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The Mirror

It is Tuesday afternoon and all of us from the Student Ministry are currently entrenched in day three of camp. The sunscreen has been flowing all week and Sprinkle (our massive 10 person unicorn floaty) has suffered perhaps a fatal injury. Overall, things have been great so far. Our leaders have definitely been hard at work. Between keeping everything running smoothly, teaching the Bible to teenagers, and the fact that the kids never want to sleep; these leaders probably need a day at the spa after this. I also want to give a huge shout out to the food team of Lilia McGregor, Rick Klingsporn, and my own mother. Anyone that thinks camp is a vacation for the adults is definitely misinformed. Nevertheless, they are here because they believe in growing the next generation to be followers of Jesus, and I am incredibly thankful.

Our camp theme has been focused on the topic of light. The first night began with creation and God creating light. We walked through Genesis 1-3 to show how God created everything good, but people brought darkness into it when we rejected God. The speaker actually taught everyone some motions to remember his lesson so if you see a middle or high school student feel free to test them. The second night went into the idea that God is the light in our lives that makes us into a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). I really want to focus in on the object lesson that Justin, our speaker, used to teach this because I thought it was so important. As Justin taught he pulled out a pretty big mirror. He then began to talk about sin and as he did, he would write each sin down on the mirror. The mirror began to fill to the point where it really hindered the way you could see yourself in it. Just as it did in the beginning, sin leaves a scar on our lives. A scar that we generally respond to in three different ways. The first, which I believe is especially common with the younger generation, is owning our sin. Not owning up to it, owning it. As in, “I cheated or mistreated someone because I’m driven. That’s just the way I am. Deal with it.” Or “ I’m mean because I tell it how it is, that’s who I am.” When we own our sin we don’t look for forgiveness. We leave the mirror covered and let it hinder the way we see ourselves.

The second way people respond to sin is by trying to clean it by themselves. All the students watch as Justin sprays and wipes the mirror with little success. Everything was written down in Sharpie. Some of the words have smudged a little but nothing has been erased. These scars are too deep for us to erase alone. Sure maybe we can clean it up to the point where others can’t see, but never to the point that we are actually cleansed. If that’s true, where is our hope? All of a sudden a loud crash overwhelms the area. Justin has picked up a hammer and smashed the mirror. Behind the broken mirror lay a mirror clean and spotless. The third and the right way to respond to sin is by turning to Jesus. When we give our life to Jesus, he shatters our old sinful life and creates in us a new creation. Sometimes it is loud, sometimes it is messy, but in the end we are given something new and beautiful.

Pray for Summer Camp

This is a big week, and you might not even know it. Sometimes big things fall under the radar around here. But this one is actually really big. Why? Because lives change at camp.

Our youth ministry heads out to summer camp after church this afternoon. They are heading to Canyon Lake to do all kinds of amazing water activities, returning on Wednesday afternoon. There are about 35 people at camp this year — which is about 23 students, if I remember correctly (not always a given). So, this is the largest summer camp we’ve had in many years. They are young (not too many are in high school) — but this means that Andrew has a wonderful opportunity to grow a group. The progress is steady.

But as an old youth pastor, what I liked about camp — and especially summer camp — was the sheer number of hours you get to spend with the students. If you get them for 90 minutes 40 weeks a year — that’s 60 hours. But in this three-day camp, the youth staff gets 72 hours to invest in the lives of students. That’s significant. Ok, yes, they will sleep part of that time — but that’s a huge chunk of opportunity to get to know students and build into their lives.

This is an important week ahead. And that means that we ought to be praying for every aspect of the next three days. Travel. Safety. Camaraderie. Worship. The Speaker. The cooks. The staff. Andrew. It’s a big deal. So, it’s time to pray. How? Here are some suggestions:

  • Safe travels to and from Canyon Lake.
  • Protection from injury or sickness while at camp.
  • For students to encounter Jesus and His Word in life-changing ways.
  • Deepened relationships between our students, leaders, and with the Lord.

Some of the most significant moments in my days as a youth pastor were camps. We went lots of fun places and did lots of different things — I’d do almost anything to get out of Rancho Mirage in July and August. But it was during those experiences that relationships were deepened and the students’ walk with Jesus was renewed and changes made. I got some interesting nicknames through the process, some of them stick to this day. Well, one of them. No, I’m not sharing that piece of information.

But my plea is that you’d pray from now until Wednesday for lives to be changed and hearts to be touched as they enjoy Canyon Lake. May God do something special this week that will profoundly change the future of each student. May God grab their lives and hearts and help them grow deeper in their walk with Jesus. I came to know Jesus as Savior at a summer camp. I made many life-changing decisions at camp. There is a ton of potential driving out of our parking lot this afternoon. Who knows the impact this week will make in eternity? So, let us pray.

Thanks for your support of youth ministry. And thanks in advance for praying for summer camp. Because this is a big week and you don’t want to miss the joy of getting involved. We all need to pray.

Wedding Bells

Life changed this week. In a wonderful way. On Wednesday I got a phone call from Lindsey that Noah MacDonald had proposed to her on a hike near Crystal Cove (and she said, “yes” – just to be clear). It was not a surprise. Christie and I knew it was coming and had given Noah our full blessing.

But I wasn’t prepared for my reaction. Of course, it is time. Of course, it is amazing. Of course, it is so special to see your child beam from the moment. I wasn’t ready to feel so… old. And I wasn’t prepared for all the questions that now flooded my mind and have crowded into our lives. It’s amazing. And wonderful. And special. And we are so happy. But this is an all-consuming life event.

