Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Blessings!

Well, here it is Christmas Eve.

I pray that you and yours have a blessed and peace-filled Christmas. Wherever you may be, whether it is Sunny or Stormy, Rainy or Snowy, Clear or Cloudy -- may you experience the warmth that comes from the Light of the World -- the true gift of Christmas.

For the past three Sundays at Cornerstone, I have been talking about the Purpose of Christmas, loosely using Rick Warren's book of the same name as a guide. The purpose of Christmas is: 1) Celebration, 2) Salvation, 3) Reconciliation. May all of us experience each of these this Christmas season.

Tonight is our annual Christmas Eve service at Cornerstone. It is truly one of the highlights of the year. Carols, Candle-lighting, Gift give-aways, and more punctuate the powerful and timeless Message of Christmas. Even though there is a big storm blowing in, (we all know that people in SoCal just don't do well with storms), we are determined to have a great Christmas Eve Celebration tonight.

Actually, our Celebration started early with a special Baptismal Service last night as people allowed the purpose of Christmas to become a reality in their own lives. We enjoyed experiencing the grace and peace of God in powerful way as the cleansing work of Baptism brought newness and life during a season that's focal point is intended to be just that.

May your celebration of Christmas be as joyous.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Operation Gift Basket

I'm Back!

I haven't blogged in a while and people have been worrying about me so I thought I had better get back into the blogasphere!

Let me share something exciting that happened at Cornerstone over the Thanksgiving week. Yes, kids, I know that it is almost Christmas, but I'm still talking about thanksgiving! Okay, I'm thankful that it is almost Christmas -- how's that!? Seriously, much has happened over the past month and a half and I want to tell you about it.

Each Thanksgiving, Cornerstone has a special event called "Operation Gift Basket." With the considerable assistance -- and generosity -- of several local businesses, (Albertson's, Von's, Ralph's, Trader Joe's, Marie Callendar's, and others), we put together 30 thanksgiving dinner baskets for families that are having tough times. The families primarily come from the Meyler Street Elementary School which is located directly across the street from our Church. We have adopted the school as part of our mission to reach-out into our neighborhood. It was a huge success!

Last week, I received a letter from one of the teachers at the school. She wanted to personally thank me and Cornerstone for the Thanksgiving dinner gift baskets as a few of the student's in her class received them. One little girl whose family received a basket told the teacher that it was the very first time in her life that she had eaten Turkey -- and she liked it! I read the letter to the church last Sunday and there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

That's what it's all about. That's what true Christianity is all about and that's what Cornerstone is all about.

PS: One Family that we helped is now coming to the Church.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Texas Two-Step

I am back in Texas! I am presently in a community called Frisco, (a suburb of Dallas), writing this blog from my room at Homewood Suites. I am here to attend the Elevate08 Conference at Covenant Church pastored by Mike Hayes. I really decided to come here at the request of my friend, Pastor and Author Phil Munsey, who is on the docket as one of the Conference speakers and since I had to cancel my Pastor's Conference trip to Houston a few weeks ago because of Hurricane Ike, I felt this would be a suitable replacement -- so here I am.

The Conference is going well. The church and its staff are doing a great job of hosting the conference. They have great music and singing. I have enjoyed good preaching and excellent workshops. Making new friends and rekindling relationships with guys from my past. Even though I feel like somewhat of an "outsider" (must be that California thang, y'all!) I have gleaned much from being here.

The real reason I wanted to share, however, is an incident that happened Monday night. I flew out of LAX on Monday afternoon, changed planes in Denver (always an adventure) and finally arrived in Dallas at about 10:00pm. Upon arrival, I called my wife (whom I miss very much) and let her know that I had "made it." I picked up my rental car -- which happened to be a sweet Dodge Charger -- hooked up my Garvin GPS Navigator, and headed for Frisco in a slight rain!

Driving north out of the airport I came through the community of Grapevine and passed Ed Young's huge Fellowship Church campus. I was impressed by the sheer magnitude of his place -- one of the largest churches in America. As I was driving, I started looking for a place to grab a bite to eat. It was just after 8:00pm California time and I had not eaten anything but airplane snacks all day. I was on the lookout for a Chick-fil-a drive-thru or a Whataburger (Texas' answer to our In & Out Burger) and low and behold I see the lights of a Steak 'n Shake Restaurant.

For the uninitiated, Steak 'n Shake is a midwest institution originally out of Illinois. Steak 'n Shake is the home of the "Steakburger Sandwich" and, my personal favorite, the "Orange Freeze." If you have never had the opportunity, you just don't know what you're missing.

When I saw the Steak 'n Shake, it was on the other side of the freeway and I had just passed the exit. My GPS companion was loudly telling me to continue on to the programmed destination of my hotel and I questioned whether or not I should stop to eat or just keep on going. For some reason, unlike me, I decided to stop and backtrack to the Steak 'n Shake. There was a lot of construction going on in the area with detours and closed ramps, etc. So I ended up meandering my way to finally get to the restaurant. As I was getting ready to drive-thru, something told me to go inside. So I parked the car and went in.

Inside the Steak 'n Shake, there were just 11 customers and I made 12. It was late on a slow Monday night, so the staff was small, also. I stood at the front waiting to be seated as the sign told me to. As I waited, I noticed that three ladies in a nearby booth were looking at me and talking amongst themselves. Finally, one of them said to me, "Weren't you on the plane from Denver?" I replied; "Yes, I was." She said; "I thought I recognized you from the flight." I said something about the odds of being in two places at the same time on the same day - what a coincidence. The ladies agreed as the waitress showed up to lead me to a booth in the back. I told the ladies it was nice meeting them and followed the server to my booth.

