Love Languages

Blend500This weekend I spent Friday night and Saturday morning with about 100 couples for a marriage retreat at Kindred Community Church in Anaheim Hills. Great group eager to live within marriages that honor and glorify God. So grateful for this opportunity. What wonderful people and what a great church!

I even met folks who came to conference because they listen to All Things New Radio daily on KKLA. Great to have an opportunity to speak further into their lives.

Saturday morning, I share with the couples how important being aware of your spouse and their needs really is in marriage. I talked briefly about Love Languages. These are basic human observations. They may not be clearly delineated in Scripture, but Scripture clearly tells us to humbly serve and love our spouses and being aware of their needs and their love languages can help.

So here is a link to an interesting site regarding the 5 love languages laid out by Gary Chapman in his book, The 5 Love Languages.

CLICK HERE for the link.

 

When You Feel Like God Can’t Use You…

LAZARUSThe next time you feel like GOD can’t use you because of your sin, failures and shortcomings, remember…

Noah was an alcoholic

Abraham was too old

Isaac was a daydreamer

Jacob was a liar

Leah was an idolator

Moses had a stuttering problem

Rahab was a prostitute

Gideon was afraid 
& arrogant

Sampson was a womanizer

Ruth was a pagan

Jeremiah and Timothy were too young

David had an affair and was a murderer

Solomon was a philanderer

Elijah was suicidal

Jonah ran from God

Job went bankrupt

The Disciples fell asleep while praying

Martha worried about everything

The Samaritan woman had five broken marriages

Zaccheus was a swindler

Peter denied Christ

Paul was too religious

Timothy was too timid…

AND 
Lazarus, well, Lazarus was dead (and God used Him!)

God can use you for the good of others and for His Glory!

 

The above reading was written by John Ortberg.

 

 

 

 

 

Letting God Redeem Your Childhood

0190eb1bafcab4655f3d127393601dd8On July 5, 2016 my memoir “All But Normal: Life on Victory Road” will be released by Tyndale Publishers. It’s my story of growing up in a home with a mother greatly effected by a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and how her struggles impacted our family. My childhood had some incredible challenges due to Mom’s condition. At times, I wished that God had put me in a different family.

Many of us know the difficulties of facing tough circumstances during our coming-of-age years. For some it was a home affected by drugs or alcohol, for some it was the trauma of divorce, for some it was being raised as a first generation immigrant, for others it was natural challenges of living in a world full of disaster, disease, and death, and still for others it was being abused verbally, physically or sexually as a child or teen. Psychologists say that when a minor is forced to process something they are not developmentally ready to handle they experience the “adultification of childhood.” Many who experience the “adultification of childhood” actually take on certain aspects of the parental role for one or both parents because of some challenge the parent faces.

For years I thought my story was important because it shaped who I am as a man, a husband, a father, a pastor, but that the stories of my childhood themselves had no benefit for others. Three years ago I shared my story in a setting where both Joni Eareckson Tada and Max Lucado heard it. Both suggested I write a book telling my story. They told me God would use my story to help others. So, I embarked on a three year journey to write what it was like to be raised with a mother with significant physical, emotional, and mental challenges. “All But Normal” is the product of my efforts. While I am pleased with the book, it has not been easy sharing my childhood journey in written form. It has been rewarding. I have seen God use it already in so many great ways!

Throughout the journey I have learned so much about letting God redeem my childhood. Actually, I have learned much about God redeeming any wound from the past. After teaching through the life of Joseph in our church a year ago, I began to look at Joseph’s childhood in a different light. He had a home full of dysfunction. Jealousy, favoritism, distrust, immorality, competition, and animosity all marked the home of his father Jacob. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery when he was seventeen years of age. He was taken to a foreign country, enslaved, falsely accused, imprisoned, and forgotten. God raised him up from prison and made him second in command of ancient Egypt. Only Pharaoh was greater.

Twenty-two years after the betrayal of his brothers, Joseph saw God do something great as his brothers came to Egypt for help during a great famine. Joseph forgave his brothers. He wept many times over them and the brokenness of the past. The wounds still hurt him. But, he watched as God redeemed his childhood.