I also wasn’t prepared to face the hard reality of another life transition. School. Driving. High school. College. Empty nest. It’s all now going to be quite permanent. As it should be. Things will never be the same for our family, in a good way. But in a moment, we went from struggling to just keep up with summer and church and life, to a wedding in our future. It will be in the background of every moment from now until that big day. And it’ll be sooner rather than later, I predict. I’m not sure we will sleep much for a while. I am now looking forward to the break to be provided by the medical mission in Uganda. The break? Yes, it is a different kind of exhaustion.

There are wedding bells ringing in our family. I remember hearing them over three decades ago, and now they ring again. It is an exciting time. I am determined to not repeat the mistakes of the loveable George Banks (“Father of the Bride”), and I will not watch it (again). Well, maybe. I know my role but admit to having some issues following the rules. But I pledge to be good. And will not cry (or I will be placed in exile).

Christie and I are thrilled and delighted and want to celebrate life and love and faith through this experience. Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding. This weekend in Bombo there is a huge wedding (medical mission plans have been on pause this week) as one of the pastors gets married. In Africa, weddings are huge and provide a wonderful opportunity to celebrate God. I think that’s what this is going to be about (although, that’s not really my decision — but I know Noah and Lindsey well).

I have a fresh appreciation of the role this church family has had in shaping both Noah and Lindsey. Thank you for investing in them. Thank you for loving them. Thank you for letting them both follow the path in life that God has led.

In short order, we will launch these carefully crafted arrows heavenward. Their influence and impact will reflect the years of nurture they have received from this church family. And that is worth every penny of investment in this wedding (did I say that?). I did. It is time to party.

Students Who Impact Their World

Tuesday was an amazing day. I got up early and headed out to Thermal, to watch (and encourage) our students in action at the Tesoro VBS. We weren’t a very large team, but we were powerful. Now, getting on the road was a little rough. It took me two gas stations and almost half an hour to get four gallons of gas. Don’t ask. I guess gas pumps don’t like to get up early either. But I was on my way to the desert by 6:30 am, but the unplanned delay caused me to add another half an hour to the trip, if my Maps program can be trusted.

It was nice to get away from things and see a bunch of windmills again. Well, I could do without the windmills. In case you didn’t know, our family spent nine years out in the desert, with all three of our children born in Palm Springs. So, there is a comfortable familiarity with the drive and the sights. I miss the sunny days and expansive views. But I can honestly say I don’t miss summer in the desert. It topped out at 118 on Tuesday. At first it felt nice to be warm again. At first. By lunch, I was ready to get back to the clouds of PV. We should embrace June Gloom. Always.

But our students did a great job leading the junior high portion of VBS. The team is basically a group of middle school students leading middle school students. They probably taught their first lessons…ever. There were nine of them (including adults) that led in worship, activities, games, small groups, everything really. They were organized and happy (it was only Tuesday).

We ate lunch together (Taco Tuesday) in Coachella. Yes, it was the famous restaurant of “the fight” from a staff retreat many moons ago. I love that place. It is so authentic, and the cook is amazing. We relaxed in some air conditioning, ate great tacos, and got to know each other a bit better. Just a bit, they are middle school students and conversation can be interesting.

The team served well this week. I got glowing reports from the Tesoro leadership. They had maybe 40 students under their charge this week, which could be the largest group ever for VBS. They asked about some of our team that didn’t make it out this year (Noah). Relationships are building, and we are having a significant impact on these students in the desert.

My hat goes off to our team of nine. Well done. Thanks for serving. May you catch the vision of ministry and see the impact God’s Word can have in all our lives.

Now, I must say, since I was out there on Tuesday — it was “Pharaoh” day in the “Roar” curriculum. I’m thinking our Pharaoh caused a bit more of a buzz among the elementary students. Just saying.

May God continue to guide us to impact students locally and outside our culture and language. The doors for ministry are wide open. Where are you serving? Where has God prepared your heart and passions to serve? Let us continue to grow students who will impact their world. And beyond.

Georgia – A Model of Grace and Peace

We lost a Peninsula giant last week. With her recent health battles, you may not have known her or even have met her. But Georgia Childs was one of the sweetest and kindest women to grace our church. She had a tender and warm heart. Her love for her family had no end. And oh, how she loved Peninsula. Georgia and her late husband, Leo, had been around here a long time, a very long time. They were always (and I mean always) cheerfully supportive.

Georgia for years served on our deaconate, doing hospital visitation. I’d go to the hospital and more often than not (when she was healthy) she would have beat me to the bedside. Several people didn’t know who she was, but she had introduced herself to them and had a wonderful visit, with prayer. Her lovely southern drawl and warm, warm smile lit up every room she graced.

When her husband passed away 2½ years ago, Georgia was a model of grace and peace, through that very difficult adjustment for her. She was an amazing mother to Reggie and Leo, in a family with its share of pain and struggle. But Georgia’s faith never wilted. Ever.

The last conversation I had with her was a couple of weeks ago, she still lit up that hospital room with her smile — and her deep love of Jesus and joy in Him. Today, she’s lighting up heaven with that big smile of hers.

On the night before the fourth of July, I went to visit Georgia in the hospital. I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d see her this side of glory, but I wondered. I just knew I had to go. She could no longer communicate and that smile was covered up by medical technology. After a while, I asked if we could pray. So, Reggie, Leo, Dennis Shaffer, and I gathered around her bed, held her hands and prayed.

And in those moments, those very moments, Georgia met her Savior, face to face. By the time I said, “Amen,” she was gone. She woke up on heaven’s shores. There was no more need of that breathing apparatus. Disease was gone. Hope became sight. Georgia was more “home” than she had ever been here on earth. Our hearts broke. Her heart was whole.

