Happy 4th of July!
Well, almost! June has quickly passed us by as we find ourselves in the middle of summer. I love this time of the year. Early morning sunshine… warm to even hot days… light at the end of the day… and no gloves when I go running! I trust that you are enjoying this summer with your family, church and friends. Have you enjoyed a BBQ… picnic… gathering around the pool… fishing trip… camping… or whatever you like to do as you getaway to spend time with loved ones and friends.
As you know, the District Resource Center will be closed to celebrate our country’s Independence Day on Monday. As for my family and me, we will begin our day bright and early. There’s nothing like starting the day off with a race or two. So… the 10K will begin at 7:00am and then the 5K to follow at 8:00. Immediately following the 5K, Santa Clarita will have the 4th of July Parade. We usually try and catch a part of that event before heading home. And then… FIREWORKS at night… of course, I will find a hamburger or two somewhere along the way.
But, let’s not forget the reason for this wonderful day: The celebration of our independence… our freedoms. And even remembering those who have served… and even given their lives for what we enjoy today. And, as you are well aware, these are critical days for the USA. I trust that you are praying for America today. Praying for our government… political leaders… candidates running for offices… protection over our country and all her events… and that WE, as Christians, will remember our biblical values as we pray and vote. May God bless America!
ENCOURAGEMENT: When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed Him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before Him and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched the man, “I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. (Matthew 8:1-3) Jesus… the Master Bridge Builder was at it again. Jesus was not okay with the status quo. In the previous 3 chapters He had just spent a long time with a great crowd of people delivering the most well-known sermon of all time… The Sermon on the Mount… and in it we find The Beatitudes, how to pray, how to get along with others, hot to give, and so much more.
As a pastor, I know how Sundays are… up early… praying… getting to church early… ready to greet… fellowshipping… worshipping together… preaching the word… sometimes not once, or twice, but several times. Sundays can be exhausting. Jesus had just spent a great deal of time with a crowd of people. He HAD to be tired. I am certain of it. But, He came down the mountain… in many ways, still on “cloud nine” from the Sermon on the Mount… and He was tired. Yet, another crowd of people were there to meet Him. And Jesus – the One who said, “I come to serve” was eager and ready to continue BUILDING BRIDGES.
Don’t you love stories like this? They are real. People with problems… like you and me. This leper had lived an isolated life… and a very embarrassing life. Having to call out, whenever he was surrounded by people, “Unclean, unclean… don’t come near me because I’m contagious… Don’t touch me, or you’ll end up like me.” And who knows how long he did this… But, he knew that Jesus was coming near him. He was tired of his lonely, isolated life. He wanted a change.
He cries out to the Lord, “If you are willing, Lord, You can make me clean.” He has a great respect for Jesus and calls Him “Lord” but he doesn’t touch Him. But, Jesus came to build bridges… and sees this lonely, isolated soul in desperate need. So He wanders over to where the leper stood, and He reaches out, and it is JESUS who touches the leper. Jesus knew that this was forbidden. Jesus knew that under “normal” circumstances, this man could have contaminated Him. But, good trumps evil. Bridge building is better than putting up walls.
The greatest words this man had ever… EVER heard, I don’t think were, “Be clean”. Don’t get me wrong… I believe that man loved to hear those words of Jesus. To hear Jesus say, “Be clean” I am certain, was powerful… but I am most certain the greatest words this leper heard in his entire life was, “I am willing!”
I happen to believe that we serve a God who is still willing. And He is looking for Bridge Builders to join Him in winning souls into the kingdom. Do you know anyone who is calling out for help? Take a look around… keep your eyes open… listen to what others are saying… Because Jesus has given us the keys to the kingdom. He has empowered us with His Holy Spirit to take part in the Bridge Building business in His church. Are you willing to step out in faith and join Him?
DISTRICT ASSEMBLY: We enjoyed some very special days in Pasadena two weeks ago. Was it really that long ago? In some ways it feels like only yesterday. And I want to express my appreciation to all of you Bridge Builders who made it all possible. The music and worship was beautiful. The reports shared, testimonies given, and messages presented were a blessing to me and others. Thank you! Of course, a highlight was the Ordination Service… as it always is. I am most grateful to every pastor, team, delegate and friend who came to share in these few days together. And thank you, Dr. Duarte for your encouragement to me.
I especially want to say thanks to Garet Tyler Halterman and his friend Joseph Derbyshire, for the many photos they took of assembly. You can go www.garettyler.wix.com/tylerphotos or the district website www.nazla.org to see more of the photos they took.
DISTRICT MINISTRIES: Once again, we have some very special ministries happening around the district:
· Covina: I had the honor of preaching in the Covina Church where Pastor Sonny and Cheryl Rivera are serving along with their team of leaders. God is doing an AMAZING things there. We enjoyed a special service together with awesome music and the presence of the Holy Spirit. And then afterwards… we headed into the fellowship hall for a feast beyond feasts. My word! Pastor Sonny can cook!
· Rosemead: Pastor Tere Martinez and her husband, Jose are away on a sabbatical leave right now… so I was invited to come and worship & preach this past weekend. What a special time we spent together in the morning and afternoon. The English speaking congregation gathered together first… then we were together with Pastor Wen Tao & Lisa Lou who lead our growing Chinese congregation… followed with our worship in Spanish in the afternoon. God is good and doing a special thing among our church in Rosemead.
I hope your summer is going well. I love you and I look forward to seeing many of you in the days to come. Enjoy the Son in this summer sun.