Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stephanie, Jesus is Calling

It is 6 PM and I just got in from an inspiring Saturday.  Today Patterson's Family Christian Center (Pastors Ken and Brenda Moren) held an outreach event in the city park. They wanted to take advantage of my last Saturday before leaving for Argentina again.  And they did it up big complete with water slides and food for everyone.  But first came some singing, Perfume and Felipe, and a Gospel message.  It was my first time to preach from the platform of their newly acquired ministry truck.  

I taught a couple of choruses from the keyboard and let Perfume be petted by all the kids.  Look at the face of this little guy.  
Felipe told the Bible story of Blind Barty who lived in darkness until he met Jesus the light of the world.  

Then I preached a simple gospel message on Jesus' powerful words: John 8:12 "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." 
Only Jesus could make a claim like that. It was a simple message quite like I might preach in a park somewhere in Argentina and then gave an invitation.  

Many people, like these men, listened from a distance... kind of out of sight.

Several responded to the invitation to come closer for prayer.  One was a girl who was weeping.  At first glance I guessed her age as 18.  But when I went down to deal personally with her she told me her name was Stephanie and that she was 43!  And she pointed over my shoulder to an area far behind me and said, “I live over there in the bushes.”  And it is true.  Stephanie lives among the homeless. 
Later after a meal of hot-dogs, chips and a soda I saw her pushing her cart piled high with her only earthly belongings.  She was going away from us down the sidewalk.  I couldn't have stopped myself.  I didn't think. I just reacted.  I left the brother I was talking with and ran after her and gave her a hug.  I don't know if old men are supposed to hug young ladies in this culture or not but I could not help myself.  I told her again that “Jesus loves her.”  She has obviously lived a pretty difficult life.  I assured her that she is just as important to God as I am or the pastor of the church is and Jesus loves her so much He gave His life for her. 

I asked her if she would let me take her picture with me.  She said okay.  I held her close and she clung to me.  I could see tears running down her cheeks.  She tried to smile for the picture, but tears were flowing.  

My last blog was about the woman that washed Jesus' feet with her tears. Today I met that woman.  And my heart breaks for her.  

I was reminded of Jesus' story of the son that ran away from home and went to a far country.  We call it the story of the "prodigal son", but Jesus never called him a “prodigal” or any other name.  He just made it clear that his Heavenly Father was waiting and anxious to receive his darling boy home again.  I believe the loving arms of Jesus are open and waiting for Stephanie to start her journey “home.”  If I know my Jesus, He will run to her, embrace her and offer her a brand new start.  Would you pray for Stephanie?  I can’t get her out of my mind.  


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

No Photos Just a Word Picture


You know I don’t do this often.  My journaling is really only for me.  But today I have been so broken by the Savior’s love for me, so overcome with flowing tears… I felt inclined to share these thoughts with you.  (Note: The text is taken from the Living Bible.  Each time I go through the Bible I try a different version.)

Tuesday 9-24-2013         

S. (Scripture)  Luke 7:44-48 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Look! See this woman kneeling here! When I entered your home, you didn't bother to offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You refused me the customary kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I first came in.  You neglected the usual courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has covered my feet with rare perfume.  Therefore her sins-and they are many-are forgiven, for she loved me much; but one who is forgiven little, shows little love."  And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

O. (Observation)  Awesome!  It is another picture of my wonderful Savior!  He had become famous for raising a widow’s son from his coffin and healing all kinds of diseases.  The general public was caught up in following Him around and passing on the stories of the wonders they saw.  Jesus was the talk of the town.  Although most of the Pharisees highly criticized Him and refused to believe in Him, a Pharisee named Simon invited him to dinner and Jesus and his group of disciples accepted.  But there was an unexpected guest that showed up… a woman of the street with a bad reputation.  Normally she would have never entered this Pharisee’s house, but now drawn by the love of Jesus she sneaked in and knelt at Jesus’ feet.

This was not her first time to see Jesus.  Without doubt this woman had been in the crowds and witnessed His love for lost and hopeless sinners like she was.  It was His love for people like her that drew her into unfamiliar territory.  She collapsed at His dusty feet, kissing them again and again and letting her tears of repentance fall upon them.  Now she lets down her long hair and is trying to dry His feet… and anointing them with expensive perfume. 

Where was Jesus looking all this time?  Was His focus on the wealthy religious man that had invited Him to his abundant table?  Was he caught up with the excellently prepared and elegantly served meal?  I don’t think so.  I think Jesus was looking down at this broken woman with deep compassion.  And in one sweeping moment He washes all her sins away, “Your sins are forgiven!”