So, Georgia, I miss you. You are deeply loved here at Peninsula. You have graced us for decades with your joy and faith in Jesus. We will carry on with your joy and faith until we are all together again with you, in the presence of the Savior.

It is in a moment like that Wednesday evening, that our faith as an anchor is tested. And made so real. What is the point of our faith, if you walk out of that hospital room with no hope of reunion? Sure, it is sad, heartbreaking actually. But we believe the promise of Jesus to provide eternal life. Therefore, in the valley of the shadow we do not have to be afraid. We have a living Savior whose hand guides us through the darkest valley of life, death.

My hope is renewed. My joy remains. Georgia’s with Jesus. Where all believers will be some day. He is risen. He is risen, indeed.

Martha

The Bible is written so that we keep our eyes on Jesus. And yet, as we walk our way through, there are some human heroes, too. They capture our attention and model for us how to follow God. Or not.

One of those intriguing characters is Martha. In the Gospels, she gets a bad rap for serving, while her sister is sitting. Since that sitting was done in the presence of Jesus, it is commended by Him. But there is so much more to her. Let me summarize the thoughts of Ed Welch.

Here she is coming out to meet Jesus after the death of her brother Lazarus. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:20–27)

Wow, Mary is seated again. Martha is not. Later in the same narrative, Martha is at the tomb. She wanted it to remain sealed. The stench would be bad. But what is most amazing is Martha’s bold statement. She knows — and so she says — that Jesus is able to raise her brother right then. Martha shines in this conversation. She is our imperfect heroine, whose faith we want to imitate.

Of all of Jesus’ “I am” disclosures, “I am the resurrection and life” is the one on which all other statements depend. If death is not defeated, Jesus-as-good-shepherd will be with us only until we die. If death is not defeated, Satan is not defeated. The revelation of Jesus to Martha was intimate and glorious. In response, as a woman who represents all those who would ever follow Jesus, she says it clearly: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

The end of the gospel of John gives his purpose in writing. “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Martha is the first and only person in his gospel who has these words on her lips. Listen to her. Speak what she speaks. We must all speak what she speaks.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on Martha. Her place in Scripture is more complex than we see at first glance. Besides, we all need to follow her example:  “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

The One With Pharaoh Jim

Are you one of the lucky ones this morning that gets a pass for nodding off during the sermon? If you were at VBS for five days this week, a sermonic catnap is allowed. Today only. Now, only those at VBS get that pass, just to be clear. I was at VBS, so I might take the voucher and use it myself. Except, I was only really there one day. One rather long and sweaty day.

On Tuesday I was Pharaoh. Yes, the great Pharaoh of Egypt. It was the day to tell the story of the 10 plagues and the Passover. To be honest, it turned out to be a very powerful lesson (thanks to the teaching of Brenda Weber and her team). The children were really into it — and I provided the comic relief as Pharaoh. How else do you play Pharaoh for children?

I must say it was energizing to be around the children for a morning. More than one day may have required I spend the rest of the week in a wheelchair. Just saying. But for Tuesday it was good medicine for the soul. It was part of being willing to be used by God when a door for ministry opens. If we are growing people to impact their world and beyond, then we have to be willing to engage all kinds of people. And, children are people. We have an obligation to help moms and dads pass along the unsearchable riches of Christ. Oh, how they need to know and love the stories of God’s work across the ages. Redemption. Rescue. Provision. The children learned about it all from a faithful team of leaders.

My hats are off to them all. I just had a small, but visible role. I am now “Pharaoh” to a whole bunch of children. I was good at saying “no” creatively — but in the lesson my heart got to break as I told of the death my beloved first-born son. The curriculum did an amazing job of engaging the children in the story and helping them to face things which make them afraid. I was impressed.

But I was more impressed with our team. Under Colleen’s leadership, there were many people here ready to invest their lives in children. That’s invigorating for me. That gives me hope for the future of Church. The amount of work that was required to tell the stories and remind in very practical ways of a God who created and loves — really speaks to a church family who values children. And a church family who values God’s Word.

So, yes, if you hear a rumor from the VBS team…I was Pharaoh for one brief and shining moment on Tuesday. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The children were amazing. And I hear there are openings for next year’s VBS. Sign up today and get your pick of the leadership positions. I don’t imagine Pharaoh will show up again. But you never know.

But if he does, he has but one simple request. Perhaps a palace and throne on a slightly grander scale. I mean, Pharaoh living in a 2’ x 2’ x 3’ triangular space was a bit beneath the mighty ruler of Egypt. But he did have fun. Oh wait, it’s not about me. It’s about the truth of the Word. Never mind that request. The hut is fine.

Contrasts

The fishing was lousy. And yet, the peaks were still drenched white. It was beautiful. The streams were full to overflowing. The weather was warm-ish. I can promise you there still is a sun up there, beyond the overcast and drizzle. My naps were long. So, yes, we had a great time fishing and resting (more resting than fishing) in Mammoth last week. I slept a lot. I guess we were tired. But at my age, when am I not?

Coming back from the Eastern Sierra is always a trek. It’s like coming back into an area of cell phone service when you haven’t had any cell service for a while. Boom, you are reconnected to the world. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just a different thing. Because we belong to families and work and enjoy a church family — the phone can go crazy sometimes. It’s only the contrast of getting back into it all that can be jarring.

It’s exactly what Jesus faced in the passage in Matthew 17, the one Ken preached last Sunday. Back from the desolation of Mt. Hermon and the thrill of the moment of transfiguration to the crowds, where there was this big need. The stress began again quickly. Boy, we’ve all been there.