Upon finishing my Steakburger and Orange Freeze, I headed to the front counter to pay my bill. As I approached the register, one of the three ladies was finishing up paying her bill and asking for directions from the waitress. She said, "I'm from California and if you could direct me to the right highway, I would appreciate it." The waitress began giving her directions to get to where she needed to go as the Manager rang me out. After completing my transaction, I told the lady; "I'm from California, too." She said, "Really? What part?" I said, L.A. -- Torrance, actually." She yelled at me, "You've got to be kidding!" I said; "No, I'm not -- born and raised there." She said, "That's incredible -- I'm from Torrance and I went to North High School in the Sixties with Chuck Norris!"

We spoke for a few minutes and she asked me what I was doing in Texas. I told her that I was here for a Pastor's Conference. When I said that I was a Pastor, they all said, "I knew there was something different about you!" (I took that in a good way) She wondered if I knew her old Pastor, Gary Leary, and I said yes, we served together on the T.U.R.F. Pastor's Group (Torrance United for Renewal and Fellowship). She went on to say that she retired and moved to Texas a few years ago and that her cousin (also from Torrance) had just flown in on the same flight that I was on coming to visit her.

The cousin, who had been in the Rest Room, then joined the conversation and was told that I was Pastor of a Church in Torrance. What she said nearly blew me away; "I have been looking for a church in Torrance." I was floored. You see, I thought it was about a Steakburger and an Orange Freeze. I thought it was about curbing my hunger. I thought I had made a U-turn just for me. When all along, God brought me over 1,200 miles away to share His love and grace with somebody from my city who, right now, is looking for a church home! Of course, I told them about and invited them to the incredible Cornerstone Christian Center. I then blessed them and went on my way rejoicing. Who knows? Maybe that is the reason I came here.

Isn't that just like God?

In my life it is.

Until Next Time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What a Day!

Karlene and I flew from LA to Houston Sunday night, rented a crossover vehicle that I had never even seen before, (a Kia Rondo – should’ve upgraded), drove into the city and checked in to the Houston Renaissance Hotel next to Lakewood Church at around 11:00pm after a long day of ministry and travel. We wanted to get some good rest before our big Monday meeting with Joel and Victoria Osteen at Lakewood Church.

Lakewood Church is the largest church in the United States with four services that bring in more than 40,000 people each and every weekend. Miraculously, they were able to purchase the Compaq Center (former arena home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets) and transform it into a beautiful church.

We got up Monday morning and made our way over to Lakewood Church and were warmly greeted by some staff members as we entered into the massive arena-turned-church. They escorted us up the elevator to a reception area on the upper level where they had provided a continental breakfast. There we met the meeting coordinator, my friend, Pastor Phil Munsey from Life Church in San Juan Capistrano. There were about a dozen or so pastor’s from all around the country – most of whom we knew, a few that we were able to get to know.

Joel came over and we chatted for a few minutes as he made his way around to each of the Pastors in attendance. From there we were guided into the 16,000-seat Sanctuary and down to the platform by Joel and several members of his staff (Lakewood Church employs nearly 300 full and part-time workers). Victoria came in and greeted each of us warmly and spent some time getting to know all of the pastors and wives that had come in for this special session. Karlene talked with Victoria for a while and took some pictures. Pastors Joel and Phil then shared their vision to help small churches (under 75 attendance) across America.

We had a great time getting to know Joel and Victoria better, touring the incredible Lakewood Church ministry facilities and doing a special video shoot with the Osteen’s. It truly was a wonderfully exceptional day -- one that we will not soon forget. It was a day that encouraged our spirits, increased our vision, and strengthened our commitment to the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Joel and Victoria, we love and appreciate you.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Big Catch

This past Sunday at Cornerstone, I talked about fishing in my Labor Day Weekend message aptly titled, “Go Fish.” The message was about the importance of Christians fulfilling the great commission – by being fishers of men (and women, of course, since I am not sexist. At least I don’t think I am. Well, let me ask my wife just to be sure.).

Matthew 4:19 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."

Anyway, the three points that I made about being fishers of men were the things that are necessary to be a good fisherman. I have fished since I was a boy and have landed a few trophy fish in lifetime. In fact, truth be told, fishing used to consume my life – it wasn’t a hobby, but a habit. I still enjoy fishing, but those days are now few and far between.

1) You Need the Right Enthusiasm.
Quoting the late Allan Oggs, “You gotta have the Want-to!” People usually end up doing what they want to do. Desire is the driving force behind success.

2) You Need the Right Equipment.
You don’t take a Cane pole to fish for Marlin! You need to be properly equipped for the job at hand. You can be in the right place at the right time – with the fish bitin’ – but if you have the wrong equipment, you’ll get skunked.

3) You Need the Right Education.
Having the right equipment is not all there is to fishing. I have seen this principle played out time and again. People spend big bucks on expensive tackle, but do not know how to use the tackle that they have. You also need to know what works and what doesn’t work for specific places and seasons.

All of this brings me to the subject at hand -- the big catch.

My son, Zac, and myself, take a fishing trip just before he goes back to school. Last year we went out on the Redondo Special out of Redondo Sportfishing and had fun catching fish on the Ocean. This year, however, Zac wanted to go out on a lake.

