thought of the car immediately came back, I asked her if she wanted a decent running car for $5.00. It was like the weight immediately was brushed away. We arranged a time for her to come pick up the car.
A couple days later, I had a supporter email because they sent a check that hadn’t yet posted. They thought they had sent the check on the on that same day I saw the post online!
The day I decided to basically give away the car, God set in motion provision for us that well exceeded the proceeds the car would have brought! We were both humbled and blessed.My encouragement to you today is this; if you are presented with a similar scenario and sense the spirit calling you to action, walk forward in what the Lord is telling you… do not fret about the potential cost, because as the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:19… my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
December 13, 2022: We enjoy watching uplifting movies that put a smile on our face and warms our hearts. Recently we watched just such a movie. The main character in the movie ends up being an assistant to a wealthy person that operates as a “secret Santa”, who funds everything from burgers for the homeless to filling Christmas boxes for kids to paying off people’s medical bills. The character is a hero to us. He had the means to do in a large way what we endeavor to do in small ways. You see, it doesn’t matter how big our efforts are, it’s about being faithful with what we have. Would Brenda and I like to go big? Sure. I still have a dream of one day buying quality used cars and giving them away to poor souls broken down on the side of the road… and should God open that door we would walk in it. Until that day comes, we will continue to, in small ways, be God’s hands extended to those in need. Nothing brings us greater joy, when someone might ask us why we do it, to say “Jesus calls us to share what we have”.
I have long gone back to the verses in Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV):
34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Jesus is not focused on inviting the theologians, the faith healers, the pastors of the largest churches, although to be sure some of them will be there. Jesus invites us in because, like Him, we choose to reach out tangibly to the “least of these” and let them feel the love of our Lord. Through the simple acts of love and kindness we bring blessing to them.
I encourage you, yes especially at this time of year, but always… ask God for the divine appointments where you can be a blessing… in a very real sense you are doing it for Jesus.
August 26, 2020 ~ I think back to a comment a friend made about how he had made so much effort to share the gospel but had never lead anyone to Christ. He was obviously very frustrated that his efforts seemed fruitless. As I thought about his comments I thought back on our ministry over the years. Brenda and I have been a married team for 30 years. There have been times when we have had the privilege of seeing the fruit of our labor flourish. My belief is many times we have not. But the lesson I learned from my father many years ago comes to mind. He was teaching me to bat and it was initially frustrating…because I didn’t hit the ball. He would explain the fundamentals; the proper stance, keeping your elbow up, swing for the top of the ball, etc. I continued to get frustrated as initially it wasn’t happening. Finally, dad said” quit focusing on the results and do the fundamentals. Results will take care of themselves”
I believe this is a lesson we can learn for much of life and my friend can learn about evangelism. All too often we are focused on achieving results and get frustrated when we don’t see them… especially as it pertains to our definition of success. Yet what is needed is to continue in the fundamentals of the faith, namely, loving God, loving other people, and sharing the good news (which is really… loving other people). Paul the apostle eluded this concept when he said “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth”. Friends, it isn’t about us and our results, because they are all God’s results anyway.
A few years ago I had the joy of seeing an old friend sharing about the first ministry Brenda and I were involved with together. He was explaining what Pacesetters was (a young adults ministry at New Hope) to someone who had no idea what he was talking about. What he shared is below:
…back in the day, there was a young adult group at New Hope that was in a rebuilding stage. It was led by the dynamic Pastor Rich who gave the reigns over to the up and coming Pastor Jeff. It went from a sandlot group of young Christians into a life changing ministry that brought together a great group of folks. You scratch your head and wonder what if that group didn't develop as it did... but it did and many couples formed and moved on. We called ourselves the Pacesetters and many are today (Pacesetters in their own way). It was a great time in my life. Amazing how you meet a group of people and a bond is formed and lives are changed... does not happen often. This was an amazing group of people. And now to see 30 plus years later the blossoming from that time. To think there's a few younger Pacesetters roaming about and a third generation on the way...