A. (Application)  My Jesus was and still is in the forgiving business.  His attention and love for broken lives has never changed.  Weep, sinner!  Weep at His feet.  Let your tears of repentance flow like a river.  And so they come… decent sinners, alcoholics, drugs addicts… prostitutes and their clients alike… men and women, just like me, chained to the slavery of sin.  Yes here they come.  No, no… it is… here we come.  It is here I come.  I fall at His feet. 

Anyone else, but Jesus would have shoved that woman away in similar circumstances… right there in front of decent people.  Anyone else would have, at best, told her this was not the right moment… come back when I am just with my disciples.  You are embarrassing me.  You are humiliating me.  By accepting your love here before all these decent people, I am identifying myself with you… so please go away. 

Oh, but that’s not my Jesus.  He had come into this world for this fallen woman.  He had come into this world for a fallen sinner named Ralph.  He did not shove me away in disgust.  He opened his loving arms and lifted me into them.  Suddenly I knew that I was accepted by Someone Who loved me more deeply than a mother’s love.  I was astonished!  I was conquered forever by the love of God’s only Son Who received even me!

P. (Prayer)  And so I come again today and crash at Your feet, dear Jesus.  Yes, I know that I am not worthy of coming into the room where You sit at the table.  I am not worthy of interrupting Your heavenly feast today.  But I have been conquered by Your love.  I cannot stand outside, looking in.  I am pushed from behind, drawn forward by an invisible force.  Your love is a powerful magnet.  Oh for the privilege of just kissing the nail scars on Your feet!  I have no expensive perfume to offer You, only my tears… only my love for You, my Lord and Savior.  As I lie here crumpled on the floor… one more time I surrender to Your will and purpose for my life and I glory in the privilege of serving You any way and every way You choose.  Amen.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Big Trees

Last Saturday my son, Tim, invited me to join them as they were taking their two new house guests (Chinese exchange students John and Tyler) on a "field trip" to see the Calaveras Big Trees in the nearby mountains.  How could I turn that down!?
I had already seen similar big trees in two other locations of California, but not this magnificent forest. This is at 4728 above sea level and these treetops, some 250 feet high, were actually hiding in the clouds above us.  They say that some of them date back to before the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. 

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained... (and when I stroll between the toes of these giant Sequoias, my heart says,) "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?" Psalm 8:3-4
It was cold up there and we had occasional showers. The mist seemed to add a deeper beauty to it all. We slipped into our rain wear (except for Evan who had left his in the car) and we looked quite ghostly, all dressed up for "trickin' and treatin'".
Now to the famous philosophical question, "When a tree falls in the forest and there are no creatures, human or otherwise, around to hear it crash... Does it really make a sound at all?"  Well, I guarantee that when this grand-daddy finally surrendered to the elements and toppled, the deer, rabbits, bears and every other creature for miles around felt the ground shake and ran for cover. Just check out what is left of this root system!  

In the late 1800's somebody decided to make a tunnel through this one.  That's a lot of hand cutting... long before the existence of chain saws.

The small trees form a green and red carpet for the the giant's feet.                                                                                                                                        
Someone actually cut this massive tree down many years ago.  The stump serves as a platform about 22 feet across!                  

Tim stands with his ever-present camera taking both still shots and video. 

"Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord." 
Psalm 96:11-13

If you would like to enjoy Tim's awesome 2 minute video of this trek, just click on  You may have to put it on pause for a couple of minutes to allow it to download... but it is worth it.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Fishing at Monterey

I stopped to shoot this mural painted on rough cement in beautiful Monterey, California. Two men are attending their nets quite like they did 2000 years ago when Jesus gave a couple of guys like this a boat full of fish.

Pastors Leonard and Gloria Trembley are God's fishers. They fish for little kids in Monterey and in the process their parents get snagged in the net.  

Several years ago God gave them a burden to reach the children in this area. They went house to house (and still do) and discovered that most of the families were Spanish speaking.  The Trembleys were not trained in Spanish, but immersed themselves so totally in their "mission field" that they now defend themselves quite well.  Most of these Latins want to learn English and their kids already speak it.  Their worship is in both languages and preaching is usually translated.  Today they are reaching scores, probably hundreds of kids and many of their parents! 

Little kids are memorizing scripture every week.  Those that have done their homework come forward and whisper last week's memory verse correctly in their teacher's ear and each then are able to choose a prize from a pile of very nice gifts.  Monthly a brand new bicycle, donated by Costco, is given away to the child that brings the most new kids that month!  

