Monday, June 24, 2013

"Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests,  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."
Ephesians 6:18

An Example of a prayer answered:
"A few years ago my son started doing drugs. I knew it but he was 18 and I was so upset because I knew the only way he would quit was if he wanted to. I turned it over to God and started praying for him and asked everyone I knew to pray for him. Within a few weeks he was arrested which I wasn't sure was answered prayers at the time but it scared him so bad that he vowed to never touch another drug and hasn't. He has finished College, gotten married and has a good job and a beautiful new baby."
Nancy P.

Another example of a prayer answered:
" My mother's and mine were answered at the same time but it took me a while to understand that. She was dying. I prayed she would live. She prayed God would let her die so that she wouldn't be in pain any longer. God answered her prayer and took her. And months later when I was sitting outside watching the morning sun rise in the sky I realized He answered mine as well. He did let her live. She is living forever with Him, without pain, in Heaven. Praise be to God."
Anne S.

Another example of a prayer answered:
Go to this link and read this story from Baptist Press before reading any farther.  Make sure you have a kleenex handy!

Those are just a few examples of what happens when we pray.  God always answers our prayers, though not always the way we expect them to be answered.  Some answers are miraculous and some are mundane.  But each one flows from a loving Heavenly Father to His trusting (Well, not so trusting) children.

This week, we have eight folks with connection to Hillcrest Baptist Church who will be on mission trips.  They need your prayers each day.  prayer will make a difference in their lives and what happens during this week.  Most have never been on a mission trip before and are a little unsure of what to expect.  They need your support through prayer.  We often tell people, "I have your back".  Prayer is the way we have fellow saints' backs when they are on mission.  Here is the list so you can pray in the Spirit for them:
Mitch Abbott - Homeless ministry in San Francisco
Jaime Banks - Homeless ministry in San Francisco
Tony Birrittier - Homeless ministry in San Francisco
Jessica Estepp -  Homeless ministry in San Francisco
Jacob Malaga -  Homeless ministry in San Francisco
Kailah Thomas -  Homeless ministry in San Francisco
Grace Stiles - Mexico
Sarah Stiles - Mexico

Come to Hillcrest on Sunday morning, June 30th to hear the answers to your prayers as they share what happened on this mission trip.  Remember to stick around for our chili & hot bog luncheon to hear plans for our very own outreach event, the Hillcrest Community Fair.

Monday, June 17, 2013


This past week, Thaddeus and I drove to Southern California to celebrate our nephew's graduation from high school.  It is a six hour drive on a very boring stretch of highway on I-5.  There really isn't much to see, so we were glad our rental car had XM Satellite radio.  We listened to baseball all the way down and back.  About the only thing to do on this drive is to gauge when you will need to stop to fill up with gas, eat or use the bathroom.  In our case, we only made one stop and completed all those necessary steps.  We had our handy AAA trip-tik, which I have been using since we first went to SoCal back in 2001.  A Trip-Tik is like a map, but smaller with flip pages and listings of places to stop.  Over the years, I have written down the mile markers of our favorite places to stop, so we can better judge time and distance.  Our one stop was at Kettleman City on the way down and I was able to tell Thaddeus an hour before we stopped the precise time we would stop.  Knowing the mile markers and seeing the road signs always helps us make the trip easier.

Our life journey is also filled with milestones - Important points in our lives.   This coming Sunday, we will celebrate two of those milestones as we celebrate Tony Birrittier's graduation from high school and Jewel Emerson receiving her Associates degree.  These are markers in their lives to remind them that they have accomplished a feat which will prepare them for the next part of their journey.  Our lives are filled with memorable milestones - Graduations, our wedding, the birth of our children, beginning a new job, retiring from our job,seeing our kids graduate.  There is an ebb and flow to these milestones which remind us that our time on earth may be nearing an end.  We graduate from high school and before we know it, our children are graduating from high school.  Then we retire from our work and before we know it, the people we love begin to die.  Life seems to pass in the blink of an eye.  We look back at pictures from our younger days and wonder where the time went.  We see our grandchildren and think that it was only yesterday when our children were that age.  This is God's reminder that we were not made for this earth but for eternity.

I have found that there are other milestones which can mark our life journey in more profound ways:  The day we gave our life to Jesus, the day we were baptized, the first Sunday School class we every taught, the first mission trip we ever went on, the first time we ever witnessed, the first time we ever led someone to Christ and other events.  However, most of our milestones of faith are not so noticeable.  We may teach the same Sunday School class for many years and there is never any "milestone" event.  However, the lives we invested in have grown in faith and are touching others.  Reflect on all of the little events which have made you the man/woman of faith you are now.  Think about the people God has brought into you life who have draw you closer to your Savior.  Many of those were just for a season, but the impact they had is still felt in your life to this day.

