Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Blessed Delay

I was almost completely asleep. I had already been traveling for 12 hours from Tel Aviv to Philadelphia. We made our connecting flight and were about to take off when suddenly I felt a strong jolt that awakened me. It felt like we ran over something. It turned out someone outside the plane did something wrong which caused damaged to the plane. We ended up sitting for an hour. This meant that  our arrival to Phoenix airport would be over an hour late. It now seemed almost impossible for us to make our connection. Needless to say I was a little bummed and ready to get home. Yet in those situations there is nothing you can do. Complaining never helps, it only makes things worse. finally we were airborne. 
Our plane was now scheduled to land at about 10:05am our next plane to Orange County left at 10:15am. Fortunately on our flight we had WiFi. I was able to talk to my wife and tell her about my dilemma. She informed me that our son, who was on his way to Bible College was transferring from Phoenix also. I looked at a map of the airport from the plane and it turned out that his gate was only two down from where we were landing. There was a chance I would be able to see him one last time before he left. being that I was in Israel I wasn't there for his last day. Suddenly I didn't care as much if I missed my connecting flight, I would get to say goodbye to my son who won't be back till December. 
As the plane landed everyone was pushing and shoving to get off the aircraft. Right when I came off the plane there was my son to greet me. We ran to his gate said goodbye and then I sprinted to my gate which was on the complete other side of the airport. My lungs were hurting, my calves were in pain, because of all the walking in Jerusalem in flip flops the day before. I was sweating. I turned the final corner and I heard over the loud speaker the last call for the Orange County flight. My friend Mike and I were the last ones on the plane, we made it. 
Sometimes delays can be a blessing.... you never know what Gods plan is. I am thankful for that bump in the road that allowed me to see my son. Unexpected blessing.. 

Return from the Holy Land

Teaching the Israeli Youth
It was early Monday Morning at 6:00am that I boarded a plane for Israel with my long time friend Pastor Mike Harris from Calvary Chapel Beachside. We were also joined by my long time friend Pastor Pete Nelson. It was hard to believe that I was heading back to Israel, having just toured there this April.   We had been asked by an organization called the Joshua Fund to come and participate in a Youth Conference held on the Sea of Galilee. When touring Israel, the Sea of Galilee has always been one of my favorite stops. 
When we arrived we went to the sight of the conference. It was located right on the shore of the Galilee. Now there is a reason why most churches do not tour Israel in August, it is blazing hot. At times it felt like it was over a hundred degrees. Even in the shade you could not escape the sun. We began to prepare for the conference with the Jewish Youth Leaders who hold conferences for Israeli youth from all over. They had hired a company to come and put up a stage with a sound system. As well as lighting and place of shade throughout the camp sight. After the sight was set up, the youth began rolling in on buses from all over Israel. There were over 300 young people, ranging from ages 15-21 that came from different parts of Israel. They were all messianic Jews. Meaning that they believe that Jesus is their Messiah. What a joy to be around Jewish believers. So many of these young people are ostracized in their schools for their faith. 
The conference was called Walking on Water. And the emphasis was upon living by faith. What a great title. Here we were on the Sea of Galilee where Peter and Jesus had walked on water. Amazing...
Team Galilee
What made this conference unique was this was the first time that American pastors were joined together with Hebrew pastors teaching the Word of God. Also we had Scott Cunningham and his band fly over from the UK to share in music. There were also Hebrew Worship teams as well. It was our prayer that we could be a blessing to our brothers and sisters there. To come alongside of them and support the work they are doing. 
Sunrise on Galilee
Relationships were built with the young people and the staff by serving them and ministering to them. We also had the chance to teach the Word. For me personally, I taught a workshop on "The Person God  Uses". On Friday Night I taught the main session on Matthew 15: the feeding of the four thousand. Teaching through a translator can be challenging. You want everything to come out right and be understandable to those listening. My translator was an amazing young lady who knew Hebrew and Greek and English. I felt like Friday night my prayers were answered as I was able to connect with the young people from Gods Word. After the session I had some great opportunities to pray and minister. 
The conference turned out to be a blessing. The young people were encouraged and strengthened in their faith. The Jewish staff who put the conference on were also encouraged and knew that they were loved and supported. 
Sunset on the Mt. of Olives
Sunset over the Holy City of Jerusalem
One of several highlights for me was waking up early on the Sea of Galilee with my Bible. The Sun rises coming up over the Sea. Also Teaching Gods Word. Also we had one free day in the city of Jerusalem, where we went and toured as much as we could, ending the evening on the Mt. of Olives as the sunset over the city.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

It Never Gets Old

Yesterday we had our beach baptism at Doheny State Beach. It was such a joy to see so many folks show up to be baptized. Also to see others who showed up to support those who were being baptized. As I watched the people come out into the water I was so blessed to know so many of their stories. To watch an entire family be baptized together. To see a husband and wife go into the water together as a couple. To see friends joined hand in hand boldly proclaiming their faith to the world. It brings tears to your eyes. Their lives had been changed by the power of the Gospel. And now they were taking the next step of identifying with Jesus in His death and His resurrection. That is what Baptism is. As you go into the water, your old person before Christ is symbolically being buried with Him, and your new person in Christ is being resurrected with Him. When you think about it, in the New Testament, when a person got saved the next step was into the water. The reason was because it was the outward sign of the inward work. Praise the Lord for the He did yesterday. As an added bonus at the end of the night we gathered around a fire pit and had a time of worship. What an amazing day. I am truly humbled that I had the privilege of being apart of what the Lord is doing. To God be the glory, great things HE has done.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Revelation of the Heart