So Tuesday we loaded up the truck with our fishing gear with our sights set on fishing. We headed north toward Castaic Lake, which is about an hour away (my first mistake). Friends, Castaic is not the easiest lake to fish – especially for a kid – doubly so for an Autistic kid. I knew this but, for some inexplicable reason, went on ahead anyway. Maybe it was its close proximity and easy accessibility. Maybe it was the thought of catching the big Bass lurking there that clouded my judgment. Maybe it was my sleep-deprived brain not functioning as well as it should. Whatever it was, Point #3 from my own Sunday Sermon of two days earlier had just gone out the window.

We had the desire to go fishing and catch fish. We had the right equipment to get the job done – four poles, full tackle box, bait, net, cooler, snacks, lunch, sunscreen – we had all the bases covered, or so I thought. Everything was in place, with the exception of Point #3 – Education!

I had failed to properly educate Zachary about the type of fishing that we were going to do. Oops. He has gone fishing with me only a few times and most of those were short, small excursions that were easily managed. In fact, it dawned on me that this was the first time that it was just he and I in a small boat on a big lake together. What was I thinking – or rather, not thinking? I had made a critical error and it cost me.

Trying to teach and educate an autistic youth with a short attention span can be challenging in the best of circumstances. Trying to teach him all the nuances and concepts of lake fishing on the fly – in a boat – on the lake – under the Sun – is virtually impossible (especially if you actually want to fish).

The fishing trip ended early with Zachary’s Catch-of-the-Day. I was teaching him how to cast a lure with one of my open-faced Spinning Reels (he generally uses his own closed-face, Spincast Reel). He was doing quite well. He had gotten the hang of it and was casting his lure around the cove we had ventured into.

I sat down in the boat, picked up one of my poles and began to change the hook. Simultaneously, Zac dropped his arm down and fired-off a side-arm cast. Unfortunately, his lure caught the tip of my pole. Fortunately, my pole didn’t get jerked into the water. Unfortunately, I was still holding onto the end of the line to change the hook. I let out some sort of pain-filled yell as the hook I was holding bore deftly and deeply into my right thumb -- the result of the split-second casting accident. Upon seeing the hook fully embedded in my thumb and realizing that he had hooked me, he freaked.

Trying to tend to my wound out on the backside of the lake and calm my Son down at the same time was quite the challenge. I pulled out my trusty all-in-one "survivalist" tool (insert joke here), opened the pliers and began my attempt to operate on myself and remove the hook. After the first tug, however, I quickly realized that it might be quite a bit painful and anyway it could be potentially hazardous for me to continue to play "survivalist surgeon" out in the middle of nowhere. I guess the pain caused my brain to start functioning again.

We fired up the motor and headed back to the marina. I docked the boat, got all of our gear out of it and headed to the First Aid Station – with the hook still embedded in my thumb. The Lifeguard on duty looked at it and said, “You need to go to the ER!” He poured Peroxide over it and wrapped a bandage around the hook to hold it in place.

Zac and I loaded up the truck and began the trip back home. Upon arriving at the house, Karlene loaded me into the car and took me on another adventure – a trip to the Emergency Room. Of course, as luck would have it, it had to be the day after a holiday, which means one of the busiest days of the year for hospital emergency rooms. Four hours after checking me in and my sitting, standing, sleeping throughout the waiting areas, they took me in to “surgically” remove the hook from my thumb.

I guess I was quite the novelty as the news traveled around the ER and different nurses came over to “check-on” the guy with a fishhook in his thumb. The older doctor apprised me that he had removed fishhooks before to which I replied, “Me too, only generally from fish.” He almost smiled. I guess it had been a long day for him too.

"Doctor Pain" proceeded to shoot me up with painkiller in my thumb that, ironically, was very painful. In fact, I have had more pain from his needles, than I had from my hook! For whatever reason, he seemed to make it his mission to attempt to stick or shove an 18 gauge syringe filled with anesthetic all the way through the base of my first metacarpal! You talk about pain! Yeouch! So once my thumb was deadened, (or perhaps just dead), he took a scalpel and made a somewhat deep incision from where the hook had penetrated up to its point – using the hook as his guide. He then opened the incision (that was interesting to watch) and pulled out the hook with his own pliers (well they looked kind of like pliers, anyway) proudly showing me the extricated hook as if I really wanted to see it.

The doctor poured about a gallon of some sort of solution on my wound and started scrubbing it intensely – I mean intensely! Then came the stitches (actually “stitch” -- at least they made it seem more impressive by using an entire roll of bandages on it). Once bandaged, they wanted my credit card and that was that.
My apologies for not taking pictures to document my misadventure, but it’s probably just as well.

I am on the road to recovery. I saw the nurse today (Friday). She took the bandages off (enough to stuff a small pillow) and said it’s looking good. It doesn’t look very good to me, but what do I know – it’s only my thumb.

What a catch.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Change, Growth & Christianity

The following is a blog from one of the Pastors at NewSpring Church in South Carolina. (In 10 years, their church has grown from zero to over 9,000 in attendance.) I liked his blog so much I wanted to share it here on my blog and to the leadership Team at Cornerstone. It speaks to where we are right now as a church and the direction we need to head in.

If you come to Cornerstone for services tomorrow, you will notice changes -- literal, physical changes. We realize that we cannot sit still or idly remain on the sideline, but must continue to grow, to change, to push forward -- to reach a new generation for Jesus.

