I love the Puritans. Their zeal for God and devotional hearts have always kept me in awe – and spurred me forward. Before I knew Jesus, I subscribed to the ’60s slogan: “Never trust anyone over 30”. Now I sympathize with this sentiment: “Never trust anyone under 300”. I’ve been reading ‘Voices from the Past’ as part of my devotions this year. It’s a collection of excerpts from various Puritan writings. From time-to-time, I’ll pass some of it on. Thus this from Thomas Case (1598-1682).
“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
The life of faith is the only safe life. Its fortifications are impregnable. Trust in the Lord forever, for in Him is everlasting strength. Ages pass away but the Lord our Rock abides forever. He that rained manna in the wilderness will give us bread; and He that brought water from the rock will be a never-failing fountain. Faith’s work is to pray for what it needs and to give thanks for what it has. Faith uses means [opportunities], but trusts in God. When there are no means [opportunities] to use we say, ‘Though the ﬁg tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines . . . yet I Will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation’ (Hab. 3:17—18).
Faith can live upon God when there is famine in all creation. The peace of God guards the heart from all surprises of fear and trouble. As faith enjoys God in all things in the greatest abundance, so she can enjoy all things in God in the deepest need. Paul describes his trouble in Asia: ‘We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself’ (2 Cor. 1:8). ‘But’, he said, ‘that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.’ If God can raise the dead, he can conquer the greatest difficulty. He can put life into dead men, life into dead hopes, and raise up our expectations from the grave of despair. He can put life into dead bones and life into dead faith.
We are proud creatures and full of self—confidence, but God, by strange and unexpected providences, hedges up our way with thorns. He brings us to despair even of life and brings us under the sentence of death that we might not trust in ourselves, but in him who raises the dead. He overturns us by despair, shows us what babes and fools we are in ourselves, that we might know nothing but God.
Go in the strength of the Lord!
THOMAS CASE, ‘Selected Works’, Treatise Afflictions’, pp. 48-57
(From ‘Voices From The Past’, Edited by Richard Rushing, Banner of Truth)
The thunder I’ve been hearing is the sound of old, heavy theater seats tossed into a large construction bin late at night. The lightning is just the blinking of a worn out street light, coughing up spasms of past brilliance.
You could think there’s no such thing as Thunder or Lightning – if you’d never been shaken by Thunder’s Deep Voice, or startled by Lightning’s penetrating flash. The immediate, heart-stopping crash feels as if some mighty celestial oak has just fallen. But I’ve heard Thunder and chased Lightning. Their incomparable voices are etched in my psyche.
But what if someone has never heard – or seen – or been struck by the awe of a raw encounter? How could I convey what they’re missing? Any attempt at mimicking the sound of Thunder, or Lightning, would be a kind of blasphemy. Perhaps I could play a recording. Yes, that could make them believers. But no sound system in the world can convey the inimitable reality. They must experience it for themselves. Somehow I’ve got to bring them to the Encounter – or the Encounter to them.
Lord, I’ve been shaken by Your, Deepest-of-All Voice and awakened by the Flashing Insights of Your Spirit. They’ve left indelible inscriptions on my psyche, my soul. You have never been a subject of debate – for me.
But others have not. How can I make You known to them? My mimicry could convince them that I believe. Your Words through my lips might engender faith. But without an Encounter, Your In-counter, they could slowly sink into passive acquiescence.
They need You. We need You. I need You. Only You can make a believer out of those who ‘believe’.
Please, Lord, put Your Thunder in our voices and Your Lightning in our touch. Or, better yet, revive us. Re-open our eyes, re-ignite our trust, re-infuse us with the unshakeable certainty that Your Thunder is in Your Word and Your Spirit is ready to strike in an instant – in this instant.
Help us to know that Your Voice silently thunders when we speak of You and that Your Spirit flashes when we touch others – and pray for them.
That Your Power is perfected in our weakness when it’s offered to You.
“3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; The God of glory thunders; The Lord is over many waters. 4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; The voice of the Lord is full of majesty. 5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, Yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes them also skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire. 8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; The Lord shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth, And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!” 10 The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, And the Lord sits as King forever. 11 The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.”
Our new adventure means we are now faith-based missionaries to pastors and their wives, churches and missionaries. As such, we are depending on the Lord to provide through the support of like-minded believers who have a heart for helping pastors and churches and would like to do it through us.
In order to make this work, we’ve adjusted our cost-of-living significantly (see ‘Radical Downsize’ below). Travel and housing costs will be a major ministry expense. Many churches need help but can’t afford to pay. We want to be able to offer that help – with your help.
In order to take this step of faith, and ask you and others to consider supporting us, we believe it’s incumbent on us to do what we can to lower our living expenses. Along with the normal steps of shopping more carefully, cutting expenditures and reviewing spending, we’ve swapped houses with our daughter and son-in-law, Grace & David Velasquez. They’ll be renting the big house (3300 sq. ft.), and we’ve moved into the cottage (600 sq. ft.),
We’ve also sold our Honda Pilot and are keeping the Honda Fit.
WHAT WILL OUR JOINING POIMEN MINISTRIES MEAN?
Thanks to the encouragement and support of Pastor Terry and Calvary Chapel Salt Lake City, I will continue to be based in Salt Lake as a ‘Pastor Emeritus’ (a pastor sent out for ministry to the general body of Christ). Although my normal ministry responsibilities are being transitioned to others, we will continue to be part of the fellowship and serve whenever our schedule allows.