The challenge is to make transitions smoothly, but that is not always (or often) possible. Getting away recharges life. Getting back can drain life. Getting away is a little more fun than getting back.

The week ahead is no time to lay around either. It’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) week, which is sort of obvious. Hallways are clogged with things to help children learn. There’s some sort of costume in my office which I guess I have to wear one day this week. Mums the word on that one. Most of the set is up in the Worship Center. Life is just a little odd today. Odd is a good way, without a doubt.

Tomorrow the campus will be filled with laughing and noisy children. I will love it. They will be full of energy and hopefully willing to learn some Bible stories. We have a crack team ready to share God’s love with each child. It should be a great week ahead.

We all need to get away. We all have faced the contrast of the peace away with the noise of being back with the crowd. A few days of rest can be ripped to shreds with an hour on the 405. Have you noticed? My goal is to take that refreshing experience of being away and use it to recharge and refocus my energy on family and work and kingdom. I don’t want to forget those moments of “transfiguration,” but let those moments point me back to a God whose plan is so much bigger and grander than my puny plans and problems.

Contrasts will come this summer. Don’t let the contrasts get you down. Keep looking to Jesus and the opportunities He provides to us to serve Him. Enjoy some time in God’s creation. Refocus your life on Jesus and His kingdom. And then don’t be surprised, when you land, if that focus is tested. Listen to Jesus. Walk with Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

A Small Step of Faith

Did you see it? Did you catch a glimpse? There was a moment this week where the sun broke through the overcast clouds and fog. A time where all of us were reminded of the truth that summer is upon us.

I love the summer because it means that summer camp is almost here! Summer camp is really the pinnacle event of youth ministry. So much is building to it and if camp is done right, it can provide significant momentum to start off the year. Summer camp brings with it so much excitement, challenges, and perhaps most of all potential. Potential is really the key here. And I know the potential first hand as you could call me a camp veteran. While I look young, I have already been to around 100 camps in my life. I guess that’s one of the perks of growing up a pastor’s kid. Well that and the trauma of being used as an illustration in every other sermon and being the guinea pig for inventive youth activities and demonstrations… Wait, where was I? Oh yes, summer camp brings with it potential. I first really learned this lesson my freshman year of high school. For some reason I actually decided to follow the advice of my youth leaders (shocking, I know) and invite many of the new people I had met in high school to summer camp. Even more shocking perhaps was that eight of them decided to go! From there things moved fast. By the end of the week, six accepted Jesus as savior for the first time. By the end of the month, three were baptized. By the end of the year, those eight had gone out and brought their friends and families who brought their friends and families multiplying that little group into a large community. Fast forward 10 years later and now two have joined full-time ministry. This is all to say that God has plans we could have never thought of, and yet sometimes it only takes a small step of faith to get to be a part of those plans — to join in the potential.

Summer camp brings that opportunity. It’s amazing how much easier we can see and hear God when we aren’t constantly distracting ourselves, and when we have a chance to slow down and listen. This year PCC Student Ministry will be going to summer camp August 4 – 7. Our hope and prayer is just that. That the students will have time to connect and listen to the God that loves them. That students will be so moved by his love that they will want to invite others to come see it. So please join us in praying for the student ministry and for summer camp.

Change Our World

Schools on the The Hill are empty this weekend. Graduation day was another dreary afternoon. I’m sure blankets were cherished items. It’s never hot for graduation. The sun is out for New Year’s Day, not early June. I was all set to wax eloquently about the joy and freedom the last day of school brought each year. It was always better than Christmas. But the anniversary on Thursday hit me hard.

My heart melted as I contemplated the events of D-Day, on its 75th anniversary. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to wait in the darkness off the coast of France for dawn. That dawn brought battle, near certain death on those serene beaches. The thought numbs the mind.

It was the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 brave young soldiers from the United States, the UK and Canada stormed the beaches of Normandy, France to push the Nazis out of Western Europe and turn the tide of the war for good.

In planning the D-Day attack, Allied military leaders knew that casualties might be very high, but it was a cost they were willing to pay to establish an infantry stronghold in France. Days before the invasion, General Eisenhower was told by a top strategist that paratrooper casualties alone could be as high as 75 percent. But he pushed forward anyway. Freedom was at stake.

The landings were the first stage of Operation Overlord — the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe — and aimed to bring an end to World War II. By nightfall, around 156,000 Allied troops had arrived in Normandy, despite challenging weather and a fierce German defense. At the end of D-Day, the Allies had established a foothold in France and within 11 months Nazi Germany was defeated.

They are heroes. Whether they lived or died, they are heroes. They changed history and defeated evil. Soon, the countryside of France would breathe free again. Soon, the gates at the concentration camps would be opened. Finally. We owe those brave soldiers so much. They are the greatest of American generations.

But how do we use our freedom for which they shed their blood? We, too, want to be and to do the heroic. What does that mean for us? It is not measured today in the storming of more beaches. From God’s viewpoint, it is much simpler than that. To gain the favor of God, walk with Him, let the Scriptures permeate your life, and provide for the members of your own household. In those moments, we change the world and honor the sacrifice made by those soldiers. And our Savior.

The brave soldiers who stormed the beaches of France, made a difference because they went all-in together. It was the force of their unity which overwhelmed the enemy. That is the unity we cherish in the church.  It is that measure of love which will change the world.

What can we do to change the world? Love God. Do justice. Provide for your family. In that, we change our world. That is enough. Chose to live with your eyes on the eternal.