The ripple effects from the time he talks about are still growing the church. Many of those ripples we never saw the start of at the time. But looking from where we stand now, God created amazing growth through a little planting and watering. We just focused on the fundamentals and now, yes 30 years later, we can see the 30, 60, even a hundredfold form what God did in those days.
July 8, 2020 ~ It is always good to have a reminder about who we are in Jesus. So often, we lose the truth of our identity in the mundane, in the hectic pace of life, or in this situation we find ourselves in as of late. What James, the brother of Jesus, said about walking away from the mirror and forgetting what we look like... It is all too common an issue in our spiritual lives as well. Living as a Christ follower 24/7, full of faith, hope, and love presents challenges, especially in the volatile environment of today.
I am saddened to read and see the events that have happened in our world of late. It is painfully obvious that the thief is still hard at work at his chosen mission, to kill steal and destroy. While these attempts are expected, it doesn’t make them any more palatable...nor does it make our race any easier to run... it seems more like a treacherous obstacle course.
Yet this truth I hold onto...light drives back darkness... every time. As we accept our identity in Christ, we pull our lamps from under the bed and put them out to illuminate the world. The world seeks to refine truth... seeks to turn right into wrong and wrong into right. It espouses adherence to a code that is ever changing, completely tolerant of intolerance, set on a path that will end in destruction.
Brothers… sisters... we have the solution in our hearts and in our hands... it just needs to transfer (lovingly) to our lips. The gospel is to the torn soul what hydrogen peroxide is to a deep wound. Pain may ensue for a while, but cleansing will bring healing and renewal. So, as you walk away from the mirror, take Jesus with you “letting your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.
June 24, 2020 ~ I was thinking about patience and perseverance, not two of our favorite attributes to exercise. I remember years ago, my second brain (a.k.a. my laptop) had a catastrophic failure. In addition, the previous backup had also failed. For someone like me this represented a huge loss of time and effort. Of all people, you would think this wouldn’t happen to someone who deals in such arenas for a living, but nonetheless it did. I think the thing it reminds me is that we cannot always assume we have the basics covered in our lives. Just a little neglect and things can go very wrong!
How true in our relationship with Jesus. On more than one occasion in the past, people have talked with me about how their relationship with Jesus is not what it once was. They miss the closeness, the power of the spirit in their lives. Each of the people came to realize that prayer, fellowship, worship, reading of scripture, were also absent from or greatly diminished their lives. These activities (like regular verified back backups to my laptop) are not just important for day to day assurance, but are what we can lean on when disaster strikes. Just as an Olympic medalist can’t perform without practicing daily, we as Christians can’t expect our walk with the Lord to be all that we want it to be if we don’t put into practice prayer, worship, reading the word, fellowship and just spending time with Jesus.
I had the opportunity to lead worship and participate in a men’s retreat just across the lake from us one year. I was so blessed to walk into a group of strangers and be embraced as a brother. Never have I experienced a group of men so willing to be transparent and share who they are and what God is dealing with in their lives. We grow when we are honest and transparent about where we are in our walk with our Lord. Blessings to you all!
May 2, 2020 ~ A couple of years I was expecting a new piece of studio equipment that was in transit to us. I was so excited for it to arrive I checked the internet a couple times a day to see where the package was and if the delivery time got updated. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but this one little box would triple the capability to improve the sound of recordings. Believe it or not, all the music produced today goes through several devices or software to make it sound “natural” (or unnatural, depending on the style).
The day came! It arrived in the morning. I took it out of the box. It didn’t look like it would do much. It’s just a black box! But when it is connected to the recording system, that little black box does what equipment 20 years ago would have cost me over half million dollars.
Then my heart sank. The package had…the black box, of course…and the power cable for the black box, but there was no cable to connect the black box to the recording system! All that power and all that capability was no better than a paper weight if it didn’t connect.
