Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Numbers Game

It has been a while since I've blogged on this blogspot, but I will try to get back and blog about (perhaps) less profound topics. It's just how my mind works. And as a writer, creativity comes to me in spurts. I have had a dry spell for a while, probably because I have had issues in my personal life I've had to deal with. But by God's mercy and grace, I hope and pray my creativity well gets filled up again. Like this drought in California, there were some little storms to fill the reservoirs with water, but just in little spurts.

Anyway, the thought I had to get my blog going again was the Church. Not necessarily my church I attend (I will explain in a moment), but the modern day American Church.

It has been a blessing to see NBC broadcast A.D. The Bible Continues. It is the story of how the Christian church was formed, as found in the book of Acts (to the Apostles) in your Bible. And if you read the book of Acts, God added to their numbers daily.

See, as you read Acts, they also give numbers. Acts 1:15 says, "In these days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)." Acts 2:41 says, "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their numbers that day."

Those were specific times where Luke gives numbers. Even after that, the Apostles heal crowds of people (in Jesus' name, of course... Acts 5:12-16.) And after Saul's conversion, (then) the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and were strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers(!)" (Acts 9:31)

What is the point I'm trying to make? God is in the numbers! Not the way corporate America is into the number of dollars, but the number of souls He chooses to touch and change for Christ's sake! There's even a book in the Bible called... (you guessed it) Numbers!

Often in American churches today, they're content to have their cozy clique-ish church. We see churches today segregated by culture, by race, by denomination, even by language. And that makes me sad.

I've heard Sunday mornings are the most segregated time in the week. It shouldn't have to be that way! Now I don't mean to boast (it has nothing to do with my personal efforts), but I believe God is blessing the church I serve at and attend because we don't put "limitations" on God. What do I mean by limitations? Well, there are churches (I've heard... and have personally experienced) that want a small church atmosphere. 

"We're family." Yes, but don't you want your family to grow? 

"But we are happy the way things are. We don't like changes!" I say "Yikes" to that mentality.

Growth means health. If you're not growing, you're dying!

Unfortunately, the American Church wants their comfort. Their safety. Their security in Christ. However real life is messy. It is totally uncomfortable. It is living on purpose for the Risen Lord and Savior!

My prayer for the American Church today is to get the passion for loving people back! As The Church of Christ, we need to love! Demonstrate that kind of love, act with love. Love on people, give lovingly to those who are hurting, burdened with life's normal problems. 

The Church should NOT be a place of judgement, nor condemnation. That's NOT our purpose! The Church of Jesus Christ needs to be a place of sanctuary, not the building is a sanctuary or museum! The Church is its people, characterized by the lovingkindness, passion for Christ and reaching people to discover Jesus in their personal journeys of faith!

That's why I love my church, Bayside. We have ministries for youth. We reach out into the community around us. We do missions work in Mexico and abroad. And we are passionate in worshipping God!

If you need to find a Bible believing church like Bayside, with passionate people like ours, make your comments here or on Facebook and I would be happy to send you resources in finding a church home for you. If you've never accepted Jesus into your life and would like to accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior, just say a simple prayer like this: "Dear God, please forgive me of all my sins. I have lived my life selfishly without You, Your love. Please come into my heart, as I need You in my life. I want to be more loving, like You. In Jesus' name, Amen!"

If you just prayed that prayer, welcome to the Kingdom of God! Comment here or on Facebook, and I will find a church for you as well!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Personal Egypt

Well, in that last blog, which took a while to get through with the explanation of the Egypt metaphor, I mentioned we need to share our Egypt. I have told bits and pieces of it before to explain who I am (because definitely your past makes you who you are today). So I hardly ever post two blogs at the same time, here is my personal Egypt. I share this not out of guilt, but more shame. In fact, it may not be appropriate for kids under 13... that kind of PG-13 rating at the beginning. But I want to share this because I want this to be my biggest weapon against Satan, so he won't use it as a tool to hold me back in the past (as I stated in the previous blog).

