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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Never Alone

Alone.  By yourself.  It is not a good feeling.  My elderly neighbor had fallen down and six hours later my wife and another neighbor had discovered her on the kitchen floor, unable to get up.

 

As a teenager, elk hunting with my Dad in the woods of Eastern Oregon, the terrain suddenly became unfamiliar.  Stories of a small plane that had once crash-landed in the same area and the pilot wandering for days swirled in my head as I desperately tried to keep calm and find my way to the road.  Lost.  Alone.  Afraid.  Confused.

 

In the story of Jesus' birth, he is identified by the name "Immanuel."  It is a very powerful name.  It literally means "God is with us."  In the Old Testament, names almost always had specific meaning that told part of the person's story.  In Isaiah 7 where this is first used, it gives us the expectation that God is up to something.  In Matthew it is made clear – Immanuel is Jesus, Immanuel is God with us.

 

I was struggling this last week.  Struggling to be more patient, to be more faithful to prayer, struggling to be a better father, struggling to be more balanced in life.  It was beginning to feel a bit like that teenage experience in the woods of Eastern Oregon – not quite sure where I was and not quite sure how to get out.

 

As I struggled, I was met in that struggle by Immanuel – God is with me.  It really is one of the most amazing truths of the Christian faith and it just flowed over me – I may be in the midst of a struggle but I am not alone.  I may feel lost or I may be laid out on the floor but I am not by myself.  Immanuel is there and that makes all the difference in the world.

 

And Immanuel kept showing up in the form of a text from a friend, another friend dropping by the office, the prayers of another friend and as Pam and I prayed together.

 

What a gift we have been given!  To never be alone, to never be forgotten, to always have the presence of Jesus with us!  We have the greatest present of all – the presence of God.

 

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. " (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)

 

Don't forget to celebrate the presence of Jesus this Christmas.  You are not alone.

 

Peace.

 

David

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don't lose Jesus

Have you been distracted lately?  I sure have.  It is the season for it, you know.  The holidays are supposed to be the joyful, peaceful, easy-livin' time.  But the reality is far from it.  Work schedules, vacation schedules, parties, family get-togethers, shopping, financial pressures, etc, etc.  They all add up to distraction, a mind going a million different directions at the same time. 

As the pastors gathered together at 8:30 each day this week to pray, one of the passages we used to guide our prayer time was Isaiah 6:1-7.  It is the account of Isaiah going into the temple and having this amazing encounter with God.  He sees God sitting on a throne surrounded with his angels.  There is smoke and there are earthquakes at the sound of God's voice.  Quite an amazing description.

As I read the description of Isaiah's encounter with God, one thing became clear – Isaiah was not distracted by anything!  He was face-to-face with God and there wasn't another thing that mattered.  Isaiah was totally focused.

As I sat reading those words, struggling mightily to have any sense of  concentration on my prayers to God, being distracted by way too many things, a longing nudged my heart.  The longing was for a clearer vision of God that would overshadow the competing distractions I found myself being consumed by.

Don't lose Jesus this Christmas.  Practice saying "no."  Say no to over-extending, over-spending, over-eating, over-scheduling, over-partying.  Isaiah wasn't distracted because he was in the presence of the One who is greater than anything else we can be distracted by.  Enter into the presence of Jesus by taking the time to be quiet, reading the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke, worshipping with your friends and family, thanking God for all the goodness you have experienced.  Don't lose Jesus.

Peace and Grace,
David

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Seeing God in Psalm 4


When Daniel Henderson was at CSCC the end of October leading us in a renewal of our prayer focus, he presented a model for an approach to prayer.  His philosophy is that prayer should be Scripture-fed, Spirit-led and Worship-based.  We can do that when we pray the scriptures back to God through Reverence (upward focus), Response (downward focus), Request (inward focus) and Readiness (outward focus).
As the staff has been praying together, we have been taking a Psalm each week and following this approach to guide our prayers.  The time has been rich and meaningful.
As I have focused on the Reverence of God in Psalm 4, here are some of what I have prayed back to God: 
Thank you God that you hear my prayers, that when I call out to you, you answer me.  When I am struggling and in need of comfort, you give me relief.
Lord thank you that those who seek you aren't neglected by you, that you have set us apart and you are attentive to our needs.
Thank you that I can be angry and troubled with life but it does not have to destroy me or others.  When I experience these challenges it is yet again another chance to trust you more deeply.
Loving Father it is good to know that the source of my joy is not in myself, not in my situation, not in my circumstances, not in my possessions but my joy is to be found in you.  Your face is a shining light in the darkness of despair!
My Protector, thank you that there is peace to be found;  that no matter the turmoil of life, the struggles and disappointments I can find peace when I rest in you.  In your arms I am safe and there is no other place I could be more secure.
 If you are looking to jump-start your prayer life, if it has gotten cold or stale then I would challenge you to begin in Psalm 1 and begin to pray back to God his Word.  It will renew your heart and fan your passion for God.  And even better yet, find a friend to pray with – "…two are better than one.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken."
May you be filled up this holiday with the fullness of God!  (Turkey doesn't last very long!) 
Peace and grace, 
David