Are You Comfortable in Being Uncomfortable?
By Tony Morgan

Last Sunday at our Greenville campus, we had an older couple, probably in their sixties, accept Christ. That's worth celebrating. I love to watch life change happen.

Here's what's amazing about stories like that. Our services in Greenville aren't designed for people in their sixties. Our services are designed for a much younger audience. It's an audience that loves loud music. They are comfortable with video teaching, because video is already a huge part of their lives. They love the coffeehouse atmosphere.

Here's what we've learned. If we design our service experiences for a younger audience, we're more likely to reach that younger person and we'll also reach older folks. The reverse is not true. If we designed our service experience for an older audience, the younger crowd would not show up.

Now, here's the reality. Most churches in America are designed for an older audience. In fact, the more-seasoned folks in those churches are sitting on committees telling the students and young adults how they can and can't do ministry. The result? Younger people are leaving churches in droves.

Here's what I know to be true. If the church is going to continue to reach the next generations:

* I have to be willing to give leadership to people younger than me...and let them make mistakes.

* I have to be willing to let younger folks lead me in worship...even when it's not my favorite style of music.

* I need to embrace new methods of ministry...even though it makes me uncomfortable.

* I need to pray and encourage and finance the next generation church...and stop trying to make church a place that I like to attend.

It's not about me. It's about the people who desperately need to know the hope, love and forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ.

For the ministry of the local church to remain effective, I need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Going Back to School Blessed

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
–Matthew 19:14

This past Sunday was a great day for families at Cornerstone. It was our annual “Back 2 School Blessing” Day in which we pray a special prayer of blessing over the Children as they begin their new school year and then we load them up with free school supplies.

This year, Cornerstone was able to bless around 100 children by giving away backpacks filled with school supplies and sundry products. With special thanks to Trichel Ramos of the Skechers Company, (they generously donated the new boys and girl’s backpacks), World Vision, and Staples, we were able to help many families in need get their children ready for the new school year.

Special thanks also to Tami Harmon and the Kidz Kingdom team who volunteered to come out and “Stuff” the backpacks in preparation for the big event – and then, pull the event off.

All in all it was a super day… children were blessed, families were blessed and Jesus was glorified – and that’s what its all about.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The past several days, we have had issues (once again), with one of our fav-o-rite companies – AT&T. Please, pardon the sarcasm.

Tuesday evening we noticed that our telephone service was acting “funny” for lack of a better word. When we awoke on Wednesday, we discovered that there was no landline or internet available at all – the line was simply dead. To our chagrin, the unlimited knowledge-base known as the World Wide Web -- that we rely on heavily to stay in contact with the world and people around us -- was suddenly inaccessible. Our line of communication had been severed. We were disconnected.

It’s no fun being disconnected. When you are disconnected, nothing comes in and nothing goes out. Information and inspiration cease. The needed flow of life-giving knowledge is missed – because somewhere and somehow the line has been severed.

Disconnect is one of the favorite ploys of the enemy of our souls. His goal is to keep people from connecting, communicating and communing. He does his devious worst to try to separate people from their families, friends, churches, etc. He uses real and perceived offenses, envy, pride, jealousy and any number of other things to keep people away from where they should be.

There is strength in numbers and great power in unity. The Bible tells us that two are better than one. Jesus said that where two or three are gathered “together” in his name, he is there with them. The enemy knows that it is easier to defeat one individual than it is to defeat an entire army. If he can separate the individual from the army, it is much easier to defeat them.

Several things can lead to disconnection. Uninvolved people – those who chose not to participate in life with others -- often become disconnected people. An unforgiving spirit will lead to disconnecting. Un-repented sin in our lives will disconnect us from God and others. These and more are some of the tools that Satan uses to disconnect us – eventually from our glorious destiny in Christ.

God has placed certain people in our lives that love us and care about us. We have been connected to people -- parents, siblings, friends, and even Pastors – people that care about us and we care about for a reason. God brings good people into our lives to make our lives better. In some way, or sometimes in many ways, they add value to our lives. Therefore we need to stay connected to them.
When we praise God together, when we learn together, when we pray together, when we work together, when we grow together, and when we break bread together we are connecting as God designed and desired us to. This is known as doing "Church” – an assembly made up of many people who have been brought together by God as one body.

This is doing life as God intended… Together… Connected.

Friday afternoon, the landline at our house was finally re-connected. We are now back in the flow, sending and receiving information, connecting with people, and doing life as we are supposed to.

I’ve discovered something important:
Two days disconnected is two days too many!

How's your connection?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Powerful Praise

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” -Psalms 34:1

The book of Psalms is one of the most powerful books in the Bible. It is filled with instruction regarding our spiritual lives. One of the principal authors, David, was a man after God’s own heart, because he understood that God’s heart was touched by praise and worship. If one does not know how, use the book of Psalms as a guide to praise the Lord. It is the instruction manual telling us how to praise God.


1. God is Worthy of Praise.
"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive… honor and glory and praise!" (Rev. 5:12) Probably the number one reason to praise the Lord is simply that He is worthy of our praise. Something inside of each of us wants to extend praise to someone, somewhere at sometime -- well, that someone is the Lord Jesus Christ!

2. We are Called to Praise the Lord.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9). We have been called by God to be praisers. Not compulsory, but voluntarily. One of the greatest things we can do is honor God with our praise.