It’s analogous to what we see in the body of Christ today. How’s that? I know a number of people that God has amazingly gifted…people who are amazing leaders, teachers, evangelists, prophets (yes, I believe there are still prophets), disciplers… and the list goes on. Yet all that potential goes untapped because they are not connected to the body of Christ that needs them so much. One specific individual I am thinking of has a wealth of world experience that helps shed even greater light on the need for the gospel. His knowledge of the bible makes me feel like a grade schooler. Yet rarely is the wisdom he has been gifted with heard. The institution of the church has driven him away and the body of Christ suffers for that. He is another of “sleeping saints” that I am praying the Lord will awaken to bring health and strength to the body of Christ again.
My recording system gets overtaxed. I get messages every time I make a change in a project saying, “out of resources”. Once the cable arrives for the black box (yes, I am tracking that on UPS.com as well), that problem will disappear. The church, the body of Christ, is overtaxed. The need for resources overwhelms the supply. Pray with me that the sleeping saints will once again connect to the body of Christ and bring their gifting and charisma to the project known as The Great Commission.
Then all that the Lord can do through them will be unleashed upon a world in dire need of the song it will produce.
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10
March 25, 2020 ~ Grace to you, and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
This area of our web site is called “What’s the Word?”. For me the word right now is TRUST. Trust God.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Trust in His love, His power, His dominion over even our present circumstances. I was talking to a friend the other day and we were remarking how God was not sitting up in heaven saying “Jesus, can you believe it? I had no idea this corona virus thing would go global like this, and so many people would be affected.” God is aware. God is on the throne. Even circumstances such as we see today, He can use for good. Trust Him... and let your life reflect that trust.
Trust Him to carry you and your family through this time. Trust Him to provide for your physical needs… your spiritual needs… your emotional needs. Realize that He often uses people to assist with the provision, but He will provide.
Don’t let anxiety rule the day, pray, and trust Him to work. Then His peace will come to your heart. There are many in Christ’s family that are eager to see what comes next in this post-virus world. Those that haven’t considered Jesus their Lord and savior will be open to the good news His name brings. Take this time to rest, reflect, repent (yes, that “R” as well), and prepare your heart for the day that is to come.
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
January 13, 2020 ~ I was watching a show once where one of the main characters was talking about the ability to effect change. He said, in essence, it takes a just a few people with determination and a common direction to really turn things on their ear. Think about it. This has been true in the ages. Noah and his family were determined to do as God called them to, and the earth will never be the same. Jesus changed the world, starting with a few disciples. In my own life, a high school group of well over 200 was led by a core of 8. A college ministry that grew from 25 to over 700 was the brain child of a half a dozen. The vision of a young adult ministry was caught and carried by about a dozen more. Each time in life it has been a few that have not only been willing, but insisted on laying it all on the line and see what would result.
September 13, 2019 ~ I remember a time when I was speaking on the issue of seeking the comfortable. It seems to be a human failing, “go for what’s comfortable”, rather than what is best. Stick with the known, the familiar, what we have become accustomed to.
This was the downfall of the Israelite's that caused them to spend forty years in the desert. They would have rather had the lesser life, the life of a slave, because it was familiar, predictable, and, in their minds at least, safe. It was comfortable, even though it was miserable.
Friends, don’t settle for comfortable. Strike out! Yes, with the Lord’s leading, but strike out into places where God can do “exceedingly, abundantly more than we ask or imagine”, where the hope of glory, Christ in you, is released from the chains of our own design, and forges forth into a world desperately in need of the transforming power of Jesus.
August 6, 2019 ~ Today I want to relate a story out of Numbers where the Lord sent “fiery serpents” among the children of Israel and many were bit and died. They had been grumbling against God and Moses and even called the Manna “loathsome bread”! The people realized they had done wrong, so they admitted their sin to Moses and asked him to pray to God that He would take the serpents away. God’s solution was a little different than theirs. He had Moses fashion a fiery serpent of Bronze and put it on a pole. If the people were bitten, they were to look upon the serpent and they would not die.