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanks

It's Thanksgiving time so a few thoughts on some of what I'm thankful for:

I am thankful for my Savior, Jesus.  He is my solid fortress and a rock that will never move.  He is always with me and will never leave me.

"And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." " (Matthew 28:20, ESV)

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." " (Hebrews 13:5, ESV)

I am so thankful for my wife, Pam.  What a rock and a blessing she is for me.  She is my most faithful prayer warrior, my comfort, my beautiful lover.

"An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. " (Proverbs 31:10–12, ESV)

I am thankful for my children.  Keenan, Noah, Daniel and Eliza stretch me, bless me, challenge me and definitely keep me on my knees, deepening my prayer life!

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. " (Psalm 127:4–5, ESV)

I am thankful for my friends.  They have the courage to look me in the eye and ask the hard questions because they love me.

"And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. " (Ecclesiastes 4:12, ESV)

I am thankful for my church.  It is the people that stretch me and challenge me to know God deeply and share his love freely.  It is full of people seeking Jesus, growing in generosity, growing in our heart for the world.

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. " (Ephesians 5:25–27, ESV)

I am thankful for life.  I get to do the things I do, in a beautiful place with extraordinary people for an Awesome God!

"How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation. " (Daniel 4:3, ESV)

What are you thankful for?

It is a great privilege to be your pastor!

David

Love God, Love people.
Matthew 10:37-39




Friday, November 12, 2010

Grace

Grace is hard.  It is much easier to follow a path of judging than it is to live in grace and extend grace.  I’ve been a pretty good judge in my life, having this amazing ability to know the motives, intentions and stories of people’s lives from just the smallest of details or the slightest whiff of rumor.  I have then very sanctimoniously become prosecutor, judge, jury and jailer.  I remember once hearing about a popular Christian recording artist who got a divorce.  Having absolutely no knowledge about this person’s life, I judged them not worthy to listen to anymore.  It is easy to judge.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. ”  ~ Jesus (Matthew 7:1–2, ESV)

Judging others is the great destroyer of community.  When we judge, we assign motive to the hearts of others and we determine those motives are evil. And then we condemn.  What more effective way to destroy relationships than that?  The thing is, it happens in all arenas of life – family, work, neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, little league, ballet, etc, etc.

If someone does something I don't like, it is much easier to justify my poor treatment of them by hanging labels like "stupid", "greedy", "lazy", "incompetent", "worthless", etc, etc.

So what do we do? 

On the wall of our church it says:
Free to be who we are…being transformed into all God created us to be.”
It is a statement of grace.  It is the recognition that as we come to Jesus, none of us is perfect, none of us is without our edges, our faults, our sin, our hurts and our ability to hurt others.  But as we pursue God, he is transforming us.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ” (2 Corinthians 3:17–18, ESV)

We don’t need to judge one another, we need to be people of grace that don’t assign motive to others actions.  We need to see irritations, misunderstandings and disappointments as opportunities to pray for each other and to grow in our grace quotient.

Judgment is easy.  Grace is hard.  That is why we need to be experiencing the God of grace through Jesus so we can be the people of grace through Jesus. 

For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. ” (1 Corinthians 4:4–5, ESV)


David

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why Community Matters - Relevant Magazine

Why Community Matters - Relevant Magazine


I just did a series of talks on community.  Here is an insightful article I just came across.  It is worth the 5 minutes to read and consider.  I especially like (and, at the same don't like!) this quote:  

"Author and pastor Kevin Miller says: “If [the church] isn't hard, then that's a sign you probably haven't entered deeply enough into community. Because God's deepest work in us is to teach us how to love. And love doesn't mean much until it's tested by someone who is cranky, narrow-minded, bigoted, critical and harsh.” The body of Christ has a special role to call us out of introspection, selfishness and bitterness to live as Christ intends for us."