3. Praise Enlists God’s Presence.

God inhabits the praises of His people (see Psalm 22:3). When we praise the Lord and call upon Him, He shows up. When the "shout of the King" is among you, the King of the shout will be with you! (Numbers 23:21)

4. Praise brings Victory.

a. When the huge, walled city of Jericho was between the Children of Israel and their promised land, Joshua commanded them "Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!” The trumpets blew, the people shouted and the walls fell down before them. (See Joshua 6)

b. When confronted by several armies that had come together to defeat and destroy God’s people, King Jehoshaphat of Judah (which, by the way, means “Praise”) chose men to go out on the battlefield before the army to sing and praise the Lord. “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the (enemy)… and they were defeated.” (2 Chronicles 20:22)

c. Paul & Silas were in Jail for doing the work of God. They were placed in chains and locked-up. Yet, at Midnight, they began to sing and praise the Lord – even in the midst of their incarceration. Miraculously, an earthquake hit the jail and all the prisoner’s chains fell-off and the jail doors flew open! (Acts 16:25-26)

Are there big walls in the way of your advancement? Does it seem as if you have been surrounded and attacked by different enemies? Are there chains binding you and locked doors holding you back in some area of life? The key to victory in every situation is taking the Pathway of Praise. Give God the glory, bless His name, praise Him for His excellent greatness -- and see the miraculous power of God begin to move in your life!

Don't wait 'til the battle is over, shout now!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What a Pain in the Neck!

A couple of months ago, I shared about my painful experience of having Oral Surgery. For several weeks after that surgery, I experienced a lot of pain. However, it wasn’t pain in my mouth, but rather pain in my neck.The stress of the surgery and the position that they had me in while performing it had done something to my neck – and I was feeling the pain. I figured that it was just temporary, I would wait it out and it would just go away after awhile, but it did not. The pain continued and I had difficulty sleeping, relaxing, driving, etc. My wife, Karlene, suggested that I go get it checked-out. I didn’t respond to that suggestion enthusiastically, so the pain continued. Finally, she suggested that I see a Chiropractor.

As it turned out, one of our team leaders at church had just started working part-time with a Chiropractor and set up an appointment for me. I had not been to a Chiropractor in years – though in my late teens, I frequented a Chiropractor due to a lower back problem that had originally been brought about by an injury incurred while playing football. That Chiropractor helped me immensely and I have a positive view towards Chiropractic medicine as a result. So, I kept the appointment to see the doctor about my pain in the neck.

I arrived at Therapeutica, the Chiropractic office, which is located in an upscale complex on the hillside in south Torrance. I met Doctor Sal for the first time and we then spent a considerable amount of time discussing my medical past, current pains, filling-out forms, etc. Finally, he led me into one of the treatment rooms and began treatment. The treatment was both painful and liberating. My neck and back snapped, crackled, and popped like a bowl of Rice Krispies! It was quite the experience. Yet, it was what I needed. The adjustment was necessary to get my body back in alignment.

The experience got me thinking. How often do we Christians get ourselves out of alignment to God, His word and His purpose? We live with pains in the neck – or somewhere else – because of this certain situation or that particular circumstance, things that have happened in our lives and remain unresolved. The pain is real, but so is the solution. What we need is a new trip to the great Physician, Jesus Christ for an adjustment. It may be an attitude adjustment, a vision adjustment, or a thinking adjustment. However, adjustments are necessary for Believer’s so that we can get re-aligned to the word, purpose and person of Jesus.

Living with pain? Having trouble figuring out the difficulties? Is life giving you a rough road? Perhaps an alignment is in order. My suggestion is to go see Doctor Jesus. He can help. Good news is that appointments are available today!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Answers are Out There

“We’ve got to pray, just to make it today!” It’s funny how those lyrics have been going over in my head since the beginning of the annual Summertime Prayer Revival at Cornerstone. MC Hammer’s hit song from the late 80’s – which I guess he believed, for he has since gotten saved and is now a preacher of the gospel – reverberates through my mind, testifying to a truth seemingly forgotten by some in post-modern Christianity. It is a truth. It is a fact. We must pray! With an emphasis on the “must.”

Prayer is the conduit that connects the natural to the supernatural, the earthly to the ethereal. It is a hotline to the divine. It is in prayer that we connect to heaven. It is in prayer that we come to understand God’s purposes. It is in prayer that we take hold of God’s promises.

Though the Summer Prayer Week has just begun, we have seen several answers to prayers that have been requested. Doors have been opened for new homes, new schools, and new opportunities. People have been believing and following the promise that Jesus gave us in Matthew 7:7-8, when He said, “Knock, and the door will be opened.”

In that passage in Matthew 7, Jesus said that we must do three things: ask, seek, and knock. His promise was if we will ask, we will receive; if we seek, we will find; if we knock, the door will be opened to us. In fact, the focus of this year’s Prayer Revival is those 3 Keys to getting results from God.

1) ASK
We need to realize that all for the asking is ours. In John 16:24, Jesus said; “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” He also said; “it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). God wants us to depend upon Him as our provider and supplier. We simply have to ask. My father always taught me “prayers cannot be answered, unless they are prayed.”

I like Jehoshaphat’s attitude as recorded in 2 Chronicles 18:4; "First seek the counsel of the Lord." Those are wisdom words for anyone to follow. It is imperative that we continue seeking God. We must keep on searching. Discoveries are not made by people easing back in their Lazyboy chairs with a remote in one hand and an iced tea in the other, but by those who persistently seek to find answers. The answers are out there – they just have to be sought for.

