July 4, 2017—Today I was in a miracle. Two years ago we were packing up our annual July 4th picnic/baptism at the American River (Coloma, CA) when were heard sirens converging at the river near our baptism site. I came to the picnic as a pastor and it appeared I was about to shift into chaplain mode. Finding a ranger, I identified myself as a chaplain from the neighboring county and learned that a man drowned upstream from us, was retrieved from the river and was undergoing CPR. The last report I received indicated he had a pulse and was breathing, but the park rangers were still traumatized—especially a young state park employee who was not involved in lifesaving efforts but was badly affected nonetheless. I employed some quick defusing of the involved rangers and of the traumatized young park employee until her father arrived, after which I went home.

Today—two years later to the day—our church family was fellowshipping after the baptism when I noticed two female rangers talking near our picnic area—a long-time employee and a ranger-in-training. My chaplain mode once again kicked in and I walked over to visit with them. As I spoke to the seasoned ranger, our conversation shifted to the near-drowning two years ago and her involvement in the life-saving efforts. I told her how glad I was that he survived, and she dropped a bombshell—he didn’t make it. My wife Kathee and a church brother, Marc, joined the conversation, as they were also there two years ago helping with the situation. We talked together for a while when the rangers left suddenly to address a man flying a drone over the river. The rangers we gone less than three minutes when they returned bringing with them a man with his wife and daughter.

“This is him!” the seasoned ranger said to me. I didn’t recognize him, and all I thought was “Him who?”

She repeated with a tone of wonder and excitement: “This is HIM!”

The man the rangers had brought—the man with the drone—was the drowning victim from two years ago, and he was supposed to be dead. All the rangers in the park thought he was dead, and until now, so did I, my wife and Marc.

The seasoned ranger radioed to another ranger—one who had also performed CPR on the victim—to immediately come to our location—there was someone he needed to meet. And he did, and there were hugs and tears and a supreme sense of wonder. Not only was this man alive, he was here, with us and with his family, near the same spot of the tragedy—in perfect health. Not bad for a dead guy. But wait—it gets better.

We then discovered why the rangers thought he was dead: another drowning victim died that day in the same hospital, in the bed right next to our victim (who was on life-support). When the rangers called to find out his status, they were told he had died—the nurses thinking they were asking about the other victim. Instead, our near-drowning victim—now presumed dead—was actually transported to Stanford Medical center where he lay in a coma for two months.

The man’s wife explained what happened next: two months into his coma, his kidneys, heart and liver were shutting down and the doctors were urging the wife and grown daughter to unplug life-support and let him pass. Though the family was originally from south Asia, they were also Christians, and the wife and daughter ducked into to a nearby church for two hours to seek the Lord before pulling the plug. The wife said God told her not to worry. When they returned to the hospital to (perhaps) say goodbye, her husband moved for the first time in two months. He awoke fully from the coma, remaining in the hospital a total of six months, followed by two more months in a rehab facility. The doctors had told him his kidneys would never function normally again—that one was dead and the other likely wouldn’t work at all, requiring ongoing dialysis. Two days later all his organs were functioning normally—and when we met him today, he was normal—and I mean normal. I have friends who awoke from comas with extensive brain damage. This man was normal—and he’d returned to the site of the tragedy hoping to find and thank the people who helped him two years ago, not knowing we all thought him dead. Earlier that morning he even found the same nurses who treated him in the first hospital—who both happened to be on shift this morning.

We stood together on the bluff overlooking the American River, some of us jaw-dropped and laughing, rangers tearing up, everyone overwhelmed. God is amazing beyond words. The one person not present and whom our resurrected friend wasn’t even aware of was the traumatized young park employee I defused. She’s on her honeymoon.

I wonder what she did when she got the text this afternoon.


The Strong Man

Don Talley, confined to a wheelchair by a difficult genetic condition, said,

“So many afflicted people say, ‘God, if you won’t heal me, you can’t use me.’ Stop telling God what he can’t do. Our identity is in Christ, not our hurts and failures.”

