Because of Bob…

Bob Ayala was singing the very first time I darkened the tent flaps of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. Some friends from Seattle has discovered the Christian tent-venue in Orange County and invited me to tag along. I was stunned. Bob was a Christian balladeer who sounded like a mixture of Jose Feliciano and Neil Young, but his lyrics were introspective, spiritual and utterly gripping. Because of Bob, Calvary became my home and I am now one of her pastors. But I digress.

Whenever Bob came to town I was there. He sang and emoted through his oversized Gibson J-200 guitar, and God spoke through him. He couldn’t see, but God gave him eyes that pierced human pretense and dug deep into a man’s soul. After three years listening and absorbing his gift, I decided I needed to meet him—and learn.

When I first called him, he thought I was joking. My first question was an obvious one—what kind of guitar he played (it was the finest sounding instrument I ever heard), and he told me. My other question strained credulity and made him laugh. “Do you give guitar lessons?” I was serious. I’d been playing guitar for a few years, but lacked artistic form—something he possessed in abundance. I wanted that. He hummed and hawed and finally said, “Well, I could use the money, so okay.”

That began our friendship. Lessons soon evolved into visits, endless chess matches, jam sessions in his tiny living room and nights out with he and his bride, Pam, in Westwood Village feasting at LaBarbara’s Pizza.

Then, one day he asked to borrow my el-cheap-o 12-string guitar, which I happily handed over. I dropped by for a visit a couple weeks later when he asked me to listen to something he wrote on my guitar, specifically for a 12-string instrument. He called it “Ancient of Days”. It went on his first album and has been my favorite worship song ever since. In 1979 he performed the music at Kathee’s and my wedding—Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, played classically with a slight folksy bent. He surprised us both with the greatest original wedding song never published. It had no title and still rings in my and Kathee’s hearts after all these years.

I received a call from Bob in 1982 when he asked for my thoughts about a life-changing decision he needed to make—and for prayer. Melody Green, Keith Green’s widow asked him to take over the music ministry for her late husband at Last Days Ministries in Texas. This was huge, and I knew that if he said yes, I would not see him again for a long time. The answer was obvious—God was calling.

The last time I saw Bob was back stage at a Keith Green Memorial Concert where we spoke briefly between sets. We felt rushed and he was justifiably preoccupied. A few years later he and Pam called me from Texas. We chatted for a couple hours and he excitedly told me about his new CD (Who Was This Man). That was the last time we spoke. Pam passed into heaven in 2008 and Bob moved to the east coast where he led worship for a truly blessed congregation.

It was because of Bob that I have led worship and performed songs for more than 35 years. It was because of Bob that I discovered the joys and convictions of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, learned to emote with my guitar and play chess with a blind man wearing soaked white teeshirts, sitting in front of fans on sweltering SoCal afternoons. I know, I know—it was because of Jesus—but He used Bob to get to me.

Bob left for heaven yesterday—the same day as C.S. Lewis did years before. I think it was God’s way of saying ‘well done’ with a smile. You may not remember his first album, Joy by Surprise, but the album cover was simply prophetic: Bob stepping out of a dark doorway into a sun-drenched Narnia, seeing for the very first time—the face of Aslan.

“…The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” And as He spoke He no longer looked like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that [Bob] lived happily ever after. But for [him] it was only the beginning of the real story. All [his] life in this world and all [his] adventures… had only been the cover and the title page [of the book]; now at last [he is] beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” —C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, The Chronicles of Narnia

 

Priorities in a Suicidal World

Nothing can extinguish it. To the end of time it shall be there and shall always manifest itself, and men must never lose heart because of that. All [mankind’s ideas and struggles to create his own utopia] are absolutely worthless—the society in which utopianism is the great pursuit is the one that is about to commit suicide. The great guarantee that human life is always worth creating, always worth bringing into this world, always worth living is that there is built into it an indestructible awareness that life belongs to eternity and not to time. [This] shines with an incredible brightness in the one place in the world where you would not, under any circumstances, expect to find it surviving. The Catacombs.” —Malcolm Muggeridge, Firing Line #433, with W.F. Buckley, Jr., Sept. 6, 1980, PBS

We can preach politics or we can preach Jesus.

We can rage against the machine or we can love like Jesus.

We can trumpet conspiracies or we can comfort like Jesus.

People need Jesus.

Learn, live, preach, love like Jesus.

It’s what’s important—it’s what will last.

It comes at great risk and sometimes great cost, but it’s the one and only thing that can fix the world, one heart—one life at a time.

Remember.
—j

‘The Last Great Defenders’

“As Christians [in America], our challenge is to go back as close as we can to the Gospel and truly be the church. Increasingly, we’re likely to be a counter-culture. As that happens, we will be the last great defenders of reason, truth and human dignity, with the task of defending [the Faith] not just theoretically…but practically, as the early church did… Our privilege will be to repeat that story in our time.”

—Os Guinness (World Magazine, June 29, 2013)

Love like Jesus—never stop.

And vote Biblically.

Blessings,
—j

POTD: Truth or Dare

When people invent their own truths and live by them, almost always they expect others to conform—chaos and conflict are guaranteed to follow. Then comes the finger-pointing: radical movements, inept and hypocritical politicians and worse. But as believers, we know where we stand—we stand on God’s truth. Or do we?

Scripture tells us God’s standard of evil and good, and it’s easy to say we agree with it. But it’s also true that we manage to invent and rationalize ways to live by our own standards while still praising His. The truth is, our own flesh is as devious and rotten as the people we criticize as lawless evildoers.