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The Mirror

It is Tuesday afternoon and all of us from the Student Ministry are currently entrenched in day three of camp. The sunscreen has been flowing all week and Sprinkle (our massive 10 person unicorn floaty) has suffered perhaps a fatal injury. Overall, things have been great so far. Our leaders have definitely been hard at work. Between keeping everything running smoothly, teaching the Bible to teenagers, and the fact that the kids never want to sleep; these leaders probably need a day at the spa after this. I also want to give a huge shout out to the food team of Lilia McGregor, Rick Klingsporn, and my own mother. Anyone that thinks camp is a vacation for the adults is definitely misinformed. Nevertheless, they are here because they believe in growing the next generation to be followers of Jesus, and I am incredibly thankful.

Our camp theme has been focused on the topic of light. The first night began with creation and God creating light. We walked through Genesis 1-3 to show how God created everything good, but people brought darkness into it when we rejected God. The speaker actually taught everyone some motions to remember his lesson so if you see a middle or high school student feel free to test them. The second night went into the idea that God is the light in our lives that makes us into a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). I really want to focus in on the object lesson that Justin, our speaker, used to teach this because I thought it was so important. As Justin taught he pulled out a pretty big mirror. He then began to talk about sin and as he did, he would write each sin down on the mirror. The mirror began to fill to the point where it really hindered the way you could see yourself in it. Just as it did in the beginning, sin leaves a scar on our lives. A scar that we generally respond to in three different ways. The first, which I believe is especially common with the younger generation, is owning our sin. Not owning up to it, owning it. As in, “I cheated or mistreated someone because I’m driven. That’s just the way I am. Deal with it.” Or “ I’m mean because I tell it how it is, that’s who I am.” When we own our sin we don’t look for forgiveness. We leave the mirror covered and let it hinder the way we see ourselves.

The second way people respond to sin is by trying to clean it by themselves. All the students watch as Justin sprays and wipes the mirror with little success. Everything was written down in Sharpie. Some of the words have smudged a little but nothing has been erased. These scars are too deep for us to erase alone. Sure maybe we can clean it up to the point where others can’t see, but never to the point that we are actually cleansed. If that’s true, where is our hope? All of a sudden a loud crash overwhelms the area. Justin has picked up a hammer and smashed the mirror. Behind the broken mirror lay a mirror clean and spotless. The third and the right way to respond to sin is by turning to Jesus. When we give our life to Jesus, he shatters our old sinful life and creates in us a new creation. Sometimes it is loud, sometimes it is messy, but in the end we are given something new and beautiful.

Pray for Summer Camp

This is a big week, and you might not even know it. Sometimes big things fall under the radar around here. But this one is actually really big. Why? Because lives change at camp.

Our youth ministry heads out to summer camp after church this afternoon. They are heading to Canyon Lake to do all kinds of amazing water activities, returning on Wednesday afternoon. There are about 35 people at camp this year — which is about 23 students, if I remember correctly (not always a given). So, this is the largest summer camp we’ve had in many years. They are young (not too many are in high school) — but this means that Andrew has a wonderful opportunity to grow a group. The progress is steady.

But as an old youth pastor, what I liked about camp — and especially summer camp — was the sheer number of hours you get to spend with the students. If you get them for 90 minutes 40 weeks a year — that’s 60 hours. But in this three-day camp, the youth staff gets 72 hours to invest in the lives of students. That’s significant. Ok, yes, they will sleep part of that time — but that’s a huge chunk of opportunity to get to know students and build into their lives.

This is an important week ahead. And that means that we ought to be praying for every aspect of the next three days. Travel. Safety. Camaraderie. Worship. The Speaker. The cooks. The staff. Andrew. It’s a big deal. So, it’s time to pray. How? Here are some suggestions:

  • Safe travels to and from Canyon Lake.
  • Protection from injury or sickness while at camp.
  • For students to encounter Jesus and His Word in life-changing ways.
  • Deepened relationships between our students, leaders, and with the Lord.

Some of the most significant moments in my days as a youth pastor were camps. We went lots of fun places and did lots of different things — I’d do almost anything to get out of Rancho Mirage in July and August. But it was during those experiences that relationships were deepened and the students’ walk with Jesus was renewed and changes made. I got some interesting nicknames through the process, some of them stick to this day. Well, one of them. No, I’m not sharing that piece of information.

But my plea is that you’d pray from now until Wednesday for lives to be changed and hearts to be touched as they enjoy Canyon Lake. May God do something special this week that will profoundly change the future of each student. May God grab their lives and hearts and help them grow deeper in their walk with Jesus. I came to know Jesus as Savior at a summer camp. I made many life-changing decisions at camp. There is a ton of potential driving out of our parking lot this afternoon. Who knows the impact this week will make in eternity? So, let us pray.

Thanks for your support of youth ministry. And thanks in advance for praying for summer camp. Because this is a big week and you don’t want to miss the joy of getting involved. We all need to pray.

Wedding Bells

Life changed this week. In a wonderful way. On Wednesday I got a phone call from Lindsey that Noah MacDonald had proposed to her on a hike near Crystal Cove (and she said, “yes” – just to be clear). It was not a surprise. Christie and I knew it was coming and had given Noah our full blessing.

But I wasn’t prepared for my reaction. Of course, it is time. Of course, it is amazing. Of course, it is so special to see your child beam from the moment. I wasn’t ready to feel so… old. And I wasn’t prepared for all the questions that now flooded my mind and have crowded into our lives. It’s amazing. And wonderful. And special. And we are so happy. But this is an all-consuming life event.