How do you position yourself so that God can redeem the wounds of the past – even those from your childhood? Let me suggest five things Joseph did that you can do as well.

 

#1: Identify the Abnormalities – Even though you want to overlook them

Genesis 45:1-4

I love how Joseph clearly points out how his brothers wounded him when he meets them twenty-two year later. Sometimes we want to act like nothing happened. We want to pretend there are no wounds. Joseph teaches us that it is important to be honest with yourself and others about the abnormalities of your past. We all have them to one extent or another.

 

#2: Acknowledge the Pain – Even though you want to forget it

Genesis 46:29

When Joseph is reunited with his father after more than two decades of his father believing he is dead, he cries for a very long time. The puss of the wound comes out in tears. I am sure there were tears of joy at seeing his father, but it had been a long time and a lot of pain had occurred. One of the beautiful blessings about the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament is that we learn from them that it is okay to tell God how you feel. Let him know it hurts. Acknowledge the pain. As some of us sort through the pain, we may even need to seek out some counseling to process it.

 

#3: Release the Bitterness – Even though you want to hold on to it

Genesis 45:5 & 50:15-17

Someone once said, “To hold a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Joseph refuses to drink the poison. He extends to his brothers a grace they have never extended to him. Two decades after they wound him deeply, he rejects any notion of revenge and shows them grace. Prayer is one of the best antidotes to bitterness. It’s important to let God hear your frustration and pain while at the same time asking him to refresh and renew your spirit. Release the bitterness that can only cause you trouble.

 

#4: Embrace the Sovereignty of God – Even though you want to explain it away

Genesis 45:7-8; 50:20

There are two extremes when it comes to God’s sovereign control over our lives. One is a form of fatalism. The fatalism approach says it does not matter what I do or say because God will do what he wants. So, why even try. The other extreme is to say that God has nothing to do with the bad stuff that comes into our lives. He has no responsibility for it. Anything bad or difficult in life is Satan’s responsibility. Both are an oversimplification of the sovereignty of God. God is weaving something much more grand. In His sovereign plan, even the evil intentions of others can be used for our good and His glory. Joseph tells His brothers that what they did was wrong, but that God had used it for good. As you process the wounds of the past, remember that God can use the worst events over a period of time to mold you and shape you into the image of Christ!

 

#5: Celebrate the Blessings – Even though you want to downplay them

Genesis 45:6-8; 50:20

While I was thankful for the challenges of my childhood and how they had formed a pastor’s heart in me, I did not celebrate those challenges. Joseph is able to celebrate with his father and brothers the incredible grace of God on His life. Many of us want to downplay our blessings because we don’t want to brag. But, when our praise is focused on our Lord, then the celebration of our blessings brings Him praise, rather than brings us pride. Even with the struggles of my years growing up on Victory Road, I can now call them a blessing. To move toward the stage of being able to celebrate the wounds of your past as blessings, you begin by simply thanking Him for those challenges. Thank Him for the purpose He is working – even when you can’t see it. Celebration begins with gratitude!

 

Let me encourage you to process the wounds of your past the way Joseph did. Let God redeem your childhood or your past. Let Him work in and through you according to His grace. That is what Joseph did and that is why he was able to embrace all that God was doing even through some very difficult stuff!

Don’t let Satan get the advantage with your past. Let God use it for your good, the good of others, and ultimately His glory!

 

screenshotCLICK HERE to preorder “All But Normal: Life on Victory Road” by Shawn Thornton with Joel Kilpatrick

 

Feeling Old Lately and Why That’s a Good Thing

IMG_0995Bob Hope said, “You know you’re old when the candles cost more than the cake.” In the last few days, I have felt old. But, that isn’t all bad. And my feeling older lately has nothing to do with the cost of the 49 candles on my birthday cake three weeks ago.

Most of my life people guessed my age to be years younger than my actual age. The comparison to the Happy Days character “Richie Cunningham” lasted well into my early forties. I distinctly remember when an elderly lady in her eighties guessed my age accurately. It was the first time someone had done that. Most people guessed my age to be 4-8 years younger than my actually age.

When I asked the woman how she had guessed so accurately, she said, “You have these crow feet forming around your eyes and some wrinkles forming around your mouth and….” I was quick to interrupt her and politely tell her that she had made her point.