Some of you know that I am a 50-something single male. And years ago, there was the movie, "40 Year Old Virgin". I was that, even to this day. Technically.

But when I was in my mid-twenties, I was doing okay. I met a cute girl at church, who I was serving in the Junior High ministry with. I liked her. And I thought she liked me. We went out a couple of times. I thought she would be "the one". But, little did I know, she was dating her BOSS! And they eventually got married. She didn't even have to change her name! I mean, she married a guy with the same last name! And those that have heard this story, that's when I said "two Wongs don't make it right"!

I could easily blame her and the other guy for that terrible chapter in my life! Something that I was an innocent party to. Often, that could be a part of your Egypt story: someone dumped you, cheated on you, abused you, or simply left you.

It devastated me to the point I didn't even date anybody after that for TEN years! Yeah, the prime of my life, wasted because I didn't want to feel rejection like I had.

But then there's more to the story. The part that gets... ashamed. Even as a Christian, I did it.

Well, working in health care, I have to deal with naked bodies. And I handle myself professionally when working with patients. But, I easily got into pornography. All I had to do is see a beautiful woman on the cover of a Playboy, and that was it. I was hooked. I love beautiful women! After all, they are God's creation! Right?

The problem was I was worshipping God's creation over God, the Creator! I was lusting over these beautiful women! And to make it even more disgusting, I got into the sex toys and the blow-up sex dolls. It was my way of dealing with the pain of dealing with a real woman!

Even in those Clinton years, Chief Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders said masturbation was a good way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases! And this was when AIDS and HIV was coming out. It seemed like the safer route of dealing with these issues than dealing with a real woman!

But in my heart of hearts, I felt the shame. the guilt. The pain. The loneliness. It wasn't right. But being the insecure introverted nerd I was, that was my reality!

So, that's my personal Egypt. Out in the open. On the Internet, no less.

But now I have nothing to hide! God has forgiven me of my past and now that I have unloaded the guilt baggage off of me, I am set free!

God is love. He always was. And He still is! If you need that kind of love and forgiveness, come to Him now in prayer: "Holy Father God, forgive me for I am a sinner. Please take my past and make me new, through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross for ALL of my sins. Please cleanse me of my unrighteousness in my past. Make my future renewed in Your Almighty Love and Grace. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen!"

If you just prayed that prayer, you are now a Child of God! You are forgiven and free from your past. Lay it ALL down at the feet of Jesus!


Freedom From Your Egypt

We all have a past, whether we all like it or not. And oftentimes our past can either help us grow or hinder our growth in whatever form, shape, species or size it comes in. The American Christian Church is good at explaining forgiveness from your sins comes from Jesus dying on the cross. But often we are left behind having knowledge of being forgiven, but not fully freed from our past.

This weekend at church, one of our favorite guest speakers, Chris Brown spoke on Genesis 42. Well, he recapped the story of "Joey" who could interpret dreams. And one day he told his eleven older brothers about this dream where they would reign over them. That didn't fare well with the older brothers, so they were planning to kill him. Well, the other plan was to sell him into slavery, but cover up the deed by faking his death to their father, Jacob. You've probably heard the story of his multicolored coat, which was given to Joe because he was the father's favorite son from his favorite wife. They tore up his multicolored coat and put blood of a goat all over it, making it look like Joe was killed by a wild beast.

In Egypt, Joey had his own set of problems. The Pharaoh's second-hand man's wife has the hots for this young Jewish boy. Joey refuses, but because of her position, she accuses him of rape and is thrown in prison. His dream interpreting helps him get out of his mess as he could tell Pharaoh that there would be seven years of a bumper crop and seven years of famine by a drought. This put Joey in the second in command position over Egypt because no one else had a plan to prosper Egypt through these times.

Okay, meanwhile back in the land of Canaan, where Jacob and his other sons lived, the drought struck also. So when Jacob heard there were grain in Egypt, he told his sons to go down. Uh oh.