Deuteronomy 8:2 And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you [and] test you, to know what [was] in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

As the next generation prepared to go into the promise land, Moses revealed some of the reasons for the wilderness wanderings. He pointed out that it was through the wilderness that the Lord allowed the nation of Israel to be humbled. On more than one occasion, Israel had been referred to as a "stiff necked" people. Being stiff necked does not mean you slept on your pillow wrong, it refers to a stubbornness in the heart. It is a picture of one who is unwilling to bow their head in submission. It is an illustration of one who is proud. Yet it was in the wilderness that the people were brought to a place of humility. They had to be completely dependent upon God for everything. They looked to God for direction. They looked to God for protection from their enemies. They looked to God for daily provision. All of these experiences were humbling. 
Moses went on to say that the wilderness also allowed the people to be tested. The wilderness would reveal what was truly in their hearts. It was a one question test they were about to take. The question was, "would they obey the word of the Lord or not?" Now, God knows everything. He knew whether they would choose to obey or not. He knew what was in their hearts. However the nation didn't know what was in their heart, until they went into the wilderness. And all that was inside them began to come out of them. A time of revelation occurred in the wilderness.

In many ways the wilderness represents a time of testing and humbling in the life of Christian. It is a season we enter into that shows us what we are really made of. The wilderness provides many opportunities to learn to trust God. It offers many lessons in humility, as well as countless revelations of what is in our hearts. We do not always know what is in our hearts until we are tested. Then what is inside comes out and we see the changes that need to be made. We see the pride that we had overlooked. We observe a lack of faith that we were unaware of. This revelation in turn drives us to Jesus and to the work of His Holy Spirit in our lives. Our prayer in the wilderness becomes, "Okay Lord, do what you must do. Have your way in me Lord. Teach me what I need to know." Although the wilderness is not always looked upon as something favorable, it is a season that is necessary. It is through the wilderness that we learn, "man shall not live by bread alone but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." 

Father when you allow us to enter into a time of testing, a time of refining, help us to keep our eyes upon You. If the things in our hearts need to be repented of, we repent. We choose to humble ourselves before You. Thank You for Your faithfulness in every season of life. In Jesus name.. AMEN

Friday, August 3, 2012

Entering In

Deuteronomy 1:27 Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; and you complained in your tents..

Forty years had now come and gone. The former generation had passed away in the wilderness. It was now time for the second generation to be given the opportunity to go into the promise land. As the nation of Israel was preparing to move forward, Moses began to recount the failures of the former generation that did not allow them to enter the land. God had promised to take the people into the land. He had promised to fight their battles. Israel had already observed the power of God in destroying the nation of Egypt for their deliverance. This was to serve as a sign to them that the Lord would surely defeat any foe in the future. 
Moses pointed out that rebellion was the first reason they missed out on going into the land. The people were not willing to believe God's Word. They did not obey God's Word. When it says they rebelled, it is a indication that they were not submitted to God's Word. Rebellion can be a very subtle sin within the heart. It is something that we can quickly justify as righteous indignation. We can come up with our reasons, even sometimes "biblical reasons" we feel justified. We can easily blame others. Yet as I allow the Holy Spirit to search me I come to realize that rebellion is an issue of the heart, and it's an indicator of a lack of brokeness in an area of my life. If I am not submitted to God I will have a difficulty submitting to anyone else. Yet to rebel against  God's will for my life is to miss out on what God wants to do. Another Old Testament example of this was King Saul. Saul was a man whose life was marked by rebellion. For the Lord said to Saul at one point, "to obey is better than sacrifice." The rebellion of the people led to complaining. 
Many of us are not aware of this, but complaining is a sin. I remember the first time someone told me that, I was shocked! Like rebellion, complaining is also very subtle. We complain so much we don't realize how much we do it. Moses pointed out that their complaining took place in their tents. It was behind closed doors, it was in the privacy of their own home.  But when you look at the record of the nation, you find that the complaining didn't stay in their tents very long. For as the story unfolds that complaining made it's way outside the tent. They complained against Moses, they complained against Aaron, they complained against God. They complained about everything. This was another reason that they did not enter into the land. The complaining gave way to questioning God's plan and motives. The people even went so far to accuse God of seeking to ruin their lives. Consequently everyone around them was also discouraged. 
Moses' warning was to serve as a valuable lesson to the next generation of what not to do. I realize in my own life I need to be sure I am submitted to the will of God. If there is any root of rebellion I need ask the Lord to uproot it. If I ask Him, He will do just that. The process can be painful, but the truth is, we need to be broken. Also I realize how easy it is for me to complain instead of be content. Rather than complain I need to be thankful for all that the Lord has done and continues to do. The fact that I have been given salvation is more than I will ever deserve. 

Father today we ask that you would forgive us when we rebel against Your will for our lives. Today we choose to enter into all that You have for us. Lord forgive us when we complain. May we learn in whatever state we are in to be thankful and content. In Jesus Name Amen.