And... they listen with fixed attention to the message preached.  

I ministered with them for my fourth time last Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday 10 AM is a full-fledged church service especially for children.  I am not good at translating for myself, but prefer that to an interpreter, which sometimes feels to me more like an "interruptor"... ha. I did my best and Felipe cooperated.

Prayer time is reverent and serious.  Several little kids come forward for special prayer.  Sometimes their request is for their parents to know Jesus.  And God has answered that prayer so many times that the adult church has grown big enough that Leonard has quit his secular job to attend to the business of serving as pastor.  

But don't be deceived.  Their secret is not toys and bicycles, but the little four letter word "Love".  This couple pours out love to every kid and parent.

After Saturday "Kid's Church" helium filled balloons were given out and a sack lunch was served to each child.  I shot a photo of this happy group waiting outside for their transportation.  

I was impressed to see that the instant the little kids went upstairs to eat, without a word several teenage boys started cleaning the church, even vacuuming the padded pews when necessary.  In 30 minutes it was ready for Sunday service.  Then I noticed after the kids ate, the teenage girls were cleaning the "eating hall" upstairs.  Hey, they are raising up faithful workers for Jesus. 

Now hear this: The Trembleys heard that my bicycle had been stolen out of my garage and surprised me with a brand new 21 speed NorthRock bicycle compliments of Costco!  

I took it to Felton where my son Ron, and his Argentinean wife, Elisabet live in the Santa Cruz mountains and enjoyed my first ride on mountain trails... while Elisabet rode her horse, "Solo", and Ron and I rode our bikes. What fun!  God just blesses the socks off me! 

Thanks, Leonard and Gloria for a wonderful time, a generous offering and a brand new bike!  And best of all for your love and passion for the lost and needy!  It's no wonder your fishing boat is filling up and will soon be overflowing! 


Saturday, September 7, 2013

What Does This Picture Mean?

Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, with Pastor Rick Cole, has a wonderful Christian school.  About once each year I am invited to speak for them.  I love it!  It was my turn again last Thursday.

The estimated 400 kids K-5th grade were as usual very quiet and attentive.  I regret that I forgot to take pictures of the whole impressive group that filled the entire activity center.  A teacher did take a few pictures of me however.   

I knew I would only have about 30 minutes for my part of the chapel time and, what with Perfume showing up and with Felipe doing a song, it only left me about 15 or 18 minutes.  

In this shot Felipe is resisting returning to his suitcase as usual.

I had really wished I had the time to draw a picture and preach from it, but that takes 15 minutes or more just to draw the picture, so I drew the picture at home the night before and left it unfinished… so that I could just add the crosses and the people on Golgotha’s hill top.  

That only took about two minutes or so.  Then I told a story that I heard long ago from Pastor Richard Exley.  It may be printed now in one of his many books.  It is about a four year old girl who had never been to Sunday School, but her parents let her go on the SS bus.  Her teacher was giving the life of Jesus, Sunday after Sunday and giving out a little picture of Jesus’ miracle, or whatever the story had been about, to take home.  

Finally she came to the crucifixion and during class this little girl asked over and over “What does this picture mean?  Why did Jesus have to die?” And kept doing so even after teacher explained it several times as well as she could.  But this caused a problem with her non-Christian parents when she arrived home, because she refused to release the picture and kept asking these same two questions over and over.  They sent her to her room, but every time they opened the door the same two questions came out.  The father, a Vietnam veteran, was very upset about this and went to her SS teacher’s house to insist that she come to straighten out this fixation in their little girl’s mind.  When they opened the front door out ran this little girl with the crumpled up, dirty picture in her hand, crying, “Teacher, teacher; What does this picture mean?  Why did Jesus have to die?”  “See what I mean?” yelled the father.  The young lady teacher was frightened, but silently asked for God’s help.  Then said, “I think I need to tell you what this picture means… and why Jesus had to die.”  The teacher was sitting in their living room answering these two questions when the parents melted under conviction and right there accepted the Lord Jesus as their Savior.  It’s a great story.     

Then I told the kids I wanted to answer those same two questions for them.  What does this picture mean?  And... Why did Jesus have to die?   It was a simple, short message and I concluded with my personal testimony of accepting the Lord Jesus as a little child.  Then I prayed for their salvation.  Many among that 400 are probably from Christian families, but certainly not all.  So only the Lord knows what is happening down on the inside where the wonderful Holy Spirit is faithfully doing His work.

Afterwards some of the littlest kids were hugging my legs as the last small group slowly filed out, so I asked their teacher for permission to take their picture.  They were so cute!