Western culture has shunned aging and embraced the youthful culture. Eastern culture has historically embraced aging – linking it to wisdom, understanding, and insight. American culture promotes a quest in each of us to look young, dress young, and act young even if we are getting older. We are taught to avoid any appearance of aging until there is no hope not to do so. We grieve aging.

But, in the last few days, I have felt my age in a rewarding way. Throughout most of my ministry life I have been able to list the men and women who poured themselves into me. I could list key men in ministry who had been like an Apostle Paul to my being a Timothy or a Titus. Most of them were older, more experienced, and thus much wiser than I.

Now, I recognize looking back what I did not recognize in real time – God has used me as an older (that term is relative) man in ministry to mentor those who are younger in ministry. This weekend I was reminded that I have several of those kind of ministry “sons” in my life. One is being considered for a vital ministry role back east, another is returning to Calvary to join our pastoral team, another did an outstanding job during his ordination council yesterday, and two sat on the ordination council examining him. The depth and breadth of my relationship with these and others the Lord brought to mind varies. But, it is a joy to see God using them. It is a joy to know that God used me in some way to speak into who they are and how they serve Him.

Far from this being a moment of pride in what I have accomplished, it is a moment of humility. It is a moment of satisfying surprise that God has used me in my weakness to influence some of His choicest servants. They will more than likely impact others long after I am with Jesus. I have even found myself emotional this weekend as I have seen the good hand of God once again using me way beyond who I am and what I have to offer Him.

The exclamation point to my journey of discovering that I am now one of the “older” pouring myself into the “younger” came today. It came as I perused a magazine from the church association in which I grew up. This bi-monthly magazine lists in each issue the death of pastors who were a part of the association’s fellowship over the years. There was only one in the current issue – that of pastor and educator Dr. Leslie Madison. Seeing his ministry and life printed on the magazine page brought a smile to my face. Dr. Madison and I only met a few times and when we did meet we interacted very briefly.

He spoke into my life soon after I sensed God’s call to ministry as a young teen. He was a Christian College President and preached a message to a conference of high school students in June of 1983 that impacted me. He preached a clear compelling message about the Old Testament prophet Elijah passing his cloak to Elisha. Dr. Madison shared how each generation passes to the next generation the responsibility of ministry just as Elijah had done to Elisha. At the time God showed me that I was part of the Elisha generation to Dr. Madison’s Elijah generation. I took Madison’s challenge and looked for Elijah’s who would pour themselves, their wisdom, and their experience into me. God brought several key people into my life who did just that. I am thankful for each one!

Now, while I have many years of ministry left (Lord willing), I realize I am more and more a part of the Elijah generation. God gives me the privilege of mentoring younger men and women in ministry as I continue to grow in and serve Him. Seeing Dr. Madison’s obituary highlighting his life of ministry stirred in me gratitude for those of his generation that impacted me. It also stirred a sense of satisfaction for those in whom God has allowed me to pour myself. Finally, seeing his obituary stirred a deeper passion within me to continue to impact the lives of those in the next generation of servants for Christ!

My humble hope and prayer is that there will be men and women who will see a review of my ministry life someday and smile because this “older man” was used by God to shape their hearts for ministry.

Heaven Just Got a Big, Big Smile

IMG_0127On the morning of October 19th, my dear friend Bethuel Dongo stepped into the presence of His Lord. Pastor Dongo had a special link to the Calvary Community Church family! Many of us have been to his home in Kampala, Uganda. He and Florence served as the best of hosts.

Some of us traveled to work with Pastor Dongo in some form or another at God Cares School. Many sponsor kids at the school. Many more of us have given to see various projects around both the primary and high school campus get accomplished. We were excited as a church family that as we built our High School Ministry Center here we also built the 5th floor of God Cares High School.

All of us who knew Pastor Dongo were blessed by him. That is an understatement!

Since my arrival at Calvary seven years ago, Dongo became one of my dearest international friends. We were emailing back and forth daily during the last few weeks of pain he suffered from his cancer. Our last exchange was just two days before his home going.

While my heart is so heavy for Florence and the family, I am also reminded that heaven has added a great big smile to it’s scenery. Once you saw his smile, you would never forget it.