He said this to thousands, after speaking to thousands upon thousands more. He still does.

I’m glad Jesus is so strong. So is Don.


Something Different in Jerusalem

For the next 3 months I will be doing something different—taking a short sabbatical from Church, Chaplaincy and Dinners, and becoming director of the Calvary Chapel Bible College Affiliate in Jerusalem. Yes, I will return (my visa expires in 90 days), stopping in Ireland on the way home for some fellowship and ministry. I’m back the end of May, but with all the technology, I’m still close to home. I will post videoclips and some sermons (once a month or so), and my weekly messages and Biblical Dinners will resume May 31. If you want to schedule a Biblical Dinner or Galilean Wedding (or something else) when I return, I’m an email away. I appreciate your prayers, and so does my family. Shalom, and thanks for praying, everyone…!

South America—Who’da Thought?

Biblical Dinners in South America

As you may know, I have a ministry called ‘The Biblical Dinner’—a live presentation of the historical Last Supper, and you’re in it. I’ve also been given the privilege of sharing this ministry all over the world, with powerful results and lasting good fruit. Let me tell you what happened today

I was embroiled in a conversation with two other pastors over coffee when we all realized that we were late for dinner, and being Calorie Chapel pastors, we were late for our calling. As we entered the dining hall, eight hundred pastors were already seated and working on their salads. We needed to find seats, preferably together and we rushed past a table with three open seats right next to each other. Over the deafening noise in the room I called to the other pastors and pointed to the empty chairs, and they turned and quickly sat down. The other pastors seated at the table were all from Latin American countries, including Guatemala and Columbia. The Columbian man was at my left elbow, and he introduced himself as Luis from Cali.

I had visited Ecuador on several occasions, and since Ecuador borders Columbia, I told this to Luis hoping to stimulate a little conversation. He immediately asked me if I knew pastor Freddy Bernadino of Calvary Chapel Cuenca, Ecuador. I not only know Freddy, I ordained him. More than that, Freddy learned the Biblical Dinner from me and has been busy presenting them all over northern South America. Luis then told me that Freddy did these dinners and has asked him if he would like to learn how to present them.

Here’s where it gets interesting…

Luis looked at me and said he would like to meet the man who taught Freddy how to do the dinners. Now it gets even more interesting. He looks at me, having never met, and said, “you are the one who does the Biblical Dinner…!” I was stunned, to say the least.

He then explained that he had been praying about if he should launch out into this amazing ministry, but was still unsure—until now. There is much more to tell, but I think you get the idea. We now have another Biblical Dinner presenter!
But it gets even MORE interesting. During our amazing conversation the Lord showed me something that had never occurred to me. I have had many people urge me to raise up other men to do Dinners in order to spread this powerful ministry and to help lighten my schedule. So far no one here has taken up the torch, though there are now four men doing it in South America. But wait—do you see it? We Americans are often ignorantly arrogant about ministry. Ministry is not ours to command, keep or even define. God determines what He will make of it, and i am now quite convinced that the ministry of the Biblical Dinner was primarily meant for, of the places on earth, the people of South America. To us, South America is a forgotten continent, an afterthought in geography class. But it is full of all kinds of people, Indian and Hispanic, Portuguese and European, and all of them need to know and can appreciate the understanding of ancient biblical culture as much as all the rest of us. And God has paved the way through men like Freddy, Fernando, Luis and others. As I continue ministering these Dinners, I am beginning to happily understand that I am the one orbiting these pastors, and not the other way around. This is tremendous. I would have never imagined—the Biblical Dinner—determined by God for South Americans!

As I continue to minister these Dinners, I will continue to seek for a few good men to expand the ministry here, north of the equator, but now with the knowledge that God has done something wonderful, completely outside my imagination, with this ministry.

For South America. Who would have thought?

Bless the Lord…!