I want the church to function perfectly.  But, opps! I'm here!  Ain't gonna happen.




Friday, November 5, 2010

God Using His Word To Meet Us

Yesterday I met with a group of pastors in WA to teach, encourage and pray for one another.  One of them, my friend John, had suffered a terrible blow to his family earlier in the week.  His ninth grade son was brutally beat up at school, breaking his nose and a bone below his eye as well as suffering multiple cuts from his braces.  His face was so swollen when they saw him at the hospital that he wasn't recognizable.  The boy who did this had been bullying him for a time - a classic example of the strong victimizing the weak.

Another friend shared about the (untrue) accusations that some church people had made about his kids as these people voiced their displeasure over recent changes the church was making to reach people for Jesus and live out their faith more fully.

Before I met, as I prayed about what we would be doing in our time together, I decided to apply some of the things I had learned this past weekend in regards to prayer.  Daniel Henderson had led us in an approach to prayer that is "Worship-based, Scripture-fed, Spirit-led".

As a group, we chose the scripture.  I asked someone to give me a number between 0 and 15.  Another person gave me a number between 1 and 9.  The numbers that were chosen were 8 and 2.  So, we turned to Psalm 82:1-8 and did God ever meet us there!  As I led us through the rhythm of prayer of Reverence, Response, Request and Readiness over the next 30 minutes the truth of God's words in the Psalm encouraged us, guided us and comforted us.

Psalm 82 reminds us that God is the great, mighty, fair and ultimate Judge.  We can trust him when evil rises up.  We can lean on him when unfairness seems to be winning.  We can call on his perfect justice.

It was what we needed.  It was what my friends needed.  The Spirit led, God showed up.  It was anything but uninspiring and boring.  It was a great fresh encounter with God.

Just thought I'd share.
dc

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thoughts On Prayer


Last week's Fresh Encounters prayer conference with Daniel Henderson was a personal time of encouragement and refreshment for me.  We had set this up last Spring and it was great timing to challenge us (and me) to keep a right focus on God.
Here are some observations and conclusions I have come away with.
1.     We need to pray because God is worthy of our effort.  Talk of prayer can quickly move into the guilt thing.  "There goes Pastor David, talking about prayer again.  I know I don't pray enough!  I wish he would shut up!"  I haven't met anyone who believes they pray enough.  But guilt isn't a motive for prayer.  Prayer is ultimately about our heart seeking God's heart.  We do that in private but we also need to encourage each other in this worthy pursuit through corporate prayer.
2.     Prayer doesn't need to be boring.  God is not boring.  Living a life of faith is not boring.  Why are so many of our times of prayer boring?  Especially when we pray together?  I've got to be honest, I have been reluctant to start a regular corporate prayer time because I have been so uninspired by most of the prayer times I have been a part of – and many of them I have led myself!!  I appreciated Daniel's Worship-based, Scripture-fed, Spirit-led approach to prayer.  I found our two times of corporate prayer during the weekend were fun and engaging.  Those boring prayer times were my fault, not God's.  I need to be a better leader to help us experience God in prayer more fully.  I am committed to learning and growing so I can do that.
3.     A life of prayer isn't going to be the easy path.  Of all the things I do to lead in ministry, personally and in my family, prayer is hands-down the hardest thing for me to do consistently and faithfully.  I've got a healthy dose of SADD – Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder – and I can always find something to do other than pray.  I think prayer takes two D's to be consistent:  Desperation and Discipline.  I have to truly believe I can't be fully alive and fully effective apart from a deep connection to God.  I am a pretty good Control-Freak-Type-A-Driven-Problem-Solver person.  It takes a lot for me to feel desperate.  Prayer helps nurture that deep dependence and connection to God.  As far as discipline, that's just a matter of "Going Nike".  You know what I mean – "Just Do It!"
4.     Prayer is of primary importance but it isn't the only thing of importance.  Prayer isn't the answer to all of our problems but it is where we find all of our answers.  God still calls us to work, love, lead, follow, serve, think, plan, say "yes" and say "no".  (See Philippians 2:12-13)  But prayer is the power source by which we can do those things right and do them well.  The volume and fervency of our prayer life reveals who we believe has the most power.  Little prayer – we believe we have the power.  Much prayer – we believe God has the power.
5.     We need to pray more.  When I was in Ethiopia, every church I went to had something in common.  Every church had kneeling pads laying around on the floor.  Those kneeling pad were for people who were down on their knees in prayer.  I remember writing the simple statement in my journal – "I need to pray and fast more."  In each of the churches I was at, the leaders of those churches laid their hands on me and prayed for our church and for me.  I could only understand a few words (Jesus and thank you!) but they prayed fervently, loudly and for a long time.  I was moved and inspired.
So, we are going to pray more.  Every day from 8:30 - 9 AM we are having a prayer time for the staff and anyone who would like to join us.  During those times we will begin by seeking God's heart and asking for his hand to move.  I'm encouraging every Life Group and Bible Study leader to give a "tithe" (a tenth) of your group time to prayer.  So, if you meet for two hours (120 minutes) you will spend at least 12 minutes in prayer – not talking about prayer or prayer requests, actual talking-to-God time.  Some Life Groups are going to have prayer as their primary focus, using the tools of Fresh Encounter as a guide to lead in Worship-based prayer.  And I am planning some corporate prayer encounters that will not be boring!  Stay tuned, more details to come. 
Our mission is still "We exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ from our community."  Our definition of a disciple is still "A transformed life who is trusting in Jesus such that they are loving God and loving people."  Our vision is still "Growing transformed lives through experiencing the love, truth, presence and people of Jesus."  The way we help disciples grow is still "Invite – Connect – Give – Grow".  What we are doing is not chasing a fad, it is intentionally and more deeply plugging into our power source.  It is returning to the roots of how our church has experienced transformation the last 12 years.
Wouldn't it be cool if someone asked you where you went to church and when you told them they would respond, "Oh, that's the church that prays."  That's my dream.
            Being your pastor is a privilege.  Let's keep moving forward, embracing the grace of God in its fullness.
Peace and grace,
David