Many of the milestones in our lives come in the form of pain and tragedy.  They are marked by deep heart ache caused by divorce, death, illness, injury or loss.  When we are in the midst of those milestones, they are gut wrenching and the pain is almost unbearable.  We wonder if God has abandoned us or if He even cares at all.  There are times when we cry out to Him and times when we yell at Him.  There are times when we seek His comfort and times when we vent our anger in His direction.  Some of these milestones are self-inflicted by the bad choices we have made and some come about for no apparent reason at all.  Many people want to forget these milestones or look at them as dark periods which they would rather have not had happen.  Yet, it is in these milestone events when God's presence can be the more real, powerful and comforting.  We sit in a jail cell and cry out to God - He hears our confession, sends his comfort and gives us the strength to never fall back into that temptation again.  So what once became the dumbest decision we ever made, now become a turning point from which we will be stronger in our faith and more connected to others.  We sit by a graveside and weep at the tragic loss of someone close to us.  We feel alone and deserted.  God doesn't wait for us to cry out, but sends His presence to comfort us like a blanket on a chilly evening.  He sends people at just the right time when we are the most lonely and depressed.  He sends opportunities to give to others which keeps us from becoming too self-consumed.  These milestones may be the most painful, but they are the ones we are more likely to share.  I believe that God never wastes a pain, but allows us to comfort others as He has comforted us.

Are you involved in your church so you can share your milestones and join in the milestones of others?  Not do you attend, but are you involved?  Do you participate regularly or is attendance your only goal?  Do others in the church know the painful milestones to they can share with you?  Do you listen to the milestones of others?  We have to be proactive if our milestones are going to make a difference in anyone's life.  We have to make the effort to get involved and build friendships.  I'm looking forward to celebrating these milestones on Sunday because I get to walk through one more part of the journey with some friends.  Why don't you join us on Sunday to celebrate what God is doing in the lives of those around you?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Are you Twisted?

Last week an article in Forbes Magazine said that health insurance premiums will increase by 64% to 146%  for those who live in California due to Obamacare, which begins fully in January of next year (  Many of you reading this may be laughing to yourselves because you don't live in California, the land of fruits and nuts.  But when I saw the headline, I had to read the article with a little more interest.  The author compares different rates and draws conclusions from those comparisons.  While Peter Lee, the director of the California insurance exchange, compares other rates and comes up with the relatively good news that the insurance premiums in California will go up, just not up as dramatically as some wild predictions.  The bottom line for me:  My premium will be going.  Now it's just a matter of how much.  


Here we see the classic example of trying to make figures say whatever we want them to say.  This happens when we have a preset agenda or refuse to take into account the entire picture, focusing on a very narrow view.  Both this write and the exchange director have an agenda in what they say, so they naturally will only utilize those figures which best suit their purpose.  Politicians do this all the time.  Sportscasters do this all the time.  News reporters do this all the time.  Husbands and wives do this all the time.  Kids who are in trouble do this all the time.  We want to "spin" the facts so we minimize the immediate damage.

The one place where this "spin" is the most destructive is in our view of the Bible.  There are too many Christians and cults in America which like to spin the Bible to meet their particular agenda.  The Watchtower has simply changed their "Bible" so that John 1:1 reads, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a god" rather than "..and the Word was God".  This way, their Scripture can reinforce their theology of denying the Trinity rather than changing their theology to fit the Bible.  Mormons will quote James 1:5 and then tell you that Joseph Smith did this which help him begin the Latter Day Saints church.  I have heard Christians quote I Peter 2:24 to say a Christian should never have any illness and if you have any illness it is because you lack faith.  I've heard Christians say, "The Bible says, 'God helps those who help themselves'", which is not from the Bible at all but from Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richards' Almanac.  I have read Christians who try to legitimize sin by going into deep Biblical exegesis and taking Scripture out of context to fit their argument.  In early American history, the Bible was used to promote the slave trade.  These are just a few of the ways that God's Word has been misused and abused.

My purpose in this blog is to remind you to to do what Paul told Timothy to do:  "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."  Each day, as you spend time in God's Word, make sure you handle the Bible correctly.  If you stumble upon a verse that seems revolutionary and you have never heard anyone have that idea before, you may want to read more of the Bible.  Make sure you are taking in the whole of Scripture or we are easily led astray, even by a genuine desire to serve the Lord.  It would be easy to read about the rich, young ruler and then feel like you must sell everything, give it to the poor and go on a Jesus journey through the highways and byways.  Each Sunday, I try to remind you that is you take the Bible out of context, you can make it say anything you want.  Time after time, I run into articles written by people who do not have a full reading of the Bible or who are tweaking the Bible to make their point seem more authoritative.  With the Internet and blogging, this type of Bible-twisting is at an epidemic level.  Please, be honest with Scripture.  Don't approach it with a pre-set idea to prove your point, but have your heart and mind open to what God wants to say in the totality of His Word.  Correctly handle the Word of Truth.  Allow it to sink in every day so that the Bible truly can be a lamp unto your feet and light unto your path.

May God bless you as you study His Word each day, prepare to be utilized by Him and then radically live out your faith.