All posts by stephen

Take a hike

Last week, I drove up to Sacramento for a three-day pastors conference and state meeting. On a couple occasions during the trip, I turned off the radio and just enjoyed the silence. I spent some time praying to God and memorizing Scripture. It was a refreshing time of silence and solitude.

Silence is a rare commodity these days. We get up in the morning and flip on the TV to catch the news and sports scores. We listen to the radio on our morning commute. We sit in front of a computer all day. We stay connected with friends by cell phone and I-M. We exercise with our iPods close at hand. We surf the internet or play video games to unwind. And then we crash at the end of the day, without a moment of silence.

Apparently, Jesus knew the importance of silence and solitude. Luke 5:16 says that when His schedule got busy and the crowds pressed in on Him, “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”

I don’t need to become a monk or a hermit to enjoy a little solitude. It could be as simple as taking a hike or riding my bike or sitting on the back patio or driving quietly in the car. But it will never happen if I don’t deliberately carve out some time for it. During this week of Thanksgiving, I’m going to make sure to enjoy a little solitude with my Savior.

Violent times

Last Wednesday night at prayer meeting, we were reading Romans 1:29-30. It speaks of those who suppress the truth and dishonor God, and perfectly describes the week our teenageres have experienced in Yucca Valley. The Apostle Paul says many are “filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents…” Two unfortunate events in the last week illustrate these verses.

Last Sunday night, several teenagers broke into a local residence, causing the home owner to defend himself and his property by shooting and killing one of the teens. Now, the surviving teens are being charged with murder because the death occured while they were trespassing. In a separate incident, on Tuesday at our high school, a teacher spotted a threatening note, which led many faculty, students, and parents into a panic. The writer of the note was arrested in his home later in the week, with evidence that supported some of the threats he made in the note. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

These are violent times. But what is the cause of such violence? And how do we prevent this from happening again? Was it lack of self-esteem, inadequate education, violent music and video games, or poor parenting that caused these teenagers to committ such crimes? Jesus gets to the root of violence in Matthew 15:19-20 when He says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man…” In other words, it’s not what goes into these teens, but what comes out of their hearts that really causes the violence.

Parenting is critical. Education is important. Music and video game guidelines are appropriate. Self-respect has its place. But the greatest need of our teenagers is Jesus Christ. He is the only One capable of transforming us from the inside out. He begins His work by cleansing our hearts, washing away our sins, and giving us new life through His death on the cross. This will lead to good, wholesome, loving, constructive deeds rather than evil, violent, destructive deeds. This is the power of the Gospel, and this is what the teenagers of Yucca Valley so desperately need.

Back at home

We can hardly believe it. Dylan’s open heart surgery was yesterday, and he is already back at home. He seems to be doing very well. He was released from the hospital about 5:00 this evening. Praise the Lord!

This has really been an example of answered prayer. We know of people in countries all over the world who were praying on our behalf – India, England, Chile, Costa Rica, South Korea, to name a few.

This has been a very difficult time for our family, but we thank God for stretching our faith and surrounding us with His immeasurable love. Although there is still potential for injury or infection, we celebrate the goodness of our God, and acknowledge this tremendous answer to prayer. “My soul will make its boast in the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:2-3)

Roller coaster ride

What a week it has been. My two-year old son was scheduled to have open heart surgery last Tuesday at Loma Linda. On Monday, we went down and did all the pre-op paperwork and exams. When we arrived for surgery Tuesday morning, we were told that the doctor was doing an emergency surgery on another heart patient (their aorta burst!). We waited for a couple hours in the surgery staging area, not sure what was going to happen, and were finally told that we would have to reschedule. Dylan’s surgery date was postponed until today.

However, on Wednesday night, Dylan got sick and threw up three different times. It seems he probably picked a virus in one of the waiting rooms earlier this week. So unfortunately, we have to reschedule the open heart surgery again. We just need to monitor Dylan for a while and make sure he is completely healthy and fully hydrated before he goes in for this procedure.

Because the surgery was postponed, I took my mom back to the airport early this morning, and she flew back to Colorado. There are many, many other details for us to work out as well. We are perplexed by all of this, but God has given us a real peace. “But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, ‘You are My God.’ My times are in Your hand.” (Psalm 31:14-15a). There is no place I would rather have “my times” than in God’s hand. How thankful we are that all of our times and events are safely in His sovereign hands. God truly is the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3).

Does God have a MySpace account?

I must confess, I recently opened a MySpace account. I hope it will be another way to build relationships and reach the next generation with the gospel. MySpace is a pop culture phenomenon right now, with over 200 million registered profiles, but God has us beat by over three thousand years. Just think about it. You could say He created His own “MySpace Account” when He gave us the Bible. After all, we see Pictures of Him throughout the written Word, and He is fully explained through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:18). Every page of Scripture reveals His interests (Proverbs 6:16-19), His friends (John 15:14), and His hobbies (Colossians 1:16). I’m thankful for technology like MySpace that keeps me in touch with friends. But I’m even more thankful for the Bible that keeps me in touch with God.