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is Christianity a Team or Individual Sport?

“Those of us who choose to treat Christianity as a team sport have a special advantage.”

I love this quote by Larry Osbourne in his book “Spirituality For The Rest of Us.”  He is talking about the value of being in a Life Group.  Seeing the growth and strengthening of our faith as  something we do together has distinct advantages over seeing our life of faith as an individual exercise.

He says there are three advantages to being connected with a small group of people:
  1. 1.     It’s hard to hide.  All of us wear masks to keep people at a distance and to protect our reputations or how people view us.  When we get to know a group of people and people get to know us we have a better chance of someone encouraging us when we need it or kicking us in the rear when we need it.  The key phrase?  …when we need it…”.  When we are alone, people don’t know what we need.
  2. 2.     We get the benefit of positive peer pressure.  Check our Hebrews 10:24-25.  When we hang out together, we help each love better and do the right thing more often.  That’s positive peer pressure.
  3. 3.     We have a place to be honest.  We all need people who want to know how we are really doing and who can handle the truth.  Sometimes life stinks.  We need people we can be honest with about that.  Sometimes life is glorious.  We need people who can rejoice with us.

It doesn’t happen all at once and it doesn’t happen with every person in a group but when we take the step to regularly connect with a group of people to encourage each other, pray for each other and learn with each other, good things begin to happen.

Who are you connected to?  No one should be standing alone.


David

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Community Prayer

Each month I get the opportunity to pray at the beginning of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting.  I view it as a real privilege.  Here is my prayer for today.  Pray with me for our community, our country and our world.


BOS Prayer  October 19, 2010

Dear Heavenly Father,

In this season of sound bites and distortions of truth and facts, I pray for wisdom and discernment to understand what is really true.  I pray that those who have been elected and hired to serve the people of El Dorado County would always take the high road of integrity, honesty and uprightness.  I pray in the times of honest disagreement that are necessary to sort through the issues there would be civility and respect.

For this Board today I pray you would bless them with joy and laughter in the midst of the hard work of governing our county in challenging times.  Thank you for the abundant and amazing blessings you have given us in El Dorado County.  In our efforts to be good stewards help us not forget to care for the old, the young and the weak in our community.

We pray for peace in our world and protection over those who are serving in the armed forces and law enforcement to preserve and protect that peace that we so greatly value.

I pray these things in the name of Jesus.
Amen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Love Stinks


OK, I’m going to date myself here but back in 1980 the J. Geils Band came out with a song that got quite a bit of air time on the radio.  The song was called “Love Stinks.”  The lyricist for this song seems to have had a significant lapse in creativity since the majority of the song was the band shouting out the phrase “Love Stinks!”  Man, I miss being a teenager! (NOT!)  If you want to be reminded of how profound the song is, Google it and listen to it online (don’t pay the .69 cents on iTunes!).

