My friend Bruce Utterback and I were taking a hike one morning in early September when the sky grew dark with clouds and it started to rain. We kept walking through the desert as rain fell on us like a refreshing from heaven. We headed home as the rain intensified over the next two hours. Rain is a blessing in the desert. Sometimes it comes when you least expect it, just like the blessings of God.
Kristina and I had our granddaughter Ava with us recently while her mom, Kelly, was in Hawaii with Robert on their honeymoon. One afternoon, Kristina bought a pumpkin, and Ava designed the face. They carved it, and then baked the seeds. While Kristina was preparing Hatch chilies, Ava brought out her cards and proceeded to beat me in War. They then made granola, and afterwards curled up together on a recliner to watch a show about capturing alligators in Florida. Ava and her grandma both work hard, love deeply, and play to win.
Eight years ago our daughter Kelly, who was single, told us she was pregnant. We were deeply troubled. That was not the vision we had for our daughter’s life. A lady told me our coming grandchild would be a blessing from the Lord. At the time I wished that blessing would smite someone else. After Ava’s birth, we had two years of intense trials between Ava’s dad, Jason, and our family. Jason brought the police to our house a couple of times. We went to court over child custody issues, and we eventually got an injunction of harassment. We prayed a lot while the forces of hell buffeted our family.
In August we had a men’s retreat with over 400 men from around the Valley at Lost Canyon in Williams. The Spirit of God blessed us during the worship and teaching sessions. Around 10:30 on Saturday night, I was reading in my room when I heard a knock on the door. I opened the door and there was Jason. He was attending his first men’s retreat.
“I just want to say ‘thank you,’” he said with tears in his eyes.
“I’m really glad you had the faith to come,” I replied. “It seems like we have come full circle.”
Jason and I have become friends. He has come over for dinner and we have hiked and prayed together in the desert. He loves the Lord, leads an AA meeting, and is a great dad to Ava.
Last year, Kelly dropped Ava off at her kindergarten class on the first day of school. Afterwards she told us about Ava’s first school day. A little girl was standing alone crying after her mother left. Ava immediately went over to the girl and put her arm around her.
“I’ll be your friend. You can stay with me.” Ava told her.
Ava has a way of loving others that brings us joy. Some blessings fall from heaven. Others grow up right before your eyes. Sometimes God sends us gifts that are hard to appreciate when they first appear. I never want to give up on anything or anyone, because the Lord often puts unexpected blessings in challenging circumstances. Some of the darkest clouds hold a great amount of rain.

Sunday Preview

September 13, 2012

My sermon this Sunday is “The Calling of a Christian” from 1 Timothy 4:7-16. In these verses the Apostle Paul lays out the simple truths that will allow Timothy to be a fruitful and effective disciple.

Discipline is required for every disciple. We have to train ourselves to put God’s kingdom first in our lives. It isn’t always easy to turn off the TV or computer to spend time with the Lord. It is not easy to walk away from temptations and seek the Kingdom of God. However, the Lord rewards those who seek him and his reward is worth more than every sacrifice we make.

As tensions in the Middle East increase and the political campaigns heat up, I’m reminded why we need to pray for our leaders. We need to ask God for wisdom for our current leaders and for clarity about who should serve our state and nation in the future. Only the Lord knows the problems our nation will face in the years to come. America’s financial challenges, as well as our international relationships, are increasing in complexity.

When people are perplexed, there is an opportunity for those who know and serve the God of wisdom and grace to declare his truth. We are focusing our teaching on discipleship so everyone at Living Streams will be equipped to share the good news of Christ to this generation.

Sunday Preview

September 6, 2012

My sermon this Sunday is called, “Challenges Believers Face in the End Times.” This will not be a comprehensive study of all end time challenges, but a look at specific warnings from the Spirit in 1 Timothy 4.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy that people would fall away from the faith because of the influence of the doctrine of demons. These teachings would come through hypocritical liars who have seared consciences. The deceiving teachers would forbid marriage and certain foods which were created by God to be received with thanksgiving. This chapter is a warning to protect believers from false teaching which is contrary to true faith.

Most of us know people who have fallen away from their faith. It is heartbreaking when people we love no longer share the joy of salvation and the blessings of fellowship. Many people today have confusion about marriage and about which foods God wants them to eat. They are vulnerable to manipulation because they don’t understand God’s truth in these basic areas of life. Instead of enjoying these simple blessings and pleasures of life, they are confused and misled so that what was intended to be a blessing becomes bondage instead. Both marriage and food are given to us by God to be a blessing and bring us joy. Our demonic enemies attack people in the very areas of life that God created to bring legitimate pleasures. Our responsibility and privilege as disciples is to know the truth so we can help others know the blessings of God.