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.