Last week I talked about three things that can really get people stirred up – love, hate and forgiveness.  It is hard to love, it is easy to justify hate and it seems impossible to forgive sometimes.  What do we do?

Some people I know closely and love dearly have had some really bad things happen to them or to the people they care about.  Most often some bad people have been the cause of the pain.  And there is the rub.  What do you do with these bad people who don’t have any interest in being good, of being sorry, of making things right?  What do you do with some of the plain ole evil that is out there that we brush up against?  How can we love?  How can we NOT hate?  Does God seriously expect me to forgive?

The power of the Christian faith is it invites us to see things from the perspective of eternity – especially in the midst of our suffering.  One of the greatest truths is knowing that God is perfectly just.  He will set things right, in the end perfect justice will take place.

Anger, bitterness and hatred are my desire to mete out justice.  And part of us believes we are truly punishing the other person by our hatred.  But we are only punishing ourselves by allowing the cancer of hatred to eat away our soul.

Forgiveness is the antidote to the poison of bitterness.  But it is a supernatural act, it is something that is made possible by God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  We are to long for justice, to pray for justice and to work for justice but we must allow justice to take place in God’s order.  And we must daily live in trust of Jesus, walking in his forgiveness so we have the power to forgive others.  It is not easy.  But it is not impossible.  God makes a way if we are willing to follow.  God’s love doesn’t stink, it saves.

Remember, as Christ-followers, we know the end of the story.  And it is good.


David

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
Revelation 21:3-4, 22:12-13

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Almost Christian



A book I picked up recently has really gotten me troubled.  The book was written in response to the National Study of Youth and Religion that was conducted about five years ago.  The study looked at the faith lives of teens in America and the news was not good. The author of  “Almost Christian:  What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church” (by Kenda Creasy Dean) looks at the results of this study and gives insights into both youth and the church.  Here is something she says:

“The problem does not seem to be that churches are teaching young people badly, but that we are doing an exceedingly good job of teaching youth what we really believe:  namely, that Christianity is not a big deal, that God requires little, and the church is a helpful social institution filled with nice people focused primarily on “folks like us” – which, of course, begs the question of whether we are really the church at all.”

Ouch.

Dean goes on to say: “What if the blasĂ©’ religiosity of most American teenagers is not the result of poor communication but the result of excellent communication of a watered-down gospel so devoid of God’s self-giving love in Jesus Christ, so immune to the sending love of the Holy Spirit that it might not be Christianity at all?”

Double ouch.

Things like this make me sit back and evaluate and ask the hard questions.  What kind of life do my kids see me living?  What kind of church do they see?  What are we communicating through our lives to those who are watching?  Is there any power at all in our faith?

As we spend time in 1 John, looking at what it means to experience true Biblical Community I am personally being challenged to live an authentic faith.  What I’m coming to more deeply understand is, it isn’t just about my faith, it is about the future generations too.  My understanding and living out of the Gospel impacts the world I live in – most powerfully my family.  Together we should be helping each other live an authentic faith.  The future depends upon it.

How are you doing in having an authentic faith and helping others live it as well?  Need some help?  I do.  Let’s stand together.

David

Saturday, October 2, 2010

No One Stands Alone


When I was in seminary I developed a friendship with one of my professors.  He was a great guy but he went through a tough season in life that left him spiraling into a serious, deep depression.  We would talk about what was going on and I would try my best to encourage him but the darkness kept reaching out and grabbing hold of his heart and soul.

One cold, blustery Chicago Saturday I felt I needed to drive the 30 miles to his house to go see him.  It was just one of those Holy Spirit moments that I said “yes” to.  When I arrived at his house and knocked on the door, his wife answered and told me that he really didn’t want to see anyone.  For some reason - probably had something to do with that 30 miles I had just come - I said “That’s OK, I want to see him.”, and I brushed past her and found him in the basement of the house.  I don’t remember what the conversation was.  I think it was mostly silence.  But I sat with my friend, listened a lot, talked a little.

Later on we talked about that day.  It was a pivotal day for him because I showed I cared.  I wouldn’t let his wife stand in the way (literally!) of reaching out to him and just being with him.  He knew at that point that he didn’t stand alone, he had someone on his side.

There are too many of us standing alone.

We are going to take the next few weeks and delve into what it means to be a community of faith.  Through the wisdom of 1 John I want us to see that if we are living biblically, No One Stands Alone.