This story to me makes some great points and also presents some interesting questions. First, I find it interesting that God’s answer for solving the issue was not what the Israelite's had “recommended”. They wanted the serpents gone so they wouldn’t get bit and die. God just gave them a way to live when the serpents did bite. To me this is not unusual. Many times in my life I have had recommendations for God on how to solve my problems. Rarely do those “suggestions” make it to being God’s chosen methodology. Our offered plans come from our typically limited understanding. God does not have those limitations.
I wonder why the bronze serpent? Couldn’t this result in the people worshiping this object? Why not just call upon the name of the Lord and be saved? My take on this is only opinion but, given God had 1) caused the seven plagues, 2) brought them out of Egypt through the Red Sea, 3) Gave them water from a rock, 4) gave them manna six mornings a week, 5) gave them quail when they grumbled for meat, 6) gave them pillars of cloud and fire to guide them, 7) gave them victories of the indigenous peoples…in other words, they had had ample demonstration of God’s love and caring and they still grumbled, God probably felt that this weak minded people needed something more tangible to look to. Why not just the pillars of cloud and fire that guided them through the desert? That’s one of those ‘ask God when I get to heaven’ questions.
The take away from this is what are you looking to in your times of trouble? Too often when the serpent bites, we look back at the serpent (think about this one) and want to get it out of our lives. That serpent can take many forms in our lives, often people or circumstances injecting poison into our souls and preventing us from living as God called us to. I invite you to remember to “fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” and look to Him for salvation not only eternally but also in the specific situation. As David said so long ago “My eyes are ever on the Lord for only He can release my feet from the snare”.
May 29, 2019 ~ Inertia is an amazing force. It is difficult to begin and also difficult to stop. While that may not sense the power of this force when we go on a walk and suddenly stop to talk to a friend, it is clearly displayed in the operation of a locomotive. The larger the object of inertia is, the more pronounced its effect in our perception.
So what does this have to do with spiritual life? The answer lies in what prevents inertia from starting in our spiritual walk. If we start down a steep hill we will be running rapidly in short order, and it will be difficult to stop. It seems the path of sin and death is on a steep incline. However, in my spiritual walk I often feel like I am attempting to climb a mountain to progress in my growth. What’s more, somehow I manage to be harnessed to a large wagon of “stuff” that weighs me down and tries to pull me back downhill.
This is the picture I get when I meditate on Hebrews 12:1:
Therefore, 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
If I am to fix my eyes on Jesus, if I am actually at any point going to be running, at the very least the load must be lightened. Better yet, the harness must be removed and the wagon left to travel ever more frantically to its eventual demise in the valley below. However, to abandon the harness is to abandon ALL that resides inside the wagon.
What’s in your wagon? What is preventing you from ever getting the inertia to run (or even crawl) closer to our Lord? Is it really of such great value that it is worth the risk of being pulled back down, eventually being among the wreckage of what you once held so dear?
Slowly I have removed much from the wagon over the years. As the load has lightened, progress has accelerated. I long for the day when I have the faith, the courage, to step out of the harness and truly run.
April 10, 2019 ~ I have spent time in recent years meditating on the verse from proverbs “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all you ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Prov 3:5). As I have walked through challenges in life, I sometimes see failure to apply this principle and realize that it is at least part of the issue. I have talked with others that are experiencing very similar issues. To you I encourage you to also look at this verse, meditate on this verse, and work with me to apply this verse. We have spent the better part of our lives acquiring knowledge, “wisdom”, and experience. All too often we give those things greater credence than simply trusting in God.
One of the men in the area was talking about his struggle to reconcile issues he sees with the Bible and application of its principles by God’s people. He wanted to get full understanding before he was willing to commit to God, and accept salvation through Jesus Christ. He felt if he could cognitively get a grip on the issues, he would be able to fully understand, and then he could commit. Yet what he was asking for was the antithesis of what this Proverb directs us to do.
