Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wagon ride

Last night, Abby felt well enough to take a wagon ride down the hospital hallway. She seemed to enjoy the change in scenery. Here's a video of our brave little girl!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Clinging to God

As I write this article, my wife and I are getting ready to take our seven-month old daughter Abigail down to Loma Linda for surgery on her right kidney. We’re thankful that little Abby will get excellent care and has a high probability of success. But even more importantly, we’re thankful she is in God’s loving hands.

Life is not easy. We often have to live by faith, and not by sight. One of the ancient prophets who learned this was Habakkuk. His name in Hebrew means “the clinger,” and that is precisely what God taught Him -- to cling to the Lord every day.

Habakkuk lived in turbulent times. There was famine in Israel, and the army of Babylon was approaching. Hungry and outnumbered, the Israelites trembled. After all, Babylon did not have a reputation for showing mercy to their prisoners of war.

But as the chariots thundered closer and the infantry kicked dust high into the air, Habakkuk gathered his composure and wrote a beautiful poem of trust in God:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food; the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

The prophet’s forecast looked bleak. Tasty treats like figs and grapes would soon dry up. Then staple crops like olives and wheat would fail. Finally, all the animals would die from starvation or enemy slaughter. But in spite of this, Habakkuk put his joy in the Lord and kept clinging to him.

Can the same be said of us? Thankfully, we aren’t defending against an enemy attack or in a life-threatening drought. But many of us are in an uphill battle every day. Financial trouble. Sickness. Loneliness. Addiction.

Don’t despair! God is still our strength. He will care for us, if we will turn to him. He already proved his love by giving his son to die for our sins. And in the end, he will make all things new for those who trust in Jesus (Revelation 21:5).

By the time you read this, Abigail’s surgery should be over. Hopefully, she will already be on the road to recovery. But no matter what, we know we can cling to God and rejoice in Him, for He is our strength.

This article was written last week for publication in today's edition of our local newspaper, the Hi Desert Star.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The road to recovery

Thanks to all who have been asking about Abigail’s surgery. It’s been a long two days, but we’re thankful to report things seem to be improving.

Abigail’s surgery was at 9 am on Monday morning. The operation was done around noon and then we were called back to meet with the surgeon. He said the procedure went very well, and that we would likely go home the next day. However, the Lord had other plans.

Yesterday evening, Abby’s pain grew worse, and her tummy became quite distended. Even morphine was not calming her down. There was a chance she was having constipation or even internal bleeding, so they moved her over to the pediatric ICU unit this morning.

No one could get a needle into her to check her blood, so they had to do a pick line IV, which is a special kind of IV that runs up through her vein and into her main vein near her heart. They had to give her a sedative and then finished that early this afternoon.

Thankfully, Abby’s vitals look good, and today’s blood test showed hemoglobin still in healthy range. Her stomach distention also has gone down, leading doctors to believe she may have just had some chemical gas in her tummy. She is still fussy and uncomfortable, but can go a few hours between morphine doses.

Tomorrow, they will do another blood draw, and if she stays stable, they will remove her catheter and the NG tube in her nose and start her on some solids. There are still several milestones she needs to reach before she can be released, but we are very thankful for the answered prayers and the progress she seems to have made today.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Abby's surgery

Our seven-month old daughter Abigail is scheduled to have surgery next Monday, Sept. 26, at 9 am on her right kidney/ureter. While still in the womb, she was diagnosed with ‘hydronephrosis,’ or fluid on the kidney. As a result, her right kidney drains very slowly and is now almost twice the size of her left one.

The surgeon will make a small incision on her side, remove a piece of her ureter where it joins to the kidney, then reconnect the ureter to the kidney. The operation will take place at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital and should take 2-3 hours. If all goes well, most of her kidney will be saved, and she could be discharged as early as Tuesday afternoon.

Here are some ways you can pray for our family:

  • Thank the Lord that doctors noticed her condition early, that she is not in any pain, and that her right kidney still has a lot of healthy tissue
  • Pray that she will stay healthy, as she has been fighting off a cold and allergies this past week
  • Ask God to guide the hands of Dr. Chamberlain, his staff, and medical students as they operate on our daughter
  • Pray for God to sustain Natalie and me, as we are already tired from so many other medical crises in the past year
  • Intercede for us, that we will not give into fear, but will rest in God’s sovereignty, his wisdom, and his love. We want to know our Savior better through this season of suffering
  • Praise the Lord for Natalie’s parents who are watching Dylan and Heidi for the week so we can focus on caring for Abby. My mom will also be arriving in another week to help out.
  • I’ve written about this trial in a “Minister’s Message" scheduled to be published next Wednesday in our local newspaper. Pray that God will use this article to draw other people to himself.
  • Pray for Abby’s salvation. As she grows older, we hope God will give her a heart that loves and serves Jesus.

I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength
(Habakkuk 3:18-19)

Friday, September 23, 2011

SBC might change its name

Baptist Press announced earlier this week that the Southern Baptist Convention will consider a name change to the denomination. I don’t have a strong opinion on this one way or the other, but I also don't see how it would hurt for a Task Force to revisit the idea.