That phrase is what I dream will be descriptive of Cold Springs Community Church – that everyone will be loved and cared for.  We aren’t there yet, we have a bunch of work to do.  I also dream it will be prescriptive for Cold Springs Community Church – we will each take to heart our responsibility to experience Biblical community – we all would have a heart that no one will stand alone.

Here is a way to begin living that out in a small way.  Don’t let anyone sit alone.  When you come to church (Cold Springs or any other church, for that matter), forget about sitting in your favorite, comfortable spot.  Look to see if anyone is sitting alone, go sit by them and say Hi to them.  It is a small thing.  Small things make big impact.

Will you join me in seeing that no one stands alone?  I really need you to stand with me.

Standing with you.

David

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sabbatical Reflections


During the time of my sabbatical, I tried to slow down.  The first step in that process was to realize that I am living life in a hurry.  Most often, we don’t realize that the pace of life is slowly ramping up faster and faster and faster.  Impatience creeps in and along with that, stress.  It is a tough thing to fight off.  Even now, as I am writing this, I am feeling frustrated because my internet connection is so stinkin’…slow!
            The core spiritual practice I engaged in during my time away was to pursue the goal of reading through the whole Bible.  As I read about 18 chapters per day, I gained a new appreciation for the big picture of God’s story.  And one of the things that stuck out to me most was the observation that God is not in a hurry.  Story after story in the Bible reveals God’s patience with the people he loves and cares for. 
God just isn’t very efficient.  He allows people to struggle through their mistakes and suffer their consequences.  He is willing to wait seemingly long periods of time for people to remember things he told them that lead to blessing, yet they consistently reject, ignore or forget.  God will wait patiently for the deep lessons to be learned.
            Let me be honest, patience is not one of my strengths.  I sometimes get focused on “what could be” and just want to hurry up and get there.  A few years back I began to intentionally say to myself as I drove away from my house on vacation - "Vacation is starting NOW."  I had to do that because I was stressed about getting to vacation and forgetting it was that I was in the midst of!  

When I find myself just want to "get there", hurry begins to take control of my life.  And I forget – God is not in a hurry.  He is not in a hurry with me, with my kids, in my marriage, in our church, in other people’s lives.
2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God’s patience – his slowness as some of us may see it – is an act of grace.  God is not asleep, he has not forgotten, he has not abandoned you and, even though you may not be able to clearly see it, he is being graceful through his patience.
When I slow down, when I am in less of a hurry, when I exercise patience I know that I am much more graceful.  Try it for yourself.  Take your watch off for a day.  Drive in the slow lane.  Choose the longest line at the grocery store.  Take the furthest parking spot from the store.  Say “no” to squeezing that additional appointment into your already overloaded schedule.
As you and I begin to slow down externally, we will find greater peace internally as we rest in the grace of God.  I dare you to try it!

It is good to be back at Cold Springs Church.

dc

Friday, August 20, 2010

Check Out Logos Bible Software

You should check out the best Bible Software on the market.  CSCC bought a copy for our friend Esayas Ersabo in Ethiopia (director of Disciple Making Pastor Training and Leadership Development in Ethiopia).  If you want to dig deep into the Word of God, this is the way to do it.

They are doing a special promotion right now because the finalized their Mac version.  You can sign up for the chance to win some great Mac stuff: 
  • What are the details of the prizes?
  • We will be giving away 105 prizes to 105 different winners: one 21.5", 3.06GHz iMac worth $1,199.00, one 13", 2.4GHz Macbook Pro worth $1,199.00, one 16GB Wi-Fi iPad worth $499.00, one 8GB iPod Touch worth $199.00, one 8GB Silver iPod Nano worth $149.00, twenty $25 Apple Store gift cards, thirty $15 iTunes gift cards, and fifty $10 Logos.com gift cards.
When I use Bible references in my blog (John 3:16) it is Logos that makes them pop up.  Check them out at www.logos.com.

dc

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Candle in the Darkness | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

A powerful, sobering article in CT. How big is God? Big enough to redeem evil. I hate Satan and evil - especially when it is those who call themselves Christians who perpetuate it.

A Candle in the Darkness | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Redeemer's Church Meeting On Multisite Models of Ministry

The intent and desire of God's work in the world can be found in God's
command to Adam and Eve: be fruitful and multiply.

When we are blessed, we begin to bear fruit. John 15 says that deep
connection with Jesus (branches connected to the vine) will result in
eternal fruit. What fruit lasts forever? Changed, transformed lives
who are living a life of faith in Jesus.

That is what the church is called to be - the messenger of
transformation. We are to invest in the things that last.