But the smile on the outside merely reflected the smile Dongo had on the inside. He loved the Lord and sought to spread the love of Jesus to “the least of these.” He worked hard to care for thousands of children over the years. They loved him as much as he loved them. His smile seemed infectious around God cares school both on the outside and the inside. The love he showed the kids showed up in them too.

Down deep in his spirit Dongo always smiled. I have known very few people as satisfied in Christ as he was. He had peace, joy, hope, love, faith, and strength deep within Him because of how he constantly abided with the Savior!

Pastor Dongo was one of two people I have known who seem to portray completely the grace and truth harmony Jesus reflected. Joni Eareckson Tada and Bethuel Dongo have stood for truth and grace in a solid and yet kind way. Dongo demonstrated Christ in everything he said and did!

I thank God for the opportunity to have known this man who reflected the truth and grace of Christ so well! He impacted my life. And, I know he impacted so many more!

The angels sure must enjoy the smile of my dear brother! Heaven just got a big, big smile!

 

No More Secrets

At this morning’s men’s breakfast at Calvary, I shared about the dangerous and destructive ramifications of men living with secret or hidden areas of their lives. Men have demonstrated a bad habit of having hidden areas of their lives that they work hard to keep from their spouses and friends. In Joshua 7 we read the story of Achan. He hid stolen items from Jericho under his tent. He violated what God had comannded. His secret life zapped Israel of its power and effectiveness.

With the Ashley Madison Hack, 36 million people who sought out an extramarital affair via the site had their identity and activity exposed. Too many Christian men are losing their testimony for Christ with their family and friends due to the hidden areas they work so hard to keep. We talked about the damaging impact online pornography, sexual affairs, emotional affairs, hidden gambling, and other secret areas have on men, their families, their friends, and their church. To live and love like Jesus with power and impact, there can be no more secrets in our lives!

Here are some of the basic points I made today.

Kinds of secret/hidden areas:

  1. online porn
  2. a sexual affair
  3. an emotional affair
  4. spending or gambling
  5. time away from responsibility
  6. visiting a specific place or event
  7. practicing a hidden habit

 

8 Myths of the Secret lives we live

#1 – No one is being hurt
        -the people you love the most end up getting hurt the most

#2 – It’s just a little thing I keep for me
         -love gives, selfishness grabs

#3 – Trust me – it’s no big deal
         -hiding something from those you love devastates intimacy

#4 – There’s nothing wrong with just being curious
        -we are called to walk in the light not flirt with the dark

#5 – I would never go further
        -when you think you can’t fall you will

#6 – I really need this because my needs aren’t being met
        -you have confused what you want with what you need

#7 – I’m only human
         -if you are a follower of Christ, you have His Spirit in you

#8 – It’s not hurting what others think about me
         -your character is revealed when no one is looking

 

Dealing with the Secrets:

#1 – Don’t give in, run away
        -as fast as you can
-as far as you can

#2 – Don’t give up, reach out
         -to God who will give you strength
-to godly men who will have your back
-to wise counsel who will guide you forward

 

Other Resources:

3 Wise Safeguards in the Wake of Ashley Madison
5 Lessons from the Hacking of Adultery Website Ashley Madison

 

Christian Virtue in the Age of Authenticity- Kevin DeYoung

“In a day where people disdain hypocrisy more than any other vice and prize transparency more than any other virtue, you can be as obnoxious as you want to be, fail spectacularly, and sin repeatedly, as long as you never pretend to be any better than you really are. It makes no difference what errors you say, think, or do, if only you are true to yourself. This is life in the Age of Authenticity.” -Kevin DeYoung

Christian Virtue in the Age of Authenticity 

Monday Ministry Highlights – August 31, 2015

IMG_0955Today during our staff huddle and other meetings, we heard great reports of God at work in lives recently at Calvary! The first thing we shared with our staff team was that GOD CLOSED THE GAP!

THE GAP HAS BEEN CLOSED! God is good. Attend church this Sunday and hear the story of God’s goodness and the generosity of His people.