22 years of a lie to be exposed? The brothers knew what they had done. They couldn't tell dad the truth now?! Could they?

"Why do you just keep on looking at each other?" Jacob demanded. "Go down to Egypt and buy some grain for us, so that we may live and not die!"

So ten of the brothers went down there, but Benji stayed behind back at the ranch.

In Egypt, Joseph knew who they were when they arrived. But because he was in charge of the land of Egypt, and he was dressed in his Egyptian garb, and speaking through an interpreter, they didn't recognize him. Ha! Just like Joe's dream when he was only seventeen.

Joseph knew what they had done to him, but he wasn't sure if they had done to Benji what they did to him, he wanted proof he was indeed alive. So he sent nine of them back to get Benji with the surplus grain. He threw Simeon in the prison he once lived in as collateral. He wanted to make sure his brothers weren't lying again.

What? Going back to father Jacob with one less brother? Jacob was a mess when he heard Joey his favorite son was dead. Now he'll think they killed Simeon, too? This lie just keeps on getting more complicated!

They were racked with guilt, blaming each other (like Reuben did) and blaming themselves for the mess they were in. Would father allow Benji to come to Egypt?

As they were emptying their sacks, there was in each brother's sack, his pouch of silver used to buy the grain. You would think they'd be thrilled, right? But instead they were frightened.

"You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin? Everything is against me!" exclaimed Jacob.


See what lies and deceit does? How about a cover-up of something you've done that you're not proud of? Something you don't want other people to know about you?

Offer it up to Jesus. Quit lugging around all that guilt, shame and pain. Lay it at the feet of Jesus.

Oh, but I've been forgiven of my sin, right?

If you accepted Jesus in your heart as Lord and Savior, your sins are no more. Clean slate.

But as humans, we carry along the guilt, blame others, blame ourselves. And what happened two years ago, 22 years ago... still has you imprisoned in Egypt. If you want freedom from the load of your past, give it ALL to Him. Confess it, share it, and make it a weapon against Satan, not a tool to privately destroy your own life.

Yes, the tool that Satan uses to hold you back in the past could be God's best weapon to overcoming your past. Tell people about your Egypt, and Satan won't ever hold it over you like He has in the past.


Monday, April 1, 2013

How the Best Was Won

It has been an incredible Easter season! God has been doing amazing things in our midst at my church, Bayside Church in Granite Bay, California. With already ten services from Good Friday to Easter Sunday in our Granite Bay celebration center, we have video venues also on the Granite Bay campus, Folsom, Lincoln and midtown Sacramento. We even launched a new "North Campus" on Easter Sunday. I heard all of these services were packed with people attending. I attended the new church launch at the North Campus venue at Whitney High School in Rocklin, California. Initially, the gymnasium was set up with 350 seats. The estimated number of people that actually showed up were over 1300! We had to shuffle seats around and have seats outside the gymnasium door for people to hear! A good problem for a church.

But besides the incredible number of people responding to attending an Easter service, the local news did news pieces with our pastor, Ray Johnston on Good Day Sacramento and Fox 40. On the Bayside Facebook page, there was a pastor with "Pastor" in his Facebook name making accusations about our church. It's not that he has ever been to our church, but his post says "Watching news wow sounds like its all about you guys not Jesus beginning to think you called the news up to do this story" (his actual words, no punctuations, either).

Now, I was busy with already serving at church, so I didn't see the news segment, so I really can't agree or disagree with his viewpoint. But let's think about this for a moment. A "Pastor" watching the television on Easter, one of the busiest days on the Christian calendar. And we know he's a pastor because his Facebook name says so. It's like me with the name Tech Garret or Videoguy Garret. I have many friends who are pastors, but they don't include their title with their name (except one). His grammar is poor, aside of his lack of punctuation, so what kind of "Pastoral" education has this guy accomplished? 

So in my assessment, I see a problem of spiritual pride. I've seen this before. And it was with a friend who was an Associate Pastor in one of my previous churches. He built up his position with high morals, and in turn (I think) power went to his head. He became "Holier than Thou", sometimes even being condescending.