Randy and I are in Reedley being flies on the wall as this church
wrestles with how to take their next step of investing in fruit that
lasts and expanding their Kingdom influence in this area. As we watch
them, we are listening to what God would say in bow we can invest in
growing God's Kingdom in our community.

Don't forget God's grace is bigger than anything you will face today!
Peace. David Cooke

Sent from my mobile.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Kill The Leaders

I was scrolling through the headlines on my laptop early Tuesday morning, waiting for my plane to leave when I noticed a news story about a new offensive going on in the Middle East against one of the groups wreaking havoc on their people. It was a military offensive and the objective was simple and clear - capture or kill the leaders.

It got me thinking about leaders and war and strategy and God. And here is what struck me: If you want to stop a movement, a church, a family, a business or a ministry, take out the leader. No, not date the leader, take 'em out like capture him or kill him. You do that, everything will come to a grinding halt, chaos will ensue and eventually you will win.

I was sharing this thought with a friend of mine and he told me about a story he had read in a John Maxwell book that illustrated the point. According to my friend, according to a Maxwell book (which, as you know, are irrefutable) George Washington found himself outnumbered and surrounded at a particular time in the American Revolution. So, he called his best shooters together and told them to ignore the infantry and aim for the officers. Don't waste bullets on the ground troops, take out the leaders. They did and three days later the British surrendered.

Most of us are leaders in more arenas than we realize. And the thing about leadership that is critical to understand is, you're wearing a target and someone is trying to take you out.

Now, before you think ol' David is going all paranoid on you, it would be good to open your Bible and check out if I'm on to something here. Look at John 10:10. What does the thief (Satan) do? Kills and destroys. Now go to 1 Peter 5:8. What's going on? Your adversary is looking for someone to devour. Look at Ephesians 6:11-13,16. It is a battle you and I are in and our adversary wants to take us out.

Here is the good thing though. Someone has your back. First off, Jesus said he has your back and he will strengthen and protect you. (Hebrews 13:5) But there is someone else who should have your back, too. That is your fellow brothers and sisters of the faith. (1 Peter 1:22) What a wonderful place this would be if we vigorously defended each other!

So if you are committed to leading your marriage or leading your family or leading your church or leading your business or leading your community don't be shocked when the bullets start flying. You are in a battle and the enemy wants to take you out. In the midst of that battle don't ever forget that have the greatest warrior on our side and that is God himself. (Jeremiah 20:11-12)

In the midst of your battle, don't forget there is someone close to you who needs you to cover his back as well. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Peace.
dc

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's About Me


I hate it when God does that. I know it probably never happens to you though.

A couple of days ago I wrote about what I would say to the young man who was making unkind remarks about others if I got another chance. I would gently challenge him to greatness. Great people make the people around them better, they don't tear them down.

I'm not sure I should have written that because since then, I'm becoming painfully aware of how often I think of unkind things about others and then how tempted I am to say them! And here I thought God had something for this young man to learn but it was really me that he was trying to speak to!

Unfortunately, I'm seeing a theme here. If my wife irritates me (hardly ever happens), if my kids irritate me (yep, it's true - it happens), if people in general get on my nerves, I'm having to face the fact that it is usually much more about me and my "issues" instead of them and what I perceive to be wrong with them.

So, greatness slips from my grasp once again. But I'm still going to pursue it. A friend of mine's personal life mission is "More greater than me." I like that. Not there yet. In the meantime I will lean into Jesus to make my heart more like his heart.

Note To Self: one finger pointing out, 3 pointing in.

Matthew 5:27-28

dc

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pursuing Greatness

I was waiting for the chance and I got it.

A couple of months ago I was at an event where I was working alongside a young man of high school age. To be honest, he was a little rude, regularly commenting on the people around us in unflattering ways. I listened, but didn't say much. I asked about his life and learned some interesting things about him. He didn't ask about me and I didn't volunteer much. For people who don't know I am a Pastor, I'm fine with that because it almost always changes the conversation - like ends it! But there were some things I wanted to say to this young man. And I got the chance.

I was at another event and had the chance to work alongside him again and he began to engage in comments that were unkind. Finally I asked him, "Why are you saying that? It isn't of any value?" He responded that, as long as the person he was talking about didn't hear it, what did it matter? "Because it is unkind.", I said. Then I asked, "What do you think Jesus would think about what you are saying?" (I knew he had a connection with a local church so I thought he had some level of belief.) His response? "Jesus can think whatever he wants." I pushed back a little more and eventually there settled upon us a silence.

