Thursday, April 28, 2011

More Than A Sunday Church

This week I had a chance to visit the after school program at Verbo Church. The tutoring program started in October and goes until June. This program was generously given by a large church to jump start a vision that Pastor Orlando Cardona had to use the church MORE THAN ON SUNDAYS.

The Sunday school rooms were in place. Twenty-four children were selected from the Touchdown Camp to participate. When I visited on Tuesday, Sandra and the two tutors were very busy helping the children with math problems. There are good reports of improved grades but there Is a bonus to the program in that parents are required to attend a parenting class taught by Pastor Orlando and Patty!

Good parents don't just spring up. They need to be taught. Being a parent isn't a picnic even with the kids who are easy. We need to have reserves of wisdom and of love and of patience that are far beyond our own. I can't imagine how tough it would be to be a single mom working several jobs to just barely make enough to pay the rent. We are trusting God for another miracle that this little school. A Bridge of Hope to the neediest in Redwood City can continue and even be expanded.

People can live without a lot of things but they need these non-tangibles to go on. They need hope, and so do the children. And they need love, and so do the children.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Week

There is a minor character in the drama of Holy Week by the name of Simon, a man of Cyrene. He was just passing by as Jesus came out of a night of torture and bruality. Jesus was weak. He could not carry the cross up the hill where he would be crucified on Good Friday. Instead, a stranger was "compelled to bear his cross."

It is likely that the man of Cyrene had no idea who Jesus was. He was a criminal on his way to be crucified. The soldiers made sure that Simon would carry that cross right up to the hill.

Jesus perhaps staggered and fell on the way. The soldiers would have continued to abuse him. Simon could only slow down with the heavy cross on his shoulders and watch this abuse. Jesus had been beaten up. He had lashes across his back and shoulders so he could not have carried the cross without falling and fainting from the pain. The soldiers had no sympathy. They just did what they had to do to get the prisoner up the hill to the torture chamber of the cross.

The cross so heavy was carried not by a disciple as they had all run away but by a stranger. So what does this carrying of a cross say to us? Does it perhaps mean that when we see someone suffering from dire poverty that we should reach out a hand and carry that poverty by extending food or clothes?

Does it mean, perhaps, that if we see children locked in apartments with no summer school that we do something for Jesus by carrying these kids out of those places and put them in camp?

Does it mean that if we see someone beaten and abused by others that we do what we can do IN JESUS' NAME? It is interesting that in the trek up the hill we see Jesus, as we would be: weak, bleeding, beaten and not able to carry his own cross.

The man of Cyrene, comes and bears the cross and then disappears from the story. Perhaps he heard later who Jesus was. Perhaps he fell to his knees and believed for the cross that he had had the honor to bear.

Bearing a cross is not about a hardship that we are carrying but it is about carrying something for another in Jesus's name.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Aren't we all looking for this? We want something, not quite sure what it may be that gives us a deep sense of well being.

The world may tell us that satisfaction comes from more money. But, we only have to look at the wealthy to know that that is not necessarily true. In fact, the wealthy seem to be less satisfied, by in large than the poor. The poor live simply and they are very focused first on basics like paying the rent, getting food in for the family and taking care of loved ones.

It is not about achieving, it is about being in relationship to others that we can find deep satisfaction. Wealth, in fact, can isolate a person from what he or she most needs and that is love and interaction with others and not just the rich who are just as "edgy" and self focused.

Jesus talked about a kernel of wheat falling to the ground and dying before it came to life again. Like so many illustrations we need to think about this.

l. The kernel is not important until it goes into the ground.

2. While it is "unseen" the life that has been put into this kernel sprouts and the plant grows. Roots go down into the soil and the kernel becomes a plant that emerges into the light again.

3. The plant then reproduces and more kernels fall to the ground.

This pattern is a cycle.

There is death to the kernel as it was. There is hidden growth in the ground. There is resurrection of the new plant which becomes much more fruitful by bearing more kernels that can then fall to the ground.

Of course, that is fine for a plant but Jesus spoke in parables so that those who had ears to hear could really hear what he was saying about them.

Satisfaction? Do you have it? Are you willing to die to self in order to find new life? Are you willing to be invisible and hidden so that the growth can take place in order to make your life both satisfying and fruitful?

Think about it. Are you satisfied?

Living Above Our Circumstances

Most of us believe that we are in charge of our circumstances. That is what gets us into trouble to start with. It is true that we may have done something to land us in our circumstances, but getting us out is not all up to us.

Here is why. God sees our circumstances and is above them. He has promised us that ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD.

Apostle Paul wrote that he has learned how to abound or be abased. In other words, he knew how to live with plenty and live without. Now, we all might prefer the first choice but that is not always how life goes.

How do we do when are job disappears? When the money goes down? When we are abased? Paul says to live above our circumstances we must:

l. Rejoice in the Lord always.

I think rejoicing involves thinking back on all the ways God has taken care of us in the past. Rejoicing helps us reflect on God's unchanging character.  His faithfulness, his mercy etc. Rejoicing is a celebration of our unchanging relationship with the Lord. He still loves us even if we are paupers.

2. Let the Lord strengthen you in the trial or circumstance that is pressuring you.

Talk to him about your work. Let him into the pressure area. Spend time with your eyes and heart upon the Lord who can make a way through the Red Sea. Who has provided a Savior? Who is only a prayer away?

3, Cast your cares on the Lord.

Think of a fisherman throwing his line out into the sea. He casts it out there and then he waits. We cast the current care on the Lord with a prayer. Something like this: "Lord you know the pressure I have about X, Please strengthen me and guide me with your wisdom."

It is very easy to let the circumstances become god to us. We think it is in charge. We will never escape it, we will never survive it.

Remember, Paul was in a Roman prison (not a good place to be) when he wrote the letter to the Phillipians. He told Christians to rejoice. He was practicing rejoicing in his circumstances so he could live above his circumstances and be used in his circumstances for God.

His courageous, outrageous faith burst out of the prison he was in and gave us a roadmap to follow. Pull out of your bog. Get your feet into the path of faith. Let God into your circumstances today.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


There is an old saying: "Home is where your heart is." Home may be a physical place but it can also be an area.

Few of you may know that San Jose is my home town. I grew up here. Went to elementary school through high school. My parents owned a home in San Jose for 50 years and so there was a home that was "there for me" for many, many years.

Since relocating back to San Jose, I am discovering a huge love for San Jose and for the children.

It is a very different city from years ago. It is much more diverse. It is also more affluent and more needy. In San Jose there is a 10% unemployment rate. How does that translate for the children? No money for extras: in some cases not enough money for food. Every bill is a struggle for the poverty level family.

THE NEED IS GREAT but God's HEART IS BIGGER than the need here. We are working here: meeting with a few friends to start the ball rolling towards opening a work for the children. We have a potential place for the work. We are seeking how we can best serve.

Recently I met a woman who has worked for a county agency assessing children who may have learning disabilities. She works all over Santa Clara County including San Jose. I asked her about San Jose and where the need is the hardest.

"There are pockets of need all over San Jose," she told me. The start up team here will assess and decide where we start. It is probable that in time the work may be larger than one location.

An interesting fact: only 7% of families in Santa Clara County have any kind of church affiliation. This means that there is a huge opportunity for people who care to reach out with love, kindness, and practical help to make a life changing difference in this valley.

The lost sheep need all of us to do something. Jesus said, "As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me."