As for support, we will be primarily dependent on the support of like-minded believers who have a heart for helping pastors and churches and would like to do it through us. In order to make this work, we’ve adjusted our cost-of-living significantly (see ‘Radical Downsize’). Travel and housing costs will be a major ministry expense. Many churches need help but can’t afford to pay. We want to be able to offer that help – with your help. (Please see ‘A NEW ADVENTURE – Pt.3’ for information on how you can support us)
EXPANDING NOT LEAVING
When we left Calvary Chapel Sacramento after 26 years, I remember feeling like we were losing our family and exchanging it for a new one. Instead, we discovered that we didn’t lose our Sacramento friends and family, we gained an expanded circle. And so, we take this step with the confidence that we won’t lose our Salt Lake family, but will expand the circle in hopes that the Lord will use us, in spite of ourselves, to bless more of His flock.
A NOTE FROM LAURA – Off we go!
The other day, our youngest son Tim opened the car door for me. It’s strange how his humble gesture supplied an inexpressible comfort. He saw a need, responded without fanfare, and off we went. For John and I, this sums up the goal in our new venture: to come alongside, identify a need, and open a door of encouragement and relief to a church leader or a group of believers; and then, to move on.
Your prayers and financial support open the door for us, enabling us to open the door for others. Here are three things to pray. Please feel free to add to this list.
Discernment • Strength • Provision
P.S. Some of you have asked what I’ll be doing. Well, I’m the official keeper of the stuff, John’s personal fashionista (you can’t wear that in public, John), and I have serious nunchuck skills in hospitality and…well, who doesn’t like a salted caramel cupcake once in a while? Oh- and I like to write about everything. It’s kind of like non-stop talking only-better-because-if-you-get-tired-of-me-you-can-jus-t“click”-and-I-disappear-and-I-won’t-even-know-you-did-it.
I will also continue as a rep for Voice of the Martyrs. Thank you for your immeasurable encouragement.
“Oh magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together!”
Psalm 34:3 (John’s and my life verse.)
The nature of this ministry means we often don’t know our next ‘assignment’ until it’s in front of us. Please pray for the Lord to clearly direct us.
• Calvary Chapel Bishop, CA: Their long-time pastor, Daniel Mcclenaghan, went home to Jesus the week before Easter. We’ll be with them for a weekend doing a Mini-Conference, sharing with the Worship Team and speaking Sunday morning.
• Calvary Chapel Seine Bight, Belize: Spending time with Jim & Anna Mensie, missionary pastors to Seine Bight, an impoverished, voodoo-infested community in Belize. Laura will be speaking at a regional Women’s Retreat. John will do a mini-conference with the men at the church, as well as speak at various services. We’ll also be doing an informal Sunday Night Concert.
• Calvary Chapel Bishop, CA: Sunday Service
• Calvary Chapel Senior Pastors’ Conference, CA: We’ll be attending the Conference, meeting some of the Poimen team, reconnecting with old friends (and making new ones) as we hang out at the Poimen Ministries table.
• Calvary Chapel Bishop, CA: Sunday Service
NEXT? You will be praying for us – right?
A NEW DIRECTION IN MINISTRY
The Lord is leading Laura and I into a new ministry adventure. After 26 years as Sr. Pastor of Calvary Chapel Sacramento and 9 years of ministry with Calvary Chapel Salt Lake City, we are taking a further step of faith into a new ministry. The Lord has slowly prepared us for this change over the past 18 months. But, now that His direction is clear, things have moved quickly. So what is this new direction?
WE ARE JOINING POIMEN MINISTRIES
Poimen Ministries (www.poimenministries.com) is a team of seasoned Calvary Chapel pastors dedicated to serving other pastors. The goal is to help pastors, churches and missionaries fulfill their calling by offering personal encouragement, practical help, fresh perspective and seasoned guidance. This may mean simply filling in for a pastor over a weekend – or committing a couple of years to shepherding a church through a challenging transition. Each ‘assignment’ is unique whether a ministry of encouragement to a leadership family, bringing assurance and hope to a church that’s lost it’s pastor, coaching a younger pastor through the challenges of ministry, or providing an honest assessment of a church’s ministries. This means we’ll be depending more than ever on the Lord’s guidance and the Spirit’s enabling. For us, this brings a new intensity to our frequent prayer: “Lord, help us to be what they need.”
Poimen is a ministry that resonates deep within our hearts. It has been my joy over the years to mentor others towards ministry and coach fellow pastors – often giving them the benefit of lessons I learned through my own mistakes. The Lord has continually drawn us to this kind of service, consistently encouraging us by blessing our efforts. Although this will require new steps of faith and a dependence upon the Lord’s provision through His people, we are excited and feel honored to have this opportunity. Please remember us in your prayers. We want our lives to count for Jesus, now more than ever. Our prayer is that the Lord will use us to strengthen pastors and churches so they, in turn, will continue to reach more and more souls for the Kingdom.
- A SNAPSHOT OF POIMEN
Here is a snapshot of team activities this past month (May 2015):
• Bill: Finished 4 1/2 months at Calvary Chapel Bible College, in Peru
• Al: Completed a church assessment in NY; helping a church in Northern GA.
• Bob: Serving churches in England: sorting out new, restrictive visa regulations.
• Phil: Completed church assessment in NY; on way to Czech Republic.
• Gillette: Returned from Nepal; on way to church assessment.
• Trip: Finished 6 wks in Juneau, AK; helping 2 churches in FL.
• Pat: Filled in for various pastors; Teaching at School of Ministry
• Larry: Pastor Larry Anderson went home to be with his Lord while filling in for a missionary pastor in Kosovo, Yugoslavia (see tribute at http://www.poimenministries.com).