I also wasn’t prepared to face the hard reality of another life transition. School. Driving. High school. College. Empty nest. It’s all now going to be quite permanent. As it should be. Things will never be the same for our family, in a good way. But in a moment, we went from struggling to just keep up with summer and church and life, to a wedding in our future. It will be in the background of every moment from now until that big day. And it’ll be sooner rather than later, I predict. I’m not sure we will sleep much for a while. I am now looking forward to the break to be provided by the medical mission in Uganda. The break? Yes, it is a different kind of exhaustion.

There are wedding bells ringing in our family. I remember hearing them over three decades ago, and now they ring again. It is an exciting time. I am determined to not repeat the mistakes of the loveable George Banks (“Father of the Bride”), and I will not watch it (again). Well, maybe. I know my role but admit to having some issues following the rules. But I pledge to be good. And will not cry (or I will be placed in exile).

Christie and I are thrilled and delighted and want to celebrate life and love and faith through this experience. Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding. This weekend in Bombo there is a huge wedding (medical mission plans have been on pause this week) as one of the pastors gets married. In Africa, weddings are huge and provide a wonderful opportunity to celebrate God. I think that’s what this is going to be about (although, that’s not really my decision — but I know Noah and Lindsey well).

I have a fresh appreciation of the role this church family has had in shaping both Noah and Lindsey. Thank you for investing in them. Thank you for loving them. Thank you for letting them both follow the path in life that God has led.

In short order, we will launch these carefully crafted arrows heavenward. Their influence and impact will reflect the years of nurture they have received from this church family. And that is worth every penny of investment in this wedding (did I say that?). I did. It is time to party.

Students Who Impact Their World

Tuesday was an amazing day. I got up early and headed out to Thermal, to watch (and encourage) our students in action at the Tesoro VBS. We weren’t a very large team, but we were powerful. Now, getting on the road was a little rough. It took me two gas stations and almost half an hour to get four gallons of gas. Don’t ask. I guess gas pumps don’t like to get up early either. But I was on my way to the desert by 6:30 am, but the unplanned delay caused me to add another half an hour to the trip, if my Maps program can be trusted.

It was nice to get away from things and see a bunch of windmills again. Well, I could do without the windmills. In case you didn’t know, our family spent nine years out in the desert, with all three of our children born in Palm Springs. So, there is a comfortable familiarity with the drive and the sights. I miss the sunny days and expansive views. But I can honestly say I don’t miss summer in the desert. It topped out at 118 on Tuesday. At first it felt nice to be warm again. At first. By lunch, I was ready to get back to the clouds of PV. We should embrace June Gloom. Always.

But our students did a great job leading the junior high portion of VBS. The team is basically a group of middle school students leading middle school students. They probably taught their first lessons…ever. There were nine of them (including adults) that led in worship, activities, games, small groups, everything really. They were organized and happy (it was only Tuesday).

We ate lunch together (Taco Tuesday) in Coachella. Yes, it was the famous restaurant of “the fight” from a staff retreat many moons ago. I love that place. It is so authentic, and the cook is amazing. We relaxed in some air conditioning, ate great tacos, and got to know each other a bit better. Just a bit, they are middle school students and conversation can be interesting.

The team served well this week. I got glowing reports from the Tesoro leadership. They had maybe 40 students under their charge this week, which could be the largest group ever for VBS. They asked about some of our team that didn’t make it out this year (Noah). Relationships are building, and we are having a significant impact on these students in the desert.

My hat goes off to our team of nine. Well done. Thanks for serving. May you catch the vision of ministry and see the impact God’s Word can have in all our lives.

Now, I must say, since I was out there on Tuesday — it was “Pharaoh” day in the “Roar” curriculum. I’m thinking our Pharaoh caused a bit more of a buzz among the elementary students. Just saying.

May God continue to guide us to impact students locally and outside our culture and language. The doors for ministry are wide open. Where are you serving? Where has God prepared your heart and passions to serve? Let us continue to grow students who will impact their world. And beyond.

Georgia – A Model of Grace and Peace

We lost a Peninsula giant last week. With her recent health battles, you may not have known her or even have met her. But Georgia Childs was one of the sweetest and kindest women to grace our church. She had a tender and warm heart. Her love for her family had no end. And oh, how she loved Peninsula. Georgia and her late husband, Leo, had been around here a long time, a very long time. They were always (and I mean always) cheerfully supportive.

Georgia for years served on our deaconate, doing hospital visitation. I’d go to the hospital and more often than not (when she was healthy) she would have beat me to the bedside. Several people didn’t know who she was, but she had introduced herself to them and had a wonderful visit, with prayer. Her lovely southern drawl and warm, warm smile lit up every room she graced.

When her husband passed away 2½ years ago, Georgia was a model of grace and peace, through that very difficult adjustment for her. She was an amazing mother to Reggie and Leo, in a family with its share of pain and struggle. But Georgia’s faith never wilted. Ever.

The last conversation I had with her was a couple of weeks ago, she still lit up that hospital room with her smile — and her deep love of Jesus and joy in Him. Today, she’s lighting up heaven with that big smile of hers.

On the night before the fourth of July, I went to visit Georgia in the hospital. I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d see her this side of glory, but I wondered. I just knew I had to go. She could no longer communicate and that smile was covered up by medical technology. After a while, I asked if we could pray. So, Reggie, Leo, Dennis Shaffer, and I gathered around her bed, held her hands and prayed.

And in those moments, those very moments, Georgia met her Savior, face to face. By the time I said, “Amen,” she was gone. She woke up on heaven’s shores. There was no more need of that breathing apparatus. Disease was gone. Hope became sight. Georgia was more “home” than she had ever been here on earth. Our hearts broke. Her heart was whole.