Isn't that is what this guy on Facebook is doing? He is making these accusations because he's jealous. Probably his church is small (most are. And especially in Turlock, where he's located) and they try to discredit mega churches. All mega churches go through this criticism, however because I have been to some of these "mega churches", the criticisms are often inaccurate because the accuser usually does not have firsthand knowledge of the real facts. If they actually listened to the heart of all of our pastors, not just the lead pastor, they would better understand the leadership, direction and vision of the church. If they could experience firsthand the atmosphere of compassion and love, then they could see the Love of God.

Well, another thing transpired at church this weekend. One of my video guys was upset with the new leadership of the tech team. He made his objections known vocally. And in turn, was asked to leave and take a sabbatical. This left a vacancy in the operations for providing adequate camera positions for our Easter services. Apparently, his self-centeredness and pride got in the way of being a servant in the video ministry. 

Some positions are more fun and creative. I understand that. I was once in the control room switching and directing video presentation. But with the paid staff of Bayside, they made decisions for the team leads to direct and switch on the weekend services. I was not happy with that, but then I just did the best I could wherever I was placed. I am able to perform all tasks for all the camera positions as well as having the experience of directing and switching. Being a director, I know what kind of camera angles and shots are wanted.

But for even the resurrection of Christ to happen (the reason we celebrate this season), Jesus had to humble Himself. Jesus knew what He had to do. But in His humanness, He didn't want to go through all of the pain and suffering. Jesus had to submit to His Heavenly Father. Humility was the course He had to take to go through the flogging (the 40 lashes, as they said in the Bible Miniseries), the mocking, the bearing of the cross, the bleeding, the suffering.

But once He was obedient to bear the cross and all its shame, Jesus rose victorious over sin and death! Jesus gave His all. Jesus gave His best. We are blessed by Jesus giving His best. 

And that is how we can overcome our struggles, our pain, our trials and tribulations. We have to submit to humility. We have to dethrone ourselves from the throne of our lives. We need to put Jesus at the Center of our lives, on that Throne of our lives. Once we do that, then we won't be as critical, unloving, selfish and unforgiving. We need to trust in the One who gave His life for all of us.

Have you ever trusted in the love of Jesus? All you need to do is say a simple prayer: "Dear Jesus, please forgive me for I am sinful and selfish. God, I need you to change my life and my attitude not only towards You, but others in authority over me. I need Your Holy Love to cover me. Thank You Jesus. Come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' name, Amen!"

If you prayed that prayer for the first time, welcome to the Family of God! You have been forgiven and restored like new. Find a good Bible believing and teaching church so you can grow in your faith and walk with Jesus. The church should be a refuge where you can be comfortable to share your struggles of life without judgment or condemnation. I pray that you may find that church.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Progressive Faith

Happy New Year! As I write my blog on the first day of 2013, I know I have been changed in many ways. The journey of my life has brought me from critical cynicism to a growing faith. I have come from being judgmental into a more compassionate me. I came from living a nominal Christian life into one of burgeoning faith.

Living life out on the limb is not comfortable, by any means. And in many ways can be simply scary. But if you have a life of trusting in the Almighty God, that's real faith. Faith in a puny god results in puny faith. Abundant faith in an abundant God affords blessings. Really trusting in a God who Created the Universe can bring faith way beyond our wildest dreams. At least I believe so. And that's where I am today.

I have been hearing a new year brings a new chapter in our lives. Of course, in Day One of the new year, we will see how that really unfolds. However, I really want to trust in a God (yes, big "G") who can do anything.

The sovereign Lord is my strength... - Habakkuk 3:19a

I can do all things through Christ, because He gives me strength. - Philippians 4:13 (NCV)

In fact, throughout scripture, God speaks about living by faith.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. - 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)

Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. - Galatians 2:16

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. - Hebrews 11:6

Sarah Young, in her book, "Jesus Lives" writes (as Jesus speaking to us): "People settle for mediocrity because it feels comfortable. Meanwhile, they continue to battle fear. Only My Love is strong enough to break the hold that fear has on you.