Trust God, and He will direct you. Understanding will come later…much later. For now we see but a poor reflection, but then we will see face to face. Hindsight from Heaven will be 20/20, but until then, trust Him.
March 18, 2019 ~ Lately, I have been pondering the amazing love of God. So often we forget the utter completeness of His love for each of us, that He sent Jesus to die for us BEFORE we ever made the decision to trust in Him. So, we live by the truth, ever so briefly, then slowly degrade in our practice. First a small thought…then a feeling…until it gives full birth to action, and we once again begin to act as if our salvation depends on our ability to live up to a lofty expectation none of us could ever accomplish in and of ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong. Works are a necessary part of a Christian life as much as producing apples is a necessary part of an apple tree’s existence. WORKS ARE THE PRODUCE (the apple). But all too often we walk as if our works will produce salvation. Because of God’s love, grace, mercy, we act, and those actions create a harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When one apple goes bad on the tree, does the tree lament its bad nature? If worms destroy another, does it think it is unworthy of its role as an apple producer?
I realize it almost sounds silly. However, all too often our thinking slowly distorts until our attitude is far “from that of Christ Jesus”, unintentionally demeaning the gift God has unconditionally given us.
It is time to once again “renew our minds” and cleanse our understanding as Jesus had done to His church “with the washing of the word”…not once…not twice…but continually. Then we can truly operate on this earth with the clear understanding that “God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives!”
December 9, 2018 ~ I used to drive into Spooky’s restaurant in The Dalles on Sunday’s during lunch and play my guitar and sing worship songs. On Sunday while I was driving in I thought back on all the statistics I have seen about violence in movies; the number of bullets used per hour, the number of people killed in an action adventure. There’s even a web site that tracks such things(Lord of the Rings: Return of the King tops the list with a body count of 836)!Then I thought about walking into a restaurant, but instead of being armed with bullets of death, I was speaking words of life. I wondered how many times while I sang Jesus’ name would be spoken. I wondered how many times the Lord would be lifted up and praised. I thought about it even more once I started singing, as I could hear the sound effects of shots coming from video games in the room behind me. People passed as I sang and the praise of God hit them right in the ears. Words of life were saturating them, penetrating their hearts and healing their soul, and maybe even patching their shield of faith to take one more blow from the enemy. I thought about words of wisdom in Romans where it says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by doing good.” My hope, my prayer, is I am doing just that by sharing the truth about Jesus in speech, in song, and in the walk I am on.
November 9, 2018 ~ I remember a time when one of the headlights on my car quit working. Being the amazing do it yourself-er I am, I purchased a replacement lamp (actually both of them as if one goes, the other will be soon to follow). The unnecessary one was a breeze to replace, but the one that needed replacing…not so much. It was a huge challenge, but after some coaxing, I was able to get the bulb replaced. Back to two headlights...or so I thought. Within days, the headlamp went out again. Twice more I pulled apart the assembly and tried to determine the cause of my problem. Still within days, the headlight would go out again. Then it became intermittent. It was on, then off, then on, then off. Every time leaving town, I would pray the light would come back on. Miraculously, it often did. But driving around during the day I would check the daytime running lights to see if it was working. If not, I would begin to fret about it. I began to change my schedule around so I would not be driving at night, because the light was out. If I had to drive at night, I would change my route to avoid known police speed traps.
Finally one day, I took the dreaded, often painfully expensive step of going to the mechanic to see if he could fix the problem. 24 hours and 20 dollars later, I had a working headlight that has been working ever since. You would think this was the end of it. It hasn’t been. I still catch myself checking to see if they are both headlights are on, months after the problem has been resolved. ON my way out of town, if it is late, I start thinking about what route I will have to take if the headlight doesn’t……..oh yeah, it’s fixed.