So, Georgia, I miss you. You are deeply loved here at Peninsula. You have graced us for decades with your joy and faith in Jesus. We will carry on with your joy and faith until we are all together again with you, in the presence of the Savior.

It is in a moment like that Wednesday evening, that our faith as an anchor is tested. And made so real. What is the point of our faith, if you walk out of that hospital room with no hope of reunion? Sure, it is sad, heartbreaking actually. But we believe the promise of Jesus to provide eternal life. Therefore, in the valley of the shadow we do not have to be afraid. We have a living Savior whose hand guides us through the darkest valley of life, death.

My hope is renewed. My joy remains. Georgia’s with Jesus. Where all believers will be some day. He is risen. He is risen, indeed.

Martha

The Bible is written so that we keep our eyes on Jesus. And yet, as we walk our way through, there are some human heroes, too. They capture our attention and model for us how to follow God. Or not.

One of those intriguing characters is Martha. In the Gospels, she gets a bad rap for serving, while her sister is sitting. Since that sitting was done in the presence of Jesus, it is commended by Him. But there is so much more to her. Let me summarize the thoughts of Ed Welch.

Here she is coming out to meet Jesus after the death of her brother Lazarus. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:20–27)

Wow, Mary is seated again. Martha is not. Later in the same narrative, Martha is at the tomb. She wanted it to remain sealed. The stench would be bad. But what is most amazing is Martha’s bold statement. She knows — and so she says — that Jesus is able to raise her brother right then. Martha shines in this conversation. She is our imperfect heroine, whose faith we want to imitate.

Of all of Jesus’ “I am” disclosures, “I am the resurrection and life” is the one on which all other statements depend. If death is not defeated, Jesus-as-good-shepherd will be with us only until we die. If death is not defeated, Satan is not defeated. The revelation of Jesus to Martha was intimate and glorious. In response, as a woman who represents all those who would ever follow Jesus, she says it clearly: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

The end of the gospel of John gives his purpose in writing. “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Martha is the first and only person in his gospel who has these words on her lips. Listen to her. Speak what she speaks. We must all speak what she speaks.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on Martha. Her place in Scripture is more complex than we see at first glance. Besides, we all need to follow her example:  “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

The One With Pharaoh Jim

Are you one of the lucky ones this morning that gets a pass for nodding off during the sermon? If you were at VBS for five days this week, a sermonic catnap is allowed. Today only. Now, only those at VBS get that pass, just to be clear. I was at VBS, so I might take the voucher and use it myself. Except, I was only really there one day. One rather long and sweaty day.

On Tuesday I was Pharaoh. Yes, the great Pharaoh of Egypt. It was the day to tell the story of the 10 plagues and the Passover. To be honest, it turned out to be a very powerful lesson (thanks to the teaching of Brenda Weber and her team). The children were really into it — and I provided the comic relief as Pharaoh. How else do you play Pharaoh for children?

I must say it was energizing to be around the children for a morning. More than one day may have required I spend the rest of the week in a wheelchair. Just saying. But for Tuesday it was good medicine for the soul. It was part of being willing to be used by God when a door for ministry opens. If we are growing people to impact their world and beyond, then we have to be willing to engage all kinds of people. And, children are people. We have an obligation to help moms and dads pass along the unsearchable riches of Christ. Oh, how they need to know and love the stories of God’s work across the ages. Redemption. Rescue. Provision. The children learned about it all from a faithful team of leaders.

My hats are off to them all. I just had a small, but visible role. I am now “Pharaoh” to a whole bunch of children. I was good at saying “no” creatively — but in the lesson my heart got to break as I told of the death my beloved first-born son. The curriculum did an amazing job of engaging the children in the story and helping them to face things which make them afraid. I was impressed.

But I was more impressed with our team. Under Colleen’s leadership, there were many people here ready to invest their lives in children. That’s invigorating for me. That gives me hope for the future of Church. The amount of work that was required to tell the stories and remind in very practical ways of a God who created and loves — really speaks to a church family who values children. And a church family who values God’s Word.

So, yes, if you hear a rumor from the VBS team…I was Pharaoh for one brief and shining moment on Tuesday. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The children were amazing. And I hear there are openings for next year’s VBS. Sign up today and get your pick of the leadership positions. I don’t imagine Pharaoh will show up again. But you never know.

But if he does, he has but one simple request. Perhaps a palace and throne on a slightly grander scale. I mean, Pharaoh living in a 2’ x 2’ x 3’ triangular space was a bit beneath the mighty ruler of Egypt. But he did have fun. Oh wait, it’s not about me. It’s about the truth of the Word. Never mind that request. The hut is fine.

Contrasts

The fishing was lousy. And yet, the peaks were still drenched white. It was beautiful. The streams were full to overflowing. The weather was warm-ish. I can promise you there still is a sun up there, beyond the overcast and drizzle. My naps were long. So, yes, we had a great time fishing and resting (more resting than fishing) in Mammoth last week. I slept a lot. I guess we were tired. But at my age, when am I not?

Coming back from the Eastern Sierra is always a trek. It’s like coming back into an area of cell phone service when you haven’t had any cell service for a while. Boom, you are reconnected to the world. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just a different thing. Because we belong to families and work and enjoy a church family — the phone can go crazy sometimes. It’s only the contrast of getting back into it all that can be jarring.

It’s exactly what Jesus faced in the passage in Matthew 17, the one Ken preached last Sunday. Back from the desolation of Mt. Hermon and the thrill of the moment of transfiguration to the crowds, where there was this big need. The stress began again quickly. Boy, we’ve all been there.