Before our righteous indignation erupts today at the evil infesting the world, take a moment to pray with King David, who so wisely understood the necessary state of the human heart—lest we, too, hate like haters hate, and by the same standards—our own.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

—King David, Psalm 139: 23-24

POTD: Bigger than Covid, Cabals and Despots

Take a deep breath. Let it out—slowly. Relax. Read. Something infinite, eternal permeates the trembling world—it’s greater than everything, and forever will be. Read it slowly—read it out loud. Tell yourself the story…

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair bowed down with care
God sent His son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong;
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song!

Could we with ink the oceans fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the oceans dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong;
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song!

F. M. Lehman

Amen.

The Starting Point of World Change

POTD: The true starting point of world change. Let’s Pray…

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

—King David, Psalm 51:10-17

Thank you, Lord.

The Creed of Revolt

Satirist Steve Turner was something of a prophet concerning the creed of the current—or any—modern revolt…

“CREED”by Steve Turner
This is the creed I have written on behalf of all us.
We believe in Marx, Freud and Darwin
We believe everything is OK as long as you don’t hurt anyone, to the best of your definition of hurt, and to the best of your knowledge.
We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy is OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.
We believe that everything is getting better despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated, and you can prove anything with evidence.
We believe there’s something in horoscopes, UFO’s and bent spoons;
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher although we think His good morals were bad.
We believe that all religions are basically the same–at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.
We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then it’s compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Khan.
We believe in Masters and Johnson.
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.
We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors and the Russians would be sure to follow.
We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.
We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.
We believe in the rejection of creeds, and the flowering of individual thought.
 
Post-Script: If chance be the Father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky, and when you hear State of Emergency! Shooter Kills Ten! Cops on Rampage! Protesters Go Looting! Bomb Blasts School! It is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.
More to come…

POTD: A Prayer When God Does All the Talking

Confused, Stressed, Angry, Helpless, Hopeless. That’s everyone since Eden’s Fall. Humanity ruined God’s perfect creation—but the Maker still speaks amidst the ruins. Let’s pray—and let Him do the talking…

Come and see the works of the Lord,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

—Psalm 46:8–11

Let it be as you have said, O Lord.

Defining Moment in an Overheated World

Here is a patch of smooth air in a turbulent world by Pastor Tim Brown of Calvary Chapel Fremont, CA. Ah, the difference the right words could make if only believed…

In the over-heated rhetoric flowing from the murder of George Floyd and the protests and riots that dominate TV, radio and social media, I’ve allowed myself to lose sight of the words of Jesus— “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

Am I supposed to bless rioters and looters and those who have made me out to be the enemy? What does Jesus say? “Bless those who curse you.”

Am I supposed to bless those who curse me because I don’t see the current crisis in America exactly as they do? What does Jesus say? “Bless those who curse you.”

In the thinking of some, I am all that is wrong with America—I’m white and male and Christian and heterosexual and cis-gendered. In the eyes of many, that description alone makes me a racist and a bigot and a homophobe. They would say, “I don’t need to know you personally to know what your character is like. I just need to know what class you belong to.” To them I say, “I bless you in the name of Jesus!”

The word bless is ‘eulogize’ in the Greek. At funerals, someone (usually a family member) brings the eulogy—a good word about the deceased. When I bless those who curse me or who have made me their enemy, I ask God’s favor on their life for success and well-being. No—not success in wrongdoing and unrighteousness—but success in finding the right way, and coming into the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. It is the opposite of condemning them— “I hope you rot in jail,” or “I hope you rot in hell.” To bless is to release someone from your judgment and, at the same time, it is a prayer asking God to release this person from the bondage and chains of sin. Blessing keeps my heart compassionate, even toward those who hate me; blessing keeps my heart from callousing over with judgment and condemnation. 

When I get to the place where I withhold blessing others in the name of Jesus, I am wrong—for I am no longer following the example of Jesus. What greater demonstration of this do we have than when Jesus Himself, God in the flesh, prayed to His Father as His enemies surrounded Him on the cross, cursing, mocking, and hurling abuse. Jesus poured out blessing upon them in His prayer, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Now, He could have said what Isaac said to Esau, “I am plum out of blessings.” And who would have blamed Jesus had He foregone blessing His enemies on the cross. To place Jesus on that cross they had to forego the conventions of a fair trial. Jesus truly was the victim of social injustice and religious bigotry. Their hatred of Jesus justified, in their eyes, the rush to unrighteous judgment and letting a criminal go free and crucifying Christ. And when all the sin of the world, the injustice, the bigotry, when all the hatred and condemnation were poured out on Jesus, from the midst of that pile, from the bottom of that pit, from the pain and shame of the cross came forth words of blessing, “Father, forgive them…

When I get to the place where I am so angry and lathered up and withhold blessing others in the name of Jesus—I am wrong.

My job isn’t to bring justice—that’s the government’s job; my job is to speak peace in the name of Jesus. The government bears the Sword; the Church bears the Cup of Christ. When the Church puts down the Cup of Christ and takes up the Sword, it has ceased to be the Church. I cannot have the Sword of Justice in one hand and the Cup of Blessing in the other. Does this mean that the Sword is not the best way to deal with some of that we see around us today? Not at all. I rejoice in the Sword—but the Sword isn’t in my hand. The Cup of Christ is in my hand and I bless you in the name of Jesus. 

Bless those who curse you.”

Be blessed, stay healthy and bear the Cup of Christ.

POTD: A Prayer in a World Gone Nuts

A world gone crazy is nothing new—it just reminds us how much we needed God all along. Let’s pray…

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.
You have filled my heart with greater joy
than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O Lord,
make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:6-8

Now say ‘amen’ and rest.