While expenses remained on budget for our current past year ending August 31, 2015, our offerings early in the summer looked as if we we were going to have a gap between ministry expenses and offering income. We stated in mid-July that we had 7 weeks remaining in the budget year to close the gap and balance the budget. At that time our forecast stated we would need $1,240,000 to balance the budget. The Gap has been closed.

While we will share details on Sunday, together today, we celebrated that God used the Calvary family to Close the Gap in our offering income on this last Sunday of our fiscal year! Yes, God Closed the Gap! Praise God for the investment so many have made to see the hope of Jesus shared with others in our community and around the world! Thank you for letting God use you!

So many shared how much they were blessed by Heavenly Joy and her mom, Joy, on Sunday. The energy and passion for Christ that shines through this little girl is amazing and encouraged so many.

We had great Calvary Welcome Receptions after each service. We had more people show up for these than we have ever had on a Sunday. Many families with little children joined us. God is bringing some great people our way!

150629_2877845_Heavenly_JoyWe heard wonderful reports from Pastor Steve Day on his trip to Uganda and Pastors Curtis Johnson and Brian Field on their trip to Ukraine’s gypsy camps. God is working through Calvary to bring hope to the kids of these countries. So many children in Uganda and Ukraine are being discarded and ignored. They are suffering from hunger, homelessness, and human trafficking. Through Calvary’s efforts, including child sponsorship, young lives are being changed forever! Food, clothes, education, medical help, and a witness for the Good News of Jesus are being provided as you give to God’s work!

We prayed for those suffering and for the needs of families during our meetings. We praised God for Who He is and thanked Him for all that He has done

A Little Girl Who is Making a Big Difference – Heavenly Joy Jerkins

Childlike Faith GraphicToday, I taught on the little maid girl found in 2 Kings 5. She had a childlike faith that God could heal her master. She lovingly shared her hope in God with her master. He went to Israel to be healed. God used Elisha to bring about his complete, miraculous healing from leprosy.

We talked about the 8 characteristics of childlike faith (CLICK HERE for the Outline). The very kind of faith Jesus said we all need to be a part of His Kingdom (Matthew 18:1-5). If a little girl’s childlike faith can make a big difference for God, so can you with a little faith of your own!

Calvary’s own Heavenly Joy joined me at the end of my message to chat about the sweet, gracious, innocent, but bold ways she has been shining for Jesus through her singing and dancing. Below are the clips that have been widely shared on social media of Heavenly on America’s Got Talent and the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda.

Heavenly’s mom, Joy Enriquez, joined Heavenly and sang her new song that features Heavenly – “Shine.” You can CLICK HERE and download the song from iTunes!

 

Heavenly Joy on America’s Got Talent

CLICK HERE to see Heavenly Joy on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda

 

 

Monday Ministry Highlights – August 24, 2015

Today during our staff huddle and other meetings our Calvary team got to hear some incredible things God has been doing in and through the Calvary family!

Ladan Nouri’s story of persecution as a Christian in Iran touched and challenged so many! This young Iranian woman’s love for Christ and for God’s Word came across clearly and sincerely. Let’s be praying for the persecuted church! Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering severe persecution even as I write and you read this blog post.

Several hundred people on Sunday volunteered to surrender some aspect of their lives to make a difference for Jesus! This was a result of Ladan’s story, but also the stories shared by so many from Calvary who shared their story by way of signs. Calvary is reaching out locally and globally with the love and hope of Jesus!

Our High School pastor, Brian Howard, reported that four high school students came to Christ on Sunday. We baptized eight people during the evening service. Lives are being changed by the power of the Gospel!

This week Calvary’s High school ministry will launch 20+ ISI (small groups). Sunday our Adult Ministry opportunities will be shared with the Body. This coming Saturday Calvary will host the memorial service for an LA fire fighter who recently died. We get a great opportunity to impact our community and those who serve it for Christ through this ministry.

We also prayed together for the struggle folks in Calvary face. We prayed for people battling cancer, financial challenges, and family issues. We prayed for these final days of our Close the Gap emphasis. We are so close to making budget both in terms of ministry expenses and offering income. Our budget year ends Monday, August 31st. Pray with us. Pray about your part this week in giving to God’s Kingdom work through Calvary!

Praying for you as you seek to live and love like Jesus today!