We cannot just sit around and wait for doors to open, but actively and aggressively knock on those doors until they swing wide open. When Paul stepped-out by faith and went to do a work for the Lord in the city of Troas, he said; “God had opened a door for me” (2 Corinthians 2:12). New opportunities, better options, and greater things await us, but must be seized.

The Lord’s promise is that as long as we keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking, we will keep receiving from Him!

So keep communicating with Heaven. Keep reaching out to Jesus. Keep asking, seeking, and knocking. Keep believing in what you know is true – God is still God – and He is a BIG God!

Let your faith in Him soar!

“Believe Bigger!”

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

20 Minutes Last Monday

I’m sitting on my front porch. It is the last day of June, 2008 at around 8:00 in the evening and I'm in a rare quiet, contemplative, questioning, and wondering mood. The Sun is preparing to set in the dusty grey-blue Southern California sky. A line of clouds directly to the west, and sitting somewhat low in the sky, are slowly starting to fill with color.

There is a summer breeze blowing. The giant Oak tree across the street is playing the rustling rhapsody of the wind. Cars go by on the busy avenue in front of me. A train whistle blows off in the distance and I begin to hear -- and feel -- the ever-increasing weight induced rumble announcing its arrival into my neighborhood.

Overhead, Crows are flying en masse to their evening resting place among the many Eucalyptus trees that line Plaza Del Amo. There must be hundreds of them. Their noisy calling card fills the air as they loudly proclaim that they are back from wherever their day has taken them.

A transit bus goes by with its diesel engine roaring and air brakes hissing. I watch as it rumbles noisily down the street fulfilling the obligations of its daily route. My eyes are drawn to the showery, hypnotic motion of a rain-bird sprinkler as it nourishes the parched front lawn of a house across the street. Its aquatically generated chatter provides a strangely relaxing melody to me, awakening within -- for some unknown reason -- memories of yesteryear, of simpler times, of the innocence of youth. I close my eyes and breathe it all in. Deeply.

A new sound breaks the reminiscing and I look up to see a single-engine airplane as it flies southward toward another routine landing at Zamperini Field a few of miles away. The blueness of the sky is giving way to darker shades of grey as the daylight continues its never-ending westward trek. The clouds have now become a beautiful bright orange appearing as a brilliant brush stroke across a massive ethereal canvas.

A late arriving Crow, lastly and loudly, announces his tardiness to whoever cares to listen to him. It is the last call. The streetlight has come on. The Sun has now gone, disappearing over the horizon. The sky is growing darker still as night comes, carried in on a gentle and welcome cooling breeze.

These are the sights and sounds of my street, of my neighborhood, of suburbia.

These are the sights and sounds of God’s creation.

For 20 minutes one evening, these are the sights and sounds of life.

NOTE: This was penned Monday Evening, June 30th, 2008 -- One Hour and a Half before the Passing of Donna Fowler (see below). It seems that God was preparing me for what lie ahead as He was awakening me to the beauty of life, albeit temporal, that is all around us.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Heaven's Newest Resident

It’s been 24 hours since we received the phone call to return to the Fowler’s residence, Rick somehow choking out the words that the passing of his wife, Donna, seemed imminent and perhaps immediate. It had been but a couple of hours since we had left them. In fact, we had spent much of the warm Monday at their house. In the morning, holding a prayer vigil for Donna with several faith-filled members of the Cornerstone family. In the afternoon and into the evening, Karlene and I sat at Donna’s bedside praying for her and reading the Bible to her.

Karlene, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, quoted the entire 23rd Psalm, adamantly testifying “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” What a comforting and powerful promise that Psalm provides. I opened the Bible and began to read several passages, but was especially drawn to the 91st Psalm -- specifically to verses 11 and 12 in which God “shall give his angels charge over you… In their hands they shall bear you up.” As I read that part of the Psalm, I stopped and reiterated those words over again.

That had been about two hours earlier. We pulled up in front of the house moments after we received a second call apprising us that Donna was gone. The entire family was standing outside in the driveway. Karlene and I hugged, loved, and comforted the family as best we could.

Upon regaining their composure, Rick and Jeff, (Donna’s son), rehearsed the final moments with Donna. With both of them kneeling on each side of her, Donna reached-out and feebly embraced each of them. She then lifted her hands in the air toward heaven -- amidst the prayers and tears -- and breathed her last breath in this life. The angels of God were there. They had been there but now it was their time to take charge. They tenderly lifted her in their arms and carried her home.

It is only in these incredible home-going moments that we begin to understand what the Psalmist meant when he penned these words, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

Donna Fowler is a saint of God. Right now, she lives on in the presence of the Lord. She is pain-free, suffering-free, and trouble-free. The Bible gives us insight into the hereafter, as the apostle Paul claims to be absent from the body is to be “present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). He also promotes that to be present with the Lord is far better than this earthly life.

In this “earthly life” Donna lived for Jesus Christ. I have known Donna for most of my life. She was a prayer warrior – an intercessor – even leading that important ministry at Cornerstone Christian Center. She and Rick also ran the Missions Ministry at the church for several years. The international flags in the sanctuary were purchased and installed by them. The prayer room was redesigned and made-over with a Missions emphasis by them. She had a heart after God and was happy to do work for God.

Donna was an incredible Christian and a faithful supporter of Karlene and I throughout our ministry. During one of the darkest, most trying times of our pastorate -- when nearly 60% of the congregation left us in a matter of weeks -- it was Donna who stepped before us in the prayer room on a Sunday morning when we felt like lost and broken failures. She physically lifted up our arms and vociferously prayed in the Spirit, prophesying over us and over the work of God that we were to do at the “new” Cornerstone.

