California or Bust

mary-franklinMy spring break this year was spent in California., from LA to San Diego. My primary reason for heading out west again was to spend time with missionary friends who are on furlough for 7 weeks. But also to remember great food I used to take for granted –fine dinning such as In & Out Burger simply can’t be beat! I’ve already talked with some of you about what an amazing & challenging trip it was – for others of you allow me to briefly explain.
My flight was joyously consumed in good reading. I was able to finished the book “Will Medicine Stop the Pain” – by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Henderson M.D. I was using the book as a resource for a conversation with friends planned later in the week. My purpose in the meeting was to speak truth about choices they are making that are not Biblical – while I spoke in love, the results have not been good, and I just pray the Lord uses His word to change lives.
I spent 9 days in California, because of this I was able to spend 2 Sundays at Grace Community Church! Oh how I love this church. The men & women who are apart of Grace Church are among the most godly and solid people on earth. Even though the church is a little north of 10,000 people, it still feels like a family. During the month of February Grace Church celebrated their 40th anniversary! It was an entire month long celebration where John MacArthur spoke on “Reasons I love the church.” Not a single believer would be able to walk out of the church without having a greater love for the church as well. —–
This time of year was the time for the Shepherds Conference. Thousands of pastors from all over the world come to learn (51 countries were represented; 3500 pastors). Grace Community was very busy the two Sundays I was there. My second Sunday we had the treat of hearing Dr. Mohler speak in the college-young adult group. He was behind Rick Holland’s pulpit – the pulpit that taught me more about the word & living for God than any other person (apart from my dad & Dr. MacArthur). It was neat to see him in California.
One of the people I met during college was one of the starting members of Grace Community. She graciously took me to breakfast Monday morning. She is 78 years old, but still as sharp as a tack! From the time I left until now she memorized Philippians & Ephesians! (I have only been gone 3 years). We had very encouraging conversation – we talked about how true worship is not something confined to your “quiet time”, but it is involved in everything we do. Every thought, every action, every moment spent during the day should be spent worshiping our great God. We talked about missions and how God has used, and will continue to use, Grace Community to share Christ to people who haven’t heard of him! She even gave me a check for my trip to Uganda! (I’m not leaving anytime soon, but she wanted to give me a start).

I could continue to go on & on about that day – I met with many different people for lunch or coke or something hearing about what God has been doing in peoples lives & encouraging one another to continue in good deeds & love for one another.

I then left for San Diego to see the missionaries. Danielle Hurley discipled me in college, so we are very close. Her 4 children were with her in there, and Shannon (her husband) was at the Shepherd’s Conference. No matter who you are or where you go; if you are doing the work of the Lord somehow the enemy will try to attack the unity that is there and try to stop the progress of the gospel. During this trip, the Hurley family’s ministry was attacked, very harshly and unjustly. There were emergency late night elder meetings with 2 different churches that took place during this week, investigations over ridiculous accusations, and a lot of heart break & tears. While Shannon’s integrity, ministry and morality was in question (not by Grace Community elders; but an individual from another church & country) I was watching his wife and sister-in-laws respond. This is where I was able to see faith chosen over question; peace chosen over anxiety; love chosen over hate; forgiveness chosen over bitterness; prayer chosen over gossip; family chosen over disunity. They truly lived out before my eyes their new nature received in Christ – which does not get bogged down with things of this world, but looks to the future with hope and faith in Christ. They lived out a great example for how godly women respond to difficult circumstances. It was an honor to be with them, pray with them, encourage them, and serve them.
On the train ride back to LA I was able to read the Bible and pray – specifically many of the Psalms which were comforting after this week reminding me that righteousness is of great gain and that those who walk in the way of the Lord (like the Hurleys) will never stumble or be moved – God will hold them steady and the accusers will be put to shame.
One of the books I picked up & read on the way home is called Crazy Love – by Frances Chan. I recommend this book to everyone! For the sake of space, I won’t share about it during this post – but ask me about it and I’ll tell you why you should read it  That’s my week in a very short summary – hitting some of the high lights. I am really thankful the Lord allowed that opportunity. It was very encouraging, refreshing and growing – overwhelming me yet again with God love!

Thoughts on Eternity- by Steven Head

steven-headI had a dream a couple of months ago that had a deep impact on my everyday thinking. Before I tell you what it was I want to admit that I don’t think it was some revelatory dream that I received or something, in fact parts of it run contrary to my understanding of God’s word. For those reasons don’t read too much into the fact that I had a dream… Now with all that being said I would like to share some thoughts that have arisen in my mind because of the dream.

I had a dream that I witnessed the second coming of Christ. (don’t think I’m crazy or a heretic yet, read on…) Maybe I was spending to much time reading through the book of Revelation (lol), but the way the dream effected me was quite real. It put the idea of eternity squarely on my mind. It was amazing how quickly I forgot all my problems, work, stress, and plans that I had. I quickly abandoned the task I was doing in the dream when this all started. Even when I awoke I still was left with thoughts of eternity on my mind. It was like my mind shifted into a new gear.

As I stood there in my dream believing that in the next few minutes I was going to come face to face with the Jesus Christ there were really only three things on my mind: 1. an amazement that “this world” in which I had spent 24 years was now coming to an end, 2. concern that Christ would “know me” (Matt 7:21-23), 3. and I was very aware of my sinfulness. Everything else in my mind blew away like dust in the wind.

Yet again God allowed me to stare eternity in the face just this last week. Some of you may know that I am at the Army’s Chaplain School in SC. Last week we took a trip to the South Carolina Medical School’s morgue. We went so that we would get exposed to death (forcing us to come to to terms with many issues) and for some simple medical training using the bodies. This is valuable training for Chaplains in a time of war.

I expected to see some things that would make me uncomfortable. I did not expect it would affect me as much as it did. I saw a lot of things that night, and so many thoughts rattled around in my head. I could not help but wonder where the souls of the bodies in front of me where spending eternity. What would they say if they could talk now? How glorious is it to live forever with God? How horrible is the second death (Rev 21:8)?

As I lay down to sleep that night I was uneasy. I still saw those images vividly in my minds eye. Those same thoughts from the morgue still wore on my mind and the question of my own salvation loomed large. “Am I really saved? How do I know that I am really saved?” It’s funny how questions you have settled in your mind over and over again can still come calling, asking once more for an answer. An uneasy night was only made bearable by reading from God’s word, praying and quoting scripture in my head. As I quoted versed that dealt with salvation and faith in Christ I simply tried to examine my life and my faith in light of those verses.

There are times in our lives when we are confronted with eternity quite plainly. Often these are in the face of great tragedy or death. Though these times may be uncomfortable I give thanks that God allows them in order that He may order our thoughts anew. Every so often the Lord shakes me and opens my eyes again to what is really important. Like His discipline these experiences are uncomfortable but yield great fruit in season. Even the questioning of ones faith is an exercise that can make us stronger.

I encourage everyone to ask themselves honestly and frequently “where will I spend eternity and how do I know?” I think one reason people do not do this is because they are afraid of the answer they’ll uncover if they probe to deeply. This is pride and we must overcome it. I can speak form experience; pride looks awfully foolish when one stares at eternity for any length of time.

Examine your thoughts. What are they filled with? What are your days filled with. How would they change if you knew a minute from now would bring eternal change to your life? Probe whatever it is in your mind that gives you assurance of your salvation. Measure it against God’s word. If you have never had an experience that has positioned eternity squarely in your sights then it is my prayer that God would give you one.