The challenge is to make transitions smoothly, but that is not always (or often) possible. Getting away recharges life. Getting back can drain life. Getting away is a little more fun than getting back.

The week ahead is no time to lay around either. It’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) week, which is sort of obvious. Hallways are clogged with things to help children learn. There’s some sort of costume in my office which I guess I have to wear one day this week. Mums the word on that one. Most of the set is up in the Worship Center. Life is just a little odd today. Odd is a good way, without a doubt.

Tomorrow the campus will be filled with laughing and noisy children. I will love it. They will be full of energy and hopefully willing to learn some Bible stories. We have a crack team ready to share God’s love with each child. It should be a great week ahead.

We all need to get away. We all have faced the contrast of the peace away with the noise of being back with the crowd. A few days of rest can be ripped to shreds with an hour on the 405. Have you noticed? My goal is to take that refreshing experience of being away and use it to recharge and refocus my energy on family and work and kingdom. I don’t want to forget those moments of “transfiguration,” but let those moments point me back to a God whose plan is so much bigger and grander than my puny plans and problems.

Contrasts will come this summer. Don’t let the contrasts get you down. Keep looking to Jesus and the opportunities He provides to us to serve Him. Enjoy some time in God’s creation. Refocus your life on Jesus and His kingdom. And then don’t be surprised, when you land, if that focus is tested. Listen to Jesus. Walk with Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

A Small Step of Faith

Did you see it? Did you catch a glimpse? There was a moment this week where the sun broke through the overcast clouds and fog. A time where all of us were reminded of the truth that summer is upon us.

I love the summer because it means that summer camp is almost here! Summer camp is really the pinnacle event of youth ministry. So much is building to it and if camp is done right, it can provide significant momentum to start off the year. Summer camp brings with it so much excitement, challenges, and perhaps most of all potential. Potential is really the key here. And I know the potential first hand as you could call me a camp veteran. While I look young, I have already been to around 100 camps in my life. I guess that’s one of the perks of growing up a pastor’s kid. Well that and the trauma of being used as an illustration in every other sermon and being the guinea pig for inventive youth activities and demonstrations… Wait, where was I? Oh yes, summer camp brings with it potential. I first really learned this lesson my freshman year of high school. For some reason I actually decided to follow the advice of my youth leaders (shocking, I know) and invite many of the new people I had met in high school to summer camp. Even more shocking perhaps was that eight of them decided to go! From there things moved fast. By the end of the week, six accepted Jesus as savior for the first time. By the end of the month, three were baptized. By the end of the year, those eight had gone out and brought their friends and families who brought their friends and families multiplying that little group into a large community. Fast forward 10 years later and now two have joined full-time ministry. This is all to say that God has plans we could have never thought of, and yet sometimes it only takes a small step of faith to get to be a part of those plans — to join in the potential.

Summer camp brings that opportunity. It’s amazing how much easier we can see and hear God when we aren’t constantly distracting ourselves, and when we have a chance to slow down and listen. This year PCC Student Ministry will be going to summer camp August 4 – 7. Our hope and prayer is just that. That the students will have time to connect and listen to the God that loves them. That students will be so moved by his love that they will want to invite others to come see it. So please join us in praying for the student ministry and for summer camp.

Change Our World

Schools on the The Hill are empty this weekend. Graduation day was another dreary afternoon. I’m sure blankets were cherished items. It’s never hot for graduation. The sun is out for New Year’s Day, not early June. I was all set to wax eloquently about the joy and freedom the last day of school brought each year. It was always better than Christmas. But the anniversary on Thursday hit me hard.

My heart melted as I contemplated the events of D-Day, on its 75th anniversary. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to wait in the darkness off the coast of France for dawn. That dawn brought battle, near certain death on those serene beaches. The thought numbs the mind.

It was the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 brave young soldiers from the United States, the UK and Canada stormed the beaches of Normandy, France to push the Nazis out of Western Europe and turn the tide of the war for good.

In planning the D-Day attack, Allied military leaders knew that casualties might be very high, but it was a cost they were willing to pay to establish an infantry stronghold in France. Days before the invasion, General Eisenhower was told by a top strategist that paratrooper casualties alone could be as high as 75 percent. But he pushed forward anyway. Freedom was at stake.

The landings were the first stage of Operation Overlord — the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe — and aimed to bring an end to World War II. By nightfall, around 156,000 Allied troops had arrived in Normandy, despite challenging weather and a fierce German defense. At the end of D-Day, the Allies had established a foothold in France and within 11 months Nazi Germany was defeated.

They are heroes. Whether they lived or died, they are heroes. They changed history and defeated evil. Soon, the countryside of France would breathe free again. Soon, the gates at the concentration camps would be opened. Finally. We owe those brave soldiers so much. They are the greatest of American generations.

But how do we use our freedom for which they shed their blood? We, too, want to be and to do the heroic. What does that mean for us? It is not measured today in the storming of more beaches. From God’s viewpoint, it is much simpler than that. To gain the favor of God, walk with Him, let the Scriptures permeate your life, and provide for the members of your own household. In those moments, we change the world and honor the sacrifice made by those soldiers. And our Savior.

The brave soldiers who stormed the beaches of France, made a difference because they went all-in together. It was the force of their unity which overwhelmed the enemy. That is the unity we cherish in the church.  It is that measure of love which will change the world.

What can we do to change the world? Love God. Do justice. Provide for your family. In that, we change our world. That is enough. Chose to live with your eyes on the eternal.

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