"Recognize that you are on the threshold of a new adventure, and that I will be with you each step of the way. As we venture out together, cling tightly to My hand. The more you abandon yourself to Me, the more exuberantly you can experience My Love."

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
 The one who fears is not made perfect in love. - 1 John 4:18

So I want to live out a bold faith where I need to fully trust my Holy God and Savior! I don't want to be a casual Christian (that's an old DeGarmo and Key song). But to live and trust in the Almighty, Sovereign, Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent God He really is. That is progressive faith.

That is my resolution, if you want to call it that. I prefer to call it my life decision, because there's no reason to turn back. My pastor Ray Johnston always says, "may the rest of your life be the BEST of your life!"

Are you willing to surrender and trust the God of the Universe, the Creator and Sustainer of Life? All you need to do is say a simple prayer like this.

Holy Father God, please forgive me because I don't know what to do. I surrender my life to You. Please take my life and bless me with Your Holy Love. I love You and want to follow You. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Did you just pray that? If you did, welcome into the Family of God! Find a good Bible believing and teaching church to grow your faith and walk with Jesus, your Savior! Don't just settle for being accepted into Heaven, though that's the eternal promise given to believers and followers of Jesus. But to live a life of God's blessings, go out on that spiritual limb and trust in God. Fully.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Don't Hate Me For My Viewpoint

This past election was filled with emotions from both sides. After the dust has settled from the outcome, nothing much has changed. The President remains in office. However, California politics has gotten more liberal. Well, there were always more Democrats than Republicans percentage-wise in the state, but because of the inbalance, now the state government is disproportionate (something like 64-36 percent). 

I'm not passing blame anywhere. But I truly believe the electoral system is broken, especially in California. Although we are the most influential state (Hollywood and Sacramento), somewhere along the primary process, we aren't given much of a voice. Do you know what I mean?

The primary process begins in the cornfield state of Iowa, then goes to small states like New Hampshire and Delaware. Then somewhere by New York and Pennsylvania, candidates start dropping out. My original candidate this year was Rick Santorum. Solid guy, good man and I believe he would have been a great President. But because of campaign funds much greater than his, he steps down. This is almost like the guy with the most money buying his way to the candidacy (and Mitt Romney was that guy).

By the time California has our primary elections, the pickings are slim. Still, by my conscience, I vote for Ron Paul. A bit of a different kind of politician, but I like what he says. It makes sense. But he doesn't win enough electoral votes. Again, the guy with the most money wins.

So really, I'm not surprised of the results the other day. I know for a fact I was not the only Christian struggling with the notion of voting for a Mormon (sorry, LDS as they prefer). I even considered voting Libertarian. The GOP has a lot of hard work to reach across the aisle. And for the most part, the "O" in GOP may be what is the problem. Old ways aren't working anymore. Old traditions don't make sense to the post-modern world.

The splintered faction of the Tea Party may have separated true conservatives more. But I'm finding I may be a conservative in moral values, but a progressive in method and modality. I am not really that political, but I had to get my thoughts out here, and do not intend on a political career.

My intention is to be in Christian ministry to change hearts. Really. That is what my passion is.

No politician, no government or institution, no proposition or measure can change the world. Only Jesus Christ can change the world. Only Jesus is the Hope of the World!

If you have never experienced the love of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness He gives and would want to experience real change in your life, here is your opportunity to come to know Him. All you need to do is pray to Him:

Jesus, forgive me for trying to do things on my own and trusting in the wrong things apart from You. I ask that You come into my life and give me a new start, a new life. Please be my Savior and Lord. Thank You for providing Your Love. In Jesus' name, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, you are changed. Forever, for all eternity Jesus will be by your side to help and guide you through the Holy Spirit.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Conflict Resolution?

