Friends

Cloud of Witnesses

cloud of witnessesHebrews 12:1-2, is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. On the heals of what is known as the Hall of Faith, which records a long list of men and women who were “commended for their faith,”the writer exhorts the reader with these words…”Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” The “cloud of witnesses” in this verse, refers back to the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. The imagery I get from this verse is one of a sports event. As believers, we are in a great stadium, surrounded by these men and women who have gone before us and they are the ones in the stands, cheering us on in the race of faith.

As I look back on the last 34 years of my life as a Christian, not only do I have this “cloud of witnesses” surrounding me in the race, but I have also have been blessed to have a physical “cloud of witnesses” who have cheered me on as well. These men and women, who I have known, served with, been blessed by, have greatly encouraged me in the journey. They have prayed for me, equipped me, spoken truth to me, demonstrated God’s love to me and generally lived out the one another commands of Scripture.

So over the coming days, I would like to introduce some of these “cloud of witnesses” to you. These are my heroes of the faith. And I am what I am in large part because of what they did to invest in me.

An Enduring Faith

I just had to share this post, from my good friend Charles. He has given me permission to repost this inspiring story of faith, hope and love…

549869_10200807855348065_337195721_nOn March 17th 2013, my wife Sandra completed her 7th LA Marathon. This year she had the honor of being chosen by the ALS Organization Orange County Chapter to represent them. Sandra was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in October 2010. It’s fatal with no cure. Most people die within 3-5 years of diagnosis.

Just six weeks prior she was hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia, and her ALS condition had progressed to a point where she had to ultimately get a PEG feeding tube put into her stomach for her survival. She was down to 90 lbs and was extremely weak. Her body and neck severely atrophied. In complete faith and reliance on the Lord, we and countless others (friends, family, church, caregivers and many others) prayed for her to be able to physically withstand the race. God answered. She had a smile on the entire race and amazingly endured the whole event. Absolutely amazing.

Yesterday, God taught me and Sandra a little something about faith and hope. When we step off the “cliff of fear and doubt” in complete faith that the Lord will catch us…He does. There is hope in the Lord Jesus Christ Almighty. There is nothing He can’t do. Nothing. All glory to Him.

Sandra crossed the finish line yesterday in the supportive arms of the Lord. He was cradling her the whole time; it was clear as day. Thank you Lord Jesus for being in mine and Sandra’s lives.

To God be the glory!

Top Posts of 2012

Best of 2012Hard to believe that it’s almost been a full year since I posted my first entry on this blog! So in following the mainstream media, I thought it would be fun to do a recap of the top posts of 2012. These are based on the number of hits as calculated by Google Analytics. Each post’s title is hyper-linked to the actual post if you want to check it out…

1. People Grow Better in Grace – Not sure what it’s been about this post, but I’ve had 4,731 hits on this article since I published it! Referred by search engines, I often get a few hits a day. Such a simple subject, but it’s not so easy to understand the concept of grace in today’s world. The goal of this post was to help others understand that because of God’s grace, one can enjoy favor with God, not because of what they have done, but because of what God has done.

2. A New Adventure – I sat on this big announcement for 10 days before going public with the news of our move back to Northern California! However, even with this very public announcement, which was shared in church, and through social media like Facebook and Twitter, people are still just hearing the news of our move back to Sacramento.

3. Do Not Be Afraid – We’re reminded in Scripture 365 times to fear not! That’s one exhortation a day for an entire year.  It seems that God knew we needed to be reminded to have faith, for by nature, we’re fearful people. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown consume us and prevent us from living lives of freedom in Christ. This very simple entry reminds us all, that God is with us!

4. Celebrating 19 Years of Marriage – I wrote this post as a way of recalling the wonderful moments of 19 years of marriage to my wife Jennifer! Even one of my missionary friends paid me a complement, by copying the idea in a prayer letter to his supporters, in celebration of he and his wife’s 19th wedding anniversary.