She would call Karlene or myself from time to time, just to give us an encouraging word from the Lord. It always seemed so timely, because it always was timely. She would even come by the house to share a word or a gift that had to be made personally, not publicly. She wasn’t looking for recognition, she was just following her heart – and touching ours. She provided us vitamins – literally and spiritually.

Even through her valiant fight with cancer she remained faithful to God and His house. Up to the very end, though dealing with great pain and much difficulty, she faithfully attended Sunday Celebrations and Wednesday Night LIFT. She even went to visit those who were in the hospital to pray with them. Her body may have been ravaged by that insidious interloper, but her Spirit never could or would be.

I never will forget her. We never will forget her. How can we? She has left an indelible impression upon the entire body of Christ at Cornerstone and beyond. The lives she touched, the friends she made, the prayers she prayed, the betterment she brought, and the life she lived continues on as her legacy.

To paraphrase one of the greatest presidential speeches that I have ever heard spoken… “We will never forget her, nor the last time we saw her, before she slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”

The good news is that we shall see her again. In heaven for that’s where she now resides. And when we see her again, I’m sure that she will be walking around with her hands raised, worshiping around the throne just like she worshiped around Cornerstone… faithfully, thankfully and joyfully.

Heaven's newest resident entered her brand-new home Monday night, June 30th, 2008 at 9:30pm.

Heaven's newest resident -- forever our friend, faithful to the end.

Heaven’s newest resident -- a genuine Christian and a true worshiper.

Heaven's newest resident... Donna Dobson-Fowler.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Are You Happy Now?

I was driving down the road the other day and as I crossed over Crenshaw Blvd, I left the confines of the city of Torrance and entered into its smaller neighbor to the south, the city of Lomita. Lomita celebrated it’s centennial last year and has banners that advertise that fact on every light post on their main drag. Those same banners also assert that Lomita, CA is “the friendly city.”

I do not know if the city officials just came up with that slogan on their own or if there was some scientific factor that figured into their claim. Maybe a poll was taken here in the South Bay (I don’t recall seeing one) or perhaps some national publication bestowed that title upon them (again, missed that -- if it happened). However, whatever, whoever came up with it – they’re running with it!

Smile -- It's the Second Best thing you can do with your Lips!

I must admit, there seems to be a dearth of friendliness and happiness around us these days. We can talk all we want about our “friendly cities,” “happy cows,” and even the “happiest place on earth,” but I’m not buying it. If it is the desired goal, that’s one thing. However, if its’ someone’s perspective of reality – I’d say “get real!” All you have to do is open your eyes and look around you to see unfriendly and unhappy people nearly everywhere.

I like the thought, however, as a goal and ideal.
In fact, I have been conducting my own little anthropological study. What I have been doing – when I consciously think about it – is smiling at people and noting the response that I get back from them. More often than not, I get a smile in return for the one that I give away.

My contention is that smiling needs to make a comeback. In fact, Christians should be leading the charge! Smiling is a much better advertisement for Christianity than the alternative. Which reminds me of a church that I ministered at when I was a young, single evangelist.

Be Careful what you Advertise.

It was well before the days of church marketing and yet this church had put together a slick PR campaign that really impressed me. Their theme was “Join the Happy People.” They had produced signs, banners, brochures and ads with smiling, happy people plastered all over them. I was anticipating great things when I arrived to speak. Much to my disappointment and dismay, the happy people that were advertised never showed up. Instead, the majority of the church people were unhappy and unfriendly.

So maybe you don’t live in the “friendly city” and maybe you don’t go to the “happiest place on earth,” but you can live life with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Rejoicing in the fact that Jesus is the Lord of your life.

Don’t join the happy people – BE the happy people!

“Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.” –Psalm 144:15

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Graduation Day

Two days, two graduations.

My daughter Tara graduated from Torrance High School on Wednesday evening and then my son Zachary graduated from middle school on Thursday evening. Back-to-back graduations. Back-to-back events. Back-to-back celebration’s which featured a lot of preparation, not to mention great Greek food from our friends at Daphne’s Cafe.

It only seemed like yesterday that they climbed up into my lap to hear a bedtime story. It only seemed like yesterday that we laughed and played together at the park. It only seemed like yesterday that we were sending them off to Kindergarten and that they were so very young. It only seemed like yesterday… Yesterday. Realization has set in that yesterday is gone.

So as we miss and reminisce about yesterday -- we celebrate a new day, a new page or a new chapter in the book of our lives. As family and a few friends joined with Karlene and I, we celebrated the individual accomplishments of our children. We laughed, took pictures, told stories and even shed a few tears. Gifts were given, presents opened and joy was evident. Basically, we did life -- together – as life was intended.

Tara’s graduation ceremony was beautiful. The processional was over 500 strong. Tara sang with the Torrance High Troubadours for one last time. The speeches were given. The diplomas were handed out. The acceptance of the graduates was officially pronounced, balloons were released, caps flew, and the overflow -- and overheated -- crowd at Zamperini Stadium joined the graduates in a loud and lengthy celebration.

The celebration is still continuing.