Most of us know the recent events involving a national fast food chain and a special interest group. It created controversy, defamatory comments, untrue allegations, hundreds of thousands of people in the mix (myself included) and "taking sides". Well enough of being vague and speaking in generalized terms. Let me just put it out there: the LGBT community was outraged at Chick-fil-A for having a president who has Christian convictions. That's really it!

Think about it. Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays. You can't get chicken on a Sunday, a Sunday, a Sunday... at least at a Chick-fil-A restaurant. So what makes one think their no Sunday company policy would be any different than a typical Christian perspective that homosexuality is a sin? They just wanted to make a ruckus over their gay agenda (and it is a gay agenda that propagates "tolerance" through TV shows, movies and now restaurants)! And in doing so, they perpetuate lies about the Chick-fil-A company and restaurants.

First of all they say Chick-fil-A discriminates against homosexuals. The truth is that the official statement from the Chick-fil-A clarifies: The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena
Denny Burk

The other distorted fact is that they say Dan Cathy made an anti-gay marriage statement. But in the interview they were referring to he never uses words like "homosexuals" or "gay marriage". My source is the link: www.dennyburk.com/two-lies-about-chick-fil-a-perpetuated-in-the-media/ .

 So as the controversy continued, mayors of cities got caught in the mix. I heard of many mayors of cities that don't even have a Chick-fil-A restaurant not wanting them to build in their cities. The one that caught national attention was the mayor of Boston, made by the former Governor and Presidential candidate, now talk show host Mike Huckabee. That started the Chick-fil-A appreciation day on Wednesday August 1st.
Mike Huckabee
So on August 1st, hundreds of thousands of people went to their local Chick-fil-A restaurant. Well, perhaps the "closest" Chick-fil-A restaurant they could go to. I heard of a couple from Oregon come down to the Sacramento (or Elk Grove) Chick-fil-A.

Rick Warren
The scene at the Alta Arden (Sacramento) Chick-fil-A
Friday, August 3rd was to be the gay day where they staged "kiss-ins" at the Chick-fil-A restaurants. And thus dividing the debate, rather than coming to compassion between the groups and cooler heads prevailing. But I saw some people at the restaurant I was at with stickers saying: "I support equality in marriage AND freedom of speech". I think these supporters of the restaurant get the message. Although I was there to support the restaurant for their conviction of traditional marriage, I commend those that believe in true freedom.
"Our culture has accepted two lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means to agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate." -- Rick Warren
I love what Pastor Rick Warren says here, because it is true. Because we are all human, we are all going to have our own opinions. In a room of ten people, there are going to be ten opinions. Like my Pastor, Ray Johnston says, "If the two of you both agree on everything, there is no need for one of you". What that means is no two people are going to agree on everything. That's why God created diversity.

Especially where there is much diversity in cultures, ethnicities, and even sexual orientation, (as we do have in Sacramento and throughout California) we have to RESPECT each other! We will never agree on everything. And that's what makes this country so great. We have to have the freedom to love, express ourselves and to be ourselves. Please respect each other, whether or not we love or even like each other.

I know they always proclaim freedom of the church and state! But as believers and followers of Christ, we need to love the sinner, hate the sin!

This quote from my pastor, which he posted on Facebook was eloquently put:

"As Americans we live in a diverse country which means... that there are going to be people that occasionally express an opinion different than yours. In my view that is a very good thing because it adds richness and tapestry to our culture. It becomes a bad thing when those disagreements are expressed in hostile ways. Immature people love to pour gas and enjoy watching the destruction. As a culture we need two things: (1) Strong convictions, and (2) Civility. Maturity is walking hand in hand when you don't see eye to eye."   -- Ray Johnston
Ray Johnston

Simply put, Ellen De Generes, who is openly gay always ends her talk show by saying, " Be kind to one another".

Or even simpler is the old saying by Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"

 Love and respect is all I'm trying to propose here. We cannot be the hands and feet of Jesus if we're turning those who need Jesus the most away from the Truth of the Gospel.

Elen De Generes
Rodney King