As I have thought more about that interaction, I thought of something I wish I had said. I wish I had said this: "You know, I am striving for greatness in my life. And one of the qualities of greatness is they make the people around them better. When you make rude or inappropriate comments about other people, you are not making them better and you are making yourself small. What do you strive for in your life?" Don't you find that you think of the most insightful things to say after the conversation is over?!

Oh well, maybe I'll get another chance. Maybe he will be thinking about that question I asked, "What does Jesus think?" I'm going to pray for that chance. 1 Peter 3:14-17

dc

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jesus Makes Me Uncomfortable

Sometimes Jesus makes me uncomfortable. There are some things Jesus says that I really like. Take, for instance, what Jesus says that is recorded in Matthew 11:28-30:

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”"

I like that. That is really attractive to me and I can get behind that (even though I have a hard time actually living it out!). But some of the other things he says, they just aren’t as easy to swallow and even more difficult to live out.

Beginning Wednesday, January 20th CSCC is going to be opening up the Worship Café to give the homeless in our community a dry, safe and warm place to sleep for the night. Each Wednesday night we will do this and, the hope is, other churches will fill in the other nights of the week. A number of groups in our community have been wrestling with the issue of homelessness and what our response should be. There have been a number of efforts to create a permanent shelter in the county that have failed to be executed. But, the bottom line is, there are still people who are cold, hungry and exposed to the elements in our community.

While we clearly understand that one night of warmth is not a long-term solution, we are compelled by our belief and obedience to Jesus to seek, as best we can, to love those in need around us.

The mission of CSCC is: “We exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ from our community.” As I have thought about sheltering the homeless, I started out thinking that we were doing a great service to them. And, in fulfilling our mission, we long to see the men and women who come to spend the night be introduced to Jesus and be transformed by his love. But as I have thought more about this and looked at the words of Jesus in the Bible, I’m coming to realize that this really could be more about us than about the people we are trying to serve.

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus talks about the final judgment and what will happen. He says some will be sheep (righteous people) and some will be goats (cursed people). The criterion Jesus uses to separate the people into the two groups contains some of those words Jesus says that make me uncomfortable. The criterion used is how the people treated “the least of these.” And he is very clear about what he means by this: people who are hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers, sick and in prison. The righteous were commended for their righteousness because they took care of these people. Even more, Jesus says whenever care was given to these people, they were really doing it to Jesus.

The thing that pleases God the most is when we are living like he intended, living as disciples of Jesus. The opening of our facilities for a night is not the opportunity to serve needy people, it is our chance to be disciples of Jesus. The funny thing is, as we serve others, we are really benefiting ourselves – we are being who God wants us to be.

A disciple is a transformed life who is abiding in Jesus such that they love God and love people. Loving those in need is loving Jesus, thus we become disciples of Jesus.

Frank Gates is the one who is really making this all come together. You should thank him for helping us be the people God wants us to be. Even better, you can help him help us be disciples by being involved. There are a number of ways you can help. Let us know if you are interested by emailing the church (csccoffice@pacbell.net) or give us a call. (530-622-2171) If you would like to see the guidelines and structure of what we are doing, let us know. We will email or send you a copy.

As well, pray for CSCC – that we could be disciples of Jesus. And as we do that, some other people would become disciples too.

Peace and grace,
David

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Terrorist Cell Warning

Got this from my good friend Marlo. Serious stuff.

"Terrorist groups operating in churches. Latest new reports are that five terrorist cel grops have been operating in many of our churches. they have benn identified as: Bin Sleepin', Bin Arguin', Bin Fightin', Bin Complainin' and Min Missin'. Their leader, Osama bin Lucifer, trained these groups to destroy the body of Christ. The plan is to come into the church disguised as Christians and to work within the church to discourage, disrupt, and destroy. However, there have also been reports of a sixth group. A tiny cell known by the name Bin Prayin' is actually the only effective counter terrorism force in the church. This group appears to be very weak. Unlike other terrorist cells, the Bin Prayin team does not blend in with whomever or whatever comes along. Bin Prayin' does whatever is neede to uplift and encourage the Body of Christ. We have noticed that the Bin Prayin' cel group has differnt characteristics than the others. They have Bin Watchin', Bin wiatin', Bin Fastin', and Bin Longin' for their Master, Jesus Christ to return. Which cell group do you belong to?"

"The face of the enemy frightens me only when I see how much it resembles me"