It’s the celebration of life.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fighting for the Faith

From the Heart of a Pastor
Maybe it just simply is what it is. Or maybe it can be attributed to the day and time we live in. Maybe it's just "Roller Coaster Christianity" rearing its ugly head. Maybe it’s the price of gas. Maybe it's something completely different. Maybe it’s me. Maybe like Tiger Woods, I didn't bring my "A" game. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. If you have any thoughts on this subject (if you dare to read on, that is) please feel free to share them with me.

One week removed from one of the most powerful services of the year at Cornerstone, we had an unusually anemic “Liberty Sunday.” Perhaps, one reason is the insidious attacks of the enemy in the body of believers – a counterstrike response to the spiritual forward thrust of the church a week earlier. Whatever the hinderance, be it Lucifer or Laodicea, there was certainly a heavy amount of spiritual warfare taking place before, during and after the service.

In one of my son’s favorite video games, there is an instrument called the “Energy Drain,” which, when activated, drains the energy out of any vehicle in the area, stopping it cold in it’s tracks. Maybe the game designer is a Christian and has dealt with the "Energy Drainer" before. You see, one of the biggest battles that we face as a church is the challenge of building positive momentum in the face of apathetic, disconnected, and uncommitted attitudes that quite frankly “drain the energy” out of the life of the church.

A Sinister Struggle

Cornerstone has somehow become a church of thirds and not in a good way. Outside of the committed core believers, the faithful few, there is a wandering congregation that leaves me wondering. Sometimes they show up to church, sometimes they don't. It is as if there are three different congregations: A, B, and C church! The problem is that you never know who will show up. It is an unfortunate, but true, fact that if all “three churches” would show-up on the same Sunday, there would not be enough seats for them in our sanctuary.

It is quite obvious that faithful church attendance is not high on the list of priorities for some. If something comes up, if they want to sleep in, if they want to go to a party, if they want to go to the beach, if they want to just stay home -- no problem! Church simply gets bumped to the background. Jesus gets brushed aside (again) for something that must be way more important than spending family-time with Him. Distraction is a favorite tool for the enemy of our souls and we, my friends, are living in the age of distraction.

A Biblical Parallel

I preached a sermon several years ago entitled "Asleep During Revival." It centered round an event that happened to a Bible character named Eutychus as recorded in Acts 20:7-12. The great apostle Paul was preaching in Troas and continued late into the night. At midnight, the young man, Eutychus, fell asleep in the windowsill of the three-story building in which Paul was preaching and fell out of the building to his death.

In that message, I recall being amazed that someone could fall asleep during the ministry of Paul -- the greatest Evangelist of his time. Yet, today, as I look around right here at Cornerstone, I see those who are falling asleep physically and spiritually -- even during powerfully anointed services, in which the Holy Spirit is moving mightily! We are certainly living in the midnight hour. While people are still getting saved, others are falling asleep and dying spiritually.

Faith, Hope and the rest of the Story
The story of the young man named Eutychus ends well, however, not badly. Paul immediately went down into the street where the young man’s lifeless body lay and prayed for him. As the power of God worked through Paul, death had to flee and life incredibly returned to his body. He was resurrected, renewed, re-filled with life! It was a miraculous transformation.

The good news for us – individually and corporately -- is that God is still in the transformation business. He is still changing hearts, lives, individuals and even churches. He is still breathing life into the lifeless, hope into the hopeless, and help into the helpless. God has an incredible way of changing the story of our lives to have a better ending, a happier ending, a heavenly ending.

So, no, I'm not throwing-in-the-towel or waving any white flag -- I'm just doing what a Pastor is supposed to do; "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet"(see Isaiah 58:1). Even in spite of the palpable spiritual lull, “Liberty Offering” still raised over $15,000 in cash and pledges. That is down quite a bit for a Liberty Offering, but it is the first one that has been designated for a ministry other than in-house at Cornerstone. I believe as “Miracle Month” continues, we will see and hear of great things happening as the result of our believing, expecting, and seed-sowing faith! I still believe the best is yet to be!

I will continue to “fight the good fight of faith.”
Anybody want to join me?
Anybody? Anybody?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Do You Believe in Miracles?

June is designated "Miracle Month" at Cornerstone.

It was launched with a bang on Sunday, the 1st with the powerful ministry of Ruckins McKinley. He is a powerfully anointed minister with gifting in worship and the prophetic. I can certainly attest to the fact that he was "in the flow" of the Holy Spirit as he spoke into the lives of individuals and the entire body of believers at CCC. He spoke the word of life into our church and into our lives. There are those in the body of Christ that tend to misuse or even abuse the prophetic ministry -- we've seen that in times past even at Cornerstone -- which lends to many shying away from the prophetic. However, Ruckins operates smoothly and positively in the arena of prophetic ministry. At Cornerstone, Ruckins was right on target and the result was transformational!
We are believing God for the miraculous in our church and in our lives. People are petitioning God throughout the month with their "Miracle Memo's" -- believing for the extraordinary from an extraordinary God! Yes, miracles still happen. Yes, Jesus still does the incredible. He is still the Lord of all. Nothing is too big or too great for Him. Yes, He is the same today as He was yesterday -- as He will be tomorrow.

This coming Sunday is our annual Liberty Sunday. We are expecting a financial breakthrough during the once-a-year Liberty Offering so that we can build a kitchen at the Spirit & Life Children's Home in India. Nothing is too big for our God. He is able. He is willing. We must be faithful.

Our theme is "Believe-Expect-Receive!"
Believe in the God that believes in you.
Expect the miraculous to happen when you pray.
Receive from the Lord what you dare to believe for!

It's Miracle Month and God is still in a Miracle Mode!