5. Bible Apps – Nothing really profound here. Just a recap of some of the free resources for on the go Bible reading.

So there you go! The top 5, which broken down can be summarized by three posts about spiritual matters, and two entries of a personal nature. And here’s the funny thing! I don’t think any of these entries would necessarily be in my personal Top 5 list. In fact, some of my favorites, are the least read articles. Oh well! No matter what the stats say, blogging this past year, has been therapeutic for me and for that I am grateful!

10 Things I’ll Miss Most About SoCal

Here are 10 things I’ll miss most about SoCal…

1. Our SeaCoast Grace Church Family – Our decision to move back to Sacramento was a difficult one, because we love our church family! There are so many who have welcomed us into their lives, blessed our family and who we will truly miss.

2. Grace Christian School – The staff and faculty at GCS rock! They love their jobs, love their kids and excel at their profession! Having Zach at GCS these past four years has been one of the biggest blessings!

3. Disneyland – Being annual pass holders at Disneyland for three straight years was an amazing experience. Even as locals, whenever we went to Disneyland, we always thought we were on vacation. And every night we were reminded that we lived 8 miles from the Happiest Place on Earth as we heard their fireworks echo through the valley.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Watching Mike Trout play this year has been crazy fun! And I will miss watching Baseball America’s 2012 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year play! This guy is a future Hall of Famer and it was so fun to watch him do his thing and Jared Weaver pitch!

5. SoCal Beaches – We loved hiking Crystal Cove in Newport and kicking it in Seal Beach. This past summer was probably our best summer at the beach.

6. SoCal Weather – Where else could it be 80 degrees in December? With typical 70-80 weather year around, we will miss the weather big time. Although, I won’t miss the May grey and June gloom! They never mention those months in the SoCal marketing brochures.

7. OC Small Group Pastors Cohort – I’ve had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with the who’s who of Small Group pastoral leadership and I will greatly miss the creativity and ideas that these men bring to the table.

8. Spiritual Mentors – Wow! It has been a blast to reconnect with some of my former spiritual mentors since living in SoCal! In addition, I have been privileged to meet some other wise men who have spoken into my life over the last few years! Thanks Tom, JP, Lyle, Rob, Mark, Michael, Dennis, Ed and Roger. You are amazing men of faith. And I have been blessed by your investment in my life.

9. Amazing Friends – I have met some amazing people since living in SoCal! And I’ve been able to reconnect with some old friends from college that has been such a blessing! In addition, we’ve so enjoyed our visits from NorCal friends and hosting them at our home. Fun times.

10. Proximity to Fun Getaways – We’ll miss our proximity to Palm Springs and San Diego. They’ve been fun places to escape to for a few days.

Iron Sharpens Iron

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  – Proverbs 27:17, NIV

Last night was a great night! I got to reconnect with my college buddies from UC Santa Barbara. These are friends I’ve known for over 25 years. And as we sat and talked together, I was reminded of God’s goodness and grace in my life. My life has truly been blessed, in that I have been surrounded with so many great people, who reflect Jesus in beautiful ways. People who have helped me grow spiritually and experience a quality of life that is exuberant and life-giving. These people have spurred me on in the Christian race and have inspired me to be my all for God. However, as I sat with my college buddies last night, I recalled how special these friends were in particular.

From my group of friends at UCSB, six of us went on to serve in vocational ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ, and that’s not counting some of our friends from other area schools. I guess you might expect to find that from a Christian university, but this was my experience at university with a “reputation” of being a “party school”! What brought us together, is the same thing that has kept us together, our common faith and commitment to living that out in our world.

As I sat there with my friends, I was thankful, because I realized that God had used my friends to help shape me into the person I am today. It reminded me of the principle, “who we spend our precious time with, will in part affect the direction we go in”. And in this circle of friends, we were all committed to loving Jesus and living according to His plans and purposes for our lives. Therefore our lives took the trajectory of those with whom we had associated with.

If you want to grow into a solid and faithful follower of Jesus, it’s important to spend time with others who are just as committed to spiritual maturity as you are. As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat!”. In other words, you become what you take in and accept into your life. So choose to connect with others who are looking to grow in their spiritual maturity and you will find yourself maturing and becoming the person God wants you to be.

I’m thankful for my friends and for the many others who inspire me to become God’s best version of myself!

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