So what does this have to do with our Christian walk? Simple. How often do we have an area of our life that is troubling us, causing us great concern, that we are not quite sure how to handle? Then like me and the headlight situation, rather than going to the best source for resolution to the problem (in my case the mechanic), we look for other solutions, we figure out what we’ll have to do to work around the issue. We think the cost of the “best source” is going be too painful, so we waste our time (our true treasure) being perennial do-it-yourselfers in all areas of our lives. Can I make a suggestion? Be willing to go to the One who can fix it. Turn to His scripture for the answers. He truly is the “best source” for help in our time of need.
Then have the faith to believe it is resolved. Don’t let concerns for a resolved issue continue to take your time, and your energy. God has too many other plans for you…wonderful plans.
…and yes He loves you too.”
September 29, 2018 ~ “Not my will but yours be done”…In Luke Jesus was praying before his arrest. It was a time of intensity. Knowing what he knew, it could have easily turned to a time of hopelessness. The powers that be were coming against him in full force…both the physical and spiritual. In his prayer, he said “Father if you’re willing, please remove this cup from me”. I almost hear “Father, if there is a plan B, I’m all ears. I’m not liking what lies immediately ahead”. Yet no plan B existed. No alternate path that would lead to redemption for each of us that believe in our heart and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord. So Jesus submitted himself in obedience to the Father in that moment, surrendering his will (his will must have been different or else he would not have said “Not my will but yours be done”). Jesus set aside his own wants and desires, and we are all the beneficiaries of that decision.
In my life I sometimes struggle what I see coming down the road personally. To be sure there are many blessings in our family, but we also have our share of difficulties. Maybe it is the pragmatic nature of my upbringing, the time I have spent as a business owner, or a combination of those factors combined with a lack of faith, but I sometimes react in the flesh. I want to enact a plan B, go find a job, re-establish the 401K, have an employer cover the exorbitant cost of health insurance, get a car that doesn’t have an incessant “check engine” light on… I too want to look for a path that doesn’t require sacrifice and pain. Yet, in light of the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice and pain, mine is minuscule. If he can surrender in light of what he faced, I too can say “Father, Not my will, but yours, be done.”
August 3, 2018 ~ I am excited about one of my acquisitions, an audio book of “Prison to Praise”, written by Merlin Carothers. It is a small volume that speaks volumes. It has been interesting that during nearly every turning point I have had in my adult life, I have been in the midst of a reread of this book or one of Merlin’s other books on praise. I read it before committing to the Philippines trip. Brenda and I were reading the companion volume “Power in Praise” the night friends drove up to our hideaway to bring us news my father had died. I read it over more than once during Joshua’s cancer treatment. My last read was about the time we started P4 Ministries.
And now I am feeling compelled to bring its message to my remembrance. So I will listen to it on one of my trips to Portland. In the book, Merlin’s primary assertion comes from I Thessalonians 5:16-18:
16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Merlin thinks we all get caught up a little too much on the “in all circumstances” and contends that we should give God thanks FOR all circumstances, even the extremely difficult or apparently terrible ones. This is a tough thing for most of our brains to accept. However, if we believe as it says in Romans 8:28 that all things work for good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes, and if we understand that everything that happens in our lives is either caused or permitted by God, praising Him for these circumstances, even some as difficult as the ones experienced while I was reading this book earlier in life, is simply acknowledging God’s sovereignty over the situation. Praising God FOR the difficult situations in my life has produced a “peace that surpasses all understanding,” and helped me to come to terms with my limited ability to influence them in the natural…all the while seeming to release God’s power in greater measure in the spirit.
Many of you are going through difficult circumstances right now. Some of your plights have caused me to literally cry, the emotional pain crossing the seeming indifferent mediums of a phone or email. I encourage you to Praise Him… Praise Him… Praise Him…and when you feel you can do no more… again, Praise Him. Our Father loves you. He will not forsake you in your hour of need.