I highly respect our current SBC President Bryant Wright and agree when he says, “With our focus on church planting, it is challenging in many parts of the country to lead churches to want to be part of a convention with such a regional name.”

Almost immediately, Dr. Alber Mohler responded with some reasons it may be time for a name change.

But for me, the most surprising statistic comes from Ed Stetzer, Director of Lifeway Research:
“The Southern Baptist identity simply does not resonate as well with adults age 18 to 24. More than 40 percent of respondents in this group said knowing a church was Southern Baptist would negatively affect their decision to visit or join the church.”
That statistic is staggering. I wonder what has given young adults such a bad impression?

At any rate, this doesn’t mean any local church would have to change their name. As best I can tell, the SBC label might even help our church a little, giving name recognition to military families who move here from the South and are searching for a new church to settle.

But you will notice that no church plants are putting “Southern Baptist” in their name today. Far more common are thematic names like The Rock Church, Soma Church, Cross Community Church, The Well, Mosaic Church, Sandals Church, etc. This should at least tell our convention something about its branding.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


It’s overwhelming to consider all our family has been through in the past year, but God has sustained us. In just twelve months, Natalie has endured her third pregnancy, three UTIs, a kidney infection, 15 weeks of early contractions, child birth, severe postpartum bleeding, two DNCs, two blood transfusions, chest pains, emergency gallbladder surgery, internal bleeding, and a second exploratory laparoscopy.

In addition, Dylan was rushed to the ER with a head injury in December, I went to the ER with chest pains in May, and Abigail was diagnosed with hydronephrosis (fluid on her right kidney) while still in the womb. Abby also went in to the hospital for several days this summer for unusual skin color and a possible heart defect which was eventually ruled out. On September 26, Abby will have surgery for her hydronephrosis, which we hope will fix her right kidney and allow it to drain properly. This procedure has a very high success rate, but we know she is ultimately in God’s hands. We have done our best to honor God through all these trials and have certainly learned to depend more fully upon Him. If it pleases Him, we hope this next year will be less eventful. Thanks again for your prayers, your patience, and your support!

In our Sunday morning worship service, we’re taking a break from our exposition of 1 Corinthians to get better equipped in evangelism. The series is based loosely on the “Share Jesus Without Fear” material by William Fay & Ralph Hodge (Lifeway Publishing). I pray the Lord will use this study to help every member be trained, confident, and actively sharing their faith.

During 9:15 Life Groups, I often lead training sessions with our newer attenders. I just concluded a Baptism Class and will be starting another Membership class on Sunday, Oct. 2. It was a thrill to have three new members join us Sunday, and several more on the way.

On Wednesday nights, we’re continuing our series on Spiritual Warfare and have had some great participation. Our new Bible Study & Prayer format is really working well. Come check it out. If you don’t live in town, try getting involved in one of the other home-based Bible studies we offer across the Basin like our Morongo Valley Bible Study or 29 Palms Bible Study (details TBD).

The past few months, after heeding some good advice from a friend, I’ve begun to focus more on discipleship and training men for ministry. I continue to teach servant leadership training (SaLT) once a month, plus am now meeting each week with different men for one-on-one mentoring. Please pray that God will raise up future leaders in our church, and that we will give them opportunities to grow and serve.

Lastly, please pray for me as I teach on Tuesdays down at California Baptist University in Riverside. I’ve been asked to teach the junior and senior Applied Theology students about pastoral ministry, and to help organize their church internship program. Because of this new commitment, I’ve discontinued my Tuesday Greek class and my weekly involvement in the Copper Mtn. Christian Club. It’s an honor to serve as Adjunct Faculty at the university and to help mentor the next generation of pastors. But you can rest assured that serving as pastor at First Southern Baptist is still my primary calling and delight.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Incredible deal on World Magazine

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Focus 21 Task Force Report

Last fall, I and eleven others were appointed by the California SBC to form the Focus 21 Task Force. It has been a real honor and I’ve learned so much. We’ve traveled from across the state to meet nearly every month, and are finally ready to share the results of our research.

The intro to our report has just been released. It explains our purpose and rationale. You can read it here.

The full report should be posted later today. These changes are significant, but we believe they will bring greater focus and keep moving us forward in the 21st century.

Here are some ways you can help:
  • Read the report after it is released on our Facebook page.
  • Post your comments and click “like” on our Facebook page to help spread the word. We’ve deliberately chosen Facebook to encourage feedback and dialogue. 
  • Tell others through Facebook, Twitter, or email about the report. Every California Southern Baptist has a vested interest in these recommendations. 
  • Pray for unity and wisdom among our convention entities, leaders, pastors, and messengers. 
  • Make plans to attend the Annual Meeting in Fremont on Oct. 25-26. We need your support on Tuesday afternoon when this report is brought to the floor and recommended for approval.

May the Lord use this report to invigorate our cooperation and bring the gospel to over 30 million lost people in our state.

New Blog

Today I'm closing up shop and launching a new blog called Pinch of Clay. You can visit it by clicking here . Please stop by and...