June 23, 2018 ~ Where does ministry happen? Is it at a church service? Usually. At a bible study? Often. But could it be at a birthday party? Absolutely. The longer Brenda and I live the life God has set before us, the more I realize ministry does not depend on the program that may be planned, but rather the condition of the minister’s heart at any given moment on any given day. When we open our selves up to be used of God, it can happen anytime, anywhere… yes even at a birthday party. One of the young people that came, I was well acquainted with from years past. She had lived a hard life on the street as a child, with her sister and mother living in a car. Subconsciously, my mind seemed to gravitate to lessons learned from Gary Smalley and John Trent nearly twenty years ago:
Today who have I given
- A meaningful touch
- A spoken word of blessing
- An expression of high value
- A picture of a special future
- An active commitment
Without thinking about it, I began to convey some of these things to her once again.Her eyes immediately lit up when she came and was greeted with love and joy. I heard and saw Brenda do the same with other kids. We ministered to them, the fruit of the spirit was evident, and eight hours later as their rides began to show up they didn’t want to leave. You see, when ministry happens God’s way, it will draw the hearts of those yearning to be loved, accepted and forgiven.
Where can you minister? Will your efforts be relegated only to the hour or two a week that involves classic church settings, or will you minister also at birthday parties, and business meetings, and in a store, and at a sporting event, and on a bus, train, or airplane, and…
May 17, 2018 ~ One of the songs Jeff Swanson and I wrote is called “When will I Believe?”. Sometimes I ask myself that question in regards to that still small voice of the Spirit. So many times I have “heard” that voice, but unfortunately sometimes I don’t always heed it. I remember one time when we were making a trip to Texas. Before we even booked our flight, the spirit warned me against flying down there because of the potential for illness. Rather than driving, to save time, we went ahead and flew anyway. Two days after we arrived, I got sick (no not the swine flu)... I was still trying to beat that illness a month later.
Matt Redman wrote a song called “The Heart of Worship” that starts “When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come”. I had felt all had been stripped away for much of that time. There was virtually no singing (it immediately caused a coughing attack), and the pain in the hands had greatly slowed piano and guitar. My favorite way of communing with God was pretty much removed. But in that time, prayer had become all the more dear. It may seem strange, but this whole trial was a blessing as I grew closer to God through it and also hearing His still small voice even more… now to heed it as well. I encourage you to listen and heed His voice too.
March 29, 2018 ~ A few years ago I was heading to Portland to do some consulting work. Before I left I felt a nagging nudge (yes sometimes the spirit seems to almost nag!) to take my guitar with me. Ignoring the sense (after all, it would have been “too much trouble”), I headed for Portland in time to participate in an early morning prayer meeting. While there, Dan (one of the participants) shared a need for prayer as he was serving as an interim pastor at a small church in Vancouver, and was to lead their first ever prayer service the next night. I knew right then why I was supposed to bring my guitar! I offered to join Dan at the service (he gladly accepted), verified with Brenda that I should stay over another night (she had already not been expecting me back), rounded up a guitar from my friend Jeff Swanson and prepared my heart to lead in one of my favorite events, spontaneous prayer and worship. It was a great night. The spirit was evident and the people who came met with God. I hadn’t bothered to tell Dan ahead of time,but I had just been picking the guitar back up a couple days before after the issues I had experienced with shooting pains in my hands. Praise God, I was able to play for over and hour!
It appears I still have much to learn about being faithful in the little things. When the spirit gives these nudges, I still must be more responsive so that the fullness of God’s work in and through us will be accomplished. So often we think obedience is found in the big grandiose decisions, but sometimes it’s just taking along a guitar…
I had another opportunity to be obedient, this time with Brenda. We went to a concert at the local church. Even before we left, God had told me it was a night to be extremely generous. When the time in the concert came for the love offering, I felt I knew what to give, but just to be sure I asked Brenda what God was telling her. It was the exact same amount! We gave with great joy knowing that it was directed by the spirit and not our own inclinations.
I know more of these kinds of opportunities are coming. God continually calls us to be prepared “in season and out of season”. No matter what the nature of the opportunity, we are equipped for every purpose our Lord has for us.
Jeff and Brenda Hoover